Archive for January, 2007

Album – Casino Twilight Dogs – Youth Group

Posted by admin on 31st January 2007

Right off the bat, I have to say I was absolutely blown away by this album. What was all the more surprising, it was an album that came in unsolicited from my friends at Epitaph and is in fact on one of their sister labels, Anti. Youth Group are fairly big in Australia, having a #1 song there last year with “Forever Young”, which is actually on this, their third album. It’s also the track featured on the US TV show The OC.

The album opens with “On a String” and brings to mind the sound of Pink Floyd, especially on the Dark Side of the Moon, more specifically the more calming and melodic parts. This is a mellow track to be sure and is simply wonderful. The following track “Sorry”, is a much more pop/rock driven song, which reminds me of that great 90’s band, James. All these comparisons are not intended to detract from the bands wonderful sound, or even hint at any form of unoriginality, they are just my way of trying to describe a bands sound, without the benefit of actually playing the music to you.

I’d better start a new paragraph here, as you can probably tell this is going to be a long review. “Catching & Killing” opens with a not too surprisingly harder, almost punk feel to it, but manages to not cross the line and spiral out into another genre entirely. “Dead Zoo” again features those wonderful vocals, present throughout the album. It’s not often I would use the term beautiful to describe male vocals, but if ever there were a time to say it, it’s now.

“Under the Underpass” again has that James feel to it and further emphasises that this is very much an album of several flavors, but they are so wonderfully fused, This album feels very much like a masterpiece in the making. “Sicily” is a short song at a tad over 2 minutes. It is also a very simple song in both music and lyrics, but works so well. “Daisychains” continues this simplicity and funnily enough it’s exactly twice as long as the previous track. The only difference is that this track, musically escalates to a much busier sound. “Forever Young” is the previously mentioned track that reached #1 in the Youth Group’s home of Australia. A more fitting introduction to the Youth Group’s sound you probably couldn’t pick and is firmly entrenched as one of my favorite tracks on the album.

“Start Today Tomorrow” gave me an amazing sense of deja vu. I knew the song, even though I’d never heard it before. A really bizarre feeling I can tell you. “The Destruction of Laurel Canyon” is the longest track on this 12 track album and for some reason that didn’t surprise me, as from the opening few bars, you can pretty much tell this is going to be a relatively large sprawl of a track, but at the same time, like all of the tracks preceding it, a joy to listen to.

“TJ” has an almost folksy, storytelling feel to it. I can hear a multitude of different and eclectic artists covering it in my head. The final track “Christmas Windows” rounds the album off nicely, even with some fairly cliche phrases, which I’m sure I’ve heard in a few other songs, but hey if that’s the only thing I can find to pick on for this album, then that’s potatoes of the smallest kind.

Conclusion : In a single word. Stunning. Not only one of my favorite albums of this year, but also one of my all time favorite albums, reviewed ever. With a recommendation like that, what are you waiting for, go forth and purchase.

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Album – A Good Enough Day – Royal Wood

Posted by admin on 31st January 2007

2007 is really starting to hot up, with some incredible releases from around the world, and indeed right on my doorstep here in Canada. Royal Wood is indeed Canadian, from not too far away in Toronto. Again the CBC Radio 3 podcast is proving to be an absolute goldmine of new talent. I only had to listen to a few seconds to be totally captivated and knew this was going to be an absolute shoe in for review. I’ve sat on the album for a few weeks and every time I listen, I find something more to like.

With 12 tracks on the album, this is another that opens with a real strong track, in this case the title track “A Good Enough Day”, which is a real sound bite of a track at a tad over a minute, but you know just what the rest of the album is going to bring. “Juliet” is the track that follows and is just beautiful. It reminds me very much of that other great Canadian artist, Ron Sexsmith, but with much smoother vocals. Royal Wood has a very distinctive style and it’s prevalent throughout the album. It’s so nice to see a return to good old fashioned song writing, with wonderful lyrics and melodies. “A Mirror Without” is another example of this.

Of all the tracks on the album, it’s only “Siren” that I don’t particularly care for. It’s a track that just has a very weird feeling to it. It evokes in my minds eye the image of some kind of demented clown. “About You” is a very interesting track that would have been great with some kind of subtle choir arrangement. Just as we lead in with the shortest track on the album, we lead out with the longest track at a tad over 8 and a half minutes and it finishes the album perfectly. But all is not as it seems, but I’ll leave that for you to discover.

Royal Wood may be an unusual name, but it’s certainly one worth keeping an eye on. Although most of his gigs appear to be in and around Toronto, I’ll certainly try to get to a gig should he appear in the Ottawa area.

