Archive for September, 2008

Album – Little Daggers – Val Emmich

Posted by admin on 25th September 2008

  • Band / Artist : Val EmmichmySpace
  • Genre : Alternative / Rock
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : CD Baby
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 9.5 out of 10

Never have I had to sit on an album so long before releasing the review and to think that I nearly didn’t even listen in the first place. The majority of music I cover is stuff I’ve discovered on podcasts, radio (what little I do hear) and recommendations. From PR companies, record labels and management companies with whom I’ve built up a relationship, I often get unsolicited music, that they think I am going to like, rather than just hoisting any old crap on to me. The problem I have however is time and resources. When I got this album in, I read the name, skimmed the sleeve, but nothing really grabbed me, so I put it in the pile of, “To Look at Laters”. My commute by car takes barely 10 minutes, so I don’t get to listen to much music in the car, or rather listen extensively. When it came time to take the car into the shop for it’s service, I grabbed a few CD’s to play on the journey.

Fishing around while driving, I opened a case, took out a CD and popped it into the car stereo. What greeted me was the great sound of “The Lucky Ones”. Once I reached a set of traffic lights, I looked down at the case and lo and behold, there was Val Emmich, staring back at me. This is one of those albums, that you can’t help but by seduced by. “Get on With It”, takes things up a notch and has hit written all over it. The opening of this album is like a car on rocket fuel, you hardly get pause for breath. I say hardly, as the track that follows, “Got a Habit Now”, is at a more sedate pace, but there’s something in the way this song is constructed, that dig it’s claws in further and further, as the track unfolds.

It was when “Hurt More Later” came on that I realised that this was an album to be reckoned with. Many times, I know I’ve found something special when a particular track has me hunting for the previous button on the stereo to re-start the track that’s just finished. This track had me hunting like a caveman who hadn’t eaten in a week. With Val’s strong vocals taking control, it’s the music and vocal accompaniment that drive this song. It all builds up to a wonderful loose, crowd recital of the last verse and it’s something that truly gave me goosebumps.

“Darling Denise” is the one track that for me is a slight blight on what is otherwise an incredible offering. As I’ve said many times before, it’s not a bad track, but just doesn’t press the right buttons. It kind of reminds me of the Plain White T’s, “Delilah”, which is a track that I used to love, but felt it got played to death. “Too Far” is the track that starts the second half of the album, with a slow burning fuse, it funnily enough reminds me a bit of Neil Diamond, more for the phrasing of the chorus, more than anything else. “Wake Up Brand New” lives up to the alternative/rock label and adds another dimension to what is already a truly outstanding album.

When “We Still Bleed” started, it was almost like listening to Marc Bolan, but it soon moves onto a more conventional sound, not that that’s a bad thing. There’s even a hint of the Beatles, with the Strawberry Fields sounding wood flute, synth sound. “Down” begins with a wonderful full sounding acoustic guitar, strumming furiously, yet when the vocals start, there’s a wonderful contrast, as they have a heavy reverb, giving an almost ghostly sound. The album finishes with “Catalyst”, the aftermath of the most wonderful explosion of pop magic.

Conclusion : What more can I say. This is truly one of the best albums I’ve ever reviewed on Indie Launchpad. I implore you to pick up a copy a relive the pure wonder I had when I first put it into my stereo.

Posted in Alternative, Rock | No Comments »

EP – Closer – Jars of Clay

Posted by admin on 15th September 2008

It’s funny, I’ve been aware of Jars of Clay for quite a time, but never really got around to investigating them. Thanks to my friends at Nettwerk, I no longer have to wonder. This 5 track EP of three news songs and two re-recordings, greeted me in my mailbox and has been playing constantly.

It was only while reading up on the band that I saw they had listed Christian, along with Rock and Pop for genres. I don’t know why this surprised me, but this is certainly like no Christian music I’ve ever heard. Maybe that’s a failing on my part, but it’s never really been an area of music I’ve ever really paid attention two. Whatever the genre though, this is great music.

Opening with title track, “Closer”, there’s no punches held back, as it wallops you full force. This is an absolute cracker of a track, which you’ll find yourself humming constantly. “Safe to Land” also has some real clout, but here it’s much more melancholic, with a decided hint of ColdPlay, both musically and vocally. “Love Song for a Saviour” is the first of two re-recorded tracks. I have to admit, having not heard any of their previous releases, I’m none the wiser, but it has a distinctly subtle African flavour, which is probably not accidental as Dan Heseltine visited there in 2002 and was moved by the poverty, physical and social suffering he witnessed. I have to admit this track took a few plays to bed in, but is now a firm favourite.

