Categories
reviews

ZZ Top – La Futura album review

Everybody please make way for our present day rock gods, ZZ Top. I honestly thought nothing good was happening in the music industry until I heard ZZ Top was releasing their 15th studio album, La Futura. 15 studio albums of awesomeness, people! Fellow rockers, please take note, we are in the presence of a masterpiece.

15 studio albums is an amazing feat, but what is even more amazing is that even after all these years and albums, ZZ Top still stays true to their original sound of awesomeness.

ZZ Top stays firmly rooted in their hard rock, electronica, and blues influences. In new songs like “I Gotsa Get Paid,” and “Chartruese” the electric guitar, bass, and drums take you on a classic magic carpet ride. The guitar does all the talking in old hard rock bands like ZZ Top. Though, compared to their older albums, vocal harmony is almost absent, but the repetitive phrasing is still very much alive in their lyrics much like in songs like, “Consumption,” and “Heartache in Blue.”

Oh, how I wish to be back in the age of the legendary rock gods and back when music had meaning and soul. Even after all these years, you can still feel the power in Billy Gibbon’s piercing, vein-popping vocals. It was truly an honor to be able to review such an amazing band, but even I feel like I haven’t quite done their new album justice. I highly encourage you to get out there and blow your brains out with what real music is supposed to sound like.

Categories
reviews

The Killers – Battle Born album review

Four years after the release of their infectious Day & Age, The Killers have reconvened for their Americana-rific creation Battle Born.

Originating in Las Vegas, Nevada, frontman Brandon Flowers and lead guitarist/backing vocalist Dave Keuning formed the band in 2001, amidst the garage rock and post-punk rock revival era. Drummer Ronnie Vannucci, Jr. and bass guitarist Mark Stoermer joined the following year in 2002. The band quickly gained fame with the 2003 UK single release of their first song “Mr. Brightside,” leading to significant buzz as a result of extensive touring. After signing with Island Records in 2004, their first album Hot Fuss was released, marking the band’s first success. Combined with 2006’s Sam’s Town and 2008’s Day & Age, band album sales total over 15 million copies worldwide. In early 2010, the band went on a brief hiatus, during which Brand Flowers, Ronnie Vannuci and Mark Stoermer released solo albums. Their new wave-heartland rock blend of hard-hitting anthems and catchy rock tunes have garnered worldwide fans and awards, securing them as a popular rock band.

Battle Born—The Killers’ 4th album—was released on September 18th 2012 on Island Records. The album boasts 12 tracks however the deluxe edition packs three additional tracks, including a house-techno remix of “Flesh And Bone”. The album will likely draw comparisons to Sam’s Town, with its Americana feel and historical references. Indeed, the very title gets its name from a term printed on Nevada’s state flag while “Miss Atomic Bomb” hints at 1950’s nuclear testing in said home state.

“Runaways”—the album’s first single—drafts a history of a lifetime with a certain eagerness for the future. “The Way It Was” addresses troubled love set to a nostalgic alternative rock vibe while “Deadlines and Commitments” channels an uplifting message with new wave influences. In contrast, tunes like “Heart Of A Girl” and “Be Still” might leave you rather disappointed.

Battle Born is likely to induce mixed emotions. Recurrent themes of young love—“standing in the street with her friends” seems to be the thème du jour—as well as repetitive imagery and word usage—time, horses, hell, God/Lord, neon lights, battle born—give it a somewhat redundant feel. There might also be more ballads present than would be expected of an album titled Battle Born. Pleasant tunes notwithstanding, the battle might be in finding that anticipated amazing moment triggered by its namesake.

New territory to be explored indeed, but with conquered grounds to be revisited at will.

Categories
reviews

Hoobastank – Fight or Flight album review

Wallowing in excessive melodrama and an abundance of angst, Hoobastank is back with yet another album. The most interesting thing about it is that this album proves once and for all that melodrama and angst can be downright boring, trite, and completely unoriginal.

It’s not that they’re a bad band. The musical ability of the respective members is fairly well self-evident. They know how to write actual songs, have a solid sense of cohesiveness as a band, and have solid technical command of their instruments. The problem is that every single song is basically a variation on the idea of mid-tempo melancholia. It starts to sound like one multi-movement work, or the same song written eleven times over.

A look at the song titles says it all. ‘This is Gonna Hurt’, ‘The Fallen’, ‘Can You Save Me?’. There are eight more songs that you don’t know the title of, but the point is pretty well made by now. It’s ultimately kind of unfortunate in ways, because there are some good ideas at work on the album, but the whole thing is so ‘poor me’ ad nauseum that the overwhelming air of self-loathing is completely distracting and not engaging.

