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Archive for December, 2010

The Dreaded Marco – Metrognome
August 25, 2010

The Dreaded Marco, hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, present us a 4 track release called “Metrognome”. From start to finish I believed myself to be back in the age of rock & roll. Forget about all the ready-for-radio pop songs and whatever it is people call rock these days. Back to the 70s and 80s when bands knew what it was to rock out and play with balls.

The Dreaded Marco’s sound is in no way commercial or mainstream. At times it’s even experimental and their sound sure is original. They do what they do best and they do it because they want to do it, not because they want to become famous for it. But this little EP is very impressive. In the past decades we’ve had Hendrix, Bowie, Zeppelin, Brainbox, Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails, The Mars Volta and more of these acts who had the guts to step out of the confines of what was mainstream and still be successful. The Dreaded Marco is a band that may be able to achieve something similar. The musicality and level of the compositions certainly justifies that.

The uptempo opener Strikes Again sets off in a fashion that drives your enthusiasm up to 10 in a second and the angsty Dirge is on par with anything Deep Purple’s ever come up with. The groovy rock & roll on Frank N Stein, however is pure magic. The blues riff that underlines the song is a solid basis on which they impose a classic Georgia rock sound with its unique alternative edge. And the instrumental break is something different altogether. You don’t hear this kind of thing anymore. And the closer When Will The Beating End? has a bit of a progressive metal undertone and carries on with so much bottled up energy it should be one heck of a live song. It reminds me a little bit of Hybrid L (also hailing from Georgia) but perhaps this is even tighter.

“Metrognome” is an excellent release. Impressive as hell. It may not be anything most labels are really interested in, but who cares. Power to the people. There sure is an audience for this kind of music. This release only features 4 tracks but I would be very curious to hear what level this band is able to reach on a full-length album. If they can keep up this quality, they’ll be able to reach far and wide, despite not being ‘mainstream’, whatever that is anyway.

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Jim Ivins Band – Jim Ivins Band [EP]
December 22, 2009

Acoustic rock outfit Jim Ivins Band released a self-titled EP in the last weeks of 2009. The Jim Ivins Band EP features 5 uptempo, acoustic-based alternative rock songs in the tradition of Sister Hazel, Pat McGee Band and Seven Mary Three, some of which they have actually shared a stage with.

The EP has a reasonably smooth production and the songs come over quite strong. The infectious opener Fall Flat (late 90s Oasis vibe) is a good start and would make a good radio or TV song with it’s catchy rhythms and relatable lyrics. After a few listens you will be singing along to it as it is able to pleasantly nestle itself in your head.

Back To Reality and Everyday Is Another Goodbye are okay songs but don’t impress as much as the rest of the EP. Back To Reality is effective yet a bit repetitive and could use a dose of creativity, which the band may well do in live performances. Everyday Is Another Goodbye has a bit of an edge, reminiscent of a band like Making April, but can’t quite get its head out of the crowd.

The other two songs, however, are most definitely album highlights. The Chance has strong lyrical content and the haunty, somewhat urgent vibe fits right into the songs feel. Passionately performed this is the strongest track on the EP. How To Hold On is a great mainstream radio song. The lyrics are easy to remember but they aren’t the ultimate clichés, which makes the song interesting. It has enough of an edge to sound fresh and current and at the same time the song sounds quite recognizable.

Jim Ivins Band really is a band. The individual musicians are comfortable playing with each other and this creates an organic and impressive debut EP. With intensive touring and more releases like this they will be able to gather a strong following among a college audience and if they can go the extra mile during live shows, radio and mainstream audiences are right around the corner. Of course the band has some work to do to get there, but the first step is a firm one and they most definitely landed on solid ground.

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Ethan Cramer – Finding Me [EP]
August 20, 2010

This is the first time I hear of Ethan Cramer. His music falls in a standard post-grunge pop/rock category. The EP features five songs and kicks off with Seven Hour Drive which has energy, but isn’t able to really get to the listener. The lyrics are okay, but not brilliant. Musically it’s all not bad, just not extremely creative. And to be brutally honest, the vocals don’t quite cut it.

All over the EP, the vocals are the weakest spot. Songs like Finding Me and History are actually quite pleasing, but the vocals are really flat. Not much depth or strength in them, which leaves not a lot of room for the emotion to really come through. And Cramer propagates that the listeners connect to his songs on an emotional/personal level. I’m not saying the listeners won’t be able to, because the songs in itself do deserve some merit. While Cramer is not likely to hit the charts with this release, the songs aren’t all that bad if you give them a chance, it’s just that there’s a ton of this stuff out there, and frankly, a lot of that is more impressive.

