Wet Hair – In Vogue Spirit album review

In Vogue Spirit is a soothing ambient journey through the musical minds of Ryan Garbes and Shawn Reed. For just a 2 piece project, Wet Hair certainly offers a very wide variety of sounds for the listener to experience. Formed in 2008, Wet Hair has released a number of records showing off their take on the electronic/new wave influenced sound the band has to offer. At some points though, the wide variety of sounds do become incredibly drab, and the songs start to drag on. The biggest flaw of In Vogue Spirit is it’s inability to keep the listener interested for more than 3 minutes, which poses a huge problem considering many of the songs reach 4, 5 and even 8 minute song lengths.

The most horrific example of this is the track Liquid Jesus, which starts off strong, but ends in disaster. The fine line between experimenting and annoying is crossed, and you’re left sitting there listening to car alarms and an incredibly bland voice drone on and on until you have to change the track. Fortunately not all of the tracks are like this, such as Echo Lady, which comes in at the 5 minute length, but still has enough going on to keep the listener interested. And listening. The problems on In Vogue Spirit are problems that can be easily fixed. Some of the songs simply just drone on way too long, and unless I’m skipping over the drone/doom undertones, then this just simply does not fit. The songs that stay under the enormous lengths are usually the best songs on the record.

Despite the obvious problems on In Vogue Spirit, it’s still something worth checking out, especially if you’re into the more ambient flavours of the musical spectrum or you’re an avid Sunn O))) fan. But in this case, I would take the 24 minute long Drone/Doom Metal song over mostly anything on this record. The songs that do shine, are very dim. I feel as if Wet Hair would benefit greatly from writing shorter songs and using less “avant-garde” sounds within their repertoire.

Viva Voce – The Future Will Destroy You album review

With their sixth album, The Future Will Destroy You, Viva Voce has created a haunting, mellow record that is sure to please their fans.  From the lush, Smashing Pumpkin-esque rhythm guitar on “Analog Woodland Song,” to the jangly strings and gentle “clack” of the rim shots on the road song “Cool Morning Sun,” the album is consistently well put together.  The years of experience primary band members Anita and Kevin Robinson have with both their gear and each other has obviously paid off.

Founded in 1998 in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Viva Voce have been residents of Portland, Oregon since 2003.  The music reflects a melodic indie aesthetic that includes shades of Mazzy Star and The Breeders, a psychedelic pop that is often abstract lyrically but never strays very far from the melodies.  The ten song album doesn’t possess the most uplifting outlook on the world, especially on the tracks “No Ship Coming In” and title track “The Future Will Destroy You.”

“We conceived this record – it’s title, songs, cover art, etc.. – back in December of last year. Tsunamis, Libyan wars, devastating weather and all the otherwise awful things had yet to happen.  I keep up as best I can with world events, and it strikes me that our new record is proving bizarrely prophetic,” Kevin Robinson writes on the bands website.

Not the most recognizable band name in the American indie lexicon, they still have had commercial successes, and a following probably created more by word of mouth than marketing dollars.  Viva Voce means “word of mouth” in Latin, and the band is carrying on diligently to spread their sound.  They’re songs have appeared on TV shows “One Tree Hill” and “Friday Night Lights,” and they have toured with such popular names as The Shins and Jimmy Eat World.

Highpoints on the album include “We Don’t Care,” which has a mesmerizing dual guitar segue.  Kevin Robinson’s harmonizing is very subtle and works well with the smoky strength of his wife’s lead vocals.

Viva Voce is scheduled to go on an American tour at the end of July, and The Future Will Destroy You has been released on both CD and vinyl by Vanguard Records.

Ok Go – 180/365 album review

Ok go chooses to change up the routine by recording a completely live album. 180/365, a fitting title as it symbolizes the number of days they performed live in a year, proves to be a great compilation of the band’s work.

You not only get the best live version carefully picked from 180 locations, you are also getting the best (albeit, open to interpretation) and most recent version of their songs from their three albums (OK Go, Oh No and Of the Blue Colour of the Sky). In fact, most of the songs off the album were performed in different cities—a clever decision on their part to have the listener get a taste of how the band performs in each city.

