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
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
With their distinct, Brand New-esque sound, it’s easy to see why this EP by Wallflower has been so eagerly anticipated by some in the rock world. When anyone mentions the name Brand New, a sense of expectation is placed on whatever band is compared to them. But that ends up begging two questions. Is the comparison justified? And are they just another band trying to profit off their success? The answers to those questions are yes and no respectively, and here I’ll explain why.
Wallflower show exactly what Brand New do best on the second song of this EP, ‘Splintered’, with sudden changes between soft and heavy without being heavy. Not only this, but it is intelligent, introspective songwriting at its best. The vocalist has also got a hell of a scream on him. But to be honest, the comparisons stop there. The thing is, any band that sound a tiny bit near Brand New will immediately be compared to them. But for a small band like this to have this comparison thrust upon them can be damaging when they are trying to forge their own way in the music industry and create their own sound, because everything they do will be compared to the impossibly high standard Brand New have set across their career.
So, rant aside, how good is this EP? Pretty great, in my opinion. ‘Lilith’ is catchy and memorable, and ‘Seventeen’ shows songwriting skills that many bands struggle to show even in the latter stages of their career. All this band need to do now is shake off the Brand New comparisons, and continue making their own, great, unique music. If they manage that, I can see great things for this band in the not-so-distant future.
Best songs: Splintered, Seventeen
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
Best Ex are a band who have evolved. Originally named Candy Hearts, they released a couple of albums as a punk band before making a massive transformation. Lead singer Mariel Loveland recently stated in an interview that ‘Candy Hearts turned into an extension of my anxiety … Best Ex takes everything that Candy Hearts was but without my no-good anxiety’. Obviously this is great news, and it is clear that this EP has been made with much more freedom.
There is a clear difference between this and Candy Hearts music though. Gone are any aspects of the punk from the previous album, replaced by a collection of warm synth sounds and soft, melodic vocals. There is a clear difference in the lyrics too – a new sort of confidence seems evident in Loveland’s voice, contrasted by a more vulnerable edge. Her vocal ability seems to have improved too. All of this has added together to make a lovely little EP, full of songs to sing along to in your bedroom. The warm, happy sound mixed with the vulnerable lyrics are a great combination.
All 6 tracks of the EP show how far this band has come, and even though a couple of songs slightly miss the mark, it shows promising signs from a talented band. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
Best song: See You Again
There’s something special about Night Argent’s sound. The production is as massive and epic, and electric elements are used heavily throughout. Having said that, the guitars are always more than present in the mix, driving their songs along. It’s something like if you took the production from Smoke And Mirrors by Imagine Dragons, mixed it with the electronic parts of Twenty One Pilots’ Vessel, and turned the guitars up a lot in the mix. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, it really is.
It’s great to have so many different sounds mix together to make something so special. But they don’t just rely on their influences to get them through. These songs stand up fantastically on their own. Their sound is melodic, epic, and complex, creating some massive choruses like in the fantastic ‘Dreamcatcher’, but showing they can turn it down a little in tracks like ‘Dream Of The Ocean’, creating a beautiful soundscape to back up the melodic vocals.
In this EP, Night Argent have created a sound that sounds so comfortingly familiar, yet so widely different from any other. It’s difficult to describe, so do yourself a favour and give it a listen. You won’t regret it.
Best song: Dreamcatcher
Despite having released 3 EPs now, Bellevue Days are a fairly new band. But they are a band I’m fairly excited about, given that their first two EPs have been highly spoken of by Rock Sound. Not only this, but they have already been likened to bands like Brand New, and to gain that sort of praise at this point of your career isn’t just rare, but extremely special. You’ll be pleased to know that the band have delivered just as much on this, their third EP.
Musically, this EP is fantastic. The band switch effortlessly from clean, atmospheric guitar to heavy distortion many times over in this record, a skill hard to find. The lyrics are yet again pensive and vulnerable, moving from soft to harsh perfectly, just like the music. This isn’t instantly catchy, dancefloor music, but it has more of a complex edge, relying on perfect composition and honest lyrics rather than catchy hooks to do it work.
Every track on this EP is worthy of a place, coming together to create one of the most complex, honest, and vulnerable records I’ve heard this year. But to really experience its’ beauty, you’ll have to listen to it yourself.
Best song: Dead Summer