Band Name: Various
Album Name: The Heart of Alberta: Folk, Country, Acoustic
Best Element: “For All Time” by the Allen Christie Band
Genre: Folk/Country/Acoustic/Modern Rock?/Hip-hop?
Label Name: Cyclone Records
This comp is labeled as folk, country, acoustic, and while that’s mostly correct, there are some very odd choices on this record that don’t fall into any of those three categories. For example, Kreshia Turner’s “Unnecessary Complications” is a hip-hop song. I am not kidding you- it’s a hip-hop song masquerading on a folk/country/acoustic album. It is based in an acoustic groove, but still- it threw me off. The Evanescence-like modern rock of Christa Haberstock’s “Necessary” and Jenae’s “A Flower” are also odd choices for this album.
But there are some nuggets of goodness on this album. Both of Hillbilly Dust’s blue-grass tinged acoustic-based songs are highlights, as well as Judith Lam’s forlorn “Prairie Skies”. “Don’t Call” by the James Murdoch Band features some great vocals and good songwriting in the verses, although the chorus is a little bit too formulaic for my taste. My favorite track here is “For All Time” by the Allen Christie Band, a bluegrass/pop fusion. It would fit radio well, and it’s a good song to drive to.
In fact, all of the songs on this comp would be perfect for radio- they all have a certain production sheen that makes them perfect for that medium. Some people would find this to be a turn-off, as some of the soul is lost from certain tracks in the transition. But the best tracks survive the transition well, making them definitively the best.
This comp is a pretty average affair- there are some genuinely good tracks, and some not-so-great tracks. If this were all folk/country/acoustic, it would be much better than it is- the tracks that didn’t fit really threw off the flow of this album.
Cyclone Records knows its roots. Based in Alberta, Canada, the label is bringing a fresh approach to music distribution and promotion while still heavily supporting the local artists they know and love. We at the Independent Clauses love anything cutting edge, so we were all about Cyclone Records when they contacted us.
They are one aggressive label- in addition to releasing new material by their artists on CD, they pick up the back catalog of their artists and release it as an iTunes-only release. This crazy releasing pace will see them releasing ten albums in their first year between new material, old material, and compilations.
They’re pretty proud of their compilations, too- culled from the burgeoning Alberta music scene, these compilations are highly selective. They’re released to local radio and clubs, giving bands on the compilation a leg up in the local scene. From these comps, Cyclone takes its roster- making Cyclone’s roster the best of the best in the Alberta scene.
And whether or not you like their taste in music- they tend to like more radio-friendly stuff than IndependentClauses is used to, with the exception of the political hardcore of Inner Surge- you can’t deny that Cyclone Records is doing wonders with their business side. This is the way a record label should be run.
They’re pretty clever up there at Cyclone- we’re a little envious that we didn’t think of it first. Now, without further adieu, a whole bunch of reviews on Cyclone releases. Enjoy.
Inner Surge – Signals Screaming(http://www.independentclauses.com/mar_06_content/inner.htm)
Inner Surge – Matrika (http://www.independentclauses.com/id70.html)
Creature Republic – Watch Your Aim (in folder)
Compilation: On the Verge – Alberta’s Best Rock (in folder)
Compilation: Heart of Alberta – Folk Country Acoustic (in folder)
Compilation: Greatest Underground Show on Earth: Calgary Metal http://www.independentclauses.com/mar_06_content/show.htm
Band Name: Free Diamonds
Album Name: There Should Be More Dancing
Best Element: Ridiculously catchy, fun, and memorable
Label Name: Deep Elm Records (www.deepelm.com)
Band E-mail: booking’freediamonds.co.uk
I am that one guy at shows who stands right up to the front of the venue and dances around like crazy. When everyone else is sitting around staring at the band as they plead for some motion, I’m the one spazzing out up front. I’m a dancer- and bunches of bands have commended various audiences to be more like me. People ask me why I do it, and I usually give some reply like “There should be more dancing in the world” or “things are better when you dance.”
