Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sandro Cuzzetto - Where Your Quarter Goes

Hear The Track Here

I first came across Canadian Christian Rock musician Sandro Cuzzetto earlier this year when I reviewed More Than Me (April 2009). Although I found the track a bit lightweight musically, that certainly wasn't the case with the lyrical content and tone, which is what kept the track afloat for me. As far the whole Christian Rock thing goes, I'm fairly ambivalent about it unless I feel that the Christian point is being shoved down my throat, a common failing IMHO with this genre. Sandro didn't fall into that trap with More Than Me and that tells me a lot about how he operates.

Where Your Quarter Goes probably owes more to Classic rock than anything overtly Christian, although the lyrics definitely are. Musically, this is based in a grand rock tradition, albeit somewhat smoother, and although I've seen this musician compared to James Taylor I don't see it like. The overall music reference in this track is much more well known and a Brit. Elton John sounded pretty much like this when he first started out and vocally is an almost perfect match.

It's all about the song, and that is where the Elton influence pays dividends because of its recognisability - even for the brain dead. Where Your Quarter Goes is a song about where you put your faith. Using a gambling metaphor, the song illustrates that the only safe place to put your money is in giving - as in all other things I guess. After all, that is one of the main tenets of Christianity. Although I wouldn't go searching it out (I'm not really a big fan of Elton and this does remind me of him) I can certainly say that if you like classic rock and my description rings bells this is a very worthwhile listen.

Recommended Christian Rock.

LeeVel - All Hans On Deck

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Lee Velasquez (aka Leevel) introduced me to his brand of jazz with All The Plumbers Gigs (February 2009) and considering that smooth is not a word tolerated in my household (as in smooth jazz in this case), he escaped with very little injury. The quality of the production and performance is what impressed me most, as always, but if there wasn't a decent melody or point behind it it's just another instrumental and on that level, I wasn't as impressed. There again, it takes a rare track to blow me on my ass and an even rarer jazz track. The only person who has impressed me in that way lately is the musician known as 333maxwell who is a jazz natural IMO.

All Hans on Deck is yet another Smooth Jazz track, although this one probably lies more in the dreaded Kenny G stylee than anything else and - at least for this reviewer - that is tremendously off-putting. If there is one genre I absolutely cannot stand it's that bland, mindless tootling the Smooth Jazz genre is riddled with, most of the blame can be attributed to The Bland Piper. So consequently, it's a given that All Hans On Deck is not really going to be something I would like. Admittedly, I might have been more susceptible to its charms if the proposed trombone solo with Hans Judd had come about, but it sounds like it didn't.

Come on Hans, get off your butt...

Lee comments that the track is a 'short, feel-good, swingy groove' and I'd agree with him, certainly the bass front and centre also claimed a lot of the swing action. Lee is a bass player predominately and that shows, he's some some very nice lines happening throughout the track and that - more than anything else - was what kept me listening to it. As I say, it's not my style at all but having work of this quality makes all the difference. Definitely one for the smoother side of life though.

Recommended Smooth Jazz.

Minimack - Bang Bang

Hear The Track Here

I first came across Minimack when I reviewed Please Stop The Struggle (September 2008) and liked it well enough, it was a decent hiphop track and that usually helps with that genre. Since then, of course, he's delivered some very high grade stuff indeed, if a little on the smutty side at times. I think he likes to collect Parental Advisory's, he's certainly got a few. One of which narrowly missed getting a Must Have from me because of the content. There again, as an adult I really enjoy the way this PA based rapper puts it together, and more so it seems with each release. Stands to reason then that I'd been looking forward to this coming up the review list.

Not, as you might have imagined, a normal hiphop track about shooters and guns, but about an entirely different kind of bang bang. See, those hippies had something with that whole make love not war bullshit. Bang Bang is a 'club track for the ladies' and is billed as Hiphop: Positive Vibes and I guess musically it certainly fits both tags but - for my money - I didn't think the backing track was anything like as strong as some of the material he has been using lately. There's nothing wrong with it per se, just didn't seem that exciting and this is an artist who has been known to choose wisely before.

Where it really scores, at least for me, is the retro feel Minimack has given it - a late 1980's styling. Given the content of the rap is pretty raunchy, it fits perfectly well. More to the point, its probably more commercial than previous output suggests. One of the best parts, for example, of the Need For Speed driving sim is commercially released rap sounding exactly like this. For my money though, I think I've heard better tracks from this source and I guess I'm spoiled.

Highly Recommended hiphop nonetheless.

XoC - Abuse Remix(Childhood) 1st Draft

Hear The Track Here

XoC standing for 'eXaggeration Of Chris' apparently. A new name to me, this New York City based hiphop musician seems to have been on Soundclick since 2005, but hiphop is the biggest audience in the site so that's actually no surprise. Like a lot of people, I can see the appeal in a lot of hiphop, especially some of the more polished Soundclick veterans who show a damn sight more style and wit than most of their more commercial counterparts. Ooops, is my bias showing there? See, the thing I like most about Soundclick HH musicians, is that they range over a variety of subjects that wouldn't see the light of day in the real world - because of that very same content.

Serious rappers don't do to well, do they?

As you can tell, XoC decides to delve into his own childhood to conjure up a scenario that will be intimately familiar to a great many people, and in a painful way. Can't say in all honesty that I am not much taken with the basic backing track, but it's a simple structure that shows off the rap all the better. It's needed too because this is a wordy little track, as it needs to be. Making a subject like this the centre of the track means that your imagery better be spot on - and it is, regardless of the sparseness of the track.

Moreover, in style and delivery, XoC takes it back to the days when hiphop meant something, giving us a clear, legible story that's easy to follow - again, as befits the seriousness of the subject. You could do a track like this in only two ways I think; as a rage-filled diatribe against the world and his brother or as an act of personal enlightenment. As in yeah, it might have been tough, but I was tougher and I survived to tell the tale. Surprisingly enough, given the content, the track itself is an easy listen - especially if you like intelligent, coherent rap with a story to tell.

Highly Recommended hiphop.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Platypus Egg - Bambola Vivente

Hear The Track Here

It must be my month for platypi. Earlier this month I reviewed Oxy Powered Moron's Platipus (demo) and now here's a Platypus Egg come to play. I know absolutely nothing about this musician(s), the webpage is well light on knowledge other than a Wiki on platypi and seeing as we've already been there, done that... My spirits perked up somewhat as I downloaded this track and noticed it was billed as Ska and that's right fine by me. That feeling, however, didn't survive more than two seconds into the track - unless the birthplace of ska was placed somewhere in eastern Europe, and that impression isn't just because the main vocal isn't in English.

Having been a youth cursed by the evil of the Eurovision Song Contest, some of this music was declared crap at the time. A lot of it was, and still is, but I have come to appreciate the wonders of ethnic music of all stripes and Bambola Vivente is a classic example - to my mind - of World music. According to my notes, I reviewed this artist under the Unlimited Pineapple Club name and liked both the tracks, although I wasn't so hot on the sound front losing it some favoured points. I did write, however, that 'for people like me with a taste for the different it shows this band has great potential'. For my money this track fulfills that potential.

I have to admit I had a big problem with this the first time I heard it, it took a few plays to let that jaunty polka-like rhythm settle in, and of course I'm no wiser on what the song is actually about (I think its sung in Spanish) but hey, it's a massive rush to the feet so who cares. One of those tracks that will have you whirling around like demented spinning top, trying unsuccessfully to master that Russian kicking dance. Well, at least that's what it did to me and I am not ashamed to admit it. It's a rare track indeed that forces you to get involved with it to that extent.

