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daysliketheseDays Like These
John Taglieri

August 19, 2014
LeapDog Music

 


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John Taglieri has been releasing records for years. And whether it’s been under his own name, under the TAG moniker or as a collaboration with others, one thing has always stood strong: an honest and energetic delivery. If your looking for constant perfection or slickly filed songs through production, bells, whistles and other adornments, you’re barking up the wrong tree. John Taglieri’s music is a little raw, a little rough ’round the edges even, but for a large part that’s where its strength is situated. The passion, the energy and the honest delivery of every single word and every single note sends out a message to take life head on and make the best of it. John sings of ups and downs, of the journey we all experience in life. And when you listen to his songs, you don’t just believe it, you are reminded of those experiences. That’s why you connect and isn’t that what music and art are all about. That personal connection that makes you feel something or inspires you. If anything, that’s what John has always been able to accomplish through his music.

 

Summer of 2014 is here and so is John’s new release Days Like These. It’s an extended play containing six new songs. John’s previous release, Southern Paradise, touched the country-rock / roots-rock side of things a little more than we were used to but with Days Like These the energetic and passionate contemporary rock anthems are in full swing again. If you enjoy popular contemporary pop/rock such as Lifehouse, Goo Goo Dolls, Nine Days, Sister Hazel, Better Than Ezra with a slight classic vibe such as Bon Jovi, R.E.M. and Bryan Adams, you’ll be ecstatic with this new release. From the upbeat title track that opens the EP to the intriguing closer ‘Toasting The Man In The Moon’, Taglieri manages to capture and hold your attention. You go from pure fun to more reflective thoughts and from admiration to inspiration in just over 20 minutes time. If you can sit through this record without any of your body parts (in)voluntarily moving, you must be a robot.

 

John Taglieri is an acquired taste because while you can compare him musically to the previously mentioned bands and artists, his music doesn’t get carried away by a big production or by crystal clear vocals. Because that’s not what it’s about. Instead it is filled with life and character. For some of you, this might not be the right cup of tea, but for those of you who can look past it and make that connection, this record is going to be a special one. It’s real music and real emotion and all the ornaments are stripped away. Big radio and mainstream charts may like Christmas trees but there’s also beauty in a fir tree that weathers wind and rain and still is full of life. It may be a weird analogy but it’s the best way to describe what I’m trying to explain. Days Like These is filled with life experiences, with blood, sweat and tears and it gives an extra dimension to the songs that will allow you to make a strong connection if you are open to it.

 

The EP opens with the title track ‘Days Like These’. It’s probably the most radio friendly tune on the EP as it’s upbeat and allows for singing along quite well. It will come as no surprise that John chose this song as the lead single. The song came to fruition shortly after John heard that he was going to be a father. Maybe that’s why the energy and emotion fuel this song from start to finish. Parts of the song, primarily the chorus, sound reminiscent of Lifehouse’s ‘First Time’, which was a pretty big hit on the radio. So who knows, Taglieri could have radio success ahead of him here.

 

’Here For The Taking’ follows next. The powerful delivery and rich arrangement bear tribute to 90s artists like Bryan Adams. Taglieri, however, has the ability to use songs as a suit. In the end, songs are always going to sound like John Taglieri songs. The reason for that: from the first note to the last, he gives 100% and you really do hear that.

 

I was hoping that ‘Beautiful Tonight’ was going to be a little slower with maybe a subtle strings arrangement. However, it’s a sparky, mid-tempo, powerpop song. It’s one of those tracks you may not notice the first time through, but when you get to know the record you start wondering why you didn’t hear this the first time. “Stepping out from the shadows, coming back into the light” is a line that really spoke to me. It reminds me of something from my past. And this is representative for what John Taglieri does with most of his songs. All of a sudden you start to realize he’s speaking to you. Because his songs hold meaning and we are all looking for meaning in our lives.

 

‘Thin Air’ is one of the standout songs on this album. This song is carried by the arrangement and topped off by John’s vocals that soar high like an eagle. Who doesn’t recognize those moments between hope and despair?

 

John’s vocals match up with keys beautifully as is proven by ‘Finish Line’. There are many subtle changes in the arrangement that keep the song interesting throughout the whole thing. Also, Taglieri hints to his early release Leap of Faith and weaves it together with other lyrical references. I could imagine a live version with strings accompanying. One of my personal favorites.

 

The EP finishes strongs with an intriguing song. ‘Toasting The Man In The Moon’ doesn’t just have an awesome song title, it also is a song with a lot of drive and something of a classic John Taglieri sound. In both arrangement and vocals you can hear a superb balance between intensity and restraint. And above all, this is going to make a killer live song.

