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Kate Voegele – Gravity Happens album review

Gravity Happens, Even For Kate Voegele

When Kate Voegele sings “I’m in love with what I see” you’ll probably agree with her. The singer and songwriter turned actress takes her talent to a whole new level on Gravity Happens.

The 24-year old brings a sense of maturity that you didn’t get to fully experience with her first album. She has definitely come a long way and the best way to tell is to compare this album with A Fine Mess. Her musicality and skills as a lyricist are undoubtedly more refined; which in turn has secured her a spot on a “must-listen” list, if there ever were one.

What’s most admirable about this artist in particular is her ability to create an album anyone could listen to—it’s not your average break-up/revenge album but it’s not all flowers and sunshine. You get your ups and your downs, and the funny gray area. Voegele’s capability of evoking the myriad of emotions she experiences in her day-to-day life is impressive. A rollercoaster of emotions is typical to any young adult and to possess a musical strength that allows you to do that is vital to an artist’s success. The more real you are to your listeners, the more you are grounded. And, a grounded artist is what we all look for when we want some answers. Funny enough, it makes you think how true her album title really is.

Songs like “Burning the Harbour”, “Enjoy the Ride”, and “All I See” are perfect for proving Vogele’s diversity.

However, if you’re looking to be moved, take a chance on “Gravity Happens” where the words will strike a chord. Or, listen to “Beg You to Fall” where she takes her time revealing emotions, starting off raw and slow, and finishing on an angry/confused and probably frustrated tone of a jilted girlfriend. As she sings: “Down on my knees, ain’t where I need to be…don’t wanna beg you to fall”, you not only get her but you begin to “get” yourself.

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Implodes – Black Earth album review

Implodes’ Dark and Hazy Debut

Implodes’ debut album Black Earth speak to the subconscious, creating tracks that we find only in our dreams or perhaps some of our nightmares.

The Chicago quartet start off the album with a short number, but it’s one you can instantly like. “Open the Door” is a great opening song and there’s something about its melody—the way it all fits together—that makes you feel like there is something out there amazing and you just have to keep listening to find out. Too bad the song is only about a minute thirty seconds long.

The rest of the tracks are a little more debatable. For the most part the vocals, if there were any, were muffled. It’s almost as if you are standing in a haunted house, scared and confused and this music is playing in the background. “Marker”, “White Window”, and “Oxblood” all seem to have the lingering, haunting and all too confusing effect on your mind.

Of course, the whining guitar riffs do make up for what some songs are lacking. Implodes incorporate guitar sounds into their music as if they were lyrics, proving symbolism is interchangeable.

Unfortunately, the album lacks an overall spark. Perhaps it’s the way the tracks sound—all very similar like a big hazy cloud of noise. Most tracks do blend seamlessly from one twisted and ghostly-like track to the other, creating somewhat of an alternate universe.

Black Earth takes you somewhere else, leaves you there and you don’t really know if you’ll return to where you came from. “Screech Owl”, “Meadowsland” and “Wendy” all seem to have that twilight zone effect.

For a debut album, Implodes show they have much potential. They prove they know their craft well, they just need to tweak a little more in order to create tracks distinct from the other. I could just imagine what they could be capable of if they added that spark we listeners are looking for.

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Junior Boys – It’s All True album review

Junior Boys Channel the Old and the New

Itchy Fingers; Playtime; Banana Ripple…Credit should be given to the Junior Boys for coming up with the most original song titles for their newest album It’s All True.

Jeremy Greenspan and Matt Didemus offer a whole new outlook on what it means to be a rare band these days. In fact, it’s a risky thing to channel the 80’s especially when the younger generation probably has little to no clue what 80’s music actually was.

It’s even riskier when you think of the band’s history of rejections and misses. They don’t, however, make any apologies. There’s no guarantee that you’ll instantly fall in love with the album. Though, if you have a little faith, once you listen to a couple of tracks, you just can’t help but want to listen to more—especially when you can hear tiny remnants of old INXS popping in. Or, if that’s not enough to wow you, pay attention to the soft Asian melodies on some of their tracks. Strange, but oddly interesting.

Itchy Fingers, the first track off It’s All True, hooks you in with its lyrics, “So patient, so kind…keep wondering if you are playing with my mind”, while “You’ll Improve Me” grabs you by its melody.

“Playtime” even offers a unique twist on “bedroom music” as its slow and sensual tones tease the ears and play with your taste.

Though, what really takes the cake is “Banana Ripple”. I wish I could say it was the title alone that caught my eye—or ear I should say. Nine minutes of fascinating beats and playful harmonies—and you probably will find yourself using the repeat button.

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Kate Bush – Director’s Cut album review

Kate Bush’s reinvention on Director’s Cut

Six years did Kate Bush good. The 52-year old artist took a much needed break to make a comeback with the soulful, unique and quite distinct album, Director’s Cut. Though, don’t be surprised if you feel you’ve heard some of the songs before.

