Archive for February, 2007

Album – Footprint – Robin Tymm

Posted by admin on 27th February 2007

Sometimes I discover an artist, usually from hearing a single track and think, “Hey that’s neat”, request an album and enjoy it enough to review. Sometimes however, I find the album that’s presented to me, totally blows me away. This was the case with Robin Tymm. This is a guy that writes wonderful melodies, but has lyrics that really speak to me. I had a tortured love life until finding the one, and by listening to some of Robin’s tracks, I get the feeling it’s not all been plain sailing for him either. From his mySpace page as well, you get that feeling that he’s maybe lacking a little in confidence in the music he writes.

I’ll be honest, there is nothing musically astounding about this album. The music is well arranged and well played. The vocals are distinctive, but not faultless, but it’s the lyrics and the sincere delivery that just speaks volumes. It also speaks to me on a personal level. Nothing morbid or depressing, but just a knowing nudge from my past.

The albums opens with “Unrequited”, which sort of caught me off guard until the vocals began, with an unexpected drum track. It has a wonderful melody, which I can just imagine being used in some kind of Bridget Jones / Four Weddings and a Funeral kind of film. “Wrong Turn”, has a very Michael Stipe of REM, vocal feel to it and some great strings, lying subtly underneath. “Tears on the Table”, has a familiar feel to it and it took me a while to think of the artist it reminds me of and I sincerely hope Robin doesn’t take this as an insult, but it reminds me of Jimmy Nail. Yes, Oz from the British Comedy, Auf Wiedersehen Pet! He also sings and had several albums, which were surprisingly good. Anyway this has some of those qualities. “Human Nature” is a very simple song, with a basic arrangement, but it works very well.

“Little Pieces” for me is the track on the album that just shines. It’s a funny thing to say, when a track is so sad, but it’s just an absolute gem. I have to admit, I don’t read lyrics as much as I would like, Many times I don’t have the time, but all too often they do not get printed on the CD sleeve anymore. It was whilst reading the CD sleeve that I started glancing the lyrics and just got to “Little Pieces” as the song was playing on the CD. It’s hard to explain, but when I got to the chorus, my stomach sank and I had those old pangs of growing up, finding and losing love. Silly I know, but it really excites me, when a CD can evoke such powerful memories.

There’s a very strong Michael Stipe flavor on the album, but it’s softened with a dash of James Blunt. The remaining songs on the album are every bit as strong as the earlier songs and results in an an amazing album. I have to give a special mention to the final track, “The Best I Can Do”, which has has it’s tongue firmly in it’s cheek.

Conclusion : Just a wonderful, beautiful, sincere and honest album, that has become one of my firm favorites and one I find myself playing again and again.

Posted in Acoustic, Folk Rock, Rock | 1 Comment »

EP – You Are My Sister – Antony and the Johnsons

Posted by admin on 26th February 2007

Although I’d never heard an Antony and the Johnsons (AJ) track before, I was aware of them, having seen an article about them in Magnet magazine. I did actually approach the band, but didn’t hear back from them and thought no more, until I received the latest EP in the post, from their record company.

So here we go. I popped the CD in the player, but nothing could prepare me for one of the most radically distinctive voices, I’ve heard in a while. I have to admit, when I first heard the opening and title track, my knee jerk reaction was to say “Bloody Hell!”, I was basically stunned. The nearest comparison I could make at the time, was of a kind of mixture of Nina Simone and a kind of 1920 negro vibe. Yeah, not the best description, but it’s the best I could think of at the time. It was only listening to the title track a few times, that I noticed on the CD case that Boy George was a guest artist. As soon as I read this, I listened again, and yes, sure enough there he was. Sometimes it’s very difficult hear the wood for the tree, or is it clefs for the keys? The more I listened to this track, the more moving it became. And now anytime I listen to the track it gives me goose bumps.

With another 3 tracks on the EP, this is great value for money. The tracks are not just fillers, they all have merit of their own, which is always a pleasant surprise on an EP. “Poorest Ear” continues the style of singing and is just a wonder to behold. Rounding off with “Paddy’s Gone”, this is a deviation from the norm on the EP, but is a welcome change of direction and rounds the EP off nicely.

Conclusion : Simply stunning. Go forth an purchase forthwith! Yes that really is an exclamation mark there and deservedly so.

