Archive for August, 2006

EP – The Blood In My Body – J.F. Robitaille

Posted by admin on 27th August 2006

Let me just first say, anyone that features a song by Leonard Cohen on their CD, is always welcome to submit something to Indie Launchpad. That however is not why I’m reviewing this EP, as the Leonard Cohen track came as a surprise, after I received the CD.

J.F. Robitaille first came to my attention via the CBC Radio 3 podcast, which if you haven’t listened to it before, is an excellent resource to find new and established Canadian artists. I can’t remember specifically what track I heard, but there was something about J.F.’s voice that interested me. After receiving and listening to the EP, there’s a great sound that runs throughout the EP.

As with many albums, there’s sometimes a song that stands out for all the wrong reasons. For me this track is “New York”, which seems to break the flow of the EP. It’s not it’s a particularly bad track, it’s just doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the EP, with it’s more upbeat tempo. The rest of the tracks have a more downbeat, melancholic feel to them. The opening title track “The Blood in my Body” pretty much defines the J.F.’s sound, which is a very laidback and acoustic, with a hint of melancholia and even maybe a tinge of sadness. This EP is something that I would love to see expanded into a full album release. It is however harking back to the 60’s with a track length of only 1 minute 48 seconds. In fact most of the songs seem to go for that perfect two minute pop song length, which was a huge part of the 60’s, but today leaves you hungry for more. Mmm, now maybe that’s a marketing ploy to build interest in the full length album when it finally arrives.

“Morning after Morning” is a great example of great song writing. The lyrics set the scene wonderfully and the song unfolds, to a very basic accompaniment of drums and acoustic guitar, with just a hint of backing vocals, which compliment, as oppose to compete. “Love the Lie” starts off in a similar vein to the previous track, but opens up to something more upbeat and contemporary, without breaking the feel of the EP. “Never Forget (Demo)” is one of those tracks, that if it truly is a demo, should be left untouched and treated as a completed song, as it works just as it is. Just vocals and a guitar, resulting in beautiful song.

As I mentioned earlier, the EP rounds things with a song originally by Leonard Cohen. Not just any song, but probably one of Cohen’s most famous compositions “Famous Blue Raincoat” and J.F. does this song no disservice whatsoever. In fact this song could have almost been written for J.F. as it sits with him very well.

Conclusion : A great first EP from what is sure to become a rising star. Yes the tracks are a little on the short side, but they still go to make a wonderfully full featured EP.

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Album – Pond Life Fiasco – Heifervescent

Posted by admin on 27th August 2006

An interestingly named album from an even more interestingly named band. Also the only band I’ve come across so far via Indie Launchpad from Wales. Underneath the strange name (and I suppose they could have been much stranger coming from Wales) lies a very tight album, from a band who have obviously been together a while. It’s hard to pin a sound or genre to Heifervescent, but it’s a sort of combination of ambient rock and acoustic pop.

The album opens with “Victim of Crime” which has a very atmospheric, flute sound throughout and a some great sweeping strings underneath. “Deep Sea Diver”, the track that follows, has that great driving beat that you can’t help but tap your feet or nod your head, or just move something to keep in time with the beat. Throughout the album you really begin to appreciate the production when listening to the album through headphones. I listen to the majority of albums through headphones as I like to really hear as much as possible. Every now and again, you get an album that really stimulates those ear buds and this is one of those albums.

One of the tracks that really stands out to me is “Counting Without Numbers”. With a great beat and those sweeping strings again, it just has such a wonderful sound. It also has some interesting lyrics, like the opening, “You can count me in. You said it right in front of your jealous Siamese twin, who’s gonna take it on the chin.”, it sounds a lot better than it probably reads. It is certainly a track the prompts me to keep hitting the repeat button. There’s a wonderful array of sounds on this album, including the bell intro to “It’s Coming Together”. The final track “And The Pond Life Flourished” is a great track, but not really what I would have used to close the album, but then again I prefer the more sedate of songs to close this kind of album, but that’s just my personal preference.

If I’m going to nit pick and single out a weak track, it would have to be “We’ve got to plug you in”, which for me spoils the flow of the album. Maybe like the last track it would have been better placed on the album.

Conclusion : A very refreshing album, that combines a great mix of rock and pop. I have to admit with this album, I was a bit skeptical, even though I’d heard a track from it via another podcast. This skepticism was purely based on the album name. Needless to say my skepticism was misplaced. A great album from a very interesting and inventive band.

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Podcast : Indie Launchpad #33

Posted by admin on 27th August 2006

Just a quick note to say the Indie Launchpad Podcast #33 was just released. Direct Link here.

