Sunday, January 27, 2008

Unifaun - Birth Of A Biggie

Hear The Track Here

Even while these words were being hewn from my mind, a new version of this track slammed into my Inbox courtesy of one half of Unifaun: Nad Sylvan. That typical of the man, of course, he plays Mr Perfectionist to a T. As a long term fan of both his work and Bonamici (the other half of Unifaun), it is a certified fact that I would like whatever this Swedish duo came up with. No mean feat when their chosen field is prog rock of the Genesis variety, an area of music I have heaped entire mountains of abuse on in the past. It's a sign of just how good these two musicians are at what they do, and that has always been the hallmark of their work, individually or otherwise,

World class stuff - EVERY track.

The only problem is that tracks are far and few between. There again when you consider the quality and time consuming detail involved it's not surprising it takes them so long. A self-confessed 'Genesis soundscape' band I'd say they passed the pastiche stage long ago. While their sound may originate and be inspired by Genesis, Unifaun (by whatever name) have consistently made the style their own, as you will hear. As well as being a musician of taste and complexity, Nad Sylvan (who I suspect has the major role here) has a vocal style and tone that owes nothing whatsoever to Phil Collins but hearks back to an even earlier pop age. I've likened his vocal to Cat Stevens in his prime and I see nothing wrong with that today.

Whether you like this whole prog rock thing or not - and I generally don't - even the most disinterested listener couldn't fail to notice just how good this sounds - all seven and a half minutes of it. Yep, better pack some sandwiches because its gonna be a long trip. There again, you are going there via one of Soundclick's greater talents, so there will be plenty to gawp at along the way. Anyone who has even a passing interest in Genesis is going to wet their knickers when they hear this. I've always liked Nad's lyrical flow and he's outdone himself on Birth Of A Biggie; anyone who can use the word 'mellisonant' in a song AND in the right context can do no wrong.

MUST HAVE (whispers) prog-rock.

60 Hertz - VTEI

Hear The Track Here

Last but one out of the bag this month is another new name, this time coming from the Ukraine: 60 Hertz. Well, as the band put it 'it was the most stupid thing that we could imagine as band's name...' Welp, having reviewed on Soundclick for a while, I'd say stick around because you obviously haven't seen stupid names. Soundclick is almost entirely full of them. Sorry, my little jest, because I have seen some r-e-a-l-l-y stupid names and to me 60 Hertz seems entirely reasonable. 69 Hertz sounds even better so just hang on a minute and I'll grab me coat...

Sorry. Can't seem to stop tonight :D

60 Hertz are a five peice band who apparently play live a lot, and it certainly shows in their music. VTEI is a musical punch in the face but one that I'd certainly like to receive more of. This track has enough energy and drive to power a small town - before morphing into a dancy, trancy kinda way that I'd normally run a mile from. The energy of the track and the obvious joy of the musicians in creating such a massive din is what won me over initially even though it contains elements of my least liked of genres: dance/techno.

What shines out, above all, is that 60 Hertz are an incredible live band. I can tell that without even seeing them but what would you need to listen to me for, the track is more than convincing. Mind you, the mixing of elements of rock, dance and lyricism pays off big time, even when - like me - you know not one word of Russian. What comes through instead is the massive impact this has on an old rock animal like me (for the intro) and the sheer charge it gives the spirit. Strangely enough, this track has a Parental Advisory attached to it which you might assume has no bearing because - well, it's all very Russian. The sound, tone and delivery are pure magic and should also carry a PA. THIS is a band I'm gonna be watching out for....

A smack upside the head. MUST HAVE.

Alice Sweet Alice - Alone

Hear The Track Here

Not sure exactly where this track got on this list because I have a couple of addresses for the band, both of which are in the links above. A new name to me, Alice Sweet Alice is 'darkwave from New England', an area justly famed for its leanings towards the dark side so a band seems only right somehow. A four peice band consisting of Scott Martinez (who seems to do everything except switch the lights off), Julie Cartonio on vocals and guitar, Jeffrey Galios on lead guitar and Ali Katon keyboards and vocals. If the name sounds familiar, it comes from a 1977 schlock horror movie which featured the dubious debut of one Brooke Shields.

Let's all take a deep breath right now...

Alice Sweet Alice (ASA) state that their material 'leans towards the macabre' and that certainly proves true musically, although I would have liked to have seen some lyrics. Defiantly rock based, Alone, has a muscular feel to it from the getgo and I was a bit surprised to see that they were not a gigging band because the track was nice and tight - the way it should be. One of my major technical problems with material of this kind is the often duff sound that accompanies it. If you are going to make music that describes the Crack Of Doom, it better fekkin well SOUND like it, know what I mean. Drums the size of England, guitars wider than oceans and a vocal that tears the heart from your chest.

Aye, it would be wise to gulp right now.

Having found no fault whatsever in the production, all comes down to the performance and songwriting and it is obvious that the skill doesn't just lie in the technical. ASA are a hard, intelligent sound in a sea of clones, sneakily substituting vocal phrasing, tone and delivery rather than the usual weepin' wailin' and general gnashing of teeth. It's a given then that someone like me would go for this track, it has pretty much everything I look for in a track. It isn't an instant ear-grabber right enough, but given enough time it definitely packs the right punch.

Highly Recommended 'darkwave from New England'

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Rob Preston (aka Pink Bomb) - What About Us

Hear The Track Here

To tell the truth, I've been more than a bit puzzled over this track. My normal routine is just to bung the review list (in order) onto my Ipod and give the tracks their workout. Sometimes I am aware of who the artist is and sometimes I'm not. Often while I was about my daily doings, this track would catch me by surprise - it sounded much better than most tracks, at least from a production angle. I filed that information away until the time came to sit down and write the review, where I might finally learn something about the artist.

Although the name is new to me, the music certainly told a much older tale. Here is a musician who has been around polishing up his craft for some considerable time, even the merest drive-by of a listen will confirm that. When I read on his page that he started making online music in 1992, I recognised a fellow tracker. A lot of musicians (including yours truly) cut their musical teeth in this fledgling online music scene, many of which are now rightly famed. What it instilled in us - more than anything else - is an inordinate attention to detail. Listen, when most of the music you made was in code, you HAD to pay attention to the little details.

What About Us is a perfect example of that discipline paying off in the long run.

A pop track that raises influences such as ELO, Howard Jones and others, What About Us is about as close as you are going to get (in an unsigned sense) to the real deal, it's so commercial it should be wearing a shirt and tie. With it's knowing wink at the 1980's electro-pop scene, What About Us is the kind of track you take up and treasure. Class production, excellent performances and one of the strongest pop songs you are likely to hear on Soundclick or anywhere else. Absolutely first class.


Rob Augustine - Say What You Want To

Hear The Track Here

Rob Augustine is a new name to me from Soundclick, although judging by the activity on his webpage he's been around a while. An Acoustic musician from Virginia USA, is about all the other information I can glean. As we know, the term acoustic can - and often does - hide a multitude of sins. Put it like this, I listen to a LOT of this stuff, and I find very little that is irresistible, or exciting even - for that matter. Acoustic music (at least the US variety) seems to fall between three different stools; acoustic rock, acoustic country (including folk) and Americana, a kinda/sorta blend of the two.

Which is why I treasure someone like Christopher Martin Hansen.

Now as you all know I am always up for a good whine, but when it's put to music I rapidly lose interest; approaching this track such was my state of mind. The first runthrough of the track blew away whatever cobwebs of misconception I was feebly erecting. It's energy and light demanded that I sit up and pay attention and like a good Pavlovian I responded automatically. The reason for this is because Rob Augustine is a guitarist in the manner of the aforementioned CMH, and has the added ability to sing extremely well and - judging by this example - can write a mean tune too.

Say What You Want To has everything I could want from a track; excellence of performance, production and songwriting. There isn't very much you can expect from (basically) one guy, his guitar and voice and there is certainly not a whole lot you can do to make it more palatable from a production angle. Rob obviously knows this because the clear, uncluttered mix compliments both his dexterous playing and his equally adept vocal cords. Put it like this, if I had to point someone to an above average example of what acoustic should be like, it would be this track. Definitely an artist I am going to have to look at a lot more closely.

Highly Recommended Acoustic alternative.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Corey Drumz - To Let You Know

Hear The Track Here

In amongst all the wannabe clutter that infests the hip-hop scene on Soundclick, there are some very, very serious musicians delivering quality product with amazing consistency. A while ago (Ed: February 2006 actually) I did an artist overview of Shadowville Productions who have to rank as one of the biggest Soundclick artists in terms of musical quality and audience reach. They turn up here as producers of this Corey Drumz track and I can't say I am much surprised. Like calls to like, after all. So far I've reviewed two Drumz tracks - The Retribution (January 2007) and Fresh Dress'd (December 2007) - and both have had some very complimentary reviews. I make no secret of my love for the genre, never have and never will, especially the kind of hip hop that DOESN'T rely on riches, bitches and killin' snitches to make it all work.

I mean, caaaaahahmmmm on.

Thank God there are some credible artists around to balance out the profane crud that often serves to put people off what is otherwise a beautiful and vibrant music. As an example of what I mean, I can't do better than to point you towards To Let You Know as being amongst the very best hip hop around on Soundclick - not matter how hard you look. To be sure, Corey impressed me with his professionalism and his vision over the first couple of tracks I reviewed (The Retribution especially had a big impact on me) but it has taken a track like this to see just how good it can get.

I will always give kudos to hard work in getting it right, and that can often come out sounding as if I'm trying to please the artist. Far from it, I'm trying to give MY audience a sense of how good the track/artist is. To Let You Know is classic, state-of-the-art hip hop; great hooks, excellent vocals and lots of technical tricks. The highlight of this great track - for me anyway - was the way the counter vocal was put together, a lesson in tension there a few more hip hop artists could do with learning. With a finger firmly on the commercial pulse, To Let You Know should do very, very well and is already my first keeper from this artist.

Top class Hip Hop. MUST HAVE.

The Antennaheadz - Plastic Box

Hear The Track Here

There is a thread doing the rounds on Soundclick entitled 'Have you been on Soundclick longer than this guy?' which I have been watching, having been here for a great many years. It's one of those 'who has been here longest?' jobs and I've been here since April 2002 so that puts me well in there. So - I think - will Thomas J (aka Antennaheadz aka Black Zarak aka The Men From San Deigo). See before he became a victim of multiple bandnames, a much younger Thomas J was known as Station For Imitation whose 'gloomy experimental electronica' this reviewer struggled mightily with for ages and never really got a bite of what he was about musically.

