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Archive for February, 2010

Tru Blue – Smells Like Music

Tru Blue is the brainchild of current and former members of The Derelicts and some other great musicians. They put together an album with eight songs that are pretty much a definition of music. Mashing many different influences (rock & roll, reggae, americana, folk, blues, etc.) together into a very pleasing package, Tru Blue delivers on a very, very solid album.

Starting with the funky title track, Smells Like Music, the album is off to a good start. The talented Judah Tafarhi takes on the lead vocals and brings reggae right back in our hearts. This track makes you feel the sun is shining.

Shame To See You Go has bluesy vocals and a very nice, groovy melody. While the vocals and guitar have a bluesy influence, the song also hints at Westcoast influences at time. It’s one of those tracks that just makes you feel good.

The album continues with the more intimate, folky Alone & Waiting, which is the money track for me. Impressive vocals and a very complete arrangement. The instrumentals are subtle when the vocals are present and when it’s just instrumental the band shows excellence!

Next up, Do The Best You Can. And Tru Blue definitely did. What an amazing funky rock & roll song. And remarkably catchy also. It has an edge, it has mystery, it has balls. It’s music like you don’t hear very often anymore. And then the band follows it up with a cool americana track called Between Us, which is the most natural and organic sounding track on the album.

On My Mind has a very cool intro, and while I like the arrangement of the song, it is my least favorite track on the album. I miss some excitement, some spirit in this song. Musically it’s sound, but maybe it carries on too much.

On You Just Got Here they pick it up again and the folky approach works really well and it’s just such a pretty song. Very well done. After that highlight, they close the album with Where Will You Be When I’m Gone. It’s an ending you’d like to hear to an album. Nearly 6 minutes of absolutely enjoying good music. And just imagine how good this would sound live!

“Smells Like Music” doesn’t only smell like music, it sounds like music. It brings together different influences, different musicians and a whole lot of music talent. Commercially this might not be the most succesfull album, but it’s a treat for the true fan of honest music!

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John Taglieri is posting regular updates on the process of the recording and coming-together-of the EP part of the third volume of The Lives Project. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and TheLivesProject.Com to get the latest updates on how the work is progressing. And just like the first two volumes, the third will also be accompanied by a short novel by Gil Gonzalez. The story of Max & Cate will continue later this year!

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mr. a balladeer – Sorry, Kid

Marinus de Goederen, known as frontman of the band a balladeer, is a gifted songwriter and lyricist and is now releasing his first solo album under the moniker ‘mr. a balladeer‘. In some aspects the sound of the album “Sorry, Kid” doesn’t deviate too far from a balladeer’s general sound, but in other aspects this album sounds quite a bit different.

Every songwriter has a certain signature in his or her music and so does de Goederen. In that aspect you can definitely hear the connection with a balladeer’s music, but whereas the a balladeer albums have a distinct band sound, this album is really a singer/songwriter album. And a very good one I might add. As I said in my preliminary thoughts on this album, the arrangements, the vocals and the instrumental execution are all soaked in emotion and subtle feelings. And essentially, to me, that is exactly what music is about. The basis of music is emotion and to make that emotional and personal connection with your listeners, that is what a good musician does. And in singer/songwriter music, that is absolutely key for me.

Marinus de Goederen gets that and he does it in a way that is absolutely convincing. He does not compromise on the music, and in that he delivers an album that is complete and touching and insanely impressive. “Sorry, Kid” is one of my favorite releases of 2010 so far, if not my very favorite. It literally and metaphorically strikes a chord for me.

The album starts off with Mars, which has an amazing arrangement, listen to how the different instruments and parts of the songs fall into place and add to each other. The song is like a well-oiled machine, where the wheels grab into one another and it works magically. Add to that Marinus’ empathic and intriguing vocals and you have an album opener that is world class.

Why Hitler Loved His Dog is not only an intriguing song title, it’s an intriguing song alltogether. The arrangement is richer than on the opener, fuller and more present. But the impact of the song is no less. Lyrically this song is also very strong. See, a singer/songwriter can tell you a story or give you a reasoning, or let you in by ‘painting a picture with words’. And this is done incredibly well on Why Hitler Loved His Dog. Once again, pay attention to the subtleties in the song.

Marinus posted the next song on his site a little while ago and my first reaction was: very familiar, very pleasant. And I still feel that way. And you gotta love a pop musician who is not afraid to use a clarinet in the arrangement. (It helps I play the clarinet myself 😉 ). And you know what? I can actually imagine hearing this on the radio. It’s not particularly catchy or uptempo, but it has a nice round melody and some parts that just stick with you. And the sound of the song is very familiar. With that I don’t mean it sounds like a lot of other stuff, but it feels good, it feels like coming home to a familiar environment.