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Album – (N/A) – The Legendary Hearts

Posted by admin on 23rd August 2006

A slight departure from my normal reviews, as this is a band that has no EP, no album, and no recording contract. I’ve had them on my radar for a while and I was just looking at the stack of CDs still awaiting review, but something was calling me to finally do something with The Legendary Hearts and so here it is. They don’t have a work for me to release, but have 10 songs on their website, that I will review as if they are an album. I’ve called it quite aptly “N/A”.

For an unsigned band, they have an absolutely brilliant and very highly polished sound. It’s very distinctive and actually reminds me of another band reviewed recently, The Public Symphony, also hailing from London, UK. They have a very interesting combination of influences from the late Beatles, highly produced stuff, to the ambient, spaced out feel of Pink Floyd. There’s also a hint of the jangly guitar Byrds sound, making that a mix of 3 genres so far and it doesn’t stop there.

There are 10 tracks as I mentioned earlier available on their website and I recommend you go there A.S.A.P. to download them, as I’m sure once they’re signed, these will magically disappear. To actually download them all is a bit of a pain, so I’d love to see the band make them into a pseudo album that you can download as a whole, as they gel very effectively as a collective work.

“Love Don’t Get Me” has to be my favorite track on the “album”. It has all the markings of that super group ballad, that’s usually played towards the end of a concert, with people getting out their lighters to sway back and forth. Maybe that’s not an image the band wants to promote, but it’s an image that keeps surfacing to the top of my mind when I hear the song. “The Corporation” is also an interesting track with a great beat to it and an interesting use of what sounds like a BBC sound effects album, with some guy counting in that perfectly annunciating way that is synonymous with the BBC, quite appropriate considering the song title. I could also swear I hear a sound bite of Paul McCartney towards the end.

As I said before this band has been on my radar since February of this year. In that time they have revamped their website, which I hope is a sign of things to come. A talent this great deserves some recognition and with over 15,000 friends on their mySpace page, they at least have a strong public following, which I have no doubt would equate to some good record sales, once the band have something released.

Conclusion : I know I rant a lot about how many great bands there are out there, fighting to be heard, but this is defiantly a band worth investing some time into. I would love to hear them live and would especially like to see a few live downloads.

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Podcast : Indie Launchpad #32

Posted by admin on 18th August 2006

Just a quick note to say the Indie Launchpad Podcast #32 was just released. Direct Link here.

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Album – Thumbelina’s One Night Stand – Melissa McClelland

Posted by admin on 18th August 2006

Very special; sultry; fresh; beautiful; Melissa McClelland. From the get go with “Passenger 24”, you get a real sense of someone comfortable with what they’re doing. Laidback with a real jazz and in places country flavor, this is certainly an album that stands out from the crowd. Jazz and indeed country are genres that can be extremely difficult to captivate. There have been a few artists reviewed in Indie Launchpad that have done it in the past and the secret is not to blend in to the background and have that certain something. Melissa manages that with a very distinctive voice and a wonderful supporting cast of musicians.

I have to admit, I played this album once before, a few weeks ago, but just couldn’t get into it. That was mainly me not being receptive. Albums as good as this deserve to be listened to and not used as a background to everyday life. I’ve listened to this album again on numerous occasions, when I’ve actually wanted to listen and listen well. Needless to say my socks were well and truly blown off.

Melissa has a wonderfully expressive and comforting voice. On a few of the tracks I kept thinking of Sheryl Crow, but without the raw edge that has become Sheryl’s trademark. Here there’s a smoldering undertone, that also manages to stay pure and almost angelic, yes that’s quite a combination to pull off.

With 16 tracks on the album this is certainly a full featured release. The only track I felt uncomfortable with was “Go Down Matthew” with it’s New Orleans feel, which was a bit too slow and awkward for my taste and certainly stands apart from the rest of the tracks. My favorite tracks would have to be the previously mentioned “Passenger 24” and “Come Home Suzie” with it’s wonderful lo-fi sound, especially the guitars that start the track. In fact the whole album sounds almost live in it’s production and benefits greatly from it. “Oh Love” is also a particular favorite, which also introduces another new sound and gives this album such a great texture. But without doubt the track that gives me that one more play affliction would have to be “Whisper” which is one of two tracks mixed by Jeff Trott.

Conclusion : An album that deserves to be huge. Melissa’s is not a name I’ve come across before, but I’ve no doubt I’ll be hearing a lot in the future. Absolutely terrific stuff.

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Album – Commit This to Memory – Motion City Soundtrack

Posted by admin on 17th August 2006

I was once told I have Van Gogh’s ear for music, I just like to think my taste is eclectic and unpredictable. I can quite easily bounce between Sanskrit chants and reggae. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, it’s all about the music. I don’t care what the music is, as long as it can hold my attention and captivate. This is exactly what this album from Motion City Soundtrack has done for me. I actually have my oldest daughter to thank for letting me know about this one, she’s a big fan, as was I, even though I didn’t know who they were at the time, when I kept hearing her play their music.

