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Posts Tagged ‘rock’

Taylor Carson – Defending The Name
September 14, 2010

Taylor Carson is a storyteller. An old-fashioned balladeer. In the tradition of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, James Taylor, Josh Ritter and the likes. You may notice I refer to some of the very, very best in the history of storytelling music. I do this on purpose to accentuate how Taylor Carson steps up his game on “Defending The Name”. He’s been out there for awhile, releasing music every so often. But with this new release he takes a huge leap forward and this album is bound to give him some well-deserved recognition.

Right from the opener, Moonshiner, this (sort of) autobiographic album starts to paint he picture of Carson’s family tree. He continues this trend down throughout the album, which features 16 songs of the highest quality. And through the classic mold of balladeering Carson doesn’t lose sight of the pop sensibility in his songs. Listen to Five, Freight Train or Smoke for example to hear what I mean.

“Defending The Name” is an album that is versatile. You may think that is a bold statement, but some of the songs tell a story that you just want to hear until the end, some of the songs are so endearing you can’t let go and there are songs that are simply beautiful in their simplicity.

Carson uses the lyrics as an additional instrument and enriches his songs by interweaving the music, the lyrics, the story, the feel, the message, the rhythm, the melody, everything to a collection of songs that breathe life, that breathe emotion. “Defending The Name” is by all means a modern-day masterpiece and Taylor Carson shows he’s ready to take the step into the spotlight that he now more than deserves.

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null paradox – the onion and the ants: gertrude and grace
July 21, 2010

To be honest, I had never heard of Null Paradox until recently. So I went into this album with a blank mind. “The Onion And The Ants: Gertrude And Grace” is music that belongs with the book of the same name.

Crystal Sherry’s lead vocals are strong and clear and the music has a certain sweep to it that creates a bit of an edge. Starting with opener Valentine’s Day, which is an okay track. The vocals are strong, but the arrangement isn’t too imaginative. Yet because of that it seems to work as the opener for this ‘soundtrack’ as I’ve come to see this album.

But going through the rest of the album I find that the songs aren’t really challenging or surprising. Musically it’s all tight and the vocals are actually quite strong. The over all feel and mood of the album probably fits with the book but for an album it seems to be stuck. It doesn’t get out of the shell it is placed in. Which is too bad, because if a song like Black And White (which is one of the better songs on there) had a bit more guts it could’ve been a killer song (in the tradition of heyday Incubus).

The most impressive part of the album are track 6 and 7 (Freedom / The Cell). Freedom has a lot of focus on the vocals and has a bit more guts to it when it works towards a climax. You can feel the song more than you can the other tracks. The Cell has a bit of an Evanescence vibe to it, but with a darker edge that seems to suit Null Paradox very well.

“The Onion and The Ants…” is an interesting album. It’s done pretty well but it doesn’t stand out much as a regular album. But because I’ve come to see it as a sort of soundtrack it seems to serve its purpose. I haven’t yet read the book that it accompanies but I imagine the music gets a lot more dimension once I do. So if you’re just looking for an album in this genre I don’t think this is the first one you’d grab on to, but if you are able to see the album in its context it seems to live up to what it was meant to do.

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Hillstomp – Darker The Night
July 20, 2010

Hillstomp is a very interesting band. This duo consists of musicians playing a bucket-drumkit and several string instruments (mainly guitars and banjos). It makes for a musical experience rather than just an album. This music hits you right in the chest. This mix of blues, rock & roll, roots, country and other styles is that powerful.

It’s hard to really pinpoint what “Darker The Night” is or represents. It’s energetic and it’s raw. It’s filled with emotion. It’s the music of the common people as they might’ve said back in the days of yore. From pounding songs like Cardiac Arrest in D and Satan Is Real (S.I.R.) to jangly banjo songs like Banjo Song #1, Banjo Song #2, Blue Tick, etc. it’s all real, it’s all straight to the point.

