Archive for August, 2010

Sleepwalk, A Robot – The 2010 EP
May 11, 2010

The Arizonian duo of Sleepwalk, A Robot are surprising and quite original in their work. In 2008 they released the excellent “Love in the Time of Global Warming” and I’ve been privileged to see them perform their magic in a live setting too. These guys have skills.

It is now 2010 and conveniently the duo releases “The 2010 EP”. It’s a free digital EP which you can download through the band’s Bandcamp page. Sleepwalk combines catchy, fast-paced pop with a more electronic/indie sound. And it all fits together perfectly. The strong pop hooks, the catchy rhythms, the clever effects and the smooth vocals come together in a somewhat quirky but qualitatively strong musical body.

A Hired Gun is fast-paced and has a lot of energy. It’s a song that will make you speed up when you listen to it in the car and it’s a song that gives you energy on a slow day. Buildings is a little more midtempo but the melody is no less effective. Once you hear it twice it is impossible to get out of your head. Sleepwalk is subtly taking control of what’s playing in your head, and frankly, that’s just impressive.

The final song on the EP, The World Is Made Of Pixels, is somewhat a parody of 1985 originally by SR-71 but made popular by Bowling For Soup’s version. It’s not like they just took the song and parodized it, or that they took the original song and sampled it. But parts of it are used in a playful, yet very clever way and incorporated in The World is.. And the combination of an already catchy rock song and a steady, catchy beat of their own, make this song utterly infectious.

There are only 3 songs on this digital EP, but even in those three songs there is plenty to enjoy. It’s just a teaser, I know, but if this doesn’t make you want to buy “Love in the Time of Global Warming” or anything else the duo comes up with, then I just don’t know. It’s fun, it’s good, and it’s real. Sleepwalk, A Robot is a hidden gem in the world of alternative pop music but if they keep at it, the whole world will hear of them pretty soon.

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Michelle Branch – Everything Comes And Goes [EP]
July 26, 2010

Michelle Branch came up fast with her blend of pop and rock n’ roll with some americana influences. She had great mainstream success in North America and the success even crossed into Europe and Australia. After a venture into country (The Wreckers), she is now returning to her solo work. “Everything Comes And Goes” was supposed to be a full-length album, but for now we’ll have to settle for 6 new songs.

The country/americana influences are much more present than they were in Branch’ early albums. But it’s not as much of a centerpiece as it was with The Wreckers. Single Sooner or Later even sounds like an updated version of Branch’ older work and will put smiles on the faces of many fans.

The EP kicks off with a gritty rock & roll song (with bluesy americana influences). Ready To Let You Go has some twang to it, but it also has an interesting edge and a driving rhythm. Instead of portraying the sweetness of her vocals, Michelle Branch chooses to show the powerful side of her vocals this time. Together with the single Sooner or Later this makes for an excellent start of this EP.

And then we reach one of the best songs of this year. I Want Tears is a hit single in the making. Relatable lyrical content, catchy chorus and it pretty much does what Ilse deLange has been doing in the Netherlands and Belgium for the past 5 years. Mixing pop with americana influences and mixing it into a powerful pop song that speaks to fans of different musical preferences. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the song that puts Michelle Branch right back at the top of the pop world, where she belongs.

The more laid-back Crazy Ride is a song that can grow on you. It’s not the strongest track on the EP, and the country influences (which I do not mind by the way, I actually believe it fits Branch’ vocals) are more prominent. But it has a certain quality that makes the song get a little better each time you hear it. Summertime is a solid song, but compared to the other songs on the record it’s slightly predictable at times. Closer, and title track, Everything Comes And Goes took me a couple listens to fully appreciate, but it’s a song that shows off strong vocals and a subtle arrangement that is both classy and musically sound.

With “Everything Comes And Goes” Michelle Branch shows that she is still going strong and that she still belongs at the top of the world of pop music. The record is consistently strong and all the songs can stand their own. Too bad it’s not a full-length where Branch would have more opportunities to show off more variety and creativity, but for a 6-song EP, this is an excellent release and one that deserves the credit. Michelle Branch, welcome back!

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Cherry Ghost – Beneath This Burning Shoreline
July 5, 2010

“Beneath This Burning Shoreline”, the sophomore release by Cherry Ghost. I remember seeing this band open for Crowded House, being impressed by their musical arrangements and sincerity. I then listened to “Thirst For Romance” and I knew Cherry Ghost was a band that too few people had heard of.

