Tuesday, 21 October 2014

ALBUM REVIEW: 'Gerard Way - Hesitant Alien'


It’s always hard to separate a front-man from a successful band post-breakup but even more difficult when the bands fans are still grieving the loss of their favorite emo rock band. My Chemical Romance is barely history for Gerard Way, yet instead of lurking in the shadows of the breakup he has made a jump back into the spotlight as a solo artist with his new album ‘Hesitant Alien’. Despite perfecting the formula for popular emo alt rock, Gerard Ways most recent and almost experimental venture is a far cry from his angsty eye liner filled former years.

Way’s most recent offering is unique blend of 70’s Glam Rock and 90’s Britpop with just a pinch of modern pop. This genre-blend paired with the use of the whole spectrum of the guitarists pedal board makes for magical listening. The Bowie-esque image Way has been rocking in recent years now finally matches the music he is creating as the 40 minute ‘neo-britglam’ concoction means business from the get go. The opening track ‘Bureau’ brings a screeching start to the record with a strong and at times bluesy build up to the main event. Songs like ‘Action Cat’ and ‘No Shows’ will clearly be crowd favorites in a live format as they brim with energy and sing-along ability. Renowned for his ability to carry a live audience, I am almost certain Gerard Way will push these songs to their limit in a live setting.
Don’t expect even a remote reference to his emo roots as this album is all about him. Gerard Way has bravely produced an album to please himself as well as his fans, and it seems the risk has paid off. Way has assembled a record that screams individuality, with poppy catchy hooks combined with funky lead parts this album emits personality. Whilst there may be perhaps slightly too much fancy shoegazing effects on this album for some, ‘Hesitant Alien’ is all in all an unexpected breath of fresh air.

After selling out his November UK tour, extra dates have been added for January, 2015. Grab your tickets HERE.


Tuesday, 14 October 2014

ALBUM REVIEW: New Found Glory - 'Resurrection'


East Coast American punk rockers New Found Glory are back with their new album Resurrection, with this release being their first release via Hopeless Records, the band have a lot to prove with this latest pop punk instalment.

With strong punky riffs, melodic hooks and solid harmonies New Found Glory’s latest offering packs a punch, encompassing energetic crowd pleasers like ‘Selfless’ and ‘Ready and Willing’ the punk rockers show they've still got what it takes to claim their place as leaders in the genre. Despite being a band for nearly 20 years this latest album sounds fresher and more energetic than ever, crushing doubts that the bands best days are over. Jordan Pundiks voice is still as cutting and as mighty as ever, he can still hit notes that no grown man should be able to and Cyrus Bolookis drumming is tight, fast and on point showing that the band are still strongly pop punk through and through.

Lyrically the band have moved away from their almost teenage moaning about flings and menial life tribulations to a more mature discourse centered around real heartbreak and perhaps the loss of a certain guitarist from the band. Throughout the record a real sense of personal growth is conveyed and it becomes clear why the record was dubbed 'Resurrection'.

Resurrection is a solid, lively and perhaps, most importantly, spirited addition to the New Found Glory discography and whilst it is by no means a revolutionary album, it’s a release that will more than suffice the average pop punk fans hunger for shouty and powerful ‘fists in the air’ rock music. If Resurrection proves anything, it proves New Found Glory are here to stay and that pop punk may not be quite dead yet.

You can catch New Found Glory on the Pop Punks Not Dead Tour all across the UK this November. Click HERE for last tickets!

Friday, 10 October 2014

Q&A: Simply Dylan

Liverpool based artist John O'Connell will be taking Simply Dylan - his personal exploration and celebration of the rich and diverse work of Bob Dylan along with band across the UK for the very time this November. 

Simply Dylan is as straightforward as the title suggests; no frills, no gimmicks, no pretense. However this is no ordinary interpretation of Bob Dylan, this is a remarkable and exceptional project which promises to delight Dylan fans young and old and to ignite a new wave of passion for one of the world's most prodigious songwriters.

We caught up with the man himself to discuss his exciting project and find out how it all came about...

You’re going on tour soon what can the audience expect?
I would like to think that people will be pleasantly surprised as we are going to deliver songs from Dylan’s repertoire that they will not be expecting. We try and cover some of his more challenging songs and although we stick closely to the original phrasing the delivery is not intended to be a sound alike look alike Bob Dylan Act.

Tell us about Simply Dylan and how did it come about?
When I worked with Graham Evans, former Groundpig band member, we would cover songs that we loved and enjoyed to play. It was a bit self-indulgent but we were lucky because it worked for us. We always had a number of Bob Dylan songs in the repertoire so the likes of Jokerman and Hurricane became anthems for us.  

