All it takes is 3 chords and a dream!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Review: Loomis & The Lust - Nagasha EP

Loomis & The Lust - Nagasha EP
2009, Kings Of Spain/BMI

Santa Barbara, California is home base for Loomis & The Lust, but after listening to their debut EP, Nagasha (July, 2009) I suspect they'll be spending a lot less time at home. With such diverse influences as The Kinks, The Animals, Chet Atkins, David Bowie, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Franz Ferdinand, Loomis & The Lust create an original brand of Rock N Roll with an honest affection for 1970's classic rock and a hook-laden philosophy straight out of the 1980's. Nagasha was produced by Brandon Mason (David Bowie, Secret Machines, Bono, The Edge), and features some of the catchiest, most danceable Rock N Roll of the year.

Nagasha opens with Bright Red Chords, a song that will lodge itself in your brain before you even know it's happened. The melody here has a universal feel, like something you've heard so many times you know it even as you hear it the first time. With a catchy, dance-inducing arrangement, Bright Red Chords will stick with you for a good long time. Break On Love has a classic, Blues/Rock feel and would fit right into an AOR playlist. Sweetness sounds like it could be a mix of The Wallflowers and Dave Matthews (solo), carrying a chorus that's unforgettable, while Cure For Sale slows things down a bit in a gentle rocker that entrenches in the Wallflowers sound. Cure For Sale may well be the most marketable song on the disc, likely having significant allure for the licensing world. Girl Next Door is a big, raucous blues-influenced rocker that sounds like it could be the basis for a movie. The theme here is a classic for Rock N Roll, and Loomis & The Lust show what they're really made of, using double entendre and testosterone-laden intentions for an amusing bit of musical confusion.

Loomis & The Lust take Rock N Roll back where it belongs in the five songs presented on Nagasha, blending deep classic rock roots with some of the zeitgeist of the 1980's and a modern twist. I suspect Loomis & The Lust will see a lot of commercial success in the licensing realm, although I am not sure where they fit in currently in the world of radio. From anything I have read about the band the live show is the thing. Loomis & The Lust seems to convert new fans every time they step on stage. Consequently, while I highly recommend you check out Nagasha, I would urge you to make a point of seeing Loomis & The Lust if they come to your town.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Loomis & The Lust at or You can purchase the Nagasha EP directly from their band via their web store, or digitally via iTunes.

Review: Recent Hours - The Definition Of Replacement

Recent Hours - The Definition Of Replacement
2009, Recent Hours

Recent Hours have been stalwarts of the Philadelphia Rock scene since their inception in 2006, continually pushing at the bounds of their self-styled "Euphoric Metal" with hard work, inspiration and a lightness of being that often evades the Metal Community. Recent Hours' debut CD, The Definition Of Replacement, shows musical growth even within the bounds of one album. Recent Hours are band going someplace quickly.

The Definition Of Replacement opens with a searing guitar riff that lights a fire under Head Gnomes. Dusty offers up a haunted, harrowing lead vocal line that takes off and soars in a memorable if atypically melodic chorus. Very early on Recent Hours will catch the ears of fellow musicians, as there is a great deal going on beneath the vocal line, from some really stellar work by drummer Andrei to an impressive presence by guitarists Mike and Andy. Take The Lead drives a hard melodic edge ahead of some tremendous guitar work. The song has an Emo feel in the verses but revs up to full capacity for the chorus. Drop It Proper kicks off with another vicious guitar riff and evolves into a mellow minimalist arrangement that feeds into a dynamic chorus. Halo has a dynamic and highly rhythmic arrangement but lyrically falls flat and seems to be missing some of the vocal intensity found on earlier tracks.

Insect Carci follows a similar path, although there is more vocal intensity here. Recent Hours seems to struggle to match the level of their musicianship with like quality lyric content. The Sweetness slows things down a bit (at first), before ripping into a slow and tortured guitar-driven chorus where the drum work is the definitive star. The Definition Of Replacement closes out with The Offer, perhaps the hardest and heaviest tune on the disc.

The more I listen to Recent Hours the more I wish they were an instrumental band. The vocalist is decent, but lyrically the band just leaves a lot to be desired. With better material to sing Dusty would be a formidable front man, but musically this band is insanely good. I'd love to hear what they could do with a more imaginative lyricist. Dreams of a post-Rush, post-Dream Theater super-band abound on The Definition Of Replacement.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Recent Hours at or, where you can purchase a copy of The Definition Of Replacement.

Review: The Motet - Dig Deep

The Motet - Dig Deep
2009, The Motet

Boulder, Colorado's The Motet released Dig Deep in July of 2009; The album is a unique experience, reflecting the work of more twelve current and former members of or contributors to the band from over its rich history. The eleven tracks presented on Dig Deep give an overview of the band not as an ensemble but almost as a vibrant family of musicians, continually growing and refreshing itself over time.

Dig Deep gets off to a flying start with Kalakuta Show, a funky bit of Space Age Jazz/Electronica that will get your toes tapping and your feet moving. Roforofo Fight is a busy Electronica/Dance tune that draws on funk rhythms and jazz instrumentation to expand the sound around an incessant rhythm more fitting to a dance club than casual listening. Dig Deep draws in Latin Rhythms to liven up the Electronic instrumentation underneath a forgettable synth progression. It's a tune likely to do well on the club scene but is little more than fluff. Mighty goes back to the Funk/Jazz mix that seems to work so well for The Motet. The instruments here all sound organic (with the exception of a 1970's sounding Synth that pops up from time to time). The bass work in particular is notable here.

Push goes for a more mainstream Funk/R&B sound, with The Motet creating a tune that might have been a huge chart hit if it were put out ten years ago. Expensive Sh!t plays like a grandiose display of the power of greed, from the inner turmoil to the glitzy presentation. The song is ultimately listenable, creative a showpiece atmosphere that's inescapable. The Motet slows things down a bit with South African rhythms on The Luxury Of Doubt. New Old opens with a xylophone monologue that sounds like a take on a Steve Howe guitar line (Changes) before settling into a comfortable and repetitive song structure whose best minutes are at the beginning. Dig Deep concludes with Tonight It Belong To You, opening with a sample from Barack Obama's victory speech on Election Day 2008. Steeped in Funk and ethereal synth overlays, the song squanders what is implied as an inspired moment with a mundane bit of dance music that's more programmed progression and beats than inspired creativity.

It's interesting that a band named The Motet would be so instrumentally talented, or perhaps that's the band's private joke. There is a distinct level of musical talent in the band, and when they're on track they're amazing. The Motet occasionally loses their focus on Dig Deep, withdrawing into cliché or outright formulaic song construction. Luckily these instances are the exceptions rather than the rule. Dig Deep doesn't stand still, mixing styles and influences with a reckless abandon that generally works and creates an atmosphere that makes the listener want to dance along. Dig Deep is a worthy offering. I'll be curious to see where The Motet goes next.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about The Motet at, where you can download Dig Deep for free!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Review: Play The Angel - Play The Angel

Play The Angel - Play The Angel
2009, Mungo Park Records

Montreal's high octane quartet Play The Angel is ready to take America by storm, leading off with their self-titled debut EP on Mungo Park Records in advance of a full-length release this fall. Play The Angel formed from the remnants of Montreal band One Away, with Bobby Bisciglia (guitar, vox) and Rob Tremblay (drums) finding lead guitarist Phil Berube and bassist DominiK Gagne (NecronomicoN) on their way to becoming Play The Angel. The EP is full of power and grace, ratcheting up an already impressive buzz a few notches on the eve of their American coming out.

Play The Angel opens with Indestructible, a song with the potential to make Playing The Angel a household name. High energy rock with a big guitar sound, a killer chorus and hooks that will grab you and drag you along whether you want to come or not make for a potential monster of a song. You And Me is a sorrowful power ballad about a relationship that didn't work out; this has the potential to be request/dedication material and is glossy enough to do well on Pop radio. Ready Or Not is built on a killer guitar riff and a chorus equally as lethal. This is the sort of rock sound you can't help but dance to, and is the best overall song on the disc. If Indestructible might make Play The Angel a household name, this is the song that elevates them to superstars. Tears Are Falling is in a similar vein to the other songs on Play The Angel but doesn't have quite the same pizzazz. Don't Follow, on the other hand, shows a more lyric side to Play The Angel that is a welcome surprise. Make it three songs out of five on the EP with major potential commercial impact.

