Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Inessa Lee - Living Doll tracks

Hear The Track Here

From Valdivostok (my last reviewee) to Zhytomyr, Ukraine for the next one. Actually, not quite true. Inessa Lee is based now, I think, in LA and if she isn't then she definitely deserves to be, as I am about to show you. Inessa is (I quote) 'a singing doll with angelic voice and emerald green eyes' and she is exactly that but so much, much more. She's a professional belly dancer into the bargain, featuring that talent to HUGE effect in the videos I am going to point you towards. I see you raising your eyebrows, and don't think I don't. I have confessed, time and again, to being turned by a beautiful face and body, I make no secret of it, why should I? So although my initial reaction to meeting her (as it were) was pwwwwooooaaaahhhh (Ed: English sound of male lust I believe), I overrode that and forced me to go back and watch the videos time and again.

As. If.

I went back time and again because Inessa Lee has that rare thing: the whole package - and it isn't what you might think judging by the comments above. Sure she is drop dead gorgeous but I am interested in the music and that is where it all works for me. So, music, check. Image,check. Video moves? Check. See, what I mean, the whole package. I must admit I am struck by her (slight) resemblance to Avril Lavigne and the similarity of some of the styles, but it is a passing resemblance. Not that I am implying Inessa is copying, her music is totally different and it fits HER like a glove (Ed: as does most of her clothing, I saw the videos too ha ha ha). Three songs are part of the Living Doll set; Play With Me (there is a live belly dancing video of this) which, to be honest, I found a bit too blandly Euro for my tastes.

The real jewels here though are Write Me and Remember Me with the latter being the absolute standout video and song. Write Me was the first video I watched and as much as the awesome eye candy caught my attention, it couldn't detract from Write Me establishing itself in my mind as a very fine song, beautifully performed and produced. Remember Me, however, is the killer punch, as beautiful a song as the lady singing it; her presence fills every single inch of the screen demanding that you pay attention to her, the music completely in tune with the images (with one small exception), especially the closeups. The camera loves this face too. Remember Me is an awesome track in every respect, musically, production, look and feel. The chorus absolutely devastates me and you know I don't like any of that sloppy stuff, When she says you are in her heart, she makes you believe it. If she isn't a monster star there is no justice.

MUST HAVE heartbreaker.

Andrey Mishchenko - Let's Go Flying

Hear The Track Here

Funnily enough, the last couple of artists I am going to review this month come from the Russian side of the world. So, let's start with the actual Russian, Andrey Mischenko who we have come across a few times now who comes from Vladivostok, a city right in the very East of Russia - not that you needed to know that. Andrey has only been playing and composing since 2008, and so far I have reviewed four of his tracks and, I admit, I was surprised by how long he had been doing this. Although his music is somewhat regional in nature (or at least the last and first track were), it's certainly good enough for people who may like the different genres Andrey composes in. Thus far that's classical piano, a smidge of rock instrumental, and a rock based ballad.

Let's Go Flying and its inception led to where we are at this moment, so it was interesting to see what kind of idea triggered this guy to suddenly start learning how to make music when he had such a hard time writing the melody for this. The version that we are hearing was updated at the beginning of December with backing vocals from a mysterious friend named Olga. Love Is The Reason (September 2010) was the first actual song I believe Andrey has done and, being utterly frank here, it wasn't what it should have been. I did say, loud and clear, that Andrey is not really a singer although - bless him - he does his absolute best and mostly it kinda/sorta works - but only just.

I have to say it is helped along by Olga's dulcet tones and listening to her and Andrey singing the same lines made me realise something else. One of the main problems I had with Love Is The Reason is that Andrey sings in English but with a very noticeable accent which, to be honest, doesn't help the song at all. But the man can't help his accent surely? Well no, which is why, on hearing this and hearing two voices singing the same thing, Andrey might want to sing in his native language. I for one would have no problem with that, and I am sure even Andrey may feel a little easier about it. So, the track itself is actually quite a good one, with some lovely production touches which again belie this 'only being doing this for a couple of years' thing. Interesting in its own way, and very well put together, hearing Let's Go Flying wouldn't be a wasted listen, just one with an odd accent.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Weylin's Slayer Orchestra - Supernova

Hear The Track Here

When you see song titles like The Woods of Klorath, The Fall of Empyrius, The Oath of the Black Omen and The Kudarian Assault you know, with a mounting unease that you are not in Kansas anymore. Or even on this planet. Aaah, you say, must be either film soundtracks or games ones right? Weeeellll (waggles hand) kinda/sorta. Don't let the name fool you, Weylin's Slayer Orchestra is but one puny human and his predominant field is - I kid you not - Metal. Yep, the land of spots, lank hair and the dismissive sneer. Can't say, to be honest, that I have really seen much of a hint of metal so far because Flight Of Sideria (October 2010) was pure video game soundtrack material but done in a reasonably fresh way.

Now, Supernova, as well as being a tad on the hot side and consistent with the title motif emerging here, is also metal apparently but with a difference. Progressive metal is what is on offer and I have to say that is a very, very apt description of this track. Now while I do like metal in its many forms, I ******* hate - with a deep and abiding passion - progressive anything. Nothing to do with being a reactionary old fart (Ed: although he undoubtedly is) more to do with musicians noodling to themselves. Personally I'd rather sandpaper my face than listen to (gulp) prog-rock. So, is the metal variety any different? Not that I can tell.

Like Flight Of Thingie, what Weylin (and his assembled horde obviously) does on the track is fine enough, and even sounds good in places although it also features the fastest kickdrum you ever heard. All par for the course for progressive though innit and I guess that's what matters. From a musical point of view, Supernova is an interesting listen and while I wouldn't go and search it out I did like reviewing it (and for prog it's mercifully short). After many plays it is obvious that some of the builds and peaks just didn't work, either that or I need to get a new pair of ears. It's strangely flat, if you know what I mean. Where it should be building - and where the instruments are making the right moves - it just misses the 'rush' point.

Prog-metal anyone??

MDSkul - Let Me Out

Hear The Track Here

A new name to me from Soundclick and, as you may have gathered from the bandname, hip hop is the game. Regular readers will already know that I have a well developed taste for this genre and, in particular, certain of the hip hop artists and musicians on Soundclick. I have found, over the past few years that as commercial hip hop rotted on the vine, underground and indie hip hop just keeps getting better and better - and Soundclick hosts some real good ones. Speaking of which both EJAY and -LMS- (two of my favourite Soundclick rappers) are friends with MDSkul and that says much to me. Both of them are precise, experienced rappers and they don't take wannabees prisoner.

One of the hardest things for indie hip hop rappers to do is to find exactly the right backing track, or finding people to collaborate with so that you do have one. Not sure how Skul is coming out with the beats - storebought or otherwise - but to my ears it sounds bit thin. Overall sound, that is. Individually, all the instruments are clear enough but there is a distinct lack of good bottom end. It's even more important, I think, when the music relies on the kick to keep the action tight because there is nothing worse than a plod - in any genre. Mind you, continued listens to the track show that although Let Me Out skirts plod city, there is a reason for it.

Actually, the more I listened to this track the more I liked what MDSkul has come up with, although to be honest, it's not really my kind of hip hop. There again, it isn't intended to be and I would imagine that people who really get off on all manner of hip hop are going to love this. Most of my quibbles with the track are about sound and texture, I can certainly find nothing much wrong with the song itself and much that says here is a rapper who knows what he's about. Half the battle with this genre, for most people, is that it isn't interesting or varied enough and MDSkul takes care of that very nicely.

Recommended hip hop.

Bright Midnight - Skinny Girl

Hear The Track Here

I'm very partial to skinny girls as it happens. Asian skinny girls even more so but I'm sure you definitely do not need to know this, in fact I can feel the storm clouds brewing amongst my female companions as I speak (as it were) but hey, I like to live dangerously. So, Bright Midnight... (Ed: to get off the dirt track) Having worked my way through easily half the material this Texas based band has to offer, I can state that I am a fan, and one among many they have gathered since arriving on Soundclick a year or so ago. Mind you, all has not been love and roses, because there is often a rough edge to their sound that has put me off, although it's a small thing in the scheme of things but it does keep them from the higher ratings their music and songs deserve.

