Archive for April, 2010

Alkaline Trio – This Addiction
February 23, 2010

Much like on “Agony & Irony” , “This Addiction” is an album that provides the mainstream punk/rock fans with lots to enjoy. But that’s where it ends. Overall it’s a pleasant and very accessible album, but where the band was able to show originality and creativity in the past, this album is a step backwards musically and especially lyrically.

The band has great timing and good energy, but the album lacks conviction and passion, something this band is capable of as they showed an abundance of it on albums like “From Here To Infirmary” and “Crimson”. But with average songs like This Addiction, Dead On The Floor and Eating Me Alive this album isn’t gonna cut it.

For those of you who were able to see Alkaline Trio live you know this band is one of the better live bands out there and they are a great act with a lot of energy. They sound much more raw and passionate on stage. Knowing they are able to do this one would hope they can reflect that on their albums, but as of late Alkaline Trio hasn’t been able to reproduce that feeling or sound.

“This Addiction” may do well on the radio, but the true fans of the band, who’ve been following the band around since the early 2000s will most likely be disappointed. Where “Agony & Irony” still had some songs with clever lyrics, “This Addiction” just feels bland. By no means is it a bad album, it’s just average and that disappoints me as I’ve always seen Alkaline Trio as one of the more talented and promising acts in the punk/rock-punk/pop genre. We can only hope the band goes back to a more raw and basic sound and puts more focus on the songwriting again. It gives them the edge and more of a rock & roll character in which this band can be much more creative musically, lyrically and in their performance.

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Kelsey Shields – Tidewater [EP]
April 2010

Some time ago I received a message on Myspace from this young singer, Kelsey Shields, if I would want to take the time to listen to her music. SoI did, and the music sounded quite pleasant. So I decided to keep my eyes and ears open in case I’d hear more from her.

Recently she released her new EP “Tidewater”. The mix of folk, indie pop and americana is pretty nice and Shields starts out pretty strong with Big Dipper and Burning Home. Musically the songs aren’t too challenging but they are good listening music and on these songs this young singer’s soothing vocals work with the kind of music she makes.

Sadly, as the EP continues the musical execution gets a little sloppier and at times Shields’ vocal control isn’t her strongest asset. While it isn’t always 100% sound musically, I still find myself liking this artist. This EP won’t bring her tons of success or fame, it won’t facilitate Shields’ breakthrough, but the EP seems to be a reflection of a learning point in her career.

It’s hard to say what exactly it is that I connect to in Kelsey Shields’ music but I can’t deny there is something. I imagine, though, it would be a good development for her to find some songwriting partners to be able to bring more depth and creativity to her songwriting (especially in the musical arrangements). And as she gets older and becomes a more experienced artist I can see Shields making rapid improvements. For now she delivers a nice home-recorded EP, and while Burning Home is a very decent song, there is still a long way to go.

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Jeremy Messersmith – The Reluctant Graveyard
May 4, 2010

Jeremy Messersmith’s an intriguing musician. One of the very best songwriters and performers I’ve stumbled upon in the last few years actually. His previous two albums were very solid releases containing songwriting that is far above average. And while I appreciated the quality of this man’s previous albums I can’t say I have been this excited about one of his albums before. With “The Reluctant Graveyard” Messersmith comes up with what might well be the most impressive release of 2010 so far.

On the album you hear a musician in top form. While listening to the songs you get flashbacks to the 60s and 70s quite often, but in fact, Messersmith takes you on a musical journey through all the great ages of music from the 50s up to now. And on tracks like Organ Donor and John The Determinist he isn’t afraid to use classical influences. In a song like Dillinger Eyes it’s hard not to see parallels to The Beatles (especially in the vocal arrangement) back when The Beatles were still rock & roll. And the wonderful melodic arrangement of Organ Donor reminds me of The Hollies a little. At times I also hear touches of Joe Jackson, Elliot Smith, Jeff Buckley, John Denver, Beach Boys, Oasis and Bob Dylan and I could go on with plenty of other bands and artists.

I know some of my colleagues might ask me if this isn’t reinventing the wheel. First of all, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with reinventing the wheel, every invention needs revisions sometimes. But no, I don’t think this is reinventing the wheel. I don’t know if all these people and bands were actual influences for Jeremy Messersmith, but there are so many different acts that come to mind, and all acts with both good quality work and commercial (and/or underground) success, that the only conclusion left to me is that both musically and when it comes to songwriting, Messersmith is a very original and creative artist. If he’s able to write and perform music that can reflect such a variety of musicians and bands he must be very complete and intelligent in the way he makes music.

