Archive for January, 2008

Album – The New You – School for the Dead

Posted by admin on 28th January 2008

I often think the secret of a good album / EP is whether it is able to affect your mood. This 2004 release from School for the Dead, managed to do that within 10 seconds of the first track, turning my pretty neutral face, to one of grinning appreciation. Sounding very reminiscent of They Might Be Giants, there is something oh so undeniably catching about “Photobooth Curtain”. There’s also some very subtle Beatle influences that run throughout this 3 minute track, pure and simple pop at it’s best. I was so, excited to hear the track that followed, but also a little apprehensive, would this album be able to continue along the blazing, scorched path, that had been set down by the first track. Well the answer is yes, but much more gently so. “Campground Daughter”, is a much more whimsical song, but very, catchy.

From power pop, to whimsy and then off to the almost ska sounding “Thug”, yet it all flows and follows on exceptionally well. Of the 13 tracks on this album, I can honestly say there isn’t a dud one amongst them. “Photobooth Curtain” would have to be one of my favorites, along with “Can’t Believe How Fast” and “The Wichita Train Whistle Sings”, which could almost be a Monkee’s song, it just has that high energy, foot tapping vibe to it. Finishing up with “Goodnight”, the album ends on a darker, more sombre note, but for all it’s melancholy, it just can’t do any wrong.

The more I got into this album, the more I kept thinking of They Might be Giants and their 1990 release, Flood. Every song stands up on it’s own merits, but together they form a wonderful collection of just the most amazing tracks. This is very much a summer kind of album, but on the current freezing cold days and dark nights, it’s a great way to infuse a bit of sunshine.

Conclusion : Just a wonderful album, which should grace everyone’s collection. Just a little concerned that there’s been nothing since 2004, which is an eternity in Indie music, but my hopes are high for something new in the near future.

Posted in Pop, Rock | No Comments »

Album – Songs of Want and Loss – Lionel Neykov

Posted by admin on 28th January 2008

  • Band / Artist : Lionel NeykovmySpace
  • Genre : Acoustic / Soul
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : CD Baby
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 8.5 out of 10

It’s no surprise given the strong Eastern European overtones of Lionel’s surname, that this 9 track offering has a similar, strong flavour, that at times enhances Lionel’s voice, and at other time totally falls away to leave a voice that whilst not the most melodious, has a realness that is both charming and heartwarming. I have to admit though, listening to a track here and there on various podcasts, I was pretty much on the fence. Lionel has a very distinctive voice, but I had a nagging sense that it may not hold up for an entire album. I’m glad to say though, my previous fears, were totally unfounded.

The album opens with “I Need You” which starts, predictably enough, with soothing acoustic guitar, but it’s when you hear Lionel’s voice for the first time, that your aural senses are almost stopped in their tracks. When the mandolin / balalyka is introduced, the track takes on a real seasoned veteran feel, which is surprising, seeing as Lionel only picked up a guitar for the first time 7 years ago. “Hey Ruth” is another track that really stands out and has also been featured on a few podcasts and was indeed the first track I heard of Lionel’s. “Freeze My Senses” is a very interesting track, which at times feels like it’s should be performed in a Broadway production, maybe that’s accidental as Lionel is currently living in New York city.

“In the Sunshine” was a track I really enjoyed, but I couldn’t help feeling that it needed a bit more Summer injected into it. It’s hard to explain exactly what I mean, but it’s nearly there but not quite. Still great though. The album rounds off with “Brother’s Again” and with this song, I noticed that the Eastern European feel, whilst still present, is not as strong as towards the latter half of the album. This had me in conflict with myself, as it’s that earlier sound that grabbed my attention, but this final song is a cracker. Oh well, I’ve got the best of both worlds.

As a debut release, this is very striking, especially considering Lionel has only been playing the guitar for 7 years. It has some rough edges, but I think had these been smoothed out, this would be a very sterile sounding album. This is certainly one artists I’m very excited about and look forward to seeing how he follows up this release.

Conclusion : A great find and an artist that deserves some major recognition. It’s only early days in his recording career and also in his playing career, but I can well see exciting things ahead.

