Archive for December, 2006

Album – Years – Ellen Cherry

Posted by admin on 23rd December 2006

It’s EP’s like this one from Ellen Cherry (pseudonym and musical brainchild of Baltimore based singer/songwriter/musician/recording engineer/producer/designer Kristin Putchinski), that make writing reviews a sheer pleasure. I received this EP from one of the many great PR companies I deal with and I knew within seconds of hearing the first track, that it was going to be reviewed. This is taken directly from the official website, “Ellen Cherry participated in a month-long songwriting challenge known as February Album Writing Month and wrote 5 new songs that she released on this EP, all centered around women in history during various years. A bonus track of ‘Buffalo Gals Don’t Worry About Fashion’ from the never released 1999 Ellen Cherry recording ‘Lips and bones and knees and elbows’ is included.” So that pretty much explains how this EP came to be.

The 6 tracks on the EP, are loosely connected in that they depict women at a particular time in history, from 1864 through to 1976. This actually sounds more grandiose than it actually is, but makes for a nice theme. The opening track is “1864: A Civil War Bride”, a mellow whimsy of a track, which reminds me a lot of Suzanne Vega, but a tad lighter. It’s very acoustic as is the whole EP and makes for great listening. “1893: A Girl at the World’s Fair”, reminds me a lot of a previously Indie Launchpad reviewed artist, Josh Woodward, who like Ellen has a real talent in being able to tell a story in music. “1912: Violet Swims, But the Ship Sinks” is a song which seemingly details the last moments of the Titanic. It’s a very tragic song, but it doesn’t wallow in sadness. The vocals on the chorus are particularly striking. “1933: To California” is probably my least favorite, but it is in such amazing company and is still a good song in it’s own right. I absolutely love “1950: Inside The Music Box”, a really bright, breezy and incredibly short track, at just under two minutes. The final track is “1976: Buffalo Gals Don’t Worry About Fashion”, with it’s slightly country twang, rounds the EP off very nicely.

This is a great EP, which is musically very simple, but all the better for it. It’s got shades of folk, country and pop, but manages to hold it all together effortlessly. I love music that goes for that recorded live approach, leaving the music to speak for itself.

Conclusion : This is an artists I am particularly excited about and am looking forward to reviewing more material in the near future.

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Album – The Happiest Days of My Life – John Biz

Posted by admin on 23rd December 2006

Punk has had a pretty tough rap for the last 30 or so years. Johnny Rotten, was, well rotten, but no matter your views on the actual music, you couldn’t help but pick up on their energy and sheer enthusiasm. Maybe the Sex Pistols isn’t the best of punk examples, but they are at least a band that everyone looks to as the pinnacle of punk, or should that be punk as it once was. As the years passed, a more melodic form of punk emerged, the Ramones probably being one of the best examples. Whilst John Biz is not a typical example of punk, you can’t but help hear those harder edged influences in his music.

There’s eleven tracks on this album and they all have that raw energy, that’s channeled very effectively into some great songs. Opening with “Drugs Tonight”, this has all the earmarks of a good boozeup song. I can just imagine a crowd at a gig, or in a pub or bar, singing along to this one. Oasis are another band who’s songs seem to be taken up as beer anthems. Ah, I’ve sung Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back in Anger, along with a pub full of drunks on many occasions. “Unconditional” continues with that great sound and is among my favorites on the album. “Maybe There’s Away” reminds me a bit of Weezer, who were a great band of the 90’s, who’ve just started to become popular again. “Broken Glass” continues that thumping driving beat formula to good effect. It’s the middle of the album, that seems to fade or change direction. “Engine” has a very electric jazz feel to it, especially the opening drums. “Like an Ashtray of Empty Promises” is an instrumental track, that just doesn’t seem to go anywhere. It almost feels like it was thrown on the album as an afterthought. “Low Tide” and “Big Car” feel very awkward on the album, compared with the rest of the energetic, electric tracks. From “Heavybag” to the end of the album, things pick up again and these are much more in keeping with the beginning of the album.

If I were to pick out my favorite tracks on the album, they would have to be “Drugs Tonight”, which is just a stellar track, “Unconditional” and the track the finishes off the album “We Saved Each Others Lives”, which reminds me a lot of the Smiths, always a good thing.

Conclusion : A great rock album, which has those punk over tones, with a little bit of Nirvana thrown in for good measure. A great album to test out that new stereo or MP3 player that you get for Christmas.

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EP – The Fire Apes – The Fire Apes

Posted by admin on 23rd December 2006

Many releases have one or two stand out tracks. With the Fire Apes latest EP release, I’d say out of 5 tracks, 4 of them are pure perfection. The only reason I don’t say all 5, is that the odd one out is a slower track, but it’s still a great track, it just doesn’t seem to fit with the rest as tightly.