And commercial success wouldn’t be such a stretch with possible radio singles like Lazy Bones, Dillinger Eyes and Violet for example. The album is very complete and is a good mix of pop, rock & roll and singer/songwriter music with influences drawn from chamber music, indie and americana at certain moments. “The Reluctant Graveyard” may be somewhat eclectic but it is also very accessible, and with musical gems such as ‘Dillinger Eyes’, ‘Violet’, ‘A Girl, A Boy & A Graveyard’ and the stripped down album closer Tomorrow, Messersmith delivers on every aspect on this excellent new album! But don’t take my word for it, check out the album which is streaming in its entirety on 89.3 The Current.

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Q: Hello Cary, how are you doing?

A:  On my way back to the U.S.  I’ve been trapped in Holland due to the volcano ash cloud.  We had to reschedule the tour because the band was stuck in the states, and I wasn’t able to get a flight home til today.  I love Holland, but I have work to get back to in the U.S.  Prior to “Operation Volcano,” I just had a great record release week in the US, played a sold out show at my home base The Hotel Cafe in LA, and shot a video for the first single “Ghost Town.” Oh, and signed a deal with Sony in The Netherlands.  It’s been a crazy month, and next month is actually crazier.

Q: For those who don’t know your music very well, can you give a short introduction of yourself and your music?

A:  I grew up in Nashville, TN and played guitar and wrote music for most of my life, but I didn’t start doing it professionally until I was  out of my 20’s.  I’m glad I had some real life experience before I committed to music full time.  After a few years playing in Los Angeles, I was lucky enough to have a song on the soundtrack to a movie called “Garden State” that was very successful, and that launched me out into the world on tour.  Musically, my influences are all over the place, but my biggest heroes were always Peter Gabriel and U2 growing up.  I am drawn to very open, epic melodic sounds, and that’s what I like to write.

Q: In 2008 you released a full-length called “Who You Are”, a very good album! You are about to release the follow-up, “Under Control”. What can we expect on the new record?

A: It’s far and away the best thing I’ve done, though I guess everyone says that.  It’s only my second full length, so I still mean it 🙂  All the music I had made prior to this was in spurts of creativity on stops in between tours, but this is the first time I was able to make a record in one long run as I took a year off the road.  It feels more complete beginning to end than anything I’ve done.  I think the vocals and themes tie the songs together, but it runs the gamut from the softest raw piano songs to big, Brit Pop-inspired rock tunes.

Q: Can you tell us something about the process of writing and making the album? Was it a long process or did it all come together very naturally?

A:  It was an accident, really.  I was in a bit of a battle with my label about the direction of my new record, and this producer Bill Lefler just started nagging me about working together.  At first, he annoyed me, but I finally caved in and stopped by his studio.  We wrote the song “After The Fall” on our first day then came back a few months later and started again.  It was easy, like it was just meant to be.  It was the first time I had written with someone before.  We didn’t stop for a few months until the record was done.  We would write music by day, and I would write lyrics at night and record the vocals the next day so I was as close to the intention of the song as possible when I sang.  As we were writing, I was undergoing the legal wrangling of buying my way out of my record deal, which gave us more time to record.  I’ve never had more fun in the studio than with Lefler.  He became a close friend, and now I can’t imagine not working with him.

Q: Now that the album release is near, it’s time to take the songs out on the road. Nervous?

A: I was terribly nervous.  I played a show a month ago, and I panicked right before I went onstage just hoping that I would remember everything after having played the same songs for years.  It was like jumping off a high dive at a pool – it was nerve-wracking climbing up the ladder, but once I jumped off, I couldn’t wait to do it again.  I feel so confident about these songs that it’s made me a more confident performer.    The reason I was most upset about the Holland tour being pushed a month is that I want to play SO badly it almost hurts.

Q: If I’m not mistaken you played several European dates with Tom McRae, Greg Laswell & Jim Bianco in 2008. What do you think the biggest difference is between European audiences and American audiences, or isn’t there a big difference?

A: Every night of a tour is different, and that’s the difference – the exact mixture of city/weather/mood/etc. determines a night.  I’m sure some bands would disagree, but music lovers are music lovers – if it’s a good night, an audience will come along with you when you go big and quiet down when you get mellow.   That’s just human and has nothing to do with where you’re from.  As for America vs. Europe, I don’t feel a critical edge either way. However, they are really, really quiet while you play in Japan.

