Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Papa Baloo - Sticking It To The Man

Hear The Track Here

Personally I think it takes a huge pair of balls to stand up in front of everybody in the world and loudly proclaim 'We are the s***!' (Ed: hope they mean good). Either that or they are merely as delusional as the rest of us, so let's find out. Papa Baloo are a four piece band from the US influenced (so it says on their webpage) by the likes of Primus, Tool and Tribe Called Quest, all of which is good to go with me because - when all is said and done - its all rock innit? Looks to me like Papa Baloo specialise in off-your-face rock with a sense of humour to match.

Yep, my kinda guys.

The track itself is a testament to the powers of drug taking, being amiably played and sung by an obvious bunch of stoners so - I guess - you would need to be broadminded about the huge drug problems for it raise a chuckle. Me, I was doomed to this life by a very mis-spent youth pioneering (as it should be seen now) the many altered metal states which can be obtained by different cocktails of drugs. I am fully aware that although the whole world seems to take a very dim view on the perils of drugtaking, surprisingly large amounts of people DO take them - and relish the opportunity.

There again, I have also spent a life being a musician and the one thing I have learned - beyond all shadow of doubt - is that doing drugs messes with your musical senses. I suspect, however, that Papa Baloo's tongue is firmly in their cheeks and that Sticking It To The Man is exactly what it appears to be, a harmless bit of fun that - with the right chemical stimulus - could probably be riotously funny. I did, in fact, like the track but I think I'd want more than a musical joke before I could decide whether Papa Baloo were in fact 'the s***!'

Interesting construction. Recommended with a bag or two.

Edgar Pond - Senesence

Hear The Track Here

As regular readers will already know, every month I take a track recommended by my good friend Chris Bishop (aka Project Overseer) and cut it up a right treat. Well, actually, I WOULD but the one thing you learn about Chris real quickly is that he has a fine pair of ears, even if they are mishappen (Ed: which they are probably not). Not once in the almost a year we have been doing this has Chris given me anything but the very best music on his various sites, so let me introduce you to NYC based Michael O'Neil, Eddie Hester, Tim Malone and Adam Accetta collectively known as Edgar Pond.

Don't know about you lot, but I love classic rock in all its forms and whenever I come across a good rock band who can actually deliver what they promise, I'm likely to gab about it to anyone who will listen. Although it's so obviously an American rock track, it's definitely harder and meatier than a lot of their contemporaries, and that was the abiding impression I was left with. Here is a band with some solid musical muscle, kicking butt and taking names on this song about learning some of lifes lessons while having a whale of a time doing it.

What can I tell you? it's a rock and roll thing.

Senescence is all about crumbling back into dust, the fate determined by our genetic makeup. All about growing old, crusty, increasingly belligerent and finally popping your clogs. Nice subject matter huh? If you want to know more, look here and don't say the internet isn't providing you with an edumacation. Nothing old or crumbly about Edgar Pond or their Senesence though, just hard nosed rock in the time honoured fashion. See, that's the thing about having mates with good hearing, never a dull moment. Here's a rock band to stand alongside Avalanche, Fortune and all the other excellent outfits currently spoiling us to death.

MUST HAVE Classic rock.

Letitia Lindeque - Letitia Lindeque CD

Hear The Track Here

I do get sent a surprising number of CD's, even in this downloadable age and, I have to say, it's nice to actually have a nice shiny CD to play - just like Christmas innit? South Africa's Letitia Lindeque sent me her self titled CD (my boys got some great stamps from the envelope!) a while ago and I've spent the time slowly getting to know it. Slower than normal because this has been a hectic, hectic month. I'm not going to review the whole 15 tracks, but I thought I'd give you a small taste of what will be on offer when it's officially released. I reviewed Thank You (February 2009) which was my introduction to this singer/songwriter/musician wotever, and very nice it is showing that she knows what she wants.

Talk to Me, track two, is much more the electro-pop I had found the last time I visited her page and very pleasant it is too. Almost all of it is very European in feel, an impression reinforced by following Talk To Me with Angry, track three. And here I am, breaking down the thing track by track when I specifically didn't want to do that. It makes me so angry :) Letititia has a pretty high musical bar, even if you don't usually like europop, the first few tracks will definitely show that. Standout track number one, for me, was surprisingly enough a ballad. My Very Own Angel is absolutely gorgeous; a beautiful song with a killer chorus, showing off both Lettie's (oops) knack for a song and her beautiful, confident vocal. It's on her Soundclick page, go have a listen.

My only real reservations about the CD are merely a technical thing and, right now anyway, it seems to be part of how this musician does it. For my ears, the reverb is pretty much overdone on all the tracks, pulling back that a touch will allow the tracks to come through with a lot more punch. Over 15 tracks, as you would imagine, you are going to cover some musical ground - enough to tax your creativity to the limit for sure. Letititia manages to work in echoes of her homeland in the music too, and even a song or two in her native Afrikaans, Gee my net n breijie tyd and Dans met my. Personally, I think Letititia will do well because Dans met my is an ideal pop song for her country. Overall though, I think a little work now on that reverb problem will save trouble in the long run.

Excellent singer/songwriter/musician. Highly Recommended

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Simonesongs - 3 Wishes

Hear The Track Here

Every once in a while, I'll go on a random-click rampage - especially if I am particularly bored. Usually I confine such surfing to Soundclick but other sites as well. I'm looking for one thing usually, good female musicians in general and female songwriter singers in particular. Nothing pervy in it, ya understand, it's just that I like female musicians, especially vocalists. Something about the female voice that really does it for me. So when I reviewed Simonesongs Synthetic Sugar (January 2009) I found myself in hawg heaven. Not only was Simone gorgeous, she can sing with experience and skill with a songwriting skill that is evident from that first track.

AND she can rock!! (Ed: her band too....sigh)

Synthetic Sugar got an immediate Must Have from me and has been played much since then. That gutsy, hard rock attitude that informs and propels Synthetic Sugar to such excellence is also the springboard for 3 Wishes. A big, brash sound that leaps into your ears, 3 Wishes is yet another example of what makes Simone (the lady AND the band) just that little bit special. The backstory is that 'Bryan (the keyboard player) wrote this track after dissecting a bunch of Paul McCartney tunes' and I can see that, moreover it's the rockier side of Sir Paul which I happen to like very much. Simone adds the icing on the cake with her vocals. Pretty much all the main wish groups right there ;)

What really singles Simone out for me is the sheer effort they seem to put into each track, everything just so and yet rocking so hard it'll rattle the teeth in your head. Should I live in the beautiful state of Florida, I would be wondering if this band could be seen anywhere live because they are exactly what I would want to see at a gig. Powerful, intelligent and hard working. I know that, and a quarter, won't get Simone uptown - as the Americans say - but hey, you have to garner praise where you can and I can't praise this artist enough. A very classy act.

Terrific Pop Rock track. MUST HAVE

333maxwell - Going Nuclear

Hear The Track Here

You would think, wouldn't you, that considering the amount of comments 333maxwell has for other peoples work, that it would somehow be reciprocated but no. Wouldn't just know it? Not one comment on a track that has been on here a month already. God, what a lazy bunch we are at Soundclick huh? Eager to get comments and reviews, not so quick to return the favour - a measure of our times. When I first met Max I reviewed The Leads and Lags of Elevator (November 2007) I spent most of the review salivating over the kit on his page but subsequent tracks have shown 333maxwell to be a never ending source of great music and good songs, or t'other way round...? Anyway, he's had some very well deserved Must Haves from me, including his last track Cancun (May 2009) and excellent acoustic song performed with his customary panache.

Now available in nuclear, apparently.

While reviewing Cancun I compared his manner to something Paul Simon might have been interested in, and that influence is carried on in Going Nuclear, although he's not alone this time. Hold on, let me get this right. Better yet, let the man speak 'John Holgate created the song structure and played acoustic guitar and piano, and I played the Bass guitar and wrote and sang the lyrics. We both swapped leads in the solo' OK, got all that? You certainly won't have time for all that while the track is whizzing about your ear canals, you'll be too busy going 'woooahh' and '****!'

