Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Review: Radio Days "C'est La Vie"

One of my favorite rock bands from Italy is back with a full-length release called "C'est La Vie". I'm talking about Radio Days, and you can read my raving review of their last EP, "Midnight Cemetery Rendezvous", right here. Led by Dario Persi, Radio Days has been getting well-deserved attention in pop rock circles all over the globe.

One of the main things I love above Radio Days is their ability to build contemporary sounding pop rock songs using the trademark chord progressions popularized way back during the Golden Era of Rock and Roll. Radio Days also impresses with their simplicity - their songs have such good melodies that they don't need a lot of bells and whistles to make listening to them an enjoyable and memorable experience. Considering this, Radio Days has promise to be the next Weezer, and they take great strides towards this goal with "C'est La Vie".

"C'est La Vie" contains ten new gems that respectfully show the band's love of The Knack, Cheap Trick, and The Raspberries. The extensive touring over the past few years has paid big dividends in terms of how tight they sound. The new CD begins and ends very strong, with top notch powerpop rockers such as "Spinning Round The Wheel", "So Far So Close", "Sleep It Off", and "Sweetest Lullaby". The tunes in the middle seem to sag a bit - this is not because they are bad, but it is just that the flanking tunes are so great. One disadvantage of having no bells and whistles to create a more dynamic sound is that some songs will sound too much alike. The advantage is that "C'est La Vie" sounds very cohesive and consistent, resulting in a CD that plays well from start to finish.

I'd recommend Radio Days for fans of Fountains of Wayne, Eugene Edwards, and All-Star United. Watch for the record on October 15, 2010. The tour (with Kurt Baker of the Leftovers) will start with 18 shows in Italy, Switzerland, France, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 10

Radio Days on MySpace. Official site.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Review: The Americans "The White EP" [EP]

With a little help from a friend, namely Sean Lennon, The Americans have released this nice six pack of an EP entitled "The White EP". It is their sophomore effort, which follows a self-titled debut, and will be released on November 16, 2010.

Another friend who lends a hand is Daniel Merriweather, contributing to the jovial opening track, "Try (Nobody Wants To)". This soaring pop tune is perfectly crafted, and the band's soulful R&B influence is evident with their nod to Jackie Wilson's "Your Love Is Lifting Me Higher" in the coda. The second track, "The Antidote" begins with some luscious la-la's and has a bubblegum backing vocal that makes this tune irresistible. The soulful horns on "Not Still In Love" carry this catchy tune to new heights, but a song like "Diamond" needs no assistance - the melody alone makes this one instantly memorable. As a special bonus, Sean Lennon not only produced the final track ("Requiem"), but he also guests on it.

The Americans was formed in 2008 by the London-born, Paris-raised, Charlie Klarsfeld (vocals, guitars, keys and producer) who now resides in New York with the band's additional four members. Overall, the music is packed full with pop, rock, and soul influences from every decade since the 60s. Such genre blending often results in a mess but, much like the melting pot that America is, The Americans have stirred up a wonderfully delicious confection in their cauldron. If you like anything from Paul McCartney to Prince, be sure to pick up the debut CD now and mark your calendars to get "The White EP".

The Americans on MySpace. Official site.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

HEART "Heart" (1985)

Following a formation change in Heart's camp and the commercial failure of the two albums in early 80s, the Wilson sisters made a strong return with their eponymous album, which was the first on Capitol Records. It spawned 4 successful singles and nailed 5 million sales in the US alone. This is the pinnacle of their entire career and this album sealed the top Billboard 200 spot on late 1985. Musically, Heart began to show a huge pop/AOR influence, leaving most of their 70s hard rock element behind.

Honestly, there's no dull moment inside, especially if you're into AOR, from the heavy rockers of "If Looks Could Kill", "The Wolf", and "Shell Shock", to the passionate power ballads of "What About Love", "Never", and "These Dreams", Heart delivered their affecting performances flawlessly. Ann Wilson's voice is undoubtedly enthralling and magical, but what surprised me is how Nancy took the lead singer role on their number one single, "These Dreams", and her heartwarming voice is so pure. I've read somewhere that she caught a cold fever at that time this song was recorded and you can hear how the illness ironically wrapped her voice with a raspy feel that made her vocal even better.

Unfortunately, the production is quite poor. The volume is very thin and it's hard to hear the bass, but other than that, this album is completely stunning. The songs are nostalgic, beautiful, and after 25 years old, it never gets old and rusty. While I also kinda like their newer releases such as "Brigade" and "Bad Animals", this is definitely their greatest album.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Review: The Offbeat "In Love Field"

With their new CD, "In Love Field", The Offbeat are out to make you grin from ear to ear. This UK outfit led by Darren Finlan is quite literally bringing the British Invasion back - "In Love Field" sounds like it was pulled straight out of a 1969 time capsule. The record is full of gorgeous melodies, sunny beats, and harmonies that rival Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

Just listen to the first couple bars of the opening track, "She Can Make The Sun Shine", to see what I'm talking about - the bouncy, shimmering music matches the title precisely. The hand-jive beat of "Someday Somehow" is another throwback to a bygone era, but fans of retro rock and pop are going to eat it up. "Something About The Girl" retains the Brit Invasion feel, but also has more to offer to contemporary pop rockers. Acoustic guitars imbue "Blue Sky" with a breezy, feel-good atmosphere, making it a keeper as well. The rich harmonies on the acoustic-driven "When You Got Love" are another must hear, especially for fans of The Hollies. A final highlight I'd like to mention is "Word To The Wise", which has a distinct Herman's Hermits feel to it.

You can't help but feel all warm with nostalgia after hearing "In Love Field". The Offbeat will please fans of The Beatles, The Buckinghams, Lovin' Spoonful, and The Monkees.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 7, 8

The Offbeat - Official site. Get it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Review: Ready In 10 "31 Strong"

Besides having a love for numbers, Ready In 10 has a passion for good old fashioned pop rock. The release of their new CD, "31 Strong" will surely secure this Long Island band a pole position in the race to become the world's next Goo Goo Dolls.

