All posts filed under: CD Reviews

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ALBUM REVIEW: HUNGER, “For Love”

This Vienna, Austria-based trio firmly have their roots in the synth pop of the early-to-mid ’80’s,  but that doesn’t necessarily make them revivalists or that it’s a bad thing.  On For Love, their debut release, while most of the make-up is, indeed, synth-pop, there’s also a certain amount of “current” sounds – enough to keep the listener’s attention.  The key to this album is simply this – synthesized or not, these songs have melody and structure. Yes, the opening track, “Amused” instantly takes you back to 1982 (and for me, the halcyon days of WLIR radio, here in New York).  Close your eyes and you can hear it wedged between The Teardrop Explodes and China Crisis; it’s something that certainly tugs at my nostalgic side and the fact that it has a catchy chorus only sweetens the listening.  “Gold” sounds like a bit more now, with a strong dance groove and some nice harmonies – it should be noted that vocalist Lucas Fendrich is a very good singer; strong and confident sounding.  “Evermore” has a …

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ALBUM REVIEW: BIG EYES, “Stake My Claim”

This Brooklyn-born band, led by singer-guitarist Kait Eldridge has a punchy, crisp sound, full of high energy, guitar driven pop in that classic late ’70’s/early ’80’s post-punk vein.  Good production and a tight rhythm section give Stake My Claim, their third effort, a great feel.  It also helps that the songs are well-constructed and catchy. The title track kicks off the collection and is 100 m.p.h. before it comes to a quick and sudden stop, going into “Behind Your Eyes” which is infectious – and it has to be said, Ms. Eldridge’s vocals are warm and embracing (think of a less-raw Joan Jett) and her guitar sound has a great crunch to it; “Just Not Right” is a little slower but again, an instantly catchy number that goes into full throttle in the middle – she certainly knows how to write a song and also to keep it in economic time.  “Leave This Town” is a “visual” track – you can imaging a movie in your mind to the lyrics; “When You Were 25” is …

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ALBUM REVIEW: WAITING FOR HENRY, “Town Called Patience”

This sophomore effort from Waiting For Henry is the perfect elixir to a hot, uninspiring summer – breezy, melodic and guitar-laden end-to-end.  The New York/New Jersey-rooted band has hit stride and helping to give the songs even greater impact is the production work of the legendary Mitch Easter, as it was recorded down at Easter’s Fidelitorium in Kernersville, North Carolina and has the mark of some of Easter’s best know and most acclaimed work (especially Reckoning). The wall of guitar sound gets proceedings underway with the heavy but gripping “Musconetcong”; aside from the fiery solo, the delicious acoustic guitars can be not only felt but heard along with some very well-placed harmonies; “Gutterball” sounds like a manic, runaway train revisitation of “Driver 8” that goes at breakneck speed but leaves you beating out the rhythm along the track; “Flipclock” is more sedate and subdued but has a feel that makes this one of the album’s standouts – and listen for those multiple harmonies and “Palms” is simple, down-home new country – the right amount of …

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE MONOCHROME SET, “Cosmonaut”

The long and storied career of The Monochrome Set, which first began in 1978 has been rejuvenated/reactivated several times, most recently in 2010 and have been releasing new music since – which leads us to the latest, Cosmonaut.  There’s never been an accurate description (or really, pigeon-holing) for their sound, although rather than label them, I’d look at them as artistic contemporaries of Wire, The Fall and so on).  Sometimes New Wave, sometimes neo-psychedelic, sometimes moody and abstract, The Monochrome Set have always simply defied terms. This thirteenth album opens with an eerie theramin intro to the title track, with a very ’60’s soundtrack throttle and familiar Rickenbacker 12-string riff; “Suddenly, Last Autumn” has – again – a very ’60’s feel (think “Secret Agent Man”) with roller-rink organ punches, “Squirrel In A Hat” is very Stranglers-like – quasi-psychedelic with its organ and jazzy guitar and “Put It On The Altar” is a mix of pop and soulfulness, with female backing vocals and has “radio friendly” written all over it.  “Tigress” has a lazy, summery feel …