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Maxwell Jury – Rhythm of the Rain
August 2010

A songwriting major at Berklee College of Music, Max Jury recently released a three song single titled “Rhythm of the Rain”. It features three tunes that are influenced by classic pop. Influences like Aimee Mann and Paul Simon come to mind pretty quickly.

All three songs are fluent and quite catchy and certainly have pleasant arrangements. The singing and playing is all in order, but the strength lies in the songwriting. The songs are constructed carefully and dilligently. Especially Change Your Mind For Me is an impressive tune.

This kid is still quite young, but already knows how to work a song. As the years will go by and he will learn more tricks of the trade I can definitely see him become a songwriter of name. And if he’s able to find some musicians with a similar vision on music he could very well form a very capable band that should have plenty of potential with a strong songwriting basis like Jury consistently shows on this early release.

check out two of the tunes on his myspace page:
http://www.myspace.com/maxjurymusic

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Kids Never Lie – 1618 [EP]
May 2010

With this 4-track EP, Dutch electropop band Kids Never Lie tries to debut with an impact. Something they partially succeed at. Immediate parallels will be made with Das Pop, though Kids Never Lie is obviously not that far yet.

This young band is effective with their tracks though. The beats are jumpy and there’s plenty of enthusiasm on this EP. Opening track Framework is a little bit messy though and after several listens you really want to listen to something else, but it has the potential to be a good party track when played live with all the bells and whistles it deserves.

The single, Kids, is the best track on the album. It’s in German, which, perhaps,  reminds one of Das Pop even more. It also has the tendency to become slightly repetitive, but the band experiments well and the slightly melancholic beat and constant drive of the song give it enough character to stand out.

The Race For Space Supremity is a rather pretentious title for a song that doesn’t quite cut it. KNL gets an A for effort, but on this track they show they are a young band that only just starts out. It’s okay to start with, but if they really want to get into the spotlight, they’ll need to grow and mature more. Literary Planetary, while a little repetitive, is actually quite a step up from the last track as it has more balls and comes off more convincingly.

“1618” is a nice debut for Kids Never Lie. The band is young and still figuring out what to do with their music. There’s definitely something there but it is also clear there is a lot of work yet to be done. The single and the final track on the EP are glimpses into what could be a bright future for this electropop band, but for now, the glory remains in the future. Promising: yes, excellent: not quite yet.

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The Twees – Unfair Affair [EP]
May 13, 2010

Last year I reviewed “Lessons To Connect”, with which The Twees debuted on scene. I was pleasantly surprised by the energy and enthusiasm they showed on that release. They return with a 2-track single release. “Unfair Affair” features the title track and the song Hepburn Shades.

Not everything is perfect and sometimes things are a little raw, but the effort makes up for that in tenfold. And frankly, the rawness of it all fits with the danceable rock & roll this band creates. In the past we reviewed and worked with bands like The Craze, Little things that kill, The Crash Moderns, Welbilt and the likes and I would place The Twees in the same niche of the genre. The playful, danceable indie/rock that makes sure you start moving.

The music is infectious and has a lot of drive. The actual single, Unfair Affair, is an energetic, forward-moving song that is very pleasant. It’s a song you can get a kick out. Hepburn Shades is a little more plain, but it also has an energetic drive and makes for a good b-side to the single.

It’s only a little taste as the band plans to release another full EP in January of 2011. But for now you can enjoy these two musical candy canes to get through the holidays. Sign up for their newsletter and you even get the songs for free. Don’t miss out!

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Derek Clegg – Here Comes Your Fate, Quick Duck
November 30, 2010

We gave Derek Clegg’s previous record (“KJC”) a favorable review. His ingenuity and the fact that he does pretty much everything by himself, from start to finish, is something that can only higher your respect for this talented musician.

On his new release, “Here Comes Your Fate, Quick Duck”, which is once again available for a ‘pay what you want’-fare (go here to listen to, download or buy the album), builds on the same principles as “KJC”. The indie/folk mix works with Clegg’s pleasant vocals.

The album starts with It’s Over which is a very accessible, mid-tempo song that eases you into this record. But right on the next track, The Best That I Can Be, Clegg shows us what he’s really made of. The arrangement of the song shows creativity and Clegg also isn’t afraid to change it up a little bit. He doesn’t use too many bells and whistles, he sticks to the song as it is.