“Darker The Night” is an album of high quality. It highlights a brand of music we haven’t been hearing much in the past years (or even decades) and it brings it back with conviction and honesty that makes it stand out even more. Hillstomp is a band that is unique in this time and day. The music may not be what is commercially acceptable but it sure is damn good.

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The Quick & Easy Boys – Red Light Rabbit
June 8, 2010

The mix of funk, folk, roots, rock & roll, and whatever else is in there makes for an album full of energy, fun and refreshment. The Quick & Easy Boys may just have struck gold with “Red Light Rabbit”. Lyrically it may not be too challenging, but hey, that’s not the main focus of this album anyway.

I’ve seen references to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and while understandable, I would not draw that comparison. The jumpy guitars and the fun attitude of the songs instantly reminded me of The Craze while at the same time I seem to hear influences from bands like The Strokes, Band of Gypsies and Less Than Jake.

Right from the get-go “Red Light Rabbit” is off to set the mood. The opener is fun and leads into the album nicely. And the mix and fusion of styles throughout the album is fun. It doesn’t really get chaotic, which is a trap many similar bands fall into, but The Quick & Easy Boys easily switch between genres and mash them together with ease.

Highlights are Breakin’ Love, The Letter and Sweet Anticipation. But the rest of the album is worth listening to as well. No doubt about it. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it one of the best albums of the year, but it is one of the more surprising albums of the year. It’s refreshing, convincing and it leaves you with a feeling of free-spirited fun. And lets be honest, we all want that sometimes, right. Check out “Red Light Rabbit” as it is bound to be worth your time!

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Little Beirut – Fear of Heaven
September 4, 2010

This is the third release by the Portland-based band. With a mix of indie-pop and rock & roll they make accessible yet layered music. They weave strong melodies with, for the most part, inviting lyrics. The band seems to draw heavily on influences from the late 70s – mid 80s.

Little Beirut has a full and rich indie-pop sound and with those big melodies and with their confident attitude they are able to present a convincing album. They range between uptempo energy and massive ballads. They hold on tight to the ‘indie’ side of the genre but almost all the songs have a supreme pop sensibility. It’s not radio pop, but alternative radio would eat out of their hands.

The first couple of tracks are solid, good even, but the first memorable track is True Swords. At first I just thought it was pleasant, but the build up and sound (slightly reminiscent of The Smiths) draws you in bit by bit. It is followed up by the catchy Cigarette Girls, which would make one heck of a radio single.

Other outstanding songs are Lifeboat (check the harmonies!) and closer Crooked Crown, which is a great example of what melodical indie-pop can sound like. Little Beirut shows they have the talent and the guts to do what they do without the use of all kinds of studio production, sound enhancing, etc. etc. They stick to the music and the songs benefit from it.

“Fear of Heaven” is a solid album. It’s a good album that deserves notice. But that is just the thing. While it is good, I don’t know if it stands out enough to get that recognition. The indie-pop genre has been growing massively over the past decade and it’s hard for bands to really stand out among their peers. With the quality and confidence Little Beirut shows, they may have a shot to really break through, but I’m not so sure the sound of the album is unique enough to reach that big break. In the meantime, however, those who did come across Little Beirut have another album to add to their collection.

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The Dreaded Marco – Metrognome
August 25, 2010

The Dreaded Marco, hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, present us a 4 track release called “Metrognome”. From start to finish I believed myself to be back in the age of rock & roll. Forget about all the ready-for-radio pop songs and whatever it is people call rock these days. Back to the 70s and 80s when bands knew what it was to rock out and play with balls.

The Dreaded Marco’s sound is in no way commercial or mainstream. At times it’s even experimental and their sound sure is original. They do what they do best and they do it because they want to do it, not because they want to become famous for it. But this little EP is very impressive. In the past decades we’ve had Hendrix, Bowie, Zeppelin, Brainbox, Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails, The Mars Volta and more of these acts who had the guts to step out of the confines of what was mainstream and still be successful. The Dreaded Marco is a band that may be able to achieve something similar. The musicality and level of the compositions certainly justifies that.