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ALBUM REVIEW: RUBY DEE & THE SNAKEHANDLERS, “Little Black Heart”

This Seattle-based band has been at it for 14 years and this new album from Ruby Dee & The Snakehandlers, Little Black Heart, is a definitive statement.  Aside from the sheer joyfulness, sexiness and bawdiness of their rockabilly-meets-Memphis-meets-Americana-meets Western swing, et al twang, it’s got its serious side, as this is an album born of a near tragedy.  Eight years ago, Ruby Dee had a devastating scooter accident that caused significant brain injury and trauma; she was, in many ways, forced to almost start over from scratch.  It’s a testimony to her courage and willfulness to be able to regain the ability to write songs (let alone do everything else that was crucial to her life) and resume her “other” career (she’s been a successful restauranteur in Seattle as well).  Recorded in Austin and kicking hard, this album sounds as raw as it feels in a great, natural way. “Not For Long” announces the band with a drum roll that, indeed, kicks in a classic swing style, complete with sax punches, Gretsch-sounding reverbed twang, slap …

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ALBUM REVIEW: MICHAEL LOGEN, “New Medicine”

This new release from Lewisburg, Pennsyvania native Michael Logen is, to say the least, quite impressive.  New Medicine is filled with serious, thoughtful lyrics and lush musical structure that makes it an album to be listened to and savored as a whole.  As his upbringing was in the Mennonite community, Logen’s use of spirituality and religious imagery comes into play as does the feeling of introspection and solitude; in many ways, this is a lonely person’s kind of album. Opening with the piano-based “St. Christopher”, its story is that of someone on the road who, indeed, needs the guidance of the patron saint of travelers.  A powerful start to this collection, which leads into the album’s first single, “Ready Or Not”, which is immensely catchy and is seen as a “sing-along redemption story”.  “Breaking Your Own Heart,” written by Logen and his friend, Jennifer Hanson, was recorded by Kelly Clarkson on her album, Stronger.  That album went on to win a Grammy for “Pop Album Of The Year” but here, you hear a stripped-down acoustic …

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ALBUM REVIEW: KELSEY WALDON, “I’ve Got A Way”

This is just too good.  Pure country magnificence in the grand traditional sense, with lyrical firepower and vocal skill – Kelsey Waldon, if you haven’t heard her before, is something special.  I’ve Got A Way, her sophomore effort, is filled with songs about life, love and one’s own quest for solidity within one’s self and in the outside world.  Eleven tracks with two nods to the greats by way of covering Bill Monroe and the Gosdins, this album sparkles. The opening track, “Dirty Old Town” just brings you right to the joyful sounds of pedal steel runs and delightful twang with an upbeat number and her voice, which is indescribably sweet.  “All By Myself”, the video (included here) and centerpiece is about strength and stands out as a thesis statement for the rest of the album, if not for life in general. In Ms. Waldron’s own words, it’s not about her, “it’s about everyone, and isn’t a lecture or sermon, but a statement: power is inside of each of us.”  “False King” is just a …

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ALBUM REVIEW: BIRDSONG AT MORNING, “A Slight Departure”

These Massachusetts based visionaries have created a compelling and expansive sound that is sure to broaden their fanbase.  Their interesting past and present day gigs (record producer, session musician, public broadcasting Internet director, COO of a multi-national tea import/export company) further adds to their intrigue.  Quite a heady resume for a band, no?  But indeed, this ensemble has crafted a serious, ponderous and lush piece of work that will make you stop in your tracks and pay very careful attention.  Add to the impressiveness surrounding the band that A Slight Departure was engineered by the very wonderful and talented David Minehan (he of the mighty and legendary Neighborhoods, one of my favorite bands of yore and a joy to have worked with in my other life at record labels).  While this album was initially released last year, it has now been given a 5.1 surround sound remix/reissue along with a Blu-ray disc of the corresponding videos and mni-documentary describing each song.  Alan Williams, who is the mastermind of Birdsong At Morning saw this album as …