Posted in Acoustic, Soul | No Comments »

EP – Oh My! – The Good Lovelies

Posted by admin on 23rd January 2008

There’s a dearth of good Canadian artists, but it never ceases to amaze me how there’s often a real interconnectivity between some of them. The Good Lovelies are the third in a chain of excellent Canadian artists I’ve discovered. Top of this chain was Rob Szabo, which lead to Scott Cooper and he lead to the Good Lovelies, who I saw at a recent gig, where Scott Cooper was appearing as their guest. I’d actually listened to a few of their tracks on MySpace, before the concert, but this did not prepare me for the awesome evening of entertainment. I don’t want this to turn into a gig review, but just want give to touch on the fact that as a band, they exude personality. Admittedly the gig was at a fairly small venue, at most there must have been 50-60 people, but this just made the evening all the more enjoyable. I have a slight confession too, while Scott Copper was performing his “Insomnia Song”, I was in heaven, because as well as Scott singing, I had the Good Lovelies standing next to me, singing somewhat subdued harmonies, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

At the gig I took the opportunity to pick up a copy of their 5 track EP, with the full intention of reviewing it and also because my wife really wanted a copy. The EP opens with “Taboo”, a fantastic track, which gets your feet tapping within an instant. Further into the track, the harmonies begin and I have to admit, they ascend this track and indeed the whole EP to the next level. “February Song” is a very laid back track and actually the only laid back track on the EP. While the song is all about the coldness of February, the vocals inject warmth and comfort as they smolder. “Honeybunion”, er yes, certainly an interesting name to conjure with. A tale of bittersweet love, which shows a more comedic side to the band. “Clementine” is a reworking of the age old standard and I have to admit, it’s never sounded so good, especially for a song, I normally don’t have much time for. It’s also interesting that it’s the first time I’d ever actually digested the lyrics, mmm interesting to say the least. The EP rounds of with “Whiskey” a fitting way to round things off. Again it’s a song you find it hard not to tap something to, which is probably due in part to the banjo accompaniment. I especially enjoyed the trailing end of the song.

Just a wonderful find which has me clamouring for more songs already. Hopefully it’s not going to be too long before the band are able to release a full length album, which I’m really looking forward to.

Conclusion : Sexy, sassy, humorous and with voices to die for, I’d say that was recommendation enough. If you ever get the opportunity to see them live, grab it with both hands, feet or whatever tactile method you have at your disposal, in the meantime, get yourself a copy of the EP.

Posted in Folk, Pop, Rockabilly | No Comments »

Album – Cure for the Common Crush – Id Guinness

Posted by admin on 15th January 2008

Two things struck me when I first put on this album, or should I say two artists. One of them has been receiving renewed interest of late and that would be Led Zepplin. The other is an artist I reviewed here back in August, Aaron English. There is a real air of theatrics, which is exceedingly uncommon in albums today, or rather should I say in good albums. I’ve been following Id for quite a while. My memory was jogged again, way back in August of 2006 when I heard a track of his on the PC Podcast. This is an album that grabs you the first instant. When the last track finishes, you really feel like you’ve listened to something epic, in the best traditions of old.

Opening with “Rising River” you are immediately engulfed by what can only perceived as a supergroup in action, which is quite magical and awe inspiring. “The One That Got Away” has wonderful strings underpinning the track, which brings back memories of the Beatles, Eleanor Rigby. Where that was tinged with sadness, this track is tinged with a dark, almost maniacal feeling. The next track “Jade Garden” employs that vox coder sound, sometimes used by Pink Floyd, adding an inexplicable air to a song, that probably would have felt quite different without.

“I Have Seen the Future” feels very much like a natural break, with a more sedate pace and a sound that is much more radio friendly, Not that that means too much these days. I probably listen to about 10 minutes of radio, during a working week and that’s just for the news in the morning. “Down to This” starts of with a much more simpler, rougher sound than you expect, compared to the tracks that precedes it, but due to this sound, mainly due to the guitars, does again feel very much like Zepplin.

When an album has a title track, I’ve mentioned a few times, how I always expect it to be the strength on which the other tracks can lie for support. I wasn’t too sure about “Cure for the Common Crush”. It is a very laid back and slow burning song and to tell the truth, it took me a few listens to really warm to it, but I think it has a great feel and the production is great, with many interesting sounds and vocals. The next track “Always Crashing in the Same Car”, is a David Bowie cover, to which I’m not too familiar. I’m a big Bowie fan, but I’m only really familiar with his major hits, plus the odd album, usually his later releases. So when I heard this track I was unaware of the Bowie roots, until my memory was jogged by an email Id sent me, reminding me that this could not be the downloadable track used for this album, as being a cover it was not podsafe. For me this was a pleasant track, but nothing more. This track indeed marks the turning point of the album. The darker, edgier side is replaced by a more chilled out and relaxed side, which I have to admit, at first I was disappointed with, but the more I heard the album, the more I liked this split personality.

