Tracks to check out:
(all can be sampled on Hits From Another Planet)
Bobby – She’s History
The members of Bobby have been producing new-romantic influenced glam pop for the better part of the decade and have some brilliant singles under their belt (check out “Wide Eyes Open,” “Sooner Or Later,” and “Come Crashing In”), but their most instant is also their most recent. “She’s History” almost sounds like a long-lost [Roxette] track. The lyrics are a bit suspect, but there is absolutely no denying the pure pop catchiness of the guitar-assisted chorus. This should have been massive. The band is releasing a new album later this spring, and I’m hoping it gives them the success they deserve.
A.C.T. – Call In Dead
A rock band that mixes a bit of Queen, ELO and Abba into their music, A.C.T. is completely over the top. “Call in Dead” is under three minutes long, yet it sounds like an entire rock opera sped up and crammed together until it practically bursts with odd verses, stylistic changes and multi-tracked theatrical vocals. It takes at least a few listens to even be able to digest it. The track is off the band’s newest album Silence, though they’ve been around awhile and have three earlier albums of similar prog pop/rock. File this near Tally Hall and LEO and have yourself an epic rock evening.
Pennebaker – Runaway Heart
I know that a lot of my readers are fans of the soft-rock resurgence (think The Feeling or any other Supertramp influenced band out there), and I’m sure that those people will absolutely adore this track. Pennebaker is a Swedish trio who sings “soft rock/pop with western influences.” Think driving down the west coast with the top down. Or, if you haven’t actually done that, try to imagine what it’d be like. “Runaway Heart,” a minor hit in Sweden, is a near-perfect pop nugget: all wispy vocals and pounding piano. If this track doesn’t make you wish for summer, I don’t know what will. Based on its quality, I’ll probably be playing it well into the spring.
We Are The Fury – Now You Know
If you like Hot Hot Heat (and really, why wouldn’t you?) you should love We Are the Fury. The band plays the same kind of jerky dance rock with perhaps a bit more of a glam edge to it. Actually, some of the tracks on the band’s full-length debut wouldn’t be completely out of place on My Chemical Romance’s new glam-inspired album. “Now You Know” could have easily been yet another emo-punk track trying to be glamorous, but the piano and thomping beat allow it to be a bit more. Plus, the band’s got some of the best album covers around.
Lisa Miskovsky – Acceptable Losses
Lisa Miskovsky is a singer/songwriter from Sweden who writes semi-acoustic pop songs with some interesting global influences. She’s been pretty successful in Sweden, first with “Mary,” which was alright, then with “Sweet Misery,” which I loved, and soon with “Acceptable Losses,” my favorite song from her so far. At first it may not sound like much, and is definitely a departure from the kind of music I usually highlight, but it’s got a real perfect pop melody that gives it a lot of staying power. Couple that with one hell of a chorus, and you’ve got a hit, no matter what the genre!
Tim Avery’s Top Albums of 2006
1. Plans – Death Cab For Cutie.
Granted, this album propelled the Seattle-based quartet onto every Clear Channel station from New York to San Francisco and drilled the nail into their “underground artist” coffin, but nothing I’ve heard this year comes close to it. In terms of production, lyrical ingenuity, thematic growth and depth, unimaginable catchiness and sheer indie-pop talent, Plans tops everything I’ve heard this year, bar-none!
2. The Redder, The Better, 5-Song E.P. – Polar Bear Club.
Post-hardcore and pop-punk fused by frontman Jimmy Statt’s alternation between punchy and powerful vocals. I have to admit, what set this short disc above so many others for me was the live performances these guys put on. At a show in the hallowed 99 Custer (a Buffalo, N.Y. basement venue and community house frequented by the national collective of D.I.Y. bands) this past October I finally caught up with this raucous, devoted, and driven group. Their 30 minutes transformed a chill, leaky basement in a burn-out industrial town into a veritable fever of emotion. Since then, I’ve seen them two more times; each show building my respect for this hard-working, self-motivated, D.I.Y.-principled band. If you have a few bucks, go to www.myspace.com/polarbearclub and pick this one up. You will NOT be sorry.