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ALBUM REVIEW: DON GALLARDO, “Hickory”

California native and current Nashville resident Don Gallardo bows his newest album, Hickory, in the U.S., an album that drew praise when it was released in England in 2015 (four stars in Mojo) – and why we’re always late to the game with some incredibly fine music is always a mystery to me.  The songwriting and performances on this collection is stellar; a gathering of songs that goes right to the soul and mind, simultaneously. “Midnight Sounds” and its mournful organ and sax framing kicks the album off in fine, warm style; Mr. Gallardo’s voice is equally weary yet hopeful and immediately embraces you; “Banks Of The Mississippi” again employs the sound of the Hammond B3 with violin and has a slightly more sinister feel, telling tales of love gone awry (“…so much for love…”) and “Ophelia, We Cry” is an old-timey piano driven classic honky-tonk stroll – one noticeable thing is that Don Gallarrdo knows how to balance the storytelling of modern Americana and the feel, the emotion of more traditional country arrangements. “A …

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE CHORDAES, “Touch The Ground”

A bright and vibrant production; not-easy-to-pinpoint influences but hooks, structure, melodies and harmonies galore, this debut album from New York City’s The Chordaes, Touch The Ground, sounds like a very seasoned band who are studio veterans. The title track is a sophisticated, radio-friendly (which is what most of these tracks, indeed, are) song in several movements and you can hear fragments of styles ranging from The Beatles, Todd Rundgren and Van Duren with modern touches; “Get The Feeling” has a ’70’s A.M. radio feel, while musically reminiscent of The Wallflowers and is as catchy as the day is long and “Losing Control” has a very lush, almost prog-rock feel.  “One” is uptempo and textured with a neat, slightly askew piano riff; “She” is also not in standard chord structure – it almost sounds like two songs playing over each other, yet manage to make it work convincingly and “Baby Goodnight” has a big sound, with delicious acoustic guitars side by side with a subtle piano riff which yields to a 12-string Ric-sounding guitar companion. One …

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ALBUM REVIEW: VELVET CRUSH, “Pre-Teen Symphonies”

It’s another of those beautiful moments when the very fine people at Omnivore Recordings unleash another labor of love, because that’s what they do – everything they release has a personal touch and meaning.  And I’m not going to bullshit you – I loved Velvet Crush.  They had that thing – you know, the power-pop drive that’s sustained me for most of my musical life.  They wrote and executed great songs; were a powerhouse live, sounded great and they did one of the pivotal albums of the ugly ’90’s, the classic Teenage Symphonies To God (you know the origin of the title; I’m not going to get cutesy here). This release from Omnivore is the genesis of that album – Pre-Teen Symphonies.  And it’s a wonderful companion piece to the “actual” article.  16 tracks total – 8 demos for the album and 8 live performances.  And those demos sound just as explosive as the released versions – in some cases, maybe a bit livelier.  Case and point, the classic “Hold Me Up” is beefy and …

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE VALERY TRAILS, “Chameleon Bones”

This third album was made over two continents and there’s been a lot of living from the three members that make up The Valery Trails.  Originally based in Brisbane, Australia, lead singer/guitarist Andrew Bower pulled up stakes and moved to Houston, Texas.  Somehow, the band has soldiered on and this new nine-track collection is the result.  Reminiscent in many ways of the late ’80’s sound of Fender Jazzmasters and some fuzz (think a toned-down My Bloody Valentine or a poppier Dinosaur Jr.), it’s a crisp gathering of songs that have melody and throttle. “OK” is just that – tuneful, catchy and wholly memorable; “Cordless” is that perfect balance between the popsmithy and the noisy, but is a controlled chaos and the title track, “Chameleon Bones” is one of those delightful curiosities – slower, poppy, radio friendly and slightly enigmatic.  “Fall Around” is another in that classic, sludge-y vein with heavy rhythm guitar but swirling riffs – a not-as-tidy Teenage Fanclub; “Hide (Cannot)” is a wonderful acoustic-bodied piece with some emotionally charged synth lines and “Change …

