Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Andrea Ianni - LikeWise Album

Hear The Track Here

I know I said I wasn't doing any more reviews this month but this one is a bit special, as I am sure you will agree when you get to listen to the tracks. Have to own up to a massive bias here though because Andrea and I are good friends and I have been watching this album ever since it was first brought to my attention of a couple of years ago. Andrea is also my musical sparring partner and to make the nepotism even worse, the album has been mastered by one Steve Gilmore (Ed: who he??). So, right up front you should accept that I am biased beyond belief; however you know full well I am not going to get behind something that isn't 100% and this comes in several notches above that. As a long time rock animal, I know what I like and what I don't and the kind of rock I like most is one with a great song behind it.

Mind you, our first conversation didn't bode well.

'I'm into prog rock' he says. 'What's that smell' I say because regular readers know only well the depth of my hatred towards that specific genre. However, I find that it has mellowed somewhat over the years mainly due to Nad Sylan, Bonamici, Cinnabar and several other GOOD proggies. I've heard these tracks from the very beginning and even I am amazed at the final result, all down to the talent of the man himself and engineer Elad Levy, the production side of this is awesome. Andrea is an Italian multi-instrumentalist who I have come to realise is very talented in lots of unexpected ways but, IMHO, as a true rock songwriter Andrea Ianni is right up there with the best of them. Don't believe? Then listen to either Strawberry Girl or the massive King Of Prisoners for the proof of the pudding. Now obviously big exposure to these tracks will have coloured my opinion and I am not stupid enough not to take note of it.... Nonetheless, as I worked on the mastering I started to take real notice of how complex and intricate the work in it was.

Even though he lives in the wandering world of prog, there is a surprising amount of punchy, to-the-point rock music happening there too. I'd be very interested in what the prog crowd on Soundclick make of this because the blend of balls-to-the-wall rock, alongside almost ambient and/or classical sideturns is definitely not like any prog rock music I have ever faced before. LikeWise is a ten song set and, when the CD is finally out, I think there might be a surprise or two on it. In the meantime, this is one set of songs that should take some time for you guys to chew your way through, especially if like me, this music strikes a an emotional chord. The time, care and maniacal attention to detail Andrea poured into this project shows in every note and I am proud to have worked in some form in making it happen, and I hope you guys understand why I feel compelled to commit such blatant puffery. Majestic, moving and so much to take in it makes your head spin...

100% MUST HAVE (or I'll send the boys around)

Hannah Faulkner - Ni Ni Album

Hear The Track Here

Hannah Faulkner is a young lady who seems to be going places at a pretty fast clip and - I have to admit - I have become more and more interested in hearing her since the final session of Open Mic UK which is soon to be a Sky TV series. S'no good groaning and who knows, maybe it's better than X Factor or BGT, AND it will not feature anyone called Simon (hopefully). Sadly Hannah did not win, but the competition was fierce beyond belief - some very talented people out there. Mind you, if I had been the one to choose it would have been Hannah, hands down. Still, the compensation is that she has shedloads of gigs around the UK this year and I suggest you get your butts off the couch and check her out. Ni Ni has been out since late last year and it's a crying shame I couldn't get to it sooner. Tell you what, as rough as the sound is on the live videos it really shows her incredible voice off to great effect.

Didn't really get that off the relatively restrained track one, Never Felt Like This Before, at least not from the first listen. However, like this whole fifteen song album, it definitely grows on you. As it happens the UK has an abundance of good female musicians at this present time, all of them exploring some neglected corners of the musical spectrum so mentioning Amy Winehouse and Adele in the same breath should give you some idea what to expect. Must Be Dreaming shows that comparisons are meaningless because Hannah Faulkner has her own way, as the mentioned singers have and that's a really, really good thing. Left Right Left is another really, really good thing, for my money one of the standouts of this set. If there was any justice in this world, this would be a massive hit. God, when she growls out the vocal I swear that the hairs on the back of my neck are dancing, never mind standing on end. Stone cold MUST HAVE right there, I tell ya.

I've been around long enough to recognise quality, even in the rough (as in the videos), and Hannah Faulkner is a quality songwriter with a voice to die for. There's even a nod to the UK's rap scene in I Don't Understand so how can you resist. Want a weepie ballad, a proper three hankie job? The One will satisfy that urge to have a good bawl. See, that's the thing about this album, there is everything here, all adorned with the diamond vocal from the lady herself. It even feels kind stupid saying 'ooh listen to this' and 'and this!! ****' when the only really sane way to take in someone like Hannah Faulkner is to listen to the whole thing - again and again and again. For sure I have my favourites, and I do like the videos (and not just for the eye candy) but the real audio is by far the better way of getting to know this stunning singer and I can only say that each track stands on its own merits, you'll find your own favourites. My only negative comment would be that the restrained feel I mentioned comes from the recording and/or production because as you can see from the videos, she's a belter... A wider arrangement and fuller production would have killed from a 1000 paces but still...

MUST HAVE for all that.

Families - Deceitful Children Album

Hear The Track Here

Last couple of tracks out the bag this month are both requests through the Rebel Riffs blog. I am trying desperately to clear up the immense pile before it falls and crushes me and this one is months old so apologies to families everywhere. Families are a three piece band, consisting of Justin Rose, Erica Johnson, and Ian Smith and as the name may have suggested they are an American folk band. I say American there for a reason because there is an ocean of difference between that and European folk. Now, for all those who went ewwww when I mentioned the f word, grow up. And for the wag who has been passing around dried straw to 'chaw' on, I'm watching you....

There is a strain of music called Americana which, I think, has slowly become (or becoming) the new sound of folk and most of it is very impressive indeed so I started the review on this track with high hopes. I know, foolish but hey, I'm a devil-may-care kinda guy. Lot's Daughters is the first track out and it's a beaut; sparse in the right places but with the requisite propulsion being supplied by guitars and mandolins. It's the vocals though, that do it for me, awesome in a fine American tradition, if I'd had a porch I would have been on it, know what I mean? Their Facebook page states 'They are folk story tellers, with souls of grass and minds made out of the mountains, weaving personal tales from the Bible' and with titles such as Lot's Daughter, The Nazirite, Passover Pass Over and Oh Nebuchadnezzar you can bet this is unashamedly Christian in approach.

As it happens, this reviewer has some across some really, really good Christian bands (Cam's Even Song for instance who incidentally was my Artist Of The Year 2006) and anyone remember the excellent One Kid's Lunch? I am going to be more than happy to add Families to those august names because - Christian content notwithstanding - these are terrific musicians and vocalists, not to mention premium songwriters. If there is one song you have to hear if the whole Christian thing doesn't do it you, the music certainly will. Try the beautifully done Absalom, if this isn't true American country music, I really don't know what is. Great song, awesome performance. Those two words could be applied to almost every track on this eleven track set. Christian country never sounded better...

MUST HAVE modern American folk.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Larry Ludwick - Gone

Hear The Track Here

And this month it's the turn of Larry the Laggard to be Soundclick's tail end charlie... Yep, last review of the month from that site and it's kinda fitting that it should come from one of the brighter sparks among that community. Regular readers will be only too well aware of Larry as he pops up pretty much every month, in one guise or another. As is my habit whenever I am reviewing I go back and see what I said in reviews past to note changes and I happened to look at the first review I ever did. Nod's Ascent To Dave (July 2008) was a very classy piece of jazz which gave no indication whatsoever of the mayhem he was to unleash with following tracks. At this point, I think he's pretty much covered the musical spectrum and often most handsomely too.