It was back in the late 1990s when a good friend of mine, Dave Galbrith (who is a massive Dylan fan) suggested playing a Dylan only set. I suppose he planted the seed but it wasn’t until Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday was approaching that I took him up on the idea and secured a gig at the Cavern Club. I put an 8 piece band together, with some very talented musicians and the gig went on to sell out. We were then invited back a few months later to perform as part of the Liverpool Summer Pops and have returned every year since with each of the gigs selling out.

In 2011 a Spanish promoter bought the last ticket for the Cavern and then went on to secure Simply Dylan a 6 date tour across the country; it was then really when we started to play further afield and began to receive some positive feedback from the different Bob Dylan Appreciation Societies.

When did you start listening to Bob Dylan and which of his albums are you most fond of...
I was a late starter. The first Bob Dylan album I listened to was Street Legal; it belonged to my sister Valie. I then moved on to Shot of Love and Saved and eventually backtracked to Desire and Blood on the Tracks. I’m still discovering some real gems and one of the nicest parts of being in Simply Dylan is the recommendations from his avid fans.

What is your favourite song to perform live?
It would have to be Senor and Shelter from the Storm but then there are so many; Changing of the Guards is another.

When you’re not performing what do you do to keep yourself busy when you’re on tour / on the road?
When I’m not performing I actually enjoy spending my time practising my classical guitar playing. I studied classical guitar when I was younger and always love the challenge of playing intricate passages in a piece and developing my technique. Once a month I perform a recital at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral; I really look forward to these occasions as it is something totally different performing solo.

What was the first gig you ever went too?
My very first gig was watching Kate Bush at the Liverpool Empire. It was a spectacular gig, and you just knew it was a special occasion.

Which song do you wish you had written?
That’s a tough one as there are so many but three that spring to mind are Alone Again Naturally by Gilbert O’Sullivan, You Could be Happy by Snow Patrol and Covenant Woman by Dylan. Not only are they good structured songs with great melodies, but they are all emotionally charged with so much meaning in them.

What’s the best gig you’ve ever played?
With Groundpig that would have to be Daleys Dandeloin which used to be right in the centre of Liverpool. It was an 11 o’clock start and absolutely packed out with people from all parts of the city who loved to watch Groundpig. These gigs were legendary. In fact the famous photographer John Stoddard came along one time and took some amazing pictures capturing the crowd and the electric atmosphere.
With Simply Dylan, it has to be the Galleon in Blackpool last November performing an acoustic set as 4 piece band. 

We attracted many of the Dylan fans who were in the town to watch the man himself perform at the Opera House. Just through word of mouth Dylan fans kept coming through the door, it was an instant success. We played to a packed house for 3 afternoons, the atmosphere was remarkable with people sitting on the floor singing every word. I suppose what made it so special and enjoyable was that we were playing to Dylan fans from all over the country who had probably never heard of us before. Stephen Pierre the owner of the Galleon admitted only a month ago when he travelled to a Simply Dylan gig in London that it was his best weekend of the year!

Which other artists are you listening to at the moment?
We are very lucky in Liverpool as there is a great music scene. Locally Rob Vincent and Laura James are two artists who I enjoy listening to and always try to catch one of their gigs whenever I can. On my ipod I’ve got David Grey, Gladys Knight and often watch Julian Bream playing the Lute on Youtube… so quite a mixed bag really!

Tell us about the latest album.
The albums have been taken from a live concert. I often record gigs via my mini-disk just to evaluate and reflect. I didn’t discover this particular recording until months after the gig and was really impressed with the balance and mix given than there was only a left and right line into the machine. People don’t really believe that it hasn’t been mixed or enhanced; but it was just pure luck and it’s a real treat to capture the true sound of the band.

Plans for the rest of the year?
To continue to work on my Dylan repertoire; we’ve got a new band member joining us next year. He’s an electric guitarist so this will enable us to cover more of Dylan’s repertoire such as Slow Train Coming. Also I plan to work on my original songs and finish recording my new album and then finally to relax and enjoy some time off at Christmas.

Check out Simply Dylan below and click HERE for tickets

Monday, 6 October 2014

Introducing: Rixton

Manchester four-piece Rixton have had one hell of a year so far. Their debut single 'Me and My Broken Heart,' came out in March and went straight to the No.1 in the UK and even stormed to success in America, charting in the top 20 of the Billboard 100 and top 5 of the Top 40 Mainstream charts. The video has also reached over 27 million plays on YouTube!

The band have been making serious waves in America and have even been confirmed to support Ariana Grande at her massive Madison Square Garden show as well as their own US tour, with the English music revolution going on across the pond at the moment, these guys are a definite tip for big success. 

