Monday, August 31, 2009

A New Left - Brothers Song (Alternate Remix)

Hear The Track Here

Been a while since I last came across New Jersey based hiphop artist, A New Left. Midnight Maneuvers (July 2008) was my last encounter with this artist and neither that nor the preceding track - Copasetic (May 2008) - rang any spectacular bells for me. A New Left seemed to have a lot of the same problems that bedevil a lot of hiphop musicians on Soundclick, where the music and/or the rap just don't quite marry up together. Competent enough, that's for sure but when push came to shove not exactly the most inspirational music around. Aahh, but we can't all do that, can we? Well, I think, seeing how high the bar is set on Soundclick, very few can but hey, you got to try right?

I like try'ers. Can-do is my language.

Amazing what a little bit of time can do, certainly if Brothers Song (Alternate Remix) is anything to judge by. I went back to read the first two reviews to see what had changed and I'd have to say pretty much everything. Where I complained about lack of drive and/or excitement in the previous two reviews but that isn't the case with this track. Matter of fact, this is a real smooth piece of hiphop rap that is tight, coherent and different sounding and that's always a bonus innit?

Yo bob, what up boy?

The first thing that established its presence with me was the musical backing, a nice blend of hard and soft sounds that caressed the ears while kicking the door down. For me, one of the best traits of hiphop is the reliance on the groove and Brothers Song has a great groove and it meant it took me a while to start taking the lyrical work onboard. Even there, the vocals are sharp, to the point if a little difficult to pick up the sense of the song itself but streets ahead of anything I have heard from this artist before. Not sure why it has a Parental Advisory either but I suppose there must be a point to it.

Highly Recommended hiphop.

The Modems - This Is Why We Cry

Hear The Track Here

Although the 5 piece band The Modems is a new name to me, one member of it we've already come across this month. Sean Manz is the producer of The Dust Jackets, whose LP Hartley came up for review a while back, and very nice it was too, if a little underdone. Anyway, The Modems are a live band who all live and work together in the same little house, now isn't that a novel concept? It would certainly help the band to gel more, or kill each other in the process depending on the way things go. I've done this myself a time or two and it really is the best way to pull a band together.

So what did it do for the Modems?

Well, they ain't dead and judging by This Is Why We Cry they are about as tight as it gets so I guess it worked for them. Although the track is filed under Hard Rock, its nothing even remotely close. Imagine an updated Steely Dan with a slicker Mick Hucknall soundalike and you'd have a good grasp of what The Modems actually sound like, but it wouldn't put across just how professional the arrangement and production on this assuredly pop track. Serious, one listen will show you that this is a pop song, no question about it. So why, then, is it under Heavy Rock?

The really serious point here is that this is a slick, professional number that screams radio play and, indeed if you want your own copy you will have to pay real money to own it. So is it worth your hard earned cash? Well if my description makes you curious do go have a listen, it is well worth that. Whether you then decide to shell out is up to you. Normally, I would put in a proviso here about paying for tracks but this is such a well produced 'product' that it would seem worth the money to me. Certainly, I'm going to be hanging on to my copy and looking further into this bands catalog because the potential here is stunning.

MUST HAVE classic pop.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Twisted Angel - I Gave Her the World, but She Wanted Mars

Hear The Track Here

Speaking as someone who is absolutely appalled at the state of commercial hiphop/R&B, Soundclick is an oasis of creativity, style and freshness - and I feel no qualms about saying that in print because it's true. Despite the lamentable state of some of Soundclicks 'playaz', if you spend some time digging around it's a sure bet you will come up with something you haven't heard before. I've been reviewing hip regularly on Soundclick for over five years and IMHO it just keeps getting better and better. One of better finds of late have been Canada's Twisted Angel, a rapper who takes hiphop into a wholly unexpected direction.

Goth rock, would you believe?

I Gave Her the World, but She Wanted Mars (great title) is probably has much more of a commercial R&B feel than any of the previous tracks, and as such didn't appeal to me personally as much as previously but I am not the audience. Speaking of that audience, they will absolutely love this perfectly balanced piece of R&B schmaltz, and the truth is that they should. It's certainly more intelligent, musically and lyrically, than most commercial crap and you down have to commit a crime to download it. Music this time comes from the justly famed Shadowville Productions, for my money one of the very best of Soundclick's many beat factories as this track shows.

The song comments say 'feat Dreamcast' but beyond that I know nothing but I presume Twisted and he share the vocal duties, which btw, is more than enough to get them noticed. The central refrain of the song is one of those sung vocals that stick in your mind and this - allied with the superlative backing track - is the major hook, at least for me. As I say, I have an inbuilt antipathy towards the softer, more R&B strain of hiphop but if I had to listen to some, then this is the track I'd reach for because its infinitely more original than most especially lyrically. Very clever in that department AND the lyrics are posted online...yay!!!!

Class R&B and Highly Recommended.

Pilesar - Melatonin

Hear The Track Here

There's a reason Maryland based Pilesar is as popular as he is, and the proof of that is in the string of videos that can be found on his main Soundclick page. Pilesar, just in case you didn't know, performs strange (and probably illegal) practices with various instruments. So, most musicians you know would be content with working with the usual stuff; guitars, drums, peeaners and such. Not Pilesar, way too normal. Pilesar is the kind of musician who WOULD throw in the kitchen sink - provided it made the right kind of tuneful noise. See, that's the thing about this guy, the way he makes music may look weird and the music he makes sounds even weirder but there's no disputing the fact that it is different and, hey it usually works too. Not always the case when you are dealing with the experimental genre.

It has to be said that the further shores of the land called Pilesar is particularly difficult, and that is where a track like Melatonin lives. At first I imagined that must be some synchronicity happening because the intro of this bears similarities to the latest Guanoman track but it soon spins off from that into the usual uncharted territory. Funny thing though, after living with the track for a while it put me in mind of live gigs circa 1969-1970, especially early Syd Barrett Pink Floyd. Touches of Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, at least to my ears but probably intentional.

Like a lot of Pilesar material Melatonin must be lived with to really get to the nut of it, and the process is - as always - interesting, unusual and original. At first glance, this musicians tracks sound dissonant, disjointed but the more you listen, the more you get out of it. This track is a prime example of that, I started off thinking it would be a struggle to assimilate this but it slid down easily and now I play it because it definitely creates a nice feeling; the latter couple of minutes especially.

Class experimental from the man who can. Highly Recommended.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mike-K - Lazy Sunday

Hear The Track Here

Not even I am dumb enough to really think that Mike Kohlgraf (for it is he) has done a cover of the old 1960's Small Faces tune? There is no way he could get his chops around the broad London accents that song carries. Nope, this Lazy Sunday is the Georgia version, brewed and stewed in the Peach State, so I guess a few y'alls are what you are going to hear. Actually, I wander hugely off the point because Lazy Sunday is - like a lot of Mike's output - an instrumental and not a 'gor'blimey' or a 'howsyerfavver' in sight.

Yes, it really IS a foreign language, isn't it?

Although I have tremendous respect and admiration for Mike as a human and as a musician, the style of music he pursues is often not to my taste. Mike likes it smooth (sometimes, not always) and that isn't what I would choose to listen to. Of course I will in a review and I'll do my best to be objective, but this is not music I would search out for me. Nonetheless, Mike is also a very capable musician well able to hold his own, and knows full well my opinion on this. It's also true he has made a good few tracks that I have liked and Lazy Sunday is going to sit right along there with them.

There's no disputing that Mike's guitar skills have come on apace, despite Lady Fate intervening and creating mayhem and Lazy Sunday is a good example. Here he tackles what he calls 'Alternative Ragtime' but officially classed as Country and makes a very distinctive and - dare I say it - listenable tracks. Mind you, I do like acoustics when played well, regardless of the genre and where best to use acoustics than country. Going to have to like guitars and guitar instrumentals to get a whole lot out of it though but I must admit to liking the blend of styles, very nifty.