Good? I should bloody coco.

As a musician and songwriter Chas Holman (aka 333maxwell) has covered an immense amount of musical ground since that first track, and the distance is reflected in this track. An absolutely superb example of rock that will absolutely bowl you over the first time you hear it - even if rock isn't your usual thing. There is a point, I think, where a song - whatever genre it is couched in - is just so good almost everyone could find something to like in it. Lyrically, performance, arrangement, pacing, all the musical ducks in a row and - unlike some - manages to keep the warmth and emotion in the track intact. 333maxwell has been on a bit of a roll for a while now so its worth checking out just how good it can get around here.

MUST HAVE rock (but so much more than that)

Silvertrain - How It Feels To Fall

Hear The Track Here

Regulars should probably skip this paragraph or so while I bring people up to date with a bit of Soundclick history. It's been a bit of a month for the re-appearance of a lot of the faces from Soundclick circa 2004-2006, by many regulars of Soundclick a mini Golden Age of great music. Right up amongst that group of heroes were Silvertrain, two likely lads from the South of England who made some of the catchiest rock tunes you ever heard, most of which is contained in the unmissable (where have you been?) The One To Blame CD. The release of that CD seemed to herald a high spot for Silvertrain and they haven't really caught that style since. Mind you, they do have difficulties so we'll always take what we can get.

What we have, latterly, is a whole wodge of work from John Brandon (Ritchie Allen being the other half of the 'train). John's songs have fared reasonably well with me, some of which ended up on the Nine Lives EP (August 2007) which again show why I hold these songwriters in such high regard; short, simple and to the point. No muss, no fuss. Take How It Feels To Fall for example, its 'just John and an acoustic' so best not expect too much drama. And yet...and yet... As I say, I have a tremendous regard for their songs and John has always had a keen ear for the right moment.

No doubt in my mind that John has sharpened up his recording side because How It Feels To Falls sounds great, the guitar tone comes through beautifully and the vocals (although a bit reverb'y) are the icing on the cake. Took me a minute or two to get used to the vocal style though, I had no idea that John could sing at that pitch. There again I should because that trademark high voice is an essential Silvertrain element. Overall, though, the song itself is the thing that will win you over or not. As someone who is plagued by tracks that sound like they were recorded in a bucket, a track like this is a breath of much deserved air. Like all good Silvertrain tracks, its short and succinct. The very essence of pop and a beautiful song and treatment.

MUST HAVE for fans certainly. Highly Recommended nonetheless.

JPL - Higher & Higher

Hear The Track Here

Yet another brand new name to me (and Soundclick) JPL is not the rocket science establishment come to party but someone being Just Plain Lazy, which to be honest is much more my kind of rocket science. Why bother with space when you have a couch? As you can surmise, I am floundering in this verbal thicket because I can find nothing whatsoever about this artist other than being a UK resident and being on Soundclick about five minutes. Mind you, he did find his way to the forums - which is something people who have been on that site for years STILL don't know about - and that's a point in his favour.

There's only one track on the page right now, so even you will have no trouble seeing it ;)

Coming to this track is, as is often the case with assumptions, a bit of a surprise. It's a light, airy pop offering that JPL says 'needs a little work on the vocals on the chorus' and that's a fair comment. 'Put together one sunny afternoon' he goes on to say, and I have to admit it sounds like it, with that special instinctual song at the heart of it and yep it is pretty infectious. Musically, is a synth driven track that gambols along nicely, although there are a couple of weirdnesses happening (the sweeps happening on the bottom end) but all told, it's a good groove.
Structurally and vocally Higher & Higher enters Simply Red territory and the vocalist even sounds like whatsisname, and to a philistine like me, that is not always a good thing. In this case though, it does pass muster because - thank God - it isn't Simply Red, just plain lazy. As such, it's a very nice introduction to a musician and songwriter who will bear some watching. Higher & Higher is a cracking song, sung with considerable style and paced well. Took me a couple of plays to appreciate it though, so I'd advise at least a listen or two for it to hook you.

Excellent electro-pop. Highly Recommended.

dotlineline - Confused Ballad (Mastered version)

Hear The Track Here

Not sure whether dotlineline is a band or not although its for sure the main mover and shaker is Andreas Skoglund from Norway. Whatever both are new names to me, and Soundclick too by the looks of it. Judging by the very nice list of influences Andreas would like his rock to pop, if you know what I mean - and on one level he succeeds because one of the first musical references I got from this was how much it reminded me of the early work of Big Ship. Definitely lo-fi and kinda sloppy in execution, which is IMHO always going to be a bit of acquired taste.

After a while, it's true that I did settle into Big Ship's style and - I suspect - I may well do the same with dotlineline but it will probably be an uphill struggle. As you know I am not a complete stickler for technical excellence but I do require that if I am going to listen to 'demos' they had better have something else on the ball for me to like them, like a great idea or, God forbid, a memorable tune. While I wouldn't go as far as to say that dotlineline misses this target, in fact I spent much of the reviewing time being confused. Definitely seemed to be a long while warming to it and that was worrying.

I am, of course, well aware that there is a market for this kind of material and as Ras (aka Rascal Theorist) remarks 'nobody's tryin out for 'Idol' here' All well and good, I say, until I think to mention the elephant towering over this review. Certainly if the only thing you had to do to get this track was to download it, I don't think quality would matter overly much. When, however, you have to fork out hard earned coinage for it, it puts a whole new slant on things. Now, don't get me wrong here, I like this track and I think it has great charm and yeah some good ideas; truth is I wouldn't want to pay almost a dollar for owning it and I think that will become evident to dotlineline that a rethink is in order. Check out the competition, ya know?

Strange but compelling rock, worth a listen at least.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Guanoman - The Lives and Loves of Rat Men

Hear The Track Here

Probably the most anticipated review for me this month just has to be this one. Seems like ages since Guanoman last cavorted through the Soundclick forums and I for one am extremely glad to see his return. Although I may live to regret those words because Guanoman is not the easiest of musicians to cuddle up to. He describes himself as 'a one-man collision of chaos and order' creating 'ectopian pop for hairy children' which is a mix of 'avantelectrodeathspazzmathcore' So there. Just plain weird is how us reg'lar folks would describe it and that is the main reason I am glad to see this artist reappear. You can never get enough silliness, you know. A bit like pianos in that respect.

I first met him when I reviewed Bokonosolonoronach (October 2003) and wasn't that impressed but further tracks (and a couple of alter-egos) showed an artist as experimental as it gets and along with the likes of Pilesar, drt, Richard Dunlap and many others gave Soundclick a bit of a Golden Age between 2004-2006. The last actual Guanoman track I reviewed seems to be Goddesszilla (February 2006) where I ended up spouting that it was 'an example of just how far he can stretch the envelope - ANY envelope...'. So what's changed in three years? He's got a lot, lot scarier so if the OMG intro doesn't do much for you I wouldn't bother listening any further. However, if you do, you could end up wishing you hadn't, but then you'd be a pussy wimp and you wouldn't want that fact broadcast would you?.

OK, hold tight to your ears...

The Lives and Loves of Rat Men is nothing short of a physical beating over the head with a very blunt instrument and you know what? I loved it. Absolutely for certain this isn't going to appeal to around 99% of the listening public but hey wtf do they know anyway? Seriously don't play this track AT ALL if you are a nervous disposition. People who live in a war zone will just shrug their shoulders and pass on. This is incredibly hard to pin down stylistically and its billed as Avant rock which could - and does - mean anything. Not like anything you have ever heard, or maybe even want to hear again but that's not my opinion. There are so many ideas lurking inside this beast it's amazing.

MUST HAVE experimental (in the truest sense)

Gangbangsters - Somebody Get Me A Lobotomy

Hear The Track Here

Let me see now, (counting on his fingers), its been some thirty years since punk first reared it's saliva covered carcass so I guess it's about time for another go round. Nostalgia pays ya know, even if its for something as grubby and obnoxious as a punk in full flow. Personally, I loved the music (and still do) for its energy and its style, for that I can forgive any number of grievous musical/technical errors. The massive flashback that Somebody Get Me A Lobotomy set up in my head sent me straight back to mid 1977 when the Sex Pistols, Clash, Damned were relatively unknown and the music was fresh, vibrant and so in your face you could see its tonsils.