It took his multiple personnas to show me just how innovative Thomas could really be, although it has to be said that his work is definitely a walk on the wilder side of experimental. Having said that, his last two tracks - Loveless Blues (October 2007) and Mr Panache (November 2007) were very different to his previous outing. Both are acoustic guitar/vocal tracks (done of course in the man's own style), and both would qualify IMHO as being called 'songs' which is something this artist has NEVER done before. Both managed to snag Must Have's, which I think was a first for this artist.

Musically, Plastic Box, finds the Antennaheadz wandering back to their roots, exploring the most irritating sounds known to man and making them - somehow - work together. That is certainly the impression the beginning fo this track will give, but that's only a first impression and should be discounted. When you get right into the meat of potatoes of the track you are going either like it or hate it - as was ever the way with this artist. Its essentially a tune played with an organ sound, added to every bar, until the whole thing starts sounding as if it had just entered a church. Me I quite liked it but I do have weird taste, and Thomas J manages to hit that spot with this odd - and long - track that is definitely a throwback to earlier times.

Surprisingly good - but very strange - instrumental. Recommended for enthusiasts.

Pilesar - Bamboo Garden

Hear The Track Here

Pilesar is a Soundclick Alternative Experimental artist. In other, more earthier terms; incredibly fekkin weird. Now to a great many people, 'weird' often equates with good but to a much large majority it instantly means reaching for the sick bucket. Or is it that retching for the sick bucket? No matter, not good whatever it is. Pilesar is unashamedly himself in every respect. Here is an artist who has gone out of his way to be different, and yet still still accessible to many who wouldn't normally be seen dead with such a peice of musical chicanery. One of Pilesar's greatest strengths are an experimental artist is being able to cross boundaries and he certainly does that.

Yeah, better bring along the sick bag.

Being an avid student of all things Asian in particular and China in general, I have used and loved a great many instruments from that region. To some Western ears, Chinese music can sound incredibly dischordant, full of hight pitches instruments and voices. Well, I say, it would depend how those instruments are used. The reason I am yammering on like this is because - as you may have guessed - Bamboo Garden uses the aforementioned bamboo on the instruments hence that tinkly, almost vibey sound.

Bloody good use it is too, although as I have already stated this may sound odd to some, but hey with Pilesar it was ever thus. I particularly liked the pace and approach of this track and whether Pilesar's intention was to stimulate the good ol' China dream, I'd say he had succeeded. One of the standouts of the track is the way he puts the percussive elements (ie the bamboo tonky things) against his usual sample/verbal/electronic/noise interjections. Very effective. Nonethless, don't expect to find much of stirring epic here, just a very good percussive instrumental. See, that's different - a percussive instrumental.

Recommended Asian oddity. Pilesar goes all Mandarin on our butts!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Big Wheel Remixes - Follow by GingerHouse

Hear The Track Here

Wot? An interloper putting out some remixes of Big Wheel tracks? Nope, tis the man himself remixing OTHER people's material, and judging by the immense amount of collaborative activity he got into last year, 2008 looks like being more of the same. Can he not keep his hands to himself? Good job he can't actually because we've all reaped the benefits in the tracks he has released over the past year, a dose of so many styles its enough to make your head spin. He even attempted some quite passable reggae in there somewhere.

I tried out a couple of versions of Follow; the one mentioned above and an earlier DnB version. Follow (DnB Mix) by GingerHouse (which can be found on the same webpage) is a classy little number and - truth to tell - it made me want to check out the source of all this bounty: GingerHouse. I went over to their li'l corner of the Murdoch Empire. Listening to the original will always give you an angle on any remix and now I've heard it, I think BWR has done a pretty special job on the aforementioned DnB version. So good, in fact, that had I been reviewing that track, it would have scored well high; especially for the piano.

You can never have enough pianos.

Having done hundreds of these things myself, I am always interested in seeing peoples differing interpretations of the same material and listening through to ALL these tracks has been a good experience. Of course, it doesn't mean to say YOU should have to raise your lazy butt to do any of, but I would suggest approaching this from beginning to end. It would certainly help you to understand just how much Big Wheel contributed in both of his remixes. Although I liked this version - especially when set against the original - my own personal preference came down to the DnB mix. Much more my style anyway.

Remix heaven. Gorge yourselves on a big round thing... Highly Recommended Electronica.

Rude Corps - I Quit

Hear The Track Here

Rude Corps sez 'this was inspired by my grandad, who apparently had chances to become an artist for the Sunderland Echo and to play cricket for Durham, but cos he also had a stutter, he lacked the self-confidence to grab those chances. As a result, he spent his entire working life - some 40 years - at the coal face of Ryhope Colliery. That's something I tend to keep in mind whenever anything or anyone tries to discourage me from focussing on my music.' NOW I know why he is known throughout the 'click as 'citizen dolly bitch-hog', an upbringing like that is enough to temper anyone; and what better reason for making music do you need?. T'ain't gonna change the world, as we know, but it's a fine and honourable way to make a statement, politically or otherwise.

And we don't talk politics here...

When I first met Neil O'Brien (aka Rude Corps) I reviewed Tonight's Alright and I wasn't that impressed. Sure it was OK and it did inspire me to listen further and I am glad I have done so. Over the time since, Rude Corps has given me some good tracks indeed including a couple with vocalist Sir that are well worth hunting down. Reviewing A Spark (August 2007) I discovered that the dolly bitch-hog could vocalise too as he does on I Quit, whose lyrics certainly reflect the sentiments expressed in the first paragraph and which I highly recommend reading while you have a listen to the track. Bearing in mind that this track is distinctly lo-fi and lo-tech, it will probably be required.

There is a distinct difference in tone and texture between music made in the south and north of England, and both Rude Corps and his style plug directly into the Northern side. Music from there has always had a harder-edged, grittier approach to the subject, as evinced by the (to me...) glum rock gang first seen as Echo & The Bunnymen and every other whinger and whiner known to man. Luckily, Rude Corps knows a lot better than that. It took me a long while to get into this track, partly because of the oh-so-ruff sound and partly because I am not always comfortable with this style. Nonethless, persistence pays off. Underneath the hustle and bustle in a decent song.

Recommended Northern Soul (albeit an electronica variety). The emotion is the same.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Mike-K - Chaos

Hear The Track Here

Chaos, not an atrribute usually ascribed to Soundclick stalwart and Songplanet DJ Mike Kohlgraf (aka Mike-K). This is the most organised man known to man. Errrr, if you get my drift. He probably irons creases into his jeans. More to the point, musically anyway, he is Mr Smoothiechops personified, as his easy listening, middle-of-the-road tracks (IMHO obviously) will show. There again, there are lots of people who do like the sunny side of the musical street and who can say they are wrong? Even though I have no love for the genre, I have much respect and admiration for the man and his music - I know what goes into it...

Until now. o.migod.

As a harbinger of things to come, Chaos is suprisingly unchaotic in either spirit or tone, for which we all breathe a sigh of relief. Mike K causing chaos would make the sky fall on our heads and we don't want that to happen. It's billed as instrumental electronica which basically means an electronica backdrop with Mike pouring out the lead lines on top. As such it's quite evocative of Santana (but only in the construction and tone of the track), electronica might be a stretch even for ol' Carlos... There are certainly elements of that sound in the track though, the almost incessant, relentless main riff and the leadlines lolling in every direction. It's got some of the same energy too, but that will only come out with repeated plays.

So while it is true, as Mike would have it, that Chaos is a bit of a departure for him, it's not far in actual miles. I know I rag on the guys for his own musical taste (not as a SC Station or a DJ for which he is irreplaceable) but I actually have a soft spot for the ol' softy. Chaos hits that spot, in much the same way as his other tracks do; for its unfussy, right-down-to-business, clean approach. It isn't the sort of track that blows me away, but Mike's often understated work shows that he knows what he's doing. No doubt, I'll be saying much the same and more to him the next time I see him. In the meantime, this is a very decent track with absolutely no chaos whatsoever so you can stop distributing those sick bags now...

Recommended electronica instrumental. (Ed: who wrote 'go Carlos!!' on this review?)

The Rivergods - Ten Mile Yearning

Hear The Track Here

Here's a track picked especially for you from Chris Bishop, who filled in the last blank on this months list from Popspace so we know who to blame if it doesn't come up to snuff eh? On the other hand he's also no slouch when it comes to recognising quality which is why I grabbed this with both hands. To Chris (aka Project Overseer) music has to have thought behind it, production values far above the usual biscuit tin and wind tunnel, and a decent tune or two. Which exactly chimes with what I want from music, alongside emotion, drama and style, which is why I don't get too many Must Haves I guess...

Sheesh, wots a boy ter do? (Ed: Get on with it...)

I guess it is because I was but a lad when the Beatles first hit the world, but I have had a love for melodic rock all my life - an abiding that never seems to waver. On the unsigned front, Soundclick has been a tremendous source for that kind of music and The Rivergods would fit into that pantheon perfectly. A husband and wife team comprises the band; Parent and Brossard both of which are singers, and the relaxed almost country feel they bring to this peice make it stand out from the very first listen - especially when you are a fidelity geek like me or Chris Bishop.

As if that weren't enough, the production and overall sound of this track is extremely good, obviously been at great pains to get it all right. All plus points in my books, and if you like that whole melodic pop thing then I think you'd like this track very much. Having said that, it isn't one of the jaw-dropper tracks I normally give my highest rating too but it really isn't very far off it. As it is, it's a brilliant introduction to this new (to me) artist and it's a sure sign that I'll be back for more.

Excellent slice of Alternative rock, with a li'l ol' twist of country. Highly Recommended.

Onager - Arrival At The Gates

Hear The Track Here

Onager isn't just an MP3 Unsigned artist, he is someone who, unfailingly and unprompted listens to and comments on every track that I release. Now that, in my world, says volumes about a character. Here we are surrounded by gazillions of wannabees who wouldn't cross the road to piss on you if you were on fire, and every once in a while you come across the very, very few people who really do contribute something else besides their music. Of course, such altruistic behaviour means absolutely nothing in the review process, as Onager has also discovered in the past. Score so far? Two lukewarms, one highly recommended and a Must Have for the Essence collab - Embers - Rekindled (October 2007).