3. M(us)ic, Full-Length Album by Damiera (small-run release in 2006… full-run this year)
This Buffalo-based quartet is indie-rock looking back at the 70’s progressive vein, infused with more melodic rhythm-guitar than one could imagine. They released a small-run (1000, is what I’ve heard) of this album before signing with Equal Vision Records, so the E.V. version of M(us)ic isn’t officially “out” yet, but those fortunate enough to have attended a show at last year’s winter tour caught a true gem of a disc. These guys are the hardest-practicing bunch of musicians I’ve run into thus far, and they take the crafting of the band seriously. Before M(us)ic was recorded, they were looking for an additional member. One of my good friends was thinking about trying out until he found out about their buy-in. Yeah… these guys are serious; any applicants had to front money for the band. This is the kind of dedication and risk that opened Equal Vision’s checkbooks and uncapped their signing pens—along with Damiera’s incredible, surpassing ability and hit-you-in-the-face live performances, to be sure. And I cannot even begin to describe M(us)ic… suffice to say it floors me with every listen.
4. The Nights I Can’t Remember I Can’t Forget, E.P. by The Knockdown.
I have to toss this in the mix. It’s probably not going to stack up to many bands out there as far as sound-quality goes, but these guys simply rock. They are pop-sensibilities meeting basement-punk with the fuel of a front-man who knows crowd-interaction like the back of his Telecaster. I’ve known Vic Alvarez since high-school, and his continual push to create meaningful, catchy songs imbued with his soul and society-searching ideas never ceases to impress me. Although you may not have heard of The Knockdown, you ought to look them up, book them for a show, or just sit down and talk with each of them. Their sincerity and passion will make you believe again in the efficacy of music to effect change in the real world. Their music brings people together in a way few bands can, and the songs on The Nights… are a prelude of greater things to come. Look out for The Knockdown!
5. We Are Still Alive, Full-Length Album by Latterman.
If Huntington Station, New York, isn’t heaven for D.I.Y. punk, then I’m Bill Clinton. Honestly, more independent, semi-independent, and D.I.Y. bands with more to offer in terms of music have rarely been found in one town. Slingshot Dakota, Fellow Project, Nakatomi Plaza, Bridge and Tunnel… the list goes on. But their leading representative—at least in terms of energy and passion—has got to be Latterman. The sound quality and some of the vocals are a bit off at times, there are points where the playing is sloppy, and the overall feel of this album may leave a critical listener wondering where Latterman had this album produced, but none of these detract from the overall thrust of We Are Still Alive. I find the album a powerful response to the critique that punk rock is dead. These guys live out the ethics of a positive, community-oriented punk-rock-inspired life, and their music is an offshoot of who they are and how they live. With this in mind, the disc is worth purchasing, if only as a reminder of what can be done with a little faith in something most people have deemed as dead. Listen and believe again!
OK Tokyo Says Hello
Fearsome threesome OK Tokyo have been around a while, but you’ve never seen them live. It’s impossible – the outfit has never played a show, despite releasing astonishingly clever and complex tracks on their website. The raw passion of garage rock funneled into the precision of an indie-rock band outfitted with the shimmy and shake of a dancehall begins to describe their kinetic sound, but it’s really impossible to capture in text. Such is the nature of their guitarist Sammy, as well – we attempted to hold him down to some questions to some extremely humorous results.
IC: How did the band form, and how long ago did it form?
Sammy Tokyo, Vocals and Guitar: We’ve all been playing around with the musical-ness since we were wee lads. I distinctly remember mastering the oboe from the age of about 3 / 3 and a half. The outfit known as OK Tokyo has been around since we got together and wrote ‘Sums’ – which was the summer of 2006. We listened to that song and thought THAT IS NATTY. So we carried on. Before recording that, we all stood in a field in the English Countryside and had one of those “Rocky Balboa” moments…. We all wanted to do something where we could sit back and say “regardless of what ANYONE else thinks, that music reflects what is going on in our heads”…. If we did that, then I’d die a happy man. And so far, it’s exactly what we’ve done……
IC: Ok, no more beating around the bush. How did you guys get to be highly blogged darlings without even playing a show? Did you plan it this way or what?
