Archive for October, 2010

Civil Twilight with Anberlin @ Paradise Rock Club – Boston, MA

Civil Twilight came into Boston last Thursday opening for Anberlin (whose album we reviewed earlier this month). Also on the bill were States and Keep Me Conscious.

Civil Twilight hails from South Africa, but now live in the US. Their sound is a unique mix of influences from bands like U2, Muse, and Radiohead. Their set at the Paradise showed promise for this up-and-coming band. Their music has even been featured on shows like “One Tree Hill”.

Check out Civil Twilight’s cover of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” as well as songs off their self-titled debut album on MySpace.

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Bettie Serveert – Pharmacy of Love

It seemed Bettie Serveert was slowly fading into oblivion, which would be a shame, because their first few albums were sheer class. And despite all that musical talent and the tight live performances they haven’t been able to recreate that level on their following albums.

But to my surprise, and great pleasure, the band managed to sound fresh and exciting again on the new album “Pharmacy of Love”. The opener Deny All, though it might not win the award for originality, immediately sets the tone with all its energy and conviction. And also on Semaphore, the band plays with that familiar alternative rock sound. And it is all quite catchy to top it off.

Drummer Joppe Molenaar (Voicst) was a good addition to the band as he brings more kick and energy to the album and it makes the songs better. And it lasts all through the record. Only during Mossie, which is certainly a good song, the band’s performance is less intense. It’s a good song, but it doesn’t quite fit with the other songs on the album. But after that you listen to an insane track like Change4Me and you’ll forget all about that.

“Pharmacy of Love” is a very strong album and it will most certainly appeal to fans of refreshing alternative rock. For all intents and purposes, Bettie Serveert is back and they can reclaim their rightful place in the spotlights

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Valerius – Valerius

Last year, Valerius scored a huge summer hit with She Doesn’t Know, which kicks off their debut album. It’s a jumpy, catchy song that fits right with the summer breeze, while your sipping from your drink on the sidewalk café. It’s a cute song and it’s entertaining but it’s hard to say the song has a lasting impression. And that pretty much goes for the whole album.

Young pop bands are popping up everywhere and Valerius can use that momentum to get some attention. In the States it’s the era of pop bands like the Jonas Brothers and Honor Society and musically, it’s not such a stretch to add Valerius to that part of the spectrum. The band makes recognizable pop songs that are catchy and slick. Very suited for mainstream pop radio.

But there is no real durability or depth in the songs that makes them more than a short term radio hit. It’s all pretty tight musically and the band is able to present itself in a good fashion as well but it’s not a debut album that wowes you. There are moments in which the band manages to surprise, with songs like You Say When and Sunday, but these moments are sporadic.

It’s not a bad album, it’s even a pleasant album for those who enjoy catchy pop songs. But it’s not an album that sticks with you through the years. The band obviously aims on a younger audience and I imagine they might well be able to generate a pretty decent following of young teenagers, but they will need to grow and evolve to become a success act with a wider audience.

All in all, “Valerius” is an okay debut. The band is still young and learning, so who knows what the future will bring them. But for now it’s just a fun album, nothing more, nothing less.

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Saving Abel – Miss America

Saving Abel failed to convince with their debut. They basically sounded like a younger version of Nickelback, who aren’t really an example of creativity and originality themselves. So if you emulate a band like that, at least do it properly, but Saving Abel didn’t even manage to do that too well.

I’m not saying these guys are bad musicians, but the music is all a bit unimaginative. And just like they did on their first album, they filled “Miss America” with formula rock and lyrics that don’t really speak to you, and at times the lyrics don’t even really make any sense. The theme of sex(uality) returns on this new album but it may be a good idea to leave that concept to bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Black Crowes and Kings of Leon. It’s an okay attempt but it isn’t really working for them.

The younger pop/rock fans who want an album they can easily listen to will be fine with this new release. It’s an album that doesn’t require you to think, and whatever you may think of it, the songs are all cut to go on mainstream radio. There’s a certain catchiness to them and they are easy to remember. But for those fans who need to be stimulated at least a little, you might want to consider spending your $10 on another album.