This is the Fire Apes third release, but is my introduction to the band, after hearing them on various podcasts. Can you hear me all you musicians out there, podcasts=huge exposure, at little or more usually no cost. The Podsafe Music Network is a good first stop, to get your music out there to podcasters, but the best way is to investigate some of the best music podcasts and email them, suggesting your music. Building a good relationship with a few key podcasts can work wonders for your exposure. Anyway, enough of my rant.

The EP opens with “Hey Kate”, just a quintessential example of the perfect power pop song. At just under 3 minutes, it harkens back to the 60’s when the catchiest and most popular songs only ever ran from 2 minutes 30 seconds, to 3 minutes. Yes there were exceptions to the rule, but just look at the huge output of some of the most prolific and creative geniuses like the Beatles, Small Faces, Kinks and the Who. The second track “If Things Don’t Look So Good Today”, whilst being slightly more mellow, has you hooked within seconds. “Only You Could Make Me Happy” returns to the more frenetic pace and just exudes great songmanship and sheer energy. The penultimate track “Killing Me From Inside”, opens like a homage to the Beatles, Strawberry Fields and is an amazing track, but it just doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the EP. Actually I don’t think it doesn’t belong, I think maybe it would have been better as the final track. “It’s Over” is the track that finishes off the EP and again the song writing just shines.

If I were to have any kind of criticism, it’s that the music is so difficult to buy. It’s only available via one website and not available in any way as a digital download, which is a huge missed opportunity. Previous releases are available, so I’m hoping that this EP is just stuck in the works, waiting to be approved.

Conclusion : This is a band with a huge future. Power pop at it’s finest and well worth picking up in what ever form you can find it.

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Album – Hello Love – The Be Good Tanyas

Posted by admin on 16th December 2006

Laid back, mellow and as distinctive as hell. With a hint of country and folk, this could have been a really run of the mill album. However this is an album that sounds fresh and oozes with raw emotion and passion. Admittedly, I’d only heard one song before approaching the band for a review. When I got the album, I was thrown for a bit of a six. The Be Good Tanyas sound quite unlike any girl band I’ve ever heard before. I was expecting a kind of Dixie Chick clone, but boy was I wrong and pleasantly so.

This 13 track album feels like an open invitation for a hug. There’s something very sad and yet at the same time defiant. It took me a couple of listens to really click with this album, but when that tipping point is reached, boy are you in for the aural ride of your life.

The albums opens with “Human Thing”, a slow drawl of a song, but how that voice soars like a bird of song in a cage. But this is no chirp, chirp, there is angst behind them there bars. Things lighten a little with “For the Turnstiles”, but that voice is thickly woven throughout the album. “Ootischenia”, the forth track is where everything falls into place and indeed is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Other notable tracks on the album are “Song for R.” and “Crow Waltz”, with it’s real nod to the past.

The final track however is a really interesting one. It’s not just interesting because it’s a cover song. It’s very interesting indeed for being a cover of the Prince songs, “When Doves Cry”. This is a wonderful cover and a really nice surprise for the end of the album.

Conclusion : A wonderful slice of alternative American folk, country, rock or whatever else you want to define it as. This is an incredible album, with a sound all it’s own, from a band that deserves high praise indeed.

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Album – Sole Inhabitant – Thomas Dolby

Posted by admin on 15th December 2006

  • Band / Artist : Thomas DolbymySpace
  • Genre : Wave / Electronica / Pop
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : CD Baby
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 9 out of 10

My earliest memories of Thomas Dolby are the early 80’s, when his “She Blinded Me With Science” single was released. This was a very memorable track, not just for the music, but also for the video, which both featured Magnus Pyke, a wacky science guy, who was on a TV show at the time called Don’t Just Sit There. His most memorable trait, was the wild use of his arms while explaining science subjects. When I said early 80’s, the actual year was 1982. That’s an unbelievable 23 years ago. Over the years that followed a few more singles were forthcoming, but it wasn’t until the 1992 release, Astronauts and Heretic that I finally added a Dolby album to my collection. This album was more pop and rock than the usual electronica I was used to, but it had some absolute gems on it, including the hit single “Close But No Cigar”.

Fast forward 14 years and I have to admit, the Dolby name pretty much faded from my musical horizon. I did however see his name pop up in various tech publications and websites, talking about his other venture at the time, the company Beatnik. That was until recently, when I came across a video podcast, showcasing songs from a DVD called Sole Inhabitant. This DVD of live performance, was also available on CD. As Dolby himself was releasing video podcasts, I immediately approached his label to see whether I could review the album and feature a track in the Indie Launchpad Podcast. They tapped the details into their computer, and the answer came out, “Yes”. Excitement ensued, especially when the CD came in the post.