Excellent World music blend. Highly Recommended

The Rascal Theorist - The Electric Aftermath

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Even though it's where I did a lot of my early apprenticeship in music, I don't consider the 1970's to be much good musically. Sure there was the odd bright spot but nothing like the musical decade that preceded it. It's to be expected I suppose, the 1960's were a once in a lifetime event especially for music. However, one of the bright spots for this reviewer was the upswing in funk and The Rascal Theorist has brought it all throbbing back to life with The Electric Aftermath. This musician has already scored very highly with the first three tracks and there's plenty more to come by the sounds of it.

The tracks starts with the classic 'crowd' sound endemic in a lot of 70's funk, soon supplanted by Ras applying his tonsils to some hot buttered soul, before wandering back to the funk. There's a lot of other influences going on in the track but that's a decent thumbnail sketch. There's no doubt in my mind that, having a few Rascal tracks under my belt that he is a songwriter and musician to be reckoned with; his grasp of his genres and delivery is awesome to hear.

Moreover, the time and effort devoted to each and every note, makes this a meaty track in all respects. Sure, you would have to like soul/r&b and funk to really appreciate this, but its such a good song, and so well delivered it might even snag a few drive by listeners. Every little counts, ya see? At the end of the day, its the tracks evocation of the sounds and textures of the period and updating them that makes it work for me, as well as my eternal delight at the work these musicians (Ras was helped by Bobb E Vox and DT on backing vocals) put into this awesome little track.

Highly Recommended blend of soul, r&b and da funk.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mike-K - Whatever You Say

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I write this review suffused with the knowledge that I can spend a few hours needling this artist while he does his acclaimed Saturday Night Rocks radio show over at Mixposure. It fair warms the cockles of my heart I tell ya. Then, and only then, will I post this review. Do you see now how much FUN the internet can be? OK, fine, enough horseplay (Ed: nay!). Melancholy (October 2003) introduced me to this excellent musician and I wrote ' it is a piece of serious music, a beautifully constructed, classically influenced piano/nylon guitar rondelet that is a form of aural poetry'. Between the almost six years between then and now, Mike has kept up a steady stream of equally likeable tracks and made some substantial changes to the way he sounds - and that's something that has only just struck me.

Now I'm not sure that the influence of Kephas is exactly the reason for that change or whether Mike was naturally moving that way stylistically. Whichever it is, it isn't a bad thing because - to be blunt - I prefer that latin influence to Mike's more comfortable song zones and, as a by-product, it does show how fluid and precise Mike is becoming. The reason I dragged the Melancholy elephant into the room is to highlight just how far I think this musician has come, to say nothing about his much wider influence as an indie supporter and radio DJ.

Whatever I Say has a personal poignancy because it is Mike's tribute to Sharma Kay who passed away recently. Consequently, its a solid piece of classic rock (with that latin edge as I say) with not much in the way of frills. I suspect most of the creative energy went into capturing and refining this track because its certainly a fine, clear sound with just the right mix of instrumentation. I think it's probably one of the best sounding tracks Mike has ever come up with, that's for sure. Whether you like it or not depends on your view of the genre I guess.

Highly Recommended latin-influenced rock ;)

Nosemusic - Fail In Assembling

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Last review this month from blog requests is Luciano Monteleone aka Nosemusic from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Billed on Soundcloud (a new site?) as Electronic Nu Jazz (an interesting genre choice) which Luciano also mentioned in his email to me. For sure there is a substantial jazz element in the track and more electronica than you can shake a stick at. Like a lot of musicians, Luciano is quick to point out his technical limitations (PC, Tascam 4trk and an Ensoniq ESQ1) and even mailed a picture of his home studio so I could better get the idea. Believe me when I say this, I have heard much, much worse.

Fact is, Fail In Assembling is a clever track, that blend of jazz and bleeps and squeaks sounds strange on paper but it sizzles down your ear canals like hot wax. From the instant I heard it, I struggled with musical references from the much feared Jazz fusion era in general and Dutch band Focus in particular. Not that this is a bad thing mind, I actually liked the early Focus, and indeed several of the more successful jazz fusion musicians, so I am bound to like something as lively and entertaining as this track.

There again, I am only too well aware that jazz (of any description) is a much under-rated genre, and that many will already be off elsewhere and thankfully the electronic side of this negates a lot of the normal derision about anything jazzy. Once you get past the mainly electronic intro, the song opens out into a nice bass heavy ride (the kind of track I really respond to) nailing the listener to the spot. Now obviously six minutes is going to be a stretch but to be honest, I didn't really notice the time passing and the track sounded better with each playing. A fine introduction to this musician.

Highly Recommended electronica/jazz fusion.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Alderman - Cuz I Like It Like Dat

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I first became aware of Leif Liljeqvist (aka Alderman) early in 2004 and we've been friends ever since. His arrival in my life was with a song called Catch a Glimpse of Wonderland (February 2004) of which I wrote 'definitely an artist keep an eye on'. Since then he's claimed his very own folder on my hard drive, so I doubly stunned to notice my last review was for Sunset Over Andama Sea (June 2007)! That's a long time 'tween tracks. I have another shared interest in this track because Leif has made me very, very aware of the sample set the vocals come from - our tastes are surprisingly similar. Moreover, right from that very first track, Alderman showed enormous compositional skills and over the years technical ones too.

I have used the particular vocals myself in a track and believe me getting them to feel right in the track is not as easy as it looks; especially if you are exploiting the rhythm. Alderman doesn't take this tack however, more like writing a whole new melody (actually melodies) that work surprisingly well with the vocal - in a way that took me by surprise. See, I would have gone down the whole ethnic route but Alderman stamps his own personality all over the track and - to my ears - gives it a whole new electronic slant.

Where this Swedish musician has always scored is in his ability to keep your ear interested, and the unlikely combination evident on this track makes you pay it a lot more attention that if it had been more ethnic sounding. So it goes without saying that I've had a fair amount of exposure to this track prior to this review process and I still marvel at how those little melodies prop the whole damn edifice up. True to it's dancehall roots, there is a lot of sparseness about the track, but there is more than enough to keep you amused and entertained. Kind of abrupt ending though...

Electronic Dancehall anyone? Highly Recommended.

Oxy Powered Moron - Platipus (demo)

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How could I resist a review request that states 'I are Chester the Wonder Dolphin'? No you are not, you are my long lost loony twin, where have you been? He goes on to heap praise and salutations on me but as you know I am impervious to such treatment - just the cash if ya please. Oxy Powered Moron (he made it up on the spot I bet) is a 'Nu Metal' (wtf? everything nu nu?) artist coming out of Canada (Ed: aren't they all?) and - up until this point - a completely new name to me. Still he lists a couple of bands as influences that I can definitely relate to and we've already established his lunacy quotient, so lets get to the large beaked beavers already....

Large beaked beavers, yeah I like that.

Sad to say, the sex life of platypi (see, I do my research), is but a measly twice a year so that's something to wail about innit? In fact, that's probably him on the backing vocals on this extremely strange, off the wall track/song/whatever. I had the most difficult time in all my reviewing years thinking about how I could adequately describe this track, and I'm sitting here writing it with less clue than I started with. Put it like this, if this had been presented to me as a jokey track - which it is - I'm still somewhat confuddled with the whole thing. Sure, it's funny but probably only once or twice, and the music isn't even funny once.

Essentially this is pretty much a live rant against those poor cute critters, set against a guitar accompaniment; a standard chugging figure and a series of notes and nothing else. It also goes way, way into Parental Advisory territory and well deserves the Kiddie Kaution. For us grown ups though this is probably going to come down to your own personal taste. I found it odd at first, then sniggered along with it and then it started to really get on my nerves.

Good for a quick giggle sure.