However, be warned, Larry Ludwick is a somewhat - how can I put this delicately? - idiosyncratic musician, singer (kinda/sorta but more on that later), songwriter and producer as many have found out. Soundclick has quite a few of this kind of musician and I think that is a good thing because they are challenging, sometimes baffling but always entertaining. Mind you, I will admit that you might have to develop a taste for Larry's work, particularly his vocal work which often is more spoken than sung and certainly an acquired taste for many.

Put it like this, if you like Gone's style then it's a fair bet that most of his work will find similar favour. It took me a while to really get into Larry's particular musical view of the world, even though I appreciated his difference from the beginning. What has done the job for me is the man's range, and his lyrical skills and Gone is a classic example of that, Joined by saxophonist/guitarist Tim Lowe (aka Swingjazza) whose own Taking The Slow Train (December 2011) was very well received and he shows the same exemplary jazz style here too. My only quibble has nothing to do with the music or Larry, but I really. really have a phobia about Fender Rhodes sounds I must get treated...

Highly Recommended Blues with a dash of jazz.

Jane G33 - The Next Man

Hear The Track Here

I first came across female rapper Jane G33 when she was plain old Jane Do3 a couple of years ago and by God, was it nice to hear a female rapper by way of a change. Babel Remix (feat Daddy Go Go) (September 2010) was the track in question and a very entertaining slice of old school it was too. Her next outing was (I think) the first track from her new group Pick One, Things I Say (January 2011) was surprisingly together considering it was all a new thing. In both cases the only fault I picked was with the lacklustre backing tracks - perennial problems for indie rappers. However, Jane is a lady who knows her stuff, and her partner in Pick One is no slouch either.

So lets see whats up this time...

This track has a significantly better backing track, a musical echo back to 1960's soul so it's actually right up my musical street too. My only quibble was that the track lacked bottom end (bass) especially with that all important kick drum. It also sounded quite flattened, pushed to far into the background to give Jane's vocals enough room to breathe which shows off the vocals (as it should) but does tend to blunt the musical impact. Not sure whether this beat is from a Soundclick beat factory or whether it's someone Jane got in to help out but it works, except for the points I have mentioned.

Over the years I have reviewed an awful lot of hip hop, predominantly on Soundclick, and I guess I have developed an ear for indie hip hop so I don't even notice certain things any more. It used to really bug me at the beginning that, although the rappers were good, the equipment they used to get there made a lot of listeners give the genre a wide berth. Well, although this still sounds home produced, Jane shows that whatever you may think about her style she isn't likely to stop any time soon and more power to her. We need all the female rappers we can get in this most testosterone fueled genre.

Recommended hip hop rap.

Lino Gonzalez - Traffic Jam

Hear The Track Here

One of the most raved about bands of the last couple of years has been the combustible mixture that we know as Those Among Us. Well, if you are still struggling to find why Lino's name is ringing a bell with you, he's a member of that august band, along with John Brandon and Steve Mesropian. I've known John Brandon forever of course and I know his quality of work like the back of my hand. Mez (Steve Mesropian) was a great find as a rock vocalist with a fine sense of style and timing but - for me - one of the biggest surprises in Those Among Us tracks was all the backline duty being performed by Lino as string-meister/electronica wizard/accurate drum machine/engineer/producer and probably makes the tea too. Everyone, or at least every band worth a crap should have a Lino.

So, take it as a given that this Traffic Jam was created by just one man, everything you hear, but that's also the case on a lot of TOU tracks so not much change there innit? Lino's top gig though, is guitarist. No, let me refine that... Lino doesn't just play the guitar, he pounds on it like a man possessed of the spirit of rock music in all it's glory - definitely my kind of belt and braces rock and no fuss roll. There again, rock animal I am and shall remain so and I am only too well aware of the hatred pure rock has in some quarters so if you don't like having hefty rock balls rubbed in your face - stay away from this one.

Over the years, of course, I have developed a kind of immunity from such social embarrassment. These days I just don't give a ****. Traffic Jam essentially shows just how good a hard rock guitarist Lino is, something that isn't immediately evident from Those Among Us tracks although they don't lack in the testicular department either, as any one of their EPs will amply testify. Certainly if you are already a fan of rock and/or Those Among Us this is definitely a track to check out, and I do suggest a download to enjoy its full glory over a very loud system. Now all I have to do is get this annoying whistle in my ears to stop... (Ed: uh oh, how loud exactly?)

First class RAAWWWWKKK and MUST HAVE for machine heads

Kyma - Lost Sands

Hear The Track Here

The name may well be unfamiliar but the face(s) behind this track are very familiar. Kyma is the latest bandname wheeze from the musician formerly known as Karma Police (UK) or just plain Neil Alderson who we have met many times over the last couple of years, with mixed results. This track is also a collaboration with another familiar figure, Ian Henderson, who you might know better as the musician Painted Water who we have also reviewed more than once. Then it follows that these are two experienced hands, so what could possibly go wrong??? Have you noticed that all famous last words all end like that? What could possibly go wrong? What about everything??

Now now, don't go digging the nuclear bunkers just yet a while...

Remember these are musicians who have been round the block a few times and while I have liked both of their styles, there hasn't been anything that has really knocked my socks off, although Painted Water came close with Finding Tomorrow (Remastered) (November 2011) and Karma Police obviously underwent a remix. I am a firm believer in collaborations (of all kinds, not just musical) because they enrich us, sometimes in the most unexpected ways. I do believe that people working together can work miracles and Lost Sands is a little sound miracle. So let me get it said right from the outset, this is not really my thing although I really liked the world music intro - right up my street as it were, but interest pales as I get further in and it becomes more ambient.

Lost Sands is billed as Electronic Mellow and while it has its lie-back-and-think-of-fluffy-clouds moments, I wouldn't have called it mellow because then I'd have to REALLY hate it and that will never do. We don't do mellow in this 'stablishment, nope. We do do good music though and - whatever personal tastes you might have - this is a terrifically good piece of music and shows that this duo have hit a creative nerve here that has done something wonderful. Lost Sands is the result and it's exceptionally well thought out,and a beautifully produced track. This is certainly better than anything I have heard so far in both sound and composition, hope they have some more of it...

MUST HAVE moodchanger

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tesselode - Subway 9

Hear The Track Here

There is an English term 'damning with faint praise' which I notice I do a lot, especially with music that I do not really like or enjoy. Take, for example, electronica. Couldn't stand it back in it's dance roots heyday, don't much care for it these days either, unless it's something really out of the ordinary. Re-reading my review of Tesselode's first track Galaxy's Edge (November 2011) I am definitely not all for it, but there are things in it that are interesting and/or different either of which will lead me to play it more than most electronica.

Thankfully, Galaxy's Edge did have some of that, certainly enough for me to rate it highly enough,even if the overall tone of the review wasn't exactly lets-have-a-party. It still left me wanting more, greedy **** that I am.I think my dissatisfaction with the genre has more to do with being a song man, as opposed to liking instrumentals although, as I say, there are exceptions. I made a comparison on Galaxy's Edge to early symphonic soundtracks, naming the Wing Commander series as a classic example of where it worked, If anything, it was the main reason I ended up liking it. A lot of that quality is evident in Subway 9 too, although this is a totally different track in feel; darker, more introverted - as befits the title I guess.

