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Posts Tagged ‘album’

Massy Ferguson – Hard Water
October 19, 2010

For those of you who enjoy the southern charm in music, a strong mix of ballsy southern rock and the gentle rootsy/americana influenced storytelling, from now on you can just as well find it in the Northwest. Massy Ferguson, hailing from Seattle is not the next grunge sensation, no, they don’t play grunge, but they might well be one of the newest sensations in country-rock music.

All through the past 6 decades there have been huge acts in this genre. The heydays may have been in the late 60s to mid 80s, but still the music has a huge following. And with their sophomore album, “Hard Water”, Massy Ferguson is bound to tap into that following. With an Eagles-like flair and sometimes the grit of Springsteen they release an album in the tradition of Uncle Tupelo and The Jayhawks. It doesn’t quite reach that level yet, but the band is starting to get awefully close.

“Hard Water” features 10 altcountry songs that are very pleasant to listen to and show a lot of musicality. There’s a certain honesty in this album that helps it flourish. Combined with the strong melodies and the passionate performance makes it a very strong release.

Standout songs are Freedom Country, Wenatchee Eyes & Dreams of St. Petersburg, but the whole album deserves a listen. Massy Ferguson is a band to watch. Their debut album may not have been top of the bill yet, but this second one surely belongs up there. And if they continue to evolve with this pace, there’s no telling where their story ends. One of the best albums in the genre in 2010.

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RevoltRevolt – Chordata
November 17, 2009

Even though this album was released in 2009 I was contacted recently with a request to shine my light over this album. I’ve been listening to it for some time now and while overall the album shows a certain promise it wasn’t able to grab me by the throat or thoroughly convince me of it’s power or ability to reach out to a wide audience.

There is a strong sense of songwriting and thinking outside the box in this band and some of the songs come off nicely. The opener reminds me a little of an old LA based band called Untyde, though I must say The Infection doesn’t sound quite as tight and doesn’t have the same vocal power Untyde could provide. There are a couple tracks that aren’t too memorable, but Golden Age is a very solid track. ReVoLtReVoLt shows more power and fire in this track and with the slightly funky approach to the song the vocals have more shine to them.

This middle part of the album is actually the strongest part. Songs like After The War and All Alone show this band can come up with songs that have some power and conviction to them. But on the whole “Chordata” isn’t the top album the band may have hoped for. On the whole take, the vocals aren’t very strong, the timing of the songs is off at times and the production is just so-so.

You have to give ReVoLtReVoLt an A+ for trying, but the end result doesn’t quite cut it. Not yet at least. They show they have a knack for songwriting and arrangements and they have some interesting ideas what to do with songs. But they need to work on the execution and production of their songs if they really want to grow out into a band of name and fame. Thusfar they managed to release an album that’s okay, but I doubt many people will take notice for long. “Chordata” is a first step, but a lot of work will need to be done to get higher up the food chain.

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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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Taylor Carson – Defending The Name
September 14, 2010

Taylor Carson is a storyteller. An old-fashioned balladeer. In the tradition of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, James Taylor, Josh Ritter and the likes. You may notice I refer to some of the very, very best in the history of storytelling music. I do this on purpose to accentuate how Taylor Carson steps up his game on “Defending The Name”. He’s been out there for awhile, releasing music every so often. But with this new release he takes a huge leap forward and this album is bound to give him some well-deserved recognition.

Right from the opener, Moonshiner, this (sort of) autobiographic album starts to paint he picture of Carson’s family tree. He continues this trend down throughout the album, which features 16 songs of the highest quality. And through the classic mold of balladeering Carson doesn’t lose sight of the pop sensibility in his songs. Listen to Five, Freight Train or Smoke for example to hear what I mean.

“Defending The Name” is an album that is versatile. You may think that is a bold statement, but some of the songs tell a story that you just want to hear until the end, some of the songs are so endearing you can’t let go and there are songs that are simply beautiful in their simplicity.

Carson uses the lyrics as an additional instrument and enriches his songs by interweaving the music, the lyrics, the story, the feel, the message, the rhythm, the melody, everything to a collection of songs that breathe life, that breathe emotion. “Defending The Name” is by all means a modern-day masterpiece and Taylor Carson shows he’s ready to take the step into the spotlight that he now more than deserves.

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null paradox – the onion and the ants: gertrude and grace
July 21, 2010

To be honest, I had never heard of Null Paradox until recently. So I went into this album with a blank mind. “The Onion And The Ants: Gertrude And Grace” is music that belongs with the book of the same name.

Crystal Sherry’s lead vocals are strong and clear and the music has a certain sweep to it that creates a bit of an edge. Starting with opener Valentine’s Day, which is an okay track. The vocals are strong, but the arrangement isn’t too imaginative. Yet because of that it seems to work as the opener for this ‘soundtrack’ as I’ve come to see this album.