Ready In 10 lifted their name from a Chinese restaurant menu promising quick delivery. You could say Ready In 10 does the same, serving up tasty no-nonsense pop rock track after track. "31 Strong" follows their 2006 debut, "Face the World", and consists of eight new studio tracks and a live version of the crowd pleasing "Turn Your Red Light To Green".

Vocalist Sal Nastasi sometimes does an uncanny Jon Bon Jovi, most evident in his inflections during the opener, "Song For A Southern Drive". This radio-friendly tune is just one of many on "31 Strong" that feature sizzling guitar riffs and well placed harmonies. Additional highlights include the moody "Immune", the soft and beautiful "When She Moves", and the excellent "Come Home", where Nastasi delivers one of his more heartfelt performances. There is tremendous promise in this band and just a few things I'd suggest: get a better production team, write some more upbeat tunes, and concentrate even more on writing bigger and badder hooks to make the listener want to come back for more.

You should be hearing some Ready In 10 soon - their songs have been licensed to several television shows and a new sci-fi movie coming out called The Stone. In the meantime, get your hands on their mp3s and rock out.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 6

Ready In 10 on MySpace. Official site. Get it.

Check out a video for "Turn Your Red Light To Green":

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Review: Justin Kline "Triangle" [EP]

Justin Kline is a powerpop fan's dream come true - his new four song EP, "Triangle" is bursting with catchy melodies and sunny arrangements. Indeed, he cites his influences as "love and sunshine", and he has a boyish voice to match - somewhere between Kyle Vincent and Andy Lehman. The best half of the EP are the cute "Baby, You're a Mess" and the outstanding "Alison, We Cannot Be Friends" - each is remarkably infectious and dares you not to sing along. The other two tracks are a bit over the top for me, sounding too much like a carnival circus - reminds me of a powerpop carousel and it just makes me dizzy. What could be argued as the feel good EP of the year, you don't want to miss "Triangle" if classic powerpop is your thing.

Justin Kline on MySpace. Official site.

Review: Bern and the Brights "Swing Shift Maisies" [EP]

Bern and the Brights have opened for acclaimed acts such as Butch Walker, Rhett Miller, and Living Colour, and in July they released a four song EP entitled, "Swing Shift Maisies". The "Bern" of the Brights is Bernadette Malavarca, and she has a great singing voice with the power to poke your emotions. The songs on this EP are ambitious and often have a lot going on - some of it works but some of it distracts. The inclusion of dramatic strings takes the songs to new heights, augmenting the emotive voice of Malavarca. This synergy is best experienced with the terrific moody opener, "Boo" and to a lesser extent in the upbeat "Sangria Peaches". What is missing here are some really good hooks - with exception of "Boo", I'm afraid I did not find myself wanting to come back to any other track. There is a lot of promise here and I look forward to hearing this group develop. Check them out if you like R.E.M., Dave Matthews Band, or Jeff Buckley.

Bern and the Brights on MySpace. Official site.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kneejerk: Ed Kowalczyk - Alex Band - Bret Michaels

Kneejerk is a new feature here on BMF - we preview some new releases and give our short, "kneejerk" reaction...this edition features three guys who decided to fly solo…

Ed Kowalczyk “Alive”

Ed Kowalczyk, best known as the man who made a hit song using the word “placenta” in his lyrics, has given birth to another recording in the form of a solo album called “Alive”. His Pennsylvania-based band, Live, was huge in the 90s thanks to a strong debut followed by their blockbuster “Throwing Copper” record. But after the uneven “Secret Samadhi” the band lost traction and alienated fans as they catered to trends. Failing to draw back the music buying public, I can’t blame Kowalczyk for trying a solo effort. Kowalczyk was a driving force behind the songs and sounds of Live, so it comes as no surprise that “Alive” sounds so much like, uh, “Live”. While most fans will welcome his characteristic vocals, the fact that he’s done little here to distance himself from Live is disappointing and just sounds tiresome. And his lyrics are overly saturated with spiritual references – even more than usual – he comes across like the Deepak Chopra of the musical world. So for me, I’m afraid “Alive” is D.O.A. Let’s hope his other bandmates, some of whom went on to form The Gracious Few with Kevin Martin of Candlebox, can produce something with more life.

Alex Band “We've All Been There”

Alex Band is the baritone voice from The Calling, best known for their 2001 smash "Wherever You Will Go" off the “Camino Palmero” record. Like we’ve seen with Kowalczyk, it is very hard for such a recognizable voice to distance itself from the shadows of its past projects. So again, vocally and even musically, “We’ve All Been There” could easily be mistaken for the third record from The Calling. That aside, “We've All Been There” is filled with decent modern AOR – catchy songs with big choruses and simplistic lyrics. “Tonight” and “What Is Love” have radio-friendly written all over them. The major problem is that by halfway through you realize why he called the record ““We've All Been There” - everything is sounding the same! Worse, the repetitive sappiness of his lyrics gets old fast. But if you are looking for a record stuffed with songs of love and inspiration that are belted out by an excellent vocalist, you’ve found your Band.