So when I got an album titled [u]There Should Be More Dancing[/u], you can guess how fast that album got slapped in my CD player. And you know what? Free Diamonds does believe that there should be more dancing- because this is a spazzy, bass-heavy, dance-or-else party of an album.
And when I said bass-heavy, I mean bass-heavy. This threesome is propelled by the bass guitar- from the punked-out chorus riff of “List of Everyone” to the grooving lead riff of “Blind Boys” to the funktastic “Like Giraffes” to the unclassifiable distorted bass charge of “J.P.L.D.”, the bass player owns this album. That’s not to say that the guitars don’t contribute- they definitely do, as they take the lead on songs like “Modern Day Pirates” and “Land of Giants”- but even when the guitar leads, the bass contribution pushes to much more than it could’ve been on its own. And that’s fantastic, because the bassist is amazing, and the more lines we can get out of him, the better.
The aforementioned guitars act almost like ska guitars, serving up clipped chords in a bright guitar tone. The guitar tone is very wiry and frenetic, lending even more wild passion to the sound. The drums act like a referee, holding the huge bass noise and the bright guitar tone at arm’s length, so that they never kill each other- just flirt with the idea of self-destruction. They’re permanently on the edge of coming apart, but they never do- just one more feather in their cap.
The vocals are completely nuts. There’s two vocalists here, although their vocal tones are so close to each other that I can’t tell them apart. The sound I hear is a freaked-out yelp of a voice- a wild, bizarre, manic voice that lends even more energy to the sound. The vocalists hardly ever sing slowly- the voice sounds much better spitting out syllables rapid-fire. The melodies are what make this album, though- whether they be vocal or bass, the melodies here are incredibly catchy and memorable. And when I say it’s incredibly catchy, I mean it- I’ve been singing Free Diamonds lines for weeks.
The lyrics which they spit out are a strange brew- sometimes deep, sometimes intentionally silly, often name-checking themselves (not unlike a rap band would), they’re just as wild and out there as Free Diamonds themselves.
The best song here is undeniably the 2:00 freak-out that is “Lovers Die Young”. Sounding almost like the soundtrack to a Carnival commercial, the bass player outdoes himself, delivering a ridiculously fast, complex, cool-sounding bass line for the vocalist to lay his vocals over. The guitars throw in some interjections here and there, but mostly it’s just the bass player, the drummer, and the vocalist going at it for two straight minutes, ending up in a repeated call of “Lovers die young!! Lovers die young!!” When it’s that passionate, I’m inclined to believe it while I’m dancing my feet off.
I could go through and list every cool riff and melody in this album, but it would take forever and you wouldn’t be getting the full experience. Every song is a brilliantly composed bass-heavy, dance-inspiring freak-out. I can’t listen to this album without wanting to dance, and I’m pretty sure no one else can either. This ain’t conventional dance-rock- it’s about seven times better than that. At least. Do yourself a favor and get some Free Diamonds. Because as they say, “What Part of Free Diamonds Don’t You Understand?”
I have just found another sure-fire way to drive yourself nuts. The first way I found was to try understanding just how many planets there are in the universe by trying to ponder the amount of galaxies, then stars, then planets around those stars. It’s guaranteed to make you twitch.
The second way to do it, as I have just found, is to go all the way through a single blog roll on an mp3 blog. I did this on one rather inconspicuous Friday night, using the blog roll at my favorite mp3 blog *sixeyes. Some were defunct, and some didn’t appeal to me, but the sheer volumes of music that pass through many of these sites is literally mind-boggling. When I see a site that posts a new band every day, I am impressed, definitely. But when I see a site that posts two, three, four new bands a day, as Gorilla vs. Bear and *sixeyes do, I am staggered.
