This Week’s Top Picks – 9th November

Ryan Keen – Back to the Ocean

by Luke Botham. 

This shows the cover of Ryan Keen's album. It shows a cartoon scene of boats riding on the sea towards the horizon in the night.If you’ve not heard of Ryan Keen, then it could easily be argued that your ears have missed out –big time. This year’s been a pretty amazing year for the Devon born singer/songwriter. Not only has he been on tour, had his music played multiple times on radio 1, and toured the UK, but he’s also received rave reviews and released a new EP just this week.

He’s an incredibly talented guitar player, and the calm and rhythmic way he uses it supplements and compliments his voice so well. His lyrics too are amazing, if you listen you can genuinely hear them pouring from his heart. They’re super personal and could be related to by so many people, and these are also perfect for his soft, calm, soothing voice. The obvious highlight of this EP, of course, is Ryan’s collaboration with Newton Faulkner on Reflections in the Water. Their voices, whilst slightly separate, do almost become one perfect uber voice on this song. And it’s amazing – it really proves both artists’ talents as singers and shows the Ryan Keen is a name you should be watching out for. If I had to compare him to anyone, aside of course from Newton, I’d say he has some slight similarities to Ben Howard, and that’s really nice to hear!

For more info on Ryan, you can check out his Facebookor follow him on Twitter.


My Chemical Romance – Number One

By Paul Battison.

American alternative rock band, My Chemical Romance, have been branded as a lot of things over the years. From post-hardcore, to ’emo’, to pop punk—what they’ve always consistently been is unique. They seem to reinvent themselves and their sound for whichever new album they are releasing. However they appear or sound though, most importantly, one thing always stays the same: their fans stay loyal. For their latest release then, a double sided single called Number One, things should be no different and there’s a good reason for this which I’ll get to.

This is the cover for My Chemical Romance - Number One.

Number One is part of a ten-song series of material called Conventional Weapons which will be released over the next five months. All of the material is previously unheard and on first listen, it sounds like My Chemical Romance have drew inspiration from their previously released albums which will please fans of the band. The A-side single, Boy Division, could quite easily sit alongside songs such as Give ‘Em Hell, Kid and Thank You For The Venom on their 2004 hit album, Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge. It’s a punk rock song which brims with energy angst filled lyrics. The B-side single, Tomorrow’s Money, would be more comfortable sitting on the band’s last studio album, Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys. It’s very upbeat and catchy and after only a couple of listens, you’ll find it sitting comfortably, laid back feet up, inside your head.

Number One is a solid release from the band and leaves you yearning for the next installment in the ten-song series. My Chemical Romance reinvent themselves so often, you’re often left with the question of “what next?” from band. With this release, it’s no different. They have so many styles and personas they can call upon when writing music, which direction the four-piece act from New Jersey is going to take next, is anyone’s guess.

You can find out more about the band by checking out their Facebookor following their Twitter.


Christmas Songs!

by Luke Botham

This is the cover for Now that's what I call Christmas 2012. It shows these words bursting out of red wrapping paper.

You might have read this title and had to look twice. But you’re not seeing things – this year’s first big Christmas album, Now That’s What I Call Christmas 2012, was actually released earlier this week.  It’s jam packed with everyone’s favourite Christmas songs, and let’s be honest, who can listen to the likes of Last Christmas and I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day and resist singing along? And even though it’s been released rather early, it is nice to see an album full of merry and seasonal tunes dropped in to the charts in comparison to some of the slightly grimmer songs that are out this week.

The only thing really bad about this album is the age of some of the tunes, which really are miles past their sell by date now! But there are a few people trying to remedy this situation this year. 90s boy band Backstreet Boys have released a brand new Christmas song –and it’s their comeback single! Whilst it is very cheesy, it’s surprisingly rather catchy, upbeat enough to work as a Christmas song, and you’ll almost definitely have it stuck in your head for hours after a few listens.


This Week’s Top Picks – 2nd November

Ben Howard – The Burgh Island EP

This image shows the cover of Ben Howard's The Burgh Island EP, which is a black and white stormy image. You’d be forgiven for thinking Ben Howard had been around for years if you listened to his music. But he hasn’t. In fact, he only really started to hit it off with fans just over a year ago. His debut album, Every Kingdom, reflected this new popularity, peaking at number 6 in the UK and doing almost as well countries across the world.

His newest EP deserves just as much success.  It (an in particular Esmerelda) has a much darker tone. Its stormy and eerie melodies encapsulate you in the world of Ben perfectly, taking you to a place that’s super relaxing, yet a tad weird. The music has clearly grown and developed too, with instruments being used to blend and mould with his spine tingling vocals in the most interesting of ways. Sections are reminiscent of Every Kingdom, and this is particularly relevant to To Be Alone. It’s not quite as dark as the others and shows that this EP is a brilliant way of bridging his debut album with whatever is coming next. If winter had a sound, it may very well be this collection of tracks. And it works beautifully. It’s almost ironic too, that an EP which seeps with spooky and mysterious melodies should have been released on Halloween!

He’ll be playing at Lincoln’s very own Engine Shed later this month, on the 20th. You can check out his Facebook, or follow him on Twitter.

Lower Lands – Socialise With Closed EyesThis image shows the cover of Lower lands' single cover. it shows two cartoon skeletons against a purple and green background

Lincoln’s alternative rock band Lower Lands have been going from strength to strength since their debut a couple of years ago. They’re fresh off a tour with Hawthorne Heights, and in the past have shared a stage with bands like Deaf Havana. This year also saw them getting signed to I Am Mighty Records.

They released their newest single, Socialise With Closed Eyes, on Wednesday. And it’s an absolute cracker. The guitar riffs at the start are an awesome way to kick it off and set the upbeat tone of the song, and when they starts belting out their vocals, they’re nothing short of beautiful. They entwine some light, catchy melodies with some proper rock voices in a superb way to produce a tune you’ll instantly fall in love with. It’s really upbeat, feel-good rock and is a definite improvement on their older stuff, with a slightly less heavy tone that makes it super friendly to willing ears.

It could easily be mistaken that they’d been making music for much longer than the short time that they actually have been, and whilst they are fairly unique, it’d be fair to say they produce music to the quality and style of bands like Lostprophets.

You can read our new interview with the band here. Alternatively, check out their Facebook, or follow them on Twitter


Matt Cardle – The Fire

This image shows Matt Cardle looking away from the camera against an orange background. After what could only be described as a whirlwind of year following the release of his debut album, Letters, X-Factor winner Matt Cardle has released his second album, The Fire. He parted with his original record label earlier in the year, but this has had nothing more than a positive effect on his music. He sounds happier and almost less restrained on this album, and that’s probably because he was given full control of the writing and production.

Lead single It’s Only Love shows this. It’s catchy and quite different to the Matt we heard in Letters. You can tell instantly that this is the music he’s meant to make. It’s flooded with passion and attention to detail to a degree that makes for listening heaven. There’re also a few slightly more emotional and deep sounding songs on the album. All that matters, for example has a very sad feel to it, with lyrics like ‘I just pray somebody loves you, somebody somewhere, cause I can’t hear you cry, not one second more, it’s killing me.’ Yet because of the notes that Matt can reach, it’s hauntingly nice, and in an odd way, soothing. Another track worth mentioning, because of the rocky turn taken, is bonus track Your Somebody. Matt’s voice is really raw and heavy in this track, and it doesn’t rely on his high notes in the way many of the others do. This just proves how diverse of a singer Matt really is, and also how much he’s grown and come on since his X-Factor days

For more info on Matt, you can take a peek at his Facebook, or follow him on Twitter.