Conclusion : Yet another great album for 2007 and a real benchmark for other independent artists.

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Album – Like a Metaphor – Rob Szabo

Posted by admin on 31st January 2007

  • Band / Artist : Rob SzabomySpace
  • Genre : Acoustic / Pop
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : CD Baby
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 9 out of 10

I have to admit I hate the term “Easy Listening” as it alludes to the music my parents used to listen to, when I was a kid and I’m not talking Beatles or Stones here. It was the kind of pipe and slippers music, that didn’t have to worry about offending the senses. I only mention this because whilst listening to this album from Rob Szabo, I couldn’t get the term easy listening out of my head, not because of the previously mentioned memories, but because it was just that, wonderful music that almost caresses with it’s tenderness.

The album opens with “Beautiful” which has a wonderful vibe to it and was the track that brought Rob to my attention via the CBC Radio 3 podcast. Yes indeedy this is another wonderful Canadian artist. Rob has a voice that whilst being easy to listen to, has a hint of uniqueness to it, which helps to make the whole album standout from many similar easy listening albums. “Breaking Even” has that air of radio friendly hit about it. I can just imagine this blaring out of the radio on a hot summers day. “A Sad Song” is just a wonderfully relaxed and mellow song, which just has a wonderful acoustic guitar featured throughout and we all know what a sucker I am for acoustic stuff. The acoustic sound is exemplified in the track “Good Son”, which is a wonderful track to listen to while wearing headphones and is one of my favorite tracks on the album. The only track on the album that doesn’t fit for me, is “The Johnstown Kids”, which whilst not being the only track with a more poppy feel to it, just stands out from the rest of the album as sort of being the odd one out.

The album ends off with a six and a half minute track “The Others”, which I wasn’t a fan off the first few times I listened to it. It’s very much in keeping with the rest of the album, but something about it seemed labored. Now however I feel it’s a track that closes the album off nicely, which is probably because I am more accustomed to the album as a whole, rather than trying to pick over each track individually.

Conclusion : One of my favorite reviewed acoustic albums, was Just Before Dark from Mike Viola’s solo album, he of the Candy Butchers. This album is right up there with it.

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EP – The Notbirds – Hopewell

Posted by admin on 31st January 2007

Hopewell were a band I reviewed last year and thoroughly enjoyed, partly because I’ve always had a thing for Psychedelic Rock and partly because their album was just sheer class. This time around the band has released an EP, which if you are to believe what they say on their website, was released “Cause we got bored”. Who cares, it’s always great to have anything of theirs drop in my mailbox.

The title track was actually on their album “Birds of Appetite”, but this version is much more radio friendly. The album version is like an even more psychedelic version of the Beatles “Tomorrow Never Knows”. “Beautiful Targets” is a sprawling mass of sound, that is chaotic, but wonderful to listen to. I can almost hear a bit of the Rolling Stones “We Love You” in the underlying vocal harmonies. “True Blue” has nothing to do with the Madonna track of the same name and thankfully so. Again we get a 60’s infused psychedelic sound which has become a trademark Hopewell sound. “With Tomorrow” we have a softer more traditional rock sound and it’s nice to see the band has a bit of depth to their repertoire. The final two tracks have to be considered fillers, as they are both somewhat under 2 minutes long. “Silent Interlude” is a purely instrumental track and is almost as the name indicates a mere interlude to the final track.

Even though it’s a short track, “Sadness” is one of my favorites, but for one thing, but more of that later. This is a very stripped back track, that’s recorded very lo-fi. It’s simplicity is one of the things that I love so much about it. But there is one thing that just kills the song. There’s a break at around 1:17 where just the low string of the guitar is played over and over again and it just kills the song. If the note being played would have actually reflected the song that was playing, this would have been a killer track, even with it’s simplicity, but as it is, it drives me doo-lally every time I hear it. Shame.

Conclusion : So overall this is a great EP that’s just $6 on iTunes or $5 for the physical CD from the Hopewell shop. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Hopewell.

Posted in Psychedelic, Rock | No Comments »

EP – Vicious Times – Tom Geiger

Posted by admin on 14th January 2007

  • Band / Artist : Tom GeigermySpace
  • Genre : Electronica / Pop
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : N/A
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 9.5 out of 10

I’m a little in the lax department when reviewing this EP. I can’t for the life of me think why though, as it’s an absolutely stellar EP, with a track that’s been featured heavily on the Indie Launchpad podcast. One of then reasons (no excuses here) would be that when I originally came across Tom Geiger, there was no formal release available to purchase. When his EP finally became available on iTunes, I had the best intentions of reviewing it, but it somehow fell by the wayside. So here it is, dusted off and sitting on that musical pedestal for all to admire.