Bret Michaels “Custom Built”

Bret Michaels has seen an unexpected resurgence in his popularity these days, unfortunately due to appearances on reality TV and extensive coverage of his health problems. This has climaxed in a surprise appearance on the American Idol finale, which gave him the opportunity to remind America that he still does music. But his timely new CD is a tragedy in that it is such a wasted opportunity. People were interested in Michaels once again, but this CD is just a cash cow rushed together in a transparent attempt to capitalize on his newfound popularity. In fact, there are only four new songs – the rest are remixes, demos, a cover (Sublime’s “What I Got”), or tracks found on previous releases. Granted, not many people have heard those previous releases, but the reality is that those songs are not very good. As for the new songs, we have 2 nondescript rockers (“Riding Against The Wind” and “Lie To Me”) and 2 decent ballads. Ballads have always been a specialty for Michaels, and “Nothing To Lose” (with Miley Cyrus) and “Wasted Time” find him in fine form. “Custom Built” is stitched together like a sloppy patchwork quilt – some rock here, bit of glam, lot of country, and some other fabric salvaged from a previous worn out blanket.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Review: Brady Harris "Year of the Pug"

If you ever wondered what Lennon and McCartney might have sounded like if they embraced roots rock, wonder no more...many claim that is pretty much what Brady Harris sounds like.

Harris is originally from Texas and used to front the band Solid Goldsteins. In his solo work, Harris is carving out a niche for himself by merging country-tinged roots rock to pop rock. His latest effort, "Year of the Pug", follows the acclaimed "North Hollywood Skyline" from 2006. He's toured extensively, "from Portland to Paris, Liverpool to Texas, and a few other places, too". Notably, Harris released an album of reworked cover tunes in 2007 called "Cover Charge". Some of the artists covered on this record are no surprise (like The Beatles), but most of them are very unexpected for Harris to do in his style(Madonna, The Vines, and Motorhead...yes, Motorhead). To hear these familiar tunes revamped in a countrified, organic style is original, entertaining, and - at times - rather amusing.

"Year of the Pug", his sixth album, finds Harris in top form, sounding at home in the Americana genre. The performances on the album are solid and his warm baritone radiates through the music. Generally, the record is laid back with country-tinged tunes that hit the ears lightly. There is a lot to like here, but I'm not finding a lot to love. Good melodies, an adequate voice, decent playing...not much to complain about but then again not anything tremendously special. One of the standout tracks, "Floating", is also one of the clearest examples of the Lennon influence imbuing the music of Brady Harris. "Little Miss Mourning" has a cool lyric, put to good use in a tune that features a silky lead snaking through breezy acoustic guitars. There is a bit of Elliot Smith channeled in the pretty ballad "Stars Shine Bright", and plenty more Beatles coming through in the lovely "That's All I Need". If you like John Lennon, Michael Penn, and Venice, you should give Brady Harris a shot.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 5, 9

Brady Harris on MySpace. Official site.

Interview: Harry Hess (First Signal, Harem Scarem)

Harry Hess talks about his new musical endeavour, First Signal, the end of Harem Scarem, and … bacon

Harry Hess, the powerhouse vocalist behind Harem Scarem, one of Canada’s most acclaimed hard rock outfits, is back with a vengeance singing for First Signal. The new studio project finds him paired with Dennis Ward and a dream team of other songwriters and players. We had the honor of having Harry take a few moments to answer some questions for The Rock and Roll Report!

Q: Like many other fans of Harem Scarem, I was really disappointed to hear the band broke up. What were some of the reasons for ending the many productive years with Harem Scarem to open up this exciting new chapter with First Signal?

Read the full interview here!

Our review of First Signal's debut CD can be found here.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

ALIAS "Alias" (1990)

The short-lived supergroup, Alias, which consisted of former Sheriff singer Freddy Curci and guitarist Steve DeMarchi along with Heart founding members, found a sweet success in 1990 with their sole eponymous debut selling over a million copies, with their most successful single, "More Than Words Can Say", conquered t...he TV and radio. Alias' musical style is pure AOR with several ballads and midtempo tracks, and the highlight of the band is on Curci's smooth-as-silk and soaring voice.

Aside from the infamous ballad, I love the second single, "Waiting For Love", which I think is better than "More Than Words Can Say". The sweet drop of dreamy keyboard at the intro is enchanting and sounded so 80s. The song is just timeless and one of the few tracks that I keep listening to this day. The third single, "Haunted Heart", is also very good, but I think "After All The Love Is Gone" contained a bigger potential and this song should have been huge, in my opinion. Some other good tracks that worth listening to are "One More Chance" and "True Emotion". It's a shame that the rest tracks are pretty decent and passable.

Alias' debut is one of the mandatory albums that belong to every glam and AOR lovers because of the two huge singles alone, but since you can also find at least 3-4 other great tracks and it's quite easy to find this pretty cheap, it's a big purchase for you not too missed.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Review: Michael Gross and the Statuettes "Telepath"

The time has come for the full-length debut record by Michael Gross and the Statuettes. It is called "Telepath" and contains several tracks that have previously appeared on their recent EP, "Impulse and Exports" (reviewed here), but none from their debut EP, "Dust and Daylight" (reviewed here).

Michael Gross and The Statuettes are an American indie rock/pop band from Salt Lake City, Utah that formed in the summer of 2008. From 2003-2007, Michael Gross was the guitarist and one of the singer/songwriters in the band The Brobecks. After his departure from that band and a stint in a band called Lets Become Actors, Michael recorded his first solo album in the spring of 2008 entitled "Tales From a Country Home.” A short time later, Michael formed a full band around this project. The Statuettes were born.

Having released two independent EPs, Michael Gross and the Statuettes have found their groove and have a good chemistry together. The band sounds more confident than ever, which translates into more solid performances on "Telepath". In terms of songwriting, there is still some room for growth in terms of writing more memorable hooks. However, there are some real standouts that make "Telepath" worth checking out. Carried over from the "Impulse and Exports" EP are the previously highlighted tracks "On and On" and "Silence Is A Killer". Among the new tunes here, the upbeat "Real Gone" is very enjoyable, and "When The Curtains Come Down" has a great early Radiohead quality to it.

