Sunday, October 31, 2010

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

SIGNAL “Loud and Clear” (1989)

The late 80s rock music industry was heavily populated by many young bands trying to capitalize on the trend and, unlucky for Signal, they were lumped together with those bands, getting dropped soon under the radar without label's support. The band vanished with the wind, but to us, "Loud And Clear" never faded. Mark Free's victorious vocal on top of the sparkling compositions and flawless performances made this album a great find for the glam and AOR society.

"Arms of A Stranger" is definitely the best track and truly sensational. The incredible voice, the dreamy composition, the climatic chorus…almost everything from A to Z on this song is just perfect. For those who are looking for uptempo tracks in the vein of this track – you’re probably going to be disappointed. Signal chose the tender path by stuffing a lot of ballads inside, such as "Does It Feel Like Love", a typical pop-rock ballad, "This Love, This Time", which sounds like a lost Foreigner track, or "Could This Be Love", an immaculate power ballad that is stunningly beautiful. The remaining songs are also pretty much enjoyable, from the potential hit power of "You Won't See Me Cry" to the Toto-meets-Bon Jovi tune, "Go". The only exception is "My Mistake", which is the worst track of the album.

"Loud And Clear" is a feast to the ears, especially if you like songs that are immersed in abundant melodies and catchy choruses. Most of the tracks are memorable and emotional. Not until 20 years later has the world been able to listen to this again, thanks to a string of high-quality Frontiers release, including the highly-anticipated return of Mark (now Marcie) Free with Unruly Child in 2010 (read the BMF review here). “Signal” belongs on the short list of classic AOR releases - a remarkable achievement, and it is a shame they never got the appreciation they deserved. Superb!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rare Trax - Europe "Wish You Were Here"

Every Saturday at BMF I plan to present rare or deep tracks from my collection for your listening pleasure, or perhaps for your amusement!

This week’s track is by Europe from their 2009 album, "Almost Unplugged". How many of you knew that they did a cover of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here?" Check it out...

New Rock The Vote video from Neil Nathan - "So Much More"

Neil Nathan, a former high school history teacher, may no longer work at New York's Martin Luther King, Jr. High, but he's still always looking for opportunities to inspire and educate. The upcoming Election Day is just one of those opportunities. "So Much More" was written for "the angels of American democracy" and is all about the power of individual citizens to bring about positive political change. The video is filled with inspiring images that make any viewer want to rock the vote. "So Much More" can be found on his debut LP, "The Distance Calls".

Nathan was featured on the cover of American Teacher magazine for directing Martin Luther King, Jr. High School's Arts Education program and providing inner city kids with opportunities to intern and attend performances at New York City Opera, Guggenheim Museum, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. His favorite teachers turned rockers are Gene Simmons and Bob Pollard.

Read our review of Neil Nathan's latest record, "The Distance Calls" here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Review: Brooke Fraser “Flags”

New Zealand-born singer/songwriter Brooke Fraser is running a new one up the pole called “Flags”. Once called "The Kiwi Norah Jones”, Fraser signed with Sony Music in 2002 at just 18 years of age and her debut record, “What To Do With Daylight” went to number one on the New Zealand charts and quickly went gold, then 8x platinum. She toured in Australia and New Zealand with John Mayer and David Bowie. She is pinning hopes that “Flags” continues to expand her audience, and she seems poised to do so with a debut on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart at #59.

Fraser has an angelic soprano voice that floats upon dreamy soundscapes as she spins yarns of varied characters. “I’ve never used as many characters or as much narrative in my songwriting as I have on this record,” Fraser says.

