Archive for September, 2007

EP – Week Days Off – Finniston

Posted by admin on 29th September 2007

  • Band / Artist : FinnistonmySpace
  • Genre : Acoustic / Pop
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : N/A
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 8.5 out of 10

It’s always truly a joy when a new Finniston CD drops into my mailbox. I know, without doubt, that whatever it is, it’s going to be a wonderful collection of songs and I’ve not been disappointed so far. This time around it’s a two track single, called Week Days Off, from their forthcoming album on Ruby Records, another album I will be looking forward to greatly.

As mentioned before this single comprises of two tracks, the title track, which has all those wonderful Finniston hallmarks running throughout, from Steven Finnie’s great lead vocals, to Jolene Crawford’s great harmonies. What was originally a two piece band, has nicely blossomed to include Andrew Gifford on bass and Jamie Attridge on drums. Musically it all sounds very tight and just a sheer joy to listen to. The second track “Words Can Only Try” continues the acoustic, mellow theme and I’m reminded again that this is indie music at it’s finest.

Conclusion : Buy the single to fuel your Finniston fire, until the hotly anticipated album finally arrives. If you are suitably devoid of other Finniston music, the previous EP, “Golden Hour of Strict Tempo Dancing” is also still available.

Posted in Acoustic, Pop | No Comments »

Album – Catch the Brass Ring – Ferraby Lionheart

Posted by admin on 27th September 2007

Sounding like some kind of British eccentric, Ferraby Lionheart is certainly a name you won’t forget in a hurry. This is doubly so, when you actually take a listen to his latest album.

Right out of the gate, you know this is going to be something quite different. The first track, “Uno Ballo Della Luna”, has the feel of a children’s lullaby, with a production style, that makes it almost sound like an AM radio. It almost feels like a throw away intro track, lasting just a tad under two minutes. The album proper begins for me, when “Small Planet” begins to play, but really captured me when it got to the chorus. “Vermont Avenue” is a delicate song, sounding almost like a throwback to the 60’s, just my cup of tea. “Call me the Sea” continues the most delicate of melodies and softest of vocals, and you just can’t help but fall in love with the direction things are taking. “The Car Maker” reminds me a lot of the Kinks in the 70’s, an album in particular that springs to mind is the soundtrack to the movie “Percy”, suffice to say I’m not going to go into the details of the movie, but let’s just say it’s not a cinematic tour de force.

“A Bell and Tumble” effortlessly rolls the album into it’s second half and it’s just about then that I noticed how great the musical accompaniment is. It has a very eclectic and spontaneous feel to it, giving the album, that magical creative spark. “Under the Texas Sky” really shines a spotlight on Ferraby’s voice, which is very distinctive and full of character. “Youngest Frankenstein” while not having the most inspiring of titles, also unfortunately is probably my least favourite track on the album, as it just seems to plod along. “Before We’re Dead” takes an interesting turn, sounding at first like something from a New Orleans funereal procession at the beginning, but soon gets into a more contemporary sound.

Rounding things off are “The Octopus and the Ambulance” and “Put me in Play” and you can’t help but feel like Ferraby had some out of body experience when coming up with the titles of some of his songs, which range from the strange, to the bizarre, but somehow, it’s all in keeping with what you expect. This last track is also a favourite of mine and rounds things off nicely.

Conclusion : Certainly a name to keep tabs on and certainly not one you are going to forget in a hurry. Couple that with just the most interesting and wonderful music and you’re all set.

Posted in Pop, Rock | No Comments »

EP – Bitter Suite – Amy LaCour

Posted by admin on 27th September 2007

Soulful and sweet, is probably best how to describe the voice of Amy LaCour. There’s also a hint of something a bit deeper, something a bit darker. This EP reminds me a bit of Alicia Keys, without all the vocal gymnastics.

Opening with the title track, well title track of sorts, as the spelling is different, “Bittersweet”. Not sure if this is intended or an oversight, but I can’t help mull it over, each time I put the CD on. The Alicia Keys sounds is more evident on “One Man’s Stone”, but more for the piano accompaniment, than the vocals. It’s probably my favourite track on this 5 track EP.

