Friday, August 31, 2012

Review: Fernando Perdomo “Home Is Wherever You Are” [EP]


Grandiose melodies and soaring instrumentation stand at the door to welcome you to Fernando Perdomo’s new EP, “Home Is Wherever You Are”. The gorgeously mellow sound of “Home” lay the foundation for another winner from this talented singer/songwriter based in Miami. “Smile” is another instant favorite, with its gentle acoustic fingerpicking and empathetic lyrics providing all one needs to feel better. The video is also brilliant (see below) - the best of its kind since R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts". I also love the breezy feel of “Lazy”, which is beautifully sung by Perdomo, and the tenderness of the acoustic ballad “In A World Without You”. This song builds to a rewarding climax, reminding me of the timeless pop ballads of 70s soft rock. Finally, the witty word play of the weepy “Andreas Fault” makes for a fine finish to this excellent EP.

Many of you may be familiar with Perdomo’s extensive work in the power pop scene in Miami, and through his Dreaming In Stereo project (reviewed here). His new EP, under the direction of longtime friend and Grammy nominated producer Chris Rodriguez, is full of symphonic arrangements to accompany its softer side and laid back pace. It’s a different sound, but “Home Is Wherever You Are” sounds like home for any music fan!

Fernando Perdomo – Official site.

Check out the video for "Smile":

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review: Abandoned Pools “Sublime Currency”


“Sublime Currency” is the long-awaited third album from Abandoned Pools, representing a culmination of an eleven-year journey. This song collection walks us through a new chapter in the narrative of Tommy Walter, the songwriter and musician behind the band. Walter began the project in the early ‘00s after leaving the critically acclaimed alternative band The Eels.

Abandoned Pools released two highly underrated albums, 2001’s “Humanistic” and 2005’s “Armed To The Teeth”. What I’ve always loved about Abandoned Pools is Walter’s introspective lyrics and his ability to match music to the mood. This style continues despite the passage of 7 years, with the songs conveying that Walter has found solace in his faith and recent marriage. In his own words, “This record is more of a joyful record,” Tommy says. “I’m a happier person after I’ve gone through this process. I reached a low point in my life and I think my music now reveals how I overcame that. This record is about feeling like I discovered something that’s important to me.”

As with previous records, Walter balances traditional guitar-driven rock with a modest dose of electronic sounds for the atmospheric effect – kind of like a Radiohead and Erasure collaboration. However you describe it, the one thing that keeps me coming back are the catchy melodies and thoughtful words. The record begins with the splendid title track, which incorporates a little ELO and Queen in the chorus. With this song, Abandoned Pools easily convinces fans that they’ve come back with style. The driving “Hype is The Enemy” and the radio-friendly first single “Unrehearsed” keep the album engaging and moving at a good pace. Things get a little monotonous until the graceful ballad “Autopilot”, which builds quietly up to a satisfying ending. “In Silence” is a gorgeous mid-tempo composition that segues perfectly into the upbeat energy of the radiant “Marigolds”.

With only a few missteps, the benefits far outweigh the costs, making “Sublime Currency” one of the best ways to spend your dough.

Abandoned Pools – Official site.

Check out “Unrehearsed”:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: Beta Wolf “Just Before Morning” [EP]


Now on tour with Daughtry, the Los Angeles-based alternative rock band, Beta Wolf, is poised to hit the big time. Their new EP, “Just Before Morning” dropped July 31 (Congregation Records), the follow-up to their first international album, “Dark Days”, which was released exclusively in Japan through JVC/Victor Records in October 2011 and climbed to No. 51 on the international charts. Beta Wolf consists of lead vocalist and songwriter Grant Arnow, lead guitarist Sergio Ruelas, rhythm guitarist Devon Pangle, drummer Chester Lang, and bassist Rocko McIvor. "The album is a combination of a ballad, a heavy song, and some mid-tempo tracks," says Beta Wolf’s lead vocalist, Grant Arnow. "We wanted to make something that flowed consistently together. We focus on an album as a whole rather than on a single track.”

The five tracks on “Just Before Morning” were produced and mixed by Fred Archambault (Avenged Sevenfold).The first single is the title track, a stunning song co-written with Dan Wilson (Adele, Semisonic). “Just Before Morning” is a gorgeous pop rock song, with engaging verses and a chorus that sticks in your head instantly. Arnow is a vocalist that really knows how to wrap a melody around the lyrics, and the lofty falsetto at the end of the chorus is icing on the cake. Another thing I appreciate about Beta Wolf is their incorporation of tasty guitar solos, which has become a bit of a lost art these days. “Domino” is another terrific modern rocker that features vocals from each band member, mostly in the form of well-placed harmonies. Another standout is “Who’s Holding On To You”, a sizzling song with a danceable rhythm and unshakable melody. The closer is the most ferocious in the bunch, a ballsy never-say-die anthem called “Last Man Standing”.

