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Posts Tagged ‘EP’

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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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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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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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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Maxwell Jury – Rhythm of the Rain
August 2010

A songwriting major at Berklee College of Music, Max Jury recently released a three song single titled “Rhythm of the Rain”. It features three tunes that are influenced by classic pop. Influences like Aimee Mann and Paul Simon come to mind pretty quickly.

All three songs are fluent and quite catchy and certainly have pleasant arrangements. The singing and playing is all in order, but the strength lies in the songwriting. The songs are constructed carefully and dilligently. Especially Change Your Mind For Me is an impressive tune.

This kid is still quite young, but already knows how to work a song. As the years will go by and he will learn more tricks of the trade I can definitely see him become a songwriter of name. And if he’s able to find some musicians with a similar vision on music he could very well form a very capable band that should have plenty of potential with a strong songwriting basis like Jury consistently shows on this early release.

check out two of the tunes on his myspace page:
http://www.myspace.com/maxjurymusic

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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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The Twees – Unfair Affair [EP]
May 13, 2010

Last year I reviewed “Lessons To Connect”, with which The Twees debuted on scene. I was pleasantly surprised by the energy and enthusiasm they showed on that release. They return with a 2-track single release. “Unfair Affair” features the title track and the song Hepburn Shades.

Not everything is perfect and sometimes things are a little raw, but the effort makes up for that in tenfold. And frankly, the rawness of it all fits with the danceable rock & roll this band creates. In the past we reviewed and worked with bands like The Craze, Little things that kill, The Crash Moderns, Welbilt and the likes and I would place The Twees in the same niche of the genre. The playful, danceable indie/rock that makes sure you start moving.

The music is infectious and has a lot of drive. The actual single, Unfair Affair, is an energetic, forward-moving song that is very pleasant. It’s a song you can get a kick out. Hepburn Shades is a little more plain, but it also has an energetic drive and makes for a good b-side to the single.

It’s only a little taste as the band plans to release another full EP in January of 2011. But for now you can enjoy these two musical candy canes to get through the holidays. Sign up for their newsletter and you even get the songs for free. Don’t miss out!

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Sleepwalk, A Robot – The 2010 EP
May 11, 2010

The Arizonian duo of Sleepwalk, A Robot are surprising and quite original in their work. In 2008 they released the excellent “Love in the Time of Global Warming” and I’ve been privileged to see them perform their magic in a live setting too. These guys have skills.

It is now 2010 and conveniently the duo releases “The 2010 EP”. It’s a free digital EP which you can download through the band’s Bandcamp page. Sleepwalk combines catchy, fast-paced pop with a more electronic/indie sound. And it all fits together perfectly. The strong pop hooks, the catchy rhythms, the clever effects and the smooth vocals come together in a somewhat quirky but qualitatively strong musical body.

A Hired Gun is fast-paced and has a lot of energy. It’s a song that will make you speed up when you listen to it in the car and it’s a song that gives you energy on a slow day. Buildings is a little more midtempo but the melody is no less effective. Once you hear it twice it is impossible to get out of your head. Sleepwalk is subtly taking control of what’s playing in your head, and frankly, that’s just impressive.

The final song on the EP, The World Is Made Of Pixels, is somewhat a parody of 1985 originally by SR-71 but made popular by Bowling For Soup’s version. It’s not like they just took the song and parodized it, or that they took the original song and sampled it. But parts of it are used in a playful, yet very clever way and incorporated in The World is.. And the combination of an already catchy rock song and a steady, catchy beat of their own, make this song utterly infectious.

There are only 3 songs on this digital EP, but even in those three songs there is plenty to enjoy. It’s just a teaser, I know, but if this doesn’t make you want to buy “Love in the Time of Global Warming” or anything else the duo comes up with, then I just don’t know. It’s fun, it’s good, and it’s real. Sleepwalk, A Robot is a hidden gem in the world of alternative pop music but if they keep at it, the whole world will hear of them pretty soon.

