Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Anarbor- “The Words You Don’t Swallow”

Often times an album loses momentum with every song that just doesn’t quite cut it. Quickly you discover that what you had hoped for isn’t happening and there are only a few songs you actually like. It’s similar to channel surfing endlessly hoping to find something that can maintain interest but nothing will. Yea that sucks, but want the good news?

Sparks quickly turn to fire as Anarbor knocks each song out of the ballpark with consistent hooks, dynamic choruses and sing-along style lyrics. Alright, you may not be caught dead singing along to music you like but you get the idea. Almost seductive in nature with a powerful pop rock sound that’s mesmerizing The Words You Don’t Swallow takes off immediately and never misses a beat. It all begins with vocals that are powerfully smooth, polished and bolstered with enough edge and harmony to keep your ears perked. Lead vocalist Slade Echeverria’s sound is also defined through his ability to transition between catchy choruses and verses in a seamless manner. The background vocals create the extra brush stroke that really pushes several of the songs onto the verge of perfection as they’re not overdone, or over powering. And, the harmonies are a treat to the ears. But leave out the vocals and you’ll find that the music is still potent.

Excellent bands aren’t carried by one aspect but everything working in tandem. Anarbor understand this in The Words You Don’t Swallow and have constructed music that doesn’t only accompany awesome vocals but makes ever song that much better to listen to. Think about it. If you can only focus on a small aspect of a band you like, the momentum dies quickly. However, if you’re in tune to each instrument and the vocals your experience will likely continue and an album will retain its value. The drumming, guitar and bass writing is insanely catchy, not too complex and easy to follow. Each instrument shows its core value and importance leaving you to say “damn these guys are good”. And, you can listen to each song again and again and find several different aspects to enjoy.

Anarbor’s The Words You Don’t Swallow is not your typical band with a ho-hum sound. Theirs is defined by music that utilizes each member and instrument to their utmost ability creating a sound that’s fun to listen to. [By: Andy Rajan]

Rating: 5/5
Release Date: April 20, 2010

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And Hell Followed With- “Proprioception”

Satan hates Earache Records. Why? Because they sign bands who are more frightening than him? Look at And Hell Followed With and their follow up release Proprioception for example, (the title should continue “Kicking Satan’s Ass and Making Him Cry in a Corner”) whom are taking the thresholds of death metal into places many bands will seek and not accomplish.

Proprioception is a concoction constructed from five masterminds that will take your mind and body straight to a heightened metal overload challenging your eardrums to keep up with the deathcore/grindcore infused beats of drummer Billy Noffsinger, horrific screams and growls of lead singer Nick Holland and gut wrenching guitar power houses Pat Hahn, Kyle Mcilmurray and bassist Andrew Tate. Intense is simply and understatement. Description almost won’t suffice. But we’ll give it a shot. Think switching from the tempo of a death march to that of a maniacal schizophrenic who’s been deprived of his medication for one day too many and you’ve got an idea.

Noffsinger throws in more beats per minute on the snare and bass drums (known to drummers as bpm) then you’re metronome can handle (well not quite but it will be high). His fills are equally as fast and tempered to perfection. On par with the likes of Derek Roddy (ex Hate Eternal), John Longstreth (Origin) and George Kollias (Nile), Noffisinger is a drummer to pay attention to if you’re interested in knowing what it takes to be a pro in this genre.

Guitarists Hahn, Mcilmurray and bassist Tate keep everything beautifully sadistic laying each track in layers of perfected distortion. There’s also some soloing, plenty of breakdowns that will cause whiplash and enough solid rhythm action to keep each song as potent as the next.

Spewing terror from his lungs Holland puts has more range in the type of screaming he does than most. At times he’s hardcore, at other’s he sounds like the arch angel of death and in between he’s downright bloodthirsty. No ladies you won’t find yourself humming his tunes.

And Hell Followed With’s Proprioception brings to you the true sounds of death so don’t take them lightly. [By: Andy Rajan]

Rating: 5/5
Release Date: June 29, 2010

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Centaur Noir- “Rock the Hall”

This is one of those times when you wonder what in the world was going through the artist’s mind when they decided to make an album. If they’re trying to be creative this might not be the best route. Sure there are different genres for different pallets but sometimes one still finds them wondering who actually enjoys this?

Centaur Noir’s Rock the Hall effectively rocks nothing. It’s monstrously monotone, uninteresting and mashes genres that don’t mix vary well (at least not in this case). According to the band’s MySpace site, the music is classified as electro acoustic/folk/rock (what the hell is that anyway?). But if that’s not all telling it gets better…’err actually worse. Many of the songs sound like a simple loop of the same melody going over and over in midi format. Remember those simple cell phone ring tones from what seems like an eternity ago? Those are in midi format. Except some of them actually sounded cool (well the Halloween one did anyway).

In the case of Rock the Hall not only are the song structures self-destructing but there’s no single element that can pull anything up by the bootstraps. The guitar riffs are as dull as hearing someone stroke the same three chords over and over no matter what type of effects are used. Other noises inserted throughout sound like desperate attempts to give depth to and already lackluster album. Furthermore what appears to sound like synthesized drums might really be the samples that were tossed by a techno artist gone wrong? And, the vocals have the least amount of melody you’ll possibly hear minus some of the American Idol tryouts. Nope, there are no hooks, choruses or rhymes that will excite any of the senses. Don’t expect the odds to increase because there are fourteen tracks either. The only guarantee is that you won’t find a one hit wonder here.