MOTA - Closure

Hear The Track Here

Chris Bishop's choice for this month (after much persuading let me tell you, the poor guy needs a break after his honeymoon) is yet another exotic Asian band. MOTA look like a four or five piece band from the State of Brunei, an island of calm in a very troubled area. Outside of that, they have two tracks on their page; one punk and one acoustic (this one). Now I can well imagine punk from this part of the world. I personally know lots of small bands in the area who specialise in the roughest rock sounds known to man. Acoustic, however, is a different story and, to be honest, I can't remember having reviewed anything less than ear shattering from this part of the world. Still, life is there for the experiencing, right?

Certainly Closure is aurally a world away from the raucous, lo-fi I usually hear from that part of the world and so is the general level of professionalism. Moreover, if I had heard this without knowing anything about the musicians I would have sworn that this was a Western track in thought and execution. That's not to say that the East has nothing to offer, as you know I am a keen fan of Eastern music in all its forms, but its never usually as technically polished as this nor so commercially oriented.

The most striking thing of all about Closure is that it's first and foremost a really good song, with pace and styling that echoes the very best pop, and the clear, clean vocals are the icing on the cake. Although it struck me from the outset just how good a track it was, I must admit to some surprise that - once I got used to it - how sparse and spare everything is. A couple of voices, the basic guitar structure and that's pretty much your lot. It doesn't sound like that when you are listening though; it's warm full and engaging in the best possible way.

Highly Recommended Acoustic Pop from Brunei

Big Wheel Remixes - Electric Eye (Big Weenie Blag Spatial Mix)

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Where The Round One plays around with other peoples bits, in case you were wondering. Many of you will already be aware of Big Wheel in his normal electronica getup, and I can say that this side of his musical persona is well worth checking out too. I've already done three of these bad boys, all of which got highly recommended so I'm up for any number more. I know this musician and I know his style but when I am dealing with remixes, there is only one place to start: at the source. Bikini Black Special made the original Electric Eye and very smart it is too. A very tight little band. Just goes to show that MySpace does hold its share of capable musicians, despite the endless clones...

Ol' Wheelie then takes that excellent track, slices, dices, mangles, distorts and weaves his own brand of aural magic. Although I'm glad I listened to the original first before starting to review this, I would have recognised how catchy a song it is regardless of what Big Wheel did with it. What this musician has done is, true to the remixers code, not losing the essence of the original track while stamping your own individual personality onto it. Something, I might add with some experience, that is a lot harder to do than it sounds, especially in this loop crazy world.

'I did it because Paddy loves me, despite thinking I am electronica's answer to Kenny G' Big Wheel says and you know what there is some truth to that. He's always been a bit of a smoothie with the sounds, despite his electronica leanings but even I would have to admit I wouldn't quite put him in the same place as Kenny G. IMHO that should be a small ante-room of Hell made entirely of speaker cones where he is forced to listen to his own music for all eternity. Anyway, Big Wheel Remixes have none of those problems and I do recommend listening to both these excellent pieces - the original and the remix.

Highly Recommended Electronica

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Modems - Kiss Of Death

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The Modems, who apparently came from out of the shadows, want some of your time. Do they deserve it? Well, judging from the one track I have heard up until this point - This Is Why We Cry (August 2009) - they certainly do. A really fine piece of radio friendly rock pop that is actually worth the money you have to pay to own it. Now, there's a concept eh? Normally when I am reviewing tracks that are for sale, I am extra harsh, after all if you are paying good money... Right from the getgo This Is Why We Cry proclaimed that right, its as professional a product as any you are likely to hear in the real world.

Mind you, after that good a start, can they keep it up?

Kiss Of Death is billed as a 'tongue and cheek nod to The B52's' and by God that's right on the money except its sonically miles better than anything the mad bombers got up to. (Ed: to prevent mass panic I should add that he is referring the the B52 bomber, in a jokey manner) I was commenting when reviewing The Dustjackets track a couple of days ago about the Scots influence in rock music and here's a track that is unashamedly Scot, complete with that wonderful burr so peculiar to Eastern Scotland. It in no way detracts from the music, in fact to my mind it brings a charm and liveliness of spirit - despite it's massively downer lyrics.

What singled out their first track for me was the song it contained, and Kiss Of Death is - if anything - the better song. Mind you I am a real sucker for this kind of overtly commercial pop rock, and I'm probably preaching to the converted here. Takes a bit of welly to score a Number One in the Alternative genre but this track has achieved that, and easily I'd say. The kind of track that comes romping out of the speakers like an overgrown dog intent on play, but the rush that accompanies it is something to experience. Their last track was class, this track was ultra-class, what next?

MUST HAVE nod to the B52's.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Farrell Jackson - Last Day

Hear The Track Here

Although I'd seen Californian musician Farrell Jackson a time or two in the chatroom during Mike-K's Saturday Night Rocks radio show on Mixposure, it wasn't until I reviewed The Train To Normal (January 2009) that I paid serious attention. A slice of pure American folk, Train To Normal is exactly what I like - a story told with depth and style set in as simple a style as possible, all the better to get the story across. Judging by Last Day, getting the story across is a big thing with this artist. This is a song based on 'a true story about a young man that was diagnosed as bipolar. He committed suicide as people watched..(online)' and obviously getting an understanding of it means getting all the words - and they are posted too.

See, organisation DOES pay off.

Aided in this project by DrC (also co-writer) and the legendary Rob Grant on bass, Last Day looked very promising on paper. The first thing you'd expect is a crisp, clear sound and you may as well tick that box right off because the sound on this track is priceless - as good as it ever gets. If I had to put my finger on a thumbnail description I think I would have to say prog-rock in the form of the extremely underrated Electric Light Orchestra in general and Jeff Lynne in particular. Even when his head was up his ass (as he was lyrically during his prog-rock period) Jeff Lynne still knew how to reach into the honey pot to feed you something sweet and poignant.

Considering this is a true story I questioned why the story it told so eloquently didn't disturb me as much as it should. Have I become that cynical about the state of play? As the song says 'What the hell is wrong with this picture?', a priceless line in a song full of them. While prog-rock and I are (extremely) uneasy bedfellows, I admit to loving the kind of prog-rock from the poppier side of the street, and its that influence, I think, that makes me like this. It helps, of course, that everything is right on the money; musically and technically and that Farrell is a proven, experienced songwriter but nonetheless Last Day packs an awful lot of punches despite that pedigree.

MUST HAVE rock with a story to chill your heart.

The Dustjackets - It's Not My Fault

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You may have noticed forum postings from both the Modems and the Dustjackets and that's as it should be, they are both part of a Perthshire (that's in Scotland) music collective both of whom I first encountered last month. Made a favourable impression on me too. I reviewed the Dustjackets LP Hartley (August 2009) and found it to be a pleasant enough listen, even if it was a little rough around the edges. Still, that's never put me off before, especially where the song itself makes all the going and their Beatle-ish take was just what the doctor ordered.

It's Not My Fault has a much better sound overall and that's a step in the right direction, as is the continued feel for what makes a good song better and - over time - this is a track that will set up camp in your brain. Its basically an acoustic rock tune, with some notable elements including the splendid lead acoustic licks (and slide guitar) form, I think, Robbie Walker Hill. The song comments say that this is ' in the tradition of Neil Young' and I suppose in a way that is true but to me it's truer to something else much closer to home.

Not enough attention has been paid, in my opinion, to the contribution of Scotland in the history of rock music. That is what comes through most about It's Not My Fault, it's pure Hibernian pop feel. Lead vocals again come from Colin McSloy and what a great job he does of it too. Between the brilliance (and tone, and performance) of the acoustic guitars and the vocal/lyrical content this is a track that's going to find a few willing ears. All through the review process, this nagged at me because it reminded me of another Soundclick artist and I couldn't put my finger on it until just now. John Brandon (Silvertrain) sounds just like this on his solo there's a thing.