Alice in Chains and Tool are often mentioned in relation to this band, which is kind of strange to me considering the lack of a comparable aesthetic. It’s also said that they tempered the gloom of those bands with a suburban California groove and an eye for accessibility; this how line of reasoning come across as feeling quite strange, considering that despite the supposed ‘suburban California groove’ at work in their music, they’re still incredibly negative and depressing.

Let’s come back to the few positives I was able to ring from this experience. They know how to play. They really do. The band is tight, and nail the songs to the ground. The vocalist has a decent sense of intonation and phrasing, and the song writing isn’t completely horrible. The problem is, despite all that latent promise, the end result is trite, unoriginal, depressing, and dull. And that sucks.

Categories
reviews

David Byrne and St. Vincent – Love This Giant album review

David Byrne has reappeared with fellow semi-weirdo St. Vincent on “Love This Giant”.   The role of the semi-weirdo is a tricky spot to play in pop, and he has done it deftly for a while now, as has Madam Vincent.  The weirdness here is the horns.  For whatever the reason the principals have decided to invite wind instrument luminaries and make the horn section the backbone.  Except it isn’t just a horn section and it isn’t the backbone you’re thinking of.

I love hooks.  And horns are great at hooks.  I read “horn section” and I think Tower of Power or James Brown or big band Jazz.  This is not what Byrne and Vincent have wrought.  The horns are the sound of the record not just the accent of record.  Some might think this gives the horns more power.  This is not true.  Pop music usually relies on the guitar or keyboard for the background middle clamor upon which they perch the vocals.   Anyone who has ever played French Horn knows the ability of the wind instruments to slouch comfortably into the middle as the brass instruments on this record do.

That is not an insult to the players on this record.  The instruments are impeccably played.  I can get awful ornery over bad technique (especially bad trumpet technique) and I hear nothing but excellence here.  But I wonder if maybe horns weren’t meant to be the underlying rumble to pop.  In pop, horns are meant to kick your ass.  The same way distorted electric guitar does.  Nothing here kicks my ass.  And if as much work and talent goes into an album as went into this one, I want to feel kicked.

Don’t misunderstand me.  This is a good record.  Something you should get (I love Ms. Vincent’s 90’s R&B throwback vocals).  But the brass is very subtle.  Overly subtle.  Luckily the subtlety of the horns reminds you just how great that sound can be.  Like how a Segovia record makes me throw on Slayer.  Now I’m gonna go listen to Tower of Power.

Categories
reviews

The Helio Sequence – Negotiations album review

The last thing I would have predicted about The Helio Sequence from their fifth studio album “Negotiations” is that the band is a duo. Throughout the album, track after track, the music sounds full, complex, and strong. It would be easier to comprehend ten people working together to record such full-bodied music than just the two who actually created it, a respectable and impressive feat.

While mainly an indie rock group, The Helio Sequence experimented more with synth and distortion effects on this album, describing the record as “warmer, more organic and more spacey/ethereal” than their previous work. If success were measured purely on how accurately a band explains their sound, The Helio Sequence would have hit it out of the park. “Open Letter” is an ambient, resonant ballad that utilizes heavy reverb and percussion to create a track that sounds like it’s being transmitted through a body of water or, more applicably, outer space. While the song clearly achieves the band’s goals, its overly produced presentation completely overshadows every other aspect of the track, leaving the lyrics, raw instrumentation and vocals as throwaways.

While at times successful, The Helio Sequence’s foray into more ethereal, ambient effects more often than not serves as a hindrance, putting attention on the production and staging instead of the raw musicality and talent. Arguably the catchiest song on the album, “October,” finds success in its combination of a punchy, anthemic chorus and intense, emotional verses. It, coincidentally or not, leaves behind overly showy, involved distortion and production techniques. “One More Time” also chose to focus on more traditional rock skills: heavy rhythm guitar, strong drum beat, powerful vocals. It’s clean, polished indie rock.

These two tracks open the album, setting the audience up for a very different album and listening experience than what is actually presented. Not to say that “Negotiations” should be considered disappointing or a failure; as a whole, the album is entertaining and skillful. Though not entirely triumphant, the band should be commended for branching out from what is accepted, what is expected.

Categories
reviews

Cheek Mountain Thief – Cheek Mountain Thief album review

You always have to wonder what goes through a successful artist’s head when they suddenly decide pack up their lives and careers and disappear from the public eye. Sometimes it works out well, as with French primitivist painter Paul Gauguin, whose relocation to Tahiti allowed him to produce the works he is most famous for today. Other times, it merely signals the end of the era, as with John Hughes’s surreptitious disappearance from the filmmaking enterprise once the 90s rolled around. Finally, there are the times when it’s just an excuse for a simple change of pace.