Posted in Experimental, Folk Rock | No Comments »

Album – The Bluebird Sings – A Whisper in the Noise

Posted by admin on 26th February 2007

If this album were any darker it would probably have it’s epicenter in a black hole. Consequently this isn’t going to be an album that you throw on for a cheery sing song. That being said, I’m a great advocate for the darker side of music and sometimes love to wallow in the depth of someone else’s despair. The album opens with “The Tale of Two Doves”, which I have violins that just drive me nuts. It’s almost like someone dragging their nails down a blackboard. The title track has a a very manic and almost psychotic, bordering on the edge of madness vibe, which at times is I have to say a little unnerving. It’s like peering into the mind of a mad man, but there’s something strangely compelling.

“The Carpenters Coalmen”, sees the album take a more relaxed and friendlier sound, all the while though, you feel yourself being lulled into a false sense of security, standing like a deer in the headlights, you can’t help but wait for final impact. “Through Wounds We Will Stitch” the more relaxed tone continues, with a lovely piano rift repeating throughout the whole track. In fact this lighter sound continues with “Hell’s Half Acre”, which again makes great use of the piano.

By the time we get to “Havoc” that manic, maudlin sound returns, but again it’s like being a witness to a car crash, unable to avert your gaze. Unfortunately that violin returns for “Until the Time It’s Over”, which if I were listening on headphones would probably feel like someone sticking knitting needles in my brain. It’s not that I have any kind of aversion to the use of violins, just when they wail like banshees. “The Sounding Line” and “Bridal” fortunately revert to the more relaxed and mellow (but still maudlin) sound.

Final impact comes with the absolutely amazing Bob Dylan cover of “The Times They Are A-Changin'”, a beautifully haunting rendition of the Dylan classic and a fitting end to the album. This was the track that brought the band to my attention and must surely go down as one of the great Dylan covers.

Conclusion : I put this album on the house stereo and it wasn’t long before my wife gave me the look that says it all. So it’s not going to be your usual family friendly CD, but still I find myself coming back for one more listen. Amazing stuff.

Posted in Ambient, Experimental, Rock | No Comments »

Album – The Cost – The Frames

Posted by admin on 26th February 2007

  • Band / Artist : The FramesmySpace
  • Genre : Acoustic / Rock
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : RoadRecs
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 9 out of 10

This is a band that’s been on my radar for a while, having seen mentions of them in various places. I’d never however heard a single track of theirs, so was quite excited to receive this album in the post from my friends at Epitaph, the Frames are on their sister label Anti.

The first track “Song for Someone” has that hint of angst that always fills me with great expectation and I wasn’t disappointed. The vocals are very distinct and you’d certainly have no difficulty picking them out in a vocal line up.”Falling Slowly” continues the theme of angst that threads it’s way through this album. “People Get Ready” has strong overtones of Cat Stevens, certainly vocally, whilst musically there’s something amazing that just builds and builds. I have to say though, at times there’s a peculiar sound that I didn’t realise at first was the song. My wife actually though it was a cat, when I was played the album at home one weekend.

It seems of late that there always seem to be a track on the album that generally breaks up the continuity. This can sometimes be a good thing, but sometimes, it makes the album seem somewhat disjointed. This for me was the case with “Rise”, which at times reminded me a lot of the early Peter Gabriel stuff. “When Your Minds Made Up” though turns things back around again, and it’s interesting that that feel of Cat Stevens returns.”Sad Songs” as well reminds me of some of the latter Cat Stevens material.

I’ve made an observation of late, that the title track on many albums, don’t seem to be the strongest track and indeed sometimes it’s one of the weakest tracks. This for me is the case here with “Cost”. which did little to engage me, when compared to the rest of the album. “True” has a gorgeous, almost whimsical intro, which is offset again by the harder edge vocals, but it works exceedingly well. It’s a very laid back track, accented with some very subtle piano and guitar. “The Side You Never Get to See” is a more upbeat track, which reminds me a bit of Nick Cave and at first I wasn’t too keen on it, but have to admit it’s grown on me. Finally the track to round off the album “Bad Bone”. It’s a nice track, which kept threatening to end on a cliff hanger, so it kind of keeps the anticipation building, which I’m not sure is the best way to end an album, but it’s still a great track.

Conclusion : A wonderfully atmospheric album with a great canvas of lush sounds. Again another fantastic release from the Epitaph stable and a band I will be sure to follow very closely in the future.