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ALBUM REVIEW: ARVIDSON & BUTTERFLIES, s/t

Rife with the twang of 12-string Rickenbackers galore, harmonies, melody and swinging beats – this is the embodiment of Arvidson & Butterflies and their self-titled debut album.  What makes this a bit more interesting is that this six-piece band hails from Gothenburg, Sweden, where Roger Arvidson is a veteran of the scene there for many years (most notably, having been with The Remains – no, not that Remains!); here, he showcases his knack for writing clean, crisp and flawlessly hummable power-pop anthems and his crack bandmates are as deft at fleshing out these songs as he is at writing them.  Picture a mix of The Byrds, Petty, Twilley, a little Big Star/Teenage Fanclub and you’ve got it.  Interestingly, amongst his influences include The Who, Paul Weller and The Undertones (scores major points with me, unsurprisingly). “Tired Of Running” opens the album at a frantic pace – 2:29 of shimmering Ric riffs, tight harmonies and a 1966-kind of vibe, with delicious fills of guitar and Hammond B3; “Lights Go Out” has that kind of pop sweetness …

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE WAY DOWN WANDERERS, s/t

  For a band that’s only been together since 2013, this first full-length album from The Way Down Wanderers belies the brief nature of their existence.  An album filled with the richness of American music on numerous levels, I would have said on a guess that this was the work of seasoned players from the Grand Ole Opry. The exhilarating fiddle fills and banjo runs on the opening cut, “Dead Birds” is just a fragment of what makes this album an instant eye opener. The vocal harmonies can induce chills; the upbeat nature of the melody makes you pay attention and you know this is bound to be more than just pretty good; subsequently, “Sweet Morning Vision” is a little more subdued but has a classic country feel, although it does pick up tempo and bursts into country pop (NOT in the modern sense, thankfully) and “Circles” is in the same vein – classic country melodies, lyrics that are painted by longing and loss, dramatic yet hopeful – a high point of this album (and …

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ALBUM REVIEW: JONAS MARTIN, “The Color Scheme”

This sophomore solo effort from Dallas native Jonas Martin is an interesting melding of pop, blues-y vibes, classic rock and groove – and it’s a good mix.  The Color Scheme is highly-tuneful, carefully constructed so that the different styles mesh and flow; really, a well-thought out piece of coherent work. The complexity of “Design A Better Yesterday” made this, for me, the album’s standout track – a slow groove of world-weariness, a strong melody and hook and various movements; “Life Obsessed” is an inspired album opener with its claustrophobic rhythm, hypnotic keyboard pattern and funkability and “Because Love” has a modernized Harry Nilssson/George Harrison feel with the frenetic piano body and that flanged Harrisonized guitar sound after the first chorus.  It’s the clever nuances that make this album so meaty – there’s a lot to pick out of the recipe. “Wannabe”, which we’ve included here, is the lead track before the album’s release and has that classic piano-boogie-rock vibe, but very sparse (piano, bass, drum, acoustic guitar and very subdued, production-wise) until the song’s mid-point, …

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POPDOSE EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE: THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT, “White Bear”

Popdose presents the premiere of the full album by the U.K’s The Temperance Movement, White Bear.  This is the band’s sophomore effort; 9 new tracks played with a lot of firepower and gusto – heavy, yet melodic and driving. If letting you hear this album in all its glory isn’t enough, we’ve also added the Popdose premiere of the video for the title track, “White Bear”. So give yourself a chance to be drawn into the world of The Temperance Movement. White Bear will be released Friday, July 15th, 2016 www.thetemperancemovement.com

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE STRAY BIRDS, “Magic Fire”