More to the point, it's a piano led piece and that always helps. You can never get enough piano right? Weeeelllllll, I guess that's another debating point but - like most instrumentation - I prefer that it play an active role if it's around. Now while it does that quite admirably on Subway 9, it still doesn't raise the level of excitement, at least to my poor tired ears. Now while I can endorse this as being worthwhile technically, from a listener standpoint it might be a different beast entirely. That would depend, as always, on what floats your musical boats and - as I mentioned - this genre really does that for me.

Piano led electronica.

Thomas J Marchant - I Of The Storm

Hear The Track Here

Now don't be taking that tone with me, you should have read the review before you went poking around in the eye of that storm. You obviously thought that UK singer/songwriter Thomas J Marchant is the svelte, debonair indie crooner his latest tracks portray him as, but I'd have warned you that beneath that calm, collected exterior beats the heart of a complete lunatic. For the rest of you who didn't go plunging straight into Thomas's heart of darkness, allow me to explain. Over the last three or four years Thomas has become a primo songwriter and performer, definitely one of my favourite finds and getting known with each succeeding mini-masterpiece, OK, I'll concede that these masterpieces may very well be a personal choice of mine (I did choose him as Artist Of The Year 2009 after all) and won't appeal to everyone but I find that most people appreciate his style.

Well, wait until they get an ear full of I Of The Storm which, I kid ye not, does exactly what it says on the tin. This is a track that should come with an aural health warning. It's still undeniably a Thomas J Marchant track, but with an undertone and atmosphere that - for me anyway - harkens back to when I first met this musician. quotes like 'an acquired taste if you usually like more accessible music' and 'the first 10 seconds of this will have you banging on your system trying to make it sound right' were a regular feature so, as aurally wild as I Of The Storm is, it is also part of the man's roots. Thomas overlays the song with what sounds like an incredibly distorted guitar and several distinctly dodgy (but kinda cool) keyboard lines.

So, in effect, I always make a bit of allowance for his sonic ideas but even this one fazed me. I can only imagine what it would do to the unwary like our friend in the opening paragraph. That is not to say that this is a bad track, Thomas doesn't make those any more, but that it is different enough to take some getting used to, even for long-term fans like myself. I did find, however, that the actual song grew on me once I was able to prise it out of the background aural storm so repeated plays for this bad boy are a must. In the meantime it's left me wondering if we are looking at a whole new direction for this musician to stretch himself into...

Recommended Shoegaze.

Shawna Ross - Glass Jars With Lead

Hear The Track Here

A review request now from the ever lengthening blog list (this one I notice is almost three months old!!). Shawna Ross is a new name to me, a folk/indie artist from Birmingham, AL, who seems to have a regular gig there, and that to generally means they have something more to offer than yer average online musician. As a live, working musician myself, there is nothing more intensive than playing before a live audience and definitely something that hones your skills, whether you want it to or not. As a songwriter too, this is a vital part of teaching yourself what works and what doesn't. As you probably also gathered that Shawna is a guitarist, and all of the tracks on her webpage are pretty basic - as indeed is Glass Jars With Lead.

Essentially this is probably a track that was recorded almost live, and in one take as are all her tracks. She is, however, about to go into a studio but until then, if female singer/songwriters get you all hot under the musical collar, she has all the right credentials; a rough but ready guitar style that supports her voice. Said voice being certainly good enough to turn heads when she starts singing. In that respect Glass Jars With Lead is a good showcase for her vocal but, like all basic home recordings, leaves someone like me wishing that I could have heard it wearing aural blinkers. As much as I like what she's doing, and I do, I can't help the very basic sounds grating on my production nerves.

Bad Gilmore!! I hear you scream in horror, how can you be so mean??? T'ain't mean ya damn varmints, it's the truth. Having reviewed literally thousands of tracks online I know how high the bar is in pretty much every genre and, surprisingly enough, some of the indie folk I hear is very special indeed. My point is that, in this day and age, even a basic computer has powerful enough (often free or close to it) software to both enhance and clean up pretty much and track you want to name. Personally I think I will wait and see if Shawna now allows me to hear the studio stuff which I would guess shows her talent in a much more focused way. In the meantime, as I say, if you like the sound of her music then this track does indeed get the message across - but that's all it does.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rude Corps - ...And Then She Went Mad And Killed Everyone

Hear The Track Here

Got a bit of a shock with this. I had become so used to Rude Corps being a musical politician's nightmare I forgot where he came from and this track shows this artists roots more than most. Rude Corps has been a musical fixture on Soundclick for a long, long time, working with some of the best electronica collaborations around so it's no surprise that he should come up with a piece of raucous, stomping trickster jungle beats that you'll either love or hate. Either way, I guarantee, there will be no escape from the condition known to medical science as 'nodding dog syndrome'. Don't say I didn't warn you.

As a long time fan of the whole beats thing (I first got into it with DJ Shadow way back when) mad crazy cuts are fine by me, provided they make sense musically and some of the most relentless and inspiring music over the past few years has had some element of that around it. AT this stage of the game I think Rude Corps has just about attempted every musical genre these is, and usually to good effect too. Take, for example, the intro of this track which features a Harry Enfield skit on black and white Government health films, it's calm and reasonable style shattered into a thousand bits with a beat that eats worlds.

Now obviously this is pretty hardcore and I know that some people just do not get this style and, truth be told, I often don't either. When I do it's usually because it's also a good tune, or it has a few special production tricks I haven't heard before, or (more usually the case) it sounds fekkin awesome. And Then She... is the kind of track where, should it be played in a club would turn it's patrons into jam on the walls - and they would be loving every moment of it. To be sure, because of its jungle/d&b slant, it's not much to look at musically but it sure as hell give you a nice, solid kick to the brain.

AHDD in musical form. Highly Recommended.

Marc Blackwell - Bring Me Trouble Video

Hear The Track Here

Dean Brantley Taylor, a name that might not be familiar to that many of you although he has become increasingly familiar to me because I seem to meet him every once in a while in different guises. I think my first encounter with him was with my late friend, the singer Mary Gottschalk whose untimely and tragic death shocked people right across the internet among people who knew her. Her song Other People was co-written with Dean and although I didn't review it at the time, I was aware of it. Then he popped up again with Marc Blackwell co-writing the original Bring Me Trouble (December 2010). What we are dealing with now is the video of the single. btw, there is also an album called Bring Me Trouble (February 2011) too, I reviewed it here.

These days I have to admit to being a bit of a video freak. I actually like a lot of the music videos I see, the indies ones because I don't really like a lot of the commercial hoopla, too much tits and ass for an old man like me. Seeing as we have flogged the audio version horse, it made a bit of a change to see this track brought to life again through this video. As I commented at the time of the original review, the thing that really gripped me from the outset is how similar it was to The Sopranos theme tune which has to be the best theme song known to man. It isn't, however, a copy of the Sopranos track in the same way that track isn't a copy of many New Orleans musicians who perfected this particular style.

Morgen La Civita is the female vocalist in the chorus, which is a new fact I gleaned through the video (created by Yoz Creative, check 'em) and both her and Marc appear in the video in cartoon form, but Marc is the only one to appear in human form. Make what you like of that one. Any*******way all that this does in increase my liking for the original track and while the video is pretty basic, it somehow fits the songs general feel very well. I also have a touch of admiration for these guys for really working this song through in all its forms, from the original audio to this. What next, Bring Me Trouble - The Movie? As they say in the comics, watch this space and - whatever you do - get an earful of this wonderful song.