Funny, then, that it should come from LA's Gangbangsters.

I first met this artist when I reviewed Shoelaces, a kinda/sorta rap hiphop track that I liked for its energy although I had reservations about the backing track. Then along came In Decent Company (January 2009) and the excellent 6:17AM (April 2009) both solid chunks of electronica albeit with that Gangbangster roughness of sound. To say that the authenticity and power of Somebody took me by surprise in an understatement. When I first heard it I was walking down the street and stopped dead wondering wtf I was listening to. Then I played it again to be sure and checked what it was when I went home. Sure enough, Gangbangsters do an extremely credible punk too.

Of course it isn't fair to look critically at a punk track because, ultimately, it IS about the roughness of the sound as much as the song lyrics. What surprised (and delighted) me was the nailing of the period even down to the sub-Clash woahhh backing harmony, although I can't say I ever heard any punks I knew use the word 'conceptualize ' in a song. Like all class punk, it's fast, furious and to the point coming in at just over a couple of minutes. If you like the sound of 'classic' punk then sure as s*** you are gonna love this and be pogo-ing with your mates before you could say 'safety pin'.

Excellent recreation of the sound of punk. Highly Recommended.

The Peach Tree - I'm Sorry (The Turning)

Hear The Track Here

In real life I am a very agreeable chap, who pretty much takes people as they come. The same just can't be true of the internet and, like most people, I am quite cautious about what I say and do - but for one instance. When I am asked to review people's tracks, I don't believe in being agreeable or anything else, I believe in saying what you mean and meaning what you say. Angus Maiden (aka The Peach Tree) knows this about me, as he has found out a time or two that I will say what I think. It doesn't mean I don't find what Angus does rubbish, far from it. Some of his tracks I really like but we do have a bit of an up and down process going on. It may well, of course, have to do with my mood at the time of listening too, which is why I stretch the listening process over a couple of days to be sure of what I think.

I'm Sorry (The Turning) is this months Peach Tree track in which (and I quote) 'Our narrator further ruminates on the guilt of lust, and woes at the subsequent "turning" '. Now obviously it all means something and is part of (I think) an album (Lift The Black Veil), a concept album about vampires. Lets get the tension over right quick by stating that I do like this track although its not without its faults, as we have discussed previously. Part of that, I suspect, is the way Angus works in recording the sounds and obviously there isn't a lot that can be done about there. Certainly the later (pure electronica) section has more overall level consistency which IMHO mars the first part of the track.

The first section comes over as pure Syd Barrett/Robert Wyatt, 60's stoned out hippies, the vocal style in particular and I am bound to like that. Where it starts to suffer as the guitars get more energetic, something is compressing the beejeebus out of the sound, making the vocal kinda jerk out of the track. Small beer I know, but that stuff counts. In essence, I'm Sorry appears to be two tracks, and both have much to recommend them, one for the 60's vibe and one because it rocks right along with some splendid effected guitar riffs. An interesting combination for sure.

Excellent, if marred, mixture of lo-fi and hard-fi. Recommended.

The Dead Company - Afternoon Show (Brutal Mix)

Hear The Track Here

Yes, yes and yes, you are quite astoundingly clever to have reminded me that I have reviewed this before. But hey, get over yourself this has been known to happen before a time or two. Not often, but enough times to make me wish I could sometimes go back and change reviews. The original Afternoon Show (February 2009) was the first flowering of a collaboration between TDC and Larry Ludwick, at first an unlikely combination although - as I said at the time - it worked well. The combination again of Jon Bushaway's discerning electronic soundscapes and someone used to declaiming poetry may well be kinda odd in sound, but is altogether different in the music flesh. Definitely listen to the original I say for an example of why this collaboration is a bit special,

I have known this musician since forever and I must say I find his music so much more textured and nuanced these days and - dare I say it? - almost accessible. Of course, I also know that The Dead Company has a bleak, unrelenting vision that comes through any piece of music and there are bound to be people who would be scratching their heads about this decidedly different track. It's considerably extended over the original, adding three plus minutes and definitely restructuring the whole feel of the thing.

Putting the two tracks together is a useful exercise and as much as I liked the original for its spare treatment, I absolutely love this for its feel and texture. IMHO it does make for two distinctly different tracks, both worthy in their own right but hey, this one definitely does the business for me. Even the vocal on this seems redone, more fitting with the drama and tension of the track, and maybe that's the case. Whatever it is, it works. Whatever trepidation I felt with the original treatment of this, this mix more than makes up for it. The original gained a Must Have so I guess you can imagine where this is going.

Adventurous, challenging experimental. MUST HAVE.

David Deal - Dark Night Of The Soul

Hear The Track Here

Looking back to see when I first met David Deal (you may know him better as songdoc if you hang around certain forums and websites) I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was some time ago. My how time flies when you are having fun eh? The track that introduced me was I Don't Know What (December 2007) which established two important facts about this musician that further tracks have only embellished. One, he is a very serious musician and songwriter and two, he isn't afraid to experiment a bit with form and structure as he showed in that first track. Since then it's always been a pleasure to see one of his tracks coming up for review, at least you can pretty much guarantee the quality.

Although the track is billed as prog-rock at POP, I can't get myself to agree with that assessment. First of all, were it true, I would be foaming at the mouth and uttering vile curses as prog-rock is not welcome in my house and second, Dark Night Of The Soul probably owes more to rock itself. In particular, I was minded on first listening that it sounded like classic Jim Morrison era Doors and that feeling lasted through every play. An easy reach I know, but listen and I think you'll understand what I mean.

Strung out on the kind of Riders Of The Storm setting is a song with surprisingly few words but much inner power. For my money it's the sparseness and style of the backing track and the almost spoken vocal that gives it the Doors feel. David Coonrod and Russ Notestine supplied the bass and guitar respectively on this track and should definitely be mentioned because both play a major part in events. Definitely a track for classic rock fans everywhere, there are so many echoes of the past in it. Don't be thinking though that this is just us old codgers reminiscing about how it was back in the day. Dark Night Of The Soul is modern enough for anyone's tastes and varied enough in structure to keep anyone guessing as to what comes next.

Excellent classic rock song. Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pilesar - Crazy With You

Hear The Track Here

'This', said the wildly cackling, cavorting Scientist of Sound, 'is another weirdo love song'. Now considering that we are talking about Pilesar here, that is a statement that should be looked at with the ultimate suspicion. Lurve? Weirdo I can comprehend only too well as he has exhibited in the endless litany of wild and wilder tracks he has rubbed over my ear parts over the last few years, but love? Soft, gushy, squishy, fluffy pink love? Thinking on though, this is Pilesar we are talking about and if there is one thing he is a master of, it's the unexpected. On the other hand this is an early track (uploaded in 2007) and he was much, much weirder then...

Don't worry, just a panic attack... Normal reaction.

I'm surprised that I haven't heard this track before because its surprisingly musical from such a experimental artist and is almost - dare I say it? - lo-fi pop. Should there be such a beast. There is no doubt that Pilesar has a singular musical vision, one that puts him right at the front of Soundclick's experimental crowd but it isn't always the easiest thing to get your ears around. On Crazy With You anyone with even a modicum of knowledge of the exploits of The Residents, Zappa, Beefheart and all, will instantly connect with this odd, but really likable track.

LoFi is definitely the name of the game though, so best be prepared. It's also worthwhile glomming the lyrics while you are about it because you are unlikely to garner any sense from the distorted/effected vocal lines. Mind you, its those self same lines that are ultimately the first things to take up residence in your head, along with the high Twilight Zone type guitar figures. I have been infected with what Pilesar purveys for a long time and I know that he's not to everyone's taste, but this is well worth you giving up a couple of minutes to hear,

The man. The Leg end. Only on a day with a P in it.

