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Archive for February, 2011

Cutback – Patriotism Is Not A Dirty Word
January 24, 2011

Awhile ago we reviewed Cutback’s single release “Audio Suicide”. The rock band from the UK now returns with a full-length album called “Patriotism Is Not A Dirty Word”.

The band has grown since the release of “Audio Suicide”. While they already portrayed a lot of energy the energy is now more channeled and the songs sound smoother and slicker and therefore come off more convincing.

The songs are powerful and entertaining and get your juices flowing. The opener Fix is like a plane’s turbo engines blasting the energy right through you and sets the tone for the album quite well. They follow with the radio-friendly One Last Time, which is a familiar song for those who already listened to the single last year. The infectious tempo and the strong work on the drums by Karl Jagger gives this song a powerful and energetic feel that works really well for this band.

Other songs that should be mentioned are the power anthem Breathe which is more paced down and is a good example of the increased vocal control of vocalist Chris Sammacicci, but also the punky 17 and the indie-rocker Fire, which may very well be the band’s breakout song. Good vocals, excellent guitar work and pounding drums. And with the heavy infusion of indie bands into mainstream radio in the past 5 years it’s hard to find new talent, but with that song, Cutback may have very well found justification to have their name known by a much, much wider audience. The rest of the album is of a good quality as well, with another impressive track (Sunrise) to close out the disc.

I was intrigued when I heard “Audio Suicide” but with the new release, “Patriotism Is Not A Dirty Word”, Cutback delivers on their promise. In less than a year, they show real growth and improvement and with a solid album and a few excellent songs (Fire in particular) they are ready to take it to the next level!

 

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South of Heaven – ..a beautiful winter..
December 28, 2010

This relatively unknown band from Arnhem in the Netherlands recently released a new album called “..a beautiful winter..” The band describes the CD as a collection of songs influenced by different styles in rock, blues, soul and punk. And that’s only the start of it.

First of all the songs are all written very well and the band is able to change in tempo, in loudness and by that they manage to keep the songs to sound fresh and exciting. Together with a slick production, the album doesn’t fall together like one big blur, but all the songs get a chance to stand out. From the more paced down opener Room In Your Life to the pointy Internet Pornography, the alternative rock song Love and the radio-friendly Blue Dress to the beautiful melodic closer Amsterdam, every song is convincing and impressive.

The vocals are very present throughout the album and on every song they are of the highest quality. Vocalist Richard Huijzer (ex-Fedchenka) is able to change in pitch and intensity seemingly without ease and Chris Gerretsen’s (also ex-Fedchenka) guitar work is outstanding. Together with a perfectly balanced rhythm section this collective of musicians has the talent and experience to figure out what they want and execute it in a way that deserves recognition and applause.

“..a beautiful winter..” is a very good album and begs the question how long it will take for this band to break through. Cause that just has to be a matter of time. The quality and talent is there, the album’s produced well, the musicians have performance experience and many of the songs are fit for radio. All I see is pluses. Audiences of the world, listen up, South of Heaven is ready to rock your eardrums.

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Kasey Anderson & The Honkies – Heart of a Dog
February 15, 2011

With “Heart of a Dog”, Kasey Anderson & The Honkies deliver an album that combines the flair of southern rock & roll with the honesty and careful songwriting of roots music.

The gritty opener The Wrong Light immediately sets the tone for an album that offers energy, honesty, raw emotion and a whole lot of music. Sometimes the song are raw and gritty like the opener, but that ‘s not all the band has to offer, though I must say there’s a certain rawness to the whole thing, also production-wise. And this time, that’s a good thing, it’s a keep-it-real thing.

Mercy is more melodic and has a real rock & roll thing going on with some decent riffs and a classic rhythm basis. But there’s also a powerful uptempo anthem (Exit Ghost), an impressive, more ballad-like song (Your Side of Town) on the album.

But when this band shines brightest is on the uptempo alt-country/rock & roll songs like Sirens And Thunder, My Baby’s A Wrecking Ball and Save It For Later which is honest, down-to-earth American rock & roll in the likes of which The Boss himself once started out.

“Heart of a Dog” is a complete, versatile and impressive album. Kasey Anderson & The Honkies don’t try to do something revolutionary, they just stay true to themselves, making honest music and delivering it with passion and conviction. And they do it very well. Therefore this album is a must listen for fans of honest rock & roll, alt-country and rootsrock.

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Fearless Vampire Killers – In Grandomina [EP]
December 16, 2010

Fearless Vampire Killers is a band from London trying to ride along on the success of bands like My Chemical Romance, The Used and HIM. And while the “In Grandomina” EP features a couple songs with catchy hooks the songs lack depth and substance to really convince.

Even at first listen, a song like Faces In The Dirt sounds like something of MCR’s “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge”. The single Palace In Flames sounds quite promising with more suspense in the build up but after a few listens it gets quite pretentious and it gets in the way of the song.