Highly Recommended acoustic pop.

The Peach Tree - Coming Out Of The Coffin

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Australian musician Angus Maiden (aka The Peach Tree) definitely likes life on the darker side of the spectrum, certainly the last three or four have had some very dark tones. Not that I mind that, in fact I like it a great deal but I have been known to overdose on it with prolonged exposure. Can't be having that. Turns me blue. Coming Out Of The Coffin is, apparently, 'a play on "coming out of the closet' and the track is the opening track in a forthcoming Lift The Black Veil 'story'. There, so much information it makes your head swim. Peach Tree and I have a fairly chequered past so I think he was as surprised as me to get a Must Have rating for Magick (August 2009) so either he's lightening up or I'm getting darker...

No, doesn't bear thinking about.

Coming Out Of The Coffin is a two part track; the extended intro is excellent gothic atmosphere and definitely shows The Peach Tree knows his stuff; right there on the edge of your seat. That fizzles out around 1:30 and that's when the real meat and two veg kick in and the track becomes a heavy rock opus, complete with Rock God lead lines and a doomy, gloomy lead vocal that snarls the lines at you. Kinda reminds me somewhat of a souped up Hawkwind but hey what do I know? Nonetheless, there are bound to be many out there who will just love this surprisingly good rock track, as well as those to whom the dark side appeals most.

Think: what would Jesus do?

Personally, even if the style isn't quite what I need right now, I admit I am much impressed with the quality of The Peach Tree's output of late and Coming Out Of The Coffin is right up there in quality and ideas. I like the juxtaposition of the two styles; one setting up the other not just something jammed together, and yay in a rough way the rock works incredibly well too. Haven't always been able to be so kind to this artist, and it's nice that I can finally connect to what he's doing. That said, this is a track that is an easy listen, despite the overtones especially if you like a bit of classic 70's rock with a modern twist.

Highly Recommended dark mixture.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Crockmister - Ordinary Life

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I was greatly heartened to see Crockmister appearing again in my reviews, here is a musician I can never get enough of. My hard drive has almost his entire catalog on it AND videos to match. He has his own You Tube channel with some of the best live rhythm guitar you are likely to hear. He's also one of the keenest singer songwriters I've ever heard, online or off it. Proof of that standard of professionalism is the fact that he keeps on working, and live too. He's had a string of Must Have's from me that probably equals the most I've ever given to any one artist, both on his own and with his earlier classic, and much under-rated, work with Liverpool's very own Deggsy.

So that's got MY objectivity right out in the open eh?

Ordinary Life shows just how good a guitarist he is, colouring the track just enough to carry the song perfectly. The sort of guitar playing you associate with the greats of the genre (Acoustic folk that is) especially Bob Dylan which this track definitely pays its respects to - even though it's indisputably a Crockmister track through and through. Over the years I've compared him vocally to Louis Armstrong, Mick Hucknall and even Lionel Ritchie and that is the class that this man works in. Time and again I have said that Craig Sofaly (aka Crocky) is world class material and it will be an eternal puzzle to me why Deggsy and Crockmister didn't click outside of those in the know (or those nosy enough).

Craig is based in France and there is a lot of that influence in this excellent, if basically acoustic track, from the guitar flourishes that open it to the light, open feel of the song. Dedicated to 'the person who saved me from drowning in an ordinary life' this is a track which shows exactly why this guy is held in such high regard, but obviously not enough. Whatever you may think about music, almost everyone likes a good song and - at the core of all he does - good songs are Crockmister's reason for being. Even on something as simple in structure as Ordinary Life there are literally hundreds of things to hear, given the time. Wonderful stuff.

MUST HAVE Acoustic song.

Thomas J Marchant - Unemployment

Hear The Track Here

I've lost count of the number of people who have asked me why I do so much reviewing. Well, I'll tell you because Thomas J Marchant is one of the prime examples of why I do what I do. See, when he first started out we had several set-to's about what music is or isn't. At the time Thomas was an electronica: experimental artist with all the baggage that this entails. I caught glimpses of what he was after in his work with Black Zarak and The Men From San Diego but it wasn't until The Antennaheadz in general and Mr Panache (November 2007) that I finally caught sight of where he was going - it also earned him his first Must Have from me. The point I'm making is that without this continued and long exposure to this artist I probably could never have appreciated him as much as I do. Sure I would hear a musician and singer who knew what he was doing, but I wouldn't know what a struggle it was to get there. When they 'come good', the most awkward artists can be tremendously innovative.

Such is the case with Thomas J.

As well as a guitarist, singer and songwriter I have known Thomas to pick up his sax now and then to wail on it, so I know that he is deadly serious about his music too. Over the years, Thomas has turned into an old fashioned troubadour and with grand style too. I heartily recommend you check out his EP from Chameleon Dish Archive. Unemployment (there's a subject we are all knowledgeable about) is exactly what I expect from Thomas, lo-fi but incredibly clear and listenable, upbeat and breezy with some of the best lyrics he has come up with yet. Three minutes plus of a track so easy on the ears, you couldn't ignore it if you tried.

I believe one of the charms of this track (and indeed this artist) is that quintessential English sound. The acne laden vocal and the plodding piano that really shouldn't be that catchy, wedded to a pedestrian beat that definitely shouldn't work but comes out sounding full of life and twice as exhilarating. I'm sure there would/will be detractors to this view and I understand that I am a confirmed fan but nonetheless if I was looking for bright, breezy pop with an edge, Thomas J Marchant is who I would look for first. He was, after all, my Artist Of The Year 2008 and he shows no sign whatsoever of slacking off...

MUST HAVE pop oddity.

Zebrabook - Apocryphal

Hear The Track Here

I usually download the whole review list at the beginning of each month, just to be sure I've got it all. Consequently, I have about five or six downloads going at any one time and - usually - I can download the whole thing relatively quickly. The track just kept going and going and going though, and once it was finally on my drive I found out the answer. Apocryphal is a bloody monster of a track, 28MB+ so obviously not an easy choice. Moreover it is fifteen and a half minutes long into the bargain, which would certainly explain the file bloat as would the Alternative : Experimental label. After all, this is a genre known for stretching whatever passes for boundaries these days. And who better to stretch them than Jon Bushaway, leading light of The Dead Company and, of course, sole prop of Zebrabook.

I've always suspected his middle name was Apocryphal anyway...

Now obviously I would be lying if I said I had taken all this in and understood it, it's way too big a piece to be taken in a few sittings, so drive by listens will probably be rare. When they get to the meat of the piece, however I'm sure they would be as puzzled as the next guy as to who or what it all means. Mind you, that's what some people would argue is the whole point in the experimental thing anyway. Well, yes and no. Jon Bushaway is a tried and tested experimental musician who I have liked and admired for several years and it isn't the first time he's thrown something this weighty my way.

It's an indication of my regard that I would take the time to listen to this whole track, not once but certainly almost to my normal review standard. I found it useful when I was doing mindless chores for example, and that's where it got extra attention. I must have soaked up something from those background listens because I found much of it almost recognisable after a while. There again, this is most definitely something that should be approached very, very carefully. Personally I'm glad because I like this musicians soundscapes a great deal and Apocryphal is a goodie. Reserve yourself a nice wedge of time, get some refreshment and let this track take you somewhere you've never been before.

Experimental electronica (and HUGE). Highly Recommended for the wired at heart.

Microfiches - The Works Of Bankruptcy

Hear The Track Here

Another review now coming though my review blog. Microfiches are a alternative garage band from India, and I have to admit that comes as no surprise to me. Over the years I have been reviewing I have noticed that the Indian sub-continent (and indeed all points East from there) is an absolute hotbed of garage bands, some good, some average and some so bad you wouldn't want to give it ear room. Takes all kinds, right? Now I can take any amount of ambient noise provided that the underlying song and/or musical principles has some merit, and yes, even garage rock does have its moments. The Works of Bankruptcy is an eight track CD, well almost because the first track The Moment is literally that; forty five seconds of backwards guitar..

