Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Fluidity - An Ode To Insanity

Hear The Track Here

The problem on Soundclick with making a splash first time out (as Fluidity obviously did or we wouldn't be talking about it) is that it forever puts you on the spot. At that point, you are only as good as your last track, know what I mean? Nonetheless, Fluidity has managed to overcome that with a string of well put together rock tracks with his own particular style stamped through it. Fluidity is the name and fluidity is the game and it works extremely well. There have been a couple of tracks that haven't quite done it for me but the overwhelming number of tracks I have heard from this artist make him one of my SC favourites.

Lets see: so far I've compared him to Pink Floyd (Waters or Barrett, take your pick), The Cure, Spilt Enz, Crowded House (of course since he's from NZ) and just lately he's been reminding me of Status Quo so this time round, I'll not to compare him to anybody. With Fluidity its best not to take too much notice of the title because there ain't anything that insane happening here, at least not that Mad Scientist stuff we have heard lately. What we get is pretty much I have come to expect from JP: excellent rock tunes made in the classic style. In that respect, the only that then needs to be said is this better than all that has come before?

Well noooo, but that's one of the things about Fluidity's work, he has sounded like this since the beginning and judgng by his popularity, it's certainly paying off for him. It should because Fluidity is a rock artist through and through and he knows how to make the vocals push through, so it would be fair to say that - outside of its genre - it may not attract too much attention particularly seeing as it is 'just' a good song. There again to use that description to describe An Ode To Insanity isn't to do it justice either because it's a far better track - technically and materially - than most online musicians are capable of, but judged against his previous work... Well, I think you get my drift...

Class rock track. Recommended.

Stonedog - Time and Tide

Hear The Track Here

A totally new name to me now from MP3 Unsigned. Stonedog is the bandname of Jon Davies a singer/songwriter (and I presume acoustic guitarist) and also features Adam Gee on bass and Steve Fenton on drums so now you know as much as I do about them eh? Although they bill themselves as rock, Time and Tide doesn't strike you as being particularly rock, it being a very laid back affair full of soft tones, especially from a very economical bassline. Initially, I have to say (because you know my dire thoughts about ballads in general) that it was the way the bass was used in this track that kept me interested. Lovely peice of work, and as understated as they come but without that bass....

Time and Tide is one of those songs, as the title suggests probably, that it will take time for this to settle on you so don't dismiss it out of hand - as I usually do when faced with ballads. The more I listened to this, the more obvious it became that - whatever the state of the material - here was a trio who knew how to work each other to the best effect. Along the way creating something that, as I say, isn't quite rock but isn't quite a weepy ballad either. In sound and delivery though, it has a lot to do with the darker side of rock, especially with that drawn out vocal which - at times - reminded me strongly of The Cure's Robert Smith.

Eventually despite all my best efforts, I got to like this peice very much partly because of the things I have already mentioned and partly because Time and Tide is a very good song indeed and makes me want to hear other things from this band. That, I would hazard a guess, is what the band is all about and I'd say their professional approach and smart production will aid in that task enormously. There are some things about the mix that don't work that well but judging by some of the comments I've seen posted, to talk about them is only going over old ground. It's all these things and the dark tone in the track will help because its very much in keeping with what is happening commercially in the real world. All in all, encountering Stonedog was very interesting in every way and certainly piqued my curiosity to hear what else they have under their belts.

Great song, performed with style. Highly Recommended.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Rooney Tunes - Doing Fine

Hear The Track Here

Boy has Mickey Rooney (aka Rooney Tunes) got it bad. The love bug, that is. As someone commented on his message board, he must have lots of female fans and there would be no argument from me on that score. There again, as I've also made painfully clear, it isn't always a genre (pop ballads, jazzy fusions) that I'd enjoy let alone coat with acres of love triangles, love unrequited and and and... I'm sure Mike knows that I'm only half joking there because although I may not always like the content of his song, there is no doubting the quality and it's that which keeps me listening.

If that sounds like I am denigrating RT's work, it is exactly the opposite. It's because of his work in creating these tracks musically and technically that really fascinate me, genres I can take or leave. A good musician I am likely to pester to an early grave - even one knee deep in the throes of romantic orgasms. Seriously, every Rooney Tunes track I have heard has been first class work, regardless of the genre and that's all that counts in my book. From the very first piano/fretless bass run, you know immediately that you are in for an aural treat, a mix so clean and professional you could eat your dinner off it. The fretless bass is, for me, one of the highlights of the track because I love the instrument and its fit in this track is immaculate.

Doing Fine is - once again a hallmark of this artist - a great song, if a bit middle of the road in style. Nonetheless, when you consider that the target audience is one where that musical ground is huge and Rooney Tunes will undoubtedly carve out his own territory from it. Rightly so as it happens because its difficult to pick holes in such a professional peice of work and even harder not to like an honest, straightforward account of getting over a love affair.. There is a touch - to my ears - of Barry Manilow about it and that is I guess yet another selling point although the classification may need adjusting. Whatever, this is a very, very slick track that will knock you on your butt if you like the style. It may even do that even if you think I should now go and wash my moth out with soap and water for draggin' ol' Bignose (Ed: That's MR Manilow to you, ya scurvy wretch!) into such a sane review.

Doing Fine is much better than that :D Highly Recommended pop ballad.

Omnisine - In The Name Of God

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It's hard enough getting onto my review list before I get swamped, but imagine how much worse it is when you are on the other side of the world. It's OK for us folks in the US, UK and Europe, cos we all have the same day, but people like Omnisine, a native of Mumbai, India, often misses it. But lo! Behold! The boy done good because here he is. If you don't know anything about Omnisine and his own particular brand of electronica, it has the same mostly Western leaning of his fellow city mate Prash and both make music of a very high quality indeed as you can hear by picking any track at random from either artist. You may also have known Omnisine in a slightly older form as the artist known as CJ Freq-X.

Mind you, I have berated them equally too for not including more of their own musical heritage in their music, but being a fan of all world sounds, I would do that. Mind you, as far as Omnisine is concerned after this track I take it all back. Like myself, Omnisine is disgusted with the way that religious dogma is shaping our lives and - also like myself - lives in a city that has its share of the kind of atrocities that dogma brings. Last year Mumbai was hit by a series of train bombs leaving 174 dead and hundreds more injured, some of those very seriously. When 7/7 happened in London I was sufficiently angry at this tragedy I wrote what is probably the angriest track I have ever written, and now the same holds true for Omnisine because this is by far the most edgy I have ever heard this usually placid musician.

There's an extremely tense intro enlivened by some very dirty guitar licks that thunder the track along, before being joined by a rhythm track that threw me out of my comfy chair. As you would expect, the track goes like the clappers, but it isn't without its moments of quieter drama and I do not use that word lightly. The really ear popper though was the introduction of some great Indian rhythms, beats and instruments and it's this addition that puts it over the top for me. Absolutely beyond all question of a doubt the very best thing I have ever heard from this artist who has given me so many good moments in the past. It's a sad indictment of life in the modern world that it took such a tragedy to provide the inspiration for such a moment of wonder, at least musically. A cross between Drums and Bass, Rock and all points south to the great city of Mumbai and so special it'll cream your ears...

A REAL genre bender. Absolute MUST HAVE.

Greybrow - Brainstorm

Hear The Track Here

I don't know whether it's because I have been spending less time on MP3 Unsigned or whether Greybrow has but going back through the reviews it's been some considerable time since I came across a new Greybrow offering. The last thing I seem to have heard from this once prolific MP3 Unsigned artist was back when I reviewed Mon cœur en été (July 2006), a typically neat peice of electronic chill out which - although not really my thang - principally because I like what Greybrow does even if I don't always agree with the musical field it roams in. That's the difference, in my mind, between experimental which consists of bashing things together to see if they work (ie a lot of it) or experimental that is cogent, unsettling and raw as a canker sore.

Ever had a little fragment of a tune that you played over and over again, finally start adding things to it and eventually end up with a track that makes you think 'where the fekk did that come from'? I suspect that is much the culprit here but in such a weird and wonderful manner it makes perfect sense. See, Greybrow is a fiddler. There he was, deep with the guts of Absynth tinkering with its more esoteric sounds, and the next thing you know of it's a track called Brainstorm and - believe me - it does exactly what it says on the tin so be forewarned.

Obviously then it's gonna feature a lot of sound oddities but in the world called Greybrow this is perfectly commonplace so if you are a long time fan, this'll be right up your street guv. Because what it does, as I said before, is build ferociously within the old brainpan, each added element stacking up the weight until - about halfway through - steam starts coming out of your ears. God you make it sound terrible Gilmore, you cry in horror! Yes, that may be true, in any other hands, but Greybrow shows his usual devotion to sound fidelity and makes each sweep count. It is, I have since discovered, a new track so I hope this means that we will be seeing more of this artist because I could do with the odd catharsis every now and then.

Excellently realised experimental music. Highly Recommended.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Charlie A - Broken China

Hear The Track Here

Charlie Armour (for it is he) supplied me with the prime LOL musical moment of 2006 when I reviewed his stunningly good Bebee Bubba (July 2006), a track that I saved instantly and still play to this day. Put it like this, the man just missed getting one of my tracks of the year last year and - if the competition had been less fierce - he would have deserved it. Bebee Bubba is a rare treat; a track with ideas, intelligence and a wicked sense of style. It also has the distinction of having the youngest vocalist one Soundclick: one year old Lauren, Charlie's neice. When I reviewed it I gave it a Highly Recommended rating and see no reason whatsoever to go back on that especially seeing as the track has grown more on me in the intervening few months.

Mind you, I get weird fetishes like that...

Broken China is, as you would expect, a musical dissertation about China's lamentable lack of human rights - or at least that is the impression Charlie give sin the song comments. Its a given then that you should expect a strong, forthright peice of music but - to be honest - I wasn't expecting something that had the authority and authenticity that the musical portion of this track conveys. As with his previous track, it's obvious that Charlie has learned about music presentation and as good as Bebee Bubba was in that respect, Broken China is about as good as it gets. Take, for example, the tone and tenor of the cello that introduces the track; hear how fat that thing is?? The little touches of kodo drum behind that sound show that here is an artist who thinks about every move.