ST: I like the word darling. I like it a lot. Just rolls of the tongue doesn’t it? Darrrrling.
Well, we recorded the songs and put them on the innernet. I don’t know what happened but it struck a nerve somewhere…. I could waffle on about the way that the internet has changed the music industry but for me it’s the same as its always been. Listener hears song. You then either like it or you don’t. Simple really. Bands should spend more time writing songs and less time trying to run a business. We went into the studio knowing exactly what we wanted out of it…. Big dirty disco metal indie rock glam noise. We were lucky enough to record in Earth Terminal Studio in a little place called Odiham…. The manager there, Lewis, is one of those guys you could talk to about anything and DANG, does he know his music. I’m sure that he’s got an I-Tunes plug in for his brain…..brilliant bloke.
IC: Have you recorded an album, or are you releasing tracks as you finish them?
ST: Nopety nope, no album as yet….. but we have written a mountain of stuff…. We recorded until the money ran out… we do have a few nuggets of genuine Inca gold up our sleeves though……
IC: Do you plan on compiling all your tracks into an album?
ST: Yes, albums do interest us. So do sea voyages (in particular, discovering what is at the bottom of the ocean – WE DON’T EVEN KNOW). I also like lash up meals and fine ales, so we will see. Our drummer likes milk.
IC: How exciting was it to be on top of the Pulserated chart?
ST: Ah, to be top of anything is good. When I was at school I came 2nd in a 1500 metres race. When pulserated announced the chart, it was like my inner demon had been set free. ‘Away with you’, I said. And it was gone.
IC: Why have you not played shows until now?
The only strategy we’ve ever had as a band is the following. Write songs, record songs, gig songs… To be fair, we only came out the studio at Christmas…. Plus, nothing wrong with the very first show being a sell out 😉
IC: Are you excited, nervous or other for your upcoming shows?
ST: You haven’t known the true feeling of nervousness, until you’ve looked into the eyes of a T-Rex and held its gaze. We cannot wait for live. It’s what it’s all about. Stage me. Immediately. I like the fact that you guys say ‘show’. It used to irritate me, but now I reckon that’s a better word for it. ‘Gig’ doesn’t quite do it, you know?
IC: How much material do you have to play live?
ST: Enough to slay a monster and rescue the girl
IC: What are some of the bands that made you want to start a band?
ST: Great music made me wanna start this band. Regardless of genre, a great song is a great song. It’s too hard to just list bands, but I’ll try…… Led Zep, Elvis, Hendrix, QOTSA, RATM, Johnny Cash, but then I love brilliant pop songs…. Argh I dunno, it’s too difficult, next question!
IC: Where do you see the band in one year? 3 years?
ST: World domination and a drumming concept album in the works
IC: Any piece of advice you’d like to pass on to bands just starting up?
ST: Posers and fair weather musicians need not apply. To the rest of you ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the circus.
-Interview conducted by Stephen Carradini in January 2007.
Band: Victor Bravo
Album Name: Shut Out the Sky EP
Best Element: The blend classic between Alternative and Punk
Genre: Alternative/Punk Rock
Band E-mail: email@example.com
Victor Bravo is a 3-piece alternative rock band based in New York. Their 4-song EP Shut Out the Sky is a collection of alternative and punk rock anthems. The band was formed as a 2-piece made up of lifelong friends Dan Collins (Drums) and Collin Frendz (Guitar/Vocals). For this EP they utilized a session bassist, recording with Scott Mason. They have since adopted a full time bassist and third member Dani Read and have been performing live since. The album is well recorded and mixed for an overall professional appeal. My favorite track of the album would have to be “Binge,” which blends pop appeal with aggression and would, in my eyes, be the best direction for the band to head in as this song sounds a tier above their other material.
