Archive for January, 2010

Republic of Letters – Painted Hour
Spring/Summer 2010
Independent Release

Republic of Letters - Painted Hour

Click on image to preview tracks

A few years ago, Republic of Letters impressed me with a nice debut EP called “Spirt or a Ghost”. It only contained a few rounded, well-written indie pop/rock songs, slightly reminiscent of bands like Feeder, Switchfoot, Snow Patrol, Idlewild and the likes and I could already hear enormous potential in this young band back then.

They now return with their official debut album, “Painted Hour”, which is pretty much as perfect as a debut album can be. All the songs have an emotional connection, lyrical and musical depth, passionate performance and the album fits together like one big package.

The band has a strong live reputation in the San Diego area. They bring a high level of musicality and sophistication and mix it with emotion, energy and enthusiasm. It’s a combination you’d like to see in every single band. But there are only so many bands who can really pull off this kind of quality. Republic of Letters in one of those few bands.

Lost Chord
The opener, Lost Chord, is an uptempo pop/rock song that would make a killer radio single. The chorus is easy to remember and easy to sing along to. There is a lyrical depth that makes you interpret the song whatever way you please so it is a song that many people can connect to. The music has the right intensity and it’s one of those tracks that might just speak to you if you are willing to listen.

Stories is a more anthemic track, with highly intense vocals. There also is a certain rawness to this song which makes it an excellent live song as well. If you listen really well, you might hear something reminiscent of old school U2 even. It has the same atmosphere and epic feel to it.

Entre Chien Et Loup
Uptempo again with Entre Chien... It’s a song that grows on you more and more everytime you hear it. It has a recognizable, yet quite alternative edge. The exact right mix of pop, rock and ‘indie’ that will speak to the fans of the respective genres. The tempo, combined with the passionate performance of the song makes this song a dark horse when it comes to possible radio success.

Long Way Down
Long Way Down is one of the album’s best songs. Great guitar work and vocally close to perfect. People will tend to disagree with this statement, but it’s the little trembles and breaks that make it perfect to me. It just adds so much emotion. And a lot of the song’s strength lies in the timing. It is spot on all through the song. From the sing along chorus to the intense bridge, this song just has it all.

Running From
On Running From, Republic of Letters eases a little on the intensity. The keys are a nice feature in this song as they provide good support for the vocals. Lyrically it probably is one of the strongest tracks on the album, and it’s another song that no one will have trouble connecting to. The way the verses lead up to the recognizable chorus, make this song yet another one to be proud of.

This song needed a little time to convince me. From the grungy intro Karma leads into an alternative indie track that makes an amazing live song. While the chorus is actually quite catchy and the high intensity and uptempo characteristics of the song will make it stick, it is not really an obvious choice to release to radio. Its alternative edge and grungy feel are quite specific for radio airplay.

Painted Hour
The title track is my absolute favorite on this record. It has a steady beat and melodically it is simply wonderful. The lyrics speak to me and musically it just reaches me. “and I’m just a shadow amongst the few on this one way road”. That’s just sheer brilliance. Everytime I hear this song I am deeply impressed.

Sounds of Fury
I just love the drums in Sounds of Fury. And also the way Venti sings “the sounds, the sounds, the sounds .. of fury now”. There’s a certain tension, a certain excitement in this song. It makes for an incredible build up and a powerful performance of an excellent indie song. I can imagine this to be an excellent live song also.

Endless Drive
Endless Drive might be slightly more pop-oriented, yet it still has that distinct alternative edge (or indie feel if you will). It’s quite round in its melody and the more often I hear it, the more I can see this as a radio hit. It reminds me of other things I hear on the radio, perhaps only better.

If there is one track on this album that I connect to a little bit less it probably is Runaway. But the rhythm (I love the drums) and the excellent vocals and energy, make me wonder about the live version of this song. There’s a bit of mystery within this song that is masterfully contained so you only get a peek of it and remain interested in the song.