Broken China develops rapidly into the powerful track the intro suggests, as muscular in the musical construction as it is in the technical aspects. Charlie A has a very adept touch with electronica and over the space of a couple of tracks has impressed me no end, but this track completely blows me away the more I hear it. Not just for the addition of proper Chinese instrumentation (as you know a staple of my diet) but for the self assured, highly competent manner in which all these goodies ended up in the same package. If tracks like Bebee Bubba and Broken China are any indication of the kind of material to be expected from this source, 2007 is shaping up to be a really good year.

Top class electronica. Top class World Music. Top class. MUST HAVE.

Bassil Taleb - Heavenly

Hear The Track Here

The one thing I have learned beyond doubt over a long musical life is that - no matter what - not everyone is going to like your music. In the past, it was immensely difficult to make your own music - you had to play your own instruments for a start. Not to mention extremely expensive in terms of equipment, transport and recording studios. Nowadays its a peice of piss, the whole world and his brother are out there making music and most of it is - surprisingly enough - really quite good. Much more to the point, there is room aplenty for niche music from the terrors of prog rock to all kinds of esoteric stuff. Admittedly these are small audiences but hey, and audience is an audience right? And therein lies my tale for today...

Why do you make music? Some of us do it because we want to be famous, some of us do it so that we can score chicks and have our mates look up to us, and some of us do it because we don't know anything else and couldn't do anything else if we tried. Personally music is my air and water and I don't care much whether I have an audience or not for it. The reason I mention now is because I haven't always been kind to Bassil Taleb and his music and I'd like him to know that its just my opinion. Heavenly is the third track he has thrown to me so hopefully he will know what the deal is by now. I automatically asssume that any artist who puts music online so that others can hear it and - presumably - get an audience for further tracks. Therefore my reviews are - I hope - a pointer in how to get your music through to more people and what people want more than anything is an artist who is consistent. That inconsistency has dogged both of Bassil's past tracks, musically and technically but we all have to start somewhere and every track is a learning experience and hopefully things do get better in time. I have seen this happen time and time again online...

Heavenly slides itself into the Drums and Bass genre but the resemblence ends there, DnB it most assuredly is not unless you think that drums and bass are superfast drums with no rhyme or reason. The overriding sense I came away with from an extended session with this track is that it doesn't seem to have any formal structure at all. Not that this is much of a problem in this avant garde world but even the experimentalists have to abide by the musical rules - despite what they say. What comes across from this track more than anything else is an 'ooh that sounds good' routine where anything (and everything) is added to the mix. To give Bassil his due, it just about hangs together but it is by the merest of threads. Therefore it would be best if you liked edge-of-chaos electronica thown out a dizzying speed before you decided to check out Heavenly.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Tedd-Z - Footprints (2007)

Hear The Track Here

Hang around in this place long enough and you'll meet everybody at least twice. Hang around as long as I have and you see the comings and going and the ups and down of internet and forum life with some caution, in every way. Shit happens, as the old saying goes, and I pretty much agree with every word. A lot of that shit has hit Tedd-Z in his time, some of it even from my direction in terms of reviews but - bless him - he picks himself up and rolls right along. So, after an absence of a few months, it's nice to welcome the man back into the fold. Mind you, having said that and given myself a large headache with Tedd-Z' self titled 'edgey electronic nonsense' in the past, this may not be the most wonderful thing in my life right now, but hey I'm a ruff tuff creampuff and I can take it...


Seems like Tedd-Z is in a retrospective frame of mind by re-working some of his earlier tracks including, it would appear. I'm not sure if I heard the original and if I ever did it has passed into the mists of time so I approached this version with fresh ears. I've known this artist for over four years so its a given that I would expect more from him than most, and he's been around long enough to come up with the goods and he certainly does that with Footprints which I suspect is probably the most commercial I have heard the old boy sound - ever. Much more to the point, I think he's taught himself some new production tricks because the way this is polished and buffed is a wonder to behold, especially when you know his past history. It's even, God forbid, kinda pretty in a Tedd-Z way and that's something I never thought I would be able to say about this artists work.

When all is said and done though, as good as it is, it is 'just another instrumental' but theres certainly more than enough here to snag your attention for the three minutes it takes to run it's course. Musically, Tedd-Z wanders over into World music territory, at least with the percussive elements at use in this track; structurally it's pure Tedd-Z; fiddly, often obtuse but always interesting and - given his new production sound - works well as a track in its own right. However, you will probably have to have a glancing interest in Tedd-Z or electronica blends to really enjoy this track. Nonetheless, as I say, this is by far the best track I have ever heard from Tedd-Z and certainly far more accessible than most of his past works. Welcome back Tedd-Z, now lets hear some new stuff :D

Recommended blend of World and electronica.

Dean Taylor - Could There Be

Hear The Track Here

Dean Taylor is a new name to my reviews; a songwriter/lyricist from the US who has had some considerable success at his chosen tradecraft so he comes to the party with great expectations from me. I'm really not sure quite why I haven't come across his music before considering that he has done a collaboration with the late, and very much missed Mary Gottschalk and one of his tracks is going to be on the upcoming CD release of material from Mary, compiled by her husband Ray Bonin. So going in with those credentials really sets you up for a professional job in all respects, and that is often where I find a track ultimately fails...

Uh oh... Could there be...?

I have to admit upfront that there is a strain of music I don't really have much time for, and Could There Be veers dangerously close to the 'songs from shows' genre for my own particular taste. However, I am quick to recognise my own philistine tendencies so I can give - I hope - a fairly balanced opinion despite not being bowled over by this track. It's one of life's little irritations I find; the music is in the right place, the production is in the pocket, the vocalist is emoting for all its worth and yet, and yet... Someone has obviously gone to a lot of time, trouble and effort to get this song into the highly professional state it now finds itself and while it has to be said that there is a huge market for this kind of material within the domestic United States and Canada, it's a genre and sound that doesn't travel well - at all.

There is no doubting the professional production and musical talent on display and the vocal by Jason Nadon is everything you would expect it to be and, as I say, this is something that would go down well in a show. An area, no doubt, being mined for gold as we speak by Dean and his cohorts. There is a level of songwriting in America, especially on material of this type, that shows up incredibly badly if it isn't handled right and Mary Gottschalk was one of the artists able to pull it off to a larger audience than normal. Judged on this track, I'd say Dean Taylor was way up there too, although this particular track may be a bit too theatrical to appeal much outside its very narrow genre. I think I'll listen to whatever else this artist has around because you never know with material of this quality....

Big Wheel - The Yes Song

Hear The Track Here

The very first thought to attack my senses when I saw this tawdry offering in the list this month was that if Big Wheel has given me some prog rock to listen to, I was gonna rip him a nice, shiny new butt. I give him an Up and Coming award for 2006 and this is how he repays me!?!?! Fickle, this lot, I tells ya. Consider this though: Big Wheel got a Up and Coming placing within the space of six short months and that is pretty good going by any standards. The reason is that the man can churn out the choons like you wouldn't believe. The first review of a track I did was Far Away (July 2006) and I gave it a Highly Recommended and the tracks piled up from there, proving this artists consistency and quality. Not that I feel I have to justify my award processes, but because I don't give these things away lightly.

And it provides an extra stick to beat them with... :D

Thinking that Big Wheel would stoop to such a mean trick as dobbing a wodge of prog rock at me just goes to show how paraniod I really am, so lets get off that subject quickly. As you will hear when you hear the track (shouldn't be any if about it IMHO), Big Wheel has nothing whatsoever to do with prog rock and loads to do with rocking electronica grooves the like of which you won't hear in many other places. This time, he's on a Drums and Bass tip and the more I lived with this track the more I liked it's frenetic pace, despite its apparently lazy delivery. There's huge amounts of aural scenery dotted about all over the place and it will certainly take more than a couple of plays to prise them out of their hidey holes - but that's half the fun of it isn't it?

I have heard a lot of stuff purporting to be Drums and Bass, but not heard much that actually lived up to that claim. The Yes Song is a very neat bit of the genre and - when you hear it - I feel certain you'll be downloading it at the same time. At five minutes, thirty it's a bit of a earful but it NEVER gets stale in any degree, propelled along by a lovely liquid bassline that sits perfectly in the mix. For this reviewer, the thing that makes Big Wheel's music work so well are those little touches he gives the music, the breaks, the introduction of new sounds and instruments around every corner. All told, The Yes Song is a fairly intense rhythmic experience that will get your lazy bum off the seat so no more excuses, let's go paAAARRTTY...

Excellent Drums and Bass. Highly Recommended.

The Lords Of The Mysterious - Partybox

Hear The Track Here

Although I've obviously taken notice of The Lords Of The Mysterious (LOM for short eh?) because they/he/she/it post reviews in the Critics Corner forum and I am bound to read them - after alll, got to keep up with the competition ;) I haven't, up until this point, heard any of their music either because they haven't been able to get onto the review list or just can't be arsed. Still, here we go. It isn't often that I get to go into the electronica: House genre and - I have to admit - a bit of a refreshing change. I could do with a rest from the constant boinging and banging, know what I mean? LOM are also the recipient of this month's Yeah But/No But... award because they put up one version of this and then changed their mind and substituted the version you see here. Therefore, as always, my curiosity about the first version increased... So it was a good job I downloaded both versions :D

See, keeping up with the competition.

The obvious change is that the track gained about six minutes! Could hardly believe the ol' ocular devices, I tell ya. Partybox weighs in at a hefty eight minutes plus but there's plenty going on so it won't seem that long - especially if you like the genre. And if you are partial - as this artist obviously is - to playing with your new toys. In this case, said new toy being some kind of voicebox thingie for vocalist Paul Lovelace to get his gob around. Of course, the most immediate reference - both musically and stylistically - is to the late, great Roger Troutman and the band he fronted, the mighty Zapp. Nice... See that's the first thing that slipped into my earholes and I guess it's novelty value outwieghed common sense for a while because it took a while for the shine to wear off.

However, wear off it did.

