Archive for the 'Rock' Category

Album – A Telephone Built for Two – School for the Dead

Posted by admin on 15th November 2008

Although I only reviewed the last release from School for the Dead, back in January, it was actually released in 2004. To say I wasn’t expecting to see another release so quickly after the last review was a bit of an understatement, but there in my mailbox, was the new release, A Telephone Built for Two, and I have to say, after the previous album, I had high expectations.

The CD opens with “Periscope” and that infectious brand of pop hits you square between the eyes. I made the comparison before with the Indie powerhouse group, They Might Be Giants, and indeed there is much the two bands have in common, but there is also definite School for the Dead DNA running through these songs, which is no doubt mostly down to Henning Ohlensbusch, principal songwriter, lead vocalist, guitar, etc. This guy has music in his pores and it shows. That’s not to forget the rest of the band, who manage to round out the sound and remind you it’s not all a one man band.

With some bands, probably quite unfairly I’m looking for that killer track, one that burrows into my brains. With A Telephone Built for Two, I was pleasantly surprised to find not one, but three such tracks. The first is “Save My Place”, a wonderfully simple song, but it really manages to burrow like a happy maggot. Next is “Journal of Lies”, which has a wonderful quirky keyboard arrangement, which reminds me of the soundtrack to the kids movie Bugsy Malone. The third track is “Superhero”, which I have to admit really has that hint of They Might Be Giants flavour, but it’s certainly a nice condiment, making a track to savour.

There were a couple of tracks, that felt a little unbalanced with the rest of the album. The first of those is “Feels Like I Should” with some very forgettable 80’s sounding synth, featured at the beginning and towards the end. The other is “Back to School” with a very awkward country guitar accompaniment, which was certainly not my cup of tea. It’s funny though, as the song itself is very pleasant, but every time that guitar kicked in, I could feel those hackles rise, so to speak.
“Disgruntled Lover” was also a bit of a no no for me, or so I thought, as it has a kind of false, rockabilly start, which I hated, however after 16 seconds the song starts anew, and even though there is still a rockabilly/country flavour it’s not as alarming.

The album rounds off with the wonderful, “Thinking of A Time”, which at first could be the theme tune to Flash Gordon, and then almost morphs into Dolly Parton’s “9-5”. Surely two of the most incredible comparisons to be given to the same song, but it works wonderfully.

Conclusion : So were my great expectations met? They certainly were, with more great pop from an artist I thoroughly enjoy hearing from. Looking forward to what the next album brings, hopefully sooner that 4 years time.

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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.

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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.

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Album – Little Daggers – Val Emmich

Posted by admin on 25th September 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Alternative, Rock | No Comments »

EP – Closer – Jars of Clay

Posted by admin on 15th September 2008

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Christian, Pop, Rock | No Comments »

EP – Wonderful – Jacob Jeffries Band

Posted by admin on 10th September 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Pop, Rock | No Comments »

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 – SLAVE to the SQUAREwave – SLAVE to the SQUAREwave

Posted by admin on 11th August 2008

80’s hairs, 80’s fashion and not forgetting 80’s music. It all came flooding back when I heard SLAVE to the SQUAREwave (STTSW) for the first time on Pete Cogle’s PC Podcast. Although the band are virtually right on my door step, here in Canada, it would be easy to transplant them back into 80’s England, were time travel possible. The first track “Sinners of Saint Avenue” sounds very much like The Associates, who had a big hit with “Party Fears Two” in the early 80’s. The vocals don’t quite cover the same range, or have the same intensity of the Associates lead singer Billy McKenzie, but they share that similar Bowiesque vibe. “New York’s a Go-Go”, begins in a very electrofunk style, but that is soon quashed with heavy guitars and then a more contemporary vocalist came to mind, Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy.

“Big Change” has that electronic swirling string sound, but it’s upon hearing the vocals that the power of the 80s’ washes over me again. Although “Pumping up the P House” follows in a similar formula, there’s just something about it, that disagrees with me. In fact with 14 tracks on the album, there’s a wealth of music, resulting in an album that’s an hour long and whilst I enjoyed the majority of tracks on the album, there was the odd one or two that seemed slightly out of place, the aforementioned, being one of them.

Of the remaining tracks, I loved “London Baby”, with it’s hint of 90’s pop and “Hopeless Believers” with a great acoustic guitar intro, or I’m assuming it’s acoustic, but knowing this band it’s probably all electronic. “Gorilla Swingin’ Discotheque” would have to be included in the tracks I like, be it just for the title, fortunately there’s also a driving, relentlessness, that while alienating the bands 80’s hallmark, has an almost hypnotic charm.

The album finishes off with a remix of “Pumping Up the P House”, which while not my favorite track, is much preferable to the original.

A really interesting band, that has their feet firmly in the 80’s, but manage to add a more contemporary edge. As an album it feels a little disjointed, but there are enough gems to make the album a worthy addition to your collection. They’re certainly a band I’d be interesting in seeing live, as I’d be quite interested in how they bring this all together live.

Conclusion : A wonderful 80’s bitchslap, which brings back vivid memories of growing up, but also allows me again to wallow in some great music, of a style that is often overlooked.

Posted in Electro, New Wave, Rock | No Comments »

Album – Lucky Girl – Kirsten Proffit

Posted by admin on 2nd August 2008

Many of the female vocalists that really get under my skin, have that edge of uniqueness, whether it’s their music, words, vocals or a combination of the three. I have to admit, although I’d sampled some of Kirsten’s music and had my interest piqued enough to get a copy of the album in for review, when I listened to the album, I though that this was maybe a little too pop for me. I keep seeing Debbie Gibson in my minds eye as I listened to the tracks, and I suddenly had an epiphany, a kind of reality check. Yes this maybe pure pop with a hint of rock, but it’s still musically very pleasant. The more I listened, the more I began to enjoy.

As the album unfolded, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was manufactured pop, with a nice girls voice, being given all the benefits of modern recording magic. As always the Internet is my friend and it didn’t take me long to find a few of Kirsten’s videos on YouTube and she sounds awesome live. I would have loved a live recording to have been included on the CD, but that’s one of my complaints about many artists, so maybe a little unfair to single out Kirsten.

Favourite tracks on this 12 track album would have to be “Something I Can’t Be”, “Chance and Circumstance”, “Lucky Girl” and “Marilyn”

Conclusion : Maybe a little more pop than anything else, but it’s well written nonetheless and wonderfully sung.

Posted in Pop, Rock | No Comments »

Album – Radio Insomnia – The Latebirds

Posted by admin on 2nd August 2008

  • Band / Artist : The Latebirds
  • Genre : Pop / Rock
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : N/A
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 7.5 out of 10

I have to admit this is the first Finnish band, I have every reviewed, in fact I think it’s the only Finnish band I can actually name. With an interesting mix of rock and pop, influences range from the Who and The Stones, to INXS, but with a gentler pop style vocal. Actually the vocals are pretty mellow, with the merest hint of an accent, but they’re not strong enough to actually be able to place.

“Set Free the Radio” is the track the starts the album off and it does so with great gusto. Other notable tracks are “Will to Fall” and “Fill Me In” which I have to say is my personal favorite. The album closes with “Without June” which is fairly downbeat, and at a tad over 6 minutes, kind of brings the album down a notch.

This album was actually released in 2006 and a new one has been recorded, entitled “Last Of The Good Ol’ Days” and scheduled for release in early 2009.

Conclusion : A great album, that maybe lacks a bit of fire. The vocals are pleasant and music is tight. Maybe would have been a bit tighter with fewer tracks.

Posted in Pop, Rock | No Comments »