Archive for the ‘album reviews’ Category

Devin Townsend Project – Addicted

November 28, 2009
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Everclear – In A Different Light

November 23, 2009
Everclear - In A Different Light

Written By: James Swigart


Label: 429 Records – Rating:

Art Alexakis has an unique and potent voice that he uses refreshingly and heartily on Everclear’s warm and engaging In a Different Light. On this disc, Alexakis and his crack band remake 9 of Everclear’s biggest hits and compose 2 new tunes. The new songs, “Here Comes the Darkness” and “At the End of the Day,” are excellent and blend seamlessly with the others. Alexakis produced In a Different Light (Like all Everclear records) and his production is brilliantly similar to that of one of rock’s legends, Jeff Lynne.

On In a Different Light, Alexakis sings with the distinction and restrained force of such masters as Cash, Reed, and Dylan. Art’s voice is smooth like Don Henley’s and distinctive like David Lee Roth’s. Alexakis doesn’t show the greatest vocal range, but his passion and talent are clear and more than make up for a few high notes here and there.

“Father of Mine” has the pace of Wild Gift and More Fun in the New World-era X. Acoustic guitar, drums, serious keys, and vocals drive the song. The backing vocals are muted and subtle and create a fantastic effect. Tommy Stewart’s drumming throughout the album is forceful and consistent like that of X’s amazing DJ Bonebrake.

On “Fire Maple Song,” there is a beautiful little Stevie Ray Vaughan-esque guitar solo. The guitar chords are reminiscent of Johnny Marr’s while Marr was with the Smiths. Davey French and Alexakis play guitar throughout the album. “Rock Star” is a guitar driven medium rock song with a message that we love and respect and with excellent backing vocals and sonic force that bring to mind the Traveling Wilburys.

“Learning How to Smile” has backing vocals that sound like Exene at her most subtle and powerful. The lyrics “I was working in New Jersey/Hitching Rides in the Rain” bring to mind the everyman quality shown by great artists like Holly, Cash, Dylan, Springsteen, Cobain, and White. Typical of the songs on this album, the music never strains or gets too fast or too slow and Alexakis’s singing is near perfect. This song relaxes us so much that we could listen to this and similar tunes for hours on end.

“I Will Buy You a New Life” shows Everclear at its best. Beautiful guitar and keys, restrained, powerful vocals and drums, and positive lyrics make us feel what the best rock ‘n’ roll wants us to feel – uplifted, renewed, and relaxed. Alexakis, like Cuomo and the beyond legendary Cash, makes us viscerally feel his message without straining or yelling.

The backing vocals on “Everything to Everyone,” “Wonderful,” and “At the End of the Day” are essential like those on early records by the Babys. The acoustic guitar chords combined with keys on “Everything to Everyone” keep us engaged without overwhelming or boring us. Josh Crawley’s keys on In a Different Light are wonderful like Ray Manzarek’s while he was with the Doors and on X’s album of staggering genius, Los Angeles. Sam Hudson’s bass playing is understated and keeps an excellent beat throughout.

The mood on this fine work is relaxed, playful, and swinging. We wish that at times Everclear rocked harder or swung freer. We also wish that there was greater variety among the songs. However, Alexakis and his mates’ consistency and commitment is laudable.

Art Alexakis is one of the most important figures in rock over the last fifteen years. He continues to evolve and to try to bring relevant music to our fortunate ears. His subtle yet powerful excellence is all too rare in rock and extraordinarily influential. Here’s to hoping that he ages as well as Dylan has.