Now “Beneath This Burning Shoreline” is released and there is one word that comes to mind. Confidence. The band is not doing things differently so much, but they are just doing it better and even more convincingly. The songs are carefully constructed with deeper layers, complex arrangements and often heavier themes. The songs sound experienced and at times quite moody, but they are always accessible and exciting.

Opening track We Sleep On Stones immediately starts that trend and indie gems like Only A Mother, Black Fang and Diamond In The Grind show the class of this band that hasn’t yet broke through to the general public.

The truly creative and impressive British indierock bands have a tendency of not being noticed early on. Look at bands like Elbow, Guillemots, Doves, etc. and even The Verve & Supergrass if you are willing to go back in time a little bit. It’s not like they were noticed early on. Or not really at least. And in a way, it’s part of the charm of these bands. Not being in the limelight of pop music’s center stage allows them to do what they do best, make excellent music that is filled with excitement and class.

Cherry Ghost is still growing. They debuted strong with “Thirst for Romance” but made enormous steps on “Beneath This Burning Shoreline”. The pieces are falling into place and so do the songs on this album. One of the more impressive albums of 2010. I would urge you to listen to A Month of Mornings and Black Fang at least as those should definitely get airplay in the year(s) to come. The band’s debut may have been a surprise, but “Beneath This Burning Shoreline” is a confirmation and it’s an album that definitely has longevity written all over it.

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Alex Band – We’ve All Been There
June 29, 2010

In his years with The Calling, Alex Band had plenty of success. Hit singles Wherever You Will Go, Adrienne & Our Lives gave the band plenty of exposure and airplay. After the Calling slowly came apart, Band started focusing on his solo work. A couple years ago his self-titled debut EP was released and it wasn’t to far from the Calling’s music. And now it’s 2010 and Alex Band is ready to release his full-length solo debut.

The album, “We’ve All Been There”, doesn’t start out very strong. The title track is fairly decent but not quite memorable and What Is Love is a collection of clichés and sounds very much like all the other songs out there. But then there’s the lead single Tonight. The song is written very well and performed with feeling and edginess. It’s the Alex Band that you want to hear. Good build up, enough tension in the song to make this a stellar power ballad/anthem. Radio’s gonna embrace this one for sure.

Forever Yours is a decent track, nothing wrong with it, but not one of the album’s highlights. The following two tracks however (Please, Will Not Back Down) are strong songs. Especially Please is a strong effort. The emotion in the vocals and the subtle arrangement of the song show Alex Band’s maturity in songwriting and performing. Euphoria is another song that deserves praise. Listen to those vocal skills, excellent control, and while with some artists parts of the lyrics might become cheesy, Band delivers the song with sincerity and feeling and therefore the lyrics are inspiring instead of cheesy. This is the way it’s supposed to be done.

There are a few songs that are good album songs, but that you can’t really rank among the stand out tracks (Never Let You Go, Only One). There really isn’t much wrong with these songs, but they miss that little thing that makes a good song great. Take Start Over Again for example. It’s a paced down, mainly acoustic song but it shows a singer that bares his soul in a song. The arrangement is perfect for the nature of the song and it is definitely one of the album’s most impressive tracks.

“We’ve All Been There” is a strong album with a number of really good songs. Fans of mainstream pop/rock should not doubt to purchase this album, because it will be right up their alley. Fans of The Calling won’t be disappointed as Band doesn’t stray too far, but at times he gets a little more creative and shows a little more variety, which shows he’s matured even more as a songwriter. The album may not be consistent all the time, but it’s his first solo release, so that’s to be expected. Band’s still finding his way, but there’s a more than solid basis to say that this musician has what it takes to reach similar success on his own as he did with his previous band.

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Zack Borer – Dollars Spent On Nothing [EP]
May 8, 2010

Zack Borer is an interesting singer/songwriter, similar in style as John Mayer, Keaton Simons, Jason Mraz and the likes, but certainly not yet on the same level. The songs on “Dollars Spent On Nothing” show potential but do not really stand out in the crowd. It may have something to do with the production or mixing of the album, but Borer is very much a beginning artist.

Bring Back The Days is a nice soulful song that would make a very decent radio single. It’s a song that could garner attention, cause exposure and give Borer a chance to meet people, for doors to be opened, so that he can exploit his potential. Because that he’s talented is for certain, he just needs to learn, listen and develop.

Give him a few years to open up for bigger, more accomplished artists and Borer will pick up the tricks of the trade and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him break through eventually.

