Friday, December 31, 2010

Pilesar - The Fingerling (Live)

Hear The Track Here

Sliding into the honourable final review slot of 2010 is none other than Pilesar, that East Coast lunatic who has scrambled many a brain this year, and in a good many preceding years too. Seems like I have known this musician a long time but he never fails to amuse me musically, whether it's his more structured (of such a term can apply to Pilesar) work, or his totally unscripted live performances. These have definitely been at the forefront of his work this year and has - to my way of thinking - probably bought a lot of new listeners into the Pilesar Palisade, and that's no bad thing. Music this different (and challenging) needs to be heard by wider audiences and yes, it makes a difference to see him actually doing all that stuff.

So, Ladles and Gerbils, on this solomon Caucasian, let me present to your earlobes - direct from the French Embassy Washington DC - Piiiiiiiillllsssaaaaarrrr. And the crowd go wild (it says here). Me, I'm still wondering if it's a strip club or a night club. French Embassy mate, never 'eard of it. Anyway in the interests of peaceful relations, it was nice of the French Embassy to host such a shindig for ya boy innit? Mind you, I wonder if they knew what they were letting themselves in for. Let's find out...but straighten your garments please... This is a posh do, no sneakers, T-shirts and beer bellies here.

Pilesar obviously realises this because I have to say that it is rare to hear him this restrained. Why it's almost - dare I say it - tasteful. If you haven't got the Pilesar plot yet, or at least only the more zany side, then it isn't immediately apparent that there is a musician behind the curtains working the gears. However, one of the things I learned early on is not to underestimate this most adventurous of musicians, and that he can turn his hand to almost anything - and play it on anything too come to that. For sure I have heard weirder contributions from the big P than this, and I've heard some that were just plain musical when all was said and done and The Fingerling fits in that category. A splendid end to the year as it happens.

Pilesar goes Pretty. MUST HAVE experimental.

Scheezy McGee - Be There

Hear The Track Here

Damn this has been a good year at Soundclick for hip hop! Take American rapper Scheezy McGee for example. Only met him when I reviewed L.O.V.E. (August 2010), just a few short months, and since then he has imprinted his style on me in no uncertain manner. While it is true that I do have a taste for the more adventurous rappers and hip hop musicians, I can still find some of the more commercial offerings palatable, my preference is for people like Scheezy, Gangbangsters, Twizzie et al. More to the point, and the further we get down this particular musical path, can they really accurately be called hip hop? Scheezy's last track Hands (October 2010) was a real eye opener and was almost alternative in feel.

What really marked Hands out for me was the blinder chorus, which btw just gets better with time, and if you agree then BOY are you in for a treat! In fact, although it is a bit on the rough side aurally, I kinda think it wouldn't work if you'd smoothed out the sound. More to the point, this track - whatever it's aural state - kicks some royal butt with a chorus that takes off like a rocket and a song that'll have you nodding and 'yeah yeah'-ing all the way through. OK, it has to be said that a lot of my liking for this is because it's roots are more in rock than hip hop but IMHO it's a highly creative blend of the two so who ******* cares?

Scheezy McGee is also that rare rapper who bothers to publish his lyrics and believe me understanding them makes the track resonate much more. If, that is, you can get past that dynamite chorus. Tell you what, I've heard power snare sounds all my life but this track carries one that'll crack skulls up and down the land and is one of the major components of said chorus. Over a period of time, the sheer amount of ideas; musically, vocally, lyrically really elevate this track way above the norm and is definitely the best thing I have heard from him yet. Truly different, and unlikely to come off my playlist any time soon.

MUST HAVE rock/hip hop hybrid.

Howard Billington - Song For The Good People (demo)

Hear The Track Here

I don't think I am giving anything away by stating that Howard Billington/Smoke It 'n' Die are going to figure quite prominently in my year end reviews coming up shortly, as I am sure they will do well with other reviewers. In fact, it's been quite a year for this very idiosyncratic musician (and his various mates and paramours no doubt). I first came across him with He Stole My Girl (January 2010) arguably his most commercial track, which got a well deserved Must Have from me - as did many others under his own name or with his band Smoke It 'n' Die. All this in one short year, so what's the secret? Great songs that tell stories of positivity and good cheer. HoBi (sorry, couldn't resist) is IMHO the musical equivalent of Christmas all year round.

Soundclick's own little ray of sunshine...ahhhhhh.

However, the maxim that defines the music business - you are only as good as your last track - also holds very true on the internet where - if anything - your audience is the pickiest on Earth. Doesn't seem to faze Howard though because the music he makes in totally in tune with the times, if sometimes a bit rough at the edges. A true English songwriter Howard Billington wanders between rock funk, whimsy alternative and out-and-out proto punk, which I have to admit is one of my own favourites. While Song For The Good People is just this side of punk, it's still got more energy than God.

For me, the real draw of Howard Billington's work are the songs he writes. For sure, the man knows how to construct a chorus and, as I mentioned before, he imbues every single track with an infectious, cheerful, laugh-at-life-and-have-fun way that I often find reminiscent of the late, great Ian Dury. Now, I freely admit that I am not a big fan of perky, unless they come in pairs, but there is perkiness and perkiness, know what I mean? There is the kind of cheer that makes you grit your teeth (usually with an American or anyone first thing in the morning) and there is the kind of cheer that slaps a shit eating grin on your face instantly - even if you don't want it. Such is the power of Billington. To my ears, this track is not as immediate as some, it feels kind of throwaway, but still a dash of cold water in the face for all that.

Highly Recommended jolt of energy.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Farrell Jackson - It's Time U Faced It

Hear The Track Here

Sounds crazy to say it, but opening up my blog to reviews has changed my life, in more good ways than bad but one thing it does demand is time, and lots of it. It's also widened the range of musicians I am able to access, while restricting my access to other musicians who have become favourites. One consequence is that I can no longer find the time to review out of other websites like, for example, Mixposure which is where I know Farrell Jackson from. Thankfully he also has a Soundclick page so at least I get good old fashioned classic rock into my system every once in a while. If the name is unfamiliar to you, then I heartily suggest you check him out, he has had at least three Must Have's from me since The Train To Normal (January 2009) and that's no bad going at all.

Speaking of Mixposure, Farrell shares the spotlight with another famous Mix name, Buddrumming who - not surprisingly - is a drummer (among other skills). His contribution to this track also included knob twiddling but certainly the main weight falls on Farrell who supplies 'all vocals, all guitars, bass, song production and mixing' not to mention writing it in the first place. As I mentioned earlier, Farrell specialises in classic rock, and does it very well indeed but..(Ed: uh oh) Got to tell you, some parts of It's Time U Faced It sound eerily like Yes in their heyday and that would be prog rock wouldn't it and you know that brings me out in a rash of venom.

Mind you, to give them their due, Yes in their early days were amazing musicians and - much more to the point - inspirational vocalists and is really the one consistent thing I have liked about them, even at their most pompous. Farrell turns out a faultless performance of the vocal section in question which happens right at the end of the track. What you get beforehand is a steamy, highly active rock song with some of the best guitar melody lines I have heard in a good while. What it shows, more than anything, is the sheer attention to detail both Budd and Farrell are capable of, because - as a piece of music - it's almost faultless.

Highly Recommended Classic Rock song.

JCH (UK) - Head West Coast

Hear The Track Here

There is a lot more to James Crosbie Hancox (aka JCH (UK)) than looking like a character from South Park, which you may discover if you can get over the envy because you don't have a South Park character. Screw you guys, I'ma going home indeed. Still, best not get me started on the finest of American TV entertainment or we'll be here all week because I am an avid fan - of both JCH and SP. This is the guy, you may remember, who made a whole album of songs, each of which was composed entirely of one chord. Doesn't sound that exciting put that way but Painting By Numbers (June 2010) proved to be a very listeneable album, packed with interesting songs. Albeit all in one chord, which is an incredibly difficult thing to pull off. In fact, since I first met him with Home and Dry (August 2009) he has kept up a steady stream of quality tracks.

But then there's always next time...