Can't Stop The Daggers - Moving Target

Hear The Track Here

When this ended up next in the queue from Mondays Not Home, it was one of those excellent twists that make reviewing truly fun. Both are accurately billed as Indie and shows that - whatever your location - there is a willingness to try that much harder to write classy, catchy proto-pop songs. It's on the strength of their songs that Can't Stop The Daggers have become a permanent fixture on my hard drive and regular playlists and I - for one - can't wait to hear the soon to be completed album which I have been hearing in rough mix form what seems like forever. Moving Target is also a bit rough around the edges and the song comments tell a familiar tale 'This came from the ether of collective band playing, one of those songs that happens as you're trying to finish a record that forces to stop and record it.'

Boy, do I know that one.

The band (Jon Partelow, Chris Chattom, Lionel Luchessi and Emily Shalick) will probably come back and tell me now that this is in fact a final mix, but to my ears this sounds like a rough mix. There again a Can't Stop The Daggers rough mix is better than some bands finished tracks and that's a statement I am proud to stand by. Much more to the point, whatever the state of the recording (and they always keep a certain high standard), the main thing that has always appealed to me is the songs. The growing collection of Must Have's this band has had from me is only getter higher with each successive track, primarily because of the accessibility and charm of the songs.

Moving Target carries endless echoes of rock past, from the John Lennon feel of the vocals to the sub-Velvet Underground weirdnesses this track features in its make up. Leaping to my usual gargantuan conclusions, I think this is one of the first real band tracks I have heard and the weight was worth it. As good as the song is, without that excellently tight push from all the instrumentalists, wouldn't have worked half so well. Again, I find myself unwilling to come to any real conclusion about the track because I know it will probably change between here and the album but as a purely pleasurable listening experience it doesn't get much better than this.

Highly Recommended Indie.

Mondays Not Home - Windows

Hear The Track Here

Although Mondays Not Home is a new name - and a relatively new band too by the looks of it - it's amazing that they have managed to do with some very famous names. Essentially the band is 15 year old Travis McCarthy and Daniel Farrell who have been together about a year, however the other musicians appearing on this track should give you a hefty clue. On drums, Donovan Gall, rhythm and lead electric guitar: Mike Foster (Avalanche) and bass: Stephanie Krowka. Not to mention Micheal Corsini and Rob Grant who play on another Mondays Not Home tune. The common element that links all these people together? Step forward uber-producer David Pendragon, whose son is in the band and who is currently massively mastering Avalanche tracks. Solid gold way before you get to hear the track, know what I mean?

And that's before you read/view this - and you must.

When you are dealing with veterans (I use that most sincerely) like David Pendragon it's a given that the production values will be as close to faultless as it can get. The same can be said for all the other musicians on this incredibly poignant and uplifting track, including the two young guys who came up with the song and it's vocal performance. As a father myself, I wish my boys would grow to be as proficient at evoking emotion as these guys. There again, the subject matter is extremely close to home. Taking aside the obvious emotional pull of a track like this, it would still be a blinder of a track; performance, production and songwriting are all top notch - but I expect nothing better when Mr Pendragon is involved.

Windows has an acoustic guitar driven side that is extremely well done, the slight oddness in the rhythm making it stand out even more but it's when the rock side kicks in that the point is driven home. Mike Foster is on fine form, his leads are immaculate, his rhythm slashes a highpoint of the rock section. The real stars though are the two vocalists, delivering a fresh, energetic rush that keeps getting better the more you hear the track. Daniel Farrell, in particular has a voice to savour and one that - with time - may well become as world class as his Dad. Don't worry about th' yout' now mon.... They got it and they know what they are doing with it and it sounds bloody maahhvelous darling...

A great track for a good cause. MUST HAVE Indie.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dexter Rotten - Calling All United Nations

Hear The Track Here

Wow, you are thinking, yet another new name to explore and I'm almost tempted to let you go clicking away just to see the look on your faces when you discover what lies behind this seemingly innocuous name. In fact, I can't resist. Go ahead, take a look..... I'll wait. See?? Ain't that a kicker? Dexter Rotten, in fact, turns out to be an extremely familiar Patrick Lew, a San Francisco (kinda/sorta) based grunge artist whose works have come in for the most unenviable reviews from all quarters, including this one. Mind you, he takes the kicking and keeps on ticking and that has to say something too.

'Sounds sort of like the Rolling Stones' he says in the song comments and - like all Patrick Lew declarations - it must be leavened with a liberal application of salt. Sure the guitar tone does in fact sound a bit Keef-ish but apart from that, there is little else to it, and certainly not the awesome style of the man himself (Keef that is, not Patrick). Now I do admire Patrick for keeping on and - in some ways - Calling All United Nations is a step in the right direction. Actually, its about 2 steps forward and fourteen back but that's just splitting hairs.

Take any track from this source and you will find a guitarist/sometime vocalist who pretty much pleases himself. What differs in this guise is that is kinda/sorta recorded properly, and its certainly more dignified a track than any I've heard from him yet. As far as I am aware this track features a bass but you'd be hard pressed to hear amongst the clutter of the track itself. If you have ever heard anything from Patrick (in whatever guise) you'll know that he's not something to be taken lightly. Most of us take our early demos to a deep, dark cavern and bury them away forever, Patrick puts them on the internet for all to hear. Chaotic, basically an extended jam and not a very interesting one at that. Nice to see that he's not about to blot his copybook right yet, but I dunno.....(shrugs)

Twisted Angel - The Corrupted

Hear The Track Here

I've reviewed a couple of tracks from this very different hiphop artist and been very impressed indeed. Mind you, that's because Twisted Angel happens to hit a couple of my own musical pleasure buttons; goth rock and hard style. Some Kind Of Monster (April 2009) introduced me to this Canadian based musician and although a decent listen, had a rough diamond quality about it. Tempted By A Sinner (May 2009) tightened up the act considerably, this time emerging as a extremely forceful goth rap track that has to be heard to be believed. If you are into the goth thing, here's the hip hop version.

'It ain't commercial, it ain't radio friendly' is how Twizzie describes The Corrupted and I'd say he's right. If, however, you have taken a liking to this particular rappers fairly unique take on this, The Corrupted shows exactly why. One of the defining features of the goth musical movement is the vocal styles; either soft and pliant, or harsh and abrasive, and that is what Twisted Angel brings to the party echoing squawkers such as Linkin Park, Nine Inch Nails and Korn, all of which - along with Eminem - Twizzie cites as influences. He claims he's worked hardest on this track than any, and I'd say it shows, especially vocally.

This track comes completely with the obligatory Parental Advisory but the cussing is kept to a minimum because - as Twizzie has proved before - he knows what to do with the language. He doesn't need filler. 'This song says it all when one wonders what Twizted Angel sounds like.. ' he says in the song comments and again I find myself nodding sagely at his choice of words. It is certainly something I will point to when faced with the question that most bedevils my life. Yeah, but most hiphop is crap right? Wrong. Most of it is brainless pap, but every once in a while, someone does something different. Twisted is different.

Highly Recommended goth rap.

The Midas Touch - Motown Showdown

Hear The Track Here

The name might indeed be new, but the man behind it isn't. I've already reviewed Nick Laroche in another disguise and very much liked his brand of electronica. So much so that Winter Warmth (December 2008) got a Must Have and an honorable mention in my Tracks Of The Year 2008. The Midas Touch seems to have the man turning his hand to manufacturing beats (ie music/rhythm backing tracks) for others to use as the base for their raps. Tough market for sure, but there again Nick definitely knows what he's doing with his other material so I doubted he would make a hash of it.

Indeed, the end result of this took me so by surprise the first time I heard it I had to physically check that it really was the same track. It might be billed as hiphop and it might well BE hiphop, but not as we know it Captain. In fact, Motown Showdown shows a surprising amount of inventiveness, literally playing the genre for all its worth but with a decided rock influence that sounds very, very strange but works so well it will bring an instant smile to your face.

The overriding impression I got from the first play of this persisted right through the couple of days I allocate to each track. There's a freshness and liveliness about this track is tremendously appealing to me, not to mention an absolute rottweiler of a beat. Much more to the point, the real strength in the track comes from the many uses Nick puts his guitar playing skills to, it's those insane little licks he works into the musical conversation that are the star attraction. I wouldn't have thought hiphop and rock would have made easy bedfellows but - to my amazement - I stand corrected. Awesome track, absolute blinder.