OK so I admittedly played the damn thing to death before that (I loved Zapp) but - to my ears - it could have lost a good couple of minutes and still ahve been no worse for it, and maybe that would cut down on the 'enough of the voicebox already' impulse you will no doubt acquire by the sixth or seventh listen. So, a bit specialised really, I think, to catch fire but there is certainly enough here to make it worthy of attention. More so if you like a) the genre b) Zapp or c) new toys played to death but even a casual listener may get sucked in with the vocal tricks. My real problem with this track came from the overuse of the voicebox, it would have been nice to hear some regular vocals happening too. There again, that's just me wanting my cake and eating it to. As it is, I think LOM have a neat idea here, all they have to do is to take care they don't flog it to death.

An interesting take on electronica. Recommended.

Monday, January 22, 2007

k-hutchins - Young Star

Hear The Track Here

Must be my month for acoustic folk because in the review list I had Ryan McAlpin and this new Soundclick artist back to back over the past few days so if I seem a bit laid back (maaaannn) blame them. k-hutchins (Kevin Hutchins is obviously another master of the Lower Case) is a guitarist songwriter from Kent in the UK and judging by the one track on his page is either very new at this or incredibly slow getting the material online. There again, maybe he's just putting a toe in the water so that when we bite it off (inevitable really) he can console himself by saying he knew all along what a right load of b******s we can be. And he would be right.

I joke of course; everybody knows I'm a softy...

This tunes a bit of a softy too, being merely guitar and vocal, although the lyrics are a bit sharp so watch yerselves there. I am not really a fan of the whole folky finger-picking style favoured by a lot of guitarists, but I can't help but admire someone who can pull it off. Okay, it isn't masterclass material but it isn't supposed to be, it's just there to support the vocal and it does that well although I felt the overall sound was a little boomy in places; but that's alwaysa problem trying to record acoustic guitars. Especially when you bring vocals into the picture as well. As it is, Kevin has made a very clean job it, the slight boominess is par for the course really and no-one else will notice it anyway.

What they will notice is a very smart little song, delivered with reasonable confidence which does suggest a certain newness to the subject but the song itself will win you over. Sung in that navel-gazing English way that is so beloved of UK singers right now, Young Star is a bittersweet ballad encased in a very folky arrangement that seems - at first - to not work. However the more you hear it, the more right it becomes, especially when it does start to mesh with the vocal. At heart though, this is a song demo and on that basis I'd have to say this is a pretty good song, and bodes well for further releases. It isn't really my thing so I'll be passing on this but you might not. Whichever way, give it a shot.

Gentle folky rock with a very modern vocal sound.

The Electric Corduroy - My Stable Radio

Hear The Track Here

In December 2005 I reviewed a track called They Were Friends froma group called Ryan McAlpin and The Good Cahoots, and a very good track it was too. So much so that I kept in thinking that 2006 may be a good opportunity to get to knows these guys better. OK so They Were Friends was of a decidedly lo-fi acoustic track but the song was good and the performance more than enough to get me interested and I don't even like the genre that much. I do like a good song though, and They Were Friends is that and more. Between then and now though (a year has passed in case you are still trying to work it out) there has been a deadly silence...

Until The Electric Corduroy comes to town, then we'd better hope they are the colour brown.

Surprising then that once you look at the MP3 ID tag there's our old friends Ryan McAlpin and the Good Cahoots. Sorry guys if The Electric Corduroy was a new name but I preferred the original because it always led to the question 'wtf IS a good cahoot anyway?' My Stable Radio certainly sounds like Ryan and had exactly the same qualities of the previous track; extremely lo-fi but interesting for all that. After all, believe me there aren't that many folk rock tunes (that's the genre we are in here) that feature trumpet as a main instrument. Judging by the sound of these two tracks put together, it does seem that this acoustic/brass lineup is a staple of his material and that kind of diversity can only be applauded.

The only problem that My Stable Radio had to face really was my preference for They Were Friends and that track won hands down. Stable Radio is considerably rougher in presentation that Friends and - to my ears anyway - a much better song altogether. Not that My Stable Radio doesn't have a lot to offer, it does if you like good-timey acoustic rock with a brass edge but it was all a bit too frenetic and muffled (and muffed in a couple of spots too) for my own personal taste. More to the point, let's hope that it's not going to be another year before I get to hear something from them because although I didn't get that close to this track - a bit unfinished if ya know what I mean - I do like this artists style and (usual) presentation.

Good time acoustic rock.

Silverline Productions - Goldeneye: Antenna Cradle Remix

Hear The Track Here

I could have sworn I had reviewed this artist more than once, but no. According to me, I reviewed Shimmer (November 2006) and really liked its fusion approach, although it did have some easily correctable flaws. It certainly showed that Greg Michalec (aka Silverline Productions) knew what he was about and what he was about was writing soundtracks for games, movies and video. Uh oh, I hear you sigh, here comes yet another polemic about the whole point of soundtrack music without the visuals but I won't burden you with that particular cross this time.

This time, I've come up with something different :D

I'm very much into fiddling with other peoples bits (Ed: way too much information Gilmore), that is I love remixing peoples tracks. It's all well and good when you - as is my usual thang - listen to remixes of compos or remixes of another online track, at least then you can listen to the original and compare the two to see what has been done to it. The same can't be said of this remix. Goldeneye Antenna Cradle Remix is, as you can tell from a video game (N64 I think) and is a remix of the music of the last level so if you wanna hear it, you'll have to by the game. Or go to a place somewhere in Mexico ;) Therefore it's kinda impossible to say which is SP and which is original but no doubt I'll get the picture.

Slipping into my all black action outfit, my first run through with this track was exactly what I had pictured it to be, although a bit more stereophonic than I bet it is in the game; besides how much notice can you take of music when you are too busy fragging the ass off anything unlucky enough to be moving, Even inanimate objects aren't safe when you put a high powered weapon in the hands of a maniac like me. So anyway, musically G-AC (hee hee) definitely does its gory job in pumping your adreniline up to dangerous levels; and no doubt affecting other areas too. They do say that some people get off on this...

Yeah, eeewww from me too.

Musically is where it counts though and as good as the track is, and it is excellent at capturing that whole Bond thing, it somehow doesn't make me perspire very much. I suppose it's different when you know the game and the original track but somehow playing a peice of music like this out of context doesn't really touch you that much. It's a very tight peice of music right enough, and again shows that it's my own predjudice thats getting in the way here. There's no doubt that technically its a cut above, and for me the winning touch was the interweaving of the Bond theme with the action. Tons and tons of film references as well, as continued listening will show you which suggests that it may well grow more on me in time. So, as much as I liked the technical ability to put a track like this together, I didn't feel that connected to it, although prolonged playing did help to bring out more facets of it. I'll be hanging on to it for its novelty value because I am a sucker for that Bond theme in whatever guise.

Very adept game soundtrack that will have you reaching for your holster. Highly Recommended for Bond fans.

Slippy-T - Ain't This Just the Feeling 2 (JB Tribute)

Hear The Track Here

The funky monkey strikes again! For those who spend most of their life off-planet, or in whatever place they go to, almost at the end of last year we lost one of the funkiest human beings ever to have lived, the late lamented Mr James Brown Funk Sould Brother #1. Considering the impact this one man has had on todays music it was painful to see the extremely small amount of online mourners who bothered to post anything about this very sad event. Without JB, there would have been no hip hop, no rap and very little in the way of decent grooves to make a fool of yourself at the disco of a Saturday night. Respect to the man was his due - regardless of the kind of human being he was, or the life he hed. As a world changing individual who affected ALL forms of music for almost fifty years, the accomplishments of James Brown are inspirational.

So why was everybody so quiet when he died? An endless source of astonishment to me.

Slippy, bless his cotton socks, knows how to pay his respects in the best way possible and Ain't This Just The Feeling is a slice of pure funk dominated by the most awesome bassline you are likely to hear this side of the Blue Flames. Introducing the track with JB's trademark oooowww sample was a stroke of inspiration because it really sets you up for the beat that follows. There again, having said that, I wouldn't have expected anything less from this long time member of MP3 Unsigned who always puts in that little effort that makes his tracks work on all levels - regardless of what genre he happens to working at the time.

As an awesome slice of funk, Just The Feeling comes across better instrumentally than it does vocally IMHO. I think this has to do with the way that Rob (aka Slippy) puts across the track this time, there is a hollow sound on the vocal I found very off-putting. Considering the incendiary nature of the superb backing track, somehow the vocal never quite gets up there with it and I felt that was a bit of a missed opportunity. There again, it's really the kind of thing no-one but a nerdhead like me is going to notice, the rest of you will be getting off on the beats as if there were no tomorrow and getting down like you were meant to do. The one thing Slippy has always done is supply some very decent funk and on this track he's surpassed himself - at least musically.

Highly Recommended tribute.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Gustavo Meillon - Taste

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Another new name for me this month, this time from Soundclick. Gustavo Meillon is an acoustic guitarist from Mexico and - looking through his messageboard - although a new name to me appears to have been on Soundclick for a long time. There again, this is a huge place, it easy to miss things, even at the pace I chew through tracks. Still, better late than never right? My initial runthrough with Taste disabused me of the notion that Gustavo would somehow play 'Latin' music, a generic term invented by Americans because they are too lazy to distinguish between the different Hispanic musical cultures, because what comes out of the speakers and down yer earholes is pure roots rock (OK, slightly more Beatle influenced than real rock but that's splitting hairs).

Gustavo gives himself a bit of grief on his Soundclick page about his 'adequate' vocals and admittedly he doesn't have the greatest voice in the world but there is no questioning that he knows how to use what he's got. Whichever way you look at it, I don't have a problem with that at all. With that attitude in mind, I settled in to really get to know this seeming charming (gulp) semi-ballad. Further plays brought out some lovely touches in the production showing that he not only knows how to write and play this stuff, he knows how to present it as well - as Taste so adequately testifies. As I say, musically, it's a kind of rock structure and within in Gastuvo gets in some good licks and - in fact - does justice to a quite complex vocal arrangement. On a nerdy, cardigan-wearing point (Ed: You mean are others...?), I found the production values of the vocals (arrangement and performance) absolutely spot on; the little echo overhang especially.