Head West Coast isn't, as I automatically assumed, an allusion to California's famed west coast. In fact, it's not about America at all, it's a song concerning the doings of those mystical beings the Pharoah's of ancient Egypt, but more exactly about their theories about life and death. The song is about the journey the soul 'makes to the stars and eternal life' according to the man himself. To be blunt, the subject matter doesn't exactly inspire me to listen, but that is to misjudge just how good James Crosbie Hancox is at the job he does with his music, from production to performance.

See, this is a guy who has his finger firmly on the rock pulse, and it shows. About the only quibble I have about this track concerns the hesitancy (or what seems like that) in the vocal. Mind you, that may well be intentional, it's hard to say. Taken as a whole, however, Head West Coast is a melodic, highly infectious slice of rock that - once heard - will prove very hard to get rid of. Don't say I didn't warn you. Again, James shows me that he is an excellent songwriter, regardless of the subject matter because his knack of putting it all together makes it surge into your brain on bolts of lightning. No, wait, that's some other unworldly geezer...

Highly Recommended rock song.

Autofonic - Robot Girls

Hear The Track Here

Been a while since I've discovered robot girls but the fascination never seems to end. Oh Hi, you lot. Didn't see you lurking. I'm sure my first statement won't be surprising to you, after all it's obvious that I am very partial to the female species - robotic or otherwise. This fascination with robotic females is a product of a childhood steeped in classic science fiction, and early exposure to Fritz Lang's classic movie Metropolis. Matter of fact, I had fantasies about those 1920's babes throughout most of my teenage years, but hey way too much information eh? Autofonic obviously share my machine lust and even manage to work clips of Metropolis into the excellent video that goes with this track. Got to be worth seeing just for that alone, methinks.

Now where did I put those furry handcuffs?

During the late '70's/early '80's I started getting into what we call electronica today as exemplified by bands such as Kraftwerk, Yello and others and I mention those two in particular because Robot Girls mines this part of history very thoroughly. All to the good really because - to my way of thinking - most of today's electronica doesn't really hold a candle to the material that comes out of the first flowering of electronica and it's mainstream equivalent typified by the likes of Yazoo, Mute Records (in its entirety), Soft Cell, Depeche Mode the list is endless. What makes those bands different from the electronica that surrounds us today is that they understood that all the weirdest noise in the world won't help if there is no song attached.

Luckily for us, Autofonica understand this essential fact because Robot Girls is a terrific little song, whether electronica floats your boats or not. If, however, you have a particular fondness for the sounds I have described then this is definitely aimed squarely at you and you need to take advantage of that. Autofonica are a new name to me and are from Plymouth here in the UK and, best news of all, they are trackers. Not, as you may imagine, hunters of wild animals but they use a piece of software called a tracker (which is where I started out) where every single note and sound is tweaked by code; literally building the track note for note. As an ex-tracker I am amazed at what they have been able to do with it and so will you be.

Highly Recommended electronica and a killer song.

Monday, December 27, 2010

NorwoodZero - If I Met A Girl Demo

Hear The Track Here

It's a funny world, folks. I have spent the last week racking my brains to see if I knew anyone who came from Pennsylvania. Now considering that Pennsylvania is an American state that holds some many millions of souls, you would think that I would know one of them. What does this do with the whole six degrees of separation theory? And no, it's not the place where vampires live, so lets put that one to rest immediately. So why was I net sleuthing the entire population of a large American state? Well, because I have a sneaking suspicion that someone there is trying to set me up. OK, OK, who hummed the X-Files theme tune?? I'm serious, ya damn varmints, and it's no joking matter because your intrepid reviewer faces a dilemma.


Now I can look at this situation one of two ways; either it's a setup or NorwoodZero is so new and raw to this game that he hasn't given much thought to the impact of uploading what he does. So what does he do? It says, in the genre listing, that it's Rock general but I'd say it was more general than anything. Certainly rock doesn't have to much to do with the proceedings although something resembling it can be glimpsed from time to time. More to the point if chaotic recording and extremely odd arrangement, with a very, very lo-fi approach, don't sound that appealing, best give this a wide berth. The reason I feel it may be a setup is that there is no information whatsoever on the webpage and the track makes so many basic mistakes, even an absolute beginner would be hard pressed to carry it off.

Come on, you mutter, we've dealt with Patrick Lew, we are battle hardened. Yep, that's as may be, but I had a hard time sorting this one and I suspect you may too. Besides the haphazard arrangement and behind the beat overdubs, not to mention the disjointed way each section is cobbled together, the real culprit here is the vocal which has no power whatsoever being sung in almost a whisper against the chaos. Obviously home recorded then but even so, other tracks manage to clean up quite nicely. The only thing this track need is a whole new re-think about what it should be, rather than the mess it is right now. Admittedly it does state in the title that it is a demo, but even so...

Ron Vogel - The Forest

Hear The Track Here

Following on with what I was saying the last time I reviewed American rock musician Ron Vogel, I did underestimate what he was about at the beginning (that would be late 2009) seeing him more as a guitarist/songwriter than a singer/songwriter. The last couple of tracks have put that right though big time, and this track is only going to add to that reputation. As I mentioned in my review of Our Way Home (October 2010) I am a big lover of vocal harmony work, the closer the better if you know what I mean and Ron has proved to be very adept indeed in this department. Both On Our Way Home and Human (June 2010) feature vocals and backing vocals performed with style and grace and I'm definitely down for that.

The Forest, surprisingly enough, builds and extends that vocal reach but this time applies the whip too. No, no dear, not that way. Calm down.... I mean, of course, that the tune zips along at a good rate of speed, which considering its rock isn't a bad thing. The vocals on this are much rougher than before but that's also down to the style I guess. In tone and feel, I am reminded of early Neil Young and Crazy Horse, just playing music for the heck of it, and having a great time doing it and Ron has captured that feel magnificently. Here is a track that would have been a smash back in the day, but does it cut the mustard in this digital world?

Hell yeah. Drrrrrbrain. When all said and done, most people want, and require, music to be either uplifting, inspirational or just plain silly (I know, don't ask) and for me uplifting generally means something with rock running through it. So it's a given that I am going to like The Forest, although not as much as On Our Way Home if I were honest, but that's an insignificant quibble in the scheme of things. Fact is, with each successive track Ron Vogel is impressing me more and more and that leads to maybe an excellent year for him next year. Who knows?

High grade vocal rock. Highly Recommended.

Big Wheel Remixes - Good4You

Hear The Track Here

I find it shameful that I have only managed to review two tracks from the excellent Sunburn In Cyprus over the last two years, especially as both of them knocked me out in that 'oooooh, just thereeeee' kind of way. (Ed: watching you Gilmore...) Know what I mean? There is music that touches your brain, there is music that touches your feet and then there is music that touches all your pleasure centres and Sunburn In Cyprus definitely do that. It's that combination of jazzy style and female vocals, does it for me every time. The last time I encountered them was with If It's Good For Me (November 2010) so if you are wondering what all this guff has to do with the Wheeled Wonder, then wonder no more (Ed: way too much wonder in there...) He went and remixed it obviously, chopping and changing and then adding a 4.

Which, seeing as wheels have woeful numerical skills, could cause problems.

Nonethefekkinless, the original was awesome and I absolutely couldn't resist sticking that and the remix together on my Ipod to see whether my eternal maxim about remixes holds true; if you can't make it your own, don't cover it. Now in lesser hands, and with fewer spokes obviously, I'd be more than a bit worried about matters but Big Wheel has proved himself time after time and he makes (ahem) 'banging choons'. He's also renowned for getting through my 'smooth' filter, and he turns that approach and his established DnB credentials and does indeed turn the track into his own, without giving too much of the original away either. Considerably more propulsive than the original, that's for sure.