Play The Angel proves they can go from edges of Power Ballad heaven to the throws of Rock N Roll passion with all of the prerequisite stops at emotionally charged balladry in between. Their debut EP, Play The Angel stands to introduce the band to a new audience south of the US/Canadian border, and contains the sort of Pop/Hard Rock gold that makes careers. Put Play The Angel on your must list.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Play The Angel at or You can purchase Play The Angel as a download through iTunes.

Review: The Postmarks - Memoirs At The End Of The World

The Postmarks - Memoirs At The End Of The World
2009, Unfiltered

The Postmarks are the band with a female lead singer with a boy’s name. Tim Yehezkely, born in Tel Aviv, has one of the more intriguing voices in popular music. Gorgeous in tone and detached in affect, Yehezkely stops listeners short as interest grows through awe to utter enthrallment. The Postmarks, rounded out by Jonathan Wilkins and Christopher Moll, delve into deeper, darker currents on their sophomore release, Memoirs At The End Of The World. This was a conscious choice by the band with a reputation for Cinematic Pop/Rock with a rough-hewn flavor, aiming for more realistic reflection of the world around them in their sound.

Memoirs At The End Of The World opens with a Moody Blues moment; the rock symphonic opening of No One Said This Would Be Easy is highly reminiscent of Justin Hayward & crew and the overall feel carries through the song. The satiny yet quirky vocals of Yehezkely fit perfectly in this dynamic. Thorn In Your Side is hauntingly understated and full of a fragile beauty. The vocal harmonies here are dressed in delicious minor keys, giving the song a mixture of bleak acceptance and hope that dance around each other like uncertain partners. The Postmarks get into a more New Wave/Electronica sound on Don't Know Till You Try, working in horns and spacey synth. The song is upbeat and catchy but still has a dark tenor to it that makes for a vague discomfort in the listener.

All You Ever Wanted brings an eastern influence to the album, with vaguely Japanese sounding instrumentation and a plaintive folk/Electronica bed accented by horns and faux strings. The song is catchy yet smooth; a mild Pop radio threat. Run Away Love continues with the minor key beauty in a slightly off-kilter waltz that's part proposal and part confrontation. There is more tension beneath this one-minute interlude than meets the eye, as implied in the rough industrial dulcimer styling of For Better... Or Worse? There's a dark rebellious heart to this song that comes with holding on to forbidden love, but the undertones suggest the narrator knows that perhaps not all is as wonderful as she might wish to believe. Musically this is a challenging tune, mixing the orchestral elements of a Moody Blues with a darker, urgent nature. Yehezkely's vocals are great, as they have been throughout the album, but there is a desperation implied in the music that just doesn't come through in her theatrically blunted affect.

I'm In Deep is a love song at first blush, full of the dreamy attitudes of one enraptured with another, but given the two previous songs its hard not to hear an ulterior meaning to the song (with I'm In Deep having a negative rather than a positive connotation). In fact, I'm In Deep is one of the most positive songs on Memoirs At The End Of The World, a true bit of mix-tape magic in the ethereal pop tradition of Mazzy Starr. Theme From "Memoirs" has a dark, "film noir" feel about it, like a Mike Hammer-like character might come ambling into view at any moment. The theme itself isn't as dark as some of the more introspective tracks on Memoirs At The End Of The World, but carries with it a weary sense of a world gone wrong. The Postmarks closes out the album with Gone, a slow and melancholic admonition to let go of what's already moved on. The elements of beauty are still here, but there's a suggestion of madness in the aural dissonance that grows as the song wanes.

The Postmarks have a gothic, post-chamber Pop feel about them, creating as much aural and cognitive dissonance as anyone this side of Robert Smith himself. There is a fluid beauty to the Postmarks at their most genteel, and the band is never out of control, but you can sense reality slip away throughout the course of Memoirs At The End Of The World. The listener is left with a distinct ambivalence; loving the album for what it is sonically and yet becoming more and more disturbed by its tenor as time goes on. The mix, and the success of the mix, suggests nothing short of brilliance in the writing and construction. Vocalist Tim Yehezkely has a gorgeous voice, although it would be good to hear a bit more dynamic variation in the vocal line. On the whole, however, there really isn't much to complain about. This is one of those albums that even if you don't like it you have to respect it.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about The Postmarks at or You can purchase a copy of Memoirs At The End Of The World at You can download a standard edition or deluxe edition through iTunes.

Review: Christopher Boscole - Presents Of Angels

Christopher Boscole - Presents Of Angels
2007, Christopher Boscole

Hawaii's Christopher Boscole is a composer, arranger and pianist who has six albums under his belt encompassing a twenty year career spanning New Age, Classical and Jazz. Boscole was recently nominated for Solo Piano Album of the Year at Whisperings Radio for his latest effort, Presents Of Angels. We had an opportunity to check out Presents Of Angels recently. Let's take a look!

Presents Of Angels opens with Once In Time, a searching piano peace with a gorgeous primary theme and wonderful texture in the left hand. As a solo piano piece it goes beyond the usual easy listening piano material we hear, showing real structure and at least a hint of narrative nature. Country Hymn has hints of a cinematic nature to it, sounding like the opening them music to a movie filmed in a pastoral setting, or transitional music that follows over-time actions that help to move plot. There is a real sense of movement here and a pleasant melody to ride along. Hoedown Jig doesn't really end up sounding much like its title, but has a lively feel to it that will have you moving in your seat. There's a distinctly popular feel to this song, like there might be lyrics and instrumentation out there somewhere that would turn this into a Pop/Rock song.

Angel Of Bliss once again finds Boscole treading into cinematic grandeur. If you listen closely you can almost hear the orchestral arrangement take shape around the piano. Boscole displays a real sense of presence at the piano, and an ability to move the listener along with him. Presents Of Angels has an uplifting nature while maintaining a highly composed "voice", speaking of joy from a place of peace. The Heart Is The Home has an airy feel, like a pop ballad without words. You could hear someone like Celine Dion making serious hay with this melody. Boscole wraps up with Once Another Time, a meandering and pensive tune that revisits the same textured and rhythmic form of Once In Time on the left hand while expanding on an almost ethereal theme with the right.

Presents Of Angels is a bit more than your usual instrumental piano recording, particularly when Christopher Boscole finds an inspired theme. There are a few creatively mellow songs on Presents Of Angels, but most of the time Boscole is right on top of his game, pushing and pulling and striving to find the smallest moments within each composition and make them shine. More often than not he succeeds brilliantly.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Christopher Boscole at his web page or on Facebook. You can purchase Presents Of Angels as either a CD or download through

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Review: Abi Robins - A Conversation With Myself

Abi Robins - A Conversation With Myself
2009, Morning Bird Records

Most people fall into one of two categories in life: those who follow the rules and those who break them. There is a third category that generally holds select company: those carefree enough to simply make their own rules and their own way. Abi Robins is of the latter ilk, choosing an Indie path that not only has served her well but has become a resource for other independent artists as well. Originally of The Winter Wakeup with singer/songwriter Jess Parsons, the Kansas-born Robins started her own record label, Morning Bird Records in 2008, releasing her Hey, Sunshine! EP as well as four EPs from other artists in less than one year. Robins now returns with her first full-length album, A Conversation With Myself, trading on a blend of Folk and Rock N Roll that's immediately comfortable without forfeiting an ounce of originality.

Robins opens the conversation with The Blue Waltz, a disarmingly honest anti-love song with passive-aggressive tendencies. It took a few listens but I really came to like this tune; it's a bit out of the box but very well written. Robins gives a delightful turn on The Drive, a quasi-escapist musical fantasy with melody that's to-die-for. The autobiographical quality of Robins' writing is noteworthy, wielding disarming candor with a deft touch that's part subtlety and part artistry. God And Science reflects a level of self-knowledge and a mix of disgust and acceptance at the narrator's inability to change in a great Folk/Pop arrangement that shows maturity well beyond Robins' years. If The Shoe Fits is a highly catchy tune about a relationship that's not working out; the peppy arrangement is the perfect foil to lyrics that are less than happy. You won't be able to get this song out of your head.

