ALBUM REVIEW: eSensuals by Fans of Jimmy Century

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https://www.facebook.com/pg/fansofjimmycentury

Fans of Jimmy Century are an alternative pop duo consisting of vocalist/songwriter and voice actor Alicia Perrone along with bassist/songwriter and producer Victor James. They describe themselves memorably as ‘an original indiewave, modwave, neo noir duo with trip hop influences’. While descriptions can only do so much justice, they combine the sultry sensuality of Goldfrapp and Portishead, the sassy modern pop of St. Vincent and the quirky charm of pop’s great eccentric visionaries like Kate Bush.

Having signed a deal in 2013, their music has featured in a lengthy list of films and well known shows, with the track Hot Sahara proving their most popular, soundtracking a threesome scene in The L Word (ahem). This album, eSensuals, consists of twelve tracks and contains several previously released singles.

One of these singles, All My Friends Are Ice Queens, starts the album and makes a fine introduction to FOJC’s unique style. It’s a highly entertaining jazzy number that would make the perfect backdrop to a burlesque show, with Alicia Perrine’s charismatic vocals capturing your attention immediately. The dry, witty lyrics are as colourful and inventive as the music: “All my friends are ice queens, wicked Disney, after dark dreams….”. The quirky spoken word sections only add to the charm.

The femme fatale theme continues with the euphoric alternative disco of the incredibly catchy and effortlessly sexy Tigra Girl. You can hear the influence of Madonna’s subversive mid-90’s period in the instantly addictive chorus refrain, as well as the spirit of female sexual emancipation: “Tigras run around topless, Tigras run round barefoot…”. A fantastic dance track which was an obvious choice as a single.

The same goes for the entertaining rockrap/electropunk genre-bending iTunes UK Top 40 hit Best of My Generation (Johnny Rotten). The lyrics are sassy throughout, with a killer vocal hook on the latter half of the chorus: “I’m the best of my generation, you are a guest of my generation and I’m feel real Johnny Rotten so back your punk ass up“.

The aforementioned Hot Sahara is FOJC at their most sensual, with a breathy, seductive vocal performance from Alicia that feels like it should be X-rated. Musically, it’s built around a brooding synth bassline and as always, the production is peerless. Lyrically, it maintains the standard of slaying one-liners: “Born under a fire sign, legends are born in the summertime…”.

Fifth track Liquid Chill keeps the momentum flowing with its bouncy bassline and irresistible “Rollin, Rollin, Rollin’…” chorus hook. Ghosts of Paradise has a very different but equally memorable chorus, with Alicia expressing her impressive vocal power and range. It’s also an excellent example of this creative duo’s nuanced and sophisticated songwriting ability.

Excellently named The Last Summer of Mad Whips is a maddeningly catchy burst of 80’s inspired pop, and another reminder that this lady is a free spirit: “When the cruel winter come, I’mma run away, I’m gonna disappear fast….”. This amusingly cocky attitude and eighties sound brought to mind the infectious brat-pop of Charlie XCX.

The inspiration bleeds into the brilliant rock-infused, hook-laden anthem Together in White Leather (Dolce Vita). St. Vincent will find herself wishing for a few of these songs in her canon when she hears them. After the radical eclecticism of the album’s first half, Cherry Drops helps forge a solid sonic identity with its alt. disco vibe and some opaque lyrics on the chorus: “You say, I say, hearts are brave, hearts are mustangs…”.

Noirstar (Memories of His City) is one the album’s more mellow and moody moments, working as a nice contrast. If this track hasn’t yet featured on a film soundtrack, it deserves to. Under The Milky Way is another slight departure, recorded as a live acoustic version. With just vocal and guitar, it once again allows their well crafted songwriting to shine but with vulnerability on display for the first time: “I wish I knew what you are looking for….”. The ice is starting to melt by this point, clearly.

The closing track is an acoustic version as well, this one of the preceding Ghosts of Paradise. This version, featuring some very fine guitar work, also allows the poetic power of Perrine’s lyrics to take the spotlight more: “I wanna taste the power that got away, and though the violet shrinks in chains I’m still your desert flower….”. These two last songs show that there’s an emotional depth to their music that is usually more understated.

Overall, this is a rollercoaster ride of an album that manages to traverse a huge range of genres, blends them together seamlessly and yet still manages to be commercial and catchy. It’s a testament to the talents of this gifted duo and will be particularly appreciated by pop lovers who are tired of the vanilla-flavoured modern pop that occupies the charts. In short, the world is about to become fans of Fans of Jimmy Century.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen to the album:

 

 

SINGLE REVIEW: Tinga by Silent Disco Sex

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https://www.facebook.com/silentdiscosex/

Silent Disco Sex are an electronic duo hailing from Chicago, consisting of Hope Taylor and Ros Garcia. They describe their musical genre as trip-tonic, which is a perfect summation. They combine the cinematic trip hop of Portishead with an array of alternative and electronic influences including NIN, Lovage and Radiohead. They have released one single prior to this, Acid Fetus, which came out this year.

This track, Tinga, is compelling from the very start. It’s a slinky trip hop instrumental that starts with a simple, instantly hummable melody on double bass before a colossal hip-hop beat kicks in. This sets the scene for some Mariachi-style trumpet laid over the top, giving it the kind of exotic vibe that would make it suitable for a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack.

The trumpet sections are contrasted by a sparser section consisting of just keyboards and drums, followed by just trumpet and drums. The way these relatively simple musical elements are interwoven and varied gives weight to the idea that less is more. The sound is full and punchy, and the track as a whole is produced to perfection, bringing to mind Mark Ronson circa his album Version.

