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reviews

Brian Eno – Drums Between The Bells album review

Brian Eno: an art-pop virtuoso? An inordinate collaborator? A music composer for film? A marvel technician? An ingenious pop artist? An innovative, variegated media producer? Or all of the above?

When you reflect on this avant-garde, it’s hard to get around the extensive field of skills and projects that make up his plethoric catalogue. Nevertheless, it’s customary for us to create our very own definitions of what Eno’s baseline artistic front is. This mastermind is anything short of genius, renown for playing a pivotal part as producer in musical masterpieces the likes of Talking Heads’ More Songs About Buildings And Food and Fear of Music, and U2’s Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree.

However, you choose to perceive Eno, your definition of the complex artist is certain to appear on Drums Between The Bells, the sophomore LP. Unlike last year’s instinctive and ambient release, Small Craft on a Milk Sea, Brian Eno now claims new cursory territory with this heartlessly unpredictable collaboration with British poet Rick Holland.

Holland provides spoken word pieces, read by numerous different orators – one of whom is a women from gym and another, one he met outside near the studio – to coat Eno’s already illustrious music, continuing Eno’s streak of impeccable work.  Drums Between The Bells much like Small Craft emanates splashes of almost outmoded trip-hop, downtempo beats and rotor-like live percussion. The poetry of Holland provides a matchless touch, staying away from the language subterfuge or the ironic voice that surrounds modern styles today.

The fantastic thing about Drums is that it is haphazard, but not unsystematic – the motive of each song is to compliment the poem at the core. Although, the record claims an unheartend pace, retreating in quick variation. Drums brings Eno into inexplicit manners, beginning with the squeal filled jazz-poem thunder “Bless This Space.” This unpromising track sets the stage for the album with light drums providing a jazzy limber backbone for humming melodies and splashes of lingering synth.

The record then dips into tracks, which will melt your soul, embellishing Holland’s poetry. The delightfulness begins with the ghostly New Age-feel dribble “Dreambirds,” not before brewing up a frenzied tangle for “Sounds Alien.” What’s more is the ghoulish track “A Title”, sounds almost as if it was emanating from a “Golem” in one of the Lord of The Rings films.

The plain-hearted tenderness that surrounds Holland’s talent is drawn out incredibly well with the aid of female readers. Eno’s music amalgamation reacts with exceptional susceptibility on “Seedpods” and “The Real.”  Eno’s sonic texure and spatial dimensions intrigue the listener even when Drums Between The Bells slides into hasty territory with the reggae, jungle breakbeat,  “Dow”.

The best thing about Eno is he always maintains his post on the watchtower, ready to pounce on the next unexpected move, the next parternship, the latest way to get into your head to fill you with your lifelong soundtrack. Even if Drums Between The Bells takes the last bit verbatim, there are parts, which do exactly that, coalesce the perfect mix of poignancy, dance grooves and inquisitiveness.

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reviews

Thievery Corporation – Culture of Fear album review

Flash back to the summer of 1995; sixteen years ago two DJs, Eric Hilton and Rob Garza, broke ground with the formation of Thievery Corporation. The Washington-based revolutionaries take inspiration from British trip-hop acts Portishead, Massive Attack and Tricky.

Unlike their influences their style has never been heavy and dismal enough to be considered genuine trip-hop, yet remains in their very own down tempo realm. The DJ duo amalgamate with adeptness reggae and R&B beats with down tempo electronica.

Thievery Corporation’s adroitness rests in their ability to coat their beats in political, understanding and love overtones. The Corporation’s sixth album, Culture of Fear, does not stray far from their signature formula. Their trademark concoction of true instrumentation, electronic motifs and lyrics encompassing everything from old school Jamaican dub to Brazilian bossa nova are unspoiled on their latest release, especially on their eponymous fulminate track, “Culture of Fear”.