Robins treats listeners with a gentle instrumental entitled Battman, mixing Latin elements with Jazz and Psychedelia to create a pleasant sonic interlude. On This Easy, Robins follows an Americana path that's part Blue Rodeo and part Aimee Mann in a song about frailty and vulnerability of relationships and the sort of fear and bad decisions those states can engender. Once again, Robins displays a maturity and sense-of-self well beyond her years wrapped up with an ability to create a picture in song that's not only clear but lasting. Someday addresses the dichotomy of having an uncertain future with a certain end; mortality being set in stone but moveable in time and unpredictable. Robins examines this loosely from within the bounds of a relationship, applying the principle of uncertainty from life to the relationship and questioning the mortality of the same. The song is highly personal and honest, displaying ambivalence between hope and hopelessness that is striking. Robins closes out with Wanna Stay, a song of hope and resolution that counters the dark thoughts that run throughout A Conversation With Myself. Robins has spent the past forty-two minutes spilling the guts of her thought process for the listener's pleasure, including all of the dark uncertain thoughts that accompany being young and uncertain in a world full of questions and dangers that are only half-glimpsed and less understood, but ends with a resilient note that asks for more even if she isn't entirely sure what it is yet.

A Conversation With Myself shows distinct growth from Robins as a songwriter over her Hey, Sunshine! EP, delving into the dark nooks and crannies of her mind and baring insecurities and shadows that most people never see. For raw honesty and artistry the album is a 5-star effort. The writing and arrangement of music on A Conversation With Myself are top-notch, too, although there are some out there who will struggle a bit with Robins' vocals. Technically speaking there is a tendency for Robins to play fast and loose with pitch, particularly on the end of phrases. Robin's is never fully out of tune but certainly flirts with the concept consistently on A Conversation With Myself. Add to this Robins' voice, which has a dark beauty to it but isn't necessarily what you might describe as "pretty", and some folks will be turned off by this aspect of the disc. But Robins has a uniquely personal style that comes through that voice, and as a whole these vocal qualities add up to more than the sum of their parts, ala Bob Dylan or Neil Young. The end result is a listening experience that is unique and enthralling for its mix of artistry, beauty, and yes, it's flaws. A Conversation With Myself is a dazzling effort from Abi Robins; make sure you check it out.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Abi Robins at or I was unable to find an online outlet for A Conversation With Myself, although you can stream tracks on her Robins’ MySpace page. Contact Robins there if you’d like to buy a copy, I’m sure you can work something out.

Review: David Wahler – Antiquus

David Wahler – Antiquus
2009, Darius Productions

David Wahler discovered at the age of seven that he could play piano. With no lessons and no experience at the keyboard, Wahler found that he could recreate songs from church or the radio on the piano as easy as inhaling and exhaling. Years of training and performance helped Wahler polish his craft until he found himself serving as a composer and music director for Off-Broadway productions in New York City. Returning to his home base of Chicago, Wahler continued to perform with the Rockford Symphony Orchestra and New American Theater. Wahler took a couple of professional turns, both successful, but never found the satisfaction he found in music. Wahler treats his talent as a gift and aims to share his love of music with the world around him. Wahler's debut CD, Antiquus, has roots and influences in music by Gabriel Faure, Eric Satie, Scarlatti, Stravinsky, Chopin and Rimsky-Korsakov as well as modern works by Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Kitaro and Liz Story.

Antiquus opens with the title track, an ethereal, dreamlike composition in the same vein as some of John Tesh's more popular work. A lovely piece where the theme is trade back and forth between piano and various synth sounds. Delphi takes an Eno-esque turn, delving into a vibrant, staccato electronic crown with deep currents running beneath. Kyoto Mist introduces a Japanese-influenced coat around a Windham Hill style theme. The sparse nature of this composition carries with it a singular beauty and a significant risk, as it sounds not dissimilar from the sort of music you might hear on nature CDs found in specialty stores in your local mall. From the mundane to the memorable, Wahler sinks into Apollo's Lyre with a melody for the ages; simple, noble; beautiful. Wahler reaches cinematic heights on Teresa. There's a feeling of time and place to this track that belies the simple musical narrative of the melody. The occasional voiceover aside (which frankly is more distracting than anything), this is a beautiful composition.

Hyacinthus draws on vague Native American musical sounds mixed into New Age piano and synth overlays and a virtual chorus of angels providing vocal support. The "violin" (synth) line here provides illumination, as if it were the sun itself set aloft into the sky and climbing ever higher. The melody here is gorgeous although it does get a bit too cyclical at times. Lune Mysterieuse has a fairly generic sound that is pleasant but won't stick in your mind for too long, whereas Angelis is dripping with a drama and tension that is theatrical. Over the course of six-and-a-half minutes, Angelis resolves tension with rambling, contemplative passages that work their way back and forth from tension to peace without ever resting. This ambivalence of place leads to the closing track, Ancient Dawn, which recedes ever so slowly into the distance and passes into the inaudible ether in its closing seconds.

David Wahler walks a fine line between commercial New Age and composing meaningful music that people will want to hear, not simply be lulled by. While there are definite lulling moments on Antiquus, the material offered here is a bit too good to simply be mood or background music. Some of the effect choices (particularly the one-word, ethereal voiceovers) waste some of the overall effect of the music, but on the whole Antiquus is top notch. I highly recommend you spend some time David Wahler if your interests run to New Age and/or Modern Classical music.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about David Wahler at or You can purchase Antiquus as either a CD or download through

Review: Entice - Let The Fire Come

Entice - Let The Fire Come
2009, Entice

Entice is three parts Orange County glam with a heaping helping of Rust Belt sensibility thrown in. Isaac Leland (vox/piano/guitar); Kevin Brunhofer (bass/backing vox) and Kevin Doyle (drums/backing vox/electronics) are all Southern California born and bred, while lead guitarist Tony Chopp made the trek all the way from Michigan, finding a musical home in Entice not long after landing in SoCal. It's a match made in Heaven for the quartet, whose smooth, heavy modern sound has been opening eyes locally and has started to generate some regional buzz. Entice's first full-length album, Let The Fire Come, mixes solid songwriting, a lot of technical skill and a slick commercial sense that's aided by producer Scott Silletta. Entice they will.

Entice kicks off the set with Take A Number, mixing Alt-Rock guitar and New Wave synth sounds to create a sonically pleasing and slightly out of the norm feel. Vocalist Leland adds an urgent air to the music, driving at each song with incessant energy and a sense that he's just holding onto the rails. Take A Number is a great Rock radio song with a chorus that will stick with you. Tell Me There's More is a big Rock ballad that shows shades of Freddie Mercury and Chris Martin; the song is great Pop-Radio ready material without a lot of long-term lasting power. Let's Just Go leads with piano once again, burnished by a melodic guitar lead that evolves into a mellow Pop/Rock arrangement. The energy isn't as high here as on other tracks and this wasn't really a personal favorite, but the melody is strong and still stick with some listeners on that basis alone.

My Kind Of Disaster is flat out a great Pop/Rock song. The melody and rhythm actively work to burn themselves in your mind, and Leland is the consummate Rock front man here. The Freddie Mercury comparisons are never more apropos than here, even the sound of his voice on the CD suggests at least of that sound is electronic. Let The Fire Come has an elegance about it that's a bit unusual in Rock N Roll, harking back to 1970's Progressive Rock with serious lyric overtones. The song is a thing of beauty, bolstered by some great falsetto vocal work by Leland. Soon brings an overtly dramatic sense to Let The Fire Come, doing a long, slow build in intensity that bespeaks of the intensity of emotion behind the song. This is the most moving composition on the album, driven by its own sense of inevitability. All This Is Free carries with it a similar sense of power, a slow-to-mid-tempo tune driven by a wall of guitar sound and enigmatic vocals before spiraling down into nothingness in its final seconds. Who's Got Your Money is an emotionally and sexually charged tune built on a driven guitar riff and a sense of anger that is palpable. Let The Fire Come closes out with You're Infected, a slightly stilted song that lives on the edge of sanity. The piano-driven arrangement is gorgeous with it's gothic feel and big harmonies.

Entice comes along in an era when they've never been less appreciated. This is the sort of Rock N Roll that's too esoteric to make Pop radio, too lyric to make it on Modern Rock Radio, and just too good to go unheard. In the late 1970's or early 1980's, Entice would have been superstars. Their sound today is better than a lot of major label artists, but it takes time and work to get the sort of attention Entice deserves. Let The Fire Come is a bit unfocused as an album, but the individual songs are great and there is a sort of vague cohesion that comes about along the way. I recommend Entice's Let The Fire Come as a great listen that holds a few surprises for those who listen carefully.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Entice at You can purchase a download of Let The Fire Come through iTunes, or you can name your price through Bandcamp. Contact Entice through their MySpace page for information regarding potential release on CD.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Review: Nathan Lee - Risk Everything

Nathan Lee - Risk Everything
2009, One Revolution Entertainment

Nathan Lee's back story is something to hear. Growing up just outside of New York City, Lee's father owned a recording studio, and Lee was bit by the performing bug at a young age. After creating quite a buzz on the Northeast club circuit, Lee took his game to Nashville, where he ended up with a licensing deal that allowed him to write songs for other artists. Success and money came, but writing for others was an empty experience. Lee went back to writing for himself until money got tight, and then started a painting business that became a major source of financial support. Once again money and success followed, but life without music was an empty one. Lee gave everything up to make music again and ended up living in his car for a time. Lee eventually ventured into music and tour production, again building a successful business and once again finding that his music suffered. They say the third time's the charm, and Lee gave it all up once again to make music. That last decision has led Lee to where he is now, with a new album, Risk Everything, coming out on September 1, 2009.

