Little & Ashley – Thousand Falling Stars EP review

The EP is an important tool, particularly for emerging artists. It acts as a vehicle in which the artist can showcase their favourite tracks, or the most viable for commercial success. From the client’s point of view, it acts as an opportunity to hear the latest release, or discover a new act altogether, without committing to the $15 or so for the full album.

Little and Ashley are making serious waves in the television circuit, appearing in multiple ad campaigns and award-winning shows. They have three songs on their “Thousand Falling Stars” release, all of which are different from the others. “Fill the Sea” is a cute little number that bounces along and makes you think of your childhood sweetheart thanks to the prevalent naivete found in singer Annie Little’s sweet vocals. “Lightspeed to Infinity” belongs on an indie movie soundtrack; breathy vocals from the other half of the duo Marcus Ashley, and the pace of the electronic background certainly gives a sense of intergalactic travel. “Thousand Falling Stars” continues the theme of both space and love, and will likely be the gateway to mainstream airplay.

The “Thousand Falling Stars” EP is such a well rounded piece of work, and at the same time features songs that could easily have been written by 3 separate artists. It’s hard to believe that both Annie and Marcus, as well as talented singers, are actors as well, and they’re easy on the eye (speaking as a straight man). You could almost resent them for the good luck they have had… until you hear their music, which makes every bad thought in your world disappear.


About Group – Start and Complete album review

In 2009, a supergroup was formed and christened About. Four bands are represented in this nu-pop amalgamation: Hot Chip (with Alexis Taylor), Spiritualized (John Coxon), Derek Bailey sideman Pat Thomas, and This Heat (Charles Hayward). 2011 marks their 2nd foray into the market with Start and Complete.

I have no problem admitting it took me a while to get into, but listening to it turned from a chore to a joy. The album is bookended by two quick songs, Married to the Sea A and B. A opens with the electronic mimicry of a whale song. B is markedly sombre, and an excellent close. Between the two, some soothing vocals and a reverbed piano make for some excellent use of the acoustic space, creating a warm atmosphere for the tracks; examples of this can be found on Repair Man, and A Perspective. But by far my favourite track is the reimagining of “You’re No Good”.

Originally recorded by Harvey Averne’s soul track of the same name, which was then “remixed” by Terry Riley in 1967 via tape looping and manipulation of the physical recording equipment. Over 40 years later, About Group covered the landmark track in real time (the entirety of Start and Complete was recorded in one day). The resulting 11 minutes is surreal: it almost becomes a Dave Matthews style jam session, if DMB played in a basement in high school. With Casio keyboards. About Group have undoubtedly put their stamp on the song, which manages to be edgy while still remaining true to the feel of the album as a finished piece. One could be mistaken for thinking it was an original composition by Taylor, who originally wrote the bare structure of the entire album and sent it to the artists individually.

Fans of the aforementioned bands will not be disappointed; About Group has done well. A trippy, mellow tracklisting means this album gets even better after a few. A few of what? Well, that’s up to your imagination.

Start and Complete is out now on Domino Records.


Augustana – Augustana album review

Part of the reason I started writing album reviews was to discover new music that I would either not have the opportunity to listen to, or would not ever find it on my own. Sometimes you hear something that strikes a chord; be it nostalgic, harmonic, or reminiscent, the songs just make sense to you. The perfect example of this kind of album is “Augustana”. Imagine Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty had a child, then Bob Dylan adopted said child during its formative years. The music eventually produced by this kid?That sound that makes you feel so good, so wistful, so happy? That’s Augustana’s latest self-titled album.

San Diego based Augustana started their journey back in 2002, but finally released their first successful album in 2005 (you may remember their single Boston). Their newest is their third release, and just chock full of goodness. Their brand of folk rock is instantly recognisable by singer Dan Layus’ heart wrenching alto pitch.

The opener is a banger; try listening to “Steal Your Heart” on a sunny day and not throwing your arms out and looking at the sky. “Borrowed Time” has a slower tempo one might expect in a Neil Young track, and Shot in the Dark has the aforementioned Petty stamp. I personally would love to hear “Hurricane” live in an acoustic set; and it instantly brings to mind the Wallflowers’ style of alt-country.

