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New Music: The Sound of March

By Jared White

Black Honey – Written & Directed out 19/03/2020.

Even the most committed atheist might well find themselves singing ‘I’m a Believer, Baby!’ after listening to Black Honey’s new single ‘Believer.’ The song is the lead single off the band’s new album Written & Directed, set for release on the 19th March. The strong vocals of singer Izzy B. Phillips supported by the ‘spaghetti western’ vibe of the rest of the band (Ostler, Taylor, and Woodward) make ‘Believer’ a really catchy tune that is indicative of Black Honey’s unique style.

Formed in Brighton in 2014, the band have extensive touring experience, appearing at Glastonbury in 2017. Their attachment to total creative control has meant the band are yet to sign to a ‘major’ label, but this has also allowed them to preserve their sound, leading to the success of their first, self-titled album, and the quality of this new release. Of the ten songs on the album, five are currently available on YouTube and Spotify. ‘I Like the Way You Die’ serves as a great opener for this album. It’s a good example of the band’s style and the defiant vibe of the lyrics that are ever-present on this album. ‘Run for Cover’ is a song without the additional instrumental embellishments of ‘Beaches’ and ‘Believer,’ but which demonstrates the range of the band. The heavy riffs of the verses and chorus are juxtaposed with some really beautiful vocal harmonies in the pre-chorus.

‘Beaches’ is my personal favourite from the album. The song is driven along by a raspy horn section and some simple, but great drum rhythms. Ostler’s guitar parts on this tune, as with ‘Believer’ are central to the band’s spaghetti western sound. ’Disinfect’ has a great bass riff and jangling guitar chords which provide an unsettling opening to what is perhaps the heaviest track of the five. The darker lyrics and heavily distorted guitar parts will make this a very popular tune when the band are able to start touring again. This album lends itself to being played loud without losing any of the quality.

Listen to ‘Believer’ here.

The Blue Stones – Hidden Gems out 19/03/2020.

The new album Hidden Gems from Canadian alt-rock duo The Blue Stones looks to be a great find for fans of bands like Royal Blood. The comparison might be a simplistic one given that the two bands are both rock duos of a drummer and a guitarist/bassist, but I think the comparison still stands. Heartfelt tunes about identity run throughout this album, such as the single ‘Spirit,’ first released three weeks ago.

According to vocalist and guitarist Tarek Jafar, this song focuses on the feeling of being “torn between two selves” This idea of grappling with your own sense of self is well-reflected in the lyrics and the music. The album will also feature the band’s hit single ‘Shakin’ Off The Rust,’ one of the band’s most successful releases with over thirteen million streams and a place in the Top 5 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock charts. Songs on the album like ‘Careless’ represent a move away from heavy rock as the song has a more pop-influenced, smooth vibe. My favourite song so far is ‘Let It Ride.’

I really like the opening riff to this tune and the rumbling tone on the rhythm guitar, as well as the caps on some of the melody lines, which are perhaps a nod to the band’s blues influences. These four songs from the album are currently available on YouTube and Spotify.

Listen to new single ’Spirit’ here.

Bull – Discover Effortless Living out 26/03/2020.

Discover Effortless Living is the promising debut album of local boys Bull, who have picked an apt name for their first record, because listening to it is an effortless joy. This alt rock quartet have been around since 2011 and have toured internationally, while remaining regulars of the York scene.

The band should be proud of their role in giving York’s music scene exposure, and are great ambassadors for the city. One of the singles released ahead of the album, ‘Eugene,’ is a thoughtful tune in which Tom Beer’s lyrics tackle the journey through the conflicting stages of feeling down on yourself. With tunes like ‘Eugene’ and ‘Green’ (the latter a standard of the band’s repertoire for years), Bull marry profound, yet fun lyrics and great melodies with fantastic musicianship.

Dan Lucas’ guitar playing is worthy of an individual appraisal, particularly for his guitar solos and licks on ‘Green’ and ‘Disco Living.’ Behind Beer and Lucas, drummer Tom Gabbatiss and bassist Kai West are the ultimate rhythm section, occupying their own space within the band’s sound and providing a very solid groove for every song. As a unit, the band also provide great harmonies on every track, some of them beautiful as on ‘Green’ and ‘Disco Living,’ and some of them showing the band’s fun-loving side as on ‘Love Goo.’ In a recent interview with Soundsphere Magazine, the band discussed the increased input of outside influences following their signing with label EMI.

In my opinion, the band has succeeded in accommodating these demands without sacrificing the identity of a band that has been together for 10 years now, as is evident in the cohesion of the music. The new album, which will be released on 26th March, has thirteen songs on it, the product of two years of repeated trips to a studio in Amsterdam to work with producer Remko Shouten. Keep an eye out for this band’s tour dates as this new material will only improve what is an already brilliant local live act. Of the thirteen, five are available on Spotify and YouTube: ‘Eugene,’ ‘Green,’ ‘Bonzo Please,’ ‘Disco Living,’ and ‘Love Goo.’

Listen to new single ‘Eugene’ here.

Written by Jared White