It's the second track, Drugged Nerves, that gives you a much better mouthful of what Microfiches are about - and it's a given that the term lo-fi could definitely be applied here. Again I have no problem with that provided that the material is worth hearing and this track - with its very spacey feel - does the trick. The lo-fi approach damages the vocal most, and that's a shame but the sub-punk method of delivering it covers it nicely. Loose Ends is much more what I would have expected from this band given their garage band image. Spare, awkward guitar lines by the dozen, and a doomy feel doesn't really elevate this track from being a so-so instrumental. Neither, for that matter, does Floor, the next track up - even if it does feature some nice off the wall percussive touches.

Keep The Change introduces a more electronic feel to things, and one that - momentarily - caused me to flash onto a band I first saw back when they were an unknown outfit from Detroit; the MC5. I saw them a few times back in the day and loved their archaic, sloppy but very effective rock, and Keep The Change is a weird offshoot of Kick Out The Jams. As such, its probably my favourite track. Japanese Schoolgirls is also an instrumental and again, the differences in sound levels and the meandering style of this piece won't - I fear - win it many listeners. Dressed Up Psycho is another very electronic piece, and sounds very, very different to all the other tracks on the CD. That doesn't stop the problems with the vocals however which are both washed out in echo and drowned in the mix. The one minute plus of Daydream On is - I suspect - also responsible for the backwards guitar on the opening track and is literally just a poorly mic'd acoustic guitar banging out the riff. For me, I suspect that the band will need to up the game considerably both materially and sonically to stand a chance against the fearsome competition out there.

Home made garage band stylee. Check if you like the genre.

David Deal - Blood Money

Hear The Track Here

Like a great many musicians online, I tend to spread myself as far as possible yet no matter where I go, I am bound to encounter the forum nickname of David Deal (aka songdoc). Although this track is from Popspace, I tend to bump into David more and more over at Mixposure, mostly because his music sounds so good on their radio :) When I first came across this singer/songwriter reviewing I Don't Know (December 2007), his skill at turning out a very sharply defined song - in that case a blend of pop, soul and spiritual. I've put a few more of his tracks through the mill since then, some I've definitely go and some I remain kinda/sorta about. Par for the course, I suppose.

Having worked myself with Canada's most well known polar bear Ked Deiter lately, it's nice to finally get to review something he's involved with. He's featured here on guitar and David Coonrod takes on the bass, with David taking up the slack with everything else - also par for the course. Blood Money is a polemic about the current enconomic situation (David is from Ohio, big car country) but more specifically the role Goldman Sachs plays in our lives pointing you at this article for further clarification (Ed: maybe...). It's actually an interesting read, regardless of your stance on the matter. So what of the track? As I've already said, I do rate David as a songwriter, and Blood Money is exactly what I had expected from him - along with some smoking leads from Ked...

Although it's billed as Alternative Rock, I personally don't see much alternative in it but what the hey. In common with all David Deal tracks it is clean and tidy, with everything in the right place. Although it works with his music I feel that fussiness somehow flattened the delivery on this track, I could definitely have done with a lot more agression (considering the inflammatory subject matter) but that's probably a personal thing. Ultimately though it did affect my feelings about the track making me feel that it was more lightweight than it should be, and that is down to the feel. Its a bit too smooth for my tastes, but again, that's a personal thing - don't let it put you off.

Recommended rock.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fortune - Latin Thing

Hear The Track Here

Over the year or so that I have known Boston based Fortune, they have managed to snag some SIX Must Have's from me so they must be doing something right. Yeah, but you all think I'm a bit of a pushover right? Well every other reviewer I have read who encounters this excellent band, regardless of preference, fall victim to the jaw-on-the-floor syndrome. I'd say the bulk of their material I've heard (some eight or nine tracks) have been a very slick and extremely commercial blend of prog rock and pop that just begs for wider recognition. Add into that heady mix the fact that Fortune are a live, gigging band and you would think the real world music biz would be at their feet.

Riiiiiggghhhhttt. And who gives a **** anyway?

Nobody ever made it without a lot of real hard work, and I fear Fortune already know that only too well. It certainly shows in the extremely high degree of professionalism they bring both to their musical and production skills, Fortune are the real deal. I love working with Latin styles and it's nice to see that Latin Thing is exactly what I'm talking about. From the very first conga roll, you feel the heat being stoked up. One of my seminal influences was seeing Santana in the film of Woodstock, what a smoking band they were, and no one impressed me more than drummer Michael Shrieve who really worked his butt off. That's the way I feel about the drummers performance on this, absolutely spot on the money every time - a treat to hear.

Mind you, I could honestly say the same thing about every part of Latin Thing, from stylistic touches and feel to the way everything dovetails neatly. Damn it must get tiring to be this perfect :) Seriously, if I was in the market for some seriously righteous latin funkfest, this is exactly the kind of track I'd reach for. It's obvious influence would, of course, be Santana but having grown used to this band's particular sound, I hear much more Fortune than Mr S and Co. This is also the first instrumental I've ever heard from this band (I think) and it takes a special kind of instrumental to really navigate my ear canals, to lodge in my brain.

MUST HAVE latin rock instrumental. Seriously woooaaaahhhhhh.

Pilesar - Epididymitis

Hear The Track Here

Absolutely the only thing you can guarantee about a Pilesar track is that it will surprise you. Even if, like me, you have been listening to this experimental artist for years. The fact that he can still surprise me is one of the reasons I like this musician so much, there ain't many that can do that. It's not all sweetness and light though because - unlike other more contemporary musicians - Pilesar loves nothing more than expanding whatever madness he is involved in. Nearly all of his work (even the REALLY out there stuff) shows the incredible sense of fun this guy always brings to the party. Doesn't always get him a Must Have, but he's had his share of those too. Now because Epididymitis is somewhat complicated click HERE to see the Epididymitis Doctor.

Pilesar is the only artist I know who can make songs about boldily irritations even feasible.

It's real easy for people to be labelled 'unique' these days, I've even been guilty of that oversight before but in Pilesar's case it's the only word that fits. As well, of course, as awkward bastard. To be sure, when Pilesar goes off on one, his music can exert your dog to have fits and guess what kind Epididymitis is? I don't know whether it's a product of long exposure to Pilesar's output that makes me less scared of a track this off the wall, or whether I - like many others - have been tainted by this evil genius. To the uninitiated, this track is going to sound incredibly like chalk on a blackboard - and not just because of the screams.

Epididymitis is probably one of the weirder Pilesar tracks I've heard, but somehow it still manages to be incredibly listenable - at least to those with obviously steel ears and cast iron musical stomachs. Stylistically the track is a exercise in rhythms - this artists hallmark - that somehow manages to evoke both Jimi Hendrix AND the Mothers Of Invention in all their splendour. For sure, this is not an easy listen but for me I've already got a few favourite bits staked out. The aforementioned Jimi Hendrix wailing and the sax section for starters, not to mention more ideas than a barrel full of monkeys. Funnily enough, this track also features a few of those too.

Musical madness. Big. Time. Highly Recommended Earache.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dexter Rotten - Heaven Shine Down

Hear The Track Here

Now say what you like about Patrick Lew (Ed: What? Him again??), you got to admire his all consuming passion for what he does, even if - to a man - all his tracks leave so much to be desired it is untrue. Wow, harsh Gilmore. Oh yeah, well go listen to some of this guys other works (search for him on my blog for example) and you'll get more than you could possibly have bargained for. The word that most fits what Patrick is about is a Hebrew word: chutzpah. Essentially it applies to anything with an element of audacity about it, various senses being 'gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible guts, or sheer bloody-mindedness' Or to put it in Patrick Lew terms, you are all wrong and I am so far ahead of the curve you can't even see me.