Bush took songs off The Sensual World and The Red Shoes albums, manipulated them, tweaked them and infused them with new-age era musicality. She doesn’t shy away from incorporating very different genres of music in each song—which in turn helps create a well-rounded album. No song is similar to the next.

Take a listen to Deeper Understanding. Though not a new song, you can instantly tell how much the song actually applies to our generation. Old vocals are abandoned and the infamous and widely hated Audio-Tune is used to mimic a computer operator. This compliments her lyrics quite well, when she talks about the idea of social interaction slowly disappearing as it takes a backseat to the computer.

Her best work on this album however is This Woman’s Work, hands down. It’s haunting. It’s beautiful. It’s full of pain and suffering. Her long pauses and eerie music accompanying her in the background makes for a song that epitomizes the title to a T.

In fact, on Lily, she takes a whole new approach by doing something very basic. She yells. And while that may seem a little absurd or dare I say wacky, it just works. Her musical choices make sense—not because she is older and wiser but because whatever she decided, worked. Of course, her ideas were risky because they could end up really making or breaking the album. Her decisions, whether it was incorporating Indian genres into Flower of the Mountain or choosing to focus on vocals in Song of Solomon, made the album.

Bush sings the words us ordinary people can’t seem to get out (case in point, And So Is Love). As a female artist of a past generation, Bush reinvents herself with Director’s Cut.

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Austra – Feel It Break Lives album review

Austra’s Feel It Break Lives Up To Its Name

Katie Stelmanis should have stuck to singing her artsy pop that demanded attention as a solo artist than singing electronica or whatever you call her latest efforts in Austra’s Feel it Break album. I tried really hard to find the silver lining with this one. Unless I missed something, Feel it Break didn’t deliver the musical brilliance I was hoping to receive.

The reason for that is I can probably sum up the album in very few words. Electronica. Words. High-pitched vocals.

For most if not all 11 tracks, the vocals sounded identical—high-pitched and one note. And, funny enough, with such powerful and enticing track titles (Hate Crime, The Villain, Beat and Pulse to name a few) you would expect the tracks to live up to their names. But, as said before, song after song ended up blending into one and it was hard to tell them apart from each other.

In fact, on The Choke, you expect that you’ll hear a haunting and moving song yet Stelmanis’ vocals sound stagnant and I actually caught myself asking out loud, “Did she really just chant Niagara?”

Take “Shoot the Water” as another example. It started out promising and somewhat distinct and then I hear “I want your blood; I want it in my hair”. I just couldn’t follow.

Sadly, Feel it Break’s repetitive music doesn’t play out too well for me. I felt I was stuck in the Science Centre with that planetarium-esque music looming in the background. It’s frustrating because you know what the vocalist is capapble of—and when they don’t come close to using their full capacity you as a listener gets thrown off completely.

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Sleepy Rebels – Yellow Tree album review

Sleepy Rebels uplift on Yellow Tree

“There’s nothing we can’t do now we’re in the reach of the moon”. Enticing lyrics. Questionable music as a whole. Sleepy Rebels deliver an album of romance, dream sequences and motivational comfort.

The New York based trio—Jeremy Adelman and siblings Bruce and Erica Driscoll, don’t leave any room for pessimism in their music. In fact, they bring new blood into the mainstream music scene. For its genre, Yellow Tree is a beautiful collection of hope and dreams. Sleepy Rebels prove music can be uplifting and meaninful as opposed to the usual melancholic and gloomy tunes we are usued to hearing. Take a look at the titles off Sleepy Rebels’ album and you’ll know what I mean.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, you can’t help but feel just a bit better, especially upon hearing Erica’s soft and sweet vocals on “Better Day”. The same goes for tracks like “Beautiful” (the best off the album in my opinion) or “We’ll Wake the World Up”—although with this one the vocals sound somewhat child-like and I couldn’t help but feel like I was in a kindergarten classroom.

And when you’re not taken back to a time of childhood innocence and playfulness, you may be taken to the twilight zone, where you’re dancing among a sea of psychedelic colours you used to see on That 70’s Show. That’s where “questionable music” came to mind.

Sleepy Rebels rebel against a world of chaos and pain by offering a new-found sense of simplicity and optimism. With the main focus on the lyrics instead of the instruments, you could easily get lost in it all. It also helps when the lyrics aren’t so cryptic. “Language of You” is a perfect example of how the beauty of the songs lies in the simplicity—“tell me if you need I’ll give you my love”. No hidden message. Easy to understand. Simple.

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Grails – Deep Politics album review

Not so “Deep Politics”

I can see myself in slow motion ready to cut a wire of a bomb or open the door to something really scary as I listen to the first three notes off Grails’ latest album, Deep Politics.

Then again, like most of the album’s eight songs, the suspense sizzles as much as it fades. You get pulled in with a great hook and then after a couple of notes or so, the song just mellows out—and what you’re left with are just a couple of notes.

