Archive for March, 2007

Album – The Super Awkward Album – Christian Hansen

Posted by admin on 31st March 2007

Will the sheer volume of CD’s that come into Indie Launchpad, it’s perhaps not surprising that some of them slip between the cracks. Some times the cracks have more to do with the chasms in my brain, but eventually they are uncovered, as was the case with this release from Edmonton, Canada based Christian Hansen.

Upon hearing the first track “Satellite Headstone”, I knew this was going to something special, appealing greatly to my love of acoustic/folk rock. It was however the second track “Habadasher’s Wife” that blew me away with both it’s simplicity and just wonderfully unique lyrics. Christian has a vocal style very similar to a band recently featured on the Indie Launchpad podcast, Jay Jay and the Pistolets. There’s a brash confidence that just exudes from the vocal delivery. The wonderful roll of excellent tracks continued with “West Coast Housewives”, which has the same vocal style, but this time underpinned with a more pop style of musical accompaniment. Actually I have to admit, that this song reminds me of A Ha’s, “Take on Me”. “Wedding Gun” is a much more relaxed track and comes as a welcome breather, after the first three amazing tracks.

The later half of the 9 track album, doesn’t fare so well. It’s not that the remaining tracks are bad, but as is often the case, there seems to be a break in the continuity of the album. It almost feels like the second half of the album has been spliced with the first. It’s almost like this album should have been released as two EPs.

Conclusion : There’s no doubting the amazing talent Christian has. If the whole album had followed in a similar vain to the first half, this would have been an absolutely amazing album. As it is, it’s still a treat to listen to. I’m looking forward to seeing the direction of the next album.

Posted in Acoustic, Alternative, Rock | No Comments »

Album – Faultline – Adrienne Pierce

Posted by admin on 31st March 2007

When I reviewed Adrienne’s last release, the EP Hors D’Ouvres, My only real complaint was, there wasn’t more of it. Fast forward 6 months and finally I have my hands on a full length, 13 track album and it’s like being a child at Easter, knowing there’s tons of chocolate ahead. The chocolate here is a stunning collection of songs, coming from an absolutely amazing talent. I’ve mentioned before the similarity between the voices of Adrienne and Leigh Nash’s, but there’s no mistaking the difference between them.

The album opens with “Beautiful”, which while not the strongest track on the album, is certainly good opener. “Downside of Love” has some great harmonies and is a fairly slow, purposeful track. “Better Year” is a great album track, but doesn’t have that “x” factor. “Fools Gold” was also on the previously reviewed EP and is just a stunning track, allowing her to really shine. “I Don’t Know” and “Laundry and Dishes” are also two examples of what is oh so right, about this CD. Both are distinctly different tracks, but both are unmistakably Adrienne.

Many albums tend to start strong, waver towards the middle and finish up with a melancholic or thoughtful track. With this album, it’s solid gold throughout. Adrienne has a wonderful style to both her vocals and lyrics. The music is like a canvas from which she projects her stories and it’s just an absolute pleasure to listen to. Upon trying to determine my favorites from this album, I have to admit that they’ve changed a few times since receiving this album, but definite strong contenders have to be, “Downside of Love”, the previously reviewed EP track, “Fools Gold” and “Lost and Found”

Conclusion : Certainly one of the top independent female artists and an artist that will no doubt gain the recognition she deserves.

Posted in Alternative, Pop | No Comments »

EP – In the Woods – Polly Paulusma

Posted by admin on 31st March 2007

I love the many ways in which I find new artists. Many of my finds come from podcasts, mySpace, magazines and occasionally through word of mouth, which is probably my favorite way to learn about new artists, as it’s just incredible to see how animated and excited people can get when they are talking about their favorite artists.

Polly Paulusma, was actually recommended to me by a colleague at work She’d bought Polly’s album and just loved it. While talking about female vocalists, she mentioned Polly’s name to me and I was off, like a racehorse out of the starting gate. I listened to a few tracks of hers on mySpace and boom, loved what I heard. Within a week I had Polly’s new single in my grubby little hands and what a joy it is.

