Archive for the 'Acoustic' Category

Passenger- Wide Eyes Blind Love

Posted by admin on 3rd November 2010

  • Band / Artist : PassengermySpace
  • Genre : Indie / Rock
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD :N/A
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 9 out of 10

I purchased this album, during my hiatus away from reviewing music and to some degree, it re-energised me, urging me to spread the word. To anyone familiar with Indie Launchpad, you will probably remember my more than enthusiastic review of the bands previous album, “Wicked Man’s Rest”. To some degree, this album is more of the same, but with a more acoustic, striped back feel.

The album opens with “Last Unicorn”, a song that upon hearing for the first time, I knew instinctively this was going to be an amazing album. There is incredible expression and emotion in Mike Rosenberg’s vocals, that draw you in, like an expert story teller, recalling the story of their life. The minimalist accompaniment works very well, and runs like a deep vein throughout the album. “What Will Become of Us”, has some wonderful lyrics, as well as some quite beautiful, but very subtle vocal accompaniment. It is one of several songs on the album, that I find myself strongly drawn to. As one song finishes and the next begins, there is a great continuity. Much of this is probably due to the basic production, but it also has a lot to do with the songs themselves. The transition between, “Is See Love” and “Rainbows” is effortless. “Caravan” is another of the songs that really struck a chord with me. In particular the beautiful lyrics. There is also a whistling respite in the song, that you just can’t help trying to replicate, like Otis Reading’s, “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”. “Wide Eye” is in effect the title track, albeit one side of it, as the album title is a combination of two tracks that appear on the album.

“Underwater Bride” has a very fragile feel. The vocals are fractured, with a hint of desolation and despair. As I find a lot of the time, one mans despair is another man’s beauty. There’s something I can’t help but find beautiful in someone elses misery. “Strarlings” has an altogether different feel, reminding me to some degree of acoustic artists of the 70’s. While this was a very interesting and fertile time, this track can’t help but feel to me, a little out of place. It’s also a tad over one minute thirty, so has little time to redeem itself. “Blind Love” is the second half of the album title along with “Wide Eyes” and the old magic has returned. The album closes with “Snowflakes”, which for some reason has a very North American Indian feel to it. Yes I’m probably as far left of centre as I can be, but I can’t help how my mind works.

Conclusion : A truly wonderful album, that is certainly worth purchasing along with the bands other album, “Wicked Man’ Rest”. It’s certainly a more reflective album, but it just works so well. Outstanding.

Posted in Acoustic, Alternative, Folk | No Comments »

EP – Tribute To – Yim Yames

Posted by admin on 21st September 2009

This is an EP that immediately jumped out at me from the email in my inbox. George Harrison is probably the most underrated of the Beatles, though lately his popularity seems to be on the rise. This EP is a tribute to the Beatle most overshadowed by the pairing of Lennon and McCartney, however this didn’t put him off perfecting his craft. It was only when the Beatles disbanded, that a veritable torrent of songs poured forth, resulting in 1970’s All Things Must Pass, triple album.

Opening with “Long, Long, Long”, which while not my favorite Harrison song by any means, sets the scene for the EP, with it’s haunting reverb and stripped back production. “Behind That Locked Door”, originally had a kind of blue grass flavour, but here that is mearly hinted at, with a more sripped back acoustic sound. “Love You To” is one of my favourite Harrison, Beatle’s era songs, as it has the most wonderful harmonies. Whilst those are not present here, Yames’ interpretation is in keeping with the rest of the EP. There’s also a really dark overtone, that brings Jeff Buckley’s name to mind, especially the angst ridden screams.