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Anberlin – Dark Is The Way, Light Is  A Place
September 7, 2010

Anberlin’s 5th studio album is called “Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place”. Anberlin is an interesting alternative rock band, as they started out with this raw and energetic sound, but on the first two albums, while some of the songs were quite excellent, things had the the tendency to get a little messy. But through the years Anberlin grew out to one of the more consistently strong alternative rock bands in the scene. Their previous albums “Cities” & “New Surrender” were strong efforts that gave them a rightful place among their peers.

With this new album they sound a little more polished than they did on their previous albums, but the songs are strong, the lyrics relatable and they haven’t lost any energy. In many ways the album is more balanced than all their previous albums.

Energetic rock songs, some slower paced emotionally laden songs and overall just a high intensity album. It’s what Anberlin does best and they didn’t try to hide who they are and they didn’t try to do something completely different just for the kick of it. What Anberlin did on “Dark Is The Way..” is exactly what the fans want to hear.

Radio singles We Owe This To Ourselves and Impossible kick off the album in a recognizable fashion. Slicker power songs like Take Me (As You Found Me) [obvious 80s influences] and the semi-acoustic Down are a refreshing sound on this album and show Anberlin has more to offer than you might think at first. But the tracks that really impress are Art of War which has a slight 70s art rock vibe to it, but in a modern version, and the powerful To The Wolves, which is played with drive, energy and utter conviction. Stephen Christian went out to do his solo project Anchor & Braille and while it may not have been commercially successful it does seem like it gave him a wide perspective on his songwriting and you can hear that in the diversity Anberlin shows on “Dark Is The Way..”

The album is in synch with where Anberlin is as a band. The band is steadily growing and so is their fanbase and with this new album there’s a big chance their fanbase will grow further. If Anberlin wasn’t ready yet to take the world by storm then they sure are now. Because with “Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place” Anberlin found a way to connect to a little more mainstream audience without really having to go mainstream. It’s an achievement in itself to open yourself up to a broader audience while at the same time staying true to who you are as a band. Hats off!

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Ryan Star – 11:59
August 3, 2010

Ryan Star may sound as a newcomer to the music scene to you, but that’s far from true. Playing in several bands before coming a solo outfit, Star released an album in 2005, participated in the reality show ‘Rock Star: Supernova’ on which he managed to get national attention and even recorded a live album with the band from the show.

His career obviously got a boost out of that experience and his song Brand New Day was chosen as the lead tune for the highly successful TV show ‘Lie To Me’. In 2009, Star released a short EP containing four songs from his upcoming album and later on he released his first single off “11:59”, called Breathe.

After several delays, “11:59” finally saw the light and with a sold out release show, Star managed to get this thing going right away. But lets take a closer look to the songs on the album. Does Star manage to stand out, is he able to meet up with his peers and what is it that makes this artist so interesting to the masses.

“11:59” is a varied and stable modern rock album that has a good balance between more outspoken rock & roll and softer ballads. It starts off with the infectious Brand New Day which was already used in the TV show ‘Lie To Me’. It’s a tune that people recognize and therefore they can get right into this album. The angsty, uptempo Right Now keeps the mystery and Star shows he’s capable of building up tension in a song and working to a climax.

Last Train Home and Breathe are emotional modern rock anthems and so is the U2-esque This Could Be The Year. Maybe you need to throw in a touch of Depeche Mode. The intensity and musicality in these songs shows Star is a gifted new star on the front how can vary in intensity, depth and has quite a vocal range and more importantly, excellent vocal control.

With the catchy Unbreak and forward moving Start A Fire, Star produces two possible singles for rock radio. The songs stick with you and thankfully they do not sound like another version of the songs we hear on the radio already. And with the piano song Losing Your Memory, but even more with the album closer 11:59, Star shows he’s not done yet. Losing Your Memory is a change of pace but on 11:59, perhaps Star’s best song on this new album, this young man shows he’s here to stay. The vocal control, the power and the conviction is there.

“11:59” is a strong album, and sure, there are a couple things Star could improve on. But already, he is a varied, capable and intelligent young musician and it seems he has a bright future ahead of him. It took him 5 years since his last studio album, but with the success this album is likely to bring him, I doubt the fans will have to wait that long again. “11:59”, a little surprisingly, is one of the more balanced and interesting modern rock albums of this year.

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