Band Name: Fall of Transition
Album Name: Distractions
Best Element: Beautiful, sentimental music
Genre: Emo/Indie Rock
Label Name: EVO Recordings
Band E-mail: email@example.com
Distractions is the third release and the first full-length release for Fall of Transition. It is a sure-footed step in the right direction. It has the same definitive Fall of Transition sound and method, stretched out over 11 tracks and polished to perfection.
This CD is a masterpiece from start to finish, proving that Fall of Transition has true talent and staying power. From intricate melodies to heartfelt lyrics, each song is sure to strike a chord with you in some way, shape, or form, holding your attention and tugging at your heartstrings.
Included on Distractions is a remake of the song “Fabulous Liar,” the opening track from their first, self-titled EP. It adds some additional instrumentation and some more forceful vocals, which, although at a very few certain points they sound more strained than natural, add a quality to the song that adds depth and maturity not found in the original.
All in all, this is definitely the album that Fall of Transition should have added to their arsenal, and it is sure to please their ever-growing fan base.
Band Name: Food Will Win the War
Album Name: Food Will Win the War
Best Element: Quirky acoustic fun
Genre: Accoustic, Folk
Label Name: N/A
Band E-mail: Rob@foodwillwinthewar.com
Food Will Win the War’s debut album is a genuine pleasure. It’s Jim Croce meets Mates of State with a tad bit of Dylan thrown in. In short, it’s glorious.
“Amassed Complications” is an excellent start to an excellent album. The riff at the beginning is catchy; I like the organ sounds and the harmonies work well too. The best part is this: the album doesn’t deviate from this formula. The whole album is this good.
“Dark Mono 3” is so much of an earworm that it should be illegal. Brian Skerratt lays down a rockin baseline to begin the song, then Rob Ward jumps in on viola, followed closely by Dara Matthews on piano. Instrumentally this track is great; all the musicians involved are at the top of their game. Matthews’ vocals are world-class, and the harmony between her and Ward is tight—this harmony adds a lot to the song. This song is a treasure.
“Speedy Nico” is a noteworthy track on this album as well. Rob Ward is excellent on both guitar and lyrics and I can’t say enough how catchy it turns out. This song reminds me of Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane” with more organ.
“Turnpike” is a great song as well. The vocals aren’t amazing in spots, but they’re almost endearing. Think Phoebe Buffet from “Friends.” This is band that is having a good time, and that enthusiasm carries over to the audience, more than making up for the vocals. Again, Matthews shines on keyboards.
“Take You” is a fun folk romp that really ought to leave you tapping your toes. In fact, if it doesn’t, I would suggest that you seek professional help.
This is an excellent first release—I expect to see this band do quite well in the future.
Tracks From Another Planet: November
Digging myself out from a late November snowfall, I’ve got plenty of highlights from my #1 Hits From Another Planet home for you all this month. It’s been another great month for “unconventional conventional” pop and rock music and has (as always) given me hope that music hasn’t completely been obliterated by what I hear on the radio.
Speaking of… I’ve decided to stop scanning the Billboard charts with the hope that something interesting will pop up. This week (the last week of November), seven of the top ten singles are urban/hip-hop retread, while Hinder (return-of-rock-and-roll-my-ass) and the Fray/Snow Patrol with their Grey’s Anatomy sponsored singles round out this country’s choice (though that word is not altogether accurate in these Clear Channel times) top ten.
Am I the only one depressed by this? I can’t be. And, I hope I’m not.
Thank God for the internet. I now discover and buy the vast majority of my music over the web, assisted by countless bloggers and music fans like myself; people who know that there’s more out there than what we’re being fed. I urge you all, even if you only have a fleeting interest in music, to not only go out and discover the tunes that you love, but to share them with everyone you know. Really, it’s time for a music revolution here.