My ratings that is, and that is personal innit??

I like Bright Midnight because they bridge a gap between old time classic rock and the electronica/misery engendered by generations of Manchester (England) bands like the Smiths, Echo & The Bunnymen etc. Hillis Emanuelson (who is the vocalist I think) does a very good job indeed of resurrecting the ghosts of both Jim Morrison and endless navel-gazing, mopy Northern Englishmen, with the emphasis of Skinny Girl being on this side of the Atlantic. I've mentioned before that this band can come out with a very convincing English sound and, believe me, that's actually quite difficult if you are from America. AFAIK, only one other band manages that as convincingly and that's Avalanche.

Skinny Girl is definitely Alternative in feel and tone, all wordy vocals and jangly guitars, although (to my ears) it also has a touch of the dreaded prog-rock about it, especially in the middle section. There is an edgy, sharp feel to the sound that I find a bit jarring (especially with the closed hi hat) but again, small change - especially if you like a good shoegaze tune. There is no doubting that this is an artist that excels in neat songs, decent arrangements and a fine delivery, despite all my carping and moaning. For sure, they make Alternative music that doesn't, for once, bore me to death with tales of introspection and self-doubt and that's got to be a big plus.

Highly Recommended Alternative blend.

Cam's Even Song - Sad Eyes

Hear The Track Here

Not sure why there is no download feature on this track, Cameron Bastedo (aka Cam's Even Song) is usually more than willing to share his creations with the rest of us, which - of course - is entirely up to him. Merely me wondering aimlessly as usual. Anyway, you would have to have been with Soundclick about five minutes if you haven't heard about this Canadian Christian Rock musician. Yes, yes, I know that there is the C word in there but believe me, Cam's Even Song are not your normal Christian rock offering and never - thankfully - have been. One of the reasons Cam's Even Song has become such a fixture in my house is because his songs are immediately accessible, catchy as all get-out and feelgood music of the highest order.

This, my friends, is a songwriter who I have never known to be stumped for a subject to write about, and this time he's decided he wants to tell Mom that he doesn't like living 3,000 miles away from her. Most of us would use email or a telephone call but Cam - true to form - decided to encapsulate it in one of his creations and hey, it's better than flowers or a pot plant even if it's not Mothers Day for a while. The real draw for this musician, as any Cam fan will tell you, is that no-one quite sounds like him and definitely no-one writes songs like him.

Having said that, if I didn't know any better, I'd say that Cam had been taking some hallucinogenic substances because Sad Eyes is most definitely has a touch of psychedelic rock about it. Either that or Cam has undergone yet another step change in his production techniques, which is also something he does on a regular basis. Again, something that keeps his music fresh and interesting for the longer term listeners like yours truly. While I would hesitate to say that this track is up there with Cam's best (it isn't IMHO) it is still a worthwhile entry point to see what this musician has to offer.

Highly Recommended Aceeeed Cam.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

JCH (UK) - Expatriated

Hear The Track Here

In our last encounter with Liverpudlian musician James Crosbie Hancox you may remember he had a shooter. What?? No dear, L-i-v-e-r-p-u-d-l-i-a-n, Lilliputians are the little folk in the story, Liverpudlians are people from Liverpool. Sheesh, can we go on now??? So, there JCH (for it is he) with Shooter (July 2010), an older song - from 20 years back apparently - but not too shabby for all that. Mind you, James has shown a very deft hand since I first came across him a while back with his one chord project Painting By Numbers LP (June 2010). It's a difficult enough task making songs up when you have all the chords but when you are going to restrict yourself to one chord per song, you are going to have your work cut out to make it interesting enough.

And that is where JCH (UK) shoots and scores.

By now, I am totally immune to musicians hyperbole about their tracks having reviewed several million that promised much and delivered very little. So I took the statement 'in the style of a cross of Johnny Cash and Ennio Morricone' (Ed: eh?) and 'railroad guitars and drums and spagetti western' with the obligatory sack of salt but you know what? It's a very accurate description. Now I loved the Man In Black and am a devoted fan of spag cowboy flicks so it's a given that I am going to like this, whatever the song. As I say, it does exactly what it says, warts and all. Sure the sound is a bit rough, but it's supposed to be, that's the nature of the beast. Think Pogues and you'd be well on the way...

None of which means much if the song all this contains isn't up to scratch and as I said, this boy doesn't miss. I mentioned the Pogues above intentionally because Liverpool and Ireland have a long and involved musical history certainly predating the Beatles by a good many years. Expatriated is a cross between Irish and English folk music, with the correct nod towards the more modern American version of course, and let me tell you its a hell of a song. More especially in the tone and content of the lyrics which, while I don't agree with his reasoning, I can't fault the conclusion. James Crosbie Hancox is a class songwriter and one you would do well to catch up with.

Nice blend of styles. Highly Recommended anti-war song.

Big Wheel - Kiss My Bass

Hear The Track Here

As you have seen, probably until your eyeballs bled, I am not a great fan of dance music, at least not for review purposes. I'd rather be dancing to it, know what I mean? I have been known to make exceptions but they are rare. Rarer, mayhap, than a Big Wheel who - as it so happens - is exactly one of the dance musicians I do have time for. For example, his normal frolicking fields are downtempo. DnB, Breakbeat and house, none of which have always found favour with me, least of all DnB which - to be honest - not that many musicians pull that one off. They might call it DnB but it isn't to my ears, whereas some of Big Wheel's most notable works have a very combination of all his interests and as authentic as you like.

So, as the man says 'Get yer lino out'.

I admit to doing a bit of jigging when I was much, much younger and, if I was to get up off me crutches, I could maybe do it to this - although it would probably kill me. For me, that is always the test of whether a track has legs as a dance track. I figure if I can dance to it (Ed: being a blind, one legged dwarf) then anyone could and - as usual - I did a bit of wobbling on the spot to this track. For me, one of the prime draws of the Wheel's droppings has been his constant attention to the final presentation and that has just got stronger and stronger as the years go on.

Having said all that, Kiss My Bass, hovers dangerously near my tolerance limits even though its a miserly five minutes and change, and even the Wheel may be pushing it a bit with this unashamedly clubby, dance-y track. Exactly the kind of thing you could hear in your local hangout in fact, and it defies the imagination as to why you shouldn't indeed hear it commercially. I think it deserves it, and I don't even like this kind of stuff. For my money, it was a lot more formulaic than I am used to with this musician but still can't fault the way he puts it all together.

Highly Recommended dance-y prance-y.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ratchet - Changes

Hear The Track Here

It was great to see my old friend, guitarist par excellence Ty Kaufman returning to Soundclick after a long hiatus, and with a new band in tow. Ratchet (US) is in fact their name on Soundclick but hey I know where they are from. Ty first came to my notice in 2004 when I reviewed a clutch of tracks from the Ty Kaufman Group, from which I also met Steve Calapp, a vocalist we have also come across since with Confusion Said. See, it really is a small world. Ratchet, however, are a band in the time honoured sense and there are numerous references to Tool hanging around this band, although I think that comparison is a bit limited. I know for a fact Ty can play pretty much anything that comes down the pike, and nail it.

Compromise (October 2010) was the first actual Ratchet track I got my hands on and - being a rock animal of long standing - played it to death. It is, of course, the hardest of hard rock, in that new variety shown by the aforementioned Tool, Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chillies etc which IMHO is a very logical move and it is certainly keeping the rock spirit alive and well and that's never a bad thing. Classic rock has a long and varied history and bands like Ratchet embody pretty much all its best features - except (thankfully) the big hair ;) Well, the big news is that Changes is damn sight tougher than Compromise and that was plenty hard enough.