 

Days Like These is exactly what you’d hope for and expect from John Taglieri. It’s intense, full of character and doesn’t come with any false pretenses. It is what it is and it holds its own. To recount the previously used analogy: Days Like These is that beautiful, experienced fir tree that, despite and because of all its endurances, is still full of life, ready for whatever is coming next. Proud, strong and energetic, just like its creator.

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Keith LuBrant – Who I Am
January, 2013
Who-I-Am-Album CoverIt’s been awhile since we last heard from Keith LuBrant. His previous release was Searching For Signal in January of 2007. We praised LuBrant for his ability to combine relatable lyrics with catchy hooks. The blend of powerpop and rock & roll is filled with pop sensibility and classic influences.

Now, six years later, he returns with a new album called Who I Am. And he probably couldn’t have picked a better title as the music on this release reflects who Keith LuBrant is as a musician and an artist.

The album kicks off with a lot of energy. “Wide Awake and Alive” is a pure rock & roll song, driven by the force of guitars and urgent vocals. But underneath the quick pace and bundled energy there’s actually an interesting arrangement that brings melody and skill to the table. It’s sixties rock & roll in a modern jacket. A perfect blend of recognizability, originality and fun.

The album carries on in a nice fashion with “She Always Finds A Way”, which is a powerpop song that’s typical for LuBrant’s style and ability. Successful independent artists like John Taglieri, JJ Appleton and John Hampson have proven there is an audience for this type of music, and rightfully so. It’s pure and honest, it doesn’t rely on fancy decorations or computerized polishing. LuBrant is true to who he is and he’s not afraid to put it out there. The guitar is the groundwork and the vocals that change intensity to build up a climax work like a charm.

There are several songs on the album that don’t necessarily stand out but are an example of the overall quality of the album. And it makes sense, because on an album that has only stand out songs, there are no stand out songs, because there’s nothing that sets the songs apart from the others. “Call of the Search” provides an uptempo sing-along song while “Breathe” takes the pace down a little bit and enables LuBrant’s rootsy side to shine through a little bit.

Deserving a mention is “I Know It’s Over (You Win)” which has a very laid back arrangement and has an almost bluesy undertone. The interaction between the instrumentals and the vocals are in perfect harmony and change the scenery of the song between the verses and the choruses. You can hear some 60s/70s British Influence underneath, but at the same time it has the bluesy/rootsy feel of the late 70s and the melodic pop vibe of the early 90s. The creative use of the arrangement shows off Keith LuBrant’s versatility and musical skill. The vocals emphasize the lyrics and the excellent guitar playing make this song one of the absolute standouts on Who I Am.

“Good For The Girl” is pretty straight-forward but the forward motion in this song makes it stick with you. It might not be the strongest song on the album, but it’s effective nonetheless. The rhythm, the tempo and the recognizability of the tune make it one of those songs that you cannot get out of your head for awhile.

Next up is the title track. The quirky, poppy song is very refreshing and would probably do quite well on independent and college radio stations. The chorus is pure gold. I’m almost expecting a little background clap-along, sing-along scenery. It shows, once again, that LuBrant has a real talent to create honest rock & roll songs with good hooks and pop sensibility.

“Stranger in my Skin” and “Some Things Never Change” feature raw, heartland rock songs. Heartfelt and honestly portrayed. “Sunshine in the South” takes down the pace a little bit. The midtempo anthem feels like a personal, more emotional journey. The addition of keys and emphasis on the melodic lines brings out another side of Keith LuBrant. On “Come Home”, LuBrant bares his soul even more. The acoustic song is stripped of everything except the bare essentials of acoustic guitar and emotional vocals. For just over 1m30, LuBrant speaks straight from the heart. The album also features a bonus track called “Saturation Station” on which LuBrant shows his skills as a guitarist, which I guarantee you is a treat!

Who I Am is a testament to the musician that is Keith LuBrant. Seemingly effortless he blends classic rock, powerpop and other influences together into songs that are well written, performed with honesty and have the ability to resonate with people who prefer different genres and influences. It may have taken six years since Searching For Signal, but Who I Am was well worth the wait. Nothing is overdone, nothing is underdone, it’s all right there. Keith LuBrant doesn’t hide behind fancy productions or other bells and whistles. In the days where the charts are filled with almost artificial music, where young bands try to go out of their way to show they are different or creative and come up with the strangest things, it is refreshing to hear music that is honest and doesn’t try to be what it isn’t. On Who I Am, Keith LuBrant presents just that. Honest, straight-forward, high quality rock & roll music of today!

 

 

 

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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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ImageBrian Jarvis Band – Beautifully Broken
February 2012 – Soundwave
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Over the years I heard a lot of music and for some reason a big portion of the music seems to consist of New England-based singer/songwriters. Brian Jarvis is another one of those singer/songwriters.