After spending some time acquiring some Taste, I have to admit to a very healthy respect for Gustavo's obvious prowess, although over that time I found the shine of the tune wore off a bit. That isn't down to anything inherently bad or wrong with the track, in fact has more to do with my own personal likes and dislikes; and I don't particularly enjoy this style of music. Nonetheless, as you can tell, the technical aspects, and to be fair the performance too won over this most hard hearted of reviewers (yeah yeah meeeoowww). I finally put my finger on what I didn't like about it and after a few days it came to me; it's all a bit Moody Blues for my taste. Still don't let my personal bigotry get in your way because whatever you think about style and genre, the one thing you will be assured of is a classy, assured musician who delivers on every level. Oh and btw, I loved that nylon string outro. Well special.

Highly Recommended with LOADS of rock references.

pre-OKL - Something Green (Insurance Policy)

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OK OK, stop rubbing your eyes in amazement, I'm not impressed. Yep, it's those guys again and there really is no getting away from them; moreover, as you may have guessed from the bandname, now they are throwing everything into the ring. Tracks then, from the One Kid's Lunch Vintage Vault, so brace yerselves... To be honest, I really wasn't looking forward to hearing this, although I must admit to some interest in where the bands distinctive style came from. The reason I wasn't looking forward to it is because I am very much into what One Kid's Lunch are doing now and I would hate to think I would judge this against tracks I have great affection for, but it probably will weigh against it whether I like it or not.

and the boys know that too. See 'em grinning? Those naughty, naughty boys.

Apparently, this track is taken from a time when they had bandnames like (and I quote cos you couldn't make this stuff up) Fred Ted and Grandma's Pants. Yeeah, riiiiiiight... I think it's time to start rubbing your eyes again. To help you with that task let's get wit' duh music and hit that groovy beat... It's immediately obvious that once a lunatic always a lunatic because Something Green is as mad as a box of frogs. The strength of the parody isn't as defined in this track as in their later work but it is still indeliby stamped with that particular brand of humour these guys always bring along to the party, and after the comedy ends there is a section that sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it.

As in brrrrr.

While I found the main part of this track as chucklesome as ever, I do enjoy a good musical joke and this has very strong echoes of the early work of Neil Innes or The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band but around 1:40 the track changes character altogether and shows a side to Dustin and Dave (aka pre- and post- OKL) I personally would love to hear updated. So as much as I enjoyed the silliness of Something Green it was the Insurance Policy that is the diamond here, and oh how it sparkles. I'm an absolute sucker for a great song and Insurance Policy is all that and then some. A beautifully touching, plaintive track that just cries out to be expanded, updated and turned into the killer track it could be. As it is, it'll knock your damn silly socks off, provided you can recognise a good song when you hear it. So? A worthwhile exercise? If the track had consisted of the first minute and fifty seconds, I would have liked it, laughed a bit and then got on with life. The second minutes made this an absolute keeper for me because the song is everything I said it is and more. Come on guys, give this one a OKL go!!

A good laugh and then a song of great attraction, what more could you need? Highly Recommended.

Larry Lane - Melanoma

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Third time around for MP3 Unsigned's Larry Lane, and I think he hopes he will fare better this time. Well, I hope so too. This is not to say that the two tracks I have reviewed of his aren't any good - just maybe not my style. I must say though that Broke and Lonely (December 2006) was much more my kind of stuff, it being pretty much a standard blues track and I do have a very soft spot for the blues in any form. On the surface of it, Larry is a competent, adept guitarist and a decent songwriter albeit with a distinct American tinge to his music that makes it a softer rock than maybe I am used to. Still, there is always the next track so I suppose we had better get on with it.

Melanoma, besides being the title of this track, is a type of skin cancer and doesn't seem like the kind of subject material that would raise too many laughs and certainly not something you would hear blasting out of your radio. Still, that's what m,akes the online Indie scene work for me, we get to write pretty much whatever we want. Larry explains that three members of his family (including himself) has been struck by this illness so he certainly has the right to write a song about it. In common with all the Larry Lane tracks I have heard, the production has a tameness that doesn't help to project the music in any meaningful way - and in this particular case - to the tracks ultimate detriment. If there is one track that needs anger and power, it should be this one but Larry gives it a soft rock approach that - for me anyway - sucks all the power from the lyrics. Considering those lyrics are incisive, angry and defiant, the track washes it all in a kind of musical bromide that, to be honest, made me clench my teeth in despair.

We all have to work with what we've got, and I would be the first to cut someone a break because of the equipment they have at their disposal, but then there is a point where cutting that same break does no-one any favours. Personally, I think Larry has a deft hand at songwriting - and he certainly picks some worthwhile subjects - but for my money he really needs to pick up his game where the final polish is concerned. Angry songs like this demand an agressive, demanding arrangement and delivery and - sorry - this doesn't cut it at all. Again though I am struck by this artists musical chops and his songwriting ability - even on such a hard subject - I just wish the rest of the act could do the same. Still, there's always another time eh? All in all, I think this is a bit of a missed opportunity for Larry Lane because - with the right arrangement and production this could be a tremendous track, especially when that 'burn me away' chorus starts....

A harrowing track with a puzzlingly light approach.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Kannon - Reflections

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Apparently I reviewed this artist last month, but under the Da Luck Ent name which - obviously, Duhhh - the name of the production team he belongs to. Hey, that's the way it goes. I reviewed and liked (enough to keep it anyway) Changes and considering that I bin a great deal of SC hip hop almost from the first few bars, that's saying a great deal. Fact is I found the structure and delivery of the track to be of a high standard considering the usual wooly mammoths that postures for hip hop that we get hear in the general course of the day. That's not to say that there aren't any good hip hop artists on Soundclick - there are plenty - but there is a lot more which is derivative, messily conceived or just plain nasty. So when you come across artists with some creative juices flowing in their veins, you tend to keep your eye on them.

Can't put me hand on me heart and say that I like the softer, R&B side to rap - of which Reflections is a great example - but when used with the right approach it's often very listenable. The thing that struck me about Changes was that musically it really stretched itself out, no false reliance on the beats to make it happen - a modern day curse IMHO. See the thing that makes great rap for me is a) a story I can relate to and b) a sense of what makes a song a song musically and Kannon and Da Luck Ent strike that target every time so far. Even though I don't particularly like the style I can certainly feel the weight of the musical chops being applied.

Slick production and arranging are the hallmarks of both these tracks, with a surprisingly low-key feel to this particular track; although its obviously very much a backdrop to the main event: the rap. It takes a good long while for rap to really register with me, mostly because of its parochial nature. After all, being a crusty old white fart I'm not likely to attract some good looking ho's (at least not the free kind), I don't live in any kind of ghetto (unless I can count the UK as being one) and my editor tells me I am not allowed to use the N word AT ALL - unlike the liberal uses of the word Kannon employs. I have, however, had a long running love/hate affair with rap from its earliest beginnings and I know what I like and Kannon and the crew provide that in great measure. A good story with a moral, and some class music to help it all slip down your ear canals...

Recommended class hip hop.

Cam's Even Song - Praise The Name Of The Lord

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Here's a classic case of Soundclick audience fickleness. No sooner than we heap the man (Cam Bastedo, sole prop) with mighty riches and honours with a couple of Track's Of The Year and Artist Of The Year 2006 no less, and in the next breath we get to judge him anew. See, that's the best thing about all this; ya build 'em up, ya knock them down... Even though we've both been on Soundclick forever, I didn't actually review any of Cam's work until I reviewed The Home Of The Lord (June 2004) and it's nice to start off the new year with another of Cam's Christian tracks. Although true to his usual routine, this is a Christian track with a central Soundclick connection - it's got most of Soundclick singing on it! Not really but I only joke a bit. SO far, Cam gleefully informs me, there are a grand total of seven different vocalists on this track.

And it could be YOU too. Read on...

Written as an extended chorus, Praise The Name Of The Lord was offered out to other Soundclick vocalists from the beginning and besides featuring Cam as well as his daughter Jill, it includes SC names such as TB Rage, Jim Mason, Dave from One Kids Lunch, Ron Gragg and Micayal Marra. Musically it's pretty much the feelgood quality you expect from Cam but vocally it is very different and I wonder if this copy that I have is a work-in-progress because - to be honest - I have heard Cam's Even Song sound a million times better than this track. I know that massive vocals are incredibly difficult both to record and mix properly but this mix definitely makes me feel that a lot more work should be done on it to make all those vocals really cut through.

So, all in all, I found this all a bit too 'wooly' sounding for my own taste but - as I say - that may be down to it being a work in progress and may well be corrected in time. Who knows, maybe after you put your vocals on it! Come on, don't be a scaredy cat, do something for the Soundclick community for a change. Tell ya what, if you are a rapper, this track is just itching for a decent rap on it. So, as much as I appreciate the communal gesture this track embodies, I feel that once more voices are added and a decent mix performed on this and this is going to be one kick butt chorale!! There again, maybe I've ticked Cam off big time now because this may well be his final version but knowing the guys absolute professionalism I somehow doubt that. I should also mention that it is NOT Cumbaya (or whatever its really called) by any stretch of the imagination :D

Not happy clappy, but decidedly upbeat quasi-gospel and well worth a listen.

Fear 2 Stop - Crawlspace

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I'm really not sure what Billy Castillo's thing is but I do know the guy is a science fiction nut. Speaking as someone who reads people like Peter M Hamilton one of my favourite new science fiction authors who doesn't write books, he manufactures worlds. The Nights Dawn trilogy alone weighs in at three volumes of 1200+ pages each book. Gave me a hernia getting the damn things back from the library. Some of the best space opera I ever read and this from a person who grew up devouring some of Sci-Fi Golden Age authors such as Asimov, Clarke, Ellison. If you liked Rama or Return to Rama by Arthur C Clarke, then Peter Hamilton is the widerscreen version. So, its a given that I'm into anything to do with the subject but - to be honest - I have found that so called 'science fiction' sounds such as those espoused by Pink Floyd, Hawkwind et al or even Fear 2 Stop themselves who have given me several examples of this outside interest in the past.