This song is the one that I have the biggest emotional connection to. The first time I heard this one I actually shed a couple tears. It reminded me of certain times, places and events in my life. Things I hold dear but things that caused hurt as well. In a way it connects these things for me and the passionate, powerful yet subtle performance of this song completely speaks to me. And everytime I find a band that writes a song like this, a song I can connect to so much, I know that this is a band that I will be a fan of for the rest of my life.

This review might be a little colored because I am very taken by this band’s music. But I would say that it is just that what makes music special. The personal connections and emotions that you feel with music. The memories, the feelings, the way it makes you look at things. It’s that personal bond you forge with certain music that makes it special to you. With “Painted Hour” I have made that rare connection that you can only make with a limited amount of albums. And this is why I feel this album is one that should be heard. Because I hope that others will find the same understanding and comfort in it that I do.

On top of that, the album is very sound musically, and for a debut album it is highly impressive. Excellent debut!

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After a hiatus of 7 years, American mainstream rockers Lifehouse return to Europe. Their success has grown in the US & Canada, as well as in certain areas of South East Asia, but in the meantime Europe and other international areas stopped hearing from the band alltogether. Where they scored hit after hit in the US, the singles weren’t even released in most countries in Europe.

But things are about to change. In late february, the band visits The Netherlands & Germany for promotional gigs and scheduled two concerts in Germany (Cologne @ Luxor – Berlin @ Frannz) and one in the Netherlands (Amsterdam @ Melkweg).

Tickets are bound to sell out fairly quickly, so don’t hesitate too long if you intend to attend the show(s).

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Little Things That Kill – Smokescreens
March 1, 2010
Independent Release

Little things that kill - Smokescreens

Click on image to preview 3 tracks

This band, now called Little things that kill, has been around for several years. In fact, they won the “Grote Prijs van Nederland” (Grand Prix of the Netherlands, a Battle of the Bands-like competition) in 2003. Back then they played a mix of pop and rock, sometimes semi-acoustic, sometimes with a grungy or alternative edge. Over the years their songwriting and music has matured into a more indie-like rock & roll that draws from both British Influence and American Rock & Roll. The upbeat, danceable rocktracks benefit from highly energetic performances and what is probably the band’s best quality, the build up of tension and excitement in the songs.

They are now on the verge of releasing their official debut album ‘Smokescreens’, which contains 12 strong tracks. Some of the songs are evolved versions of songs they previously played, others are brand new. And the album is a good representation of where this band is at. Recently named Serious Talent at Dutch radio station 3FM, their single ‘So Beautiful’ is getting good airplay and the band is starting to really get their name out there.

First and foremost, Little things that kill is a live band. Their live performances are packed with enthusiasm, energy and excitement. And while the songs sounds tamer on the album, you can definitely hear the potential. From the danceable single ‘So Beautiful’ to the infectious ‘Take All The Time’ to the closing ballad ‘Five Dog Night’, the band shows diversity within their genre.

He Gives, He Takes
The album starts with ‘He Gives, He Takes’ which has a very catchy intro, that immediately gets your attention. It’s a pointy, very easy-to-like, rock & roll song that gets the album off to a strong start. The lead guitar makes the tune recognizable and I wouldn’t be surprised if radio starts to pick up on this song eventually.

So Beautiful
This is one of the band’s older songs. It has evolved from a mostly acoustic melody into this radio-friendly, danceable indie-rocker. It’s a great choice for a lead single as it contains some clever hooks and its potential to sing along to. Both melody and lyrics invite you to interact with the song and sing along. And be honest, who doesn’t love a good love song?

The band paces down slightly on ‘Push/Pull’ which has a more emotional approach. Strong lyrics and an empathic performance make this song shape up very nicely. And while it might not have that very recognizable hook it somehow has a way of drawing in the listener.