When A Law’s Been Broken is a grower for me. There’s just so much to hear on this track that it took me awhile to take it all in. I heard someone say that this track is what U2 would sound if that band were a singer/songwriter. I actually thought that was a rather clever comment. It has the epic feel of a U2 song and lyrically I can find some correlations too. But I was gravitating more towards Neil Young myself, combining different style influences into an epic song with a very rich and full arrangement with all kinds of subtle (as well as not so subtle) parts, going back and forth in intensity.

There’s a certain edge on What The World Needs Now Is A Killer Storm that reminds me of Leonard Cohen. And coming from me, that is one of the greatest compliments you can get as I consider Cohen as one of the best 5 songwriters in the history of modern music. De Goederen builds up this song to a very exciting climax after which the song slowly winds down. I’m still not quite sure how to describe this song, but think of it this way: The songwriting edginess of Leonard Cohen, the tension of Pink Floyd, combined in a musical package designed by the talent of Marinus de Goederen.

Noah is a song that portrays that storytelling talent again. With a growing intensity, de Goederen tells the story of Noah. I really enjoy the vocals on this song and the passionate way the song is sung/story is told. Marinus’ voice breaks every now and then but that just makes this song even better to me. And it has such a pretty piano melody.

One Sunday is just a very beautiful song. The scene that he’s describing is something you can easily imagine. And in its own way this song is actually somewhat catchy. To me, it is also the song that comes closest to an a balladeer song. The way that layers and instruments are added to the song at certain key parts is quite good but most of all it’s the vocals that lead you through.

Then the shortest song on the album, How I Hurt My Heels. It’s one of those songs that takes you away for nearly 2 minutes. I’m not sure what else to say about it. Just from the first to the last note I’m gone from the world, and then it slowly sets me down again.

From the shortest to the longest song on the album. More or Less The Sort of Shit Ex-Lovers Get Restraining Orders For is an impressive song. Lyrically it’s the strongest song on the album, and musically it is also very impressive. I particularly like how the drums are adding to the songs tightness and emphasize certain parts of the song. The acoustic guitar mixes very well with Marinus soothing vocals and the whole song is just very complete.

The official album closer is Eleven, and my oh my, what a gem. It might be the end of the record, but ‘mr. a balladeer’ knows how to leave on a high note. The beautiful piano ballad is played with so much feeling that it even got me somewhat emotional. Sometimes a song speaks to you, and if you don’t have a heart of stone, this song will speak to you. Sheer beauty.

An instrumental track is added as a bonus track. The Hidden Track has a very endearing arrangement and is a very suiting and soothing end to the record for me. It leaves me very satisfied when the last note fades away.

I could throw out some superlatives and talk about how much I like this album, but I think you should listen to it and decide for yourself. Marinus de Goederen (mr. a balladeer) is a very gifted songwriter, already well-received as frontman of a balladeer, but he now proves he can stand his ground as a solo singer/songwriter also. “Sorry, Kid” is an incredibly impressive debut album and one that will have a prominent place in my CD collection. Check out his website, listen to some of his songs, be convinced and purchase this excellent masterpiece. You won’t regret it.

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Only Seven Left – Wake Up Call [CDS]

Only Seven Left is a refreshing new band on the Dutch pop/rock scene. Piano-based rock has been booming the past decade and there have been a lot of young bands popping up thinking they can make it in that genre. And while some of those bands do make it, most of them have their 15minutes of fame and then fade into oblivion. However, I believe Only Seven Left is one of those bands that has enough originality and spontaneity to break through to a wider audience and consolidate and even improve that position.

A few CD Singles and EPs into their career this band already knows how to write killer hooks and infectious mainstream pop/rock tunes with an edge. As you can hear on the main track Wake Up Call. The energetic and infectious melody catches you right away and before no time you’ll find yourself singing along (or if that’s not your thing, you’ll at least be moving along) to the song. This song is born to be played on the regional and student radio stations. It has the perfect catchiness and freshness to it to address a young and young adult public. And as interest grows, mainstream radio will have no choice and they will kick themselves in the head for not noticing this earlier.

Following the single is Lost And Found, which is one of my favorite songs of the moment. The song has enormous live potential and has a very strong build up. There are quite some subtleties in this song and the whole arrangement works together well. It’s high energy and high tempo and reminds me somewhat of Making April & Meese (both bands I hold in high esteem). It’s catchy though not as catchy as Wake Up Call. But this is quite the impressive song.

I’m Fine is up next. And again, this is a very fine track. Uptempo, good energy, good intensity. This band knows how to bring good music to the table. The sound of the song is slightly different from the previous songs but it has the same overall feel. I think the first two tracks were a little stronger, but I’m Fine is definitely worthy of its spot on this CD.