Him big chief Brass Neck!

Dexter Rotten is, of course, Patrick's new band who are (and I quote) 'making shitty music'. All well and good, considering that the genre we have stumbled into here is Garage Rock which by its very definition needs to be shitty - at least soundwise. And that is where Patrick has often taken this to new and unexplored levels in all his various guises so I approached this track with infinite care - I've learned to do that with this artist. As you can see from his Soundclick site, Patrick is his own best salesman so let him tell you what Heaven Shine Down is all about. 'This is probably one of the only songs I wrote associated with my Christian religion music-wise. I gave it a very 80's synth feel sort of. It's pretty sloppy,'

I find all of Patrick's work to be sloppy so that doesn't frighten me, although I must admit I did have a couple of panic attacks about the Christian Rock tag. Needn't have worried though because if there is one thing Patrick is good at, it's being himself - warts and all. Surprisingly enough, Heaven Shine Down ALMOST has some structure and certainly the back line (drums, bass) sounds better than any other P Lew track I have ever heard. However, it's still pretty much the same unstructured, chaotic output this musician has become known for and - to be honest - I gave up complaining about it ages ago. So if five minutes of the most basic demo sound you ever heard sounds like it might float your boats, click away. Me? Well, I'll just wait for the next one, or the one after that, or the one after that....

Careful with that axe Eugene....

Fear 2 Stop - Butterfly Symphony

Hear The Track Here

Regular readers will already be aware of that small frission of panic that seeing the name of this band often brings forth. I feel that I am now probably immune to that reaction because I have become more than used to the way that Fear 2 Stop do business. As one of the most fully paid up members of Soundclick's Experimental community, their music is - to say the least - difficult to grasp. The most surprising thing is that, despite all that, Fear 2 Stop can become somewhat of a taste, and one I have certainly got a case of. The simple fact is that I like most of their output. OK, I can't pretend to understand it, but I do like to hear their wholly individual take on the whole electronica/experimental thing, especially their patented blend of analog and digital.

For sure, there aren't many bands like this...

Billy Castillo (F2S main man and motor mouth) describes Butterfly Symphony as 'A real toe tapper....if your toes were on fire' and like all of Billy's comments has to be taken with the requisite pinch of salt (say a ton and a half). Nothing, Ah say nothing is quite what it seems in the Fear 2 Stop world. Billy has spent the last couple of years brushing up on his production skills and that - more than anything other thing - is what makes Fear 2 Stop infinitely more accessible than the artist I first reviewed way back in 2003. Billy's particular affinity being drum and bass lines, many of which are full of ideas and odd sounds but still oddly compelling.

To my ears, they haven't hit the (more commercial) heights they were hitting a year or so ago, but I never expected that to really come into full being, simply because this is not the Fear 2 Stop way. As always, Butterfly Symphony, is an instrumental. In fact, in this case, its not much more than bass and drums but there again this is strictly a Billy C track anyway by the looks of it. So, if any kind of experimentation sends you postal, best not to delve into this. Mind you, if like me, you have developed a quirky taste for what this Houston based trio have to offer then Butterfly Symphony will offer no surprises. Not to my mind one of their better tracks but hey, can't win every time - especially not with this band who make a career of doing it 'their way'.

Recommended electronica noodle.

Brave Empire - Where We Belong

Hear The Track Here

First track from my review list over at Popspace is a band I first encountered last month, thanks to our old friend producer par excellence, David Pendragon. Be All You Can Be (August 2009) came as a real blast of fresh air to a increasingly jaded hiphop reviewer (that'll be me folks!!) because - to be honest - there are so many things you can say about the endless hiphop search for riches and bitches. Brave Empire's version of hiphop is remarkably different to the norm being a massively impressive blend of rock, alternative, hiphop and other genres that definitely makes it stick out from the crowd. It also helps that it is a keen pop song, helping it to a nice fat Must Have from me and believe me, that doesn't happen often in this genre.

David's connection to this seven piece Australian outfit is as on-line manager/fixer, a job he is obviously relishing. Not that Brave Empire need to use the mans prodigious production and/or engineering skills because they kick up a smart old soundtrack all on their own as a quick listen to either of the tracks on their Soundclick page will show. Personally, as much as I liked Where We Belong I think if I had to express a preference I'd go for Be All You Can Be simply because I think its by far the better tune. Having said that, if you think all hiphop sounds the same, Where We Belong will certainly dispel that assumption right quick.

Not sure exactly who is contributing the main rap vocals on this track but obviously Shauna is the female voice and very nice it is too. She brings the Alternative feel to the track in the way she phrases and in her style, helped along by the massed guitars of this band. If that doesn't sound very much like the hiphop you are used to, once the rap gets going (Shaka?) you will see that this band really do have roots in these different genres. Considering the relative youth of this excellent band, their future looks good, especially if they can keep up this level of songwriting and production. After all, I've never known David Pendragon to put his name to something that isn't wholly worth it, and that alone should have you reaching for the Click Me button right now...

Highly Recommended blend of hiphop, alternative and pop.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cam's Even Song - The Day I Won The Lottery

Hear The Track Here

I mean, come on, own up. Who hasn't had this dream? Even someone as hardbitten, twisted and cynical as yours truly has had this particular dream, and I don't even PLAY the lottery. Suckers game, know what I mean? In a country where the people groan audibly under the strain of their taxes (hands up, the UK!) it seems laughable that the Lottery should subsidise govenment spending and your chances of winning are only 14m to1!. Anyway, best I avoid that particular soapbox because we don't have the centuries I need to be properly vented. Surprisingly enough, this is not about that auspicious day a couple of years when Cam's Even Song won my coveted Artist Of The year 2006 award.

What? Why are you all looking at me as if I'm deluded??

Cam's track is, indeed, about the folly of wishing for something that couldn't possibly do you any good. Sure, we would all like a little extra, and we'd all like to be comfortable but great riches, believe me, is more curse than cure. As it happens I know a few rich people and even a billionaire (only the one mind, but he is a UK Pound millionaire) and they are a right miserable lot, to a man or a woman. There are two distinct sides to Cam's work, and The Day falls into the light hearted, feel good side - one which I am quite fond of. Cam certainly has a touch with this kind of material, an artist having fun with his craft.

To be honest, in anyone elses hands, I'd probably be up to my elbows in blood by now because this is toe-cringingly cute, as well as being catchy as all get out. It has to be said that truly appreciating the entity that makes up Cam's Even Song takes time and lots of tracks, showing both sides of his style. It helps that he's a consummate musician and very experienced home producer (one of the best IMHO) and even something as lightweight as this has bags of charm. Try, for example, to stop that chorus (and the number count) from sticking in your brain like some mad scientists superglue. Class Cam that's for sure.

Excellent pop rock epistle. Highly Recommended.

Ron Gragg - Maltbie's Walk

Hear The Track Here

Looking back over the reviews I have done of this American Christian rock artist, I think I've been amazingly calm considering that I could have conniptions about sound, lyrical content and probably a few other sores while I am at it. See, in the real world, musicians like Ron Gragg have a lot of stumbling blocks - some put in their way by us, the listeners and some self-inflicted. Obviously none of us have any real choice about our recording situations and you have to tailor your cloth to fit, as it were. My own theory is that by concentrating on the songs and not much else, Ron gets his point across better than more established Christian artists.