"Telepath" is being released on August 21 by Los Angeles based Sonata Cantata Records. Check them out if you like The Shins or We Are Scientists.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 7, 8, 9

Michael Gross and the Statuettes on MySpace. Official site.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Free mp3 from The Genuine Fakes

THE GENUINE FAKES is the new hope of powerpop in Sweden. Over a three-year period they have worked on their debut album, which will be released in the fall of 2010. ”When Reality Hits You”, the band's second single from the album is being released on August 20 as a free download through the band's website. Shortly it will also be available on iTunes and Spotify.

The Genuine Fakes consists of four young men with moustaches from Stockholm, Sweden. Singer and guitarist Joey Fake, bassist Morty Fake, drummer Johnny Fake and keyboardist Tommy Fake. They are cousins and second cousins and grew up in the industrial town of Fagersta, where the future holds but three choices for most citizens: take a job at the steel plant, become a criminal or start a band. The boys decided to follow in the footsteps of town mates The Hives and formed a band. Merging influences from the Swedish ”swindie” era of the 90's containing bands such as Popsicle, The Wannadies and Atomic Swing, with American powerpop bands like The Posies, Fountains of Wayne, Weezer and Jellyfish they've managed to create a fresh sound for the 21st century.

The song which is now being released is yet another indication of the quality of the upcoming album. While the first single was more of a rocking swindie-popper, now The Genuine Fakes have mixed elements of Weezer and Jellyfish to come up with this catchy mid-tempo powerpop tune. The hook in the chorus is highly contagious! Don't say we didn't warn you. Singer Joey Fake describes the song: ”It's about the constant search for your place in life. Every now and then you reach a certain point where you feel disillusioned and reality catches up with you. In those moments you have to make a new game plan and try something different in order to go on. But, there's also the fear that in the grand scheme of things everything is pointless anyway, so why bother? And then you make a run for it!” In collaboration with Pristine Music the song is released as a free download in the format of your choice via the band's website (see link below). Shortly it will also be made available for purchase through digital stores such as iTunes and also for streaming on Spotify (distributed by Record Union).

Go get the free mp3 here!

The Genuine Fakes on MySpace. Official site.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Review: Timmy Sean "Songs From and Inspired By Noisewater"

Formerly of the power pop band Luzer (and shortly thereafter The Celebrities), Timmy Sean is back with his first solo CD entitled "Songs From and Inspired By Noisewater". Sean sings and plays nearly every instrument on the record and tries to incorporate all of his influences (which include Brian May's (Queen) guitar, Paul McCartney's bass, and Ben Folds on piano) into each song. In fact, Sean attempted to craft his first solo effort towards the sounds of Brian Wilson's "Smile" and McCartney's "Band On The Run". But it's not like Sean doesn't call in some help to optimize the atmosphere of a song - for example, Brian Mahoney contributes some excellent, well-placed sax and clarinet on a number of tracks. Consequently, the record is as fun as a carnival.

As you may surmise, "Songs From and Inspired By Noisewater" plays somewhat like the soundtrack to a movie, flanked with an instrumental intro and outro to set the mood. If "Noisewater" were indeed a movie, and this album a true soundtrack, it should be nominated for an Oscar for best movie soundtrack. "Songs From and Inspired By Noisewater" is absolutely fantastic and one of my runaway favorites of 2010 by far. Aside from those instrumental pieces, "Noisewater" is overflowing with waves of catchy choruses and bouncy verses. The record literally drips with hooks and a feel good attitude. I will highlight "Girl From Omaha", "If Your Mother Has Her Way", and "Wait" as my favorite tracks, but the album is extremely cohesive and consistent, making it a pill you'll want to swallow whole.

It took Sean four years to make this record and it will take you only 40 minutes to enjoy it. But enjoy it you will..."Songs From and Inspired By Noisewater" is a must have record for fans or power pop and rock. Timmy Sean will delight fans from early E.L.O. to Jellyfish to Ben Folds. Genius...pure genius, through and through.

iPOD-worthy: 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11

Timmy Sean on MySpace. Official site.

Interview: Big Head Todd and the Monsters

Don't miss my interview with Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd and the Monsters, now posted at Rock and Roll Report! You can find my review of their latest record, "Rocksteady", here.

Colorado-based Big Head Todd & the Monsters never imagined they would be considered one of the finest roots rock bands of their generation. Todd Park Mohr and the boys have enjoyed critical and commercial success, most notably with their 1993 breakout record, “Sister Sweetly,” but have been quietly cranking out worthy successors ever since. We were happy to have Todd take a few moments to talk Big Head Todd & the Monsters, as the band celebrated the release of their latest, “Rocksteady”.

Q: It is hard for me to grasp, but Big Head Todd & the Monsters is approaching its 25th year – did you foresee it lasting this long?

Read the rest of the interview here!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Review: Broken Promise Keeper "Poptimized"

Broken Promise Keeper (BPK) - a one-man (Rob Stuart) studio band based in Decatur, Georgia - is back with "Poptimized", the follow-up to last year's best kept powerpop secret (shhh...it was called "Ice Cold Pop" and our review can be found here).

True to the name, "Poptimized" makes every effort to incorporate all of the criteria that make a wonderful and memorable pop record. Stuart continues to put substance over style, so while the melodies dazzle, the production is more on the lo-fi, garage pop end of the spectrum. But in the case of BPK, this just adds to the charm. "Scarred For Life" is a terrific little rocker that kick things off, bristling with guitar tones and riffs that sound like early 80s new wave (a bit of old school R.E.M. mixed with The Romantics). "Hyperdriven" continues along these lines, with enough Star Trek references to keep any fan of sci-fi happy. "Today I Do" is an all too honest account of one's feelings towards others ("Today I love you more than yesterday, but as far as tomorrow - that's another day"), with a decent hook adorned with plenty harmonies and some fun handclaps. "Pray For Rain" is also full of interesting moments and is augmented with some snappy tapping on the piano. "Promises" is another highlight covering the topic of time-weary relationships, but its perky beat (accented with more piano tapping) underscores the optimism trying to be expressed. "Sad But True" is probably one of the most upbeat rocking songs Stuart has put to tape and is one of my favorites on the record.