What could be more beneficial to a band’s success than a live album that provides the full “concert experience”? You get to be in fifteen or so different venues without having to move a muscle. And, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that nothing makes a band more appealing than hearing them live.

“This Too Shall Pass” is one of those songs that makes you want to buy the tickets to their next show. The sing-a-long towards the middle of the song gives that added oomph, because let’s be corny for a second, you feel like you are there.

What really puts 180/365 on the map, though, is “Skyscrapers”. Performed in New Orleans, you just know how even more perfect it would be if you were actually there, in their presence, listening to the cool jazzy tone of the trumpet and the lead singer’s, Damian Kulash, powerful vocals.

For any fan of Ok Go’s, 180/365 is a fantastic album that emphasizes the band’s talents and abilities to perform stellar live versions of their music. Of course with an album like this, it would make sense if you’ve listened to the band’s past work, so you have a basis of comparison. On the other hand, live albums don’t necessarily need previous evidence of the band’s musical efforts, because when a band performs live everything usually just speaks for itself.

Rachel Taylor Brown – World So Sweet album review

Rachel Taylor Brown’s new album, World So Sweet, takes it’s name from a popular Christian children’s prayer and many of her song titles (Intro (Sweetness On Earth), Mercy in Nebraska) echo that Christian influence. Even the name Rachel is biblical. So, there’s nothing about a quick glance at her new album that will prepare you for the kind of music Taylor Brown actually writes or performs, and even more disconcertingly, there’s nothing about a quick listen that will immediately catch you off guard or strike you as contrary to the assumptions you’ve made at first glance. You’ll be impressed by her complexity, sure. Maybe you expected something simpler or consistently melodic, and maybe you didn’t expect her second track, Sister Jean, to rock quite so hard.

Not until the eleventh, Mercy In Nebraska, does it becomes unmistakably apparent that something dark and complicated is afoot. She sings, “Bring your burdens to me, leave your worries, and comfort yourselves,” lyrics which seem innocuously Christ-like until she rages, “You gave us woman for fucking, but goddamn the price that we pay.”

Go back and listen through the tracks, Taylor Brown is tricky, and if you’re not paying close attention, some of her most incisive songs (How To Make A World Class Gymnast and Didymus The Twin v. The Divine Sparkler) actually sound like hymnals. You’ll discover that she is of that unique breed of pop-rock musician who has something substantial to say. Her sharp insight focuses on society and culture—especially children, and her most successful songs refer to real-life tragedies. Sister Jean, is actually the story of Janette Maples, a 15 year-old Oregon girl who eventually died of abuse and neglect, and Mercy In Nebraska is a cunning criticism of Nebraska’s Safe Haven Law, which disastrously permitted hundreds of parents to abandon their children to the state without consequences.

While there are a few less-than mind-blowing moments on this album, for example Big Mouth (a vague song about wanting someone to shut-up), most of World So Sweet will do what pop music generally can’t; make you think.

Sons and Daughters – Mirror, Mirror album review

Sons and daughters are at it again with their latest release Mirror, Mirror. The album seems to be the reflection of a group trying to re-establish their credibility with fans. After their last effort was met with mixed reactions, the crew from Glasgow decided to return to a minimalist approach for Mirror, Mirror. The result is a collection of dark, grungy tracks that stand in stark contrast to the more upbeat sounds of “This Gift”.

While Mirror, Mirror is unique if nothing else, it seems to lack balance. The yin is missing it’s yang. The album starts off on a dark, ominous tone with “Silver Spell”. This more or less becomes the reoccurring theme throughout. There are no songs of hope or brighter tomorrows here. Only darkness and a feeling of despair (“Axed Actor” revolves around the Black Dahlia murder for crying out loud!).

With that much said, here is the main problem: I can’t stop listening to it! There is something hypnotic about Mirror, Mirror. It pulls you in against your will. You sort of feel like a kid at the amusement park who’s hesitant to get on a rollercoaster. The you ride it and have the time of your life. But, what is it that makes the album grow on you? Adele’s haunting vocals? Scott’s defiant guitar riffs? Maybe the way David attacks the snare drum? Who can say.