But what really blew the cover off, what really alerted me that mp3 blogging can and will blow your mind, is when I found an interview with Page France on the extremely well-written You Ain’t No Picasso blog. The very same Page France that I reviewed way back in the day with their debut [u]Come! I’m a Lion![/u], when they were unsigned. This isn’t self-congratulating (although that is fun)- this is merely a recognition that there are infinite pieces to the independent music puzzle, and they can all be added together by someone with no life, a fast internet connection, and a blog roll. That freaks me out. It literally gave me shivers.
And then, to make matters so much worse, I found the official SXSW bit-torrent- 1000+ bands, one song each, two words: holy goodness. There is officially no end to indie-rock. It goes on forever into the sunset. I am nothing in the face of the greater picture of indie-rock. Even Independent Clauses as a magazine is a tiny blip on the screen of indie rock. In fact, even if we became a nationally syndicated magazine, became well-respected in the indie rock world, maybe even went international with our pages- we would still be a blip on the indie-rock world.
Indie rock will never die. Music will always be good. We as a magazine will strive our best to bring you the good music, whether we find it out of the purevolume.com general promo forums, the mp3 blogs we visit, the local shows we watch, or random referrals. I am but a student in this great game of indie-rock, and I will always be a student. It’s when we think we know something that we really don’t know anything at all.
Band Name: E Deubner
Album Name: The Wasted Creator
Best Element: Unique take on rock music.
Genre: Slow, heavy indie-rock
Label Name: N/a
When I picked up E. Deubner’s [u]The Wasted Creator[/u], I was expecting something acoustic or electronic, as is the case with most solo projects these days. Thus, I was pretty shocked to hear an album full of caustic, biting, slowed-down rock. There are even shades of industrial on this album. Needless to say, this is not your normal solo project.
Neither is it a normal rock album. What E. Deubner lacks in tempo he makes up for in sheer aggression (the hugely distorted guitar chomp of “The Stapler Manger” and “Greater Cause”) and unpredictable songwriting (the nearly alt-country twang of “Inevitability Be Damned” and the industrial thud of “Everything Gets Forgotten”).
The sheer aggression is an underlying force throughout this album- although this is by no means a metal album, there is an ominous undertone that comes from the presence of Deubner’s heavily distorted guitar. This is only counteracted by the frequent contribution of warbly, fragile keys- the antithesis to the menacing growl of the guitar. The vocals here are also often manifested as a distorted snarl (“My Past is Due”), only enhancing the discomforting mood. When the distortion is dropped off the vocals, the voice turns out to be a weary, off-kilter voice that fits very well against the menacing, ominous background.
Ominous is a good way to describe the songwriting of E. Deubner- throughout this entire album, a generally foreboding feeling abounds. His songs are not conventional, which does lead to some songs that never quite sit well with the listener [“Inspiration’s a Bitch (When You Don’t Have a Pen)”], but there are some brilliant songs here.
“Inevitability Be Damned”, while not the best example of Deubner’s sound, is my favorite track here. It drops the heavy distortion off the guitar and the vocals and lets Deubner’s songwriting prowess shine through. It’s a very unique track, as the ominous mood is temporarily lifted for a more organic sound.
Although the description so far has made these songs sound quite similar, they’re really quite diverse, which makes picking a ‘best track’ difficult. “My Past is Due” shows his songwriting skill best, but it’s not as hard and dissonant as the excellent “Greater Cause”. The best all-around example of his sound would be “The Stapler Manger”, with its slow build to intensity, but in terms of songwriting, it’s not the best. “The Cotas Loop” is another track that could get votes for best song, as it features a great riff, strong vocals, and several mood changes.
E. Deubner has crafted a highly unique album of distorted, plodding, churning rock. It’s a challenge to listen to this album all the way through, and a challenge to understand what’s going on. But once you’ve gone through it a couple times, the pieces start to fall together, and you’ll probably agree that this album is pretty stellar. But you need an attention span. I hope I hear more of E. Deubner and his unique take on rock music.
Band: Dylan Gilbert
Album Name: Oh No Now I Know
Best Element: Fantastic song variety for a 6 song EP.