My biggest issue with the album is it just sounds dated, beckoning many sounds from the hey-day of the old school alternative and the grunge scene. It isn’t a bad thing per se, as much as it is a personal taste which strikes me the wrong way. The album as a whole seems a bit too safe… the lyrics are a bit cliché and predictable at times. The musicianship itself is well executed and sounds great but there is never anything done which is really outstanding. I never cried “wow” – I just bobbed my head in docile contentment for about 17 minutes, wishing they would experiment out of their “safe zone” and explore some new grounds.
I honesty can’t really say I enjoyed this album, but as I stated above, the genre isn’t my cup of tea. The album is well composed and far from a bad album. Many fans of the older style of punk-alternative bands will likely enjoy this disc. I wouldn’t yet dismiss Victor Bravo and would still be curious to see what their new material will bring. I just wish I could have heard some more experimentation from a band which sounds more than capable of it.
The Ark: My Gateway Band
Last Saturday morning I dutifully sat next to my computer listening to Swedish radio and waiting for the premiere of my favorite band’s new song. Only a group like The Ark could grab me so forcibly and demand that I pretty much worship the ground they walk on.
You may have never heard of The Ark, but if you’re anything like me, you’ve got your own band like this: a band which produces music that interrupts your life so fully that you end up going to great lengths just to seek it out.
The Ark, though, is special. Single-handedly they opened my mind to a world of music and targeted my attention specifically on the musical Mecca that is Scandinavia. Because of them, I traveled to Sweden twice in 2006, because of them I’m learning to speak Swedish, because of them… well, you get the idea.
So, in addition to plugging the best band in the world this month (www.thearkworld.com, by the way – you will love it), I urge everyone out there, as always, to seek out the music rather than letting it find you. It’s out there, but it certainly isn’t on American radio waves!
Until next month!
– Nick James
Album Name: Demo
Best Element: Experiencing the music
Genre: Sludge, Doom and Rock & Roll
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
North Carolina is a hot bed of sorts for a vast amount of music these days. Caltrop’s recent self-released 4-song demo pulls from an array of influences that expand well beyond the region to create something which is not only unique but a rather pleasant surprise. Whenever a clearly DIY CD arrives it generally means one of two things: it is either a shoddy attempt at music and the sound follows the packaging or the band simply focused on the writing the music and due to lack of funds (like every indie band) simply put out an album on a shoestring budget. Luckily, Caltrop falls in the latter category.
Opening track “Dr. Motherf* cker” is an experience in epic, doom-laden dissonance. From the tortured screams of Sam Taylor to the pounding bass lines of Murat Dirlik, the band trenches onward, clear and concise each step of the way. Throughout the album you’ll hear ambient shredding and spacey overtones of guitar guru Adam Nolton, who concisely sets a doomy, sludge-filled atmosphere. The biggest surprise comes from drummer Jason Alward, who is unmistakable in his presentment. From furious rhythms to driving rock’n’roll beats, he controls the charge at whatever tempo is deemed necessary.
For a debut I can certainly say that Caltrop is heading in the right direction. Now to pinpoint the said direction may be a bit more difficult, but nonetheless they are forging onward. With a new recording planned in the spring I can say to keep your ears open for their next album. In the meantime I would urge fans of doomy, dissonant rock to experience this great little demo. Caltrop needs to be played loud so you can feel it… so forget the neighbors, take 27 minutes out of your life and crank it up!
Band Name: Wendy Bailey
Album Name: It Ain’t Rocket Surgery
Best Element: Talented vocals
Genre: Indie Rock
Label Name: None
Band E-mail: email@example.com
Wendy Bailey’s music is the definition of open mic indie rock. Her sound is the kind which you can find while sitting in the bar or coffee shop, enjoying the atmosphere, the music and your evening. It will leave you commenting to your friends on your way home from the show, “Yeah, that was pretty good.”
There is nothing bad about Bailey’s music; her musicianship is actually pretty solid, but standard for indie rock. It is not inventive, but not boring either. At the risk of sounding like Simon Cowell, the problem with music like this is that it is ultimately forgettable. You may enjoy it while you’re at the bar or coffee shop where she is playing, but will you remember it in a week?
