Archive for December, 2007

Album – Last Embrace (Deluxe Edition) – Northern Room

Posted by admin on 20th December 2007

I received both the Last Embrace and Only Seconds EPs a few weeks ago and have to admit I was in a bit of a dilemma. When approaching a new band, I like having the opportunity of listening to earlier releases, as well as the latest one, to give me an indication of how the band has developed. Unfortunately sometimes it’s hard for me to not review both at the same time. While pondering this, I heard back from the band that they’d just released a new deluxe version of Last Embrace, which in effect combined both of the EPs, added some live acoustic songs and a bonus track, making to all intents and purposes a full album. This solved my dilemma and also gave me the opportunity of hearing even more tracks from this excellent band.

The album opens up with “We’re on Fire”, which very much defines the Northern Room sound, sounding at times a cross between Indie Launchpad favourites Black Labs, and Nicky Wire from the Manic Street Preachers. There’s a real sense of a band who are extremely comfortable playing together and also a real confidence that shines through. This is a cracking track to begin the album with. This sound carries over into “For All These Years” and although the sound is familiar, it’s a sound that really gels well with me and is carried over the next two tracks “Galaxy” and “Dutch Radio”. “Stars of God” slows things down somewhat and really gives the lead vocals a chance to shine. There’s also a wonderful orchestral arrangement that floats in and out to dramatic effect. This track for me is just sheer magic.

“Last Embrace” the title track, actually features twice, once as a studio cut and one as a live cut. Again, I’m not sure if it’s me being a finicky git, or whether my expectations are unrealistic, but I always like a title track to be a kind of backbone for the rest of the tracks to lean on. While “Last Embrace” is a pleasant track, it’s not that killer track that I like to find. “We’re on Fire” would have been a much better track, but I can understand the title, wouldn’t really sit well as an album/extended EP title. “Waiting” and “Let Me Out” are similar kinds of tracks and though I hate to say it, they feel very much like filler tracks. However putting it into context they are still very good tracks, but it probably has a lot to do with the running order of the tracks. The album opens very strongly and I think this makes it harder for the later tracks.

The album begins to turn around again with “Everyday”, but dips again a little with “This Wreckage”, which feels very lacadasical and rambling. With the studio tracks now over, the album takes a slight change of direction with 3 live, acoustic tracks. “Last Embrace” is the live version of the title track and even live, it does little to change my opinion. It does however show the bands musical prowess and sounds exceptionally good, for live material. “A Witness” is a live track that has no accompanying studio version. It’s a wonderfully atmospheric track, which while could be considered a bit of a rambling track, at least musically, but when the vocals kick in, it takes the track in a whole new direction. Again for live material, this is very nicely done. “We’re on Fire” closes the live tracks, as it opened the studio tracks, and the live version is every bit as good. It has a very different feel to it, being more laid back, rather than the rock flavoured original, but it’s every bit as good, if not better.

Closing off the album is “Home”, a gargantuan 11 minute track, that I thought may have been added just to pad the album out. Upon listening however, this thought simply evaporated. Fairly conventional to begin with, but at around the 4 minute mark, the track goes off in a dreamy, ambient direction, that really reminded me of the best in repetition. I always feel I have to add, here I mean repetition in the best sense of the word. Think of the organ segment in the Who’s, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, or Pink Floyd’s, Echos. Truly outstanding.

Conclusion : Whilst I loved the individual EPs, together as an album with all the extras, it’s a fantastic body of work that I’m sure will capture the attention of a legion of new fans, while providing enough new and interesting stuff for existing fans who have already bought the previous 2 EPs.

Posted in Alternative, Ambient, Rock | No Comments »

Album – Good Grief – 3 Blind Mice

Posted by admin on 12th December 2007

  • Band / Artist : 3 Blind MicemySpace
  • Genre : Pop / Rock / Alternative
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : CD Baby
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 9 out of 10

Good Grief. You can say that again. I bet 3 Blind Mice are glad to have this album finally in the can, as it’s had a gestation period more akin to that of an elephant. That however is by the by, as once again they are triumphant in releasing a cracking album, which we’ve pretty much come to expect. According to iTunes, this album came out at the end of 2006, so I’m nearly a full year behind the curve, but some things are worth waiting for.

Although I’m often chomping at the bit to review new releases from artists who I’ve previously reviewed, I still like to take the time to really let an album sink in with me before reviewing it. Although I’ve had this album a month or so, I hadn’t really had a good chance to listen to it until last week. It was yesterday however when I started to cosy up to it and really feel like it had got under my skin.

After work last night, I took the opportunity to finish off Christmas shopping for my wife. The snow had been coming down since about 4pm, so by the time I left work at 5:30pm, there was enough snow on the car for it to take me a few minutes to clear it. Just before pulling away, I put this album on the car stereo and it became my sole companion for the rest of the night.

The first track “Your Face is Not Enough” really greets you like an old friend. Those harmonies are unmistakable and I pulled out of the parking lot, with a warm glow and a big smile on my face. “Dead Penguin” is the track that follows and while I still haven’t warmed to this track, it does provide another dimension to this album. “Kolysanka” has the feel of a Russian folk song. It’s slow and deliberate and filled with lush harmonies and what sounds like a balalaika, at least I think that’s what I think it is anyway.

“Derek Malone” has to be one of my favorite tracks on the album. It has all the qualities we have come to love on the Beatle’s, Penny Lane, with a narrative that flows effortlessly with the musical accompaniment. For anyone subscribed to PW Fenton’s, Digital Flotsam podcast, “The Word” will sound very familiar, having been used as the theme track for a good couple of years now. “I’m So Tired” is probably my least favorite track on the album, I just keep feeling like the track is barking at me, if that makes any sense. “The Breaking” provides a nice foil to the previous track, calming, soothing and washing over like the soothing waves of a warm sea on a summers day.