In the case that you’re thinking about listening to something new and exciting play it safe and skip this. Only if by some chance you’re tripping of an acid hit you may be in for a joyous surprise, otherwise you’ll be safe sticking with what you know works and won’t piss you off. [By: Andy Rajan]

Rating: 1/5
Release Date: May 12, 2010

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Of Montreal -”False Priest”

Kevin Barnes, the lead singer and apparent life force behind the avant-garde, hipster, dance-pop collective Of Montreal, must be a heck of a dude to talk to. I wonder if he can even sit still to have a conversation because if the band’s latest album, False Priest is any indication- homeboy has quite the manic energy. False Priest is a chaotic and jumbled glimpse into Barnes’ psyche, coupled with completely wild and unhinged dance music for the hipsters in the cheap seats and teeny boppers in the front row.

“Coquet Coquette” is a hell of a good pop song- romping and stomping. It’s a damn good time aided by great vocals from the eccentric and eclectic Janelle Monae, who I had really only known because of her funky hair styles. But the girl can sing and Barnes uses her very well in the tune.

On record, Of Montreal only consists of three members- each taking their turns at a variety of instruments; mainly Barnes who is listed as playing guitar, bass, piano, drums, synths, and programming in addition to singing. The live band is eight people strong with a lot of the members contributing parts to False Priest. This is circus music- the kind of music that is best helmed by few instead of many, but best presented in mass numbers- so kudos to the band for making this happen.

I was initially put off by this album, but after several repeat listens, each one getting louder and louder, I found myself humming the tunes and thinking about it later. It’s an infectious album, but not in the traditional pop sense because initially, the songs aren’t all that inviting. Right off the bat they’re confusing and muddled. But sticking with them, they start to make sense. The chorus of “Enemy Gene” is a great example of the hidden gem quality this album has. I didn’t realize how pretty the vocals were until about the fifth go around.

And ultimately I never fully appreciated this album until the sixth or seventh go around. And while I don’t know if the album has any of the unique staying power of some of those great pop albums, I do know that with great tunes like “Hydra Fancies,” it’ll definitely be stuck in my head for some time. [By: Ryan O’Connell]
Rating: 4/5
Release Date: September 14, 2010

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Order of Ennead- “An Examination of Being”

While there are those that enjoy listening to music that leaves them feeling euphoric, mellowed and happy there are some of us that just want it served on platter with no bullshit? We’re not looking to hold up lighters and wave our hands in unison. No! We want circle pits, flesh wounds and thrashing bodies. Welcome An Examination of Being with your devil horns and all of your hellish dreams may come true.

Built on elements of death metal, black metal and thrash, Order of Ennead has brought us a headless feast dripping with fresh blood and raw meat. If you wanted something kosher then this isn’t for you. But if darkness is your light and all that is grotesque your beauty then let the games begin. You’ll be greeted by tormenting blast beasts, demonizing vocals and shredding a la carte.

What would death metal be without some heavy duty blasting? It’s a damn near expected attribute if you’re to be a player in this genre. Sure one may choose a straightforward no double-bass no snare blast style but doing so is foolish unless the skill simply isn’t there. For you technical junkies out there, there’s no gravity blasting going but that doesn’t mean the drummer is lacking. His playing is heavy as hell and his tempo change-ups and speed enraged fills keep the drumming right on par.

If you’ve ever pictured the archangel of sin screaming his ass off this is potentially how he might sound. He’s not here to sing lullabies, recite nursery rhymes or make you feel all warm inside. He’s here to tear shit up, spit lyrics like venom and let you know how he really feels. Yes, this is how the lead vocalist sounds and it’s fitting, typecast and done well. Of course if you were expecting something different then you shouldn’t be listening to death metal in the first place.

The beauty of great metal is great shredding, dynamic soloing and electric guitars that bellow out all kinds of distorted symphonies. An Examination of Being has all of these present, check marked and ready to come at you as quick as you can take it. There’s no doubt that you’ll hear thrash induced riffs with enough strength to put you into a coma and bring you back into a state of violence. You might even hurt your fingers stroking the air in the process.

Tell the demons that haunt you I said hello and bring them a taste of An Examination of Being.

Rating: 4.5/5
Release Date: April 23, 2010

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War of Ages- “Eternal”

Some years ago I had the opportunity to see War of Ages, who was one of the opening bands for Throwdown. Not familiar with any of their music, I was quickly impressed with their stage presence, superior sound, and song writing capabilities. Never would I guess that the opportunity would arise to review the fourth album in the saga Eternal.

A Christian metalcore super group whose life circumstances have contributed greatly to this record according to their MySpace site myspace.com/warofages, there’s currently very few albums packing as much emotionally driven energy into a release as Eternal. It’s loaded with lyrics about life’s hardships and struggles but with an eye toward staying positive through faith in God. Whether or not War of Ages is in line with your belief system, the lyrics are so powerful you would be doing yourself a disservice not read some of them. But how convincing is hearing about awesome lyrics if the music can’t live up? These guys have simply got making music down to a science.

Dueling guitarists Brannon Bernatowicz, Steve Brown and bassist TJ Halford inject more grindingly low breakdowns and raw amp energy than you can possibly digest in one take at the album. This is why you’ll find yourself listening to Eternal many more times than you ever imagined. Grounded in a foundation that consists of roaring rhythm guitar that’s every bit as dynamic as the lead guitar makes every song a solid winner. And for all you lead guitar pleasure seekers you’ll hear plenty of authentic solos melting the airways around you. The goodies aren’t all out of the bag yet either.

Brothers Leroy Hamp (vocals) and Alex Hamp (drums) do more than make Eternal a viable contender in a world flooded with hopeful metal musicians. Leroy screams with enormous conviction making you feel like you can just about see the fire in his eyes and feel the pain in his heart. The drumming is vibrant, churning with the force of a locomotive whose blowing steam like there’s no end in sight. He’s a hard hitter that knows how to over indulge you in strong armed back beats and smashing cymbal hits. Yet it’s uncluttered and clean as well. The only thing missing are your ears embracing Eternal.