Tracks to check out:
(all can be sampled on #1 Hits From Another Planet)
Ella Rouge – “Eldorado High”
Ella Rouge are a new band from Sweden who seem to love the seventies. This is, of course, wonderful… as their music is carved from similar territory as England’s The Feeling. Lead singer Ludvig Andersson is the son of Abba’s Benny Anderson, but don’t expect the music to sound the same (though that definitely wouldn’t be a bad thing). “Eldorado High” (though strongly mimicking Robbie Williams’ “Jesus in a Camper Van” in the verses) is pure rock and roll nostalgia. With a soaring chorus and catchy piano refrain, it will linger with you for a long time.
Tally Hall – “Good Day”
“Good Day” is one of the most alive tracks I’ve heard in a long time. It would fit in no problem on Queen’s Night At The Opera. That’ll pretty much tell you all you need to know. Freddie Mercury would be proud, especially at the 2:20 mark, where the song completely changes in one of many stylistic shifts. At some times the singing actually sounds eerily like Mercury. Most importantly, it’s not like nothing else out there today, yet it’s a sound that I think a lot of bands are currently striving for. Insanely catchy and continually inventive…who knew music this good was still coming from the States?
Loto – “Cuckoo Plan” (ft. Peter Hook)
Loto come from Portugal and play a delicious blend of pop, rock and electro. “Cuckoo Plan” is the first single from their new album and features Peter Hook of New Order/Joy Division fame. The song itself sounds a lot like New Order, with a great beat and hook. Even more exciting, I hear their new album also features a track with guitar work by Scissor Sisters’ own Del Marquis! Any friend of Scissor Sisters is definitely a friend of mine. Plus, how many pop songs come out with “Cuckoo Plan” as the title? Not many, I’d guess.
Revl9n – “Walking Machine”
From only one look at Revl9n’s promo picture I knew I would love them. Despite occupying the all-but-dead electroclash genre, Revl9n bring fantastic pop smarts and a whole lot of attitude, which sets them easily apart from their peers. “Walking Machine” is an absolutely addictive confection. I’ve had it on repeat for a while now and I like it better with each listen. Couple an extremely catchy melody with a computer blip landscape that kind of sounds like Deep Forest on crack and you’ve got a major hit. If you like electropop groups like The Knife and Mylo (but with much more of a pop melody), I would especially recommend this group.
Band Name: In Ink Please
Album Name: Formica Table For Two
Best Element: Vanessa Palmer’s gorgeous voice
Genre: Lo-fi Pop
Label name: Fall Records
Band e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I have always thought there was something to be said for bands that harbor only a couple members. Usually, it seems that these individuals are multitalented (as most are), but others just stick with the same comfortable instruments. If a band does fit into the latter category, they had better produce some really original pieces so as to hold my interest. In Ink Please may fall into the latter category, but it does so without regret.
Formica Table for Two is In Ink Please’s first true LP (they did a split with The White Foliage), but it feels like a live album. It begins with is “More or Less,” which has a pretty atypical sound of the remainder of the album. “If You Don’t like it, Throw it in the Rhine” (a title I still have yet to fully understand), features a violin and bass. Unfortunately, they seem to be simply background noise and are hard to distinguish, but Venessa Palmer does break into rather beautiful German. Palmer steps away from the piano in “Too Hot There Anyhow” and picks up a guitar, all the while keeping that soft, elegant voice moving. Palmer’s voice is by far the best aspect of the album, giving it the delicate character that permeates every track. “Also a Nice Compact” brings in a little electric intro that has a downer effect on the rest of the track. It makes me feel sad (like listening to too much Iron & Wine or Coldplay would do), but don’t get me wrong, it is one of the best tracks, next to “Carlo Rossi Jug Band” and its addictive handclap segments.
This is one of those albums that honestly feels like a live album. The best comparison I can think of is The Mountain Goats, however strange that may sound. Now, I am no huge fan of The Mountain Goats, but I am a fan of their sound. It is one of those sounds that is minimalist and relaxed. It’s like their playing just for the hell of it. This is exactly what In Ink Please does. Palmer and Hendrickson no longer reside in the same state, but when they do get together they “usually end up writing catchy acoustic songs about recent developments in their lives or playing Black Sabbath covers.” Sometimes music is just too over produced, but this well-produced sheen is how more music should sound.
