Archive for the 'Folk Rock' Category

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 »

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 – Famous for Fire – Adaline

Posted by admin on 11th August 2008

  • Band / Artist : AdalinemySpace
  • Genre : Electroacoustic / Folk Rock
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : CD Baby
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 9 out of 10

When I got this album in, I was kind of under the impression it was going to be a fairly low key, female vocalist kind of thing. That was based on my listening to just one track on the album and then podcasting it, soon after. When I got the album in, what surprised me was the depth. The opening and indeed title track “Famous for Fire”, while having sumptuous vocals, also have that almost theatrical feel to them. This style of music, often goes two ways, either totally over the top (which can actually sometimes work), or far too serious for it’s own good. It’s nice then to hear something that bucks this trend, an manages to carve a niche of it’s own. With the following track, “Find My Way”, it’s funny but more I listen to it, the more it reminds me of a mash-up between Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time” and Abba. Not that that’s in any way a criticism, but it’s certainly an interesting vibe.

“Chemical Spill” for me goes off on a tangent into the late era Tori Amos sound, which for me is a real turn off. Not that I’m not open to different sounds, Whiter Straighter” being a case in point, with it’s muted trad jazz trumpet. Here’s a song that comes alive and you can just sense Adaline let herself go and it’s a joy to hear. “Poor You” changes tempo, but again the vocals, with their dreamy air of beauty, capture you in the headlights, transfixed and helpless, but not wanting to move.”Meaningless Meeting” was the track that introduced me to Adaline and the more I hear it, the more I love it. Again, there is certainly a Tori Amos feel to this, but it draws more from her pure talent, rather than her pure madness.

“Pioneering” turns it up a notch, and dips a toe into more conventional pop/rock, and it’s kind of the last thing you expect, but I couldn’t help but smile, because here’s a girl that’s doing what she wants to do and while I feel like a spectator, I’m one on the same bus as Adaline and not wanting to get off.

The album ends on a more malancholic note, but while the mood is down, the vocals soar and I couldn’t think of a better song on which to close.

Conclusion : Just an amazing album, that had me constantly notching up Adaline’s final mark, as I kept playing the album and finding new things to love. Aural candy and very tasty.

Posted in Electroacoustic, Folk Rock | No Comments »

Album – Mr Love and Justice – Billy Bragg

Posted by admin on 23rd April 2008

  • Band / Artist : Billy BraggmySpace
  • Genre : Folk Rock / Punk
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : Amazon
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 9.5 out of 10

Billy Bragg is one of those artists who makes no secret of his political affiliations. Even on his website, he describes himself as a political activist. Growing up, I had many friends whose political leanings were influenced more by music, than the actual issues surrounding the various parties, this left me a little jaded and I have to admit, barring a few of Billy’s big hits, I kept a pretty wide berth.

Forward wind a good few years, when eMusic was a newbie service, I was fortunate enough to be on at the ground floor, when my $15 got me unlimited downloads. Ah those were the days, loading up on anything that took even my slightest whim. I downloaded Warren Zevon, Joe Strummer and lo and behold, there were several albums by Billy Bragg. What did I have to lose, so I downloaded Don’t Try This at Home and William Bloke. These were the first albums I’d ever listened to of Billy’s and imagine my surprise when I found they were actually quite good. It seems as the years have rolled by, Billy’s angst and cynicism had eased and what is now bubbling through, is great singer songwriting. That’s not to say Billy hasn’t done anything in the preceding years, New England is a particular favourite and I’m sure there are many other tracks that have gone under my radar, but I think his accessibility is now less of a barrier to entry.

So several more years have passed since those purchases and a few weeks ago, I found a copy of Billy’s new album, Mr Love and Justice in my mailbox. I was looking forward to giving this CD a spin, but was still a little apprehensive. I was really hoping this was going to be a further development of those more recent albums and I was not disappointed. From the first song “I Keep Faith” , that unmistakable voice is fused with some wonderful lyrics and musical accompaniment that blends effortlessly into a magical combination. Admittedly Billy’s voice is not the sweet sound of todays boy bands, but it’s also no Leonard Cohen. This is an album more of narrative and emotion, than some airhead, pretty boy vocalist. “I Almost Killed You” has just a wonderful opening, with clapping hands, acoustic guitar and harmonica, evoking a strong atmosphere and resulting in a great song.

“You Make Me Brave” is a more mellow and reflective song, which is just a joy to listen to, even though the air of melancholia is heavy, it’s an air that smells sweet and fresh. “Something Happened” continues the downbeat mood, but now instead of mellow acoustic guitar, we have distorted electric guitars and blues harmonica. “Mr Love and Justice”, the title track, may not be the killer track, that I usually expect from a title track, but it’s hard to really have anything to say against it.

“If You Ever Leave” has a slightly different feel to the rest of the tracks, but it certainly doesn’t feel out of place. “The Johnny Carcinogenic Show” certainly stands out not just for it’s distinct name, but also it’s theme against smoking. I suppose Billy Bragg, wouldn’t be Billy Bragg, if it he didn’t at least have one in your face message track, but when the tracks sound this good, who cares. Rounding off with “Farm Boy” this is probably my least favourite track on the album, but it’s still an interesting track, if a little lacklustre.