Not only should Eternal rank as one of the top albums of the year but you should also go check out these guys if you ever get the opportunity. You’ll enjoy the experience. [By: Andy Rajan]

Rating: 5/5
Release Date: April 13, 2010

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Wrench in the Works- “Decrease/Increase”

Silence is no longer your best friend. Sure you can remain a recluse despising everything and everyone around you. Lest you decide to change your mind and venture out into the world, Wrench in the Works will be there every step of the way to kick your ass and keep you going. After all how are you going to change without a little blunt force trauma?

A masterful combination of elements of metal and hardcore, Wrench in the Works newest release Decrease/Increase is an uncompromising jaw clenching composition of musical brutality. It’s hard-hitting purity that’s devoid of crazy electronic additions of cluttered sound effects and nu-metal chaos. Yet it’s injected with plenty of pulsating, fist pumping, windmill kicking breakdowns to appease the critical naysayers who have little faith in up and comers. Think tempo change-ups boosted with adrenaline injected drumming and vocals belted out with unfettered destruction. What’s this you’re mom’s in the kitchen breaking dishes? Surely this isn’t from the hysteria she’s feeling listening to your speakers blaring the next best band tearing the world apart. No. How on earth could that be possible?
Certainly there are several reasons why.

While there’s power in numbers there’s also power in one, precisely a dynamic lead vocalist with the ability to shred his microphone into pieces from the sheer ferocity belting out of his throat. His voice is filled with monstrous rage and induced with enthusiasm in a hardcore-metal sort of way. Backed by a guitarist and bassist whose chord combinations and distorted riffs strike with the force of a sledge hammer the aura is terrifyingly enjoyable. No you won’t hear any Dime bag Darrell type shredding going on but this isn’t the style Wrench in the Works is going after. Theirs is an ambience of unrestrained frustration articulated in powerfully constructed songs that can be played over and over. And, while there’s an element of simplicity in the composition of the guitar and bass this is far from negative because of the melodies heard.

Coming from the perspective of a drummer (myself), the man behind the sticks in Wrench in the Works takes drumming to a whole other level. His fill orchestrations are excellently executed with no sound space to spare. His speed and precision are well rehearsed and he proves that he has what is necessary to take him and the band to higher places. There’s plenty of double bass and blast beats to go around so dig in.

The only thing left is for you to go ahead and check these guys out. [By: Andy Rajan]

Rating: 5/5
Release Date: March 16, 2010

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Mutemath – “Armistice”

Recorded at the band’s home studio in New Orleans, Armistice is a heavily blended (dare I say watered down) concoction of Maroon-5-meets-The-Postal-Service-whine-pop. The record is full of distorted, multi-layered sounds that mix sort of well with Paul Meany’s Mr. Nice Guy vocals. But the songs lack cohesion, not to mention a true statement that stands out. Outside of “The Nerve” and, perhaps, “Burden”, the album’s bookends, the music is buried under Meany trying to be Adam Levine, which is certainly not a very nice thing.

“Our goal is to embarrass the first record, that’s what we’re trying to do here, and I think we’re on point to pull it off,” Meany says about Armistice. While such ambitions aren’t exactly Herculean, there are glimmers of promise emanating from these, at times, manic-weathered tunes. The band finds itself caught between the age-old rock band conundrum of trying to be accessible while also trying to preserve artistic vision. Mutemath’s first record was known for its post-rock experimentation, which is also certainly present here. But the attempts are mostly grating, like the worst kind of nouveau electronica. There is no harmony. Least of all in the disjointed vocals of Meany, who, like he sings on “Burden”, “just can’t hold it together.”

Closing the album by getting a little Jungian on us, Meany laments that “The devil is not the nature/That is around us, all around us/But the nature that is within us all.” While his lyrics are sound, the delivery is off. [By: Sean Phelan]
Rating: 2.5/5
Release Date: August 18, 2009

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Discover America – “Future Paths”

Although this album is called Future Paths, songwriter and vocalist Chris Staples seems stuck in the past – a slightly maudlin review through the narrative eyes of a tangled and nomadic psyche. The music is hinged on low-key, laconic, Tweedy-like laments of suburban, druggy malaise, e.g. “1979”: “You made a promise to yourself/To stay insane/As you sat in the corner/Watching things around you change.” The lyrics, while not great poetry, do make for some interesting short stories.

Besides “1979”, “When You Are Young”, a track that could use a major infusion of raucous noise, “A Lock of Samson’s Hair” and “Brighton Beach”, the one song that shows some real musical and lyrical diversity, are highlights. In fact, about half of these tracks need a major infusion of raucous noise. The trip through Staples’ America is too sleepy – where is the anger, where is the torment, where is any kind of emotion outside of apathy? Even dreams don’t come in monotones. The soundscapes are banal.

While Elliott Smith proved his genius writing this type of music, Staples’ voice simply doesn’t carry you through the peaks and lowlands the same way Elliott’s did. The songs, while engaging, are far too monotonous to give this album more than a couple of listens. [By: Sean Phelan]
Rating: 3/5
Release Date: April 20, 2010

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Solomon Burke – “Nothing’s Impossible”

If a man who has been in the music business since the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll (more than half-a-century) tells you that nothing’s impossible, you better believe him. After a Hall of Fame career during which he has bellowed such immortal classics as “Cry to Me”, “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”, and “Tonight’s the Night”, Burke, who is revered across genres and generations, would seem to have little left to prove. But like every great artist who understands the divine nature of his gift, it isn’t even a question whether he will continue proving it till his dying day.