Apparently I've heard this before, but I have no recollection of it but that's hardly surprising. Onager is joined on this track by Deborah Ivri who I understand has also done some collaborations with my old mate AndyF, all very incestious I know but hey it IS a small world. Arrival At The Gates is billed as a Soundtrack and I guess that would be a very fair description. The pulse and style denote an action movie of some kind; I was picturing the steppes of Mongolia and thousands of horsemen on the rampage. all a-pillagin' and plunderin'. I have to say that initially the vocal stood out of the track a little too much to be comfortable with and it's such a small tweak....

Stylistically, it is very much of the standard of work I have come to expect from this Welsh artist and given my feelings about the genre, I didn't find listening to this track a few dozen times that arduous a task. There again, it does come in at a sane length of three and a quarter minutes rather than the bloated monstrosities I often get from this genre, so that will help a bit. The instrumentation too has a Celtic feel about it too, now that I've mentioned Onager's roots; mainly coming from some kind of violin sound but it all adds to the overall effect. A soundtrack worth listening to? I should say and if that ain't a reason for the sun to come out, I don't know what is.

Recommended vocal soundtrack.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cam's Even Song - It's Just Like That

Hear The Track Here

The blossoming of Jim Miller isn't a book title but it should be. (Ed: uh oh, Gilmore has finally lost his marbles and got his artists confused). In the few years I have known him, I have watched this Soundclick powerhouse expand his musical and technical skills to the point where he has his own studio AND is probably one of the most collaborative musicians around. Texans, ya see. Big hearts for a big country. Cam, of course, comes from a lot further north (brrrr) but his heart is just as big and both - even though it seems wildly improbable - are past Gilmore Artist's Of The Year. Jim-n-Lisa] (who also appears on this track) won the dubious honour in 2004 and Cam won it in 2006. So, it's a given then that you should read a certain amount of bias into my tone of voice. Of course I'm biased. I love all these musicians and I am proud to champion what they do.

Oh God, does my sycophancy look big in this???

It's Just Like That finds our chums, Cam, Jim and Lisa in whimsical pop mode, coming in at just three minutes. In other words, one of what I would call Cam classics. If you ever really want to say what defines Cam's Even Song, it has to be this eternal shifting from the musical rooots of the Beatles to Bob Dylan and country on out. That and the totally approachable, warm manner each track excels in. As I've said before, I prefer Cam's more heftier work lyrically and stylistically, but when I can't get any of that, I'll definitely go for the pop side and this track is - now what is that saying now? - right in the pocket.

As indeed it should be.

With Jim on sax, Lisa on backing vocals and Cam on everything else, I would expect nothing less. What I didn't expect was how bright and fresh a sound comes out of the combination. Mmmmm. Sorry, got a bit lost there with thoughts of launching Soundclick's first supergroup :D Cam shows just how good he is at writing songs with pace, drama and more power than the Energizer Bunny, if I had reviewed the song alone it would be a surefire winner. The bonus of The Old Wailer (Ed: I think he refers to Mr Miller) and his good lady wife (Ed: that'll be Lisa then) is the icing on a cake already replete with treats. Music to gorge on. So, put it like this... If you think I jest in any way in the praise I heap upon their puny shoulders, put it to the test. Grab a listen to this knockout track. It's three minutes out of your life. Whadda ya lose?

MUST HAVE pop. Heaven for saxmaniacs.

Superbron - All The Rivers Flow Into The Sea

Hear The Track Here

At this stage, having reviewed a few of this artists tracks, I think I have a fairly good angle on what he is about; he's had a couple of recommendeds from me and a couple of lukewarm kinda/sorta reviews. Now obviously it would be wrong to try and define an artist by the style they work in, and I have made no secret of my dislike of soundtracks in general and film soundtracks in particular, what I look for over and above genre is consistency. The artists ability to turn out tracks that are sharp, to-the-point and aurally close to state of the art on a regular basis really has to be the aim, because that is what the competition is up to and I have found plenty to rave about over the years - even for a genre I detest.

There again, I'm sure Superbron is tired of hearing that...sorry mate. :(

I've also pointed out all along that Superbron seems to be a more than capable musician, a clever one in some ways. But, somehow, between here and there, his tracks have still to really make me sit up and pay attention and I guess we really just have to put that down to taste. There is a very European music feel about All The Rivers Flow Into The Sea, if you know what I mean. Like all musicians, Superbron is merely reflecting his cultural roots and for someone who remembers the great Dutch musicians from Golden Earing, Shocking Blue et al will know exactly what I mean. At this stage I would venture that what Superbron needs most right now is a plain and simple producer - as an outside influence.

Like a lot of this artists tracks this also suffers from weak arrangements, staid and comfortable sounds and - it has to be said - a certain degree of inconsistency in performance. It was at least a couple of plays in before I noticed that the track actually had drums on it. That's how far back in the mix it was. The funny thing is, yet again, that all the peices are here to make it happen, and it just doesn't ignite. It sure as s*** should, especially given the lyrical content which I found very inspiring. Standing at well over six minutes long, All The Rivers Flow Into The Sea is gonna be an earful no matter what, I am of the opinion that it could have lost a couple of minutes and been none the worse for it.

There again, I was ever a philistine eh?

The Legendary Fred Miller - Don't Ever Forget

Hear The Track Here

In the short time I have known him, I have got to be quite fond of The Legendary Fred Miller which is surprising given the way we first met. A Light In The Darkness was my first introduction to him and is a cautionary tale about first impressions. I mentioned that Fred had a way about him vocally but I was really quite scathing (for me anyway) about the rest of the track which I felt had more of the slapdash about it than was good for it. I also mentioned that Fred had a quirky vocal style but - again - after a few more tracks under my belt, I don't consider him that way now. The Doors influenced There Is Nothing New Under The Sun (December 2007) sealed that deal as far as I am concerned. OK, not the greatest voice in the world but he can carry a tune.

Don't Ever Forget is a different beast from the tracks I have mentioned and is much more like the loose and rambling first track, although it sounds considerably better. It's the content that meanders, and given the musical style - Psychedelic Rock - I suppose it should do exactly that. It would help, of course if while listening I could be tripping on acid but these days not many of us are so how much of an audience might this have? Outside of dyed-in-the-wool Fred Miller fans of which, I would bet, there are a few.

The key theme of this particular rock style were the technical details and the floaty, massed voices that seemed to be everywhere at the time. Again, vocally Fred has nailed it but those floaty massed voices aren't really a vocal per se. Fact is, Don't Ever Forget is an instrumental, which also happens to stretch out to just over four minutes long. Even though the track has 'more vocals, more guitar, and a shorter title, it is still an instrumental and that just isn't to a great many people's taste. Nonetheless, Fred always manages to impart a sense of the sheer fun he is having making this music and that's always a help because I wouldn't rate this track much otherwise, except for the nailing of the period and the easy, give-or-take delivery.

Whimsical instrumental.

eX1 - Touch Me, Hold Me

Hear The Track Here

Considering I've been yapping with him for a while I know surprisingly little about POPspace's eX1, and that is most definitely my fault - not enough time in the day doncha know. Between reviewing and real life is a chasm counted in minutes. His page isn't going to be a lot of help either except he's an electronica artist from California, and that shouldn't come as a surprise. That he's an electronic musician mind, not that's he's from California; everyone comes from somewhere. I'm not sure, especially, how long he has been doing this but the following comments are based on what I know and what I hear.

Uh oh?? Naaaah, t'aint that bad.

Here's the scenario: artist discovers a jam packed DVD full of samples and instantly whips up 8 million tasty confections. Sound familiar? Thought so, we've all done it. The key element here, in a lot of ways, is the main vocal line; an almost complete peice that Jim (aka eX1) worked into his track simply because he couldn't resist. Can't say I blame him either, because the vocal IS that good. I woulda killed to get it before him but maybe I'll wander over his house tonight and just steal the damn DVD. All larcenous thoughts aside, working around an almost complete vocal while constructing a track behind it is a very, very difficult job - especially if you want to get it right. As a practice for my own work in this style, I started doing remixes over at Acidplanet who run regular contests featuring well known names and often great vocals to work with. After doing hundreds of the things, I truly appreciate how hard it is; which is why I feel I can say what follows.

As an exercise, Touch Me, Hold Me just about hangs together; the key word here being just. The problem with working with such vocals is that you have to follow its own metier; the rhythm and flow of the vocal. Unless you have that in mind from the getgo, whatever you do will not fit. It may appear to, but when push comes to shove it just doesn't. The same holds true of this track; a sparse slice of electronica is extremely linear and does nothing whatsoever to work with the nuances of the vocal. Mind you, as eX1 admits, this was pretty much right out of the bag and - given that explanation - it's definitely nothing to ashamed of. Believe me, I have made far, far worse but those are usually the ones that never see the time of day :D The worst thing about internet life is that we are judged on EVERY track we release.

Great vocal, no doubt. Tune with it? (waggles his hand)

Dan E Peck - Beachin

Hear The Track Here

It is my theory that inside every young lad is an unborn Rock God. How many guys (I speak this way because I am a guy, women may well do it differently) have stood before their bedroom mirror for a good session with cardboard boxes for amplifier stacks, and a trusty Broom complete with double whammy bar, practising their moves as if their lives depended on it? Millions if not billions I tell ya. Not many, however, go one to the next phase which is actually becoming a Rock God. By gum lad, that is way too much work. In my own guitar heyday (I'm much more a producer now) I used to play 8-10 hours a day and not too many people can apply themselves to such discipline. My hat is forever doffed then, to artists such as Dan E Peck, one of the best guitarists I have come across in a while.

Ibanez Strut (December 2007) just squeaked past the post to make it into my year end review of 2007, which should be an indication of how strong I thought it was. I still do, the damn thing has been played to death so it's nice to have a new track to assimilate. As good a guitarist as he is, Dan wouldn't interest me that much if he didn't bring something a little bit special to the party. In this case, he brings a fluid, dense rock feel that wouldn't be out of place in any heavy rock collection of any repute. Rock, in my definition anyway, should absolutely, definitely, and utterly kick ass, in terms of production, arrangement and performance.

An almost impossible task to get right this is...

Dug out of history, this is a live track Dan did with an old band back in 1978 recorded at a beach gig in San Deigo. Also dug out of history are the million riffs that thrilled and entertained us at the time. Not sure if Dan has touched this up but the production is fekkin perfect. In the music I hear echoes of everything from Led Zep to Queen and a million other points in between; a truly Classic Rock track that sounds suprisingly ahead of it's time. Yet another killer band that never made the kind of history the influences cited made, such is the narrowness of fame and fortune. Still, fame is fleeting anyway, and it is our incredible good fortune that - finally, at last - we have our very own Rock God.