“Augustana” is a highly enjoyable album, through its simplicity. Layus’ voice is calming by virtue of it’s unusual pitch, and I haven’t stopped listening to it in 2 weeks. It’s one of those albums that can officially be classified as ‘timeless’: It would have held its own 20 years ago, and it’s still going to hold its own 20 years from now. I recommend you get this on your iPod before all of your friends are playing it this summer. Or if your one buddy gets dumped (because, let’s face it, that always happens), you can play the hero card by suggesting it to them. I think it would help.


Dropkick Murphys – Going Out In Style album review

If you like the Dropkick Murphys’ previous albums, you’re going to love Going Out In Style. If you have never heard of the Dropkick Murphys… well, you’re going to love Going Out In Style. Trust me. Celebrating 15 years since they first formed, the Dropkick Murphys have an instantly recognisable brand of punk music. The band reaches into the deeply Celtic history of home state Massachusetts and revs it up to a very moshable pace. Drinking songs with a punk chaser, if you will.

It’s difficult to work out a favourite track on GOIS; the songs all join to create something that is better than the sum of its parts. The listener flies through the album with hardly a chance to drink their beer. “Take ‘Em Down” is a call to arms for workers, and was released in response to the workers’ rights demonstrations in Wisconsin this winter, keeping true to their close ties to the causes championed by the working class and unions in particular. “Cruel” is an ode to family and growing up, and possibly the slowest song on the record. “Sunday Hardcore Matinee” wistfully describes the brotherhood shared by friends going to raise hell at a punk show. They also cover the traditional “Irish Rover” story with their own twist – prepare yourself, and Granny!

Accordion, bagpipe, penny whistle, and shouting choruses, with pounding drums and electric (in both senses of the word) guitar lead to an enjoyable experience from the Dropkick Murphys. For optimum results, get to drinking to excess while this is playing, and invite a couple of friends over before hitting the town to see what kind of mischief the night has in store for you. It just feels natural to be clinking glasses and rough-housing with Going Out In Style as the perfect soundtrack.


Rubblebucket – Omega La La album review

I’m just gonna come right out and say it: I didn’t like the new Rubblebucket album. There is a lot of praise being bandied about, and while it isn’t terrible – not by a long shot – it fails to get me hooked.

Think for a minute of those girls with individual voices like Bjork, Aretha Franklin, or Joan Jett. Kalmia Traver has a long way to go before she is mentioned in that list but she’s on her way; while her voice lacks punch, there’s no denying that she’s definitely… something. “Raining” showcases the emotional aspect and it’s one hundred percent thanks to the warblings of Traver. “Triangular Daisies” is a nice sweet song that suits the day, no matter whether the sun is shining or rain is hitting the window, and “Worker” has the potential to be the most successful commercially.

The worst part of the album is the final track; partly because of the content, partly because it does that earworm thing, where you can’t get out of this loop of the bridge. Traver undoes any hope of fully appreciating the album as a complete work in that fateful three seconds. Imagine a guitar string being simultaneously plucked and detuned a half step, but with a human voice, and that is the source of my pile of rage. Oh, look at that… Pile of Rage is the name of the song. It’s irritating, and a hell of a way to say goodbye to an album. Haunting in a ‘spend the night in a creepy old house’ kind of way, and not the ‘moonlit lake with the fog rolling in’ kind of way.

Hopefully this is better received by Rubblebucket’s fans upon its release on the 7th of June; they will most likely “get it” better than I. The album, while bouncy most of the way through, seems to lack direction, and it never fully hits the peaks it was aiming for, set so long ago by The Flaming Lips. For this writer, this is its undoing.

Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light Burning Bright

Foo Fighters Wasting Light

The first time I heard of the Foo Fighters was during a class quiz at the end of the school year; you know, when the teacher can’t be bothered to teach new material and keep these rugrats focused. “What is the name of the band rumoured to contain the surviving members of the band Nirvana?” I can also remember thinking “What a stupid name for a band. They won’t last.” True story.

Guess it shows how much a 10 year old knows about rock music.

It’s been 17 whole years since Dave Grohl presented us his version of post-Cobain rock, and while the names have come and gone, the brand has gone on to be a powerhouse of music. Their latest, Wasting Light, is set to be released April 12th, and based on the first single, Rope, looks poised to reaffirm their status as stadium rock champions.