Immersed deeply in spirituality and a gritty, arena-rock persona that would do Bruce Springsteen proud, Nathan Lee sparkles and shines like a rough diamond. He opens Risk Everything with Open Road, a 1980's Rock/Pop influenced tune about finding your path (at last). The music suggests the freedom one finds when making the right choices. Hold Me Down opens with slide guitar and a funky rhythm tied to a soulful chorus in a song about striving for your dreams with no reserve. This is a great Pop/Rock song with an unforgettable hook. Bring Down The Fire is a song about Faith and Redemption, defined loosely in Spiritual terms. Wrecking Ball has a quiet sense of urgency that runs through it, although the song itself runs a bit flat (not in pitch).
Bleeding Black is a monumental piece of songwriting, crossing the divide between Country, Pop/Rock and Singer/Songwriter as if they don't exist. There's a Tom Waits feel to this song and a sense of spiritual fulfillment that is startling and legitimate. Poetically speaking this is an amazing composition, and the music is incredible. High Speed Low Drag finds Nathan Lee sounding vaguely like Gordon Lightfoot on the verses but launching into a vibrant and lyrically dense rock chorus. Still is a spiritual anthem about refusing to stagnate; it's the theme of a man whose already lost everything and knows there is nothing to lose (hence the title of the album). The song is uplifting and meaningful and likely to find seeds of understanding in many who listen. Lee closes out with Broke And Hollow Man, a gospel tune with secular leanings about how simplicity sheds light on truth. It sounds like it could be a theme song for Lee. The song references sin but doesn't push any particular Faith but faith itself. This is an amazing tune; you'll hear traces of Joe Cocker here, but Broke And Hollow Man, and Lee himself are 100% originals.

On Risk Everything, Nathan Lee does, and wins. Risk Everything is one of the most inspiring listens of the year, teaching gospel truths in human terms and magical songs. Nathan Lee has been high and low over the course of his life, from having it all to having nothing. Risk Everything finds Lee at a point where he's finally doing what he was made to do, and all the doors to the hall stand open. Come on in. You'll be glad you did.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Nathan Lee at or You can pre-order Risk Everything through Nathan Lee’s webstore.

Review: Lisa Hilton - Twilight & Blues

Lisa Hilton - Twilight & Blues
2009, 1012 Ruby Slippers Productions

Renowned pianist and composer Lisa Hilton returns this August with her eleventh album, Twilight & Blues, featuring five covers and five original tracks. Supported y Lewis Nash (drums), Larry Grenadier (bass), Jeremy Pelt (trumpet) and J.D. Allen (tenor sax), Hilton finds occasional magic under the watchful eye of fourteen-time Grammy winning producer Al Schmitt. Whether lighting up blues-influenced originals or covering the likes of Janis Joplin, Marvin Gaye or Joni Mitchell, Hilton always seems very much in her element.

Twilight & Blues kicks off with the funky swing of Pandemonium. Piano, trumpet and sax shared melody chores, occasionally pulling together ensemble to offer moments of sonic resolution. Joni Mitchell's Woodstock finds Hilton leading us through a moody piece with a lot of inner turbulence that manages to rise above itself without losing that inner tension. What's Going On (extended take) is a soulful and respectful take on the Marvin Gaye classic. The trumpet in particular shines, and Hilton is as solid as ever on piano. Hilton gets inspired on City Streets with some of her hottest piano work yet. The rhythm and texture she builds into the song is supported by upright bass and percussion for six minutes of near-perfection. Joplin's Kozmic Blues has a cinematic feel to it, with a hopeful theme that rises out of what is initially a melancholy arrangement built on plaintive rhythms. Hilton finds a bit more magic in her interpretation of Moon River (Henry Mancini), punctuating the legato melody line with the occasional run or sparkle that adds extra life to the classic. Hilton closes out with the regular version of What's Going On, which may appeal more to listeners who want to hear the song as Gaye performed it but lacks some of the creative magic Hilton finds on the extended version.

What most surprised me about Twilight & Blues is that it never once comes across sounding canned, not even on the cover tunes. Schmitt is a genius at the boards, and Grenadier and Nash provide a spark against which Hilton rises continuously. Hilton is obviously quite accomplished, and she gives some of her best recorded performances on Twilight & Blues, digging into a creative well that runs the length of her career and deep into her childhood. I highly recommend you take some time and spend it with Hilton and Twilight & Blues.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Lisa Hilton at or on Facebook. You can purchase Twilight & Blues as either a CD or download through

Review: Patrik Tanner – Quills

Patrik Tanner – Quills
2009, Dark One Entertainment

St. Louis Park, Minnesota's Patrik Tanner is relatively young for a man with eight albums under his belt. The native of Sweden who moved to the US at a young age transcends genre on his latest effort, Quills, released on September 12, 2009. Highly personal and introspective, Quills recalls memories of the music of Tanner's youth as well as drawing a life full of influences and sounds. Written, played and produced by Tanner, Quills will wend its way into your consciousness with songs firmly rooted in memory and reverie but always looking forward.

Quills opens with The Next Available Agent, a sauntering instrumental that sets the tone for the album. There is a theatric feel here, like Tanner envisioned you finding a seat and getting comfortable while he prepares you to listen to all he has to say. Eleven is a powerful piano-based tune about being on the verge of something but taking the time to enjoy where you are, like the conflict between pushing to be an adult yet enjoying being a child. A Moment In Time is a sweet singer/songwriter moment about memory and how it can both overpower and engender regret. Like Platform Shoes is a highly personal song of remembrance looking back on loved ones and times gone by. The song is highly sentimental and full of meaning, although it may evade some listeners. Our Vacation Starts Now serves as a brief and quirky instrumental intermezzo, leading into phase two of Quills.

My Boy is a touching song from a father to his unborn son; it's a beautiful tribute to a love that often gets under-represented in song and art. Beautiful Then looks forward into a future more aesthetic and full of goodness than the perceived moment; Tanner imagines himself dead and creating beauty below in the grass he feeds. It is a stark and depressive outlook set to a bright and sunny piano part that simultaneously makes it easier to hear and yet somehow more disturbing. Staying Up Late underlines the effects of depression and confusion on thoughts and actions; this seems to be the underlying element of the disc: the death of Tanner's mother and the grieving/healing process. Rebuild The Titanic is all about going back in time so you can end the suffering sooner, likely a fitting end to the album, although Tanner gives an instrumental outro called Still Holding that harkens back to the old days of radio dramas.

Sorrow. Anger. Fear. Frustration. These are the emotions wrapped up in Patrik Tanner's Quills. It is a bleak album with occasionally uplifting sounds. I didn't enjoy it. I respect it. It's a serious work with strong songwriting, excellent musicianship and vocals that are more than pleasant to listen to; but the subject matter is too dark and twisted for my tastes. Some of you may like it. Imagine Robert Smith on pep pills.
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

To learn more about Patrik Tanner and Quills check out or You can purchase Quills as either a CD or download through

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review: 8 Ball Aitken - Rebel With A Cause

8 Ball Aitken - Rebel With A Cause
2009, Phoenix Movement Records

Sometimes the music we grew up with (individually or as a culture) is harder to hear, so wave of international artists finding success with American Roots music is no surprise. Along comes Queensland, Australia's 8 Ball Aitken, a banana picker turned guitar picker who appears to be channeling the very soul of Country, Blues and Roots music as it grew out of the Southern United States. 8 Ball Aitken's debut album, Rebel With A Cause has generated two top-10 Country singles in his native Australia and won him a 2008 EMI Music Blues & Roots Song Of The Year Award for Yellow Moon. Aitken has played dates in the UK, Singapore and North America, recently putting in a stellar performance at Canadian Music Week. It's only a matter of time before North American audiences catch on to 8 Ball Aitken.