Like I mentioned, BPK is music by a man who knows and loves pop music - he has a real passion for it. Production value is limited, but if you can put that aside, you've got another infectious record by BPK.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9

Broken Promise Keeper : Official site.

Interview: Red Wanting Blue

We recently had the pleasure to bounce some “Qs” off of Scott Terry – lead singer of the Ohio-based roots rock band, Red Wanting Blue (review here). The band has been touring relentlessly for 10 years now and their latest release, “These Magnificent Miles,” is a collection of engaging tunes centered loosely around life on the road.

Q: I’d like to get started with the band’s name: Red Wanting Blue. Is this a political reference – your wanting a traditional red state, like your home state of Ohio perhaps, to become blue, or what?

Read the full interview here at Rock and Roll Report!

Review: Arthur Nasson "Echo Garden"

Arthur Nasson, a multi-instrumentalist out of Boston, is releasing his sixth album on October 5th. The record will be called "Echo Garden" and is a low-fi but sprawling three-part suite.

Arthur Nasson has been featured on NPR’s “Here and Now” and KALX’s "The Next Big Thing" w/ Marshall Stax. In 2008 he simultaneously released the retro rock "False Prophets" and the experimental noise work "Life After Telescopes", garnering praise such as, “False Prophets sounds like something John Lennon might have done. It’s varied, but cohesive; melodic, but adventurous."

"Echo Garden" is very similar in the sense that it is diverse and eclectic, a mix of brief instrumental experimentation and straightforward pop and rock songs. For some, the record will go down smooth listened to in its entirety like a full-course meal, but for others, they'll just want the desserts. I find myself in the latter category, despite the intriguing craftsmanship in the instrumental pieces. For example, "Summer Drops" is the verse chord progression of the following track "Bounce" pulled apart, with a series of vocal harmonies added to make it a completely different piece. "Echo Garden Theme Part 1" and "Echo Garden Theme Part 2" are the same chord progressions performed in different styles, with vocals added to Part 2. But if I'm being honest, I could have done without all of these quirky instrumentals and settled for a great EP of his power pop tunes.

Six of the songs spread across the three suites are truly brilliant. Nasson is a master at mixing contemporary and retro styles, possessing a voice that is well-suited to his craft. Aptly titled "Bounce" will certainly put a spring in your step - the driving rhythm and amazing piano playing are real attention grabbers. "The Other Side" is a sharp turn that combines surf guitar and a reggae beat, but it all works because the song is pleasantly catchy. "Unglued", my favorite on "Echo Garden", is a splendid pop rock song with an unforgettable hook. The final suite contains a string of excellent tracks such as "Drag", "Meant to Be", and the title track, collectively bringing this unusual record to a climatic end.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 5, 16, 17, 18

Arthur Nasson on MySpace. Official site.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: First Signal (featuring Harry Hess)

One of the most disappointing bits of news in the melodic rock world this past year was the break up of Harem Scarem. Harem Scarem (for a short time also known as Rubber) was arguably the most underrated hard rock band of its time. Formed in the late 80s by founding members Pete Lesperance and Harry Hess, Harem Scarem cranked up the amps year after year, unleashing their brand of melodic hard rock on the masses. Both Lesperance and Hess have released solo records before as side projects, so we were optimistic that we'd hear some echoes of Harem Scarem in the future. That moment has arrived in the form of a new project called First Signal, an alliance between the powerhouse vocals of Harry Hess and producer/bassist Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69, Khymera).

The concept behind this project was to bring back the classic Harem Scarem sound craved by many fans. A dream team of songwriters, including brothers Tom and James Martin (Khymera, Sunstorm, House of Lords), Erik Martensson (W.E.T., Eclipse), Ronny Milianowicz (Saint Deamon), Robert Sall (W.E.T., Work of Art) and Mark Baker (Signal, House of Lords) among others, had the task to recreate that magic sound, which is now back in all its glory thanks to a monster vocal performance from Hess and a crisp production and arrangement work from Dennis Ward. Other musicians on the album include Chris Schmidt on drums, Michael Klein on guitars and Eric Ragno on keyboards and the necessary background vocals contribution from the other ex-Harem Scarem member Darren Smith.

As you have probably surmised, First Signal sounds a lot like Harem Scarem (it is hard to imagine that anything with Harry Hess at the vocal helm is going to sound otherwise!). Best of all, the band doesn't just sound like Harem Scarem because of the amazing trademark vocals and thunderous riffs...it sounds like Harem Scarem because the songwriting is top-notch, A-one melodic rock. Tons of terrific hooks, anthem choruses, and spine-tingling harmonies.

Things begin with a bang thanks to the upbeat first single, "This City" - a song that is perfect to play while getting ready for a night on the town. "When You Believe" is a stereotypical AOR anthem that could have been found on any Rocky soundtrack. The gears shift down just a bit for the midtempo "Part Of Me", before shifting all the way down for the piano-driven power ballad, "Crazy". "Crazy" is well done - nice chord progressions, good mix of guitar and piano, and a stellar vocal performance by Hess. "Goodbye to the Good Times" is another highlight, with its smoky, blues-tinged verse, sing-a-long chorus, and jammin' solo. "Into the Night" is another upbeat track celebrating the nightlife, and deserves mention for being yet another irresistible sing-a-long. AOR fans will delight in the delicate groove of "When November Falls", a very strong adult contemporary track. I think fans of both new and classic Harem Scarem will find something to enjoy on the First Signal record.

This excellent debut from First Signal will be released August 27th 2010 in Europe and September 14th in the US. Fans of melodic hard rock and AOR rejoice - Harry Hess and company have saved the day! You have to hear First Signal if you like Def Leppard, Europe, Tyketto, and of course, Harem Scarem.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9

Harry Hess on MySpace.