Sons and Daughters take you on a mind-bending journey throughout Mirror, Mirror. Each song is such an inexplicable experience, you feel compelled to listen to the next one. About half-way through the album, you realize that you’ve been taken hostage by something you can’t even define. You become mesmerized by the gritty production and unusual lyrics. The group uses songs like “Don’t Look Now” to attract you into their dark world. By the time you get to “Bee Song” you’ve come to love what you initially resisted. In the end, Sons and Daughters end up winning you over with Mirror, Mirror. You don’t see it coming until it’s too late. So, kick and scream all you want. Resistance is futile…

Penguin Prison signs to Downtown Records, self titled album this fall

PENGUIN PRISON SIGNS TO DOWNTOWN RECORDS IN THE U.S. SET TO RELEASE SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM THIS FALL

Download ‘Multi-Millionare (Shook Remix)‘ Exclusively With RCRD LBL

U.S TOURDATES
7/7 Popshop @ Tammany Hall NYC
with K. Flay, Spacecamp and Captain cuts (DJ)

7/9 – Jelly NYC @ Rockbeach Aviator Sports Complex Brooklyn
with Wild Yaks, Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gang and Monogold

7/15 – Officially Unofficial Pitchfork After Party @ The Mid Chicago
with Jessica 6, Hey Champ, Midnight Conspiracy and Broken Disco 1980

7/21 – All Things Go + Neon Gold Records Present: All Things Gold @ U Street Music Hall DC
with RAC DJ’s, Brenton Duvall DJ, Reptar (live)

Many are undoubtedly uttering to themselves “about time, damn it” as they gaze upon this announcement with a sense of jovial relief – and about time indeed! Its been quite a journey for New York City’s own Penguin Prison who has flourished into one New York City’s finest and most championed disco-pop melody makers around.

Winning the hearts of top bloggers and securing continuous top placements on the hype machine countless times, selling out shows across America and Europe, not to mention a tour with Girl Talk, Jamiroquai and Two Door Cinema Club already, Penguin Prison sets his sights toward a very busy rest-of 2011, inking a recent deal with Downtown Records and a self-titled debut due to drop this Fall.

During such a tumultuous time in the music industry, Penguin Prison was in sure fire danger of falling victim to his own success. Success in the sense that fans and music lovers were flocking to shows and downloading tracks by the dozens, however it seemed to start steering interested professionals in the opposite direction as they shied away from the notion that fans actually do flock for quality and what they love regardless of a price tag, and people genuinely do adore Penguin Prison’s music.

Thankfully, Downtown Records stepped in, known for championing artists such as Miike Snow, Santigold, Cold War Kids and Duck Sauce. With a defiant approach and a belief in an artist that has been getting the dance floor moving since 2009, it only made sense to invite this pop pioneer to become part of their family.

Even if you never find out what a Penguin Prison is, there’s no denying Chris Glover aka Penguin Prison has made a brilliant record. If you’re a fan of New York disco, as accessible as it is angular, all burbling bass lines, resonant rhythms, shimmering synths and heavenly melodies, then you’ll love the new Penguin Prison album.

“I definitely wanted to make a pop album where every song was good and catchy and people could dance to it,” decides Chris, who aims to perform his songs all over the world like a strange little impish hybrid of Jackson and Prince. “It was hard work to make, but I tried to have fun. I made sure of that. If I didn’t jump around the room while I was recording a song, it didn’t make the cut. Fun is the key.”

Penguin was born, appropriately, at the dawn of electrofunk, in 1983 – the postdisco era of Peech Boys’ “Don’t Make Me Wait” and D Train’s “You’re The One For Me” – and grew up, an only child, on New York’s Upper East Side. He went on to become Penguin Prison at the start of 2009. It wasn’t long before he earned a reputation as remixer du jour for the likes of Marina and the Diamonds, Goldfrapp and Passion Pit. He agrees that he conferred NY kudos especially on the British artists, and admits his favorite remix was for Jamiroquai, adding that the secret to a good remix is “to throw everything away from the original track and start from scratch.”