Rebel With A Cause opens with Cyclone Country, a bluesy Southern Rocker with some serious honky-tonk in its lineage. Aitken has a wonderfully smooth and lyric rock voice that contrasts nicely with the heavily country-influenced Rock N Roll. Cyclone Country is built on a killer lick that would make ZZ Top beam with pride and a chorus you can't help but sing/hum along to. Cowboy Movie is all about taking a stand for what you know to be right regardless of the consequences. The allegory is poetic if unexpected and the melody is pure honey. The Party has a vague Dire Straits-does-Country feel to it; this is a tune that's sure to be a favorite live and will get your hips swaying even if you're not inclined to dance.

Hands On Top Of The Wheel is a straight-forward Country Rocker ala The Eagles, (complete with a sound-alike vocal). This is probably the song on the disc with the biggest commercial potential, particularly for licensing. Aitken incorporates some deliciously dirty slide guitar work on Black Swamp Creek, although lyrically the song is a bit cliché. Outback Booty Call is an amusing Southern Rock tune with clear intentions and a bit of a twist at the end. This should be another concert favorite and I could picture this ending up on a movie soundtrack somewhere. Yellow Moon features a driving bass line and great Southern Rock n Blues sound, Texas style. The track is memorable and will keep you moving. Guitar Man sounds like it should be a classic Rock staple, but it's an Aitken original. There's a feel here that's very similar to John Fogerty, and the song itself will have you scratching your head wondering where you've heard it before. Rocky Road is an upbeat, catchy southern Rocker that leads into The Other Side, which goes back a few decades for a classic sound that is refreshing.

Rebel With A Cause is one of those albums you simply can't ignore. Even with the occasional flaw it has to be in the discussion of top Roots Music efforts for the year thus far. Aitken's voice is so fluid and his delivery so down-home that he puts you immediately at ease. The musicianship on Rebel With A Cause is world class, and the songwriting is more legitimate and more original than much of the roots material you're likely to hear. 8 Ball Aitken has a real winner on his hands here.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about 8 Ball Aitken at or You can purchase a copy of Rebel With A Cause at

Review: Gumshen - Super Buffet

Gumshen - Super Buffet
2009, Gumshen

Gumshen is a Seattle quartet with serious rock credentials who choose to delve just a bit deeper. Working in elements of Jazz, Funk and Hip-Hop, Gumshen has hit a creative goldmine, generating three EPs in two short years. Their latest, Super Buffet, finds Gumshen on a path of distinctive musical creativity tempered only by a paucity of lyrical depth.

Super Buffet opens with Start Of Something Good, an alt-Rock tune that apparently brought about some creative issues in the lyric-writing process. The highly repetitive nature of the song detracts from a not unpleasant rock arrangement that sounds like it may have been recorded in one take. Lost Disguise reveals an outright ambivalence toward lyrical progression even while building a decent melodic and harmonic progression into the song. The lyric issue is befuddling, as Gumshen almost appears to place statements together without regard for their connectivity. That's not suggest that the lyrics are random, but there is seemingly a shattered sense of thought behind the first two songs. Gumshen opens up the throttle on Guts, building around a vicious guitar riff another song that is sonically pleasing and lyrically puzzling. Gumshen steps out of the lyrical woods on Gone Too Soon, speaking in terms that make sense in a highly enjoyable Elton John-ish arrangement. There's still a tendency to go off the tracks here and there as Gumshen appears to make lyrical choices at times based on rhyme and rhythm rather than narrative, but on the whole it is much easier to follow Gone Too Soon than the prior songs on the EP. Super Buffet closes out with Down Like Me, spearheaded by another vicious guitar riff you won't be able to get out of your head. Once again, repetition, rhythm and rhyme seem to take precedence over conveying understandable thought, but the music is very enjoyable.

Gumshen's Super Buffet is a tasty treat, musically, that often times just doesn't live up on the lyric side. As a listener you get the feel that the words are second class citizens, chosen more for their sound than for their meaning. Gumshen proves this isn't always true on Gone Too Soon, a moving and powerful tune with an eye for a bleak future hoping to motivate the present, but otherwise you might expect to get a bit lost for meaning amongst the rhythm and rhymes of Ron Hippe's vocals. Super Buffet is nevertheless musically intriguing and worth checking out.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Gumshen at or You can purchase Super Buffet as either a CD or a download from

Review: Nicholas Mrozinski - Together We're Stronger

Nicholas Mrozinski - Together We're Stronger
2009, Wake The World Music

Saint Paul, Minnesota's Nicholas Mrozinski lost over one hundred pounds since his last album, acquiring a world of new energy and perspective. Mrozinski channeled both into his newest project, Together We're Stronger, with the help of some of the best and brightest of the Minneapolis music scene. Together We're Stronger features Mrozinski's signature voice and far-reaching influences in a project that can be downright confounding but also produces flashes of genius.

Mrozinski brings a Joe Cocker air to Together We're Stronger, opening with the Country/Americana flavored Window Of Sage. It's a song about stripping away the things that slow us down on the path of life, getting back to the basics that sustain us. The song develops into a lyrically dense bit of musical poetry, including a big, warm chorus that works in horns, guitar, bass, keys and some strong vocal harmonies in the background. Easter And Keeko takes stock of the important things in a Van Morrison-esque Folk-Rocker with just a hint of edge. This is a joyous song, although in the subdued persona Mrozinski projects. What's This allows Mrozinski to show off his soulful side, with a strong R&B style tune with distinctive Country undertones. This is a great tune that will get stuck inside your noggin and refuse to leave. Above All Else is a sorrowful song of devotion that underscores the need to seize the moment. The song drips emotion without sounding cliché as Mrozinski's big, textured voice takes the helm of the melody and drives it home.

Queen Of The Angels tries to loosely recreate an urban soundscape underscore by a funky bass line that makes you want to get up and move. There's a vaguely psychedelic feel to the song that all includes a spiritual element to it. This is one of the more intriguing compositions on the disc as Mrozinski plays with sounds grandly throughout the song, all thrown up against a light Reggae beat. At The Table With Passion grabs hold of a Country/Gospel hybrid with a vaguely mournful feel to it. The song is wordy and borders on a bit too busy in the vocal line but essentially works. Strong devolves into a true mess, using universal ideas to draw in elements of Reggae, Rock, R&B, Gospel and Jazz to create a sonic stew that becomes inextricable. Together We're Stronger closes out with Della Jean, a gentle instrumental that eases listeners out of the listening experience.

Listening to Together We're Stronger is like listening to a soundtrack for Attention Deficit Disorder; Nicholas Mrozinski is all over the map stylistically without any real sense of plan or flow. There are some great moments here, and the musicianship is generally very strong, but the disorganized feel of the album is distracting. Mrozinski seems particularly adept and musically in touch on the melancholy Country material and somewhat out of place on the more R&B/Soul influenced material. Together We're Stronger is a solid listen, but just has too many questions about itself to really connect with listeners on a consistent basis.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Nicholas Mrozinski at or You can purchase Together We’re Stronger through Mrozinski’s web store.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Review: Jessie Torrisi - Brûler Brûler

Jessie Torrisi - Brûler Brûler
2009, Wild Curls

Jessie Torrisi is a drummer/journalist turned Singer/Songwriter who moved from New York City to Austin, Texas for a different perspective on the world. Torrisi served as a drummer for several NYC bands; including Les Fleurs Tragiques, Laptop and Unisex Salon before making the switch to front woman (she’s vowed to never go back). Torrisi’s debut solo album, Brûler Brûler, drops October 28, 2009, and is a musical breath of fresh air that never forgets its musical past but looks stridently forward.

Brûler Brûler opens with Hungry Like Me, a musical wish list of the qualities of a perfect man in Torrisi's terms. The easy Americana arrangement is the perfect setting for a song full of longing and desire. As you get further into the song you realize Torrisi's not just casting a wish list but speaking to someone she hopes fits the bill. There's an ambivalence between hope and melancholy here, like a world-weary woman who hopes he's the right one but who's been burned a few too many times to believe it. X In Texas, on the other hand, is a breakup song of epic proportions. Mature and quiet in its tenor, Torrisi tells him why it's over, sounding like she has cause to be angry, but forgives him and wishes him well. She just asks to be left alone, even though it's clear she still cares. Cannonball is pure desire in song; it's the queen of come-on songs, like a cross between Patsy Cline, Chrissie Hynde and Martina Sorbara.

