Sunday, February 28, 2010
W.E.T. is a new supergroup, the acronym standing for Work of Art (Robert Sall), Eclipse (Erik Martensson), and Talisman (Jeff Scott Soto). W.E.T. is perhaps the lamest band name since M.S.G., but we won’t hold that against them when weighing in on their music.
The self-titled debut album from this trio of AOR superstars delivers exactly what you'd expect - slick, high-gloss melodic rock. What separates this one from the pack is the extraordinary combination of talent on board - the pristine vocals of Jeff Scott Soto sound even more amazing when backed by musicians of this high caliber. These guys have an excellent chemistry and, best of all, they brought some very memorable songs to the studio that follow the classic AOR formula - driving verses, an arena-ready chorus, and astonishing guitar solos.
The hi-octane crunch in the meaty opener, "Invincible", effectively foreshadows the melodic rock goodness that is to follow. The guys come out swinging, serving up additional crowd pleasers like "One Love" and "Brothers In Arms". "Comes Down Like Rain" is an early favorite for the best power ballad on the record, but I prefer the spectacular "One Day At A Time". Additional highlights include the awesome mid-tempo rocker "I'll Be There" and "My Everything".
If you enjoy the other bands these three artists have graced, there is no doubt in my mind that you will want this debut. W.E.T. is also going to give fans who love Journey, Pride of Lions, and Giant something to smile about.
iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 11, 12
W.E.T. on MySpace.
Check out the video for "One Love":
Michael Bolton – “When A Man Loves A Woman” (Percy Sledge)
When a man loves a woman, is he supposed to appeal to her as if he is in the middle of a proctology exam that has gone horribly wrong? When a man loves a woman, is he to have more fabulous hair than she? When a man loves a woman, is the best way to her heart to utterly ruin classic R&B? Check out this video of his live duet with Percy Sledge: the side by side comparison makes my point and then some.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
The Adam Ezra Group is an organic roots rock band creating quite the buzz in Boston and beyond. They've opened for John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Cracker, and more, building a steady following along the way. After listening to their first release, "View From the Root", I can happily add my name to this following.
"View From the Root" contains a bounty of tracks - 17 in all - but it feels like a split record to me. The first half strikes me as the proper studio release, but the latter half feels more like a rarities and outtakes disc. While some of the more experimental or stripped down tracks on the tail end of the CD have their charm, I think that more often than not I'm going to stop the CD at track 8. One cool experience, however, was the genuine coffeehouse feel of "She's Just A Girl", recorded live and preceded by a spoken word intro.
So let's get to the highlights. The best song for me is the opener, "Katie", a sweet and innocent appeal that finds the band at their synergistic best. This one is followed by a string of excellent root rock tunes that maintain a contagious sense of melody and leave you feeling upbeat. "Half A Hero" and "Vision" will make you move and "Have We Met" and "Another Sunshine" will make you groove. Another thing I like about Adam Ezra Group is that they are lyrically smart, whether it be through the use of clever word play to jazz up mundane love songs or their bold dives into deeper subject matter (check out "Basement Song"). Numerous times on the dics Adam seems to be writing vocal checks he just can't cash, which might be helped in the future if the band works more effective harmonies into the mix. But all in all, "View From the Root" is a terrific debut from a smart band with great chops and a bright future.
I recommend the Adam Ezra Group if you like Glen Phillips, Edwin McCain, or Todd Snider.
iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8
Adam Ezra Group on MySpace. Official site.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Athenaeum. Say what? ATH-A-NEE-UM. In Latin, it is a school in ancient Rome for the study of arts. The strange name is probably one reason this fantastic band never took off...DJs were too embarrassed they would mispronounce it!
Athenaeum formed in Greensboro, North Carolina about 20 years ago, pulling off their first EP in 1995, known simply as the "Green Album". Some of these songs made their way to the band's first major label release, 1998's "Radiance". They had immediate success with the radio-friendly tune "What I Didn't Know", but never matched it despite the record being full of additional melodic rock gems. Their self-titled follow up was an even bigger disappointment at radio. "Hourglass" was their final album, released in 2002 - while a compilation of rare and unreleased material, it plays like another ace studio album.
