Archive for October, 2008

EP – Mode 4 – Robert Bray

Posted by admin on 28th October 2008

There was something that always bugged me, when listening to Robert Bray, and that was he reminded me of someone who I just couldn’t place. Sitting down to do this review and it just came to me, he reminds me of Double, a Swiss band I think, who had a hit in the 80’s with “Captain of her Heart”. Admittedly the musical styles are quite different, with Robert being more Alternative / Acoustic than Pop, but for me, there’s just something that joins the two.

Opening with “What Were You Thinking”, there’s a wonderful, freshness and calming feeling that washes of you when the track begins. There’s also a wonderful Pink Floyd feel to the track, with an organ/synth that subtly underpins the track and a gorgeous piano that plays throughout. Robert’s vocals, are clear and distinctive, but for me, they compliment the music, rather than the other way round, certainly for this track anyway. “Optimisanthropy”, which being a mouthful, again musically stands out, with some wonderful acoustic guitar. More organ/synth interject, this time however, I’m more reminded of The Beatles’, “Strawberry Fields”. It’s obvious that here is an artists with a wide breadth of musical influences, who’s not afraid to draw from them, but also not afraid to experiment. This is a track that keeps surprising, and indeed surprised me, as it became my firm favourite on the EP.

“Lord Cornflower’s Lament” is a perculiar track, but it somehow comes as no surprise. At a tad under two minutes, it kind of feels like a piece of self indulgence, with what sounds like oboes, or is it bassoons, I can never quite tell, but it sort of provides a wonderful interlude to the EP. “Catherine’s Waltz” is a track given to me by Robert a while back and already played on the podcast. Waltz’s are not something you hear much in contemporary music, the only artists I can think of who’s not afraid to try is Leonard Cohen, who takes a waltz and firmly places his stamp on it. The orchestra on this track is wonderful, you just don’t get enough strings in todays music.

Closing with “April (Part II)”, an instrumental track, that rounds things off beautifully. I never really thought of the music that Robert played to be experimental, which is one of the genres he describes his music as, but this EP is certainly that, but in an assured way. Having reviewed Robert’s previous work “Ludo”, I was certainly excited to get this EP in and it exceeded my expectations in every way.

Conclusion : A great EP, which goes off in many directions, but still manages to hang together exceptionally well. With Robert’s new band, the Predecimals promoting their new album, I’m hoping that Robert still manages to continue recording, giving us some more of this rich vein into which he’s tapped.

Posted in Acoustic, Alternative, Experimental | No Comments »

EP – All Those Pretty Lights – Andrew Belle

Posted by admin on 28th October 2008

I was fortunate to receive near final mixes of two tracks from this, the latest EP from Andrew Belle and they certainly left me hungry for more. The EP has now dropped in my lap and has not disappointed.

The first track, “I’ll be Your Breeze”, reminds musically of Coldplay as indeed to many of the vocals on this EP, but have a much looser feel and a tempo that engages. Before long, you find at least one of your limbs, or indeed head keeping beat. The vocals for me, are what stand out most, being very easy on the ear, a wonderful tone with just a hint of a raw edge, that really adds a nice dimension. It’s funny, maybe falsely, I was under the impression that this was going to be the title track, instead this honor goes to “All Those Pretty Lights”, which is a great track, but “I’ll be Your Breeze” as that intensity that for me, really sells this collection of 5 tracks.

“In Your Sleep”, starts as a much more laid back, acoustic guitar driven track, that slowly builds into a more produced work. Whilst I love this style, I can’t help wanting to hear a more stripped back and bare track, to let the vocals stand out a bit more. This want, is filled to some degree with “Signs of Life”, but again, the production fills in and I feel that Andrew’s true talent is being shrouded somewhat.

The final track “Replace Me”, again grabbed me with the vocals. Like the rest of the tracks on the EP, it’s a tad over 4 minutes, but it has that rare quality, where you find yourself at the end of the track, thinking it’s only been on for a short while. I also love the piano that is delicately laid down, but seems to shine at just the right moments.

Conclusion : This is a great EP, from an incredible talent. The only criticisms I have, are more selfishness on my part, rather than any lacking on Andrews. He has a great voice, and I’d love to hear more of it. Maybe on the next release something purely acoustic, with just Andrew and a guitar.