The first track, “The Woods” is a really subdued offering, reminiscent of Alanis Morrisette, but with an unmistakable English twang. It’s rather a long track at just under 5 minutes 30 seconds, but it doesn’t feel like a drawn out track. The second and indeed final track, “Put Your Suitcase Down”, has a more folksy sound to it. Polly’s voice has a smoke and huskiness to it, which gives it a real character and flavour. It also really evokes a sense of emotion and is just a joy to listen to.

Conclusion : As I said before, this was a great find for me and with a new album coming out sometime in May, I’m really looking forward to listening to it.

Posted in Acoustic, Folk | No Comments »

Album – Eponymous – The Ruling Party

Posted by admin on 18th March 2007

I love it when I come across a new band and their album just blows me away. So was the case with The Ruling Party. I’d heard a few of their tracks and liked them immensely, but many times it’s the case that 25% of an album is the real cream and the rest is a mix of really good and OK. This is not the case with this 9 track album.

The album opens with the incredibly catchy “No Place to Hide” and it’s hard not to compare the overall sound to the 1990’s band No Doubt. For me though, No Doubt were very much a one trick pony, with their breakout hit, “Don’t Speak” spending 16 weeks at number 1, on the Bill Board hot 100. Of all the 9 tracks on this album, there is not a single dud, it’s 100% well crafted pop. “Can I Be” is a slower track compared to the opener, but it has that really well crafted feel to it. “Nothing Wrong” is again another slower track, which rolls and lilts, showcasing the lead singer, Jen Sencion’s voice. “If We Had Yesterday” reminds me of a totally different artist, Dido, quite a leap from No Doubt, but the lyrical phrasing is very similar. “Every Time You Walk Away” is in a very similar vein to the opening track and is definitely the overall sound the band seems at their most comfortable.

Maybe I’m hearing things, but “Nightmares” seems to have a sound byte from The Six Million Dollar Man, It’s just a brief 2 second or so segment, but it’s definitely there. “Don’t Make Me” has a very Police / Elvis Costello (80’s era) feel to it and just goes to show this bands versatility. “Falling Down” again shows a different side to the band and is probably the weakest track for me on the album, but again a weak track on this album, is still a very good track. “Now You Know” finishes what is best described as a wonderfully well rounded and accomplished album.

The only downside I had with the album, is the production. There is something very lo-fi about some of the tracks, which shouldn’t be the case with an album of this kind. I just feel that a fuller production would only go to make it an even more killer album.

Conclusion : This is an album I thoroughly enjoyed. A very radio friendly band, that is surely just inches away from exploding in to mainstream recognition.

Posted in Pop, Rock | No Comments »

Album – Superbleau – Sarah Lemeiux

Posted by admin on 18th March 2007

  • Band / Artist : Sarah LemeiuxmySpace
  • Genre : Blues / Roots Music
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : CD Baby
  • Buy Digital Download : mySpace
  • Rating : 8.5 out of 10

Although I have a strong penchant for female artists, it’s not often I find a female artist that adopts the blues as her choice of poison. I first heard Sarah on mySpace, listened to a few tracks and then approached her to submit her album. Once I received the album however I couldn’t quite seem to get in the right frame of mind to appreciate it. This has happened with a few albums. I know they are good, but for whatever reason, I don’t have that connection with them. It was one night, actually more like the early hours of the morning, when I put Sarah’s album on, plugged in my headphones and was just blown away. Boom, that click moment I’d been waiting for.