On October 22nd, the band will kick-off their first UK tour in Oxford before playing another 12 venues in England, Scotland and Wales. This highly-anticipated tour is a good chance to catch the band before they start filling up arenas! Support for the tour also comes in the form six-piece indie newcomers Young Kato, check out their new video below:


Thursday, 25 September 2014

Alex Coogan Guest Blog: What My Pop Justice £20 Prize Shortlist Would Have Been...

Guest Blog: Pop Expert Alex Coogan

Now that the Mercury Prize album of the year shortlist has been revealed, it's time to choose our favourite British pop hit (or guilty pleasure to some) from 2014 as Pop Justice name their annual £20 Music Prize short list (see it here). Previous years have shown Girls Aloud reign supreme in the pop category winning five times in the space of six years but 2013 celebrated newcomers Chvrches with Example, The Saturdays and Will Young also taking the gong in recent years. Here is what my short list would have been:

1. Paolo Nutini - Scream (Funk Up My Life)

2. Ella Eyre - If I Go

3. Kwabs - Wrong or Right

4. Foxes - Let Go For Tonight

5. George Ezra - Budapest

6. Clean Bandit - Rather Be

7. Bastille - Things We Lost In The Fire

8. Calvin Harris - Summer

9. Sigma - Nobody To Love

10. Iggy Azalea Ft. Charli XCX - Fancy

11. Ed Sheeran - Sing

12. Sam Smith - Lay Me Down

Thursday, 11 September 2014

What our Mercury Prize short-list would have been...

So as many music fans have seen, the Mercury Prize short-list was released last night. Most are happy with the majority of the list but there were certainly a few shock omissions and inclusions (see the full list here). The world of Jazz got a serious nod from the prestigious Mercury Prize committee with two acts in the list as did the Urban scene with two acts coming from Big Dada records, the same label as 2009 winner Speech Debelle.

While most genres were represented in the list, the real shock was that many of the big albums of the year in terms of sales were missing such as Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran and Paolo Nutini. Previous years have seen at least a few of the big-boys with last year featuring Bowie, Arctic's and Foals plus number one albums from Rudimental, Jake Bugg and Disclosure. This year however we see just two number one albums from Bombay Bicycle Club and Royal Blood, one of which was only last week. Is this a sign that the Mercury Prize is slowly moving more to it's roots of supporting breakthrough music and artists 

So after discussion with a few colleagues, I have put together what my 12 would have been:

1. Bombay Bicycle Club

The fourth album from Bombay and although it's not a completely new direction, this album takes a lot from World music with a heavy use of sampling. The added guest vocals from Rae Morris and Lucy Rose add subtle harmonies to the album which complements their lesser use of guitars.

2. Royal Blood

The most successful début rock release in three years, Royal Blood's self-titled album smashed records and brought in the acclaim too. But it's not just about sales with many saying they have re-written the rules of rock with just two guys, without a standard 6 string electric guitar in sight, producing a sound that could easily be a 5 man outfit. They also seem to be attract a broad audience from rock fans to indie fans to chart fans alike. 

3. FKA Twigs

I would keep 'LP1' in the list. The début from Young Turks' signing FKA has caused quite a storm within the music industry bringing a modern twist to R&B. Featuring swirling synths, space aged drum patterns and heavy grumbling bass, the former Jessie J backing dancer certainly delivered on the hype with this record.

4. East India Youth

This album is all about gentle melodic electro pop but it also breathes originality. The album took three years to come and it's looking like it was worth the wait. A well executed album and his nomination will surely help push Will Doyle aka East India Youth into the playlists of many. 

5. Woman's Hour

The debut album from Kendal four-piece Woman's Hour was tipped by many to be included in the list with many near perfect reviews. Fronted by sublings Will and Fiona Burgess the album hints at 80's pop but doesn't stray too far away from modern electro-indie either.

6. Paolo Nutini

The one 'bigboy' I would of had in our list would have been Paolo. His album 'Caustic Love' was hailed by critics with The Independent going so far as to say it may be 'the best R&B album since the 1970's'. A stunning record which has helped Paolo reinvent himself as one of the biggest solo artists in the country. 

7. Jungle

The Jungle lads mix hip-hop, soul, grooves and much more in their much anticipated début release. Signed to XL records, the label which has produced the likes of The XX and Adele once again delivers with another fantastic innovative album which should have a great chance at taking the prize.

8. Damon Albarn

Hard to believe that this is Damon's first solo album but he has used it as a platform to produce a powerful, honest, auto-biographical record. One of the most eagerly-awaited albums of 2014, it has lived up to all the anticipation and pleased critics and fans alike. 

9. Manic Street Preachers

'Futurology' went into the UK charts at No.2 making it the bands highest charting record since 2007's 'Send Away The Tigers'. The band have come back fighting after two under performing albums and you'll have to search far and wide to find a negative review of this one. 

