ALBUM: Mountain – Howie Payne 27.10.17

ALBUM: Mountain – Howie Payne 27.10.17

Words by James Attwood / Pics courtesy of Sonic PR

After an eight year break spent gathering musical influence from the mellow mundane of real life, Howie Payne is back with his self professed ‘best record so far’.

The result of this is Mountain, Payne‘s second solo LP since the dissipation of his previous band The Stands in 2005, which is set for release on the 27th October on Full Stack Records. Recording sessions took place at London’s prestigious Ark Studios during final week of July, whilst the rest of the UK witnessed a heatwave. This in mind, Payne and band still slaved away ruthlessly to produce a well crafted songwriter album, and if anything this added to the atmosphere of the album.

The influence of Americana and the great American songwriters of the 70’s is apparent throughout Mountain. However, this does not necessarily mean that the album sounds dated or appeals solely to the older generations.

Album opener ‘Quick as the Moon’ is reminiscent of the heartfelt, earthy folk-pop of modern artists such as Fleet Foxes and Father John Misty. With its several layers of vocal harmonies, tambourine and subtle upright piano melodies, ‘Quick as the Moon’ lends itself effortlessly to the Americana/Folk genres, as is the case for other tracks ‘All of these things’ and ‘Hold steady the Wire’. The vocal harmonies heard throughout Mountain assist Payne‘s songwriter style arrangements in escalating into grandiose chorus’, similar to those of innovators such as the Beatles and the Beach Boys.

‘Some Believer, Sweet Dreamer’ is driving by ballsy country guitars and could easily be a single by Neil Young back in his heyday. In a time of synthesisers and programming it’s nice to hear an album that utilises predominantly organic instruments and in particular, the human voice. “But you’re quick like a hurricane, bright like a rising sun…” shows Payne‘s mastery of imagery within his lyricism, alongside his clear knack for arrangement and composition.

Lead single ‘The Brightest Star’ is the most commercial moment of the album, with its blend of piano hooks, strummed acoustic parts and shuffle drumbeats that form a clear pop structure and four chord chorus. if it’s the lazy rootsy-Americana of Gold-era Ryan Adams that you seek, you will also find plenty to occupy yourself with on ‘Holding on’, a love song that floats along steady and shows Payne‘s band at their finest.

The story is much the same for both ‘High Times’ and ‘After Tonight’. Here Howie Payne is accompanied solely by his acoustic guitar, yet the songs are as engaging as those that surround it. ‘After Tonight’ also provides an effective moment of solitude on the album, whilst ‘Thoughts on Thoughts’ is a modern folk number using traditional guitar melodies to create hooks and layers of harmonised vocal to add an almost medieval sound to the music.

Then, finally, we have ‘Evangeline (Los Angeles)’ – a grand, perfect summary to Mountain, combining layers of vocals once more, yet reverberating electric guitar parts that provide the sonic backdrop for tender picked acoustic guitar.

All in all, Mountain is a joyous and pleasant listen. And although its genre is arguably dated, and some may say holds little relevance to today’s popular music climate, the album is still intriguing to the ear of someone who appreciates music at its core; Mountain carries a wholly organic and refreshing sound. Plus, as I have already mentioned, Howie Payne‘s use of his own voice to create layers of texture brings an entirely different edge to his music – this is also to be applauded and hooked me upon listening.

With an album as well crafted in every respect of the word such as Mountain, Payne fully deserves a place up there with the great songwriters of today.

‘The Brightest Star’ – Howie Payne

Mountain, by Howie Payne, is released on 27th October via Full Stack Records. For more on Howie Payne, including online album sales and live gig dates, visit 

For more from Full Stack Records, visit 

BPREVIEW: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club @ O2 Academy 28.10.17

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club @ O2 Academy 28.10.17 / Tessa Angus

Words by Ed King / Pic by Tessa Angus

On Saturday 28th October, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club ride through Birmingham – coming to the O2 Academy as part of their nine date UK tour (plus one in Dublin). 

Doors open at 7pm, with tickets priced at £28.65 (including booking fee) – as presented by SJM Concerts/Gigs and Tours. For direct gig info, including venue details and online tickets sales, click here.

