Archive for the 'Rock' Category

Album – A Band of Hope – The Matches

Posted by admin on 27th July 2008

Another great band from my friends at Epitaph, that’s way overdue for review. The Matches are a band, I’d not come across before. There’s a strong Emo feel to their music, but there is a much heavier rock sound underpinning everything, which was most welcoming, as I’ve become a little too Emo’d out of late. I actually had this album in for a few months, before I’d even got around to listening to it and my first listen, was unusually while riding the bus one morning.

I have to admit, listening to music while en-route somewhere, isn’t the best way to listen to new music, especially when you really want to pay attention to what you are hearing. The first couple of tracks provided a higher than usual level of ambient noise, but when the third and indeed title track “Wake The Sun” started, my ears pricked up and I was hooked. This track reminds me of a more Britpop, come Killers sound and this is certainly a direction I was hoping the rest of the album would take. However nothing could have been further away from this, with the track that followed “Darkness Rising” with it’s very theatrical, almost operatic vibe. “To Build a Mountain” goes off in another totally different direction, and you almost get the sense that the band are toying with you, not in a malicious sense, but more of a band that wants to push the envelope a bit.

“Clouds Crash” is one of the more relaxed tracks on the album. It’s a great acoustic guitar driven track, with some nice subtle violin backing, which kind of reminds me a bit of Green Day’s, “Good Riddance [Time of Your Life]”. “Between Halloweens”, contrasts the previous track being more upbeat and intense, and I can’t help but sense the band having fun, something that really shines through and is always a real pleasure to hear.

The penultimate track, “Yankee in a Chip Shop”, has real punk feel, but with a more pop delivery. I can imagine the band really let go with this track in a live performance and couldn’t help but wish they’d have done so more with the studio recording. “Proctor Rd.” is a peculiar track, that finishes off the album. It’s dark and very short track, being a tad over a minute. Not really too sure about this as an album ender, preferring I think something a bit more dramatic, but it’s OK, I guess.

With 14 tracks on the album, this is real treasure trove of great rock, with heavy pop/punk overtones. There’s a few tracks that are more mainstream pop than rock, but that’s OK, as those tracks provide a nice counter balance to the more rock, and diverse tracks.

Conclusion : Thanks again to Epitaph for this unsolicited submission to Indie Launchpad. This would probably have not otherwise have been a band I would have enquired about, so I’m all the more thankful, as this is a tremendous album and most certainly puts The Matches firmly on my list of bands to watch out for in the future.

Posted in Rock | No Comments »

Album – No Vertigo – Cavedoll

Posted by admin on 20th July 2008

There seems to be a resurgence of electro pop music coming to the fore, harkening back to the 80’s. Cavedoll seem to have one foot firmly planted in this genre, with the other foot playing loosey goosey, introducing a whole raft of different influences.

With 16 tracks in this album, it may seem a lot, but this pales, when you find out they are in the process of releasing 10 albums over the coming year, after having released 13 over 2007. This slew of new releases will consist of a huge array of new, re-mixed, re-packacked and re-mastered tracks.

“Decoder” is a track I’ve heard on various podcasts and is the first track on this 16 track offering. It’s a great track, which really could be a lost recording from decades ago. I love the whimsical synth/keyboards and the 80’s encrusted chorus. This is just an amazing collection of catchy pop with that electro underpinning. “King of the Clouds” is a particularly wonderful track, which just effortlessly washes over you.

As soon as “Taste Like a Hurricane” began, I was in aural heaven, with a most incredible synth intro. I wasn’t expecting the female vocals, but they compliment the music nicely. It’s when the chorus starts that I can almost hear a subliminal nod to Abba. OK call me nuts, but the vocals just have that texture to them. It’s probably no surprise that “Now is Our Time” also stood out with it’s hint of the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields”, but that’s mainly due to the synth, which opens the track and is also featured lightly throughout. The track unfolds nicely and is firmly one of my favourite tracks on the album.

“Leaking Out the Nose” despite a wonderfully horrid title, shows the bands songwriting chops, resulting in a track that unfolds like a book and this is a prime example of great song. Although their styles are radically different, they share a wonderful storytelling skill, which gives us a track that is over all too quickly.

