David Forest - Dreams That Aren't Mine Review

 

The incredibly focused, soul-searching EP from singer-songwriter David Forest, was created with such an endearing spirit it drips comfort from every word he sings. Dreams That Aren’t Mine is a humble, warm piece of work that will be loved by both young and old who can appreciate the emotion and inspiration woven through each song. The recording is evidence that Forest picked a caring production team to showcase his work. Produced by Seth Freeman and Mixed by Michael Eisenstein, the record has more warmth and depth than the usual major label releases of the same genre. Their work together should show clearly what talent obviously exists in the independent music world today. This EP sounds deep and classic within its first few notes and takes you on a journey of spirit, which quickly provokes you to think about life, love and your world a bit differently.

Apr
11
2010
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Cady Groves - The Life of a Pirate Review

The world of pop music is filled with voices that are difficult to distinguish from each other easily. Usually, when a pop album drops it comes forward with so much predictability and sweet production it can give you a toothache. An unlikely place for a unique, quality pop record to turn up would be in the heart of Oklahoma. Amongst all the new pop artists to arrive on the scene, young Cady Groves has not only flown under the radar and swooped in with a phenomenal pop record, she has added her own signature style, swagger, charm and twang to make it more than just pop. Within the tracks of The Life of a Pirate, the debut full length recording from Groves, you hear a spectrum of inspiration from Clarkson to Paramore making this a release easy to listen to and repeat effortlessly.

Apr
10
2010
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Carrie Rodriguez - Love and Circumstance Review

It is always a joy hearing a vocalist for the first time and immediately being hit with so much quality, warmth and emotion you begin to question why this voice hasn’t saturated the airwaves. Carrie Rodriguez has an immediate charm and beauty about her vocal style. Her new release, Love and Circumstance is a brilliant example of a young vocalist who is musically wise beyond her years. This is a collection of material written by some of the best songwriters in the music business. Ry Cooder, John Hiatt, Nick Lowe, Lucinda Williams, Richard Thompson, Gillian Welch, Merle Haggard, and Hank Williams penned some of the masterworks we hear beautifully from Rodriquez. She takes their poetry and makes her own while taking it to a new level of style and grace. A true collection of masterpieces she has transcribed honestly and without compromise.

Apr
03
2010
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Spoon - Transference Review

Since their urgent, refreshingly scuzzy and dryly spastic early days on Matador and Elektra, Spoon proved that there was still plenty of life left in the post-Pixies model. Then, in two deft swipes with Kill the Moonlight and Gimme Fiction on Merge, they found the greatest comfort of feverish extreme extrapolated from core self—taut and rhythm-based, the former was reduced to the barbed, husked essentials and the latter was the varied, warts-and-all reverberations built upon hyper-sensitivity to those essentials. Brilliant records both, and perhaps never to be topped, but should we decide one day that we were simply spoiled, we may rewrite the route Spoon has navigated since those days. But what strikes me most dispiritingly is that the last two Spoon LPs, 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and this year’s Transference, are their least endearing, ensnaring and exciting albums to date. Those dizzying extremes pushed to the breaking point on their best full-lengths weren’t nudged further; they were reinterpreted, as if their newfound bravery caused the itch for exploration that resulted in them cowing themselves into murkier waters, moored at last into areas they haven’t mastered (or never should have ventured in the first place). Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga was described as the band’s “pop album,” but had precious few immediate pop winners (and just as few that eventually grew to heights they once made seem effortless to reach). Transference is the ugly side, dominated by grainy texture, insensible outbursts, and wandering focus, and it requires a very specific spirit to make such hostility palatable (even in a tentative state).

Mar
27
2010
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Palmdale - Get Wasted Review

 

When the perfect mix of talent, experience and genuine spirit are rendered through recorded music, the experience for the listener is nothing less than magical. Hearing that Kay Hanley, former lead vocalist for Boston’s Letters to Cleo, and multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter and producer Linus (of Hollywood) Dotson were to join forces and collaborate, brought a smile instantly to my face. Get Wasted is a perfect example of what two individuals with enormous gifts can accomplish when they work well together.

Mar
21
2010
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Seth Freeman - One and Only Maybe Review

I remember back when I was seven or eight years old, sitting on the floor of my living room, curiously pouring through my dad’s record collection. At the time, a record labeled with the name Cash, Presley or Lennon had no effect on me. At the time, what came from its grooves was the ultimate motivation for my heart to feel good. The sounds are what I remembered most. Of course later in life I began to relate the feeling and the music’s brilliance with the name, but the purest joy always comes from the first few seconds of the song. When love comes, there is no stopping its power. Seth Freeman, former vocalist/guitarist for Little John, a once great punk/pop trio from Boston, has proved that my eight year-old musical heart still beats. His current EP, One and Only Maybe, is a brilliant example of how honest, tangible music should sound. Intelligently produced with care and substance by former Letter’s to Cleo guitarist, Michael Eisenstein, this recording hits all the marks, crosses all the Ts, and leaves you wanting nothing but another listen.