MUST HAVE sleaze rock.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ludicrous - Jesus Mate

Hear The Track Here

Last year was the year that introduced me (and you guys too) to French/UK pop rock musicians Ludicrous who have such a sticky musical style they managed to lob four tracks onto my hard drive (yes, I kept them) out of a total of six reviews, and in the process earning honourable mentions in my year end review of 2011. A lot of that stickiness is down to my liking the kind of music they do, and I think there are people to whom this wouldn't appeal but they have no soul so **** 'em. Surprisingly enough it was the latest two tracks - The First To Touch Me (October 2011) and The Trickling of Blood that didn't have the same stickiness.

Both tracks are not as instant and accessible as the first four and are, to a certain extent, very different from the first four. In summary, if they end up on my HD then I'm impressed because everything else gets binned. Didn't mean that the tracks weren't good mind, they are. Just not as good as I think Ludicrous have been previously. I've already said they are a bit odd, certainly in song constructions (they are songs but not like you've heard before) and this track could have come from the time of David Bowie's Low - it has the atmosphere down, intentional or not.

Like every single one of this band's tracks, continued playing unearths the real beauty in the tracks, so this is not a band to drive-by listen. Download the tracks and live with them for a while, it makes all the difference. Olga (one of the vocalists) returns to action with Jesus Mate, and it's always a pleasure to hear her rich, full tones - she has a terrific voice. The only fly in the ointment here is that - overall - I found the sound a bit rough and ready. Now whether, again, this is intentional I know not but if it isn't in is undoubtedly down to the bands recording situation which - as you know - isn't an easy answer, or a cheap one either come to think of it. Nonetheless, Jesus Mate shows that Ludicrous are no slouches in the great song department - just give it time...

Highly Recommended pop.

N Talekt - In My Loving Memory CD

Hear The Track Here

Although he's been around on Soundclick since 2004, my first encounter with this Virginia based rapper was not very positive. In my review of I Got U (February 2006) I wrote 'where all his mates may well be telling N Talekt he is the ****, that isn't the conclusion I came to' and ended it with 'judging by this example there is some way to go before he is the ****.' Harsh maybe, but just calling them as I see them. In the almost four years since that track N Talekt has upped his game considerably and even more so with this album, of which I have already reviewed Feelin' Good (October 2011), So Gone Feat Anna (November 2011) and Don't Cry For Me (December 2011) with the first two tracks coming into my list of Tracks Of The Year 2011 in the year end reviews thread. Not bad going considering how things looked at the beginning.

Moreover he is one of the only hip hop artists featured last year (only being joined by Rustik and Gangbangsters) whereas 2010 was definitely a hip hop year for me. Anyways, those first three tracks from the In My Loving Memory project were enough to pique my interest so when N Talekt offered me a chance to review the whole thing, how could I refuse. Of course it does mean that the amount of large scale CD's I am reviewing this month is completely out of hand but hey, what else is new nu?? In My Loving Memory is a fourteen song project so let's start with the first unheard one, track one: The Rain (Prelude). The same attention to sound detail that singled out the tracks I have already reviewed is evident on all the tracks of this CD so it is definitely worth letting you know that the series of beats came from Anno Domini, Flawless Tracks, Sho-Down/Rock It Productions and Life and Death Productions among others so musically, this is definitely the best selection I have heard from this rapper.

This, to me, is where most indie rappers come unstuck; they think it is all about the rap. Of course it is, but not to the exclusion of a wicked backing track which - for my money - enlivens the proceedings enormously. N Talekt has suffered from this in the past but no more because every track on this CD shows that this is the one area where N Talekt has improved beyond measure. I have found, in the years I have been reviewing internet only indie rappers - particularly on Soundclick - that it really is down to personal taste. Although N Talekt is often a bit softer musically than I am used to, lyrically he's cooking with gas (and posted online!) and it's that quantity that I like; take a listen to Never See It Coming (awesome) and Empty The Clip to catch up on a very happening indie rapper. Starting 2012 with an album this good is a fine move and I expect that N Talekt is going to build on this during this year, so get with the man and see what decent indie hip hop can do. Not a dud in all fourteen tracks, that says it better than I ever could.

Highly Recommended and MUST HAVE for fans.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Nigel Potter - Technophobian CD

Hear The Track Here

You might not know it to look at me, but I am a bit of a cult. (Ed: err, might have spelt that wrong Gilmore) Well, not me per se but a project I was hugely responsible for, as a musician and as a (fledgling) producer. In fact, it was the first record I ever produced. Since it's release too many years ago to count, that album has become significantly more popular as time went on, and the internet seems to have brought it to another stage. And all this happened because of a - at the time - little known genre of music referred to as 'spacerock' Although I was never offically a spacerocker myself, I was part of it's inaugural launch courtesy of space pioneers Hawkwind who I toured with and made that notorious album with. For ****'s sake Gilmore, you weep, stop bigging yourself up.

Not true varmint, there is a point to this other than my ego...

Nigel Potter was also part of that scene and still is. In fact, as far as I know he is one of the only online exponents of the genre that actually understands what the musical term actually means in terms of style. See, for a while there Hawkwind were awesome, one of the hardest hitting live shows I have ever seen so to me they pretty much ARE spacerock. Consequently, whenever I hear the term I automatically turn on the Hawk scanner - very little passes that test. If anyone can do it properly, Nigel can. Technophobian is an 11 track CD (12 if you count the bonus track) and as a long time Nige fan I grabbed the chance of reviewing it. As with all legimate spacerock the CD has to be taken as a totality, so you know that the first 55 seconds of Zen Gun *(track one) is going to lead to a headbang of catacylsmic portions. That proves to be the case and, I have to say, Nigel carries the spacerock banner as if he was born. The sound, the moves, the vocal everything speaks of the orginal ethos behind the genre, brought up to date with Nigel's trademark precision. The bonus track is a continuation of Zen Gun, but it works well in either guise.

As regular readers are aware, Nigel Potter comes (no pun intended obviously, this is a family review) in two flavours of spacerock; Hawkwind or Floyd. Our last encounter was Necromancer (February 2011) and that was very floydian and I much preferred the punkier, rougher Hawkwind vision so it's a given that Technophobian is going to go down well with me. Despite what Nigel may think, I actually have a great respect for the genre and - I have to admit - am totally unforgiving when it plainly isn't what it says on the tin. If you want an audio demonstration of what true spacerock should sound and act like I point you to The Last To Leave, track three of this excellent set of tracks. That says exactly how it should be. Technically, Technophobian is flawless and something Nigel should feel rightly proud of. Something as good as this album has taken a lot of work and patience, and it shows in every note. He seems to float between the two sides of his spacerock character with ease, each track offering up a different facet of the mystery that is spacerock. Remarkable achievement and there is no doubt....

MUST HAVE spacerock.

Pilesar - Pinky Swear

Hear The Track Here

I found it strangely apt that this track ended up back to back with the excellent Nigel Potter Technophobian album, it made a modern counterpoint, as though they share a similar ethos and I think that is why I thought the pairing fitted. Pilesar (as we well know) is DEFINITELY from another planet and maybe from a galaxy far, far away and if he isn't then his music certainly is. Which is why this latest track from the Wonder Weirdo is such a puzzle. Dare we assume that the P word is taking on a more (gulp) commercial aspect in his work? Pinky Swear is an actual, real life song, with lyrics and all, sung by the man himself and is (as he describes it) a Phil Collins type 80's ballad thing.