The liner notes recount a touching story about how Burke came to collaborate with late, great producer, Willie Mitchell, for this record. Mitchell, who is best known for his work with another gospel-bleeding icon, Al Green, courted Burke for over three decades trying to get Big Sol to come to his studio in Memphis. The visit finally became a reality after Burke made a fortuitous sojourn to the River City for some barbecue. The two hit it off instantly, “like kids on a playground”, and the music bears the fruit of their soulful, familial kinship. “Oh, What A Feeling”, “It Must Be Love”, and the title track are all challenges to the listener’s mind to follow the heart. Mitchell’s strings still have the signature of Green’s greatest records, and Solomon’s voice is as strong as ever.

“I feel the presence of his spirit all over this album which is amazing,” Burke says, in eulogy of Mitchell who passed this past January. “I see a lot of things I never saw before. I didn’t understand the song ‘You Needed Me’ until the day of his funeral. I sat in the church and I understood that we needed each other at that point in time. I needed to reconnect with someone…who could say to me that just because you’re 70 years old doesn’t mean that you can’t sing like you should sing or want to sing. Use what God gave you. It was such a great message to keep going forward and to keep your dreams.” [By: Sean Phelan]
Rating: 3.5/5
Release Date: September 21, 2009

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Luminescent Orchestrii – “Neptune’s Daughter”


Luminescent Orchestrii

The members of New York-based Luminescent Orchestrii are all accomplished musicians with backgrounds in classical, jazz and art music who share a passion for Eastern European folk tunes. They bill their sound as “Romanian Gypsy Punk” but as always seems the case when players trained in other disciplines come together to play “world music,” the result deftly pays homage to the rich source material while tossing in other influences as well. In this case, most noticeable are the jazz leanings of songs like “Neptune’s Daughter” and “Nasty Tasty” – two original compositions contributed by band member Sxip Shirey.

There are plenty of fast klezmer-style traditional tunes on the disc that makes you want to kick your heels up, while the lilting, bolero-like quality of “Dreaming in Turkish” and “Pecto-Rubulii” and the seductive female voices on “What the Water Said” and “La Tarde” offer well-placed changes of mood and tempo. Unfortunately I’m not an expert on this genre of music, so the most sophisticated thing I can say about “Mur Stojmeno” is that it reminds me of the opening credits of “Xena: Warrior Princess.”

Still, Neptune’s Daughter showcases some masterful playing that runs a gamut of moods and textures – from slow and haunting to wildly energetic – that is sure to please fans who are looking for more exotic fare.[By: Erin Bell.]

Rating: 4/5

Release date: Jan 20, 2009


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Man at Arms – “A Waste of Time and Space”


Man At Arms

If you’re wondering why Man at Arms sounds so darn tinny and high-strung most of the time on A Waste of Time and Space it’s because there’s no bottom end. Originally a three-piece, Man at Arms parted ways with its bass player back in 2005 and apparently the two remaining members, guitarist Eric Gallipo and Ted Prassinos, haven’t looked back, choosing to soldier on as a duo.

And what a duo they make, spitting out tightly wound, agitated noise rock filled with manic intensity. Repetition features prominently throughout the record (culminating in “The Meetin,” whose insistent beat and sparse vocals sound like some sort of tribal incantation), and the band also flirts with atonality and unorthodox time signatures. Underpinning the fiercely experimental spirit, however, is a keen sense of musicality which means that even the most eccentric songs are still governed by a certain logic. Punk rock for music geeks. [By: Erin Bell]

Rating: 4/5

Release date: Nov. 11, 2008


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12 Summers Old – “This Could Get Dangerous”


This Could Get Dangerous from St. Louis-based 12 Summers Old is a disc about relationships, but more specifically than that, the majority of the songs explore the idea of being uncomfortable in a relationship or the moment where you come to the realization that the person you’re interested in isn’t actually right for you.

 

It’s not the easiest subject matter to tackle either musically or lyrically, but 12 Summers Old manage to do so convincingly by taking an approach that comes across as earnest without being too self-indulgent. The music is straight-up bouncy, radio-friendly emo that keeps the disc sounding upbeat even as Brandon Turner is singing lyrics like “get up and get out, I think it’s over / life is full of regrets put on your shoulders.”

 

As long as you don’t pay too much attention to the lyrics, This Could Get Dangerous would make good driving or party music – but there’s depth there as well for those who choose to listen more deeply. [By: Erin Bell]

 

Rating: 3/5

Release date: Oct. 28, 2008


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Andrew Lipke – “Mother Pearl and Dynamite”

Andrew Lipke - Mother Pearl and Dynamite

Much like Andrew Lipke’s musical influences (which according to his MySpace page include Bach, Pink Floyd, Metallica, ABBA and John Denver), Motherpearl and Dynamite is all over the place in terms of style. Folk rock with a kick, alternative, country, and a bit of classical flavor courtesy of cellist Krista Nielsen all percolate together to create something as varied as it is catchy.

There are shades of Elliott Smith in the folky opening track “On My Way”, with its jumpy acoustic guitar, but the second track smacks of one of Radiohead’s more laid back numbers with Lipke settling into the mumbling, lazy style of Thom York. By the third track, “Forgive and Forget,” Lipke has morphed again to deliver a country-tinged Neil Young-esque folk croon.

Speaking of Neil Young, Lipke and his backing band, The Prospects, deliver a killer cover of “After the Gold Rush” which comes across as more agitated than the original and benefits from a tasteful cello line – not to mention the fact that Lipke literally seems to be channeling Young’s fragile, shakey tenor.