Changes finds the band exploring a slower, much raunchier style that, personally, I prefer and you know how I feel about all that slow ****. There's slow where it actually counts and this is one of those tracks, and rock through and through. I can see this band going down a storm when they play live, they are from the Bay Area in the US so if you live there and want to have your ears pinned back definitely go and see them, then come and write a review of the gig. For me, the main thing about rock bands and their music is can they convince me, and Ratchet convince me six ways from Sunday. Rock as it should be, loud, proud and bad to the bone.

Highly Recommended slab of rock.

Whitman Speck - I Love To Hate You

Hear The Track Here

It says something about my own personal tastes when I tell you that the rappers I most admire on Soundclick are the ones you definitely wouldn't want to take home to meet Mom and Dad. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about commercial music here, I'm talking about the grimy underbelly of the genre where lurk hip hop musicians making rap metal, and one of my own favourites: horror core. I've come across a few really good horrorcore rappers over the past few years but none that had the effect on me that London's Whitman Speck has. This is a man you most definitely do not want to meet on a dark night, in fact best not to meet him at all.

This rapper is absolutely fixated on serial killers (his name is a mashup of two famous serial killers) and most of his lyrics feature death, usually bloody and violent, sex (ditto) and a few million cuss words. So not something to be feeding the kiddies, unless you want them to grow up to be just like Whitman Speck. The reason I like him is because he is musically very sharp indeed, and his rapping is excellent - a true storyteller. 'I'd kill you all if I had the time' he croons into your ear, after the obligatory name calling intro, 'I don't need the fame, I need to maim', Get the drift? Whitman Speck is 'a pain in the ass' and he's packing a lot of anger into his tracks so this is not exactly easy listening - especially if profanity or lewd images upset you.

I know I shouldn't but sorry, I get a good chuckle out of this guys lyrical style as much as I might deplore what the guy is singing about. There again, this is hardcore rap and there is a Parental Advisory notice (extremely well deserved btw) slapped all over it so I guess people have been warned. However, for the rest of us deeply cynical, jaded grownups (especially those who like meaty hip hop music) will get a lot out of just about any Whitman Speck track. Although I liked I Love To Hate You, which carries all of the musical hallmarks this musician has become known for, it's going to be hard for him to beat Dead Or Alive (February 2010) because I still play the crap out of that bad boy.

Highly Recommended Horrorcore rap.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

MC Epic (from Mentality) - Party Jam # 4

Hear The Track Here

If you have been hanging in the Soundclick forums, this musician needs no introduction and I can't believe I never reviewed him before. I could have sworn I had, but if I did, the evidence is lost in cyberspace somewhere. As you may have gathered, MC Epic is a hip hop musician (a rapper to be precise) aided and abetted by Breon Warwick. I'm still not sure this is a solo project for Epic, or just something outside of Mentality (his main group). There again, this is hip hop we are talking about and - as you know - it can be a bit scary in there. Now I don't know about you guys, but I do demand certain things from the hip hop genre for it even to crawl to the starting line, let alone get my attention. One of the prime requisites is that it has at least some intelligence.

Knuckle draggers, I seen 'em all.

Secondly, and maybe more importantly, it has to have credibility. Not musical credibility, but lyrical credibility. The reason, I believe, Eminem has the respect he does is because he lived/lives it. Mind you MC Epic gets off to a good start with 'All original instrumentation; no samples', a definite plus for me. Musically, Party Jam #4 is pretty smart, a kinda jazzy/bluesy piece stitched together by some neat Rhodes licks (down to Epic himself I think). What comes out full blown in the space between your ears is a very classy chunk of hip hop with a terrific chorus that screams sing me, sing me. Not quite sure what all the baby noises are about but hey, at least it does work with the track.

I really try to be colour blind when reviewing rap but, let's face it, it's a hard subject to dodge, especially since the explosion of the genre into the mainstream, commercial market. What I always try and go by is the tracks sound and one that score MC Epic doesn't put a foot wrong, and about six dozen in the right place. Call me anal, but whenever I hear tracks like this I always measure them against Need For Speed soundtracks, and Party Jam would fit right in there with the high octane, **** me fast cars and crash (in my case) thrills. Smooth piece of hip hop too, and that never hurts does it?

Highly Recommended party jam (s'wot it sez)

Speak Words Speak - Out Of Love

Hear The Track Here

One of my personal highs of the past couple of years has been the very fruitful collaborations between Larry Ludwick (aka Speak Words Speak) and Jon Bushaway (Zebrabook/Dead Company). To see someone I have known for years, working with a newly made friend was very gratifying for me and the resultant work, while extremely weird, nonetheless has a well deserved place in my personal stash. On his own (either as Larry Ludwick or SWS) Larry delivers some very classy music with a wide range of styles and genres but - I shamefully admit - I actually prefer his more melancholic side. This side of his music, like say Leonard Cohen's, has a stark, bittersweet beauty that can be very impressive.

Weird yes, but I already said that.

I have actually reviewed this track before, in its The Exodus (August 2010) original version, a very smart semi-classical piece built - if I recall right - on a piano piece and this is a format that generally works for me. What also worked is Larry's incredible attention to sound detail, nothing let the side down. However, to equate that track with this one is to give totally the wrong impression. By adding lyrics written by Jon Bushaway to the track, and interpreting them with such style, Larry has IMHO transformed a good idea and musical exercise into something special indeed - most of it down to his unique take on what works and that inimitable vocal style.

Fidelity is a key word here. Sound fidelity is something I treasure and it has been one of Larry's hallmarks ever since I first met him. So when I hear him hitting all the right notes I am bound to like it. Again though, that doesn't do this track justice, the perfect backing bass vocal, the phrasing, the very air the track hangs in contribute to the feeling this track engenders in me. As I say, I like melancholia expressed this way, as long as tasteful and this is so elegant it should meet the Queen. Simply put, I think this is one of Larry's best ever tracks and a class exercise in making what you have work for you.

MUST HAVE melancholia.

Dark Arts - The Feeling

Hear The Track Here

Actually, the correct title of this track is The Feeling - Dedicated to Steve Gilmore, but hey I get embarrassed easily. T'ain't the first time your intrepid sound scout has got his name etched digitally either so nrrr. If, however, these poor deluded fools (well they'd have to be to dedicate anything to me) think that this would help them to a Must Have, they have another think coming. Luckily, Dark Arts has been around long enough (in other guises) that he knows I am not swayed by any kind of flattery, even if I crave it and wallow shamelessly whenever I get it. I've reviewed more than a couple of this guys tracks as Dark Arts (Ed: five to be exact) and loads more in an earlier incarnation (Solidsounds, seeing as you never gave a ****) and we've had our moments.

One of the problems is that Dark Arts works in one of my least liked genres: dance, electronica for the bopping to. Nonetheless, he spent some three months working on this little beauty (my name!! my name!!!) and I must admit I hadn't listened to it all until I started reviewing it. See? Discipline. Mind you, I have to admit that the Electronica: Trance tag had a fair bit to do with it too. After all, I don't want to throw crap at something with my glorious name on it do I? (Ed: chuckling evilly) So, putting on my bright yellow spandex 'Mr Objective' number, I sat down and addressed the music (and my fears for it) mano y mano. You'll have to make up your own incidental music to go along with that image, it's quite amusing (Ed: for the braindead).

I actually ended up with two takes of this, take two was submitted when the month was under way and there is NO way I am not going to listen to both, curious as to why DA thought it needed changing. So my initial impression was of a typical Dark Arts track, neat in a trance kind of way, but certainly not anything groundbreaking and in my opinion could do with losing a couple of minutes for a sharper track. Version two (the one on the site) certainly has a good sound, as did the first version, this one being slightly clearer, with (I think) a slightly changed section). Whatever, I am not a big fan of this genre but I've never not liked the experience of listening to a Dark Arts track and if you like electronic trance then you really should catch a listen to the man.

Highly Recommended Trance.

