IAMX – The Unified Field album review

Best known as the leader and founding member of the British trip-hop group aptly titled “Sneaker Pimps,” London/Berlin based Chris Corner recently released his fourth album since 2004 entitled “The Unified Field” under the moniker IAMX. Produced by Adele and The Arctic Monkey’s producer, Jim Abbiss, the tracks on “The Unified Field” showcase stunning cinematic musical landscapes that are anything but lackluster.

If I had to give a brief explanation to IAMX’s sound, I’d say it has a Phantom of the Opera romanticism, that is laced with the brooding swagger of AFI , and contains the ear for electronic instrumentation of Muse. Corner and Abiss make use of all types of synths, from the danceable thump of side-chained kick drums, dark and penetrating synth brass, and a wide variety of leads and pads. Corner’s tastes gravitate towards the dramatically macabre, and the team of Corner and Abbiss demonstrate complete control over their musical tools in order to adhere to this aesthetic. What strikes me most about the music is how musically cohesive the tracks are. Though widely varied in structure, tempo, and chordal progressions, the songs are all obviously created under the same paradigm and have a similar sensibility. It is very easy to listen to the album from start to finish without feeling jaded of the sound. The album is produced with dead on precision, style, and flow.

The lyrics on this release fully match the gravity of the music. The first lyrics on the album are very disorienting as they are in German (Corner himself relocated from London to Berlin in 2006). This changes quickly as he showcases a mastery of the english language in the rest of “I Come With Knives.” The most powerful lyrical hook comes from the album’s most hauntingly honest and lush “Quiet the Mind”. Corner delivers a standing-ovation worthy vocal performance as he both belts and croons “hold back the melancholy/hold back the fear, darling/it’s a crime.” This is the least “cabaret” track of the bunch, in that it lets go of all of the dramatic flair that pervades the rest of the album. The song is carried through genuinely and straight from the heart, and it would be surprising if this was not seen by many as the “track to beat” on the album.

The music in itself doesn’t necessarily break new ground, but that’s not necessarily the point. The mastery of both the electronic and manual instruments, as well as lyrical prowess make the album an incredibly enjoyable experience front to back.

Steve Mason – Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time album review

Let it be known: Steve Mason has some mighty balls. When I talk to my musician friends, they hold this familiar notion that you should try to refrain from releasing a double LP. Its a feat that is generally more impressive to the musician than the audience. Its a nice pat on the back. “I just wrote twenty songs. Listen to them all in a row.” It can be overwhelming as a whole, and it underwhelms each song which may have found a brighter spotlight in a normal 10-14 track album. When you get up to twenty songs in a release, you have to take the album as a whole. It becomes more of a concept. This brings us to the second massive gonad of Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time. It opens with poetry. Yes, you heard me. Throughout the albums are little skits, sound clips and poetic phrasings. In addition to these short pace breakers, the actual tracks contain a massive range of diversity. The slow and soft harmonies of “A Lot of Love” is immediately followed by the reggae beats of  “The Last of The Heroes.” While Mason fully engages with the piano/bass classic rock roots kit, he doesn’t hesitate to texture certain moments with choirs, orchestral breaks and transitions between your typical piano sounds and an electric synthesizer. There are even horn sections if you listen for them!

What Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time is, is ambitious. It is an art project. The singles “Fight Them Back” and “Oh My Lord” are good little pop songs that will keep the general listener engaged, and the final song “Come To Me” effectively washes over the listener. It serves as a calming relief to the auditory journey Mason takes you on. The whole album can be tiring at times, but in a good way. With twenty songs, you have to expect the peaks and valleys. They are well timed in Monkey Minds. I imagine that there are folks driving along who unconsciously find themselves singing along. This is the subtle tragedy of the work as a whole. Mason states that, and the title implies, that we live in a world of “little capitalists” who have gone off the track of our intended purpose. He wanted to gather everything he knew about music and the world and put it in an album. I think he wanted to wake people up to the perspective of life he carries. Unfortunately, such a message requires a sort of in-your-face attitude that Monkey Minds lacks most of the time. It is soothing to the point where you don’t listen to what’s being said. You just enjoy the atmosphere. Even when he speaks directly to the audience, it serves more aesthetic purposes between tracks as opposed to a direct message to the world. But I commend Mr. Mason. I commend the message. Who cares if it doesn’t enlighten the world? Who cares if the album can be a tad schizophrenic? It was a damn good effort, and a damn good listen.

Soosh – Colour Is Breathe album review

Some artists will use their words and their instruments to steer your feelings in a certain direction. Others will make the sounds and leave it up to you to paint the emotional picture all on your own. As you might expect with a stage name like Soosh, Soroosh Khavari, and his album Colour is Breathe, fall firmly into the latter category.