There, there, don't be downcast. This is Pilesar we are talking about, he wouldn't willingly inflict a 'phil collins ballad' on his favourite reviewer would he? After all, I know where he lives and he knows I have a visceral, passionate hatred for those three little 'phil collins ballad' words - not to mention the actual demon and his nefarious works of mawk. Pilesar's last vocal outing was the eloquent and enigmatic Melon Balls (November 2011) although, to be fair it wasn't really a Pilesar track (it was an older recording of a previous band). Pinky Swear seems to be brand new and well in line with the clutch of Must Haves he got throughout last year, and it's a bona fide song!! My happiness knew no bounds for days I tell you.

I have a lot of respect for this musician, and always have done; he takes chances, he does things his own way and usually it works out well, and sometimes it's stunning what he comes up with. Definitely one of the brighter and more original musicians I have met online or anywhere else, a fount of great aural ideas. His idea of a PCB (those three little words) is about as far away as you can get. While it's admittedly a ballad, it's not like any ballad you've heard Jim.. (Ed: whotf is Jim now...?) While the track is simple musically, it gets the job done in that time honoured Pilesar stylee (especially noticeable in the percussion) and it has a surprising emotional punch - and can that ever be said about any PCB outside of In The Air Tonight.

Inspired and Highly Recommended AND it's PCB free!!

Weylin's Slayer Orchestra - Journey

Hear The Track Here

Now I'm probably going make my usual right royal cockup about this, but here's the deal... Either I have the complete Journey (because it is after all some eighteen minutes long and is marked Journey12) or these three tracks are utterly enormous and - to be blunt - I can't be arsed to go online and check whether this is true or not. It's enough to have listened to the monster I have, surely? Aaaahhh, but this is Weylin we are talking about and he is - how can I put this delicately? - musically verbose. That means a lot of notes for the musically challenged among you. Weylin's Slayer Orchestra had a pretty good 2011 in my books scoring no less than six Must Have's and Tracks Of The Year 2011.

A far cry from my first meeting with this Orchestral Metal (I kid ye not) musician when I reviewed Flight Of Sideria (October 2010) which, to be honest, didn't really impress me much. Consequent tracks soon changed that impression, and I urge you to have a listen to any of those aforementioned Tracks Of The Year. In the meantime let me share this monster with you... After an orchestral intro of a 1min+, I assume Part 1 kicks in and I do mean kick. Seriously, whatever genre this musician dabbles in, I like it best when he gets the axe out and starts giving it some. I like the darker side of his guitar style, it's one of the main reasons I like him and Part 1 has some very nice examples of the man's technique. Its also undoubtedly a soundtrack but this is another area where Weylin manages to slide it by me because - after all - it actually works.

Soundtracks (orchestral or otherwise) occupy much the same venom level in my world as prog rock so you can imagine the slaughter. Weylin's Slayer Orchestra have supplied all of these things and yet remain standing, even lauded in the Stevie's for 2011. So what gives? Is the sky going to fall on our heads? The answer to this modern conundrum is one word: ideas. You'd have to have a few of them to fill up 18 minutes. More to the point, it would have to hold a listeners attention and that's gonna take a shedload of twists and turns; a musical journey even. Hey, maybe that is why this track is called Journey innit? (Ed: good grief!) Whatever else it is, it's a massive achievement and Weylin carries it off in spectacular fashion - all eighteen minutes of it.

Long, but strong. Highly Recommended Soundtrackery

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Rascal Theorist - Be My Girl

Hear The Track Here

To this day whenever I hear The Rascal Theorist's finest moment, a track called New Frequency (May 2009) it manages to lift my mood and slap a smile on my usual scowling visage and, believe me that is a very rare thing. There again, New Frequency is that rare thing, an instantly recognisable song. Since then, the Rascal has been noticeably quiet only releasing (or rather me reviewing) a couple of tracks during 2010 - End Of Story (March 2010) and Alright (June 2010). Both tracks got well deserved Must Have's and raves from me because - as you know - I do appreciate great songs and The Rascal Theorist has provided some beauties in the past. Nice to see him back in the action again, so to speak...

About the last thing I would have expected from this musician, however, is a track so redolent of the Beatles it's untrue. I don't mean that Roscoe Foster (aka The Rascal Theorist) has suddenly become a Scouser (Ed: someone from Liverpool) because I know for a fact that he is from Wisconsin and is more known for working with ChiTown (Ed: Chicago...enough with the names already) musicians such as Muse Machine buddy Linwood Riley. It is obvious though that wherever he came from Roscoe also had his fair share of immersion in the musical wonderland that came from the fertile minds of Lennon, MacCartney, Harrison and Starkey. Anyone who truly loves the Beatles would not try for a pale imitation, it would have to be good enough or it would never see the light of day.

Good thing then, that Be My Girl is not only good enough but if you strip out Roscoe's vocals and imagine either Lennon or MacCartney in there this would be as close to a Beatles song as you are likely to get. Early Beatles mind, the lovable moptops variety where everything was still a bit fresh, a bit of a laugh. Before money and big business took over and strangled the life out of it. More to the point, it should also be an American variety because it sure doesn't sound English. As I mentioned earlier, given his pedigree, the quality of work on Be My Girl is absolutely up to the Rascal standard. That dedication to detail and the unerring ear the man has for what made the Beatles sound so fresh and new is what lifts this track for me, and of course my own liking for the whole Beatles thing, especially vocally.

Highly Recommended nod to the greats.

Thomas Neptune - Down To Earth EP

Hear The Track Here

Another new name to me from CA based PR company LaFamos who have introduced me to some terrific music over the past year or so (Repeater, Darius Lux, Dom Liberati, Marc Blackwell etc) so the quality they are representing certainly makes this reviewer take them seriously. Thomas Neptune (no relation to the god, or maybe he is...) is a multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriters in - I guess - the fine LA tradition. Which is all well and good if you happen to like California's version of the genre and I have to admit that I've never really favoured that sound/style. Doesn't mean to say that I can't appreciate a finely crafted, professional piece of music regardless of my own personal tastes, and Down To Earth is a very nice piece of work indeed.

The four tracks were produced by Thomas and co-producer Mike Geier and, technically, this is as good as it gets, about as commercial a sound as I've come across lately - especially if you like songs with a hefty swag of Americana in it, lyrically in particular although the music is decidedly American flavoured too. Hence my caveat in the last paragraph; while I liked track one, The Good Times, it's style will be something you will have heard a lot but that doesn't stop it being a quality track. btw, don't go by the You Tube video of the song, that's a live acoustic thing and nothing like as powerful as the studio version. Unbreakable (track two) also gets a live acoustic video and again I would point you to the recorded version which are miles above what is on display in the videos. Really good song too, as it happens and one of my faves from this set.

We're Beautiful and My Ohio (where Thomas hails from btw) complete the set showing that Thomas Neptune has a handful of excellent songs, well performed and beautifully recorded and - in a perfect world - he would have a record deal already. However, it doesn't seem to be about professionalism and a talent for putting out good material does it? I know a lot of my lo-fi freak friends will not appreciate this, it's quality innit... OK, on a more personal level I've heard a great many tracks just like these and regardless of my feelings about the quality, it's a very crowded field out there - especially in this genre - and I fear that Thomas will struggle to get his music across. That would be a crying shame because - as I say - the material and setting are faultless, but hey it's a cruel, cruel world...