The band uses intricate harmonies and sophisticated songwriting to decorate the intelligent lyrics, and their melodies stick with you for days on end. They should have been huge. Maybe it was the name. Maybe some people couldn't get used to the deep vocal tone of Mark Kano, or maybe the second record being released the week after 9/11 had something to do with it. Whatever the reasons, it isn't too late to discover Athenaeum's wonderful brand of powerful pop rock.
Mark Kano has recently teamed up with Gavin MacKillop (who produced "Radiance") once again, and the result was a stunning solo EP called "Walking on Broadway". Check out our review of it here. Don't allow Mark Kano to be robbed again!
Fans of Toad the Wet Sprocket, Gin Blossoms, and Crash Test Dummies - if you've overlooked Athenaeum, you are missing out on a new favorite.
Mark Kano on MySpace. Official site.
Check out this brilliant acoustic version of their one and only hit, "What I Didn't Know":
Monday, February 22, 2010
Mix in a voice like Freedy Johnston, an attitude like Johnny Cash, and the raw sting of Social Distortion, and you get a close approximation of Andrew Anderson. It is easy to see why Mike Herrera (frontman for MxPx and Tumbledown - the latter reviewed here) took such an interest in this unique singer/songwriter from Idaho (now in Austin).
Anderson's latest, "As Long As This Thing's Flyin'", is a truly engaging piece of art. While he will dazzle you with his impeccable fingerpicking on acoustic guitar and mandolin, it is the classic punk rock arrangements and cynical tone that make each song a compelling listen. Anderson is impressively versatile with his voice - he can be bold and aggressive when he has to be, but he can also be gentle and sincere. He puts in the effort to make the voice and the music match the message in each song. Best of all, Anderson is not immune to writing a memorable melody and he doesn't clunk up his songs with throwaway lyrics.
The opening track, "Once Met A Girl" embodies all this artist is capable of, blending country, bluegrass, folk, pop, and punk to create a distinctive sound he can call his own. Another highlight, "Necessary Casualties" (video featured below), bemoans the political system that is impotent to break viscous cycles. "Damn It Man", my favorite track in the bunch, is the perfect 'feeling sorry for myself' anthem. "Hell On Earth" sounds like a lost track by a young Johnny Cash. The title track closes the album, a contemplative ballad with a surprise assortment of piano, acoustic guitar, and strings, that should leave you with chills.
Anderson aspires to be the next Hank Williams. Whether Hank was your cup of tea or not, I recommend you check out the refreshing and engaging sound of Andrew Anderson.
iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 14
Andrew Anderson on MySpace. Official site.
Check out a video for "Necessary Casualties":
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Our good friend The Brigadier, a UK-based pop singer/songwriter also known as Matt Williams, is back with yet another EP release. If anything, The Brigadier once again cements a reputation as being one of the most prolific songwriters around. You can read our past reviews of some of his releases here.
Instead of charging out of the gate with an infectious rocker, this time around The Brigadier sets a more sober stage with the gentle acoustic opener, "Song For A New Year". His strumming is pleasant and voice like an old familiar friend. The EP continues to build on the seasonal theme, as suggested by the title, and is very effective at conveying that winter blues feeling while keeping hope for a brighter spring. Two timely offerings include "Valentine's Day" and "February", which then melt into the atmospheric "The Last Day of Winter" and a rewarding closer, "She Brings The Spring". The brief quirky instrumental "Saint David's Day" connects the two periods. Devout fans of The Brigadier will no doubt enjoy this EP, but I do not find myself connecting with it as immediately as his preceding efforts. My favorites include "Song For A New Year" and "She Brings The Spring", but the tracks in-between just left me cold.
This EP is only available as a digital download - you can grab it at the official web site below.