“Flood” is the second of two previously recorded tracks, again I can only take the song at face value, having never heard the prior version, but I have to admit, it’s by far the low point of the EP for me. While the other songs have a strength in both hooks and flow, this one feels decidedly disjointed. Redemption however is at hand with the final track “Prisoner of Hope”, which has an almost ethereal feel to it, drawing the proceedings to a wondrous end.

Conclusion : Long on my radar, but now firmly in my sights. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this band as I thoroughly enjoyed what I heard here, bar for a small blip.

Posted in Christian, Pop, Rock | No Comments »

Album – Goddamned – Jay Brannan

Posted by admin on 10th September 2008

Sexuality is not something that I generally associate to music, consciously anyway. Yes in this musical world of mine, boy meets girl, marries girl, splits up, sticks together or does any of a combination of those things, sometimes multiple times and continues the rollercoaster that is life, experiencing the constant ups and downs. With that in mind, it was at first somewhat unnerving to listen to Jay Brannan. It doesn’t take long to realise that this is a young man, who’s not only gay, but has no qualms about taking us on the journey that is his life. While this may seem somewhat of an uncomfortable ride for the average hetrosexual male, I had no such worries and even if I had, man that voice can thaw all but the coldest hearts.

I found about about Jay, via my friends at Nettwerk. I received an email letting me know about this guy and his new album. I have to admit, I listened to “Housewife” with the expected preconceptions, but as these preconceptions slowly started to erode, I realised that here was an incredible talent who I had to get in for review. That being said, this is not an album for sensitive ears as there are a few things that might make grannies toes curl, in language an imagery.

“Can’t Have It All” opens the album, and the imagery is finely painted with an incredible attention to detail. The track unfolds wonderfully, showcasing some great lyrics, but an even more incredible voice. I’m not usually a fan of expletives in music, unless they add character. There’s nothing worse than swear words being used for effect, rather than for the setting of scenes. At first I though the expletives here, were a little over the top, but the more I listened to the album, the more they felt right, in a surrounding that was true to life.

With 11 tracks on the album, there’s certainly no shortage of terrific songs. “Can’t Have It All” is certainly right up there, along with “Half Boyfriend”, “Housewife” and “Bowlegged & Starving” which has a great quirky flavour to it. It’s funny, put that together with the track that follows, “On All Fours” and you can’t deny that those are an interesting collection of song titles.

The album rounds off with “String-A-Long Song”, a track that has a different feel than the rest, but it works great as a track to lead things out on.

A great collection of songs, from a truly exciting talent. Even if all the songs on this album were awful, here is a guy that could sing the phone book and make it sound good.

Conclusion : A simply stunning album, that sells itself through Jay’s incredible vocals and wonderful musical accompaniment. Certainly this is not going to be everyones cup of tea, but please take the time to at least listen to a few of Jay’s tracks on MySpace or YouTube, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Posted in Acoustic, Folk | No Comments »

EP – Wonderful – Jacob Jeffries Band

Posted by admin on 10th September 2008

With the release of this, the second of three planned releases, we are treated to 7 studio tracks, that show another side of this phenomenal band. That being said, while I thoroughly enjoyed all of the tracks, I think the first EP spoiled me somewhat. Being a huge fan of live music, the first EP was all acoustic and it’s a sound I revel in when given the chance. That’s not to say that these tracks are any weaker, it;’s just my personal preference.

The EP opens with “Mr Weatherbee Freeman” an interesting track that almost fools you into thinking it’s two songs, reminding me a lot of the Beatles, “Day in a Life”. It’s the title track, “Wonderful” which is the jewel in this encrusted crown. This is a track that real shows an accomplished band, but even more so, incredible songwriting. This is the track that brought JJB to my attention, in what seems like a lifetime ago. “Flashlight” while not as electrically charged as the previous track, it does manage to dig it’s hooks in. This was a track that took a while to grow on me, but it’s not hard to fall in love with this track and indeed every track. The music goes a long way to appeasing your ears, but it’s the vocals that for me are the high point of this and the previous EP.

“Take It All Away”, is for me the low point of the EP. A pleasant song indeed, but it just fails to excite me, as the other tracks do. “And I Say” is the studio version of the song that appeared on the first EP and it has a distinctly different flavour. It has a different flavour indeed, but it’s still eminently likable. Actually this is probably up there in my top 3 JJB tracks.

“Head on my Shoulders” has an almost whimsical feel to it, which is in part due to the piano intro. There’s something else there that reminds me of another favourite Indie band of mine, Harvey Danger. The music is in a very similar vein. I’m not complaining not by a long chalk. The last and indeed longest track, musically anyway is “Your Tree”, a real laid back, almost blues number. This is the perfect way to sign off a thoroughly fantastic EP.