While there is much to love on this album, there is one track that left me cold, “Full of Awe”. While it has a great production, the song itself is very sterile. I certainly wouldn’t miss it, if it were to be removed, which thankfully is pretty straightforward with iPods and the like.

The album ends with two covers. First is the Rolling Stone’s “Paint it Black”, which is very nicely done. I love the almost harpsichord synth and the wonderful energy, which for me is somewhat lacking in the original. The final cover is of David Bowie’s “Heroes” and again it’s a wonderful interpretation, which Cavedoll manage to own.

Conclusion : A wonderful mix of classic electro and modern day pop, delivering some wonderfully catchy and memorable songs. When I first listened to this CD, I found that it felt a little too eclectic. However after a few listens, it almost seems to envelop you. This is an album that is so easy to listen to and enjoy and the covers for me are the icing on the cake. Certainly a release that should be lauded with the attention and praise it deserves.

Posted in Electro, Pop, Rock | 2 Comments »

Album – Songs of Hope and Despair – Antiqcool

Posted by admin on 29th June 2008

This is an album that’s certainly in no hurry, with 13 tracks, each being on average around 5 minutes, for a total of an hours worth of music. The music here is very much in the vein of Steely Dan, especially the vocals, which are very distinctive.

The album opens very strongly with “Englishman Out in the Midday Sun”, which is one of my favorite tracks on the album. However it’s the second track, “Vows Were Made of Glass”, which really stands out from the rest of the tracks, both in musical content and size, weighing in at just a tad under 7 minutes. There’s a lovely feel about this track, that’s hard to quantify, but it really has that AM 70’s sound, that seems to be featuring strongly over the last year or so. “Pearl” is also noticeable, as the high pitched voice is replaced at the start of the track, with a vocal style that is much easier on the ear. This alternate vocal style is also evident in “How Much More of This”, “Just a Little too Late” and “My Avatar”, where the higher pitched vocals are used to good effect harmonising.

Admittedly as an album, this feels a little strained, however for me there is enough here to enjoy, but also to get me interested enough in watching to see how this band progresses.

Conclusion : Musically excellent. However while the vocals are certainly distinctive, they are also my only cause for concern, on what is otherwise a really pleasant and relaxed album. The vocals are comprised of some great harmonies, but the lead vocal is often very high, almost unnaturally so. At first this come across as fairly unique, but after a while it tended to grate, as there is just not enough diversity to stimulate the ear.

For me there’s enough here to enjoy and I’ve found myself on a couple of occasions just letting the vocals wash over me, before realising, so this could very well be an album, that digs it’s hooks in over a period of time.

Posted in Jazz, Pop, Rock | No Comments »

Album – A Fifth of Nowhere – Jonny Dongel

Posted by admin on 22nd June 2008

Not wishing to insult Jonny, if “Jonny Dongel” is indeed his real name, but I can’t help but put him along side the likes of Jilted John and Buster Bloodvessel as names that conjure up fond memories. In Jonny’s case it’s the fact that his music takes me back to my last days of junior school, 1978, when Jilted John’s self titled single was riding high in the UK charts. This whole album, is full of pent up anger, aggression, love, hate and the kitchen sink. Think punk, new wave, powerpop and you’ll be pretty close to the album that is “A Fifth of Nowhere”

Nearly every song on this album, has that boozed up, chanting, singalong factor. The last tracks that I can remember sharing this same quality were Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and “Wonderwall”. “Snocker Snog and Shag” alludes to many a favourite past time and really sets up the album very nicely. The title track “A Fifth of Nowhere” gives more of the same. “The Cause” with it’s high octane guitar and drums, takes a slightly different turn. With it’s slightly harder edge, it’s more rock than punk, but it still has that hallmark sound.

“Sorry Simon” is the track that’s garnered much interest, especially with podcasts and rightly so. This track kind of reminds me of a Sex Pistols track, with two fingers firmly raised at Simon Cowell, the acerbic and often downright cruel judge on both the US and Britain’s Idol talent show. It’s one of those tracks, like “Jilted John” that could very well take the charts by storm if given the chance.