Label: Sophie Music Group (www.myspace.com/sophiemusicgroup)
Band E-mail: dyg379’bellsouth.net
Indie Rock is a genre which flourishes with a sincerity almost altogether lost in modern rock music. Dylan Gilbert’s debut EP [u]Oh No Now I Know[/u] is no exception: six songs full of pop-laden hooks, catches and grooves. On top of all this, there is an abundance of original elements to each of the songs. Lots of bands may use a similar approach to their songs, yet often they lack the substance it takes to really make them stand out in the crowd. Luckily, with his talent and skillful songwriting Dylan Gilbert does not fall victim to just being another face in the crowd.
The album begins with an unexpected (yet great) introductory sample announcing: “Good evening ladies and gentlemen, this is Dylan Gilbert!” The guitars then kick in and for the next 23 minutes the rock doesn’t stop.
Each one of the six tracks is varied in its sound and delivery, ranging from the alt-country “You’re Not Just Saying That” to the bluesy guitar and piano heard on “Oh No Oh Now I Know”, which is the highlight of the album. The ending of the track has beautiful piano work with great a vocal piece showcasing Gilbert’s soft, somber voice.
Song styles and influences are wide ranging and borrow from such walks of music as folk, blues, pop, new wave and even more experimental material (listen to the sample work at the end of the first track “Tangled Up In Knots”). He is in fact quite a skilled musician…Dylan handles all the instrumentation, which includes guitars, bass, keys, harmonica, and even a few little extras, with the exception of 3 studio drum tracks played by a friend. Not to mention that Dylan has a voice many indie rockers would love to have: it’s powerful yet emotional with a slight twang that really distinguishes him.
Lyrically he is well-spoken and seems to say it best on the title track, when he whispers “I even put my heart on plain white paper”. Though some of the lyrics may initially pass as somewhat typical ‘relationship’ songs, he offers a lot more sincerity than your average rocker. You have to respect whenever someone literally puts who they are into their music. There is no faking- this music seems to be an aural representation of who Dylan Gilbert really is as a person.
With only a 6 song EP released thus far, it is safe to say Dylan Gilbert has begun his solo career with the right foot forward. His unique blend of styles, sincere music, and skilled song writing has won me over. Truthfully I don’t see how any open minded, avid music fan could not enjoy this.
Band Name: Delft
Album Name: S/t EP
Best Element: Lush, organic, revelatory songwriting
Label Name: N/a (this is a crime)
Band E-mail: delftband’yahoo.com
Delft have adopted a sea turtle as their mascot, and made the sea their motif. I can’t think of a better thing to represent their sound than the sea. Even when the band is playing quickly, as they do often, their indie-rock sound seems filtered through a dreamy sieve that gives it a thick, fluid, underwater feel. Part of this is due to the fact that the band’s chemistry is so intense that I wouldn’t be surprised if they hit wrong notes together, but it is also due to the subdued tones of the instruments.
Yes, Delft is light on the distortion, preferring a much more full-bodied, melodic sound. Even though they have two guitars, a bass, drums, and keys, they never let their sound get cluttered or frenetic. The main idea always comes through solidly, and the rest of the instruments act merely as supporters of the main idea, as is evidenced by the beautiful “Weather Report,” where they start out in full band mode before paring it down to simply the piano line and vocals. The piano gives way to a guitar section, where the rest of the band supports the guitar line that is slowly taking precedence. This completely collective songwriting style gives Delft’s songs an amazing clarity unmatched by many who have ‘made it’ in the indie world.
These songs are extremely beautiful, but they also have the power to rock out, as “Weather Report” does about 5 minutes in. The guitars kick in the overdrive (still not too much, mind you) the drums stomp, and the vocals soar over the passionate thunder. It’s the kind of moment that must be simply rapturous in concert.
The drums contribute a great deal to the clarity of Delft’s sound- in an unconventional move, they contribute a great deal of energy to Delft’s sound without a great amount of noise. The abundant snare, closed high hat, and toms don’t muddy the sound like a great deal of cymbals would, and even when there is a consistent cymbal (as occurs in the middle of “Take”), the mixing is so expertly done that it doesn’t interfere with excellent bass lines or shifty guitar parts.
