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Billy Talent – Dead Silence album review

Fans have waited so long for a Billy Talent comeback that they might have even forgotten that Ian D’Sa has been using the same Stratocaster sound for the last three albums.

However their new album Dead Silence opens up in the most unpredicted way. What you expect to be a full throttle of thrashing guitars turns out to be a smooth and sultry acoustic opening on the track “Lonely Road to Absolution”. However that mellow sound remnant of an indie rock band (and certainly not Billy Talent … esque?) quickly implodes into the distorted and oh so familiar sound of D’Sa’s trusty Strat. Immediately following their attempt at indie rock (and with perfect timing) comes the song “Viking Death March,” reintroducing us to the Billy Talent that was left behind several years ago.

They’ve certainly expanded their repertoire with this album by creating songs like “Stand Up and Run” that definitely isn’t as aggressive as most of their other songs. It’s essentially a love song, or rather a song about losing love and wanting it back. This isn’t exactly typical of Billy Talent, especially since the song isn’t hate ridden and vengeful; it’s soft and sweet and works very well in their favour, and might even attract a new crowd of headbangers.

If you peel back some of the layers and take away the distortion, you can almost hear some good old rock n’ roll, which is quite refreshing in this case since a lot of Billy Talent’s music can be quite repetitive (for those who aren’t hardcore fans of the band). However the guys have done a great job of integrating some new styles and techniques in order to curate something that their fans would automatically recognize, while keeping their sound fresh and interesting. Nevertheless, they’ve stayed true to the gritty alternative rock sound that has been trademarked as their own and held fast to the huge following that has remained loyal since their very first release back in 2003.

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Sean Rowe – The Salesman and the Shark album review

The smooth sounding voice of musician Sean Rowe is one of the most unique sounds to be heard in quite a long time. His bluesy, almost jazzy baritone voice cuts through every melody like a knife and sends an icy chill down your spine.

While his voice is reminiscent of Marvin Gaye with hints of Bob Dylan inspired emotion, his vocals have only improved (even with such a reputation) since his debut album release entitled Magic, and has continued to project a freeing, almost cleansing vibe (perhaps it’s the density of his voice that gives our ears something refreshing and auto-tune free to cleanse our musical palates). Rowe’s song writing however is comparable to that of Leonard Cohen – good old fashion story telling.

His latest  release, The Salesman and the Shark, certainly holds fast to the reputation Rowe has built around his baritone voice, leaving a lasting impression of comfort, but in a somber way. The album was influenced after Rowe spent some one on one time with nature, settling into a more organic place musically. This of course did wonders for his songwriting and allowed him to approach his music from a deeply intimate place.Listening to his music (and more specifically his voice) is like coming home after a long day and wanting to be wrapped tightly in a warm blanket, worn and torn from a rough day, and feeling a little blue. Rowe’s music is the blanket that keeps you warm and solemn without smothering you, giving you the chance to discover that sometimes it is okay to be content with grey skies and melancholy thoughts.

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I’m Not A Band – BANDBAND album review

Following the release of their debut album Elecetrolin and EP What We Do, the Berlin duo I’m Not A Band released their latest album BAND BAND after touring last summer.

Playing with a vigor that concentrates heavily on catchy dance beats, Stephan Jung and Kassandra Papak will likely be having you tap your fingers and toes to the beat, and eventually dancing around the room.

Though their tunes are primarily based around electronic arrangements, there are elements that come from a more organic place, such as violins being quietly plucked in the background and hints of classical melodies chiming in in a subtle undertone. However there most certainly is a creative edge to what I’m Not A Band is producing, what with mixing together almost every electronic sound there is to be heard (ultimately resulting in songs that tend to be quite repetitive, to the point where every track could mash up well to form one long song).

Despite the fact that BAND BAND is comprised of a track list that is not exactly out of the ordinary for listeners of electronic music, the album does possess the right sound to gain a large mainstream following, because it is consistent (and a little predictable).

Nevertheless, I’m Not A Band is still quite eclectic enough to get the attention of  indie and underground music fans, and make them hesitant to let this twosome leak out into the mainstream before they have their way with them.

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thenewno2 – thefearofmissingout album review

Front man Dhani Harrison (son of Beatles guitarist George Harrison) and band mate Paul Hicks (son of the Hollies’ Tony Hicks) have yet again proved their musical prowess with the release of their second studio album thefearofmissingout.

Performing under the name thenewno2 (pronounced The New Number Two) Harrison, Hicks and band have created a unique sound that fuses together several genres and styles of music including alternative rock, electro rock, psych, reggae and indie rock (to name a few).

Although fans and critics have found it a little difficult to narrow the list down, thenewno2 seems to be enjoying the mystery as well as the opportunity to not have to be tied down to a certain sound, giving them the freedom to mix and match the strangest combinations of music.

Though the band has gone a little more experimental with electronic and sampled sounds, they have worked carefully to create something that does not sound too overwhelming, but that stands out in the interest of modern taste. However what ultimately adds that little bit of texture to their tunes is Harrison’s voice – and it’s definitely not electronic.

With thefearofmissingout we see this unusual combination of genres come to life in songs like “Make It Home”, which opens up with a catchy piano hook and trails off into a psychedelic wave as Harrison’s hypnotic voice chimes in. The lyrics describe the need that we all have to conclude our day in (and make it back to) the place that we call home. The overall concept of the album is about a person’s obsessive fear of missing out and how it effects our lives, whether its missing a certain status update or night out with friends.

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Drop Dead Pin-Ups – Electric Nights album review

The title for the most youthful sounding band goes to the Toronto based rock and rollers of Drop Dead Pin-Ups.

Fusing together the energy of punk music and the classic vibes of rock n’ roll, Drop Dead Pin-Ups (DDP) has managed to put the aggression back into the indie music scene. By turning up the distortion on their amps and drumming just a little bit faster, they’ve given us back the sound of our youth that has constantly been overshadowed by the growth of synth, and techno beats.

Their album, Electric Nights, puts a spin on classic rockabilly by giving it a bit of life with thrashing guitars and grungy vocals. Using simple melodies and catchy hooks, DDP has made it incredibly easy to get every one of their songs stuck in your head. And regardless of the fact that the lyrics are a little difficult to understand, the album has an appeal to it reminiscent of the Ramones in that tunes are so memorable on their own (and you’ll probably be too busy shaking it to sing along anyway).

What these guys give us is that gritty, unadulterated rock that got lost somewhere between glam and pop and reintroduces us to that old-fashioned rock n roll. They give us back that feeling of recklessness and invincibility that comes with being young and carefree. They remind us of the time when our biggest worry was making it home before the street lights came on. But what they really give us is an escape from the methodical world and a chance to dance our stress away (the way the kids used to, when rock n’ roll was new and still scared the adults).

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Bleak Falls – Another Rainy Day EP review

Bleak Falls has the potential to become sought after musicians within the category screamo and hardcore punk. Their newest release entitled Another Rainy Day proves evident that they are headed in the right direction, regardless of the minor slip-ups their sound might pose to long time followers of the genre.

The EP is consistent, which is convenient for listeners because at least they will know that Bleak Falls knows who they are, or rather what they should sound like. Then again, this is perhaps the band’s biggest downfall. They seem to be trying too hard to sound like every other major label rockers, which hinders their image far more than it helps it. Consistency can get old really fast, and who wants to hear another band shout about the same opinions on love, hate and anger when there is hardly any climactic pinnacle to separate the music from the noise.

Nevertheless the EP does verify that the guys of Bleak Falls know how to play their instruments well. There are some good melodies (“Chapter 18” isn’t terrible) but very little riffs or hooks that actually make their tunes catchy. There is really nothing that differentiates any of the tracks, leaving the album to sound like one continuous stream of noise.

Another Rainy Day might not be exactly what listeners of hardcore rock or punk are looking for but it might be a good place to start for those getting into the genre because it doesn’t really overwhelm – it also makes decent background music for a party filled with less seasoned head bangers.

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Toby Martin – Love’s Shadow album review

It’s apparent that Toby Martin (formerly of the band Youth Group) wrote much of his debut album Love’s Shadow in the midst of nonchalant journeys, that led him to recall destinations of the wondering sort – and of the heart.

Love’s Shadow tells a tale of common individuals in common places. The unique factor about these individuals is that they possess the human trait of being romantics, with the inevitability to constantly find themselves lost, lonely and heartbroken – characteristics that many can no doubt empathize with.

Despite its melancholy theme, aided by softer and subtle melodies of the indie rock taste, the album is not as sad as you’d think it to be, considering its theme recalls thoughts that, at some point, we had all thought we left far behind. However, as overwhelming as the lyrics might be (shoving feelings of lovesick, lonely nights back into our faces) the album itself is not completely overpowering. In other words, there is a perfect contrast between the way the lyrics and instrumentals are delivered. The music is restrained enough to allow us a feeling of calm, while the lyrics are the more attention grabbing element.

Because the tracks are not overwhelmed with loud percussion and grungy guitar riffs (which we all know fit suitably into tunes about disappointed lovers) we are left with a mature piece of art, featuring guitar picking and smooth string arrangements, accompanied by spurts of soft piano hooks.