Another of my remix yardsticks isn't what the remixer takes from the original, but what he or she adds to the track that is strictly their own. Make a very worthwhile arrangement that makes full use of both sets of audio tools and you have what I would consider a very decent remix indeed. For me, it's the arrangement that makes this track work, and there is no doubt that Big Wheel went to town making it so. More to the point, he recognised the key features of the original and made them work in a totally different way, and that's real class. Do your ears a favour, slap these two tracks together with a cup of tea, a lie down and gain a bit of peace... Wheely good (see? see what I did there??) (Ed: slaps forehead in exasperation)

Highly Recommended drummage and bassage, and angels warbling...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Larry Ludwick - Snow Keeps Falling

Hear The Track Here

I was just getting out the red ink to write down Larry as the third contender in the Christmas song of shame list but nay Snow Keeps Falling is merely about isolation and loneliness, with an aftertaste of endurance. Oh great, you might think, right in the very depths of winter the very thing you need is a song about isolation and loneliness. It's a fact that more people take their own lives at Christmas than at any other time of the year. It's all the Christmas songs, I tell ya!! Enough to drive anybody nuts with their continual po-faced cheer, but let's not get astride that particular hobby horse because I can ride that bad boy forever. (Ed: we know).

Almost every single one of Larry's tracks, mopy or not, has a depth and clarity of emotion that somehow elevates the whole, as was seen with Speak Words Speak's last outing Out Of Love (November 2010). He's on a bit of a roll right now, certainly the last few tracks have found infinite favour with me. An old fashioned 'let's tell a story' songwriter is what makes Larry a personal favourite of mine, even when sometimes the genre may grate on me a bit. After all, a good song is a good song right? Even when its a song about isolation and loneliness...

OK, I'll 'fess up. I like this because I like Larry's style but I do recognise that he may well be something of an acquired taste, more so even for me when he is at his most pensive because it gets well emotional. A lot of Larry's work has a bleak little heart but that doesn't put me off, I guess because I am used to it but I can understand why someone else may not take to it. Still, in terms of the general state of his production and performance this is a track that stands head and shoulders with the rest of his output and, I grant you, that view might be because the genre doesn't, in fact, inspire me much. As you might have guessed.

Highly Recommended wintry tale.

Thomas J Marchant - Clusterfvck in A Major

Hear The Track Here

Oh come on, it wouldn't feel like the end of the year for me without the obligatory Thomas J Marchant track. Just be thankful that he can never be Artist Of The Year any more. Tsk, so where were we?? Aahh the Musician from Maidstone. Although Thomas has been around for-*******-ever, it's only the the last few years that he has shown his true colours and - almost as a byproduct - found a willing audience for his own inimitable style. It's also taken me the same amount of for-yadda yadda to finally see the product of all that work and time. I always knew that he was intensely musical, even when the music he made wasn't; intense or musical that is. Certainly his early guise was very hard to understand. At heart though, Thomas is a knockout songwriter and - dare I say it - old fashioned troubadour.

And that's a very honourable thing to be.

It's rare to get me to do a musical double-take, if you know what I mean. The first time I heard this I sat stunned afterwards. No, I thought, surely not. Did that young scamp Thomas just cut me off at the knees with a one chord frenetic strum, and a breathless, never ending spiel about the state of the world? Something that simple with that much power? Well, Dylan did it, and Thomas - whether he admits it or not - owes a considerable debt to the man. Actually, no, that's not quite true because all Bob was doing was regurgitating the old American folk musicians with a different slant. However, the general style remains the same so if you like and appreciate the early Bob Dylan then you can find much to like in Thomas's songs.

Thomas has blossomed more as a songwriter than anything else, doesn't matter what he turns his hand at, the song underpinning is going to be different, interesting and very listenable - even one backed up by an unremitting one chord bash. I do suggest you read the lyrics while listening though, it will make a lot more sense that way. It's actually quite an interesting idea and like the last Thomas J track I reviewed (Ego - November 2010) shows what the man is capable of when his back is against a wall. Now obviously Clusterfvck isn't going to be to everyone's taste but I guarantee this is going to go down a storm with his true fans - like me.

Highly Recommended musical rant.

Marc Blackwell - Bring Me Trouble

Hear The Track Here

I've been around the block so long that I often get messages like 'I remember you from...' and this track request came about that way. Some years ago I was reviewing out of several sites, MP3 Unsigned being one of them. I happened across Dean Taylor there when I reviewed Could There Be (January 2007), and listened a great deal to a track he did with the late, lamented Mary Gottschalk. Couldn't say, hand on heart, that he made my kind of music but hey, takes all kinds. I think I'd find it difficult to make a reasoned judgement on the basis of one song. On this track Dean shares the lyrical duties although the track is rightly credited to Marc Blackwell, of whom I know very little but this track puts that right eh?

Bring Me Trouble is the title track of Marc's latest LP and if this track is anything to go by, that album promises to be a knockout. There is a note on the page that 8 out of the 10 songs on the album are already signed for film/tv work and that should come as no surprise, Quality, as the saying goes, will out, especially quality as radio-friendly as Bring Me Trouble. Tell you what, one of the main draws for me in watching The Sopranos (besides Tone and da boyz) was that absolutely killer theme tune and - more than anything else - that is what Bring Me Trouble reminds me of.

It's obviously a different beast of course, just has similarities and what it does show is the incredible amount of time, trouble and experience poured into this one track. If the intention of throwing this one at me to get me interested in the album then hey, they win hands down. Gimmie the thing before I rip your arms off trying to steal it. Alongside Marc's very distinctive vocals are some wonderful backing vocals courtesy of Morgen La Civita and rock solid production values. All told, one heck of an introduction to a new artist but one I suspect I will hear a lot more of.

MUST HAVE stomper.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Zebrabook - Boy In The Forest

Hear The Track Here

As usual with me, I have a few side projects on the go at the same time. My task this month, besides researching the year past and writing these reviews, has been to listen to the latest LP from Zebrabook, which has become something of a blessing in my quieter moments. Boy In The Forest, the track in question is the one in question here though but I would say that the LP is worth getting because it shows, to me anyway, quite a different side of the musical (and organisational) talent of Jon Bushaway (also known as The Dead Company). Ever since I met him at the beginning of the decade, this has been one musician who has continually kept me on my toes (literally in some cases) with some of the most challenging and difficult music I have ever heard.

So why Gilmore, I hear you mutter, don't you just tell him his music is rubbish and to *** off out of it? Well, because it wouldn't be true. Just because you may not like (wildly) experimental music, doesn't mean to say there is no point or validity in it. Over the years I have developed a healthy respect for the music this man makes, as well as a bad back and earache from his more prolonged masterworks. Sitting here with my perspective glasses on though, I sense movement in the undergrowth. While Jon has always been musically verbose, sometimes that can work to his detriment and I suspect he knows that. Since setting out on the Zebrabooks path a couple of years ago, Jon's style has - to my ears - changed quite dramatically and nowhere is this more evident than on Boy In The Forest.

As much as The Mothers Of Invention (Ed: as in Frank Zappa and...) fascinated me in a weird sort of way, it wasn't until they started making things like Hot Rats that they finally gelled as something completely different. Boy In The Forest is Jon's Hot Rats moment and like the immortal album is some music you are not likely to hear anywhere else. Music that has an odd, slightly out of whack beauty that is inspiring. The level of detail in the production and arrangement merely show just how much experience Jon Bushaway can bring to bear. Out of all the tracks I have reviewed from this musician (and we are talking scores) none touched me quite like this tour-de-force. And don't, DO NOT, whatever you do, ask me to describe what it is because I haven't a clue and I don't care anyway. It's special (oh and seven minutes long).

MUST HAVE electronica.

Cam's Even Song - Real Things Cast Shadows

Hear The Track Here

It's that time of year when old friends appear out of a clear blue sky wishing you the best for the season, and it's that which triggers the rewind process my brain seems intent on foisting on me each and every year. It's also making me realise exactly how long Soundclick's Critics Corner forum (and its denizens) have been part of the texture of my life but - in the depths of the depression this thought brings - there flickers one small, but very warm, spark of comfort. Cameron Bastedo (aka Cam's Even Song has been right there, slogging away at reviews with me which - for what it's worth - shows the measure of the man and his devotion to music. His music, I have always contended, definitely speaks for itself, and usually better than most. His band of rock pop with a gentle Christianity has won him many fans and much respect and long may it continue to do so.