Note: No bribes whatsoever were trousered while making this review. Honest.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thomas J Marchant - Ego

Hear The Track Here

When I shuffle off this mortal coil and go, no doubt, to a very, very hot place, I can console myself with knowing that - sooner or later - I would bump into the character who coined the phrase 'but computers will make your life easier'. Then I would go all Biblical on his ass and no doubt get into trouble with the Big Guy Downstairs and fry forever but at least I'd know I'd nailed that sucker. I'm sure Thomas J Marchant will understand the sentiment perfectly. See, the big problem with being an internet musician is that you actually need a machine to do it (not make the music obviously). Even moreso if you want to produce something more than just basic live sessions, multi-tracking is a whole other world of hurt. I don't think there is a single one of us who hasn't suffered a major computer glitch and lost everything (or at least some part of it) and yes, Thomas has suffered too.

Rule #1: B-A-C-K-U-P. CD, external drive, flash stick, stone tablet wotEVAH.

Thomas cheerfully tells us ' For numerous reasons it's become difficult to give a f***' (about not being able to make his customary sound)' and I'd say that was all you could do. So he slapped this down cheap and cheerful in just four tracks. So, what has never counted for me as far as Thomas's work goes is the way he makes the tracks, although for a while there he was getting really handy at nailing the tracks down with good arrangements and production. However, you deal with what you got, and - unless I am mistaken - this is where Thomas started off from anyway. I first acquired the bug listening to tracks like Say No to Racism and Fascism (June 2009) where I wrote 'Where I value him most, it has to be said, is as a plain, unadorned songwriter, coupled with his own inimitable style on delivering those songs' and the same holds true whether he's orchestrated or not.

What this step back has show me, at least, is that Thomas's knack for the track is as sure as ever, even reduced this way. In fact, it merely points up just how good the song actually is. I steadfastly maintain that there isn't anyone who sounds like Thomas, although there are a few that sound like him - if you get my drift. Ego is marvellously ego less, and a blistering song into the bargain. It's that very recognisable vocal sound he's got that really sells the song, but listen to the man's phrasing - awesome. The lines 'You said I don't need to move to the city, In order to find somebody pretty like you' don't sound much written down like that but the way Thomas sings them sends a tingle right down my backbone.

MUST HAVE lo-fi (Ed: reeeeeesult!!)

Sunburn in Cyprus - If It's Good For Me

Hear The Track Here

Here's one I've been looking forward to. If you think Sunburn in Cyprus is a new name, you haven't been around long enough. To my eternal shame, this is only the second time I have reviewed them and that's really a pity. Put it this way, if anyone else had put 'adult-oriented dinner music' I'd be chuckling like a madman while I sharpened my 'special' implements, but given this band, I'd say that was an accurate description. Change (May 2009) was my only other encounter with them and got a very adult Must Have, although they also got a name check later in my Tracks Of The Year 2009 Awards. A five piece actual gigging live band from Goettingen in Germany where, no doubt, it is considerably colder than Cyprus.

Be aware, however, that there are now three versions of this track on the bands page, so note that I am reviewing the original (ie the one that is not a remix). It's easy to see why there are so many remixes already, this is right there in terms of usable slants. As noted in my last review, this band remind me strongly of Beautiful South but that is a lazy reference and I really suggest you grab an earful and make up your own mind. If you need signposts think Sade, Alison Moyet, Everything But The Girl, and some of the 1990's one hit wonders whose names escape me now. In other words, Sunburn in Cyprus, features an incredible female lead vocalist, Bianca Dietrich, whose singing is just beautiful, especially with the solid backing from four obviously experienced musicians.

There is a knockout jazzy blues feel to this track that would be instantly recognisable to Sade fans, and that in turn makes it much more accessible than most music of this type. It says much for the work and effort that went into making this track, because what comes across in the music is how easy and relaxed it all feels. Partly production, mostly great playing and a large dose of feelgood juice make this a standout track - whatever your musical preference. They showed me with Changes what they are capable of, and If It's Good For Me takes it steps further. So, finally, you didn't really expect me to listen to the remixes, did you? I did and they are very worthwhile too. Three-for-one!!

MUST HAVE feelgood.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Moral Factor - Travelling Guns

Hear The Track Here

I first stumbled drunkenly (Ed: is there any other way?) across Argentinian musician German Gabriel Gorchs (aka Moral Factor) when I reviewed Breaking Point (October 2010) which is the first time I had heard of him. His style is definitely rooted in 60's/70's songwriters but that doesn't stop it being effective in this day and age. He is an acoustic musician primarily, although not of the guitar/voice style. There is a lot more to his music than that. In fact, Breaking point was a nice way to meet a new musician, acoustic or otherwise.

Damn, this is going to sound silly but lets try it on anyway. A few years ago, I met a musician called John Paul Carroll (now known as JPC (NZ)) and this reminds me very strongly of his early tracks, with some of the same problems. Since then, of course, John Paul has improved beyond belief and I am sure that as German goes on the sound will sharpen itself up. When it does, watch out world, I say. Now, don't get me wrong. You may hear this and say I am wrong, it sounds great, it's a good song and the performance and production are fine - as indeed they are. Nonetheless, I hear the song underneath that and it's still not quite there.

Personally I think the vocal should be redone, simply from a phrasing point of view, but that may just be me being picky. Certainly, the backing vocals could do with coming up (and substantial fattening) in the mix. Again, let me be clear, this is a terrific song, and the track supporting it is just as good but there is a certain muddiness of sound, especially vocally. There's a bit of thinness in the acoustics too, they could be much rounder in tone. Nonetheless, having said all that, you will hear a good song, well performed and most people wouldn't even think about what it should sound like. Me? I'm cantankerous as all get-out sometimes. It's a curse, I tell ye.

Recommended Acoustic.

Zebrabook - Piercing

Hear The Track Here

Music and life have much in common. In music there are those who set out to be different and fail miserably, and there are those who are different - usually because that's the way they are. Different. Which generally means that people either cross the road to avoid them or ignore them completely. The sort of kids that were endlessly picked on when they were at school. Being different in life, and in music, has its costs and they are generally higher than most people want to go. The ones who do go there have no choice, it is who they are. I, for one, would not want to be Jon Bushaway. Much as I like and respect the geezer, he is a real Gloomy Gus at times and his music is consequently difficult, often opaque and misleading and - for me anyway - endlessly fascinating in a chilly kind of way.

I like musicians who don't give a **** about what we think about their music, we are not who it's being made for - it's the musician. Therefore, it stands to reason that he or she can't expect everybody in the world to like what they do, but does it stop them? Of course not, and that's why I treasure such musicians and Zebrabook (aka Jon Bushaway) is one of them. Through his work with The Dead Company, to Zebrabook the one thing that the man does, he does exceptionally well. Soundscapes are the name of the game, and this guy makes some of the best I've ever heard. OK, OK, so the scary ones not so much, alright?

Mind you, I have noticed that Zebrabook is bringing out a calmer, mellower (if that is possible) Jon Bushaway and I have to admit I like it. Piercing has nothing to do with the volume and/or dissonance (another of his specialties) because it's certainly very easy on the ears. Symphony in sound maybe? I love the way the voices have been blended into the track, it gives it a weight that is most impressive, even to a philistine like me. True to Bushaway form, it's a long one, weighing in this time at just over seven minutes but that's small change to this guy.

Excellent ethereal soundscape. MUST HAVE for fans, Highly Recommended even so.

Lera Lynn - Bobby, Baby

Hear The Track Here

Thanks to the RebelRiffs blog, I have a couple of very nice surprises this month, both of them female singers and you guys know I love female singers. Not in a biblical way, of course, that would be too silly. Nope but there is something about a female vocalist that I just love and as a consequence I have found a few really good ones in my time. So, have you met Lera Lynn?. For my English readers scratching their heads in confusion, Lera's name is not a typo and she is a lot younger and considerably prettier than Vera Lynn. Lera Lynn comes from Athens, GA in the USA, not to be confused with the other place and Bobby, Baby is a track her upcoming CD called, surprisingly enough, Have You Met Lera Lynn?

See, I come by the madness quite naturally.

