It seems very few people utter a breath about 2016 any more. Probably for good reason, it seemed very much like a culling of revered figures and idols of popular culture, let alone a universal gasp of disbelief at what idiocy we may have unleashed on the world. 2017 isn’t really fairing any marginally better in that department, by a hair strand at best. But whisper it: The music is fantastic. If you want to invest in it of course. Admittedly, this list was compiled at the inset of 2017, but as the halfway stage of this year rapidly approaches, it still holds as an all-star ensemble of killer bands you may have overlooked, some yet to release their brand new material and some you may never have heard of. It seems like a solid enough foundation for this article to still exist, while maintaining some resemblance of relevance. That, and you may be reading this, looking for some new music to listen over the summer. Let’s get started, shall we?
2016, probably not just in my own personal opinion, has been a fantastic year for music releases so far depending on how far you’re willing to commit yourself to the kaleidoscopic universe out there. To name but a few of my favourites would include The Qemists, Youth Code, Autopsy Boys, All Hail The Yeti, Mask of Bees, Lowflyinghawks, Amplifighters and Weekend Nachos, and at this point, some music media outlets would like to take the chance to reflect on what has already come before and sum things up in a handy little list for you. The Soundshark isn’t some music media outlets. What The Soundshark has done has compiled a list of 30 forthcoming releases in 2016, of varying genres, and from mass appeal down to the underground to better illustrate why 2016 will remembered as a truly incredible year of music. There could be your new favourite band waiting here or an album announcement by that band you like you may have missed, who knows?
Let’s begin shall we?
Ironically, it almost seems like 10,000 days since we saw the last Tool album. Well, 10,000 days is the equivalent to 27 and a bit years, so not quite that far yet, but it has at least been a decade since the previous album from the LA masters of progressive metal. And understandably, there’s a lot of hype growing towards it, as on and off progress continues to be made, and has been for at least three years, not owing part to the now resolved lawsuit that had hung heavy over their heads for a lengthy period of time. There’s also an awful lot of impatience. So far, the only trace of new material we’ve had is a two-minute long instrumental jam, tentatively titled Descending, which by the band’s own admission is only a fragment of a song in progress. Yet the memes, anger and remarks persist. So I thought I’d offer an alternative to those dismayed by the lack of answers or have grown tired of waiting, by rounding up eight excellent, lesser known bands to listen to in the mean time whilst the new Tool album materialises:
To follow on from a point made in a previous post on this blog, although there are parts of the industry that are highly successful for women, there are some still in which women still struggle in, or there is a real lack of a presence in. Formerly I talked about rock and metal, now I’m talking about electronic music producers. There are some that have made substantial contributions to electronic music a la Ladytron’s Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo or Freezpop’s Liz Enthusiasm and Marie ‘Christmas DIsco’ Sagan, that’s an indisputable fact. But I’m more referring to solo ventures, fearless females that near single-handedly produce all the content they make. Bjork is a famous example, as is Sister Bliss of Faithless fame, but they seem very far few and between prominence. I already have given notice to organic ambient maestro Hannah Davidson a.k.a. Mrs Jynx from Manchester previously on this blog, but it’s high time I gave plaudits to another. Enter Ambra Red from Sweden. It’s no secret that the European synth-pop scene is one of the strongest in the world, and despite disappearing off of the face of the earth, her collection of singles she produced in the period of time she was active is near an immaculate quality. Purposing producing lavish melodies like an arrow to the heart of popular music, while one foot strays into dancefloor territory and her tongue a sharp enough implement to slash at contemporary culture. Her career lasted an undisclosed amount of time, according to the shreds of evidence surrounding her on the internet, but long enough a timespan to produce 20 songs to be compiled onto what seems to be her only studio album, Electronic Creations For Special People. Many of her songs are impeccably written in the manner of synth-pop’s greatest, and Beauty 606 is personally one of the best the album has to offer. The twist of a radio dial into a punchy disco beat with a low-riding bass line starts the show, with Ambra’s hushed but sensual tones digging at perceived model beauty standards. Her calm, near reaching siren-esque demeanour makes her criticisms even more effective against the vibrant, cheery synths and layers upon layers of intricate percussion driving the track along. Special attention has to be given to the chorus’ inescapable hook line, as it’s one that burrows hard into your brain. Once its there. you’ll have a difficult time being rid of it as you’ll be whistling the melody for a good few days. As I said, an unsung hero of the modern synth-pop scene, with such carefully constructed, clean-sounding production and a midas touch for writing excellent pop songs that not only could seduce the dancefloor republic, but could nestle into any of the playbooks of the best to grace the mainstream with fingers on keyboards.
Having disappeared into the nether for around five years now, social media for her are hard to trace, but she still has a website up with links to where you can listen to and buy her works. So I’d highly recommend using that as your port of call, only because Amazon sold physical copies of her album beyond ridiculously prices.