On the final track, the band takes down the pace a little bit. The power ballad A Shoulder To Cry On is a worthy closer of this short album. The vocals and keys interact very well and together they lead you into the song and they won’t let you out until the very last note. There’s a good balance between sensitivity and intensity in this song, which is something that often goes awry with young, upcoming bands. Only Seven Left proves they are already maturing as musicians and that promises a lot of good for their future.

With this 4 track CDS, Only Seven Left leaves a strong impression and it only strengthens my belief that there is an enormous amount of talent in the Netherlands when it comes to music. Only Seven Left, however, is a band that will not be bound by the boundaries of the Netherlands for long. Through good use of the possibilities provided by the internet, they are already reaching out to many places outside of our own country, and if they keep up this level of high quality music, they will only expand their fanbase, domestic and foreign alike.

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Cutback – Audio Suicide [CDS]

The UK is a breeding ground for talented pop and rock musicians. It has been for decades. A new name I’d like to present to you is Cutback. Cutback hails from Norwich and produces some infectious ‘wall-of-sound-guitar-rock’. Their music thrives on the energy and emotion that is omnipresent in pretty much every single second of their songs. For example, take their single Audio Suicide. It contains three tracks, that are very pleasant to the fans of this highly energetic rock genre.

The main track, Audio Suicide, has that typical British feel to it, but it has the fast-paced, guitar driven action of American stadium rock. But in all of this they maintain a certain amount of flow and catchiness that makes this track an excellent rock radio airplay contender.

Audio Suicide has the ability to grow on you. It’s not the best song I heard this year and I don’t believe this single will provide the band’s breakthrough, but there is no denying there is something about this band that is not only genuine but also very promising. Give it a little time and I assure you they’ll come back even stronger and if so, a breakthrough is surely upcoming.

Following the main track is One Last Time, which, in my opinion, would possibly be even better suited for rock radio. While the vocals on the main track were a little bit stronger, the powerpop feel to One Last Time makes it incredibly infectious and with the fast tempo, this track thrives on energy and intensity. This would be an awesome opener for a live set as well.

And then last, but definitely not least, Way Of Life. This is the most impressive track on this single release. Out of the three the least suitable for radio airplay but musically and vocally it stands out. Impressive vocals and tight instrumentals always make a good basis for a song. Add to that the excellent drive and powerful delivery of Way Of Life and you have a perfectly fine rock track on your hands. This is the track that does it for me, the track that makes me seriously believe this band has something special.

The Audio Suicide single contains three good songs that show a band that’s working towards their maximum potential. They might not be there quite yet, but they are well on their way. Without too much compromising they deliver on three powerful rock tracks with intensity and energy that provides the basis for building a solid live reputation. And if this development continues they might be a household name in the UK rock scene in no time, and after that, the sky is the limit. Give their songs a spin and get a piece of the action, you will not regret it.

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The Excelsior label brings us one of their newest talents: Tim Knol. This young musician is rising fast in the ranks, playing with label mates Johan on their farewell tour and getting a lot of support from other good bands and musicians. Therefore, his debut album is already a highly anticipated one. I, for one, was really looking forward to hearing what a full length would sound like.

Starting with Clean Up, which has a bit of a 60s/70s British vibe to it but also reminds me of fellow Dutch act ‘Solo’. It has a nice little feel to it and some clever bits in the arrangement. One of the more exciting tracks on the album.

Then Sam, which is probably the album’s best track. The groovy edge to it reminds me a little over Dylan & Springsteen. Singer/Songwriter with a rock & roll basis. Tim Knol comes across a strong performer and a gifted songwriter.

The next track has a very fitting title. Cause it not just sounds familiar, it’s also called Sounds Familiar. The breezy, folky tune has a really comfortable feel to it. Very laid-back and soothing. Vocally it may not be the best track on the album, but it’s a pretty decent track.

When I Got Here comes off a little weird the first and second time you listen to it, but the more you listen to it, the more you appreciate the melodic lines in it and the arrangement actually works. For some reason it makes me think of Donovan.

The balladry shown on Find All The Love is sweet but not very exciting. It’s a safe song, well done, but it doesn’t stand out for me. No real climax or utter excitement here. It would, perhaps, make a decent radio song, and it’s sung with a lot of feeling, but yeah, a bit of a safe song.

Only Waiting, however, I think is a possible single and one that I really enjoy. Lyrically very strong and one of Knol’s best vocal performances on the album. It is still laid-back but also has a very current feel to it. The track has excitement, build up and most of all it has body. It’s a complete track that could defitinely do something to the listeners of this genre.

The faster-paced, acoustic Or So I’m Told, is a 60s-influenced song, or at least, that’s what it sounds like. And you always make me happy with a 60s-like sound. On top of that it’s pretty damn catchy and another sign that Tim Knol is a name we’ll continue to hear in the coming years.