Highly Recommended Country ragtime?

Fear 2 Stop - Dish It Out

Hear The Track Here

There isn't a lot for us old farts to do other than wallow in the past and - like many an old fogey - I like digging around in it. Sometimes I go looking for things that connect with hindsight and sometimes to see where I totally came a cropper. On a whim I went back searching in the back reviews for the first ever track I heard from Fear 2 Stop, a Houston TX based experimental electronica trio and was surprised to see Science Friction (January 2004) was it. I could have sworn F2S were one of the very first bands I reviewed on Soundclick but obviously that's not so. At the end of my review of Science Friction I wrote 'An artist who I am definitely going to hear from further methinks'

Little did I know what fate had in store for me.

Put it like this, they have 192 tracks on Soundclick and I've probably reviewed most of them by now. See, not only are they experimental, they are prolific with it. Now I know that can sometimes be a curse, as has proved to be the case once or twice with Fear 2 Stop but they - as usual - take a licking and keep on ticking. That's exactly why I like this band, and it's also why they have spent forever getting their particular sound down solid. So much so that, I think, I could probably tell a Fear 2 Stop track blindfold. Not that I advocate me trying it though because I'm bound to make a twat of myself...

There will be a repetitive, pumping bassline that both underpins whats going on and accentuates it, there will be the usual crash-crash drum sound that is oh so F2S, and there will be endless electronic doodlings and noodlings that put flesh on the bones. Mind you, having said that and slogged through the six minutes of this track more times than is good for a rational man, I am of the opinion that it could easily have lost a minute or so and been none the worse for it. Fear 2 Stop have always been a contentious listen, and in some ways, Dish It Out fills that bill but - to my ears anyway - it's a lot more musical than some of the tracks of late.

Extended experimental electronica workout. Highly Recommended if you like the genre.

Can't Stop The Daggers - January One

Hear The Track Here

Second time around this month for Jon Partelow. Earlier I reviewed his collaboration with The Dead Company and here he is with his regular band, Can't Stop The Daggers. For those people who suffer a permanent disconnect, Can't Stop The Daggers are the best thing this reviewer has heard on Soundclick in quite a while. With a string of Must Have's, Tracks Of The Year yadda yadda you would think that they would GET THE DAMN ALBUM OUT :) Seriously, I think I've probably reviewed most of it by now but pretty much all of it in rough mix form and I can't wait to hear the final thing. The reason, pure and simple, is that Can't Stop The Daggers are my kind of band. Definitely alternative but with influences stretching from here to Mars.

Besides Jon, Chris Chattom, Emily Shahlick and Lionel Luchessi make up the CSTD entity but they are joined on January One by Melanie Yarger and Carrie Caruso (from Urban Quartet) on strings. What they come up with is exactly the proof I need to carry on my crusade to make this band more famous than God (Ed: damn it Gilmore, you can't SAY that!). January One is a blast of fresh air, a bucket of ice cold water in the face even. Guaranteed that it will wake you up; songwriting of this standard usually does that. It's always been a trademark of this band to come up with the goods, both lyrically and musically and I have to say that January One is right up there with their best.

I know that I have a bad case of it with this band but they make it so easy. What's not to love about a classic song, in an arrangement that breathes confidence and style, produced to bring out all the little nuances happening? Come on, tell me I'm wrong. In my opinion, ever since Can't Stop The Daggers appeared on my screen (and thusly to my earholes) they haven't put a foot wrong; great songs - if a little unfinished in places. Whatever, if you like pop like (say) Smashing Pumpkins or even - at a stretch - Howard Jones, this track will have you dancing in the aisles. No doubt that THE event of this year will be the release of their long awaited debut album - and don't forget you read it here first.

MUST HAVE Alternative pop.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wreckless Music (Ejay) - Words Kill

Hear The Track Here

If you despair of never being able to find any decent hiphop around, then look no further because I have the answer. When I first met Alabama based rapper Wreckless Music (Ejay) it was with Gemini (September 2007), a track I didn't particularly like much outside of the vocal treatment and the rap. I finished off the review by saying 'There again, early days yet...' and that has proved to be the case because over the past two years Ejay has turned into a class hiphop artist with a style and flow he's made his own. He's had two Must Have's from me in that time; Old Times (October 2008) arguably his best track so far, and Times In My Life (May 2009), both tracks showing off what makes him so different.

For me the main thing with this genre is that it makes sense to me, both in terms of content and musical context. It has always been a hallmark of this rappers output that his lyrics are always interesting, insightful and usually carrying serious messages, for me the very epitome of what created hiphop in the first place. Since those far off days of 2007, Ejay has mastered both the art of getting the right music to back him (the production on this is courtesy of Sik Beats, and is of very high quality) and getting that music and his rap to marry together seamlessly. Admittedly, there is still a hollowness to the vocal sound but, to be honest I've become used to that from this guy.

Words Kill is a cautionary tale about discretion, especially in public - and yes the Internet is very, very, public. Again, Ejay rises to the challenge by leading the listener through a very vidid episode happening on the Washington DC metro between a family of four in front of his eyes, capturing the scene with incredible detail and a delivery that fits like a glove. It shows that Ejay is an observant and cogent eyewitness to his life, and this track illustrates just how different this guy is to the normal 'get rich and famous' routines that infest all levels of hiphop. This, my friends, is the real deal.

Knockout hiphop. MUST HAVE for fans, Highly Recommended nonetheless.

The Dustjackets - L P Hartley

Hear The Track Here

My list has got seriously out of kilter this month, and this is one of the tracks that have suffered. I get the feeling I should have reviewed this a lot earlier but better late than never. The Dustjackets are a new name to me, although it does feature someone called Colin McSloy whose name rang a definite bell. Cowboy Dream (The Ballad Of Johnny Cash) (June 2007) was by Colin McSloy and by the looks of the review I wasn't much impressed with this lacklustre country track. Although it had all the required elements to make a good track, it didn't quite punch its weight. Still that was ages ago right? Things could have changed.

The Dustjackets got their name, apparently, because they wanted all the songs to have a literary bent. In this case, being an ode to early 20th Century English writer, L P Hartley. As it turns out, the tune (song even) is much more poppy than - I must admit - I was expecting. Mind you, the beginning isn't all that much, so its best to listen to the first chorus because that's where the track really gets into its stride. There is an element of home recording about the track but its very poppy feel - coming from the acoustic guitars and the girlie backing vocals - help it get through.

There's a great Beatle-ish feel about the track that, I suspect, enabled it to worm its way into my affections. Can't say that I ever suspected that a song about a long dead writer would sound so good but you learn a little every day. Although the track zips along at a reasonable clip I ended up feeling that it could have have a bit trimmed off it, and certainly getting the intro properly set up is a must. Other than that this is such a great little pop song that most people won't notice my little quibbles. I'd download the sucker if I were you because once it gets in there, you'll want to hear it again, and again...

Rough but excellent pop song. Highly Recommended.

Cinnabar - Morning Finds Its Way

Hear The Track Here

Third time around for Cinnabar, and considering that so far we've experienced prog rock (gulp), weird time signatures and odd twists and turns, I think I've held up quite well. Obviously there was the initial foaming at the mouth sequence but I'm hoping you forgot that by now. All of which is due to the sheer musicianship shown by Gary Judge, Matt Tyson and Mokee Dugway (aka Cinnabar) on every single track so it is fair to say that I was pretty impressed with the music the actual genre didn't really matter as much as it normally does. Certainly I found myself enjoying Visit With A Vision (April 2009) and Naked Eye (July 2009) much more than was decent for a self confessed prog rock hater.