The album opens with “Lepizig Calling”, which like 8 of the 11 tracks, I’ve never actually, or rather never consciously heard before, even though some of them do actually sound familiar. Though Dolby is often referred to as an electronica artist, for me there is something much more interesting than that pigeon hole genre. Again “One of Our Submarines” also showcases that Dolby sound, which entertains and engages, rather than washing over like many other electronica albums. For me the gem on the album is “Flying North”, which has that beautiful repetitive soundscape of pure luscious sound.

Call me a pretensious music critic, but this album is just a sheer delight to listen to. I think the thing that is totally obvious with this album, is that the production quality is absolutely superb. It’s very difficult sometimes to remember that this is a live album. I think the only thing I would have reservations with, is going to see an act like this. From watching the video podcast segments, it’s plainly obvious that Dolby is a keyboard virtuoso, but how exciting is it to watch a guy bang a few keys and sing a bit.

On a final note, I hope that Thomas didn’t just choose to produce video podcasts, solely for the release of this album. From watching them, it comes across quite plainly that he is a down to earth and very engaging story teller. I would love to see him recount some more stories intertwined with his music.

Conclusion : It’s great to see the name Thomas Dolby back on the music scene. It’s also been great rediscovering some old favorites and also discovering some great tracks for the first time.

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Album – Brain Heart Guitar – The Dudes

Posted by admin on 9th December 2006

  • Band / Artist : The DudesmySpace
  • Genre : Rock / Soul
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : Amazon
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 9.5 out of 10

Fan Bloody Tastic. OK so that grabbed your attention. Now I can begin. The Dudes are one of those bands that are surely destined for big things. This Canadian band has all those traits that transfer over from, Canadian niche, to global superstars. I have to be careful when making those kinds of statements, as I don’t mean this as an attack, as there is a plethora of amazing Canadian bands. It’s just that some Canadian bands don’t seem to be able to make that transition, for whatever reason.

I first came across the Dudes, as I so often do with Canadian bands, via the CBC Radio 3 podcast, a weekly podcast that highlights some of the most amazing Canadian bands. Within seconds of hearing their track, I was gobsmacked. There was an intensity and drive that just radiated. The vocals are also very distinctive, but also had a hint of uniqueness to them, that I always find very refreshing.

This 13 track album opens with “They’re A Comin‘ “, which provides a great introduction to their sound. Actually a great introduction is probably a bit of an understatement, because this is one of those album, that genuinely gets me truly excited, there is just something that surges like pure electricity through it.

I could wax lyrical for a month and a day, but your eyes would probably glaze over so I’ll try to pick out my favorite tracks on the album. This is easier said than done, but if you were to twist my arm, I would have no doubt including “They’re A Comin‘”, “Do the Right Thing”, “Dropkick Queen of the Weekend” and who am I kidding, picking great songs on this albums, gives me a huge guilt trip for the songs that I miss.

Conclusion : Depart your dwelling forth with and go to your record store to pick up a copy. Or if you’re a lazy git like me, head on over to your computer and order a CD or the album in digital format via iTunes.

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EP – Christmas EP – Tom Wehrle

Posted by admin on 8th December 2006

  • Band / Artist : Tom WehrlemySpace
  • Genre : Pop / Rock
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : Artist’s Site
  • Buy Digital Download : N/A
  • Rating : 7.5 out of 10

Indie Launchpad was but an new born, last Christmas. Consequently I only managed to review one Christmas album. I did however have this EP from Tom Wehrle, but by the time I remembered I had it, Christmas was but a memory. I did however vow to remember the EP the following Christmas, so here it is.

The EP opens with “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, which is an interesting take on an old favorite. It’s somehow lacking in the festive spirit though. That’s not to say every Christmas song has to have jingle of bells or anything, but it just doesn’t have that certain something. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, the track that follows, is more near the mark, but could still do with a little of that X factor. “All is Well” is not a Christmas song I am familiar with, but is a nice little track. I can just imagine a children’s choir providing some nice support.

So a new paragraph begins the round up of my favorite track “Silent Night”. What a beautiful track, both musically and vocally. Again I would love to hear some choral backing, but it’s still an amazing track. I do however have one small niggle. The speed of the track is exceedingly slow. It’s not really a problem if you are listening, but if you find yourself wanting to sing along, you end up second guessing where verses start and finish. Again a small point, which is probably me just nit picking. There’s also a more stripped down acoustic very of the first track “I’ll be Home for Christmas”, which I much prefer to the initial track. So there you have it.

Conclusion : Musically this EP is very accomplished. It does however miss the mark slightly, as it just doesn’t have a strong festive feel, which is surprising considering the song choices. Still a nice EP to add to your Christmas collection.

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