Colour is Breathe is an 11 track effort of what might be best described as soundscapes, under the self-identified genre of “electronic dream hop.” The human presence is, for the most part, pretty sparse — Soosh or frequent guest vocalist Carmel Khavari might make an appearance one line at a time, often simply repeating the song title in a vaguely melodic fashion. This is then overlaid on an instrumental track that is rich and layered — wholly synthetic, but nevertheless sonically full and deeply emotive. The “hop” part of “electronic dream hop” comes out best in tracks like “The Way You” which takes an unexpected turn into R&B that it manages to work quite well, giving Soosh a certain uniqueness when it comes to his brand of music.

Evidently, the album relies heavily on listeners to ascribe meaning to what it offers, but Soosh seems to know what he’s doing when it comes to setting that kind of interaction up. Each track seems capable of enveloping you and carrying you away, as they all share the kind of cool mellow vibe that is the epitome of ephemerality. They probably all have a certain meaning or implication to Soosh himself, but this is in no way impressed upon the listener. In this way, Colour is Breathe functions almost like a toolbox or an artist’s kit — poised for listeners to turn it into what they will, ready to be anything to anyone, from fodder for the inevitable club remixes to the perfect study soundtrack.

Carmen Villain – Sleeper album review

Carmen Villain is as mysterious as her music. Born Carmen Hillestad, the half-Mexican, half-Norwegian chanteuse began her career as a cover model for magazines like Vogue, Marie Claire, and Nylon. She now lives in London, and has spent some time in the United States – different publications have mentioned Michigan and New York. And – despite a being covered by sites from SPIN and Pitchfork to VICE to Refinery 29 – that’s about all we know about Carmen Villain.

Carmen Villain’s debut album, “Sleeper,” does little to alleviate the mystery, though that might be just the point. The album – featuring a woman’s face (Hillestad’s?) on a jet black background, all but hidden by her white-blonde hair – contains twelve songs, several with portmanteau titles like “Lifeissin,” “Slowaway,” and “Kingwoman.” The lo-fi alt-rock album contains plenty of fuzzy guitars and drums that often overpower Carmen Villain’s sometimes mumbled, sometimes monotone, usually layered vocals. Which isn’t to say that the effect isn’t intentional – it is, contributing to a dark, witchy sound that’s trendy enough to be written about in the music pages of the magazines where Carmen Hillestad once modeled. There’s an anxiety underneath all the lovely layers: it’s a dreamy sound, but it’s a fever dream.

Carmen Villain’s official Facebook page lists her influences as Royal Trux, Cat Power, Sun City Girls, and Syd Barrett. The Cat Power influence is especially recognizable in the way Villain layers and buries her voice amid the guitars and keyboards. Sun City Girls, a 1980s experimental rock band, lends itself to the mystery and the occasional sheer strangeness of Carmen Villain’s sound.

Carmen Villain reminds me of another model-turned-singer, Charlotte Kemp-Muhl, who sings with boyfriend Sean Lennon in the project Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger. Kemp-Muhl and Carmen Villain share an almost bored-sounding inflection, as well as occasional nonsensical lyrics and a to-the-moment, on-trend sound. And, of course, they’re both gorgeous it girls.

In the opening song, “Two Towns,” Hillestad croons, “Just give me some money,” before the song transformers into a dreamy, sing-songy, layered melody. “Two Towns” is a strong opener, but the standout here has to be “Lifeissin,” Carmen Villain’s first single. Reverbed guitars, keyboards, murmurs, and wind-like noises are layered to create a haunting atmosphere, anchored by Hillestad’s haunting, murmured vocals.

“Seek out, breathe in. / Breathe frost, yeah / Life is sin,” she sings. It doesn’t make much sense, but it doesn’t have to – it’s the effect that counts.

Clutch – Earth Rocker album review

Touring with solid stoner-rock bands like Thin Lizzie and Motorhead would give anyone aspirations to become the World’s Best Rock Band. Surrounded by lots and lots of buzzing bass, furious drum and searing guitar work, lead man Neil Fallon has only to supply anthem-capable vocals, which he does in spades on this tenth album. They may have altered the genre they can currently fit into, but their music is pretty solidly rock.

Even though you know what you’re getting when you sign up for a listen, there is nothing stale or ho-hum about Clutch. Perhaps it’s their near-constant touring that keeps them in front of their fans, always hyped for the next show, but their studio work is as near to a live performance in terms of the energy and sheer driving sounds that leap off the tracklist.