This 3 track EP opens with the song “Vicious Times”. Musically this is best described as a kind of electronic, melancholic pop. Tom’s voice has a wonderful quality that fits the music like an OJ hand in glove, tight as tight can be. For me though, the number one reason to buy this EP, has to be the second track, the absolutely awesome “Thank God We’ve Got Good Friends”. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve played this track, but it’s one of the few tracks I can easily play over and over again. Tom’s voice has that barest hint of roughness to it, a kind of grade zero sandpaper voice. The music is very understated, allowing the vocals to drive the song forward. It’s a ballad of sorts, but without the mush. Based on this one track alone, record companies should be queuing up outside his door. The final track “Wrong Way” is a more upbeat affair, but just the south side of happiness. It’s not my favorite track on the EP, but that’s probably because I’d become accostomed to the first two a long time ago. The third track was added for the iTunes release. It’s still a good song, but doesn’t click in the same way as the first two.

Conclusion : With no record deal, it’s an absolute sin and one for which record companies should be truly embarrassed. Certainly one of the best releases of 2006 and what I hope is a building block to major success.

Posted in Electronica, Pop | No Comments »

Album – Wash Away – Alansmithee

Posted by admin on 11th January 2007

There’s cracks and there’s great honking chasms, which is what this album fell through. Even after I rediscovered the album, for some reason it kept getting overlooked, which is a huge shame on me, especially when it’s so damn good.

Alansmithee probably isn’t your typical name for a band, but since when did names ever have a baring on the music, if they did, no one would probably ever have bought a Pink Floyd record.

This is a shorter than usual album with just 8 tracks, but is a classic case of quality over quantity. The album opens with “My Life” which is almost like an album closer, with it’s almost anthem/ballad rock sound. “Wash Away” opens with a very distinct guitar riff. I’ve heard a very similar riff, but can’t for the life of me place it, but it’s almost a throw away as doesn’t feel like it really belongs in the song. “Into You” shows a different more mellow sound, but those ever present vocals hold everything together rather nicely. “California Calling” is probably my least favorite track, but for no real valid reason other than it just doesn’t grab me in the way the other tracks do. “Who the Hell” whilst being a great song, has the feel of an almost formulaic pop song. When I heard it for the first time and again upon rediscovering the album, it always struck me as very predictable. I loved “How Does it Feel”, but hated the telephone simulated voice intro, which could be cut with no worries about altering the track itself. Although this album was released in 2005, a life time ago in music years, “His Loving Way” has a very now feel to it. Rounding off with “Did You Know”, this has certainly felt like an album I’ve picked on more than others. I want to sort of put the record straight, I do really love this album, it’s just a few small niggles, which are more down to me being a finicky git, than the songs themselves being sub-par.

The vibe from this album is of a band that is really musically tight and full of confidence. Many of the songs have that anthem sound, which just begs for a live audience, to join in.

Conclusion : I have to admit I’m still amazed I haven’t heard much about the band since first discovering them, which is a real shame as they have a great sound and some excellent songs.

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Album – Arrivals and Departures – Jay Pea

Posted by admin on 11th January 2007

I love music that harkens back to a simpler time. Simple melodies, with words that actually mean something. Jay Pea was a classic case of hearing something and my ears just pricking up. I often have great difficulty when people ask me what kind of music I like. My tastes are as varied as weather, but when I hear something good, it doesn’t matter what genre it is, it just has to engage and captivate and I’m sold.

Whenever I listen to this album, I always have visions of summer days by the sea, playing with my children. The kind of day you just don’t want to end. That vision certainly hangs in my minds-eye for a while, as this album has 13 tracks and each of them flow effortlessly from one to the next.

This is just another amazing example of the amazing talent in Canada. It’s very much in the mould of Tim Buckley and Leonard Cohen the late 60’s and early 70’s era. The album opens with “A Day in March”, giving a good indication of what’s to come. A man his guitar and light accompaniment. Every time I hear “Silver River” that classic song Rain Drops Keep Falling on my Head comes to mind. “All Your Denials” is the song that brought Jay Pea to my attention and is firmly amongst my favorite tracks on the album. “Tower of Slow”, with it’s wonderful understated use of the flute has echos of the great Simon and Garfunkel song, El Condo Paso. Although I love the heavy overtones of Leonard Cohen on “Delilah’s Dream”, the album here takes a kind of emotional dip. Indeed the next song “Marbled Skies” also has this darker feel, which for me is out of character with the rest of the album. The songs that follow however return to the more relaxed and upbeat. “Orange Tree” in particular has that really infectious drum beat and guitar. “Southernmost” is another track up there with my favorite tracks from this album. The last two tracks “Happier on the Road” and “Mr Sam” round the album off with a nice upbeat sound.