The song that proved both a blessing and a curse to Harrison, was “My Sweet Lord”. Whilst it’s Hare Krishna infused chants, proved moving, even to the most devote non believers, it’s the protracted lawsuit that ended up overshadowing the song. The cover here, whilst much shorter, has a wonderfully personal feel. Gone are all but the merest hints of the chants, but it still manages to be a moving song, and one for which Harrison will always be fondly remembered. “Ballad of Frankie Crisp (Let it Roll)” was always one of my favourite tracks on the All Things Must Pass album. Here’s it’s ably covered, but theres just something about the piano accompaniment that feels a little off. I’ve listened to this EP a few times, and it’s always the thing that jars me, albeit the only thing.

Rounding off with the title track, of the 1970 album, you really begin to feel that this was a kind of memorial in music. The ethereal sound is present throughout, which pretty much means this will end up as late night, kick back and veg out kind of EP, which is fine by me as I sit here listening on headphones at nearly 2 in the morning.

Conclusion: This is an EP that while clearly shows Yames’ love and respect for Harrison’s songs, some might find hard to access. Perseverance will leave you with a wonderful EP and a great homage, to a wonderful musician.

Posted in Acoustic | No Comments »

EP – The Bare Bones and Bad Ideas

Posted by admin on 9th December 2008

Gentry Morris is an artist from Bangor in Ireland, who I’ve been hearing a lot lately on the various podcasts I listen to. It’s funny how they all seem to have targeted in on the first track on this EP, “Rene”, which is a pleasant song, but only shows a mere glint of his amazing talent. When I first heard him, I was at once reminded of one of my all time favourite indie artists, Paul Melançon. There’s a quality to his voice that is eminently listenable and when he lets go, there is an amazing flow of raw emotion. “Rene” is more a pop song, with a loose flow, which is enjoyable, but I saw that glimpse of brilliance and wanted more.

The four tracks that follow, could really hold this EP together all on their own. “The Box” is a fairly laid back track, with minimal musical accompaniment, but man when that voice starts to sing, there’s an incredible power, that you know is being harnessed and the reins skillfully let out when needed. “My Heart” shows a looser side and is more of a pop style I prefer when compared with “Rene”, which feels like a track produced to cater to peoples needs, rather than “My Heart” which is more Gentry Morris, well that’s my take anyway.

The last two tracks that close the EP are very laid back and melancholic, but for me this is when the EP really begins to smolder. “The Waltz” is where I feel Gentry’s voice really starts to come into it’s own. The production on the vocals is great, allowing them to soar, without distortion or hindrance of the music. “Thank God” is much less melancholic, but a real slow burner nonetheless and the perfect track on which to close.

Conclusion : A stunning EP from an artist that deserves to go far. I’m really hoping to hear a full length album in the near future, from this most exceptional talent.

Posted in Acoustic, Folk, Pop | No Comments »

EP – Migrating Birds – Migrating Birds

Posted by admin on 9th December 2008

Migrating Birds, may not be a name that rolls of the tongue, but the music rolls off the ears, like a silk scarf, flowing down a sows ear. OK, maybe not the best of analogies, but hey nobody said I was perfect. Suffice to say, this four piece band have a wonderful sound, that at times harkens back to Gong, albeit the more intelligible, musical Gong tunes. They also remind me of a more recent band, Hopewell, with an at times, almost ethereal, smattering of the psychedelic.

This four track EP opens with “Fearless”, which starts very deceptively, sounding very much like the earlier mentioned Hopewell. The track then morphs into something a bit more upbeat, but with a very intriguing vocal style. This for me is the standout track on the EP, and very rightly placed as the first track on the EP, smacking you squarely in the face.

The track “Atari vs Commodore” came as something of a surprise, as it has a strong British overtone, with mention of pram wheels and Paninni stickers. It’s roots are firmly in the days of the 80’s computer scene. It’s a fairly whimsical track, but really strikes a chord with me. I have to say though, I’m a little disappointed they didn’t even mention the ZX Spectrum, cos we all know the Speccy was the best. Delving a little deeper though, I found the band’s members each hail from a different country, England, France, Canada and the US, which goes a long way to explaining this eclectic release.