All of my Artist Of The Year awards since I started them in 2003 have been partly based on the quality of the songwriting and no one has been more deserving of that accolade than Cam, a born songwriter, a natural - which is why he won it in 2006. One of the joys for me is Cam's lyrical style so imagine what I thought when faced with Ying and Yang etc. tell you what, just go read the lyrics. I did that first of all and I have to say it really puzzled me. This is a songwriter who never minces words, let alone turn them into a modern day nursery rhyme. It's only a few lines too, so you wonder how Cam could possibly stretch that into a song but - again - this is where Cam differs from others.

For my money, the guy could read the periodic table and make it work and that is the same with 'Ying Yang, ring a rang room, hey, bing a bang boom' Looks like it couldn't work in a month of Sundays then snags you on the first listen. There again, it's that very accessibility that keeps Cam fans loyal. No matter what the subject matter, no matter what the style, it is always an instant smile maker. As is blindingly obvious I am a long time fan and it shows but if Cam's Even Song is new to you, get catching up with this one then there's only another 265 tracks to go. 'Maybe it's hyperbole, simply an anomaly, - maybe it is' Cam warbles most effectively, ' Maybe it's psychology, or phenomenology, - maybe it is'. yeah and maybe it's bags of talent too.

High Grade rock pop. Highly Recommended.

Bright Midnight - White Shoes

Hear The Track Here

There have been many track-a-month merchants this year from Soundclick, and while that's not a bad thing - for them or for me - but it can lead to a little staleness in my response, moreso if I don't like the style in the first place. No such ignominy for Bright Midnight on that score because they explore the music of classic rock as easily as they do Manchester Miserablists (Ed: not a band btw). So while I can contain my enthusiasm for the vocal and views of the miserable style, the music behind it is often raw as a sandpapered face and it's that rawness that Bright Midnight have, I feel, been struggling for. Their vocals and lyrics need not worry overmuch because, after all, it's just a question of finding the right balance. I got all misty eyed then when I saw 'sometimes it just takes a while for everything to come together' in the comments for this song. Yay, finally now they can get the higher ratings they probably deserve??

Well, lessee...

Considering the band live some four thousand or so miles from Manchester (they are from Texas), Bright Midnight do an uncannily good impression of actually being a Manchester band, which I suppose is a good thing. Taking over a year to make, White Shoes is definitely one of the more complex tracks this band has ever sent my way and - in some ways - this is one of their better ones too. White Shoes is also maybe the most proto-punk of all their output and considering this is their sub-genre, it's about time they showed their punky credentials and White Shoes does that job admirably.

The thing that keeps me (and others) listening to this string of tracks is because, no matter how rough the sound may be, the underlying song and performance more than makes up for any sonic problems. Besides, one of the hallmarks of punk was its rough and ready approach and in the case of White Shoes really applies to the vocal which sound very live and immediate. What it lacked in musical sense, it made up with it by the sheer exuberance of what was being sung. On reflection this is certainly one of the best tracks I have heard from this band yet and - given their rate of output - we can only hope for more.

High Energy proto punk. Highly Recommended.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gangbangsters - Brainwashed

Hear The Track Here

Not sure quite why the hip hop tracks come onto my review list in pairs (this was next to Rustik), but I can't say I am averse to hearing these musicians back to back although I should probably stop referring to them as similar otherwise I'll no doubt get a visit. Gangbangsters have had a really good year with one extremely excellent track - Letzgetfuctup (July 2010) - being the main highlight, although I've reviewed a good number of his tracks and didn't find much fault in them either.

This is especially relevant if, like me, you are heartily sick of the soundalike clone circus that is the commercial hip hop scene. If that's the case then Soundclick's scene should definitely float your boats. Gangbangsters is one of many Soundclick musicians pushing the edges of the hip hop genre to it's limits, although stopping along the way to deliver some dynamite rock in the shape of the aforementioned Letzgetfuctup. That's the real difference here, I think Gangbangsters has thrown as many genres at me as they have tracks, if you get my drift and each of them worthy in their own right - as home produced as it can often seem.

Brainwashed doesn't suffer any obvious sound flaws and the music and rap definitely don't and I have looked. What I have found is, even when doing what I consider as stereotypical hip hop (certainly in the style anyway), Gangbangsters will make sure that the sounds used are right, adding to the mix rather than there as sound filler. The other thing you can always bank on is that it will have a very decent song attached to it, and Brainwashed is no exception. Knockout chorus, especially for hip hop. Be aware though that there are two versions of this on the page - this one and a screwed and chopped one, although listening to both is no hardship either.

Highly Recommended Hip Hop with an edge.

Rustik - Hoodie Back On

Hear The Track Here

Regular readers will already know that December is not a kind month to yours truly, and not merely because I'm a miserable old bastard that hates Christmas, although I freely admit that this does play a part. Nope, when December rolls round I get to do double duty (yippeee not) because while I am working my way through the months reviews, I am also working my way the years reviews in time for the 8th presentation of the Stevie's (Ed; Don't ffs ask...). So while I am in dual mode, one thing about this year is obvious year End Review material, that of the rise of Soundclick based hip hop musicians and rappers such as Gangbangsters, Twisted Angel and Rustik. I am not saying they are in any way similar to each other but to me that share an ethos that hip hop CAN be intelligent.

Yeah, there's a thing indeed.

Having said that, the first people to get into this track in my house were my 11 year old boys (I have twins) who absolutely loved this to bits from the first time I played it. Sooooo, not only am I now committed to getting them an Ipod Nano (X2 remember) but I have to make sure I put this on it too. Thanks Rustik, and a Merry Christmas to you too. I jest of course, not about the kiddie blackmail, that's real enough, but obviously Rustik plays no part in it. I think. The reason my boys like the track is obvious. It's as catchy as a virulent plague, and probably as effective on the rest of the 11 year old population as well so Rustik should be feeling pleased right about now.

Actually, he's had a great year. I've reviewed six of his tracks this year and he's bagged two Must Haves and nothing less than highly recommended on the others so it shows why I think this is going to be something to highlight this year. Hoodie Back On finds Rustik at his simplest, a commercial pop rap that shrieks radio play with every languid note and a chorus that it is impossible to ignore and impossible to stop singing once you've ignored it - as it were. I have a suspicion, however, that I am going to end up hating this track, and not because of anything Rustik is doing wrong, but because I am going to be hearing this a whole lot more than most tracks.

Extremely winning hip hop pop. Highly Recommended.

Rick Cantor Band - The Truth Is I'm Lying/Memphis

Hear The Track Here

Another double header but that's because I was expecting to be reviewing the EP but gremlins spoke louder. Damn those infernal gremlins! Anyway, I finally managed to grab these two (thanks Mike) and rushed them though over the last couple of days since I got them. See, not only am I way behind on the reviews, I'm even behind on the listening. Sheesh, this is organised?? Wait, don't answer that, it might be incriminating. I spent many years living and working in American and got to know the 'cover band' phenomenon very well. This is literally that, a band that makes a living playing other people's songs. Nothing wrong with that, especially if you want to be a musician that isn't starving in some garret somewhere.

As they do. Or is that artists?

The Rick Cantor Band do have their own material though, as these two tracks from their current Upstairs At Graceland EP show. RCB are a five piece band comprising Mike Bange, Rick Cantor, Travis Hudelson, Brett Levine and Jim Sampson, based in the NYC/New Jersey area (Ed: hey, what exit??), and have many years experience between them. It stands to reason then that I would be expecting a production and performance to match that experience and I wasn't disappointed. The Truth Is I'm Lying Again shows the bands roots lie back in the sounds of classic rock, although their list of musical influences give a big clue. Now you all know I am rock animal through and through, the classic kind especially, and here's a track that manages to both sound truly modern (think Coldplay) and yet classic at the same time. Neat trick.