In the end, Delft is one of those bands that has such amazing songs that I feel dumb trying to explain them in words. Just listen to the stuff- it’s amazing. If you’re a fan of complex, unique, melancholic, beautiful, emotional music, then Delft is your band. Probably my best find of the year so far- now if they could only release a proper album….
Band Name: Creature Republic
Album Name: Watch Your Aim
Best Element: Female vocals that don’t sound like Amy Lee!
Genre: Modern Rock
Label Name: Cyclone Records
Band E-mail: email@example.com
It’s good to hear a rock album that just goes for it and doesn’t suck at doing it. This may be the only modern rock album that I’ve heard that I didn’t feel compelled to turn off partway through, and it’s because Creature Republic knows where its strength lies- solid guitars and attitude-laced vocals. They don’t go for flashy solos or power-ballads- just solid rock, all through.
And that’s a relief, because the guitars are truly solid and the vocals are truly worthwhile. For the second time this month, I’m completely impressed by a female vocalist, as Alicia Hoogveld really knows her stuff. She has an alto voice that’s not too husky or manly, neither too high or operatic- a very straightforward, no-nonsense type of voice. It works perfectly in the context of the low-slung guitar songwriting.
And it should, because Hoogveld is also the guitarist unleashing the rock on this album. Thus, she can work with the songs until she’s comfortable with the vocals and the guitars in their right place. This makes a huge difference in their sound, as the vocals never sound strained and the guitars never fall out of time. The guitars themselves are pretty varied, from the metal overtones of “Watch Your Aim” to the charging rock of “Break Through” to the metal breakdown of “The Will to Fight”.
But don’t forget the bassist- no slouch either, Jarrett Sullivan lays down some impressive licks, such as the opening riff in “Break Through” and some impressive riffing in the bridge of “So Cold”.
With the added punch of the straight-forward drums (thankfully not overpowering), Creature Republic is a slick, mean modern-rock machine. They avoid songwriting cliches with varied guitar songwriting and nice bass work, they reject vocal repetition with the talented vocal cords of Ms. Hoogveld, and they generally destroy everyone in the modern rock scene right now. Creature Republic is impressive.
Band Name: Corban Eldra
Album Name: The Midwest
Best Element: Reminds me how good these guys are live.
Genre: Straight-up indie-rock.
Label Name: N/a
Corban Eldra needs to come to Tulsa more often- because their live shows are nothing short of amazing. The chemistry between the two guitarists, rhythm guitar/vocalist, bassist, drummer, and keyboardist is amazing, and their explosive indie rock songs leap off the stage as barn-burning epics. Songs such as “A Constant Explosion” and “Kansas” are nothing short of rapturous when played live, as the many pieces of their puzzle fall together in a yearning, passionate wall of sound. The guys in Corban Eldra are my favorite indie-rock songwriters right now- if somebody were to ask me what good indie-rock sounds like, I’d describe CE’s sound.
When I heard that their album was almost finished, I was thrilled to finally hear how their huge live sound translates to a recorded setting. But I had been warned by the band that it was hard for them to capture that live spark on tape, so I was a little guarded in my expectations.
Even with those lowered expectations, The Midwest was a little bit of a let-down. Their intense sound seemed to hit with a thud instead of bang, their chemistry was obscured by huge guitar presence, and their precise songwriting lost its edge. This watering down of their sound is mostly due to the fact that the mix is extremely guitar-heavy. Yes, there are three guitars in Corban Eldra, but that’s no reason to drown out the drums, bass, and keys in nearly every track. In live performances, the drums are loud and proud, the keys rip through the rest of the mix, and the bass provides a strong foundation- on most of The Midwest, all you can hear is guitars and vocals. The drums are an especially maddening loss- these songs seem to amble in no direction without the pop that the very talented drumming provides.