MUST HAVE blend of hiphop and rock.

Fortune - See I'm Not The Same

Hear The Track Here

At this stage of the game, Boston based classic rock band have gained four must haves from me with five tracks, and that is a very good batting average indeed. Mind you, the words to bear in mind here are 'classic rock' and you know I'm gonna lap that up. There again to be really rocking my boats, the band would have to have the production side of it down pat too and Fortune score in that department as well. Moreover, even for a prog-rock philistine like yours truly, their tracks somehow don't have the same 'oooh-look-at-how-clever-I-am' patina about it that the old guard (US style ie Kansas, Styx, Journey) had in abundance. Nope, the tracks spell out that this band actually enjoy what they do, and as a consequence make it enjoyable for the listener too.

Regardless of personal preference.

Soundclick, over the years, has been a great place for rock bands and Fortune's arrival at my door at the end of last year was a very welcome addition to my listening world - it's a given that I was looking forward to hearing this track. Tell you what, here is a little test of why I think this band is so special. Take a listen to the first twelve seconds of this track. Twelve seconds, not a lot of your time, is it? Yet, in that twelve seconds, Fortune will wrap an all encompassing rush to the ears with an irrisistible urge to listen to the whole track and I guarantee by the fourteenth second you are rocking away like a good 'un.

That, my friends, is the beauty of getting it right. Every time.

See, the truth is (as I think I've made clear) I can't stand the style but damn, you got to admit that Fortune is exactly the band who CAN deliver it with confidence and a jaw-dropping authority. So clearly do they evoke the period that I can feel my mullet regrowing and that - believe me - can only be followed by the greatcoat and the knuckle dragging, the dandruff and the whole sorry story. Nope, I'll just stick with absolutely loving what can only be described as the utlimate rock experience. Mind you, none of this would have made that much headway with there being a solid song at the heart of it. See I'm Not The Same says exactly what it means, not the same at all.

MUST HAVE Classic Rock (American Style)

Pidgeman - Alone

Hear The Track Here

While I was downloading this track I became mesmerised by the four fairly innocuous words used to describe this track. I was OK with 'rock', 'guitar' and 'instrumental', where the wheels started coming off was with the word 'ballad'. To my ears the six letter word b-a-l-l-a-d could just as easily be spelt m-a-u-d-l-i-n but that'd be seven letters so I should just shut up and get on with it. Actually, the really surprising thing here is that Pidgeman has given me an instrumental to review this time. All of the bakers dozen of his tracks I have reviewed so far have shown Craig (aka Pidgeman) to be an adept rock/pop songwriter. I knew, of course, that he was a guitarist, and he know his way around the rock chord handbook.

But a whole instrumental?... Lesseee

Pidgeman rises to the challenge admirably, and believe me I'm a very harsh judge of tracks like this. If that guitar doesn't cut, and the melody sustain the interest, I'm not going to be interested - no matter how good you are. After all, guitar noodlers are everywhere these days and very, very few of them appeal outside of a certain limited audience. I think Pidge understands that because he has couched Alone somewhere between early Fleetwood Mac (the blues variety with Peter Green) and a kinda sub-Santana feel to it in parts. Doesn't sound much in black and white but it works a treat on my ears.

It also shows that as well as understanding how to structure the track, the man is ready to get down and wail for you, and he's pretty nifty on the fretboard too. I would have probably got more out of it if it were anything but a ballad but that is my curse and cross to bear. Although I wouldn't really be in the market for that particular strand of rock, I know of plenty who would lap this up with a spoon. Pidgeman has been putting himself about of late, raising his profile in lots of different ways and if he keeps releasing tracks as good as this, it can only get better.

Excellent shreddage. Highly Recommended Guitar instrumental.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Jennifer Pearl - My Time (demo)

Hear The Track Here

It's that girl again! Soundclick's Critics Corner forum pin-up (hee hee, she'll hate that) Jennifer Pearl, seems to have an extraordinary effect on the male members (DEFINITELY no pun intended) of that community. I've lost count of the amount of guys who've blurted out the 'marry me' pitch to her and bless her, she defends herself well. She sings as good as she looks though, and that's what counts here (Ed: riiiighhhhtttt) and her last track - a collaboration with Charlie A - got a well deserved Must Have from me. A major part of the appeal was with Jennifer's sweet vocals and her knack of knowing how words DO COUNT.

On that track I compared her to Carole King and My Time, despite its lo-fi feel, does nothing to dispel that assumption. However, let me nail my colours clearly to the mast here and say - in the best possible way - that I did feel the vocal strain a time or two. It doesn't do anything to detract from the the impact of the track and I guess most people wouldn't notice. The reason, I suspect, is that this track was recorded in one or two takes. In a more realistic sound setting, there is no doubt in my mind, this would be a killer track and Jennifer would handle it perfectly.

The clue, of course, is in the demo part of the title.

Assisted on this tear-jerker (of which more later) by Jennifer's son Kurt on lead guitar, Jennifer puts her usual powerful performance behind lyrics that definitely demand to be legible. And this is where Jennifer scores most for me. As you know, I'm not a one for ballads and the more histrionic they are, the less I want to do with them. I only need to be in the same city as Celine Dion and I'd come out in a nasty looking rash, you get my drift? To put across a power ballad from such a low level (ie home produced, one take) is almost impossible but - ya know what? These guys manage to pull it off, despite.... This is, to my mind, a track that needs exploring properly - maybe with another collaboration - there is a killer song in here.

Recommended Power ballad.

Fear 2 Stop - Barbecue The Rabbit

Hear The Track Here

Houston, Texas isn't, to my knowledge, a placed renowned for its oddballs. Like every other place on Earth though, it does have its share. We know three of them. Billy and Dana Castillo and Raymond Proseus are the oddballs in question and collectively they are (well) known as Fear 2 Stop. As a matter of interest, I checked to see when I first encountered their brand of aural mayhem and it was with Science Friction (January 2004). I wrote, at the time, 'An artist who I am definitely going to hear from further methinks'. Little did I know that Fear 2 Stop would bedevil and bewitch me in equal measure ever since. Arguably one of the most prolific 'experimental' groupings around, I think I have reviewed all 171 of their tracks in those years and - it has to be said - I have developed a taste for their style.

It's a racing certainty that some people will think me deaf upon discovering that Fear 2 Stop inhabit an increasingly strange aural world and no doubt some will think me certifiably insane for liking such 'rubbish'. Me? I say **** em. There again, faced with five minutes facing up to barbecuing cute little furry critters doesn't exactly blow up my skirts either. One of the things that has become prominent in Fear 2 Stop's style over the last couple of years is their reliance on a solid rhythm and that - for my money - is where they really score and make tracks that appeal to a much wider audience.

Musically this is way up there with some of this bands best works, although your definition of music would have to be well stretched to fit this into that category. See, I've had a relev...rever....revemmm vision thingie. The reason its always hard to define Fear 2 Stop's music is that it is basically made of layered noises, occasionally propelled by said deft rhythm accompaniment - all done in analog stylee. When it works it's knockout and when it doesn't it's just baffling. In the case of tonight's menu of rabbit barBQ, the music track works - and indeed so does the vocal(?), but in differing ways. Shows that the band retains a nice bright flame of originality at least and, at least to my ears, is one of the most accessible F2S tracks in a good while. Bring your own sauce.

Original LOL experimental. Highly Recommended (even for vegetarians)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Avalanche - The Rules Keep Changing

Hear The Track Here

Yeah, yeah, give me a second here.... If I don't get this right, I'll have Mike Foster bleating in my ear about it for the next four thousand years and ... Is that thing on? It is? Oh s*** Errr So, Avalanche. Rock on. Apparently, according to Mike (aka NAV), I'd reviewed this track before and wasn't that much impressed by it. Strange and odd that because I could swear I had devoured everything this excellent classic rock band has ever thrown my way. Having re-read the review I can see that I was underwhelmed by the track and it isn't on my hard disc which says much. Now, of course, I'm really intrigued. Am I that powerful? Deluded? Stupid? The offender in this case being the term 'filler track' as in album filler. So let me make it clear, even Avalanche's (makes a quote sign) album fillers rock better than most other classic rock bands, online or off it.