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Michelle Branch – Everything Comes And Goes [EP]
July 26, 2010

Michelle Branch came up fast with her blend of pop and rock n’ roll with some americana influences. She had great mainstream success in North America and the success even crossed into Europe and Australia. After a venture into country (The Wreckers), she is now returning to her solo work. “Everything Comes And Goes” was supposed to be a full-length album, but for now we’ll have to settle for 6 new songs.

The country/americana influences are much more present than they were in Branch’ early albums. But it’s not as much of a centerpiece as it was with The Wreckers. Single Sooner or Later even sounds like an updated version of Branch’ older work and will put smiles on the faces of many fans.

The EP kicks off with a gritty rock & roll song (with bluesy americana influences). Ready To Let You Go has some twang to it, but it also has an interesting edge and a driving rhythm. Instead of portraying the sweetness of her vocals, Michelle Branch chooses to show the powerful side of her vocals this time. Together with the single Sooner or Later this makes for an excellent start of this EP.

And then we reach one of the best songs of this year. I Want Tears is a hit single in the making. Relatable lyrical content, catchy chorus and it pretty much does what Ilse deLange has been doing in the Netherlands and Belgium for the past 5 years. Mixing pop with americana influences and mixing it into a powerful pop song that speaks to fans of different musical preferences. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the song that puts Michelle Branch right back at the top of the pop world, where she belongs.

The more laid-back Crazy Ride is a song that can grow on you. It’s not the strongest track on the EP, and the country influences (which I do not mind by the way, I actually believe it fits Branch’ vocals) are more prominent. But it has a certain quality that makes the song get a little better each time you hear it. Summertime is a solid song, but compared to the other songs on the record it’s slightly predictable at times. Closer, and title track, Everything Comes And Goes took me a couple listens to fully appreciate, but it’s a song that shows off strong vocals and a subtle arrangement that is both classy and musically sound.

With “Everything Comes And Goes” Michelle Branch shows that she is still going strong and that she still belongs at the top of the world of pop music. The record is consistently strong and all the songs can stand their own. Too bad it’s not a full-length where Branch would have more opportunities to show off more variety and creativity, but for a 6-song EP, this is an excellent release and one that deserves the credit. Michelle Branch, welcome back!

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Zack Borer – Dollars Spent On Nothing [EP]
May 8, 2010

Zack Borer is an interesting singer/songwriter, similar in style as John Mayer, Keaton Simons, Jason Mraz and the likes, but certainly not yet on the same level. The songs on “Dollars Spent On Nothing” show potential but do not really stand out in the crowd. It may have something to do with the production or mixing of the album, but Borer is very much a beginning artist.

Bring Back The Days is a nice soulful song that would make a very decent radio single. It’s a song that could garner attention, cause exposure and give Borer a chance to meet people, for doors to be opened, so that he can exploit his potential. Because that he’s talented is for certain, he just needs to learn, listen and develop.

Give him a few years to open up for bigger, more accomplished artists and Borer will pick up the tricks of the trade and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him break through eventually.

His vocals are strong and his songwriting shows promise. The previously mentioned Bring Back The Days and the next song, She, are probably the highlights of the 5-song EP. The opener 45 Days is a little catchy but not quite memorable and for the most part the same thing goes for Here & There (though the funky undertone is a nice touch). Closer Save Me doesn’t quite convince either. It’s a decent mainstream pop/rock song, but there are many similar songs out there that are just better.

“Dollars Spent On Nothing” is an interesting release. It shows promise, but it’s a first step. It’s the first peek around the corner. But Borer shows potential and if he is able to learn and evolve, there may well be a bright future for him as a singer/songwriter, or maybe he’ll even form a band to come up with a fuller, more diverse sound. For the moment he writes and performs decent songs that sound fine, but hasn’t yet reached the major leagues.

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