Given the great amount of new music the world gets to hear on a weekly basis, it can often be a relatively arduous task to pick out three records which are worth highlighting. For every solid record released, there are at least ten more which could also made the cut. This week, our recommendations span various sonic disciplines, including balls-out hard rock and poppy folk.
JAMES BAY – ELECTRIC LIGHT
The second coming of Hitchin’s James Bay seems like quite the reinvention for a man whose career was at risk of becoming stuck in the boy-with-acoustic-guitar rut. Gone is his long, wavy hair (he’s gone short and slick now), and his acoustic guitar is also largely out of the picture. In its place comes an album – Electric Light – which veers towards the accessible side of folk pop, something which Bay laid the foundations for on debut album Chaos and the Calm. That was an album which never allowed the musician to fully realise his potential, something he has definitely done this time round. From the serene Us and bustling electronic pomp of Wild Love to the indie disco-ready Wanderlust and grandiose RnB stomp of I Found You, Bay has presented us with an album which goes far and beyond anything his baying (punintended) fans could have anticipated. The real highlight, though, has to be Pink Lemonade. Its tightly packed four minutes and twelve seconds are filled to the brim with unbridled energy, wispy synths, gritty guitars and a powerful vocal delivery from a man whose second album might just allow for the wider world to take him seriously. 8/10
FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH – AND JUSTICE FOR NONE
For every action, there’s a ferocious Five Finger Death Punch reaction. The Las Vegas troupe have long been known as one of the fiercest hard rock bands out there, and on new album And Justice For None they don’t leave a single stone unturned, nor do they take a single prisoners. This much is evident from the word go, with frontman Ivan Moody directing his anger at the fake modern world on – you guessed it – Fake. “You’re a fake motherfucker, I hate you motherfucker” he declares, and this opening missive of carefully directed anger pops its head up at various points across the record. He namechecks Blabbermouth, TMZ and label Prospect Park (“the label tried to sue me”) on the pompous Sham Pain, whereas the monstrous Fire in the Hole and It Doesn’t Matter go to show that Moody’s bandmates are musically as tight as ever. “One, two, three, fuck you!” Moody growls on the latter, marking the halfway point on an album which doesn’t let up. There are few calm moments (When the Seasons Change, Black & Blue), but these opportunities for a quick breather don’t take away from the fact that And Justice For None is one of Five Finger Death Punch’s most powerful mission statements to date. 7.5/10
DEATHTRAP – GRAVESTEPPER
You definitely haven’t heard of Deathtrap before, but the Dutch groovy hardcore outfit are well on the way to showing their counterparts that they mean business. New EP Gravestepper is a five-track collection of solid post-hardcore and heavy metal, erupting on the growl-laden title track and spending the duration of its thirteen minute running length showing the listener exactly why they ought to be taken very seriously. The manic Dog Days bears some resemblance to mid-80s hard rock, both instrumentally and vocally (James Hetfield, anyone?), with the slower Dead and Buried shifting its focus more towards sonic precision and musical tightness. Penultimate track Sentenced to Existence picks up the pace ever so slightly, injecting some haunting vocals into the mix ahead of powerful finale El Forastero. Clattering riffs and pummelling rhythmic passages combine here to close out a strong offering from a band whose presence on the hardcore scene is about to increase tenfold. 8/10