Mar
12
2010
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Tim Williams - Careful Love Review

It’s always unfortunate when personal details overwhelm the so-called art. Usually this reflects the gulf between interest in product and profession—the trainwreck of Britney Spears’ personal life is far more entertaining than any song or show stamped with her name—but this trend isn’t indicative of Tim Williams. Truthfully, I would have only recognized one song by the singer/songwriter before recently (the wonderful small-time hit “Novel”), yet I had read some time ago about his intensive heart surgery to replace his left pulmonary valve. Easier bait for readers and consumers, perhaps, but don’t the respectable deserve better? Still, it’s certainly worthier than the tabloid fodder to which we’re accustomed, and his recovery could even be described as inspirational, but if his medical emergency is how you best know him (if you even know him at all), it’s time to play catch up on what you’ve been missing.

Mar
02
2010
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The Art of Shooting - Traveling Show Review

Raising your hands over your head while screaming along the rails on your favorite roller coaster is an instant rush of excitement and sometimes an unforgettable shock to your system. Absorbing each note of Traveling Show, from New York’s The Art of Shooting is not only a roller coaster ride of heart and mind, but also the most honest and exciting recording I have heard in years. Kelley Irene Corson (guitar/vocals), Jim Archer (drums), and Julie Rozansky deliver unique but powerful music, which as a listener makes me very grateful.

The first track, “Drinking and Dressing” comes at you with the lyrical sharpness of an axe with equally blunt vocals making your heart almost stop cold with its darkness. There are a lot of rooms in this large musical house and each one is explored completely. “It goes (home)” bounces the lively vocal beginning onward through a dark mysterious journey. The vocals hold an excellent mood very reminiscent of Siouxsie Sioux or Tribe’s Janet Lavalley while staying strong and powerful. It builds with sharp punches and the vocals soar wickedly.

The mystical “One minute love song” has a nice mix of innocence and underlying sadness. Nice guitar floats effortlessly over drifting clouds of sound. Corson’s vocals capture your heart with endearing and lovely tone, as you get completely lost in her voice. “Orange” is honest, raw, and fearlessly tears into the nervous system like no other song I’ve heard in years. Its powerful, angry delivery is real and has razor sharp accuracy as it attacks the heart.  The vocals are the weapon of choice in this song and there is no doubt that Corson feels every note. The staggering drum sounds and guitar are passionately delivered.

“No one two” has a haunting beginning leading into distant vocal. The sounds and spacious effects waltz you through the air like a thick fog overcoming a large expanse of land. Nice builds unleash an explosion of guitar and rhythmic whirlwinds brilliantly. “The Birdcage” has a pounding start, but tricks the listener into believing that the song will remain on a straight and narrow path. Just when your feet are comfortably stomping and your fist is raised, the mood changes intelligently. It is a well-constructed song with a perfect blend of salty and sweet. The title track, “Traveling Show” is a great symphony of tone and rhythm with explosions of mood and musical genius. Like an epic battle in slow motion, this piece is larger than life, impressive and close to unbelievable.

Another song with a haunting beginning, “The Keeper” takes Corson’s vocals on a ride atop waves of bass, sharp guitar, and military drumming all while a childlike rain of subtle accents sneak in through the back door. Like a band of attackers galloping over a distant hill, “120 Man” thrusts forward dark spirited and threatening. It forces the adrenalin to pump viciously through the listener’s body. Immense in scope and violent until the end, it is two minutes and forty-two seconds of wonderful mayhem. “Japanese” takes its sweet, simple guitar strums and introduces the listener to four minutes of masterfully washed vocal, guitar and deep bass. Again, reminiscent of songs by Bettie Serveert, Tribe, and Galaxie 500, we taste the fruits of another epic composition. After giving us an album filled with large portions of skillful creativity, we conclude with the punk flavored “Pet” which shows that this band can turn it up to eleven without breaking a sweat. The beauty of this release is behind the blatant honesty and unique spirit each note provides.  The Art of Shooting is a name to remember.

Feb
27
2010

The Mary Dream - This Kind of Life Review

The latest release from the Nashville duo The Mary Dream is not your average recording. This Kind of Life gracefully paints a new picture with each tone, strum and ring giving the listener an overwhelming wave of warmth and honesty. Each song captures a wonderful innocence that is exhibited brilliantly through very minimal arrangements and intelligent musicianship. Vocalist Elise Bellew and instrumentalist Blake Ryan Dayton have taken a mixture of truth, emotion and tone to another level. Simplicity and patience deliver eleven tracks to the ears like warm honey to the tongue.

