All posts tagged: pop

ALBUM: The Aurian Haller Band, ‘House of Words’

Personally, one of the most enriching parts of music is not only the ability to blend styles, genres, and perspectives, but also languages and cultures. Quebec City’s Aurian Haller Band hails from a unique place geographically, making it only natural for them to blend French and Canadian music, customs, and language. One need only take a brief glance down the track list on their newest album, House of Words, to feel the influence of both sides. There’s no denying it; Haller and his band are a new breed of indie folk musicians. The haunting, Neil Young-ish opener, “Wolf at the Door” is underscored with a mournful pedal steel undertone, but the album revs up the funk on its title track. “Les orphelins,” the first bilingual track of the set, conjures French pop in the vein of Jacques Dutronc. Meanwhile, bookending the meat of the album, “Sister Moon” and “River Flow” come together as a pair of sibling tracks — not twins. Together, they give the entire collection a sense of equilibrium, and underscore Haller’s folk-indie cred. The …

EP REVIEW: Monks of Mellonwah, ‘Disconnect’

Last May, I profiled up-and-coming Australian pop outfit Monks of Mellonwah’s single “Never Been Good,” a taste of their then-in-the-works EP,  Disconnect. Much to the relief of fans who’ve seen them on the road supporting folks like Sevendust, the seven-song offering sees its officially release in August. And for anyone who loves their infectious pop with an injection of R&B and a hint of funk, you’ll finally find your perfect summer soundtrack. The highly danceable “Never Been Good” kicks off the party, followed by the rhythmic “Even When It Burns,” a fast-paced burst of energy begging to find its way onto your running playlist. But if you’re afraid the MoM are only going to deliver in-your-face musical punches, “Show Me Something More” illustrates a softer, soulful side that still embraces that amplified energy. Likewise, “Disconnect” recalls piano-heavy bands like the Fray and Keane to craft a truly memorable pop ballad. Meanwhile, remember how I mentioned a sprinkling of funk throughout the tunes? You’ll find it on “Look at Me,” a mainstreaming of classic funky beats set against …

ALBUM REVIEW: Shannen Nicole, ‘Captive’

Talent – real, raw talent – can’t be taught; it’s in your blood, uncontrollably flowing throughout your life, work, and, as Shannen Nicole demonstrates, school. For this high school senior from Oregon, her need to encapsulate the people and experiences that only a 17-year-old could accurately portray led to her stunning debut album, Captive (out July 7). Conjuring songstresses like Adele, Nora Jones, and even a touch of Amy Winehouse, Nicole molds her songs into lush, complex melodies, even if producer Michael Finn pared down the album’s instrumentation to only piano, drums, and strings. More than enough to give Nicole’s voice room to groove. Opening popper “Clueless” quickly gives way to the mysterious “Damsel,” while “Once Upon a Lie” ventures into the realm of ’90s pop with a touch of modern folk, truly speaking to Nicole’s versatility. “Lonely Hearts” channels a hybrid of Natalie Imbruglia and Ellie Goulding, complemented with a thumping upright bass backbeat; first single “She Knows It” vacillates between soulful and anthemic; and closer 2 AM finishes the collection with a gorgeous, simple ballad …

ALBUM REVIEW: The Furious Seasons, ‘My Love is Strong’

From the beginning of time, we have told stories through music. Whether it’s an epic battle of good vs. evil or a tale of woe and heartbreak, setting poetry to tunes is a a no-brainer, and for David Steinhart and his fantastical, visionary songs, it’s second nature. The Furious Seasons’ figurehead is often touted on his ability to meld universal emotions with folk-pop sensibilities and indie inflections, and the band’s latest effort, My Love is Strong, is undoubtedly Steinhart and company at their strongest. Opener “Southern Night” kicks off with a Beach Boys-like chorale, but evolves into a Hammond-tinged anthem perfect for rolling down the windows and singing along. Dare I say it even recalls the best of easy ’70s rock, especially with its call-and-response chorus and short fade-out (a commonplace of yesterday and a rarity of today)? From there, the record flows into “Understood,” an easy ballad with a backbeat and a catchy melody with lyrics that describe betrayal, murder, and eventual comeuppance. The Bruce Springsteen-ish “Perfectly” and the jaunty “Fooled By the Bottle” follow, …

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Review: Jim O’Rourke – “Simple Songs”

Jim O’Rourke can resemble a complicated musical chameleon. Since the late 80s, he has blended a patchwork career in the avant-garde with explorations into cinema, post-, folk- and alt-rock, and membership with acoustic-chamber heroes Gastr del Sol and “punk” purveyors Sonic Youth. In his recent years, as he’s retired to Japan, he’s been more off than on. But he’s always been clear about his forays into POP. It’s candy. Or, more specifically, it’s an exercise purely of the simple, sensory variety. There is sometimes some cerebral urgency to it; you can here the way he toys with idol John Fahey’s tenets of rhythm and gradual expansion and repetition, like a sponge slowly growing in water with each passing tide, on “Women of the World,” off the excellent Eureka. But, more often than not, he is dressing the windows or, if cover art is any indication, inviting us to watch him pleasure himself. On Simple Songs, his first POP outing in a decade, available now on Drag City, he wastes little time reminding us of our …

ALBUM REVIEW: Anne Steel, ‘What’s Mine’