The Brigadier on MySpace. Official site.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Whether you realize it or not, if you are a devout fan of modern power pop, you've already heard Gavin Guss in some way, shape, or form. Gavin Guss has been active in the Seattle power pop scene for years, as producer of the fantastic Super Deluxe, and as front man for TubeTop and The Tycoons. He's toured with Nada Surf, and provided piano accompaniment for Jon Auer (Posies), Fountains of Wayne, and Harvey Danger.
Six long years in the making, Guss has released "Mercury Mine", his first solo record. Featuring an amazing line up of guest performances from Chris Ballew (Presidents of the United States of America), Brian Young (Fountains of Wayne), and Phil Hurley (Gigolo Aunts), "Mercury Mine" is simply a power pop lover's dream. Name dropping aside, Guss holds his own and more by bringing a healthy number of tuneful songs to the table.
The record, which clocks in just over 30 minutes, is loaded with short and sweet pop songs that are very easy on the ears. Vocally and musically, Guss reminds me a lot of Mike Viola, or David Gray (Idle Wilds). The lyrics are witty and often amusing, matched well to the mood of the music. The record kicks things off with what has become my favorite track, "X", a peppy song with a perfect mix of acoustic and electric guitar, augmented with plenty of juicy harmonies. The catchy songs keep rolling along with the title track, "Oasis", and "Lifeboat" providing some of the finest 12 minutes of classic power pop I've heard in a while. The record sags a bit after this until "Gato Negro" and the wonderful "Bud". Fans of any of the aforementioned bands will certainly want to take note of this one.
iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 10
Gavin Guss on MySpace. Official site.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Wow! This is amazing...Amazon is offering 20 of Sister Hazel's greatest hits from their more recent albums on a collection called "20 in '10"...FOR FREE!
See our review for Sister Hazel's latest studio effort, "Release".
Don't miss it! Click here to download.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Kip Winger (of "She's Only Seventeen" fame) has been a busy boy. Coming off an active solo career of more experimental and progressive music, he recently reunited with his old Winger bandmates to record two new albums. Now he's quietly released a new CD with another reunion of sorts, this one with his brother Nate Winger and childhood friend Peter Fletcher. This band is Blackwood Creek, Kip's pre-Winger band.
Kip Winger takes older age in stride - for instance, he changed the lyrics on a recent acoustic version of "Seventeen" to "She's only 35". With Blackwood Creek, he and the lads are out to prove they can still rock out like they did when they were kids. In fact, they seem to go out of their way to prove they've not lost that unruly inner child - they use "ass" in the lyrics, drop an f-bomb, and start the inane "Love Inspector" with a loud belch.
But to be fair, their new self-titled CD has way more pros than cons. I've not been overly impressed with the modern Winger material ("Karma" was pretty good, though) and his solo stuff bores me to tears. But Blackwood Creek is a true return to Kip Winger's melodic rock roots. There are some winning melodies and harmonies on this record, and the most effective blend of acoustic and electric guitars since "Pull". With few exceptions, these new songs take the best of his solo work (the lyrics and interesting chord progressions) and plop it into the best of his past work (catchy unadulterated rock).
Blackwood Creek blasts off with a thunderous opener, "Out In Outer Space", a clear attention-getter. Next up is my favorite track, the instantly likable AOR dream, "Nothing But The Sun". The band also does a more than respectable job on a few acoustic-driven, dark power ballads like "After Your Heart". "Albatross" comes close to Kip Winger's solo material, but this song has a memorable hook that makes you want to hear it more than once. "Your Revolution" and "Joy Ride" are also a kick to listen to. Overall, Blackwood Creek is a success - the guys are clearly having fun, they have a terrific chemistry, and most importantly, most of the songs are downright infectious.
iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10
Blackwood Creek on MySpace. Official site.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Take some of that trademark Swedish rock and mix in some goth and you have The Murder of My Sweet (TMOMS). The band's moniker is inspired by the 1944 movie “Murder, My Sweet". TMOMS has just released their ambitious debut album on Frontiers Records entitled "Divanity". Regarding the album title the band states, "The name 'Divanity' is the bands own expression of diva, divine and vanity - all of them being essential ingredients in their debut album."