You would think that with so much musical talent in the band, composed of guitarist Alex Hall, drummer Emil Amos, pianist/bassist Bill Slater, fiddler/composer Timba Harris, and musician Zak Riles, that the album would do more than just sound like a soundtrack off of an Italian mafia movie.

Starting with “Future Primitive” (interesting choice of title) we hear a Middle-Eastern melody shine through—almost tribal-like at times. However, if you move on to the second track, “All the Colours of the Dark”, you will probably be feeling like you’re a character in that same mafia movie. This also goes for “Daughters of Bilitis” –which makes me wonder where they are getting these song titles from. The constant tap of the drum, mimicking the sound of footsteps and with the accompaniment of the violin, gives you a feeling that this song could be featured on the next CSI episode.

What Deep Politics does very well is convey a unique musicality. Songs do not finish the way they start. It isn’t easy to change up a melody within a song without failing miserably or sounding very choppy. Grails seem to link up different harmonies and melodies with ease. I find this happens on “Deep Politics”, a beautiful blend of violin and soft piano tones that work together to create a haunting melody that strangely calms the listener. I envision myself dancing the Tango with Al Pacino, and, in my opinion, when a song helps me to imagine such things, it has definitely gotten my attention.

Others may not be as forgiving as I am. There aren’t many individuals who have the patience to sit and wait for the magic to happen. Music generally needs to capture one’s mind instantly. If it doesn’t, then it will have zero chance of getting you to listen to it for a second time. Deep Politics tends to fall short of gaining a second listen. It’s as if you’re almost interested but you get distracted because you can’t tell the difference between the songs and you can’t differentiate between the melodies. “I Led Three Lives” is a prime example in that it has too many different sounds that ultimately confuses rather than moves. Or, take for example “Almost Grew my Hair”, in which halfway through the song the melody completely changes, leaving you having to double check to see if it’s the same song.

After three years, the Portland-based band tries to move listeners with a haunting cinematic vibe. Though, to me, I couldn’t help but feel like there was something missing. The record overall seemed fractured. I kept trying to find that one song that I could listen to over and over again. I’m still looking.

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Julian Lynch – Terra album review

Julian Lynch Plays it Cool on Terra

Soft drum beats.  A little clarinet here and there.  Guitar slowly playing in the background.  Add in the psychedelic factor and a hint of folk rock and you have Julian Lynch’s latest album, Terra

Lynch’s recipe for his newest work follows more so his need to just play, rather than appealing to the masses.  He doesn’t exactly adhere to the musical norm.  Then again, does he really have to? 

Lynch is a total stranger to mass appeal.  Without access to social media, i.e. no Twitter, Facebook or Myspace accounts, you would think he is voluntarily throwing himself into social exile.  At 26, he seems to show that he plays what he feels like, and based on the fact that he once performed a show via webcam from the comfort of his own apartment, it just goes to show how little he concerns himself with the norm. 

I say that with the utmost respect.  It’s not easy to step outside of the box, though I’m sure for Lynch, he’s doing what he knows and loves.  This Ridgewood, New Jersey native has had the privilege of learning a variety of instruments, ranging from the piano, clarinet and guitar.  He is also honing his craft as a grad student taking a joint PHD in Ethnomusicology and Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin.  And it shows.  Through his latest work, we can hear the influence of his studies and musical intelligence.  

Terra showcases his unique talent right off the bat.  With the first track, “Terra” you automatically get the cool, velvety undertones of the clarinet.  This is probably my favourite track off the album.  It’s got that uplifting, soothing feeling where the drum and guitar work hand in hand to create that ultimate “cool” vibe.   I admit, I totally felt I could be listening to this on a beach or maybe driving down some deserted Ontario highway. 

Other tracks such as “Water Wheel One” and “Clay Horses” are what I deem the sad and depressing melodies.  However, I feel even if there are sad undertones, the way his music is packaged and produced transcends his “cool, calm and collective” approach to music. 

In fact, when you listen to the album in its entirety you’ll understand that for many of the songs, lyrics mean close to nothing.  They take a backseat to the instruments; whereas, lyrics are usually what drive the song to sell, no matter what they actually mean.  Lynch offers lyrics only when necessary seeing as some tracks off the album don’t have any words at all.  Take “Canopy” for example.  The song has little to no lyrics and instead what you do hear is actually some humming.

Lynch’s music is interesting regardless if you are into his songs or not.  I will admit I am not usually drawn to artists of his nature, but what I do admire is that the music he creates doesn’t sound so fabricated.  It sounds like it comes from a place that matters, even if that place only matters to him. 

Some may say he is a musical scientist, although, I’m not exactly sure I believe it. At times I felt more confused than inspired. I can say this much, however; he has the ability to do things with his music.  He successfully mixes, tweaks, and fuses different elements of music on Terra.  He marries elements of folk and ambiance quite well actually.  A minor glitch I foresee is that ambience may risk living up to its name—background music.