I know this is a rock blog, but I can’t help myself but talk about Gabrielle Aplin’s new EP, Avalon. Ever since her debut album English Rain I have loved everything she’s put out. In her last EP, Miss You, she made a transition between her old, indie folk style of music, to a more mainstream pop sound. I felt like that would put me off, but she made the transition really well, especially in the fantastic title track. This new EP continues this trend, and I feel like it pulls it off perfectly. Here’s why…
Listening to this EP, you wouldn’t even suspect that Aplin’s previous music was any different to this, because it shows a level of style and confidence many artists take much longer to grow into. The musicality has taken a big step too, with the production sounding a lot fuller than any of her previous work. A perfect example of this is by far the best song on this album, ‘Waking Up Slow’. It feels like a bit of a bold claim to make, but I feel like this is one of the best pop songs of the year.
It’s not the only good song on the EP though, with every song offering something different, but equally good. Foe example, ‘Say Nothing’ is just a quality pop song, with a great chorus. ‘Used To Do’ is a guitar-led track which feels like a callback to Light Up The Dark, her last album. Last of all ‘Stay’ is a slow but full-sounding ballad.
I feel like with everything she releases, Gabrielle Aplin gets a little bit better, and this EP is no different. Each song is quality, but in a slightly different way, fitting together to make a diverse, but coherent EP. Whatever she creates next can’t come soon enough.
Best songs: Waking Up Slow, Used To Do
Echoic are a three-piece from Reading, and are a very hot prospect in the rock scene. Their music could be described as catchy rock music with added electronics, creating a richer sound than a lot of bands out there. But style is nothing without substance, so how good is this EP really?
You’d expect some imperfections in the band’s sound, with them being such a relatively young band, but you won’t find any here. The production is stylish and glossy, seamlessly fusing the rock and electronic elements to great effect, giving the album a really smooth sound. This is shown more than ever on ‘Next To You’, which uses ambient guitar really well in the verse, before ramping things up into a louder chorus, complete with distorted power chords.
The other songs are seamlessly produced as well, with a consistent sound all the way through. ‘Blame’ has incredible vocal delivery, while ‘Ghost’ is beautifully ambient before launching into a great chorus. ‘We Burn Like This’ stands out from the other tracks though, with a bit more of a rough sound. Usually I’d have a problem with this because it wouldn’t really fit with the rest of the album, but this song, and so well produced that it seems to fit anyway.
This is a quality EP from a really talented band, and I definitely think you should listen to it.
Best songs: We Burn Like This, Next To You
The Virginmarys released their last album last year, so I wasn’t exactly expecting new music from them so soon, but they are back with this four-track EP. The band has a knack for getting EPs just right, but is this one the same?
This is a short but sweet EP, containing a range of different styles, but never once compromising what this band is about. It contains a nice range of songs, perfectly showing the band’s range. Therefore, if you want to get into them, this is the EP to do it with. It bursts into life instantly with the title track, ‘Sitting Ducks’, a blast of punk perfection with a great driving bassline.
And the quality doesn’t stop there; ‘Sweet Loretta’ is a great song, with a slow verse building up into a chorus typical of the Virginmarys. ‘Through The Sky’ is a little slower, reminiscent of ’90s British rock, and ‘Sleep’ is a beautiful little acoustic effort, one of the bands quieter songs.
Quite often in my reviews, there is a massive ‘but’ in the last paragraph, but don’t worry, you won’t find one here. This is purely a great EP, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Best songs: Sitting Ducks, Sleep
7 Minutes In Heaven were named after the Fall Out Boy song of the same name, which could either be a great thing or a bad one. Either they’ll attract loads of fans of the same type of music, or they’ll never live up to the name of their band. For that not to happen, this EP needs to be good. So it it?
Well opener ‘Better Off’ shows a lot of promise. The musicality is great, with smooth verses and intense choruses. You can easily imagine this being a huge singalong live. ‘Sweetest Sin’ is also a great song, showing some of the band’s smooth side without losing any of that pop-punk energy. This song alone shows a lot of promise, and it’s clear this band knows how to write a great chorus.