Their title track is voiced by Boston hip-hop artist Mr. Lif and comprises of the same old paranoid and political traits that make up The Corporation’s craft. “Culture of Fear” is a stand out, pivotal and innovative track that with the high standard set by Mr. Lif, threatens to outshine the rest of the album.

The Corporation also possess another prowess; their adeptness to bank on an unabridged range of musicians and vocalists that are able to fashion unwind ballads “Where It All Starts” and “Take My Soul”, ’70 type TV show themes conjured up on “Web of Deception” or even weighty beats characteristic of “Is It Over”, all leading back to their trademark sound.

Yet, Culture of Fear, allows for some latitude in terms of their distinctive formula. Missing in action are the customary French tune and the sitar, principle parts of The Corporation. Avid fans should not be deterred for “Safar (The Journey)” more than make up for these lost elements.

Thievery Corporation continue to develop their creation of true cultural melting pot sounds. The guitar work from Robbie Myers and Frederico Aubele permits Culture of Fear to attain some immediacy and features to The Corporation’s electronica sounds. Although, LouLou Ghelichkhani provides lustrous vocals, her lovely voice on tracks such as “Where It All Starts” does not break predictable boundaries as the DJ duo did years before. Likewise, the wholehearted vocals by the Nigerian, Sleepy Wonder, follow that same pattern. To fans’ despair, Culture of Fear does not push the envelope, like Thievery Corporation is known for doing.

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reviews

YACHT – Shangri-La album review

YACHT hits you hard with their fifth album, Shangri-La, a frantic, compelling concept album. Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans tell the tale of a dysfunctional work at the edge of Zion in transformation hyper-sophisticated disco utopia. An Elysium complete with insight about cosmic transmission, the vitality and true love in all of us – reminiscent of template influences from the Talking Heads and their label bosses, once LCD Soundsystem. The sonic rousing result is a fitting naively enthusiastic furor of neon splashed synths, rubber-like bass and poppy vocals. Shangri-La conjures up images of similar themes of YACHT’s 2009 See Mystery Lights – tales of apocalypse and questions about the afterlife.

Shangri-La’s opener “Utopia” gets the album off to a barreling nirvana start with a hyper-speed punk-funk jam, which becomes the cynosure attributable to the brainwash repetition of the title.

YACHT do not put it lightly when they sing about the apocalyptic implosion of the earth in “Dystopia (The Earth Is On Fire)” – “The earth, the earth, the earth is on fire/ we don’t have no daughter/ let the motherfucker burn”. A reworded version of Rock Master Scott’s “The Roof Is On Fire” exhausted chorus. The compelling dance-party track is a “post-apocalyptic fight song, a cautionary tale, a science-fiction story for our particular eco-socio-political landscape.”

Tracks like the flawless elated, collective musical liberation “Paradise Engineering” and the ambitious “I Walked Alone”, are embedded in science-fiction snapshots of a perishing society staggering towards excellence. Shangri-La comes close to being excessively sentimental as with the sequential lyrical design of “One Step”.

Shangri-La explores the disco-pop dance utopia and dystopia worlds and takes you on a journey of moody mini-epics and exhaustingly exciting but never as outlandish as you might expect, all the way until the melodious piano euphonious finale “Shangri-La”. Whether of not this paradise appeals to everyone there’s no doubt that YACHT will take you on a mystical enigma adventure of chimerical melodic panoramas, burdened with hypnotizing beats and sparkle soaked synthesizers that leave us on the dance floor in the face of apocalypse.

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reviews

Bon Iver – Bon Iver album review

Bon Iver’s success came with his debut release For Emma, Forever Ago – an album inspired by a lost love and a split from his prog-folk band DeYarmond Edison. With the arresting falsetto debut, recorded in a wilderness hunting cabin retreat of Wisconsin, front man Justin Vernon had already begun his success story.

Then Kanye West wanted a piece of the compelling Justin Vernon. Singing and co-writing, Vernon played a significant role on West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy release. But this time Bon Iver is back with an eponymous album, also cut in an unconventional location – a transformed swimming pool attached to a veterinarian’s office.

Three years later returning with the same characteristic soulful falsetto yet more intoxicating and intricately arranged and less monomaniacal. The adroit creativity of this talented musician shines in a novel context, taking a different outlook on writing after he stated he “forgot how to write songs”.

Although, Bon Iver isn’t entirely new ground for Justin Vernon. The traces of its enthralling predecessor can still be perceived – the pensive and grief-stricken aspects.

The songs are styled after real or conceived isolated towns where hearts are uncovered in improbable comparisons. “Hinnom, TX”, the mood piece with splashes of horns and static harmonies, and “Minnesota, WI” an amalgamation of banjos and acoustic guitars laid out over a swelling bass and dampened saxophone – bringing to mind TV On The Radio.

The catch is Vernon’s dexterity in his falsetto voice processing. Auto-Tune and other devices allow the emotions to be magnified and elaborated and not just perfect them. West even stating that this method establishes Vernon as one of our era’s determined singers.

The glitter of horns by Colin Stetson and the graceful arrangements by Rob Moose make up the concepts on Bon Iver. They entice the listener even if they aren’t means to an end. The music on Bon Iver is magical even if it comes close to being mawkish at times as in “Beth/Rest”. The saccharine track could easily sneak itself on a Phil Collins album and sees the welcome return of Vernon’s Auto-Tune.

Producing beautiful music is just the surface of this talented bearded indie rocker with fervor for rustic roots music. A creative machine at heart, Vernon’s just getting fired up!

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interviews reviews

Foster The People – Live Show Review

Foster The People – Show Review: June 17, 2011, Le Nationale, Montreal, QC

Friday, June 17, an eventful day to say the least! With an interview and review scheduled I sat at a coffee shop in front of the venue. I made sure to get there at least a half hour in advance – in case of any problems… I got up and headed to venue in advance. Door was locked – weird…

I discovered that the Foster The People’s show had been switched locations last minute from Club Lambi to Le Nationale.

With our scheduled interview in 15 minutes, I bolted down the street to the nearest taxi. Knowing that Sainte-Catherine’s, the street on which Le Nationale was on, was blocked off, I knew there was a slim chance that I would make it on time. With an awesome taxi driver and a jog down to the venue, I ended up making it on time.

There was not enough time for nerves to set in as I conducted the interview with one of the hottest indie bands out there. You can read the interview here.

Playing to a sold out crowd, not to mention a handful of sold out subsequent crowds – the venue filled up posthaste. The remarkable venue sparkled with character alongside ruby backdrops and lavish gold moldings with Mark Foster interjecting “this is a really cool place” between songs.

Foster The People’s sold out tour would be celebrating their debut release, “Torches.” Sharing the stage were Gardens & Villa. Foster The People’s stage started to fill up with not three, not four, but five keyboards and an extra stand-up drum. I could tell this would be a show executed with energy, leaving the crowd with impeccable power anthems to sing and dance along to.

A calming synth was broken by the cheers and screams from the crowd as, Foster The People, along with their two live musicians, Sean Cimino and Ison Innis, ran onto the stage to greet fervent fans. That same synth was broken yet again by Mark Foster’s hammer of electric drums as the bass crept in to introduce “Warrant”. The perfect track to rev up the best crowd I’ve seen in a long time. I wasn’t the only one, “This is the first time we’ve been to Montreal – you guys are awesome!” Without fail the crowd knew the words and how to groove to every song – start to finish.

If there is one thing that stood out from Foster The People’s performance it was the energy that they execute each song with – the ability to captivate the attention of every one in the crowd and use it to power their songs.

The verve was not lost on the power synth-pop “Miss You”, cooling off the crowd from their energetic opener. Almost forthwith Foster The People switched into the fan favourite “Houdini”. The crowd erupting into dance at the almost too familiar drum beat opener breaking into “Houdini”.

Foster The People’s relentless vibrancy continued into the sublimely uplifting “Waste” in which Mark Foster’s characteristic vocals were verging on being masked by the singing of vehement fans.

The impeccable lightshow paired with their host of equipment gave way to an unforgettable performance of another fan favourite “Call It What You Want”. The crowd couldn’t help but shout in unison the declarative chorus. Playing their debut album in its entirety, “Life On The Nickel” marked the half way mark – a show gone by too fast.

But it was obvious what everyone was waiting for – the infectious smash hit “Pumped Up Kicks.” As I looked around the crowd it seemed that every body was moving. Everyone was in their own world under the influence of the contagious track. While Mark Foster sported his characteristic shoulder roll dance he handed over the microphone over to the crowd to finish off the popular chorus.

Foster The People finished their performance with the irresistible “Colour On The Walls (Don’t Stop)”. Throwing his all into the last song, his strained vocals were evidence to Foster The People’s dedication to an energy-charged live performance.

The encore showcased the romance that exists between the band and their fan base. The Los Angeles natives knew too well that the fans were waiting for the first track off their debut release. With a little wave the band came back on stage with “Helena Beat” to finish off a powerful set – leaving the fans in awe and begging for more.

These dynamic musicians shared the stage, adeptly shared their instruments, and shared their fans energy to fuel their phenomenal performance, ultimately taking you on a ride you’ll never forget.

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interviews

Foster The People Interview

Foster The People showcase their power to be the next psychedelic-pop parvenu ready to purloin the place MGMT once had with their break out “ Time To Pretend.” This time around the Los Angeles trio charmed indie music lovers with their psychedelic-power hit single “Pumped Up Kicks.” A melodious misleadingly but infectious tale of an unsupervised recluse on the verge of shooting up a school; “Better run, better run, outrun my gun”– oddly enough ample pop to make the perfect summer soundtrack. Undoubtedly, the ideal track to make their mark as indie hotshots.

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reviews

Flogging Molly – Speed Of Darkness album review

Flogging Molly well known for their Celtic punk-inspired sound decide to shift the tone of their forthcoming fifth studio release, Speed of Darkness. The seven-piece ensemble breaks from their writing niche of Los Angeles to journey around Detroit, to observe first-hand the economic collapse of the United States. The product – a down tempo concept album dedicated to today’s working man, although a Celtic album still filled with the usual unchecked fiddles, accordions and disheveled guitars.

Running throughout the release are political tones indubitably depicted in the fitting titles “Don’t Shut ‘Em Down”, “Revolution” and “Rise Up”. The twelve-track concept album enthralls listeners with the prefatory and title track “Speed of Darkness”. The opening of the track embodies the same pace as their previous records, acting as a fitting transition. Dave King’s intense vocals cut through their fiery Celtic music. On the other hand, the hackneyed “Revolution”, is a catchy song acting on the verge of a punk empowerment anthem – examining the struggles faced by blue-collar workers “I spent twenty-seven years in this factory / Now the boss man says, hey, you’re not what we need / The penguins in the suits, they know nothing but greed / It’s a solitary life when you’ve mouths to feed / But who cares about us?”

“The Heart of the Sea”, a mid-tempo track dabs into their Celtic folk roots. Their first single “Don’t Shut ‘Em Down” is definitely a crowd pleaser for Flogging Molly fans – sticking to the characteristic Celtic rock flavoured style – guitars with plenty of distortion and a driving intrepid feel. Not to mention, the guitar impelled, “Don’t Shut ‘Em Down” hits the mark on a compelling working man anthem – one everyone can sing along to in economic crisis.

Flogging Molly show off their slide guitar craft in “The Power’s Out”, a gritty intense ballad with a foot stomping beat. Moreover, the intransigent vocals shed hope on the economic crisis, embellishing this optimism with bluesy guitar and endearing accordion.

Their newest release works suitably to contrast between the smooth fiddle and the distressed accordion mellow ballad “So Sail On” and the pleasant brief duet with King’s wife in “A Prayer For Me In Silence” with the rocking banjo and fiddle in “Saints & Sinners” and “Rise Up” filled with radiant mandolin.

Greatly affected by their stay in Detroit, Flogging Molly’s writing and tone were more than enough evidence. Flogging Molly defy the punk boundaries producing a substantial thoughtful album filled with more pretentious anthems. As front man Dave King put it Speed of Darkness ‘wasn’t the album we set out to write. It became the album we had to write.’

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press releases reviews

Phil Cook and His Feat – Hungry Mother Blues album review

What would you do with your time if you were stuck inside on a stormy day? Twiddle your thumbs? Watch a movie? Write songs for an astounding album?

That is exactly what inspired Phil Cook’s solo self-titled debut and now his Hungry Mother Blues release – a North Carolina ice storm. However, this time around his sophomore release will not be given away for free.

The talent of multi-instrumentalist, Phil Cook, is the ability to immerse in the revered investment of the folk music heritage thanks to his part in Megafaun. It is no surprise this molded Phil Cook’s entrenched straightforwardness of his solo debut – with banjo, dobro and guitar in hand.

The passion, intensity and attachment are intricately embedded in the lyric-less and sole instrument tracks characteristic of Phil Cook. Hungry Mother Blues is raw talent at it’s finest – no strings attached. That is to say it is not without its deficiencies.

Phil Cook is simply an American folk revivalist. Cook’s passionate masterpiece Hungry Mother Blues record aims to stand up for the existence and the longevity of genuine folk music. Phil Cook and His Feat – are a solitary unit – unless you count the dull and heavy stomp of his foot as another member. But don’t confuse solitary with loneliness; jamming with the plethora of stylings of blues and country, crediting the expressivity greats – notably the fingerstyle guitarist John Fahey and slide guitarist Ry Cooder.

Hungry Mother Blues makes it clear that it stands in contrast to a Megafaun album – greeting listeners to the warm zephyr of “Frazee, Minnesota,” establishing Cook’s intelligible songwriting craft early on. “Juniper” eloquently provides the listeners with an exceptional sing-along track – ahem – keep in mind this is an instrumental record. Rustic themes are resuscitated with convoluted adroitness and transforming interchanges. Phil Cook and His Feat counterbalance this with groovy and gentle driven tracks such as Cooder influenced “Ballad of a Hungry” and the gallop of the banjo melody “Waiting ‘Round the Oven Buns.”

Don’t think that the shortness of the record confines the diversity of Cook – within these eight songs, the intricateness blossoms, breezing through daydreamer blues of the likes of “Sparrowander” and the pungently bold “The Last Steam Engine Train.”

Hungry Mother Blues’ raw and splendidly authentic folk are embellished and hide behind the intentional imperfections of folk tradition – the natural reverb, the background static and the buzzing of the fret. The eight causal song / twenty minute sly genuine schemes that Phil Cook and his Feat unleashes in his American folk songs are nothing short of perfection.

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reviews

Love Inks live show review in Montreal

Love Inks – Show Review: June 1st, 2011, Le Cagibi, Montreal, Quebec

Having traveled all the way to a small, quaint, charmingly cozy show café in Montreal from their hometown of Austin, the Love Inks frontwoman, Sherry LeBlanc deemed this a special show, for their E.S.P. release, after coming straight from her father’s funeral. Dedication or what?

As I sat and waited for the performance, I couldn’t help but notice the character that Le Cagibi showcased which undoubtedly complimented the poised quartet. As the venue started to fill up, fans moved from the back to the front seats. The down-to-earth, LeBlanc, addressed the 20 or so people in the crowd, while sipping on her beer.

What I found most surprising was how indistinguishable their live sound was compared to their album especially for a band just coming out of their van after a long journey. The honeyed vocals from LeBlanc filled the tiny café, their drummer played all but two drums draped in silk cloths, while their composed guitarist, Adam, and bassist, Kevin, stood firmly, tapping their feet, at opposite sides of the stage.

Banging out four tracks, including “Can’t Be Wrong” and “Skeleton Key” before addressing the crowd, “At least I can see all of you tonight!, we couldn’t even see the crowd at our last stop because it was so dark!”

One stand out track was the energy possessed “Blackeye” in which the whole crowd seemed to be singing along. Wrapping up with a cover of David Essex’s “Rock On,” in which their bassist, Kevin, took the spotlight, I noticed their versatile edge and recognized some of their shortcomings – mainly their presence on stage. Perhaps it was the venue that took away from their energy on stage but they made up for it with their undeniably contagious sublime filled tracks.

With a performance consisting of ten songs, the tracks all blended into a peaceful and bliss morning feel. Abruptly from the back of the crowd came an avid fan’s cry for one more song. Leaving their fans in awe they added “More songs to come! We’ve been working on some in the van.” Overall, a truly inspiring experience for the fans and definitely for Love Inks. In admiration, I left the venue thinking about the adventure this young band is about to embark on and their carefree attitude about the journey ahead of them. If you can produce immaculate music and enjoy the ride without regrets or disappointments, my hat is off to you!

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reviews

The Cars – Move Like This album review

To say that fans have all been waiting for the release of a new Cars album would just be deceitful. We’ve all been stuck listening to “Door To Door” along with the slue of Cars records – reminiscing of those times knowing they would never happen again.

The Cars came to be America’s definitive new-wave super pack characterized by influential fragile synth-pop. Their last massive splash came at Live Aid in 1985 when their single, Drive, was featured on one of the montages for famine sufferers. Less than three years later the Cars were no more and front man Ric Ocasek ironically stated that there would be no possibility that his band would ever join forces again.

Now almost a quarter of a century later the Cars are back with “Move Like This,” their latest release since “Door To Door” in 1987. The real question is have the Cars’ charm lost the fight against their hiatus or have they come out of this fight victorious and their music unharmed? “Move Like This” puts you back about thirty years at the height of their career. The latest release picks up were the Cars left off; unscathed by the death of co-lead singer and bassist Benjamin Orr in 2000 – all the remaining members are back! And back with the Cars’ characteristic poppy rock perfectly mixed with synthesizers and undeniably infectious hooks.

Why tuck away their charm now? Their hits are still dominating the radio and have influenced generations of canny pop rocker acts, acting as their teachers on concocting the perfect brew of synthesizer and guitar, pop turned tastefully threatening as rock and making rock as melodically sweet as candy. Their hits “Drive” and “Just What I Needed” showcase where these young acts have attained their craft.

There’s nothing like the Cars’ first new single, “Sad Song” which solidifies these rocker veterans’ prowess – the handclaps along with the short lived guitar strums juxtaposed with power snare drum strikes are Cars’ trademarks and showcase their vintage craft.

The Cars’ flawless adroitness is transparent on the self-produced (along with Jacknife Lee) “Move Like This.” Opening with the jittery “Blue Tip” and the bittersweet-layered breakup track “Too Late” scream classic Cars – blank vocals, Elliot Easton’s stretched guitar riffs and the screeching keyboards tunes courtesy of Greg Hawkes. The groovy and somewhat hard rock “Keep On Knockin’” is new territory for the Cars – not to mention the mystifying metal guitar solo.

This time around, Ocasek – filling in for Oar – adds a darker shade for the path of the Cars, on tracks like “Take Another Look” and “Sad Song.” The Cars’ sentimental but energetic side can undoubtedly be seen on “Soon” and “Take Another Look.” The Cars surprise and surprise with their ability to contain their characteristic sound on “Free,” a track with jarring but rhythmic synths.

Cars’ indistinguishable but modern production of “Move Like This” acts as a bridge to their accomplished history and showcases their ability to strike fans with vintage bliss. Yet with an darkly romantic album that bolts by, avid fans are left with awe but predominantly a black shimmer – solidifying that they still have it (and more albums) in them…