Archive for the 'Alternative' 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 »

The Mieka Canon – From the Mouth of Paris

Posted by admin on 2nd November 2010

  • Band / Artist : The Mieka CanonmySpace
  • Genre : Alternative / Rock
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : N//A
  • Buy Digital Download : Band Store
  • Rating : 7.5 out of 10

While The Mieka Canon may not be familiar to many, Meika Pauley, who forms one fith of the band, was reviewed as a solo artist back in 2006. Her vocals on this 4 track EP are unmistakable, but there is a much fuller sound, in comparison to her solo EP. Opening with “Faster”, there’s a great sense of cock assuredness, with Mieka’s vocals, who really comes across as very self assured and not afraid to push herself. “We’re All Gonna Die”, has a much rockier sound, but that underpinning of Mieka’s volcas is still there, which lifts an otherwise uninspring song. This EP seems to be dipping it’s toe in many different musical pools. “Colossal”, while again a nice track, kind of fails to ignite, but thanks to Mieka’s vocals, is able to lift itself from humdrum.

The EP closes with “That Golden Room” a much calmer song and my favourite on the EP. You can’t help but be impressed with Mieka’s full, rich sound, which reminds me a little of Elkie Brooks, who was in Vinegar Joe, with Robert Palmer and also a popoular solo artist in the 70’s.

Conclusion : An enjoyable EP, that is not afraid to experiment a little. While it doesn’t jump out at you, it’s still an enjoyable listen.

Posted in Alternative, Rock | No Comments »

Album – Accidental Experimental – Inara George

Posted by admin on 9th November 2009

  • Band / Artist : Inara GeorgemySpace
  • Genre : Alternative / Folk Rock / Pop
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : N/A
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 8.5 out of 10

I like to think I have a pretty eclectic and open mind when it comes to music. However, every now and again, I find my self discounting an artist or band at the slightest of challenges. Case in point, Inara George. For whatever reason, subconsciously kept thinking this was going to be some kind of Aboriginal or Maori music and just passed on by. Let me clearly state, I don’t have anything against Aboriginal or Maori music, but it’s not usual fayre of Indie Launchpad, and with so many artists and bands to investigate, one or two do manage to slip through, that shouldn’t. Anyway, yes slap me silly with a wet fish, imagine how stupid I felt, when I actually took the time to delve a little deeper and found what I can only describe as an absolutely amazing artist.

The album opens with, coincidentally enough, the first track of Inara’s I ever heard, “Surprises” and to say my socks were blown off is and understatement. I immediately replied to the email from Inara’s record label and upon receiving the album, voraciously ingested the album with relish. With a wonderful voice, that reminds me a lot of the early Suzanne Vega, with a hint of the musical stylings of another indie artist, Ingird Michaelson, the album, is exceedingly easy on the ear. Many of the songs like “Surprises”, “Accidental” and “Can’t Say No” feel somewhat upbeat, even though they are laid back tracks, there are a few tracks like “Bomb”, “Where to Go” and “Captured” that have a more darker tone, however this is shrouded with amazing vocals, and works out well, giving the album some nice contrast.

For me the stand out tracks on the album, would have to be “Surprises” which I have absolutely played to death and still love, “Bomb” which was recently KCRW’s top tune, “Bottlecaps” and “Captured”.

Conclusion : For anyone with a penchant for wonderful female vocalists, like me, this album is a total no brainer. For anyone that is looking for great vocals, with that little quirk of wonderful, do yourself a favour and head straight to your favorite digital download service.

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

EP – Bathing in the New Economy – Emmet Swimming

Posted by admin on 17th October 2009

Emmet Swimming is a band that while they’ve been on my radar, I somehow hadn’t manage to pin them down for a listen. Until now. After receiving an email from one of the many PR companies, I have a wonderful relationship with, I figured now was the best time to at least have a quick listen, to see what they were all about. And in a word, or maybe two in this case, “Hoochie Momma”. This is a band that are no strangers to the rock scene, having been around since 1991. Indeed they have had 3 albums with Epic Records, but in 2000 took an extended break. After listening to the first track on this EP, I gather things maybe went a bit sour. This EP was originally released in 2003, but I’m hoping that it will be a bigger hit second time around, as I definitely want to hear some new stuff from this, my new awesome find.