The last Ron Gragg track I reviewed - My Fathers World (November 2008) - was a hymn written by Maltbie D. Babcock, in 1901 and in a way so is Maltbie's Walk. He was a keen hiker and walker and would always say that he was 'out to see my father's world' hence the hymn title. Being the proud possessor of a great sounding acoustic guitar, I am always but always interested in other plank spankers - especially the acoustic variety. What has amazed me time and time again with Ron's work is the great sound he gets from his guitar and this, being an instrumental, is a classic example of how to do it right.

Obviously it's just some geezer noodling away on an acoustic, but there is world of difference between Beardy Bill down at the local folk hangout and - say - Leo Kottke (or for that matter the awesome Christopher Martin Hansen from our own unsigned world). I mention these two guitarists in particular because this is the field Maltbie's Walk is set in. Ron does a more than honorable job, taking his time about it and getting it right. What comes out the other end is, well, a very pretty little melody played with skill and pace.

Highly Recommended Acoustic instrumental.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Larry Ludwick - Haunted

Hear The Track Here

As I've said (probably more than a time or two) one of my most favourite of musical genres is goth. More, I like the style and the attitude that goes with it too. If I was, say, 106 years younger I may even have been found dressed as one. Thank God that with great age, comes wisdom eh chums? Can't say it was that much of a surprise to see that Larry Ludwick (stalwart of Critics Corner and instigator of the now highly popular CC competitions) has turned his hands to the dark side. This is because Larry has covered a great many genres already and I'm sure there are many more to come.

Tell you what though, once the vocal started, it struck me just how familiar Larry's voice is becoming to me. Having listened to this track, his collaboration with The Dead Company makes a lot more sense. Either that or his work with TDC has influenced him more than a bit because this has the same dark desolation TDC are so good at. One thing that has always struck me abour Larry Ludwick's work is the high degree of literacy he brings to his songs. Little stories that grow stronger with each telling and - by the way - Haunted is an epic (it comes in just short of nine minutes)...

Gulp, yeah, I should say.

It isn't, to my ears anyway, strictly what I would call goth and indeed Larry uses the word 'gothic' to describe it. More House of Horror than emo that's for sure. The track is almost a ballad and you know I don't have a great deal of time for them, but Larry handles it surprisingly well, certainly not enough to make me as sick as usual, Larry's choice of instruments also helps, there is a Theremin sound in here that is perfect for the song. I think Larry's fans will definitely be happy with this but, at this length, I feel he'll be hard pressed to reach some quarters. Regardless of my own personal opinion, this is a very tasty piece of work and shows that Larry Ludwick's expertise is growing with each release.

Highly Recommended goth (as in gothic) tale.

333maxwell - December 31st 1989

Hear The Track Here

There was a rumour doing the rounds a while ago that I was some kind of vampire who never needed to sleep, well I ain't but I do know a man who never seems to sleep - but I doubt his vampiric abilities. 333maxwell is the name of the bar and - believe me - the bar is very, very high. Not only is the man highly talented with just about every instrument under the sun, he's very prolific with it. Much more to the point he is, like Avalanche's Mike Foster, a chatty kind of guy, ready and willing to fill you in on every detail of the track and - believe it or not - I like that. It's nice to have a back story to work with. My most horrendous musical decade was definitely the 70's, despite some blazing highs, the decade is notorious for it's excesses and banality. Maxwell's happens to be the 1980's and this is a song written to commemorate their demise - hence the title.

See backstory, makes all the difference.

Max spent the decade going through blues, metal (with the hair even) and then country phases so you can bet quality is going to be on the money - as it always is with this artist. Mind you, he's a bit of an odd bugger when he wants to be. As much as I like everything he throws at me, some things take more getting used to and December 31st is right up there with the best of them. What is it? I KNOW it's my job (Ed: falling about laughing) to describe these things but this one if a humdinger, certainly ain't a bird or a plane. Mind you, its starts off with the New Year celebrations complete with faux-Jimi (Ed: Hendrix, for the young ones...) rendition of Auld Lang Syne, so after that almost anything goes, innit? There again, that's always been the case with this guy anyway.

It's basically a guitar instrumental, in a strangely rock pop universe that - to my ears - is redolent of the kind of ruckus young Marc Bolan was making before his untimely death. What it shows is that 333maxwell is a guitarist to be reckoned with, but we already knew that. So, other than the inevitable crick in the neck excessive head nodding will give you, what else did I come away from this with? I've spent a good long while now with 333maxwell and - material notwithstanding - I've never heard him sounding better. Rock as I like it, rough as sandpaper and more aggressive than an estate full of rottweilers. I almost pooped my pants at that very Beatle-ish drum part that introduces the song proper, absolute masterstroke.

MUST HAVE for fans, Highly Recommended rock instrumental nonetheless.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wake Of Destruction - Want Vs Need

Hear The Track Here

Considering that in two tracks Miami based musician and songwriter Wake of Destruction has notched up a Must Have and a highly recommended from this reviewer, you bet I expect much. Wake's (very fertile) field of music to graze on is one of my own favourites; 80's electropop. This was an era when a song counted, despite all the technical wizardry being bought to bear. One of the prime exponents of the genre was IMHO Howard Jones, whom Wake Of Destruction has a passing resemblance to. Turning his talents towards pop rock this time, he assures us of some 'stadium rock in a synth-pop style'

Lighters at the ready...

Tell the truth, I'd have been too fernicking stunned to do anything once the track got to playing. Damn what a powerhouse of a track this is, leaping out of the ether and putting you in a headlock before you could get the first profanity past your lips. It's always been obvious that this is an artist to be taken seriously, but Want Vs Need stamps that with some considerable authority. For my money the best songs of all are the ones that practically force you to sing along and Want Vs Need does that in superb style, moreso if you also like 80's inspired material.

The real surprise here, for me anyway, is just how strong and assured all the vocals sound, a totally professional effort. If this is all just one guy, then its a by God miracle. It's already been number one in the Pop Rock charts so I guess there are enough people taking note of this track but if this is all new to you, I heartily recommend listening (and even downloading) this truly splendid example of just how good this unsigned world can sound. Certainly in this genre, Wake Of Destruction is streets ahead of the competition in every way that counts; confidence, musical style and that awesome vocal sound. More of this, yes please....

MUST HAVE (electro)Pop song.

Bright Midnight - For The Strange

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For those (probably English) men who are currently nodding sagely at the title of this track, it probably has nothing to do with women and you are definitely in the wrong forum. 'Strange' being an English slang word for woman; any woman. I'm saying no more on that subject. Mmmmm, hold on, isn't this the same Bright Midnight who gave me a bit of the same strange with The Stranger (August 2009)? Does the man have a fetish, we ask ourselves. Anyway, pulling a discreet curtain over that sight, let's crack on. For The Strange is the third Bright Midnight track I have reviewed so where does that leave us? Well, The Stranger weighing in at over seven minutes was probably stretching this reviewer as thin as pizza but still managed to slip under the radar...

Who knew??

What kept that musical boat afloat was the undoubted references in the track to the early Doors, which despite being a 1,000 years ago, is as relevant today as it ever was. So the question is, is it intentional? See, the reason I ask this is because in the previous track he sounded like Jim Morrison, on For The Strange he has actually managed to become his Jimness himself. Don't believe me? Want to hear a ghost? Grab a quick listen to this track and do remember to be wearing your brown pants and some clean underwear.

Hey (shrugs), it's either that or reincarnation.

In every sense this is a Doors track through and through, from the vocal styling and lyrical content, right through the rough instrumental sounds but I really have to raise my hat for the CHARGE this track gave me. In my books anyone who can (almost) re-create this legend - intentional or otherwise - deserves to be better known. More to the point, for the first time reviewing this artist I can nod with agreement at its Garage Rock credentials. What is overshadowed by that looming presence is how at home Bright Midnight feels with it. Whatever, I'm going to be keeping this. Excellent homemade Garage Rock with added ghostly ingredient.

