Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lisa Ridgely and the Fainting Room: Wine in Bed EP

Milwaukee’s Lisa Ridgely and the Fainting Room have released their new Wine in Bed EP. Lovely harmonies, cool guitars and effective choruses were consistent though out the EP. My first impression with Ridgely’s vocal was its similarity to Neko Case, Chrissie Hynde or in some instances Alan Morrisette. Presented as essentially a batch of “break up” songs, I was impressed by the moody feel of EP opener “Wine in bed”. This track had an end of winter feel and you can sense the writer wanted to move onto spring and away from her relationship tangles. The tremolo guitar added a cool effect to the soft/loud/soft dynamics of this track. “Maverick”, with its slow tempo and alt-country  feel , featured excellent vocals which perfectly fit the instrumentation. The harmonies were tight but I did feel that the track was lacking a concise chorus. “Santa Fe” with its solid piano intro and Chrissie Hynde like vocals presented a fine ballad defining the end of a relationship and seemingly the start of another in wonderful New Mexico, where as the writer describes the scent of burning pinion wood permeating the air. “Two-timed” had a mid-tempo, full band feel with strong guitar and percussion building to an effective chorus. The tale of a jilted lover trying to get revenge for wrong doing proves to be effective and the bonus is some great harmonies.  Closing the Ep was “Karma caught up” , the most rocking track on the EP. Featuring dual lead vocals and scorching guitar work, the writer really got her point across concerning the anger and resentment she was feeling as well as the ultimate justice for her ex-lover in the end. Overall, I felt this EP featured some strong vocals and guitar work. The subject matter has been covered many times over the years, but it was refreshing to hear Lisa Ridgely’s interpretation and I look forward to a full length LP in the future.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Jang: Jungle Duets

Electronic/experimental/abstract artist Jang presents his second collaboration album as Jungle Duets, a collection of brief, chaotic, jittery and sometime melodic pieces that are centered around organic instrumentation, obtuse lyrics and layers of noise. I am a fan of this type of electronic music so I was excited to explore what Jang had created and for the most part I was not disappointed. Although I am not entirely sure what portion of collaboration the guests on this LP offered within some tracks, clearly everyone’s efforts came together very nicely. Polished production on top of varied rhythms, forceful guitar chords and random synth made me stand up and notice this LP and plug in my headphones. At times unsettling, Jang has a way of pacing the tracks to create a mood across the entire album. It was ambitious and powerful in its structure. Some of the tracks reminded me a bit of early Brian Eno or modern Electro’s such Xiu Xiu with the passion of the explosive sound. Certainly brief on lyrics, usually just a couple verses or a single chorus and typically under 2:00, I felt these tracks could have been fleshed out more , however I understand this music as "Sketches of the jungle" thus the brevity is fitting. I feel greater strength would have come with fuller compositions with more capacity to gel rather than a collection of sounds but following the agenda of Jungle Duets is still pretty satisfying in itself. Lead off track "Rest" w/ Cheer accident had a joyful beginning and some vivid instrumentation. "Something holds my heart" w/ Favors had a polished pace, with its moody but upbeat tone. I thought I recognized some finger piano in the track. Neat vocal effects and excellent synth work helped to keep the energy high. "Psirens of Sinharaja" w/Kavus Torabi was more conventional in its structure with bass/guitar and came across as a fine progressive track. "Lioness" w/ Brent Gutierrez had some spooky lyrics and heavy distorted guitar and a solid break before an acoustic trail off. "Little Birds" w/ Musical Charis had some cool cello and violin in the beginning and upbeat percussion. Electric piano felt mellow but uplifting. "Pet" w/ UH had scorching guitar throughout and a solid rhythm. "Epiphyte" w/Blake Hartshorn blazed with its guitar work and driving percussion while "Emperor Tamarin" w/image over being began with a noisy intro but gave way to avante’ gard synth and acoustic strumming. "Lara’s melody" w/ Lady Lazarus contained a pretty melody and superb ethereal vocals by Lady Lazarus. I also appreciated the synth in this track. "Brachiators" w/Forest feeling was one of the fasted tracks in regards to tempo on the LP and felt like straight ahead techo at times. Hand claps were effective and I dug the Xylophone and electric piano. "Tikbalang" w/NYKDLN was a strange piece with slowed down vocals, bird sounds and jangly percussion which all came together on a positive way. "Nightfall through the trees" W/ Kevin Lan of the Common Men was the most conventional track in terms of song structure. Heavy reverberated vocals were incomprehensible but gave the track a lot of depth along with the scorching guitars and strong melody. Overall, I felt this second collaboration from Jang was a success in terms of choosing interesting artists to work with and strong ideas to fulfill his objective. I would like to see how the style of Jang’s work could be drawn out a bit more with greater composition in regards to both melody and lyrical content. Perhaps the third installment will fulfill my wish.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