Posted in Acoustic, Rock | No Comments »

EP – Bored and Gorgeous – Caroline Vinciguerra

Posted by admin on 25th February 2007

Many of the female vocals I’ve received of late have been of the more laid back, folk and classic songwriter style, so it was refreshing to get something in a more pop vein. Caroline is not an artist I’d heard of before, but she certainly has an interesting future if this EP is anything to go by.

This five track EP opens with the title track “Bored and Gorgeous”. Within seconds of hearing Caroline’s voice, my brain was doing mental leaps trying to think of comparable artists. There’s certainly more than a hint of Rickie Lee Jones and also a much softer Debbie Harry, but there’s also much that is fresh and exciting. “Bella’s Song” shows a much more relaxed side and reminds me a lot of the 80’s Indie band the Cocteau Twins. “Smash” is a more upbeat song, but seems to suffer a bit with the production of the vocals, which seems very muffled. “Take me Out” continues this more relaxed style and really provides a a great platform for Caroline’s voice. The final track “Stuck in a Rut” closes the album nicely.

Certainly an interesting EP. I’m looking forward to seeing how Caroline adapts to a full length studio album.

Conclusion : Light, airy pop, with a great female voice, make for a killer combination.

Posted in Pop, Rock | No Comments »

Album – Dreamers and Children – Cliff Rubin

Posted by admin on 24th February 2007

I essentially received this album in the middle of last year. Just when I was about to post the review, I sent Cliff an email to check on some details and he told me he’d signed to the Crossroads label and was going back in the studio to rerecord the album for his new label. I finally got the new album in a few weeks ago, thinking my original review would just need a tinker hear and there, but in the end, it was apparent that it was easier to just start all over again.

It’s hard to write this review without referring back to the album as I originally received it. This was an album that had a very personal feel to it. It was like being part of some kind of healing process. It was a much more raw and intimate album, but where the new one is more produced, it still has that intimate charm. Vocally, Cliff’s voice isn’t the greatest, but this isn’t an album that’s all about hitting perfect notes, it’s much more than that.

The album opens with “Love is Knowing You” and from the get go, you can’t help but like it. Cliff is one of those rare people, who comes across as a nice guy. Now I could be totally wrong, but I like to think the music speaks volumes. I’m not going to dwell at all on a track by track comparison between this and the original version of the album, but suffice to say, that warmth is evident on both. “Life’s a Mystery” has that wonderful storytelling quality, that makes it a pleasure to listen to.

If I were to pick out my favorite tracks, they would have to be “Love is Knowing You”, “It’s Her Smile” and “My Mom” which at the beginning bares a striking resemblance to that great Elvis track “Always on My Mind”. I’m not overly enamoured with the final two tracks, “Sweet Little Feelin'” and “Divine Guidance”, whose musical styles seem at odds with the rest of the album.

Conclusion : It’s not often I receive albums that have that real personal touch. It’s also not often that I receive an album and then another re-recorded one, but when comparing the albums, I think Cliff made the right decision, as this one is much more polished, without any kind of overkill.

Posted in Folk, Folk Rock | No Comments »

Album – The Things That Make Us Happy – Lance Koonah

Posted by admin on 18th February 2007

  • Band / Artist : Lance Koonah
  • Genre : Jazz
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : CD Baby
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 7.5 out of 10

Kenny G in one fail swoop, probably turned a multitude of people, including myself off saxophone music of any kind, so it was interesting to get this album in, to sort of reacquaint myself and see if it that was still the case. Fortunately, with all quality music, the music itself prevails and I actually found myself enjoying this album a lot.

The album opens with “Smooth Imitation”, which at once had my back up. Not because of the saxophone, but the awful drum track. It’s just so reminded me of some awful drums laid down in sequencing software. It also brought to mind all the things I hated about Kenny G. The title track has a more more mellow and polished sound. Things get even more mellow with “Days of Inspiration” and again that picture painting in my head starts and I can just picture dancing with my Wife, with the lights down low and candles burning everywhere. “Jivin‘ with JC” has that more authentic jazz feel to it, rather than the more modern interpretation on the rest of this album. “Until the Moment” also has this more traditional feel to it and just reeks of atmosphere. Unfortunately “Smooth Walkin‘” spoils it a bit for me, sorry that picture painting again, paints a scene of an elderly gentleman at the organ bashing out something for the ladies.