First Class Rock of the old school. MUST HAVE (dayum, that's two in a row!)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

3000 Squid in an Ice Box - Media Orgy 1 (Sex)

Hear The Track Here

Behind this improbable bandname is an old Soundclick face, Daniel Euphrat (Dross, Timmy Sells His Soul and others). I've reviewed Timmy Sells His Soul a couple of times in the past, a collaboration with arch musical loony Pilesar and - way back in the mists of time Dross once or twice. So, suffice to say that I know what I am letting myself in for and feel it my duty to warn you about the chaos that approaches. See, Daniel shares Pilesar's prediliction for the wilder edges of the musical world where - as we well know - things don't always make much sense. At least in the conventional sense anyway; conventionality is a swear word where these guys are concerned.

Take, for example, the back story behind this track. The song comments state 'all sounds taken from one 30 minute session of channel surfing. no instruments, effects or filters used'. So the question comes up, is it really music? Strangley enough, it actually is, kinda/sorta. True there isn't a lot of sense to it when listened through for the first time and many people would have already run away really fast. This reviewer, as you well know, is made of sterner stuff and I actually started to like it after playing it a few times.

While it isn't something I'd slap on for the odd buzz or jolt, it's a really interesting patch job of some of the oddest sounds imaginable (including, I think, a guest appearance by James Woods). Oh, if you don't like listening to any of the ol' squelchy squelchy (Ed: I wonder what he means...?), best to skip the intro. Considering the boast of containing no samples, the cuts involved here do give the track an odd musical slant but that only lasts a minute or so, the rest being taken up by cutting and slicing of random events. Now obviously this is going to have a limited audience, but that's a shame because this is a very interesting bit of oddness.

Experimental, yep. Successful, yep again. Recommended sonic weirdness.

Sound Radius - Opus 2007 Symphonic Rock Demo

Hear The Track Here

Regular readers of these reviews may remember this erstwhile film music composer (he did threaten to give up this whole film music thing) a while ago delivering some absolutely splendid film soundtracks full of action, drama and emotion - and that is not something you encounter every day. Despite my intolerance of the whole soundtrack genre, Sound Radius proved that even my mountain of predjudice could be toppled, and topple it he did. Gaining a Must Have with the very first track, The Power Within (December 2006), Sound Radius has managed since then to keep even an old curmedgeon like me happy with tracks that dazzle and inspire. By far one of the best soundtrack artists on Soundclick IMHO and then he goes and gives it up...

...or does he? I think the term 'symphonic' in the title gives the game away.

While its true that Opus 2007 - Symphonic Rock Demo is most definitely not a soundtrack, it had many of the same sound elements about it. Lots of strings, much bombast and the stirring, thrilling stuff that only Sound Radius seems capable of, when put against his contemporaries. Judging progress by this track though, seems a bit off. See it isn't really a track at all, merely bits and peices of a much longer peice that is in the works. Speaking of which I was surprised to see that I had two Sound Radius tracks on my hard drive once I'd bought in the harvest, this track and Ave Metalica.

Billed as a track from Opus 2007, Ave Metalica is much more what I was expecting. As good as the various bits of the demo are, it still doesn't give me a feeling for the whole. Ave Metalica supplied the missing link. A lovely peice of classically inspired drama rock, it displays SR's unerring ability to spot a good sound and use it to the best possible advantage. The track also benefits from a more detailed production than the demo and that sure as **** sharpens the odds that you will like it too. Opus 2007, in all its guises is certainly going to be something to look forward to over the next few months. In the meantime, I would treat Ave Metalica as being the starter and Opus 2007 - Symphonic Rock Demo being the trailer.

An excellent blend of rock and classical. Highly Recommended for Ave Metalica.

Waiting For Helen - Good Good Woman

Hear The Track Here

I tell ya what, the Internet is the dogs danglies for finding music. When I were a lad, we had to go out, hang around dingy, drafty gigs in the hope that tonight there may be a decent band on to get wasted to. Sad to say, it didn't occur that often. Outside of that I remember shoving a HUGE 'so called' portable under my pillow at night to listen to the fade in and fade out music being broadcast nightly from Radio Luxembourg (The Station Of The Stars) with DJs as radiacal as Alan Freeman and (gulp) Jimmy Savile (as was). Nowadays, when I am considerably older and greyer, music of all descriptions is freely available merely by sitting and typing a couple of words. So ya pump in 'blues rock' and lo, up pop's Waiting For Helen a blues rock band in the time honoured fashion.

Based over at Popspace and POP, Waiting For Helen has an impressive collective and individual history and at present, consists of the following line-up: Jerry DeCarlo: Drums & Percussions, Helen Harak: Vocals, Tony Mazza: Guitar,Vocals & percussion, Pete Salomone: Guitar & Vocals, Joe Van Winkle: Bass, Bass Pedals,Keyboard, Vocals, & Percussions. I know the New York/New Jersey scene from my own experience and know it is a rich source of class (and classic) rock bands all description. The competition is cutthroat so any band intending to stay around a while better have its chops in gear and all its ducks in a row. In other words, to sound as professional as it gets while pounding out the dirtiest, meanest rock sound you can deliver.

Aaah, I can almost smell the beer and sawdust from here :D

The very first musical reference that popped into my head - almost on the first listen even - was of a slightly softer sounding Canned Heat - yep blues of the old school. They manage to sound incredibly Southern in sound, despite coming from the Northeast part of America and that authenticity is one of the main reasons I absolutely love this track. I understand full well that classic blues rock is not everybody's favourite method of relaxation but hey give me a good boogie any time and Waiting For Helen do exactly that. The kind of track that will have my old mate, Songplanet DJ Mike-K slobbering into his beard. Yeaaaahhhhhhhh baby!!!

Classic blues rock. Highly Recommended (oh yeah).

Pidgeman - Can't Stop Thinking About You

Hear The Track Here

Craig Matthews aka Pidgeman is an MP3 Unsigned rock musician who I first encountered when I reviewed Misery Loves Company (November 2007). Nice track, as it happened, especially since I like the kind of rock Pidgeman specialises in. Like a great many of us, he has to deal with certain limitations about getting it all down digitally and - on both tracks I've heard - that home produced feel is quite noticeable. There again, this is rock we are talking about, usually done by recording the guitar sound, rendering that digitally is quite a feat. Only pedants like me would really notice though, but I do feel it blunts the impact of what would otherwise be excellent tracks.

The thing I noticed immediately about Can't Stop Thinking About You was the final sound. I played it on lots of different equipment and it is obvious that either I have a) a bad MP3 rendering or b) the intense mid and high tones were really there. In the case of this track that is a great shame because - like Misery Loves Company - Can't Stop Thinking About You is a great song well sung and played.

Musically, it's very much poppier than I expected too.

Pidgeman shows me more on this track about his songwriting talents than his previous offering, consequently if you like melodic rock with a hint of the UK about it this will do the trick. He's got a nice line in pretty much everything once you really start to listen (assuming what we hear is all him) and he knows what he wants his song to do, of that there is no doubt. Can't Stop Thinking About You is quite a neat blend of American and English pop rock and I think that is where it will ultimately score and - believe me - the song will dull the edges of the problems I've mentioned because it's a cracker.

Excellent song, if a little to 'toppy' for my taste. Highly Recommended rock pop.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Fluidity - Best Behaviour

Hear The Track Here

John Paul Carroll from Christchurch N.Z is the geezer to know for all things Fluidity. This Kiwi one-man-band is more than enough for yer average rock fan, as any of the tracks on his Soundclick page will testify. A guitarist/songwriter who has improved consistently in the three years or so I have known him. So much so, that last year he gave me three different tracks all of which ended up on my Track of The year 2007 list at the beginning of this month. Not bad for someone who spends his whole life upside down now, is it?

John Paul has long has a love affair happening with rock with a distinctly poppy edge. I've described his work now and again as being like Status Quo, the kind of light cheerful rock that makes you wake right up. Then when you get deeper into the track you start to realise that the guy can string meaningful words together too, usually to make a serious point. In that respect Best Behaviour is absolutely standard Fluidity, a song about relationships so no surprise there.

It's a slightly laid back track, making fine use of an acoustic guitar and - it has to be said - a very classy arrangement that sucks the listener in and won't let go. You just have to know where its going next, know what I mean. There again, I am a confirmed, long term Fluidity fan and he's not disappointed me yet. You would have to have a liking for the rockier side of pop (or the poppier side of rock) to really enjoy what Fluidity is all about but whatever the choices there is no doubt that when he sets his mind to it, he can write a great song. As an added bonus, I don't think I have ever heard the master in such better voice either.

Ace pop rock, as only Fluidity can do it. Highly Recommended.

Can't Stop The Daggers - High

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If you think it's been a while since we last heard a HELLbus track (remember them?), there are several good reasons - notably because main man Jon Partelow went walkabout. He turned up a couple of times last year playing with Friends Of Friends (Right Direction, July 2007) and some members of Azoora; if my memory serves me correctly. So, he's been a bit busy. Finally though, Can't Stop The Daggers, the new project gets to see the light of day. A three way collaboration between M. Partelow (Vocals, Keys, Programming, Jittering), Chris Chattom (Upright/Fretless Basses, Guitars, Programming, yada ) and Ben Dumbauld (Drums, Percussion, Vibes), Can't Stop The Daggers will be new to most everybody, even if HELLbus is a name to conjure with.

Given the above lineup the sound is not surprising, like most competent trios, they make each instrument count. I had a bad case of hero worship when I was a lad with Cream, probably the best trio there ever was, and CSTD have echoes of that time in their music. The more I heard it the more convinced I became that this was literally a throwback. It's a track that could have originated out of the wildness of the summer of 1967 itself, so close is its arrangement and style to the original pyschedelia. It even had me sorting through me kaftans and wondering where I could score some acid and that hasn't happened in many a year.

Given Jon's reputation and what I know of him, production is not going to be a problem here, he's always known what to do to get the best out of his tracks. The dense, bass heavy track is exactly what is needed for the pyrotechnics, as is the priceless kick sound, all which help to stomp this track onto your brain. Not that it has any trouble on that score anyway, this is a track to get high with and savour. The vocal, while languid, gives the track its wide screen, big country flavour in much the same way as Bono's does, and again that is one of the tracks bigger pluses. The true meaning of a power trio...