The instrumental interval is no more than just that and the self-titled closer is a track you easily forget. The best track on the EP is without a doubt Don Teriesto which shows creativity and originality. On basis of this track alone I give Fearless Vampire Killers the benefit of the doubt.

Because they execute the songs well, it’s just that the songs themselves aren’t strong enough to warrant a feeling of enormous excitement, except for Don Teriesto. The fantasy world of Grandomina that is portrayed in the songs corresponds with a fictional story the band’s lead singer sells as a package with the EP. I’m sure this is a good fit but I judged the music on its own merits.

So yeah, there’s definitely a talent in this group, but they need to find a sound that is more original, a sound that is more of their own than of the bands in the same genre/the bands that influence them. If they manage to do that, and their songwriting can grow along with that, there is a real future for them. If they can’t manage to do that, it’ll be a long, hard road.

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Fauxbois – Carry On
May 18, 2010

Fauxbois is an interesting band. You can’t really call the music on their debut “Carry On” typical, nor can you call it mindblowing. The songwriting however is carefully constructed and the album varies heavily in tempo and intensity as well as in complexity.

“Carry On” starts off with a mid-tempo folky rocker, Hearts A Radio that is a fairly decent song but doesn’t pry open too many hearts yet. In the next song, Start Of My Slip, you can hear some of the songwriting power this band possesses. With purposely repetitive lyrics the song manages not to become boring. Due to the interaction between lyrics and musical arrangement the focus shifts towards one or the other so much that it doesn’t distract from the other but brings out the best of both.

Remember February is one of the songs that stuck with me after listening to the album a couple of times. The vocals are better than on most of the tracks and the guitar arrangement gives this song a key signature sound.

 

Other songs that are worth mentioning are Neptune, Ghosts And Fireflies and Dry Into Dust, the latter of which is more uptempo and gives the album a little more spirit, which was necessary at this point as we were stuck in midtempo for too long.

Overall it’s a decent album with good songwriting and carefully composed arrangements. Musically it’s all fine but vocally most of the tracks are subpar. But this is a minor flaw you can easily overcome as it doesn’t distract from the songs too much. The interaction between the different parts of the song works so well that it’s just a technicality.

“Carry On”, for a debut is fine, but to say that it guarantees a long and blossoming career for Fauxbois, I wouldn’t be too confident to go out on a limb and predict that. I’d say it’s a careful first step towards recognition but a lot of hard work remains to be done to reach the edges of the spotlights of stardom.

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Sara Jackson-Holman – When You Dream
May 18, 2010

While “When You Dream” is only a debut album, Sara Jackson-Holman immediately leaves a mark. There are certainly obvious influences from Irish and British contemporaries (Damien Rice, Norah Jones, Lily Allen) but Jackson-Holman manages not to sound like them, just similar.

With creative songwriting and outstanding vocal athleticism she manages to go in many directions without straying too far from the core of what she’s about musically. From the opener Come Back To Me she has a sort of playful sense in her vocals that works like a worm on a hook. And by the time you hear the first track’s last note it has reeled you in.

Lead single Into The Blue (which you may have heard on ABC’s ‘Castle’) is a rich and well-written piano song that switches in intensity. The piano melody is lush and recognizable and Jackson-Holman’s vocals are full of emotion. And through the album she keeps switching between more emotionally invested songs (the Damien Rice-like When You Dream, the serene California Gold Rush and the honest Train Ride.) and songs that come off more quirky like Cellophane or Let Me In.

I’ve heard from others that they feel her vocals aren’t always strong enough to carry the weight of the songs but I disagree completely. Sara Jackson-Holman has a distinct vocal sound but she can twist it in so many different directions that it can, in no way, be seen as weak. In fact, I think she’s a very gifted vocalist and on top of that she’s a good pianist. Making use of classical compositions and classical influences in her piano playing and song arrangements she is able to connect flavors from the past with a current sound that is not just of a high standard but also very exciting.

“When You Dream” is a remarkable debut album and if her sudden success is any indication, Sara Jackson-Holman is going to be a household name faster than you can pronounce it. This is good stuff. Very good!

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Sara Jackson-Holman – A Very Merry EP
December 2010

First heard of Sara Jackson-Holman while listening to her song Into The Blue on Castle’s season finale in may. Later on I get an e-mail on if I’m interested in reviewing her album an holiday EP. Obviously I am. Sometimes you come across raw talent that you don’t need any convincing for to listen to.

Sara Jackson-Holman is such a talent. Influences like Damien Rice and Feist easily come to mind and other reviewers have drawn comparisons with Adele and Amy Winehouse. Not unsurprisingly, even though I still think Damien Rice may be one of the strongest influences in her songwriting, which is why I draw a comparison to aspiring artist Amy Kuney. Both have a clear, high voice with a smooth, almost jazzy undertone.

Jackson-Holman’s vocals make the songs vibrant and current. She breathes new life into old Christmas classics like Carol of the Bells and Angels We Have Heard On High. You will all recognize the songs yet they will sound anew and fresh. It’s worth your buck, especially as you support a good cause. Go to her bandcamp page to listen and purchase.

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