On the next tune we hear a guest musician (Tim James). Don’t Care is one of my favorite tracks of “Here Comes Your Fate..” as it is a song that easily gets stuck in your head. The smooth progression of the song makes it a very good candidate to pursue radio play with. This song has a lot of potential, it sounds very current and could help Derek Clegg find that breakthrough he may be looking for. It certainly confirmed my opinion of his talent. Find It Someday features some interesting guitar stuff but isn’t the most memorable song on the album even though it’s more than solid. Only The Lonely (featuring Leon Harris) didn’t stick with me as much as the rest of the album as it kind of just slowly mutters on. The next song Say Something however is another potential radio release. The song is essentially uncomplicated, with which I mean that it doesn’t sound forced and that the song is quite basic which makes it accessible and quite catchy. And I find myself singing “say something, say something good…” for quite some time after I listened to the song.

The acoustic Stay or Go is another strong song. It took some time for me to really warm up to the song, but the song has a certain power to it that gets to you eventually. I imagine it is most likely Clegg’s vocals that draw you in, in the end. And it’s built up pretty nicely as well. Love This Place features Ben Ames and the song stands out as it’s quite different from the rest. But it definitely is one of the album’s highlights. Interesting guitar work and good vocals. It has the surfy, summery, groovy feel that singer/songwriters like Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz, Donavon Frankenreiter, etc. are known for, but at the same time it’s very round and melodic. Musically this is definitely one of the stronger songs on “Here Comes Your Fate…” The album closer The Slow Down has some electronic work to it and I haven’t been able to really warm up to it. I’m not sure if it really is, but at times it comes across a little messy or foggy to me. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but it hasn’t been able to convince me really.

All in all, “Here Comes Your Fate, Quick Duck” is a solid follow-up to “KJC”. It has some excellent songs (The Best That I Can Be, Don’t Care, Love This Place) that really show a lot of potential and may very well facilitate a chance for Clegg to become known more widely. His talent surely justifies that. He delivered yet another strong album that you can give a spin, or even download, for free. And if you like it, don’t hesitate to chip in a few coins to compensate the artist, so he can keep on presenting us with these little treats of music.

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ANNOUNCEMENT of the INNER EAR MEDIA AWARDS 2010!
(awards will be sent out in the first week of 2011)

Album of the Year
Chad Perrone – Release

Song of the Year
Jeremy Messersmith – A Girl, A Boy & A Graveyard

Talent/Newcomer of the Year
Nathan Brooks

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In addition to the main categories, for which you all frantically voted, I promised to also announce a winner for the award for Best Live Show of 2010 (which I picked out of the shows Inner Ear Media visited/covered). It was a tough choice to make, but the winner is:

Tim Christensen

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Thank you everyone for voting. There was a total of over 2,300 votes which I found astonishing for a little blog like Inner Ear Media. It really means a lot to me that you all took a minute to cast your vote. Thanks!!

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Amy Petty – House of Doors
November 1, 2010

You may remember Amy Petty from her previous album “Mystery Keeps You”. A rare discovery who was able to combine the storytelling with true musicianship, with a conviction and sincerity that you don’t see all that often anymore these days.

She shows that same quality on her new release “House of Doors”. With an even better production than the predecessor and excellent contributions from guest and session musicians, Petty creates a perfect situation to deliver a follow-up that can deliver on the promises she made on her last release.

Right from the start you can hear the quality in the music and with Petty’s ability to vary between powerful, fragile and sentimental vocals which she uses to accentuate her more than excellent lyrics, you can hear a very complete singer/songwriter.

Songs like Amelia are sung and played so well that you actually start to relate to the character of the song. Other highlights like Skeleton Key, Sketches of Plans and Sleepwalking To Dreaming show you how remarkable it is that this artist hasn’t yet been discovered by a much wider audience. The way Amy Petty combines emotion, sincerity, and poetic lyricism, she hits the essence of songwriting. That’s exactly why her songs can become so powerful.

And songs like Get Over It, Spinning Plates and You Make Me Free have a current feel that would have a real shot on the radio. So in that aspect there is a real chance that the people may actually hear about this talented musician. Because if there’s any justice in this world, Amy Petty is on the verge of breaking through. “Mystery Keeps You” may have been a very good and very promising album, but on “House of Doors”, Petty steps it up a few more notches and I’m not exaggerating when I say that there aren’t many in the genre that can meet the same standard that Amy Petty does. “House of Doors” came in a little late to compete for album of the year, but it will most definitely carry over into the 2011 competition. It is just that good!