I still, to this day, haven't heard any of the stuff currently being mastered by David Pendragon (and I thirst, I thirst) so this is principally a Final mix - and if that ain't right, I plain give up. Avalanche can do little wrong for me - and a great many of their other fans - and when negative comments are made, it's usually something minor. Truth is, with this amount of experience it's kind of hard to spot anything wrong, and occasionally impossible. Generally with this band it veers between must have and highly recommendeds anyway, I think the only lower rating I ever gave them was the recommended for the original of this track.

Its obvious by reading the review that I felt the song itself wasn't quite gelling for me, and I thought the classic rock thing was a bit too overdone. There is no doubt that whatever has happened kicked more life into the track, in all sorts of ways but ultimately I came out of it with the same thought. It's a good track for sure - as it would be - but somehow it's not getting to me still. At this stage of the game, this has to be a personal preference thing. I don't know, a bit too American for me? No doubting the amount of work and effort Avalanche put into everything they do but this isn't in the same league as Ain't No Hiding In A Digital World, Deeply or the awesome The Road Less Travelled.

Highly Recommended Classic Rock.

Self Tort - One Hour With You

Hear The Track Here

Like many of my generation, certain words hold enormous resonance for me, and one word especially captures a whole wodge of specific memories. That word is Vietnam. While not being directly affected by the war there (unlike my American cousins) the events certainly shaped and molded my life just as effectively. The reason I'm banging on this ancient drum is because of a trip Brian Ralston (aka Self Tort) took there, this song is the result of those experiences. Funnily enough, despite all the bad memories, Vietnam is a place I have always wanted to see for myself. It's a country that has fascinated me for years. One Hour With You describes one of the experiences well known in that country - then and now, or so it seems.

Musically it's a superbly presented swing track, principally acoustically driven and as sleek as a new puppy. Add to that the confident, assured way that Brian relates the tale and - in my world - you got a winner. Ahhh, but my world meeehhhh (waggles hand). Damn it, everyone knows that I like practically everything, so me saying this is a winner means squat. Mind you, I know a whole bunch of people who like Self Tort, but there again they are all like me too. What is a person to do? See, I'm certain there would be some who would go 'eeewwwww' at such a smooth (even sophisticated) track like this.

But what else can you expect from a two year old ;)

Although I haven't been there the last couple of weeks, I know that this track will go down a storm on Mike K's Saturday Night Rocks show on Mixposure - Brian is often in the chat there. Not sure whether I got the Eastern influence from the track, mind. If anything is sounded kinda French, but given that France also featured in the same war - and the extensive colonisation beforehand, I guess that would fit too. One Hour With You (if you give a minute or two) will show you that Self Tort is not a musician to be taken lightly - whether you like his style or not. I happen to like a great song, well performed and that is exactly what this track is.

Mon Dieu! Excellent jazz swing. Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Linwood Riley - Gotham Raid/Who Is The Brain?

Hear The Track Here

Dung dunga dunga dunga BATMAN!! God, didn't you just love those old (ie mid 1960's) Batman TV series? However, THIS Gotham City doesn't seem to have anything to do with the Caped Crusader. Gotham Raid/Who Is The Brain is in fact about Suicide Squad, apparently a YouBoob show, which inspired Linwood Riley to write some (gulp) film music about it. Now if you are new here and have noticed people moving rapidly away, you will be blissfully unaware that the words f*** m**** are the same to me as the colour red to an enraged bovine rottweiler. Those people are just getting out of the explosion area, and they would be right to do so, but they don't yet know that although Linwood Riley might be a new name to us - the musical face behind it is very familiar. You might know him, in fact as Byte 19 (at least in SC 'personal' section and in forums.

The man's main band, The Muse Machine, seems to contain a whole clutch of accomplished solo musicians, as the releases by fellow bandmate Rasmael (aka The Rascal Theorist) testify. See? Nothing to be scared of. While its true I have no time whatsoever for the genre, in the right pair of hands I can maintain my sanity and hopefully speak less gibberish than normal. Byte's taste and style have long won him friends on Soundclick in all his endeavours, and I approached this track with less apprehension than normal too. If you tied me up and force-fed this track to me, I'd still come out saying this is nothing like as bland as film music usually is.

Put simply, Gotham Raid etc is a well put together and sonically very pleasing piece of music - whatever label you may want to attach to it. Basically, its an instrumental based around a piano figure but drawn out to infinity by some of the longest orchestral sweeps known to man. It's quite a long track (for a film anyway) but - for me - that is part of the charm, but its almost six minutes of life will pass far quicker than it would seem. There is a middle section that is so well put together, you'll have to listen to it twice just to be sure. Me, I'm a sucker for a great snare sound and this track features a beauty. Excellent instrumental, whatever you want to call it.

Highly Recommended film score.

JPC (NZ) - Shepherd

Hear The Track Here

I am amazed and delighted to see (in this months review list) so many old faces, so if you think that JPC NZ is a new artist better think again. I first reviewed this New Zealand based musician with This Time (January 2006); loved the track, gave it a very high rating and then settled down to hear track after track of excellent rock pop from this extremely versatile musician. He was, during that time, known to all and sundry as Fluidity. Now going under his own name John Paul Carroll (whichever disguise he happens to be in) is a very noticeable presence - and one we haven't seen for some time. It looks like the last time we met was with SixOne9 (October 2008) which - to be honest - didn't strike me as hard as some of his tracks.

That was then and this is now...

Now the one thing, besides being an extremely good guitarist, that John Paul excels in is songwriting. It's his talent with a tune that has kept my ears fresh for years and I admit to looking forward to hearing this new track. Although the vocal style was instantly familiar, the track's ultra-hard edge was completely unexpected. I've always admired JP's talent for sticking to his groove and making it work for him, and the primary influence was usually English rock. The harder rock edge on Shepherd has more to do with the current crop of VERY HARD rock bands such as Tool, Pearl Jam and Incubus - all of whom JP cites as influences.

Personally I like that rock scene and consequently I like this track too, for all the same reasons. I've always liked it when JP rocks out and in this track, the crunchiness of the track is startling. However, there are some things I wasn't happy about such as the 'toppiness' of the drums, the lead vocal definitely disappears under the mix several times and some strange panning positions. Nobody but a knobhead (oops I mean knob-twiddler) like me would ever take exception to it though, to most people this would be a diamond find. Moreover, the disappearing vocal has also been a feature of past JPC/Fluidity material and is a feature of the equipment he has to work with. Another welcome return.

Highly Rockommended in-yer-face rock. Did I say this was rock yet?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Minimack - Ain't Gotta (Mastered)

Hear The Track Here

To most normal people (I use that term advisedly) the whole rap scene is a source of horror and outrage in equal measure; and on Soundclick it is magnified by the amount of outright rubbish there is in the genre, and its visibility on the site itself. Considering that most Soundclick members are not exactly open minded music wise, it also figures the same would apply to some of raps rougher, sordid edges. Although I understand the anger aroused by some of the more outre examples of bitch baiting....er.... I'm sorry, I'll rephrase that. Although I understand the anger aroused by some of the more outre examples of abuse to females in rap, and nod wisely when caught up in a realistic conversation about the implications of this on our children. I still like the music and I guess that's my curse.

Keywords: Parental Advisory Explicit Content *****! *******! ****! ***!

Although I can take the rough with the smooth hiphop on Soundclick, it has to be said that there aren't that many of this type of rapper I like and when I do it is usually because of the beat behind the rap. Now I know Mack and he seems like a decent guy so I have to admit to feeling a bit daunted by some of the images in this track, while being amazed at the way the man was putting it down. Musical action from Shadowville Productions supplies the kick in the ass the rap needs to fly, and is a classical example of the way to put the beats JUST right. One of the best beat factories on Soundclick by far..