All praise Beta Wolf – this band just gets it. Awesome vocals, thoughtful lyrics, masterful musicianship, and memorable songs. There isn’t a bad track among the five, and I think it’s a safe bet that “Just Before Morning” will be making my best of 2012 list.

Beta Wolf – Official site.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

You Were Robbed – Dog Society

"You Were Robbed" features artists and bands that should have gotten much more recognition and fame than they did. Check them out now...better late than never!

I have a lot of sympathy for musicians and bands that tried to make it in the mixed up musical times of the early 1990s. The rise of grunge and difficulty of genuine rock bands to distance themselves from the hairband stigma made it doubly hard to find an audience. The debut record from Dog Society, “Test Your Own Eyes”, probably didn’t rise above the radar because of these environmental reasons – it surely couldn’t have been because of poor songwriting or lousy musicianship or lack of creativity. 1993’s “Test Your Own Eyes” is one of the few records from that era that still sounds great to my ears.

The first single was “Love Is All Gone”, a rousing anthem that is as catchy as it is smart. Radio should have found a home for this little nostalgic funk rock tune in-between the noise of Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots.

Other highlights include the stormy opening cut, “When You’re Dead”, the gritty “Time To Go”, and the funk-rock mash up of “Blind To the Fact”. And while it sounds better on the record, here is a live version of the excellent melancholy ballad, “Word Salad”.

“Society Dancer” is another epic cut from the record, a seductive mid-tempo ballad.

So go check out this critically acclaimed band now – you can get the CD for pennies. Our spotlight on this band could not have been better timed – after two decades the band will be releasing their long, long-awaited follow-up called “Emerge”, due September 25. Watch this space for our review!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review: Chris Richards and the Subtractions “Get Yer La La’s Out”

Power pop/rock

I’ve been eagerly awaiting a follow-up to the 2009 effort, "Sad Sounds of the Summer" (review here), from Chris Richards and the Subtractions. I’m happy to say the band has raised the bar even higher on their new release, “Get Yer La La’s Out”, comprised of 10 near-perfect guitar-driven pop rock confections.

The sparkling opener, “Don’t Do Anything Tonight” reaffirms that you are in for a treat. It’s the perfect track for cruising with the top down, radiating with sunny melodies and gentle backing vocals. “It’s Something” adds to the happy-go-lucky atmosphere with its stomping verses and soothing chorus. The crunchy “Sleep All Day” and “December” provide a taste of the extra bite that imbues this collection of tunes compared to their previous outings. Other highlights include “And Suddenly”, “Head Above Water”, and the harmony-laden “They Won’t Mind”.

Combining the heartland rock vibe of Tom Petty and Will Hoge with the power pop prowess of Wanderlust and Tommy Keene, Chris Richards and the Subtractions have outdone themselves here – highly recommended.

Chris Richards and the Subtractions – Official site.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week: Babylon Bombs

By Stephen Kasenda

BABYLON BOMBS “Babylon’s Burning” (2010)

“Babylon’s Burning” is the fourth album from the Swedish glam act, Babylon Bombs, and this one caught me by surprise. I suspected their music to be in the modern glam corridor, which I can appreciate, but they blew me away with a solid set of good old commercial sleaze. This album is like a rough mix of Faster Pussycat, Hanoi Rocks, and Trixter. Worked on by Chris Laney, you can always expect a big and satisfying sound in the production department.

“Liberation” didn’t really impress me much as an album starter, but the title track does them a favor. The melodic verse and addictive hooks of that song kept me sitting on the edge of my seat for their next offering. “Resurrection Love” is like a lost Hanoi Rocks from their “Two Steps” era. “Nobody’s Home” is their best creation – a fantastic up-tempo hard rock anthem in the style of classic GNR - Babylon Bombs are at their very best here. The happy vibe of “Angel Eyes”, the great radio friendly ballad “It’s Alright”, and the 70s Aerosmith feel of “Anywhere The Wind Blows” are just marvelous. The rest of the album is just mind-boggling, from the commercial melodic rock of “Winding Road”, the sleazy “Rattle My Bones”, and the anthemic “Goodbye Good Luck”…the whole bunch definitely are diamonds.