Sirens (Are You OK?)
This song, however, does sound very recognizable to me. It might be both its strength and its weakness. Because it is recognizable it’s not hard to get into the song, but on the other hand I also miss a little excitement. Little things that kills plays the song very well and the live version is quite strong, richer than the album version, but yet there’s something about ‘Sirens’ that doesn’t list it as one of my favorite tracks on Smokescreens.

Sliding Scale
While it might not be the album’s strongest track, there’s just an energy and joy in this fast-paced, danceable song that I can’t help but really, really like it. It’s upbeat, it’s infectious and the chorus is great to shout (or sing if you have better vocals than me) along to.

‘Secrets’ is another slower paced song with deeper, more emotional lyrics. It also is one of the album’s strongest tracks. In fact, I think saying this song has an ambitious, almost epic build-up would definitely be fair. And Little things that kill absolutely pulls it off. If you get a chance to see them perform, make sure to listen to their live rendition of this song. They put a lot of energy and emotion into it.

Speak Up Baby
Another song they’ve been playing for quite some time. Previously it was more of a powerballad, and frankly, I think I’m still so used to the older version I haven’t completely gotten into this newer version of the song. For some reason the timing in the older version seemed to fit better for me. Having said that, I’m starting to like this version of ‘Speak Up Baby’ better every time I listen to it, so there must be something to it.

On Your Side
‘On Your Side’ is a potential radio single in my opinion. There’s a certain tension in the build up that gets released into a what I consider to be a chorus perfect for radio. For live performances too for that matter. Because once you hear the chorus for the second time, I guarantee you’re singing along to it. The song sticks in your head and isn’t that what a radio single’s supposed to do?

Take All The Time
I’ve known this song for a little while and from the first time I heard it I connected to it. The infectious, at times angsty vocals and the relatively fast pace of the song lends itself for some old-fashioned rockin’ out. On top of that the exciting performance and strong lyrics add to the strength of ‘Take All The Time’. It’s a catchy, modern rock & roll track that, in my opinion, is one of the band’s best so far.

Bloody Hands
In a lot of aspects I feel the same way about ‘Bloody Hands’ as I feel about ‘Secrets’. The build up is strong as the song works to a climax. It’s the most ambitious track on the album and it’s a track the band can be proud of. Things fall into place on ‘Bloody Hands’, it’s a combination of good songwriting and excellent execution.

Beautiful South
I remember hearing this song live a few years ago. It was a little slower back then but overall the feel of the song hasn’t changed that much. I liked it then and I like it still. This song might not thrive on tension or excitement as much as most of the album’s tracks but it ‘s a nice modern rock song that will appeal to the general audience.

Five Dog Night
The album ends with an acoustic ballad based on a saying that originates from the Aborigines. I admit it was not something I expected, though I knew this band has it in them. At an acoustic session at the Lowlands festival some years ago they played a similarly sensitive acoustic ballad called ‘Caught Between’ that I was very impressed with. ‘Five Dog Night’, while the sound is somewhat different, reminds me of that in the way it feels. It has the same direct connection. It’s not really what this band will be known for, but it is definitely a nice treat at the end of a very solid debut.

Little things that kill shows promise on their debut album ‘Smokescreens’. They are growing into a solid performing and recording group that is easing into their comfort zone more and more. Rightfully chosen as Serious Talent, opportunities should open up for them to develop and evolve even more, but with ‘Smokescreens’ they made the first step towards what could definitely be a long and successful career. And as I said before, you haven’t really experienced Little things that kill until you’ve seen them perform live. So if they are near you, don’t hesitate and visit their show. I promise you it will be worth your time and your money.

