• By: Owen Maxwell

Powerhouse Miles Kane Mixes Vintage Pop Pith Modern Rock Fire

Girl Ray – Prestige (London, England)

After opening their career on one of the most memorable indie-pop albums the U.K. had produced in the 2010s, Girl Ray have moved towards dance energy more with each record. While the disco side of this record undoubtedly lands them some more instantly catchy material, the tracks where they mix their new aesthetics with their more varied signature colour as a band is where the longest-lasting tracks come out. “True Love” goes full disco right out the gate, with fat synth lines that elicit a classic 70s style, as the band find a smooth and glossy place for the mellow dance-rock. The group’s knack for unique harmonies and overall chord voicings shines through the brightest on “Love Is Enough,” where the bass grooves hit with a sharp edge, but those choruses have such a singular colour compared to most original disco that it’s definitively Girl Ray. A bit more 80s pop (Think George Michael’s “Faith”) comes through in the bouncy and funky “Hold Tight,” where band start to take the feeling of the record and use it to morph their sound into something less genre-bound. Their more classic riffs fly on “Easy” with a ballad about being in a kind of funk until you find that wavelength that pulls you back forward.

JACE Carrillo Eclipse (Single) (Montreal/Valencia, Venezuela)

Through the visual lens of a real eclipse, JACE Carrillo dissects struggle and moving through the heartache on his latest single. Just like the solar phenomena, the song moves through phases, with tender verses, a growing liveliness in the drums throughout the choruses, and finally a colourful ray of light in the bridges to take it to a whole new place acoustically. Through it all, Carrillo’s vocals grow with it, until Carrillo is belting with his whole heart to absolutely goosebump-inducing final choruses. The whole track is a tight pop package with heart, showing a great focus in their songwriting that lets the emotional soul of the song stay strong.

Miles Kane – One Man Band (Birkenhead/Meols, England)

A powerhouse pop rocker to be reckoned with, Miles Kane brings a wonderful mix of vintage pop with modern rock fire. With a lot of focus on growing from his past, Kane feels like he’s celebrating moving forward here, rather than exploring his way out of the darkness like in some of his previous work.  “Troubled Son” creates an anthem out of rising from your dark and wild days, to try and build things back up a triumphant glory filled with choirs behind you. The bass is slinking to let Kane knock out some furious chorus booms on “The Best Is Yet to Come,” where the harmonies and one hint of Kane’s animalistic wail bring the song to the next level. There’s a fun sprawling and exotic flavour to “Baggio” between the percussion and fiery riffs, calling the most to Kane’s Last Shadow Puppets sounds, while still capturing the more vintage crooning angle his solo work focuses in on. There’s a fun dash of The Jam on “Doubles” with Kane reminiscing about the paired life with a romantic charm and a sad helping of longing to make the song hit harder.

Alana Springsteen TWENTY SOMETHING: Figuring It Out EP (Nashville, TN/Virgina Beach, VA)

There’s a touch of “Where Is My Mind” in the hook of “Twenty Something” where Alana Springsteen riffs on the weird place of those first step of adulthoods with all the mistakes of youth, and the self-awareness to be rattled by it all. “Chameleon” brings things in more intimately, with Springsteen revealing in the track’s neon tones that playing along is their only way to emotionally survive, even if it makes them hollow in the long run. The driving feeling of “Hypocrite” brings a more invigorating feeling to the record, with Springsteen revelling in the acceptance that we all have a bit of evil to contend with, and how much intention can mean. Through the tight riff on “Ghost in My Guitar” Springsteen delivers many of the most punchy melodies of the whole record, sending it out on a track that drops pop aesthetics while maxing out the infectious writing.

Sleaford Mods UK Grim (Nottingham, England)

Cutting and absolutely brutal in their approach, Sleaford Mods hold nothing back on their latest record. With tracks that never relent in their approach, the band strike a strong balance between holding their own voice and charting new directions in their sound. The oppressive synth tones on “UK Grim” hint to the darker energy behind even the more awestruck lyrics, suggesting society is past the point of parody. With Dry Cleaning’s Florence Shaw on “Force 10 from Navarone” the whole track burns with the satisfaction and burn of a cigarette, with the surrealist way the pair describe their daily grind coming off with endless hostility. The guitar lines on “So Trendy” provide what is easily the album’s most accessible core, mixing something what sounds like the Rapture and five different B-52s songs into a menacing monster that lets them riff on modernity. The grinding ferocity of “Pit 2 Pit” is a fun rush, especially with every grunt and rolling guitar cut, always feeling on the edge of a massive choral explosion.