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Posts Tagged ‘powerpop’

John Taglieri – Southern Paradise
2013
John Taglieri Southern Paradise CoverIt was only last year when we last heard from John Taglieri. He released the Lucky #9 EP containing upbeat rock songs. After touring the east coast and spending a lot of time in Florida entertaining the masses he now releases his next effort called “Southern Paradise”. The disc contains 6 songs that have that typical Taglieri signature though they steer away from his previous work slightly.

The EP opens with a positive attitude. The ‘nananana nananana hey hey hey’ jumps in right away on the title track. Southern Paradise is a testament to living with intent as the man himself would say. Where Taglieri was always known for his upbeat mix of powerpop and rock, or at least songs with a little bit of an edge, this song is smoother and more contemporary and the vocals provide most of the edge. With its tempo and summer holiday feel Southern Paradise is a perfect feel good song.

Then we hear When I Think About, which has a bit of a rootsy spice woven through its fabric. The rhythm in the verses builds up to the chorus perfectly and the chorus is pure gold. If only a couple of radio DJs would get their hands on this, it could take off quickly. The lyrics paint a picture of the good life, taking in all it has to offer and who doesn’t like that picture? And listen to the guitar solo roughly two thirds through the song!

On Down The Road Taglieri takes down the pace a little bit. This midtempo song has a very laidback feel and would probably appeal to fans of early Nine Days, Better Than Ezra and Matchbox Twenty. It wasn’t the song that stood out to me immediately but after a few listens I noticed the guitar work and the arrangement held a lot more to it than I noticed early on. Down The Road is a grower.

It’s You is another song where the pace is down a little bit. The lyrics are hommage to love, whether it is for a lover, a friend, a higher power or a family member. To me, it personifies the feeling that someone can mean the world to you and whatever happens or wherever you go, you will always be able to hold on to that anchor. And lets be honest, aren’t we all suckers for a good love song?

Days of Night is a perfect example of John Taglieri’s songwriting style. Listen to the song and how it builds up and finds power in the exact right moments. The honesty and emotion just spring out of it. There are few artists as convincing as John Taglieri is in that department. The song is rootsier than we’re used from Taglieri, but the song doesn’t lose any of its power because of it.

The EP ends with Turn Around which is a bit of a departure in style. It really has a sort of americana taste to it. Toned down, with an acoustic basis and a campfire song feel to it, Turn Around fits as a closer for this record. Slowly, Taglieri builds up the song to a more intense chorus that tones down as it leads towards the next verse. It has the right mix of introspect and energy and leaves the listener satisfied.

“Southern Paradise” is an interesting new record by John Taglieri. The departure towards a more rootsy style doesn’t stand in the way of Taglieri’s passion and energy and therefore it will appeal to his fans immediately. It might also opens up his catalogue for new fans who haven’t yet heard of his infectious songs. Because the songs come off a little smoother and less edgy than before, radio stations might be quicker to pick up on them and who knows what that could lead to. When I Think About and Days of Night would make excellent radio singles and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear one of these songs in a movie one day. John Taglieri keeps doing what he’s best at, writing infectious songs with strong choruses and a real joie de vivre.

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John Taglieri – Lucky #9
(April 17, 2012 – Leap Dog Music)

Everyone probably knows the feeling that music can be so familiar, so safe, that it almost feels like a home to you. A place you can hide in or that can take you away from the world. I’m sure everyone has at least one artist or band, or at least an album or a song that has that effect on them. For me that is true with John Taglieri’s music.

Because of all the honest passion and endless energy John weaves in his songs it always gets me going again. After I listen to his songs I have the energy to get on my feet and do all those things that I’ve been putting off. And I feel like there is nothing I cannot do. To quote the legendary Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try!” This music is my Yoda.

On Lucky #9 Taglieri spins tales of love and frustration, anger and commitment. He takes you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and issues that range from anger in the edgy rocker ‘Losing Me‘ to betrayal in the cleverly composed ‘Never Knew‘ to absolute commitment in ‘Without You‘ which starts out acoustic and evolves into an powerful pop anthem testament to love.

On ‘Dying Alive‘ John Taglieri pulls out all the stops to describe how much love can mean and how much it can hurt if you feel like it’s slipping away. Listen to the powerful emotion in the bridge. That is classic John Taglieri who can wear a song like other people wear clothes. The EP continues with an uptempo semi-acoustic song called ‘Make Me Believe‘ which is somewhere in the middle of what Sister Hazel, Gin Blossoms and Nine Days used to send into the world, yet Taglieri still manages to make it sound like John Taglieri in the first place. And since we all need someone to make us believe in love, this song is for everyone. When we near the end of this EP we hear an intro that is reminiscent of Tracy Chapman’s self-titled album. The uplifting melody combined with the message of taking action after realizing you don’t have to put your life on halt for someone else is inspiring.