Fallon’s southern accent comes through in a marvelous growley blues number, Gone Cold. Perhaps it was added to give listeners a break from the grinding of tracks like Unto The Breach, Crucial Velocity, and the title track  Earth Rocker, but oddly enough it fits together well with the body of the album.

Boogie also makes a playful appearance, though its boogie with an attitude. Cyborg Bette rollicks through verses and races over the chorus; I doubt if drummer Jean-Paul Gaster would stop for anything. And Dan Maines, the bassist, states that they wanted to pick up the pace of this album ‘a little’. That is an accomplishment box they can check.

Of all of the selections, Oh, Isabella is the one I least liked, if only because it seems like the lyrics belong in a slower song and the music wants to rev up and go. The closer, The Wolfman Kindly Requests… is a blast to listen to: blistering riffs, courtesy of Tim Sult, heavy double-bass drums and a relentless bassline, it’s what all rock-n-roll songs should be. Just Rock. And roll.

Rival Schools – Found album review

It’s weird to think that 2003 was already 10 years ago. Pop punk was still riding the waves of mainstream popularity, “indie” still stood for independent music and post-punk supergroup Rival Schools recorded their sophomore album. And then they broke up, and though a few tracks were leaked within budding online music sharing communities, the album was shelved and that was that.

But they got back together, recorded and released Pedals in 2011, and finally, a decade after its recording, put out their true second album, Found.

Listening to Found is a bit like a musical time capsule, a blast from the (albeit relatively recent) past. It’s rough and gritty, as any proper post-punk album of the time, instruments and vocals crashing into each other to create a discord that almost doesn’t quite come together but somehow manages to hold its own. Sounding a bit like Gang of Four and a tad like the less-sexy brother of Q And Not U, with vocalist Walter Schreifels’ coarse vocals sing-shouting on top like a less gifted Chris Cornell (or a slightly more nasally Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale), Rival Schools land somewhere in that almost uncomfortable space between high energy and laid back in which post-punk seems to dwell.

Found is somewhat of a grower – an impenetrable and unrelatable din on the first listen or three, after a few times through it begins to shine. “Reaching Out” has arguably the strongest chorus of the album, Schreifel crooning “My mind’s been open way too long / who knows what thoughts might slip inside?”, though followers “Indisposable Heroes” and “Paranoid Detectives” are certainly stand-outs as well. The album lags a bit through the middle, “Tell It All To Me” being largely disappointing, but things pick back up with “Big Waves,” followed by the particularly hard-driving “Sofia Loren.” Found finishes with a cover of the Buzzcocks “Why Can’t I Touch It” that is every bit as fun as the original.

Ultimately, the album is in a weird spot – compared to contemporary alternative acts, Found stands out as too dated to be current but not quite old enough to be nostalgic. And though it would’ve fit much better into the musical climate from whence it was recorded, it’s that out-of-placeness that works so perfectly for it, simultaneously refreshing and comfortably familiar.

Kate Nash Premieres Latest Video For Her Single “OMYGOD” on MTV, Announces Spring US Tour Dates

“There’s truth in most of what Nash sings about on Girl Talk.” – Pitchfork

“Bristling with white-knuckle rock romps and hot-blooded confessionals, Girl Talk finds Nash at her bravest.” – SPIN Magazine

“A fearlessly outspoken postpunk pop icon” – ELLE Magazine

“The epitome of strength and sass, even when she’s wounded” – The Daily News

WATCH: KATE NASH – OMYGOD

British pop icon Kate Nash premieres her brand new video for the single ‘OMYGOD’ today on MTVU, MTV2 – Artist To Watch, MTVU.com & MTV Buzzworthy and is pleased to announce she will be returning to North America next month for another round of tour dates in continued support of her critically acclaimed third album ‘GIRL TALK’.

The video and single for her current release ‘OMYGOD’ (directed by Aram Rappaport) tells the tale of a love gone sour and the longing for better days. Kate, who wrote the song whilst on vacation, also stars in the summery video which involves synchronized swimmers, friends by the coast and a rather disgruntled Nash at times.

Due to popular demand since her last sold out North American tour on the east coast, Kate Nash will be returning to US turf this spring with a handful of west coast dates. Impressively, select dates are already selling out since announcing earlier this month. Supporting her on this tour will be Ottawa based Allie Hanlon (of White Wires) and her minimalist bubblegum, surfer punk-pop side project Peach Kelli Pop.