Memphis turns up the rock screws somewhat but, to my ears anyway, doesn't have either the same sound or style as The Truth Is I'm Lying Again, although it absolutely can't be faulted musically, the vocals too deserve highlighting. Now maybe it's my ears, but there seems to be a slight deadening of the sound on this track that lifts completely during the acoustic middle section, but returns for the final rockout. I don't know though, maybe it's just a question of taste but I did try it on several different systems to see whether my ears were telling me porkies (Ed: pork pies=lies, Cockney rhyming slang)but it doesn't seem so. Maybe it's the sea of whiskey and beer the track floats on, and that's yet another aspect of being a cover band but it's best not to go there....

Recommended Classic Rock

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Timmy Sells His Soul - Those Adorable Keres

Hear The Track Here

You catch me in my Cranky Old Man(tm) Cosy Rocking Chair because I was just going over some of the many, many memories that a new Timmy Sells His Soul track often engenders - along with a rising panic and a tendency to hyper-ventilate. Way back in the mists of Soundclick time, the site was crammed to the rafters with lunatics. Not the 'Oh my God, look out for that axe!' variety of course, that would be silly. Nope musical lunatics, o most stunned of eyeballs. S'sright. Sonic hooligans such as drt, refrag and too many others too name were everywhere, but are now sadly absent. And then there was Dross. Dross lived in a world of their own, and if you went there your life was changed forever so the less said about that the better. And then Dross begat Timmy Sells His Soul.

Not really, but it scans better that way.

Timmy etc is the musical lovechild of one Daniel Euphrat (half of Dross I think) and, in many ways is just as strange a planet as Dross was. So mark my words, unless your Mom and Grannie think Pilesar is the musical dogs bollocks as well as a charming young man, best not to play any Timmy in their presence. You may not have been bounced on your head as a child but it's never to late to learn, know what I mean? All of which, as you suspected, is just me trying to avoid the act of describing what exactly Daniel (and Timmy) have set before us this time. In my review of Cop Cars Like Sharks (May 2010) I mentioned that this musician hadn't, until then, done 'pretty' much and the track contained some surprisingly pretty sections. I say this because, often in the past, this musicians tracks have come in handy as ear syringes. Noise is what the man usually does, and I mean that in the nicest way and my ears feel so much cleaner and softer afterwards too.

The really surprising thing is that I actually liked Those Adorable Whatsnames and even felt, suspiciously, that it could even be (gulp) recognisable as a.....s-o-n-g. Yes, my jaded friends, you may gape. OK, it isn't like a normal song. All la la, tra la fekkin la, that isn't what gives Timmy a tingly todger, but it's as close to reality as I have ever seen this musician come in many years of study. It's even charming in its own distorted, twisted and slightly seamy at the edges way. Billed as Alternative and believe me, it doesn't come much more alternative than this, Timmy Sells His Soul have a special place in my padded cell and have done for a long time because as mad as a box of frogs as he is, the music has weight and substance although it's best not to swallow it.

Surprisingly commercial Timbo? Highly Recommended oddity.

Ralph Atkinson - Winterkill

Hear The Track Here

Look at this now, I first met Canadian musician Ralph Atkinson when I reviewed Building A Time Machine (October 2009) and here it is a year and more later. Seems like so much longer. No, wait, that didn't sound right. The principle reason he has become so familiar in such a short time is because of the nine tracks and one collaboration he has thrown at me since then. To be able to do that and avoiding slashing blades you have to be either pretty damn good or insanely foolhardy. Having said that, I have to say that Ralph is a guitarist, songwriter and lyricist of some considerable style, hence the very high ratings I have consistently given him for these tracks. And loookkkeeeee here, this is the next one....

I'm just thankful he didn't give me the Christmas track.

Nonetheless as the man himself so decisively describes the track 'mid tempo rock...actually, it's kind of slow...slow to mid tempo rock, then!!!' so to put you right, it is slow and almost (gulp) a ballad. So what saves it from having it's no doubt scrawny throat slit? The blues, mang. The blues. Building A Time Machine was a blues track too, although it has to be said, this is a bit more watered down down that. Remember s-l-o-w. Looked at blankly on the page, the lyrics to Winterkill don't really do very much, but one of the highlights of this track are the vocals which Ralph brings to life most pleasantly. (Ed: uh oh, he said pleasant, everybody DUCK!!!)

You know, sitting here in the UK freezing my critical nuts off, you'd think a song about winter wouldn't go down too well, but - there is no denying it - Winterkill is very, very pretty and shows a vocal confidence that I hadn't noticed before. Either that or he's got a new piece of kit. It is that time of year, after all (hint hint). When all is said and done though what makes it happen is that the playing, performance and production are damn near perfect, highlighting just how good Ralph Atkinson can be. Need something to warm your critical nuts? Wrap them around this, you'll soon be sweatin.....(Ed: OK stop. Stop!)

Musical equivalent of mulled wine? Fill yer boots. MUST HAVE

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Continentals - In A Circle With Our Friends EP

Hear The Track Here

You may not think this if you are used to my griping and moaning about this and that over the years but I do actually consider myself a very fortunate human being indeed. I witnessed the birth of what we laughingly call the music business, I was involved with it close up and personal for more years than I care to mention (Ed: and we don't have enough time...) and I've listened to music and musicians in every state imaginable. Nothing, however, could have prepared me for this seemingly second career making music (again) but - maybe more importantly - listening the music from my peers from all over the world. I am constantly staggered (even given what I said above) at the sheer magnificence of this digital music age, the depth and breadth of truly awesome talent on display and - best of all - most of it is free, or almost so. Now, when you've spent your life at odds with what constitutes a 'record business' (ie different to a music business), this is extremely gratifying...

Hence the smug suit. Do you like it??

The reason I started like this is because The Continentals completely illustrate that point. When else, in all of history, could you reach out and touch the musician in the next city, let alone in another country the other side of the world? Be thankful chums, because - believe it or not - you are also living through a musical golden age. The Continentals, for example are ' a group of 7 indie-centered jazz musicians' mentioning Arcade Fire and others as a musical reference. I snagged a copy of their latest EP easy peasy lemon squeezy and I suggest you do the same, especially if you value things like polish, technical ability and a mix so clean you could serve dinner on it. Ready (track one) will show you immediately that the talent is there to back that claim. 'I've got everything ready' the lyric goes 'come and find me already' and you know what, I agree absolutely, positively 100%. So, where exactly then, is the aforementioned 'record' business? Actually whotf needs them anyway?

YOU, however, need to listen to Ready because it will introduce you to the reason you find me so cheerful (Ed: for a big, big change), the awesome talent I talked about earlier. Despite my often favourable reviewing style, it isn't that often that I get truly blown away, and when I do it's usually noteworthy (and I have a rep to uphold mang). If Ready did it for you (and it will) wait until you wrap your ears around When The Days Get Longer. With the kind of intro that promises so much, the song would have to be more than a bit special, and it is. There is an easy, spaced-out sound going on here that reminds me strongly of Pink Floyd in their quiet (ie drugged senseless) moments. Truly original though and bang up to date. Superlative work. As is Vitamins and Tried That Life which make up the rest of the In A Circle set, all of it beautifully recorded, brimming over with great sonic ideas and something different to gawp at almost every second. This EP (I guess) isn't so much a 'record' as an adventure; a brilliant, jaw-dropping, edge-of-the-seat wtf-is-going-to-happen-next ride that I loved on the first play let alone the 1,000th. Best thing I have heard this whole year and no mistake.

Indie? THIS is Indie with a capital MUST HAVE. 101 stars for ****'s sake!!

Twizzie - Animal

Hear The Track Here

The artist formerly known as Twisted Angel finally comes clean and admits that he's a bit of an animal, as if that would come as a surprise to those who know him through his music. Then the answer could only be 'well yeaaahhhh' or - even more succinct - 'duuuuhhh'. His music is raw, hard-edged, his lyrics have teeth and he most definitely is not afraid to stand his ground and roar defiance in your face. In other words, my kind of animal. Along with some other Soundclick rappers, Twizzie is slowly but surely putting the bones into his music that make it more immediate, accessible and - most of all - different. Yeah, yeah I see the Parental Advisory, but hey sometimes cursing makes another point...