There are a lot of things to admire about TMOMS, but two attributes really stand out to make them unique. One, they are a female-fronted symphonic rock band. Two, they infuse a high level of dark drama in their music. These characteristics are likely to draw comparisons to Evanescence, but TMOMS has a stronger proclivity for melody.
A strong suit of the band is the dazzling vocal talent of Angelica Rylin, whose well-controlled, firm voice plays well with theatrical sound of TMOMS. She is backed by a tight and powerful band that uses meaty guitar riffs, explosive drums, and lots and lots of keyboards. It can be argued that the keyboards are a bit over the top in numerous places on the record, and the overuse of the orchestral stab gets old really fast. The persistent use of the same tones and styles throughout the record make many of the songs sound too much alike.
Underneath the high gloss and glitz of the production lies some very good melodic rock. My favorite cuts include "No Evil", "Kiss of Death", "Tonight" and "Destiny" - sample these and you'll have a good sense as to what the rest of "Divanity" is like and what TMOMS is all about. I am willing to bet you haven't heard anything quite like it!
iPOD-worthy: 1, 5, 7, 9, 10
The Murder of My Sweet on MySpace. Official site.
Check out a trailer for the band:
Monday, February 15, 2010
We have obtained permission to make "So Much More" by Marc Robillard available to you FOR FREE as a legal mp3 download. So get to it - click here. "So Much More" is a new song currently being featured in the popular Sunchips commercials.
Read our review of Robillard's 2005 EP right here.
Marc Robillard, a singer/songwriter from Canada now based in L.A., has a new reason to like Sunchips - they have recently used one of his new songs, "So Much More" in their TV ads (see it here). This little organic, laid back tune is helping his previous 2005 EP release, "Paper Airplanes" take flight once again.
The six songs on "Paper Airplanes" portray an artist focused on earnest lyrics and soft but sweet melodies. Fans who love the slower, somber soft pop and folk so popular in the coffeehouses are going to embrace Marc Robillard the most. His voice is deep and warm, floating up enough at times to bring Travis or Coldplay to mind. Actually, he has a lot in common with today's British soft pop. What strikes me is how he is able to maintain an air of hope despite the rather sullen tone in most of his music. Check out "The Pair" and "Blown Away".
Marc Robillard is a safe bet if you like Jack Johnson, Aqualung, or Damien Rice. Overall, a little too sleepy for me, but nice to play when you need a lullaby or want to watch an empty bag of Sunchips degrade. His new sophomore record should be coming out sometime this year. Until then, why not see if "Paper Airplanes" will hold you over?
Marc Robillard on MySpace. Official site.
Get "Paper Airplanes". Get "So Much More"
Check out the video for "Butterscotch High":
Marc Robillard - Butterscotch High
Marc Robillard | MySpace Music Videos
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Brothers Tony (lead vocalist and keyboardist) and Mike Beliveau (bass) are the driving force behind the rising rock band called Crash Kings. The Crash Kings burst into your ears with a hard-hitting sound that is both modern and retro, with guitar tones that will shake you...wait, what's this? There is no guitar? No way! How can they get this sound without guitar?
Remarkably, this trio (the brothers are joined by drummer Jason Morris) can pull off a big rock record with only keys, bass, and drums. How do they do this? "With tube overdrive and multiple amps Mike’s bass brings heaviness to the band’s sound. On top of that Tony plays a clavinet (a keyboard with guitar strings), which has been customized with a large whammy bar allowing him to bend notes like a guitar producing an entirely new sound". I understand your skepticism - but just listen to Tony Beliveau’s soaring vocals and the powerful, driving rhythm section and you won't even realize you are rocking out to a band that doesn't use guitar!
The Crash Kings previously opened for Chris Cornell, Stone Temple Pilots, The Bravery, and Rooney. They are currently on tour with Jet, which is a logical match-up as many of their tunes have a retro feel like Jet. But the Crash Kings have a diverse sound, coming close to O.A.R. or Safetysuit at times, or approaching the piano rock of Ben Folds or Josh Fix with a smattering of Queen now and then. If you like any of the aforementioned artists, there is a treasure for you to uncover in the self-titled debut by Crash Kings.