“And Goodnight” finishes the album off nicely, without a drum in earshot and it’s only then that I fully appreciated just how good a saxophonist Lance is. I’m certainly not a jazz aficionado by any means, but I do posses a few albums by some of the greats like Theolonius Monk, John Coltrane and Dave Brubeck to name a few, so I know what I like and this is certainly a good addition to my collection.

Conclusion : A relatively short album, but a pleasant change. I’d love to hear Lance do some standard covers, just to showcase his playing in a more familiar arena, but there’s no denying this is one talented jazz musician.

Posted in Jazz | No Comments »

Album – Hourglass – Mercer

Posted by admin on 17th February 2007

I just love the way this album begins, with the track “Bruise”. A lilting piano melody with equally mellow lyrics, that really ease you in. What’s unusual about this track is that it would have sat well at either the end of the album. Everything about this album, screams a certain level of comfort. The vocals and melodies are relatively simple, but they gel together so well. “Nice to Meet You” is another case in point. It just reeks of elegant simplicity. There’s sometimes a lot of temptation to cram as much into an album as you can, but this cramming of quantity, does nothing to improve an albums quality and can sometimes lead to an over produced cacophony of noise. This isn’t a concern here.

The title track has a strange feel to it. When I say that, what I actually mean, is that it possesses a strange quality. It’s one of those tracks that seems to last forever. It’s only a tad over 3 minutes and 30 seconds, but there’s something about it that just seems to go on forever. It’s not a bad track by any means, but it’s strangely hypnotic. “The Other Side” also possesses some of these qualities, but again it’s in no way a criticism.

That wonderful piano returns again for the track “Indiscretion”, which is one of my favorite tracks on the album. There’s just somethings I’m a sucker for, this style of piano, mellow acoustic guitar and stellar female vocals are among them. “The Payback” begins well, but takes a bit of a swan dive. I was really getting into this track until the vocals started I’m not sure if it’s the words or delivery, but there’s something about this track that feels like two songs bodged together, which is a shame. “92” is another track that starts with great promise and actually delivers.

I’m a strong believer in opening and closing an album strongly. Whilst the album does open strongly I felt that the final 2 tracks “Last Hello” and “In the End” should have been switched. Personal preference, but the “Last Hello” just has the right mood to close off with.

Conclusion : This very much an album of the time. A very contemporary sound, but with an underlying maturity that is just a pleasure to listen to.

Posted in Rock | No Comments »

Album – Fake Valentine – David Francis

Posted by admin on 17th February 2007

I was first approached by David a few months ago. I checked out some of his music and thought his album would be interesting to review. I have to admit, when I first listened to the album, I wasn’t too keen on it. The main reason for this is that the vocals seem to sit rather uncomfortably, almost disconnected from the music. There’s a kind of hollow feel to them. I did however hear quite a few gleams of brilliance and though it best to set the CD aside for a bit and come back to it.

To sum up David’s sound, it’s kind of Paul McCartney meets the Rutles. Yes I said Rutles, the fictional band fronted by Neil Innes, formerly of the Bonzo Dog Band. Many of the songs have that 60’s, almost pastiche sound to them. So what do I mean. Well the title track, with it’s acoustic guitar almost reminds me of The Eagles, Hotel California. “Life Smiled” is very McCartneyesque, but is a great song with a very strong Rutles feel. “Reflections in the mirror of the Life I’m Wearing” opens with guitar that sounds very much like the Kinks “Sunny Afternoon” and I mean almost indentical, but for different words.

OK so you can pretty much see how this album is developing, but don’t let that put you off. Indeed I’m a big fan of this kind of homage to all things 60’s, I’m a huge Rutles fan, but the important thing is that thus music doesn’t take itself too seriously.

A couple of songs on the album have titles that are a little on the pretentious side. Some of the tracks are bit on the lengthy side. One track “Song for a party never held” in particular has both of these traits and probably crosses that self indulgent threshold, having not enough to hold the attention . It’s pretty much a rambling, sprawling, almost Bohemian Rhapsody epic, without too much to redeem it. It is however a small blot on an otherwise fun and interesting album. If “Song for a Party Never Held” starts to dig its own grave, “Message” does an admirable job of filling it in again, allowing the album to continue. So we won’t dwell any more.

Conclusion : An interesting album and a welcome diversion from more mainstream music.

Posted in Rock | No Comments »