Like Everclear? Check out: The Wallflowers, Better Than Ezra, Third Eye Blind

Want more Everclear?
Download Everclear’s “Here Comes The Darkness
Everclear Feature – 10 Reasons Why Everclear is Still Relevant
Rock/Metal Editor, Jason Coldiron interviews Art Alexakis
Everclear Tour News
View all of Ed’s Everclear Photos (Roxy)
View All of Ed’s Everclear Photos (House of Blues)

Tokio Hotel – Humanoid

November 23, 2009
 Tokio Hotel - Humanoid

Written By: Heather Wysocki


Label: Interscope – Rating:

Break out the black eyeliner, shine up those glittery Chuck Taylors and stock up on hair gel, because Euro-pop young’uns Tokio Hotel’s latest release is all the disco ball-and-Doc-Martens fun you’d expect. Bill and Tom Kaulitz, the super-coifed supertwins behind Tokio Hotel, are finally legal, and that slight bit of maturity shows on Humanoid, their already-charting-on-the-Billboard-200 third disc. The German emo quartet that turned heads in 2005 with debut album Schrei and kept on going with 07’s Scream proves with Humanoid that Bill, and the band that provides his awesome backing, deserve recognition for more than Kaulitz’s Sonic the Hedgehog hairdo and propensity to wear more makeup than Janet Jackson.

Though Tokio Hotel – consisting of the aforementioned pompadour-and-more Kaulitz twins, plus Georg Listing, Gustav Schafer, and a host of European songwriters – might be young bucks, they certainly know how to thrash like their older eight-pointer competition. The songs range from the standout piano-driven “World Behind My Wall” to the decidedly more haunting title track and the kinky come-on “Hey You.” All are full of the androgynous vocals and crunchy guitars the band has become known for. Anthemic choruses are beautiful, while background guitars range from understated to crashing, a soulful mix that elevates Humanoid from simple emo dance-pop to emo dance pop to think about (even if those thoughts are about eyeliner and adolescent sorrow).

Bill Kaulitz’ vocals are a mix of Robert Smith and Michael Jackson, hitting the lowest of lows but nailing the highs, too. This is the sort of well-crafted pop that Depeche Mode perfected years ago and Tokio Hotel emulates magnificently, its robotic feel not cold, not formulaic, but sexy and deliberate.

Like a lot of their young emo counterparts, there’s more than just a dash of pop-culture influence on Tokio Hotel’s Humanoid. Japanese overtones and perfect-for-Twilight song titles like “Pain of Love” and “Love and Death” are a reminder that the members of Tokio Hotel are still young, though expert arrangement and an uncanny knowledge of what vocals go well with what music ensure that Tokio Hotel will experience well-deserved recognition longer than most. That said, songs like the slightly juvenile “Automatic,” a clumsy ode to love, are a hint that Tokio Hotel’s finally legal dudes should still be a wee bit careful around anything besides light beer.

Humanoid is before-its-time pop that has finally hit its epoch, a gorgeous musing on deep emotion with the perfect teenage twist. Love has never been so bittersweet.

Like Tokio Hotel? Check out: Silversun Pickups, Blaqk Audio, The Cure

Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band – Between My Head and the Sky

November 23, 2009

Down With Webster – Time To Win Vol. 1

November 23, 2009
Down With Webster - Time To Win Vol. 1

Written By: Joe Cardenas


Label: Universal/Motown – Rating:

It’s very refreshing to hear musicians cultivating different sounds and mixing genres into something new and different. Although the Hip-Hop/Rock genre isn’t a revelation, Down With Webster brings an original style that is catchy, fun, and full of energy.

The album starts with a dynamic sound, powerful beats and rhythms that just make you want to get up and shake it! The raspy vocals are enthusiastic, three rappers/singers take the mic and the diversity makes it so that the song never gets dull. It brings to mind the Beasties Boys with their juvenile style and in-your-face attitudes. The lyrics are bit pompous at times, which is to be expected from a genre like Hip-Hop, but their attitudes are so out there and so silly that it can’t be taken too seriously. And that, in part is what makes it so fun to listen to, knowing that it’s just a bunch of eccentric dudes making music and having a good time with it.

The second track ‘Whoa Is Me’ is a bit repetitive. The usage of the word ‘whoa’ is much overused, and having listened to a lot of The Offspring and many other punk bands, I know how frustrating it gets having to hear it over and over again. This song, along with ‘Miracle Mile,’ is a bit too much. They don’t go overboard with their length but I just feel like the songs could have been trimmed down. Hip-hop is known for having repetitive beats, and beats such as these are good for the dance floor, but I couldn’t get past the minor annoyance.