Of the 11 tracks here, 4 really stand out, “Sorry Simon” being one of them. “Radio Caroline” is another, written about the pirate radio station, anchored off the UK coast during the 60’s. The others are “Mighty Irish” and the track that closes the album “Here for the Music”. The other tracks are all in the same spirit and while they’re all highly enjoyable, I can’t help but worry that this is an album that’s going to have a limited appeal, as if you tire with one song, you’ll probably tire of them all.

Conclusion : A real blast of an album, that’s fun and greatly captures the spirit of summer. While I do have concerns that as most of the songs are all pretty much in the same mould, you may tire of it more quickly than other albums. However I can well see this album being dusted off from time to time and reliving it all over again, with an air guitar and attitude, but most importantly a smile.

Posted in Pop, Punk, Rock | No Comments »

Album Snacktime – Barenaked Ladies

Posted by admin on 22nd June 2008

It’s not often you pick up an album to find over 20 songs, in this case for the latest release from the Barenaked Ladies (BNL) is 24 tracks. Upon delving a little deeper you can see why there are so many tracks, as the average track time is around 2 minutes, with some tracks just under a minute and eight, on or around the 3 minute mark. All is revealed when you discover that this is an album intended for kids. This is a fact that has slipped a few peoples notice, from the comments I read on iTunes. It’s funny to see reviews on the one hand criticise the album, but on the other note that this would make a good kids album. Mmmm, maybe it’s a good thing this is a kids album.

To be honest though, to say this is a kids album, is pretty shortsighted. Yes many of these tracks are intended for children and the subject matter bounces around all over the place. While some of the songs border on the infantile, it’s all held together beautifully and man some of these songs are catchy. Take the opening track “7 8 9”, which was my introduction to this album. This track has been featured quite extensively on CBC children’s television. With it’s play on words and simple melody, it’s a track I wasn’t able to get out of my head for days, after hearing it for the first time. “The Ninjas” is pure BNL, with it’s catchy melody and distinctive vocals.

It seems that lately, I’ve really begun to notice lyrics more and more. The opening line to “Raisins” really made me smirk in a way I haven’t since I was a kid :

“Raisins come from grapes. People come form Apes. I come from Canada”

The whole track follows in a similar vain and I couldn’t help but repeat the track again and again.

With so many tracks on the album, it would be sheer craziness to cover them all, suffice to say there are many that really tickled my fancy, but we won’t talk about that, this is a kids album after all. “7 8 9” and “Raisins” are particularly strong tracks, as are “I Can Sing”, “Humongous Tree”, “Bad Day” with it’s Gordon Lightfoot overtones, “Curious” and “Crazy ABCs” which is probably not the song your kids are going to use to learn their alphabet, but will surely turn them into smartarses, should they learn the lyrics by heart.

The album ends with “Here Come the Geese” and almost feels like a Muppet song, with it’s froggy vocal overtones. Trying to dissect this album on a song by song basis is totally pointless as everyone is going to get something different out of this album. The kids will love the basic, easy to remember songs, based of course on their age. The older kids and adults will all take something totally different from this album, but the things that’s most surprising is that this is an album anyone, of any age should enjoy.

Writing songs for children is no easy task. Writing songs for children, that children will actually enjoy is an art form all to itself. For this album, not only are the songs great, but it’s so apparent that BNL not only had great fun making this album, but also put into this album a lot of love.

Conclusion : Hard core BNL fans will probably either lap this up, or think the band have gone a bit nuts. Personally, while I’ve followed BNL over the years, I’m guilty in that I don’t own a single one of their albums (apart from this one of course), which is something I’d like to rectify, as this album has shown me a different side to the band and certainly renewed my interest in them. Fun with a capital F.U.N.

Posted in Children, Pop, Rock | No Comments »

EP – Life as an Extra – Jacob Jeffries Band

Posted by admin on 17th June 2008

It was immediately apparent upon hearing the Jacob Jeffries Band (JJB) for the first time, that here was something very special. I have my friends over at the BinaryStarcast podcast for steering me in JJB’s general direction. It wasn’t long after here them for the first time, that I was seeking some review material and I was not disappointed. First time around I secured a pre-release EP, which later morphed into what we have here. This is the first of three EP releases. These 5 tracks comprise of acoustic tracks, with the second EP being made up of studio material and the third EP consisting of live material.