I'm tempted to say that Lera Lynn is a country musician but upon reflection decide that this doesn't quite cover the picture because there are all kinds of influences in the music and the songwriting. For sure, the lyrics are splendidly country and western and - to my mind - makes a better song for all that. Now I know I rant and moan about the Nashville influence in today's American country music but there are some places it works, especially when you lay off the schmaltz and just tell the facts, which is pretty much the way it goes down on this track. Again, though, that would be missing yet another vital point - at least for me.

As I say I do have a special liking for female vocalists but that's a double edged sword because it makes me judge them harder than maybe I would otherwise. Good female vocalists are hard to spot and when you find one, you need to keep track of her. Make a note of the name folks, because Lera Lynn is someone you definitely want to be following as the tracks from that album come online. OK, so this may be a tad too country for my own tastes (although if I think of it as Americana my prejudice remains shelved), there is no doubting the work, dedication and love that went into making this excellent track. Even better, make sure you watch the video that goes along with this...

Excellent modern country tale. Highly Recommended.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Patrick Lew's Band - The Only One I Love

Hear The Track Here

Isn't it funny how some of the trite and pithy sayings we all grew up with (and are often referred to as old wives tales) turn out to be true? I've seen the proof of that in my own life and I'm sure many of you have too. Think before you speak being the most obvious one. One of my own proofs has always been that old saw 'be true to yourself' and it also applies when I am listening to music. Patrick Lew (being totally true to himself) has hacked out a whole new niche for himself doing this, and I know he isn't in there alone. Surprisingly enough, there are people who understand what Patrick does to music and why but sadly, I am not one of them. That's what comes of being old I guess and I certainly bear the man no malice.

Although, reading the reviews maybe you wouldn't think so...

As a general rule I make sure that the track link is up and I can't seem to find this on Patrick's page but there again there are some 170+ tracks on there over seven pages. You do the math. I'm actually a little chuffed to be able to say that I think (can't believe I am going to say this) Patrick has actually improved. I know, boggled is not the word for it. See, Patrick is a great believer in free music, free thought and his music reflects that so it's best not to expect too much in the way of conventional structure or any of the rigors of 'normal' music standards.

It's one of the main reasons he has been so bruised by reviews, mine and others, but the man takes a tugging and keeps on chugging and you can't fault that. So when I say improved, this has to be taken when understanding where Patrick is coming from. Put it like this, this is a song with some structure - just some though - with the vocal kinda/sorta free-styling above that. And, prepare to be amazed, its in tune in some parts - just some though. Overall it is definitely better than a lot of his songs but still something I am obviously not going to get a taste for any time soon. There again, you may get it immediately and I'm not sure what that says about you or me.

Fear 2 Stop - Afghan Bound

Hear The Track Here

Oh come, come. Surely we have passed the stage where you all hide under the stairs whenever I mention those three words? Which three words? Why, Fear 2 Stop of course, although technically that's two words and a number and this is me dancing on the head of a pin (Ed: and obviously high again). I've been living in the past a lot just lately. Not my past, you understand because that would just be too, too much but someone else's. Fear 2 Stop actually, who - as you do - have been browsing through their *-*-*-*i-n-g enormous back catalog and compiling a retrospective Anthology which I have been working my way through over the last week or so. Afghan Bound, despite it's topical title, is so old that 'it not only predates us being Fear 2 Stop...it even predates us being Sanity's Requiem (our name until Oct 2002)' says Billy Castillo, one third of the trio.

Hence, me being covered in cobwebs and don't say I didn't see you looking and wondering.

It just goes to show that the Fear 2 Stop that makes you hide under the stairs, has ALWAYS been like that. When I first met them in 2003 or so, they had become quite sophisticated compared to a lot of the Anthology, and I gave them the most awful time for a while as a reviewer and I think that was probably down to what I expected from them as a listener, rather than what they wanted to do. That, really, the the key to this band and the reason why you either love them or hate them and I know for sure what camp I am in. Although their early work was, as Afghan Bound shows, somewhat chaotic and definitely, irrevocably odd.

On balance there is no question that I prefer their newer incarnations but, considering the amount of material I have heard from this three piece, a trip down memory lane is often useful, even if it contains the occasional nightmare. From this vantage point, it is obvious that I misjudged the band initially - as did many others - but the one thing that has been constant is the sound of sticking to guns. Odd is what Fear 2 Stop do, and with their idiosyncratic use of digital and analog, electro and cheese with a healthy dose of **** knows, are one of the most singular voices Soundclick contains. Rambling through their back pages is quite a treat.

Hoax or history? You decide. Recommended wtf-ry.

Ted Hovis - The Place You Called Home

Hear The Track Here

Alright you lot, gather round and pay attention. Hands up those of you who would own up to being 'probably a bit too old to still be doing this'. Chances are that you are looking at a wide cross section sure enough but IMHO - certainly on music sites - the older musicians probably outweigh all others. So now we have that canard out of the way, allow me to introduce you to Washington DC's Ted Hovis, who supplied the infamous quote this time round. I met this musician through the blog and, I admit, is a new name to me but that's never stopped me making a fool of myself before so why stop now eh? Funnily enough through the blog requests I am getting a fair amount of musicians who are - technically - professionally recorded. As is the case with Ted who recorded his latest CD with uber-producer Kevin Gutierrez.

Hey it makes a change from the usual rabble.

Given all the points recorded above, you would expect to be able to eat a nice four course meal off the production and mix and indeed you can. The Place You Called Home is about as good as it gets technically, Kevin Gutierrez supplied the drums/drum programming and keyboards (on this track) were supplied by Jamie Kowalski, all the rest is the work of the man himself, although there is a surprise appearance from Jenn Colten on backing vocals. To be honest I could have done with hearing a bit more of her part in the mix but that's probably me being me. Like the production, the performance is excellent from all participants, giving the track an easy accessibility - especially if you like rock.

Right from the bluesy intro, The Place You Called Home shouts out quality and the depth of the arrangement absolutely guarantees a certain amount of 'I wonder what comes next?' That's always a good place, I find, to mug the listener into submission and why Ted is going to find a ready enough audience for his work. See, in my world, when all is said and done, it doesn't matter at all HOW you made the music, what counts is does it do the business, and The Place You Called Home certainly does on all the levels that count.

Highly Recommended quality rock.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Just F.A.M (Freshset) - Christmas Shop

Hear The Track Here

When I reviewed Just F.A.M. (Freshset)'s first track - Dreamer (December 2009) - I distinctly remember, in between raving about the music (it ended up with a Must Have), saying something about one of (limitless) personal phobia's. To illustrate, I need to re-say what I said at the time. Ahem..cough...cough [i]As I am writing this review I am staring at Just F.A.M.'s Soundclick page and thanking whatever God you like to believe in that they didn't ask me to review any of their Christmas tracks[/i]. So, the burning question is, did they wait a whole year to finally thrust this onto me? In other words, is this some kind of insane ploy on their part to drive this reviewer to drink? No, wait, I'm already there, lets try drugs. Nope, I'm already there too. Let's not even get into the whole sanity/insanity thing. When all is said and done, I can sum this whole paragraph (and its bile) into three simple words....

Bah ******* humbug.

However, I reserve my special (poison) ink to write reviews of Christmas Choons of Cheer, ensuring that they all die with festering boils. Just FAM can't say that they weren't warned, could they? Said it loud and clear. On their own heads be it. The principal reason I hate Christmas music is because it's mostly lame, especially the more sugary American variety. If Just FAM were any other crew, they would be lying at my feet covered in critical gore right around now but the one thing they have shown since that first track has been a remarkable consistency and approach to their music.

OK, so obviously Christmas Shop is squarely aimed at those people more able to appreciate the event than old curmudgeons like me, and one that score I think it will do well and may well be the one of the reasons for the 100k+ plays on the band's Soundclick page. All joking aside, I have always found this band's tracks to be of a very high production quality, and excellent rappers and lyricists into the bargain. As much as I despise most forms of Christmas cheer, at least this one doesn't make me want to burn the house down with everyone in it. Moreover, it is a very commercial, and yes pleasing, sound that has potential - especially at this time of year. As the man says, if you like the style, fill yer boots.