Hot off the heels of her international album release of ‘GIRL TALK’ in March, Kate is showing no signs of slowing down. Currently on tour in Europe, the fiery feminist has also found time to be an active global ambassador for her charity Protect A Girl with Plan USA, and Because I Am A Girl Foundation, having traveled to Africa in February to meet young and under-privileged girls in the third world, Kate has helped raise funds and awareness for those in need of education and empowerment. She also launched her Rock and Roll Afterschool project in the UK, which aims to actively encourage young girls from ages 8 to 16 to pick up instruments, join bands and express themselves via music and creative writing.

Also, in a continued effort to support and publicize the Russian punk band Pussy Riot and their imprisonment, Kate released the single titled ‘Free My Pussy’ for International Record Store Day this month and has continually used her profile to educate the public about the unjust goings on towards women across the world today.

In other news, Kate has announced she will be in the upcoming Jeff Buckley biopic ‘Greetings From Tim Buckley’ by Daniel Algrant. The film is based on the biography Dream Brother and will star Gossip Girls Penn Badgley and 28 Days Later actress Imogen Poots. Also this summer, Kate will also be gracing the big screen with the release of the upcoming indie flick titled ‘Powder Room’, starring Jamie Winstone, Oona Chaplin and Sheridan Smith. The movie is an adaptation of the Scottish play ‘When Women Wee’ and was produced by the acclaimed Damian Jones and James Cotton (The Iron Lady, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll). The comedy is set in a nightclub, and will explore the goings on within those tiled, marbled domains of the women’s toilets.

Kate Nash’s current album ‘GIRL TALK’ (Have 10p Records / INgrooves) is available in all good record stores across the U.S and available digitally on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify.

Watch Kate Nash’s latest music video for ‘OMYGOD’ and be sure to catch her live at one of the following North American dates this spring.

Kate Nash May 2013 Tour Dates:

May 9 – Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory
May 10 – Los Angeles, CA @ Troubador
May 11 – San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel
May 13 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
May 14 – Vancouver, BC @ Electric Owl
May 15 – Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile
May 17 – Salt Lake City, UT @ In The Venue
May 18 – Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
May 21 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo

Counting Crows & The Wallflowers Announce National Summer Tour @ NYC’s Hammerstein Ballroom on Thursday, June 27

Fresh off the heels of their Australian and European tour, Counting Crows and The Wallflowers, who just came off a highly successful Eric Clapton arena tour, announced their U.S. summer tour. The 22-stop tour will make its way to Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City on June 27th. Tickets go on sale to the general public on Friday, May 3rd at 10AM at Ticketmaster.com. Each band’s community will have access to tickets through a presale beginning April 25th.

Every ticket purchased will come with a copy of Counting Crows’ new live album Echoes of The Outlaw Roadshow. The album was recorded and mixed by Shawn Dealey, who worked with the band on their latest studio release Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation). Complete track list as follows:

01 – Girl From the North Country
02 – Round Here
03 – Untitled (Love Song)
04 – Four Days
05 – Hospital
06 – Carriage
07 – Start Again
08 – I Wish I Was A Girl
09 – Sundays
10 – Mercury
11 – Friend of the Devil
12 – Rain King
13 – Le Ballet d’Or
14 – Up All Night (Frankie Miller Goes To Hollywood)
15 – You Ain’t Goin Nowhere

Both Counting Crows and The Wallflowers are dynamic rock bands with fans all over the world and millions in album sales. The relationship between the two bands dates back to 1996 when Adam Duritz lent background vocals to the Wallflowers hit, “6th Avenue Heartache.”

Counting Crows –Adam Duritz (vocals), Jim Bogios (drums), David Bryson (guitar), Charlie Gillingham (keyboards), David Immergluck (guitar), Millard Powers (bass) and Dan Vickrey (guitar) – have sold more than 20 million albums worldwide after exploding onto the music scene with their multiplatinum breakout album August and Everything After in 1993. Their most recent album, Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation), features a collection of 15 gorgeously rendered songs in which the modern rock mainstays honor global icons, indie-pop heroes, compelling up-and-comers and even their own seminal pre-Crows projects. The album was released April 10, 2012.

In the span of their career, Grammy-award winning The Wallflowers have released six studio and one compilation album. Their most recent studio album, Glad All Over, was released on October 9, 2013 after the band – Jakob Dylan (vocals), Rami Jaffee (keyboards), Greg Richling (bass), Stuart Mathis (guitar) and Jack Irons (drums) – announced the end of their hiatus in November 2011.

Manhattan Center is located centrally in mid-town Manhattan
at 311 West 34th Street, with prime access to all transportation
and is comprised of the following:

Hammerstein Ballroom: with a concert capacity of 3,500, Hammerstein Ballroom combines a magnificent, century old former opera house with fully integrated 21st century media and entertainment production technology. One of New York’s most elegant and versatile special event destinations, Hammerstein Ballroom is the venue of choice for corporate event planners, producers, and show promoters.