But this......but this.....(splutters to a breathless halt)

OK, no, I'm fine....really... Ahem. Where was I? Cinnabar switch gear slightly with Morning Finds A Way but yes it's still fiddly, meandering music, but such music is well worth the effort to get to know it. The truth of the matter is that Morning Finds a Way is an official by God miracle, or the soul of Brian Wilson is also resident in the bodies of one of the three musicians named. Seriously, put this on and tell me you are not listening to an unreleased track from the Beach Boys 'hazy' period, where the album Smile foundered. Whatever qualms I may have had about vocal levels on previous tracks are quelled on this track in no uncertain terms.

One of the greater problems most of us musicians face is getting our sounds right and - my own particular bugbear - getting rid of that awful 'home recorded' sound. Cinnabar have done that with commendable style on this absolutely jaw dropping track. If you are a musician prepare to be sick, if you are a listener prepare for a truly unique and incredibly pleasurable experience whether you like the sound of it or not. One note of caution though, it's seven and a quarter minutes long so a quick drive by isn't really possible. This is a track to download and feast on night after night, there is certainly enough meat on its bones to feed a small army for months. Not sure which bit I am impressed with more and this is after a week listening... Yeah rock on...

MUST HAVE (can't describe it, you should hear it yourself)

Brave Empire - Be All You Can Be

Hear The Track Here

Not sure how this all works but somehow big chief Many Fingers, Many Pies (Ed: I think he means David Pendragon but don't quote me on that) seems to have got involved with this Australian band - giving the usual helping hand. So nothing to do with him other than the review request itself, for which be thankful... Anyway, casting insults and slurs always tires me out. Hiphop isn't an area I would have associated David with though, he's more of a rock animal like me. Moreover, also like me, he's a musical sponge so I guess just about anything goes eh?

So, Brave Empire are not just another hiphop artist, there are SEVEN of them!

If you have had any exposure whatsoever to American culture, the title will tell the tale. It's the recruiting slogan for the American Army and Brave Empire put it to a different use but, as you can imagine (this being hiphop), there isn't a lyric sheet in sight. Personally, I wouldn't have classed this as hiphop although it does have consistent hiphop feel. The track is definitely a whole lot poppier than I would have imagined from the band's blurb over at Mixposure, but - in my eyes - none of this is a bad thing. The track slams out of the gate from the first note so fergedabout chancing the first ten seconds to see whether you like it or not.

It's an intriguing blend of rock, alternative, hiphop and God knows what else but what comes out the other end is a very energetic, fresh look at a very worn format. Come on, serious, don't you find a lot of hiphop tedious? All those riches and all gets a bit like Christmas doesn't it? Brave Empire temper that ennui with a sharp, highly listenable mix of different styles that works a treat powering the lyrical content down your ears like one of those huge steel thingies with the sticky out bits (Ed: that would be a tank, Gilmore). Underneath it all though is a very keen pop song that just cries out for listeners, and they will come. Oh yes, they will come.

MUST HAVE (very fresh) blend of at least three genres :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

James Crosbie Hancox - Home and Dry

Hear The Track Here

It's an indication of how HUGE Soundclick's artist roster is when you encounter people who have been on Soundclick for years and yet you've just met them. Here am I thinking that James is a new name but once I do a little digging find that he's been on the site since 2005. I first started reviewing on Soundclick's forums in early 2003, and have encountered this time and again, maybe because it does seem to take people a long time to discover the joys (or otherwise) of Soundclick's forums. I know it's a piss poor excuse for missing an artist but even I struggle to hear as much as I hear, there is just too much music out there.

Not that I'm complaining, mind.

James Hancox has been writing songs and performing music for around 20 years, and is a native of England's most famous musical city; Liverpool. Given those two facts, I went into the review process expecting much and I wasn't altogether disappointed at the end of it but did feel that certain elements could have been made more of. As many of you know, I love a good song and good songwriters are thin on the ground, especially those with a pop rock slant. Plenty of whingers, whiners and woe-is-me types mind. Fekkin drowning in those guys (and they ARE usually guys). James then brings a welcome refreshing burst of feel good pop all about home being the place to be. Couldn't agree more.

The only criticism I have, and it isn't really a criticism at all, merely an observation. As clean and polished as this track was, as I listened I still felt something missing. Certainly it isn't in the performance or the songs arrangement; both are top rate. The production felt, to my ears anyway, restrained, as if it were trying not to let the track get away. Not tentative exactly but a feeling that the sound is somehow underpowered. I know this sounds ridiculous if you were listening to it, all you would say is that it sounded great - as indeed it does. But that sound lacks any real power, and that's a shame because it would IMHO have been the final touch. Nonetheless, this is very, very classy track indeed and while I want to state my opinion it shouldn't detract from this being an excellent song, beautifully put together and exactly what the pop rock world needs....

Highly Recommended quality pop rock

The Dead Company - Pop Star

Hear The Track Here

Got a bit of a problem with this track, and for once it isn't just about content. The problem is that Jon Bushaway, Dead Company mainman and chief mover and shaker, had a wobbly and consequently deleted all the songs from the bands Soundclick page. He has his reasons of course and he is perfectly entitled to take down all his tracks but I feel sorry for people who can no longer get TDC tracks - especially seeing as Soundclick was finally starting to turn around for them. So, why do I even bother reviewing this track? Welp because - no matter what - I have been a fan of this spectacularly experimental artist for many years AND this is a collab with another of my all time favourite Soundclick musicians - Jon Partelow.

Yeah, yeah, what him again???

What I'm hoping, ya see, is that Jon will be along smartly and let you know where you can download and/or listen to this track. Don't give me that disinterested look, I know better than that. A collab between TDC and Jon Partelow fer cripes sake, I've been waiting for this to come up all month, if you think I ain't going to review it, think again. Jon Partelow, in case you don't know, being a member of the best band IMHO on Soundclick at present - Can't Stop The Daggers - as well being the leading light behind HELLbus. Anyway, Jon Bushaway sent me the track just before he went globe trotting and there is no way I am going to be stopped bringing this dynamic little track to your attention.

For those familiar with The Dead Company's oeuvre, there is much here to like; rhythmic electronica like you never heard before, the usual TDC atmospherics and a sense of edge-of-your-seat listening. The real surprise here is Jon Partelow who by any reckoning is a pretty fair old vocalist, and here he is lending his voice to yer typical TDC fayre. In common with all Dead Company tracks, the vocal is spoken rather than sung and Jon brings a bitter cynicism to the delivery that perfectly fits the subject matter. Speaking of which, if these are Jon Bushaway's lyrics, he's hit another high spot, unless it's just the familiar scenes he is detailing. Well worth trying to find this bad boy, let me tell you, even if it's just for history's sake...

MUST HAVE TDC weirdness with added Hellbus.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

DjAckBeats - Wirelezz

Hear The Track Here

One of the things I love most about this scene are the things we say to big ourselves up. I love this one 'An astral DJ who taps in to unknown dimensions to produce the most amazing tracks ever!' Got to love that kind of front eh? DjAckBeats - as you may have gathered - is a hiphop producer (Dirty South specifically) and competing in Soundclick's hiphop community demands a fair bit of bigging up in advance. The artist name, btw, is actually DJ Ack but hey, whats in a name? Wirelezz promises 'lots of strings. Big classical sound. Dark at times, uplifting at others'. This little snippet I noticed while downloading this track and you know what that means...

Well, a bit more than uh oh, actually...

The very thought of 'lots of strings' brings me out in a cold sweat but thankfully I need not have fretted because DJ Ack knows better than to adorn his track with the usual bland, insipid strings, choirs et al of most of his contemporaries. Nope these strings are 'good' strings, if you know what I mean. More to the point, this is unlike any other Dirty South track I have heard, they tend to sound rough and thin, despite the elegant sounds they employ; this sounds full, elegant and - if anything - a little too hard on the overall volume.