“Summmer’s Treasure” again has that vocal style tinged with psychedelic angst, but it is so easy to listen to. I have to admit though, this may not be the case if this were the style running predominantly through a whole album, as I think things would then begin to sound very samey.

The EP rounds of with the title track, “Migrating Birds”, a more upbeat, rock number which again sounds like it’s influenced by the BritPop sound of the 90’s. It’s a great way to round things off.

Conclusion : A great first EP, that shows the bands ability to keep the listener on their toes. Looking forward to a full length release hopefully in the near future. Certainly a band to watch out for.

Posted in Acoustic, Rock | No Comments »

EP – Nowhere Else – Dysopian Dreams

Posted by admin on 15th November 2008

This is one of those CD’s that blurs the line between CD and EP. With 7 tracks, and a running time of a tad over 31 minutes, to me this is a short album, but the band call it an EP, so who am I to argue.

I put this EP back on, after writing another review, and the thing that smacked me was the gorgeous guitar work, which was mixed just right, giving the most wonderful sound, real ear candy. However the same cannot be said for the vocals, which for me, were a little washed out in sound and a little uninspiring lyrically. Actually lyrically uninspiring is probably a little harsh, as it’s quite difficult to actually concentrate on what is being sung. This also pretty much describes the song that follows, “How Fate Works”.

With “Comablues” the vocals problems seem to have been addressed to some degree, but I have to be honest, by this stage it’s not the vocals I want to hear, it’s the wonderful, and rich sounding music. For me, these tracks would really pop, if the vocals were totally removed. I hate sounding harsh, but when you get a disconnect that’s so great, maybe it’s better to disconnect totally. That being said the EP seems to be really warming up, with “Sweet Humanity”. The vocals manage to hold their own and this is the first song, that feels like words and music are complimenting each other, rather than fighting for top billing. Similarly “Keep Coming Back” is definitely more refined and feels a more complete track.

“I Would” has a fairly different music style, and is the first track where I feel the vocals are the driving force. The production is much more balanced and I think should give the band a benchmark to work too. Finishing off with “The Aftermath” again, it appears that the latter part of the EP, is where the vocals really come together.

Whatever hangups I have about the vocals, the music throughout is first class, musically and in production. Seeing as this is an all acoustic demo, I have to say it’s pretty well done and with a little bit of work on the vocals, this EP could be amazing. As it is, it’s still rather good and certainly deserves a place in your collection.

Conclusion : A great EP, slightly marred, but managing to redeem itself with wonderfully vibrant and lush music.

Posted in Acoustic, Experimental, Rock | 3 Comments »

Album – Wicked Man’s Rest – Passenger

Posted by admin on 5th November 2008

I don’t why I get so surprised when I receive an unsolicited CD that just blows my socks off, as was the case with the Passengers’, Wicked Man’s Rest. This year has been a truly amazing one for killer albums and this one is right up there in my top 5. In fact it’s in rare company, as one of the albums that’s I’ve hesitated to score 10 out of 10, but I think that kind of perfection has to come from an album of mythical proportions, however this is as close as I think I’ll ever get, but I’m happy to be proved wrong.

Opening with the title track, “Wicked Man’s Rest”, it instantly grabbed me, and brought to mind another UK band, Mike Skinner’s, The Streets. The vocals are not as loose as the almost lackadaisical Skinner’s, but that urban vibe is certainly present. I love the start to “Night Vision Binoculars”, which features what can only be described as one of the old Casio VL-Tone keyboards, that were popular in the 80’s. Don’t let that fool you though, this soon breaks into a full on assault of cracking music. “Things You’ve Never Done” is a really interesting track, not because it’s a gentler, more emotional track, but because it has a flow and lyrical feel that is very reminiscent of US folk Icon, James Taylor. Don’t let that put you off, this is no has been granddad folk, this is a wonderful track that tips a nod to a legend, but manages to pull off a style all it’s own. This style flows over into the next track “Girl I Once Knew”, which has a wonderful piano accompaniment, and that instrument that is like a Zither, where you hit the strings, the name of which I can never remember, but then it may just be a synth sound, nevertheless it’s a wonderful added touch.