“Moonshine” begins the proceedings. It’s a very laid back track, with a very musically relaxed feel to it. It almost feels like a live track. “Boo-Loo-Lah Blues” is a track that I can’t help smiling to. One of the reasons, is that it reminds me of a song played on a kids cartoon show, my children watch, Peep I think it is. It’s also a track that has some wonderful guitar accompaniment. “Gliss” is certainly an interesting track, all 8 seconds of it, which I think is there more as a segway to “Le Temps…”, which as you might guess is a song all in French and is in itself a relatively short track at just under 2 minutes. “Homesick” is one of the softer tracks on the album. Musically there is a lot that reminds me of Simon and Garfunkel, but the vocals couldn’t be more different. Sarah has an incredible voice, but there are occasions where she’s forcing the lyrics, giving emphasized emotion, where it’s not needed and it’s then that they provide a distraction from the track itself. “Momma’s Got The Confusion” also has that very emotive vocal deliver, but the track itself warrants it, so it flows much better.

“Blues Stew”, as the name indicates, is a very blues infused track. It almost feels like a standard that the likes of Johns Mayall and his Blues Breakers would play. “Manhattan” has a more jazz feel to it and shows a nice alternative side to Sarahs voice. “You Keep You Warm” is an instrumental track featuring primarily acoustic guitars. It feels neither blues, nor jazz and indeed feels a little misplaced on the album, but who cares, what a wonderful track. “Enfin” is another track with French lyrics and is indeed an old French standard, unless I’m much mistaken. The vocals are a little weak for me. I would have loved to hear Sarah’s voice smolder and sizzle a bit on this one, as it has the potential to be an amazing track. Track #12, the final track… oops I’ve let the cat out of the bag. Suffice to say it’s top secret and a delight.

A final special mention has to go to the band that accompanies Sarah, the Super Blue Band. They’re musically very tight and just a joy to listen to, providing a great platform for Sarah’s voice.

Conclusion : The blues is not my usual cup of tea, but there’s something about this album I really love. Admittedly it took a while to click with me, but when it did, I was really blown away.

Posted in Blues, Roots Music | No Comments »

EP – Carousel – Dr Robotnik

Posted by admin on 17th March 2007

I get a lot of requests to be added to my friends list on mySpace. For anyone who doesn’t know, the Indie Launchpad friends list is purely for artists who have already been reviewed. All requests however are investigated and if their music sounds interesting, I always ask for an album or EP to be submitted. This was the case with Dr Robotnik, who I assume gets his name from the arch villain in Sonic the Hedgehog. What was different and this happens now and again, was that after hearing just 1 track, I was chomping at the bit to hear more. Admittedly there were four tracks on the mySpace page, 3 of which are included on the EP reviewed here, but I always find the listening experience to be completely different when away from the computer.

The opening track on the EP is “Carousel”, which apparently contains some samples from Scott Walker, yes he of the Walker Brothers, who’s works I must admit I’m not too up on.The track begins with a slow build up, with what sounds like a Xylophone sample used throughout and then a bass guitar comes in. However it’s when the vocals come in, that the whole thing gels into one amazing track. There’s a very ethereal quality to the whole track and many other elements that really give your ears lots to enjoy. The second track “FYI”, always reminds me of the TV show Space 1999. Just the opening few seconds, but that mental image always surfaces. Once the track gets started though, a very drum and bass style takes over. “It Matters Not” with it’s heavy piano and drum emphasis, delivers a much more laid back track. The final track “Not Long Ago”, goes for a totally different kind of imagery and feels like a track at odds with itself. This conflict however works well and rounds the EP off nicely.

A final mention has to go the the vocals provide throughout the EP. They’re very distinctive and all provided by Simon Batten, the creative genius behind Dr Robotnik. Everything about this EP screams quality and was just a sheer joy to listen to.

Conclusion : I love this EP, although technically it’s only available as individual tracks. It was supplied to me as an EP, so that’s how I’m reviewing it. It’s inventive, intelligently produced and such a great showcase for Dr Robotnik. I’m eagerly awaiting what the future may bring.

Posted in Acoustic, Big Beat, Down-tempo | No Comments »

Album – All About You – Angela Ortiz

Posted by admin on 17th March 2007

  • Band / Artist : Angela OrtizmySpace
  • Genre : Alternative / Pop
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : CD Baby
  • Buy Digital Download : N/A
  • Rating : 8.5 out of 10

The first thing that struck me square in the ears when I first listened to this CD, was the similarity to Tori Amos. Fortunately however, this proved to be more musically, rather than vocally. Don’t get me wrong, I used to enjoy the early Amos stuff, but I think she started walking a bit too much on the wild side for me. Where Amos’ voice is filled with angst, anger and at times frustration, Angela’s has a soft, soothing and comforting tone.