Responsible for one of the best debut albums ever… yep, I went there… Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have been tearing up the asphalt on both sides of the pond (and beyond) since 1998. Some call them ‘shoegaze’, some all them ‘grunge’, some call them ‘garage rock’, but Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have a distinctive twisted metal sound that they can comfortable call their own. ‘Fucking awesome’ is where I personally land, but with well over 200,000 words in the English language I’m sure you can come up with a more erudite description. Or you could just listen.

Globetrotting with a new album in the wings, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are coming to Birmingham to push their impending new album – Wrong Creatures, which will, apparently, possibly, be with us just after Christmas.

But having waited half a decade since their last LP, the 12 track monster that is Specter at the Feast, a few months here or there won’t bite down too hard. At least I’ll have something to spend those iTunes vouchers on, that will no doubt appear in some relative’s Hallmark hug this December (…other online music downloads are available).

Having recorded and released on their own imprint since 2008 (starting with the download only The Effects of 333) Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have been able to reinvent and reiterate all the cogs in their machine, drifting from the Native American rhythms of ‘Beat the Devil’s Tattoo’, passing through the dark rock heart of ‘War Machine’ and ‘Teenage Disease’, to stand still at the morbid curiosity of ‘Fire Walker’. Awesome. Relentless. Lots of other words; 24rs spent ploughing through this band’s back catalogue would not be a day wasted. Even if you’re wasted.

Now there’s another album in the offing too, and whilst we don’t know much about Wrong Creatures here’s a little taste of what’s to come… and yeah, that’ll do. The rest we’ll get to see/hear coming off stage at the O2 Academy on Say 28th October.

‘Little Thing Gone Wild’ – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

For more on Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, visit

For more from the O2 Academy Birmingham, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit

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BPREVIEW: The Black Angels @ O2 Institute 26.09.17

The Black Angels @ O2 Institute 26.09.17

Words by Ed King

On Tuesday 26th September, The Black Angels land in Birmingham at the 02 Institute – performing live, with support from A Place to Bury Strangers + Mass Datura

Doors open at 7pm with tickets priced at £19.50, as presented by Kilimanjaro Live and This Is Tmrw. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

Out on the road with their fifth studio album, Death Song, The Black Angels are in Birmingham as part of only a handful of UK dates on their Death March Tour. Sandwiched in-between a gig in Glasgow and another in Bristol, the O2 Institute in Birmingham is the second date the Texan psych-rockers will be playing in Blighty. Although The Black Angels did play at the Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia 2017, but who’s going to prove any of that actually happened. Or maybe it never stopped…

Four years since their last LP, Death Song came out on Partisan Records in April this year, with an extensive North American tour introducing the album stateside. A clear hat tip to the Velvet Underground – as in ‘The Black Angel’s Death Song’, from that record they made with that blonde lass – the new album from The Black Angels has been described by Phil Mongredien in The Guardian as a ‘menacing return to form’, further stating the 11 track LP harks back to ‘the threatening drones that made their first two so powerful’.

With a line up that makes the bill sound like a blueprint for Jonestown II, The Black Angels are supported by New York noise-rockers, A Place to Bury Strangers – alongside London’s self described ‘sunshine doom’ four piece, Mass Datura. So a nice quiet night in then… pass the shrooms and absinthe, Franz.

Having munched enough blotter acid to stop a heard of migrating springbok, Google it, I’m not sure another dark spiral is what this piece of psychedelic driftwood needs on a Tuesday.

But with only three dates in the UK, if you want a sneaky quarter of The Black Angels then you’d better get your game face on. Bit of a coup that they’re coming to Birmingham. In the meantime here’s a tiny taste of their new album:

‘Currency’ – The Black Angels

The Black Angels comes to the O2 Institute on 26th September, with support from A Place to Bury Strangers + Mass Datura – as presented by Kilimanjaro Live and This Is Tmrw. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here. 

For more on The Black Angels, visit 

For more on A Place to Bury Strangers, visit

For more on Mass Datura, visit 

For more from the O2 Institute, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit

For more from Kilimanjaro Live, visit

For more from This Is Tmrw, visit 

ALBUM: Wake Up Now – Nick Mulvey 08.09.17

Wake Up Now – Nick Mulvey 08.09.17

Words by James Attwood

Following the success of his Mercury nominated 2015 debut, First Mind –  the album that spawned his breakthrough track ‘Cucurucu’ and earned him support slots with the likes of London Grammar, Nick Mulvey is back with a second offering of world music tinged indie-folk masterpieces.