10. Wild Beasts

Another Kendal band, Wild Beasts would have made the list for their new album 'Wanderlust'. The band were nominated for their album 'Two Dancers' and have produced their fourth critically acclaimed album in a row. Constantly delivering, the band constantly come back with something that almost seems to top the last. Very surprised that they missed out this time. 

11. Lone

A bit of an outsider but Matt Cutler aka Lone released without doubt one of the best electronic albums in 2014. An album that can be adapted to almost any environment suited as well in a cafe as it is in a club. He states one of his key influences as Madlib which rings true throughout the album with hazy hip-hop samples.

12. Anna Calvi

Anna Calvi's second album 'One Breath' came out in October last year on Domino Records. It became an instant success with Music Week naming it album of the week with a string of great reviews also. The interest in the singer-songwriter has continued and she will be supporting Morrissey at his mammoth show at The O2 this year. 

TRACKS ON TOUR || Q&A: The Magic Numbers

The Magic Numbers returned with their fourth album 'Alias' last month which many are saying is their best yet and they support the release with a full UK tour starting in Liverpool tonight (tickets for all dates HERE). 

To celebrate, we are giving you the chance to WIN one of three signed copies of the album! Just tweet us @GigsAndTours telling us your favourite Magic Numbers track with the hashtag #AliasCompetition before midday on Monday 15th September.

We also caught up the guys and picked their musical brains too...

Hello guys, what have you been up to today?

Today's our last day performing at the album release's week long run of in stores. It's been really cool meeting fans across the country and hearing feedback about the new record.

Congratulations on the release of Alias, how is this album different to the previous three?

Thank you. It's hard to explain but it really feels like we're a brand new band in some ways, it's all very exciting, there's a real energy to this new record and we're loving playing at the moment.
I think we've made our best record in terms of songwriting and production so there's a confidence that's coming from that. I think people will be surprised by this album, I would suggest people leave any pre conceived notions about the group at the door and listen with fresh ears.

How was V Festival? Did you use it as a test run for some of your new material?

We loved it, though to be honest I had no idea who a lot of the other acts playing were, felt kinda out of the loop, thankfully. It was a great crowd though at both shows. I think the Chelmsford show was probably my favourite as I wasn't as nervous going out there having done it the night before.

So what can we expect from the new tour?

Well firstly we've got The Goat Roper Rodeo Band opening who are a three piece country harmony group of the cosmic kind, they'll blow minds, they're fun but also heartbreaking and most importantly total dudes so it's going to be killer touring with them. We're also blessed to have Ren Harvieu play just before us, I've been writing with her for her follow up album and hoping to play a few debut a few of those songs on the tour, whenever I hear her sing she gives me total goosebumps, she's mesmerising. People are in for a treat. Then there's us, we are playing the best we've ever played, we're really rocking out big time at the moment so expect a killer show all round.

Is there a city in particular you are looking forward to playing?

Kicking off in Glasgow will be a cool way to commence the mayhem, but to be honest I'm just really looking forward to getting on a roll playing every night, wherever it is.

What is your favourite track to perform live?

Loving playing all of the new ones at the moment especially Enough.
We've arranged a new version of Take A Chance that merges into Enough and the reaction to that so far has been immense.

Can you pinpoint any standout gigs in the past?

The one that just flashed before my eyes was a club show in Chile where we had the mother of all stage invasions. So many people from the crowd got on stage we were still playing but couldn't see each other, we were talking to each other on the microphones asking each other if we were all alright. I loved that gig and encourage more of that where we go.

Have any of you been to any decent gigs recently?

Watching Neil Young & Crazy Horse play every night on our recent European support tour is gonna be pretty hard to beat but there's been a few.
Savages at the Forum really blew me away. I love those girls, they f*cking mean it. I'm so tired of people phoning it in, you're in the position to blow minds, blow minds!
The Cure at the Albert Hall was really special, I knew the words to every one of the 45 songs on the set list and I couldn't help but sing them all. I've seen them play so many times but always leave becoming obsessed again. Another really great show was Luke Haines at Bush Hall playing both Baader Meinhof & his new album New York In The 70's in it's entirety, anyone who missed that show, really missed out.

Which song do you wish you had written?

There are so many, though I would've loved to have stumbled upon the melody and the need to be dropping bars left right and centre for - Anyone Who Had A Heart by Burt Bacharach & Hal David.

What are your plans between now and the tour?

Mainly promoting the new album it would seem, with some rehearsals and a sprinkling of valued home time. Michele will be celebrating a birthday just prior to the tour so there's also good chance of some drunken tomfoolery. 

What are your Tracks on Tour?

Find out what The Magic Numbers are listening to on the road in this Spotify playlist below: