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Wool on Wolves – Measures of Progress album review

The Canadian indie-folk-rock band, Wool on Wolves, is back and ready for more with their new album Measures of Progress.  Not much has changed about this band when compared to their previous albums and this is great! Consistency is what creates chemistry in a band. Wool on Wolves has a great sound. Lead singer, Thomas Reikie has a way of singing into the mic and mesmerizing his audience. His voice his soothing, yet powerful in the way he expresses his lyrics. The intonation of the guitar in Midnight Avenue gives me goose bumps! The drums, the guitar, and the vocals are in perfect sync with one another. They even go a bit jazzy-pop with their songs in this album. Francis! Has a perfect mix of trumpets and guitars that gives their music that spirited feel despite being indie-folk.

However, the unique thing about this band is that not only do they have “pop” songs uncharacteristic of indie-folk music, they also have mellow-tone songs like Unsuspecting Ways, There is a Love, There is a Life, and Darkest Hour. Thomas’ voice is passionate and is what really ties this album together nicely.

Rarely, do you see an indie-folk band that can have this type of sound and pull together nicely. Wool on Wolves has never disappointed with any of their albums. They are fun and great for casual listening. Measure of Progress is great because it ties these elements perfectly and really captures the bands soul.

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Helen Austin – Always Be a Unicorn album review

Helen Austin’s music is unlike anything I have ever listened to and this is because I have never really opened myself to music like hers. As I continue to listen and dissect her music, I notice some musical similarities to bands like Simon and Garfunkel and (I know this is a stretch) the spirited harmony of the Beatles. Helen Austin is very unique with her music and her new album Always Be a Unicorn is something comparable to a children’s book.

Always Be a Unicorn is bright, colorful, upbeat, and cheerful almost like a child’s coloring book. Seventeen tracks of pure positive energy. It’s almost unrealistic to be this positive and that’s what makes this album work in a very hilarious way. That aside, her voice is very melodic and lovely. It’s strong, pitchy, and fluid. The melody and harmony work well with the all the instrumentation incorporated. It’s truly a masterpiece because songs like, “Tree house,” “Brand New Start” and most of the other songs on her albums are ingeniously creative. It sounds very professional because she’s hitting all the right notes, plucking the right guitar strings, but it’s messy, almost like if a child compiled this album. It works very well, and I absolutely love it.  Most of her songs are highly interactive. You can definitely notice in songs like, “Only Me,” “Lovely,” and “Let it Shine.”

I’ll probably never listen to this music casually because it’s not my taste, but for all you fans out there that appreciate a great singer with creativity, Helen Austin should definitely be your first choice. She will not disappoint.

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Diamond Rings – Free Dimensional album review

The first band that I thought of when I initially heard Diamond Rings was Depeche Mode. And lo’ and behold, they both are influenced by the same kind of genre: rock-tronica. With an artist that I am unfamiliar with, I like to get down to it’s roots and I like to listen to their previous albums and really get to know their style of music. Diamond Rings, if anything, is very faithful to his genre.

The new album, Free Dimensional could best be characterized by its mellow rock instrumentation with a sick combination of electronic influences. Classic of electronic music is the excessive vamping, meaningless lyrics with catchy hooks, and subtle vocals.

Songs like, “Everything Speaks,” “All the Time,” “Runaway Love,” and most of their other works on the album extenuate these elements, but unlike Depeche Mode, who, I feel are a much darker electronic sound, Diamond Rings, as his name implies, is more fun, spirited, and colorful. A to Z, Stand my Ground, and Day and Night, really show you what I mean as they are upbeat, exciting, and fist-pumping fun.

In today’s music media, these kinds of bands are celebrated. Rock-tronica is running the race fierce and strong and closely behind the major pop wave, that is sweeping the nation. Diamond Rings has been around for about 4 years and is still relatively new. He still has a lot of growing up to do, but it’s not unlikely that he will make it very far in popularity.

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Letting Up Despite Great Faults – Untogether album review

If you like Postal Service, Ringo Deathstarr, and The Depreciation Guild, you’ll love Letting Up Despite Great Faults. I am familiar with Letting Up, but back when they were still pretty underground. Times have changed and this band has amped up their popularity.

They’re previous albums weren’t as “electronic” as their new album, Untogether, but it definitely fits with today’s theme of musical influences and tastes. Letting Up is not a band for hardcore, or punk rockers, despite having basic rock song structures and influences. If you’re looking for guitar shredding and drum pounding, this is not your band.

Letting Up has a very soft sound to them and their electronic influences play a major part in their overall sound. Classic of electronic music is the long drag of the synth keyboard. There is extensive vamping and subtle vocal harmony, which almost sounds muted or backgrounded to the instruments. However, this works in their favor because their instruments and vocals are almost in perfect harmony.

Their generic lyrics are seen throughout most of their songs, but Bulletproof Girl, Numbered Days and Postcard show much of what I mean in terms of lyrics, muted vocals and vamping, and high electronic influences. In contrast to songs like, On Your Mark, Vision, Take My Jacket, Pauline, and Scratch, which have more of a rock influence than an electronic one.

Most of their songs have a good “pick-me-up” feel to them, which makes them an everyday band to listen to. Their songs have a good balance between electronic and rock and rarely does one overpower the other. I personally feel that they have a good sound and they will continue to grow in popularity in the genre.

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The Bad Plus – Made Possible album review

Jazz always puts me in a good mood. It’s light, it’s airy, it’s fun, yet it can also be soothing, and emotional. Jazz is highly underrated in today’s music. You can ask anyone from generation Z what “jazz” is and they probably won’t know what it is, as saddening as that is.

If it is anything I picked up from any of my music class I’ve ever taken, it’s that jazz was the first to revolutionize music. It’s difficult to explain this, but there is something about jazz that captures that essence of wonderment and captivates you in every single rhythm of soul.

When I was assigned to write about The Bad Plus, they sounded like a hard-core rock band. I’ve never really associated a name like that with jazz, but what’s in a name, to quote Shakespeare.

The Bad Plus is a jazz trio hailing from Minnesota. Their new album, Made Possible, is their 8th studio album. To understand a little more about their music, I listened to some of their previous studio albums and let me just say, I am shocked.  The music that this band creates is truly unexplainable. It’s bubbly, but it’s also mesmerizing.  “Pound by Pound,” and “Seven Minute Mind,” are an eclectic mix of loud and powerful piano keys, clashing cymbals, and soothing bass. They create so many different sounds it’s mind boggling, but I absolutely love it! It’s so different and angular; far more diverse than anything I have heard on the radio or produced from any band. It has so much meaning and soul, even if there aren’t any words. The music just flows; it’s so fluid.

“Re-elect That,” and “Wolf Out,” are groovy and quirky. Their music just puts a big smile on my face. I absolutely fell in love with this band. I always manage to find a fault in any artist’s music, but I could not seem to find any in The Bad Plus or in their new album. They are wonderfully brilliant and I highly encourage you readers to take a listen.

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KISS – Monster album review

Who can forget that crazy black hair, or those painted white faces and long red tongues? If it was anything that stuck with me from my musical past, it was definitely Kiss. Kiss has been around for about 40 years now and they’re still rockin’ hard!

Their 20th studio album, Monster, is no simple feat to accomplish. A band would be lucky to have 3 successful studio albums, let alone 20! Their over-the-top performances are what really makes this band unique. Even to this day, they continue to be popular among rockers because they are symbolic to classic rock, with a modern twist. Even their retro looks are still praised!

Hell or Hallelujah, Freak, Take Me Down Below, and Shout Mercy capture that hard rock, heavy metal essence that has always defined Kiss. They’re powerful riffs and vocals, tie in nicely with their catchy lyrics, and antiphonic style of singing.

