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Posts Tagged ‘acoustic’

John Hill – John Hill [EP]
October 25, 2010

Meet John Hill, an acoustic folk/rock act from the Netherlands. If you have never heard of him until now, there’s a good reason for it. The “John Hill” EP is his first release. The feel of his music has been compared to masters like Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens for example.

Inner Ear Media was approached to shine its light over this debut EP. And after a good number of listens I came to the conclusion that this is very solid singer/songwriter material. I wouldn’t go as far as to compare it to Dylan or Stevens right off the bat, but I do admit there’s a genuinity to the music that reminds you of forgotten musical eras. Hilgenkamp’s vocals are pure and honest and they envoke emotion, not only in himself and his music, but also in the imagination of the listener.

This is quite an accomplishment, because for singer/songwriters it is essential to make that personal connection with the listener, one way or another. Hannes Hilgenkamp, under the John Hill moniker does this in its purest, most honest way and, in a way, he invites the listener to accompany him in his music.

On the opener Does It Still Hurt the empathic vocals reach across, right into your heart. The storytelling presentation of the song gives the song even more credit. The more uptempo Sailin Home is a track that is pleasant to listen to and would have a decent chance on the regional and smaller radio stations in the country. Easy Prey is a little edgier and is just an extremely well-executed song. The final two songs, Hidin From Me and Decency are also of a very high quality. Especially the closer (Decency) is very subtle and comes across very personal. Additions from Florien Hilgenkamp (classical vocals) and Serge Bredewold (former bass player for Twarres and 16Down) shows he selects musical partners that can meet the high standard he set with his tracks.

Hilgenkamp proves to be not only a very accomplished songwriter as his songs are musically and lyrically relevant and accessible. He doesn’t dabble into easily available rhymes and shameless variations on melodies that have been used a million times, no he truly writes songs that don’t just sound fresh and original, they actually are fresh and original. He also proves he’s a true balladeer in the way he personalizes the song and enables the listener to do exactly the same. He brings across the story and makes an actual connection to those who open their hearts to these songs. It may only be a debut EP but it sounds like this man has been writing and performing songs for decades. He surely knows his stuff.

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Allie Moss – Late Bloomer
October 11, 2010 (UK Only)

Allie Moss’ full-length release “Late Bloomer” starts off with the catchy single Corner. It’s one of those songs that you will have in your head for the rest of the week after you listened to it. And Corner is a good representative for the whole album. Allie Moss showcases strong songwriting and a unique vocal color on this album.

Many of the songs that appear on “Late Bloomer” also appeared on her previous EP release, “Passerby”, but on this album these songs are accompanied by a few newer songs. Dig With Me, which was played in the TV show ‘Pretty Little Liars’ is a heartfelt song that’s perfectly suitable to be used in TV shows. The sympathetic sound and the build up into the chorus accompanied by the supporting keys arrangement makes for a rich song which is very accessible.

Another newer song is the jolly Melancholy Astronautic Man. Allie’s been playing this song live for some time and it almost always gets a very good response. The uptempo and easily recognizable chorus has you singing along in no time and the playful vocals only accentuate that. The title track Late Bloomer was one of the tracks that probably impressed me the most. It has a certain honesty and purity over it that instantly reminded me of Joni Mitchell.

A song I was very curious for was Leave It All Behind as I heard Greg Holden joined in the recording of this tune. And as I had expected this track turned out to be another very good song. It doesn’t always work when you put two talented people together, but in this case it turned out beautifully. I can still hear the “oh oh oh” in my head.

The rest of the album consists of the tracks that were already featured on “Passerby” and those songs haven’t lost anything of their power. Once again I would have to say that the believablity and honesty in the music, combined with Allie’s unique vocals is what makes it stand out. Key tracks like Melancholy Astronautic Man, Late Bloomer & Passerby are excellent examples of how good this lady really is.

“Late Bloomer” covers different bases as Allie Moss is able to go from uptempo to slower paced songs with ease. She varies not only in tempo, but also in moods and intensity without ever losing any credibility or pop sensibility. It’s not something that hasn’t been done before but the power is in the delivery. There are thousands of singer/songwriters out there and many of them are quite good, so it’s hard to really stand out. But with the sincerity and honesty Allie Moss is able to embed in her songs there is no question that she stands out among many of her peers.

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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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Ben Howard – These Waters [EP]
July 14, 2009

I discovered Ben Howard when he was opening for Brett Dennen during his European tour. And that night, which was a very special night anyway, however short Ben Howard’s performance may have been, he proved to be the discovery of the year for me.

Afterwards I bought a copy of “These Waters” to explore what else this guy is capable of. And what I found was an interesting collection of acoustic songs in which Howard’s vocals are shining and his excellent guitar playing is a thing of beauty.

All the songs are worth mentioning but the two stand out tracks are London and These Waters. The way Ben Howard utilizes maximum potential of his guitar and sings with flawless vocals gives the songs something extra in both rhythmic and melodic quality.

The EP starts with The Wolves, which is more uptempo and the most impressive feat of this song is the timing. The sentiment in Cloud Nine is very impressive and it was probably my favorite song during his short live set that I saw. Excellent use of the guitar! The harmonic and melodic play that goes on in London is wonderful and with a lot of feeling Howard brings his strong lyrics to life. The combination of the use of his guitar, the strong introspective lyrics and comforting yet powerful vocals make for a gem of a song that really is the crown on this EP. The more folky Move Like You Want is faster paced and the breathy, almost seasoned sounding vocals give the song a lot of character. The EP ends with a bonus song called The Fire, which has a very demo-y feel to it. The raw and personal feel to it actually adds to the song instead of taking away from it.

So all in all this is a very impressive and complete EP, especially for a young musician like Ben Howard. I am very curious to hear what lies ahead for this talented and interesting musician.

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Mikey Wax – For Better Or Worse [EP]
2010

Mikey Wax - For Better Or Worse

Mikey Wax is a singer-songwriter from Long Island who released a six song EP this year, following his 2008 debut album, “Change Again”.

Mikey’s unique voice on “For Better or Worse” makes for some easy listening. Upon first listen, his voice reminded me a bit of BBMak and The Moffatts – two so-called “boy bands” that played instruments from about 10 years ago. Mikey’s music is pretty mellow but also catchy. Fans of other singer songwriters such as Howie Day, who Mikey just finished up a tour with, would most likely enjoy Mikey’s laid back poppy sound.

So Crazy
stands out as a track that is a little more rockin’ than the rest. All the songs go together well on this EP. Check Mikey out if you’re into John Mayer (one of his influences), Jason Reeves, Tyler Hilton, or Jason Mraz.

Overall Rating: A-

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