Breeze In Carolina is an amazing tune. Torrisi is singing to someone who's trying to run away, telling him that no matter how far he runs he's going to miss her. This is one of those rare songs that come along with the potential to be a classic. I could hear this being the melancholy keynote tune for a character in a musical or a movie. It's not your typical Country/Americana tune. The song is substantial in both content and emotion. Runaway Train is another song of longing, this time in an unrequited or inattentive love. Torrisi's vocals are on fire here, full of heart and a sultry country sound that's unlike anyone on Country or Pop radio.

Storm Clouds takes on a pop sway that's highly appealing. The melody here is highly memorable, and Torrisi gives a vocal performance not to be forgotten. It's yet another song of loss, but this time Torrisi decides she's had enough. There's a hopeful ending this time, with Torrisi looking to the skies and what is coming rather than behind. So Many Miles takes on an almost 1980's AM Radio R&B sound mixing with the Americana feel. I didn't enjoy this tune quite as much as the rest of the album, but it's still decent. Brûler Brûler closes out with The Brighter Side, a piano-based tune about the hope and outlook love can bring. It's a gorgeous tune, highly personal in presentation and heartfelt in delivery. It's the perfect ending to the album.

Jessie Torrisi is a bit out of the ordinary. She's a Country/Americana singer with an Alt-Rock sound mixed in with her Country Twang. Her lyrics are intelligent and nuanced; full of sensuality and a personal voraciousness for life that can be startling and then endearing. Torrisi's voice isn't what you'd call classically pretty, but you know you'll stay and listen as long as she keeps singing. The songs themselves are off the beaten track, full of a beauty and singular personality that could become a trademark. Brûler Brûler is a thrilling introduction for us here at Wildy's World, and we are excited to see what Torrisi does next.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Jessie Torrisi at or Brûler Brûler drops on October 28, 2009, but you can get is now as a download from Amazon MP3.

Review: Stefon Harris And Blackout - Urbanus

Stefon Harris And Blackout - Urbanus
2009, Concord Jazz

Stefon Harris And Blackout return in August, 2009 with Harris' seventh album (and first on Concord Jazz); Urbanus. Recorded in the days leading up to the inauguration of President Barack Obama, Urbanus reflects tidal waves of hope and excitement about the days and years to come. Harris and Blackout mix elements of traditional Jazz with modern and progressive strains, but also weave R&B, Funk and Soul the musical tapestry presented here.

Urbanus opens with Gone, a variation on Gershwin's Gone, Gone, Gone (Porgy And Bess). Gershwin's theme is heard here in passing moments, with Harris and Blackout expanding the boundaries and playing vociferously in the margins. There are one or two moments where the experimentation becomes so progressive it will lose fans of traditional jazz, but there's definite artistry in the moment. Buster Williams' Christina features some wonderful work on the vibes by Harris and interesting use of a Vocoder to create a sly yet sophisticated piece of mood music you won't quite be able to get out of your head. Tanktified finds Blackout dancing on the out bounds of jazz form with runs and divergences that seem more about making a musical point than adhering to any semblance of history or structure. Shake It For Me takes similar side trips but never strays quite so far off-track. There are some meticulous and unusual runs presented here that features sax, piano and vibraphone competing for primacy that avoid becoming mess and carry with them a spark of pure creation and a lot of wonderful tension.

Jackie McLean’s' Minor March is a delirious mix of traditional and avant-garde styles tailored in a suit of dark keys, scintillating in repressed light and casting off some glorious moments for the listeners' pleasure. My favorite track on the CD is the Afterthought, opening with a sound that could be a mix of Jazz and Broadway (think Cy Coleman's City Of Angels) but works quickly into one of the more traditional forms on the disc. Harris is absolutely inspired on the vibes here, and the bass player works up a major sweat along the way. Blues Denial comes in a close second for favorite track, taking on a life of its own within the opening bars of the song and seeming to pull Harris and Blackout along for a delirious ride. The aural staging creates an almost dream like-quality that launches you into a series of rapid-fire musical conversations you won't soon forget. Harris closes down Urbanus on the peaceful and introspective passages of Langston's Lullaby, a beautiful, almost ethereal piece of music that's better heard than described.

Stefon Harris and Blackout hit mostly the right notes on Urbanus, galvanizing the spirit of the times in musical structure for future generations to hear. The album loses me when it touches on the fringes of Avant-Garde Jazz, occasionally crossing over into unrecognizable cacophony, but never for long. This doesn't make it bad; it just doesn't speak to me when it goes there. On the whole, Urbanus is a strong effort.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Stefon Harris and Blackout at or http://www.myspace.comstefonharris/. You can purchase a copy of Urbanus at, or you can download the album from iTunes.

Review: JJ Soul Band - Bright Lights

JJ Soul Band - Bright Lights
2009, Arizona University Records

JJ Soul Band formed in 1993 in Iceland over a partnership between Oxford, England singer/songwriter JJ Soul and Iceland composer/keyboardist Ingvi Thor Korkaksson. Three albums and fourteen years later, JJ Soul band is still creating their distinctive mix of Rock, Soul and R&B. Their fourth album, Bright Lights, was released in Europe in 2008 and sees a 2009 US release.

Bright Lights opens with At The Mall, brandishing a classic Motown/R&B beat and gentle pop hooks that will stick with you. The song itself is entertaining, following a mysterious yet whimsical chain of events as they happened to the narrator in the song. Let Love Find Us opens with the funk on guitar, horns and some unusual keyboard sounds. The rhythm here is palpable; you simply won't be able to resist, much less want to. JJ Soul has a sound that's part Warren Zevon and part Keith Grimwood from Trout Fishing In America. I've Been Bad Again gets down into the Blues featuring tight musicianship but a vocal line that just doesn't fully connect. There's a Sinatra-esque disconnection but Soul just doesn't have the charisma Sinatra had to pull it off. Getting Colder By The Year is an interesting sidebar, sounding a bit like Billy Joel accompanying Gordon Lightfoot. The song looks back on what's been lost to drink in direct terms. The song is a gorgeous soliloquy with a distinct sense of melancholy. Bright Lights could be written about most any big city, calling out the price of living in big cities to a great Blues/Rock arrangement.

I don't need to describe the rest of the album to you because I essentially already have. JJ Soul Band sticks to the mix of Early Rock, Blues, Jazz and Lounge and ends up creating a strongly homogeneous album that's solid all the way around but never seems to take risks. Bright Lights is a solid listen; I enjoyed the album, but it just doesn't stand out from the crowd in significant fashion.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about JJ Soul Band at or You can purchase a digital copy of Bright Lights at eMusic. Hard copy CDs are apparently available for sale at stores in Iceland, but no online availability could be found. If you really want a CD copy, contact the band through their MySpace page. I’m sure you can work something out.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Review: The Terrence Blanchard Group - Choices

The Terrence Blanchard Group - Choices
2009, Concord Jazz

Terrence Blanchard is prodigious. The Grammy Award winning musician/composter/arranger/bandleader has more than twenty-five albums to his credit, either on his own or with others. He’s also composed music for over 40 movies, including Malcolm X, Clockers, Mo’ Better Blues, Backbeat and Eve’s Bayou. Blanchard’s latest, with The Terrence Blanchard Group, Choices, dropped on August 18, 2009.

Choices opens with Byus, a Funk/Jazz hybrid with Latin elements that starts out with a monologue from Blanchard on intellectualism vs. intelligence. Sax and Trumpet are the primary voices here, creating interesting tension in the shared melody lines while the sax gets in some prodigious runs on its own. The trumpet is a bit more reserved, sticking to more placid, traditional waters. Blanchard gives a short statement on Beethoven and representative power of music as it compares to words before launching into the down-tempo D's Choice. A slow, almost ethereal back drop is punctuated by a slow, staccato melody line that slowly grows more lyric throughout the song. Bilal steps in for a guest vocal appearance on Journey, providing a moving performance in tandem with Blanchard's ever-present trumpet. Hacia del Aire opens on a mournful note, with the Trumpet sounding the clarion call of sadness. The ever-resilient piano changes the mood of the piece however, with trumpet coming along on a more hopeful promenade. All of this is done in a down-tempo arrangement where the rhythms are unsettled and variable. The song grows into a larger conversation as the saxophone cuts in. Soon three voices are talking at once, nearly over one another. The result is a cacophony that can overpower the listener at times.