One of the hardest tricks with working this way is getting the fit between backing track and vocal right and is also where rappers who mostly work this way fail. On that score alone, Minimack shows how its done with breezy style and - if you consider some of the lyrics - is often side splittingly funny, wonderfully accented by some technical trickery that makes the rap more efficient in its impact. There again considering what Mack is doing to this poor girl in this song, maybe I shouldn't be so flippant. Naaahhh, **** that!! Probably the best Minimack track I have heard yet. The man in fine form. Extremely naughty, but is it nice?

Highly Recommended hiphop (and a MUST HAVE but for the PA rating)

Jon Solo - Elisabeth Shue

Hear The Track Here

Normally when I receive review requests from Soundclick artists through my blog, I'll either direct them to my forum signup threads or ignore them completely until they learn some manners. The only reason then, that Jon Solo scraped by is because of two little words: Elisabeth Shue. Ever since I saw this gorgeous woman in Adventures In Babysitting I have seen almost everything she has made, and judging by Jon's track, I am not the only obsessive on the block :) Essentially its a song about seeing a girl that looked like Elisabeth but who needs an excuse to bring the real thing into the conversation?

(Ed: That'll be enough of that Gilmore...)

Citing the Beatles is always a good start, especially with me and - while downloading this track - I also noticed that this was billed as Britpop. Now considering that Jon Solo is from Charleston, SC in the yoo Ss of A, got curiosity nodes really buzzing. Funnily enough, both the Beatles reference AND the Britpop tag apply here although the songwriting shows the country of origin. Mind you, that counts as the most over the top navel gazing when put against the actual track. You'll be too busy marvelling at this beautiful little track to question its validity; production, performance and the extremely gorgeous close harmony work that is the standout element of the track for me are all polished to a high shine.

There is no doubt that, some forty years after they first appeared, the Beatles are still a massive influence in music and Jon Solo pays wonderful homage to the Fab Four. Yeah, yeah, but isn't that just copying you might ask? In some cases, I would say an unequivocal yes but I have come across a good many artists on Soundclick that have transformed the sound into something of their own. Jon Solo goes considerably further than that by paying the utmost of tribute in the best way possible. One of the enduring things - for me - about the Beatles was the sheer beauty of their music, vocally and instrumentally. THAT is what Jon has captured here.

MUST HAVE Pop (Brit or otherwise)

Shorthand Phonetics - Shinohara Yumi, Seiyuu Star

Hear The Track Here

Hang around a site like Soundclick for long enough you get used to the to-ing and fro-ing that occurs, but it can lead to some 'hey where have you been?' moments. Take Shorthand Phonetics (from Indonesia as it happens) for example. Seeing this track up for review had me scrabbling around for when I first met them because I know it was a long time ago. At the time I reviewed Whistleblower (July 2004) all the members of the band were 15 and - despite a dreadful sound - managed to make several tracks of energy and style. RL schooling interrupted and the band slimmed down to original founder member Ababil Ashari, and its been at least a couple of years since he last made an appearance on Soundclick.

So welcome back Abi, now what have ya got? ;)

Soundclick veterans will probably remember the original band, they certainly kicked up a storm with their rough and ready recordings, and attracted lots of forum comments, not all of it complimentary. There again, Ababil is well used to that reaction. It was fire hardened by endless carping reviews from yours truly and I definitely wasn't complimentary except in two very important areas; song writing and overall feeling. Believe me, trying to judge ANY Shorthand Phonetics by regular real world standards is completely redundant. One of the long time hallmarks (if that is possible) of this artist are tracks that sound like they have been recorded in a dustbin (American Ed: he means trashcan, damn Limey!).

Shinohara Yumi, Seiyuu Star is a classic example of what Ababil does, bringing back all sorts of memories - not all of them pleasant. I did warm - as usual - to this vocalists particular blend of punk and alternative, a taste I acquired from those earlier times. I've always thought he was a very decent songwriter too (despite often not being able to make out lyrics but hey...) and generally that ensured that Shorthand Phonetics tracks do get a warmer reception from me than most. Be warned though, as energetic and pacey as this track it is, it sounds pretty bad, and that will be a factor methinks... Welcome return though.

Indonesian punk anyone?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Larry Ludwick - Charon: A Crossing

Hear The Track Here

You may have noticed from the : in the song title, we are into serious territory here. Not always something attributed to US based Larry Ludwick but hey, we all got to exercise the software right? 'A typical crossing of the river Acheron by the ferryman Charon from the living to the dead side of Hades' Larry informs us (almost gleefully, doncha think?) in the song comments so before you even put the needle to the record (as it were) you are struggling under a mass of ingrained prejudice. Mind you, Larry is used to that with me. So for those of you who suffer from overwhelming WTF disease, you can pick up the antidote right here. Now the reason I put the link there is for you, o lowly eyeballs, to clickee clickee and figure it out for yourselves...

...because it's all greek to me.

Sombre then is the watchword here. Larry's forays into electronica continue to interest me, and Charon: A Crossing (despite what I said above) is a very nice piece indeed - especially if you like ambient and lots of sweeps, strings and heavenly choirs. Mind you, considering that we are discussing the Ferryman of Fatality here, I would say it was apt. I personally love to mix electronica with orchestral and - after a LOT of plays - this track has much to offer my own taste. Putting aside the wider aspects of the subject matter, there is a beauty and light about the track that I found very appealing - especially in the uses of female voices.

Going off at a tangent here because I know that Larry will appreciate the comparison... There is no way on Gods green earth that I would have understood this track without prior exposure to another of Larry's collaborators: the Dead Company. The way that they used electronica and spoken vocals was inspired and I didn't see the connection at first. Now I do. Essentially, the track is a series of spoken passages (an Everyman, a very funny old professor and a young girl (voiced by Larry's wife)) all of whom are comforted (?) by the Ferryman Charon at the end of the track who merely tells them 'Don't concern yourselves, children. Sleep, children. Just sleep, children'. Yeah. Brrrr. All that aside, Charon: A Crossing is a wonderfully realised vision and with music of the same calibre. You'll need a brain to get a real kick out of it though. Excellent, dark, dark, dark vision.

Highly Recommended and MUST HAVE for fans.

Buzrk - Torched In

Hear The Track Here

As you know, I spend a lot of time thinking about music as well as playing and reviewing it. The way things work out always fascinate me. When I was but a shallow, callow youngster I was fortunate enough to experience the birth of rock music (as opposed to rock and roll, you understand) and - for a while - we all knew what the term 'rock music' actually meant. Then, like all things, it splintered into a million different varieties. The same thing with rap. Back in the early 1980's we all knew what rap meant, but much more to the point - like rock - it was raw, vibrant and with enough attitude to literally change the world. Then, it splintered and now there are so many different forms of hiphop and rap it's frightening. Oh God, you are thinking, he's going to vent... Buzrk and I haven't had the best of times in the review stakes and I feel bad about that. The last track I reviewed, Revolution Threats Level 2 (May 2009), I spent more time apologising about ripping the poor guy a new butt than commenting on the music.

The reason for that is just as relevant for Torched In - but with one exception. This time I get to read the words!! Seriously, one of the main charges I have levelled at this artist has been the difficulty understanding what he's saying and no, it isn't because I don't understand the various forms of patois. Listen if I can understand even the deepest Jamaican accent, I can deal with anything. I think I've personally come to the conclusion that Buzrk - at least in his rap stance - is definitely going to be an acquired taste. Not that he can do anything about it, a voice is a voice innit? Music this time out is from someone called Headshot Inc and - to be blunt - it's exactly what I expected when I saw the name.

Buzrk definitely prefers the stripped down, with lots of plucky, plinky things (Ed: plucky=ie strings pulled with the fingers as opposed to bravery) and I don't particularly like that style anyway. H-O-W-E-V-E-R, seeing as I get the words this time, I can get a bit more out of this Buzrk track than others. Can't say it makes an awful lot of difference, to be honest, although some of the little touches with the vocal were good and some lines definitely tickled me (amongst mucho cussing, I might add). As I say, maybe an acquired taste. It's inevitable that I would use this quote and I sincerely hope that Buzrk understands that I am using this because its just too damn funny not to. See, the overriding line that kept returning to the front of my mind is at the end of the second verse and goes 'I just wanna reach the end of this gay song...' Weellll, it wasn't that bad, but close. I think we'll just have to admit that I don't get Buzrk and leave it at that.