I think I said much the same thing on those occasions too.

Mind you, given the hefty set of musical bollocks this Texas band has developed over the past year or so, this may be something else I may have to change my mind about. According to the song blurb this is 'heavily influenced by late-60s movie soundtracks' which makes all I wrote above sci-fi nerdtwaddle totally redundant (Ed: Oh? There's a thing eh?) but all the nitpicking aside, it's the music which either does it or not. Or, much more to the point, can Fear 2 Stop sustain their incredible run of great tracks that typified much of the year just gone. Although I have to admit that some of the sounds - on first listening anyway - bothered me a bit but sustained exposure soon wore off the rough edges. Although it's considerably less immediate as some of last year's highlights, the production standard that powered last years track is now undoubtedly a F2S staple.

Musically, I think this has more to do with the older version of Fear 2 Stop that most of struggled with and is - essentially - an exercise in the use of rhythms. There isn't the solidness that tracks like Dishevelled delivered but I suspect that is down to the complexity of the rhythms being used. Not that the arrangement is complex, just the layering that the band have used to create that 'chase scene' scenario it is supposed to represent. For a Fear 2 Stop fan this will soon join its bredden on your hard drive, and may be sufficiently worthy enough to gather yet more fans but what it isn't is on a par with the very best last year provided from this outfit - and therein lies the problem with relative success. You are always going to be judged by it. Mind you, seeing as this is already #1 on the electronica:experimental sounds and the band has the kind of numbers in terms of plays and stations playing that would make lesser mortals weep, Fear 2 Stop can afford the odd oddity. And this is it.

Recommended Experimental electronica.

Lord Skye - Domain Of Spirits (Haunted House)

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Fourth time around for Lord Skye who, it has to be said, hasn't fared too well at my hands during the previous three tracks I've come into contact with. Part of that has to be down to my own ambivalence to the whole games soundtrack thing which I've never seen the point of - unless of course you happen to be playing the game its in. Still, no matter because I do try to put my predjudice aside when listening to a peice of music in a genre I don't normally care for and I'm sure Lord Skye has taken that into account when reading my reviews. See, the one thing that I think I'd really hate as a reviewer is to put someone off making music - after all it should be fun first and foremost right? A review is merely an opinion and usually a passing opinion at that. Some artists just take longer to register is all.

What is apparent from past experience is that what Lord Skye puts together is very interesting, it's setting less so.

'Creepy, unsettling ambience' is what Lord Skye calls Domain Of Spirits and I'd have to say he would be on the money with that and it again shows that this artist has the musical chops to deliver. Being, essentially, a short (its only a couple of minutes) slice of dark, moody electronica, it's arrangement is its main feature and - as such - does create the required unsettled creepiness. More to the point, it sounds surprisingly good, especially with the cello sound which carries the main impact of the track. Fact is, if that cello sound wasn't right on the money this track wouldn't have worked at all. In my opinion of course. It's that little detail that enables this track to fully register with a listener. More so, of course, if they liked the genre in the first place.

I must admit it is nice to be able to write about a Lord Skye track without having to rip the man a new butthole because his sounds stink, but even so I feel that the slightness of the track and its arrangement and the extremely narrow niche of games soundtrack will not win this track any new listeners. That is a shame because I found Domain of Spirits to be a likeable, listenable track for all its slightness and loose arrangement. Now all I need, and no doubt Lord Skye is sighing as I speak, is that he can ally a decently full peice with the same sounds and we'll be well on the way to seeing eye to eye. Fact is, I've always liked what this artist is doing musically so now that he has his sounds worked out I expect much bigger things. And that, as always, is the catch with upping your game.

A very decent, if slight, electronica soundscape full of unsettled creepiness. ;D

Kiopo - Victims

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Quite why I chose this track when Kiopo gave me a choice of what to review is pure serendipity because I had just finished reading something about Nelson Mandela only a couple of days before and this remarkable man was on my mind. Kiopo's choice was either something from his games music or from his band, why I chose this one God only knows because you know game soundtracks are not my specialty. Still maybe the man knows that which is why this track is but two and a half minutes long and a good twenty seconds of that is Mr Mandela gobbing off in that accent of his. More to the point, what kind of game would it be? On the surface of it, you may stop at that thought and not even bother to listen to the music. However, try not to imagine this as anything other than a peice of music that is either going to affect you or not.

For certain, the vocal samples do add much substance to the track which is - on initial hearing anyway - a bit tame, especially when it needs the power towards the end. I lay a bit of the blame for this on the sound samples used, to my ears they are a tad plasticky. Because the track relies heavily on its string and brass sounds it is even more important that they have the tone and body to cut through the mix sufficiently, and on this track it just misses the target. The brass, in particular sounds very 'factory' and I'm certain more could have been made of that especially as it is one of the key hooks of the track. Maybe mix a real trumpet or brass section sample in with the original, that should sharpen it up a bit.

Musically, Victims is pretty smart, especially if you give it the time to come home to roost. It does take more than a couple of plays to really see what the track actually does for you because initially I wasn't that impressed but the more I listened to the more I got from it. Obviously in a two and a bit minute track you are not gonna get overly complex but there is enough within the track that would sustain up for a while - especially if you like the whole soundtrack genre. Even though it's subject matter couldn't possibly be any kind of game, certainly the structure and tone of the peice is very game-y and pretty much what you would expect from the title and genre. What makes it happen for me are the interweaving of real world samples with the score - and I know that isn't going to be up most people's alley's but hey, what do I care? Very strange ending though. A bit abrupt even.

Excellently visual soundtrack (and it's not often I get to say that). Recommended.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Corey Drumz - The Retribution

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Don't listen to this track when you are feeling in a mellow mood :D

Corey Drumz is (at various times I guess) producer, promotor, bizkid and probably coffee maker as well but what I am still not sure about, even after reading his bio, is whether the man is a musician of not. I'm joking of course, but only partly. As far as I can tell I assume he is a musician/producer although I'm not sure what he has to do with this remarkable track. Remarkable?? Yep, I'll get to that in a minute. First off though, lets sew some more confusion. The Retribution is (and I quote) 'Written, Performed and Song Produced by C. Banks for I.K.E. Beat created by Dream Big Entertainment' See what I mean?? So who did what exactly?? However, I also have to say that - in all fairness - my head was still buzzing from the sight of some of their myspace 'ladies' Those are some fine, fine ladies and Corey is obviously a man of exquisite taste. The man knows his yummy right enough.

Judging by the sheer overpowering onslaught that is The Retribution, he knows his musical onions too. Reading the man's bio it's obvious that this would be hip-hop rap of a particularly high calibre. You can't be doing this stuff day in and day out for over ten years without learning a trick or two and whoever put this track together knows exactly how to illustrate the action. Oh by the way I do most sincerely mean action too, because the track slides into your ear canals as an audio episode of some gangbanger TV movie complete with ALL the relevant effects. I know what that looks like in words but believe me it means a lot more when you actually experience this track. Sure you would have to like your music a bit on the raw side (as in bloody, violent and short), be aware that hip hop has nothing to do with skipping and understand that rapping does indeed have a point - if used properly.

Musically, materially and lyrically The Retribution distinguishes itself against the competition with a knowing production, a light arranging touch and one of the most lyrically vivid raps I have heard in a long time. There is no doubt at all that this is helped along enormously with the addition of the inspired vocal clips being used throughout, but even so this is still a very powerful peice of music. Although it doesn't carry a Parental Advisory it does involve copious amounts of cussing, dissing and even a nice juicy killing to round it all off with. If that doesn't deserve a Parental Advisory then I don't know what does. It's the plot and the tension of the music that makes this track work though - despite its unerring ability to shock the first/second time you hear it - and why I would recommend you get a listen to this bit of musical mayhem. Mind you, be prepared, it is extremely graphic.

Take a walk on the wild side. Recommended Hip Hop.

Monktrump - Bitter Sweet Goodbye

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Mike Atkins (aka Monktrump) has - over the years - gained some momentum on Soundclick and other sites and although I have often found his music interesting and worthwhile, I haven't as yet been knocked out by his stuff. I think even he would admit that he started out behind the eight ball and has come a considrable way since then, as a producer, arranger and yes, as a songwriter too. In fact last year saw him gather his first Highly Recommended from me with Long Time (May 2006) a collaboration with yet another guitarist, Simon Williams. That track still sits on my hard drive so by his standards Mike must have had a pretty good year last year all in all.

Aaahh but that was then and this is now...

Damn, there's always a catch. Reading through the comments posted on their SC message board (if you ask me what those are, I'll have to kill you) Monktrump is compared to a lot of people including Toto (which I can see) and Crash Test Dummies (which I can't see) and I can think of dozens of influences of my own. That is where I believe Monktrump is going to come good because he does classic rock tunes in a very classic manner - particularly if you like your rock with a distinct American flavour. Now, no matter what you do in this genre it's going to sound derivative - its in the nature of the beast. So although I recognise a good many of the guitar licks that sprinkle this song, Monktrump never once overuses them. The real danger - in this case - being in the opening powerchords intro and first verse.

As soon as the chorus kicks in though, you could forgive him anything. As a big fan of this particular strain of rock (guitar driven vocal rock), I found myself liking this immensely because when all is said and done, this is a cracking song. I have been having an epiphany just lately concerning Status Quo and their contribution to rock and - I've said this before about Monktrump's sound - the proof is right here. Even though he's probably never really listened to that buncha headbangers Monktrump's latest works feature a lot of the same good time, straight ahead rock music, and there ain't nuttin wrong with that. Funnily enough he also seems to be going further and further towards the songwriting style of Starting Over, Cameron Peirce and others and that - believe it or not - is a high compliment indeed. As you know, I love to be proved wrong about an artist and Monktrump is an artist I have been wrong about because this track is the best I've heard from this source yet.