Mike Lindsay’s move to Iceland probably falls under the latter category. Formerly known as the founding member of British experimental folk band Tunng, in 2010, Lindsay took it upon himself to rekindle a love affair first begun with the Nordic nation four years earlier. What has resulted is Cheek Mountain Thief, a solo project produced in collaboration with Icelandic musicians, and an eponymous debut album.

Considered alongside its description as a homage to Iceland, the album does exactly what you would expect. Lindsay has continued on in the experimental folk genre, but where Tunng leans heavily on the experimental side with obvious electronic influences, CMF is very much folk first. Happy songs are plucky and simple (“Wake Him”) while sad ones are hazy and languid (“Attack”). The whole album is extremely rustic and grassroots, relying heavily on rhythmic acoustic strumming patterns and resonating bass drum backbones (“Cheek Mountain”). There is even a distinct sense of a rural labour environment, with Lindsay having included a sort of workman like chant in “Cheek Mountain” that recalls that of Snow White’s seven dwarves.

And yet, despite the fact that the album is not hard to listen to, there is something inherently frustrating about it all. It’s almost as if Lindsay has achieved the simplicity he was striving for all too well — in bringing himself both physically and mentally back to basics, Lindsay has stripped too far and the result is too thin. At times, I wished there was something more substantial — more hard-hitting or concrete — in the music for me to grab onto. That being said, Cheek Mountain Thief starts and finishes well. And as far as modern music is concerned, it is the perfect antidote — as authentic and simplistic as the nature that inspired it.

Categories
reviews

Autumn Owls premiere second single, confirmed for CMJ

Dublin, Ireland trio Autumn Owls have premiered the second single, “Patterns”, off their debut full-length album, Between Buildings, Toward The Sea today, courtesy of Undertheradarmag.com. Dark and tumultuous, “Patterns'” rhythm skitters, while the melody lurches and guitars twist and squeal menacingly. Recorded in Chicago in April with producer Brian Deck (Modest Mouse/Iron and Wine) and mixed in Dublin with Ciaran Bradshaw, Between Buildings, Toward The Sea is a powerful and atmospheric record, drawing in elements of Unforgettable Fire-era U2, The National and Chicago post-rock. First single, “Great Atlantic Drift”, which premiered last month via FILTER, is deep and rich in textures and emotional depth. “Semaphores” opens in a haunting whisper, before unfolding and engulfing the listener. That feeling of being engulfed runs throughout the record, sometimes soothing, often menacing, always thrilling.

Autumn Owls will return to the U.S. next month for the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City, Oct. 16 – 21. The band has toured extensively supporting such artists as DeVotchKa, Real Estate, Micah P Hinson and Early Day Miners, as well as playing their own headlining shows, SXSW, NXNE and CMW. A full U.S. tour is expected in early 2013.

Track Listing:

1. Semaphores

2. Unconvinced

3. Spider

4. Spare Room

5. Kiss The Wine

6. Quarantine

7. Great Atlantic Drift

8. The Arched Pines

9. Patterns

10. Byways Of The Lifeless

11. All The Lights In New York

12. Borrowed Suit

Categories
music videos

3rd Studio Album Bodyparts Released Today

“gritty, distinctive dance rock” – USA Today

“When it comes to straight-up catchy, can’t-get-’em-out-of-your-head dance tunes, nobody does it like Dragonette.” – LUCKY

“rock-charged electro-pop” – SPIN

“Dragonette has long been a secret weapon of the pop underground“ – Rolling Stone

An anthemic album of edgy electronic dance rock music that the group is notorious for, Canadian electro-pop trio Dragonette release their third studio album, Bodyparts, today & available for purchase worldwide here! The new album has received praise from USA Today, W Magazine, Good Morning America, Perez Hilton, Lucky, NYLON, PAPER, Marie Claire, Vulture, SPIN, Rolling Stone among many others. The drag-o-licious video for single “Live In This City” dropped last week & today RCRD LBL has premiered the “Live In This City” (Database Remix) MP3. Check out the “Live In This City” video above and download the Database remix free MP3 above. We encourage you to post and share & if you like what you hear head over to AOL Spinner & MSN Music to hear the full album streaming this week.

Dragonette’s hit single “Hello,” collaboration with Martin Solveig hit Top 10 in over 30 countries as well as achieving platinum status in the US and scoring the band a JUNO Award this year. Catch the band’s energized performance and infectious pop melodies live as Dan, Tina, and Joel continue their headlining national tour with The Knocks this month.

