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press releases reviews

Marissa Nadler – Marissa Nadler album review

Boston. Home of the Red Sox, current residence of the Stanley Cup, and some of the best beer in America. Also available: That accent. You know the one.

But wait? Who’s this Marissa Nadler? She sounds like honey to my ears! Innocent, yet knowing, the owner of this voice is currently fronting the charge on the music world with an album entirely funded by her fans and released on her own label. In today’s compartmentalizing scene, she’s been shoehorned into “folk”, but don’t let that put you off; it’s dreamier than Bob Dylan, sweeter than Cat Stevens, and more beautiful than Beck.

There is a running theme of loss and heartache seemingly throughout the album, though not a depressing album at all. There’s certainly a hint of regret – no, nostalgia – in favourite “The Sun Always Reminds Me of You”. “Baby I Will Leave You in the Morning” has this drowsy, dreamy melody where she is singing about a former lover. “In a Magazine” is almost tear-jerking; you hope that one day a girl sings like that about you.

While I can’t recommend her self-titled piece as a motivational soundtrack, it is definitely an accompaniment to introspection. Her signature Gothic tones prevail without allowing to assert themselves on the tune; worthy of a few listens before passing judgement, Nadler’s voice warrants an exploration into her back catalogue as well as your soul.

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reviews

We Are Augustines – Rise, Ye Sunken Ships album review

“Sunken Ships” Plain Sailing

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” – James 1:2-4

I’ve said for a long time that my brother is arguably the most important person in the world to me. We went through a lot of shit together, not least my parents’ divorce during our early adolescent years, and for nearly all of the time we were growing up (until I went to university) we shared a room, needless to say we’re very close. I wouldn’t know what to do if something were to happen to him, which is why, when I discovered the history to We Are Augustine’s “Rise Ye Sunken Ships” it made it that much more powerful an album.

It’s tough to say that this is a debut album; between the two of them, Billy McCarthy and Eric Sanderson had amassed almost 40 songs to arrange for their previous partnership, Pela. Production of “Rise” was plagued with roadblocks, not least the eventual suicide of McCarthy’s institutionalized brother James, but also the eventual breakup of Pela, and frustration at not getting the right sounds in the studio.

Aside from the back story, the album is stunning. Good driving drum beats from Rob Allen keep the pace. The content, while rife with religious iconography, isn’t Christian, more about redemption and emotion associated with the stories contained within. Personal favourites include “Philadelphia (The City of Brotherly Love)” with it’s working-class, almost Springsteen feel; “Patton State Hospital”, a heady rock turning point about his brother’s committal (We’re gonna get you cleaned up, James), and “Barrel of Leaves”, a jarringly emotional ballad that balances the choral overtones of the previous songs.

“Rise Ye Ye Sunken Ships” is the fruition of many years, countless obstacles, and heartache. The pain is evident throughout; Billy McCarthy’s gravelly voice is full of anguish and perfectly reflects the content of the album. Both McCarthy and Sanderson used the theme of perseverance – the former, personally, the latter, professionally. And it shows. If you like you music to have content, to pack a punch, you can’t go wrong with Sunken Ships.

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reviews

Sondre Lerche – Sondre Lerche album review

Delightful pop gets a makeover in Sondre Lerche’s self-titled album. His simple voice lends an innocent quality to his work that is hard to find in today’s scene without the use of PR companies and extensive auto tuning. The Norwegian export has worked his way up to heavyweight status in the eclectic indie world, creating almost all of the soundtrack to Steve Carell vehicle “Dan in Real Life” in 2007, and beyond with his other albums. Sondre Lerche (the album) passes by in an enjoyable tempo, his voice lilting between carefree and remorse, or somewhere in between.

The entire piece is inexplicably good, but that’s not to say it doesn’t deserve to be. It just hits all the right notes, and it resonates within you. Ever find yourself singing a long to a song you’ve never heard before? Either you want to know it so bad, or the artist has such an innate knowledge of composition that you can almost predict the next note. Listen to “Red Flags” and be amazed. Lerche’s vocals are unique in that he can hold a note in the high octaves, but also fairly low, all the while maintaining that human quality, the temple here, the quiver there, that only adds to the art.