Going back to the music, she is a good musician. Her songs are very well written, produced, and performed, and her voice is pleasant. Her voice is probably the most unique aspect of her sound, as it has very good tone and a bluesy, soulful aspect to it. This is what made the CD well worth the listen. For the most part, her voice flows with the music, everything stays in tune, and the end result is a satisfying listening experience.
What is lacking, though, is what sets Wendy Bailey apart from the rest of the musicians in this genre. She has the potential to use her unique voice to make beautiful, memorable music. What she needs complement this unique voice is a unique sound – one that is all her own, one that will leave you commenting to your friends after the show, “Wow, that was pretty good; when is the next time she’s playing?”
Welcome Back to the 80s
Well, this is how trends travel in time. a couple of years ago we all went 70’s and retro in music, fashion and entertainment and now it’s time we celebrate the 80’s all over again.
My brother has a theory about the 80’s: god punished humanity and the 80’s were the aftermath. Take the previous decades where people were doing experimental music, shitloads of drugs, free sex and everyone was anti government. Then fast forward to the 1980’s where god introduced all the hippies to Heroin, Crack and overdosing, put rubber masks on all the guys and gave them HIV, showed us exactly where big brother America was heading and…oh…introduced synthesizers to punk rock, psycho killer, quest’ que ce.
Well people, brace yourselves, we’re doing it again.
The fashion industry has already adopted the 80’s look with colorful motifs and layered clothing (I just hope the shoulder pads never come back). And now the music industry is at it as well, but with a twist.
Let me re-introduce the most talked about album of the year – My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade. When I was a young boy my father took me in to the city to see Skid Row perform. From there began my love affair with heavy metal and big rock n’ roll productions. I guess, somewhere in the beginning of the 90’s we got sick of it and started listening to Grunge which later evolved into Indie. We became obsessed with singer/songwriters, acoustic guitars and true emotion. And then…”What have we become, just look what we have done”, hard rockin kick ass bands are replaced with half naked Britney Spearses.
The Black Parade is a milestone for music and it brings back the 80’s heavy metal with a light punk slant. I love it; I’m so happy it’s legal to listen to heavy guitar riffs and loud screams again. I know they call it Emo nowaydays, but let’s face it, it’s full on Heavy Metal. The Black Parade is a marvelous album, not just because of the great musicianship, but because it brings back memories and reinvents hard rockin music.
And it’s not only “My Chemical Romance”, there are all the bands doing the popular theatric themed metal like “Panic at the Disco” and “The Killers”. I guess it all comes down to big ass expensive productions. Ya, that’s it, welcome back to the age where producers have a real say and bands pay lots of money for the best studio in town.
I’m glad music evolution has taken its toll and I hope this time around it will stick. We had a quick ‘cry for wolf’ when “Limp Bizkit”, “Papa Roach” and “Staind” were at it a while back, but they weren’t the real thing, I think this time around we’re golden.
First printed on thePlugg.com
Band: Tokyo Police Club
Album: A Lesson in Crime
Best Element: Raw energy
Label: Paper Bag Records
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Plug Music Awards are about to go down in February. Why not support some independent artists in the same month the Grammys take place and usually leaves out all the true talent? Further research has led us to look into one of the Nominees in both Song of the Year for “Nature of the Experiment” and in a separate category for New Act of the Year.
The Tokyo Police Club is a 4 piece band from Newmarket, ON. They formed when their previous band broke up, and 4 of the members decided they missed working on music together. After a few months rehearsals they began playing very empty venues outside of Toronto. By the end of the fall they were invited to play the Pop Montreal Festival with the likes of Harvey Danger, Tapes ‘n Tapes, Dr. Octagon, and Regina Spektor.
The album covers a little more material than an EP and a little less than an LP at 7 songs. Even those songs are short, the longest clocking in at 2:44. But they are blistering pearls of post-punk triumph that are raw and poignant. Hand claps, organs/synths, and jagged guitars fill the soundscapes, but seem to be tucked in and put to bed with mellow vocals that sometimes get the best of themselves and tear through it all to happily bleed into distortion. Overall it’s a catchy, sloppy mess that will draw you in.