Him Or Me finds Blanchard stepping back in time for a piece that could have come of the early 1970's; Progressive and classical jazz elements mix over seven minutes to create a dynamic musical trip topped off by one of the hottest jazz guitar solos of the year. HUGS (Historically Underrepresented Groups) starts off with an eclectic and variably rhythmic piano intro before evolving into a musically explosive quintet (piano, trumpet, sax, bass and drums). There is a sense of impending chaos that looms, but the song never quite loses its bearing and flies continually in that grey region that is the line between genius and disaster. Blanchard is inspired here, outplaying his own sensibilities and reaching that hypothetical "beyond" state that musicians find in their best moments. Winding Roads is a twelve minute journey that lives up to it's name, taking the listener across musical countryside and blind corners where the scenery changes as quickly as the rhythms of the song. This is another wow moment, but it takes awhile to unfold. Bilal returns on When Will You Call, a classic sounding song that is given emotional weight by Bilal's blue vocal line. The instruments draw back and give Bilal room to work, adding in the appropriate support and fills without becoming too involved.

A New World (Created Inside The Walls Of Imagination) finds Blanchard waxing about the "Age Of Obama", the changes it portends. The song is well structured yet does reflect the tension between change, retrenchment and history that Blanchard references in his opening word. Blanchard's trumpet work is outstanding as always, but it was the guitar work that really caught my ear on this one; drawing on an early electric guitar sound (Les Paul, Chet Atkins) to censure tension while creating more of its own. Blanchard closes out Choices with Robin's Choice, opening with an air of Gershwin before exploding into a modern mix of music and noise. All action ceases suddenly at the end and Blanchard explains why we're here. I'll leave it to you to find out on your own.

Choices moves from quiet creation to cacophony of sound and hits all points in between. Fans of classic, Progressive and modern Jazz will all find something to like here, as Blanchard hits on moods from Monk to Miles and even shades in a little Gershwin here and there. Choices is not the best choice for casual listening; the music demands your attention and refuses to take a back seat. Don't be surprised if The Terrence Blanchard Group gets mentioned come award season.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Terrence Blanchard and The Terrence Blanchard Group at or You can purchase Choices at, or download the album through Amazon MP3.

Review: Derek Webb - Stockholm Syndrome

Derek Webb - Stockholm Syndrome
2009, INO Records

Derek Webb is a trailblazer. Webb was an integral part of the creative force of Caedmon's Call until his departure in 2003 to pursue a solo career. While Caedmon's Call continued without Webb, the band was never quite been the same. On his own, Webb has proven to have a keen eye for the business side of music, using unique marketing techniques to drive up concert attendance and ultimately launch a new online music distribution system called NoiseTrade. On September 1, 2009, Derek Webb releases his latest album, Stockholm Syndrome. Webb co-produced the album with former Caedmon's Call bandmate and hip-hop producer Josh Moore (Bun B., Slim Thug). Webb has abandoned his folk/pop ways for an electronic sound that draws on hip-hop beats and musical styles that range across the entire Pop music era.
Stockholm Syndrome is all about becoming a prisoner to society, technology and any other icon that may influence day-to-day life, and is structured loosely like a story. Black Eye starts out with tendency of people to stay in familiar situations even when they are uncomfortable, using relationships as an example. The song is built in a heavily fortified electronic arrangement but takes a curious turn with a Beatles-esque chorus. Freddy, Please has a vocal line that sounds like it was taken right out of a late 1950's Pop song. The allegory here is unclear and the lyrical content floats on top of the song like an unkempt child, making for a confusing but intriguing listen. The Spirit Vs. The Kick Drum underlines both societal and individual obsession with worldly objects and institutions in an arrangement that sounds a bit like U2 in their "techno" phase. The State is a song of bittersweet regret from one who has thrown their lot in with the power brokers but still remembers the beauty of the world before. The song follows the corruption breeds corruption concept of power and expresses a duality; a desire for the way the world was as well as a continued desire for the destructive path of the state.

I Love/Hate You continues with this duality of man, this time in a relationship. The protagonist loves the person he's singing to and yet hates being tied down to her. He needs her but wants to push her away. The song itself is artfully written, although I think this would sound better with a more organic arrangement. The church-like organ flourishes seem to suggest that the traditional sense of commitment (marriage) hangs over the relationship and that is part of what fills the narrator with dread. This could be an extension of an earlier concept in The State that suggests the unwinding of traditional values as a means to consolidate the power of the state. Becoming A Slave marks the downfall of choice through choice, showing an Aldous Huxley vision of the future of mankind based on the current societal trends.

Heaven is a puzzling tune. It returns largely to the folk/acoustic background from which Webb comes, but conjures a post-modernist vision of the afterlife that almost has to be allegorical. I am not sure what exactly he was going for but I didn't walk away from the song understanding the vision behind it. What You Give Up To Get It is a morality tale that sets much of Stockholm Syndrome in bas relief against the light of logic. The song has a highly infectious rhythm that will translate well to the club scene (although the subject matter may be a little too substantive for mindless dancing). Webb closes out Stockholm Syndrome with American Flag Umbrella, exploring in philosophical terms the divergence of the American dream of liberty & equality for all and the whims of a populace governed by fear. The song is highly intelligent and likely to labeled irresponsible and dangerous by the political right; visionary by the left, and much discussed the real people in the middle.

Stockholm Syndrome, musically speaking, is more like an intellectual publication than popular music. The concepts and delivery are a bit heavy-handed and seem to draw unspoken lines between the current social and political environment in the US and stories such as 1984 and Brave New World. Musically speaking the album is something of a wash. The music is background against which Professor Webb details the decline and fall of Western Society but doesn't necessarily offer anything new or exciting. On the whole it's a very strong work, however whatever Webb has gained in flexibility by moving to a digital music environment is countered by a loss of nuance and color may help illuminate this story all the more.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Derek Webb at or Stockholm Syndrome hits the streets on September 1, 2009. You can pre-order your copy through

Review: The Injured Parties - Fun With A Purpose

The Injured Parties - Fun With A Purpose
2009, Zenith Beast Records

The Injured Parties are a Chicago-based power trio propagating a mid-western brand of roots rock n roll that runs the gamut from Neil Young-style minimalism to the noise of The Velvet Underground. Front Man Larry O. Dean (Post Office, The Me Decade) has a vocal delivery reminiscent of Young, and band mates Jimmy DeLauriea (bass) and Mike Ebersohl (drums) help to build a musical base that's part Americana and part Garage Rock. The Injured Parties debut album, Fun With A Purpose, was produced by Mark Nevers (Lambchop, Calexico) and mastered by Mike Hagler (Wilco, Neko Case, The Mekons).

Fun With A Purpose opens with American Comfort, a vibrant Americana/Rocker that points to an American conceit regarding comfort and consumption in light of how it affects the rest of the world. Been There, Done That takes a limited arrangement and a lead vocal with a bare relationship to a key to offer a linguistically challenged set of lyrics. Dogwalker is an amusing vignette about unrequited love with someone who probably doesn't even know the narrator exists. The song could either be sweet or creepy depending on perspective, but the Americana arrangement is a good one even if there is a looseness to the band throughout. If You're Gonna Break My Heart has a Rembrandts feel to it ala "I'll Be There For You" mixed with a Luther Wright twang. It's an entertaining song with some real life to it but stays on the underside of sonic purity.

Linda Fiorentino is something of a teenage fantasy about a Hollywood babe who's a Terminator. The song is cute but not really funny and not terribly interesting past the first couple of listens. On Her Way To Becoming Something Else details the timeless story of someone young who heads off from home for no other reason than to not be where they grew up any longer. The song is full of adolescent leanings and a driving Americana arrangement that serves as the perfect frame for a caricature that is spot-on. Fun With A Purpose closes out with For Your Protection, a whimsical bit of fluff rock with Punk leanings; a variation on call and response where the backing vocalists sing the same line over-and-over, and as along as the lead vocalist can think of more responses the song can continue. It's a fun exercise with little lasting effect.

Fun With A Purpose is held together with sonic duct tape, with The Injured Parties battering the band structure as often as they play to. The album is amusing and entertaining without being highly musical. The energy of the songs sells the album, and if you accept to Lo-Fi approach and rough songwriting then you'll get it. An aura of satire is in the air, and it has The Injured Parties written all over it.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about The Injured Parties at or You can purchase a copy of Fun With A Purpose at, or you can purchase a download through Amazon MP3.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Review: Janyse - The Magic Of Think

Janyse - The Magic Of Think
Magical Voice Productions

Canadian singer/songwriter and voiceover artist Janyse is not just a pop star but also a first-rate children’s artist and one of the top voiceover artists in the world. Janyse has voiced characters in projects such as Hulk Vs. Thor, Hulk Vs. Wolverine, Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda, Batman: Black & White, My Little Pony, and Ed, Edd n Eddy. We previously reviewed Janyse’s singles Dreamers and This Day Is Mine, but today we’re taking a listen to her Children’s project, The Magic Of Think.

