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The Driving Test

A Musical Car Ride

Whilst we would love to give every album/EP/single a full indepth review,we are only human and don't have a time turner so we aren't able to give every release the time and attention it deserves.

In the past that would have ment that we either reviewed a release or we didn't, but now we have a third option, a middle way.

The solution here has been a simple one. Rather than review individual artists' CD's at length, we play them one after the other on a long car journey. The simple listening test is: "are they bearable in the car - interesting, enjoyable, not distracting". This may not be how the artists want us to hear their work, but it's how a lot gets listened to for the first time and at least raises awarenes! The rating system is simple and provides a shorthan for reference.:

***** Classic album, standout artist - a joy to listen to anywhere
**** Great album - the perfect soundtrack to a long car journey
*** Good album - pleasant background in the car - but nothing unique
** You have to be a fan of this music/artist. I've spared you a review
* You are either the artist or a close relative. (As I'm not, sorry no review)

King of Foxes - Salt & Honey ****
Edmonton Indie Rockers King of Foxes have adopted a bit more of a pop sound than previous releases, but have lost none of their energy and dynamism. It makes Salt & Honey a wonderfully accessible record, with some strong tracks that will really stick in your head. Opener Backsliders is an upbeat and vivacious, and is one of the stronger songs on the album. Cartagena is full of warmth, and the ebbs and flows of a summer tide. The highlight though is the excellent Laundry List, which drops the energy levels a little for a ballad with a compelling chorus. Salt & Honey has the feel of a late 90s indie album, with its unpretentious vitality masking veiled depths. This is a really enjoyable album. AJ

Screaming Orphans - Life In A Carnival ***
The Diver Sisters have racked up in impressive 14 releases now since the turn of the Millennium. Life In A Carnival is a lot of fun, and never takes itself too seriously, though that means some of the tracks are a little light and whimsical. Their cover of Happy Together by The Turtles is fun and frothy near the start, and 1 2 3 4 is a feather-light call for peace and unity. Shine and Scream are both enjoyable and entertaining throwbacks to the late 90s early 00s, especially the latter with punky elements that bring to mind the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or Republica. Pick of the bunch though is Loved & Lost which feels like the heart of the album. Slightly disposable, but a lot of fun, Life In A Carnival is well worth checking out. AJ

Tiny Fighter - Tell Me EP **** Australian/Swedish band Tiny Fighter have produced a wonderful EP in Tell Me. The title track in particular is a superbly well put together track, which grabs the attention immediately and keeps you captivated until the end. It never comes close to outstaying its welcome, and begs to be listened to again straight away. Where Are You Now is a little more understated but no less enthralling; and Katrina is an achingly beautiful piano driven song, which puts a slight country emphasis on their indie sound. Therese Karlsson's vocals are a real joy throughout, giving this a unique vibe, and placing Tiny Fighter somewhere between Wolf Alice and The Cardigans on the musical spectrum. AJ

MARBL - Flight of the Hawks EP ***
This is the second release from Israeli singer-songwriter MARBL, after 2016's eponymous EP. We've already seen two singles, the wonderfully nostalgic I Think I Saw You On The Street, and the electronica hued The Mechanism Of All Temporary Things. While these are probably the standout tracks, Lay Your Head Upon My Chest is worthy of mention too. It's a great piece of laid back ethereal neo-folk. The EP drifts along very with tracks that will gently envelop you and leave you with a feeling of warmth, but likely won't stay with you for long after it finishes. AJ

The Campfire Flies - Sparks Like Little Stars ***
A New Jersey six-piece, the Flies ply acoustic America, coloured here and there with mandolin, banjo, accordion and woodwinds, opening strongly with the waltztime 'If Your Eyes Are Closed' and the friskier bluegrassy stomp of 'Way Way Back' but it never quite sustains the initial promise, the material levelling off into listenable but largely unmemorable strums, occasionally sparking back to life with the catchy Celtic cum Cajun bounce of 'If Your Eyes Are Closed' and the strummed, accordion-backed sway of 'Go Back To Your Heart'. Indeed, save for one instance, the strongest numbers are those on which Toni Baumgartner or Deena Shoskes take the vocals, suggesting that next time they gather round the campfire, they should let the girls do the cooking. MD

Doug Collins & The Receptionists - Good Sad News ***
A Twin Cities combo with their roots firmly planted in Beatles and Buddy pop, this is feelgood bouncy country pop, kicking off with 'Conversation With My Heart' and cheerfully sailing through another nine numbers that lift the mood even if they don't linger when the lights go out. 'Please Don't Make Me Leave You' is a fine waltztime country ballad that sound both Elvis and Orbison notes, Tomorrow curiously recalls The Commodores' Easy and 'I Saw You Dancin'' waltzes round the honky tonk floor in the arms of pedal steel crying -into its beer. The accordion-led 'Hey Mary' throws in a splash of Marty Robbins shaken with a twist of Doug Sahm and 'Top of the Watertower' rounds it off with a driving drum beat and whirl around the stage guitars, leaving an album that you'd be glad to have at your party, but which you might not invite to stay over. MD

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