Excellent Alternative rock. MUST HAVE

decollage - birdcage

Hear The Track Here

The mistress of the lower case has entered the building, please be upstanding!. decollage is a experimental electronica artist based in Munich, Germany. The city which is also home to the mighty Burp, yet another experimental electronica artist and it has to be said that their work does bear certain similarities but that is where it ends. While Burp's tracks - however weird and wacky - always hinge around an incredible rhythmic progression or arrangement, decollage's work gets one groove going and then hangs things around it as if it were a Christmas tree. Sounds damn strange written down in a bare-faced manner like that, but the actual sound and vision of decollage's work is often very memorable. Not bad, considering she hasn't been at this music lark for very long...

But with Burp as mentor, anything is possible.

birdcage sounds pretty much what I have come to expect from this artist, decent workable rhythms and lots of weird noises floating around (one that sounds like a donkey braying...I swear!!). I haven't always been into the experimental electronica field and I rarely pick tracks from it to listen to when I feel the urge to bend me ears a bit. It has to, above all, interest me at least on a 'oooh that's a good sound' level otherwise its not going to get anywhere. Although decollage haven't always clicked on the tracks she has come up with, she can be relied upon to take time in making sounds that are different, texturally as well as conceptually.

I can't believe I just said that. Someone please shoot me.

Like a lot of her tracks, Birdcage has a dark, edgy tension that becomes less and less oppressive as the track gets going but the first minute or so will have you peering around nervously. If you are used to this artists style, then it won't come as any surprise to you and will be a worthy addition to the decollage folder, For this reviewer though, I have to be honest and say that I am still waiting for decollage to deliver the track she is eminently capable of, the kind of track that will lift her out of the fairly narrow audience she now pursues. Anyway, when all is said and done, this is still a very decent slab of experimental electronica.

Recommended experimental electronica.

The Peach Tree - Doctor Seuss Or A Sheep

Hear The Track Here

I first met Australia's The Peach Tree (aka Angus somethingorother) last month when I picked up a track of his through POPspace. The track, Psy Vampires (December 2007) wasn't exactly too my tastes being dance, but hey the musician wasn't at fault, merely my own vapid and abhorrent taste. It didn't stop me giving it a Highly Recommended though, and if that ain't overcoming my predjudice I don't know what is. It's funny to think that, even though not liking dance music as a whole, I still manage to like and yes even keep some of the dance tracks I review from time to time. Some tracks shine out regardless of which genre they happen to be filed under.

Doctor Seuss Or A Sheep isn't just dance, it's a kinda odd techno dance that - although different - doesn't do anything for me. See, I spent years and years messing about with TBs of all descriptions and even more time with their software clones Rebirth and the ilk, I got overdosed on the sound if ya know what I mean. If you like that whole bleepy/drum machinery/weird electronic vocals, then I've just accurately described what resides inside this quite silly title. I am allowed to say that btw, even the artist says 'there's always room for a little silliness'.

Couldn't agree more.

As you can imagine then, this is a track to be taken somewhat lightly which is probably a good job too because the intro will certainly have you guessing which direction its going to dart off in. It quickly settles into yer standard bash bash bash, but given the rhythmic oddities (are they a mistake or intentional?) does make the track somewhat more enjoyable than if it had been a serious offering. As it is, at least for this reviewer, it's an interesting listening but outside of a very narrow genre I don't think this will affect that many people. The fact is, electronica is an incredibly busy genre and the competition is very, very hot to trot and while this track is likeable and warm, it also needs to blow me on my ass to really make me foam at the mouth.

Recommended electronic oddity nonetheless.

Tedd-Z - Loom

Hear The Track Here

Way back when all this computer technology was still in short pants, games were the big thing driving the innovation of new hardware. One of the best companies of the time was LucasArts whose games were stunning; musically and gameplay. One game has become a kind of legend and it is also the inspiration behind Tedd-Z's new musical offering; Loom. Ah, them were the days though eh? Computers the size of pocket battleships, served by 5 inch floppies and rendered in a crisp (if such a word could ever be applied in such circumstances) EGA and even (gulp) VGA. In these days of multi-million colour displays, its seems strange that it was only fifteen years ago when what I've described above was the only reality.

5 hours playing the game, 100 years working out the computer glitches.

Gorra be said that the idea was planted in me brain this would be some kind of 'retro' experience and if anyone can do this, it would be Tedd-Z. Glad to say this is not so, because although I have a certain amount of nostalgia for the games, the soundtracks left a lot to be desired. Nope, Tedd-Z's uses all his hard earned musical chops to deliver an electronica track that shows a respectful nod to the originals (I even heard some Wing Commander sounds in there) while still managing to make it fresh for todays much elevated tastes

Having a long memory, I also remember bumping into this spotty student oik somewhere in 2003, reviewing a track called Lullaby (which was anything but...) and being not that greatly impressed. It is to Tedd-Z' eternal credit that he just shrugged everything off and kept on making 'his' music, While Loom finds him in disturbing mellow mood (not usually an emotion ascribed to the man), I have to say it does indeed invoke the period and certainly the game itself and if that was the objective then it worked a treat. Mind you, I didn't like this style then and I don't like it now but I was ever a barbarian in these matters.

Highly Recommended kinda/sorta games soundtrack.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Fear 2 Stop - Jungle Fever Blisters

Hear The Track Here

Back in my early days reviewing on Soundclick whenever I ran a review list I shuddered to see two names come on there, month after month. The first was Station For Imitation (aka Thomas J and all his guises) and Fear 2 Stop were the second. The reason for the trepidation was because both artists considered themselves 'experimental' and - at the time - earned themselves the description of the Awkward Squad from yours truly. Now though, with a good many years behind us Billy, Dana and Raymond (aka Fear 2 Stop) are as much a part of the scene as anyone else. Sure their music is still the far side of Pluto aurally, but hey they do it such style these days even I can forgive them.

I have to say that after a few absolutely cracker tracks (including a Track Of The Year 2007 with Givin In) fear 2 Stop seem to have reverted back to their earlier style - at least in terms of track construction and composition. OK, so this is a far better sound quality overall, even though the sounds used in Jungle Fever Blisters are decidedly lo-fi and even - dare I say the word - hokey. To give the band their due, they have always played with sounds that can only be described as hokey or cheesy. In fact, they have built their reputations on it and usually can be relied upon to actually get away with it, as they do (narrowly) with Jungle Fever Blisters.

Don't go by the confusing intro, or even the clapped out Farfisa sound that peppers it. This is a track that will take more than a few plays to get into your brain - should you even want to give it ear room. You may be one of those people who have an automatic mind shutdown as soon as you see the word 'experimental' and therefore this is a track to steer clear of. For anyone of a tinkering nature, you will find much to like here because it is - to my ears anyway - a musical tinker about that manages to hold itself upright and together even though you know its stoned out of its tiny mind.

Experimental, as only Fear 2 Stop can be. Recommended.

Nuff X - Pretend We Never Happened

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Now then, now then, how's about a bit of Nuffcore? Sure.... Sorry about the cheap Sir Jimmy Savile impersonation but what can I tell you, Nuff X brings out the Englishman in me. It isn't of course, the sole reason I like this electronica artist. Nuff X may be into electronica and breakbeats but I am pretty sure you will not have heard those genres chopped up like Nuff X does before. Therein, I suspect, lies the secret of Nuff's increasing visibility inside and outside of the genre he is based in. For my money, the best and most innovative artists on Soundclick are the ones who make music that transcends whatever genre they happen to be working in, and Nuff X accomplishes this with consummate ease.

Yeah, I agree, it's enough to make you sick. ;)

There again, I have been a Nuff watcher now for at least a couple of years and I know just how hard he has worked at being that little bit different and - dare I say it? - fresh and exciting. Blessing Curse (December 2006) was the last Nuff X track I reviewed and very good it were too, although not exactly an easy listen. There again, that often holds true for this artist. Blessing Curse introduced us to Nuff X, the vocalist behind the music, and Pretend We Never Happened is yet another vocal excursion for him and - I have to say - I definitely like the sound of this track better. It doesn't have any of the anger, bitter feeling of the previous track but hey, everyone needs a vent/rant and Blessing Curse was Nuff's chance at it. This track also features a collaborator, Absorbfish about whom I know nuffink but I know he contributed musically.

So, Pretend We Never Happened is infinitely more accessable to Mr and Ms Joe Q Public, although you would have to like electronica in general and have an interest in English musical styles to really appreciate what Nuff has to offer. One of the elements of Nuff's work that has always interested me is the textures and sounds he uses, and this track is a classic example of what he does best. I think its probably a bit too understated for a lot of tastes but it certainly hit the right spots with me, especially in those little production tricks the guy is becoming proficient at. I put that down to my own liking for this artist, but even so I'm sure you may get a taste for some Nuffcore too, given the exposure.

Original UK electronica. Highly Recommended

Friday, January 11, 2008

Blue 42 - Evil Cries

Hear The Track Here

As you all know, I have long been a rock animal and - over the years - I've managed to champion many another rock animal. When you think of bands like Avalanche, Soul Dust et al then you'll know that to really be solid with me, you have to know exactly what every rock animal needs and craves. Red meat and lots of it. I have been exposed to both sides of the rock story (US/UK) in my own life and I have much time for either variety (Ed: and any number of sub-varieties too) and it was always thus. As if to prove my point, lemme tell you a story. Or at least I will once you stop yawning and groaning. Soundclick wasn't always as active in rock as it is these days and good guitarists were thin on the ground. I reviewed Ty Kaufman first in mid 2004 and developed a marked taste for this musician's fluidity and style. It helped that he had a band, soon to be kown as EL84 for some unknown reason and that name may resonate with longer term readers.

It's been almost a year since I last hear from them in any form and since then - from what I can gather - the band has lost its vocalist Steve Calapp and half its bandname number and become Blue 42. Quite what it is about numbers I have no idea but let's press on. Where EL84 delighted in American style arena rock, Blue 42 have on another rock guise - and here I must pause to take a deep breath - progressive rock. Aha, you say, now we know and indeed you do that having lived through the gory that was American prog rock (think Kansas/Styx/Rush) the first time around, I am extremely loathe to approach it twice. Having said that, we are dealing with a perfectionist or two here and you can bet that - whatever the genre - here are musicians who know the score.

Shoot, most of them wrote it.