Band Name: Melody Club
Album Name: Scream
Best Element: Not a bad song on the album
Label Name: EMI
Band E-mail: n/a
Amidst the galloping funk of “Feed On Me,” which opens Melody Club’s third album Scream, frontman Kristofer Östergren speaks for the whole band when he warns “don’t you dare ignore me, we know why you came.” Indeed they do. Melody Club know their fan base: those who like their pop songs crammed so full of hooks that they practically explode. Luckily for all of us, Scream finds the band in better form than ever.
Since Melody Club’s last album (2004’s Face The Music), the band’s former bass player Magnus Roos left the group, to be replaced by Niklas Stenemo (brother of the guitar player and former frontman of fellow Swedish band The Mo). Niklas was a smart choice, as he brings a heavy disco-funk element to the songs on Scream. Melody Club has never sounded as full or as utterly irresistible as it does now. Disco-stompers “Scream” and “Fever Fever” easily match (and nearly outdo) the Scissor Sisters’ recent offerings, while a trio of anthems-in-waiting (“Crash,” “Last Girl On My Mind,” & “Evil Thing”) trump 99% of the pop released this year without even sounding like they’re trying. Out of all of the songs, lead single “Destiny Calling” sounds the most like the group’s earlier work, and neatly divides the album halfway through. The group also continues their tradition of playfully experimental pop-ballads, most notably with “Sweet Thing.” Opening with what sounds like the beep-beep of a hospital’s life-support system and quickly segueing into a dreamy sing-along, it sounds both classic and strangely alien.
There is not a bad song on Scream, and that is an absolute triumph in the pop genre. The album offers just enough growth in Melody Club’s core sound to give the impression that this glossy group isn’t going away anytime soon. This is music to dance to, to sing along with in the car or while you’re working. Big, silly and bright, Scream is one of the best things you’ll hear all year. A
Band Name: Middle Distance Runner
Album Name: Plane in Flames
Best Element: Varied sounds
Genre: Guitar Rock
Label Name: N/a
Band E-mail: email@example.com
Do you miss the guitar rock of the mid to late nineties? Inclusive, varied and pleasantly playful, Middle Distance Runner’s Plane in Flames dabbles in many sounds, from the Radiohead-like dirge “The Madness” to the fuzzy garage rock of “Man Of The People.” Though nothing on the album particularly stands out, the band presents a little something for everyone.
Plane in Flames is a pleasant album, hooky in places, brooding in others, and a spotlight for a band with a lot of potential. The record opens brilliantly with “Naturally,” a sly, sinister song ironically filled with jaunty hand-claps. “Switch It Up” continues the playfully sinister tone, with lyrics about a girl intent on finding ways to “dig her nails” into the song’s narrator. Both “Top of the Stairs” and “Up in a Tree” are prime examples of the catchy guitar rock the band does very well, while “Hooks” begins as an atmospheric Death Cab For Cutie sound-alike and soon morphs into an avalanche of epic guitars and vocals. While this kind of thing has been heard countless times before, the band succeeds at taking the best from their influences and crafting a record that shines in its diversity.
Middle Distance Runner is clearly a band with some ambition, and listening to Plane in Flames, it’s clear that they are not stuck in one particular sound. The trick, of course, will be to transcend their influences and find a sound that can instantly be identified as their own. Until then, Plane in Flames is a fitting primer, and an album in which every music fan should find something to latch on to. B-
Band Name: The Seventh Season
Album Name: Transposition
Best Element: Melody, style
Genre: Alternative Rock/Rock/New Age
Label Name: Independent Records
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In today’s field of music, most if not all rock bands are founded by groups of musicians who, despite different callings in the music field, are all drawn together by one indestructible factor: friendship. For some musicians, that bond is even more solidified by having brothers or sisters to play along with. The Seventh Season takes that foundation one step further. Not only has bass player and back-up vocalist Yuri Batygin been behind the wheel for Seventh Season since 1972 with drummer Sergey Smet, but he has finally found a voice for his outfit in his son Konstantin “Chad” Batygin.