This EP, is slightly more laid back than some of the other JJB material I’ve heard. Keep an ear out for the fantastic track Wonderful, probably coming on the next EP. The 5 tracks here are more sedate and mellow, but don’t let that fool you, the vocal performance of Jacob Jeffries is sensational and at times electrifying. The title track opens with piano and immediately George Michael’s track “Mother’s Pride” came to mind. The more the track unfolded, the more this similarity burned into my subconscious. No matter your views on George Michael as a person, there’s no denying his Listen Without Prejudice album will go down as a classic, and I think this EP sows the seeds for JJB to go onto similarly great things.

“Fairfax Diner” is a pleasant track, but I can’t help but feel it would have been more at home on an album, rather than an EP. It has a wonderful feel to it, but I just feel it would work much better with some more content around it. “And I Say” also has a strong George Michael feel to it and I can’t help but wonder if this is more intentional, rather than accidental. Not that I’m hinting at plagiarism, as this track more than stands up on it’s own two feet, it’s just I can’t help but wonder if Jacob has come across this album in his musical travels.

“Old Friend” very much leads the album to a near conclusion. It’s hard to quantify, but this is very much a track that you expect on the tail end of a release. My only question was how is this EP going to end? In the end, “Getting There” the final track, draws the EP to an end in style.

Conclusion : This isn’t the EP I was expecting as I’d heard a few more upbeat and pumping tracks from JJB. However I was pleasantly surprised. The thing that is most apparent, apart from the great music is the vocals of Jacob Jeffries. Here lies a talent that should scorch a path to the top. Great things start with a first step and this is one helluva step.

Posted in Pop, Rock | No Comments »

EP – In Between the Lights – Naama Hillman

Posted by admin on 1st June 2008

While I have many relationships with artists, labels and PR/Communications companies, there’s nothing quite like the buzz of finding music by myself. Admittedly this is often helped by the many podcasts I listen to, and one in particular, the DarkCompass podcast is where I discovered Naama Hillman, who was being interviewed at the Goldhawk Sessions. I immediately like what I heard and when she mentioned the free EP on her website, it wasn’t long before I had it in my possession.

The EP is made up of 5 tracks, including one which was a very nice surprise. The first track “Falling” reminded me of Tracey Chapman. Now at first you may think this is a little out there, but there is just something in Naama’s phrasing that is really similar. On MySpace Naama describes one of her genres as Americana, a genre I always have trouble with. I understand what it’s meant to be, but many times, I just can’t make the comparison. When “Let’s Go Out Tonight”, Americana wasn’t my first thought, but another certain American, Jewel was. This is very much a compliment, both feature strong vocals and acoustic guitars. I kind of forgot about Jewel, many years ago, but the similarities hit me like a shovel in the face.

The next track is probably my favorite, which is surprising as it’s a cover, where the original is one I’ve never really liked that much, the unofficial theme tune of Preparation ‘H’, that old Johnny Cash favorite, “Ring of Fire”. OK, everyone’s heard the jokes before, but I just can’t help adding to them. Comedy aside, this is a stark rendition and a very beautiful one at that. It was certainly one I played a good half a dozen times, the first time I put the EP on and one I’ve played on it’s own a few times since.

“Glory” is probably my least favorite track on the EP, as it feels a little busy and I couldn’t quite focus on it. Rounding of the EP is “I’ll Be Home”. The Jewel sound is very distinct on this track and it’s a very nice track to end things with.

Conclusion : While I don’t think there is enough on this EP to really allow it to shine, I can at least see a huge potential here and will be looking into Naama’s work a little more. Certainly as a free download, this is a cracking bargain and I’m sure one that many people will enjoy immensely.

Posted in Americana, Folk, Rock | No Comments »

Album – Hideaway – The Weepies

Posted by admin on 16th May 2008

  • Band / Artist : The WeepiesmySpace
  • Genre : Pop / Rock / Acoustic
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : Werkshop
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 9.5 out of 10

There’s a few albums I’ve been eagerly awaiting and this most definitely is one of them. Building on the success of their previous release, Say I Am You, Hideaway, feels much more of a joint album. Whilst Hideaway, had some amazing tracks, there was very much a feeling that many of the tracks were either Steve Tannen’s or Deb Talan’s. Admittedly much of this stems from who had lead vocals, and I have to admit, I was totally smitten by Deb’s voice. However on this album, the vocals, whilst still featuring either Deb or Steve prominently, manage to sound much more of a collaborative effort. It’s hard to think of the previous album, as anything inferior, but there is a lushness and warmth in this album, that the previous one lacks, but only in hindsight.