Wirelezz is a moody little bitch of a tune and not one I readily see translating into a beat for some aspiring rapper to vent over; unless he or she were more talented than most. That's why I think this track scored with me, despite the obvious clipping at certain (louder) parts of the track. After all, a beat is a beat right? Well, yes and no. I've heard beats that could stand up in there own right as really good instrumentals before some spotty faced geek puts all his whining over the top and completely spoils the effect. Should the sound glitch get fixed (please) then I'd love to see some aspirant rapper tackle this one...

Interesting mix of sounds. Highly Recommended Dirty South groove.

Guanoman - Pectophus Rex

Hear The Track Here

There was a time, a few years ago, just after closed that Soundclick's musical integrity shot up several notches. A great many of those people went on to make a very big noise on Soundclick and the wider Internet and are now considered 'names' in their own right. Some of them went elsewhere and/or disappeared entirely. Two of the weirdest/wildest of the period where Refrag and Guanoman, both of whom have made a welcome reappearance on Soundclick, but be warned - these artists all carry a severe mental health warning. Not for them, they are already as crazy as a box of frogs, the mental health is something the listener should be worrying about... well as the dangers of tinnitus...

Now when someone with the experimental stature of Guanoman comments that this track is 'my new pop direction', better start running for the hills. Or maybe you like the sound of musical torture, in which case sit down because you'll need to. Guanoman has never, ever been an easy or quick listen. Many people who click accidentally on the links provided may very well think that the musician is joking or as mad as a muffin, and that would be a common mistake. As would judging this track by - say - the first minute or so. If the names Meshuggah, Zorn, Slayer and Sun Ra(?) are familiar to you this will not be hard to assimilate. For those people who think I am talking in code the track will sound like the Assembled Blacksmiths Of The Jovian Clouds, all going at it as if their lives depended on it.

The track changes pace entirely around the two minute mark and its here that you start to question what exactly is going on here. The main reason I personally hold Guanoman in such regard is that he is, like fellow lunatic Pilesar, an accomplished musician despite all appearances to the contrary and Pectophus Rex (Ed: If that's a swear word Gilmore...) is a classic example of what he does best. Delight, befuddle, bedazzle, shock, inspire, cause to run away screaming in mortal dread. You pays your money and takes your choices. Me, I'll stick with Guanoman thank you very much because this is one of his absolute best.

Highly Recommended Avant Rock.

The Peach Tree - Magick

Hear The Track Here

I first met this Australian musician when I reviewed Psy Vampires (December 2007) and looking back I seem to have reviewed a lot of his tracks. Mind you, he is prolific. Most of the tracks I have reviewed over the past few months have been single tracks from albums, as indeed is Dark which gives you an indication of just how prolific. The album it is from - Magick - can be found on the link. On the whole, I think The Peach Tree has done quite well from me, despite a couple of glitches, there are more recommendeds than rejections and I think even he may be surprised by that. After all, it felt for a while there as if we were always at loggerheads...

Aah the ups and downs of the music star eh?

Inspiration for Magick seems to have sprung from an awareness of Aleister Crowley, a well known English occultist whose writing have inspired many, many well known names. Magick is then, for want of a better term, a 'concept' album whose tracks are: Dark, Black Magick, Blue Magick, White Magick, Light and is 'intended as a cleansing, lightening and purifying of the spirit, starting off with base or Dark energy and working progressively through to ethereal Light energy, the journey taking the listener through three stages of magick along the way' For me, it sounds like something that really should be listened to as a whole, but I plumped for letting Dark decide that for me.

I'm sure Angus will be as surprised as me that it did that within the first listen. Musically, it's pretty basic electronica; synth bass sequence, sweeps and filtered sounds galore, all held together by a spoken vocal track. It's certainly dark, although that is mostly supplied through the lyrical images rather than the music; in fact towards the end it got kinda rocky and that - I think - is what convinced me to download the whole album. On that score alone, Dark did exactly as it was supposed to. So does Black Magick, its a blend of electronica that shouldn't sound anything like as good as it does. The same goes for the whole album actually. Can't say I always appreciate straightforward electronica but this album felt strangely refreshing. Do yourself a favour, grab the lot.

MUST HAVE electronica complete with visions ;)

The Rascal Theorist - Heaven Is Waiting

Hear The Track Here

Little did I know that when I reviewed LeO IcON9 ByTE19 and Night @ Alcazar (October 2008) that I was looking at the tip of a very large musical iceberg. Since then, LeO IcON9 ByTE19 have become The Muse Machine and the various members have been busily establishing themselves as individual artists as well; Rasmeal (aka The rascal Theorist) being one of them. I have a couple of Rascal tracks behind me already and know that - whatever the genre - there is going to be a certain high standard of work, that's a given. After the R&B flavoured pop of The Understanding (April 2009) and the out and out rock pop of New Frequency (May 2009), there's no doubt that this is a serious musician and songwriter who knows what he's about.

Wind him up, stand well back and watch him go....

Heaven Is Waiting is a Christian Rock song which, I must say, was a bit of a surprise to me although quite why is beyond me. The whole world and his brother have had a crack at crooning for the Lord, why shouldn't the Rascal have a shot too? Helped on this track by fellow bandmates Ikhan (who supplied bass and guitar), Byte 19 supplying rhythmic thingies, I wouldn't want to swear that this is a rock anything (other than the solo that is). Structurally it owes a lot to rock music but again The Rascal Theorist comes up with a catchy slice of out and out pop music.

Sure it has lyrics that are spiritual and Christian in nature but if you didn't know that beforehand, it wouldn't make that much difference, you'd still hear a terrific song that (should) catch at your heartstrings - should you have a heart. Of course, I'm a reviewer and its well known that we don't have hearts. Try as I might to pick holes in both Heaven Is Waiting and Rascal, it just cannot be done so - yet again - this track is going to be down to personal taste. Me, I'm a sucker for a great song and a good arrangement, faultless performance on top of that is the icing on the cake. Tell ya what too, The Rascal has a great voice on him.

Excellent song, beautifully done. Highly Recommended.

Fortune - Only You

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Seems a lot longer than the few months since I met this Boston MA based six piece classic rock band. All Sold Out (December 2008) absolutely knocked me right on my ass. Tight efficient pop rock with only the finest ingredients and produced to a high shine. Since then the band have garnered several Must Have's from me including - obviously - All Sold Out. I've reviewed another seven tracks since then so I'm slowly but surely working my way through their entire catalog, but its well worth it because you don't hear this genre done this well too many other places.

I should really be a lot more specific about 'this genre'. Mostly Fortune have delivered great pop rock songs with, more and more, an emphasis on the big American bands of the 1970's particularly Boston, Kansas, Styx et all - but more Boston than just about anything else (Ed: Steely Dan too I think). Nothing wrong with that of course, especially if big hair, mountain sized drums and guitars that cut through steel are your thing. There again you may like the treatment of the track because its has some stunningly good layers of vocal harmonies. OR you may hate the thing on sight because rock music is for old people to which I say, begone with you!!

Although I have a niggardly view of the American scene of the period, I don't have a single problem whatsoever with the way that Fortune deliver it up. Obviously I admit that it isn't something that I go searching out for but whenever this came up in the review process it shone out of the pile like the diamond it is. See, I don't particularly like this period of American rock but by God Fortune nail the sound and fury so well it gives me acid flashbacks. Only You again shows that Fortune have all the right moves in every way to make a real dent in the real world music business. Aaaah, if life were so fair eh?