Highly Recommended Classic Rock.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Pilesar - Every Blade Of Grass

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Soundclick's Mad Scientist in Chief Pilesar has brightened our lives enormously since I first came across him while reviewing Just A Turtle (September 2004) and this new year bounds off with yet more Pilesarity. What do you mean 'good grief has it been that long?' Don't you know that listening to Pilesar's music can seriously alter the properties of time? Sometimes the track seems endless, doesn't it? and sometimes it's over in seconds flat. Shovelling my through his entire collection of motley characters/personnas, I have never ceased to be amazed at the things this musican comes up with. Yeah, and get's away with would also be a fair comment. Therefore, as you can see by the usual prevarication, Pilesar, his music and his world is definitely not for the squeamish or tender of heart. These are the kind of people Pilesar's music can be fatal around, and also anyone called Colin may experience sudden panic attacks.

And then he can be surprising mellow and - lo and beholden to him - musical...

Every Blade Of Grass is one of Pilesar's easier works then, even weighing in at a comfortable two and a bit minutes and with all it's plinking and plonking even - dare I say it? - somewhat conventional. Structurally, its not something that I would have laid at the feet of this very idiosyncratic musician, but I have learned full well NEVER to take this guy at face value; there is always another story going on underneath. Not so with Every Blade Of Grass though, and believe me I've had a good nose around for it. Nope, the track is - as I say - unusually 'normal' for an artist who is only happy when people clamp their hands to their ears and scream like a girl while listening to his music. If I have a preference for a particular Pilesar style I would have to see I like his free jazz works best but hey on Planet Pilesar anything is possible - even such a fresh faced, button down track such as this.

It's very lightness could be its own undoing because - try as I might - I could come up with no other word that could aptly describe this track. I know it beats a big sacrilegious drum to be calling ANYTHING that Pilesar does as nice but curses - it IS! Pretty much the whole track is subjected to a very vigorous and stimulating plucking of just about every different instrument that could stand such treatment. In the past I have waxed long and loud about the various faults of almost ALL 'pluck sound' instruments (virtual anyway) for their distinct lack of colour and tone. Pilesar gets around this prejudice nicely playing all the percussive/plucked parts himself and although I could have done with a little more beefiness in the mixdown, what's here is more than adequate. Admittedly my initial surprise that this peice could be from Pilesar only saved it momentarily because - to be honest - this really isn't my style at all. Nonetheless, It is great to hear a nice kalimba being played on a track.

Nice? Could Pilesar be getting old?? Is this too many questionmarks?????

Amorphix - Dies Natalis Invicti Solis

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Amorphix, as I exclaimed in my last review, is one scary dude - musically that is. I'm sure that Adam Loveday (for that is he) is a perfectly nice, well balanced young man with an outgoing and positive nature, but if you had listened to his Amorphix alter ego in any great depth you'd be quaking in your boots by now just like your lily livered reviewer. Not one for the moon, spoon, June routine, Amorphix delves deep in his musical world; almost all of his tracks are darker than the halls of hades but so well crafted and presented that you can't help but warm to them. Well, not exactly warm to them, tracks this icily sepulchral have a tendency to unnerve even the strongest amongst us. Nonethleless, and some would say despite that, Amorphix has slammed to the front of my musical radar in a very short time with some extremely class work; albeit in a genre that usually doesn't grab me at all. Just in case you were wondering - and you were, weren't you? - Dies Natalis Invicti Solis is Latin and means Birth Day of the Unconquered Sun.

Winter solstice to the rest of us uneducated rabble.

There's more than a touch of new age in the track, as you would suspect from the title but Amorphix hasn't always brought much more to the party than that. His very distincive musical style is dark, solemn and yeah even majestic, in a twisted kinda way helped by a knowing arrangement and a very sleek production. All trademarks of every track so far. At this stage I am definitely a fan of the music so it's almost a given that I would enjoy Dies whatsname for it's own sake, and to be fair it's something I guess you are either going to be into or not. I like his semi-classical approach (which gives the track a lot of its dignity) and - had this been any other artist I certainly might have passed on this track because it was classed as Ambient - which as we know covers a multitude of sins. Like all of his tracks, Dies Natalis is a work to pore over whenever you need a chill pill; it's ornate structure and instrumentation is just the job for that.

Now whether it's because I am getting used to his style or something else, but this track didn't seem to strike me with annything like the impact of previous tracks - even after repeated plays. I think I'm erring on the side of my dislike for the whole new age thing when I say that's probably the real reason by my not really getting on with this. Artistically, it's everything you would expect from this reliable source, although I found myself questioning some of the sounds but again, that's just me being picky. Certainly Dies whatsname is the kind of track that will be clasped to many a new age bosom and bless 'em for that, but I'll stick to the tracks that have already proved this artist can deliver and leave this to the luvvies... What can I tell you, it's the really scary stuff I like after all despite portraying myself as a puddytat. You learn a little every day.

Classy Ambient new age thingie (Ed: I think he means whatsname).

Zuur - Artist Overview

Hear The Track Here

The great thing about growing old (Ed: disgracefully in your case) is that you finally reach a point where you couldn't give a toss about anything. At all. Most people know I have been an online irritant for a great many years, but there aren't many people who know exactly how long. I first became interested in internet music releasing in 1992, although I had been into the MOD scene for a couple of years before that but found it way too elite-ist for me. Howvere I did spend some considerable time (1994-1999) contributing hugely to that scene both with weekly reviews, usenet posts and although I was not as viscious as some reviewers before me, I did cause some considerable shucking and jiving with my angle on what their music was about. As you know I've sharpened the old poison stick considerably since then, but here's a guy who knew me back when. I used to know him as the MOD musician 'wOOd' and if you know anything about the early MOD scene, that name will be familiar, as will the name of his group at the time: Acid Demons.

wOOd was an 'old skool' MOD musician who would make his music the old fashioned MOD way, note by note into a 'tracker' Most of the really serious MOD musicians would NEVER have used loops - a rule I also found perfectly acceptable and it's that the gives MOD music (still, to this day) it's unique sound and voice. Since the scene imploded under its own inertia during the last few years of the 1990's, many of those same MOD musicians moved into the MP3 field where, I'm sad to say, many of them completely disappeared off the radars. Well pleasing though when wOOd turned up on SC in his new Zuur guise because while I've never liked straight ahead techno style electronica, I've always had a soft spot for the way that this Utrecht (thats Holland btw) based musician puts his stuff together... I even think I've got some of his old IT files hanging around somewhere, and that's really saying something. Something about Amsterdam that's for sure...

Anyway, any self respecting beephead should get to know this electronica artist whose specialty always is/was acccceeeeeeedddd, and mine's with acouple of lumps of LSD please. Wooahh man, the colours!! Nope, delving into this artists work is delving into a whole universe of numbers 101,202, 303 and all things bleepy and squeaky therein. As tracks like V Factor and Late Night Gin and Phonic adequately testify. Then there are tracks like I Like Acid, a Roland disciple to the core, with some of the squelshiest bass you are ever likely to hear - and a sharp eye to beautifying a very agressive, pushy track to make you go 'ooh' while you go 'aaah'. I'll readily admit that techno electronica never really got me hot, but what Zuur has always done for me is to make the genre listenable - AND he is sufficiently 'old school' to know what his audience needs. Mind you, God know's what they'd make of Gazpacho Longing (Take One) but it again shows this artists inventiveness with a very narrow range of sounds and textures. My only gripe is that none of this stuff is downloadable and given the sorry state of the Soundclick 'player' it doesn't give an audience much to go on. Besides, I also think the format its presented in is complicating matters because I KNOW for a fact that Lars (aka wOOd') has a thing about production and I know the tracks sound better than the player is portraying. Nonethless if acccceeed is your style and bleeps, whizzes and boings your bedfellows, then you really should meet Zuur. Zuur by the way being Dutch for acid, now ain't that a thing...?

Old skool electronica with a deft melodic edge.

Recommended for Propellorheads (you know who you are!).

The Shed - Every Leaf

Hear The Track Here

Seeing as I spend the whole year pandering to you bastar... um people, I think I deserve to take some time and listen to what I want to listen to - just for a change. Although this has come up on the MP3 Unsigned review list this month, I had already decided that I wanted to start off the New Year reviews with me ould mates from the Emerald Isle; The Shed. In case you have spent the last year on Pluto (the planet, not the dog), The Shed are a group from Cork, Ireland who blew a great many people away last year with their capacity for churning out great rock licks combined with a pop songwriting style that defies description - even for one so loquacious as yours truly. Actually to call The Shed a 'group' is extremely misleading too. Maybe a horde, a plethora, yeah and a rabble too - all ten of them. They also gave me a Track Of The Year last year and narrowly missed snagging my Artist Of The Year award in a year of some truly incredible competition.

So, yeah, I like them :D

Every Leaf hasn't (I can't believe I'm going to say this) fallen very far from the increasingly familiar Shed musical tree; a one-off blend of traditional Irish strains and pure pop rock that is often faultless and very, very refreshing. While the musicians, vocalists and songwriters carry the heavyweight kudos behind the Shed's success last year, fulsome praise should also go to the production and engineering team at Cormac O'Connors Studios to provide the high gloss finish this material so richly deserves. With a tune that initially had some U2 influence (not my favourite sound btw), Every Leaf didn't really hit me the first time I heard it, when Rogue first posted it online, but since I have been spending more time I have warmed to it considerably - not least because it presses tons of my musical pleasure buttons.

While it initally reminded me of ol' Pro Bono, further listening threw up lots of ther influences (including not surprisingly Lloyd Cole) all of which is down to the magical pipes of on Jim Corrigan (aka Yimbo) who - it must be said - sings this beautifully. There is a quality to his voice that really draws the listener in, aided and abetted by a truly gorgeous song and arrangement. This is an indication of the real quality The Shed bring to their work and is the prime force behind their endless appeal. So far I have heard, and kept, every single one of this band's tracks and Every Leaf already gained that honour within a couple of listens because it is - above all - a cracking song with some great singalonga bits. To be sure, there is NO-ONE around that quite does it the same way as The Shed and you would be missing out big time if you didn't get some pure Irish blarney into your earholes mucho pronto.