Honestly, I haven't heard their previous albums, but will probably check them out soon. “Babylon’s Burning surely will hook you in a minute if you’re into late 80s sleaze metal. Great vocals, explosive guitars, nicely composed songs, and awesome production. I give this a solid nine for a job well done, kudos Bombs!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, August 17, 2012

New video: Nickelback with Seinfeld and Baywatch stars

The new video by Nickelback features Seinfeld's Jason Alexander and Baywatch's Brooke Burns - check it out here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Review: Elevator Art “Tent City” [EP]


Elevator Art is a 6-piece band from New Jersey that blends elements of Jethro Tull, Sleeper Agent, and Fleetwood Mac into a mix that sounds fresh and new. Their new EP, “Tent City” takes its name from a large local camp in Lakewood, NJ where the surrounding homeless communities have congregated. These six tunes deliver biting social commentary with fuzzy vintage riffs and unpredictable genre shifts that should strike a chord with classic and modern rockers alike.

The introductory tune “Good Morning” not only sets the musical stage, but alerts you right up front that this band is raising the bar on lyrics. A stomping backbeat perks us up as it ushers in “Tent City”, whose lyrics launch us back in time to when rock music was socially conscious. “Killing Time” is a mini rock opera complete with flute solos that tip a hat to Jethro Tull. “Wind-Up Toys” is perhaps the most accessible and energetic rocker, featuring a far out acoustic break and harmonious coda. “Tent City” is an ambitious record and not everything works perfectly, but no one can deny the exciting originality of the band and its sound.

Elevator Art – Official site.

Promo video:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review: Empire Of One “Empire Of One” [EP]


Empire Of One is a modern rock band led by Wil Seabrook, and they’ve recently released a self-titled EP of five songs. These songs sizzle with a seductive lure that reminds me of the sultry rock style Dishwalla made famous in the 90s. No stranger to the industry, Seabrook has accomplished a lot to date, with tours throughout the US and Europe, sharing the stage with bands such as Sister Hazel and Dave Matthews Band. His career has enabled him to work with producers like Lior Goldenberg (Sheryl Crow/Macy Gray) and his killer performance qualities landed him a role as a contestant on CBS' hit series “Rock Star: INXS”.

The first single is “Roam”, which reminds us to remember who we are no matter where we've journeyed. Seabrook’s voice has a soaring quality that is both gripping and soothing. The power of the music is not in the pace, but in the melody. “If I Let Myself” is another highlight with a chorus as cozy as a pillow under your head. All of these songs have a soulful rock vibe, but it comes through strongest on the emotive “Better Than”. The EP closes with the punchiest tune in the batch, “I’m Still Here”.

These are slow-burning modern rock songs that won’t make you want to bang your head, but will have you nodding along in agreement and wanting more. Check them out if you like Train, The Fray, or Dishwalla.

Empire Of One – Official site.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Review: Cliff Hillis “Dream Good”

Power pop/Singer-songwriter

It was a pretty lousy day, but lucky for me the new Cliff Hillis CD had arrived. Just seconds into the opening track, “Keep The Blue Skies”, I could feel my spirits lifting and my mind putting things back in proper perspective. The new record, “Dream Good” radiates cautious optimism and may be among Cliff’s most inspired works to date. “Keep The Blue Skies” has rapidly become my favorite Hillis song in his entire catalogue.

“Dream Good” takes its name from one of Woody Guthrie’s New Year’s Resolutions from 1943 and sets the tone for the uplifting messages imbuing the dozen song set. Hillis recruited an exceptional team to contribute to the dream, including Scot Sax (Wanderlust), who co-wrote the snappy “When You’re Listening” and contemplative “Welcome To You”, and Danny Wilde (The Rembrandts), who co-wrote “Start Again” and also contributes bass, guitar, and vocals to the album. Philip Price of The Winterpills co-wrote the brilliant opener I raved about above. The record was mixed by noted pop producer Brad Jones (Marshall Crenshaw, Jill Sobule, Matthew Sweet).

Other highlights include the acoustic-based song of encouragement, “Sing It Once Again”, the feisty rocker “Twin Sisters”, and the mellow title track that reminds us to take our chances. There is also a song contemplating the nature of faith called “What’s Your Name” worth a spin or three. By now you should realize this record is the product of a seasoned musician who has mastered the art of songwriting in such a way that keeps his intelligent lyrics memorable. I know I say it with each new release, but this is my new favorite Cliff Hillis record.

If you enjoy Glen Phillips, David Mead, or The Rembrandts, be sure to get this one.

Cliff Hillis – Official site.