Highly (grrr) Recommended (grrr) Christmas (grrr) Cheer (GRRR)

No-No Boy - kangaroo woman who made it rain

Hear The Track Here

At the time this was coming up in the review list, my outlook of it was probably influenced by the bandname and the genre (post punk) so I expected the usual sturm and drang associated with pogoing and gobbing everywhere. Well, it's what you expect from punks, innit? What you couldn't possibly expect is for them to turn all zombie like and start attacking you, using crotchets and quavers as axes, to the gleeful sound of the world falling apart in agony. Well, neither did I, and that is why I have this deathly pallor about me, and I apologise profusely for appearing before you in my underwear but I had an accident with my pants just lately, they needed some refurbishment. (Ed: what can he mean? lol)

and then the shit hit the fan. (Ed: sigh)

Instead of the hard, edgy, angry sound of punk what came out of my speakers the first time I heard this track can only be described as something out of Patrick Lew's nightmares. Now, if you know Patrick Lew, think about that statement. During the first couple of plays, I was struck by two thoughts: this can't be serious, and wtf is this anyway? The track clings, by the merest thread of influence, to the punk genre, notably towards the end of the track. Of course, by then your brain could have solidfied and your ears curdled because - if anything - kangaroo whatnot is experimental to the nth degree.

So, there I was, all a puzzlement. No-No Boy was a new name to me wasn't it? When I checked the Soundclick page though, while writing this review, I discovered that the obviously deranged personna behind the name was none other than Black Chamber so now I guess you are all making the 'aaah' sound too. Now it all makes sense. To be sure, my description is relatively accurate. It still sounds like something out of Patrick Lew's nightmares and it is very, very, very wtf it makes more sense to me now I know where it comes from. Black Chamber is one of a new breed of experimentalists on Soundclick, and this will go some way to glisten/muddy/crucify his reputation. You guys can take your pick on which it is to be, I have a hot date with a washing machine. (Ed: and we'll draw the line at that, shall we?)

Very, very strange. Approach with caution.

Julian Shah-Tayler - Wetter

Hear The Track Here

Over the 14 or so years I have been reviewing like this, one thing is perfectly clear; when you've got it, you've got it. Whether actual fame (and its attendant riches and b******) is the end result is - as usual - down to pure luck. For sure, the bulk of the musicians I review are definitely classifiable as unsigned, and many of them (say 99.999%) will probably remain that way. Some, however, will make their own way out of the unsigned world and some - like Julian Shah-Tayler - are pretty much there. Talking RW music business now, and this is something I do know about. What makes that business work is a) talent (natch) b) image c) ability and d,e,f, and ******* g are all contacts, contacts. contacts.

Its not what you know, it's who you know.

When you can throw names around like Alan McGee, Siobhan Fahey and Joaquin Phoenix, as well as being totally involved with the second Whitey album (it sez here), then I'd say you have all the bases covered. But all you guys want to know about is the music, right? Judging from the man's biography I would have expected nothing less than aural perfection and Wetter doesn't pull any punches, its as good as it gets. See if you have all your ducks in a row, so to speak, what else do you need? A cracking song is wot. Wetter is that and then some, but it took me a while to really recognise it. See, there's a strange element at play here in the arrangement and it takes a while to bed in, but when it does......momma.....

Musically Julian sounds like some cleverly concocted distillation of the last 30 years of rock pop, mixed with the musical insanity that is a big feature of modern music and buffed and polished to a fine pitch. All of which, to my ears, spells success, and in a big way too. Julian Shah-Tayler has the style, the image and the musical and technical ability to look and sound like the star he should become. Mind you, as you can imagine from the song title, this is a bit naughty so probably best not to play it around Granny or your nervous new girlfriend, but other than that this track should be consumed in large quantities at regular intervals. The wetter, the better, know what I mean?

Very high class indeed. MUST HAVE rock alternative.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pilesar - Barry and the Humidifier

Hear The Track Here

Pilesar (pronounced Pie LEE zur doncha know) piles in again this month with his customary cautions about what he is inflicting on me this time. After a long and involved story about a photo, a lady and his circle of friends, he finally comes out with 'The most I did was arrange the sounds, do some mixing (stereo panning, fade-ins, etc) and some other minor studio trickery' In other words, the track seemingly made itself. Yeah, heard that one before eh? But wait! Hark! This is the big P. Doesn't all his material 'seemingly make itself'. Isn't this the Iman of Improv? Of course it durn well is and we all know a softening up process when we see one. So, let me give you a smidge of the back story.

Said photo (blackbirds flying in the snow, seeing as you didn't ask) catapulted our hero into a frenzy of activity from which - I am sure - he is still recovering. He contacted a bunch of friends through email and asked them to send him sound files to work with. However, when said bunch of friends include some of the most experimental of Soundclick artists, you may well be worried. And if you are not, I am sure the name Daniel Euphrat (of Dross), will soon have you hoofing for the hills. He received five sound samples and then went to work on them in his Top Secret Laboratory, screwing screwy things, and draining pus-y (Ed: not what you think) things when things go wrong and eventually emerging - no doubt blinking - into the harsh light of day clutching the harrowing tale of Barry and the Humidifier.

Now read on...

Most of you know that Pilesar doesn't do normal, so when you cop an earful (or more than that depending on your needs) you won't be that surprised at what you hear. More so when you remember the Pilesar of yesteryear, started as an experimental musician long before he developed his idiosyncratic live work that has been so enlightening of late. This track brings it all back to me as if it were yesterday. I know for a fact that there is a large audience for the kind of work that Pilesar does with sound and there isn't anything here that I wasn't expecting from him. I do, however, concede the point of the track writing itself. On the surface, its pure, undiluted wtf but get your ears underneath that layer and it is surprisingly seamless. Mind you, I like weird and this is all that and more...

Recommended audio signals from the planet Outthere.

Satellite 3 - Playing With Fire

Hear The Track Here

Every once in a while something gets through to me and I find myself thinking 'mmm, need to keep my eye on this' and that was the effect Satellite3 had on me when I met them with Apathy (June 2010) - and that's the title of the song not my own mental state. Although Apathy was not without its problems I nonetheless enjoyed the overall experience and finished off the review by saying 'Satellite 3 would be worth checking out from time to time because I do see some real potential here' Playing With Fire then is the first track they have released since then and I have to say that whatever misgivings I had about their overall sound seems to have (almost) disappeared. Much more to the point, where Apathy was moany Alternative, Playing With Fire is yer actual rock mate and proud of it.

Best played at 11.

Playing with Fire is the first track to appear from the band's upcoming Everything Falls Apart EP due out this winter, and if this is anything to go by that EP is going to create some serious noise. All the trepidation I may have felt with their introductory track dissipated with the first play of this powerful, effective track, and only got better with each successive spin (lol). I am as you know the Ultimate Rock Animal so something this red in tooth and claw is going to find favour with me, so I don't expect you to get much out of this is your tastes are somewhat milder but for me Playing With Fire presses all the right buttons both in performance and overall technical abilities.

I'd hazard a guess and say that this is almost properly recorded (one of the failings of Apathy was its lo-fi sound) but, much more to the point, now this sounds like a real band, aided by some very punchy production touches - a producer maybe? No matter, the music speaks for itself so if you like your songs with meat on their bones and a story to tell then look no further. As I say, if this is an indication of the kind of quality that is going into the EP, it's going to go down very well indeed in certain quarters. In the meantime, sit yerself down and tear a chunk out of this bad boy to chew on a while. It is, as Harry Enfield's character would say 'rocktastic'. There again, he's a well known dick for coming out with such 'gems' (Ed: Gilmore, are you deliberately trying to get us sued)

Highly Recommended rock.

a + m - Soundtrack 2009 LP

Hear The Track Here

Those readers who still have at least one working brain cell (hey Mom) may remember me waxing lyrical a while ago about an Italian band called (AM), I distinctly remember being impressed with the female vocals although I can't seem to find the original review so I can't really elaborate any further. No matter anyway, because they underwent a change of name and are now called m + a. I recall that there was the vocalist at the time of the review, unless my memory is really as bad as I think . Pure conjecture on my part, obviously, and no doubt someone will be along to put me right. There again, I may well be thinking of a Swedish vocalist - there are just too damn many.