But going through the rest of the album I find that the songs aren’t really challenging or surprising. Musically it’s all tight and the vocals are actually quite strong. The over all feel and mood of the album probably fits with the book but for an album it seems to be stuck. It doesn’t get out of the shell it is placed in. Which is too bad, because if a song like Black And White (which is one of the better songs on there) had a bit more guts it could’ve been a killer song (in the tradition of heyday Incubus).

The most impressive part of the album are track 6 and 7 (Freedom / The Cell). Freedom has a lot of focus on the vocals and has a bit more guts to it when it works towards a climax. You can feel the song more than you can the other tracks. The Cell has a bit of an Evanescence vibe to it, but with a darker edge that seems to suit Null Paradox very well.

“The Onion and The Ants…” is an interesting album. It’s done pretty well but it doesn’t stand out much as a regular album. But because I’ve come to see it as a sort of soundtrack it seems to serve its purpose. I haven’t yet read the book that it accompanies but I imagine the music gets a lot more dimension once I do. So if you’re just looking for an album in this genre I don’t think this is the first one you’d grab on to, but if you are able to see the album in its context it seems to live up to what it was meant to do.

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Hillstomp – Darker The Night
July 20, 2010

Hillstomp is a very interesting band. This duo consists of musicians playing a bucket-drumkit and several string instruments (mainly guitars and banjos). It makes for a musical experience rather than just an album. This music hits you right in the chest. This mix of blues, rock & roll, roots, country and other styles is that powerful.

It’s hard to really pinpoint what “Darker The Night” is or represents. It’s energetic and it’s raw. It’s filled with emotion. It’s the music of the common people as they might’ve said back in the days of yore. From pounding songs like Cardiac Arrest in D and Satan Is Real (S.I.R.) to jangly banjo songs like Banjo Song #1, Banjo Song #2, Blue Tick, etc. it’s all real, it’s all straight to the point.

“Darker The Night” is an album of high quality. It highlights a brand of music we haven’t been hearing much in the past years (or even decades) and it brings it back with conviction and honesty that makes it stand out even more. Hillstomp is a band that is unique in this time and day. The music may not be what is commercially acceptable but it sure is damn good.

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The Quick & Easy Boys – Red Light Rabbit
June 8, 2010

The mix of funk, folk, roots, rock & roll, and whatever else is in there makes for an album full of energy, fun and refreshment. The Quick & Easy Boys may just have struck gold with “Red Light Rabbit”. Lyrically it may not be too challenging, but hey, that’s not the main focus of this album anyway.

I’ve seen references to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and while understandable, I would not draw that comparison. The jumpy guitars and the fun attitude of the songs instantly reminded me of The Craze while at the same time I seem to hear influences from bands like The Strokes, Band of Gypsies and Less Than Jake.

Right from the get-go “Red Light Rabbit” is off to set the mood. The opener is fun and leads into the album nicely. And the mix and fusion of styles throughout the album is fun. It doesn’t really get chaotic, which is a trap many similar bands fall into, but The Quick & Easy Boys easily switch between genres and mash them together with ease.

Highlights are Breakin’ Love, The Letter and Sweet Anticipation. But the rest of the album is worth listening to as well. No doubt about it. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it one of the best albums of the year, but it is one of the more surprising albums of the year. It’s refreshing, convincing and it leaves you with a feeling of free-spirited fun. And lets be honest, we all want that sometimes, right. Check out “Red Light Rabbit” as it is bound to be worth your time!

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Little Beirut – Fear of Heaven
September 4, 2010

This is the third release by the Portland-based band. With a mix of indie-pop and rock & roll they make accessible yet layered music. They weave strong melodies with, for the most part, inviting lyrics. The band seems to draw heavily on influences from the late 70s – mid 80s.

Little Beirut has a full and rich indie-pop sound and with those big melodies and with their confident attitude they are able to present a convincing album. They range between uptempo energy and massive ballads. They hold on tight to the ‘indie’ side of the genre but almost all the songs have a supreme pop sensibility. It’s not radio pop, but alternative radio would eat out of their hands.

The first couple of tracks are solid, good even, but the first memorable track is True Swords. At first I just thought it was pleasant, but the build up and sound (slightly reminiscent of The Smiths) draws you in bit by bit. It is followed up by the catchy Cigarette Girls, which would make one heck of a radio single.

Other outstanding songs are Lifeboat (check the harmonies!) and closer Crooked Crown, which is a great example of what melodical indie-pop can sound like. Little Beirut shows they have the talent and the guts to do what they do without the use of all kinds of studio production, sound enhancing, etc. etc. They stick to the music and the songs benefit from it.

“Fear of Heaven” is a solid album. It’s a good album that deserves notice. But that is just the thing. While it is good, I don’t know if it stands out enough to get that recognition. The indie-pop genre has been growing massively over the past decade and it’s hard for bands to really stand out among their peers. With the quality and confidence Little Beirut shows, they may have a shot to really break through, but I’m not so sure the sound of the album is unique enough to reach that big break. In the meantime, however, those who did come across Little Beirut have another album to add to their collection.

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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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