What makes this record so enjoyable does not really relate to the band's unique attributes such as the fact that the founders are brothers who have boldly omitted guitar from their sound spectrum. Nope, what makes this record special are the memorable melodies. These guys know how to write a hook in the chorus and flank it with compelling verses - and their harmonies aren't too shabby either. The key standouts include the hip opener, "Mountain Man", the infectious "1985" (not a Bowling For Soup cover), the gorgeous "Raincoat", and hugely catchy "My Love". Crash Kings are ready to rule your musical world and, despite being a trio, they sound like a full house.
iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 10
Check out my interview with Crash Kings at Rock and Roll Report!
Crash Kings on MySpace. Official site.
Check out some videos:
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Baby Scream was formed in 2001 by Juan Mazzola in Argentina, although currently they are based in London. Sometimes Baby Scream is a solo project, sometimes an acoustic duo with Cristian Basualdo, and sometimes a full-blown electric act. By and large, "Identity Theft" focuses on the more stripped down, acoustic side of Baby Scream.
Mazzola's influences come out front and center: there is clear love for John Lennon, Teenage Fanclub, Radiohead, and Britpop. Similar to its predecessor, "Ups and Downs", "Identity Theft" is a pretty easygoing affair. The seven songs on this EP won't necessarily put you to sleep, but they aren't going to jolt you out of your chair either. They are short and sweet, but offer little to stand out in the crowd. Mazzola's voice is capable, and his breathy delivery works well against the acoustic guitars and other sparse instrumentation. If you dig relaxing, soft pop with subtle melodies, Baby Scream has its charms.
I recommended Baby Scream if you enjoy Julian Lennon, Michael Penn, or the acoustic side of Teenage Fanclub.
Baby Scream on MySpace. Official site.
Toad the Wet Sprocket – “I Want To Rock And Roll All Night” (Kiss)
For the record, Toad the Wet Sprocket is one of my favorite bands of all time…but what were they thinking when they did a slow-as-the postal-service acoustic cover of the greatest rock and roll anthem of all time? They play and sing this Kiss classic as if they were hung-over. “You drive us wild, we’ll drive you crazy” never sounded more insincere.
So what do you think is one of the worst cover tunes? Leave a comment and tell us - if it is bad enough, we might just write it up!
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
"The Day After Everything Changed" (Black Wolf Records) is the latest from singer/songwriter Ellis Paul, a man who has made a respectable mark in music already with 14 Boston Music Awards and performances with Patty Griffin, John Mayer, Arlo Guthrie, and more. Paul honed his talents in Boston and amassed an impressive fan base that helps fund his musical career and recordings. Paul straddles the ever-blurring line between pop country and soft rock, a very entertaining (and profitable) place to be. His songs tell stories in the style of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, and his lyrics touch upon subjects that all of us can relate to.
With 15 new songs, "The Day After Everything Changed" clocks in at over an hour - plenty of musical bang for your buck. The imagery Paul paints with his lyrics is as brilliant and crisp as the artwork on his CD. According to Paul, the songs on the album are "about people who are at a crossroads in their life. I want to hear about people's joys and woes and apply them to my own. You can't fake real life stories."
Instrumentally, the CD is gorgeous - a pleasing mix of acoustic and electric guitar, piano, and some prominent banjo now and then. Paul's voice has a seasoned rasp that gives these songs a sincere edge. The CD is also very consistent, providing a cohesive listen that is perfect for moods of relaxation or reflection. Five songs were co-written by Kristian Bush of renowned pop country act Sugarland, so fans of Sugarland take note. My favorites among the bunch include the jubilant opener, "Annalee", the tender "Rose Tattoo", and infectious title track. There are some other notable cuts, but overall the CD comes across as pleasant and innocuous background music. I really wanted to fall in love with more of these songs, but even a few spins more did not generate added enthusiasm. For fans of Sugarland, Keith Urban, and Will Hoge.
iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 7, 9, 12
Ellis Paul on MySpace. Official site.
Check out the video for "The Day After Everything Changed":
You can read some of our reviews of Fulton Read here.