“The Barker Song” is a fine example of tight, catchy pop writing, and on “Mindgames” Lipke explores slightly heavier territory. The disc ends on a mellow note with “Flesh and Bone” and “Only a Minute,” a couple of ballads.

Motherpearl and Dynamite is a great listen, but with its myriad styles and sounds it’s sure hard to pin Lipke down to one particular genre other than “good.”[By: Erin Bell]

Rating: 4/5

Release date: Nov. 11, 2008


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Matt and Kim – “Grand”


Whichever anonymous record executive picked a January release date for sunny keyboard/drum duo Matt and Kim’s sophomore record “Grand “is either an evil genius or missed some important class at record exec school.  On one hand, they’re missing out on mad dollars by not having single and album opener “Daylight” become the windows down, beach trip anthem of summer 2009 (move over, Beyonce!).  The evil genius part comes in when you realize that “Grand” as an album has the ability to cure even the worst cases of mid-February seasonal affective disorder.  Bare trees and snowstorms be damned; give me a catchy disjointed synth line any day and it might as well be Miami in June. 

 

While sticking pretty strictly to the aforementioned quirky keys and drums formula, it’s obvious on this album that Matt and Kim have spent some time in the practice room since the release of their first self titled LP in 2006.  That album was marked by an almost childish innocence of how musical instruments should actually be played, which was part of its appeal.  Even though the songs were insanely catchy and showed a natural knack for pop songwriting, it still felt like you and a buddy could have recorded it in someone’s parents basement. 

 

With “Grand” coming out on the intimidatingly cool Fader Label, it’s a no-brainer that the musical styling’s of the duo would take on some slightly more sophisticated airs.  Production is much more polished, and one of the duo seems to have developed a fondness for clapping and stomping as a rhythm section.  On songs like “Spare Change,” it should make a perfect addition to their typically zany live shows. 

 

The subject matter generally reads like a love letter to Matt and Kim’s neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. One of album’s standout tracks is even titled  “I’ll Take Us Home,” and is one of the best the pair have produced to date.  However, tracks like “Don’t Slow Down” and “Good Ol’ Fashion Nightmare” veer dangerously close into the territory of annoying, with repetitive choruses and schticky key lines that add zero creativity points to the album.

 

While it’s virtually impossible to hate Matt and Kim (it would be like hating puppies and rainbows), they aren’t for everyone.  Sticklers for musicianship and complicated arrangements, as well as those who take their music very, very seriously will probably not find this album amusing.  Thankfully, these people are referred to as “sticks in the mud” and are generally avoided by the rest of society at all cost.  It’s happy time! [by: Leah Pavlik]

 

Rating: 3½ / 5


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Audrye Sessions – “Audrye Sessions EP”

Audrye Sessions EP

Ah, the first EP.  So much trepidation, hope and uncertainty burned onto one little plastic disk (or MP3 coding, if we’re going to be modern about it).  Getting to hear a promising band’s first EP is a little like watching a kid take their first steps; you’re ecstatic they made it this far, but always watching out for bumps in the carpet or sharp coffee table corners that could ruin all that progress.  Audrye Sessions is that tottering little kid, and thus far they have avoided the majority of bumps in the carpet.

Favorites of the local San Francisco music, Audrye Sessions has built up quite a following from both West Coasters and national music watchers for only having released their EP in digital form this past fall.  Having seen them opening for Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s on the tour preceding that release, it’s not hard to see why.  Live, the band combines folk and rock into a perfect Brit-influenced package.   The band’s chemistry is evident, and their general impressiveness in a live setting is in no small part attributed to vocalist Ryan Karazijaj’s astounding pipes.  With a little bit of time, he could easily be compared to Muse’s Matthew Bellamy or Thom Yorke.

Disappointingly, the EP simply doesn’t live up to the live show.  While it’s absolutely more good than bad, the band is going to have to step up their game to surpass every other band out there making jangly Brit sounding rock.  Overall, the band falls too easily into the verse-chorus-verse-chorus method of songwriting and the result is songs that don’t grab the listener the way they should.  A good song should be like peanut butter in your brain: stuck.  It’s quite frustrating too, because there is a fantastic band hiding behind the Audrye Sessions locked into pop formatting.  It’s all there except the cojones to experiment – musicianship, chemistry, beauty, and an understanding of emotions.

The highlight of the four songs is definitely “New Years Day,” a melancholy reflection on how the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Here, the buildup of the chorus works well with the sparseness of the guitar-pluckced verse, and warrents repeated listens.

Audrye Sessions is definitely a band to watch and root for, if this EP is any indication.  Whether they fall victim to untied shoelaces or end up joining the peewee soccer team, time will tell.  The schedule release of a full length in the near future should be a good indicator.  [by: Leah Pavlik]

Rating: 3/5

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The Mighty Regis

The Mighty Regis do the rocking punk Celtic thing most infectiously, with mandolins a blazing, and a sound reminiscent of the Dropkick Murphy’s and the Pogues. [by Ben Tanzer]

[myspace.com/themightyregis]