World5: Global Experience

World5 is an Internet collaboration effort with members as wide spread as New Zealand and Germany as well Sweden and the US). Clearly skilled musicians, they present their new LP Global Experience as a culmination of each members  greatest strengths with producer Randy Miller (Destiny’s Child ,Burt Bacarach) at the helm to bring it all together. World5 has produced a solid, relaxed, earnest and enjoyable work of adult contemporary pop that has a shiny gloss and some feel good moments. This LP had some quality touches. Sax, percussion and joyful harmonies were present on this collection of mostly love songs. Opening track “The morning light” contained some effective harmonies and a bold saxophone solo along with some intriguing percussion.  Standout first single “You and I” was an earnest love song and had an Island getaway feel that set the mood. A pretty melody and some fine acoustic strumming really stood out for me. “All my heart”, with its accapello opening and catchy chorus captured my interest as well. I really felt that the lead singer had a good grasp on the style of music being presented and his core audience and helps to promote that in his vocal style. “So sincere” was a bouncy track with a winning melody, one of my favorite tracks on the LP. “Bring your heart home” was a slow tempo love song that set the mood but I felt that the chorus was lacking a solid hook however, I felt the harmonies were decent. “The line”, a rocker morphing into a moody piece about infidelity, felt a little Cliché in terms of lyrics, but ultimately was effective in its message. “Jump and shout”, containing smooth sax and straight forward lyrics worked well in this writer’s opinion. Fine guitar work and a simple message brought it home for me. “Walk away” had a  pop sheen and some alluring keyboard work while the bouncy “Dream House” , with its soulful intro and shout along chorus was worth repeated listens especially for its fine guitar work. “A day for lovers”, clearly written for weddings with the pretty piano opening, was an earnest ballad and I would imagine could become a hit with brides and grooms this year. “Living” with its pretty acoustic guitar strumming and an acoustic version of “You and I” closed the LP in fine form. Overall I thought the LP was well paced, demonstrated some fine musicianship and production. The LP felt like it was recorded by all members in one studio which is a good indication of the quality production and mastering.  It was a cohesive work of adult contemporary pop that I feel could do well with the genre’s core audience as well as new listeners.


Friday, April 6, 2012

ZProject: Theory

Hailing from California, electronic musician ZProject unveils the EP Theory, a collection of mostly chilled out loops and electronic beats. The premise of ZProject’s music, similar to many other artists in this genre, is stacking layer upon layer of electronic instruments to build a composition which should flow smoothly and effortlessly. Theory has some nice moments of inspiration and sets a mood but tends to lack passion, dynamics and originality in order to set it apart within its genre. To this critic it felt a little too predictable in its form, pattern and instrumentation but was not without its charms. "Beat-89" contained a snappy horn loop and a solid rhythm but tended to be a little too predictable, i.e. cut ,paste, repeat. The flute added a nice touch and I thought the production really helped the track however I felt that some proper mastering might be in order to get the levels standard. "Fashion Gargantuan" had a solid bass line and great breaks. Impressive synth and theremin rounded out the track nicely . "Ibiza" had a laid back chill which caught my interest. There were some issues with volume level and fadeouts which I thought could be smoother and the beat was a bit repetitive and unimaginative. To me the track felt promising but unfinished. "Jeckel", with its heavy synth work and moody vibe, felt like the most complex track on the EP. I found some really interesting sounds in this track, especially toward the 2nd half. "Super" had a funky bass line and solid keyboard work with tight breaks and a smooth flow. "70’s scene", with its groovy electric piano intro and interesting wah-wah guitar effects and organ really impressed me. Solid beats and breaks throughout. Rounding out the EP with "Skank Theory" was a smart move considering its mellow opening, solid pacing and overall chilled out vibe. Good way to finish the EP. Overall, I felt that this EP was a good dabble into the genre of chilled out electronic music but felt it was a little too clean and predictable to leave me with any lasting impression.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Marty’s Invasion