John Taglieri is an honest musician who writes songs that everyone can relate to. The music isn’t pretentious, instead it is full of passion, energy and honesty. The songs on Lucky #9, at times are a little rough around the edges and the EP doesn’t have a fancy production, but that’s exactly what these songs need. Taglieri is a pure artist that writes pure and honest songs and we need them to sound that way too. Which is exactly what we got. Lucky #9 is yet another admirable release by an independent musician who knows what he does best. And trust me, when he visits a town nearby you, don’t hesitate, go to his show. It’s a ton of fun and you get to hear these songs really come to life.

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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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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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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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TAG – FOREWARD
November 16, 2010

Over the years, John Taglieri released album after album as a solo artist. His work didn’t remain unnoticed as he shared stage with big names in the popular music scene and was nominated for many prestigious awards, winning several of those. Apart from being a successful independent musician and songwriter, Taglieri is also known for his diversity and creativity. Unlike many bands and musicians he has never been afraid to take a leap of faith and try something new. Musically he knows his strengths and musically he has a strong basis to work from. But the way he has approached his musical projects over the years has varied from time to time. From full-length albums to EP projects to combining his music with graphics and literature, you name it, John Taglieri did it.

His most recent project was a collaboration with Gil Gonzalez, a project called “LiVES” which combined short music albums with short stories/novels. Many of the songs from those EPs ended up on the new TAG album “FOREWARD”. But even if you’ve heard the LiVES EPs, you should not be disappointed, because even though the songs were written and recorded before, they sound a whole lot different on this new album.

“FOREWARD” can, and should, be judged as a debut album. While John Taglieri played with Brad Whitley & Tom Darby before, this is now really a new project, a real band project and it sounds as such. With the addition of bassist Dave Willard and with Rob Jackson on drums and percussion there’s a more complete and even more energetic sound that is both honest and exciting. While these songs were quite convincing on the “LiVES” albums these new versions are better layered, better balanced and frankly, they literally just rock more.

The added energy and musicality makes these songs stand out more. The infectious Breathe and the pointy Make A Mistake With Me are excellent candidates for radio singles and the uptempo Ghost makes for an energetic rock piece that can do wonders on stage to energize the crowd. And include splendid rock anthems like The Lives of Splattered Flies and With You I Want To Be and you have a fairly complete debut album. The songs belong with one another, the original theme tying them together, while there’s new fire, new life to the music. And it’s not just the songs that fit together, also the band members show they have a great feel for each other’s talents and work together like a well-oiled machine.

“FOREWARD” is a more than solid debut for this newly formed band. The individual band members may be experienced but for playing together this is a new venture. If they do this as well as their first album together, there is no need to worry. Musically it’s tight, it’s energetic and most importantly it’s interesting. You want to keep listening to this. The album is capped off with a nice cover of Incubus’ Drive, which fits perfectly thematically. Also, musically it doesn’t stray too far from what TAG shows on the album. I’m not usually a fan of covers and this version is by no means the original, but thankfully it’s not just a copy of the original song, TAG tried to make the song their own and if you didn’t know it was a cover, they might just have fooled you there.

All in all, good debut, solid performance, strong songs, a few exceptional songs. TAG is off to a good start and with this enthusiasm, energy and power, there is bound to be a lot more in store for these guys. If you enjoy honest and catchy rock & roll then I can recommend “FOREWARD”.

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Ryan Star – 11:59
August 3, 2010

Ryan Star may sound as a newcomer to the music scene to you, but that’s far from true. Playing in several bands before coming a solo outfit, Star released an album in 2005, participated in the reality show ‘Rock Star: Supernova’ on which he managed to get national attention and even recorded a live album with the band from the show.

His career obviously got a boost out of that experience and his song Brand New Day was chosen as the lead tune for the highly successful TV show ‘Lie To Me’. In 2009, Star released a short EP containing four songs from his upcoming album and later on he released his first single off “11:59”, called Breathe.

After several delays, “11:59” finally saw the light and with a sold out release show, Star managed to get this thing going right away. But lets take a closer look to the songs on the album. Does Star manage to stand out, is he able to meet up with his peers and what is it that makes this artist so interesting to the masses.

“11:59” is a varied and stable modern rock album that has a good balance between more outspoken rock & roll and softer ballads. It starts off with the infectious Brand New Day which was already used in the TV show ‘Lie To Me’. It’s a tune that people recognize and therefore they can get right into this album. The angsty, uptempo Right Now keeps the mystery and Star shows he’s capable of building up tension in a song and working to a climax.

Last Train Home and Breathe are emotional modern rock anthems and so is the U2-esque This Could Be The Year. Maybe you need to throw in a touch of Depeche Mode. The intensity and musicality in these songs shows Star is a gifted new star on the front how can vary in intensity, depth and has quite a vocal range and more importantly, excellent vocal control.

