Archive for April, 2010

Josh Ritter – So Runs The World Away
May 4, 2010

This is Josh Ritter’s 6th studio album and I feel I can just keep on saying the same thing over and over again. Because on “So Runs The World Away”, Ritter once again proves he’s one of the better songwriters out there and that he is very able to release an album with heartfelt and intriguing songs.

The album sounds very current, both musically and lyrically and is very accessible for pretty much everyone. The overall sound of the album is a little richer (especially in the arrangements) than “Historical Conquests” but the subtleties in the arrangements and the singers/songwriter nature of this artist is never far away. The sentimental The Curse is a a great example of how a musical arrangement can create a mood. Ritter’s vocals can easily, almost literally, breathe life into a song like that.

And Ritter continues to excell on this new album. For example the groovy, almost dark Rattling Locks is an unexpected masterpiece, which Ritter effortlessly follows up with the americana gem Folk Bloodbath. There are more excellent songs on this album (listen to See How Man Was Made and Long Shadows) and once again Ritter delivers on an album that deserves to make many ‘best of the year’ lists.

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AM – Future Sons & Daughters
February 9, 2010

After two very impressive releases I was very interested to hear if AM could come up with something to top that. But this musician has so much talent that he just reinvented himself. His balance between eclectic songwriting and accessible pop music is just perfect.

The musical arrangements on “Future Sons & Daughters” are a little gutsier and at times a little darker. But then on a song like Leavenworth, AM shows that he can play a very ‘small’ and almost brittle song to absolute perfection.

I think if I had to capture this album in one word I would call it ‘balanced’. Everything works together very well, the melodies in the songs are very strong and AM uses his excellent vocals and musical arrangements to really create a mood in the songs. He knows how to write a good song and he knows how to make it come alive.

Listen to songs like The Other Side which has a very catchy almost westcoast-like undertone, Leavenworth on which AM excells, Grand Opinion which is an interesting pop song that has a very original arrangement and When The Dust Settles which is just a very strong song.

There’s a lot of diversity and strength on this new album, and while my expectations (based on the previous AM albums) were really high, this musician managed to surprise me yet again. AM is a top talent and a genuinely good musician and it’s about time the world acknowledges that.

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Greg Laswell – Take A Bow
May 4, 2010

The melodic indie/folk/rock by singer/songwriter Greg Laswell comes to full bloom on his new album “Take A Bow”. The album benefits from strong songwriting, excellent instrumental arrangements and interesting musical choices. Right off the bat Laswell impresses with the exciting Take Everything which is very rich in sound and sets the mood for the album perfectly.

The rich and intriguing sound and strong (at times even thrilling) songwriting keeps bringing the songs out very well all through the album. Laswell’s unique but excellent vocals create a certain feeling of mystique but at the same time it makes the songs sound familiar. I can’t explain it either but it’s definitely impressive.

Some songs that are good examples of the high quality of this album are Take Everything, Around The Bend, Take A Bow, In Front Of Me and the excellent closer Goodbye. At times Greg Laswell grabs back to the basics of indie-folk more and sometimes he just takes out everything to lay down a killer indie track.

For traditional singer/songwriter fans the album may be a little heavy and for the fans of powerful indie rock & roll it may be a little tame, but if you appreciate the mix of these two genres and open yourself for this album, Greg Laswell may just be one of the faces of the future of modern rock & roll. With “Take A Bow”, Laswell definitely puts himself on the map, though he should be on it already.

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Jeff Jacobson – Lunch In The Park [EP]
February 15, 2010

A few months ago I got an e-mail from Jeff Jacobson that his new EP “Lunch In The Park” was available on CDBaby. Considering I still play Jacobson’s debut album on a regular basis I was very curious to hear what he had to offer this time.

“Lunch In The Park” is a 6-song live EP, 5 of them original songs and one cover, the classic On The Sunny Side of the Street. On “Lunch In The Park”, Jeff Jacobson, once again shows he’s one of today’s prime songwriters and a good performer.

Lunch In The Park is a catchy summer song that makes you feel happy. Jacobson shows something doesn’t have to be very complicated to be good! Mind Made Up is a beautiful singer/songwriter song. It reminds me of Dutch act Solo a little bit. Waiting For A Star is one of those songs you don’t say much about but just listen to and Gold Rush makes me think I’m back in the late 60s/early 70s, probably the best song on the EP. And to top it off there is the classical folk song Sunshine that puts a smile on my face as well as a stylish cover of Sunny Side of the Street.

A singer/songwriter pur sang, Jeff Jacobson released an EP that is perfect for the upcoming spring and summer.