Monster’s is a very successful album because even after 40 years, Kiss has mastered what I like to call, “rock n’ roll chemistry.” This is when after years of being active, they still manage to put on a good show that will blow you back in time and make you feel like a crazy teenager again. Very few bands can achieve this, but to be able to is a huge feat.

KISS are still a popular band even among younger generations for their smooth transition from classic to modern day rock, but has rock really changed all that much? Who’s to say. All I know is that Kiss really nailed it with this album. All their songs on their new album are great; they’re powerful, and spunky. It’s nice to be reunited with an old friend.

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Beth Orton – Sugaring Season album review

English singer-songwriter, Beth Orton is one of the few artists who are brave enough to tamper with two highly different music elements: folk and electronica. It’s a very interesting mix that is almost absent in the media here in the States, probably because of its chill undertones and relaxing, almost natural sound. The acoustic guitar and her peaceful voice are perfectly in harmony throughout her new album, “Sugaring Season,” in songs like “Candles,” “Magpie,” and “Dawn Chorus.”

Her powerful voice really carries the album to a different level. “See through Blue,” is her most “folkloric” song where you can vividly visualize the different elements, like the violin, the piano, and acoustic interplaying nicely with her jubilant and bouncy voice.

The incorporation of electronic elements was added to her music to give it a more modern feel and; I presume, to have it appeal to broader audience. However, these elements are very subtle, if not completely absent. Majority of her album gives great emphasis to acoustic rock instrumentation, vocal harmony, and extensive vamping.

Creating music like this, I feel is far more complicated, especially in the creative songwriting process, simply because it is difficult for some to be able to capture the true essence of what they are singing. Beth Orton has no problem with this. You can feel through all of your senses just how much work she put into this album. And while music like this is very “celebrated” here in the United States, she surely has my respect as a great musician and keeping her music very true to its origins.

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Dragonette – Body Parts album review

Dragonette had me at Hello, literally! That was the first song I had ever heard from her and I’m not going to lie, it was pretty catchy and had me hooked. I’m not really much into electropop, but Dragonette’s vivacious pop sound always makes me feel like jumping wildly.

Her new album, Bodyparts is much like her other albums, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It actually works very well for her genre of music. Her music focuses mostly on the party scene. You don’t want to hear a slow dance song on this album; you want to hear a song that’s going to make you pump your fist hard!

Songs like, “Let it Go,” “My Work is Done,” have that nice fist pumping sound with busy beats. Whereas songs like “Right Woman,” “Rocket Ship,” “Untouchable,” has more of a mellow tone, but still has that headnodic feel that is usually associated with electropop music.

Dragonette is still a fairly new band, but have definitely improved my feelings towards electronic music with their house roots, rock influences, and catchy hooks. I give Bodyparts two thumbs up!

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Ben Folds Five – The Sound of the Life of the Mind album review

Ben Folds Five is definitely a unique band. They have many different musical elements at play, all at once. In the beginning, it was a little bit overwhelming, but my ears readjusted to be able to appreciate their sound.

Their fourth studio album, The Sounds of the Life of the Mind, is as complicated as their sound. Upon listening to them, I thought I was listening to a parody of a Broadway show. Lead singer, Ben Folds has a very distinct voice in where it can be soothing; for example in songs like, “Sky High”, but then have a Bob Dylan, “talking-style” singing in songs like, “Do it Anyway.”

For being an alternative rock band, there is a great use of the piano, and other soft instruments perfectly exemplified in track number 10, “Thank You for Breaking My Heart.”  A couple of things are for certain, there is definitely some of the melancholy influences from bands like Death Cab for Cutie, subtle use of vocal harmony and melodic phrasing similar to that of The Beatles, and I can’t help but be reminded of Rivers Cuomo, lead singer of Weezer when I listen to Ben Folds.

The fact that from just a few albums you have all these sorts of identifiable influences could only mean that Ben Folds is a lover of music and entertaining and that’s what he delivers in his new album. He puts all those different elements together and makes a very sound, and soothing album. It’s great work, but far from alternative rock, if you want to put labels.

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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.