Some time ago we wrote a little post about his single On & On, which is also included on this album. Back then we came to the conclusion that Jarvis has the ability to make his songs sound very accessible and very pleasant to listen to. The way he crafts his songs into accessible, extremely radio-friendly pop/rock songs may not be something groundbreaking, but because he does it so well it surely does make him stand out.

With help of Pat McGee-veteran Brian Fechino, who produced “Beautifully Broken”, Brian Jarvis managed to write and record a collection of 11 songs that stick together and hold up as an album.

I’ve been following Brian Jarvis’ musical endeavors for just over a year now and with the coming together of this album and the added maturity to the musical arrangements and the more pronounced lyrics, you can tell he’s made strides in becoming more than just another singer/songwriter. It was already apparent he could write songs with catchy hooks and melodies and there wasn’t much wrong with the quality of his performance either. He just needed a little more depth and a little something that would make him stand out in the massive ocean of singer/songwriters that exists today.

In the past few years, Jarvis has had a lot to deal with, both personally and professionally. These years must have been tough on him, but impressively he was able to turn the struggles and the pain into strength. He decided to pursue a musical career fulltime and worked on improving himself in all musical aspects. With “Beautifully Broken” he certainly achieved that. He gathered the right people around him, focused on his songs and came up with a strong album that features gems such as: Hardest Break, Honestly and Beautifully Broken.

The title track opens the album. It’s an emotional journey in which he sets the tone for the rest of the album. The anthemic feel of the song adds to the build up and the honest performance makes the song relatable and because it is, it can really speak to you on a personal level.

Hardest Break is one of those songs that instantly sounds familiar. The song’s very catchy and not only the sound of the song is familiar. The message is as well. Everyone has had experiences where they felt they couldn’t live up to someone else’s expectations, whether it was family, love or something else. The way the story unfolds in this song, it leaves you open to interpret the context in your own head.

Honestly is a song title that appears on many albums yet never ever sounds the same. Neither does this one. This tune has a little more edge to it. Sharp vocals and and a consistent beat provide for energy and guaranteed foot tapping. It’s a song to rock out to and to dance to at the same time. It shows a little bit of a different side of Jarvis, which is not only refreshing, but gives the album a kick in the behind in the energy department. Very nicely done.

There are more strong songs on this album, but the ones mentioned above are the ones that stood out to me. Though the final track Till I See You Again was one that stuck with me as well. Not so much because of the songwriting, but because of the performance. This song comes straight from the heart and goes straight into your own. It’s an honest, emotional testimony that you can’t help but really listen to. It’s not just about the song anymore, it becomes personal. And when a musician can do that, it shows they have what it takes. In essence, music is emotion, that is why we can really connect to it and get lost inside of it. Brian Jarvis recognizes this aspect of music and manages to incorporate it in his songs. This, to me, is the biggest asset a musician can have.

“Beautifully Broken” probably won’t end up on many best of-lists at the end of the year, but in Brian Jarvis’ journey towards becoming an established singer/songwriter it is a big step forward and it confirms his talent as a performer and songwriter. Maybe he’s not quite there yet, but this record has him well on his way. He shows courage, strength and emotion and it comes together quite nicely.

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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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South of Heaven – ..a beautiful winter..
December 28, 2010

This relatively unknown band from Arnhem in the Netherlands recently released a new album called “..a beautiful winter..” The band describes the CD as a collection of songs influenced by different styles in rock, blues, soul and punk. And that’s only the start of it.

First of all the songs are all written very well and the band is able to change in tempo, in loudness and by that they manage to keep the songs to sound fresh and exciting. Together with a slick production, the album doesn’t fall together like one big blur, but all the songs get a chance to stand out. From the more paced down opener Room In Your Life to the pointy Internet Pornography, the alternative rock song Love and the radio-friendly Blue Dress to the beautiful melodic closer Amsterdam, every song is convincing and impressive.

The vocals are very present throughout the album and on every song they are of the highest quality. Vocalist Richard Huijzer (ex-Fedchenka) is able to change in pitch and intensity seemingly without ease and Chris Gerretsen’s (also ex-Fedchenka) guitar work is outstanding. Together with a perfectly balanced rhythm section this collective of musicians has the talent and experience to figure out what they want and execute it in a way that deserves recognition and applause.

“..a beautiful winter..” is a very good album and begs the question how long it will take for this band to break through. Cause that just has to be a matter of time. The quality and talent is there, the album’s produced well, the musicians have performance experience and many of the songs are fit for radio. All I see is pluses. Audiences of the world, listen up, South of Heaven is ready to rock your eardrums.

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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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