Welcome to Bliss/Aquamarine - alternative, underground and indie music.

ALBUM REVIEWS

STARRY SKIES Small Wonders CD/LP/DL (Foxstar)
Fourth album from this eclectic Scottish band. Spitfire Susie is upbeat, catchy powerpop, with vivid biographical lyrics telling the story of a woman who came of age in the WWII era and the influence she had on later generations. Highwater Eagle is truly exceptional folk-pop, drawing the listener in with its deeply atmospheric string arrangement. Kind Hearted People is pure sunny pop adorned with male/female vocal harmonies and that ringing jangly sound that's impossible to resist, plus the addition of a guitar solo that shows the band are unafraid to rock out. Elsewhere there's the bleak cinematic blues of Natural Way, the sweeping chamber-pop of Iris in the Underground, and I Don't Wanna Be That Kinda Guy, a full-on rocker, raw, dirty and real. A diverse collection of songs that work well together, with a bright, uplifting pop spirit pervading much of the album along with sophisticated, well-crafted arrangements. Well worth checking out. Visit www.foxstarrecords.com

RELIGIOUS OVERDOSE Strung Out on Heaven's High 1980-1982 Mini-LP (Optic Nerve)
Religious Overdose were a post-punk band formed in 1979 in Barby (near Rugby), who included amongst them Alex Novak (later of The Tempest, Attrition, and Venus Fly Trap) and Richard Formby (later of In Embrace, The Jazz Butcher, and Spectrum). This 7 track mini-album compiles the three singles they made for Glass Records between 1980 and 1982. 25 Minutes makes an entire song out of the repeated lyric "25 minutes on a train", belted out forcefully over angular riffage, the mechanical chug of a drum machine, and touches of retro organ creating woodwind-like background effects. I Said Go is off-kilter pop with a spiky, staccato instrumental melody, the brash punky verses juxtaposed with the melodic ba-da-bas and ah-ahs of the chorus. In This Century opens with an extended instrumental piece of cinematic experimentalism, centred around foreboding strings and clanging cymbals, before giving way to harshly atmospheric gothic punk with an intense yowling chorus. Girl With the Disappearing Head starts off as a kind of angular experimental pop that could be seen as a precursor to the weirder side of C86, before morphing into a psychedelic jam session overlaid with hypnotic chanting. Whilst this short-lived and comparatively obscure band are rarely mentioned in the same breath as their post-punk contemporaries such as The Fall, Joy Division or Bauhaus, they were no less innovative, and their influence can be clearly heard in the angular experimental music that emerged later in the 80s. Available at www.opticnerverecordings.com

THE WATER STRIDERS my name is EXPECTATION LP/DL (Old Bad Habits)
Debut album from this Athens band formed in 2015, who break down the boundaries between indie pop and alternative rock. House of God has distorted, wailing guitars sharing space with a catchy pop spirit, the alt-rock aspects of the song having much in common with bands like the Pixies and Smashing Pumpkins. I Never Die, my name is EXPECTATION is dark, moving, melancholic pop, beautifully accompanied by a creative blend of woozily chiming guitars, atmospherically rolling drums, electric piano, choppy fuzzy noise and washes of ethereal sound. Like an Empty Train is really great 80s-style indie pop, an absolute joy to listen to. You also get the gutsy indie pop of Love is a Friend, the heavy fuzz onslaught of The Devil Inside, and the darkly swirling atmospherics of Pictures, Creatures. Very nice presentation too, pressed on heavyweight vinyl in a beautiful shade of purple, limited to 250 hand-numbered copies, with full colour printed inner sleeve with lyrics, and band logo sticker included. Available at oldbadhabitslabel.bandcamp.com

THE REV. J. KINKAID Every Great Story Begins With a Snake 10"/DL (Old Bad Habits)
8-song mini-album from The Rev. Jonny Kinkaid, alias Jon Kent, formerly of The Groove Farm and Beatnik Filmstars and now Arrest! Charlie Tipper. He is joined here by Ruth Cochrane of The Blue Aeroplanes on bass, accordion and piano, and Tim Rippington of Beatnik Filmstars and Arrest! Charlie Tipper on fuzz guitar. The album is released on clear 10" vinyl, with impressive lino-cut artwork, and a printed inner sleeve with lyrics. And All the Animals Too is thoughtful bedroom pop pairing choppy guitar with the atmospheric hum of the accordion, which lends a cinematic, ambient feel to the piece. Masters of Chaos is minimally-arranged protest folk, in a similar vein to the folkier side of Steve Andrews, an artist who will be a familiar name to all followers of the 1990s DIY tape label scene. I've Got Soul (But I'm Too Slow) is melancholic lo-fi pop, the strummy guitar backed by tinny drum machine and tinkling, clattering found sounds. Monkey Song #3 has a swaggering tune that wouldn't sound out of place in a garage rock track, the lyrics delivered with a punky sneer. The arrangement takes in strummed acoustic guitar, bursts of fuzzed-out guitar noise, and inventively psychedelic use of accordion which makes the instrument sound more like a spacey synth, miles away from anything you might hear in trad folk. A great set of DIY songs, following in much the same spirit as the hometaper scene from back in the day, bringing together pop, folk and experimentation along with the attitude (though not the stereotypical sound) of punk. Limited to 250 hand-numbered copies, available at oldbadhabitslabel.bandcamp.com

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