The final track with the unusual title of “…” is pretty much Jabob thanking everyone involved. This is a nice addition to the EP, but I would have much preferred it to be a PC only feature, as at 10 minutes, it’s a real pain to have put this on, along with a few other CD’s and have to skip this track, which to be honest you are going to want to do, after you’ve heard it once. So a bit of a downer to finish things off with, but don’t let that put you off a wonderful release.

The next EP is going to be an all live release. This is something I’m very, very excited about. Can’t wait to get my grubby mitts on that one.

Conclusion : The juggernaut that is the Jacob Jeffries Band, motors ever forward. It’s surprising that this time around, JJB still seem somewhat a guilty secret of mine and many podcasters. It’s on a podcast that I first discovered them, but still the rest of the world seems to be taking their time catching on. When they do, look out world, for a shining new star is set to be born.

Posted in Pop, Rock | No Comments »

EP – Lights Across the Sky – Nat Jay

Posted by admin on 7th September 2008

  • Band / Artist : Nat JaymySpace
  • Genre : Folk / Acoustic
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : CD Baby
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes Pending
  • Rating : 8.5 out of 10

There’s a new breed of female vocalist that seems to be all the rage at the moment. Gone is the sugar sweet, doe eyed facades to bland pop, replaced with women who know who there are, what they want and how to get it. K T Tunstall, Kate Nash, Serena Ryder and god forbid, Amy Winehouse come to mind. As soon as I heard Nat Jay’s EP, I knew this was something quite special. What makes it all the more special was that it was an unsolicited submission from one of the many PR companies I work closely with, who seem to know what kind of music is going to hit the spot.

This 6 track EP hits the spot, with the first track “Pick Up the Pieces”. With wonderfully distinct vocals that really get me excited, overlaid on a music track that manages to drive the song effortlessly without overpowering that wonderful voice. And oh that voice. The breathless velvet tone on “Love When I Can” manages to send chills up my spine. It’s not a secret that I have a soft spot for female vocalist, that manage to either bring something unique, or manage to sound like they are making love to the microphone, well here’s it’s double bubble and the aural senses are the winner.

“Daydreaming” reminds me of another artist whose name escapes me, it’s a fairly laid back track, but there’s a wonderful production to it, with an almost ethereal quality. The more this EP unfolded the more excited I got, but also the more anxious I got, as I just knew when the EP was over, I was going to feel somewhat at a loss, with a feeling of being cheated out of a full length album. “Lights Across the Sky”, the title track, is a great track, but one that I didn’t quite feel deserved title billing, as certainly the first 2 tracks are far stronger.

“On My Own” the penultimate track, mixes things up a little. A more uptempo track, but that feeling of intimacy is gone, replaced with something a little more sterile. It’s a niggly point, but with only 6 tracks, I didn’t feel this track was strong enough for the EP, more suited as an album track.The final track “Untitled” returns to the formula that I feel makes this an incredible EP. Certainly the second half, is not as strong as the first, but as an EP this is still pure magic.

Conclusion : A name that I was previously unaware of, but now one that I am eager to hear more from.

Posted in Folk, Pop | No Comments »

Album – Caught Looking – Greg Roth

Posted by admin on 7th September 2008

  • Band / Artist : Greg RothmySpace
  • Genre : Rock / Acoustic
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : CD Baby
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 8 out of 10

Sometimes I hear snippets of an artists work and make a snap decision to either enquire further or move onto the next artists. With Greg Roth I have to admit, while his voice isn’t the most melodious, there is something about it I found very interesting, interesting enough to want to hear more.

When Greg’s album finally arrived, I popped it in and when I heard the first track “I’ve Only Got a Minute”, I knew I was onto something. This is just one of those well crafted and well executed songs. It’s amazing what you can pack into a minutes worth of song and it’s a song I’ve played many times since. As I mentioned before, Greg does not have the smoothest of vocals, and I don’t mean that as a criticism. What you do get however are vocals that have a unique quality and one that is eminently listenable.

With 12 tracks on the album, or maybe 11 if you want to discount the 1 minute opener, there is a a real vibe of someone putting his heart into something, but also someone who doesn’t take himself too seriously. There’s some gems on this album, including my favourites “Your Providence”, “The Sound of Your Voice” and the opener, which I just love to death. There’s also an interesting contrast between some of the songs like the Spanish/Mexican, “Good Heart” and the banjo pickin’ “League Bowlers” which I have to admit is probably my least favorite track on the album.

It was while I was listening to the tracks with regard to review that I kind of realised what it was about the vocals that stood out. They have that lazy feel, which is prevalent in many punk bands, especially the punk bands of the 70’s and 80’s. Musically there is much here that reminds me of a great British band, Squeeze, with some wonderfully crafted pop.

Conclusion : Certainly something a little off the wall, but all the better for it. Some great pop with just that hint of quirkiness that sets this apart from the norm and results in something very enjoyable.

Posted in Acoustic, Rock | No Comments »