Class rock pop song, sung beautifully. MUST HAVE.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Year End Review of 2006 (The Stevies!)

Hear The Tracks@ Soundclick
Hear The Tracks @ MP3 Unsigned

Hello and welcome to the 4th Annual Stevies awards.

In case you think I have gone power crazy (Ed: again...) let me just explain a couple of things. I have been presenting this end of year review on Soundclick for the past four years. The awards, such as they are, mean nothing. I know that, and you all know that too. Let's just say it's my way of thanking the hundreds (nay thousands) of artists who supply us with music on a daily basis throughout the year. Certainly for me they provide the soundtrack to the year and that is the principal reason I started these awards in the first place, to highlight the most distinctive artists I have come across during the year that provide the real sparkle amongst the HUGE music archive that is Soundclick, MP3 Unsigned, Songplanet et al. So, what qualifications do I bring to this? Well, as many of you know, I have been reviewing internet-only musicians for around twelve years and consequently get through a hell of a lot of tracks during a year. I review (on average) 700+ tracks a year in their own right, and actually hear double that, so I think I have a good idea of what is on offer out there - and how good it is. Put it like this, out of all those tracks only 114 made it onto my hard drive, out of which tonights winners are chosen. This is a highly personalised choice and it's obviously biased towards those who don't treat this as some game. The level of musicianship that I look for isn't as relevant as some of my reviews may seem to indicate, I'm much more interested in the tracks impact on me, sonically, philosophically and spiritually.

In other words, did it tickle my musical G spot? As in oh baby, ooh baby yeah, yeah.....right there....

Finally, I'd like to personally thank all the people thoughout this year who have remembered an important, and little known fact, about this mysterious person who bombards your eyeballs (and hopefully earholes too) with this unending stream of modern music. At this stage of the game it is self-evident that I am probably better known these days as a reviewer but - believe it or not - I am also a producing musician with a ton of my own tracks out there. A very special, and heartfelt THANK YOU to all the people who played/downloaded/commented/reviewed on those tracks, you have no idea how much those interactions mean to me. So, if you read the reviews, listen to some of my music too eh? See, that's the thing about being in a (makes quote sign) 'community' (untangles fingers) it means you interact with the people you share your day with - virtually or otherwise. In conversations with people the same question comes up with mind-numbing regularity, 'how do I get better known?'. A variant on the well worn 'how can I get famous?' granted, but it is an important question. Right now I belong to, and interact with six separate music sites (OMD's = Online Music Distributors) on a daily basis; posting tracks and commenting on forums on all of them. Sure it takes time but that, grasshopper, is the answer. Nothing is easy, and the groundwork you have to put into establishing yourself online is time consuming and often infuriating - but the end result is worth it.

The only advice that I have for any artist in widening their audience is to widen their field of activity to other sites. A lot of musicians tend to stick to the site they know best, or the one they feel is more fitted to their style. The scene that I knew back in the MP3.com days is much, much wider now but is centered around Soundclick, Songplanet, MP3 Unsigned and a collection of smaller - but no less significant - OMDs. A lot of the characters that infest this wider network of sites also belong to a great many of them and that is where the bulk of the tracks I review come from. They ARE a distinct community even if it gets a little murkier when you look closely, and as such provide the backbone to most of the forums I belong to. Many of them are personal friends who have grown along with me at being (dare I say it?) a bit adept at working an internet crowd. Get involved and you will find that the payoff is more attention and some substantial shift in plays/downloads whatever. You'll meet some real nice people along the way too, and that's an added bonus. Join in on forum activity, get to collaborating with your fellow musicians, THAT is what the internet is all about. It is certainly NOT about exhorting everybody to peep your shit - whatever that might mean. It's about showing this world who you really are, not hiding behind a gamers mask or anonymous score settling. So do some of that and whammo, you see a community right before your eyes you never knew existed.

I personally feel that the internet music community is so diverse that there will never be a worldwide 'this is where it's at' thing because it's everywhere - all at once. However, sites like Soundclick will always be a distinct gathering place though because it is - for all its alleged faults - undoubtedly the very best OMD out there and far and away the largest in terms of audience. Other sites fill some very worthwhile niches but Soundclick has everything from the truly lame to the truly sublime and that is what keeps the whole ship afloat.

Mind you, the competition you face as a fellow internet musician is razor sharp and ready to rumble - as these awards will hopefully show you. So let's get to it:

The Awards
The real movers and shakers of 2006 are - as usual - broken down into divisions...

Premier League
Alchemystic - Smalllife (MP3Unsigned) - Omnisine - Fluidity - Cameron Pierce - Jim-n-Lisa - Cam's Even Song - The Shed (MP3Unsigned) - Fear 2 Stop - HELLbus - One Kids Lunch - Xanthe - Burp - Pilesar - Deggsy & Crockmister (MP3Unsigned) - Soul Dust - Prash - Maria Daines - Alderman - OnOffOn - Silvertrain - Sylvan & Bonamici (Artist Launch)

2nd Division
Herult Hennereg - Amorphix - Nuff X - Rooney Tunes - John and Lucie Collins - Ditheramb - Thielus Grenon - Brent Toland - Monktrump - Christopher Martin Hansen - Avalanche - K-Gi - Big Wheel - Mule - Gloria J - Onager - Redshirt Theory - Starting Over - Greenie - AndyF

The Wild, Weird and plain Wonderful
Guanoman - Steve Smith - Policy Overkill - Rude Corps - Mosquito Death Squadron - Conkuss - The Hive - Decollage

A couple of words on these artists, and the changes from last year are in order. 2006 has been a bit of a bumper year for me with bands and artists that have impressed the bejeesus out of me with track after track of highly competent, professional sounding music. In particular, newcomers (as it were) such as Smalllife, The Shed, HELLbus, and One Kids Lunch have shown a very high degree of professionalism in everything they have released and that is a most welcome thing. In the up and coming section you should note newcomers such as Herult Hennereg and Amorphix for some outstanding musical scores, albeit of a dark nature. The mighty Avalanche, Ditheramb, and a great many others kept the rock wagon rolling in the time honoured fashion with some startlingly different takes on what it takes to be a rock god. K-Gi surprised the hell out of me with a couple of intense tracks and I personally look forward to hearing much more from this artist in the coming year.

And then there are the rest :P

What can be said about the wackier corners of Soundclick that hasn't already been said? Just because I call them weird, or wacky doesn't mean that any of these musicians are some kind of trained monkeys. Quite the contrary, the artists I have singled out above have a highly developed sense of what music is and what it's not - even though they all experiment fervently with sounds of the not music variety. Steve Smith, in particular, serves double duty here. Firstly for his highly individual take on what he produces in his own right, and for the depth; readability and sheer common sense of his reviews. There is no doubt in my mind that 2007 will be peppered with epistles from him and is - again - something I look forward to. I do love a good challenge. Policy Overkill, Rude Corps and Conkuss are relative new to these awards - never having made it before. All three of these artists, in common with the rest of their grouping, push the envelope on what experimental really means, and all of them make music that breathes and has legs. Its nice to see old friends Guanoman, Mosquito Death Squadron and The Hive still right there at the rockface plugging away.

Tracks Of The Year 2006
One of the most looked-forward to categories and one I think may not contain as many surprises as expected...

Burp - Recent Colloqy
It's only right that Burp, who has featured in every single Stevie so far, should start off the list of this years top tracks. It's been a busy year for this Munich based musician, but his collaborations with Chinese vocalist Nini have hit a special chord. This track is everything I need from a Burp track, but the vocal icing is so special it puts it head and shoulders above most electronica of note.

Cam's Even Song - Just The Truth On Christmas/Face The Music (Ballad Of The 4 Lepers)
Absolutely no surprise here that these two tracks have wheedled their way into my life. They typify the incredible year this one man music machine has just delivered to us. To me, they also show the Cam we have come to know and love from two very complimentary angles, and both are growing better with time. As a for instance, I have kept every track this artist has released this year and that's a LOT...by far the biggest winner in terms of 'keeper' tracks...

Deggsy/Crockmister - Lullaby In Blue
Although 2006 has been a relatively quiet year for this MP3 Unsigned duo (they almost scooped the 2005 Artist Of The Year award but were pipped by Maria Daines and Paul Killington), they still managed to land this little beauty right at the beginning of 2006 and it has become such a staple on my playlist it richly deserves its place. A class, class track

Fear 2 Stop - Dishevelled
One of the most pleasureable moments for this reviewer during the year was the resurgence (nay resurrection) of my old nemesis Fear 2 Stop. The sight of previous F2S tracks had been enough to put most reviewers in the nuthatch, these were a TRUE experimental band - with all that that entails. However, 2006 showed a new side to this much derided band, a funkier, chunkier version of what they had been doing previously and a music that I can honestly say could only have come from this particular band. An excellent track and a fine indicator of the band's newfound confidence in its ability to (finally, at last) get their point across, Success story of the year methinks.

HELLbus - Table Fate
My first introduction to this amazingly talented electronica artist was through this track, which at the time was only available through SC's new pricing policy. Shortly after this artist proved his dedication to the scene by releasing free downloads of everything else - except this - and who could blame him? Table Fate has become an old favourite for me, shortly joined by other classics such as Lift and the incredible Miss Your Little Black Heart. All of which have taken up permanent residence on my hard drive. Let's hope 2007 will prove as productive; IMHO one of the best electronica artists around as any of these tracks will illustrate.

The Shed - The Parson, the Pauper and the Peeping Tom's Daughter
I've been reviewing MP3 Unsigned artists for around two years and I'd never given a perfect ten to anyone under that site's review rating system - until this track. With it's instant Pogues connection TPTPTPTD was bound to hit certain pleasure spots for people who like that style, but it's hugely live sound and a classic performance and the sheer energy and verve of all the musicians and producers involved introduced most of us to Ireland's new favourite sons, and the fuss they created with this track was massive. They have delivered an absolute string of class Must Have's this year showing that this initial introduction was but the tip of a deep iceberg of great music. At this moment in time ALL of this bands tracks live on my hard drive, and they have been in contention for my Artist of The Year award since this track. Sure, and they played a blinder....