“I’m the One”, has a fairly sombre mood, but though the music is downbeat, the vocals soar like a bird. “Fools Road” feels like a more complete song and I start hearing hints of Aretha Franklyn, bold and confidence abounding. The final track is “Fall”, which really seals things nicely and brings the EP to a nice close.

Throughout the EP, Amy’s voice is strong and sweet, but I can’t help but feel, there lies a diva beneath. I’d love to hear Amy really let loose, just to see what it would sound like.

Conclusion : A real relaxing EP and one that fulfills that 5pm need for something to unwind to.

Posted in Alternative, Pop, Soul | No Comments »

Album – Some Kind Of Urban Fulfilment -The Tacticians

Posted by admin on 27th September 2007

First off, I have to admit I do have a soft spot for this band. I first discovered them on a podcast that played the track “London’s Alright”. In it is mentioned my old stomping ground, which never fails to bring back fond memories. I actually liked the track so much, I ordered a 7″ vinyl copy, do you remember vinyl? The lads follow up single was “Girls Grow Up Faster than Boys”, which had that similar, 80’s retro indie feel. A little while after that release the guys sent me an email to let me know they’d been signed to Setanta Records. This was great for them, but also great for us, as it meant a whole album of the Tacticians’ great songs.

The album does not disappoint. 11 tracks, with great lyrics and a musical style, that feels very raw, but also very tight and well executed. The lyrical style, reminds me a lot of the Kinks, were every song tells a story and is backed up by music that’s spot on. Many of the tracks never fail to get me tapping something, whether it’s fingers, hands, feet or any other extremities that can be tapped or shook.

Opening with “Respectfully Proceeding” this is probably one of the more radio friend tracks and is one that you’ll find yourself humming, long after it’s finished. The following three tracks “Girls Grow Up Faster than Boys”, “Hardcore Porn” and “London’s Alright” are no stranger to Tacticians’ fans, as they have all appeared on their two singles. “Hardcore Porn” is actually a pretty innocuous track, despite it’s title. For me though “London’s Alright” is the killer track, even though I’m not overly keen on the new arrangement, which varies quite a bit from the original single.

“Size” is one of those little gems, that behind the very simple title, hides a song of pure gold. “Honey You Ain’t Needed Anymore” starts off pretty laid back and gets more frenetic the further the song progresses. “Get a Move on” is the last track also featuring on one of the singles.

“Dance Like Nobody’s Watching” has an almost Elvis Costello feel to it to the music, with a Joe Strummer vocal accompaniment. In fact it was when I reached this song, that I realised that many of the vocals share a lot of similarities with Joe Strummer, which is praise indeed in my book. “Ordinary People” is a very pleasant track, but doesn’t really captivate. It’s a similar thing with “I Feel It’s Over”. In fact when I think about it more, they are very fairly laid back tracks and you very much get the feeling that the album is winding up, so maybe not a criticism as such, more an observation. Finishing up with “Town Full of Losers”, it all ends far too quickly, but man what a ride.

The only small niggle I have with the album, is when I make direct comparisons of tracks on the album, with the ones released on the two singles. Those tracks are “London’s Alright” and “Hardcore Porn” and “Girls Grown Up Faster than Boys” and “Get a Move On”. I found the production on the singles, was much nicer. Those tracks and to a certain degree the rest of the tracks on the album sound kind of muffled, when compared to the crisper and brighter sounding singles. Just a small niggle, but it’s something I keep coming back to when I play the album.

Conclusion : Production issues aside, this is still a great album, that manages to capture a great youthful spirit. They perform quite a bit, in and around London, and I can just image they’re fantastic live. Do your CD collection a favour and pick up a copy.

Posted in Folk, Pop | No Comments »

Album – Undercurrent – Steve Robinson

Posted by admin on 26th September 2007

Anyone who has an association with Roger McGuinn from the Byrds, is certainly going to cause my ears to prick up big time. However I didn’t find out that Steve sometimes sings harmonies with Roger McGuinn, until after I had his album in my hands. Not that it would have made much difference, as I heard a few tracks before requesting the album and really enjoyed what I heard.