Recommended nonetheless...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Moral Factor - Caida Libre

Hear The Track Here

Of the five or so Moral Factor tracks I have reviewed so far, none have suffered overly much from me and that is usually because - despite the lo-fi approach - the strength of the musical ideas still comes through. A one man band from Argentina, German Gorchs (for it is he) has shown that he's comfortable enough in his own language to make music that sounds different because it is different. Essentially an acoustic guitarist, German still manages to mix it up some and Apagando la tele (December 2010) - a true world music track if'n I ever heard it - and Old Dirty White Shoes (January 2011) (folk rock at its teariest) show that he can genre hop with surprising ease.

Mind you, if you suffer from the attention span of a gnat, this is probably not going to get to you. Certainly it's intro is very low key and not likely to grab many ears but around a minute in a female voice joins in, and that for sure got my attention. The tonal difference between the two voices is something special and undeniably Hispanic/Latin in its musical roots, which is probably why it affected me so much. There's a lot more to the track than that, as it explores all kinds of musical nooks and crannies including (I swear) a kinda/sorta acoustic prog rock and that - for my money - makes it a really enjoyable listen. Despite it's unpromising beginning, given half a chance Caida Libre will grown on you.

There is, of course, the lo-fi aspect and - despite everything - some people just can't get over the concept of music sounding 'natural' instead of the processed slush that is force fed them day after day. Of course it has flaws, and glitches but you can hear it's beating heart, you can feel the fire in its belly and that will do fine for me, thank you very much. Caida Libre means 'free fall' so I guess that it needs to be as loose as a goose eh? Having said that, if you like your music with a spicy, nay intoxicating, Spanish flavouring then you need to grab some Moral Factor - and of course give it time to work it's particular magic.

Recommended Hispanic Acoustic.

Agent Whiskers - Stage 2: The Path Untaken CD

Hear The Track Here

Where, presumably, stage one was the Abstract Forms of Solace CD (September 2011) a feast of intelligent electronica cum hip hop from a place more noted for oil and gas than either of those two musical forms. Essam Whiskers (aka Agent etc) is a musician from Saudi Arabia who first contacted me last year and followed up one request immediately with another (this CD) you got to be thinking that this is a busy boy. Aaaaah, but does all this activity signify that you, the listener, should be in any way interested. Well playing, producing and mixing something as good as the first CD is what got it a reasonably high rating from me, and I had hope that this new one would be upping the game (even though it is a few months old by now).

Confused? Don't worry, normal state of affairs round here, ask anyone!

Stage 2: The Path Untaken is a seven track EP in the same vein as Abstract Forms of Solace as the first track, Awaken (A Paradise in Ruins), shows. While it IS classy electronica, performed and recorded very well, you will have heard something similar many times. It's only on Contagion (A Dance With Death) (track two) that Agent Whiskers finally dons his dancing pants, although it owes a lot of it's existence to the darker side of the 1980's electropop scene. By the time you've sucked these introductory tracks down you, the scene is set and Agent's description of the album being 'a sprawling electronic experience' would seem highly accurate. Obviously you are going to have to like the genre to really enjoy anything this musician comes out with because instrumentals are pretty much the whole game - and with electronica that can often be a problem.

However both Rescue Me (Deep Sleep) and Retribution (Feeling Alive, Battle Scars and All) (tracks three and four) acquit themselves as well as the preceding tracks and, if this were a western musician, most of us would be going 'oh yeah oh yeah'. Take into account the culture and musical tradition that Essam has grown up with and the music takes on a different lustre. Not one piece of music on this excellent set of instrumentals give away anything geographically but the fact that the musician comes from such a restrictive and often intolerant country (IMHO obviously) speaks volumes for his attention to the genre detail and that - to me - is where Agent Whiskers earns those 00 credentials (and a saucer of milk). As you may have noticed, the project tells a story and Downpour (Finding Love in a Post-Apocalyptic World), The Getaway (Just Drive) and The Final Chapter (The Godless King of No Man's Land Awaits) round out the CD and musically it does indeed work as a whole. So if smart, intelligent electronica is your genre du jour, get some!!

Excellent Electronica. Highly Recommended.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Year End Review of 2011 (The Stevies!)

{Scene: exterior, night. A windswept, foul looking alley comes into view as the camera moves into focus on a equally disgusting large cardboard box, which shakes alarmingly. We hear the sound of footsteps and a figure (grubby and mis-shappen) falls untidily to the floor at our feet}

Oooh hello you lot, and welcome to the Ninth Annual Stevies Awards and I start (as usual) with a pathetic excuse for the condition you find these awards in tonight. I blame this whole austerity thing and no, we are not all in it together because - as you can see - these normally glitzy and dazzling awards (Ed: delusional, I always told you) have been reduced to Cardboard Alley, a place not known to tourism. Still, we have to soldier on innit, so in that spirit, let's get to the meat and veg...

This is my own, highly personal snapshot of the past year or so in the music scene we inhabit and bears no resemblence whatsoever to any actual awards ceremonies being (of course) all in my own tiny mind. Now while I might have a mind the size of a peanut, I compensate by having ears like an elephant and I put them to good use by listening to almost everything that is thrown at me so - as someone once said - you don't have to. As anyone will tell you having read my reviews though, it does seem that I like an awful lot of stuff. Looked at one way, that is true enough. The fact is that the level of quality with internet based music is improving all the time, even from some of the die-hard lo-fi merchants who swear if it isn't made with a comb and a piece of tissue paper it isn't valid. Bullshit. It's all valid, and that's part of the problem, I don't get to do a hatchet job that often because it just isn't necessary, a lot of that is done by self-policing musicians and - believe me - I never thought I'd write that particular word combination in my lifetime.

These awards then, highlight some of the very best music I have heard this year from requests taken through Soundclick (my home site) and latterly, through the RebelRiffs blog. I stress again, these are MY personal favourites, you will undoubtedly have your own. As always my criteria centres on the material itself and whether it manages to touch me in some way, to achieve that I am willing to sacrifice sound quality and/or capability because IMHO some of the best music around comes from technical constraints and the musicians willingness to climb over them to get the job done.

Regular readers will be aware that I have slowed down considerably the past year in the frequency of reviews and that is because of two factors: I have a life and I am probably suffering somewhat from review burnout. After all, I have been reviewing huge amounts of tracks month upon month and it is bound to have an effect, so I decided to slow it down somewhat. It doesn't stop the massive overload I am getting from blog requests though which - at this moment - has a six week waiting list and will undoubtedly get plowed under this coming year.

Words On The Web

Funnily enough, the emphasis has shifted around completely from a year ago. This time last year the bulk of the requests came from Soundclick but, as I mentioned at the time, the falloff in Soundclick's forums was and is dramatic - especially with the move to Facebook and other social networking sites. Last year I wrote 'Personally, I wouldn't do either Facebook, Twitter or even Myspace' and I've had to eat those weasel words ever since as Facebook had played a bigger and bigger part in both my musical life and as a reviewer although, thank God, very few FB'ers know what I do so don't hassle me to 'peep their shit' I am still very much a part of Mixposure and between that and Soundclick my storage needs are filled even if it''s sometimes more difficult to get attention on those sites than Facebook which does seem to offer a decent level of listeners. So as far as OMD's (Online Music Distributor) go, those two, ReverbNation, Bandcamp and Soundcloud all seem to offer a decent service for musicians like me and my reviewees so if you are intending to have a go, as it were, those are the places to check first. Building an audience is the name of the internet game because it sure as hell isn't about getting rich and famous - never has been and never will be. Almost all of the musicians who have won these awards, including the nine Artist Of The Year winners, have all struggled mighily against the odds, put in the time and commitment to get where they are and know only too well that this is not an easy route to fame and fortune. What it is though is an excellent tool for honing your musical skills and building that audience to a point where you KNOW you have people who actually want to hear your music..

and not a gold lame suit in sight...


