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Posts Tagged ‘debut album’

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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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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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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Lauren Bateman – I’ve Been Waiting
May 21, 2010

Lauren Bateman has slowly been building a name for herself in and around Boston over the past few years. With a full-length release ready she now sets her aims on the rest of the world.

“I’ve Been Waiting” features fairly simple singer/songwriter tracks that sound very smooth and Bateman’s vocals, though a little nasal at times, are fairly pleasant. The album’s not groundbreaking or anything but keeping in mind it’s a debut album it’s actually a pretty good release.

While the tracks may be fairly simple, the simplicity of the songs actually benefits them. Because Bateman didn’t fall into the trap of trying too much at once she focuses on doing it well. The songs are strong and the lyrics are accessible without becoming too obvious or cliché, which is an accomplishment on itself.

Civil Again was the first song on the album that convinced me as it showed a little more fire than the previous tracks. Beautiful Face and Happy Ever After are pretty good songs. Especially the latter. Very good vocal performance and the arrangement has a couple of subtle, yet strong accents that give the track more power and sincerity.

With Linger and I Gave, Bateman shows a grittier side of herself. With more rock influences these songs have more power and energy and this is the side of Bateman I’d like to hear more in the future. Because the songs have more body they come off more convincingly and the songs benefit from the richer arrangements. Especially I Gave is a very strong track. Probably the strongest track on the album.

The closer Everything’s OK is decent but not the most memorable track on “I’ve Been Waiting”. All in all it’s a debut that shows a lot of promise and with a full band behind her, Bateman could grow out to be an interesting act to follow around. Her vocals have a lot of power and when there’s a little more fire and energy in the songs she allows herself to really get into the music. And those are the moments she excells. With a little more experience and more recordings under her belt I reckon this is only just the beginning for Lauren Bateman.

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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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