**** knows what though....

Twizzie has always done it for me lyrically, and even his music choices interest me and not what you may normally would consider hip hop, especially the more commercial variety to which musicians like Twizzie are fast becoming the antidote. Casting my eye over past reviews I noticed this little gem in my review of Half Full (July 2010), 'This is a musician I have high hopes for this year' and Twizzie has more than fulfilled that promise although not to the point, it should be noted, where we are into Must Have territory. There isn't however much to worry about because with every release this rapper gets more and more confident in what he is doing. And, it has to be said, most people wouldn't notice anything amiss anyway.

Animal, like most of his tracks this year, is clever, fresh and rocking but still with an edge of roughness to the sound that shows where it's coming from, and that isn't a bad thing and only grumps and nitpickers like me would have the nerve to mention it. The fact is that Twizzie - despite the PA warning - is one of the brighter lights on the Soundclick hip hop scene and Animal only goes to show why. Musically diverse and lyrically precise, Animal is everything that I like in hip hop rolled up in one, but nowhere more so than on the intro where Twizzie lays out his 'this is what indie means' stall... Yay, go my man!!

Highly Recommended hip hop growler.

Weylin's Slayer Orchestra - The Woods Of Klorath

Hear The Track Here

I try real hard when doing these reviews to be as objective and (I hope) professional as possible, while being totally honest about my feelings concerning the music in question. If I don't like something I say it right out loud. And then there is music that - in all honesty - I have no real affinity with. Surprisingly enough, given my critical output, that's quite a long list and - unfortunately - Weylin's Slayer Orchestra seemed to have picked most of them to work in. Still the one thing to understand here is that it's just an opinion, a personal opinion, and can be taken with the requisite pinch of salt. Which I will supply, if need be.

Obviously then, Weylin and I have disagreed in the past, but no not in the fiery sense. Just a question of interpretation I guess. See what I require from music is that it touches me in some way and - as much as I find it enjoyable to listen to something I normally wouldn't - there is a point where it makes musical sense to me, or not. Certainly, Supernova (November 2010) or Flight Of Sideria (October 2010) have nothing to feel shame about and I hope I made that clear at the time. I fear that The Woods of Klorath are going to be the same response too, because it's even closer to a soundtrack (game/film) than either of the previous two tracks.

It's a nice piece of music, don't get me wrong. It's well mixed and produced, and it has great use of string and orchestral sounds - all of which ticks the correct boxes for me so where exactly could this be going wrong. As much as I like it as a piece of music (and believe it or not I do), it still isn't the sort of thing I would go searching for in a quiet moment (Ed: what's that?) and that is the unvarnished truth. On the other hand, I can see this in a game/video/film setting and seeing it work because (obviously) that is where it is aimed and not at someone like me. So, on that score, I'd say this was a winner.

Recommended atmospheric soundtrack.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Avalanche - The Golden Sun

Hear The Track Here

Talk about being single-minded, know what I've been doing while slogging through this months reviews? When I finally put down the review pen I have been frequently resting my ears by feasting my eyes on the final edit of the Avalanche video of The Road Less Travelled - which btw is absolutely glorious and really puts the power and emotion of the track across, and that's just the music. I know a fair bit about the band's activities this year and knew that something like this was in the offing but - to be honest - this has kinda taken my breath away. I know I am a confirmed Avalanche fan of long standing and therefore show enormous bias but hey, I've always been a shameless type. The video is just one part of what is on the way in the near future and I've been glued to the HD version played awfully loud. This also accounts for my slightly dazed expression but of course you can't see that.

Can you?

A long and involved story behind this track of which the upshot is, this is an original track from 1979 featuring Avalanche back then, with the notable exception of bass player Charles Calmese (of which more in a minute). Mike Foster held onto the two inch stereo master of a rough mix though all these years before laying it gently into the hands of David Pendragon to bring to some sort of life - and if anyone can, David can. Charles Calmese unfortunately died tragically in 1988 but not before notching up Platinum awards for his playing on Steve Miller's Fly Like An Eagle album, one of my all time favourites. This is, I think, the first time I have heard any of Charles's Avalanche work, although if it's not I'm certain Mike Foster will put me right in short order. It's what he does ;) So you with me so far???

Well maybe you won't be when I tell you that The Golden Sun is a whisker under fourteen minutes long. If that doesn't deter you, cast you eyes over what I've just said. This is a track set in the time-concrete of tape and obviously reeking of the era itself. Late 1970's, remember it? On this side of the Atlantic people were starting to spit at each other but on the American side it was still all big hair, big shows, big ideas and ******* massive egos. Putting myself back in time, I personally would have welcomed this into my home with an immense pleasure because it (just) predates the whole West Coast thing (think Eagles etc) and yet here are Avalanche doing it some time before it got massive and with considerable style. The real shame is that it has taken until now for it to finally be publically heard. So is it worth the fourteen minutes of your time? Well, that depends on your views on what constitutes classic rock, and whether the history of Avalanche interests you. Short of this, awesome to hear a young Mike, Mark and Barry in action.

A peice of history but still a rock MUST HAVE for all that.

333maxwell - Christmas

Hear The Track Here

Second on the Gilmore Christmas List of Shame is a real surprise, 2009's Artist of The Year 333maxwell because this is definitely one guy who knows that this time of year tests my tolerance somewhat. There again, Max is well versed in living dangerously because, ofttimes, he has been known to sound like another of my pet hates, Sir Paul MacCartney. However, to be fair, only in his most lachrymose (Ed: I dunno, look it up. What do you think Google is for?) moments. MacCartney that is, not Max. So, given these massive impediments to success Gilmore style, how did 333maxwell end up as my AOTY last year? Much, much more importantly for me, is he giving me this year in retaliation for last year? These awards are known to have some nasty side effects, or so I have heard...

Anyway, lets change the subject right quick.

Plain fact is, all joking aside now, that 333maxwell is just a consummate musician and one I can readily identify with EVEN when he has the temerity to not only use pixie dust in this production, but then has the brass neck to boast about it in public. I don't know. Some people have no shame. Usually those who get sucked into this whole Christmas thing, which reminds me... Funny thing is that making a truly memorable Christmas song is nigh on impossible, especially when everything stacks up against I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas by The Voice. Mind you, if any musician I know could carry it off successfully I would always place my bet on 333maxwell unerring (nay uncanny) skill at hitting the right sweet spot. Even though I may hate him unmercifully for subjecting me to it.

I do beg you to try and endure the extremely Christmassy beginning because the real meat and taters of this Christmas song is the blues, in all its glory. OK, jazzy shade of blues but still... Suffice to say, as almost any 333maxwell track, there isn't going to be much to piss and moan about with the production, performance and mix as we've discovered a million times already and are heartily sick of saying so. It only leaves people like me the tiniest little holes to pick at and, to be frank, that's not a whole lot of fun. Surprisingly enough, after all this blather and blarney, this track is a whole lot of fun. Which means that I wrote Max's name on the aforementioned List of Shame in invisible ink so he's safe for yet another year. .......just.

Highly Recommended Christmas Cheer with built-in warm glow.

Nuff X - Weirdo

Hear The Track Here

Nuff X and Weirdo, musician and song title have a certain symmetry for me. I mean this in the nicest possible way but there is no denying - musically at least - that Nuff X has turned to the Odd Side. He has always had a taste for the odd and bizarre and was one of my introductions to the whole glitch music thing, and believe me that is a trip worth taking so it's a given that Nuff will pretty much find favour with me. I first came across him in late 2005 (Ed: in April 2005, with Heaven. Get it right) and considering he is only in his early twenties now, he's still got lots of things left to do. But, in a slight return, let the man tell you himself...' I think I have brought the nuffcore back'

To those leading a sheltered life, Nuffcore is the man's own invention and is the form in which I started to really appreciate his work. He has, like any good musician, wandered hither and yon musically but to my mind never far from what he knows best - a style he developed. Nuffcore, then never went away for me, in fact if I remember rightly Tunnel Vision (October 2010) because of that very thing so fret not Nuff ol' chum. Worry more about my next statement. I never thought I would ever see any resemblance between Nuff X and Fear 2 Stop but they certainly share a sound together on this track.