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Joe Hedges – Alchemy
October 29, 2010

After a successful stint with July For Kings, Joe Hedges sought his creative outlet in a solo release in 2007 (“Curvature”). We reviewed that release back then and it was obvious that Hedges’ creativity, originality and quest for esthetically eclectic music had found new resonance. He strayed from the rock & roll we came to know July For Kings for and painted on a bigger pallette of musical influences and outings. Then July For Kings successfully reformed and released “Monochrome” and now Hedges returns with his new solo release, “Alchemy”.

Alchemy is a term with a questionable undertone. It originates in the eastern world where it was actually a quite esteemed search for wisdom, but during the Middle Ages it got a more sinister character when it was more often seen as the search for eternal life and to change ordinary substances (most commonly lead) into gold.

But essentially alchemy has to do with change and interchangeability. And that is applicable to the album as well. Just like on “Curvature” (and even more so), Hedges uses a wide range of influences and mixes genres in an eclectic fashion to create organic and intriguing compositions. Most obvious are the clashing of electronic and ambient based influences with the more acoustic and rhythmic influences. Though clashing is the wrong word. I would rather say there is a symbiosis between the two. Something you can immediately hear on the opener, Magic. The pulsing beat that grows more intense throughout the song with the rhythmic instruments seeping through and Hedges’ vocals almost hover in between the layers of music.

I Can Try is a song that also uses a recognizable beat but comes off as a little more straight-forward than the opener. In between the vocal effects and the strong lyrical content of the song it is remarkably accessible and could be an interesting choice to release as a single. And at that point we come to one of the album’s top tracks. Ladders has a sort of epic build up that combines different styles. At first it wasn’t clear why I thought so highly of this track as it is not something I usually seem to go for, but then it hit me. While the sound of the song comes off very current, there is an underlying layer, the layer that may actually be the cause for that build up I referred to, that grabs back to something familiar. I started listening to some of the songs on “Monochrome” and Ladders feels like a natural progression from that album. Like it was taken from that batch of songs and more intriguing layers were added.

Proletarian is a darker and less accessible song but it’s a good example of how Hedges can work a composition. There’s an explosion of sound yet it never sounds forced or unorganized and Cicadas contrasts the previous song completely as it is basically a stripped down, acoustic guitar song. Later in the song a soft piano melody joins the guitar and the fragile vocals and the rhythmic part of the composition comes into the foreground more as it works to its climax. And as we then arrive at the middle of the album there’s an instrumental interlude (VSCITA) before Hedges launches the album into trippy Wait For You. It feels very spacy, almost like cyberpop. At times I get a Bowie meets Kraftwerk kinda vibe with this track.

Right from the first note of Cemetery Sun I got some kind of moody Christmas feeling. Maybe because some of the harmonies reminded me of the better known Christmas tunes, but thankfully this song doesn’t go down the same path. Musically it is a little retro, laid-back even, but the most impressive part of the song are the vocals and the complementing backing vocals. And like I had with Ladders, I could hear July For Kings-era songwriting in Cadmiums. Of course it’s more electronic than anything released under the JFK moniker, but there are certain patterns that keep coming back in Joe Hedges’ compositions, whether those are for July For Kings or for his solo releases, and Cadmiums is another example of such.

Half-Right couldn’t convince me upon the first listen, but the more I listen to the album, the more I warm up to the song. There is something in the song that sticks with me. Especially the part from 1m52 – 2m13, that rhythm (which you can hear in other parts of the song as well, but most obviously in that stretch) is what makes this song leave an impression on the listener. Epinephrine is one of my favorites off “Alchemy” as it sounds very smooth and organic and shows off Hedges’ exceptional vocal skills. And the song goes through different stages where it gets more intense or less intense or where the instrumental pallette changes. I think this is a good example of how good Hedges actually is. And while I was speaking of Christmas earlier, the closer is called Christmas Day. Not your typical holiday song but the paced, though dark, feel of the song fits with the wintery days. It isn’t very catchy or uplifting, on the contrary, but it is captivating and intriguing and makes you listen. On top of that it serves as a good ending to this very interesting album.

In comparison with his previous album… no lets not say that, because it isn’t fair to compare the two. But in a way you could say there is a progression since “Curvature”. Hedges branches out and tries new things but recognizable patters of songwriting and composing seep through and it results in a unique and new album that has a similar organic and musical signature as Hedges’ previous work. So yeah, there’s a natural progression that led to “Alchemy” and it led to an album that the general public may need some time for to fully appreciate, but the compositions are often elaborate and intriguing and if you are willing to listen to the tracks you will find them captivating and even moving.

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