Feb
18
2010
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Vampire Weekend - Contra Review

It perplexed me that shortly after the release of Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut, the rough impression suggested that more people hated the band than liked them; not just because I happened to be among the latter, but because it seemed so ridiculous to lash out against them with the predominant reasoning being that they were too educated, too cultured and referenced places like Dharamsala. Were these the same folks who hilariously derided Obama for being elitist? I mean, why talk about the Dalai Lama’s residence when most are just proud to boast about surviving the streets of their home burg?

Contra will likely continue the fashion of infuriating and delighting those who’ve already drawn their lines in the sand. The band has tightened up a bit, which is beneficial and distracting for an outfit of international mash-up artists, and their study of Afro-beat, calypso, reggae and collage add referential tangents to the recent work of Animal Collective (those elitist bastards!), but essentially you’re gonna get what you’ve invested prior to purchase. Maybe their pursuit of ideals beyond their closed-door Columbia University exclusivity might let a few stragglers in, but this will never be a band of words so long as they remain so vague and precariously precious on paper but so winsomely thrilling in practice.

That aforementioned notice of the AC pumping through Contra’s veins applies mostly to the polyrhythms that sparkle beneath die-cut guitar patterns and a web of rubbery additives both synthetic and orchestral (the presence of heavenly harmonies on several tracks merely alludes to Merriweather Post Pavilion). This rings particularly true on “California English,” which lurches with nervous meter though the wobbly Auto-Tune of Ezra Koenig’s vocals that makes it sound like tape loop experiments (or that the “English” is in fact of the broken variety). They find the other side of the pasture with the hooky “Give Up the Gun.” But even with its more uniform, powerful beat, it’s no more a betrayal than leadoff “Horchata,” which is stickier and perhaps even more irresistible than anything off their debut (yes, maybe even “A-Punk”).

Elsewhere, Vampire Weekend eschews tricky message in favor of elegantly flavored expression. The fractured beat and junkyard-styled instrumentation of “Cousins” transforms that first single into the kind of avant-punk that homebodies might find more comfortable (though it jerks and bobs with restless discomfort). “Diplomat’s Son” has a relaxed calypso rhythm that gradually builds in agitated tension; it crumbles away at the midway point to relieve that anxiety only to be recharged later in an instant and collapse once again not long after that. During that track’s breezier moments, blipping keys and synths pulling off symphonic-style flourishes erode any semblance of their core unit playing it safe. And on the immeasurably ecstatic side, wild, discombobulated falsettos send “White Sky” into the ionosphere and the aptly-named “Holiday” belongs on the soundtrack to any film montage of Americans having a ball in the Bahamas.

One of the prevailing themes of Contra seems to be some kind of (astonishingly) graceful defense against the naysayers tempted to accuse them of being overly posh and preppy. On “Taxi Cab,” Koenig tweaks both the class divides (“You said, ‘Baby, we don’t speak of that,’ like a real aristocrat”) and the trend of “low” celebration (“You’re not a victim, but neither am I, nostalgic for garbage, desperate for time”). And “California English” nudges at inward self-importance both on image and a fascination with the very elitism of activity: “Leafing through a stack of A-Zs to surf the UK/Waiting with the wind against your face/And gel in your hair…Sweet carob rice cake/She don’t care how the sweets taste/Fake Philly cheesesteak/But she uses real toothpaste.” Alluding to a more blue-collar ethic will win them no converts—“Every dollar counts and every morning hurts, we mostly work to live until we live to work” on “Run”—but they remain just inscrutable enough for us to insert our own perceptive measurements (or just not give f-ck all about any of it).

But VW’s strength remains with their gift of fusing various world sounds and finding irrepressible rhythms to churn and broil restlessly until the final pass. Further evidence of this is offered through comparative contradiction by mild closer “I Think UR a Contra,” which sleepwalks through its hazy flutters, bogging down even more when the strings listlessly bleed—as sincerity-in-a-coma, it stands in direct contrast to the sweep of “Run,” which enjoys ponderous moments, but leavens them with chattering beats and positively stirs with its ornate fanfare. Luckily, “Contra” is positioned last as a modest comedown, allowing the rest of the disc to rumble, jive and soar with incongruous precision and the sheer joie de vivre of springy melody and soaring harmonies. Even though Contra is somewhat stiffer in mentality than its free-for-all cousin from ’08, both serve as nearly unblemished examples of sharply colorful clutter and irresistibly catchy music that must seem alien to those proud to defile the folks sitting on the upper crust.

Feb
17
2010


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