Overall, this is one of the best instrumentals I’ve heard for a while in any genre, and trip-tonic might just be the coolest new genre going. The brilliantly named Silent Disco Sex have taken the dark trip-hop sound made famous by the Bristol bands Portishead/Massive Attack and given it a modern twist and even more of a film noir vibe, perfect for these times. They deserve to be massive.

 

VERDICT =  9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here: 

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Two Fingers In A V by Wasabi Fire Alarm

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https://www.wasabi-fire-alarm.com/

Wasabi Fire Alarm are a band hailing from York, England with quite a unique history and formation. They formed in 2017 when vocalist Sue Egypt (a moniker inspired by the Captain Beefheart track) decided it would be fun to form a band at a Musication course, which inspires ‘recovery through music’ for people with major life issues including homelessness, addiction and mental health difficulties.

This resulted in their first incarnation as Resistance. One early band member, Sin Bad, had made the news in his own right, from living in a tent next to a main road, captured in the song A Dying Man Lies Homeless. When Sin Bad left to pursue his own career, the remaining members formed Wasabi Fire Alarm in March 2018.

The title track begins the album, which I gave a glowing review to a few months back. It’s the perfect introduction to the Wasabi Fire Alarm sound and style. Fundamentally, they belong in a lineage of alternative/post-punk groups like cited influences Pere Ubu, Siouxsie Sioux and Portishead, along with rock/metal bands like Deftones, Nirvana and Rage Against The Machine.

You can also hear elements from diverse artists such as Captain Beefheart, Public Image Ltd., Elastica, Wire, and Slint to name but a few. On paper, it might sound difficult to imagine how a group could combine these disparate influences into a cohesive sound but Wasabi Fire Alarm pull it off with aplomb, forging their own unique oeuvre in the process.

Two Fingers In A V captures their signature strengths; Sue Egypt’s emotionally honest, often troubled lyrics and naturally melodic voice combine with the band’s taut, muscular musicianship. Wiry, precise guitar lines interweave over a tight, solid rhythm section and aggressive male backing vocals provide further contrast and variety. Lyrically, this song is a classic outsider’s anthem that many will relate to.

New Start is another honest lyric about trying to face the future positively, but struggling with memories of past experiences. Built on a foundation of chugging, crunchy guitar, moody bassline and a focused, circular drum pattern, Sue Egypt delivers a nuanced and emotive vocal performance, singing words that many will relate to: “The art of the easy smile is mine, in the bag, got it covered…even if life, again and again, turns out the same as it was before…”.

Third track 5&4 opens with haunting, saturnine piano that forms a bedrock for the song, which incidentally is in 5/4 time. This gives it a subtle feeling of displacement, as if the ground is constantly shifting under your feet. The beat is pure drum ‘n bass which is both unexpected, yet consistent with this group’s musical versatility. The lyrics have a disjointed, abstract quality which fits with the dislocated rhythm, bringing to mind William Burrough’s technique of cutting up words to create original phrases.

The following Numb is much more lyrically and musically direct: “System shut down, shutters in place and I am not facing this anytime soon…”. Starting off with a brooding, restrained verse, it explodes into an angular, dissonant but thrilling chorus with anguished male vocals (by D.Ni.L who I also reviewed) taking precedence. It’s a rollercoaster ride through emotional neurasthenia.

Endured is another brutally heartfelt song, this one a contemplation about being a survivor when others have fallen by the wayside: “The years are a barrier to the abyss, but there’s nothing there, no signpost of rulebook, just a belief we will endure…”. Musically, it’s another contrast with a lilting 6/8 rhythm and blends melody with restrained aggression in a powerful way.

Self Doubt is the epic of the album at five minutes and is perhaps their essence distilled. Based around a dark, skeletal riff that Slipknot would be happy to have written, it develops into an intriguing fusion of dissonant post-punk and modern metal with Sue Egypt bringing the whole track into cohesion with another insightful lyric about battling one’s inner demons: “My dark hour of the soul – the same time as it always is….”.

Not The Whole Truth (Twisted Dream) explores the dysfunctional relationship between a woman and an addict lover. Whether autobiographical or not, it’s a gripping narrative with a perspicacious perspective on this affair and relationships generally: “I loved the image of you in my head, you loved a version of me projected just for you…”. Special credit should go to the driving bassline on this, though this applies throughout, along with some superb drumming.

Eighth track Control is a masterclass in building musical tension. Built on a fraught, repeating guitar figure, Sue Egypt lays out a defiant stance about not allowing herself to be pushed around: “I will not ever be controlled, and will slip and slide even when the game is up….”. Shake That Bunny Tail is a nice contrast with a lighter tone, and one of the more traditional song structures on the album. It’s a positive song about being yourself despite personal hang-ups, with a superb vocal arrangement featuring lush harmonies.

The closing song Wrong is the closest thing Wasabi Fire Alarm come to a piano ballad, with a musical backdrop of nuance and subtlety. But rather than the insipid sentimentality of much chart music, it’s a poignant reflection on the difficulty of human relations, dealing with criticism and wanting to be the best person you can be for someone: “My biggest fear is letting you down…”. Aptly, after an album of such unflinching self-examination, the last lines show resolution through self acceptance: “What a lucky thing it is that I am happy with what and who I am….”.

Overall, this is another classic album to emerge from the Musication camp. Instrumentally, they are a very tight unit and Wasabi Fire Alarm are able to traverse disparate genres with consummate ease whilst remaining cohesive. In Sue Egypt, they have a unique vocalist and lyricist; astute, unflinchingly brave and emotionally open. With their forces combined, they make music that is vital and hugely relevant to our turbulent times. Two Fingers In A V is the sound of authenticity and I only hope it gets the widespread acclaim it deserves.

 

VERDICT: 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen to the album HERE