Sondre Lerche’s a genuine and dynamic album that is great for a rainy day drinking coffee and smoking, if that’s your thing, or it’s a perfect accompaniment to a relaxing day at the park watching clouds with your girlfriend. Or, maybe go to the park by yourself playing the album on an iPhone, and you might meet that special someone:

-“What’s that you’re listening to? He’s great!”
-“Sondre Lerche, you want to hang out and listen with me? My name’s Aaron.”

Extend hand.

Write next chapter of life.

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music videos reviews

Patrick Wolf – Lupercalia album review

Few albums today hold enough valued content to keep the attention of today’s listener, let alone an entire album of intelligent and enjoyable music. Coupled with his almost regal voice, Patrick Wolf’s Lupercalia is 40 minutes of electronic music mish-mashed right up to horns and strings. Plus, he name checks Dylan Thomas. For geeks like me, that’s pretty awesome.

It’s hard to know where to start with this album – every song has merit. By far my favourite is Bermondsey Street, a joyful track in every sense of the word. It’s like he mathematically worked out the best chords to make you feel better, the horn section and piano working perfectly with the content of the lyrics, a simple love song that’s full of hope. “Slow Motion” is another strong track, sounding tragic, but actually about meeting the love of his life. It almost sounds as if it is being played half speed (and is that snoring in the background?).

“Armistice” and interlude “William” split the album well. The former, a slower track to mix it up a little bit, tells of being someone’s knight in shining armour. The latter sounds like a video game. The music box march of “The Days” is rolling, even, and emotional. It’s also interesting to note that the finger snaps that opened the album in “The City” are reprised in the final track, “The Falcons”. This guy is good at his job.

Having fought his own demons on and off for the 9 years he’s been on the scene, his abilities have been steeped in experience. Wolf’s voice suggests an age far greater than his 28 years, and the maturity in his composition is testament to his talent in harmonics.

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Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Gonna Eat That? album review

Supergroups come and go, and side projects are now commonplace. Hip hop is not immune – Dr. Dre would never have become the self-contained superpower he is today if NWA had never split. More recently, the Hail Mary Mallon trio – Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic, and DJ Big Wiz – have released “Are You Gonna Eat That?”, a collaboration that is slick, but not overproduced. In other words, a welcome entry in today’s commercial scene.

While today’s rap has been touting the virtue of clubs, chains and Cristal (with a Lil Jon/Wayne cameo to keep the younger listeners happy), Hail Mary Mallon keeps it gangster by remaining with the old-school on all fronts. The guys have a laid-back style of delivery, as if it’s a hot day and there just happens to be a beat behind the rhymes. They certainly have the talent to bust the lyrics quick (check the chorus of “Garfield”, and pretty much all of “Table Talk” as evidence), but Hail Mary Mallon are in no hurry. Breakdance Beach certainly sounds like the 80s – pop ‘n’ lock is definitely on your mind with that beat, and the “Go! Go! Go!” will make you wish you were old enough to actually remember breakdancing. If you really want to enjoy cruising in the sun this summer, do it to “Mailbox Baseball”, and marvel as your personal cool factor notches up.

In a world where hip hop has taken a turn for the worst, it’s refreshing to hear a group of talented individuals remaining true to the ideals they hold. “Are You Gonna Eat That?” could have succeeded 20 or 30 years ago just as easily as it can today. The beats are classic retro (but not kitsch), the messages and stories are equally as relevant. Hail Mary Mallon, as odd as it sounds, have rebranded the pioneering parts of hip hop and avoided the “bling, guns, ho’s” stereotype that has blighted their peers in the 21st century.

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reviews

Kate Bush – Director’s Cut album review

“… the buildings of New York look just like mountains in the snow…”

Some of you may not know the name Kate Bush. No, it’s not a former president’s daughter. Rest assured, her name would be considered “household” in England. In 1978, her iconic debut single “Wuthering Heights” shot straight to the No. 1 spot in multiple European charts; the self-proclaimed “white witch” was only 18 at the time. Now, over 30 years since that groundbreaking track, she’s released her latest. Director’s Cut features her signature voice, those otherworldly lyrics, and the atmosphere of a late night cocktail lounge.