With the catchy Unbreak and forward moving Start A Fire, Star produces two possible singles for rock radio. The songs stick with you and thankfully they do not sound like another version of the songs we hear on the radio already. And with the piano song Losing Your Memory, but even more with the album closer 11:59, Star shows he’s not done yet. Losing Your Memory is a change of pace but on 11:59, perhaps Star’s best song on this new album, this young man shows he’s here to stay. The vocal control, the power and the conviction is there.

“11:59” is a strong album, and sure, there are a couple things Star could improve on. But already, he is a varied, capable and intelligent young musician and it seems he has a bright future ahead of him. It took him 5 years since his last studio album, but with the success this album is likely to bring him, I doubt the fans will have to wait that long again. “11:59”, a little surprisingly, is one of the more balanced and interesting modern rock albums of this year.

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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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The Rocket Summer – Of Men And Angels
February 23, 2010

Bryce Avary, aka The Rocket Summer is one of those acts that has a certain characteristic feel or vibe. The upbeat, powerpop-influenced pop/rock this young man gives us is infectious and generally makes you smile, makes you feel good. But you can’t really say it’s just feel good music. The Rocket Summer is a an act based on strong songwriting with clever pop hooks and most of the time thoughtful lyrical content.

On “Calendar Days” the songs were quite raw and unpolished, which in itself was part of the charm of that record. It had a nostalgic yet happy-go-lucky vibe to it. It was fresh and accessible. Avaray continued that trend on “Hello, Good Friend”, though you might say that “Calendar Days” was more surprising than the sophomore release.

With a slightly more mainstream approach on “Do You Feel”, Avary got right back on track. With perhaps his strongest songwriting at that point he released not just a solid album, but a remarkable effort that garnered a lot of critical acclaim among critics and peers. With this album he set the bar high for himself regarding future releases.

This year The Rocket Summer released his 4th studio album “Of Men And Angels”. On this record he continues the more mainstream approach, though the songs have a more polished sound. Where, with other bands, this might lead to a ‘sell out album’, this is not the case with The Rocket Summer. The basic recording process leaves an organic, natural sounding album with songs that are radio friendly, catchy and have a high sing along factor. Lyrically I would say “Do You Feel” had a little more substance, but “Of Men And Angels” might be more cohesive in the theme of going through life’s struggle, coming out stronger because of it. Songs like Roses, Hills & Valleys, Walls, I Need A Break… and Let You Go are potential hit singles. The best song on the album, however, is Hey! which makes a terrific live song with a lot of energy and musically it’s more complicated than it sounds, but Avary makes it sound so easy.

The Rocket Summer’s talent for solid songwriting combined with his attitude and iconic vocals make him a unique act that brings something fresh and creative to the table. Even if the music isn’t exactly your thing it will still get to you, take you along for the ride. It’s infectious, and effective too. And “Of Men And Angels” is an album filled with that quality. And with the excellent live potential of the songs, The Rocket Summer’s fame is probably only going to grow. So his plea (“I need a break… but I’d rather have a breakthrough”) might be in the process of becoming reality.

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Nada Surf – If I Had A Hi-Fi
June 8, 2010

Giving their covers album a palindrome as a title is great of course, but we need to ask ourselves a question here. Were we really waiting on the indiepop pioneers of Nada Surf to present us with a record full of cover songs? Breaking through with their 90s hit single Popular, Nada Surf never really reached the same commercial success again, but they are received extremely well as a live act and their fan base is still steadily growing.

To answer the question, no, we weren’t waiting for that. They are much more than just a cover band, so it’s too bad there is no original material to enjoy. But having said that, the album doesn’t feel like a covers album. Nada Surf makes the songs their own and at the same time they stay true to the original songs. Matthew Caws is an excellent vocalist and the band is a very cohesive unit. Songs like Enjoy The Silence (Depeche Mode) and Question (Moody Blues) may not be the most surprising choices for cover songs, but they are done tastefully and musically entertaining.

The best covers however are Love Goes On (The Go-Betweens) and I Remembered What I Was Going To Say (The Silly Pillows) where the renditions Nada Surf serves us with are actually quite deep and it’s on those songs where the band is able to really connect the songs and their artists with themselves and with both the audience of the original artist and their own fanbase. It’s on those songs where it really comes together.

Other cover songs (originals by Spoon, Kate Bush, Soft Pack & Bill Fox, among others) are done tastefully as well and are worth listening to, but can’t impress as much as the previously mentioned songs. Nada Surf does show a wide range of influences and interesting artists and they show they are more than capable to cover their songs very well, but in the end there is still a feeling of, well, disappointment. While the covers are good it is not really what you want to hear from Nada Surf. It’s their quirky, intelligent mix of indie pop and alternative rock that makes them so attractive to listen to. And honestly, it comes across much better when they can be creative with originals instead of reworking a cover song.

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