Grand Ballroom: with a concert capacity of 1,200, Grand Ballroom integrates elegance and grandeur with a state-of-the-art concert sound system. Located 7 floors directly above Hammerstein Ballroom, Grand Ballroom is a luxuriously appointed ballroom perfect for banquets, award shows, benefits, television productions, product launches, receptions, and fashion shows.

Recording Studios: Manhattan Center has operated two world-class recording studios since the early1990s. Studio 4 is affectionately called “The Log Cabin” by the many producers, engineers, composers, and musician who call it home. Studio 7 is a superb control room connected to Grand Ballroom, where countless orchestral film scores, classical recordings, and performances have been immortalized.

Television Studios: Television Studios at Manhattan Center are fully HD. The two principal studios (TV1 and TV2) easily accommodate both stage and studio audiences.TV1 and TV2 are self-contained studios complete with private lobbies, green rooms, dressing rooms, hair and make-up facilities, turnkey production offices, adjacent editing suites, and production support spaces.

Various Artists – Sound City: Real to Reel album review

Dave Grohl, current lead singer and guitarist for the Foo Fighters and former drummer for Nirvana, makes his directorial debut on “Sound City,” a documentary about the iconic recording studio Sound City Studio in Los Angeles. While the film has impressed critics and at the Sundance Film Festival, its totally original soundtrack, “Sound City: Real to Reel” fails to live up

When considered in conjunction with its own unique production process and the film—Grohl bought Sound City Studio’s analog console and each song was written and recorded with it in a 24-hour session at Grohl’s private studio—the soundtrack reads as a great tribute to Sound City Studios and its legacy in rock music. As a stand-alone album, however, it doesn’t have the cohesion or ingenuity to hold its own. On “The Man That Never Was,” Rick Springfield of “Jessie’s Girl” fame, collaborates with four of the Foo Fighters to create a track that would be unrecognizable from other Foo Fighters tracks except for Springfield’s vocals. “Time Slowing Down,” featuring Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine, is actually a fresh, easier take on Rage’s normally driving, intense sound. “You Can’t Fix This” is a stellar track because, come on, it’s Stevie Nicks, but as catchy and dreamy as it is, it’s not saying anything new or different musically that Nicks didn’t say in the ‘80s. Paul McCartney is electric on “Cut Me Some Slack,” showing a bit more of an alternative edge, though the song as a whole isn’t quite memorable.

The best part of the documentary is that it tells a story—the story of rock ‘n’ roll, the story of Sound City Studio, the story of an icon. This is where the soundtrack drops the ball. Instead of telling a united story, its disjointed snippets channel innumerable different eras and genres with no common thread beyond the use of the analog console and Grohl’s participation. While asking over twenty different artists to create and record tracks in just 24 hours is quite an undertaking, the restriction shows in the originality of the songs. Many of them rely on the established careers and sounds of the musicians to make a statement that has already been made before.

Lewis Watson – The Wild EP review

With the British invasion of mellow rockers such as Ed Sheeran and even Coldplay’s Chris Martin, the undeniably talented singer-songwriter Lewis Watson is setting himself up to be the next big thing. A welcome treat for his massive international fanbase, the London musician debuts his third in a series of EPs from Warner Music called The Wild. This 4 song EP tells an emotional story filled with love, but hints at heartbreak which strays from his usual optimistic and warm sound. His vocals and lyrics are so good that he doesn’t even need music to back them up…but it’s a welcome addition.

The Wild starts off with the dreamy and loving track “In the Wild”  that is filled with incredibly descriptive lyrics which paint a picture of a journey that you can’t help but want to be a part of, and fall in love with. The amorous tone emanates further with the track “Little Darling” which has all the necessary ingredients to be a wedding dance song. It’s slow, simple, sweet and incredibly romantic from start to finish.

This EP is not all rainbows and butterflies however. It takes a dark twist with the most emotionally-charged song, the ballad “It Could Be Better”. Lyrics like “if the rain stops falling, you start to see the tears in my eyes” combined with soft harmonies is so sweet yet tragic at the same time that it’s exquisitely agonizing.

Just as The Wild seemed to be a collection of soft and subdued singer-songwriter ballads, the shockingly percussive jam “Hold On” is quite the feast for the senses and is a great sendoff for this EP. It’s funky, dark, and deep and surely showcases his wide range of ability.

Remember this name: Lewis Watson. We’re in for another great British talent to grace the airwaves and it’s clear he’s only just begun.