“Negative” with it’s sweeping keyboards, takes me back to the 90’s, as does the whole sound / production of the track. The 90’s theme continues with “The Joke”, which also brought to mind A-Ha, the Norwegian band, best remembered for their hit song “Take on Me”. It’s not so much Id’s voice, but more the phrasing of the lyrics and the lyrics themselves. “Beaches” is probably my least favorite track. It’s very moody and atmospheric, but just didn’t click with me. “Beautiful Goodbye”, is also a very pleasant track, but similarly, didn’t grab the way I really wanted it to. The penultimate track “25 Watts”, feels very 80’s rock, almost like a track from one of those teen movies, but there’s something about it, maybe the nostalgic feel, that really struck a chord with me.

And so the final track “Wailing Wall” is upon me and suddenly that real magic feel from the earlier tracks was back. What’s surprising is that this track is more laid back prog rock, than the earlier theatrical style, but it’s just a glorious ramble, with some very Floydian female vocals.

Conclusion : This album reminds me greatly of getting my grubby mitts on a new Pink Floyd release. At first you have the excitement, then the wonder of a new discovery, rounded off with the familiarity of an old friend. It’s an album that comes out of the gate with a snarl and finishes off with a lingering embrace.

Posted in New Wave, Progressive, Rock | No Comments »

EP – The Soul of Bubbles and Cheesecake – Bubbles and Cheesecake

Posted by admin on 9th January 2008

I’ve seen a few combinations in my time, like apple pie and ice cream, beer and whiskey, even jellied eels and mash, all very complimentary. At the other end of the spectrum you have chalk and cheese and now Bubbles and Cheesecake. It’s unusual that two distinctly different things blend together so nicely, but that’s exactly the case here. Bubbles and Cheese cake are Allee Willis, a Grammy winning composer, also responsible for Earth, Wind and Fire’s, “Sepetember” and the Friends TV show theme, and Holly Palmer, formerly with Gnarls Barkley’s live and who’s also worked with David Bowie, Dr Dre and Michael BublĂ©. As you can see quite distinctly different characters, which is also distinctly apparent when you hear them sing. Allee has a much more, how can I put this, weathered voice and Holly has the more chirpy, poppy voice. When they’re put together, it’s works amazingly well.

First track on the EP is “It’s a Woman Thang”, girl power for those on the wrong side of Spice Girl mania, or rather the right side, depending how you look at it. It was one of those tracks that when I first heard it, I could really sense something, which was ever apparent when I found myself humming the song later in the day. It’s a really strange song, as it’s very catchy, but never really seems to go any where. The second track on this 4 track EP, is “I Confess”. Their sound runs consistantly through the EP. “I Confess” differs from the first track in that it has a distinct break towards the middle, which breaks the track up nicely. “Girl in Lust” is for me the highlight track of the EP, even though the title may be misconstrued somewhat, it really is a beautiful track. It’s a real sleeper too, being the third track, as you’d expect the best song to be first and for many that will be the case, but for me, this track harkens back to the late 60’s and 70’s soul girl groups. The final track “Cryin Lovin Leavin” really rounds things off nicely. I have to admit, I’m not overly keen on Allee’s vocals and couldn’t imagine listening to a solo work in a similar vein, but they do provide a nice contrast to Holly’s voice and here they work exceedingly well.

Conclusion : A really interesting release, which I’m hoping leads to a full album release, because I would love to see how their sound develops. For me though this EP is worth buying alone for Girls in Lust”, with the other tracks being great support.