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Matthew Mayfield – You’re Not Home [EP]
April 20, 2010

Matthew Mayfield is back with a brand new EP. “You’re Not Home” contains five strong songs, passionately delivered by Mayfield’s absolutely unique vocals.

Mayfield has been working hard for quite some years and has a number of releases on his name. And it’s a shame he’s not a better known name already. His songwriting is strong and musically he knows what to do and how to do it right. His raspy and breathy vocals give a sense of maturity that fits with the melancholic sound and lyrics that are full of life experience.

The exciting The Last Ride starts the album. Excellent songwriting, both musically and lyrically and an impressive way to start off this EP. Missed Me has a late 70s/early 80s grooviness to it. The chorus (the clapping helps tremendously) is very catchy and it makes this song a good contender for mainstream airplay. The moody Fire Escape is another strong song where the vocals take front stage. But that doesn’t mean the musical arrangement is of a lower importance. It may be subtle, but it’s absolutely beautiful. Personally, I believe it’s the icing on the cake of this EP.

The more folky, passionately performed Still Alive also has a strong sense of musicality to it and it is a song that shows exactly why I am such a big fan of the alternative singer/songwriter genre. It’s real, it’s genuine. It’s honest and it tells a story that’s not just trivial or cliché. Mayfield then turns more uptempo with the rock & roll track Out On Our Own. And this too, he nails. Matthew Mayfield strings highlight after highlight on this EP and I see no flaws or weak spots. This just is really, really good music.

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The Great Valley – Wrecking Ball [EP]
April 20, 2010

The Great Valley, based in Delaware, debuts with “Wrecking Ball”, a 5-song EP that should be interesting for fans of Sherwood, Dashboard Confessional, The Rocket Summer, Waking Ashland, Mae, and the likes. Especially the first and last mentioned band’s fans might find something interesting here. The music is generally pretty slick, but rough around the edges which I see as a positive in this genre. It gives the song a little more balls and a little more energy, which is what you’d do when you play the songs live.

The Great Valley does that very well. The songs are catchy and have airplay potential but most of all they just sound nice. It’s not always the most creative songwriting, but the execution of the songs is very well done. And for a debut EP, this is good stuff.

Title track Wrecking Ball and the gutsy Get Up! are strong tracks and the closing track Where Do We Go shows the most promise. They maintain their alternative edge but incorporate some true rock & roll and musically they take a few chances.

“Wrecking Ball” is a good debut EP and The Great Valley’s music has everything it needs to be very popular in live renditions, which is a great way to get a loyal following. If they build on that and continue to grow in the songwriting department there is not much that can stand in the way of success for this band.

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Arthur Adam – Awake
April 16, 2010

We know Arthur Adam as a strong songwriter and unique vocalist. His songs were moody singer/songwriter with a good tension build up and very personal delivery. On this new album “Awake”, however, we hear a fuller and rounder sound, much more typical for a band than a singer/songwriter.

Because the nature of the album is so different from his previous work it is not quite fair to make simple comparisons to it. But while this album is different it also has a lot of things in common with Arthur Adam’s previous work. The songwriting is still key. It’s the basis on which the music is built. Sometimes you stumble upon band-versions of singer/songwriter, and in many aspects, Arthur Adam fits that bill.

Take a song like Dividing A Spider, which, in its melodic songwriting very much has a singer/songwriter basis, but because of the cohesive and convincing performance of the song it gets a much richer and fuller sound that makes the song not only exciting but also adds to the potential of the song. The pointy and catchy She’s A Mystery is a pure powerpop song that just makes you want to move along. And then on a song like We Feel Sad, there are traces of the moody singer/songwriter again and then as it builds up more and more intensity is added to the song and it becomes almost anthemic. For me it would have been the ideal closer, even though the 60s-esque First Impressions is an excellent song.

There is such a wide variety of qualitatively strong songs on this album that this album is bound to get a lot of positive feedback. It also has a more approachable and accessible sound than you would expect if you know Arthur Adam’s previous work. It’s a good mix between a more mainstream sound and a more indie sound. Built on excellent songwriting, “Awake” is an album that convinces from the first note to the last and is going to draw in fans and music critics alike.

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Meese – Broadcast
June 30, 2009

There are many alternative pop bands, but only some of them have a certain quality or originality to them that makes them stand out. Meese is certainly one of those bands. With catchy, enthusiastic songs that have good radio potential they deliver on a very strong album with “Broadcast”.