Hailing from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Marty’s Invasion is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Daniel Martin. MI offers a purposeful assortment of indie pop/instrumental tracks that crackle with solid musicianship, accomplished vocals and polished production. Martin has an interesting vocal style that reminded me a bit of XTC lead singer Andy Partridge. The subject matter of the material may not be deep or life altering, but MI has a knack for some catchy melodies and makes fine use the Theremin quite often which I feel is underused these days. "Deep Rooted", an acoustic guitar instrumental, struck me as an accomplished piece with some fine finger work. "Somebody else" offered some great harmonies and cool guitar work. I really dug this upbeat pop tune. "Pretenders waltz" , a pretty solo piano piece, left me a little bored with the repetitive melody in all honesty. "Face" presented some fine guitar work, driving percussion and a super Theremin sound throughout. It was a fun track and I dug Martin’s falsetto. "Post office", with its driving percussion and bass and effective vocals lit up the playlist. I thought the electric piano was well placed and the harmonies really shined. "Cross country runner" had an impressive piano intro before moving into a solid melody. This ballad had Bryan Ferry like vocals and felt like the most personal track on the EP. "Hometown" offered a decent guitar intro, solid bass work and a driving percussion. I felt Martin was approaching pop perfection on this track. "Waiting for a word" was a little departure into a "Rare gothic ballad" according to Martin and I would agree. It was effective in its moodiness, melody and harmonies. "Moments in the sun" ,a full band effort, made me think that a live show from MI would really open up a lot of his music and breath more life into his tracks. Overall though, I enjoyed a lot of aspects in these tracks. A driving rhythm section, solid melodies, great harmonies and of course the Theremin were common recurrences.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Shadows in the Basement

Holland’s Shadows in the Basement impresses with their Swept Away EP demos. Dreamy, ambitious and dramatic best describe SITB’s music. Siddhartha Barnhoorn creates the sweeping, atmospheric music with a wide range of instruments along with Dennis Binnekade contributing vocals. Together they create a cinematic, expansive brand of rock not dissimilar to early 4AD bands such as Dead Can Dance with a touch of Peter Murphy style vocals. "Mesmerized" kicks off the EP as a pretty, broody piece enhanced with sweeping synths and effective builds throughout. Impressive, emotion laded vocals and some fine guitar work standout on this track. "Magic Vale" makes good use of some rarely used instruments in rock such as the Skakuhachi and Melodica in the intro of the track before morphing into a mid-tempo piece with some progressive style guitar tangents. Effective, open lyrics really drew this writer into the song. "Driftwood" begins with melodic guitar,crashing waves and a vocal reminiscent of Peter Murphy. As the song builds to the chorus a strong melody carries the song forward to a really pleasant, uplifting place. Nice use of dynamics on "Driftwood". Overall I was impressed with this set of demos as they present only a taste of the enlightening, dramatic style of SITB. I am looking forward to their full length LP.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ballroom Boxer: Hearts are wild

Ballroom Boxer’s new EP Hearts are Wild is a refreshing take on pop rock. The Boxers hail from Chicago and have produced a feel good summer EP best enjoyed cruising Lake Shore Drive with a group of friends. Lead vocalist Mike Altier has a great voice for rock and brought to mind Joey Ramone and Paul Westerberg. Altier has a knack for writing catchy pop hooks and along with some fine musicianship , this EP offers a melodic, tight batch of tracks. “Genuine July” is an infectious rocker with driving guitar work and a tight rhythm section. “Last cig” is a breakup song featuring some quality harmonies and driving percussion. What really works well on this EP is the craftsmanship, length of the tracks, and content of hooks.  “Hearts are wild”, a track describing first love in a relatable way displays an effective chorus. “Lost in somebody” is the standout single on the EP and contains a great pop hook along with superb vocals and ample guitar work. This track sounds like a hit and should be blowing up in this writer’s opinion. The only misstep on the EP is the superfluous “Feel the wave” , with its lesser quality of production and lack of a real hook. Although I did enjoy a great guitar solo towards the end of the song, the track seems a little out of place on this EP. Overall, I feel that Ballroom Boxers have crafted an excellent little EP with some energetic rockers sure to place indie rock fans longing for guitar licks and rock vocals.