Posted in Pop | No Comments »

Album – Something in the Engine – Hotrod Cadets

Posted by admin on 14th October 2008

Long time overdue for review, this cracking album has been out a few months, but hasn’t been totally ignored as I’ve been listening to it in constant rotation with some of my other favourites. “Something in the Engine” is a follow up to 2005’s Breaking Up, and amongst the first albums first reviewed on Indie Launchpad. Back then they were also blazing a trail with podcasters, allowing their music to be featured, when other bands weren’t too sure. This means that in the podcast community, listeners included they are no stranger.

When I find bands I’m really into, I can be a bit of a pest, I think Alastair from the band can attest with that, as I try to keep in contact, finding our how new albums are going. Alastair put up with me and fed me a track here or there from the new album, so when the new album dropped, I pretty much new what to expect and was not disappointed.

This album feels much more complete, with a fuller sound. I loved the previous album, but this one feels more like a band, than a solo effort. Opening with “Mean Machine”, just the first few bars gave me goosebumps when I put it on, as it was so undeniably the Hotrod Cadets. This is further reinforced when you hear Alastair’s lilting Scottish brogue, something I love to hear in music, as I think some bands try too hard to hide their true voice. “Satellites” again has that unmistakable sound, with some accordion thrown in for good measure. Yes I said accordion, but don’t let that put you off, as soon as you hear it, you realise that this track just wouldn’t be the same without it.

If you nailed me to a wall, and only released me if I picked my favorite tracks, they would have to be “Lost Again”, with it’s quirky wonky guitar intro (love it), the title track, “Something in the Engine”, which has that feeling of striving to arrive, if that makes sense, and “Fly” which for me is the icing on a most wonderful cake, along with the wonderful “Sinking Fast”. If you don’t have to nail me to a wall, then I’d just say the whole album, is full of great tracks, with quirks aplenty, but quirks that bring a welcome smile and a gentle cosseting of the ears.

When the album came to a close I had those mixed feelings wash over me, the one where I’m excited to hear a new album from a band I love, but at the same time, a pang of sadness, that it’s probably going to be a while before the next one. Let’s just hope the next one arrives a bit quicker than “Something in the Engine”.

Conclusion : A welcome return from a band that are firm Indie Launchpad favourites. An album that’s a sheer joy to listen to and certainly one that will enhance your existing collection of music.

Posted in Pop, Rock | No Comments »

Album – Get On With It – Caves

Posted by admin on 14th October 2008

  • Band / Artist : CavesmySpace
  • Genre : Minimalist / Progressive / Glam
  • Sample Track Download : Closure
  • Buy CD : CD Baby
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 8.5 out of 10

Maybe I’m an old fart who likes to dwell in past musical glory, but here’s an album, that draws on many of the bands, that I grew up with, The Specials, The Clash, The Cure and many others, most of whom strangely seem to begin with “The”. Hearing that undeniable similarity, but with a modern sheen, is a brilliant feast for my ears. On the bands website their genres are listed as Minimalist, Progressive and Glam. Not wishing to contradict them, but I would more put them at Rock, with a hint of Reggae and Ska. You could probably add to that a touch of Pop, but this is by no means a pop record, as it feels lot more grown up, but then maybe that’s my memories skewing my thoughts.

The CD opens with “Curiosity” and it’s hear that The Specials came to mind. Vocally however there a hint of something more theatrical, which I suppose is where they see the Glam coming in. The title track “Get On With It”, filled in the missing piece, of the band I was trying to think of when making comparison, that band being The Beat, or The English Beat as they were known in North America. This band fits them like a glove, but a loose fitting glove, as they manage to carve out a sound all of their own, but the influence is unmistakable, even if in all probability it’s totally accidental.

This is another one of those albums, that just flies by in a blink of an eye. Not that 45 minutes is too short a length, it’s just the result of well crafted music, which washes over you. Particular tracks of note for me are the aforementioned title track, “I Lied” which is one of those tracks that starts relatively slowly and builds nicely. Rounding off my picks for the album are “Without Thinking” and “You(Plus)Me”.

The only song I felt slightly missed the mark was “Samurai”, which has a much darker tone and a much different sound than the rest of the album and for that reason stood out and just jutted out like an awkward angle.

Conclusion : A fantastic find and an album that proved effortless to listen to. Really excited to see what the band comes out with next.