Nobody in their right mind would think that a track with this title is going to be easy listening and so it proves. Definitely going to be into sliced beats, diced instruments and a nice meaty stew to really get into this. That, or an addiction to what Nuff X serves up as a main food group. I still suspect. however, that Nuff is between two points musically: where he has been and where he is going to. As such then, Weirdo is a lot of fun for people like me who actually do like the weirder noises, but probably not really for people who need some general sense of well being about their music...

Recommended slice 'em and dice 'em.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hhymn - These Hands

Hear The Track Here

No dear I haven't suddenly developed a stutter, it's the band's name and they are entitled to call themselves what they like. Now, where is that gag so that we can proceed without interruptions... Nottingham, a city in the middle of the UK is famous for being the county where Sherwood Forest (and of course Robin Hood) takes place, but it's always been a steady music town as well and - as if to prove my point - Hhymn and their attendant record label Denizen Recordings are natives of the town. From all that I can gather, the word is out on this four piece band who profess to play 'melodramatic popular songs', and judging by their web presence they seem to have all their musical and promotional ducks in a row, but does the music deliver that killing blow?

**** yeah.

Mind you, it's a bit of a softer killer blow than you may have been used to but no less lethal for all that. See the description given above really fits this band, and their blend of folk, English traditional music and a modern production approach, coupled with a knockout song. What more could you desire? Why are you looking at me like that? OK, OK, I'll 'fess up. I'm not exactly keen on a lot of modern bands, but I do recognise the good ones even if I don't actually like their material, and like many people get my dose of REAL music from the ultimate master of ceremonies Jools Holland and his Later TV show. I discovered the Doves on there and, as much as I wriggle and squirm at the style, cannot deny that they write great stuff. I mention them because there is definitely a hint of them in Hhymn's These Hands, but I can't remember the Doves being this good musically.

As a native Englander swinehund I have spent my whole life surrounded by a particular sound, emanating from anywhere north of Watford but particularly where there were coal towns. These towns and industries gave birth to a musical form I personally love to death: brass bands. Not the gung-ho Army whatever versions but music that had so much heart and soul it made grown men weep to hear it. It first I was so swept up by Hhymn's splendid use of this element, it took a while for the track to fully work its way into my pleasure centres. Maybe, as I say, it was because it is indeed almost a ballad, certainly slow in pace but the emotion and beauty oozing out of it is a wonder to behold. My blog has been a great source of new music for me, with the odd surprise but none as awesomely pretty as this one.

MUST HAVE and a wonderful blend of styles.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Moral Factor - Apagando la tele

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'It's in Spanish' German Gabriel Gorchs (aka Moral Factor) explains helpfully, little suspecting the problems I have with my own language let alone someone else's gobbledegook. Mind you, people have been known to think that I write with an accent (from Pluto, Nepture or a planet far, far away according to which email you are reading). For me, however, the language isn't really the issue here because the one thing that truly unites all of us is the language of music itself. I am actually very partial to Spanish music (stress on the Spanish ie not Latin) and I have even ventured into the field myself once or twice, usually from an acoustic world music angle. Surprisingly enough, Apagando la tele is an acoustic track so....

Yahay!! Quids in already. (Ed: see? Pluto. Now what does that mean?)

This is Moral Factor's third turn up to bat, and the previous couple of tracks - Travelling Guns (November 2010) and Breaking Point (October 2010) - didn't fare too badly with Breaking Point coming out slightly ahead of the other. How does that translate when you are yowling in a foreign tongue though, I wonder? OK, well, the very first image I had was Antonio Banderas in Desperado (the El Mariachi English version) which just goes to show where my head is at. What the music shows, more than anything else, is that Moral Factor sounds even better in his own language and style than he does when he steps out into the world. Mind you, that's my world bias speaking so probably best to ignore it.

The translation of the title is (AFAIK) literally 'TV off' which is not a bad idea, except that then everyone would see what's really going on and we'd have much more rioting in the streets. Me, I'm all for a quiet life, so let them have TV (and cake too if they want it). All a matter of choices innit? See, if I had my druthers, I much prefer the raw, almost live feel of this track simply because he really shows that underneath the production polish (kinda/sorta), beats the hands and brain of a seasoned guitarist. Now whether it's because he is singing in his own language and is therefore more comfortable, or whether it's the song itself but I like this - as basic as it is. So, new years resolution: TV off, brain in gear. Muy recomendable. (Ed: see that? I did that! Habla Espanol andalay!!).

Highly Recommended World music.

Densyl - Christmas is All About/I'm Gonna Get You

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I'll give you one guess as to who broke the universal taboo this year and foisted a (shudder) Christmas song onto my review list? As you know, I'm very much a bah humbug kinda guy. Don't get me wrong, I have children, I am duty bound to enjoy Christmas on their behalf. I don't know about you guys but the whole commercial lets-all-be-jolly routine just leaves me cold. I thank all the lucky talismans I own (Ed: many thousands, he's a complete nutter) however, that I am not a) American or b) Canadian because by God if you think Christmas is a bit much in the UK. So much sugar and sweetness and light which, to be honest, I find very hypocritical. Still each to their own, I let them get on with it while I sit around sucking on my humbug. There again, Densyl is used to my diatribes about this that and the other, I've subjected him to enough.
Sorry serious apology time.

Densyl's work is not to my taste (usually) but that doesn't stop me noting that he is good at what he does, but when he works with other people the effect can be something else, as his collaborative effort with Matt Tyson with Hope Is All About (March 2010) so aptly shows. The only reason I am still within a thousand miles of a C word song is because Christmas is All About also features Matt. Despite the title resemblance these are different tracks, where Hope is All About is highly reminiscent of Beach Boys circa 1968 whereas Christmas etc is much more the Beach Boys goes really mainstream but again shows that Matt is a highly versatile vocalist. I'm sure there will be a huge audience for this, despite all my crabby carping, because it is beautifully done.

To leaven my obvious pain, Densyl supplied an antidote, in the shape of I'm Gonna Get You. Scene: outside, car chase. Densyl explains 'it's a story about police chasing the bad guys', so I just hope you are not as old as me because the very first cudgel I am going to be looking at is 1960's cop shows. Densyl must have subliminally known that because instead he focused on another 1960's sound and one I have much more time for. I'm Gonna Get You comes across as a really easy listen, a classic rock song (think the Doors in their pop prime). I am a sucker for this kind of material, I have to say, but I am also usually more critical because of that but all I got from this track was a warm glow to go along with the heartburn the C word song gave me.

Highly Recommended (sticks fist in mouth) C********* song.

Highly Recommended B movie too ;)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Andrey Mishchenko - I'll be there for you (Run for the Sun)

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Like all writers, I take a certain small pride in my ability with words. After all, it's what I do. Like most older people I get vexed at sloppy spelling and punctuation that is so evident in the modern world. I have always been a spelling buff, learning words and then being able to use (and spell them) correctly is second nature to me. So it's a given that I am bound to practice hard spellings and - surprisingly enough - I still struggle with Andrey Mishchenko's surname but I will get it one day. Oh yes I will. Mind you, I think he's going to help me in this endeavour by coming up with tracks for me month after month. Oh happy day.

Over the past couple of tracks we have discovered that this Russian musician, while being good at said music, isn't a natural born singer. Moreover, being Russian he has a bit of an accent and that doesn't help much either. So, having said that, let's continue. ' This is the most complex song I ever wrote & performed' Andrey informs me and goes on to add that he is joined in the vocal department by his eight year old daughter. As a father myself, I can testify by the delight and/or horror in trying to work with young children and music and what often sounds good to us parents, doesn't sound so much when you are (just) a listener. Andrey impressed me first and foremost with his grasp of what makes classical music work so well, and he has gone on to apply that with rock - not necessarily with the best results.