His vocals are strong and his songwriting shows promise. The previously mentioned Bring Back The Days and the next song, She, are probably the highlights of the 5-song EP. The opener 45 Days is a little catchy but not quite memorable and for the most part the same thing goes for Here & There (though the funky undertone is a nice touch). Closer Save Me doesn’t quite convince either. It’s a decent mainstream pop/rock song, but there are many similar songs out there that are just better.

“Dollars Spent On Nothing” is an interesting release. It shows promise, but it’s a first step. It’s the first peek around the corner. But Borer shows potential and if he is able to learn and evolve, there may well be a bright future for him as a singer/songwriter, or maybe he’ll even form a band to come up with a fuller, more diverse sound. For the moment he writes and performs decent songs that sound fine, but hasn’t yet reached the major leagues.

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Who’s That Pack – Volume II (New Directions)
Spring 2010

Who’s That Pack is back with a new EP. The first volume was very much a success so I’m curious for this 2nd release. It starts of with Syd’s version of Chad Perrone’s Madison. This is one of my favorite Perrone songs, so I won’t lie. I must admit it took me some time to really get used to Syd’s version. But just because it’s quite different I’ve grown to enjoy it a lot. Pretty much everything is different. It’s much more raw and not as smooth and lush as the original, but it gives the song a more alternative, groovy edge that actually brings out emotion in the song very well.

Todd Martin’s version of Patrick Thomas’ Getaway is probably the masterpiece on “New Directions”. Excellent song, insanely good performance. The effective drumbeat, the lyrical content and Martin’s rendition of the song do justice to Thomas’ songwriting. Next up is Safe From The Water, penned by Todd Martin, performed by Tim Blane. It starts out very sentimental with a beautiful piano arrangement and then goes into this modern, distorted part, which is interesting, but also distracts from the strong vocals a little. But on the other hand it is done tastefully and it may make the song more current.

Tim Blane’s New Dance is covered by Patrick Thomas. The funky, infectious track is performed well and interestingly. I don’t think it can measure up with Blane’s original verison, but Thomas does make it his own and impresses with this funky rock & roll song. Chad Perrone, on his turn, takes on Syd’s The Pattern. It’s a surprise to me how well this works. In a way I can say the same for this song as I said for Madison, just the other way around. Syd and Perrone have completely different vocal sounds and primarily because of that they make their songs sound quite different. But the beauty of it all is that it actually works and gives the song a different perspective that shows the diversity of not only the performers, but also of the songs themselves.

As a bonus there’s a Who’s That Pack original on this album. It’s called This Is The Alarm. The short, quirky song is nothing more than just that, a funny bonus at the end of the EP. I’ll just leave it at that. It’ll make you laugh, I promise.

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Who’s That Pack – Volume 1 (Performorgy)
January 2008

Who’s That Pack (Tim Blane, Syd, Chad Perrone, Todd Martin, & Patrick Thomas) is a group of interesting, original, creative singer/songwriters from New England. On this particular venture they are playing eachother’s songs and decided to record this.

The EP starts off with Tim Blane’s version of The Bottom (original by Syd). The excellently written song is bombastic and extravert and Blane delves into his own soul to bring out every ounce of effectiveness of the song. A strong start to this record. Then Todd Martin takes on Chad Perrone’s sensitive song Like Riding A Bike. It was on Perrone’s excellent full-length “Used To Dream”, where it served as a closer. It’s different hearing it with a different vocal color, but Martin really captures the essence of the song and is able to bring the same sense of urgent emotion to the surface.

Syd is up next, presenting us with his rendition of one of Patrick Thomas’ best songs, Trip. The groovy, edgy song fits with the slightly mysterious and loose performance. It leaves the listener to get into it more and more as the song progresses. Tim Blane’s Once And Future King is covered by Chad Perrone. The song pretty much evolves throughout the performance, it grows, so to speak. Perrone’s excellent vocals and Blane’s beautiful arrangement of the song go together very well.

That leaves us with the final song on “Performorgy”, where Patrick Thomas takes on Runaway by Todd Martin. And it’s exactly what you’d expect when two gifted musicians meet in the middle. A good song is a good song and a good performance is a good performance. What else need I say?

It’s obvious Who’s That Pack is a talented bunch with a good feel for the music they make themselves as well as for the music their colleagues make. Covering each other’s work gives the songs a new perspective and shows the variety and adaptability of these singer/songwriters. “Performorgy” is a more than successful experiment and I’d love to hear more.

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