This fifth album from Lancaster, Pennsylvania’s Stray Birds is aptly titled Magic Fire – it  has that certain something special about it.  From the moment the opening notes hit your ear, you know this band hit the golden “thing” – the un-defineable quality/timing/vibe that artists can never accurately describe – you only know that they offered a piece of themselves that will now be part of you onward.  The warming combination of heavenly vocal harmonies, soulful melodies and pure American instrumentation makes this album an instant play-on-repeat for me. Starting with the gospel-like “Shining In The Distance” and the gorgeous vocals, you can’t help but feel uplifted; “Third Day In A Row” is a child-of-Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, with the arrangement and occasional 12-string Ric-sounding punctuations; “Sabrina” is a dynamic hoedown with a tasty, propulsive acoustic guitar riff running  through the verses and “Radio” has that very ’70’s (what else?) radio-friendly feel – that summery, laid-back kind of Southern/gentle California sound that permeated the airwaves as you drove through the heat.  “Hands Of Man” …

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ALBUM REVIEW: JPNSGRLS, “DIVORCE”

This sophomore effort from Vancouver outfit, JPNSGRLS (pronounced “Japanese Girls”) trades a bit in the guitar fire-power sound of bands like Arctic Monkeys, The Libertines or The Hives – add to the notion of doing this after losing a founding member; their original lead guitarist quit after completing the recording of this album, aptly titled Divorce.  Nonetheless, this isn’t an album of dirges, rather, it’s a powerhouse of riffage. Starting with “Oh My God”, there’s a lot of energy and punch with interesting slightly off-time signatures; “A Girl From A Different Dimension” has a sonic wallop and scratches at being more dissonant but maintaining a pop-py framework and “Bully For You” has a heavier, quasi-’70’s rock feel.  “Circus” is a slower, quieter track that explodes at points into a Pixies-like cacophony; “Gap Year” has a new wave-y feel and one of the album’s highest points and “19 Pound Baby” closes out the collection with a 100 m.p.h. that sounds and feels like it’s about to go off the rails at any given moment. Eleven songs …

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ALBUM REVIEW: GIRLS ON GRASS, s/t

This quartet who call Brooklyn home are not what one would expect from the borough’s “indie scene”; rather, they’ve got their own interesting thing happening.  Girls On Grass’ debut album, eponymously titled, is ripe with crisp riffs, twangy guitars, a delicious production/sound that mixes country and power pop in a way I haven’t heard and enjoyed in years. In a lot of ways, singer/guitarist Barbara Endes’ vocals remind me of Vicki Peterson of The Bangles/Continental Drifters, which is a big part of their appeal and the harmonies don’t sound too far off from The Bangles’ trail.  Opening with “Father Says Why”, you instantly get a chill from those first guitar licks and the rhythm section kicking in with an almost ’60’s vibe; “Too Young” is a tongue-in-cheek rave up, mixing Bo Diddley rhythms at the outset, countrified riffs and a strident rhythm (the rhythm section of drummer Nancy Polstein and bassist Dave Mandl is a joy to listen to); “What They Wrought” is slower, brooding – a country-style ballad with semi-psychedelic riffing for good (very …

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ALBUM REVIEW: PINK MEXICO, “Fool”

This latest offering from Brooklyn’s Pink Mexico (a ponderous name) is Fool, an album of heavy, fuzzed-out guitar rock that has some fine vocals (complete with  harmony) and melody.  Something of a tasteful cross between Mudhoney and My Bloody Valentine, if I had to draw comparisons.  Economical but never droning or sprawling, the songs hit you hard and fast. “Buzz Kill” comes in and out and has a catchy tune; “Lime Tree, What’s Wrong With Me?” and “Dumbfuck” are interchangeable but not in a forgettable manner, rather they seem to play off one another as parts 1 & 2, which I think makes them even better and more likable – and the vocals are deliberately undermixed, so it gives the tracks an ethereal quality and mystery.  “Forgetting Everything” is acoustic driven, as “pop” as you can get with harmonies galore, handclaps and an absolute high point.  “Concave Brain” has a surf-type feel; “Unhinged Bones” is a clean, ’60’s hypno-riff which explodes during the choruses and “Rake” is another harmony-laden and another album high point. All …