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Almost all of the archived reviews are uploaded. New reviews will be added regularly. A few upcoming reviews are:

-Smokescreens by Little Things That Kill
-Painted Hour by Republic of Letters
-Depths of the Earth by We The Living
-End Times by Eels
-Contra by Vampire Weekend
-My Dinosaur Life – Motion City Soundtrack
-Close Your Eyes by Quietdrive
-Alphabet of Hurricanes by Tom McRae
-Y Not by Ringo Starr
-Gorilla Manor by Local Natives
-Strange Fruits And Undiscovered Plants by DeWolff
-Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky by OK Go
-Ghosts On The Boardwalk by The Bouncing Souls
-Heleen [EP] by Want Want
-Wake Up Call [Single/EP] by Only Seven Left
-Transference by Spoon
-Tim Knol by Tim Knol

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I uploaded all our archived interviews to this blog for you to read. New interviews will be posted on this blog and added to the archive. You can click the ‘Interviews’ tab at the top of the screen to browse the archive. Or you can just click here.

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Per Twitter Contest, I won a living room concert by excellent young Dutch indie band Little Things That Kill. These talented musicians are currently 3FM Serious Talent and under their previous moniker “Eleven” they won one of the most prestigious Dutch music prizes “Grote Prijs van Nederland”.

The band played almost an hour long set + a 4-song encore. They were energetic and their quality of putting so much excitement in their music really adds to the experience. Both the band and the crowd (existing of 10 people) enjoyed themselves very much. Highlights, for me, were Five Dog Night, Secrets, Push/Pull, Are You OK? & Take All The Time. But the whole experience was a blast. They also played Little Lion Man by Mumford & Sons, which they are rehearsing for wednesdays radio gig. While Antonie hadn’t completely memorized the lyrics, the sound of their rendition was very cool and I’m sure they’ll kick some good ass on the radio with this song. A radio gig I’ll be attending per the band’s invitation. Really looking forward to that, and I will also cover it on this blog.

In addition this already awesome night, they also presented me with an advance copy of their upcoming record “Smokescreens” which will be released in March. I urge you all to check out the band, their music and purchase their CD when it is released. I’m currently listening to it and it sounds REALLY good.

Keep an eye out for any shows near you and request their single “So Beautiful” on your local and national radio stations. This band is highly entertaining, consists of very nice people and excellent musicians. One of the most talented young rock bands this country currently has to offer.

Here are some photos:
(for more photos check here (and more will be added later!))

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Republic of Letters, an alternative/indie rock band hailing from San Diego, CA, are releasing their official debut album “Painted Hour” in 2010. I’ve had the privilege of hearing the album in advance and I promise you that after their very impressive EP “Spirit and a Ghost”, this new album is one of the best debut albums I have heard in years. Their sound should appeal to fans of bands like Switchfoot, Snow Patrol, Coldplay, U2, Fiction Plane, The Killers, Saybia, Idlewild, Feeder, Jimmy Eat World and bands with a somewhat similar sound. The songwriting is of very high quality and the emotional layers are plentiful. With certain radio hits “Lost Chord”, “Painted Hour”, “Sounds of Fury” and possibly “Kate”, they have an album that is both artistically complete and commercialy viable. One of the best young bands I have the privilege of knowing and calling my friends, Republic of Letters is bound to break through in the year to come, and it very well might be an international breakthrough.

If you’re in the San Diego, CA area, be sure to check out this amazing band, because they bring an added electrical and energetic spirit to their live shows that is very impressive. It’s a bonus experience you will not forget.

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IEM Blog Site

Due to certain circumstances the main Inner Ear website still isn’t online and kicking ass like it used to. But don’t worry, there is progress, I just don’t  feel like sitting around and waiting any longer, so in the meantime I decided to continue on a smaller scale. I still do reviews, interviews, promotion and spread interesting music news, but the interface will temporarily be through this blog. When the main website becomes active again, this blog will still be a part of it, yet it will serve more of a support function. For now, I’ll be posting reviews, interviews, music news, Inner Ear events, photos, etc. Basically I’ll continue blog-style with the whole setup.

I apologize for all the mess in the past months with the relaunching and not relaunching and such, but in between the problems I had with Inner Ear and a very hectic personal time, other priorities had taken over for awhile. And since I do this thing almost completely on my own, it’s quite time consuming. However, I have not lost my love for music or for this service, so I will definitely keep on doing it.


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