DWW really mix the genres of Hip-Hop and Rock very well. An example is a personal favorite of mine, ‘Back Of My Hand.’ The upbeat drums and catchy synths keep the rhythm solid like they would on a Hip Hop album. The lyrics are on the darker side compared to the rest of the album and are expressed by passionate, near-shouting vocals. The vocals are a nice fit for a song about love/betrayal and are reminiscent of many Pop-Rock bands. This song demonstrates the best example of their work. It is masterful, and has the potential to be a great hit.

The album is a joy to listen to. It’s full of energy and at times quite humorous (especially their Hall and Oats cover song: ‘Rich Girl’). They display a variety of talent and do the genre of Hip-Hop/Rock justice. Hopefully with some time and maturity they can start busting out more classics like ‘Back Of My Hand,’ and focus on making more songs too. The album as a whole is unfortunately only 24 minutes long, and I found that extremely disappointing. This is not an EP. It is the actual album and is not nearly long enough! Its title ‘Time to Win, Vol. 1’ might suggest another album is in the works and coming out soon, but I have to grade them down cause I really wanted to hear more!

Like Down With Webster? Check out: Beastie Boys, Bloodhound Gang

Zee Avi – Self-Titled

November 23, 2009
Zee Avi

Written By: Lindsey Hecht


Label: Brushfire – Rating:

Zee Avi, originally Izyan Alirahman, is an acoustic singer-songwriter from Malaysia who can easily perk your interest with her innate talent. Discovered through word of mouth and videos posted on YouTube, Avi has taken the influence of positive feedback and managed to turn that into a career. Though her initial sound, both vocally and instrumentally, might seem rather familiar, give her debut album a chance. After one run through, I became a fan.

Avi’s lyrics are soulful and natural as she uses simple phrases to express herself through convoluted metaphors. In her third track she sings, “Oh my darling honey bee / I’ll come save you / Even if it means / I have to face the queen.” This track strikes a chord within me, as I’m sure we’ve all had the chance to stand up for love – whether or not we’ve taken the leap in the end.

The majority of her tracks act as slow and steady vehicles, which is demonstrated throughout ‘First of the Gang to Die,’ ‘The Story,’ and ‘Let Me In.’ However, it is evident that Avi has no problems exploring playful tunes founded by her skills on the Ukulele, like in ‘Kantoi,’ or the acoustic guitar, like in her hit single ‘Bitter Heart.’ Yet, regardless of the instrument played behind the scenes, Zee has vocals that keep you wrapped in the warmth of her album.

Her voice has the ability to rise and fall abruptly between notes leaving my heart to skip a beat at the end of nearly every lyrical line. Each song pulls me in, and her jazzy folk-pop inspires me to snap my fingers along to the catchy rifts of ‘Poppy,’ among other tracks.

At the mere age twenty-three, it appears that Avi has the gift of time on her side. With an already blossoming talent – I can only imagine that she will ripen with age, and I look forward to what she has to offer.

Like Zee Avi? Check out: Nina Simone, Madeleine Peyroux, Jack Johnson

Love Grenades – Tigers in the Fire EP

November 23, 2009
 Love Grenades - Tigers in the Fire EP

Written By: Heather Wysocki


Label: Modus Vivendi – Rating:

It’s not usually a good sign when the first thought about a band fronted by a Betty Page look-a-like is that it sounds like something off a Patty LaBelle b-side. But Love Grenades’ sexy Page doppelganger, Elizabeth Wight, seems to have found the perfect formula to become a dance-floor mainstay, and that equation certainly doesn’t include originality.

That said, the debut EP by the band, “Tigers in the Fire,” is turning heads at clubs in Los Angles and NYC with its mix of die-hard devotion to pre-techno music and their knack for picking awesome DJs to remix their singles. Titular “Tigers in the Fire” is chock-full of 70s influence, bringing back the high-pitched backup singers and love-on-roller-skates feel of that era. All in all, though, the album is a bit confusing; the original “Tigers in the Fire” is all fancy-free flirting, Saturday Night Fever and Blondie, while Martin Peter’s mix turns it into a more Lady Gaga-esque cut-myself-onstage-for-the-drama haunter. Here, Wight’s vocals are more growl than come-on, bringing far more of the ferocity of the single’s namesake tiger into the mix than the original single even got close to.