“Everyone Changes” is the track that opens the album and you can’t help but draw the Amos comparisons. The piano is very prominent, as it is for many of the tracks on the album, but it’s the voice that soars and really captures the imagination. “Dustpan” really shows Angela’s great command of the piano. “Days of Lemonade” could indeed be an Amos track, but there are hints of other influences in there too. “Finish What You Started” is a more rounded track, with a nice drum accompaniment and it is sufficient in giving the track a much fuller sound. “Mr Thomas” has a dreamy, ethereal quality and is just a sheer delight to listen to. It’s probably one of my favorite tracks on the album. “Steven” is another track that has that personal feel to it and again has that fuller sound, with what sounds like some clarinet, trumpet and harpsichord, along with the usual piano and amazing vocals.

“Last of Who We Are” has a very reflective feel to it and oh how those vocals really grab you. There’s no escaping the Amos influence again with the track “We Must Be Alright”. It’s probably my least favorite track on the album, but as is often the case, it’s more personal preference, rather than a reflection on the tracks qualities. “Cheshire Cat” is a song, with a very interesting vocal intro, leading to a song of great whimsy, with a very relaxed and fun feel to it. “All About You” the title track, is one of the few title tracks I’ve reviewed lately that actually has some merit in being the title track. That’s not to say it’s the perfect choice as a title track for the album, but with a voice like Angela’s, it’s hard to go wrong. The album closes with “Song for Lost Friends” and has a very personal feel to it. Certainly a wonderful choice of song to finish on.

Conclusion : An amazing first album that draw many comparisons to the likes of Kate Bush, Tori Amos amongst others. For anyone who appreciates a more personal album, this is thoroughly recommended.

Posted in Alternative, Pop | No Comments »

Album – Stay Awhile – Paula Toledo

Posted by admin on 11th March 2007

When I find a female vocalist I like, one of 3 things usually happens. I wallow in the mood that’s set; I appreciate the vocal imagery; or I just totally get seduced by the vocals. Those of course are my primary reaction options, but of course they are usually backed up by one of many secondary reactions. So three guesses where Paula falls in that primary reactions. Yes, seduction it is, but this is by no means a syrupy, sickly sweet collections of songs. There’s certainly a number of harder edge songs, but even then Paula’s voice shines through. It’s not just her tone, it’s also her phrasing and annunciation, which is just great.

The album opens with “Pride”, one of the rockier numbers, which reminds me of a combination of Sixpence None The Richer and the Cardigans. It also has an almost Euro feel to it. “Joan” is a slower number, which with it’s mellow guitar, allows Paula’s voice to really shine. It reminds me a bit of Martika’s “Love Thy Will Be Done”, especially in the vocal harmonies. “If You Leave Me in a Hurry” and “Passport” are wonderfully mellow tracks, that again showcase Paula’s voice. Don’t get me wrong, the music is a perfect compliment, but it’s really hard to compete with a voice like this.

That’s not to say this album is without it’s flaws. “Tell me a Lie” is a faster paced track, which does little for me. As with many tracks on great albums, it’s not that’s it’s a particularly bad track, it just seems somewhat misplaced. I’m also not overly enamoured with the title track, but that seems to be a running theme with many of the albums I’ve been reviewing lately, so could just be me.

The album winds down nicely with “Fly Away” which is probably my personal favorite on the album. “Left to Stain” has some interesting vocal qualities that remind me very much of a modern day Mary Hopkins. The final track “Atmosphere” is one of those tracks that you feel is going to end like a cliff hanger, but instead it elegantly winds down.

Conclusion : A wonderful, well rounded album, from an outstanding female vocalist, who I am looking forward to hearing more from.