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BOXSET REVIEW: PAUL MCCARTNEY, “Pure McCartney” (various editions)

  What can you really say that hasn’t already been said about Paul McCartney?  This isn’t some “rock critic” trying to dissect the now 46-year solo career of the greatest (still living) pop musician of all time; this is simply an assessment of a very fine, albeit flawed, comprehensive compilation of the man’s works, picked by him. I plumped for the 4-disc, hardcover book edition of Pure McCartney and it is, indeed, quite a treasure trove that goes from 1970’s McCartney all the way to 2013’s New.  Of course, I find it flawed because aside from some glaring omissions which are personal favorites, he did leave off several essential tracks (certainly “My Brave Face” or “This One” from 1989’s Flowers In The Dirt should have been here or “Hope Of Deliverance” from 1993’s Off The Ground could have found a spot).  Nonetheless, according to the press release: ‘”Me and my team came up with the idea of putting together a collection of my recordings with nothing else in mind other than having something fun to …

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE ANDERSON COUNCIL, “Assorted Colours”

As I’d said previously, when this album and signing was announced, if it wasn’t obvious that The Anderson Council has been one of New Jersey’s best kept secrets, well now, it won’t be… This band, who has been around since 1999 with their deliciously crisp modern take on classic mid-’60’s psychedelic pop and late ’70’s Mod has now signed to Marty Scott’s legendary Jem Records label and Assorted Colours is the first fruit of this new partnership. It’s a “primer” of several previously released tracks from their first three albums plus some new tracks for good measure.  The new tracks have been produced by another New Jersey neo-beat-legend, Kurt Reil of The Grip Weeds and together, they’ve fashioned this (incredibly) fine collection of songs. Meaty and bouncy, a song like “Sitting On A Cloud” is ripe with 12-string Rickenbackers, harmonies, perfect pop structure and sends you into an immediate nostalgia trip of how/when bands knew how to craft songs – and thankfully, that’s what The Anderson Council are here to do. “Girl On The Northern …

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ALBUM REVIEW: GREG HUMPHREYS ELECTRIC TRIO, “Lucky Guy”

The warmth of this album can’t be understated.  North Carolina native turned Brooklyn transplantee Greg Humphreys (late of the glorious Dillon Fence) has now formed a new band, Greg Humphreys Electric Trio, and released a very fine album of eight new songs that stand out upon first listen. The title cut is more than enough to sink your teeth into with its intricate guitar flutters and upbeat shuffle; certainly, the rhumba-like feel and mandolin brings a liveliness to the track but the silky vocals and tight harmonies makes this shine immediately.  “Sayin’ What You Mean” is dreamy; ethereal, soulful and at flashes, jazzy.  Sadly gentle and yet meaty with its arrangements.  “Golden Bone”, on the other hand, has that swampy kind of balls out riffage that I love – the kind you could expect from The Black Crowes or more recently, Luther Dickinson but even then, at the song’s mid-point (this is an instrumental), a pastoral break comes and the song goes from minor to major – like clouds parting after rain – and then …

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ALBUM PREMIERE: LOVESPEAKE, “DNA”

We’re going to do something a little different – rather than a straight review, we’re going to premiere for you the debut album from Norway’s Lovespeake.  And if giving you all ten songs isn’t enough, we’re also including their video for “DNA”. Very ’80’s in their groove and production, the overall feel is warm and breezy – really, a perfect album for the start of the summer season.  Tracks like “DNA”, “Sundive”, “U” and “Can You Feel The Love?” are all ripe to be the soundtrack at the beach. If you like (or love) the ’80’s, you’ll be glad a band like Lovespeake are around.  They’ve done their homework and studied well.  Elements of Scritti Politti, China Crisis, Heaven 17 and The Style Council (!) color this collection of songs just right. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED DNA is available now https://www.facebook.com/lovespeake/?fref=ts  