Despite collaborating with a number of musicians, Martin undoubtedly stuck out with vocals ranging in the proximity of the 60s britpop. This ultimately concluded the sound of Love’s Shadow as a sultry, mellow collection of tales of ordinary people with common heartache, delivered in a format of catchy songs.

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Heavenly Beat – T A L E N T album review

In late 2009, John Pena of Beach Fossils branched off and began creating music as Heavenly Beat releasing the band’s first 7 inch single “Sunday” back in 2011, along with the July 2012 release of their latest LP entitled Talent.

While the album has received a number of good reviews from both fans and critics, the band’s live shows have been deemed questionable and described as “unfulfilling” – if this doesn’t leave you with mixed feelings, then the album just might.

What starts off resembling a retro, indie take on 80s dance music begins to trail off into what sounds like catwalk music for a b-list fashion show. That’s not to say the album is not good – it’s just not something different or unheard of within the world of synth- pop-indie-dance type music and it isn’t as lively as you’d hope it to be.

Although the album is rather redundant, the track “Tolerance” is perhaps the most unique of the bunch and could have been a strong starting point in which to follow suit. The tune is light, it’s fresh and it’s young. Other tracks like “Consensual” also have the ability to redeem the album, taking it to a happier and more youthful place that sounds natural and less stale then the rest of the LP.

The eccentricity of Talent is that it is not eccentric at all. It’s rather an odd mixture of good and not so good tracks that have the potential to catch some serious attention, were it not a confusion of highly praised tunes and beats. Nevertheless, even though Heavenly Beat’s sound is not anything groundbreaking, it would certainly serve well of any of indie pop fan to have a listen and experience a familiar sound from a band that is well on their way.

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Suit of Lights – Shine on Forever album review

Suit of Lights sounds like the first rock band you ever listened to.

Even if you’re a first time listener, there is a familiarity that reminds you of the first time you discovered rock music; it has that carefree, mellow sound reminiscent of the 90s. You can picture the band, led by Joe Darone, playing in a packed, back alley warehouse to a huge crowd of teenagers and societal misfits.

In contrast to their alternative rock sound, there is a slight modern indie rock tie in tracks like “Goodbye Silk City” and “Slap Me Five,” (from their 2005 release entitled Suit of Lights) where the use of horns and acoustics soften up the resolute, dark theme of the album.

Their second album Bacteria, released in 2009, has less of a mysterious essence and more of a commercial feel to it that is subtly unrecognizable in their previous work. Nevertheless it’s quite an intriguing album because it doesn’t feel like a follow up to their 2005 debut. It feels like something completely different because the tunes are refreshing; it’s like the band experienced an epiphany during the writing process.

Their latest release Shine on Forever gives us the opportunity to hear more of Darone’s hypnotic and soothing vocals, and puts more of the emphasis on the musical arrangements; there’s more going on musically in this album than any of its predecessors. The tracks are modern and take Suit of Lights right out of that 90s rock feel and places them directly into the category of indie pop-rock.

Suit of Lights is one of the most honest bands I have come across, in that they fully encompass the rock music many of us fell in love with as a teenager, while at the same time growing with the mainstream. It’s gritty and electric, and even a little spooky at times.

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Katrin the Thrill – Evil Eye Charm album review

Katerina Panopoulou has paid her dues to the music industry. After years of playing solo gigs and mixing and matching band members, she settled in nicely with the right musicians and became Katrin the Thrill. This five piece band from Athens, Greece is set to release their brand new album Evil Eye on September 10, 2012, and promises to stay true to the alternative rock sound that they wear so well.

While Panopoulou’s music has been compared to PJ Harvey and Radiohead, her vocal stylings give off a certain vibe similar to what Joan Jett projected during her years with The Runaways; assertiveness and strength. The only difference between her and Jett would be that Panopoulou’s voice trails off down a haunting path, making you feel a little more seductive and mysterious, rather than loud and ready to mess shit up.

Although the band is tight and plays the hell out of their instruments, there is really nothing extraordinary about their sound, save for the lead vocals. However tracks like “If You Believe In Dreams” stick out for the simple fact that the use of the violin is the only experimental sound to be heard. Sure the riffs are edgy and their melodies catchy, but Katrin the Thrill just doesn’t have that extra factor that would put them ahead of, or differentiate them from any other alternative rock band we’ve seen to date.

On the other hand, Evil Eye Charm is a commendable piece of work, as the album is an actual album rather than a complication of random singles. It follows suit of their 2010 release Earth Is Calling Us, an EP prompted by the fires that broke out in Greece back in 2009 (released as Panopoulou’s first solo project, the EP was created as an homage to the environment, offering it’s proceeds to the reforestation of the areas effected by the fires). However the tunes don’t exactly break through that indie/alternative rock barrier even though the band has the potential to let loose and go crazy. They seem to be holding back.