The tempo and energy level starts to ramp up again with “Do What You Like”, featuring an almost relentless acoustic guitar, that is just wonderful. “Needle in the Dark”, features vocals that are almost spoken and it’s here that I suddenly realised the lead vocalist was English. Listening back over the previous tracks again, indeed the English access is apparent, but it just seemed to burst forth starting with this track. “Four Horses” is a peculiar little track, as it’s very much a folk song in the James Taylor mould. At first I thought it an odd track, but it wasn’t long before I was won over completely.

“You’re On My Mind” features some wonderful keyboards, almost sounding like bells, evoking a wonderful, almost wintery atmosphere, and then bang, the track is off on a different tack, normally something that drives me nuts, but this atmospheric sound returns and exits, giving the track a kind of split personality, but it works beautifully. The production on this album is wonderful, with little sounds and effects, that really feel like they’re been craft, rather than just slapped together with no thought. This is highlighted in the track “For You”, which starts of with what sounds like a music box. There’s also some great guitar and not forgetting the great vocals. I could witter on a mile a minute, about the soundscape on all the tracks when I listen back over them.

For me, it’s the final two tracks that totally blow me away. “Walk In the Rain”, has that passion and drive, that just sweeps you up in the emotion. The strings are a nice added touch. This is one of those tracks that you can feel makes your heart beat faster and for me is just sheer genius. It’s “Table for One” however that for me has to be the crowning glory, on what for me is a masterpiece waiting for worldwide adulation and accolades. This is a track that I played over and over again. Bloody marvelous.

A final note, the CD I reviewed appears to be in a slightly different order to the album as it appears on iTunes. Just thought I’d mention it, before I get the usual emails.

Conclusion : What more can be said. I’m listening to “Table for One” as I write this conclusion and I can feel the hairs go up on the back of my neck. I have discovered a work of art. Now it’s your turn.

Posted in Acoustic, Alternative, Folk | 7 Comments »

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 »

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 »

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 »

Album – One More For The Road – Rob Szabo

Posted by admin on 11th August 2008

It’s been a while since I reviewed Rob’s last album, Like a Metaphor, so you can imagine I was a little taken aback, when I found Rob had released not one, but two albums, The first of these is “After the Gravity”, a collection of older studio recordings, demos and acoustic versions of songs recorded by his previous bands. It was this album, “One More for the Road” however that really got me excited, a collection of 13 tracks recorded live.

The first thing that struck me, was the wonderful sound of the recordings, that capture the atmosphere of a live performance. Many times, recorded live performances are tweaked and cleaned, almost to the point of sterility. Here the recordings are crisp and fresh.

“Beautiful” and “Good Son” are particular favorite tracks of mine, which maybe isn’t too surprising, as these two tracks were on the previously reviewed album Like a Metaphor. While the live and studio version are a great contrast, they are all great in their own right. “Good Son” in particular is probably my favorite track on the album. Melancholy and me are great friends and with this song, we have a great soundtrack.

Other particular favorite tracks are “Trampoline”, “The Others” which is absolutely magic, “Incandescent” with it’s great guitar accompaniment and “I Live for the Summer”, a perfect end to an amazing album.

I was unlucky to have missed Rob the time he last came to Ottawa. I know now what to expect and will not be making the same mistake again.

Conclusion : This album for me, shows what is really lacking in the current indie music scene. Yes there is an abundance of talent, but few seem to be brave enough to release live material, which is a shame, as I’m sure there are some tremendous tracks and albums waiting to see the light of day. This is a prime example of a live recording done right, and hopefully gives other bands something to aspire to.

Posted in Acoustic, Pop | No Comments »