To be honest, I'm not sure whether the genre puts me off, but I have heard Ty in much better musical form than this. There again, to be even more honest, I'm not sure that this is a change for the better. Its not that it isn't good, its obviously more than good in a technical way, but will that reach out to yer average listener who has no interest inprog rock in any form? Still, mine is not to reason why, and I cannot fault this track on a technical level and Ty is certainly as front and centre as always but this track just refused to touch me. Strange really, because the one thing about those early Ty Kaufmann Group/EL84 tracks were that they did touch me, and very effectively too. If you like the genre, this will definitely be of interest but I doubt if it will gather much outside of that. There again, this is the first track I have heard and I will be back for more.

Recommended technically professional prog rock, of the American strain.

Soul Summation - Contact

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Its been a couple of years since the halycon days of POP's Friday Night Live review sessions and it introduced me to a whole bunch of musicians I'd never have met on Soundclick. One of the joys of hanging out in POP's offshoot POPspace is that I am busily picking up the threads of the people I met through that time. One such, as you have probably gathered, is Soul Summation. Sad to say, my exposure to Soul Summation's music at the time was not all it should have been. I know that's the usual excuse but I seriously can't do any better. There again, dancey electronica has never been my thing.

The musical equivalent of War and Peace.

Most of us temper ourselves with nice three, four minute blocks of music, dancey electronica (ie trance, techno and all forms thereof) can't do it in any less then eight minutes and often much longer. Let me tell you, you gotta be pretty damn good to keep my attention for that amount of time - even in the review process where everything gets filtered through loads of plays. Taken as a slice of dancey electronica, it has that light, bubbly feel (summery even) that seemingly pervades the whole dance spectrum and shows that - whatever else he does - Soul Summation understands the medium he has chosen to work with.

While it was never my bag, I am never put out by listening to well thought out, well produced dancey electronica that has a point other than propelling feet and setting backsides to a-wigglin' n' jigglin'. Having said that, while I have not escorted Contact onto the dance floor as yet, I can see the breeding that suggests this is its natural environment. All kudos to Soul Summation for nailing the genre so well, even though - no matter how hard I try - I will probably never reconcile myself to really loving this style. In the meantime, I could certainly grow fond of this and if I happen to find a dance floor, who knows??

Excellent electronic dance. Highly Recommended.

Stella Polaris Project - Private Road

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I bet that Ricky (Mancini) and Melinda (Mohn) known collectively as Stella Polaris Project are probably a bit stunned that, finally, I managed to spell their name right. Couldn't get it for the life of me until I came up with an ingenious (nay cunning) plan. I had the name tattooed on my childrens foreheads because I see them every day so I am not likely to forget. There again, my children are not likely to forget what I have done to them either so mebbe the less said about this the better... I first came across this duo late last year (October to be precise) and since then I have reviewed two tracks, both of which still reside on my hard drive so that should tell you much.... My giving Hello Anonymous a Track Of The Year award in my review of 2007 should say a whole lot more.

It isn't easy to stand up to anything from any number of sites, but Stella Polaris Project are that ideal blend of rough and smooth that somehow manages to soothe at the same time as bruise. Should you catch my drift, and I'm not sure you should want to. Anyway, having my appetite sharpened already, I looked forward to a new taste. Gotta say Melinda Mohn has a totally captivating vocal style that sounds so apt, whatever the genre it is encased in. The kind of voice that makes you go 'oooh yeaaahhh'. She uses it well too, especially on Private Road, peppering the lead vocal with lots of vocal flourishes. The lady has soul, not much question about that and vocal tone to carry it off with tremendous style.

OK, so that's done with the smooth :D

Actually, considering Ricky Mancini's (aka MD-1 Project) usual musical style, this is smooth too. At least to a certain degree. I think this a lot more like Melinda's solo work in feel. It even features her collaborator Ron Soderstrom playing some very tasteful trumpet licks. On the whole more jazzy and chillout than I was expecting and I have to say that it came as a welcome new side to this duo, and one I would like to hear more of. There again, the one thing that got me about this MP3 Unsigned artist from the start was their willingness to work outside of the normal boxes. This may be electronica in name (and indeed in instrumentation) but it's heart and roots lie in jazz. Terrific track sung by a very, very classy vocalist.

(sigh) MUST HAVE (again) (note to self: I must not get addicted)

(Ed: No tattooed children were errr tattooed in the making of this review.)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Steve Altonian - Tell Me Why

Hear The Track Here

Every once in a while I get the impression that I have reviewed someone before and this month Steve Altonian is the unlucky recipient. Try as I might I can dig up no reference to any review I've done but my brain insists it is right. More to the point it is threatening to hibernate for the winter if I don't get on with it. I didn't need such threats anyway because the first listen to Tell Me Why showed me only too well I had never heard this artist before. Or, and I'm taking a great risk here, the track was so limp and insipid I was moved to squash it with a speed that would give a normal person a nasty nosebleed. And, I admit, that in my reclining years (Ed: declining? Surely?), I have become a bit of a fan of country, at least the indie varieties you find here and there...

Steve is 'primarily a singer songwriter' accompanying himself on acoustic guitar and - believe me - there is a world of difference between the indie versions you hear on this site and others that singer/songwriter just doesn't cover it all. What kind of singer? What kind of songwriter? The answer to both is someone you really should get to know, as I am going to do. Tell Me Why is my favourite kind of track - one that reaches out and touches you in the most immediate form. That, I am a big, big fan of. I'm also a big fan of 'wide screen American' country fiddle styles and this track features a beaut.

I noticed it's already been number one on the country and country pop charts and that's no surprise. If it caught me on the first listen, it may well do the same for you. Tell Me Why is a musical production where nothing is left to chance, a superbly clear mix, some great musical performances and - floating above it all - a vocal that teases meaning and emotion out of every note. My old mate Mike-K probably pounced on this last September, as usual Gilmore is late to the hoedown but I'm sure glad to be there now. Definitely an artist to watch in this coming year, and I bet that vocal is going to become VERY familiar to me.

MUST HAVE country weepie.

Phantom Mime - 24seven

Hear The Track Here

Ears are wonderful things as well as convenient hooks for hats. They are also extremely delicate instruments that have to be protected somewhat from the rigours of life. Nowhere is this more true than the life of yer average would be rock star, ask Pete Townsend. Having put my own ears to the most shameful abuse in my own lifetime it amazes me that I can hear anything at all, but they seem to take a licking and keep on ticking. Most of the aural destruction I've subjected them to has been at the hands of rock bands like Phantom Mime, a surprisingly meaty newcomer to this reviewer.

You know I like a nice bit of aural abuse, rock style.

Surprised the hell out of me that after playing this track for a day or two and then sitting down to do the review, I discovered that the band are from the Phillipines. I'd pegged them for either a US or a UK band, so true is their dound and attention to the rock details. Admittedly, 24seven put me in mind of the many (nay fekkin endless) practice sessions that were miraculously saved to tape; there's the same hollowness of sound that occurs in that process. The snare and vocal in particular suffer because they are so forward in the mix. Still, it doesn't sound that much like a demo, other than that and the confidence and style the band deliver in far outweighs that. Unless you are a purist and don't listen to anything less than studio kwuality, otherwise known as an awkward bastard.

As Phantom Mime state in the song comments 'a classic rock sounding song, great for driving along and rocking out'; a fairly accurate statement given what I've just said. The energy and power the band throw out in the first few bars of 24seven is probably enough to light up Manila and well up to the standard they set when citing Lynyrd Skynyrd, Red Hot Chili Peppers et al as influences. If you like either of those two bands you will find that Phantom Mime and you have a lot in common. While I had been playing it, I kept flicking on that Lynyrd Skynyrd reference myself, long before I checked out the webpage. Classic American rock, all the way from the other side of the world.

Highly Recommended for classic rock fans.

Carol Douglas - Too Numb Too Cry

Hear The Track Here

I'll state immediately that this songwriter is one of my oldest Soundclick friends as well as being the well deserved recipient of an early Stevie for her collaboration with Nad Sylvan on When The Tidal Wave Rolled In (2005). Fact is, she IS a terrific songwriter whichever way you look at it. Take a look at the class of musicians she gets to work with and that should give you another clue that - whatever I think - Carol Douglas is a well respected and prolific songwriter of the old school. In truth her nick should be The Greal Collaborator because that is the way all her tracks (including many songs now regarded very faourably) get made.

On Too Numb Too Cry she is joined with yet another old friend, Nigel Potter, another artist I have a great amount of time for. It is actually a co-write for the pair and I can see why that should be because - try as I might - I cannot see the join at all between what Carol or Nigel contributed. I'm fairly certain that the dark, edgy feel of the track has much to do with Nigel Potter, although it suits the sombre lyrics that accompany the music. Like myself, Nigel has had his life somewhat warped by Hawkwind and their influence suffuses everything about this track but the ending is pure space rock and probably nicked from the band :P

All of which may sound like the dogs dinner.

Which is better than no dinner at all, this being the nature of the song. With sentiments like 'I'm dying, lying in the snow, submitting to the horror show' wailing their agony in your ears, you may well run away with the impression that it would be best to run away. Not at all, because despite its sombre content, Too Numb Too Cry is a wonderfully realised gothic horror show in sound. The flat, atonal vocals (supplied by Nigel I assume) and the Annie Lennox soundalike wailing away in the background lend themselves to the woebegone feeling that permeates this track, piling on the tension until you think you will go stark, staring mad. Which, I suppose, may be the whole point of the thing. Whatever else it is, it's a keeper for me.

MUST HAVE rock. A musical nightmare made with great beauty.

Rob Scoda - I'll Be Back

Hear The Track Here

Rob Scoda, should you be judging him by his name and his brand of music (very American sounding acoustic rock) sounds like yer typical Americano. It sure surprised the beejeebus out of my when I noticed that he is based in Sweden, so maybe he's an American in the Land Of the Blond. However, if you know anything about Sweden and it's musical progeny (Ed: offspring, descendants. I just looked it up for you lazy sobs) you will know that Sweden is one of the best countries in the world for musically educating their children. Back in the early days of internet based music, most of the real stars where either Swedish or in some other way Scandanavian. At first I thought it might have something to do with the levels of boredom experienced in such countries but I was soon disabused of that notion.

A hefty group stomping, I have found, will solve most anything.

Having been around musicians since the dawn of time, I have experienced more than my fair share of singer/songwriters and Rob Scoda is exactly that. For sure he lays out a good sonic spread and an easy rock style to rest your head against but - given the competition - this may very well not sound as fresh as it should. Not that I am implying that this doesn't sound good, it does. The production is very good, just the way I like it. Everything is EQ'd to perfection, leaving more than enough headroom for the vocals to spread themselves in. In that respect, the mix fits the track perfectly.