This is very much a feel good record. I find myself returning to it frequently, as it never fails to deliver that feel good factor, especially needed after a hard day at work. The album opens with “Wooden Hill”, a very jangly, lazy day summer kind of song and you can’t help but wonder if Roger’s influence is in there somewhere. “Please Emmalene” takes a subtle change in direction and immediately reminded me of Harry Chapin, with a smattering of one of my other favorite Indie Launchpad bands, 3 Blind Mice.

“The Best Days of Your Life” is one of those killer tracks. Not only because the lyrics and music are great, which they are, but also because it’s able to evoke very strong memories, specifically my childhood school days. When I went to school in England, school uniforms were the order of the day. I can remember the first few weeks, arriving at school with nicely pressed shirt and trousers. A school blazer, emblazoned with our school’s badge, nicely dusted a top a perfectly tied, school colours tie. A few weeks in and your standards begin to slide, not because you can’t be bothered, but you want to mix in with the rest of the school and not have the “I’m a Target” look. Ah yes, those were the days. Brilliant stuff.

“Love is Real”, has that McCartneyesque vocal style to it, with wonderful keyboards and is that tubular bells I hear. There’s also a very interesting, almost George Harrison guitar solo, in the middle, giving this track a real assortment of interesting influences. Although I generally love slower, ballad style songs, I get much more satisfaction from the tracks of Steve’s that are slightly more up tempo, “Wasted and Waiting” being a prime example. “Forget About Love” is another one, that has your feet tapping and head bobbing.

“Road to Ruin” sounds a tad like a Cat Stevens song and yet again I find myself making comparisons, but they bubble so vigorously in my mind’s eye, that it’s almost a sin not to mention them. “Class Clown” leads us into the last few tracks and you can almost hear that it’s the tail end of the album, which suggest to me that this is a very well balanced album. I thought “Boring God” was going to be my least favorite track, as the beginning is pretty uninspiring, but again as soon as Steve’s vocals start, the song comes alive. “I’m in Trouble (Again)”, almost takes me back to my childhood again, but we won’t go there. It rounds the album off nicely and something that I feel is very important in a CD. I like to feel like I’ve experienced something. Like a good book, I generally like a beginning, middle and end, and this is a perfect example.

Conclusion : I love this album and return to it often. You really can’t get a better recommendation than that. Looking forward to what the future may bring.

Posted in Folk, Pop, Rock | No Comments »

Album – Tenebrae – Mike Mangione

Posted by admin on 25th September 2007

A real folksy, soul sound, with just a hint of the blues, is probably how I’d best describe this offering from Milwaukee based Mike Mangione. The opening track “Waiting for No One”, has that kick back and relaxed style, very reminiscent of the Commodores, “Easy”, which is a great way to open an album and certainly made my ears prick up, when I first heard it. “It’s Me Not You” develops things further, introducing a delicate balance of strings, which I think are either cello or fiddle, or perhaps both. Laid over the music, is a voice of earthy charm, with a hint of bluesy roughness, think a more Joe Cocker than BB King, but not quite so harsh.

The more I listened to the album, the more I kept coming back to the track “The Killing Floor”. At a tad over 6 minutes, it’s one of 3 lengthy tracks on the album, but it really engages and is probably the quickest 6 minutes you are going to encounter in a while. Many times, especially recently I’ve mentioned albums, that lack that killer track, but here it’s almost the total opposite. Every track has Mike’s hallmark firmly placed on them, but they all have that certain something, and more exciting, that something is different on nearly every track.

“You Don’t Wanna Leave” has a sound that conjours memories of Dire Straits in the 80’s, more album track, than single, but that’s not to say it doesn’t hold up as a great song. After all, I tend to find, many of a bands best songs tend to be album only tracks, as opposed to singles.

Picking killer tracks, proved relatively easy for this album. The opener, “Waiting for No One” is definitely up there and also “Great Divide” and “A Requiem For The Trash: Damnatio Memoriae”.