A mainstay of the NYC cabaret and nightclub scene for the past half-decade, Anne Steele’s music is infectious, liberated, and downright happy. But underneath its exuberant hand claps and soaring piano riffs, Steele preaches an important social message about gay rights. An advocate for the LBGT movement, she incorporates her strong perspective and platform into an album chock-full of fun, radio-ready dance tracks. Album opener “What’s Mine” channels Sara Bareilles in its upbeat, piano-heavy melody and introspective theme. Meanwhile, the pairing of “Worst I Ever Had” and “Tough” reflect a universal message in relationships: sometimes you lose (big time) and sometimes you get lucky. “Worst I Ever Had” in particular is something of a expletive-laden catharsis with powerhouse vocals ala Kelly Clarkson that would serve anyone who’s emerging from a broken relationship well — particularly on an angry night-drive (we’ve all been there). But the break-out track is closer “Don’t Tell Us How to Love,” where Steele “stands up for what’s right” in this slow-jam gay anthem that serves as the album’s appropriate culmination. “Even …

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CD REVIEW: Arrica Rose & The …, “Wavefunction”

The word “concept” album took on a negative connotation by the end of the ’70’s.  However, this isn’t the ’70’s and concept albums are a good thing.  It’s nice to have an album be threaded together with songs that tell stories – to read like a novel.  Such is the case with Wavefunction, the new album from Los Angelinos Arrica Rose & The … (yes, “The Dot Dot Dots”).  This collection was designed as an album (as opposed to CD or digital), so the idea was to have a different mood for each side, yet tie it together with two versions of the same song (“Oh The Day (Then The Night)”).  It works. Not over the top in terms of sonic quality – almost delicately under-produced, with dry vocals that fit the songs perfectly (her voice is silky and sultry; she doesn’t need studio trickery) – the first two songs immediately have you in their grips.  “The Song In Your Head” is instantly catchy and upbeat, while “Love You Like That” is a balls-out sexy …

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ALBUM REVIEW: Christina Rubino, “Alive From The Scrapheap”

Some artists claim to be deeply personal, but present only cloudy snapshots of their inner thoughts. Kind of like reading a diary only on days when the owner went to the bank and grocery store. Brooklyn’s Christina Rubino is not that. On her soul-bearing new album, Alive From The Scrapheap, every word, every lyric was drawn from her dramatic past living with addiction and losing parents. A deep, throaty voice reminiscent of ’60s Cher hovers over harmonicas, banjos, a bevy of guitars and a down-home feel that underscores the personal nature of the album. Inspired by ’90s infomercials for 1960s compilation CDs, Rubino decided to devote her life to music after a glimpse of Janis Joplin tearing apart the “Piece of My Heart” chorus. She brings that same passion to this album On “Pending That Last Soul,” Rubino ponders freedom and the yearning for something more, a concept that all of us, but especially, she, can relate to all too well. The tracks on Scrapheap fluctuate from the hopeless realtalk and apologetic honesty of “Seems,” …

Just Jesse Belvin

Before We Was Fab: Jesse Belvin, “Guess Who”

When singer/songwriter Jesse Belvin died in a car accident on February 6, 1960, he became the first artist of the rock ‘n’ roll era to join the as-yet-unnamed 27 Club. And while some members of that most gruesome assembly are more notable for the age at which they died than for the work they left behind, Belvin’s music is worth remembering. Even if you think you’ve never heard a Jesse Belvin song, you actually have. In 1954 a song co-written by Belvin, “Earth Angel,” was recorded by the Penguins and reached #8 on the Billboard singles chart. It stands as one of the greatest songs of the decade, and although Belvin had no small amount of subsequent R&B success over the next few years — 1956’s “Goodnight My Love” hit #7 on the R&B chart — he struck out for a new record label and a new sound in 1959. Guided by his wife and manager Jo Anne, Belvin found a home on the RCA Victor imprint and attempted re-cast himself in the mold of …

David Brewis

New Music: School of Language, “Between the Suburbs”

When when of my favorite new bands, Field Music, went on their first hiatus in mid-2008, David and Peter Brewis made it clear that they were far from done making music. They emphatically proved that point in 2008, when each of the brothers released a fantastic solo project that sounded liberated from the cage of being an “indie band” — David’s School of Language and Peter’s The Week That Was. Field Music has quieted down once again, but no need for fans to stress — the brothers are just as busy as ever. David is now set to release the second album under the School of Language name, Old Fears, on April 7. Fans can now listen to and download the first single from the record, “Between the Suburbs.” It features an insistent drum beat and a decidedly fat, old-school synth line percolating throughout the entire three minutes. Think of a more cheerful, stripped down Japan song if you will. Old Fears will be released via Memphis Industries on April 7. You can order the …

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Drews & Don’ts: 6 Karaoke Songs With (Sort of) Hilarious Lyric Flubs

As you may or may not know, writing for Popblerd is merely what I do during the day; at night, I dive headfirst into the glamorous world of karaoke, where I make my money congenially badgering people into singing in front of strangers. (I also do the “Cupid Shuffle”, like, a lot. It’s a dance comprised of four simple steps, which really speaks to my whiteness dancing abilities.) But the simple fact remains that, while karaoke has gained a lot […]

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Jess Penner: The Popdose Interview

You’ve likely heard her songs in commercials, TV shows, and movies, or seen her as the fresh young face of Days Inn. She’s Jess Penner – a thoroughly 21st century pop star. How so? Well, for starters, her blog has a dedicated section for new song “placement” shout outs, entries that highlight the spots where her tracks were licensed and used. One update showcased her music being heard on America’s Next Top Model and ESPN U’s college softball coverage. Penner’s openness with this part of the business might be the last shove up, over, and through the selling-out wall (some part of that edifice is still standing in 2013, right?). It’s no surprise advertisers and TV music supervisors have warmed to Penner’s bubbly indie electro-pop sound — it fits snuggly between the off-kilter quirkiness of The Shins and the ass shaking glitz of Katy Perry. And whereas scoring a popular, radio-friendly hit often comes at the expense of depth, Penner manages to weave genuine pieces of humanity along with an element of mood into her …