The EP is available in 2 versions. Digitally from iTunes, it comes with 4 tracks and 1 bonus track. From Amazon, also digitally, it comes with an additional bonus track.

The EP opens with “The Dance” which is a fantastic slow burner. Straight out of the gate, it’s the vocals that hit you. They remind me a lot of Brad Roberts, without the quirkiness, but they’re deep and wonderfully powerful. On this track there appears to be something of a backhanded comment, regarding Epic, which I find interesting. I’m guessing the label figured they’d run their course and didn’t want to do another record. Well this EP is well and truly a one figured salute (two figured in the UK) to Epic.

“Don’t Call” is again a slow burner, featuring a different, not so dark sounding vocalist. There’s no denying though that it’s a wonderful track. In fact this is the track that really got me hooked on Emmet Swimming, but I now find I much prefer “The Dance”. “Heart Like an Eskimo” again features “The Dance” vocalist (I need to learn my vocalists), but the song is much lighter, reminding me at times of a happy Nick Cave.

“Joanna at the Door”, is an interesting song, which wouldn’t sound out of place in the Pulp Fiction movie, but I’m afraid it does nothing for me. It has that latin rock sound, and indeed the lyrics are all in Spanish, but it feels most definitely like the odd song out. There is however an interesting guitar solo, about 2 third of the way in, that goes on for the remainder of the track, which goes some way to lightening up how I feel about it.

We’re now into bonus time. The 1 extra bonus track from iTunes is “Door 2”. Flagged as explicit, it’s not quite the racy track, that the term explicit always has me expecting. It’s a very grunge sounding track, and relatively short at just over two and a half minutes. The second extra bonus track on Amazon, is “Waving at Cars”, a very upbeat track, which rounds off the EP nicely.

Conclusion : I’m hoping I haven’t come to Emmet Swimming too late. Yes this maybe a 2003 re-release, but if you don’t have it, I’d say it’s a definite purchase for your collection. Here’s hoping for a new release, sooner, rather than later.

Posted in Alternative, Rock | No Comments »

EP – Like Wolves – David Condos

Posted by admin on 21st September 2009

  • Band / Artist : David CondosmySpace
  • Genre : Acoustic / Folk / Country
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : N/A
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 7.5 out of 10

It’s funny, I can’t remember how I found out about David Condos, but discover him I did and even managed to download this EP at no change from his website, though not sure this is still possible. I make many comparisons, for the artists and bands I review. Most of these comparisons are usually of household names, but every now and then an indie artists will slap me about about, when I hear something and that was the case here, where I very much reminded of the Jacob Jeffries Band. The music style is fairly different, but the vocal styles have a very similar feel.

The EP starts with the title track, opening with some wonderful cello. Immediately I was enamoured. I hadn’t heard of David Condos before, but on investigation, found he released a full album in 2006, called “Smoking City”. There’s a strong maturity in the overall sound. At times there are many layers, intertwined to form a kind of cacophony, but it’s a noise that draws you in. “Don’t Look at Me Like That”, has a lighter sound and while the name Marc Bolan kept brimming to the surface, I kept trying to suppress it, unsuccessfully I might add. That cello also returns and it almost acts like another vocal accompaniment. The third and final track, “Finding Yourself There Now”, has a much lighter feel, with it’s almost spring time, meadowy feel.

Conclusion: While it’s hard to build up a complete picture of David Condos from this 3 track EP, there is enough here to enjoy and indeed make me want to hear a full length album.

Posted in Alternative, Folk | No Comments »

Album – Lloyd Dobler Effect – Lloyd Dobler Effect

Posted by admin on 15th January 2009

Lloyd Dobbler Effect sounds like something Doc, from Back to the Future would be looking for to generate the jigawatts of electricity need to bounce around in time. In fact it’s a Washington DC based band, that have a wonderful and energetic sound. There’s certainly no lack of musicanship on the 15 tracks on this album, which is not surprising as the band does around 200 gigs a year. With a hard rock sound, softened by more pop biased vocals, there is a nice balance between blowing the cobwebs out of your ears and lulling you into a false sense of serenity.