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ALBUM REVIEW: RYAN CASSATA, “Shine”

Crisp, crunchy pop would be an accurate description of Ryan Cassata’s newest release, Shine.  This 22-year old Long Island native has already issued four full-length albums since 2011 and now, he’s breaking new creative ground with this 10 track collection that runs the gamut of pop styles. Starting with the slightly wry “We’re The Cool Kids” (“…we’re changing things and we’re leading this movement; we’re gonna prove it that we’re the cool kids…”), which sounds like a mix of Green Day and The Pixies, you’re immediately drawn into the sheer catchiness of the song; “Check Engine” feels like a spoof of modern pop with electro-drum track and rap/sung and the subject matter (to me) seems like a gripe about the struggles of a middle-class suburban teen (which is quite funny) as “Sunrise Highway” is just impossibly great with its tight and galloping rhythm and slaughter/buzzsaw guitars, punctuated by horn charts in classic pop-rock style.  “Man In The Mirror”,  the old Michael Jackson composition, gets a gentle, sympathetic acoustic treatment which gives a genuine poignancy to …

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ALBUM REVIEW: FREDDY & FRANCINE, “Gung Ho”

Sometimes a romantic relationship can lead to great art…  and sometimes the end of that relationship can lead to even greater art.  But when a fractured professional couple get back together, at least to make music, it can be amazing.  And that’s the case with Gung Ho, the newest release from Freddy & Francine (who are really Lee Ferris and Bianca Caruso).  Having parted and spending considerable time apart, this new offering is quite a staggering collection of songs. Acoustic guitars abound; stellar production – warmth and depth is the first thing you pick up on at first listen.  The opening track, “If You Want Me” is a seamless blending of the voices of Ferris and Caruso, with clean guitar figures and a deep, resonant rhythm section – a masterful building of tension and melody combined; “Tryin’ Hard To Love You” has delicious guitar slides in the intro while Caruso’s vocal is both cool and impassioned in this country-fied track and “Father’s Daughter” will send shivers down your spine as you listen to the harmonies, …

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ALBUM REVIEW: CIARAN LAVERY, “Let Bad In”

This sophomore effort from Irish singer-songwriter Ciaran Lavery has an aura about it twinged with a sweet melancholia – and that is its strength; its secret weapon.  And it’s not not your standard singer-songwriter fare, either.  What you may project or expect isn’t what you get and that makes it even more interesting and worth the exploration. As Let Bad In begins with “Sonoma”, a brooding piano piece, you’re immediately jolted out of its hypnotic and gentle spell as it’s only two minutes long and then goes into “Okkervil River” with its electrobeats and samples, which is a neat and cleaver offset to the somewhat cryptic lyrics.  “The Show” is no less dark, but yet has an upbeat-ness about it and is catchy with an (you guessed it) Americana feel – slightly countrified with a sweeping, yearning melody; “Return To Form” is radio-friendly and walks the very fine line between danceable pop and Americana with its acoustic body but heavy beats and “Tell Them All” is a stripped down confessional with acoustic guitar that yields …

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ALBUM REVIEW: BILLIE RAY MARTIN, “The Soul Tapes”

For someone who’s made her name in the dance world, Billie Ray Martin has A LOT of soul and it’s evident on this new album, The Soul Tapes.  A true labor of love, it took a decade for this album to be realized.  The sound is remarkable – produced by the one and only Jon Tiven, this sounds like it, indeed, came out of Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios for Hi Records in Memphis – small wonder, since that was, in fact, Ms. Martin’s intention/vision.  And frankly, it’s an amazing vocal transformation for this German-born chanteuse to sound as American and soulful as she does. Just the opening track, “Your Ghost Is Right Behind Me” puts any questions of doubt to rest – it’s a powerhouse achievement, both sultry and heartbreaking – her voice conveys pain but at the same time, makes you ache in the best way you can.  Everything works; the gospel-like nature of the track’s feel, the backing vocals and that deadly guitar solo at the end makes you automatically feel like this …