The Seventh Season has been through ups and downs in its almost 35 year existence. Their latest offering is a live DVD entitled Transposition, which was filmed live at the Emeryville College for Digital Arts in February of 2006. In this set, Seventh Season presents itself as a band that has not only a unique sound, but also consistent songwriting ability.
Chad Batygin sets the mood for the album with his unique and trippy guitar tones with “Desire.” Smet starts tapping the beat on his throne while Yuri gets the listener in the groove with his bass. Chad’s vocals come in early on in the song, yet they almost appear too rough for the song; due to it being a live show, it could just be first-song-anxiety. Regardless, the vocalization is done very well between Chad and his dad throughout the tune.
The album zips over a song about not wearing underwear (“Commando”) to “Pirate Song,” a poppy song that will get fans of any genre bopping along.
Chad’s vocals are more understandable in this song, and the lyrics turn out to be well written and thoughtful.
If anyone has even wondered what Russian blues rock sounds like, look no further. Yuri lays it down in “New Day,” a toe-tapping blues-rock song sung completely in Russian. The trio shows off their English song-writing skills as well in “So Insane,” a new age rocker that leaves Chad pleading, “Please tell me there’s no need to be alone for God’s sake.”
“Ocean of Time” is arguably the best tune on the DVD. Manifesting from the tender, fluid notes that drip off Chad’s guitar, the song immediately brings to mind images of the subconscious, of floating around in space, and an eternity of tripping. A brooding bass line carries the song beneath Chad’s dimmed vocals until the gentle dynamics soar into a hard hitting, powerful solo. The Batygins bellow out one last chorus before Smet kicks his kit into gear and the band races off at a new tempo with Chad’s fingers in the lead.
The DVD ends with several decent tunes, the most noticeable being “April,”
which features political overtones and lyrics like “Why should we have to die…for someone else’s lie?” Chad also takes this time to show off his axe-man skills, rifling off several solos with his guitar over his head.
Transposition offers a few good songs and is sure to draw in some fans for the Seventh Season. Unfortunately, the purpose of a live DVD is to capture the live energy of the band. With Transposition, though the tunes sound great, there was no feeling of urgency from the performers. The groove was there, the beat was there, but a lot of the stage presence felt robotic and/or forced in accordance with the music. Being that they advertise themselves as a rock band, if there is one thing the band could work on, it would be to move around a bit more, interact with each other more, and really go crazy.
Other than many of the tunes sounding semi-similar due to the same atmospheric guitar tones flowing over everything, The Seventh Season have done some great things on Transposition, and “Ocean of Time” is an extremely well-written song.
If you’re looking for some trippy rock ‘n’ roll and have an hour to spare, pick up Transposition and let the groove take you away.
Sugar Free Allstars: On Tour Forever
In a world full of guitar/guitar/bass/drums, it’s comforting to see bands that completely wreck the standard setup. The Sugar Free Allstars are composed of Chris Wiser (Hammond B3 organ, saxophone, vocals) and Rob “Dr. Rock” Martin (Drums/back-up vocals). That’s it. There’s no guitar or bass- just two men armed with what instruments they’ve got, melodies to spare, and a zany sense of humor. Atypical pop with a sly grin is what the Sugar Free Allstars have to offer, and we caught up with the very busy Chris Wiser to hear about what’s been going on in the SugarFree camp.
Independent Clauses: You’ve been playing a lot of shows outside of Oklahoma lately. How has the response in other cities been to your music?
Chris Wiser: It’s been going very well. People outside of Oklahoma aren’t used to seeing some dummy hauling a full size Hammond organ around and they seem to be impressed. A lot of folks respond well to the fact that we have no guitar, just because it’s something different that they haven’t seen that often, if ever.
IC: What’s your favorite town outside of Oklahoma to play?
CW: Probably Manhattan, KS, but Fargo (yes THE Fargo), North Dakota is rising up the charts pretty fast.
IC: Who have you been playing with lately, and how has that been
CW: We’ve been doing shows with Madahoochi from St Louis, 56 Hope Road from Chicago, Brother Bagman from Kansas City, and Mama’s Cookin’ from Gunnison, Co. It’s been going very well. We’re good friends with all of these bands, which has helped our crowds in other towns.