Highly Recommended.

Denysl - Hey My Friends

Hear The Track Here

This is a track I should have got to last month, which just goes to show how messed up things are right now. No matter. I've been down the review road with this Canadian musician, once in collaboration with Musicarian whose name may ring a bell. Now I'm firmly of the opinion that music is a personal thing, some things you like and some you don't. Wherever possible I try to make that clear in my review and be as subjective as I can, and I've had to do it a few times already so now I think enough said.

The best review so far was for the country rock based Music Is My Life (July 2009) and I felt a sigh of relief when I noticed that Hey My Friends was billed as Country Blues. Funnily enough I didn't place it as such the first couple of times I heard it, I just heard an odd, distinctly quirky but oddly endearing pop song, with only the odd guitar lick giving evidence that the blues is resident here. Essentially, it's a tale of travel and living by your wits (and musical talent) and - be warned - it takes a while to work it's odd charm.

As charming as the music is (in a distinctly retro form) the lyrical side holds its fire until the chorus and that I found initially jarring, it took a few more plays before I started to ignore it. I certainly found it pleasant listening, but it needs something more than a good hooky chorus to get me to roll over and play dead. Nonetheless, judging by its chart position, I shouldn't think Densyl is failing any pain for it. Put up against the endless competition though, Densyl is going to have to raise his game some. Still, maybe he's having fun what he's doing, it sure sounds like it; especially in those choruses.

Recommended Country blues.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

James Crosbie Hancox - Edge Junkie

Hear The Track Here

My first experience of this Liverpool based musician was with Home and Dry (August 2009) and I came away suitably impressed but certainly not bowled over. Still, can't do that every time and what Home and Dry did show me is that here is a musician and/or songwriter who takes pains to make his work sound as good as possible. That definitely worked with the track but unfortunately the mix was a little too tame for my liking. Moreover, I felt that it didn't do the song any favours because of that.

But that was then....

'Deep down everyone is an edge junkie' James states in the song comments. Can't say I agree with him, I have a yellow streak the size of the Milky Way and I need 24/7 pampering and peeling of grapes. Still, each to their own eh? The song, as it happens, spends a fair amount of time in wtf land, but with a real neat rock twist that actually works a lot better than your initial impression would give it credit for. Which means you would have to download it to really give it the workout it really does deserve.

Despite being a relentless play on one chord, Edge Junkie is quite surprising in its inventiveness, especially those little dabs of percussion that dot the piece. OK, hand on heart, I'm not going to take it out for dinner but Edge Junkie proved a good listen. There is the slightest tinge of prog-rock mixed up in there too (I swear to God!) and - I admit - that jarred with me but that is a personal tic and nothing to do with the track or this musicians treatment of it. I liked its cleverness and its obvious ease with itself, you will have to make your own mind up.

Highly Recommended (different) Alternative

Stain(ed) Art - No Mans Land (Rude Corps Remix)

Hear The Track Here

Although he's been a bit busy with his new band The Forcefield Kids, the UK's Stain(ed) Art has been involved in other collaborations, like this one with fellow Northerner Rude Corps. Not the first time either, because I also reviewed For Your Own Safety (Rude Corps Mix) (February 2009) and liked that a great deal. Mind you, Stain - as you know - has definitely become a favourite of mine in the ol' wordage department and Rude Corps has titillated my ears a time or two. The combination of the two is certainly striking, the anger and fury of both artists work is shown brilliantly in For Your Own Safety. So, are they playing it safe this time, or raising all kinds of political mayhem as usual.

Me, I prefer the latter...make 'em squirm I say.

Although Stain usually comes under the Alternative hiphop genre, it's an even bet that you will not have heard hiphop like this before - and certainly not a Geordie rapper in full spate. The reason I've championed Stain over the past few years is because he is one of the best rappers/wordsmiths around on Soundclick and as original as they come, and No Mans Land is a prime example of why a) he is so respected and b) why Stain and Rude Corps are such a deadly combination. Much more to my advantage, he is also one of those few hiphop artists to post lyrics online.

The music, as the intro will amply demonstrate, is moody, dark and heavily industrialised but when Stain's vocal comes winging in from left field (as it were) reality snaps in and the beats get to rolling. Stain's gritty delivery kicks the track into a higher gear and its only when its over do you notice how much these guys packed into this track. When the main beat kicks in around 1:30 its a visible charge to the head and heart, especially at higher volumes. I keep wanting to single out one or the other with particular praise but when is all is said and done, this is a real team effort - and that's what makes it special.

MUST HAVE UK (industrial) hiphop (I kid ye not)

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Silvertrain - A Girl Like You

Hear The Track Here

Or Episode Two: The Further Adventures of John and Max. Regular readers (Hi Mom) may remember that we had our musical world rocked when John Brandon (Silvertrain) and Chas Holman (333maxwell) cracked heads with Lay Me Down (August 2009), and without so much as a by-your-leave here's the next one. Now I am, as you know, distinctly opposed to all forms of ballad, even though I have been known to sway in the wind a time or two, but usually I feast on their corpses. One of the very few artists to ever get them past me is Ye Olde Silvertrain and John Brandon has certainly retained that sweet streak.

Having served a certain amount of time listening to John's many solo efforts I have come to like his laid back style and I would recognise it, but I wouldn't have placed any bets on that while going through the intro to this track. Once it got going it became obvious that John (his guitar and vocal) is the base element which then gets the full on 333maxwell treatment and - again - it's a winning combination. Now whether its because I am so used to John's style or hyper-aware of what Chas brought to this party, I am aware that this is the sum of two distinctly different parts - and yet it works.

I really rate John Brandon as a straight forward pop song writer (of the softer, sweeter variety) and as usual he delivers exactly that with A Girl Like You. The totally different slant that 333maxwell brings only serves to highlight the song more, giving it a distinctly Fleetwood Mac/10cc feel that will please anyone who remembers that kind of pop. OK, in all honesty, it isn't exactly to my personal taste but it's certainly different enough for it to score highly with fans of both artists and I guess that should be all that counts.

Highly Recommended Pop.

Pidgeman - Misery Loves Company (Kiss The Abyss Remix)

Hear The Track Here

I was only saying last month that my first introduction to Craig Matthews (aka Pidgeman) was with Misery Loves Company (November 2007) which seems to have proved to be one of his most popular tracks, and up he pops with a remix of the sucker. As you can tell, this is a collaboration between Pidgeman and Martin Etheridge (aka Kiss The Abyss), so lets hark back to the original for a second. I had a couple of niggles with the original track, which didn't stop me from enjoying the whole and - admittedly - it took me a while to get what Pidgeman was about.

This version has vocals and lyrics by Pidgeman but all the music, production and mixing is down to Kiss The Abyss. Now considering that Pidgeman had already revamped the original, then given the vocals to KTA, you'd think there would be a major difference right? To be honest, I can't really remember the original but the differences between this and recent Pidgeman output is startling. For those people who have come to like and respect Pidgeman's rock/pop output, this will come as a real surprise. Turns out that Kiss The Abyss is an electronica/techo musician and it's that side of the musical spectrum this little jewel is set in.

'this little jewel'?? Yes, but wait until you hear it.

Seriously, I've always known Pidgeman's vocals could sound better, given the right treatment and finally I hear the proof of that. I think even he would be hard pressed to say otherwise, moreover the production and treatment of the vocal is masterly, alllowing for tone and nuance. Although the initial electronica setting was surprising, once I'd played it a few times it felt so natural, and backed the vocal so powerfully, it would have obliterated the original anyway. Everything about this track screams love and dedication, the depth of production and mix alone is enough to bring on one of my famous headaches...

MUST HAVE. Great song in a new setting.