Watch for my interview with Harry Hess...coming soon!

Check out the video for "This City":

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Powerpopaholic CD of The Week - Edward O'Connell

We're back with another exciting installment of the Powerpopaholic CD of The Week! Aaron Kupferberg (from Powerpopaholic) tells us about some of the best new power pop records by way of an audio review. This week's featured CD is Edward O'Connell's "Our Little Secret" - just click below and enjoy!

Read Aaron's Powerpopaholic review here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

VAN HALEN "Van Halen" (1978)

Selling over 10 million copies in the US alone, Van Halen's first album was cited as one of the most successful debut ever made. Eddie introduced a revolutionary guitar playing through the blinding and almost impossible shred on "Eruption". Though many stated that tapping technique was first developed by Steve Hackett, it's Eddie Van Halen that opened the world's eyes with his breakthrough invention and heavy metal had never been the same ever since.

The first half is ultimately strong while the second half is a bit bumpy and with couple of decent tracks, it's generally weaker but still doesn't reduce much value of the album. My favorite parts are the immense slow tempo hit of "Runnin' With The Devil", the frenzy tapping of "Eruption", the dancy Kinks cover of "You Really Got Me" , the punchy tune of "Ain't Talkin' Bout Love", the underrated "I'm The One" with Eddie's insane solos, and "Ice Cream Man" which is highly entertaining, and again, the thrilling solos steal the show.

David Lee Roth's place is also as important as Eddie himself, with his flamboyant persona and volcanic charm, they conquered the arenas and garnered million followers. For fans of hard rock, glam, and traditional heavy metal, this is an indispensable and highly influential release that later spawned many great axemen and albums, and after more than 30 years, it just never gets old. Van Halen's first step to the scene quickly propelled them to the height of sweet success and with this monstrous attempt, they definitely deserved it.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Review: Evolett "For Your Consideration"

From Montgomery, Alabama, Evolett is a female-fronted quintet ready to rock your world. Their name was inspired by the ancient tribal character of Evolet in the film '10,000 B.C.', whose name meant "to bring life". Similarly, the band is on a mission to bring enlightenment and musical life to the masses. What kind of music do they write? In their words, "We write music that we would want to listen to: loud and rockin' but emotional and with meaning. Everything's a compromise and that's reflected in the music and the title."

Evolett features some powerhouse vocals by Haden Brightwell, who has a bright future as a vocalist. Her voice is bold and well-suited to the band's modern hard rock sound, which is expertly delivered by Tyler Gates and Jonathan Flurry on guitar, Stephen Taunton on drums, and Russ Daly on bass. This young band has a great deal of chemistry and already sound like they've been playing together well beyond their years. Produced by Andy Jackson (Hot Rod Circuit, Say Anything, Death in the Park) and Mike Poorman, "For Your Consideration" sounds amazing, with its fat bass, soaring distorted guitars, and aggressive drums mixed perfectly with the vocals.

A one-two punch of "Only Time" and "The Compromise" (the current single) kick things off, promising to pull in fans right at the get go. "The Portrait" is a another worthy tune - less engaging verses, but a terrific chorus that you'll find yourself humming later in the day. While the remaining tunes are good, the songwriting is not quite as strong in terms of delivering irresistible hooks. The exceptions include the radio-friendly "Hang On Every Word" - my favorite track on the record - and the energetic closer, "Careful Where You Sleep".

With most songs not even reaching three minutes, "For Your Consideration" is a great album for those with short attention spans. But to their credit, Evolett take no pit stops for the entire half hour and don't wear out their welcome. "For Your Consideration" comes out August 24th, 2010 on End Sounds record label. Fans of Paramore, Damone, and Taking Back Sunday - don't miss this one.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 8, 10

Evolett on MySpace.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kneejerk: John Mellencamp - Sheryl Crow - Black Crowes

Kneejerk is a new feature here on BMF - we preview some new releases and give our short, "kneejerk" reaction...

John Mellencamp "No Better Than This"

"No Better Than This" marks John Mellencamp's debut record for Rounder. These thirteen new tracks, produced by the acclaimed T. Bone Burnett were recorded live using a half-century year-old Ampex tape recorder and vintage microphone. Mellencamp says of the album, "It was absolutely the most fun I've ever had making a record in my life. It was about making music - organic music made by real musicians - that's heartfelt and written from the best place it can come from". When I see the name T. Bone Burnett these days, I think boring and slow, and this new one from the great John Mellencamp is no exception. Continuing along the lines of his last 2 releases, this CD is also full of intimate roots rock that sounds very old-fashioned - nothing wrong with that as long as the songs are interesting. Unfortunately, there isn't much on this record that makes me want to come back for a second listen anytime soon. However, the record makes for interesting background music for a Sunday morning. The graceful and modestly melodic "Save Some Time To Dream" was the highlight for me. Dylan fans might appreciate the folksy feel of "Thinking About You" and "Clumsy Ol' World". Here's hoping for a return to the classic Mellencamp sound next time around...

Sheryl Crow "100 Miles From Memphis"

Another huge disappointment from Crow, even moreso than her last record, "Detours" (review here). This record, her seventh, was supposed to capture the soul and passion of music, best exemplified on the opening track "Our Love Is Fading". But all of the horns and blue-eyed soul in the remaining tracks amounts to window dressing on a condemned house because the songs lack any interesting hook as a foundation. A couple of senseless covers also bring down the record - she does a sleepy, lifeless version of Terence Trent D'Arby's "Sign Your Name" and a note by note reiteration of "I Want You Back" as a tribute to the late Michael Jackson, who gave her a start as a backup singer. Keith Richards can't even save the reggae-influenced "Eye To Eye", which goes in one ear and out the other, lacking any ability to get trapped in your mind. Let's hope for next time Crow takes her own advice as she sings on "Peaceful Feeling": "When you fly off in the wrong direction, turn it around, see your own reflection".