IC: If you could tour with anyone playing right now, who would it be?
CW: Ben Folds, Little Feat, Galactic, Dr John.
IC: Any show stick out as particularly interesting and notable lately?
CW: We got to do the official after show party after the Dr John show at Feat Fest in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. We were personally invited by Little Feat and our friend Fred Tackett, who plays guitar for them, played several tunes with us.
IC: How long and how far do you plan to tour?
CW: Not really sure. We realize we can’t do this forever, but we’ll keep going until it’s not practical anymore. We just want to try to build a fan base in as many places as we can before we’re done.
IC: You’ve also been recording a new album- how has that gone?
CW: It’s been great. The tracks have been done for a while, but we’ve delayed the release to get Fred Tackett, who I mentioned before plays for Little Feat, to put some guitar on one of the tracks.
IC: How is the songwriting different than on your last album Dos Machos? CW: It’s really not. Some of these songs have been around since before Dos Machos. We just try to put together songs that go well together.
IC: What are some bands/things/experiences that influenced you on this new album?
CW: One song “Cadillac Lady” was influenced by something Dr Rock (drums) said, “Jesus Christ Super Center ” was influenced by Adam and the Ants. Most everything was influenced by things I heard or saw.
IC: Explain your favorite song on the new album and the story (or
lack thereof) behind it.
CW: I think right now the 2 that are my favorite are “Jesus Christ Super Center” and “Parachute Pants” because we got creative with the studio arrangements.
IC: Who recorded/engineered/mixed the album? Any funny recording stories?
CW: Trent Bell at Bell Labs. We’ve been recording with him for 30 years now.
IC: What are you listening to right now?
CW: I’m pretty ADD when it comes to listening to music. I buy a lot of cheap vinyl so whatever the last thing I bought ends up being what I listen to for about a day or so. Let’s see, the last records I bought were Starlight Mints’ Built on Squares (blue vinyl, very cool), Badfinger No Dice, Mungo Jerry and Gordon Lightfoot. I recently bought the newest Ben Kweller CD and really like it a lot.
IC: What CD release are you looking forward to (besides your own, of
CW: I’m looking forward to Ben Folds’ next studio album of new material. I liked his last one alright (Songs for Silverman) but I prefer his more sarcastic material. I’m hoping he returns to that style of writing.
Interview conducted by Stephen Carradini via e-mail in November.
Band: Tahiti 80
Album Name: Fosbury
Best Element: Stellar falsetto and hip results
Label: Militia Group
Band E-mail: N/a
After being released in over twenty countries worldwide, Tahiti 80’s third album Fosbury finally arrives in U.S. shops, complete with two exclusive tracks and a bonus EP. As it turns out, the States were definitely missing something. Fosbury is the throwback, feel-good funk pop record that Justin Timberlake’s recent snore-fest wanted so badly to be.
Fosbury’s highlights are many, and they are varied. What begins as a simple, spare funk record (see the uber-catchy “Changes” and guitar-assisted grit of “Here Comes…”) soon reveals itself as a finely tuned mixture of genres. The one constant is an indelible sense of classic pop melody. One of the new tracks, “Chinatown,” has the kind of mid-eighties swagger that modern pop’s been missing, while “Your Love Shines” (a duet with Linda Lewis) is downright experimental. Best of all is “Matter of Time,” which sounds like a lost Motown classic. Singer Xavier Boyer’s voice is reminiscent of Jamiroquai’s Jay Kay, yet with more warmth. His personable falsetto carries the record, even in its less successful portions (which, admittedly, are very few).
Tahiti 80 turned to some of the same producers that worked with Outkast and N.E.R.D. for Fosbury, and you can hear it in the music. But, instead of giving in to their producers, the band has expertly melded their pop band with a hip-hop style. The result is a broad-reaching record that sounds incredibly fresh. As the lead single “Changes” simply states: “Changes are happening, it’s too late to turn back.” Amen to that. A-
– Nick James