The only flying member of the Diptera family putting its great big dirty feet all over the confection is that I'll Be Back will probably only appeal inside of a very narrow audience. To be sure, it shows that Rob knows exactly what he's doing, and how to do it. The only question remains is whether you would like the style or not. For me, it has many rock echoes but since Rob cites Paul Weller as one of his influences (the other being Mr Lou Reed) I'd say that should give you a fair idea of what to expect aurally. Personally, I'll be into trying out the other track currently adorning his page to see whether this is just a one-off.

Warm, cosy acoustic rock. Recommended.

Deon - New Direction

Hear The Track Here

It's a new year so I'm going to start with a new artist, at least to me. This is also my own pick btw, and I''ll be explaining that further shortly and you can stop groaning anytime you like. Deon is, apparently, a songwriter from Birmingham UK as opposed the Birmingham AL (Alabama, USA as it 'appens). I was lurking around MP3 Unsigned's New MP3s forum trying (unsuccessfully) to foist my new tracks onto some unsuspecting passerby when I happened to spot a post by this artist. Sufficiently curious as ever, I had a listen to the track and decided right there and then that I would start off 2008 with this very track.

Better be good then eh?

The instant like I had for this track revolves around two elements; Deon's wonderfully warm vocal and a great kinda/sorta rock pop song. Moreover, Deon lists himself as a songwriter (who happens to accompany himself) and I can see nothing wrong with that argument. Great pop tracks always - as any fuel no - revolve around 'hooks' but a lot depends on structure and pacing too and that is where New Direction really scores. AFAIK this has already been at number 1 in the MP3 Unsigned charts and I think it was about time it started climbing your charts too.

So what else does it have to recommend itself? Damn fine production for starters, a clear meaty sound that perfectly compliments the material it is backing. In terms of style, Deon lists one of his influences as Gerry Rafferty and listening to this I definitely see that connection as well as a host of other pop echoes. Personally I thought the vocal - as good as it is - could have been a tad sharper in the mix, all the treatments applied to it tend to make for a bit of a wooly sound. There are also several different endings tacked on to the end of the copy I got. There again, this is the smallest quibble and something that most people wouldn't even think of and neither should you. The song is the thing, and here's one to keep these chill winter nights at bay.

Excellent Pop. Most Highly Recommended

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Year End Review of 2007 (The Stevies!)

Hello and welcome to the Fifth Annual Stevies Awards, which mean nothing whatsoever to any artist named, other than a pat on the back from a fellow artist or two... So why do it then? Well, because it keeps me off the streets, and hey its a way of passing the time. It should be noted right off the bat that these are my own personal views and have nothing whatsoever to do with Soundclick OR its management; they are just kind enough (Ed: or just plain unlucky) to let me mouth off in here.

This year is actually a landmark year for me, in a couple of ways.

This is the fifth year that I have been running these year end reviews/awards on Soundclick and that's some achievement on its own. Moreover, this year also marks the fifteenth year I have been doing reviews like this on-line. Although everything that is happening right now originated out of Soundclick (of which more later) I have been reviewing on-line music through many other sites and, before that, on Usenet and before that on BBS's (anyone remember them?). People often accuse me of being 'too soft' on artists or even - I noticed somewhere lately - 'sycophantic'. Hey, I like what I like and I do not intend to do it any differently. Some people accuse me of being too technical and some people accuse me of not being too technical enough, so whichever way I review I am bound to ruffle someone's feathers. So, let me make this crystal clear once and for all. I write these reviews for other people than the artist concerned. I write them for that nebulous entity 'the listeners', which is why my approach is quite different to other reviewers. The listener couldn't give a toss HOW you made the track, all they care about is whether or it it affects them and I review in the same way and the people who read my reviews understand that and they are the reason I keep doing this thankless (yep, that's what I said) task.

As I say, the awards and year end review concept originally came about on Soundclick because it had a large, active community (of which more later) and I wanted to highlight some of the very best talent I found there. That first year (2003) I selected Nad Sylvan as my Artist Of The Year. Nad also appears this year in a new group with old Soundclick friend Bonamici in the group called Unifaun. You'll find that listed in the MUST HAVE section of this review. Nad was followed by Jim-n-Lisa (2004), Maria Daines and Paul Killington (2005), Cam's Even Song (2006). I state here and now that I am proud to have chosen those people as being that special, because they all are - in their own different ways. Incidently, all of them either feature in some way in my MUST HAVE or Track Of The Year section in this years review. There will be a bit of a wait to discover who 2007's Artist Of The Year is going to be, so let's get off that subject while we still can...

Soundclick is still the main focus for these reviews although this year has also been one of expansion - the blog gathers some very dedicated readers - and taking in artists from lots of other sites. This year I have reviewed tracks requested through my own review blog, Soundclick, MP3 Unsigned, Songplanet, Popspace, Myspace, Artist Launch, Indieviews, Indiehitz Productions and loads of other small MP3 sites. The reviews themselves also appear on many of the sites mentioned.

I may be just li'l ol' me, but I know a lot of people so nrrrr :D

Words On The Web We Weave

As usual with these awards, lets' get the big stuff out of the way first; the places where we all live and communicate, the on-line OMDs (OMD=Online Music Distributor). Soundclick has undergone a massive change over the last year becoming more of a 'lets be friends' site than it's original stated intent as a musicians OMD. There are lots of complaints of course but hey, we all have to live with it right? Sure, we can do that, although I'm sure now of what the price might be. The heaviest cost to Soundclick of these changes is the gradual disintegration of the community that once lived on the forums. When I first moved my reviews from another site to Soundclick back in 2003, the forum was buzzing and extremely lively with many great threads and lots of characters who have since become very well known indeed inside - and outside - Soundclick itself. I am proud that - along with Cam, Doug Cash and other long term reviewers - we managed to turn around a moribund forum (Ed: he means practically lifeless) and turned it into the powerhouse forum known as Critics Corner.

Here, at the beginning of 2008, there is a very different picture emerging.

For the past year I have noticed a massive falling off in the number of posters/readers in ALL forums but particularly Critics Corner. This forum has been a massive source of interest to pretty much any Soundclick user but is a resource equally massively underused, more especially so in the last few months after (yet another) forum 're-organisation'. Whereas I used to get somewhere in the region of 35+ tracks in a 24 hour period on my Soundclick reviews list, these days I struggle to get 20. Not because my reviews aren't wanted, as the other music sites amply show, just that SC's forum community has splintered and emigrated to those other sites because of so many changes. I'm hoping that 2008 will turn that around, but I'm not laying any bets on it. I said these things to Soundclick staff before but got nowhere and this seems the best place to air this subject. I'd be interested in talking to anyone who share this opinion.

Having a very busy year on my own work (Ed: he IS a musician too remember) I have only recently gone back to picking up tracks from MP3 Unsigned, which has already borne solid fruit as my Tracks Of The Year will show, Songplanet, its radio, it's excellent DJ's and its singular approach gives me my continuing rock fix and lastly Chris Bishop's excellent Popspace has given me an entirely new place in which to peddle my wares; reviews and music. For those just starting this whole on-line music thing, as a long time on-line music operator I can only give you one piece of advice: spread yourselves out among as many sites as you can manage, it ALWAYS pays off.


As always, these awards are a highly personal opinion and have no bearing outside my own delusional mind and this year I have approached the subject slightly differently. I usually start by listing artists in rankings but this year I forgo that and just those artists who have made an impression on me one way or another are listed - and in no particular order.

2007's Movers and Shakers

Alchemystic - Avalanche - Omnisine - Fluidity - Cameron Pierce - Jim-n-Lisa - Cam's Even Song - Fear 2 Stop - One Kids Lunch - Pilesar - Crockmister (MP3Unsigned) - Soul Dust - Prash - Maria Daines - Alderman - Big Wheel - Azoora - Nuff X - Chistopher Martin Hansen - Mike-K - Cam's Even Song - dcallen - Fluidity - M J K - -LMS- Miami - Stella Polaris Project (MP3 Unsigned) - The Antennaheadz - Close (India) - Rude Corps - Project Overkill - Sound Radius - 1969 - Denny Schneidemesser - Tim Turner (Popspace) - Redshirt Theory (MP3 Unsigned)

Best Websites for musicians?
MP3 Unsigned or Popspace; both have active, sharing communities of like-minded people and the websites are run for the benefit of all.

Best Website Overall
Has to be Soundclick. Now at 3 and a quarter million members Soundclick is still far and away the largest OMD on-line and it definitely has the largest audience for many of us. It remains to be seen how the changes they have instituted will fare during the coming year and I wish them well with it.

Now for the really good stuff - the music...

2007 Tracks Of The Year

If you are one of those people who hates lists, this is where you should probably stop reading...

This year I have reviewed just under 400 tracks and heard roughly double that figure while going about my daily doings. Nonetheless, what sticks to my hard drive is what counts on that score and when you start looking at that, the numbers drop rapidly. Out of that 400 or so tracks, just under a hundred managed to survive the year intact and not all of them are tracks of the year, just the very best of the bunch. Last year there were 14 winners, the year before 12 so you can see, I do a fair bit of vetting to get the final results.

Two changes this year; firstly I'm also giving you a month by month breakdown of tracks I deemed either MUST HAVEs or of particular interest and secondly - because of the level of releases this year - I am including some artists who share more than one Track Of The Year. Some have delivered several tracks I would have deemed worthy for that status but there can only be one award per artist, no matter how many 'classics' you deliver. Life just sucks, doesn't it? Still, IMHO these artists have made themselves stand out above the crowd this year in a big way and I'm sure there aren't going to be that many surprises in this section. So, let's be at it.