2011's Movers and Shakers

Those artists who have made an impression on me one way or another during 2010 are listed in no particular order:

Road Apples - Those Among Us - 333maxwell - Jon Solo - Whitman Speck - Ludicrous - Azoora - Alchemystic - Cinnabar - Charlie A - Mike-K - Ralph Atkinson - Cam's Even Song - Avalanche - Thomas J Marchant - Pilesar - Rude Corps - Weylin's Slayer Orchestra - Gangbangsters - Farrell Jackson - See-I - Mathien - Diamond Lil - Heavy Glow - Wwolves - Howard Billington - Refrag - Rustik - Larry Ludwick - Pidgeman - Cameron Pierce - Gabriel Sabadi - Ratchet - Ofelia Dorme - Marc Blackwell - RHA

2011 Tracks Of The Year Overview

As I mentioned above I have actually slowed down reviews this year, going from 450+ in 2010 to 366 this year but that hasn't stopped the flood of requests I am currently drowning under (not to mention videos, albums, EP and whatall) In terms of tracks that made the elusive hard drive, the surprising thing is that 163 managed to stay there the whole year, and that's way above normal. I think the reason for this is simple, as good as the work being put out by Soundclick musicians continue to be, it faces very serious competition from elsewhere on the net. A lot of the personal standouts for me from this year, certainly in terms of professionalism, have come from blog requests and are musicians I never heard before - and long may that keep up eh?

Exceptional Tracks by the Month
* where (RR) appears, these are blog requests and probably not on Soundclick

Pam Schaffer - Henry (RR)
Rustik - Fade Away
Thomas J Marchant - High
Matthew Laming - The Never Forgotten
Jon Solo - Circles
Gangbangsters - I'm An Epidemic
Refrag - Several
Chris Cape - Major Tom (video)
Dave Meredith - Your Whispers
Charlie A - Before The 3AM Alarm
Cam's Even Song - Taken From The Indian Man
Moral Factor - Old Dirty White Shoes
Reflexion X - When World Comes To End
Ralph Atkinson - Yesterday's Blues
Deflatables - Superstar (RR)

Marc Blackwell - Bring Me Trouble CD (RR)
Cinnabar - Wishing Down The Drain
Those Among Us - Disco Ball EP
New Nobility - Galactic
Pilesar - Wife Stink
Whitman Speck - King Of The Sickos
Reflexion X - 6th Instinct (Feat Dave 909)
Ofelia Dorme - All Harm Ends Here LP (RR)
The New Royalty - Here I Go
The Unknown Artist - Save The Planet!
Farrell Jackson - Another Year 2010
Twizzie - Until I Break Feat Dreamcast
Eject Pilot Eject - Face To Face (RR)
Nigel Potter - Necromancer

Larry Ludwick - A Cloud Passes
Rustik - ...For The Better
Weylin's Slayer Orchestra - Endless Night
The New Royalty - When Poets Dream CD (RR)
Ralph Atkinson - Blue Valentine
Zone Music Inc - Willingly
Jon Solo - Once Upon a Time Ago
Red Wanting Blue - These Magnificent Miles CD (RR)
Thomas J Marchant - Honestly This Is Honesty
RHA - La Caduta di Alice CD (RR)
Smoke It 'n' Die - Off Bounds
Alderman - A Bright Day
Wendy H - Kid Doctor
US English - Used Future EP2 (RR)
XoC - 1786 in Canada feat Rappy McRapperson

Twiggy Frostbite - Written Within (RR)
Those Among Us - The Final Hour
Jon Solo - Elephant In The Room
National Snack - Hoodwinked (RR)
Thomas J Marchant - I Sold My Heart (To Goldman Sachs)
Rustik - Evil
Refrag - Nothing To See Here
PreOKL - Combak
Alchemystic - You Pay (Argle Remix)
Wwolves -For Victory CD (RR)
Farrell Jackson - Lucky Day
Love, But Louder - Nothing
The Usual Pleasures - Kevlar Hearts (RR)

Love, Susan - Alive (RR)
Bikini Black Special - Physioterrorists CD (RR)
Darius Lux - Time Is Now EP (RR)
Ralph Atkinson - Throw The TV Out Of The Window
Distant Autumn - Just The Same
Jon Solo - Drift Away
Emmett Grayson - That Rock Is Gonna Roll
Pidgeman - You Mean The World To Me
Hana Pirana - My Nerves Were Made For Grinding EP (RR)
DeepSeaGreen - Valsorda EP (RR)
Alchemystic - Tahtoo Parempaa (Argle Remix)
Hhymn - In The Depths CD (RR)
Rude Corps - UCallMeSir - Poisoned (Rude Corps Mix)
Gangbangsters - Get Retarded
Howard Billington - Mobile Circus

Those Among Us - One
Weylin's Slayer Orchestra - Endless Night
Fear 2 Stop - Blown
Jon Solo - Alice and Elmer
Cam's Even Song - First Sign Of Spring
Jane G33/picKOne - Right Track
Alchemystic - Here For You Ft Road Apples
Farrell Jackson - Put My Ashes In The F-Hole
Ludicrous - The Real World
Earth Prayer - Nine Days CD (RR)

Barricades Rise - All I Have Is Here LP (RR)
Wwolves - For Victory LP (RR)
Whitman Speck - Permanent Disguise
Weylin's Slayer Orchestra - Addiction
Ralph Atkinson - When Love Comes
Pidgeman - Intoxicated
Thomas J Marchant - It's Easy To Get Confused
Diamond Lil - Sex Injuries
Lauren Aquilina - Robots/Never Change (RR)
Rayon Vert - Life Under A Microscope
JCH (UK) - Price You Pay
Ludicrous - Dead Woman
Smoke It 'n' Die - Take Your Shot (Video)
Heavy Glow - Midnight Moan LP (RR)

Cameron Pierce - Atra Bilis
333maxwell - And Drift Away
The Violent Whispers - Heartbreak Loves Romance (RR)
Repeater - We Walk From Safety LP (RR)
Thomas J Marchant - Disappoint
Ludicrous - Everywhere
Mike-K - Kick It
Ratchet - Numb LP
Ralph Atkinson - Flashing 12 o'clock Ft Tim Lowe
Pilesar - Spider Bait
Farrell Jackson - Six String
Scheezy McGee - Cool
Cam's Even Song - Light Unapproachable
Thielus Grenon - The Underground

Mathien - The Night I Was An Alpha Male/You'll Never Learn (RR)
See-I - Homegrown (RR)
Weylin's Slayer Orchestra - No Tomorrow
Avalanche - The Golden Sun (2012)
Mike B Is for Byj - Look, Look, Look
333maxwell - I Found Your Music Box
Ralph Atkinson - Away On The Wind
Whitman Speck - Paranoid
Cam's Even Song - Heart Of Things
Ludicrous - Streets
Azoora ft graciellita - Apart EP

