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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Belt

REVIEW ROUND-UP: Maximilian, Quiet Car, Feeder and Mei Semones

Four reviews in one collated round-up from the past week's releases

Album: Maximilian - Surrender

Any artist boasting credible references to Jeff Buckley and Radiohead is worthy of further interrogation and this is certainly the case with Jersey-born, Brighton-based singer/songwriter, Maximilian, on his debut album, Surrender.

Spanning 10 tracks, the record is an album of two halves - the first five songs captivating, while the second half provides more of the same, but failing to thrill in the same way.

Introspective: Maximilian (photo credit: Freddie Willatt)

‘How Will I Ever Know’ provides instantly absorbing Thom Yorke-like vocals alongside lilting acoustic guitar and drums, with xylophone elevating the chorus. The emotion of the song takes you in different directions and a dreamy atmosphere is created. ‘Weary Eyes’ comes across as what it would sound like if Beirut adopted a more conventional four-piece rock band set-up, ‘For Now’ calls to mind Beach Boys and The Shins with sunny guitar and pleasing harmonies and ‘Blind’ is the most Jeff Buckley of the tracks with a reminiscent guitar hook and lyrics detailing regret at parting with a lover.

The strong opening five tracks ends with ‘Kill Time’, on which Maximilian provides hushed vocals over an inviting hazy acoustic guitar. The song builds beautifully as Maximilian sings about the potential of a romantic relationship. 

After this strong start, Maximilian resolutely stays in his lane and the album ends up lacking the variety which would be welcome. That’s not to say that Maximilian’s signature sound is bad - in fact, what he does on each song makes for a compelling listen - but just that the morose atmosphere drags over the course of 10 songs.

A hugely talented singer/songwriter, Surrender is a great debut from Maximilian and hopefully on subsequent records, he takes more risks to show a different side to his admittedly excellent output.

Rating: 7.5/10

Surrender was released last Friday (29 March) via Mango Wax Records

EP: Quiet Car - Quiet Car

Comprising a slender three songs, Quiet Car’s debut EP provides a tantalising taste of the potential of the project.

The LA-based duo are film scorer, Cam Cunningham, and singer, Jordanna, who, together, create cinematic jazz-infused rock on this EP. ‘Goblin’ is a shapeshifter of a tune, with dance-inducing jazz, rock moments, mathy guitar and bass, a mysterious aura and vocals which start out soft and end up soaring. 

A genre-fluid proposition: Quiet Car (photo credit: Jenna Houchin)

‘Miss You Not’ features hypnotic guitar on a loop, a catchy chorus and a cagey atmosphere as Jordanna sings about how easy it is to create music. Less interesting is middle track, ‘Call Me Home’, which reflects on the devotion to someone else over an interesting soundtrack, but one which lacks substance.

Quiet Car puts the project on the radar and points towards more interesting and complex jazz-rock arrangements in future which will be worth looking out for.

Rating: 7.9/10

Quiet Car was released last Friday (29 March) 

Album: Feeder - Black/Red

Double albums are a rare and risky beast. At mainstream level, the concept was revived in the mid-2000s through Foo Fighters’s In Your Honor and Red Hot Chili Peppers’s Stadium Arcadium. Both albums had strong moments but ultimately suffered from the bloated run time which is a common affliction of the concept.

Fast forward to 2024 and another mainstay of the mid-2000s rock mainstream in Feeder and their 12th album, Black/Red. With the first half the ‘Black’ side and the second the ‘Red’ side, the 18-track project is an ambitious mid-career step from the Welsh rock band.

And does it, too, suffer from bloat? Well, yes. Having not listened much to the band since 2005’s Pushing the Senses, I was intrigued what the now-veteran band sound like almost two decades later and across this double album.

Black clothes, red background: Feeder (photo credit: Steve Gullick)

Surprisingly, and with apologies to the albums produced in-between, there isn’t a huge change from what Feeder sounded like in the mid-2000s. This is both not a bad thing when the riffs come together pleasingly, as they do on several tracks here, and a bad thing in often sounding generic.

The high point of the 18 tracks is the two final Black songs and opening three Red songs - a run which includes monstrous riffs and drums on ‘Perfume’ as frontman, Grant Nicholas, sings ‘when I’m alone with you, I’m different’, the sci-fi soundtrack-esque ‘AI.m^n’ which bemoans the rise of AI and excellent guitar work on ‘Sleeping Dogs Lie’.

The low points are ‘Hey You’ and ‘Unconditional’ - the former a lightweight generic number with ick-inducing ‘oh-oh’s and the latter more of the same.

There are a couple of other highlights besides the stellar five-track run in the middle. These are the Royal Blood-like ‘Vultures’ and final track, ‘Ghosts on Parade’, which sees the band shake off the shackles of their signature sound and embrace synths alongside some great bass from Taka Hirose.

Ultimately, though, the majority of songs fall into the category of decent and you’re left with the feeling that the confines of a single album, choosing the best songs off this effort, would have served the band better.

Rating: 7.2/10

Black/Red is out today (5 April) via Big Teeth Music

EP: Mei Semones - Kabutomushi

Leaving the best until last, the final review concerns a five-track sophomore EP from Brooklyn-based artist, Mei Semones.

The singer-songwriter and guitarist melds acoustic and electric guitar, drums and violin to stunning effect as she combines English and Japanese lyrics across each of these enchanting songs.

‘Tegami’ opens with gentle acoustic guitar and a heartfelt refrain of ‘I won’t let you down’ as the song veers from calm to ominous and finally epic as a full band comes in to accompany Semones’s declarations of love. ‘Wakare No Kotobe’ changes pace enough times to keep you on your toes as the acoustic guitar tune progresses to electric guitar for some extra oomph and Semones chronicles being walked over, singing ‘hope I don’t see you again’.

Moo-dy: Mei Semones (photo credit: Lucas O.M.)

‘Takaramono’ is a song of gratitude for its recipient over a chamber pop foundation which builds to something rockier and ‘Inaka’ is a further slab of chamber pop with Semones vowing ‘I will move to the middle of nowhere if I’m with you’ to her lover.

The title track is last up and the least compelling of the bunch as Semones shares her longing for someone living far away with less playful instrumentation than in the previous four tracks.

On Kabutomushi, Semones pulls off a pretty quintet of chamber pop tracks with vocals reminiscent of Anna Burch’s and executed in a way which puts her in the higher echelon of female singer-songwriters.

Rating: 8.4/10

Kabutomushi is out today (5 April) via Bayonet Records


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