As the album reaches the end with “Mama, Be Not Afraid”, I can’t help feeling that there’s rockier side of Mike, waiting to be unleashed. I can just imagine his vocals, blasting with some wailing electric guitar. Don’t get me wrong, I love this album, but would love to maybe hear something else with a bit of a kick.

Conclusion : A phenomenally great album, from an artist I’m sure is going to go far.

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

Album – Reunion Tour – The Weakerthans

Posted by admin on 25th September 2007

The Weakerthans are a band I got into relatively late in their 10 year career, only recently reviewing their third release, “Reconstructive Site“. Now 4 years after that album was originally released, we have “Reunion Tour”. I suppose I’m lucky, as it’s only been a year since I previously discovered and reviewed their last album, but for many fans, I’m sure this album has been eagerly anticipated.

Opening with “Civil Twilight”, I had an amazing sense of excitement wash over me. It’s certainly easy to recognize as a Weakerthans record, as that sound is immediately recognizable. Part way through the opener, I had a bizarre sense of loss and then joy at rediscovering this terrific band, it’s hard to describe it any other way. Listening to “Hymn for the Medical Oddity”, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the indie powerhouse band, They Might be Giants. Certainly vocally, there are some great comparisons, but also lyrically, there’s that great humor and relaxed style. “Relative Surplus Value”, gives us something rockier to munch on and you can sense that a lot of thought has gone into the balancing of this album.

“Tournament of Hearts” stands out as one of my favorite tracks on the album, with a driving guitar and drumbeat, managing to bubble under, rather than drown out the vocals. On the flip side of that “Virtue the Cat Explains Her Departure”, whilst having an amazing title, fails to live up to it, for me, proving one of the two humdrum track on the album. The other mediocre track, is the one that follows it, “Elegy for Gump Worsley”. It’s way more Leonard Cohen (whom I actually love a lot), than what we come to expect from the Weakerthans, way too dour for my tastes. This blip in the album, is only slight and things rebound nicely with “Sun in an Empty Room”, giving pure and unadulterated Weakerthans goodness, followed closely by the excellent “Night Windows”.

“Big Foot!” leads us into the last third of the album and has a very familiar feel to it. I’m never sure if it’s deja vu, or just the Weakerthans being exceedingly good at what they do, lulling me like a muse. The title track at last, manages to deliver and not let the album down, as seems to be the case with many title tracks of late. “Utilities” ends the album with a twist and fade to black.

Conclusion : A shining example of all that’s great about the independent Canadian music scene. With many peaks and just a couple of very small troughs, make no mistake this is a cracking album. It may take the Weakerthans a while to come up with a new album, but man, when they do, it’s worth the wait.

Posted in Folk, Rock | No Comments »

EP – Why Everything Goes Wrong – Good Luck Joes

Posted by admin on 19th September 2007

  • Band / Artist : Good Luck JoesmySpace
  • Genre : Pop / Rock
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : CD Baby
  • Buy Digital Download : N/A
  • Rating : 9 out of 10

Listening to the Good Luck Joes, I couldn’t help but think it was me that had the good luck. This EP from the Milwaukee based band, is simply amazing. It’s not very often that an EP has such a strong lineup. Normally you get the leading strong track an a bunch of fillers, which if you are lucky are also fairly good, otherwise it’s tracks to just plug the gaps and bulk things up a bit. None of that is true for this 5 track EP.

The EP opens with “Invincible” and you really get that sense of confidence. The lyrics are almost delivered with a cocky swagger and it very much sets the tone for the whole EP. This is surely a track that would get the band picked up by a major label, it’s just getting it in front of an A&R man’s ears. What am I saying! Well strike that from your memory, but I’m sure you know what I mean. “My Little Thief” has a great beat to it and I can almost hear that contemporary sound, very popular at the moment, with bands like Fall Out Boy and Panic at the Disco, but this is more rock than pop, which means I don’t feel so guilty for loving it to death.