Posted in Acoustic, Folk Rock, Pop | No Comments »

Album – Growing Flowers by Candlelight – Ainslie Henderson

Posted by admin on 11th March 2007

I’m a sucker for all things acoustic, so when I came across Ainslie via Mark Hunter’s Mellow Monday podcast, my interest was immediately piqued.

It’s amazing the amount of music capturing my attention, that originates from Scotland. Ainslie himself is from Edinburgh. I’ve reviewed quite a few Scottish bands/artists of late, and it seems to be that the majority of them, follow this style of relaxed acoustic music.

The first track on the album is “Dust”, actually reminds me of a track from a previous Indie Launchpad review, an artist called Derek James, but here the track is much more mellow. “Don’t Say” brings Del Amitiri to mind, who again were a Scottish band and a very good one at that. “I Need Reminded” again has a heavy emphasis on the acoustic guitar, as in fact does the majority of this album. It’s either something you love, or hardly notice. For me, it’s just such a beautiful instrument to listen to, especially when it’s played as well as it is here. The album finishes with “While They Wait”, which has a very emotionally raw feel to it, great stuff.

There’s very little to distinguish one track over the other, well certainly for the majority of tracks, but I don’t see that as in any way a negative point. Each of the songs has it’s merits, but all are underpinned by great songwriting, honest singing and great accompaniment. The only downside I can really offer, is that I would have loved to have seen a way to purchase the music in MP3 format.

Conclusion : A great album to relax and unwind to. I’d be interested to see some more diverse song choices and maybe a couple of tracks with more instruments, but on the whole, thoroughly recommended.

Posted in Acoustic | No Comments »

Album – So Much More – Brett Dennen

Posted by admin on 2nd March 2007

Phenomenal is probably the most apt word that springs to mind, when I think of this album. From the opening few seconds, I knew this was going to be something quite special. There was also a little surprise for me, bit more of that in a bit.

I harp on, again and again about distinct vocals that engage and this was certainly the case with Brett. I read in a few places, that some people think his vocals have a very female sound, I disagree. Whilst his voice does have a certain softness to it, there’s also a real funky, almost reggae feel and that’s not just in the vocals, it’s also in the music itself, which balances on a line between Paul Simon and Bob Marley sung by Marc Bolan. Yes quite a combination, but it works oh, so well.

“Ain’t No Reason” opens the album and wow, the whole combination is just so mesmerizing. Lyrically there are many similarities to Bob Dylan in this and many of the other tracks on the CD. It’s not necessarily the content, but more in the phrasing and the rhythmic flow. “There Is So Much More” follows strongly and I can just sense while I’m typing this, that I’m coming across somewhat over enthusiastic, but I can’t help but get excited. Sometimes reviewing music is like watching the blazing trail of gunpowder and then finally you get the explosion, the 4th of July and Bonfire Night all rolled into one, musically speaking of course and this CD is that explosion.

“Darlin’ Do Not Fear” is where the Paul Simon influences surface and you get a fusion of calypso and that voice. Similarly “She’s Mine” shouts out like a homage to Bob Dylan. In fact it reminds me very strongly of the track “I Want You” I think it is.

And now we get to the surprise. Have you ever watched a TV commercial and heard a piece of music and thought “Wow that amazing”, only to forget it again? I did that when I saw an ad for Hilton Hotels. Imagine my surprise when listening to this album for the first time and the track “The One Who Loves You the Most” came on. Yes this track is the one used on the TV ad and here it was in all it’s glory. I can’t tell you enough how much I love that track. It’s an absolute sheer classic, killer of a track. Definitely my favorite track on the album.

Every song on this CD screams class. Every time I play it, I get that smug feeling of contentedness. An album well found.

Conclusion : Another member of the 9.5 club and deservedly so. With a swagger and confidence, this is a killer album and a must have in your collection. If Brett doesn’t explode all over the media, both old and new, I’d be extremely surprised.

Posted in Folk Rock, Pop | No Comments »