Highly Recommended blast of 70's rock bombast!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bright Midnight - The Stranger

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When I reviewed Bright Midnight's Floating Feather (Sleepy Mood) (July 2009) it didn't exactly blow my musical skirts up and not just because of the roughness of the sound. There is a strain of lo-fi music that does entertain a lot of people but ultimately, I think, music that is flawed, is flawed, period. Yeah, yeah, damn techies....but there is a point to musical's principally what the listener has grown up with. Anyway, it was the first time out for a relative newcomer, and I have heard much, much worse so I quickly passed on it and waited for the next track up.

The Stranger it is then... Let's start by quoting you this from the SC page 'Going to be in Rock Band! Bright Midnight aka Hillis Emanuelson, with help from drummer Jimmy Jenkins and bassist Austin Merrill, are putting the song "The Stranger" onto the world reknown rhythm game "Rock Band"!' Wow, I mean WOW. Damn, that's some good going, congratulations. I wonder also whether the version for that is going be a properly recorded and produced track. I presume so considering that the Rock Band series has a good name for that sort of thing. As good a piece of rugged blues rock as The Stranger is, I couldn't imagine this version coming up to bat for such an honour.

It's not that there is anything awfully wrong with it either. If for example you like blues rock, then this is a very tasty sample that has Doors references galore (although probably unintentional) - it's also a whisker under seven minutes. As a rough and ready blues it's definitely going to find a few fans. Put it like this, one of the main defenders of Bright Midnight so far has been Thomas J Marchant, and they explore much the same field. I didn't find this track anything like as sloppy as the first track and even got into it's classic rock feel over time. A nice blend of classic rock and Alternative.

Longwinded maybe but Recommended all the same.

Solid Sounds - Say You Love Me

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I know that MCSolid, like a lot of other people, has been trying to get on this list for ages and yay, here we go! I could have sworn I have reviewed this artist before and lo and behold, I have - three times. The Rescue (May 2008) introduced me to them (I think there is more than one person under this name) and considering it was a trance track, it got off very lightly. As you know, not my style at all. Exorcism Of Sound (November 2008) was an even slicker, beefier slab of trance and I liked it even more. Ye Gods, am I going soft in my old age? What Dreams Are Made Of (December 2008) showed that trance may be their thing but it's a trance that is a cut above the usual four-to-the-floor. In fact I ended the review by saying 'If it carries on like this, Solidsounds may just change my mind about trance'.

Fightin' words if I ever did hear them.

Say You Love Me is, apparently, just a song about love, according to the song comments anyway. Although it's billed as Instrumental R&B there is actually a song going on there too, but I guess the R&B tag sits well enough. If you like the softer side of commercial R&B then I'd say it was an even bet that you would like this track. It's a bit of a stretch mind to go from the three trance tracks they threw at me last year to the slick, clean approach of this track. There is no doubting that they have the feel and tenor of the style, as even I was forced to admit. This from someone who absolutely detests most forms of lovey-dovey hiphop.

So, it does show another side to this band and, on the whole, it works. However, because the members of Solidsounds are from the UK, there is a definite regional feel to the main vocal which kinda/sorta reminds me of another Northern resident, Stain. I personally don't find that a bad thing but I guess someone who spends a lot of time saying 'What'd he say?' would have trouble with it. It's on the feel of the track where it scores for me anyway, but a look at a lyric or two would definitely have helped. Moreover, this is a listen only experience unless you are willing to fork out hard currency, so is it worth a listen at least? Absolutely, just for the feel of the track alone; nailed that sucker.

Excellent R&B/hiphop flavoured track. Highly Recommended.

Artificial Wonders - Anti-Realitat (AURA)

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Considering that I've now reviewed two Artificial Wonders tracks - The Warmachine Part 3 Redux (February 2009) and Today, We Close The Door (March 2009) I still don't feel I have much of a grip on what this musician is about. That might have much to do with my natural loathing of all things soundtrack, and games soundtracks in partic-u-lar. (Ed: Guess what genre Artificial Wonders works in?) It's also got a lot to do with the shortness/sparseness of the tracks I have so far reviewed. Both tracks together don't measure up to three minutes, so it's a bit difficult to form any lasting impression. Mind you, your whole life may revolve around games soundtracks, in which case help yourself...

Artificial Wonders outdid himself with Anti-Realitat which is a whole three and a half minutes; oh joy indeed. According to the copious notes provided by AW both in the review request and in the song comments, this is a track in parts and still a work in progress, and I can see that. Doesn't stop it working though, if indeed soundtracks can indeed work. The massive choirs and organs that are almost obligatory in the genre are the staple in this track too but what differentiates it from some of the other bombast sheltering under the genre is in the choice of instrumental sounds.

For this to really work for someone who has no interest whatsoever in the genre (like me for example) the main priority has to be for believable instrumental sounds; moreso when those sounds are of vocals of any description. I've worked with a lot of choral structures myself in my own tracks and I know how difficult it is to make such sounds convincing and real. Top marks then to Artificial Wonders for getting both the sound and the tenor of the track right. He did point out that there were noticeable gaps in the track - and indeed they are - but they are not that severe to detract from the whole, which btw is surprisingly listenable.

Moody, brooding games soundtrack. Highly Recommended.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pidgeman - On The Road

Hear The Track Here

I first met Craig Matthews (aka Pidgeman) through the old MP3 Unsigned site when I reviewed a track by him called Misery Loves Company (November 2007), which btw has probably proved to be one of his most popular tracks to date. In that very first review I wrote 'An artist to watch methinks' and time has proved that a worthwhile prediction - especially if you like American tinged classic rock songs performed with drive, energy and songwriting skill. This has gained him a lot of fans. I noticed a while back that he moved over to Soundclick and I have to say I applaud the move, his music is absolutely right for this site. Nonetheless, On The Road is a snapshot of some of the characters who were MP3 Unsigned regulars because it's a three way collaboration between Pidgeman, Truj (Tommy Moonan) and iOD!NE (Rich Ramsey) where Pidgeman supplies the lyrics and vocals, Truj the music and iOD!NE one of the leads...


So you have a thing for classic rock and you write a song, what would be the subject matter? Couldn't be anything but a song extolling the wonders and sights of being in a rock band in their element: on the road. Pidgeman says that the song was inspired by bands that he grew up listening to mentioning Kiss and Motley Crue in particular and that is exactly the sound he has captured here. For my money the intro seemed a bit weak compared to the tour-de-force that follows but extended listening ironed out that problem and ultimately On The Road is an example of the music I love best: kickass rock songs.

I have to admit, with no hint of shame, that the whole Kiss/Motley Crue/Guns n Roses stadium rock thing passed me by, except for the odd aforementioned kickass rock song. Can't say I ever listened to a whole album. Nonetheless, Craig, Tommy and Rich do a splendid job of breathing life into a genre that has become moribund, and more power to them. Absolutely love the way Craig captures that acclaimed rock squawk favoured by the lead vocalists in these bands, and the leads (from both Tommy and Rich) are incendiary in their own right. Classic rock done right, doesn't get much better than this...

MUST HAVE rock song. Kiss, eat your heart out.

Between Worlds - Sacred Dreams Scene 4

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Surprisingly enough, Chris Bishop's choice this month is the final episode of Between Worlds magnum opus Sacred Dreams, a four piece epic combination of ambient and classical. Yeah, yeah, I know. I know I am niggardly when it comes to this genre but - when done properly - you can't help but appreciate it, whatever your prejudice. I've known this musician for a good while now and he never fails to hit the spot which is a major achievement given the genre he usually works in. This is the guy who - for fun - reconstructs Jean Michel Jarre tracks (he has an album called Jarrescapes that is well worth hearing if you like Jarre. Me, I could never see the point, which shows you just how much of a philistine I usually am.