Black Crowes "Croweology"

The latest from Black Crowes is not a new studio effort, but rather a collection of greatest hits and deep tracks reworked in a more or less acoustic style. The music of the Black Crowes lends itself well to this format and overall the record, with its mix of recognizable and not-so recognizable songs, is an engaging listen. "Croweology" does stretch the limits of your attention though - it is a double album because most songs exceed five minutes and some clock in at near ten minutes. There is little point in songs like "She Talks To Angels" - which were acoustic-based to begin with - but reworkings of "Jealous Again", "Under A Mountain", and "Soul Singing" are very enjoyable. Not for the casual fan, but it is a great way to cleanse the palate after listening to today's overly processed rubbish.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Review: Death in the Park "Death in the Park"

Don't freak out if your kids enthusiastically proclaim that they want to see death in the park - most likely, they just want to go see the pop punk band calling itself Death in the Park. But I guess it wouldn't hurt to clarify that!

From their bio: "Vocalist Andy Jackson's (Hot Rod Circuit, Say Anything, Terrible Things) inspiration came after the 2007 Warped Tour through his friendship with members of the band Paramore. Later, recalling a song from his favorite band as a youth, Archers of Loaf, Jackson, now with guitarist Ronnie Gardner, chose the name, and Death in the Park was born. This punk quartet (complete with Jake Sloan on bass and Aaron Holmes on drums) out of Montgomery, Alabama, brings new light to the familiar genre and is unafraid to take the next step, to stretch themselves musically, even in the face of creative crisis. Regarding their music, Death in the Park hopes to create a real 'crime scene feel, very Dexter meets CSI, and kind of gory.'"

To my eyes, viewing the band's name and disturbing artwork, which would horrify even Stephen King, I was expecting some sort of unmelodious goth rock or speed metal with incomprehensible cookie monster vocals. But to my ears, Death in the Park sounds a lot like My Chemical Romance mixed with Panic at the Disco. The guitars and vocals are muscular, and the lyrics a bit dark at times, but the melodies radiate. Underneath it all, Death in Park has sharp instincts for pop and catchy riffs, making them prime candidates to cross-over multiple genres and rack up a ton of fans across the musical spectrum.

The record is off and running with a powerful rocker called "Pitifully Exposed", which is quickly followed by the first single, "Fallen", which features some of the band's most compelling lyrics and the amazing Hayley Williams (Paramore) on backing vocals. Additional highlights include the driving pop rocker "Move To The Beat", which boasts interesting verses flanking a tastefully crunchy chorus, and a near power pop tune called "Sway". The band slows things down just once with "Oh You Know", but I have mixed feelings as to whether ballads like this mesh well with their musical style. Fortunately "Walk Away" is a straightforward rocker that ends the record on a relatively strong note, washing the ballad taste out of your mouth.

The self-titled debut from Death in the Park will be available digitally on August 24 and in retail outlets on September 14. Don't judge a book by its cover (or who you're gonna love by your lover) - check this one out if you like Paramore, Panic at the Disco, or Fall Out Boy.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 5, 7, 10

Death in the Park on MySpace. Official site.

Free music from The Great Valley "Stripped" EP

Back in April, we were knocked off our feet by the "Wrecking Ball" EP released by Delaware band The Great Valley (review here). Now you can get acoustic versions of the title track as well as "Above The City" from that EP, along with a brand new track called "Don't Need Honesty". Yep - three great tunes from a great power pop and rock band for free! Go download them here.

The Great Valley on MySpace.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Review: The Shamus Twins "Garden of Weeds"

A garden of weeds pretty much describes the music scene these days, but it is also the title of the new long-awaited record by The Shamus Twins. Spearheaded by Jerry Juden and Tim Morrow, The Shamus Twins are all about the "jangle and twang". We last heard from them in 2004 when their self-titled CD made its debut.

For power pop fans, "Garden of Weeds" is an excellent way to spend 30 minutes. The guys have a wonderful sense of melody and can harmonize like there is no tomorrow - seriously, these are truly terrific arrangements. In the half hour it takes to listen to the record, The Shamus Twins run through ten new songs that are largely centered on the pop rock highway, but exit now and then onto sideroads of harder rock ("I Know I Know") or soulful rock ("I Never Been Happy"). While I enjoy the sideroads, the band is at its best on tracks like "You Know My Name" and "Life Is Strange". The masterpiece, however, is "Did You Have To Change", an absolutely charming power pop gem where all of the ingredients gel perfectly. The CD does weaken a bit towards the end - on the last few tracks, the band displays good form at bat but doesn't quite hit the ball.

"Garden of Weeds" gets better with every spin - there is a lot to like on the initial pass, but lots to love on repeated spins. For fans of The Rembrandts, The Meadows, and early Posies.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 6, 7

The Shamus Twins on MySpace. Official site.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Review: Garfields Birthday "Tea and Sympathy"

Garfields Birthday is a band from Weymouth (a seaside town on the Dorest Coast of England) founded in the mid-1990s by James Laming and Simon Felton. We've last heard from them in 2008 when we reviewed their record, "Let Them Eat Cake" (review here). Astute readers will also recognize Simon Felton's name as we've also reviewed his solo record, "Failing in Biology" (review here).

Fourteen years is a long time to be writing songs and, as most people know, many more songs are written than those that find their way onto studio releases. "Tea and Sympathy" is a compilation of previous recordings that span the band's career yet never made it onto a full-length studio release. These tunes include early home and studio recordings, some of which were unreleased or included on the 1998 "Ambulance EP". For fans, these sixteen tracks are going to warm the heart and please the ears.