Opening with Boots, a song about the courage to be yourself, Janyse affects a persona that's part Arthur and part cowboy. Boots is very catchy and will keep the little ones moving to the beat while delivering a positive message. Boogie Oogie Man is a comedic song about things that go bump in the night that you can jitterbug to and makes the dark a little less scary. Janyse goes for big daydreams on Hero, looking to save the day. It's a decent song although a bit cliché. Shoulda Woulda Coulda returns to the early Rock N Roll of Les Paul for a rockin' good time. It's amazing listening to the songs on The Magic Of Think and hearing all of the voices that Janyce Jaud manages to inhabit in the course of about 40 minutes.

Why is a song all about self-esteem and learning to like yourself. It's a strongly positive message delivered in a cute musical package that the kiddos will love. Janyse revisits Boots thematically in Stomp, a how-fast-can-you go hoedown that will have the kids and you in stitches before you're done. I Won't Worry is an upbeat, positive message in song that is as positive for the adults as it is the kids; the characters and tune are, as throughout The Magic Of Think, magically alive and full of energy. Janyse includes her pop tune, This Day Is Mine, which we previously reviewed as a single and closes out with If I Believe, the theme song of The Magic Of Think. This is, in fact, the best song on the disc, sounding like an Alan Menken/Tim Rice concoction from a Disney movie.

Janyse seems to spin gold with whatever she touches. Her voice talents (as both a voice artist and a singer) are prodigious. Janyse breathes life into what can at times be a tired children's genre with songs full of heart and belief in the magic of childhood. The Magic Of Think is definitely a worthwhile investment if you have little ones. Janyse is up there with folks like Elizabeth Mitchell, Trout Fishing In America and Laurie Berkner as a Children's Artist creating music accessible to kids but with a musicality and intelligence that will also appeal strongly to adults.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Janyce at or You can order The Magic Of Think as a CD or download through

Review: Heather Fay - Scrape Knee'd Girl

Heather Fay - Scrape Knee'd Girl
2009, Heather Fay Dawson

Bridgeport, Connecticut's Heather Fay started out with the dream of creating the perfect mix tape. The implausibility of this quest didn't hit her until years later while looking at her Alvarez acoustic and realizing that if she wanted the perfect mix tape she'd have to write some of it herself. Scrape Knee'd Girl is the outgrowth of that realization; an album of songs about the imperfections and wrong turns on life's path and the emotional cost of living through both right and wrong decisions. The title and artwork represent the "perfectly imperfect" state we live in, the bumps and bruises we acquire, and the tales Fay spins on Scrape Knee'd Girl sing to the very part in each of us that crave to be accepted, warts and all.

Heather Fay dabbles in the singer/songwriter pastiche of Carly Simon and Joni Mitchell and adds in a twist of Americana, Country Blues and Rock, depending on the song. Her voice is clear and strong and plain-spoken; an every woman's voice that connects to the listener instantly and holds your attention. Scrape Knee'd Girl opens with 515, a musical soliloquy about making choices that are painful but better in the long run. Here she's moving on toward an unknown future away from someone whose decisions will take her down a less desirable path. Don't Cry is a song about waking up to the important things around you. It's a pragmatic tune set to a comfortable Americana arrangement that shows off Fay's easy vocal style and talent for putting emotions and moments into words. The Last Time touches on the distance that grows between two halves of a couple over time, an honest question to the other about how/when things changed.

Ruby's Song is a song of love and devotion. The sentiment is beautiful and the arrangement is striking if a bit mundane, yet this serves to help the quiet vocal line soar. California Days is a dreamy memory song; a reverie for a time and place that likely could never be recaptured. Breaking My Heart is an entreaty to a loved one to not hurt her, set to a light Reggae beat. The light, optimistic nature of the arrangement runs at odds with the subject matter here, and Fay's cool, easy delivery makes it all believable. Dukes Up is an optimistic song about overcoming heartbreak; fighting your way through. It's set to a great blues/country arrangement that accentuates the hard-nosed yet vulnerable feel of the narrator.

Heather Fay brings a distinctive voice and approach to songwriting on Scrape Knee'd Girl. There's an emotional honesty that is unmistakable, with Fay delving into psychologically intimate subjects and moments from the experience of her protagonist. The music is wonderfully constructed, sticking primarily with a rich Americana sound that could pass for Country or Folk with a sprinkling of Rock thrown in. The album's pacing is a bit slow at times, with a couple of songs just losing me along the way, but Fay recovers well and generally delivers a very strong effort. Make sure you check out Scrape Knee'd Girl. It's worth the time.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Heather Fay at or You can purchase Scrape Knee'd Girl through, iTunes or Digstation.

Review: Wizards Of Waverly Place – Original Soundtrack

Wizards Of Waverly Place – Original Soundtrack/Various Artists
2009, Walt Disney Records

Wizards Of Waverly Place is one of the hottest television properties Disney owns these days, so it’s no surprise that they’ve chosen to release a soundtrack from the show featuring such young stars as Selena Gomez, Aly & AJ, KSM, Drew Seeley and Raven-Symone. Wizards Of Waverly Place features twelve tracks that are from or inspired by the hit show, many of them Rock and Pop classics with the word magic in the title that have been re-interpreted to varying degrees of success. Wizards Of Waverly Place was released on August 4, 2009.

Series star Selena Gomez has four songs on the soundtrack. Opening with Disappear, a highly produced bit of Pop fluff, Gomez displays a strong, pleasant voice amidst heavy hooks. This is a legitimate Pop hit outside of the teeny bopper set the show is aimed at. Magical is another legitimate Pop hit. Gomez shows off a lot of texture in her voice here and a quirky side that is endearing. Up next is a cover of Pilot’s Magic that’s updated for today’s Pop sound. I can’t say I’m a big fan of this version but it isn’t too far off the mark. The other Gomez track is the series theme song, Everything Is Not As It Seems. If you listen to any sort of Pop radio you already know this one.

Up next is Steve Rushton covering Jeff Lynne/Electric Light Orchestra’s Strange Magic in a faithful cover with incredibly harmonies. This was my favorite cover on the disc, and Rushton shows real talent as a vocalist. Honor Society takes on The Cars’ Magic and loses in a Karaoke club bit of blandness. The vocalist here just doesn’t have the panache or quirk of Ric Ocasek and ends up sounding mechanical. Mitchel Musso digs into The Police’s Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic to much the same effect found on the previous track. The vocalist displays little personality and is so ensconced in vocal effects and pitch correction software we may never know what his voice really sounds like. This rendition is bland in spite of the upbeat chorus. KSM gives a fair rendition of Steppenwolf’s Magic Carpet Ride, providing enough attitude and oomph to make the song believable and fair harmonies to boot.

Meaghan Martin draws Olivia Newton-John’s Magic and delivers a flat, highly-processed reading that simply doesn’t work. The energy and vitality of the original make this unlistenable by comparison. Andrew Seeley (of High School Musical fame) takes on America’s You Can Do Magic in a version designed and produced to do well on Pop Radio. There are more vocal effects here than you can wrap your head around in a re-envisioned Pop/Dance package. Raven Symone chips in with Some Call It Magic, a decent but not highly memorable pop tune that will likely play well on Radio Disney and not elsewhere. Aly & AJ hit gold covering The Lovin’ Spoonful’s Do You Believe In Magic. There has always been something of a bubblegum quality to this song, and that spirit isn’t lost here, but the vocalists have wonderfully textured voices that highlight the duality of the song. While vocal effects are probably endemic on anything Disney touches, the voices of Aly & AJ sound like they might just be real, and the energy here is high.

Wizards Of Waverly Place is a mixed bag. Highlights include Aly & AJ, Andrew Seeley, Steve Rushton and the irrepressible Selena Gomez. The choice of including covers of classic songs either soars or crashes and burns, depending on the artist/song. Some of the artists included here just don’t have the voice or personality (either that or it’s been produced out of them) to carry the songs they’ve been assigned. The album will do very well with the Radio Disney set, and some of the songs are legitimate Pop tunes that will do well on commercial radio. This is one of those albums where the ability to download just the songs you want may be advantageous.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Wizards Of Waverly Place at Walt Disney online. You can purchase Wizards Of Waverly Place at, or you can download the album from Amazon MP3 or iTunes.