The album opens with “Have Faith” which for me, has a oddly soft rock feel, but really loosens up when the chorus chimes in. This is a funny track, as I could really feel it growing on me as the song progressed. “Radio” for me is where things really seem to fall into place. For a lot of songs on the album, I kept getting an 80’s slap across the head. It’s nothing really definitive, just a riff here and a lead in there.

While I really enjoyed the album, there was not enough here for me, that had a definitive stamp on it, a sound that would would allow me to pick out this band on the radio for instance. That being said, there’s some tracks on here that are real gems including the previously mentioned “Have Faith”, “Radio”, “The Past” and “I Have the Touch”.

Conclusion : There’s no denying the talents of this band. With such a touring schedule, I imagine they are pretty hot to see live. It will be interesting to keep an eye on this band, to see how they develop, but if you enjoy 80’s/90’s rock / pop then I think this will be right up your street.

Posted in Alternative, Powerpop, Rock | 2 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 – 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 »

Album – Learning to Bend – Ben Sollee

Posted by admin on 29th June 2008

I’ve mentioned before my love of the cello, an instrument that in the hands of the right person, is almost able to speak. So when this album came in, my interest was immediate. Unfortunately though my interest was immediate, my listening schedule was not, so it’s only now, after having the able for a few months that I’m able to give it the attention it deserves. Fusing an interesting blend of genres, from folk and acoustic, to an occasional hint of jazz, this is an album that’s a real tour de force. The vocals also are a perfect companion to the music, clear and soulful.

The eleven track album opens with “A Few Honest Words”. A plucking cello starts the track and you know in an instant, that this is something quite different. Not too sure it’s the right track to open the album, as it’s quite a laid back, almost dark track. “How to See the Sun” in my opinion would have been a much better opener, which I can’t help but feel I’ve heard somewhere before.

For a title track, “Bend” is just a beautiful listening experience, from the wonderful use of the harp, to the great female accompaniment. This vocalist at times reminds me of another, whose name escapes me, but she’s featured on the Roger Waters album, “Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking”. Things liven up a little with, “It’s Not Impossible” and it’s here that I had this strange thought that this sounds like a Canadian artist, which I know isn’t the case, but there’s a sound that runs constantly thorough this album, that I’ve heard many many times here in Canada.

“Prettiest Tree on the Mountain” sounds a little like one of those early Elvis tracks, only not quite so rockin’, which in this case is a good thing. Ben even manages to pluck his way through a cello solo and for the first time, I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve ever mentioned a cello solo on Indie Launchpad and this is one of the reasons I get so excited when encountering an album like this. Too often people get trapped into stereotypes, pigeonholing their own tastes in music. Tell some people that this album has in it some wonderful cello and they’d probably run a mile and that’s pretty much the failing of main stream media.

“Panning for Gold” is probably one of my favorite tracks on the album. It has such a wonderful vibe to it, especially again the cello, that features throughout and I think a violin or two, it does take something of a lacadasical detour after three minutes however. “A Change is Gonna Come” is a reworking of the Sam Cooke classic and Ben manages to really take ownership of it. Not too sure about the saxophone on this track, which I think makes things a little too busy,

“Built for This” allows Ben again to flex his cello chops. This is one of those tracks that I can imagine being played on a fiddle, around a campfire. It has that real turn of the century feel to it. The final track “Copper and Malacite” again seems to draw influences from elsewhere almost sounding like it should be on the soundtrack to a western.

Conclusion : An album that manages to stand out from the crowd, for all the right reasons. A wonderful mix of instruments and music, result in a wonderful listening experience. This is one of those albums that while you could choose to have playing in the background, when you are in a mellow mood, but you get so much more out of it, if you consciously decide to sit down and really listen.

Posted in Acoustic, Alternative, Folk | No Comments »