Joined again in this track by Drew Campbell who we last encountered with Between Worlds Sacred Dreams Scene 2 (July 2008), this track has been a long time coming. Of Scene 2 I wrote 'The combination of those two artists is dynamite' and the atmosphere they create on this guitar driven piece is wonderfully restful to the ears. OK, OK, so hand on heart this is not the kind of material I would normally go looking for if I wanted a bit of peace and quite (for a change) but you have to hand it to them, the presentation is astonishing; shiny, spick and span and even wrapped up in a pretty bow.

Ahhh, but is it enough for a whole planet of philistines?

All in the ears of the listener, I fear, but I think most people who encounter this track accidentally will certainly pause and take stock of how thoroughly professional it sounds. It's nice to find a guitarist who works with the tune, rather than grandstand over it, and Drew's contribution to this cannot be overlooked in that regard. Every element works, that's the deal so the only thing that remains in the question of taste. Do you, or don't you? As a final aside, after some considerable time listening to this track, I started to think it was a track from The Sims 3 - which I have become irritatingly fond of - and that is an indication of how good it is.

High quality guitar instrumental. Highly Recommended (if you like the genre).

Dance! Las Vegas - Heaven Lost An Angel

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Dance! Las Vegas are a 6 piece pop rock band from Middlesbrough, England, according to one Jamie Donelly, lead guitarist and - obviously - chief publicist. So, while he had me in an armlock on the floor, he extorted a promise about reviewing some tracks that will form the band's upcoming debut single Heaven Lost An Angel. As a consequence, I am now the proud possessor of not one but three Dance! Las Vegas tracks; Heaven, When In Rome Do What Romans Do, and Tonight. Lucky me huh? See, being a reviewer does have some up sides! Do your bit today!! Anyway... D!LV are a live gigging band and have already played some pretty big gigs so I entered the review process expecting much....

Yep, uh oh about covers it...

That's the problem with reading things long before you get to hear the actual track, it builds up skewed perspectives. Nothing wrong with the music though, although there is a tale to be told about that. Tonight turns out to be the original version of Heaven Lost An Angel and, I believe, the original demo. In a way, because I knew that fact, I listened to this first and that wasn't a good idea. Not that Tonight isn't good, it's terrific and shows what a great song it is. It's a bit - dare I say it - tame sounding, and I guess that's why the band decided to remaster it. There again, if I had come across it in a normal review, I certainly wouldn't have panned it; despite a slightly desperate sounding vocal and some timing slips. A good song is a good song, know what I mean?

So, with this feeling of disappointment lurking, firing up Heaven Lost An Angel shows what a bit of thought can achieve. The razor sharp production of Mike Frankland of Castlegate Studios helps enormously though. The major point about Heaven Lost An Angel is that it's a BIG ballad, and there was no way the treatment Tonight gave it was going to do the trick. This version does though, and in spades. A lush, warm, drenched in emotion gut wrencher of the first order and no mistake. Now, look at it this way, the average age of this band is 17, when you are aware of that fact the track takes on a whole new light. Awesome. Finally, we have When In Rome Do What Romans Do where again 15 year old Holly Shahverdi shows that she can rock out as well as deliver a big ballad. The musical sophistication in this track bodes extremely well for the future of this dynamic band. My choice? Grab listens to both Heaven and When In Rome and see what the youth of England are really up to... When In Rome rocks the house down and is a MAJOR must have.

MUST HAVE English pop rock.

Whitman Speck - Jack The Rapper

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Regular readers, or at least the more wussy minded of them, are presently heading for the hills because they know this way something wicked comes. Whatever else you might think though, Whitman Speck is a hardcore hiphop rapper from London, England. Now the most important thing you need to know here is that Adil (aka Whitman Speck) has a fascination for serial killers, the bandname for example is a mix of two serial killers names. The bulk of the tracks I have reviewed - three so far and all rated Must Have by me - definitely live up to the term 'horrorcore' that has been linked to songs in this style. So if raw, visceral lyrics tend to offend then start running now.

Take for example, Dead Or Alive (February 2009) which Adil terms a 'funny song about necrophilia' which it is, but my God it really deserves the Parental Advisory that accompanies this artists entire output. Tell you what, he got some stones on him this boy. Jack The Rapper features samples from the incomparable Ray Charles hit 'Hit The Road Jack, alongside other audio detail to run down a tale about a guy who wander the night 'looking for a throat to slit' Mmmmm Nice. Regardless of the lyrical content, the way the music track and rap work together is inspirational. No matter what you may say about Whitman Speck for my money he is one of the freshest rappers on Soundclick and I'd back him for a fair distance outside of that site too.

'I am the illest rapper of all time' he says, before the Ray Charles riff hits your ears, followed smartly by the rap itself, set against eight to sixteen bars of the music track which works surprisingly well. It takes a rare skill to keep interest with rap, and part of the secret is to get people interested in the story being told and this is where Whitman Speck scores big time. A confident rapper totally secure with the idiom he has chosen to work in and more power to him I say. I know that Adil lives across London from me, but if I didn't know that I'd swear that was some big time American joint. All except the classic, totally unexpected WS ending. :)

MUST HAVE (sheesh) horror rap.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Creo - Artist Overview

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Creo is an Austrian musician who comes to me through the Rebelriffs review blog; an 18 year old student who says on his MySpazz page 'I'm not really good but i keep going, because music is my bliss' and I can find nothing to argue about there. I'd say that's the reason why most of the online musicians I know are here, certainly the older ones at least. Clemens Höberth (aka Creo) actually sent me Heartbeat to review and, to be honest, I wasn't actually that impressed by it. True enough, its a decent chunk of electronica and reasonably lively as far as instrumentals go but I found myself wishing time and again that it had some vocals to go with the chunky backing track....

It cries out for it...

So, feeling vaguely dissatisfied after having spent a couple of days listening to Heartbeat, I decided to dig a little deeper to see what this musician was about or whether this was it. Glad I did, as it happens because when I discovered (hint: there are LOTS of things to click on his MySpazz page) the YouBoob link opened up the real meat and potatoes. Adrenalin (the title track of the EP) is the featured video, but its the soundtrack we are interested in. Good job too because there doesn't appear to be a video, merely the audio. I say merely but believe me it will be more than enough. As you know, I'm not really into techno and/or trance but on the odd occasion I do hear something interesting in that genre.

Adrenaline is a really neat working of (let's face it) of a sad and tired genre, breathing fire and brimstone into it's decaying bones making it dance yet again. Strangest thing of all is that this is techno delivered with some rock guitars that will slice your head off with the endless riffing going on. So good, indeed, that it forced me to explore yet further, and I have to say that every track on the EP is worth checking out in its own right. I can see why Creo has attracted the attention he has on these sites and maybe I should be suggesting he includes Soundclick on that list, he would do well there. After all, Soundclick is THE online music site, at least as far as the unsigned scene goes.

Highly Recommended high energy kinda/sorta dance...

Daniel Eboli - Spazio

Hear The Track Here

My first encounter with this Brazilian musician was with the excellent Redemption (July 2009), a lovely piece of world music with some truly splendid orchestral sounds into the bargain - very original and refreshing. As you can imagine, it scored a highly recommended from me, so I was looking forward to seeing another side of this musician. Although Spazio shares the world tag it is, unfortunately, followed by the two most dreaded words known to Gilmore: New Age. Now I'm a well known old fart and - as such - share many of the traits of senior citizens ie cantakerous and crotchey. I like what I like, know what I mean? What I don't like is that so much of the New Age is hear is so tired and formulaic (lame, to use the correct term) and certainly nothing that would inspire me. Having said that, there are some that get under my skin but that is a rare thing indeed.

The thing that I most liked about Daniel's last track was its originality, it's freshness of ideas. Bearing that in mind, I gritted my teeth and fired up Spazio and prepared myself for disappointment yet again. In the 'For Fans Of..' section of his Soundclick page Daniel has written 'Introspective absolute music' and you know what? I agree. As I said, I'm not a fan of new age and never have been but a lovely piece of music is a lovely piece of music regardless of genre. Spazio merely shows that Redemption is no one-off, if anything this track is cleaner and cleverer - it must be to win me and my mountain of predjudice over.

