Frank Turner and Jon Snodgrass – Bad Times Good Vibes
Most thoroughly modern musicians have had a go at embracing the bizarre events of 2020 in some way, whether in live streams and Zoom gigs or by taking an often ill-advised stab at encapsulating the mood of the year in song. Where many have failed, filling Spotify playlists with songs titled ‘Lockdown Blues’ and other such awfulness, Frank Turner and Jon Snodgrass have delivered a really cheerful home run.
The first single from their much-anticipated second collaborative album ‘Buddies II: Still Buddies’, this track sees folk-punk legend Turner deliberately and entertainingly clash styles with Snodgrass’s brand of ragged Missouri country to deliver a rollicking dose of pop-punk featuring members of iconic bands Descendents/All and Lucero. The Zoom meeting-themed music video is a charming reminder that you can make art in these ‘unprecedented times’ without falling victim to cliché or, indeed, bad vibes.
Bradley Watmore – Plain To See
Sometimes, there is no point trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to indie, and London singer-songwriter Bradley Watmore evokes a common theme as he attempts to capture the essence of a lovestruck night out on debut single ‘Plain To See’.
A slick pop production adds a sheen to this jangle-pop jaunt, which perhaps plays it a little safe for a song about a boozy romance. Ultimately, this is a pleasant but simple and ultimately twee slice of boy-meets-girl indie that wouldn’t be ill-at-ease on the soundtrack to Gavin and Stacey. Watmore is apparently touted as “one to watch”, and this track is brimming with ambition, but this tune is mild and not the most memorable; he may be well-served to try and grab listeners’ attention a little bit more next time.
The Bagatelles – Settle the Score
Derbyshire-based indie crew The Bagatelles set out to keep their momentum up with new single ‘Settle the Score’ filling the gap where their busy touring schedule used to be. With as much energy and passion as any of the current crop of new bands, it’s easy to see why this group has gained plaudits for their on-stage performances; on this release, they certainly show promise. A nice mix of influences is exhibited in the interplay between rhythm and lead guitars, while a ceaseless garage rock pace keeps things from getting boring. The 2010s indie influences are worn quite unsubtly in terms of the sonics, but there is enough personality underlying to offset this.
In terms of lyrics, ‘Settle the Score’ deals in as many clichés as the name suggests, stating that “the time has come” to fight back against…erm…something. The vague ‘call to arms’ attitude of the song falls a little flat given the lack of context, which is a real shame for such an energetic performance. The band is clearly trying to make a statement, and might just knock it out of the park if they say what that message really is.
Some artists know their USP and stick to it. For others, each track is a melting pot of influences and energy, delivering unexpected turns at every verse and chorus break. Multi-instrumentalist LE JUNK sits firmly, and excitingly, in the second category with latest single ‘Level 3’.
From the first moment, ‘Level 3’ invokes the brazen swagger of noise rock’s finest frontmen, over a hypnotic repetitive guitar line. As the processed beat creeps in, it becomes obvious that LE JUNK is taking us on an unexpected path through genre. The ferocious buzz of the driving bass does little to disprove this, but the chorus’s foray into shimmering disco-rock brilliance is still entirely and deliciously unexpected. As the drum-machine pounds a Balearic undertone, ‘Level 3’ flourishes into a sexy, genre-bending shot of pure energy. It is a crying shame that this track has hit the airwaves at a time where it can’t pound the sound systems of indie discos throughout the land. When dancefloors reopen, LE JUNK will surely be poised to take things to even higher levels.
Guitarist extraordinaire and sideman to the likes of Janelle Monae, Stevie Wonder and Prince, Kellindo has a hell of a reputation with which to showcase his abilities as a solo performer. Luckily for listeners, he delivers handsomely with funky rock banger ‘Long Gone’. Channeling the sonic influences of some of the greats he has shared stages with, this tune starts off sounding very much like the work of Prince, but its growth into a hard-rocking anthem defies comparison.
This is clearly an artist simultaneously carrying the education of his staggeringly impressive CV, while at the same time unbound by the need to conform to the expectations his associations entail. Alluring guitar work assured delivery and a unique take on all things rocking add up to an ambitious release; with the artist promising a “epic rock opera, to follow, Kellindo most certainly is an artist to keep tabs on.