If there’s one thing that really impresses me about 3 Blind Mice, it’s that while their tracks all sound very familiar, leaving no doubt who there are by, they also have a real diversity. “The King’s Shilling” shows this to the full, a Christmas song, without fanfare, frills or gimmicky sleigh bells. At just over 2 minutes, it’s a little on the short side, but excellent nonetheless.

This is another one of those albums where I can just go on and on, telling you how good it is. Better than that, you can go buy a copy and discover how good it is for yourself. If you’re already a fan, you will need no prodding, to add this to your collection. If you are new to 3 Blind Mice, this is an excellent introduction, which still leaves you 3 other albums to pick up.

Conclusion : Simply a wonderful example of everything that’s right in todays indie music. Great music, inventive and interesting lyrics, resulting in another must have album.

Posted in Alternative, Pop, Rock | No Comments »

Album – Batten the Hatches – Jenny Own Youngs

Posted by admin on 6th December 2007

I got an email recently from Nettwerk, telling me about Jenny Own Youngs’ new video, available to see on YouTube, called F*** Was I (astrisks there to protect delicate eyes and yes this isn’t part of the track name). I was at a loose end and saw the email again and decided to have a watch. I heard the cello begin and I was hooked. I heard Jenny’s voice and knew it was aural love at first listen. I have a hard time trying to describe what it is in a female vocal that gets me so excited, suffice to say Jenny has it by the truck load.

Opening with “Porchrail”, I was a little sceptical about what I was about to hear. It has an almost rockabilly feel to it, but I needn’t have been so wary. What unfolds is just a sheer delight. Jenny has a wonderful style of delivery and lyrics that are honest and fresh. This is no lovelorn woman, but one that really comes across as in control of her own destiny. The first two tracks are pretty short at around the two minute mark, but they serve as a great escort to “F*** Was I” which has that magic X factor.

“Lightening Rod” is a more relaxed track and it’s here that the Jenny’s voice adopts a huskier, smokier tone. It’s a slightly rambling track, but all can be forgiven, as Jenny’s voice builds and takes a more hungry tone. “Voice on Tape” has a nice answerphone message featured throughout, which sounds too good to be fake. The track itself is pretty simple, but builds with some nice harmonies and layer upon layer of sound, great stuff. The return of the banjo comes with “P.S.” and to be honest it’s probably my least favorite track.

“Drinking Song” again features a most colourful word, but there’s no shock, or gratuity in it. The lyrics, as they have throughout the rest of the album, have a real honesty to them, a truth of life, that really works. “Woodcut” is another of the more relaxed tracks, but the combination of vocals and guitar, work nicely to evoke an atmosphere of a summer’s day, lazing in a field of corn. “Coyote” again manages to evoke a strong picture in my minds eye, of a saloon in the wild west. The more I listen to this song, the more a complete video unravels in my imagination.

“Keys Out Lights On” eases us gently into the final track, with Jenny’s rich vocals, and a glockenspiel if I’m not mistaken. The final track “Woodcut (The Age of Rockets Remix), is as you’ve guessed it, a reworking of the previous “Woodcut” track, and provides enough of an interesting twist, to be solid in it’s own right.

Conclusion : A welcome find and one that really delivers a fresh take on female vocalists. Inventive, witty and sharp. Pure, unadulterated, tasty, goodness.

Posted in Pop, Rock | No Comments »

Album – Have You Heard Things – The Spectaculars

Posted by admin on 6th December 2007

I love hearing new music that makes my ears price up and pay attention, as was the case with The Spectaculars. I say new music, which this was to my ears, but not the the music shelves, as this album came out in 2005. It is however the most recent work from the Spectaculars and I’m hoping that something new is just around the corner.

The first track is “Mista Ambrosia”, which is as an original sound as I’ve ever heard. It’s certainly a sound you could hear on the radio and recognise in the blink of an eye. A classic case of opening an album with a sheer classic in the making. “The Save” is a more conventional pop song, with some decidedly strange harmonies, which you hear around the 2 minute mark. Probably a classic case of hearing too, because I was using headphones. “You On Me” struck me as a Lenny Kravitz cover that isn’t. It’s a kind of fusion of 70’s classic rock and 90’s guitar rock.

Sometimes I complain about a band being all over the place. This is an album that while is most definitely all over the place, manages to hold it all together into one coherent package. “Dear Sexy” has soulful Wild Cherry vocals, but again they’re fused into numerous musical styles and influences, that results in a wonderfully laid back and funky track.

“Holy Hannah” again is a total departure from the tracks that precede it, but as I said before, this is a classic example of a Chaos theory album. All over the place, but at the same time very uniform in it’s excellence. “Anti-Hectic” harkens back to the 70’s in it’s feel, but has that contemporary edge, that prevents this album from being derided as a throwback also ran. Talking of throw backs, I couldn’t help but smile when I heard “Have you Heard Things”. There’s a dialog that introduces the track, and I couldn’t help but hear Barry White’s voice in my head, as opposed to the one that is on the track.

There really is too much on this album, to really give it justice in this small space. Suffice to say, it is comforting in it’s style and influences, but refreshing, in the edge that has been introduced throughout. There’s enough different styles of track to keep you interested and highly entertained.

I must give a special mention to the final track “Stone Age” which gives the hip-hop, pop feel of the majority of the album, a real infusion of 70’s super rock. Brilliant.

Conclusion : Extremely funky, with originality by the bucket. An absolute riot of an album.

Posted in Hip Hop, Pop, R&B | 1 Comment »