Their latest, "Synchronize", can be downloaded FREE at their web site.
More: they just posted new videos of their acclaimed “Fulton Read in 3D” shows on their blog; their SXSW performances in March; their upcoming premiere of the webisode series “WebCamJams” featuring live jams, exclusive performances, guest appearances and interviews...go check it out.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Jonah Matranga and Kevin Seconds released a split 7inch vinyl through Canada’s Blacktop Records on December 22, 2009. The vinyl features four brand new previously unreleased songs including "I’ve Always Wanted To Write A Song Commanding People To Dance!" and "Daylight" by Matranga and "Grip On Yr Own" and "Life Unknown" by Seconds. It is a limited pressing of only 1000 hand-numbered copies, available online at blacktoprecords.ca and interpunk.com.
In 2007 the Canadian-based record label released Jonah Matranga’s full-length debut titled "And" (reviewed here). Kevin Seconds is known for his role as the frontman of the hardcore punk band 7seconds. Their split record is quite a departure and will probably surprise fans.
The second of the Matranga tracks is the best of the bunch, and closest to what we've come to expect from him - "Daylight" is a gentle and sparse acoustic affair, highlighting Matranga's vocals and skill at creating a compelling piece with so little. However, "I’ve Always Wanted To Write A Song Commanding People To Dance!" is wretched, just like any other dance song using fake drums and autotune. While you can admire a guy who takes risks as an artist, I can honestly say that I never want to hear this song again. The two tracks by Seconds are acoustic folk, near bluegrass, and not all that memorable for me. I recommend this release only for the most dedicated fans or collectors.
Jonah Matranga on MySpace. Official site.
Kevin Seconds on MySpace. Official site.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Creeping out of Hobort, IN, The Crawpuppies have completed an invasion of Chicago and now would like to get their infectious melodies into your town.
The Crawpuppies have an authentic sound that leads you to believe they put on a tremendously entertaining live show. Fortunately, that spirit is nicely captured on their latest CD, "World's Much Bigger". The touch of rasp and bite in the vocals works well whether its singing to a bar band rocker like the title track, or a bluesy ballad like "We", or a gentle and delicate number like "My Wife". Chad Clifford (vocals, guitar) is backed by a fine line up of talented musicians: Aaron "Hacksaw" Hedges (bass, vocals), Chris Karp (drums, vocals), and Mike Curtis (lead guitar, vocals). Yes, you read right - everyone in the band sings, and they've got some splendid harmonies to show for it.
The Crawpuppies tell modern day folk stories through their songs, which are best described as straight-up pop rock and powerpop. There are several deviations thrown in that keeps all the songs from sounding too much alike (for example, the bossa nova feel of "Here We Go Again" and the folksy "Some Divine"). Overall, there are lots of sunny melodies and upbeat treats on this 14-track opus to satisfy readers of this blog. Standouts for me include "Owe It All To You", "Mental Demons", "The Way", and "I Wanna Know". Recommended for fans of Venice, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Del Amitri.
iPOD-worthy: 2, 4, 5, 7, 10, 12
The Crawpuppies on MySpace. Official site. Get it.
Friday, February 5, 2010
I don't think I have heard any other band capture the classic sound of 60s/70s guitar rock as effectively as Heavy Glow. The band is: Jared Mullins (Vocals & Guitar), Joe Brooks (Bass), and Dan Kurtz (Drums). This trio rocks it like it's 1969.
Their new 7 track (counting the two unlisted bonus tracks) EP, "The Filth And The Fury", will transport you to a bygone era. Heavy Glow has mastered the tones and styles that dominated the crunchy and fuzzy psychedelic sounds that permeated freedom rock. Combined with the smoky soul of the vocals supplied by Jared Mullins, you have a win-win situation. The retro vibe is so remarkably good that someone who didn't know better would easily be fooled if I told them "The Filth And The Fury" was recorded in 1969.
