team meArtist: Team Me 
Release: Blind as Night 
Label: Propeller Records 
Genre: Alternative 

Norwegian 6-piece Team Me release their new album ‘Blind As Night’ – the band’s first record since the release of their debut ‘To The Treetops’ in 2011. Charting in the Norwegian top ten albums chart the band has picked up a Norwegian Grammy for ‘Best Pop Album’ and two Independent Music Awards. The first introduction to the bands new sound and album dynamics came last month with standout songs ‘Blind As Night’ and new track ‘The All Time High’. With unconventional recording locations and a children’s school choir, the album began to take shape with their trademark upbeat guitar pop sound taking even more of a dark and deep lyrical undercurrent than their first offering.

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emikaArtist: Emika
Release: Klavirni 
Label: Emika Records 
Genre:  Dance 

Klavirni is something that seeps gently into the soul without demanding unnecessary effort from the listener, providing a personal, raw, unpolished and captivating glimpse into the pure essence of artistic endeavor. Emika is offering an intimate look into the fundamental process that lies at the core of not just this latest body of work but of the artist as an individual.

In her own words: I stayed a few weeks at my parents home in Milton Keynes in Dec13/Jan14. My favorite piano is there from my childhood, the piano that I did all my grades on. That piano has been the most important instrument in my whole life.

Emika Records continues on its self-chartered journey with a personal, warm, inviting and moving record from this ever creatively thriving and enduring talent.est tunes for this best of compilation.

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one-derfulArtist: Various Artists 

Release: The One-Derful! Collection: Mar-V-Lus Records  
Label: Secret Stash Records 
Genre: Funk & Soul 

“For You My Love” is a sliver of all the earmarks found rampant in Chicago’s soul scene. We’re talking about funk at it’s core, with a crunchy gospel exterior…” – Okayplayer

The second installment of the One-derful! Collection focuses on Mar-V-Lus. The imprint started with the intense soaring vocals of Johnny Sayles, before expanding to teen and dance oriented tracks from Alvin Cash, The Du-Ettes, Madeline & The Young Folks, motown styled group like the Blenders and the Ultimations, and hard soul songstress Josephine Taylor including 11 tracks that have never before been issued!

Central to Mar-V-Lus is the Leaner family. By 1963 when brothers George and Ernie Leaner added Mar-V-Lus as a sub-label to their One-derful! label, they were revered figures on Chicago’s Record Row and beyond. They distributed material from labels like Motown and Stax and they attracted top talent. It wasn’t uncommon for a WVON DJ to help the Leaners sign their newest discovery, or for their singers, musicians, songwriters, or producers to have Chess or Motown on their resumes.

Nearly 20 years prior, George and Ernie started work at their sister’s Groove Record Shop. Before long, George was an assistant to legendary blues producer Lester Melrose, and later the brothers helped run Parkway Records – recording historic 78s featuring Little Walter and Muddy Waters. They did all of this before launching United Record Distributors in 1950 – regarded as the nation’s first black owned record distributor. In addition, their uncle Al Benson was the most influential Radio DJ on Chicago’s South Side. His on-air support and occasional partnerships with the Chess brothers proved crucial to their early success. He also helped many DJs get their start, including Vivian Carter who later formed Vee-Jay Records. In fact, United Record Distributors hosted her wedding. The Leaner name also turns up in connection with many of the greats in blues and soul: George Leaner produced an early release for Berry Gordy’s Tamla label, and in the 1970s Ernie Leaner and Stax’s Al Bell partnered to form Ernie’s Onestop and a chain of Record World stores. The Leaner family were among the most important black businessmen of music’s golden era, yet much of their history has only been superficially documented until now.

Between 1962 and 1971, the One-derful! family of labels released 180+ 45s of stunning soul, funk, and gospel. Secret Stash spent over two years of painstaking research and work, including countless hours spent cataloging, transferring, and mastering 250 of the label’s tapes, for this exhaustive 6 volume reissue program.

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japeArtist: Jape 

Release: This Chemical Sea 
Label:  Faction Records 
Genre: Dance 

‘If you’re looking for music that’s emotionally engaging, texturally lush, loaded with detail, adventurous in spirit and melodically rich, then Jape are worthy of your time.’
Drowned in Sound

‘The strong hooks bring you in and the downbeat material creeps up on you.’
The 405

The prolific Richie Egan returns with Jape’s fifth studio album ‘This Chemical Sea’, available from January 26th on Faction Records.

Revered by critics and fans alike in their native Ireland, Jape is the only act to have received the Meteor Choice Award for best Irish album twice: for their third album ‘Ritual’ (2008) and their last full length effort ‘Ocean of Frequency’ (2011).

On this LP, Jape have tangibly honed their sound, and written what the band calls ‘the first album which has a uniquely ‘Jape’ sound from start to finish, a type of gothic pop with lyrics of unusual depth.’ The record combines the mindset of genre-bending music that the band have always been admired for with a strict adherence to a pop format. It incorporates a nod to some of Egan’s biggest experimental influences (Voices from the Lake, Raymond Scott, The Microphones), but never veers away from placing the songs firmly within the frame of the pop genre.

The hooks throughout the LP are strong and resonate above the bouncing keyboards, particularly on the record’s lead single ‘The Heart’s Desire’. The Peaking Lights remix of the track, which premiered on The Line of Best Fit and received coveted airplay on Huw Stephens’ show, takes the song’s irresistible melodies and lets them flow for seven minutes, highlighting the band’s talent for penning an irresistable chorus.

The record’s strengths are enhanced by the skilful mix of David Wrench, who has worked with the likes of FKA Twigs, Caribou, and Jungle. The powerful melodies are nurtured, but never at the expense of the stunning instrumentation on tracks such as album opener ‘Seance of Light’, where the synthesisers shimmer and shine on a sea of deep electronic bass lines, along with other album highlights ‘Love on the Crest of a Wave’ and ‘Absolutely Animals’.

Following an extensive tour of Australia and Europe, Egan relocated to Malmo, Sweden in 2012, where he found a studio to write and record the majority of the new record. Egan explained his intention was to ‘make a coherent album that was a pure expression of my inner thoughts.’ Far from an insular process however, this was the first time somebody else was let in on the creative process. The tracks would be shared with fellow band member Glenn Keating for feedback, something Egan feels ‘was inspiring and helped me to push myself so much harder.’

Further adding to the collaborative aspect of the album, mercury prize nominated Villagers’ frontman Conor O’Brien features on the LP’s penultimate song ‘Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon’. However, regardless of outside influence, Egan also manages to demonstrate his penchant for taking inspiration from the personal, such as in the staggeringly beautiful final piano line of ‘Breath of Life’. This was written the same week his mother fell extremely ill, and its melody is something he believes reflects the ‘magical quality of music and its ability to induce memory’’.

As a man who has worked in many bands prior to, and alongside, Jape (The Redneck Manifesto, Villagers, David Kitt), Richie Egan has an impressive back catalogue of work, but ‘This Chemical Sea’ may well be considered his greatest achievement thus far. It is a compelling pop record with all the attributes of an album which will last well beyond its 2015 release.

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