Reading the sleeve notes that come along with the album I discover that Michele Ducci and Alessandro Degli Angioli are the musicians involved so obviously my memory has really tanked. Not a female in sight, let alone a vocalist. Sheesh getting old really sucks. Soundtrack 2009 is an eleven track jobbie that shows off their intriguing mix of acoustic and electronica, and much more to the point shows how experimental they can be while retaining a listenability that others may struggle for. I vaguely remember comparing them to Ofelia Dorme (another Italian band in the same general musical area) and remarking how these bands seemed to be a lot more adventurous then their more northerly counterparts. Must be something they put in the water.

When most people see the word electronica, they automatically assume two things: machine sounds, and a banging beat. Not, however, in this band's case, because as soon as I started assimilating the music, it all came back to me although I think this album hangs together better (and is consequently more commercial) the the previous one and I found myself warming to their almost low-key approach to the whole deal. Try (for innovation ) the oddly named blaÌŠ or Liko, Lene, Lisa for their unique take on drums and bass. Personally, I think that a band like m + a will automatically scoop up any really discerning listeners around because for sure there isn't much that sounds like this, and that commercial slant could really pay off with this album. Very nice indeed.

Highly Recommended blend of electronica and acoustic.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

333maxwell - Where You'll Find You

Hear The Track Here

Hello, hello hello, who is this trudging into view? Looks familiar and a suspicious cove so I'd say yonder lurks one Chas Holman (known to the Underworld as 333maxell) What was that? Sounded like a bell ringing?? Meh, strange things happen when I am around this guy... So, where we was? I don't think I have to mention that 333maxwell is one of my all time favourite Soundclick musicians, a seasoned professional in every way that counts. Which is why he has a larger string of Must Haves than anyone else alive probably but he really, really must not be bragging about it because.... Well, let me start at the beginning.

333maxwell is somewhat modest, as many of you are aware, and an incredibly difficult musician for me personally to review because I can NEVER find anything that wrong about his tracks and much that is righter than right. Moreover he spends inordinate amounts of time yakking on that this is 'a horribly unfinished project' and that he ' tidied and rushed' it. Which, let's face it, is pretty much what he says every time. Any yet, and yet, the tracks just keep rolling... Now it's obvious that not everyone is going to like his older (dare I say mature) musical touch but I know a very young lady who thinks his 40's jazz pieces are wonderful, and that is an opinion I also share.

Where You'll Find You finds our hero working on the other end of the musical street, adjacent to the Beatles in their druggy period, and this is also an area where 333maxwell always shines. Especially, and I know this is going to make Chas groan, if you like the sound of MacCartney Beatles which IMHO Chas has totally 'got'. The style, the musical mannerisms and even the vocal phrasing. Now maybe I am just noticing that a lot more because this is a genre I love. However, let's go back to the main point. If this is 'horribly unfinished' and ' tidied and rushed' then I want my ball back and I'm going home. Serious.

Awesome Beatles drenched rock. Highly Recommended.

Rustik - Smoke Rings

Hear The Track Here

As much as I have been sickened lately with the state of the real world's vision of hip hop, I have been equally heartened by the indie, online musicians and rappers I have found in my travels. Soundclick, in particular, has been a great source this year for class hip hop tracks, especially by musicians who stretch the genre the way it should be. Sure, a lot of it is home produced, but in some ways, that's a bonus too. Like you guys, I've had my awful moments with the genre but I am very keen on the new, edgier hip hop exemplified of late by Gangbangsters, Twisted Angel, Whitman Speck (the scariest dude on the planet) and - of course, Rustik and his various buddies.

I think we are six tracks into his catalog at this point so it's safe to say Rustik is doing well indeed. Nothing, as yet, as topped Monster (September 2010) but there's always the next one. Speaking of which... One of the main problems with indie hip hop is its sound quality, usually because everybody is too piss poor to get any kit but - if you like the genre - you often put up with that roughness as a by-product of some good ideas. Rustik has managed to always shine out with his tracks from a technical point of view, and the raps are often just as good.

Smoke Rings, however, goes the whole hog. Great production, great ideas AND the technical know-how to make it all work, all wrapped up in a meaty, beaty chunk of hip hop that will remind you of what should sound like. Kloqwyse is the producer on this bad boy, and I don't know anything about him/her or it, but I do know he knows how to manage frequencies, and that - for me - is one of this tracks main selling points. Yeah, I know. Sad and nerdy but **** listen to the track yourself and tell me this isn't a great piece of music - regardless of genre classification. Damn it, they even recorded the bong at work. How dedicated is that??

MUST HAVE indie hip hop

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Densyl - To The One I Love

Hear The Track Here

I'll be the first person to admit that I didn't really 'get' Densyl at first, but that is because of my own baggage rather than anything Densyl did. Over the years, I have heard enough singer/songwriters (usually home produced) to make the average persons ear bleed for a thousand years and that is bound to leave a nasty bruise - as indeed it does. What it means in real terms is that I can get real picky when faced with tracks that just don't do anything to me, especially the more maudlin kind that the composers think is the best thing in the world. Since that rocky start though, I've grown to appreciate him much more and even raved about Hope Is All About (March 2010), an excellent Beach Boys style collaboration with lyricist Soni Conde and Matt Tyson who did a blinder vocal turn and I can't recommend it highly enough.

S'funny, I could have sworn I had already reviewed an earlier version of this (or maybe I just heard it in passing but this, we are told, is a brand new version and nothing like the original. Peggy Gray supplies the lyrics this time and it is (shudder) a power ballad. Now I may not like the style but I can divorce myself sufficiently to assess one (ballad, that is) and - in fact - have heard many good ones in my time too. The problem, I find, is that unless it is delivered with the correct amount of passion, emotion and yes, raw power - especially if it is a 'power ballad' - it just doesn't work and sounds like anything else. The real problem with ballads is having the right singer to put them across.

Now don't think that I am getting at Densyl here, because I am not. However, a ballad singer (power or otherwise) he is not, at least not this kind of ballad. What he does, however, is put the song across and that is good enough, especially if you happen to be in the market for said power ballads. Certainly from a musical and production standpoint To The One I Love is very decent indeed but I have come to expect such work from this musician. Now I may get disagreement on this but I would really like to hear a collaboration on this one, I think it would be well worth the effort.

Recommended nonetheless.

Ralph Atkinson - Firefly

Hear The Track Here

As you may know, I am teaching my 11 year old son how to play the guitar and one of the first tunes he seems to have picked up on is Owl City's Fireflies (which btw is a great song), so consequently he made me learn the damn thing. As a consequence whenever I see this track's name, I instantly start humming said damn thing. Bloody good job it actually is a good song. All of which has nothing to do with Ralph Atkinson, whose entire catalog I seem to be working my way through and it's an equally good job that he is a musician (guitarist primarily) who I can appreciate. I last encountered him in an excellent collaborative effort with Soundclick stalwarts, 333maxwell and Larry Ludwick on Failing (October 2010) which got a well deserved Must Have from me.

Can't remember who it was but someone else gave me a piece just lately that was also an acoustic guitar number in an open tuning, give me a while, it'll come to me. DGDGBD is, for those who know, the tuning that this track is played on and if that sounds like gobbledegook, just go listen to the track and it'll become clear immediately. Playing an open tuning gives the guitarist a whole different outlook on what to play, and Ralph managed to play this on an extremely rare Japanese Shiraki guitar for a challenge competition, so obviously it was a quick study. Can't fault the choice of instruments this guy employs, that's for sure.