Entitled Wake Up Now, the album, which is set for release on the 8th September 2017 through Fiction Records, is a reflection upon the current world that we live in – a world that is changing by the day. Here Mulvey is inspired by real world issues such as the refugee crisis and his recent fatherhood, which sit at the core of the album and informed the choice to comment on the world which his newborn son will be part of.

With this fresh inspiration and desire to voice these issues within song, Mulvey set about enlisting the help of a small group of individuals that included his close friends and band mates, producer Ethan Johns, alongside Bowie’s Blackstar engineer Kevin Killen. Recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios, Wake Up Now further featured writing sessions with Brian Eno before being sent for finishing touches at friend and long time collaborator Dan Carey’s studio in London.

'Unconditional' (from Wake Up Now) – Nick Mulvey 08.09.17Initial single ‘Unconditional’ opens up the album. Driven by strummed flamenco Guitars, offbeat rhythms and subtle flourishes of electronics, the track is typically Nick Mulvey and picks up exactly where First Mind left off with it’s simple and infectious chorus. I could imagine that the track would be every bit as captivating as an instrumental, with its tribal harmonies and horn hooks.

‘Transform Your Game (We Remain)’, takes on a similar instrumental texture to ‘Unconditional’, with Mulvey‘s trademark Spanish guitars, along with a bass groove and layered rhythmic parts. What’s interesting is the attention Mulvey pays toward rhythm within his music, layering up drums with bongos and other instruments in a nod to his world music influence. The chorus captures the community between Mulvey and his band perfectly, a carnival of backing voices, horns and multiple rhythmic elements.

‘Imogen’ sees Nick Mulvey take the listener away to a darker place, more reflective place than the two previous tracks and is indicative of the album’s inspiration, accentuated by weeping violins and a chorus of gospel backing vocals that sing the chorus, “It ain’t over now”.

Recent release ‘Myela’ is a blend of organic and electronic elements and sees Mulvey emphasize with and tell stories of the refugees that the track is inspired by. Frantic flurries of synthesizer resemble the panic of those he sings about, “please help me find a way to stay and give a future to the child I, carry inside”. He fully immerses himself within the culture of the refugees, using eastern melody and instrumentation to create the atmosphere of their motherland before closing the track with a celebratory chorus of “I am your neighbor, you are my neighbor”, showing his unity with those he sings about.Wake Up Now – Nick Mulvey 08.09.17

Following track ‘We Are Never Apart’, sees Mulvey continue to serenade the character of Myela, “Oh Myela my love, can you hear, can you still hear the sirens moan, calling you home again?”. ‘We Are Never Apart’ sees Mulvey explore the issue of fracking on the Dakota Oil pipeline, a decision made by our very own government.

‘Remembering’ however rekindles the atmosphere of the initial two tracks, with Nick Mulvey‘s trademark vibrant, tribal rhythms that create images of the lands that they are inspired by. The chorus is as simple as the title insinuates, as is the case for the majority of the album, leaving room for the musicianship of Mulvey to shine through.

It is apparent by the time we hear seventh track ‘Mountain to Move’ the tone of the album, as is the case for next track ‘When the Body is Gone’. By this point I was searching for something that I hadn’t already heard on the album. Both are still beautiful, downbeat songs filled with vocal melody and beauty, as well as well thought out instrumentation.

‘Lullaby’ is a short, nifty outtake of ‘Unconditional’, one that features the pre-chorus melody and an angelic scat like vocal – linking ‘When the Body is Gone’ with the album’s penultimate track, ‘In Your Hands’. The track is a comfortable listen, one that I would have preferred earlier in the album. With its Ben Howard style instrumentation, the track sees Mulvey and a female vocal sing in call and response fashion to one another. I would definitely deem this as one of the stronger album tracks, effective in bringing the journey of the album to a close.

Album closer ‘Infinite Trees’ is mood music and is centered around the raw connection between Nick Mulvey and his skillful guitar ability, as well as the connection he is able to make vocally with other individuals within his close knit band.