What makes Spazio a decent listening experience is the sheer attention to detail that Daniel brings to the party; his arrangements and his absolutely faultless choice of instrument and/or sound to put the point across. While it doesn't do much of interest, the tune never lags or plods as happens with most of its contemporaries and coming in just shy of four minutes isn't going to strain any one's attention span. There again if you like the genre, you will absolutely love the quiet stillness that is at the centre of this track. Excellent, and that's from a cranky, crotchety old fart who cannot abide anything that uses those two most dreaded words known to Gilmore.

Highly Recommended New Age (I'll never, ever live this down...)

Unread Pages - I Dare Not Abandon

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My first (and only) encounter with Australian Electronica musician Unread Pages was a bit of a welcome surprise. Ghost Faces (September 2008) was nothing like I expected given the electronica tag and turned out to be an excellent introduction to this new (to me anyway) musician. A slightly jazzy track that slams along with a great sense of purpose, its main feature being the vocals, but go have a listen to it, it's worth the effort. Must admit to being a bit intruiged when I saw this was a Pop Rock track, again not something I was expecting from this musician - and God knows why that should be...

In my review of Ghost Faces I finished by saying that Unread Pages showed 'a rare intelligence' in his musical work and if that didn't convince me then I Dare Not Abandon certainly does. Musically it draws its musical muse from practically everywhere while still being easily graspable, in a kinda/sorta pop way. Certainly it has a lot more going for it musically than a lot of pop, and that may not be to everyone's taste but I certainly found it to mine. Can't say I was over enamoured by the overall sound though but that may just be me being picky.

In the early 1980's I had some experiences with a band called The Associates who I absolutely loved, mainly because of singer Billy McKenzie's awe inspiring vocal abilities. The instant reference for me in this track is of that band, both musically and lyrically and, btw, it's a major compliment. It's a bit rough, sometimes the vocal gets a bit buried but you can certainly see just how different Unread Pages is when it comes to that all elusive 'pop' track. There's something weird happening in the arrangement too, around three minutes in, but considering the overall tenor of the track this could well be intentional. It's also tempting to say Unread Pages kinda sounds like David Pendragon too..mmmm.....naaah, couldn't be....

Excellent electronica flavoured highbrow pop. Recommended.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wake Of Destruction - This Is A War

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Second time around for Miami based singer, songwriter and producer Omar Chavez Jr (aka Wake Of Destruction). Run From Me (July 2009) was an excellent slice of electro-pop only slightly marred by a couple of technical glitches that are easily fixable. Everything else, performance, vocals, lyrics and music was right on the money. Showing, of course, that Wake Of Destruction takes what he is doing seriously. Or does he? Get this from the song comments... 'The synth-pop love child of Pink Floyd's Time and Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries'. Them's some HUGE boots to fill if you ask me. Mind you, the last track had a certain something and I think whatever he wants to say about his tracks is his business.

So long as he doesn't mind the giggles ;)

I compared him in my last review to Howard Jones and This Is A War only reinforces that impression and whether that is intentional or otherwise isn't important. What is important is the sheer quality of the song itself; and the spirited vocal take by the man himself. That will probably get a bit lost in your initial awe at just how GOOD this track feels sliding sinuously down your ear canals. Incredibly clever use of sound effects, and the lushness of the arrangement and music, place Wake Of Destruction head and shoulders above the crowd and deservedly so.

Although I usually stop listening to a track after a few days of reviewing, some I come back to and I can see that happening with This Is A War. Sure, because of all the things I've mentioned above, but much more because this is a massively enjoyable song that carries some excellent lyrics, all delivered in a very convincing fashion. Mingled in with the electro-pop influences (this time leaning more towards Gary Numan musically maybe), there are even a couple of echoes of earlier musical times but I'm cursed if I can pin the actual track down in my mind. Regardless of all that, there is no doubt that This Is A War is going to be around on my hard drive for some considerable time because it reminds me of why reviewing is sometimes an enormous pleasure. Best chorus of the year, I think. Terrific.

MUST HAVE Electro-pop.

Cam's Even Song - Living Sacrifices

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I had been having a gruelling few days before this slipped onto the review schedule and applied some healing balm. A neat trick as it happens but certainly not unknown to Cam's Even Song, a Canadian musician of long standing whose style is often appealling, whimsical or a mixture of both. The weird thing about this track (and its aforementioned healing balm) is that it's one of Cam's more overtly Christian song and - stylistically - rustic. There again, this is 'Grade 11 memory work (set) to music. This is the fourth of 24 verses'. Funnily enough, I think I remember reviewing an earlier part of this cycle but I can't be bothered to look for it.

See, healing balm does more than heal ;)

Mind you, t'would be fair to say that I had to work at getting that balm all the way in there because Living Sacrifices is probably the most outright retro track I have heard from him. I used the word rustic before and I hope you can get the sense of it. There's a home spun feel to the track that is undeniable, except when you consider that you can hear everything as clear as a pin - not the usual feature of home recording. Cam has spent a great many years perfecting his music and I've been around for a great many of them now, much to my delight, because he is also an intelligent, cogent songwriter with the endless ability to amuse and stimulate.

Having said that (Ed: uh oh), I think even Cam would have to agree that - as good as Living Sacrifices is - it will probably be a fans only thing, and maybe because of that Christian content. That would be a shame of course, but not everyone shares these views. In which case I can still point to endless Cam's Even Song tracks that show what this can do, in a totally secular manner. On a personal level, I have no problem with Christian lyrics or sentiment, so long as the context is right. I loved the way Cam has mixed a kinda cut-up reggae section to the main body of the song, really comes out of left field - and the reason I think it initially threw me.

Recommended Christian World

Barricades Rise - You and Your Adored LP

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Not content with giving me a six track EP as an introduction to this UK band, here they are again with a full blown album. I kinda like the band's take on Alternative (with that UK twist) and thought at the time they were a band worth keeping an eye on, particularly if - like me - you like good songs. Blueprints (June 2008) was the name of the EP and its probably still available and still free. Come on, it's a small download, completely legal and - as I say - worthwhile. Although You and Your Adored isn't officially released until August 21st, it's on pre-order at the link above.

Support your local band, you know it makes sense.

Apparently, the EP was fuller in instrumentation than the band actually sounded so they turned around and recorded eleven tracks that caught their real live sound. What I liked about Blueprints most was the songs, and that - pretty much - is where the band have concentrated their energies this time round. This Creation (which kicks off the proceedings) is refreshingly acoustic, and when the vocal kicks in you get a definite Celtic feel that is amplified (as it were) in later passages. Excellent song and a great introduction to what Barricades Rise is all about. Aftermath (a free download single at the site) follows, and I see the wisdom in highlighting this track because it shows exactly why BR are different - this would definitely be a band to see live. Seeing as this is the object of the exercise, kudos all round. Sleepwalker turns in a really nifty near-ska rhythm that had me from the first riff. Like the previous two tracks, a wonderful song with some great hooks.

I'm not going to go through the whole album track by track because, well, it's a BIG f****** job innit? You wouldn't think a couple of geezers on acoustics could make music this complex and to be sure, I'm going to be a while picking the bones out of this LP. In at least a couple of tracks they show the kind of style that made early Oasis tracks so listenable, albeit in a totally convincing acoustic manner, and as songwriters they are streets ahead of most wannabes. Again and again as I listen through it I am struck by endless references to a great musical past while sounding fresh, lively and full of vision. As an older citizen of the UK I have to say that I have seen my share of great bands and wonderful songwriters and Barricades Rise and You and Your Adored are proof that the music is alive and in the rudest of health.