With an upcoming theatrical release Back and Forth, chronicling the band’s rise to fame, as well as a very busy Festival schedule this summer, there are plenty of gems to be added to the setlist – a personal favourite is Arlandria, a driving 4 and a half minutes that really ought to be the flagship single. I Should Have Known is an angst-ridden, painful track that can’t NOT be about breakups (possibly an infidelity). White Limo is by far the grittiest and most “out there” track: note the screaming vocals, the metal riff that wouldn’t be out of place on a Sabbath album. That said, Wasting Light marks a return to their earlier style, the reason you fell in love with them in the first place. While the entire album is strong, the really memorable songs, the ones you won’t get out of your head for three days, are on the front half. Listen to the whole album and make your own call.

This album is great, but only because it is, for want of a better word, comfortable. By not flexing their creative muscles they are cementing their fans further to their loyalty. Wasting Light will not disappoint The Army Of Foo, this is sure. But you have to wonder if the train has left the station and can’t pick up any new passengers.

Mother Mother – They’ve got it with Eureka

Mother Mother Eureka

The big thing on the West Coast nowadays is support and promotion of local industry. Think Globally, Act Locally. The 100 Mile Diet. Support Your Local Coffee Shop. All of these initiatives have a grassroots incentive designed to keep our neighbours afloat. But why shouldn’t this mindset extend to the music scene? Enter Mother Mother.

Making serious waves in the scene since their inception in 2005, Mother Mother reveals a friendlier outing in their newest album, Eureka. The Vancouver-based group have amped the pop knob up to 11 since 2008’s O My Heart. The band is unique in that there are 3 strong vocalists – Ryan Guldemond, his sister Molly, and Jasmin Parkin, which alters the dynamic of the album in a great way. Ryan’s chameleon voice complements both girls ethereal vocals, leading to a result that is reminiscent of the Pixies and the Scissor Sisters, sometimes on the same song (Baby Don’t Dance)! Check out the surf guitar on the exit track Calm Me Down, the call and answer on The Stand, the first single from this album, and Getaway features beautiful breathy vocals like a dream sequence set to music. The only track that could be seen as out of place is Born in a Flash; while still a great song, it fails to keep the album flowing with a Gothic undertone.

Currently on a Canadian tour promoting the album, tickets are now on sale for their show in Vancouver next month at the Vogue Theatre on May 4th (the Commodore Ballroom’s May 5th show has sold out). Mother Mother, as always, are beautifully weird, and Eureka is a force to be reckoned with; picture a million little gasps instead of a force 3 hurricane.


The Strokes – Angles album review

My first reaction to Angles, the latest offering from The Strokes, was “Whoa!… This is The Strokes?” What happened to the slushy chords? Where is the passionate rally call of Mr. Julian Casablancas (still the best name in showbusiness, incidentally)?

It certainly starts with a surprise; Macchu Picchu, the opener, sounds more like it could be the work of Crystal Castles. Then, slowly, you begin to recognize familiar Stroke-isms – there’s Julian’s signature vocals, the “pop-rock” shining through slowly, then emerging full fledged. Don’t be surprised if it unwittingly becomes the soundtrack to the summer of 2011: it aches to be played at your barbecue.

Both well rounded and experimental, The Strokes have managed to create a rock album that at the same time wouldn’t sound out of place in a club: there’s Games, which could very well be on every snowboard movie next season a la MGMT’s Kids, the 80’s tinged Two Kinds of Happiness that sounds like they borrowed their landscape from The Cars, and the aforementioned Macchu Picchu. Meanwhile, Gratisfaction and Life is Simple in the Moonlight belong in your car with the top down.

There’s a section in “Call Me Back” that is very Beatles reminiscent – falsetto harmonies set to a haunting riff that sounds like an organ, but you eventually realise is the high end of the guitar.

Angles is comfortable to fans of The Strokes, but pushing the boundaries enough to make you sit up and listen. They’ve certainly matured musically since 2001’s Is This It, and the evidence is clear. Angles is like putting your Chuck Taylors on for the first time after winter: takes some getting used to, but it isn’t long before you remember why you loved them in the first place.