Classic rock is what he does, and if you like a hefty wodge of prog-rock into the bargain, certainly musically Andrey has much to offer. As always, it comes down to a question of personal taste so while I could quite happily rip whole chunks out of this for one thing or another, it would only because - to be honest - it isn't to my taste. Other than the vocal, I can't point at anything that makes me say this is not right. Moreover, if you like multi-faceted, dense music (in a prog rock way) then you would find much to enjoy (at least musically) on this strange little track.

Got to agree with him about it being his most complex piece yet.

Ian Dadon - City Of Lights2

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All of which left me wondering, what happened to number one? That's City Of Lights2 right? Did number one not come up to scratch? More to the point, will I spend all this month obsessing about it? I do so hate a mystery. Ian Dadon is not a mystery though, I've reviewed a good few of this Israeli musician/songwriter/producer/coffee maker and sweeper-up's tracks and the one thing that is obvious is that he likes a good song. Which is all to the good because I know a lot of people who value the same thing and I certainly do. Mind you, there have been - of late - some hints of prog-rock in his work but I've been applying the salve regularly so maybe I won't go postal over that quite yet. Hey, who knows, maybe I'm showing some Christmas spirit for once...............naaaaahhh.

So Ian Dadon's second city? Worth a visit??

It will be instantly recognisable to those who know acoustic rock because you will have heard it's like before, although it definitely has Ian's stamp all over it. As I have mentioned before vocally Ian reminds me somewhat of JPC (NZ) who, while not being a classically great singer, can certainly muster up enough chops to put the tune across and - as with JPC - you get to develop the taste. For me, Ian's main strength is in his songwriting, although the sound quality does improve slightly from track to track, certainly he still sounds quite home produced. That shouldn't be a bar to enjoyment, of course, but I find it often is. People do tend to make snap judgements about music and musicians and that system definitely doesn't favour an artist as deep and emotive as Ian Dadon has proved to be.

His music - even this track - isn't something you are going to pick up from one play, or even from several. This takes a long time to really register and part of the responsibility for that is the slurring of the vocals - very difficult to make out the lyrics. When you are reading the lyrics, it all makes much more sense, and it's a bit of a shame that the words could not be clearer. Still gripes and small change compared to the musical feast that awaits you if you happen to like thinking man's acoustic rock because Ian Dadon is definitely one stretching that particular envelope.

Highly Recommended Acoustic shoegaze...

Fear 2 Stop - The Unforgettable Fish

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As I crawl fitfully, like a thirsty man in a never ending desert, into my eighth year of reviewing out of Soundclick I have learned how to - how do I put this tactfully? - roll with the punches. No one has supplied more of these (well maybe Patrick Lew is fast catching up) than Houston's finest exhibitors of electronica experimental music - we can call it wtf music, of course - Fear 2 Stop. As regular readers are aware, Fear 2 Stop passed that bruising milestone some years ago, although you will still need a certain amount of musical fortitude to really get into the enigma that is Fear 2 Stop. Believe me, there isn't anyone who sounds like Fear 2 Stop - on this planet or any other.

Now I don't know whether it's their constant pounding on my review door (they are prodigious producers) or whether they (or I) have mellowed with time but I've found I appreciate their work a lot more now than I used to. They still, to my mind, have to live up to the promise they have shown on certain tracks but hey, they at least do it their way. One thing to watch though, I spent the first plays of this looking for the fly but ultimately decided that I must be hearing things. I mean, sensible people wouldn't want to record the flight of a fly, would they? OK, so maybe it's not really a fly but it sure sounds like one.

Some things can always be relied upon in Fear 2 Stop tracks, a sub-bass and/or sequence that is relentless (although not always because jerky and uncontrolled need to be mentioned here too), cheesy drums and a combination of the wildest sounds they can dredge up, usually right up at the higher end of the electronica spectrum vis a vis the fly. It's almost one of those sounds only dogs can hear, if you know what I mean? Nonetheless, if you are a fan of the band, and surprisingly many are, then The Unforgettable Fish is going to be your next port of call (Ed: if you add a 'me hearties' I WILL kill you!). Look at it from my perspective, at least they didn't make me listen to a Christmas track.

Highly Recommended Experimental electronica or Indietronic to be real precise.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Satellite 3 - Ghost

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There are three tracks on Satellite 3's Soundclick page, and this is the third one I have reviewed, so how about that for a batting average? Aaaah, but did I like them all? Always the most important question and the answer - in this case - was a tentative yes with a kinda/sorta addendum. Over the time period between reviewing Apathy (June 2010) and Playing With Fire (November 2010), the band have been working on completing this track so now they'd better get a move on because now I've caught up and - much more important - there is an album somewhere that I definitely am going to want to hear.

Apathy (the track not the woe is me) was, with hindsight, not exactly the track to give you a good picture of what Satellite 3 is about. Certainly Playing With Fire kicked some serious rock butt, as was as tight as a ducks ass musically and I really can't think of any more images that have butts in them. Damn, that's sad. Satellite 3 are a trio, in case you hadn't guessed, consisting of Justin Storie, Joey Saha and Aaron Cook who sounded much more band-like with their second track and the same can be said of Ghost.

About the only real complaint I have about the track is that the vocals are consistently a little low in the mix and considering this is a major part of the track's charm this could be a problem. Regular readers will flush heartily when I mention songwriters and musicians such as the wonderful Azoora and the now sadly defunct Can't Stop The Daggers but what have I found? Satellite 3, with their splendid musical taste and superb songwriting instincts could definitely fill that gap, at least for this reviewer. Ghost is a great song and I do suggest you read the lyrics while listening because it will help to get the song across. A strange breed musically for sure, but the sheer amount of ideas and the professional sound and performance bring this home with considerable style.

Highly Recommended alternative.

Intake - Moments + Definition LP

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Out of the steaming morass that laughingly calls itself my blog comes a review request from Intake, a Dallas based Alternative Rock band. Seems like I have reviewed countless bands from Texas in general and Dallas in particular so God knows what they put in the water over there but no doubt I want some of it. Now, where we waz...(Ed: good grief) Ah yes, Texan musicians. Dallas, all joking aside, has a long and illustrious rock music history and - having been there once or twice - I know it is a tough gig. Gotta have your stuff together. Besides that, anyone who can name themselves after their appetites (or intake) can't be all that bad, can it?

As a child, I had the great good fortune to grow up beside the sea in a small town in England called Teignmouth. It's never been famous for anything really and, truth to tell, it was always a bit seedy. Not true any more though because one of Intake's prime influences, it would seem, is Muse, who are Teignmouth's most famous sons and a damn fine rock band into the bargain. Having said that, I can't say that I actually like them, but I am not the one the music is aimed at. Funnily enough, here is yet another American band with a definite English sound and style but I think that's probably a by-product. Given that Jonathan Camacho (lead vocals, guitar, piano), Johan Camacho (drums), Jonny Martin (Bass) and Daniel Colina (piano, vocals, trumpet, percussion) put down and produced everything you hear, they all deserve a nice rest. Production, arrangement and performance were all really well done, and it isn't often I get to write that - especially about Alternative rock.

Aaahh, but this has a brain...

That'll be the missing ingredient, but the vital one with Intake I suspect. Moments + Definition is an eleven track LP, with each one showing a different facet of the band - which is undoubtedly the whole point of the exercise. Of course it means that it requires some time from the listener so although you might get snagged by a drive by listen, it would definitely work if you gave the music a bit of time to work on you. There are a lot of clever ideas, smart thinking about how to present them and so many good things in each track that trying to nail it all down is like trying to pick up quicksilver with a spoon. Definitely have a listen to Chasing Love (featuring Josephine Grace) because that was the one that most appealed to me the most overall. Guaranteed you are not going to hear trumpet in many tracks these days (outside of the Latin genre that is) but Daniel Colina turns in some fine additions to the proceedings. All told, a very worthwhile listen, especially if you like intelligent, well thought out music.

Highly Recommended Alternative