And if you enjoyed this little piece, perhaps maybe show me a little love too, like, follow, subscribe to the blog with the button at the bottom, it’s all good but entirely optional:
The bass often gets relegated to the furthest regions of the musical pecking order, essentially being the reinforcement of a musical siege upon whoever may be listening. That of course is, unless your name is Les Claypool. But there was once a period in time where the bass was integral to the construction and success to a very prominent era of music, one that could be labelled as at risk of extinction in modern music. That era was the rise of disco and the explosion of funk in the 70’s. Of all of the originators, very few are still around, the core principles of funk having long since transitioned and transformed in modern pop music. It’s rare nowadays that you’ll hear out and outright straight up funk with the exception of a certain Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars collaboration and occasionally Red Hot Chili Peppers. Although dormant in indefinite hiatus, the power and energy behind Sweden’s Majestic Mojo certainly gave a new shining hope to the plight of funk music. The bass here was given a starring role in giving the groove, attitude and swagger that funk demanded. Playing what is described as heavy funk or ‘hunk,’ the machismo of the gentlemen from Karlstad was an attraction since 2005 and did spawn one fist-pumping compilation of good-time rock stompers called What A Handsome Face. And immediately from the beginning of Two Legged Freaks, that party spirit is demonstrated with an impressive slap-bass display, driving full steam the groove train into the salutations of trumpets and in-your-face rapping bravado, that cannot fail at putting a smile on your face. Ample spotlight is given to the outstanding bass show here, but the composition of this track at such a pace and at such a short running time all deserves applause. As good an introduction to this band and the thrill-a-minute fairground that funk is capable of, it seems such a shame that their take on a sound in capativity, has faded into near obscurity after toiling for six years. Funk’s not dead, not by a long shot, but if there ever was a fantastic reminder that bands can still perform the musical language in one of its most unrefined incarnations with such charisma and flair, Majestic Mojo deserve be a far, far bigger band than they ever were. Here’s hoping to their return one day.
Sadly having vanished for four years, any independent means of supporting them in musical limbo has disappeared, aside from being available from most respectable music retailers. They’re available on Spotify and Last.fm too if you want to support them that way.
A canopy, according to the Oxford English dictionary, describes a layer or material above our heads, normally suggested as a form of shelter or cover. This actually stems from the Latin word conopeum which means ‘mosquito net over a bed.’ Who says this blog isn’t educational? Any which way you look at it, staring at the word canopy, the image of a Swedish melodic death metal band doesn’t immediately come to mind. But upon listening to the bludgeoning force split between three guitarists, who breathed new life into a dying breed of metal, that vision attaches substantial weight to that single word and a monster of skull-crushing compositions is at your disposal. In tune with the original Gothenburg melo-death trinity of In Flames, At The Gates and Dark Tranquillity, the sextet of Canopy bring the multiple guitar harmonies and unmistakable death growls, but with the aid of heavyweight, denser guitars tones that technology couldn’t produce twenty years ago and the creative influences of some of the more experimental names in the metal game a la Opeth and Strapping Young Lad. Their acclaim for easing emotion and atmosphere out of a darker, heavier style of music speaks for itself. Where 2010’s Menhir succeeds is taking that creativity and ramming it into a combustible yet massively textured furnace, burning with the intensity of a forest fire. Speaking of fire, third track in Earth Splits Into Fire prophecies the self-destruction of our planet and our species through a booming death sentence, led in by acoustic plucking with the inevitable pulverisation of three guitars worth of distortion and downtuning and hammerblows of double kick pedals drawing ever closer, before they collide in a detonation of riffs, shredding and blast beats. Canopy blend the old breed with new techniques in such a way it comes across a fresh approach to metal entirely. Between the six combined muscle powers of these gentlemen, there lays a myriad of incredible musical and technical masterworks that have sunk so far under the radar, it seems ironic that they should bear the name Canopy.
Menhir, their most known album can be purchased either via Bandcamp, or via Dissension.se, where as their previous two albums, Will And Perception and Serene Catharsis can only be bought through Dissension.se.
At least some point in your life, you may ask yourself the question: How is it that I’d like to die? No matter what state of mind you are in, it seems to be an intangiable fact that we as the human race, are oft fascinated by the realms of the morbid. After all, life does come to an end at some point. But say if for example, you are in a Swedish metal band from Gothenburg, and your music so happens to be very heavy, addled with enough riffs and raw power to haemorrage a tower block, you may ask yourself: Is death by sludge possible? Deadists would like think so, their waves of black tar swallowing you whole, whilst the crushing weight squeezes the air from your lungs. Meeting somewhere between doom and sludge, none of Time Without Light’s five tracks falls under the five minute mark., giving enough exposure in one sitting to completely pulverise your eardrums into dust. The full-out fuzz assault of Human Stain is a seemingly endless tide of meaty guitar grooves and highly intimidating barking, all the time while drums beat and bloody the faint of heart into a pulp. Deadists may play with an appetite for destruction, that much is clear, but the size and skill of which this fairly original brand of addictive sludge is performed, leaves little doubt that these gentlemen from Gothenburg are a wrecking crew capable of global domination.
Deadists are in a strange state, they haven’t died but are evolving in terms of sound and personnel, of which change hopefully bring new material with it. In any case, 2010’s Time Without Light can be found on their Bandcamp page for an absolute steal.