Exceptional Tracks by the Month
Omnisine - In The Name Of God
Charlie A - Broken China
The Shed - Every Leaf

M J K - Never Loved Me
Amorphix - Beyond The Veil Of Light
Jim-n-Lisa - Sixteen Grams
Omnisine - Crimson Stars
Cam's Even Song - Gonna Sell Something to a Telephone Salesman
Fear 2 Stop - Givin' In

Azoora - Marzipan
Big Wheel - Curve
Avalanche - The Golden Sun
Kelly Sweet - Raincoat
Alchemystic - Cerulean Skies
Alderman - Visions

Nuff X - Undefined
Cam's Even Song - My Castle by the Sea
Sirisat Julia Claire - Searching 'Ong Namo'
Apesoundscapes - HazyDayz

Christopher Martin Hansen - In The Hedgerow
Maria Daines - Save Yourself
Azoora - Desert Storms
Lucie Dubue and John Collins - Men In Uniform
Big Wheel - Prism
UniFaun - To The Green Faerie

dcallen - Is This a Problem?
Sound Radius - Our Crowning Moment Suite
Christopher Martin Hansen - Dos Sol Etude
Denny Schneidemesser - The Magic Of Rain
Fluidity - Apologetic Me
Alderman - Sunset Over Andama Sea

Nuff X - Some Kind Of Beautiful
Soul Dust - About You
Mike-K - When I Think Of You with Christopher Martin Hansen
Alchemystic - Echoes From a Dead World
Cameron Pierce - Sincere Design
Matt Henderson - Easy
Fluidity - Jades Song

Avalanche - Deeply
One Kid's Lunch - Overdue Bible Commentary
Rude Corps - A Spark
1969 - Cellar Boy
Pilesar - Slipping on Eggs on the Floor
Policy Overkill - Happy Havoc Industries Overtime Mix
Cameron Pierce - Hesitation
Azoora - Love Will Find Its Own Way
Silvertrain - Nine Lives EP

One Kid's Lunch - Moment Of Truth
Pilesar - It's A Surprise (Open Your Eyes)!
Fluidity - Did It Again
Crockmister - Going Down To Babylon
Prash - Naach Na Na
Alchemystic - A Cold Light In The East
Terry Prong and Jim Miller - Coaster Boy
-LMS- (Miami) - All A Dream
The Antennaheadz - April

Cameron Pierce - What I Need You To Know
Close (India) - Always Winter
dcallen - Closed For Repairs
Stella Polaris Project - Hello Anonymous
Alchemystic - Into Infinity
IQ The Goon To End Them All - Old Man
Big Wheel - Beat Inertia
Potato Contraption - Sineisnt
Da Luck Ent - This Ain't Working Out
Avalanche - The Road Less Travelled
Omnisine - Slide
The Antennaheadz - Loveless Blues

Mike-K - Here We Go Again (ft Maria Daines/Jim Miller)
M J K - This Is Goodbye
The Antennaheadz - Mr Panache
Close (India) - Ghost Desert
Tedd-Z - Propaganda Ft. Civilian Slave
Stella Polaris Project - The Question
Christopher Martin Hansen - Caravan
Project Overseer - Eastern Passion
Fluidity - Pendulum
Sumit - Changes

Omnisine - Mora Piya
dcallen - When The Sky Falls
Big Wheel - All Over
Dan E Peck - Ibanez Strut (Bach)
Close (India) - Mouse Party
Tim Turner & Co - Diary Of A Nobody
Cam's Even Song - No Limits
M J K - Lose You
Youth_UK - Guessing Games
iOD!NE - Meander
-LMS- Miami - The End Of The World
Souls In Chains - Sleep With Angels
Redshirt Theory - Inside You

2007 Tracks Of The Year

Jim-n-Lisa - Sixteen Grams
Starting off with some previous Artist Of The Year's, Jim-n-Lisa have had a relatively quiet year, mainly because Jim Miller is working on every collaboration in sight. However, they did deliver this little gem in February and its rarely been off my playlist since. A classic J-n-L track.

Cam's Even Song - Gonna Sell Something To A Telephone Salesman/My Castle by the Sea
Last years Artist Of The Year continues in fine form too, with a couple of tracks that could well stand up to his previous releases, especially Telephone Salesman which is a particular favourite. Cam's Even Song continue to gain listeners and fans and rightly so...

Omnisine - In The Name Of God/Crimson Stars/Slide/Mora Piya
There's no doubt that Indian musicians have been making a big, big impression on me this year, there are no less than THREE India based artists in this years Track Of The Year awards - none more deservedly so than Omnisine. Almost every track he has been involved in this year is an undiscovered gem.

Fear 2 Stop - Givin' In
Fear 2 Stop continue to plough their own distinctive musical furrow with their usual style and aplomb and - over the course of this year - this odd, experimental track has become compulsive listening for me. I loved the direction the band stepped into last year and this is a worthy follow on. One of Soundclick's more original artists and bless them for daring to be different.

Azoora - Marzipan/Desert Storms
Out of a clutch of terrific tracks issued this year Azoora (JB Purcell, Paul Loader,Trudi Lawrance and Ben Cochrane) came up with these two monsters of how high the bar is. Class performance and production of a incredibly high standard mark these tracks as being way, way above the crowd. My own favourite is Marzipan but that's a style choice and both tracks are as state-of-the-art (performance, arrangements, production) as you will hear anywhere. As good as it gets.

Alderman - Visions/Sunset Over Andama Sea
Another artist who continues to grow at an amazing pace, my old friend Leif Liljeqvist (aka Alderman). It is especially pleasing to me to say that Alderman has had an excellent year - typified by this pair of contrasting tracks. In the four years or so I have known him this artist has dabbled in every musical genre known to humankind and nowhere to better effect than on SunsetOAS (world music) and Visions (film music). A worthy introduction to this artist if you don't know of him.

dcallen - Is This A Problem?
Reappearing during 2007 after an absence Dave Allen (aka dcallen) immediately stamped his presence with this excellent piece of electronica. Always a feature of these year end reviews in previous years, it is a distinct pleasure to welcome this artist back as this track will amply demonstrate. dcallen has his own brand of melodic electronica that is a treat to the ears, almost every time and that statement covers a LOT of tracks. So don't stint at the one, delve deeper. Dave won't mind.

Stella Polaris Project - Hello Anonymous
One of the best finds I've had this year came through MP3 Unsigned when I came across this duo. Ricky Mancini (aka MD-1 Project) and Melinda Mohn are the people in question and Hello Anonymous is a great introduction to them. Although I reviewed this as late as October this year, this hasn't been far away ever since. A dark, edgy intense slice of electronic glitchery topped by a gorgeous piano and an even more gorgeouser (eh?) voice, Hello Anonymous oozes more personality per square inch than anything else around.

Christopher Martin Hansen - Dos Sol Etude/In The Hedgerow/Caravan/Delusions
Over the years, this guitarist has featured well in both reviews and year end reviews but these four tracks have applied a death grip on my earholes that won't let go. Each track shows a different side to this artist, and some are very surprising. One of Soundclicks best acoustic guitar players and IMHO the very best (Ed: biased much?).

Fluidity - Apologetic Me/Jades Song/Did It Again
New Zealand's Fluidity (aka John Paul Carroll) has had a terrific year, honing his brand of guitar rock to a pointed and very effective stick to beat us all over the head with. Over the past few years his standard of work has improved enormously, helped by his musical and lyrical visions and a continuing knowledge of the necessity of production. These three tracks show the different strains of rock he pursues so well.

Crockmister - Going Down To Babylon
He snagged a Track Of The Year 2006 with collaborator Deggsy and Lullabye In Blue so it's only fitting that he should snag one this year in his own right. Craig Sofaly (aka Crockmister) and MP3 Unsigned also supplied this absolute jaw-dropper of a track late in the year and I haven't stopped playing it yet. Crockmister has always been a faultless performer and musician but this goes way beyond that. If there was any justice in the world this man would be a HUGE star, and this would be one of his finer tracks.

Prash - Naach Na Na
A very quiet year for Prash, another musician from India, after being all over the year end reviews for the past couple of years. His return to activity in September was marked by this excellent collaboration with Sunil Choudry and is an example of just how good this artist can be. World music at its finest.

Close (India) - Always Winter/Ghost Desert/Mouse Party
Although I only met Close (from India as it 'appens) as late as October this year, the impression they have had on me is startling. A true blending of East and West is a difficult thing to pull of successfully and not only do Close pull that off with considerable style, they manage to create a very distinctive, identifiable strain of world music. I expect 2008 to be a very good year for this most satisfying of finds.

Avalanche - The Road Less Travelled/Deeply/The Golden Sun
Keeping the rock torch up and burning brightly has fallen to several groups over the years but to my mind none of them have filled the bill as meatily as Avalanche. Rock from the old school, red in tooth and claw, from a bunch of guys with enough actual experience to float a thousand 'rock schools' American rock, in all its gory glory and then some.

M J K - This Is Goodbye/Lose You/Never Loved Me
Normally I can't stand the softer side of music but when the talent shines out of it I cannot help but respond. Florida's M J K has penetrated through my usual prejudice with his masterly vocal style and songwriting ability. He has a basic sound for sure, but the voice more than makes up for it. Listen to Lose You as an example and remember I usually HATE ballads.

Heh. You were beginning to think I would never end, weren't you? Remember, that was only a small sample of what caught at me ears this year. It's a big musical world out there.

2007 Artist Of The Year

Usually in these things, the winner of this award has become fairly evident to me from early on in the year but not 2007. I can say with all honesty that out of all the choices I have made for this award, this years award has been the least clear cut of all, and not because of lack of competition as the awards above have already shown. The competition is fierce and fighting fit. However, as always, the Artist Of The Year Award doesn't just take in the music, but the attitude and style of the artist themselves in their dealings in the wider community in which - hopefully - they are held up as good role models. Again, as always, there have been lots of definite contenders, many of which have ended up with a Track Of The Year anyway, but when push comes to shove the music - in this particular case - was the deciding factor. I have watched this artist from his beginning at Soundclick a couple of years ago and knew that he was something special, but the calibre and quality of his work this year has been nothing less than stunning. My Artist Of The Year 2007 is none other than....


From his days as CJ Freq-X, this artist has consistently delivered high quality, accessible electronica but the brace of tracks he has released this year surpass anything that has come before. From the anger and rock rage of In The Name Of God (a song in protest at yet another senseless bombing), through the smooth trancey style of Crimson Stars, the easy pop sophistication that permeates the excellent Slide and finally the majestic world music sweep of Mora Piya Omnisine seals the deal. Here is a musician firing on every cylinder he possesses and a couple he borrowed from his mates. Over the years I have known him I have watched his own distinctive style develop and 2007 was the year he started hitting it just right and I'll fight anyone who says otherwise. Well, I won't because I'm a well known coward, but I do know a man who can. Omnisine is going to keep on surprising us with the speed at which he changes direction but it will be a glorious ride....


So, there ya have it for another year. I look forward - even as I start digging into January's tracks - that this coming year will prove as fruitful as the last. Finally, I'd like to extend a personal thanks to all the artists who have let me paw through their work in the review process, especially those who haven't been mentioned this year, or have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous Gilmore. Maybe your turn will come this year? You can but try...

As a man once used to say, may your God go with you...