MUST HAVE alternative Acoustic. Excellent indie production.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Silvertrain - Lay Me Down

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Ooo er missis!! Silvertrain going all bawdy on us? The darlings of the shortest pop love songs known to personkind? (see what I did there...I am sooooo PC these days). Naahh, not the boys surely?? Once the darlings of the scene we now inhabit, Silvertrain have endured a lot over the six years or so I have known them. The nucleus of John Brandon and Ritchie Allen have given a great many fans a lot of pleasure over that time, but also quite a lot of disappointments - the main one being the lack of new songs from the original lineup. To compensate, and to be fair, John Brandon has more than filled that gap with some excellent/interesting/OK not so good tracks, mainly on his own and doing a fine job of carrying on the Silvertrain tradition. The last couple of tracks have shown some real promise coming to the fore. Then along comes...... 333maxwell...(again) (Ed: Arrrgghhh, we are not PAYING that guy!!!)

I know, I know, he is EVERYWHERE this month but I did try and warn you ahead of time.

John sent a song to max and (to cut a long story short) Lay Me Down is the result. Essentially an initial track of vocals, piano and strings, 333maxwell sprinkled some of his magic pixie dust over it and it assumed massive proportions instantly. The most striking element, to a long time John Brandon listener, is the depth and warmth the vocal contains on this outstanding ballad. Yep, boggle while ye may because that is absolutely the very last time in my life where I will use the words outstanding and ballad in the same sentence. For my money the pinnacle of ballad mastery is only achieved by the Beatles, and that is the source these musicians have tapped into here...

So guzzle all you like.

And believe me, you are going to get so **** faced over this track, you wouldn't even recognise your own grandmother. Believe me, chums, this is extremely high praise indeed from a cynical, jaded, crumbly old fart like myself who thinks that all ballads should be strung up by their fingernails so they know what it feels like to listen to them. And then there is this kind; an ear massage of the utmost beauty, the tones and textures luxurious and detailed. The vocal interplay between John and Chas (for it is he) is a wonder to behold, putting a wonderful finishing touch onto an already excellent song. In all truthfulness, I have never heard John sound so good, even back in the day. Excellent job all round but 333max.....sheesh..... no stopping this guy

MUST HAVE collaboration and a dynamite song.

Musicarian and Densyl - Scenes Of Life

Hear The Track Here

Looking back over the first few reviews I did for Pakistani based Salman Anwar (aka Musicarian) back in 2004, I don't think I was all that impressed, or at least that's the impression the reviews give me now. I was impressed, as it happens, by the man's solid guitar skills but not, alas by his choice of material to showcase that talent. He didn't get panned sure enough, but it was lukewarm to be sure. Fast forward four years, and Musicarian appears out of the blue with Get Your Soul Reborn (December 2008), an amazingly good jazz fusion track that showed he hadn't been idle in all that time. Far from it, he's been perfecting his art as the Must Have I gave him at the time showed. He's peppered this year with a couple of good tracks too, showing that this is no one off thing.

Scenes Of Life is a collaboration between Musicarian and Denysl, a Canadian musician I have reviewed a couple of times now. They met apparently on Soundclick's Critics Corner forum, batted some ideas around and this collab was born. The original song is by Denysl, a song written in the 1970's about the Vietnam War, completely updated and arranged by Salman and resung by Densyl and I must say they have done an excellent job. I think I would probably not have been too kind to the original of this track though, I shamefacedly admit. This has more to do with my personal preference though so nothing to get touchy about.

Scenes of Life is billed as Jazz Fusion but to my ears it owes much, much more to rock - and folk rock at that. The essence of it is that Denysl is a folk rocker at heart, and so is the song. Salman has done an outstanding job on giving it zing, through the production and his effortlessly fluid playing but - down deep - this is still yer average folk rock tune and always will be. Sung and played faultlessly mind, and that has to say something. Ultimately a track like this is going to be a matter of taste anyway and - to be honest - it isn't to mine. Nonetheless, these guys have done a sterling job with it and if you like the sound of it, it's definitely worth a listen for the production values alone if for nothing else.

333maxwell - Les is More

Hear The Track Here

Second time up this month for Chas Holman (aka 333maxwell). Now some might think that a bit of a cheat but hey, at least he is appearing here in his own right AND - having just reviewed his lovely collaboration with Charlie Armour (that's Charlie A to you) on Sunny Blues and being blown away by its jazzy style - this is a musician I would always have time for. Especially when he's in his jazz hat. Having said that, Les is More is (and I quote) 'A cartoonish tribute I wrote and recorded for Les' Les in this case being the legendary guitarist Les Paul whose name has graced the ubiquitous Gibson guitar he inspired and consequently wielded by a trillion rock gods. More on the enormous impact of Les Paul can be found here - and I do suggest you get acquainted.

333maxwell inserts a few caveats into his comments - cartoonish being the most obvious. There's a couple in his request comment too; let me see now... 'I present a track that probably really only has appeal to a very few who either lived it, or like it.. In other words I doubt your average youngster will 'get it'' and 'The song is a novelty, yet it's a serious song at the same time'. Now, I am not a youngster and I remember clearly hearing about Les Paul from my father (who played in a big band), and who played much the same material himself. That could explain my reaction to this track which - I have to admit - is period perfect in every detail. This is exactly what used to bore the crap out of us young kids before rock and roll came along.

Ah but we were all so much younger then...

I have, of course, gathered an appreciation for jazz over the years although I must admit I have never been a big fan of Les Paul or the others that followed in his wake. Nonetheless, I can certainly take my hat off (yet again) to Chas for getting that all important period feel into the track. Yes, but would someone younger be able to get anything out of? Certainly, so long as they started at it's base; jazz. If you have a taste for classic piano and/or guitar jazz instrumentals then this will definitely bring a smile to your face. If you are as ancient, dessicated and decrepit as your reviewer, then not only will it bring a smile, it may well trigger an outpouring of memories; it's that kind of track. More importantly it shows that - no matter what - 333maxwell never lets out anything below a certain very high standard.

Highly Recommended tribute to a music legend.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Avalanche - The Rest Of Me

Hear The Track Here

Whenever anyone asks me about where to find good unsigned rock bands, one of the very first groups I would be pointing at are Avalanche, about as solid a bet as you are likely to get if you need your rock BIG. As an example of how serious I am, grab a listen to the new David Pendragon-mastered Will There Be Tomorrow here. The original Will There Be Tomorrow (February 2009) absolutely blew me away with its exactness, its precision, and this remastering is exactly right for it.. There again, considering that Avalanche have been a live gigging band for over thirty years, they would learn a thing or two. Now obviously I'm smitten because I just love that classic rock style when its done properly and no one comes closer than Avalanche to that....

That there's fightin' talk btw.... ;)

A lot of the Avalanche material I have reviewed over the last year has been stuff in the pipeline (as it were) but The Rest Of Me comes to us freshly baked from the bands June July sessions at Rough Cut. Long time fans of the band will be a bit amazed at the change in style this time round, although when called on the band still delivers that essential classic rock feel. The outro, for example, is almost classic Avalanche but the minutes that precede it show a much more relaxed band, with one of the strongest songs I've heard from them yet.

Big kudos too on the vocals, a really effective harmony between Mike Foster and Mark Easton that works a treat. Mind you, it didn't strike me right off the bat. Indeed, The Rest Of Me took some getting used to because it is a bold move, and one that I think will bear solid fruit. After all, classic rock comes in all forms and with this one individual track, Avalanche cover a lot of those bases, evoking endless musical references back in time. In short, precisely what I would expect from a band that truly deserves all the credit and attention they have gathered in their time on Soundclick - long may they rumble on...

MUST HAVE Classic rock.