My favorites from this EP include the sizzling opener, "I Almost Prayed", the seductive "Love Ghost", and catchy "Bourgeois Baby". The band already has a large following in San Diego, but this EP should help them expand that circle of love. Heavy Glow will light up the night for fans of Hendrix, Cream, The Doors, and early Rolling Stones.
Heavy Glow on MySpace. Official site.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
"The Research Turtles new website was launched yesterday: click here
For the time being, we are giving away free downloads of our new CD."
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Denny Smith (formerly of Former) is back with a new band and new sound called The Great Affairs. Joining him are Patrick Miller on the guitars, Matt Andersen on the bass, and Tim Good on the drums. This one marks a departure for Smith, who cut his teeth with the sadly underrated modern rock outfit Former, whose 2008 CD "...And Nothing But The Truth" was a thrilling ride down the melodic rock roller coaster.
The Great Affairs play more in the neighborhood of Tom Petty, Wilco, and The Jayhawks - perhaps influenced in part from Smith's relocation to Nashville. The sound is earnest and organic, pleasant and mellow - not unlike the new one from Black Crowes. Smith retains the wit in his lyrics, which remind me of the subtle lyrical genius of Paul Westerburg at times, and his vocals are just as nicely suited with alt-country as they were with his more commercialized big rock sound.
Highlights include the quietly infectious "Dodge", the Southern rock flavored "Dear John", and the sparkling "Isn't She Gold". "The Great Affairs" takes a few spins to settle in, but once you get into bed with it you won't regret it.
iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 11
The Great Affairs on MySpace. Official site.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Gills and Wings - sounds like the title of a lecture in an Evolutionary Biology course. But this Gills and Wings is a "theatrical pop rock quintet" hoping to soar to great heights with their new self-titled, five track EP. You may have heard some of their stuff on MTV’s The Real World, but for most of you this will be your first taste of Gills and Wings.
It doesn't take too long into this EP before you realize that the guys in this band are loaded to the gills with talent. Everything from the musicianship to the vocals to the lyrics just screams "we got it and we know it". The band is: Danny Reyes (vocals), Santiago De La Fuente (vocals, piano), Alex McCallum (guitar), Matt Hulcher (bass), and Andrew Hackett (drums). These boys have an excellent chemistry, making it sound easy to whip up majestic melodies around their cogent lyrical themes. Reyes has one of those voices that gracefully glides into falsetto and back again, yet retains enough of a rock edge to earn broad appeal.
My favorite tracks in this set are the first two tunes, the brilliant "Rebirth Of A Nation" and "Catastrophe". Gills and Wings take the best of Keane and Mêlée, mix in a little Queen, and give us a fresh sound that is compelling and full of intrigue.
Gills and Wings on MySpace. Official site.
We got permission to post the new single from Still Standing (see review and interview). It is a rockin' cover of "Blister in the Song", first heard on the 1983 debut record by the Violent Femmes.
DOWNLOAD THE TRACK HERE
You never know what you are going to get track to track from Detroit's Starfire Band. Singer and songwriter Gary Niemenski classifies the band's music as classic pop rock or power pop. Their latest, "Livin' In The City", certainly has that at its core, but a whole lot more too. You get a little Steve Winwood vibe from the groovy opening title track, some psychedelic swirl on "Blue Rain", and some retro rock a la The Byrds on "Heartaches Of Love" and Beach Boys on "Little One". To hear the straight up pop rock, check out tracks like "Love Is Real", "Feel The Sun", and "Ready".
Starfire Band produced the first CD in 2006 ("Blast Off"). They've been making some good strides ever since. In July 2007, Starfire Band was selected as a finalist for the Detroit News Sonic Summer Battle of the Bands. "Livin' In The City" should keep their positive momentum going.
Starfire Band offers a little something for everyone, but will largely appeal to those of you who are a bit more 'seasoned' and like a CD with some diverse musical turns. "Livin' In The City" boasts plenty of melodic grooves, tasteful harmonies, and a bright, sunny feel overall. My favorites off this one include "Heartaches Of Love", "Little One", and "Thank You".
iPOD-worthy: 3, 5, 6, 7, 10
Starfire Band on MySpace. Official site.