“Can’t Go Back Now”, the track that opens the album, quite frankly sends shivers up my spine. While the sound is typical Weepies, there’s something more, that’s hard to quantify, other than an feeling of a band that has really found it’s feet. “Orbiting”, while having very much a Deb Talan sound, still manages to feel a band effort. At every turn, on every track, I feel myself comparing, probably unfairly all tracks to the previous album, which in my mind is one of the top 10 albums ever on Indie Launchpad, but this is not like comparing apples to apples, they’re two albums, by the same artists, at two very different stages of their developmental life. The title track “Hideaway”, has that quirky feel and harmonies that send my brain into apoplexy, especially when listen with headphones. That tone and those vocals are just a sheer joy.

So that’s the first three tracks and I can feel this review very rapidly heading to meet Tolstoy’s War and Peace in sheer size. Yes musically the tracks are superb, but there’s also quite a mix of diversity. The guitar on “Little Bird”, is really familiar, but I’m sure on a track much more melancholic than this. Then in contrast to that, “Antarctica” has a sound that feels very light with a 70’s hint, but with a Weepies twist. It was only when listening to “How You Survived the War” that an artist suddenly sprang to mind and one that I’m surprised hasn’t surfaced before, the Carpenters. Few vocalist in my mind, have managed to sound so wondrous vocally and it’s something the Weepies manage, without sounding like they’re breaking a sweat.

Even as the album draws to an end, the strength of the songs is incredible. “Takes So Long”, reminds me of a song we used to sing as kids, and I couldn’t help but smile when I first heard it, in fact a smile seems to break, whenever this track comes on. I think for me, the most surprising track on this album, is the one that closes things out, “All This Beauty”, which is an amazingly strong song, which could easily have opened the album. 14 tracks that are an absolute joy to listen to.

Conclusion : Just sheer magic. I have to admit, while previously having a strong affinity for Deb’s vocals, I’m now enjoying Steve’s much more than before. If you liked the previous Weepies album, buying this is pretty much a no brainier. If you are new to the Weepies, this is an amazing album to add to your collection, especially if you like the mellower side of pop. Although I’ve marked this as a 9.5, it’s very much a 10 out of 10, in theory anyway. I just have to leave room for improvement… if that were possible.

Posted in Acoustic, Pop, Rock | No Comments »

Album – The Fall – Sule

Posted by admin on 4th May 2008

  • Band / Artist : SulemySpace
  • Genre : Rock / Pop
  • Sample Track Download : Duck and Cover
  • Buy CD : N/A
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 9 out of 10

Sometimes when investigating new artists, what I hear on websites or MySpace sometimes doesn’t fill me with excitement or eagerness. However while my ears aren’t set on fire, something in my gut, tells me to stop and delve a little deeper. This was the case with Montreal, Canada native, Sule, who after I listened to his music on MySpace, enjoyed what I heard, but whether it was the time of day, or the music I’d listened to before hand. my gut instinct was screaming at me to follow up with the artist. This I did and a week or so later, with CD in the player, I was absolutely blown away.

The album opens with “Duck and Cover”, which at first sounds like a pale copy of a Lenny Kravitz track. As the track unfolds though, it smolders and burns. While this track and indeed the whole album has a kind of Lenny Kravitz overtone, the music is sharper and the vocals smoother, without the wailing Kravitz screetch. For me, the album starts proper with “Go On (With Yer Bad Self)”, which has a wonderful acoustic/piano opening, which builds with strings and with a hint of what sounds like a tin whistle, interesting mix of sounds indeed. “Numb” for me should be earmarked as a single, it just has that slow burn start, with killer chorus, that has hit written all over it. The following track “Alive” also is an amazing track, but for different reasons. It has some great lyrics, that roll and flow incredibly well.