Whitman Speck - Butcher of Plainfield
Jon Solo - Kill Shot To The Heart
Weylin's Slayer Orchestra - Prelude To Annihilation
Satellite 3 - Ghost (Storie Remix Featuring Raven-K)(Short)
333maxwell - Where oh Where are You Tonight (the drinking song)
Thomas J Marchant - Don't Ask, Don't Get
Avalanche - From The Barrel Of A Gun
Mike Prather - Living On The Edge
Origamibiro - Quad Time Remixes EP (RR)
Jonski - Take Two EP (RR)
Chayse Maclair - I Thought This Was Supposed To Be Music
Pilesar - Ricochet
Gangbangsters - Killin It CD
Rude Corps - No Justice, No Peace
Road Apples - No Turning Back
Mesia - Mesia EP (RR)

Strange Talk - Climbing Walls (RR)
Thomas J Marchant - Lifeboat
333maxwell - Takin' The Trolley
Afrolicious - Dub For Mali EP (RR)
N Talekt - So Gone Feat Anna
Charlie A - The Prayer Feat Abiodun Koya
Jon Solo - Laughing At Me
Whitman Speck - Halloween (In The N13)
Dollar Bill and The Unmentionables - Alright
Billy Shake - Crashing Down CD (RR)
Pilesar - Melon Balls
Farrell Jackson - San Francisco Daze

Joe McGrady - Fading Autumn EP (RR)
Weylin's Slayer Orchestra - Love
Those Among Us - Sayonara Sally
Solosounds - We Were So Young
Down The Machine - Know Your Place (RR)
Thomas J Marchant - Blackout
Mike-K - Having Fun
Speedpig - Hog Roast In Hell EP (RR)
Ralph Atkinson - Down In The Dungeon
Charlie A - Running Free
Cinnabar - A small bit of Ilrod
Polar For The Masses - Silence CD (RR)
N Talekt - Don't Cry For Me
Scars By Fire - Junkies/Lost In My Ways

2011 Tracks Of The Year

Thomas J Marchant - Blackout/Disappoint/Don't Ask, Don't Get/High/Honestly, This Is Honesty/I Sold My Heart To Goldman Sachs/It's Easy To Get Confused/Lifeboat
Artist Of The Year 2007 Thomas J Marchant just keeps churning out his little aural wonders at a prodigious rate, as you can see by the record number of Must Have's he has notched up this year. While it would be undeniably fair to say that I have a massive inbuilt bias towards this refreshingly good songwriter, it's also fair to point out that this is one of Soundclick's most original artists and one not to be missed.

Ralph Atkinson - Away On The Wind/Blue Valentine/Down In The Dungeon/Flashing 12 o clock/Throw The TV Out The Window/When Love Comes/Yesterday's Blues
An absolutely brilliant year for Canada's Ralph Atkinson resulting in a string of Must Haves that are an excellent introduction to the range and breadth of this musicians scope. Blues, rock, jazz, you name it, Ralph has a tune in that style but when he hits the blues streak....brrrr... While he still struggles (like a great many Soundclick artists) with the limitations of 'home' recording, he gets around it deftly enough and delivers some very potent sonhgs into the bargain.

Weylin's Slayer Orchestra - Addiction/Endless Night/Love/No Survivors/No Tomorrow/Prelude To Annihilation
Looking at those titles you may be temped to consider Weylin's Slayer Orchestra to be a bit of a Gloomy Gus and in some respects you'd be right. It's a mistake I made when I first met this musician and one he has quietly, and persistently, demolished ever since. There is a dark side to the music, for sure, but there is also a nice edge of originality in all his tracks that make Weylin someone to savour.

Jon Solo - Alice and Elmer/Circles/Drift Away/Elephant In The Room/Kill Shot To The Heart/Laughing At Me/Once Upon A Time Ago/We Were So Young (Solosounds)
Another new(ish) name to these awards making a very substantial showing this is is a Soundclick musician who has been on there longer than me!! I know, amazing innit? So is Jon's work which IMHO is nothing short of masterly. Specialising in time and tested rock pop, Jon Solo is one of the finest songwriters in the genre I have ever met - anywhere. Kill Shot To The Heart ( a SC competition entry) is an unsung Bond theme song that cries out to be in the upcoming new film. That's how good it is.

Whitman Speck - Butcher Of Plainfield/Halloween In The N13/King Of The Sickos/Paranoid/Permanent Disguise
The self acclaimed King Of The Sickos (and believe me there is a lot of truth in that statement) continues to horrify and disgust the bulk of the population, or at least those who don't enjoy cutting edge rap music, coupled with some of the more horrific visual cues you are ever likely to hear. Whitman Speck is not for the unwary but he typifies what makes horrorcore so compelling.

333Maxwell and Cam's Even Song
Artist Of The Year 2009 and 2006 respectively both Max and Cam show no sign of running out of creative juices are ideas for the foreseeable future, 333maxwell in particular is a song machine and certainly gives Cam's own hit factory a run for the money. Again, I am very, very particular about AOTY awards and I think long and hard about who should win one, both of these excellent musicians have proved their right to the award, time and time again...

Farrell Jackson - Another Year 2010/Lucky Day/Put My Ashes In the F Hole/Six Strings
A straight forward rock musician of the old school, Farrell Jackson has, along with Mixposure stalwarts such as Gabriel Sabadi, Chris Moore, Rob Grant and God knows how many other collaborees, managed to keep the flame of true rock music alive this year with the abovementioned tracks but Farrell doesn't just stop at making great tracks like this, the guy has more bands than you can shake a stick at...

Bubbling Under
While those musicians mentioned above have serious levels of favourable criticism from me, it shouldn't detract from a slew of other musicians who have managed to keep me enormously entertained this past year, I feel it only fitting that they should get a least a mention here. So from the slick pop of Ludicrous, the ludicrous (but very effective) aural lunacy that is Pilesar, the stately, beautiful music that comes from Charlie A, the radical and pointed polemics that are the hallmarks of any Rude Corps track, and the groundbreaking hip hop of both Gangbangsters and Rustik. Finally, special mention to the consecutive EP's released this year by the incomparable Those Among Us who, IMHO are the band most likely to...

Artist Of The Year 2011

Getting to this award every year is never an easy task, and this year I can honestly say it has been harder than most. There are so many real contenders this year, it makes my heart glad to see that, despite the carnage of website forum activity, there are still places where good musicians can be both appreciated and - along the way - learn a trick or two. As always, if this award was based soley on musical ability then there would be a steady trek to previous winners but there is a hidden snag, it can only be won once by a musician. Therefore as much as previous winners such as 333maxwell, Thomas Marchant, Cam's Even Song et al (not to mention winners such as Maria Daines or Nad Sylvan) could easily win this award every year on musical ability, there is a lot more in the mix. It also comes down to the musicians view of the world in which we all live, how willing they are to get involved in building something as well as promoting their own work, and finally how the scene we inhabit views them.. I think, therefore, that the Artist Of The Year 2011 award is going to prove a very popular choice indeed, for it can go to no one but...

Ralph Atkinson

Never judge a book by its cover is a time honoured piece of wisdom and this applies to this musician. As unprepossessing and 'normal' as Ralph and his music may appear, his unerring musical aim never cease to amaze and delight me, and his many Soundclick fans into the bargain. If you have never heard any of his music, then shame on you... One of the most natural musicians around, and a gem for all that...


And that, as they say, is that for another year. I'd like to personally thank all the musicians, producers, rappers, directors and video makers who have trusted me with your musical/artistic babies this year, and I hope I gave them the time and judgement they deserved. Now, off you go and start working for that AOTY 2011 bauble....