Q: Back here in the Netherlands your best known song is probably ‘Ride’ because of the Tiësto mix. You also collaborated with him on his latest project “Kaleidoscope”.  How do you feel about these collaborations with artists from a different kind of genre? Does it help you develop yourself as a musician because of the different influences or is it just something fun, something different for a change?

A:  It’s just fun to play in someone else’s sandbox.  From my days listening to Depeche Mode and later groups like Underworld, I always wanted to play around with electronic music, and Tiesto gave me an amazing opportunity to live out a little dream.  His support has been invaluable, and it introduced my music to a whole new audience across the world.  I definitely play with beats more on my computer as I’m writing.  I’m not going to make a dance record, but bits and pieces of electronica have and will always find there way into my stuff.

Q: As an artist you have been somewhat of a frontrunner when it comes to using the possibilities of ‘new media’. Your songs gained a lot of popularity because they were played on TV shows and you have always made good use of the possibilities of the internet. How much has the internet, and the possibilities it offers, changed the dynamic of the music industry and distribution? Do you think musicians have more control over their music than before, or is it just a different approach?

A:  Years ago, I started using MySpace before it blew up (and then fell apart).  I would sit at night and send hundreds of emails to people who liked music that sounded like mine.  I was able to build a fanbase across the world without ever leaving my apartment, and that is pretty incredible.  At the end of the day, you still have to do the work and get out on the road and connect to audiences, but the internet helps get those audiences into the room.  As for film and TV, I made a conscious decision to use that outlet the same way other artists use radio.  If 20 million people can hear my song on Grey’s Anatomy on a Thursday night, that has as much impact as having a minor radio hit.  It’s nearly impossible to get airplay as an indie artist these days in the US, so film and TV helps independent artists reach listeners and level the playing field a bit.

Q: As a singer, songwriter and guitarist, who are your biggest influences, and what makes these artists so special for you?

A:  So many choices past and present.  Peter Gabriel’s absolute control of his voice and ability to be complex within the structure of a pop song.  Sigur Ros and Doves’ massive reverb’d out sonic landscapes.  Paul Westerberg’s and Robert Pollard’s wonderfully scrappy carelessness.  Johnny Marr and Peter Buck and The Edge’s solo-free (for the most part) guitars.  The Cure’s 80’s growth from fast hooky pop to epic near-dirges that last forever.  And on top of all that, I grew up listening to FM radio in Nashville, TN, so I knew every classic rock song (Buddy Holly to Queen) by heart before I was 8 years old – my brain is a giant mishmash of 50 years of pop music.  Oh, and Phil Collins.  I still think “Against All Odds” is a great song, as uncool as that may be.  Then again, I think cool is a vastly overrated concept, as my CD collection will attest.

Q: And in that light, is there a band or musician you would love to go on tour with? Say you could pick anyone in the world, who would it be? And why?

A:  R.E.M.  They were my indie rock gods when I was a kid.  Because they were from the South just like me, they gave me a lot of confidence that I could be Southern and also fight against many of the injustices common to the Southern United States.  They were a new generation.  Musically, they’re not quite the band they were when Bill Berry was playing drums many years ago, but the kid in me would be most thrilled to do a tour with them because I could encourage them to play the old stuff that I never hear anymore live.

Q: In a lot of European countries a debate is going about the regulation of downloads and to legally determine when it is legal or illegal. What is your take on downloading and sharing of digital music? How do you see this in light of the changing music industry?

A:  It’s funny because I just posted a message a little while ago about being frustrated that my new record was already up on illegal download sites within 48 hours of release.  I was both criticized for complaining and also given support by people commenting.  Outside of the business of selling records, I’ve always believed that when I put a song out in the world, it is no longer mine.  It’s someone else’s to interpret and hopefully make a part of their life or attach to a memory.    I have to come to terms with the fact that this also applies to the actual song as a download, as a piece of property.  The floodgates of piracy were opened and will never be closed.  Hopefully, people will hear the music illegally and then come support me at shows or eventually buy the record.  For bands with huge advances, piracy means less, but to me, every record sold pays my rent and bills, and I need that.  There is a bigger question though – What happens when an entire generation and future generations see music as something that they are entitled to for free?  What happens when people no longer value art as something that deserves to be paid for? That’s what scares me.  I can embrace the inevitability that some guy will steal my music online because the technology can’t be stopped, but if that same guy stole a bunch of CDs off my merch table after a show, there would be consequences whether it be with the police or my fist 🙂

Q: You are also one of the initiators of the Hotel Café Tour. How is it to be part of this talented group of people? And how does it influence and stimulate you as a musician?