The uptempo opener Strikes Again sets off in a fashion that drives your enthusiasm up to 10 in a second and the angsty Dirge is on par with anything Deep Purple’s ever come up with. The groovy rock & roll on Frank N Stein, however is pure magic. The blues riff that underlines the song is a solid basis on which they impose a classic Georgia rock sound with its unique alternative edge. And the instrumental break is something different altogether. You don’t hear this kind of thing anymore. And the closer When Will The Beating End? has a bit of a progressive metal undertone and carries on with so much bottled up energy it should be one heck of a live song. It reminds me a little bit of Hybrid L (also hailing from Georgia) but perhaps this is even tighter.

“Metrognome” is an excellent release. Impressive as hell. It may not be anything most labels are really interested in, but who cares. Power to the people. There sure is an audience for this kind of music. This release only features 4 tracks but I would be very curious to hear what level this band is able to reach on a full-length album. If they can keep up this quality, they’ll be able to reach far and wide, despite not being ‘mainstream’, whatever that is anyway.

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Jim Ivins Band – Jim Ivins Band [EP]
December 22, 2009

Acoustic rock outfit Jim Ivins Band released a self-titled EP in the last weeks of 2009. The Jim Ivins Band EP features 5 uptempo, acoustic-based alternative rock songs in the tradition of Sister Hazel, Pat McGee Band and Seven Mary Three, some of which they have actually shared a stage with.

The EP has a reasonably smooth production and the songs come over quite strong. The infectious opener Fall Flat (late 90s Oasis vibe) is a good start and would make a good radio or TV song with it’s catchy rhythms and relatable lyrics. After a few listens you will be singing along to it as it is able to pleasantly nestle itself in your head.

Back To Reality and Everyday Is Another Goodbye are okay songs but don’t impress as much as the rest of the EP. Back To Reality is effective yet a bit repetitive and could use a dose of creativity, which the band may well do in live performances. Everyday Is Another Goodbye has a bit of an edge, reminiscent of a band like Making April, but can’t quite get its head out of the crowd.

The other two songs, however, are most definitely album highlights. The Chance has strong lyrical content and the haunty, somewhat urgent vibe fits right into the songs feel. Passionately performed this is the strongest track on the EP. How To Hold On is a great mainstream radio song. The lyrics are easy to remember but they aren’t the ultimate clich├ęs, which makes the song interesting. It has enough of an edge to sound fresh and current and at the same time the song sounds quite recognizable.

Jim Ivins Band really is a band. The individual musicians are comfortable playing with each other and this creates an organic and impressive debut EP. With intensive touring and more releases like this they will be able to gather a strong following among a college audience and if they can go the extra mile during live shows, radio and mainstream audiences are right around the corner. Of course the band has some work to do to get there, but the first step is a firm one and they most definitely landed on solid ground.

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Ethan Cramer – Finding Me [EP]
August 20, 2010

This is the first time I hear of Ethan Cramer. His music falls in a standard post-grunge pop/rock category. The EP features five songs and kicks off with Seven Hour Drive which has energy, but isn’t able to really get to the listener. The lyrics are okay, but not brilliant. Musically it’s all not bad, just not extremely creative. And to be brutally honest, the vocals don’t quite cut it.

All over the EP, the vocals are the weakest spot. Songs like Finding Me and History are actually quite pleasing, but the vocals are really flat. Not much depth or strength in them, which leaves not a lot of room for the emotion to really come through. And Cramer propagates that the listeners connect to his songs on an emotional/personal level. I’m not saying the listeners won’t be able to, because the songs in itself do deserve some merit. While Cramer is not likely to hit the charts with this release, the songs aren’t all that bad if you give them a chance, it’s just that there’s a ton of this stuff out there, and frankly, a lot of that is more impressive.

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The Twees – Unfair Affair [EP]
May 13, 2010

Last year I reviewed “Lessons To Connect”, with which The Twees debuted on scene. I was pleasantly surprised by the energy and enthusiasm they showed on that release. They return with a 2-track single release. “Unfair Affair” features the title track and the song Hepburn Shades.