Conclusion : If like me, you’ve ever steered clear of Billy’s works, now may be the time to get yourself acquainted. As the years have rolled by, so have the in your face political statements, although I’m sure there’s some there, waiting to be uncovered, you can take from this album what you want. I thoroughly enjoyed this album from the first time I put it on and the opening song begun. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.

Posted in Folk Rock, Punk | No Comments »

Album – …like Super Man on Krypton – Jeff Scott

Posted by admin on 16th April 2008

It’s not often that I request a band’s or artist’s album, after listening to a few of their tracks on MySpace or some other music service and then not like it. This was the case when I got the latest album in from Jeff Scott. I’m fortunate to be able to listen to music while working. Late one afternoon I put on this album, and after a few tracks, I started to feel a bit jittery. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was, but suffice to say, a change of music was required. And so the album sat in the pile for a while, before I pulled it out again for a quick listen. This time, I think my frame of mind was better and I was able to listen to the album with no distractions.

The first thing that struck me, was the vocal similarity to Christopher Cross, better know as the man behind the theme to the movie Arthur, and not to mention the brief sound bite, of his song “Sail Away” in the fantastic animated movie, “Flushed Away”. This is a very relaxed and prominently acoustic album. There’s a nice balance of music and vocals, which blend together very nicely.

There’s some great songs amongst the 11 tracks that are featured. I particularly loved the track that opens the album, “Catch the Train”, the wonderfully titled “Angels Do Drink Beer”, “Company” with it’s melancholic, reflective mood and the similarly mellow “Her Only Bad Habit is Me”. My favorite tracks though would have to be “You’re in My Heart” and “Sometimes Hope” which draws the album to a fitting conclusion.

If I were to point my finger at anything, it’s that sometimes I feel Jeff’s vocals are tad samey. Criticism is a hard thing for me to wave around and I don’t do it lightly, it’s just that by the time the albums finished it’s almost like my head is eager to hear something different. I think this is almost like the musical equivalent to Alan Whicker’s monosyllabic voice. I’m in no way saying the vocals are bad, boring or anything so damning, just that they don’t seem to vary too much.

Conclusion : This is a really pleasant album, which I’ll probably put on when I’m in the mood to chill and just let the music wash over me. I think with a few tracks to shake things up a bit, this would have been a truly great album.

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

Album – Smoke and Clouds – William Hart Strecker

Posted by admin on 18th March 2008

If there’s one thing I can appreciate, even if I don’t like the songs, it’s the musical accompaniment, which here is fantastic. Fortunately the 13 tracks on William Hart Strecker’s new album are also pretty darn good too.

I’m always wary when playing an unsolicited CD for the first time, as I’ve mentioned numerous times before, but my trepidation soon vanished as the opening track “Round and Round” began to play. There’s something in William’s voice that at times reminds me of Tom Robinson and at other times reminds me of Steely Dan’s, Donald Fagen, with even a hint of Springsteen, interspersed here and there. It’s one of those pleasant voices that is very easy to listen to and follow. I did however have a slight pause for thought, when “Dreaming California” started to play, as I could detect a hint of latter day Dylan, and this is not a direction I wanted the album to take. Fortunately it was a false alarm.

Throughout the 13 tracks, there’s an interesting mix of influences, from country and blues, to rock and R&B, but it’s predominantly rock that is the glue that holds this album together. One of my particular favorite track is “Take Me Back” which is a poignant look back at memories of yesteryear. This is one of those tracks that really feels personal and auto biographical, whether it really is or not. It’s also a track I couldn’t help but play another half a dozen times or so, after first hearing it.

The final track “The Waiting’s Over” is a really simple track, with bare vocals, over a simple piano accompaniment and is a joy to listen to.

Conclusion : An album that really feels like someone’s soul has been immersed in it. At times upbeat and other times, reflective and thought provoking. This is not an album, I would have otherwise looked at getting in, but am glad it managed to find it’s way to me.

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

EP – Not Enough People are Wearing Hats – The Haiku

Posted by admin on 17th March 2008

  • Band / Artist : The HaikumySpace
  • Genre : Alternative / Folk Rock
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : Band Store
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 8 out of 10

I love the raw, indie rock sound, which I hear more coming from the UK than anywhere else. It’s very reminiscent of the 1980’s, which washes over me like a wave of nostalgia. The Haiku are a band I’d heard on a few podcasts, prompting me to approach them for something for review. The band at the time were working on a new album, but fired over this 4 track EP.

“Things Will Get Better” is the first track and you are immediately greeted with a wash of acoustic guitar, which I just love. The track runs at a fair pace and is very enjoyable. “Blind Man Takes the Gun” has a very long intro, taking around 30 seconds to get to the vocals, and unfortunately never really got into it’s stride for me. “You Don’t Have a Choice” is perhaps the strongest track on this 4 track EP and in fact the longest at a tad under 4 minutes. “Taking Control” is the final track to an interesting and and fairly enjoyable EP.