There is some initial trepidation upon starting the album; you have no idea what to expect, except that, in the words of one of my friends, it’s “Probably gonna be weird.” The first half of the album is vast, from the church bells and minor keys in the opening “Flower of the Mountain”, to the creepy old lady voice at the beginning of “Lily” (don’t worry, it turns into a funky song) to the synth-laden “Deeper Understanding”, you definitely get the feeling that this isn’t your average pop music; Bush has earned her chops.

The turning point though, when you realize that this is something really special, is the piano arrangement on “Moments of Pleasure”, and it literally takes your breath away when her voice just hits you right in the heart, and makes you remember things that you aren’t even sure happened to you at all. From there, the album goes hand-over-hand up the Awesome Ladder (patent pending). It’s even worth going back and listening to the first half again immediately, when you’re in the Kate Bush frame of mind.

In this day and age, with the cookie cutter pop music, it’s refreshing to hear an act that breathes new life into the industry. Kate Bush has lost nothing to her voice, both in power and sweetness, and is an artist in the true sense of the word: not afraid to push the boundaries of convention, and knowing exactly what that entails. “Director’s Cut” is set to be another jewel in this girl’s collection.

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reviews

JEFF the Brotherhood – We Are The Champions album review

You can never accuse Nashville of holding back on the world. From the Grand Ole Opry, to the birth of country music as we know it today, the capital city is known the world over as a central hub of the burgeoning music world. Picking up various “Ones To Watch” awards across North America, brothers Jake and Jamin Orral are no exception, and their latest piece, We Are The Champions is a veritable melting pot of Americana. The album has overtones of blues, punk (think Ramones, not Sex Pistols) and good ole’ rock ‘n’ roll, with plenty of hooks that keep the pace going.

The opener certainly makes you prick up your ears; the first line is “I’ve been
thinking about your mom/ You can’t tell me if it’s really wrong”. From the blues-style of “Hey Friend”, we head straight into the punk laced “Cool Out”, a track that dares you not to nod your head to the beat. Meanwhile, “Endless Fire” has that angst-ridden high school story that wouldn’t be out of place on one of those classic teen movies that were all the rage about 10 years ago. The album as a whole can be summed up in one word: fun. It’s fun to listen to, it sounds like it was fun to make, and before you know it, you’re pushing “Repeat All” on your player.

“We Are The Champions” has it all. Evocative of Weezer, the Black Keys and Death From Above 1979, Jeff the Brotherhood have flown in the face of their local country music and produced a sound that you cannot get enough of. It’s been ten years since JTB was formed, and if they keep producing audio candy like this, it’ll be many more before the Brotherhood is done.

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Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi – Rome album review

Yes. This is that Danger Mouse. The same mastermind that brought us 2004’s groundbreaking “Grey Album” has been a busy guy since then, collaborating with such eminent acts as Sparklehorse, U2, and the Black Keys. Now he’s teamed up with composer Daniele Luppi ( best known for his orchestra-fuelled film composing) to give us Rome, a chilled out 35 minute excursion into your own personal Zen garden.

The project was inspired by Spaghetti Western movies, and while largely an instrumental album, there are some big names on the vocal side of things. Besides the Cantori Moderni choir (as featured on The Good, The Bad And The Ugly soundtrack), you also may feel like you’ve heard the solo singers before but you can’t place them. Well, one is the Man of a Thousand Side Projects, Jack White, displaying a side of his talents rarely seen. The other, raven haired siren Norah Jones. No punches pulled here.

Track 1 (“Theme of Rome”) gives a sneak preview of the instrumental tracks – sounding like Pink Floyd had done a tour in Morocco. The Western motif certainly is apparent in “The World” intro. As for the ‘special guests’, both White and Jones feature on three tracks. White’s “Two Against One”, is a favourite of mine; a dark and dirty track you never thought you’d hear on this album (“Make no mistake I don’t do anything for free and / I keep my enemies closer than my mirror ever gets to me”) and Jones on “Black”, a quietly stunning poem to which she brings the right amount of sass. Both songs feature their respective singer’s hallmarks; you wouldn’t be surprised if they showed up on their upcoming albums as well.