Either that Shiraki is double tracked or there are other guitars on this, including an absolutely beautiful lap steel guitar, or something played with a bottleneck. Whichever it is, sent shivers right down my spine and that's always a good sign. As is obvious from my opening statements, I am very much inclined towards acoustic instruments in the real world (even though I very rarely use them in my recorded work) so I am absolutely bound to like this, but that shouldn't stop you checking it out because it is well worth the while. Evoking names is an obvious fallback for me but I'm not going to succumb to it this time, merely say that here is an acoustic guitarist doing what he does best, and doing it beautifully.

Highly Recommended acoustic guitar piece.

Eddie Cohn - Stay With Me LP (part)

Hear The Track Here

You see before you a man who lives in fear. So what, do you suspect, could make a hard-bitten journalist/reviewer such as myself literally quake in his boots? I think I must be the only person in the world who has developed an intense fear of looking into my mailbox, not because it's overloaded with spam (which is the usual excuse) but because it's overloaded with review requests from the blog. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot, the damn thing has taken on a life of its own so right now I have 40+ tracks from there alone. All of which is not to whine about my predicament, but merely to say sorry to Eddie Cohn for making him wait so long for this review AND it's only three tracks from the album at that...

Stay With Me was the first track I picked (Ed: natch, ya lazy bastard) and it's immediately obvious that Eddie is a experienced and adept singer, songwriter and producer because Stay With Me sounds bloody wonderful. The only worm in the apple is that it's a ballad and you know I hates those guys. Nonetheless, I wouldn't stop me listening and indeed appreciating the work, love and devotion that has gone into making this track. Tell you what, I know that half of humanity will love this if they ever get a chance to hear it. Ladies, I'm talking to you. Three hankie job right here. Lights On continues the mellow mood, although it's not actually a ballad - which helps for me.

With these two tracks alone, I was taken by just how much work Eddie has put into his art, and boy does it show. Although, being really honest, the style isn't really my kind of thing, but there is no doubting the depth and knowledge of his subject Eddie brings to the proceedings. Certainly if you like the smoother sounds of (say Simply Red) you will definitely be knocked out by any track from this album. Give Love a Photograph was the third track I got and with it's MacCartney-ish feel fits right in with the overall tenor of the album, which btw I am intending to check out in its entirety sooner or later - and that should tell you something. Personally I'm as impressed as hell at the overall technical ability on display, regardless of what I think about the style. Commercial? **** yeh!!

MUST HAVE Alternative

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Those Among Us - I Need To Know

Hear The Track Here

Another long term internet musician is on a roll lately (seems to be a rash of them, or the drugs are finally working) and he is a member of the cast of Those Among Us, you know him as John Brandon but he's been known to be a silver train as well. That, however, is neither here nor there. Those Among Us is really the offshoot of the entity known as Silvertrain, extremely popular a few years ago, and I've already raved about most of the output so far. Feel (May 2010) and A Chance To Die EP really showed what this new grouping can do and are, for me anyway, the standout tracks you should immediately go and shake hands with. Especially if you like high calibre pop rock.

Of course, not to everyone's taste.

OK, but let me tell you that the vocalist in Those Among Us can ******* wail like Plant when he wants too, and that's not a bad trick at all. The one thing I do expect from anything John Brandon is involved with is the knack of knowing how to write a good song. Which usually equates to 'the simpler, the better' and you can't argue with that. What is becoming more evident is that he has finally found the right combination to put it all together and I have yet to hear a bad track from this quarter and that means on all levels; performance, arrangement, production and attitude.

John's songwriting style certainly gets darker and edgier in these musical surroundings and while the music has been relentlessly upbeat for much of his 'career', the other musicians in Those Among Us provide some really muscular support and the edge his music has never had before. This is not a bad thing, it is a very, very good thing and when all is said and done, I Need To Know is a knockout track, but you won't get that straight away. It takes a fair bit of coaxing to get right to the heart of this 'bleak look at the future' but it is so worthwhile. It's also track two from the upcoming Disco Ball EP so don't be saying I didn't tell you that.

Highly Recommended (intelligent) rock - now there's a thing...

Avalanche - Not My Style

Hear The Track Here

Lots of activity in the Avalanche camp this year, much of it still under wraps, and despite there being a lengthy recording process this year (as normal), new music from Avalanche is a little thin on the ground. One track has appeared, and from Avalanche and Stephanie Krowka at that - Let Me (October 2010) merely whetted one's whistle, know what I mean? Despite the billing, this one isn't really Avalanche either, it being a Mike Foster solo effort. Now, as you know, I have a lot of respect for this band, and this musician; consummate professionals in what they do. When they are in true Avalanche mode they are nigh on unstoppable, a rock band in the truest sense of the word but keep watching this space on that, all will be revealed soon...

...we hope.

Mike Foster threw this one at me this month because he thought I might get bored (Ed: riiighht) and, truth is, I'm actually glad he did although this is an entirely different breed of rock than normal and may well cause shock to die hard classic rockers. See, the NAValator also knows a lick or two of de bloooz. Straight Ahead Blues is the category Soundclick has it under and it sure fits but its so much more than straight ahead blues. It came about when someone posted a basic blues track on the Blues forum and challenged people to do something with it. Mike wrote some lyrics, got on his keyboardist hat, and trotted this little beauty out of the stable in 'one day in total'

See, the rest of us poor schmucks spend forever honing and crafting our pieces of tat and others can't shove stuff out of the door fast enough, and all of it quality. Quality takes experience though, and Mike Foster sure has paid his dues and then some, so his day's work is going to count in any genre. I am reminded very strongly of the time when bands like Butterfield Blues Band and (later) Chicago (the band, not the city) showed what was possible with the genre, the horns in this especially give that flavour. Hey, know what this is?? This is a great bar track, the kind of thing you put on when everyone is getting m-e-l-l-o-w and ready to party to a dose of the right stuff. A day it may have taken, but it's obviously a day well spent. I'm keeping this because a) its really, really good and b) because of its novelty value (Ed: actually he covets the Hammond too, NAV).

Highly Recommended big band style blues.

Fourteen Twentysix - Lighttown Closure LP (part)

Hear The Track Here

Big day today. Not only did I just clear my 2,000th post on the RebelRiffs blog (that's 2k of reviews) but I also finally managed to find a band who don't automatically join Myspazz as soon as they form. Believe me, it really is that rare. Not that I have anything against Myspazz (much) but it isn't what I would consider a music site, even if I have heard some cracking musicians who have a presence on there. Fourteen Twentysix ' is the cryptic alias of multi-instrumentalist Chris van der Linden', so we are informed on the band's website, but dig a little deeper and things have changed somewhat. According to the recording diary, they are now a five piece band, all of whom are collaborating on the new LP/DC thingie.

So that's nice then...

Lighttown Closure, then is the LP before all the new personnel came along and - as many of you will have noticed - I am not reviewing the whole thing, I just don't have the time any more. I grabbed AM, After The Storm and Closing Hours with an application of the scientific formula known worldwide as eeny meeny miny mo... Although the truth is that they are tracks one, two and three so (shrugs), what can I tell you? 'The album starts off on a surprisingly light note, painting a serene landscape with a hopeful look at a new horizon' is what the blurb promises on the download page, and it's nice and ambient and you get into the easy way the tracks trickles into your ears, before settling into a kinda folky stream-of-consciousness song that segues neatly into After The Storm. This turns out to be a nice blend of folk, electronica and psychedelic rock, and shows a much more commercial face than AM, and that's probably the point.

Although you will have heard the kind of music Fourteen Twentysix make before, it has a neat twist making it - for me anyway - something well worth listening to. A challenging and well crafted vocal, and a very good song which gets better and better the more familiar you become with it. Closing Hours confirms that Chris van der Linden has a vision that works, it would be very interesting indeed to see what he gets up to with his new mates. Over the years I have come across few interesting songwriter musicians, and by interesting I mean willing to go in directions you wouldn't have expected. Moreover, listening further you begin to notice the depth of the arrangement, there's a ton of stuff going on. Can't wait for that new album then...

Highly Recommended blend of ambient, acoustic and rock.