Imagine if The Walkmen met the Arctic Monkeys mixed some speed with anti-depressants to fight the gloomy Canadian skyline, and had a baby. Tokyo Police Club is the sound that we would be left with.
First printed on theplugg.com
Band Name: The Unbearables
Album Name: Just One Bite: Selections from “Bitten!: a Zombie Rock Odyssey”
Best Element: Stunning songwriting and arrangements
Genre: Power-pop/rock/total awesomeness
Label Name: Stem and Leaf Records
Band E-mail: www.myspace.com/theunbearables
Everyone has influences. Some people have influences that are obvious. The Unbearables have so many obvious influences packed into one album that the obviousness of the influences is completely irrevelant in context of the greater package. I mean, really – does it really matter if there’s a little too much Weezer influence on an album that is named Just One Bite: Selections from “Bitten!: a Zombie Rock Odyssey”?
Yes, you read that correctly. This CD is a concept album about zombies. But wait, there’s more! These songs are only selections of a greater amount of songs that comprised an entire stage show. That’s right. The Unbearables sat down and wrote a rock musical about a zombie invasion.
Not only did they write a musical about zombies, they outfitted the arrangements with much more than your normal rock ensemble. From the Zombie Girls Choir (which makes several astounding good – and astoundingly amusing – contributions to the album) to jubilant trumpet and trombone parts to spacey synths to tambourines, flugelhorns, farfisa and much more, this album is chock-full of intelligent arrangements that bring to mind more of a Sufjan Stevens style than pompous and kitschy musical theatre arrangements.
The high-mindedness of their endeavors would fall flat on its face, however, if it weren’t for the immense talent that the Unbearables bring to the table in the guitar/bass/drums arena. Like I said, there is a little bit too much Weezer influence in the fact that the guitars sound more like dinosaurs stomping through the world than zombies overtaking it, but the precision with which the drums and bass back up the domineering guitar lines is what takes the good songwriting and turns it into stellar songwriting.
Take, for example, the centerpiece of the album “Zombies, Unite!” It starts off with that lovable Zombie Girls Chorus jubilantly exclaiming in three-part harmony “People! People! We’re gonna eat ‘em!” before the gargantuan guitars blast off in 5/4 time. Yes, 5/4 time. No one even writes rock in 5/4, much less the centerpiece of a concept album. And yet, they were not content to have that brilliant oddity stand on its own. After a victorious, uplifting, entirely ironic guitar solo, the chorus emerges once again, reveling in Sufjan Stevens-esque rhythms and proving that they’ve been listening to way too much Illinois.
But it doesn’t stop there. No, this epic is definitely almost 7 minutes long. As all good musicians will note, any 7-minute epic requires a drastic mood shift or two, and this one does follow the rules of rock. The first shift chronicles the lead character of the musical wondering if his newly zombie-fied friends are sick, and the confusion is evident in the spacious, gap-filled music. The zombie choir is brought back to usher in the second shift, in which a dreamy section is introduced and fleshed out (har har) in an extremely satisfying fashion that fades into a native flute. I love it.
That’s only one song. And that’s only part of the brilliance that is the Unbearables. They keep up their frustratingly catchy antics for almost an hour, blowing me away with female-led pieces, instrumentals, grungy songs, balladry, and anything else you can think of to throw in.
I say frustratingly catchy on purpose. It’s awkward to walk around humming “People! People! We’re gonna eat ‘em!”, but that’s what’s required after hearing the album. Thankfully, your amusement at the song will cancel out the awkward looks.
If that all wasn’t enough, consider this: The Unbearables actually produced this stage show with the help of a local theatre troupe. I would pay a ridiculous sum to see this production (it’s all over till the revival), and once you hear this power-pop gem, you would too. If you have, at any point in your life, ever enjoyed a good catchy song, the Unbearables are an extremely necessary part of your CD collection. I am not kidding.