Jim-n-Lisa - Missing Douglas
Now before you all go groaning and holding your heads in 'alleged' pain, just because Jim and Lisa Miller are friends of mine doesn't mean that they get here on the strength of that alone - as you well know. Since snagging my 2004 Artist of The Year award, this Texan twosome have consistently delivered very high quality music in any number of genres including - as you can see - the silly genre. What is happening musically on Missing Douglas is anything but silly as has been this artist's style since first coming to my attention in 2004. I take a personal satisfaction in knowing that I backed a winner back then and the fact that I have four of their tracks on my hard drive from this year alone is an indication that they are growing their field of expertise with great skill. Oh, and the tempo the song is 42. Whatever that means.....

K-Gi - Dutty Water
K-Gi slammed into my world this year and in only TWO tracks imprinted his style and musical knowledge onto my playlist; Fans Against Doping is - in two words - fekkin slamming but it was this second track that really won me over. Dutty Water is brilliantly realised, creatively arranged reggae that pays such a bow of respect to it's predecessors, it fair took my breath away. It's a given that if someone is going to take on my own favourite genre, I'd be harsher than most but this is a perfect reggae track in all respects. Sufficient references to reggae's old school, and enough modern production nous is what I'd expect from a reggae track, but I wouldn't have expected the performance that this vocalist delivers on this wonderfully uplifting track.

OnOffOn - Bridge To Presage CD
I get - as you can imagine - a lot of CD's during the year; mostly I DO listen to them but very rarely write CD reviews. In fact I think my ONLY CD review this year was this one. I've always liked OnOffOn ever since I was first introduced to them a couple of years ago. They've always had tremendous inventive musical power at their elbow and most of their tracks are absolute masterpeices of how to do it right. Bridge To Presage however (already, I think, Album of The Year at IOMA) completely eclipses everything that has gone before; showing a breadth of experience and maturity that is truly humbling. The entirety of this album could not be summed up by taking a peice away from the whole and make sense of it. Bridge To Presage is a breathtaking, wonderfilled musical experience having it's roots in jazz and covering all the bases from here to eternity. True innovation doesn't come much better than this. If you always thought jazz was dull, I consider it my sacred duty to convince you otherwise and this is my first treatment for you. Swallow it down. Right Now.

Maria Daines/Paul Killington - I Am The Owner Of This Coat
Last years Artist Of The Year has been suspiciously inactive for much of the year, at least on the online scene. However, my puny, insignificant membe... ummm award paled into the background when the full glare of internet publicity (Ed: ain't that a hoot?) fell on Maria and Paul when they also won IOMA's Artist Of The Year 2005 Award. That, my friends, is pressure. Nonetheless, I've been keeping tabs on the Cambridgeshire contingent and know that they have lots of real-world stuff happening (a live band, gigs, opening of supermarkets, that kind of thing) but they've also become highly involved with animal welfare; as is typified here in the most heart-breaking song you are ever likely to hear - whatever your thoughts on animal welfare are. With its understated arrangement and production, I Am The Owner Of This Coat leaves Maria to fully express every single emotion it is possible for that tremendous voice to pour into an already emotive subject. The CD Music United For Animals has just been released and boasts this front and centre as track one - which it is, in every respect. (Ed: right, and this would be the vocalist you keep referring to as The Gob would it?)

One Kids Lunch - Prayer For The Clueless
One of my personal Soundclick favourites this year, OKL can sit back in this New Year knowing that they have infected my hard drive with FIVE tracks; one of only three bands to do that this year. Mind you, OKL can certainly live up to their intial promise, as any of those tracks can show. However the classic pop (think Beatles) that they delivered with this quite silly track (hey read the lyrics, I laughed like a drain) ensured them a look-in for Artist Of The Year - let alone the five tracks I mentioned (this one; Nah; Okiedokielala; Fly Me and Things To Do). As inventive lyrically as they are musically, One Kids Lunch have given me much pleasure this year and a feel good artist you really should get to know better. Prayer For The Clueless is one of the funniest takes on Christianity and its meaning in our lives I have ever heard and my wife agrees and she practices it on a daily basis. Me, I'm probably bound for that hot place for my incessant curiosity, which OKL also fulfil quite handily too. I expect big things from this crew...

Smalllife - Need To Buy A Woman
The other big winner this year with five tracks nailed to my hard drive comes from Smalllife, a classic rock band in every respect. To be sure, there are plenty of bands around who do classic rock, and many who do it well. However there's a substantial difference between playing classic rock music and BEING it, ya know what I mean? Each successive track just serves to hammer home that difference with explosive performances (a nigh impossible task in sterile recording environments) and first class production. What really single them out as being something very special indeed is the songwriting quality and insane rock vocal ability of Jaymz Lee Shaw, it's frontman. These guys were born to sound like this....

Ditheramb - Crushed To Dust
Trust Austraila to turn everything on its head, as Ditheramb easily expand the genre that is known as metal. Again, from a standing start Ditheramb have established themselves well in the space of the year. Now on more websites than you can shake a stick at, Ditheramb are one of the most likely bands to appear higher in these awards as this track will amply illustrate. There are many sides to this excellent power group, all of them fascinating in their own right but this one snagged me most,,,

Xanthe - Social Awkwardness
Consider that this artist hasn't emitted so much as a peep throughout the whole of 2006. How - in Gods Green Earth, you may be sputtering - is it possible she can issue ONE track and it immediately snags a track of the year? Well, consider this. I have known Xanthe for over four years now and she has consistently figured in my year end awards for a plain and simple reason - there is no-one quite like her. Over that time Xanthe has shown time and time again that she has an unerring grip on what works and what doesn't. Allied to that she sings with a quiet power that has captured her many fans, this reviewer amongst them. Social Awkwardness is an absolutely classic Xanthe performance in every respect and shows her time out of this insanity did her no harm at all. Social Awkwardness is a masterclass of understatement but which carries such a sucker punch it ain't even funny. The lady is in the house.

Phew, and not even a break for commercials....

Artist Of The Year 2006
So it is blindingly obvious now at the end of the year who the clear winners are; in contention for the award all year has been pretty evenly spilt between the bands I have already named; Cam's Even Song, Smalllife, One Kids Lunch, The Shed and - surprise surprise - Fear 2 Stop. Admittedly, F2S were in the running more for their brave new look than for the quality of the music but hey, they have made a major breakthrough and I am happy for them. (One day guys, one day...) All of the first four artists I mentioned have delivered a huge amount of musical pleasure to me this year and if the Artist Of The Year were just about that, we would have four winners this year. It isn't, of course, JUST about the music and that is where - I hope - my award may differ from a good many. For me as the person unlucky enough to have forced myself to choose between these equally appealling musicians, the essential point of the AOTY award has always been about that special difference that makes them stand out more than others. Consider the roll call of past AOTY award winners; Nad Sylvan (2003), Jim-n-Lisa (2004), Maria Daines and Paul Killington (2005). Not a dud among them and all more than worthy of real world success as well as getting a bit of it on here. But what else are they, besides extremely talented musicians? All of those artists defined what had been going on that year and - probably unknown to them even - came to the party with the right ethos and attitude to really do well out there in the wider internet world. All of those artists continue to dazzle to this day and make me immensely proud that they have proved eminently worthy of my (and your) trust. The next AOTY also brings that same ethos and attitude to this little world of ours and proveably makes a difference. Please note the italics. It should come as no surprise whatsoever that my Artist Of The Year 2006 is...

Cam's Even Song (Cam Bastedo)

Believe me when I say that I have struggled and struggled against Cam getting this award because we are close, and I would hate for this to be seen somehow as a reward for being a friend. The devil of it is, Cam has made it quite impossible for me NOT to grant him this singular (but slightly used) honour and again the facts bear me out. With no less than SEVEN tracks on my hard drive the music machine that powers Cam's Even Song, Cam Bastedo, Retrograde Pop and Sonic Salad should have won the award on that basis alone. Not just good tracks, mind. KILLER. The two I picked as Tracks Of The Year are but two of a veritable flood of great tracks from this artist this year. IMHO Cam has picked up some considerable speed and recognition factor this year, all so richly deserved, and I expect that his increasing lyrical maturity will only get more powerful and more imaginative. Which is quite a bold statement to make considering the deluge of Cam quality we have experienced this year in every respect. I believe the man is just getting started, as it happens, and I look forward to the coming year with intense interest on behalf of all Cam watchers everywhere. A singular artist, a pillar of the Soundclick community since the year dot and a concise and instructive reviewer into the bargain. Cam does it all with infinite charm and grace and is a worthy AOTY for all those qualities.


Aaaallllllrighty then. Phew. The excitement. The tension.

2006 for most of us was - as ever - a turbulent year. Along with the list of the superstar Fallen can be added signifcant numbers of unsigned, unknown artists but I'd like to mention at least two of them because I knew them personally. The year opened with the tragic and most untimely death of Canadian singer Mary Gottschalk long an MP3 stalwart and respected songwriter at a time when it appeared she was just beginning to make significant headway in this scene. She is much missed by myself and a great many others. Her creative flame is being kept alive by her husband and a new CD of unreleased material is expected shortly, A South African artist I first met about 3 years ago Pagoda wasn't always musically to my taste but he was a decent, honourable person who made a lot of friends who will miss him. I do hope the year was kinder with you, and that this coming year gives you all you need to thrive and survive.

So, there we have it. Let me restate something. These are my own personal choices based on what has passed by my earholes this year. A lot you may agree with and a lot you won't but hey, that's the stuff of life. My utmost thanks, as always, to the hundreds (nay fekkin thousands) of musicians who have trusted me with their babies this year - I hope I have done them some justice, been honest with myself and you and raised a chuckle here and there. 2006 has been an incredible year musically, as I survey the tracks and artists that stand out most over the year. It is a constant surprise just how good most of the music is on sites like Soundclick, MP3 Unsigned, Songplanet, and millions of other sites which deserve your support. All of which should lead you straight back to my opening thoughts... Now that, my friends, is mastery of language.

OK, sure I'll settle for mutilation too...


On to the next....