With most of the full-band chemistry relegated to naught, The Midwest serves as a testament to how strong their three-guitar songwriting is. Even though “A Constant Explosion” is robbed of some of its live candor, the album version of it is pretty intense- to someone who’s never heard them live, it would still be quite amazing to hear. The mournful guitar elegy that is “Part One” doesn’t have much full-band presence in it anyway, so its glory is untainted- and it is one of the most moving songs on the album, as a forlorn guitar dips and soars through a sparse, yet epic landscape. It’s great, and it gives credence to the fact that this album is ambitiously named The Midwest . I actually do think of the Midwest when I hear “Part One”.
“Dobbs” is another highlight track- I don’t think I’ve ever heard it live, so I have no complaints about its transference from live to tape. The talented vocals and quick drumming shine through on this one before they give way to the monster slab of layered rock that I have come to expect from all great CE tracks. This one features a particularly awesome second guitar melody and some inspired cymbal-bashing.
All in all, The Midwest is one of the better indie-rock records you could want to buy, in terms of straight-up talent. It will also be useful for eBay fodder when they get famous. But the band can do so much better- I hope that their next recordings better showcase their full talents as a band. Then again, The Midwest will keep people coming to shows forever, so maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all- reminds me how good a live band Corban Eldra actually is.
Band Name: Cecil Dreeme
Album Name: Honey and Crocodile Tears
Best Element: Sultry vocals.
Label Name: N/a
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cecil Dreeme is not a person- Cecil Dreeme is a very talented band named after a Theodore Winthrop novel. No, Cecil Dreeme is five extremely talented people- a guitarist, a bassist, a pianist, a drummer, and one very, very sultry female vocalist.
It takes an amazing female voice to make me a convert, but lead singer Cara has me converted. Her voice is perfect for this dark-alley, smoky, jazz-esque music- smooth, lithe, and most of all not breathy. Her notes ring clear and true, alternately dripping with longing (“January”, “Rolling Blackout”) and confident sexuality (“Bored and Pretty”, “Pobrecito”).
But Cara isn’t the only thing that makes Cecil Dreeme’s Honey and Crocodile Tears so deliciously good. The fact that the songwriting behind her is stellar definitely helps out. This band sounds like it lives in a dark and smoky bar- churning out moody, dark, but still soft tunes that sound like the soundtrack to loneliness. All parts of the band work together with a ridiculously tight chemistry- it sounds like these songs were birthed full-formed, not pieced together by a band.
“Speakeasy” is the perfect example: the song starts off with the guitar and piano intertwined- but when the vocals come in they smooth out. The bass and drums enter, and start pushing the song forward- slowly yet surely. The parts fuse together, and when the chorus hits, it’s almost impossible to discern the bass, piano, and guitar from each other- it’s just one beautiful sound. Or maybe one of the three dropped out- I have no clue. Their sound works together so well that it doesn’t matter what instruments are in or out- it all sounds incredible. That’s a real testament to the individual talent and confidence of each member of the band.
Each of these songs are near-perfect in their execution- it’s hard to knock anything in this album. While most of this album is mellower in its delivery, there are some loud moments for variation. The impossibly delicate “Lighter Shaped Like Elvis” ratchets up to a huge, distorted conclusion- giving off a sound so low and fuzzy that it literally made my computer chair vibrate. There are songs where the piano leads (“Dreeme, Awake”) and songs where the guitar leads (“Iron”). Anything you could wish for in an dark, spacious alt-pop album is right here.
Some people don’t like alt-pop, and so they’ll immediately put this in their ‘no way’ bin. That’s probably the right place to put it- because there aren’t very many concessions to the non-alt-pop fan. This is an album for those who already love the genre- and oh, will those people love it. Cecil Dreeme’s Honey and Crocodile Tears is as close to alt-pop perfection as you can get without making drastic renovations to the genre. Highly recommended for fans of strong female voice and pensive, smoky, sultry, passionate music.