As a new listener to Nick Mulvey, I approached this album with fresh ears and very much enjoyed ‘Unconditional’ as well as the several initial tracks that followed it. However, once well into the album I began to find it predictable, having heard much of the instrumentation already.

Perhaps this was the choice of track listing, or the fact that there seemed to be two voices to the album – one extremely downbeat, the other it’s polar opposite, upbeat, vibrant and busy, containing very little tracks that fell in between such as ‘Unconditional’.

‘Unconditional’ – Nick Mulvey

Nick Mulvey releases Wake Up Now on 8th September, out via Fiction Records. For more on Nick Mulvey, including online purchase points, visit

For more from Fiction Records, visit

ALBUM: All the Light Above It Too – Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson / Morgan Maassen

Words by Katherine Priddy / Lead pic by Morgan Maassen

Have you ever found yourself stretched out and sun-warmed on the white sands of a Hawaiian paradise, with nothing but a large zoot and a battered old guitar to keep you company? Me neither. But after listening to Jack Johnson’s 7th studio album, All The Light Above It Too, I’m not sure I need to in order to know how it feels.

If you’ve listened to Jack Johnson before you’ll be familiar with the trademark intimate, husky vocals, soft acoustic guitar and blissed-out tempos that come together to paint the picture of a relentlessly cool dude. All The Light Above It Too does not exactly buck this trend, but there’s a lot more to the album than just sun, sea and sand.

Indeed, the opening track ‘Subplots’ introduces an interesting duality between sound and subject that runs throughout Johnson’s latest album. Its melody is chilled out and cheerful, based mainly around Johnson’s gentle acoustic guitar playing, with only subtle additions of bass, some slide guitar and light percussion to create a pleasingly organic, clean sound.

But beneath the laid back, beach bum vibe, Jack Johnson introduces a contemplative conversation about wider societal issues. ‘Subplots’ suggests that people have become so caught up in the meaningless dramas of their lives that they have forgotten about the bigger universal narrative unfolding around them. All the Light Above It Too - Jack JohnsonAnd this combination of carefree, positive melody underpinned by an insightful message is the common denominator of All The Light Above It Too’s ten tracks.

‘Sunsets for Somebody Else’ is so stripped back and dreamy that you can almost smell the sun cream and hear the surf, and yet when you focus in on the lyrics Johnson is touching eloquently on the ever oppressive presence of the media with lines such as “can’t this world afford to sleep anymore?”.

‘My Mind is For Sale’ mourns the “careless, me-first-gimme-gimme appetite” of modern politics and the precariously unreal reality that is presented to us via social media, all whilst disguised as a gentle, no-fucks given tropical tune.

I thought that ‘Gather’ was one of the stand-out tracks on the album, as it provides a surge of energy after the more nonchalant songs that preface it, with an injection of tribal drums and strange electronic glitches that bring to mind Alt-J. The only track not to draw some sort of social commentary is ‘Love Song #16’, which consists, unsurprisingly, of a beautifully romantic ditty to Jack Johnson’s wife; the amalgamation of stripped back acoustics and incredibly personal lyrics creates a refreshing, and rather adorable, pause in Johnson’s meditation on the modern world.

Overall, All The Light Above it Too creates an organic, coastal sound that could quite easily give the illusion that Jack Johnson has never had to worry about a thing in his life, except perhaps what time the tide comes in. Therefore, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this ambiance would detract from the potentially conflicting lyrical messages that worry over a high paced, frightening modern world. But this dichotomy only serves to emphasise an alternative to the unpleasant reality; Johnson muses over the simultaneous pain and pleasure of surrendering to a collective experience and the importance of just letting go.

Indeed, the utterly relaxed and care-free sound to Jack Johnson’s songs merely highlight that you can either panic about the earthly issues that he describes, or you can chose to focus on “all the light above it” – the bigger picture of the universe, and what silly, insignificant beings we really are in the grand scheme of things.

It’s clear to see which option Jack Johnson has picked. All The Light Above It cleverly maintains a balance between beautifully subtle, positive songs, whilst offering opportunities for bigger ideas and reflection.

‘My Mind is For Sale’ – Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson releases All the Light Above It Too on 8th September, out Brushfire Records. For more on Jack Johnson, visit

For more from Brushfire Records, visit