The happy, poppy When I Am King is another song that’s very suited for radio. Very inviting and very open, this song is guaranteed of airplay if released to mainstream radio. Would work great for commercials too.

Must Assist is a track that grows on you. At first I wasn’t too excited about it, but by now it might be one of my favorite tracks on the album. It may help I heard Tim Knol live in the meantime, so knowing what he can do on stage brings something extra to the album as well, but Must Assist is a song that is quite impressive if you take some time to get to know it.

A song with the title Music In My Room is something that is instantly appealing to me. So I was really happy that the song itself did also. This small, intimate, acoustic song is full of emotion and heartfelt lyrics. An absolute highlight on this interesting debut album.

Me & A Lot Like You is a nice acoustic song, one that I really enjoy, but I think its placement on the album could’ve been better, though on the other hand it very naturally flows from the previous song.

The next song is one that was already out. Silverman Hotel was already getting some decent airplay and it’s obvious why. It’s probably the fullest track and it has something about it. It’s not traditionally catchy but it does have the quality of sticking with you. It’s not hard to get into the song and it’s a pleasant listen. So yeah, good song for the radio.

Then Driving Home, which is a track that wowed me. From the first note I was sold on this track. Musically I feel it lies somewhere between Brett Dennen & Solo and it’s a wonderful gem of talent and music. This is the track where Knol delivers, in my opinion at least.

The album closes with Deepest of Oceans, which is a nice closer but not the most exciting track on the album. It would’ve been nice to have ended with an epic song or a very emotional, intimate song, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. Deepest of Oceans, however, is another proof that Tim Knol deserves his place among the rising stars of Dutch pop music.

This debut album is impressive but it doesn’t propel Tim Knol into legendary ranks just yet. In time this singer/songwriter will most likely bring more excitement and variety to his music and become an even more accomplished musician. He shows his promise and in the future there will be time and opportunity to fully develop his gift and become one of the Netherlands’ leading singer/songwriters.

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Normaal gesproken schrijf ik alleen Nederlandse reviews voor Nederlandstalige albums. Ik maak deze keer echter een kleine uitzondering. Ik kreeg vanmiddag het solo-album van Marinus de Goederen (a balladeer) in de brievenbus maar alvorens ik een complete review (in het Engels) schrijf, wilde ik dit toch al eventjes kwijt.

“In mijn hoofd begon ik met ‘Mijn goede vriend Marinus de Goederen’, maar dat is natuurlijk zwaar overdreven. Ik heb hem wel eens gesproken hier en daar en ik weet dat hij muziek maakt die mij uitstekend bevalt, af en toe met een lekker bijdehandte opmerking uit de hoek kan komen en een aantal tv-series kijkt die ik ook graag mag zien. Maar wanneer het over zijn muziek gaat, dan voelt het zo vertrouwd, zo herkenbaar dat ik het gevoel heb dat ik hem al jaren ken. Zijn werk met a balladeer is al sinds het begin een favoriet onderdeel van mijn platencollectie, maar nu ik, zelfs de eerste keer al, naar ‘Sorry, Kid’ luisterde kreeg ik hetzelfde gevoel, alleen zelfs nog een beetje meer.

Het nieuwe album van Marinus de Goederen geeft een veilig gevoel van thuiskomen. Van tijd tot tijd zit je met een brok in je keel en een beetje sentimenteel persoon, zoals ikzelf, zit een enkele keer zelfs een traantje weg te drukken. Zodra Marinus zijn mond opendoet, de toetsen aanslaat of zijn snaren aanraakt, raakt hij ook bij mij een snaar. Al luisterend naar dit album vormde zich een gedachte in mijn hoofd: Deze man snapt het, nee beter nog, deze man voelt het. Muziek, in de basis, is emotie, en de (naar mijn mening) echt goede singer/songwriters (waarbij Nick Drake op een zo hoog voetstuk staat dat nooit iemand daarbij in de buurt zal komen) die kunnen die emotie via hun muziek bijna één-op-één overbrengen naar de luisteraar. Op ‘Sorry, Kid’ laat Marinus de Goederen zien dat hij deze uitzonderlijke klasse tot in de puntjes beheerst.

Soms zijn er mensen, artiesten, muzikanten die gewoon een bepaald talent hebben om een gevoel, een sentiment te uiten via hun muziek. Er zijn talloze artiesten die deze intentie hebben, maar net niet de puntjes op de I kunnen zetten. Maar wanneer ik een artiest tegenkom die de juiste puntjes op de juiste plaats kan zetten, dan knijp ik met glimmende oogjes mijn handjes samen omdat ik weet dat er weer iets is in deze wereld om blij van te worden.”

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