A:  The Hotel Cafe saved me and gave me a musical home, so starting that tour was a way of paying the room back.  It’s such a rare thing, especially in Los Angeles, to have a real community that supports each other.  It feels like we exist as a collective in many ways.  When one person has success, it affects everyone around them.  There’s a healthy amount of competition, but only in the sense that you want to be as good as all of these ridiculously talented people around you.

Q: And last, but not least, if people want to find out more about you and your music, where should they go?

A:  I have a website www.carybrothers.com with links to my brain ramblings on Twitter and Facebook and elsewhere, and the new record “Under Control”  is available on iTunes worldwide.  You can go to my website now and download a free song off the new record.  I’m slowly putting together deals for this release in European countries, so hopefully it will be in record stores in Europe by this Summer.

Thanks for doing this interview with us. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions!

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Slave Called Shiver – Superlateral
April 20, 2010

This rock band from Austria released a few demos in the past, but they are now ready to present their debut album “Superlateral” to the world. The band underwent a couple changes in the recent past but the strong basis of the band is still standing strong.

“Superlateral” is a diverse and creative alternative rock record. Vocalist and primary songwriter Alicia Bankhofer is completely in touch with the songs she writes and the combination of strong songwriting and passionate vocals, excellently backed up by guitarist Philip Rechthaler and other musicians make for an album filled with powerful rock songs.

Songs that immediately stand out are Great Escape which is intense and powerful, the driven anthem Paint My Blues, and the creative Lies. But the whole album is full of surprisingly strong rock songs. I say surprisingly because it isn’t very often you see this kind of quality on a band’s debut album.

The drive and passion with which the songs are performed makes for an intense album that enables you to really get into the songs. If you’re into alternative rock or into melodic rock music with an edge, you will have to give this album a listen. Don’t be afraid to spend a few bucks on “Superlateral” because you will get your money’s worth all the way through this album.

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Jason Reeves, Graham Colton, and Lady Danville @ Cafe 939
April 23, 2010 – Boston, MA

Friday night at the Cafe, part of Berklee College of Music, was a great night for music. The sound in this small room is great – very quiet, and most musicians play acoustic so the sound isn’t too overwhelming. The intimate setting also allows for more interaction between the artist and the fans. Both Jason Reeves and Graham Colton played some requests.

The opener for the night was Lady Danville, an unsigned 3 piece band. They were probably the most entertaining of the night. The songs were fun to listen to, and their acoustic vibe was unique. The drummer played just with his hands (no sticks). They even did a cover of the MGMT song “Kids”:

Next up was Graham Colton, a musician I have liked for almost 10 years now. He played solo on the guitar, and did both old and new songs.

Ending the night was Jason Reeves. He was accompanied by his bass/keyboardist and drummer. The crowd really loved them, singing along to some songs. Jason’s little anecdotes in between songs showed his quirky, down-to-earth personality. He also played both old and new songs that really showcased his songwriting ability.

Check out more photos from the show here.

Watch more videos from the show here.

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Chad Perrone – Release
April/May, 2010

Chad Perrone just released his third solo album. His previous albums “Used To Dream” & “Wake” were excellent and he’s easily one of the best independent artists in the States. This made me very curious for this new album, titled “Release”. Because I hold Perrone’s music in such high regard, my expectations were quite high.

On “Release”, Chad Perrone is immediately recognizable. The energetic rock & roll song OK kicks off the album. It’s catchy, has passionate vocals and would make an excellent lead off single. Perrone is an excellent songwriter and lyricist and with his powerful vocals he is able to give the songs something extra. Tracks like Touch, Motionless, Monster and At The Ruins are standout tracks but the whole album is more than solid. Perrone is very driven as a songwriter and an artist and you can hear that in his music.

The vocal performance on Here For Good is phenomenal and the criminally catchy Anything Or Anyone is a potential radio hit. The intro leads you into the song and then when you get to the chorus it’s too late, you’ll have this song in your head for days on end.

While Chad Perrone excells on these energetic songs he’s also a master of the power ballad. Under Different Circumstances proves that, and the album closer is a powerful duet with Lisa Piccirillo is a thing of beauty. Chad Perrone’s previous albums were among my favorite independent releases of those years and I suspect that “Release” will score quite high on my 2010 list. He may not be known to a really big audience yet, but “Release” should change that. With radio candidates such as OK*, Motionless, Anything Or Anyone*, Under Different Circumstances*, Breathe, Like It’s Easy, and Anxious Anymore, there is plenty of material that could help facilitate Perrone’s real breakthrough. In my opinion that’s long overdue anyway.