Posted in Glam, Minimalist, Progressive | No Comments »

Album – A Better Life – Scott Krokoff

Posted by admin on 8th October 2008

There seems to be an ever blurring line between country, folk and pop. The best example of this has been Shania Twain. The country purists shudder at her name, but she’s certainly done the country genre an enormous service, taking it places it’s never been. Scott Krokoff, has that same feel to his music. While there’s nary a mention of country on his MySpace page, his style of Folk Rock, shares remarkable similarities to Shania’s style of Country. Kind of Folk Rock with a pop edge. This boils down to 13 tracks, or pure unadulterated “easy listening”. Ah that term, “Easy Listening”, something I used to think of as my Dad’s taste in music, but I’ve come to learn it’s music that’s well written and a joy to listen to, without forcing your brain to go a mile a minute to disseminate what your ears are listening to.

“I Know Your Story” is the first track, and it was this one that brought Shania to mind, with soft clear vocals, a top acoustic guitar and drums. “Friend in Need” is a particular favorite track of mine. “A Better Life” was also one of my favorite tracks, until the electric guitar solo that breaks in nearly half way through. It’s one of those things, that while good in itself, jars the listening experience as it just doesn’t feel like it belongs.

While the album on the whole, is fairly mellow, there are a few tracks, that shake things up a bit, “Tomorrow’s Coming” and “Acid Rain” being two of them. It’s also a welcome diversion, as without these tracks, and “Do You Wanna Play” which rounds off the album, it would have seemed a bit too laid back for it’s own good.

The country analogy I opened with is pretty much enforced with the track, “Holy Fire”, with it’s country style guitar, and the sound of the vocals. I could just imagine Shania singing this one.

I would be remiss in not giving a special mention to “Autumn Sky” which is one of those tracks, that kind of fills you with hope. It’s hard to explain, but it just has that “Everything is Going to be OK” feel to it. So 13 tracks and not a dud among them. This is certainly an artist I will be eager to hear more from.

Conclusion : This is one of those albums, that you listen to and in the blink of an eye it’s over. This is a trait that marks a fine album.

Posted in Folk Rock, Pop | No Comments »

Album – In Direct Communication – Unknown Component

Posted by admin on 8th October 2008

Although I get many people contacting Indie Launchpad to submit their material, only now and then does something catch my ear, that brings back fond memories of my youth, as was the case with Unknown Component. Harkening back to the days of addled, angst ridden punk, this is a sound that I haven’t heard in a long while. It’s at times like the Ramones and then it has a more contemporary sound, akin to the OffSpring or Green Day. I do have to get a bit of a major gripe out of the way, the sound quality on this CD isn’t the greatest. The vocals are very muffled and towards the end of the CD, you almost feel relieved it’s nearly over. I understand many bands employ relatively lo-fi recording methods, but this to me is a little sub par. This is a shame as there’s some great songs here.

Opening with “Into the Sun”, instantly there’s that feeling of a someone singing, with their two fingers firmly raised in definance at the world, kind of like Sid Vicious, with his rendition of My Way. The mood softens slightly with “It’s a Fine Line” and it’s here that I feel most comfortable with the bands sound, audio quality permitting.

“Retrospectively Speaking”, musically takes a different direction, but it’s an awkward marriage of, contemporary pop/rock music, with a punk style vocal, something that doesn’t quite sit right. A similar thing can be said of “Between Guilt and Relief”, this time the track is more Ultravox or Depeche Mode with the airy synth. The vocals adapt to fit the music, but I much prefer the more edgy and raw vocals.

Towards the middle of the CD, things seems to tread water, especially in comparison to the opening tracks. Things begin to pickup again with “Identifying Interpretation”. With a very 80’s rock build up, it really comes as a relief and again the album begins to get back into it’s stride. “Brought Up to be Put Down” is certainly very reminiscent of Green Day, which is no bad thing. It’s also a very nicely paced track.

The final two tracks, “Never Ceases to Remain Unchanged” and “The Inconsistent System” round things off nicely. While I have my gripes with the sound quality, it’s the middle of the CD, where things loose their way a bit, but it recovers nicely.

Conclusion : The sound quality will definitely annoy the audio purist, but if you can look past that, there are some great tunes here.

Posted in Pop, Rock | No Comments »