Current album – Another Nickel for the Pope (2008)
Label/record company – none

CATFIGHT! – In Stereo

mime3.jpgLike the static on the airwaves before a radio station tunes in crystal clear, the distortion at the beginning of “In Stereo” jars the listener a bit before zeroing in on a driving guitar hook that crescendos into the first words of “Get It On.” In the minute-and-a-half that follow, the song doesn’t go beyond a few strings of repeated lyrics over a zig-zagged guitar line and crashing percussion. But what it does is set up the direction for the remaining four songs on the EP, all of which follow in a similar fashion of fuzzy, loud, stripped-down rock.
Yes, the songs are simple – perhaps a bit too much so – but the band seems to go more for the slug-you-in-the-gut approach as opposed to the route of impressive, over-the-top pretention.
And it’s easy to point out that the marketing is just a little too White Stripes, with the swirly red and white artwork gracing the cover like a Target ad, the imagery brought forth by the song “Candy Cane” and the most obvious one of them all – the male/female duo. Yes, maybe it’s a little too…formulaic…but it still manages to work.
With most songs coming in under three minutes, CATFIGHT! play a brand of catchy, infectious garage rock that sports its own interpretation of riot grrrl influences in the backbone of its presentation. What’s unique about this band is that guitarist Bobby and drummer Christine trade off – and sometimes collaborate on – vocal duties, and the latter sports seductive pipes that are both deep and screechy, akin to Courtney Love meets Kathleen Hanna meets Nina Gordon meets Liz Phair – or something along those lines.
In fact, it’s Christine’s vocals on “Alone Today” and “Sheila” which really make the sound work. In spite of the minimalism of the music, or perhaps because of it, there’s something contagious about her enigmatic way of singing.
The one song on the album that is a bit too stale in comparison with the rest is the middle track “Ready Steady Go”. The problem is that it dances but doesn’t really drive. The abrupt endings to most tunes also make things feel a bit edgy, although not necessarily in a good way.
Overall, the duo could stand to expand a bit in its lyrical and musical exploration, but this isn’t a bad start, although playing it a little less close to comfort might do wonders for this group. There may not be too much original about this band, but I bet CATFIGHT! put on one hell of a live show. [By: Natalye Childress Smith]
Rating: 3/5
Release Date: September 20 2008
Website

Mock Orange – Captain Love

captainlove.jpgThe other day while I was driving with my friend Mike I handed him my iPod and asked him to put something on so I could make sure not to hit any fellow motorists and/or small children while navigating my way about town. He excitedly saw the new Mock Orange album, a band best known for their brand of mathy post-hardcore ala rescue or Damiera. When he put the album on and heard indie pop that sounded more inspired by Elephant 6 he was decidedly confused, which was more or less the reaction I had upon first hearing the new Mock Orange album, Captain Love.
The album starts of pretty promisingly; the title track is a sugary, hook laden indie pop masterpiece and frontman Ryan Grisham’s unique, warbly voice blends well. Unfortunately from here the songs start to blend together with few discerning qualities. “World of Machines” has a few great guitar lines that break up the monotony, but they can only do so much and at times even Grisham sounds audibly bored.
The atmospheric brief instrumental “Mrs. Brown’s Morning Cup” gets things back on track temporarily and “Supergang” turns the tables further, focusing more on MO’s strength, angular guitar lines and start stop rhythms, although the songwriting still isn’t strong enough to completely turn things around. On “Motel Man” they regain their footing, and after a slight misstep on “Relax and Degrade,” “Majestic Raincoat” brings them back at full force.
Grisham’s voice isn’t suited for the folksy, and the forgettable “Old Movies” is proof, and the album finally closes with “Beauty of a Scar,” another great melodic rocker and a fitting album closer (although “Raincoat” would have done much better).
The MO boys seem to be touting this as their most ambitious album to date, but in reality often it’s shockingly bland, and part of the reason for this is the lack of risks the band takes. Luckily there are enough good tracks to warrant giving the album at least one listen, but beyond 3 or 4 stand out tracks and a few others that are “just okay” it’s hard to recommend.

Rating: 3/5
Release Date: August 12, 2008

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The Arch Cupcake – “Wash Out EP”

The Arch CupcakeI’m not going to bullshit you guys – I took The Arch Cupcake CD under the impression that it would be a quick and easy review; with a name like this they had to be an utterly forgettable pop rock act or something similar, right? A quick listen or two and I could write them off and move on. But oh, was I wrong.

On the contrary, TAC is a (mostly) instrumental hip hop group who sound an awful lot like Blockhead, J. Dilla and RJD2 (although obviously not at the same time), albeit not quite as good. The first three songs on the album are incredibly impressive, the turntablism especially, and TAC has an uncanny talent for creating atmosphere as well, with songs shifting from spacey to in your face and back without ever missing a beat. The songs are well structured and never feel muddled or repetitive… aside from album closer “Wasabi.” For some reason, there are two different versions of the song. The first is one with annoying, silly and completely out of place lyrics and vocals and the second is an instrumental that only fairs slightly better without them. While the former is bad, without any vocals the instrumental feels awfully repetitive and empty, clearly not a product meant to stand on its own.

Silly name aside, The Arch Cupcake show a lot of promise; their songs are catchy and creative, their samples fun and memorable.  Let’s just hope they learn to stray away from writing lyrics or making too many vocal contributions in the future. [D.J. Bernat]


Rating: 3.5/5
Release Date: May 20, 2008

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Shot Baker – “Take Control”

ShotBakerFor music fans looking to get their asses kicked by a half-hour assault of hardcore punk with great melodies, Shot Baker’s latest, Take Control, is the way to go.

There isn’t really a whole lot else to say. Shot Baker has been rocking the Chicago scene with its aggressive punk sound for a few years now and have become the flagship band for Riot Fest (Records). Hints of Chicago’s modern hardcore greats like Rise Against and old-school punks like Naked Raygun are all evident in the band’s sound. Shot Baker’s music has always been quite derivative and doesn’t present anything entirely fresh, but that’s sort of what makes the band cool. It is obvious that its members are playing the stuff they love. And while what they love may not be a genre-bending experience, it is still some damn solid music for moshing and yelling along with a beer in hand.