The only reservation I have is that the production of this material leads me to believe it’s recorded pretty much as live, as it sounds very much a live performance, rather than a fully produced studio effort. The drumming also was a little off in places, but if taken as a live session recording, didn’t detract too much from the songs. The songs themselves don’t have the conventional verse / chorus make up, which is OK for a track or two, but they all seem to have that feel, which means they do feel sometimes to be going on a little long.

Conclusion : An interesting EP which serves as a stepping stone to the bands first album, featuring the track “The News is: The World Sucks”, probably my favorite Haiku track. It will be interesting to see how the bands sound has developed between this track and the new album.

Posted in Alternative, Folk Rock | 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 »

Album – My Holiday – Mindy Smith

Posted by admin on 30th November 2007

With American thanksgiving a recent memory, the Christmas season begins to quickly descend upon us. This is ever more apparent with the steady trickle of Christmas releases hitting my postbox. Many of these releases serve as little more than musical regurgitation, however every now and then, something sparkles like the bright Christmas star, in this case a wonderful collection 11 classic and contemporary Christmas songs from Mindy Smith.

Mindy’s name is a relatively new one to me, but as soon as I heard the briefest of snippets undulate from her lips, I knew she was going to be something quite special . Let me just get a quick something out of the way, I’m in no way a Christmas song aficionado. Yes I know the classics like Silent Night, Jingle Bells and Silver Bells, many of the songs on this CD are relatively fresh to my musical repertoire.

The CD opens with the title track and I have to admit the music just falls away like the snow on a roof and all I can hear is Mindy’s beautiful voice. There’s enough of a rawness to be intriguing and enough of a beautiful tone to be engaging. Already I’m beginning to sound pretentious even to myself, there’s just something quite beguiling, almost mesmerising about a voice so wondrous.

People expecting the usual Christmas fare will not be disappointed. “The Christmas Song” has many of the elements you come to expect, in this case an almost full rendition of “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”, was it really not called this? “Santa Will Find You” will please many fans of a previous Christmas reviewed artist, Leigh Nash, pure poetry and pure unadulterated bliss.

If I were to pick out the just one track to highlight, it would have to be “Silver Bells”. While not one of my favorite Christmas songs, there’s something about Mindy’s interpretation that just captures my imagination and bring to the fore of my thoughts, all the good things to come in the coming holiday season.

Conclusion : Yes I can praise this album up to the yin yang, but I really do not need to. Maybe the window of opportunity to play this album is quite limited, it will always serve as a reminder to check out Mindy’s other works and act as a constant reminder to catch the future releases of this amazing artist.

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

Album – Tiny Increments – Scott Cooper

Posted by admin on 17th October 2007

I think one of the biggest compliments I get, is when an artists I’ve already reviewed, tells a musician friend of theirs about Indie Launchpad. This was the case when Rob Szabo, mentioned Indie Launchpad to Scott Cooper, who sent me an email to ask if I would be interested in reviewing his new CD, Tiny Increments. I only needed to hear a single track to know getting this album in would be a total no brainer.

Scott assisted Rob in the production of his wonderful album, Like a Metaphor. Here Rob returns the favor, also playing bass on most of the songs. You can also hear a strong Rob influence every now and then, and it’s easy to see that there is a strong bond between the two.

“Tilt-A-Whirl” is the track that opens the CD. It’s a very relaxed, melodic sound, with Scott’s vocals, perfectly complimented by some gorgeous female harmonies provided by [Caroline Brooks]. “Don’t Turn Around” continues in a similar vein, with words the flow effortlessly. The versus are easy going and laid back, but the hooks really sink in once it gets to the chorus.

“Insomnia Song” is the track that just totally blew me away on so many levels. It’s funny the guitar intro, reminds me of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. I heard this song once and knew it was the track I had to end the with last week, even before reviewing the album. Now this gives me a great excuse to feature the track yet again, not that I need an excuse. As you can probably guess the song is about someones inability to get to sleep. Counting down the night from 2am onwards. It’s such a beautifully simple song, but makes it’s mark nonetheless.

This is another one of those albums, I have to prevent myself from going through track by track, for fear of coming across as a sycophantic fan. All 11 tracks are such a sheer joy and delight to listen to. However I do get to delight in the magic gems that shine out from this veritable box, crammed full jewels. I’ve already mentioned “Insomnia Song”, but will again just say that even if the rest of the songs were pure drivel, this one track would make the album purchase worthwhile. Fortunately this isn’t the case. Special mentions must also go to “Don’t Turn Around”, “Amen”, and “Goodbye City”. A goodbye indeed as this is the track the brings this fantastic album to a close.

Conclusion : Absolute magic, pure and simple. Few albums make their mark so quickly and so indelibly. Absolutely and thoroughly a recommended addition to your collection.

Posted in Acoustic, Folk Rock | No Comments »