I’ve been running Indie Launchpad for nearly 3 years and am still surprised, that I am amazed at the incredible talent that somehow flys below most peoples radars, after all the is the exact reason Indie Launchpad was started. If this were a mainstream artist, I’ve no doubt it would top many charts. There’s a great diversity about this album, but it still hangs together very well. “Mysterious” being a case in point. It’s a more mellow track, but still has that rock overtone. “Simplicity” also has a distinctly different flavour, and is perfectly placed at the centre of the album, as it very much feels like a track to give a brief respite.

I mentioned diversity on this album, and with the track “Into You”, it feels very much like modern jazz, given a rock infusion. The penultimate track “I Wanna Know (Love Stoned Mix)”, is as the title indicates, a remix of a track that appears earlier on the album. There’s a great ethereal quality to this track, which you really experience to the full, by wearing headphones, fantastic stuff. The album starts with “Duck and Cover” and ends with “Dub and Cover” a dub remix of the opener, again taking the album in new directions, which I absolutely love,

Conclusion : A fantastic album, which I’m really thankful to have found. It’s all in here, rock, dub, light and heavy. This is surely an artist destined for greater things. Looking forward to catching him in Ottawa someday.

Posted in Pop, Rock | 1 Comment »

Album – Something to Talk About – Nick Howard

Posted by admin on 3rd May 2008

  • Band / Artist : Nick HowardmySpace
  • Genre : Pop / Rock / Acoustic
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : CD Baby
  • Buy Digital Download : N/A
  • Rating : 9 out of 10

Young, good looking, good voice and English too. Well enough about me and more about Nick Howard, who also shares these similar traits. OK, So maybe I can claim 1 of the 4, but this isn’t about me, this is about a phenomenal talent, brought to my attention by a long running friend of Indie Launchpad. When they approached me with a few of Nick’s tracks, I had a listen and was eager to find out more.

Having already played “A Better Man” on the podcast, I was really looking forward to hearing the full album, as there is a sound here, very reminiscent of Nik Kershsaw, another cracking English songwriter, who had several hits in the 80’s, but also had a phenomenal album, To Be Frank, released in 2002. Nick shares many of the same qualities, that make listening to his album a sheer joy.

“A Better Man” opens the album, and the first thing that hits you is Nick’s great voice. Not only is the tone, just right, but there’s a great clarity, which makes listening a sheer joy. Musically, there is also much to love, from the drums to the lovely guitar work that bubbles under nicely. “Wrap Your Streets” has an ever so slightly darker edge to it, but it’s really something that is nice to find, as this is an album that could easily have gone down the boy band route, and faded into bubblegum popdom, fortunately there is so much more to it than that. “Should’ve Know Better”, has something of note happening with the vocals, which are looser, with almost a tiredness to them. I’m not sure if this is intentional, or if it’s the 99th take of the vocals, but it’s something I find very real and doesn’t detract from this wonderful track in the slightest.

“The Pressure” is a very pianocentric track, in the very best tradition of Billy Joel, but with a Nick Howard sound, securely stamped on it. This also would have been a great track to end the album on, as it has that strong feel, of drawing to a conclusion. “Bullied By My Dream” reminds me of a pop/rock track of a few years ago, not that I mention this to detract from the song, rather that it’s interesting to hear other influences, whether they be intentional or otherwise. “My Mistake” is a very nicely balanced track, and there’s just something about the drums on this track, that really grabs the attention of my ears.

“On The Outside Looking In” is an interesting track. Although Nick is from England, and to me, that is very evident in his music, this track has a very American sound. It’s still a very pleasant track, but for me, it kind of sticks out from the other tracks. Of course this is probably just me, but I’ve listened to the album on a good many occasions and every time, I get to this track, it kind of gives me a gentle slap, if you know what I mean.

Heading into the last third of the album, things really loosen up with “I Don’t Really Care”, both in the music and this time in the vocals that this time, just sound like someone feeling very comfortable. Drawing the album to a gentle and relaxed end is “Up and Down”, a relaxed track with very prominent vocals, which just goes to reiterate how good Nick’s voice is. “One Night in the City” is a fitting end to a wonderful album, which could also be easily released as a single.

Conclusion : This is an album that has been playing constantly in my car. The winter is subsiding, threatening to turn to summer and this is just one of those albums that going to fill my ears as the wind works it’s way through my hair, driving with the windows down. Superb.

Posted in Acoustic, Pop, Rock | No Comments »