Conclusion : A great album with some great songs. I much prefer the more mellow tracks, but all of them are great examples of songwriting. An accomplished and very special album.

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Album – Blip Blop – Blip Blop

Posted by admin on 7th January 2007

  • Band / Artist : Blip BlopmySpace
  • Genre : Down-tempo / Jazz / Nu-Jazz
  • Sample Track Download : Crane
  • Buy CD : CD Baby
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 8 out of 10

When I hear something interesting, I just have to investigate further. So it was with Blip Blop, a sort of electronica, jazz fusion, which you kind of expect to fall flat on it’s face, but doesn’t. I’m not saying this is an album for all occasions, it’s not. It’s very much an album used for a certain time or moment. For me that moment is when I just want to relax, but give my brain something to chew on.

The album is no slouch, with 13 tracks totalling nearly 50 minutes. There’s many influences throughout the album, but there’s also a sort of sound fingerprint, the allows this album to have it’s own individuality/personality. It also has a very improvised feel it it, with at times the bare minimum of production. which at times almost feels like a live performance, especially the piano which is spread out over the album.

This isn’t the kind of release where you break everything down track by track, but there are a few tracks that stand out. The first one is “Sweety Cakes”, which has that great down temp sound. Then there’s “Angelene” which has a wonderfully live sound and also a very dated quality, but it holds together very well. The album rounds off with the wonderfully eclectic “Crane”. The only track that I didn’t particularly like was “Blip, Blop, Drop”, with the train like vocals that just drive me insane, or rather more insane than I was.

I love the diversity of independent music and without it, many talented musicians would have no voice to make their works heard.

Conclusion : Something different indeed, but a treat to get something in that’s a bit off the beaten track. Great stuff.

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EP – Stereomovers – Stereomovers

Posted by admin on 7th January 2007

  • Band / Artist : StereomoversmySpace
  • Genre : Rock / Electronica
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : N/A
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 8.5 out of 10

I love discovering new bands, especially when you listen to their music for the first time and it causes the hairs to rise on the back of your neck. There’s a very good reason for that, but it’s nothing sinister. When I first popped this into the CD player, I had memories slapping me in the face. Memories of the 90’s and some of the things I used to get up to. But enough of that, what is it about this that reminds me of the 90’s? I think it has a lot do do with both the music and vocals, which have a very New Order feel to them. Although the influence is bang in your face British, the Stereomovers are from Montr

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Album – Caravan – Madviolet

Posted by admin on 7th January 2007

What a great way to open 2007, albeit with an album, I’ve been sitting on for a couple of months. A folksy, sometimes country inspired album, this also has some great pop qualities that really make the album a pleasure to listen to. Madviolet is Canadian duo, Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac. With Caravan, their fourth LP, it’s obvious that there is a great chemistry between them and a great ability to tell a story through their music. Comparisons are pretty subjective, but they can at least help, when trying to evaluate new artists. The artist/band that most comes to mind, is the 90’s band Wilson Phillips, especially their more pop side. Madviolet however embrace this sound, but add their own unique flavor, resulting in an album, that’s a bit pop, a bit folk and a tad country. Being a Canadian band, there are those influences that shine through, but they are ever so subtle.

This 10 track album opens with “Way Past the Hour”, which introduces their sound nicely, but it’s “Skylight” for me, where the real beginning of the album occurs. I know this happens a lot with some of the albums I review, but I really like to see a really strong song open an album. It doesn’t have to be fast or loud, just have that little something special that immediately draws your attention. “Prayed” is one of the lighter tracks, which has a wonderfully soothing feel to it. “I’m Your Lady” is a track obviously influenced by country and while this is not me favorite genres of music, this track works well. One of the weakest tracks for me is “Thieven Love”, which is just one of those tracks that doesn’t seem to go anywhere. It also has a real annoying chorus.

Favorite tracks on the album would have to be “Skylight”, “Sore Heart” which again has a country feel, but doesn’t wallow in it and “Never Saw the Ending” which has a real toe tapping and a few other things, vibe to it.

Conclusion : A wonderful album, which is nicely balance, managing to fuse lots of different influences and styles. A special word goes to the vocals, which have a wonderfully pure quality to them.

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