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Posts Tagged ‘indie’

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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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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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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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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