Rome is definitely a night-time album, whether hosting a dinner party, enjoying a night cap, or something a little later “one on one”, it sets the mood wonderfully. Summoning the ghost of Zero 7’s critically acclaimed 2001 album “Simple Things”, Rome is an alluringly simple piece of work. Similar to that girl in high school; she just hangs in the background, no one really paying attention and then all at once you look at her and you suddenly realize how beautiful she is.

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reviews

Felice Brothers – Celebration, Florida album review

‘Celebration, Florida’ is the 4th venture from the New York City based Felice Brothers, and evokes all the right feelings that music should be without getting bogged down in over production. It’s unpretentious as a whole and makes no excuses for the grimy opener, ‘Fire at the Pageant’, a foot stomping call-and-repeat noise extravaganza that’s easy to enjoy. Somehow, it segues beautifully into ‘Container Ship’, a song that relies on a piano and dreamy soundscape to perfectly balance the first track. The title track takes a sick electro swerve, almost as if it’s purely to keep the listener guessing.

This new exploration into Americana folk music knows no bounds; they even tackle honky tonk yodeling country in their ode ‘Dallas’. Note vocalist Ian Felice’s Dylan-esque quality to his voice, particularly on ‘Ponzi’ and ‘Oliver Stone’, the backbone to an already strong album. Some may find his voice ill-trained… to which you must answer the question, “Have you even heard ‘Blood on the Tracks’? Writer’s favourite though, has to go to ‘Best I Ever Had’, the penultimate track that’s so bayou blues one feels like it should come with its own rocking chair. It’s all in the details, from the solitary slide guitar, to the crickets in the background. It adds up to a very entertaining 4 minutes.

A good album is one that leaves you wanting more; one minute you’re really feeling the groove of the whole album as a piece of art, and the next thing you know, you realize you’re on the last song and you aren’t sure what to do with yourself. Celebration, Florida captures a slice of apple pie with all the filling; at 47 minutes it’s not a small helping either, but you’ll probably go back for seconds anyway.

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Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact album review

Gang Gang Dance Maintains with Eye Contact

Whenever I get an album from an artist or band I haven’t heard of, I Wikipedia them to start learning. It may not be a deathly accurate way to gain information, but in terms of what I need it for, it’s perfect; I find out what style of music they have in store for me, without tainting my totally naive ears with an opinion other than my own. Gang Gang Dance’s entry reads thus:

“…an American experimental music band based in Manhattan, New York City.”

Red flag, right there. “Experimental” can sometimes be translated into anything from “We’re going to push the boundaries of music as we know it,” to “We don’t know what we’re doing, musically speaking”. So it’s fair to say I had my reservations when I did push play on their new album, Eye Contact.

I was pleasantly surprised. Synthesizers haven’t sounded so good since the 80’s, and even if it’s just played as background music, the listener will sit up and take notice. Lead vocalist Lizzi Bougatsos is perfectly suited for the style GGD is instrumentally aiming for, the perfect compliment to the aural landscape. Their 5th album is not something I would have chosen out of the thousands of groups I’ve never heard of, but it’s a welcomed addition to the family on my laptop.

The opener ‘Glass Jar’ gives you the feeling that you’re underwater, and at over 11 minutes, it’s a hell of a swim. ‘Adult Goth’ has a dubstep quality about it without being too aggressive as to stand apart from the rest of the album. ‘Chinese High’ has an Eastern quality, relying on minor scales that Western music eschews. ‘Romance Layers’ is sexy, funky, fun.

I could write about every single song on this album: they all have their own flavour, and it’s rare that an act can convey this many different styles in one 10-track release. Even the album cover is trippy as hell! Experimental music is often a case of digging through the dirt to find the diamonds, and Eye Contact is a real beauty.