Thursday, 29 January 2015

Album Review: Sophomore by John Allen

It seems like every week I am discovering a new singer/songwriter type whose inspirations come from the world of punk rock, folk and americana music. Recently I was pointed towards the direction of John Allen from Germany and was told that his new album in spectacular and has an early Frank Turner vibe. As a huge fan of Frank Turners early work I had to check out the album, named Sophomore and discovered it truly was spectacular.

Sophomore opens up with a song named New Years Eve and straight away I could tell that this would be an album I would enjoy. Allen sings about lamenting New Years Eve. His lyrics are absolutely spot on about a cynic’s view of new years. Lines like “New Years Eve Quite Simple Serves One Purpose And One Goal, A Lame Excuse For Idiots To Get Pissed Beyond Control” and “So I Sit Down Before I Leave And My Mind Begins To Stray, For A List Of Resolutions That I Won’t Keep Anyway. The use of a whole band on the track really makes this sound like a big foot stomping anthem. Despite the cynicism throughout the verses the chorus is actually full of hope and promise; he sings “May My Heart Be Filled With Hope, may My Road Be Straight And Clear, May I Shout Out Of Full Of Confidence, Maybe This Will Be My Year. The second song Home is about finding somewhere to belong in many different places. I love how musically in trundles along at good tempo, giving the song a great punk rock feel. It’s a song where anyone who has ever toured, done some travelling or just had trouble finding somewhere to fit in can relate to. There’s a nice surprise towards the end of the song to, the man himself Mr Frank Turner sings a verse adds a nice new dimension to the track. On the third song Night Falls Over Reno the tempo of the album is slowed. This song feels a bit retrospective as he sings about having to make decisions knowing there will be consequences. His voice is superb on this song as it carries real emotion throughout and really tugs on the heart strings.

Springtime has a feel of The Gaslight Anthem to it. His voice is again full of emotion has he sings about the anxiety that is felt in a relationship. The song starts off with just Allen’s voice and some acoustic guitar before building into a big band performance for the chorus. The fifth track, Blood Brothers starts out with a thumping drum beat before being joined by acoustic guitar and a piano. It’s a song about the strong bond of true friendship and how despite being far away from each other that special connection is still there. As someone who doesn’t live near his best friends and misses them daily I really related to this song and found myself getting a little teary listening to the song. I love the chorus of “Whatever Happens And Until The End Of Days, Whatever Happens, All The Resistance We Will Face, Whatever Happens, We Will Fight Hard Against The Tide, And We Remain Blood Brothers Side By Side.” Blood Brother is an absolute corker of a song that if there was any justice in the music world should make John Allen a household name. The tempo is up on the next song Rock’n’Roll Romeos. This song is about leaving the dream despite it’s obvious drawbacks. The message is a positive one  and it’s the sort of song that will have you joining arms with strangers at shows and joining in with the singing with a massive smile on your face. Track number seven is called It’s Raining Every Day. This is one of the more sombre songs on Sophomore with Mr Allen musically stripping every back to just his voice and a acoustic guitar. He seems to have an amazing ability to really make the listener hear each and every one of his lyrics and just forget about everything around you when you’re listening to his music.

Freedom is another foot stomping folk punk anthem that needs to be played loud. This song is about being brave enough to stand tall and for what you want in life and the freedom you feel from living this way. This verse in particular is amazing – “So Now He’s Leaving Town, He’s Leaving Home, They Say All Roads Lead To Rome, Freedom’s Just Another Word For Petrol Steal & Chrome, So He Hits The Ground Running Into The Great Unknown,” Fantastic song writing. Track nine on Sophomore is called Lessons I Have Learned. The feeling of positivity is high in this americana inspired song. It’s a slow burner that you can’t help but smile to when listening. It’s about finding the good in life despite all the bad situations you can find yourself in. The chorus is really strong – “ That All I Really Want Is To See Your Smile At The Break Of Day, And All I Really Want To Feel Your Touch And To Hear You Say, Listen To Me Baby, Sometime Things Are Bad, And Sometimes They Get Worse, But Don’t You Dare Forget, How Lovely Life Can Be, How Wonderful And Lovely Life Can Be.” I also loved the lines “And If You’re Out There Somewhere Listening To That Song, And If It Makes You Smile, Try And Sing Along” – simple but utterly brilliant. The final song is appropriately titled Famous Last Words. John brings the piano to the forefront on this song and gives it a deliciously haunting sound. Again, his amazing ability to get the listener to hear every single lyric throughout the song. He really pulls on the heartstrings again as he sings a ballad about saying goodbye and asks if he will be remembered when he’s gone.

I don’t know enough superlatives to really give this album the praise it deserves. Simply put it is a masterpiece. You need to check this guy out.

Check out John Allen here:

You can buy Sophomore here:

Now listening to Autobiographer by Eric Ayotte

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