The band is always high energy, even on record, and Take Control is no exception. In fact, it is as good or better as anything they’ve done to date, and the production is solid. With many of Chicago’s well-known acts taking their music in different directions, it is cool to see Shot Baker continuing a traditional of straightforward Chicago punk. They boast catchy choruses, great harmonies and a ton of aggression. Yeah…good stuff. [By: William Jones]

Rating: 4/5
Release Date: June 24, 2008

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The Stills – “Oceans Will Rise”

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Montreal rock band, The Stills, have joined up with their Canadian brethren in releasing their latest on Arts & Crafts. Depending on the ears, The Stills are a folksy version of Coldplay or a less brooding Snow Patrol. What? There’s no difference in those bands? Okay, got it. The Stills would like to think that they are, but there is no doubt where their aspiration lies. With songs with a non-threatening pop beat (”Snow in California” and “Everything I Build”), The Stills are trying to find that comfortable niche of pop-mass idolatry.  Though they’re not there yet,  The Stills do have that capability. They’re not in anyway tricky or crafty, but that’s why Arts and Crafts is such an odd fit–even the most “normal” of bands on ARts and Crafts, such as Feist or The Dears aren’t dangerous, but have an “oddness” about them that lets everyone know that Arts and Crafts is still indie no matter how many records they sell.

Perhaps The Stills, with their alternating tracks of bounce and mope, are trying too hard, too much calculation. So The Stills fit into that bland category, no one minds it, but no one remembers it either. I keep waiting for that one rock song that they have hidden away in their deep recesses, but it never materializes fully (”Rooibos/Palm Wine Drinkard” comes closest). The Stills are in that tight middle ground, not quite famous yet to garner huge arena rock tours, and they don’t cause enough devotion from indie fans to pull any street cred either. They need to take a step in either direction, not just stay lukewarm. Oceans Will Rise is bland okay-ness, which is okay for some people. [By: Josh Spilker]

Rating: 2.5/5

Released: August 19, 2008 Website| Label| MySpace

The Divys

divys.jpgWith a pop sound heavily influenced by the 80’s, The Divys’ bring New Wave to a new age of listeners. The lyrics of the band are creative and well written, awarding them a John Lennon Songwriting Award for Best Electronic Song. “Over You” features a new wave drum beat and a pure 80’s chorus, but the song’s well-written lyrics give it substance. Even though it seems that their songs easily could have been released two decades ago, The Divys sound holds up today. History Repeating? [By: Matt Breen]MySpace | Website | Label

This band was found through Sonic Bids.

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Love You Long Time

lylt.jpgAfter a quick listen, you might think it’s just another pop band holding onto a mid-90’s sound. But, then it takes you over. After backing their lyrics with techno-beats and flirting with the sound of a 90’s pop band in songs “I Had You Wrong” and “Dream Killer”, Love You Long Time turns their sound into type of pop-rap on the track “Party Like I Used To.” The four person group, led by MC Oz then blends the pop-rap and techno together on “The Power” which features the lyric “I got 99 problems, but my kicks aren’t one”. Overall, Love You Long time is a fun time, as the music seems purely created to dance to. And hey, how can you hate on band that uses a Keytar? [By: Matt Breen]

My Space This band was found through Sonic Bids.

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Have Gun, Will Travel – “Casting Shadows As Tall As Giant”

hgwt.jpgIndie-alt vocals and well-thought out lyrics backed with…country music? Have Gun, Will Travel brings a unique sound, as singer songwriter Matthew Burke’s voice is balanced in the songs various tempos by his backing three man group, consisting of your standard bass, percussion and guitar. Along with leading his voice to the quartet, Burke also plays guitar, banjo and harmonica. On the song “Blessing and A Curse”, Have Gun, Will Travel’s well-rounded sound comes across most clearly, as the song kicks in an with a fast paced guitar chord followed with the band in harmony and then Burke’s banjo, all before those well-thought out lyrics kick in providing the unique sound of Have Gun, Will Travel. [By: Matt Breen]

MySpace 

This band was found through Sonic Bids.sonicbids.gif

Cryptopsy – “The Unspoken King”

The Unspoken KingIf you’re reading this, you should be fairly familiar with Cryptopsy. If you’re not, I feel sorry for you. I’m not a huge Cryptopsy fan myself, mostly because death metal is not a genre I tend to like, but Cryptopsy has been around for years and they are doing everything right. Again, if you haven’t heard of them before, I feel sorry for you. In addition to that, don’t start by listening to “The Unspoken King.”

If you want a good judge of the band, don’t start here. It’s not your typical death metal album. Or start here. That’s fine too.

“The Unspoken King” is a great album. Boasting a brand new vocalist (Matt McGachy) and a keyboardist (Maggie Durand), the band’s sound is more metalcore-influenced with clean vocals, a departure from their roots, but that’s what happens when only one original member remains. The opening track, “Worship Your Demons,” is as brutal as ever, starting out with Flo Mournier’s intense style of drumming, followed by McGachy’s high-pitched screeching throughout. The more melodic “-core” influences begin to surface going into the second track, but become more numerous throughout. However, the band never lets this take over, and it’s more than balanced by the heavier aspects the band was founded on. However, the album as a whole is generic-sounding, lacking in innovation, and despite having a keyboardist, the instrument is barely found in any of the songs. The melodic aspects of the record are boring and not catchy, like you would expect them to be. A disappointment overall, but still not a terrible album. If you like Cryptopsy, you’ll be disappointed with this album, along with a large majority of their fanbase. However, if you’re new and enjoy Killswitch Engage’s last album, pick up a copy using the change between the couch cushions. Otherwise, don’t bother.[by: Matt Weaver]
 
Rating: 2/5
Release Date: June 24, 2008

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Made Out of Babies – “The Ruiner”

The RuinerWhen I first heard Made Out Of Babies, I was a little put off. As a huge fan of Red Sparowes, and having liked a few Battle Of Mice songs, I listened to Triad, a three-way release between the bands. After listening to “The Ruiner,” I take back everything negative I’ve ever said about the band (I don’t think I’ve said anything really, but I’m being careful). The album is amazing in so many ways, from the crooning, almost haunting vocals of Julie Christmas, which switch between hair-raising growls and shouts and an schoolgirl-esque singing voice, the down-tuned, screeching guitars, the focused, rolling bass, and the hard-hitting drumbeats. At times, the album is almost disconcerting, and I felt something roll in the pit of my stomach. As I said before: haunting. The album is scary.