Opening with “Attractive Today”, it’s highly suggestive of the kind of music to come, but the album really comes alive with the following track “Everything is Alright”. “Resolution” has a real retro feel about it, reminding me greatly of bands such as Pilot in the late 70’s, with that great melodic, laid back pop. With 13 tracks on the album, this is a real interesting mix of sounds and influences and highly enjoyable it is.

The actual version of the album I received was the deluxe edition, which includes a bonus DVD with live concert, documentary, and behind the scenes footage, an exclusive video for “L.G. Fuad”, and much more. I’ve no doubt if you are a Motion City Soundtrack fan, you are going to absolutely love the this additional DVD.

There’s much to dislike about the current day music scene. There’s also a lot to really love. Motion City Soundtrack are a good example of the latter. It’s nice to see an indie band getting huge recognition, especially across many different age ranges. With that recognition however comes great responsibility. I’ve mentioned a few times about the use of colorful language in music. Sometimes it’s something that sets the scene or reinforces the lyrics in a song. Many times however it seems to be thrown in for cheap effect. I’m not a prude or ultra conservative, I just think that some bands should rethink some of the language they are dropping into their songs and really decide whether it enhances the song, or is just there for kicks.

Conclusion : Amazing, infectious and finely crafted pop/rock. Comes through the toe tap test with flying colors and then some. A wonderful benchmark for 2006.

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Podcast : Indie Launchpad #31

Posted by admin on 11th August 2006

Just a quick note to say the Indie Launchpad Podcast #31 was just released. Direct Link here.

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Album – Psycho Surfin’ – The Morrisons

Posted by admin on 10th August 2006

Although initially misleading with both the title and the title track intro, this isn’t an album that harkens back to the days of Jan and Dean or the Beach Boys. It does however owe more than a passing debt of gratitude to the Byrds. You remember them, they were the dudes that sang arguably one of the best Bob Dylan covers ever, “Mr Tambourine Man”, which was also covered by William Shatner, yes that Star Trek guy, but we don’t like to talk about that. Yes the jangly guitars are there, but the vocal styles is quite different, reminding me more the 80s indie scene. So yes quite an interesting mash up, but it works particularly well.

There’s 14 tracks on the album, but 2 of those comprise of the Pyscho Surfin; into and outros, which weigh in at nearly a minute each and actually seem a bit misplaced compared to the rest of the album, but still pleasant in themselves. There’s a couple of songs that made for interesting listening, but the album as a whole was thoroughly entertaining. “Southbound Train” has all the familiar Byrds hallmarks. “Grab the Key” and “The Whistle Blowers Daughter” were probably my favorite tracks on the album. There is one track, “Arrow in Your Heart”, that for some reason rubbed me up the wrong way. The music itself is fine, but there’s something odd about the vocals, which I can’t quite put my finger on.

I mentioned earlier the mashup of styles, but I think it’s the production that I found most endearing. It’s obvious that this is not a big budget album. The production has a very live, rustic feel to it, as do the vocals, but it’s got that something that had me smiling, and smiling even more once I realised I was. It’s very obvious that these guys are having fun and it radiates from the album.

Conclusion : Certainly something quite different and actually quite refreshing. Lo-fi, but hi-fun.

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Album – Stories for Copper – Dave Stephens

Posted by admin on 10th August 2006

I love the pure form of pop, with a catchy melody and infectious vocals. Mix with that a wonderfully relaxed and mellow side and you have all the ingredients of Stories for Copper. Dave Stephens opens with a belter in “I’ve Woken Up”, framing the album nicely, but then takes a more mellow turn into “The Man That I Once Knew”. After listening to this album a couple of times, the name Harry Nilsson kept popping into my head and indeed for the next 3 songs there is a definite Nilsson influence.

Track 6, “Memories for Me” takes an apparent 180 degree turn with an almost rockabilly fueled back drop, but it’s not as radical as it sounds, when the song gets up to full steam. I do however like something that surprises and keeps you on your toes and this album is definitely that.

My favorite song has to be “Full Circle”. A beautifully simple melody, with complimenting accompaniment and a great vocal quality. It’s just goes to show, that sometimes the simplest of songs are the best. This is a stunning track that has me pushing the back button again and again on my CD player.

This is the second album from Canadian Dave Stephens, the first being “Here We Go”. I first found Dave via a song from the first album, featured on the Not Lame podcast and from my limited listening of that album, it’s also something worth checking out if you enjoy this one.

Conclusion : A wonderful find, from a wonderful talent. Definitely an album with that lasting appeal.

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