It was inevitable that Chris would then make music of his own, which he began in late 2009. You can hear the spectacular results on the debut Penguin Prison album, which sounds to all intents and purposes like a Greatest Hits collection, so chock-full it is of catchy hooks and classic pop choruses.

Miracle Fortress Shares Two Unreleased Tracks for mp3 Download Announces European Tour Dates

Miracle Fortress Shares Two Unreleased Tracks for mp3 Download Announces European Tour Dates

“[‘Miscalculations’ is]…a euphoric mystic awakening.”- Filter

“Part experimental-ambient and part 80s pop, ‘Was I the Wave?’ is all massive synth-scapes littered with electro beats, and Van Pelt’s dreamy wail towering above.” – NYLON

Download Brand New Tracks “Gestures” + “Possession”

Download the Pantha du Prince Remix of “Raw Spectacle

Montreal-based musician and producer Miracle Fortress (aka Graham Van Pelt) has offered two unreleased tracks, “Gestures” and “Possession” for free mp3 download here. After wrapping up a successful North American tour with electro-pop duo Junior Boys (check out photos from BrooklynVegan), the band will embark on a European tour starting tomorrow behind their sophomore album, Was I The Wave? on Secret City Records (Diamond Rings, Plants and Animals).

Was I The Wave? noted by CMJ as “an evolution in the overall sound of the project” is the follow up to Van Pelt’s Polaris- Prize nominated debut, Five Roses, that received critical acclaim from SPIN, Paper, XLR8R and KEXP among others. Van Pelt comments in regards to the three year lapse between the two admitting, “The truth is that I did work on a great deal of material from 2008 to 2010 that never managed to find a home on any proper release. Some of it was intended for an ill-fated and ultimately discarded album…but some other material remains that I’d still like people to hear.” You can read more about his self-editing process at his recent interview with Filter Magazine.

Van Pelt will release a third single later this summer and will return to the states later this year. If you missed Miracle Fortress this time around, watch an amazing live performance they did of “Everything Works” for Montreal-based web-series Rock Ton.

Was I The Wave? Track Listing

1. Awe
2. Tracers
3. Raw Spectacle (+ Diamond Rings Remix)
4. Wave
5. Spectre
6. Everything Works
7. Before
8. Miscalculations
9. Immanent Domain
10. Until

Miracle Fortress European Tour Dates

07/01/11 – Gatineau, QC @ Parc Jacques Cartier
07/07/11 – Quebec City, QC @ Le Cercle (Festival d’Ete de QC)
08/06/11 – Montreal QC @ Festival Mode et Design
08/12/11 – Toronto, ON @ Lower Ossington Theatre (Summerworks)
08/27/11 – Sherbrooke, QC @ Boquebiere
09/03/11 – Rouyn-Noranda, QC @ L’Agora des Arts
09/06/11 – Amsterdam, NL @ Paradiso
09/10/11 – Fribourg CH @ Fri-Son
09/13/11 – London UK @ Madame Jojo’s (White Heat) w/ Brasstronaut
09/14/11 – Paris, FR @ Fleche d’Or (Inrocks Lab)
09/17/11 – Tilburg, NL @ Incubate Festival

Is Tropical – Native To album review

Is Tropical, an electronic/rock trio from London released their debut album “Native To” on June 14th, with French record label Kitsune. The album is full of throbbing electro pop tracks and silly one-word titles such as “Oranges”, “Cloud”, and “What” among others. Is Tropical has made a bit of a name for themselves via the Internet with tons of video views for the explosive music video for “The Greeks” and for their live performances in which they play with their faces coved in some way.

The album starts out with “South Pacific”, one of the album’s singles.  The song, like most on the album, sounds a bit dragged along.  It’s one thing to have a long chorus but when that chorus is only a few repeated sentences and the rest of the song has little to no lyrical content, the song feels flat to say the least.

Pretty much every song on Native To carries on this trend of sounding like a catchy pre-chorus and chorus in a loop.