Not “serial killer” scary, but the kind of scary that makes you feel genuinely creeped out. The shadow in your rearview mirror at night, the creak of floorboards when you’re home alone; that kind of scary. Christmas sounds like a woman possessed, and I can only fear what the band’s live show would be like with this banshee of a woman on stage, swaying back and forth between singing and screaming, the music rising around her like a hideous tide. The album is brilliant. It’s fascinating. It’s perfect. However, if you don’t like being scared, and you have no appreciation for noise or sludge, I don’t think you’ll enjoy it that much. But hell, it’s worth a shot.[Matt Weaver]
 
Rating: 4/5
Release Date: June 24, 2008

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Get Rad/ Call Me Lightning – “Split 7””

splitep.jpgThey may hail from the same Milwaukee, WI music scene, but similar in sound these bands are not. Get Rad gets fast and loud with its brand of hardcore thrash, while CML—with their sharp guitar sounds and galloping drum patterns—bring a post-punk feel on the flipside. Limited to 600 copies, find one on either Get Rad blue or Call Me Lightning clear.

Rating: 3/5

Website (Get Rad) | Label | MySpace (Get Rad) | MySpace (Call Me Lightning)

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Inquisition – “Uproar”

InquisitionRichmond, Va.’s Inquisition almost slipped through the cracks in 1996 after breaking up following the release of the band’s second full-length, Revolution…I Think It’s Called Inspiration. Members went on to form Strike Anywhere (the band’s name came from an Inquisition song), Ann Beretta and River City High. Inquisition has also been cited as a major influence by the likes of Hot Water Music, Suicide Machines and Anti-Flag.

The last of that bunch wasn’t content to let the short-lived legacy of Inquisition be forgotten, and a remastered version of the seminal Revolution was re-released by A-F Records in 2005, and the interest of old fans was ignited once again along with that of a slew of people discovering the band for the first time. That interest got to a point that fans would not let it die, asking Strike Anywhere and Inquisition vocalist Thomas Barnett repeatedly if the band would ever get together again (I know I did in one interview).

And then it happened. On May 18 and May 19, 2007, the band reunited for two sold-out shows in Richmond. Uproar captures those shows in one live CD and a DVD that includes both shows in their entirety, as well as short documentary about the band and the reunion shows. The content-for-price ratio alone is enough to pick this up for $8.

The term documentary is a bit misleading as “Open Letter: A Revolution in the Making” is really a series of interview segments juxtaposed to live performances including an acoustic pub show at Empire. It lasts only 30 minutes, but it is a fun, quick history of the band with feelings on the reunion. It is the live stuff that’s the real treat here, though. For anyone that couldn’t attend the two reunion shows (and especially for those that did make either of them) this is a great documenting of those events and the band.

The music is as relevant today as it was back then, and the band puts on two amazing concerts (the second one a little more so), giving it seemingly everything they’ve got. It has got a number of slip-ups and recording imperfections, but that just makes it feel like more of a true live experience. Even music fans that generally scoff at live efforts will have a hard time turning their noses up at this one. Inquisition is a great band both by the standards 12 years ago and those today, and it is easy to get caught in the excitement and energy of these shows, even from the comfort of a living room. [By: William Jones]

Rating: 5/5
Release Date: March 18, 2008
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Health//Disco – “You Will Love Each Other”

Health//DiscoI know nothing of the Los Angeles band Health, or of their original album that this is a remix of. I know nothing about disco dance music. I know nothing at all. I may be inferring that this is dance music, I don’t even know that for sure. I’ve got the impression, however, that the cool kids blogs are all abuzz about this record, though I know not of the reason. I put the record on and “Triceratops (Acid Girls RMX A)” starts to play. It kicks out like a malfunctioning ball-bearings assembly line, with a flurry of percussion and shimmering guitars. Then the high hat takes over and the most hollow Big Brother-ish voice starts to sing, warble, or groan—take your pick. Perhaps he’s giving out instructions on how to keep up with the ball bearings, I have no idea.
The second track, “Lost Time” bangs out with percussion also, this time they sound a bit more organic, perhaps raw hide stretched over a hollow tube. It’s fast, it’s consistent, the lead beats are too high-pitched and some equally ridiculous vocals repeat ad nauseum.
Down to track four, “Crimewave (Crystal Castles vs. HEALTH)” is a high-def video game sound effects track, with some bubbly type of Q-Bert track. I imagine this is the type of song played at popular South Beach clubs that I would get bounced out of.
I wrote a whole bunch more, but just now decided to delete it for the sake of relaying this: Why HEALTH is a rock band, this is way beyond electronic beats into a full-on dance album. I guess HEALTH’s mission is what their album title proclaims: You will love each other. It’s an uneasy love between rock and dance, and HEALTH does not make any fans out of the rock kids with this record. [Josh Spilker]

2/5
May 27, 2008

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