“Release” is available through Bandcamp.com already and will be available as a physical CD in May of 2010.

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The National – High Violet
May 10, 2010

With 4 albums under their belts, The National is about to release their fifth studio album “High Violet”. On their previous albums they excelled in creative songwriting and well timed deliveries. The songs were strong to begin with and were performed excellently.

Especially the latest two albums were impressive. “Boxer” probably marked their real breakthrough yet “Alligator” may have been slightly stronger in my opinion. On this new album they stay in roughly the same area, musically. Some of the songs seem to have a tendency to sound more like the “Boxer” material, some to the “Alligator” material. The band has found a balance and as time goes by they ease into their comfort zone more and more.

“High Violet” is an album where the band seems to use all their qualities and creativity and they are able to translate that into the music well. With Terrible Love the album is off to a good start. Slow intensity build up going into a massive finale. But their real class shines through on songs like Little Faith, Afraid of Everyone and England. The band has impeccable timing and I think their melodic qualities are vastly underrated.

With “High Violet” The National delivers another very solid release with songs that have a lasting impression. The music might not be instant radio material but the great build ups, the intensity and the passionate performance of the songs makes for an album of the highest quality.

Check out their upcoming album as it is streaming on the NY Times website (click here).

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K’s Choice – Echo Mountain
April 6, 2010

K’s Choice, they were huge in the nineties. We haven’t heard much of them lately as they were on a hiatus and off to do other things in the meantime. Frontlady Sarah Bettens released solo albums and frontman Gert Bettens spent time with his other band Woodface. But K’s Choice is back. The band has changed in a few spots with excellent new musicians and there’s a brand new album called “Echo Mountain”.

You will no doubt remember K’s Choice for their hit albums “Paradise In Me”, “Cocoon Crash” & “Almost Happy”. They had international success with their hit single “Not An Addict” and had a very good live reputation.

They may have not released anything as K’s Choice for awhile, but the expectations for their new release were very high. And with lead single Come Live The Life, which is also the opener of the album, they start out strong. The very accessible yet alternative sound of the song is exactly what made K’s Choice such a successful act. Sarah Bettens’ excellent and breathy lead vocals are backed up by great musicians and the band is able to create that signature sound and delivers right from the start.

“Echo Mountain” presents us with two discs, both containing 7 songs. The first disc varies from uptempo rockers (Echo Mountain, Perfect, I Will Carry You) and more catchy alternative pop/rock (Come Live The Life, When I Lay Beside You) and the groovier Let It Grow and rootsy, yet very catchy If This Isn’t Right, which would make an excellent radio single. The second disc is a lot calmer and provides us with songs that sound more like Sarah Bettens songs than K’s Choice songs in my opinion. The songs are very good and especially These Are The Thoughts which has a nice rhythm, the intimate 16 and the soulful Along For The Ride are absolute highlights, but overall it sounds more like disc 1 is the K’s Choice album and disc 2 is the Sarah Bettens album you got for the same bargain.

The fans of K’s Choice in the 90s and early 2000s will be very satisfied with the first disc as K’s Choice shows they haven’t forgotten how to make great alternative pop/rock music. The songs on the first disc lend themselves very well for live shows because of their energy and many of the songs could do well on the radio. K’s Choice is definitely back. The second disc has more of a singer/songwriter nature and shows a different side of the band. It doesn’t have the energy the first half of the album provided, but the sentiment in the songs is just perfect.

Above all, this band knows how to write songs and how to deliver them convincingly. They might have been off doing other things for the past couple of years, but with “Echo Mountain” there can be no doubt that they are back where they belong. Right at the top ranks of pop music.

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Allie Moss – Passerby [EP]
March 30, 2009

Last year, Allie Moss released a pretty impressive EP called “Passerby”. It contains 7 well written pop songs that have the ability to stick in your head for days on end. I don’t know how long the ‘la la las’ of Corner were resonating in my head.

It’s not just a matter of catchy pop songs, no, Allie Moss actually shows she’s a very promising singer/songwriter on songs like Let It Go and Days I Regret. Her vocals are heartfelt and comforting and her vocal color is quite special. It’s one of those voices that can speak to you directly.

The singer/songwriter genre is very crowded and one needs something special to even get noticed. Allie Moss has the conviction and the talent to be one of those singer/songwriters who can bring something more to the table. With well-written songs and strong vocals and a personal connection to the listener she is able to lay out her music for all to hear.

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