Dragonette On Tour w/ The Knocks
9/25: Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theatre
9/26: San Francisco, CA @ Mezzanine
9/27: Portland, OR @ Doug Fir
9/28: Seattle, WA @ Decibal Festival / Showbox Market

Categories
music videos press releases

Sondre Lerche releases limited edition vinyl

Sondre Lerche continues his 30th birthday celebration with the limited edition vinyl pressings of his first four albums – Faces Down, Two Way Monologue, Duper Sessions and Phantom Punch.

All four albums that include bonus tracks and outtakes will be available next Tuesday,

October 2 at www.sondrelerche.com

Listen to “Lulu” a bonus track from the NPR, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly & Pitchfork approved album Duper Sessions HERE.

In a candid video commentary, Sondre discusses the making of Duper Sessions – an album which he calls “kind of an accident,” why he wanted to record with a band live in the studio and how he paid tribute to some of his favorite songwriters (Costello, Porter).

The National Mail in Norway has honored Sondre with his own official mailing stamp.

“I’m honored and flabbergasted to be considered legal tender in Norway,” says Sondre. “It’s quite the surprise and destined to mess with my head. As an independent artist, running my own small label and being accustomed to not quite fitting into any particular boxes or scenes it’s strangely encouraging to be acknowledged by the establishment in the form of a stamp. It’s also important to mention that these are not the kind of stamps you have to lick, they are already sticky.”

Categories
press releases tour dates

The Chevin Release Debut Album, “Borderland”

Photo: Lucy Hamblin

FREE DOWNLOAD: “CHAMPION” FROM BORDERLAND

(ITUNES SINGLE OF THE WEEK)

Yorkshire, England’s The Chevin are excited to announce the release of their debut album titled Borderland. Released today via So Recordings, Borderland, an album described by RCRD LBL as “a collection of stylish, glittering rock numbers” follows the band’s successful Fierce Panda EP, which gained the band plenty of exposure through European tours supporting Franz Ferdinand, White Lies, The Airborne Toxic Event, airplay on XFM London and Radio 1 as well as being featured on BBC1, ESPN, and over 75 football and rugby stadiums across the world. The album’s lead single, “Champion,” a song the band recently performed on The Late Show With David Letterman and that is now being featured on EA’s FIFA 2013, has also been named the iTunes “Single of the Week.” Now available for FREE DOWNLOAD through the iTunes Music Store, “Champion” is Borderland’s stadium-ready anthem the band will be performing on Conan this Thursday, September 27.

In addition to the release of the album, The Chevin will be touring supporting The Psychedelic Furs beginning on Tuesday, October 2 in San Francisco, CA. The tour will take in 16 evenings and culminate in a performance at the Granada Theater in Dallas, TX, on Sunday, November 4. Recently, the band has had the pleasure of performing as part of major festivals including T in the Park, Great Escape, Camden Crawl and Live at Leeds.

From panoramic vistas from the peaks of stately Yorkshire ridges to drug-running ranches in the deserts of Texas, The Chevin – Coyle Girelli (lead vocals), Mat Steele (guitar, vocals), Jon Langford (bass) and Mal Taylor (drums) – is a band steeped in natural grandeur. They’re a band who grew up relishing the magnificent swathes of moorland stretching from York to Leeds visible from atop the hill overlooking their home town of Otley – the geological marvel after which they’re named – and instinctively destined to recreate the wonder of it in music. With the success of its popular Fierce Panda EP, the release of Borderland, their upcoming U.S. tour as well as their late-night television appearances, The Chevin is poised to impact American audiences as they have back home in their native England.

The Chevin will be supporting The Psychedelic Furs during October and the first week of November. Tour dates below.

OCTOBER

02 – San Francisco, CA – Bimbo’s 365 Club *

04 – Portland, OR – Aladdin Theater *

05 – Spokane, WA – Knitting Factory *

06 – Seattle, WA – Showbox at the Market *

19 – Glenside, PA – Keswick Theater *

20 – Port Chester, NY – The Capitol Theatre *

21 – New York, NY – Best Buy Theater *

22 – Washington, DC – Howard Theatre *

24 – Asheville, NC – The Orange Peel *

25 – Atlanta, GA – Variety Playhouse *

27 – St. Petersburg, FL – State Theater *

28 – Miami, FL – Grand Central *

29 – Lake Buena Vista, FL – House of Blues Orlando *

31 – Pensacola, FL – Vinyl Music Hall *

NOVEMBER

02 – New Orleans, LA – House of Blues New Orleans *

04 – Dallas, TX – Granada Theater *

* = supporting The Psychedelic Furs