Keeping a bit more loyal to LG’s more-comfortable-under-the-disco-ball feel is the Wayfarer mix of the same song. And just when three listens of “Tigers” is enough, there’s the Disco Damage mix, the most successful in turning Wight’s bubblegum-and-gold-lamé jam into a true club remix, the sort of thing anyone at Hyde would be happy to dance to (or their Real Housewives of Orange County-esque moms). Still, four remixes of the same song do not a complete album make, and “Tigers In the Fire” proves that it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

New sounds come along at track 4, “Off to Sea,” which stays true to the same disco-remix sound but showcases Wight’s surprising vocal aptitude, something that’s overlooked earlier. “Off to Sea” has more bite than “Tigers,” though those cheesy lyrics stay put. The most promising track, a Sam Sparro-remixed “Young Lovers,” delivers completely, bringing a similar pinup-sexy feeling but creating a more polished version of anything else Love Grenades’ first disc puts forth. Traditional disco sounds aren’t overworked here, a la “Tigers,” thanks to Sparro’s fantastic use of restraint. This one belongs in the next Grand Theft Auto, and that’s a compliment (there’s nothing better than a song that’s perfect for driving recklessly to).

Wight is a devotee of the modern pop feminism of Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears, and she brings that same idea of promiscuity as a right to every track. And unlike her blonde counterparts, who are apt to sneak in a devoted-to-my-man ballad, she makes her independence very, very clear, repeatedly spouting lyrics like “ain’t nobody gonna tell me that I can’t get down,” and the polyester pants suit-classy “I can screw anyone that’s nice then walk away.” It’s a nice ideal, but The BeeGees have got you beat at jive-talkin’, Elizabeth, and it’s never good to get one-upped by three guys in leisure suits!

The purpose of remixes and EPs is, usually, to showcase depth in a relatively short period of time. Unfortunately, while Love Grenades’ “Tigers In the Fire” EP is a good listen on a dark night, full of sultry bass and come-hither lyrics, its the disc’s remixes that really stand out, effectively de-clawing Wight and turning “Tigers” into little more than sex-kitten pop.

Like Love Grenades? Try Blondie, Lady Gaga, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs

More Love Grenades
Love Grenades Live @ Bardot
Love Grenades Exclusive Photos (Bardot)

Lover! – No Dreams Please EP

November 22, 2009
 Lover! - No Dreams Please EP

Written By: Emily Cahill


Label: Big Legal Mess – Rating:

This is going to be short and sweet, and if you listen to Lover!’s No Dreams Please EP you’ll understand why. There just isn’t much to react to. The songs slide between the two extremes of harsh instrumentals and fuzzy vocals.

The overlong instrumentals on the ends of the songs would be much more enjoyable if they were shortened. The guitar work is really spectacular, but maybe it just needs to be showcased in a different way, perhaps within the song rather than trailing after it. The tune is always snappy though, and very much danceable. A softer sound is introduced in “Three Fools” and that seems to balance out the vocals better.

Upon first hearing the vocals you may ask yourself if the distorted sound is something artistic, but after it goes on for a few songs you’ll simply realize that the microphone was probably twenty feet away from the band while they recorded. Live performances come out better than this, and it’s really a shame, too, because in the first two songs “Devil’s Punchbowl” and “No Dreams Please” (where the vocals are really difficult to understand) what little you hear sounds like it would be good.

Finally, in “Goodbye” the words of the songs are clear and you realize that lyrics are actually good, but it is still very much active listening—you have to try to catch everything. Lover! redeems themselves with “Downstairs to Hell.” This song has some serious character to it. It’s a feel and sound they should have aimed for with all the music on the EP: a rich sound, something a little mysterious, clear lyrics, effective instrumentals and this excellent flute-sound that plays great with the guitar.

Despite its faults, great driving music and something worth playing when you want to dance around your living room in your underwear (yes, we all know you do that).

Like Lover!? Check Out: The Beatles, Mr. Big

Norah Jones – The Fall

November 22, 2009

Nova – Nepenthe

November 22, 2009