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Posts Tagged ‘alternative’

Unknown Component – The Infinitive Definitive
October 12, 2010

Keith Lynch, better known as Unknown Component has been at it for nearly 10 years. This October marked the release of his 8th album “The Infinitive Definitive”, which you can get your hands on through his website, for a very sweet deal I might add.

As with his previous releases, Lynch did everything by himself. Singing, playing the instruments, creating the artwork, producing, recording, engineering. You name it, he did it. This is worthy of praise on itself. But he manages to release solid album after solid album. And while I don’t think “The Infinitive Definitive” is extremely imaginative it is another strong release. The album is filled with hooks and recognizable post-grunge arrangements.

Vocals aren’t Lynch’ strongest asset, but the clever use of instruments and knowing his limitations hides that very well. On songs like Collections of the State and Future Circles it actually sounds just right.

Overall the music is strong and the arrangements carry the songs to a higher level. But even though Lynch’ did a decent job when it comes to the engineering and producing of the album it wouldn’t have been such a bad idea if someone with more expertise and experience in that department had lend a helping hand. Because at times instruments get drowned out or snowed under cause of the production. However, in songs such as A Heavy Heart or an Empty Stomach, Foundation of Rebellion and This Machine (bonus track) you can hear that the arrangements and instrumental ingenuities are structurally sound.

On the one hand there’s a certain charm to it that Lynch does everything by himself but you might also say that he could be in his own way if he is looking for that illustrous breakthrough. There’s no question of Lynch’ talent as it is abundant, there’s also no questioning his ambition and discipline, because it is impressive what he manages to get done on his own. “The Infinitive Definitive” is a testament to his talent and his work ethic, and it’s an album that more than justifies recognition. And that may just be where things could start rolling for Unknown Component. With recognition comes attention and that could very well lead to other people lending a hand. With a touch of outside perspective and a little cooperation from other professionals, Unknown Component could very well grow out to be a force to be reckoned with on alternative and rock radio.

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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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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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