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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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Kids Never Lie – 1618 [EP]
May 2010

With this 4-track EP, Dutch electropop band Kids Never Lie tries to debut with an impact. Something they partially succeed at. Immediate parallels will be made with Das Pop, though Kids Never Lie is obviously not that far yet.

This young band is effective with their tracks though. The beats are jumpy and there’s plenty of enthusiasm on this EP. Opening track Framework is a little bit messy though and after several listens you really want to listen to something else, but it has the potential to be a good party track when played live with all the bells and whistles it deserves.

The single, Kids, is the best track on the album. It’s in German, which, perhaps,  reminds one of Das Pop even more. It also has the tendency to become slightly repetitive, but the band experiments well and the slightly melancholic beat and constant drive of the song give it enough character to stand out.

The Race For Space Supremity is a rather pretentious title for a song that doesn’t quite cut it. KNL gets an A for effort, but on this track they show they are a young band that only just starts out. It’s okay to start with, but if they really want to get into the spotlight, they’ll need to grow and mature more. Literary Planetary, while a little repetitive, is actually quite a step up from the last track as it has more balls and comes off more convincingly.

“1618” is a nice debut for Kids Never Lie. The band is young and still figuring out what to do with their music. There’s definitely something there but it is also clear there is a lot of work yet to be done. The single and the final track on the EP are glimpses into what could be a bright future for this electropop band, but for now, the glory remains in the future. Promising: yes, excellent: not quite yet.

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Long Story Short – What A Scene
December 21, 2010

Recently I was approached by Long Story Short and asked if I wanted to review their upcoming debut album “What A Scene”. Naturally I responded with a certain yes. I’m always up to listen to new music and see what it has to offer.

Long Story Short is Daniel Luka and Nicky James. And while listening to the album I got the impression that these two complement each other very well. The songs have a good drive and often recognizable hooks and riffs that make the songs accessible for the general audience.

“What A Scene” kicks off with a slightly cynical powerpop song (Fall Awake). Its energy and attitude certainly set the mood for the album. The lead single Caved In feeds off that energy and carries on in a similar fashion. The combination of these two songs at the start of the album immediately gets the listeners attention.

Something that I found remarkable is the growth that Luka shows as a vocalist. I’ve known him for some time and heard some recordings of him doing covers and originals, on which he usually did a decent job, but the level and consistency he shows on this album is ten steps higher.

Especially combined with the keys provided by James and their compatibility as musicians they find a way to create music that sounds familiar and fresh at the same time. The songs are often catchy and always relatable. In essence “What A Scene” is a rock album, but Long Story Short still manages to show they can vary within the genre. There are some uptempo rock and powerpop songs like the first two tracks and the album highlight The Truth Hurts, which shows these guys have some excellent songwriting skills. But there are also quieter and sentimental songs like the beautiful What Mattered Most, the gentle Forever and album closer Eternal Smile.

The overall sound is very organic and you can hear different influences in the music, ranging from different genres and eras, which is probably why the songs have a recognizable and familiar sound to them. But because Long Story Short manages to keep the songs close to themselves and execute the songs convincingly it sounds fresh and new. With catchy songs and relatable lyrics many of the songs show radio and tv potential and I wouldn’t be surprised if the band chooses to work that angle.

For a debut, this is a more than solid effort. Highlights are Fall Awake, The Truth Hurts, What Mattered Most and Eternal Smile. Especially when I look at the songwriting aspect, these songs stick out. But I would encourage you to listen to the album all the way through as it has a very natural progression and while there are some little things I could point out here and there, Long Story Short shows a consistent quality throughout the whole release. Seeing where this band comes from and what they managed to accomplish in a relatively short period of time is remarkable and leads me to believe that “What A Scene” is only the tip of the iceberg. Long Story Short is a band that should not slip through the cracks. They’re too promising for that.

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Alex Band – We’ve All Been There
June 29, 2010

In his years with The Calling, Alex Band had plenty of success. Hit singles Wherever You Will Go, Adrienne & Our Lives gave the band plenty of exposure and airplay. After the Calling slowly came apart, Band started focusing on his solo work. A couple years ago his self-titled debut EP was released and it wasn’t to far from the Calling’s music. And now it’s 2010 and Alex Band is ready to release his full-length solo debut.

The album, “We’ve All Been There”, doesn’t start out very strong. The title track is fairly decent but not quite memorable and What Is Love is a collection of clichés and sounds very much like all the other songs out there. But then there’s the lead single Tonight. The song is written very well and performed with feeling and edginess. It’s the Alex Band that you want to hear. Good build up, enough tension in the song to make this a stellar power ballad/anthem. Radio’s gonna embrace this one for sure.

Forever Yours is a decent track, nothing wrong with it, but not one of the album’s highlights. The following two tracks however (Please, Will Not Back Down) are strong songs. Especially Please is a strong effort. The emotion in the vocals and the subtle arrangement of the song show Alex Band’s maturity in songwriting and performing. Euphoria is another song that deserves praise. Listen to those vocal skills, excellent control, and while with some artists parts of the lyrics might become cheesy, Band delivers the song with sincerity and feeling and therefore the lyrics are inspiring instead of cheesy. This is the way it’s supposed to be done.

There are a few songs that are good album songs, but that you can’t really rank among the stand out tracks (Never Let You Go, Only One). There really isn’t much wrong with these songs, but they miss that little thing that makes a good song great. Take Start Over Again for example. It’s a paced down, mainly acoustic song but it shows a singer that bares his soul in a song. The arrangement is perfect for the nature of the song and it is definitely one of the album’s most impressive tracks.

“We’ve All Been There” is a strong album with a number of really good songs. Fans of mainstream pop/rock should not doubt to purchase this album, because it will be right up their alley. Fans of The Calling won’t be disappointed as Band doesn’t stray too far, but at times he gets a little more creative and shows a little more variety, which shows he’s matured even more as a songwriter. The album may not be consistent all the time, but it’s his first solo release, so that’s to be expected. Band’s still finding his way, but there’s a more than solid basis to say that this musician has what it takes to reach similar success on his own as he did with his previous band.

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