Mind you, if he's serious, this will not put him off.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

LadyBear - Crocuses

Hear The Track Here

Over the past year I have picked up more and more review requests through my Rebel Riffs blog, LadyBear being the latest, introduced to me by Amy Nicholls, one third of this three piece UK based group. Currently recording their first album in a proper RL studio produced by one Morgan Nicholls who - surprisingly enough - turns out to be Amy's brother. He also has the distinction of being bass player for The Streets and is currently the keyboard player for Muse. Sounds serious huh? Judging by both the track and the video I should say so, and keeping it in the family is a real good way of making sure of it.

The ultimate test though - no matter how pretty she may be ;) - is can she cut it?

Again, taking all the tracks on the bands website into account, I'd say absolutely. The reason I am concentrating on Crocuses is because its by far the most finished track and the video only adds to its impact. Musically pumped up by fellow collaborators Louis Matthews and John Martin, Amy Nicholls supplies a scorching track that - to my ears - has an instant appeal for someone steeped in English music. Musically, Crocuses draw from just about everywhere (I even heard a trace of Siouxsie and The Banshees in there) and is a loud, in-your-face wake up call, which the video only underlines.

That isn't Amy in the video, in case you were wondering. That's an actress.

Crocuses comes across as the real deal in every way. Alternative/Rock at its finest, produced in widescreen stereo, the song powers its way into your brain with consummate ease which - to me anyway - proves how hard they worked at getting it sounding as good as it does. Underneath all the musical fireworks though is a great song, powerfully and professionally delivered by musicians and technicians who know what they are doing. The internet never fails to throw up musical surprises and I am glad to encounter such a pleasant one. LadyBear have exactly what it takes to make it in the RW, if that is where they want to go. Excellent music in every way.

MUST HAVE Alternative/Rock

Charlie A - Read The Rules

Hear The Track Here

Although LOL is undoubtedly the acronym of choice amongst the internet crowd, it's closely followed - as we all know too well - by a million others. All as baffling to a newbie as rocket science but one will definitely stand out to anyone new to this internet lark, simply because its been bellowed into their faces on numerous sites, in a myriad of different ways and copious amounts of SHOUTING RTFM!! (Ed: RTFM=Read the f****** manual!!). So why then, do they persist in doing exactly the opposite? Instead they clutter up the lives of regulars with 'how do I?' 'review me!' and the inimitable 'peep my s**t' to the point where most of us has - at one time or another - completely lost our proverbial rag at some poor unfortunate who just happened to infringe the (necessarily) strict rules of Soundclick's Critics Corner forum. Charlie A obviously got so sick of it, he decided to automate the process.

See, say what you like about Charlie A, the man's thinking.

For those who have only been around for five minutes, Charlie A is a well respected contributor to Soundclick and other sites, purveying a very listenable blend of soundtrackage (not usually something I like) and more left field instrumentals and songs. As a point of fact, I did hear this when Charlie released it and had a good chuckle to myself about the timeliness of it. At the time, if I remember, we were getting bombarded by hordes of eager beavers all wanting the reviewers to peep my etc... The most amazing thing is that Charlie managed to put this very instructional song together without any swearwords at all!!??

Nope, he does it with the kind of lyrics all newbies should have tattooed on their foreheads. 'You got to read the rules, if you want feedback for your song' he lets us know in no uncertain terms, 'You got to read the rules, if you want feedback. It wont take long, maybe 2 minutes, depends on how fast you read. As long as you read the rules'. That's it and that's all that's needed. Especially when you encase it with the weirdest sounds Charlie has ever come up with. It swaggers between a hefty hiphop and a suave jazzy touch and at one and a quarter minutes it won't stretch anyone, and believe me, it's an amazing listen. Fellow regulars, save your sanity, just link the noobs to this track! My God, bits of this sounded so like early Soft Machine it was scary... Terrific meld of styles, very funny and oh so different.


Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Forcefield Kids - Home EP

Hear The Track here OR Soundclick

The continuing saga of Stain and Sleepy... Not, as you might have imagined, a couple of dwarfs on the prowl, merely a couple of likely hiphop (UK stylee) lads from Newcastle who teamed up a while ago and have made some considerable noise since doing so. They themselves say that they 'have always striven to deliver alt.hiphop with depth and maturity' and IMHO they have been succeeding mightily and already have a string of highly recommendeds from this reviewer. Mind you, I am a big fan of the UK's idiosyncratic approach to hiphop and rap but for sure it won't appeal to the 'riches and bitches' crowd. As always with Stain (aka Stain(ed) Art) the lyrical quality is undeniable - here is a man with lots to say and a great way of saying it.

Less of the 'hoooway the lads' if you please....

Home is a brand new five track EP on the band's own DFNT Records label, one track - Little Miss Star - was the first track I reviewed from this new combination back at the beginning of the year and I liked it then. Sleepy, despite his name, is the musical muscle behind the Kids and its the combination of his simple but effective style and Stain's acerbic flow that make the Forcefield Kids that bit special. One of my all time fave Stain tracks was Cradle to Grave (December 2005) but I don't think the version that starts Home is the same track. It might be the same lyrics but the music is totally redone. If you want a quick impression of why I think this outfit are special, no better place to start than here and read the lyrics (it helps!). Creepers (track two) is a much more expected sound, and I have to say I think the music in this track really shows what Sleepy brings to this party. Class track.

If the first two tracks show exactly why this combination of simple, effective scores and extremely lucid lyrical vision is new and fresh, then its a shoo in you are going to love this EP. Little Miss Star sounds as good as it did when I reviewed it, although the chorus sounds considerably better or maybe it's just striking me more now. Great lyrics, as always. Since We Last Spoke is much more straightforward hiphop but no less a track for that, the flow on this track is terrific. My Dead Body rounds out the EP and brings a jazzy coolness that compliments the jagged vocals, themselves complimented with some extremely sensuous female vocal lines. The one abiding impression you come away with from an achievement like this is..wow!! It is my contention that Stain is in a class on his own, an intelligent, cogent lyricist with intense vision.

MUST HAVE UK alt.hiphop

Thomas J Marchant - Say No to Racism and Fascism

Hear The Track Here

Erstwhile Antennahead Thomas J Marchant (as you may have guessed) is pretty keen when it comes to getting on my review list; he should get an award for the amount of times he has been first in the queue, let alone anything else. It's a good job then that I have a fondness for this musicians work, although that certainly wasn't always so; especially the more experimental Station For Imitation he went through for a while there at the beginning. Personally, I applaud Thomas for having the courage not only to change his style but - also rightly - to put his own true name to the product. It shows his growing maturity as a seasoned (and dedicated) musician with a singularly appealing musical vision.

Especially if you like a bit 'o retro...

As you know, I'm a right crusty old geezer so I am bound to like something that harks back to the beginnings of the rock music scene. Thomas's output since he changed his style has veered from mid to late 50's to 1960's acoustic troubadour style in the last few releases, most of which I have had extremely nice things to say about them. Where I value him most, it has to be said, is as a plain, unadorned songwriter, coupled with his own inimitable style on delivering those songs. Which is probably a good thing because I think Say No to Wotsit and Wotsit is probably the most stripped down I have ever heard this man, and he's been pretty close before...

As a consequence, the track comes off in a very early Bob Dylan stylee (except with that English twist to it) and as such probably won't appeal much outside of devotees of this man's particular journey through music. So, what you ultimately get is guitar and vocals and a man with a story to tell. There is more than a touch of Pete Shelley (of The Buzzcocks) about the vocals and that's something I have mentioned with this artist before, and it surprisingly works a treat - one of the highlights of this track certainly, but having said that there isn't a lot else anyway. Not, to my mind, one of his standout tracks but interesting if you've been following this artist.

Highly Recommended Acoustic alternative.