From the fast-paced Forward Motion, which makes one heck of a live track, the album is interesting, and it easily stays interesting all through. Single candidates like Count Me Out, Tell Me It’s Over, Next In Line and Bonfire have great choruses and have a sound that you can easily recognize. The songs are played with energy and intensity and that only makes them stronger.

Meese also shows a softer side on songs like Taking The World On, The Medicine and Movie Screens. And they do that just as well. The songs all fit together well, which is both a strength and a weakness for this album. It really feels as one package, one album, but after many listens some of the songs are in risk of starting to sound quite similar. If you’re afraid of that, however, I would suggest you check out the live versions of these songs, which is where Meese shines even more. They are very good at getting the full potential out of the songs when they take them on stage.

“Broadcast” is a strong debut, and Meese shows they are making a play for the big leagues. With this enthusiasm and radio-friendly approach it will most definitely pave the way for a breakthrough in the near future. With top songs like Tell Me It’s Over, Taking The World On, Say You’re OK and Bonfire, Meese is ready to become a pretty big player in the mainstream and alternative pop scene.

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Elske DeWall – Balloon Over Paris
February 26, 2010

Hailing from the Frysian province of the Netherlands is singer/songwriter talent Elske DeWall. While she’s been quite popular in her native area, she is now breaking through all over the Netherlands. Her strengths are her excellent vocals, well-written lyrics and personal delivery of the songs. If you take all these things into account it should not come as a surprise that her debut album “Balloon Over Paris” is doing really well in the charts.

While maintaining a singer/songwriter image and sound, DeWall doesn’t constrain herself too much musically. She easily varies between a very current sound (Come See The End In Me, Sunny Day) and a more classic singer/songwriter sound (The Remedy, Too Much To Sing For). Sometimes she kicks it up a notch and you can hear a little uptempo americana/rock & roll influences come through, which makes Promise, for example, one of the best tracks on the album.

In the past few years many female singer/songwriters have surfaced, many of them very talented, but there are a few who can bring something extra to the plate. Elske DeWall falls in that category and ranks among top singer/songwriters like Stevie Ann, Ilse DeLange & Laura Jansen.

With “Balloon Over Paris” she announces her talent to the rest of the country and with the quality she brings to the table I have no doubts that Elske DeWall is here to stay. Her songwriting will likely grow even stronger as time passes and she already is a passionate performer, so it seems the future smiles upon Elske DeWall. Check out her strong debut at her website!

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Sandy Dane – Beautiful & Ugly
April 16, 2010

Sandy Dane has been mentioned on our blog quite a few times lately. Recently her new single One Way Ticket was released and her official debut album “Beautiful & Ugly” was released last friday. And while the release show was a success, let us take a closer look at the actual album.

The sweet, dreamy pop songs we hear on “Beautiful & Ugly” have enormous radio potential. You can immediately hear that Dane’s vocals are the focal point on this CD. While the songs don’t have the intensity they have in a live rendition, the round, poppy melodies and clear vocals still give you a summer feel.

Radio singles Beautiful & Ugly and One Way Ticket are well chosen and stick in your head pretty much right away. Other songs that can potentially become radio hits are Better Than Before which has a strong chorus, Sunday Sunshine which has a very recognizable guitar riff, the Sara Bareilles-esque Waiting For Love and Mr. Pianoman, which is an instant sing along.

The album also features her breakthrough songs Peace, Love & Icecream and Lay Down which still rank among the album’s strongest songs. You can see I already mentioned half the album as possible radio singles. This is the main reason why I believe this album could be a great success for Sandy Dane. The songs are very mainstream and commercially attractive, but they are still real songs. Sometimes you lean more towards pop artist, sometimes more towards singer/songwriter, so the conclusion is that Dane found a very good balance between the two and this style fits her very well.

“Beautiful & Ugly” might be one of this year’s ultimate feel good albums. It’s a bit sweet and bubbly, but hey, if it sounds good and it makes you feel good, why would that be a bad thing? Songs to check out would be This Heart of Mine, One Way Ticket, Peace Love & Icecream and Mr. Pianoman, though if you like 1 or 2 of the songs on the album, you will like the rest of it too. All in all the album is pretty strong. Sometimes the song choices may be a little safe and I would be interested in hearing Sandy Dane be a little more diverse and incorporate more from other styles like soul, blues, jazz or even a little rock & roll. Sometimes you can somewhat hear a little bit of an influences from such a direction but with her powerful vocals I would think she could go there more without losing her pop potential. Having said that, starting out with a solid record of songs that fit you as an artist is a smart choice and the result is something Dane can be proud of!

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