Then there’s the bad. Songs like ‘LOTL’ and ‘Symmetry’ are just a collection of pop-punk clichés, ironically borrowing from the style of bands like Fall Out Boy. The songs are okay, but just listening to them feels like I’ve heard them before. In amongst the thousands of pop-punk bands out there, you need to do something special to stand out, and these songs are nothing special.
There is another silver lining towards the end of the EP with the rip-roaring ‘Wishing Well’, by far the best song on the record, and yet more proof of the band’s writing skill. The problem with this EP is that this band’s talent is clear to see, but it isn’t shown enough. There is too much generic material on this record for it to really stand out, which is frustrating, because this band is clearly very talented. This is a disappointing EP, but with so much promise.
Best songs: Wishing Well, Sweetest Sin
The rock world is full of new pop-punk groups trying to make a name for themselves, and Stand Atlantic are one of the latest bands in that category. The three-piece from Sydney specialise in writing massive choruses and catchy vocals, but with the amount of new pop-punk bands around, do they have what it takes to make it?
Sidewinder is a blast of nostalgia with a bit of a touch from the future, containing the catchy vocals that made bands like Paramore so popular back in the late 2000’s, but the clean, modern production utilised so well by bands like All Time Low. It opens with a bang too; opener ‘Sidewinder’ shows some of that typical pop-punk energy, complete with a soaring chorus. Pop-punk may be full of generic songs and bands at the moment, but this doesn’t seem to be the case with this song.
From that point onwards, the album shows much of the same; ‘Coffee at Midnight’ shows yet again that the band know how to write a good chorus, while ‘Chemicals’ shows some great vocal work. There is even a bit of a curveball with an acoustic opening to ‘Push’, before rushing back into their usual style of pop-punk. But I have one problem with this EP; the lack of variety. In a world of thousands of wannabe pop-punk bands, a band needs to stand out. Unfortunately, the fact that most of the songs on this EP sound so similar means it doesn’t really do that. This band clearly have talent, and know how to write a great song, but they just need to change things up a bit more to have a better chance of making it. This is a solid debut, but they need to build upon it now.
Best songs: Push, Sidewinder
When Puppet Kings released the first single from this EP, ‘Rich and White’, I was immediately hooked. I mean, who doesn’t want a song criticising Donald Trump and all he stands for; it’s great to have bands that stand up against everything that’s wrong with the world. Not only that, but but the song absolutely rocked too. The chugging riffs and the great vocals mixed together to create something amazing. But was the rest of the EP as good?
The answer to that is a definite yes; the whole album is a bombardment of great riffs, guitar solos, and incredible vocals that stretch from opening track ‘Wanderlust’ to the final ‘Otherside’. It shares nothing in common with the Red Hot Chili Peppers track by the same name though, more likely to wake you up than lull you to sleep. The EP is only a short one at fourteen minutes long, but I feel like that’s the perfect length. It showcases the band’s ability to write four great songs, and shows everything that they can do, without being too long and overstaying its welcome. Definitely one for fans of political hard rock!
Best songs: Otherside, Rich and White
In The Back Of My Mind is the brand new EP from south coast pop-punk band Maypine. From the first listen, it is clear that this band have a lot of energy to bring to the table. But as essential as that is to a pop-punk release, an EP can’t get by on just energy alone – so is there any substance to it?
Initially, I wasn’t sure about the answer to this question. ‘Day After Day’ is a nice enough listen, but I think I’ve listened to so many pop-punk ballads that they all blur into one in my head at this point. ‘North/South Divide’ also never initially stood out to me, sounding like just your average pop-punk song, nothing more and nothing less.
But on the second listen, everything began to fall into place. While I hadn’t originally been too fond of the above two songs, they began to stand out more and more to me. ‘North/South Divide’s catchy hooks and pop-punk sensibilities grew on me, becoming charming rather than tired. Not only this, ‘Day After Day’ is actually a long way above your average pop-punk ballad, approaching a serious subject in a charmingly sentimental way. Not to mention ‘Day After Day’, easily one of the best songs on the album; an absolute anthem and a great closer.
While at first it may seem like this is another average modern pop-punk release (and trust me, there have been a lot of those over the past few years), I urge you to try it. Listen more closely and you’ll find it brimming with charm, energy and style. This band have potential for sure.
Best song: Day After Day