“The Peter Principle” gives the EP a chance to catch it’s breath and while it’s very pleasant, it’s the faster tracks that really get excite to hear more. “ATM” machine returns to the of sound earlier and it’s just sheer class. The last track “One in a Million” takes things down a few notches and I could easily come to hate this track as it’s when it finishes that the EP is over… thank God for the [Replay] button. While I do like the slower tracks, it’s the faster ones that really sell this EP. Here’s hoping that a new album is forthcoming in the near future.

Conclusion : I think you could say I like this album a lot. Actually I could say that with a whole bunch of expletives with knobs on and it would still be understated. I just wish there was an electronic way to buy the EP, as I’m sure many more people would love an easier way to buy it, than through the post.

Posted in Pop, Rock | No Comments »

Album – Alumni – Julius

Posted by admin on 19th September 2007

Having just released the review for General Fuzz, I was given a mental reminder, that I had the new Julius album lying on my hard disk waiting for review. Now why would General Fuzz remind me of Julius. Well Julius is another one of those daft buggers, releasing his music to the world for free. Yes you can pick up a physical copy for a minimal price, which barely covers the cost of media, but essentially you are getting the musical equivalent of free beer.

I reviewed Julius’ Yern EP, back in November and was totally blown away. So barely 7 months later, here I am with another chunk of great music. It’s funny, I was checking out Julius’ MySpace page, when I noticed his new release, Alumni. Not 10 minutes after doing this, I get an email from the man himself, offering me a copy for review. Now that’s what I call coincidence.

This 8 track album, has everything I’ve come to love about Julius, simplicity and a haunting honesty. It’s very much acoustic, with no frills or gimmicks, and all the better for it.

The album opens up with “Dust PT II”, a pretty upbeat track, well for Julius anyway. There’s something very quintessentially British about this album, almost eccentric, but it just a sheer delight to listen to. “Sweet” bares comparison to Jeff Buckley, but not so much the music itself, but the haunting aura surrounding it, and indeed the majority of the album.

“World in You” is an odd little track. It’s a tad under 2 minutes, but something about it, just seems out of place. I think some of this stems from the vocals, which sound like someone, trying to imitate an accent, with very pronounced annunciation. “Sideways”, has an almost Tudor, sound, not too far removed, from how you imagine a court minstrel to sound. The following track “Anne-Marie Says” has an almost 60’s folk feel to it, and wouldn’t seem too out of place as a track on a period movie.

Rounding off the album is “Save the Day”. While there isn’t a track on here that will blow you away, it’s not really that kind of album. Very similar to the William Fitzsimmons album reviewed recently, this is an album, that you choose to put on at specific times, usually to unwind from the great rat race. At that task, it succeeds very well.

Conclusion : Another fantastic release and a real joy to listen to when you just need to escape yourself for a while.

Posted in Pop, Rock | No Comments »

Album – Good Night – William Fitzsimmons

Posted by admin on 19th September 2007

Mellow is probably a bit of an understatement when talking about Goodnight from William Fitzsimmons. I found out about William via another artist, Ingrid Michaelson, who I’ve also been trying to review. I saw Ingrid recommmend a few other artists on her MySpace page and knew instantly upon hearing William’s music that here was something truly magic.

This 13 track album opens with “It’s Not True”, with vocals that are barely more forceful than a whisper. Indeed the whole album is very much of this style, so while you are not going to put the album on to get the adrenalin flowing, it’s a good album to do the exact opposite, so lay back and let the world pass you by. Whilst being mainly acoustic, there are subtle hints of electronica, namely I think either drum machines or sequencers, but it’s very well thought out and doesn’t kill the flavour of the music.

Due to the style of this album, it’s really hard to pick out killer tracks, but several come to mind as ones I partcularly enjoyed. “It’s Not True” being probably my favorite track on the album, closely followed by “Everything has Changed” and “Please Don’t Go”, which also features vocals by Ingrid Michaelson. Funnily enough, I found this last piece of information on William’s MySpace page, and as coincidence would have it, these three tracks also feature on William’s MySpace player.

Conclusion : Certainly an album that you’ll need to conciously chooseto play, rather than haphzardly throw on, but once those lilting music and lyrics wash over you, you can be sure that your fractured soul will nicely heal.

Posted in Acoustic, Ambient | No Comments »