The other single released from Native To is “The Greeks”. The video for The Greeks has scored them a good amount of buzz on the Internet for the seemingly innocent children having a water and Nerf gunfight until it gets a little more real with awesome special effects.

The video for The Greeks is pretty much what you can expect out of this album, Music that isn’t really made to be listened to, but more to be used as a background for visuals. Bands like this need to realize that while a punchy song is good, the listener truly connects to lyrics. Listening to the album without music videos is just a numbing experience.

The boys of Is Tropical are showing a great example of where too many genres continues to go, excellent production skills, a few “catchy” ideas, but overuse of repetition and lack of lyrical content.

Rival Sons – Pressure and Time album review

Rival Sons released their newest album titled Pressure and Time on Earache Records. This sophomore effort hit the shelves on June 20, 2011 and has gained the band a reputation for contemporary hard rock done right. Vocalist Jay Buchanan with Scott Holiday on guitar, Robin Everhart playing bass, and drummer Michael Miley have created a short (merely half an hour) record that delivers a strong impression. With their heavy classic rock influence, Rival Sons’ bluesy sound can be compared to a not bad imitation of Led Zeppelin or The Doors. This southern Californian band came together with major swagger in the summer of 2008.

Pressure and Time opens with “All Over the Road” which features raucous guitar licks that feel like a rip straight from a 70’s rock jam. Third on the record is the title track “Pressure and Time.” It is full of crashing drums and fuzzed out guitars.

The album really starts going by the sixth track called “Burn Down Los Angeles.” And who wouldn’t want to burn that mother down? The song is built around a catchy riot inciting chorus and verses commiserating the lives of citizens of the city who are not making it big. Track nine, “White Noise,” has such a vintage appeal that it’s almost a bit strange to hear Buchanan sing “when my cell phone ring.”

Finally the last track “Face of Light” is the most stripped down on the album. The lyrics include depressing highlights “look at my eyes, don’t even know who I am.” It sounds like a sweet little rock ballad until the very end when it revs back up into high gear to send the record out properly.

Throughout the month of July, Rival Sons will be touring with Judas Priest and Queensryche in the UK and will also be making a few festival appearances as well.

Liam Finn – FOMO album review

Liam Finn hasn’t quite achieved the respect or fame that he might deserve, though something tells me that might not bother him as much as other artists. He is the son of one of the best pop singers of all time (Neil Finn of Crowded House) but more importantly, he is a sturdy songwriter and studio perfectionist. Finn hails from New Zealand, has toured internationally for his first solo album, I’ll Be Lightning, and has just unleashed upon us his second shiny LP entitled FOMO.

It’s fitting indeed that “FOMO” stands for “fear of missing out,” if not seemingly egomaniacal as a title, FOMO isn’t something you can afford to miss out on. Liam Finn is, if anything, the bearded nemesis of egomania. He breathlessly spews ingenuity on FOMO, for every track, striking gold, oil, silver, cheesecake, whatever resource you consider valuable. He yells out “ARE YOU WORTH THE TROUBLE?” on “The Struggle” and weeps and groans like a feisty James Mercer (Broken Bells, The Shins) on the more gentle “Don’t Even Know Your Name.”

While it is clear Liam Finn is not some untalented clone of his father, it certainly doesn’t hurt that he has music in his blood. Liam is also the nephew of Tim Finn, a member of Split Enz and temporarily member of Crowded House. Liam’s genetic musicality and link to Crowded House is highly apparent on one track, the luminous “Cold Feet,” a wonderful analog throwback to bare bones pop with a few electronic zings thrown in for good measure. Finn has evolved from his previous one-man act to a full-fledged touring band in 2011 that even includes his younger brother Leroy.

“Roll Of The Eye” is a triple must-hear, a striking example of Finns songwriting prowess. In short, FOMO is the shaking beating-drum heart of Liam Finn, each musical effort a calculated yet beautiful affair full of echoing pop/rock melodies that grow on you until the album is over and you are left wanting more. My suggestion to you, listen to it again, and again.