Not everything is perfect and sometimes things are a little raw, but the effort makes up for that in tenfold. And frankly, the rawness of it all fits with the danceable rock & roll this band creates. In the past we reviewed and worked with bands like The Craze, Little things that kill, The Crash Moderns, Welbilt and the likes and I would place The Twees in the same niche of the genre. The playful, danceable indie/rock that makes sure you start moving.

The music is infectious and has a lot of drive. The actual single, Unfair Affair, is an energetic, forward-moving song that is very pleasant. It’s a song you can get a kick out. Hepburn Shades is a little more plain, but it also has an energetic drive and makes for a good b-side to the single.

It’s only a little taste as the band plans to release another full EP in January of 2011. But for now you can enjoy these two musical candy canes to get through the holidays. Sign up for their newsletter and you even get the songs for free. Don’t miss out!

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Derek Clegg – Here Comes Your Fate, Quick Duck
November 30, 2010

We gave Derek Clegg’s previous record (“KJC”) a favorable review. His ingenuity and the fact that he does pretty much everything by himself, from start to finish, is something that can only higher your respect for this talented musician.

On his new release, “Here Comes Your Fate, Quick Duck”, which is once again available for a ‘pay what you want’-fare (go here to listen to, download or buy the album), builds on the same principles as “KJC”. The indie/folk mix works with Clegg’s pleasant vocals.

The album starts with It’s Over which is a very accessible, mid-tempo song that eases you into this record. But right on the next track, The Best That I Can Be, Clegg shows us what he’s really made of. The arrangement of the song shows creativity and Clegg also isn’t afraid to change it up a little bit. He doesn’t use too many bells and whistles, he sticks to the song as it is.

On the next tune we hear a guest musician (Tim James). Don’t Care is one of my favorite tracks of “Here Comes Your Fate..” as it is a song that easily gets stuck in your head. The smooth progression of the song makes it a very good candidate to pursue radio play with. This song has a lot of potential, it sounds very current and could help Derek Clegg find that breakthrough he may be looking for. It certainly confirmed my opinion of his talent. Find It Someday features some interesting guitar stuff but isn’t the most memorable song on the album even though it’s more than solid. Only The Lonely (featuring Leon Harris) didn’t stick with me as much as the rest of the album as it kind of just slowly mutters on. The next song Say Something however is another potential radio release. The song is essentially uncomplicated, with which I mean that it doesn’t sound forced and that the song is quite basic which makes it accessible and quite catchy. And I find myself singing “say something, say something good…” for quite some time after I listened to the song.

The acoustic Stay or Go is another strong song. It took some time for me to really warm up to the song, but the song has a certain power to it that gets to you eventually. I imagine it is most likely Clegg’s vocals that draw you in, in the end. And it’s built up pretty nicely as well. Love This Place features Ben Ames and the song stands out as it’s quite different from the rest. But it definitely is one of the album’s highlights. Interesting guitar work and good vocals. It has the surfy, summery, groovy feel that singer/songwriters like Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz, Donavon Frankenreiter, etc. are known for, but at the same time it’s very round and melodic. Musically this is definitely one of the stronger songs on “Here Comes Your Fate…” The album closer The Slow Down has some electronic work to it and I haven’t been able to really warm up to it. I’m not sure if it really is, but at times it comes across a little messy or foggy to me. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but it hasn’t been able to convince me really.

All in all, “Here Comes Your Fate, Quick Duck” is a solid follow-up to “KJC”. It has some excellent songs (The Best That I Can Be, Don’t Care, Love This Place) that really show a lot of potential and may very well facilitate a chance for Clegg to become known more widely. His talent surely justifies that. He delivered yet another strong album that you can give a spin, or even download, for free. And if you like it, don’t hesitate to chip in a few coins to compensate the artist, so he can keep on presenting us with these little treats of music.

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