For the uninitiated, "Tea and Sympathy" may not be the best way to get acquainted with the band as most of the material is not among their strongest; some of it also suffers from low-fi production. However, I rather enjoy releases like "Tea and Sympathy" as they provide a rare glimpse into the history and evolution of a band - and on that level the record has a great deal of merit.

Highlights include the opening track, "Ambulance", the only real rocker in the bunch. While I like the upbeat and energetic instrumentation, rockers just don't seem to suit the timid vocals, which seemed to have gotten buried in the mix as well. Plentiful harmonies save the day on this track. "Thick Ear" and "Better Than Reality" should turn some heads halfway through the CD, and the band really hits a high note with the happy-go-lucky feel of "Margaret and Stephanie". "Just An Old Flame" is a charming, stripped down acoustic demo, and the coffeehouse sound suits the vocals well. I also thought "The Norm" was among the more engaging tracks in the collection. A couple songs show the band in experimentation mode, such as "Eye To Eye" and "The Filthy Underground", but the application of distorted vocals is quite irritating. The band is at its best when the music is soft and in sync with the lightweight vocals - and of course it doesn't hurt to invent a great melody to decorate with the music.

Garfields Birthday's mantra is "Indie pop for lost romantic souls". Give a listen to "Tea and Sympathy" to gain a better appreciation for how the band used the last 14 years to polish their craft.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 6, 9, 11, 12, 15

Garfields Birthday on MySpace. Official site.

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

DEF LEPPARD "Adrenalize" (1992)

The loss of Steve Clark was painful, and with Rick Allen losing his arm few years back, life's been a hard slap for Def Leppard, but did they still bite hard after being silent for over 4 years? Surprisingly, the answer is a big yes, the album debuted #1 in the UK and went triple platinum in the US, quite a record in 1992 where grunge movement had started killing many glam bands.

The punchy anthem and kickin' riffs of "Let's Get Rocked" is a great concert starter. "Heaven Is", a marvelous melodic rock gem, is my favorite together with "Stand Up" and "I Wanna Touch You". "White Lightning" is an interesting lengthy epic that can be boring and brilliant at the same time, it's nice to see Leppard in a different form in this song but wait until you're blown away and left breathless with their greatest ballad ever made, "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad".

There's a big similarity on their musical style in this album with the Canadian rockstar, Bryan Adams' "Waking Up The Neighbours", which also a great album by the way, thanks to the godly-talent of Mutt Lange who handled both artists in the early 90s. Some Leppard fans found that Adrenalize was too typical and sounded like a weaker version of Hysteria, but with those great memorable songs inside, this album works out totally fine for me.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Interview: Pearl

Check out my interview with Pearl now posted at Rock and Roll Report!

"Pearl Aday, the daughter of rock legend Meat Loaf, has been embedded in the music scene all of her life. She’s napped in guitar cases as a baby and grew up singing back-up for her father from 1994 to 2003, and also sang with the boys in Motley Crue. Now married to Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian, she has struck out with her debut record, “Little Immaculate White Fox”. Pearl recently entertained a few of our questions…

Q: It might seem obvious, as the daughter of a rock icon, that you were destined to write and perform music, but was there a defining moment in your life when you realized that you were indeed a “rock child”?"

Read the full interview here.

And in case you missed my review of Pearl's debut CD, you can read that here.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Review: Schnauser "The Sound of Meat"

Schnauser is a trio from Bristol, UK (Alan Strawbridge - Guitar, Vocals; Holly McIntosh - Bass; John Fowle - Drums) that plays a brand of music so refreshingly strange that it defies classification. To call them quirky doesn't quite hit the nail on the head. Their latest, "The Sound of Meat", will be available September 21, 2010, five years after the debut release, "Kill All Humans". The new album contains lyrics just as inventive as the music, covering topics such as "the inglorious fall and inexorable rise of Noel Edmonds, Steven Spielberg's lachrymose remake of 'War of the Worlds', the dualistic nature of a brace of unsettling twins, and the fleeting tribulations of a celebrity TV vagrant."

Amidst the unorthodox blend of styles, each song on "The Sound of Meat" contains at least one element of melody that demands attention. Unfortunately, the unusual arrangements and juxtaposition of styles is going to distract listeners accustomed to more traditional pop and rock. I must admit that I am in the latter category, and therefore gravitate to the more straightforward numbers, such as the spacey groove of "Cosmic Ordering Service and the Elliot Smith sound of "Nobody Loves Me". The bouncy piano and catchy melody within "Justice" showcase some Beatles influence, and the rich harmonies and textures of "Last One Picked" makes this track a standout as well.

"The Sound of Meat" is innovative and original, and not for the musically tame. If you enjoy some experimentation in your powerpop, check out the highlighted tracks - the rest are for the more adventurous listener. Schnauser is for fans of The Flaming Lips, The Shins, and Soft Machine.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 8, 11

Schnauser on MySpace. Official site.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rachel McGoye and Alex Band discuss "Ghetto Gloss" EP - free mp3

Press release:
"Since releasing her debut EP, "What Day is It?" in 2006, Rachel McGoye has spread her musical wings breaking new grounds on her latest EP, “Ghetto Gloss”. Sexy yet soulful, playful yet poignant, “Ghetto Gloss”, strikes a refreshing chord on love and relationships. Produced and co-written by Alex Band (formerly of The Calling), the melodies have a purpose; the sounds have a mission. From the catchy lyrics of her first single, "Ghetto Gloss," to the beautiful ballad, "Love Me Good," McGoye’s exceptional songwriting talent, earthy presence and rich, serene vocals are winning combinations. Rachel emits a creative energy that doesn’t go unnoticed onstage. Check out this exclusive performance and interview footage taken from her recent performance opening for Alex Band in San Diego, CA."

Interview with Rachel McGoye and Alex Band CLICK HERE

Check out our review of McGoye's EP here.

We also have permission to give you a free download of "Love Me Good" - click here!