Posted in Pop, Soul | No Comments »

Album – Ghost Stories – Chantal Kreviazuk

Posted by admin on 8th January 2008

Although I’ve been in Canada for 8 years, the only exposure I’ve had to Chantal’s music has been via brief forays on the web and an appearance on Canadian Idol, where she gave advice to the contestants. I’d always considered her pretty much as a mainstream artists, indeed in many countries she’s distributed via Sony/BMG. Although I usually veer away from mainstream artists, something about Chantal’s music, kept me coming back. When I discovered she was on the Nettwerk label in Canada, I fired off an email and was soon in possession of her latest CD, the one I am reviewing here. Now many’s the time, I’ve not reviewed an album for a while, because I’ve been snowed under, which as a matter of fact is still the case, with this album however, I’ve sat on it because I was a little intimidated. Not because I think of her as some rock demi Goddess, no, but something just made me feel uncomfortable about putting fingers to keyboard, this changed over Christmas, indeed something has clicked for me with a few albums over Christmas, which I’d previously had trouble with, for some reason or other.

Opening with “Ghosts of You”, this track literally blew my socks off. The piano is so catchy and I’m sure I’ve heard bites of it on the TV, probably promoting the album. It’s not only the piano that is great, Chantal’s vocals, have that wondrous mix of emotive hunger and smokey sexiness. I’m not sure of Chantal’s roots, though I realise her name is probably East European / Polish and at times I’m sure I can detect the merest hint of an accent, which is definitely on the sexy side of the equation. “All I Can Do” is the track that follows and is just another example of opening an album with big guns. There’s a lovely piano accompaniment that bubbles under the track, which reminds me of one of those old, slightly out of tune pub pianos, which really adds to the atmosphere of the track, although it sounds like a backhanded compliment.

“Spoken in Tongues” again features a very distinctive piano accompaniment, which seems to be something that spans the entire album. “Mad About You” has that wonderful quirky feel, which many Nettwerk artists have possessed. This track just flows like a silk shirt in a breeze. It’s here that I realised that Chantal doesn’t have the greatest voice, in the classic sense. Don’t get me wrong, this woman can sing, but it’s not a pure pop voice, it’s one with real emotion and feeling, one that really grabs me, shakes me and has me coming back for more. “So Cold” is a delightfully short track, at a tad over 2 minutes and an interesting one, in that it really doesn’t seem to go anywhere, but still manages to captivate.

“Waiting for the Sun” has the melody that bubbles under, driving the track forward and is easily one of stronger tracks on the album. I love how nearly all the tracks have a very different feel and emotion, but are held together by Chantal’s wonderful lyrics and vocals. One of the few dour tracks for me is “You Blamed Yourself”, which really failed to ignite with me for some reason. At a tad over 4 minutes it’s one of the longer tracks on the album, but really failed to gel with me. “Grow Up So Fast” was a very interesting track for me, because it has all the hallmarks of a 70s classic, in a style not too dissimilar to Elkie Brooks, a name many Brits of a certain age will be familiar with.

It’s so hard sometimes to tear my self away from an album review. I don’t usually like to cover each and every track, but I keep finding something exciting and interesting in each and every one here. “Wonderful” again is just a classic in the making. Killer vocals and a melody that really gets under your skin, in a good way that is. “Asylum” probably isn’t the best of names for a track. The only other one I can think of with the same name, is the B side of Gary Numan’s Cars, a track that use to freak the living daylights our of friends that used to sleep over when I was a kid. Here also there is a disturbing feel to the track, again heightened by the piano and strings, that really add to the atmosphere.

“Wendy House” is the longest track on the album, at just over 6 minutes and I have to admit, wasn’t one of my favorite tracks. It really feels like a self indulgent track and may have been better left as the last track on the album.

Within seconds of hearing the start of “Time” I knew this was going to be another amazing track. You can just sense it from the melody and when the vocals started I was well and truly hooked. This is one of the more unusual tracks on the album, as much of the earthy, emotive feel of her vocals is replace with a much more radio friendly pop feel, which while is in stark contrast, works just as well. I have to admit though, I much prefer the earlier vocal style. The album ends with “I Do Believe”, which has some quirkiness all it’s own. Would you believe it reminded me a bit of Shakira? Well it does, which is either a good thing or a terrible tragedy, depending on your musical tastes. Seriously though, it does add another element to the album and rounds things off nicely, though I would have much preferred a more down beat track to end the album.

Conclusion : A wonderful, wonderful album, for a vocalist that has capture a special place in my collection. Sheer magic. Although this is the first artists reviewed in 2008, I can well imagine Chantal featuring on next years best of 2008.

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