The upbeat opener, “Something In The Water” is the standout track (video below), combining straightforward pop with a bit of country folk swing. The chorus is catchy, helped by a memorable chant from backing vocalists. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the record generates about as much excitement as that boring cover art up there. The tunes are beautifully sung and the record has fine production value, but the songs are just far too sleepy. Even “Here’s To You”, presumably a celebratory drinking song, comes across with weighted melancholy and insincerity – Fraser must be a real party pooper. Fans of Aqualung will want to check out “Who Are We Fooling?”, a duet co-written by Matt Hales. “Who Are We Fooling?” is one of the most earnestly performed, and will pull at the heartstrings of those stuck at similar romantic crossroads. Another highlight is “Sailboats”, which features a sparse acoustic and string arrangement that allows Fraser’s delicate voice to shine throughout this lovely piece.

Check out Brooke Fraser if you are a fan of Sarah McLachlan, Dolores O’Riordan, or Paula Cole. “Flags” is a record best played for relaxation or if you are suffering from insomnia.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 8

Brooke Fraser on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for “Something In The Water”:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review: Jonah “The Wonder and The Thrill”

Three years ago the Portland band Jonah won over fans and critics alike with their second record, “Trust Everyone Before They Break Your Heart”, even getting a nod in SPIN magazine. After starting some families and replacing their bassist, Jonah is back with “The Wonder and The Thrill”, a new record that is described as having a more mature sound with intentionally sparser arrangements.

“The Wonder and The Thrill” will be released November 9 and is a wonderful autumn soundtrack. Generally the songs are low key and overeasy, gentle on the eardrums yet retaining enough pizazz to thrill. Frontman Henry Curl exhales the lyrics like Matt Hales (Aqualung), sculpting his vocal performance to match the mood of the song. The record was recorded and engineered by Jordan Leff at Secret Society Studios and mastered by Kevin Nettleingham, who has produced similar records for Elliot Smith as well as Spoon and Hollipollock. The music falls like leaves on the windshield during an October drive through the park.

While most of the record is on the softer side, with tracks like “Please Let Go” and “No One Left To Blame”, there are some tunes with muscle, like the superb songs “The Old High School” and “The Wonder”. Then there are tracks like “Bees”, which lacks sting at first but starts to sound like honey after a second listen. Other highlights include “New Start” and the slow burning closer, “Sycamore”. My favorite track is the most accessible, “Diamond”. “Diamond” shines as a pleasant mid-tempo track with a strong hook and lush chorus that you’ll have in your head for days.

The hooks are subtle and take a few spins, but their harmonies alone will make you want to come back for repeated listens. Check out Jonah if you enjoy Dan Wilson, Coldplay, or Travis.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11

Jonah on MySpace. Official site.

Listen to "Diamond":

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review: Fantazzmo “Enter The Fantazz”

If there is one message made abundantly clear on the debut record from Fantazzmo it is that he loves himself. The question is – will anybody else love him as much as he loves himself?

Songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist Sergio Bedolla christened his alter ego Fantazzmo, which I thought was one of the characters in Mario Brothers, but perhaps not. Bedolla used to be in an L.A.-based band called Anima/Idle, who was featured in Spin and even secured a slot opening for Blink-182. As Fantazzmo, Bedolla is out to mix just about every rock, pop, soul, and hip-hop genre together. Some of the music on his debut record “Enter The Fantazz” is compelling, but most of it is going to be unappealing to people expecting consistency in their music. Listeners should be prepared that “Enter The Fantazz” is a wildly schizophrenic record.

While the musical styles are all over the map, the lyrics are not – Fantazzmo has a one track mind that is limited to sexual conquest. The tracks that don’t involve sex are either instrumentals (the Pink Floyd-like “Eternal Abyss” and “Cancion De La Gitana”) or a glorification of violence (the horrifying “Fear In Me”). There’s nothing wrong with writing about sex and violence of course, but Fantazzmo is simply too blunt and pornographic – there’s none of Steve Tyler’s humorous innuendo or Mick Jagger’s machismo. Fantazzmo’s lyrics are shockingly juvenile, degrading, and cringe-worthy.

The only two tracks that work here are the radio-friendly “I Know You’re Mine”, an excellent pop rocker, and “Drown Your Lies”, a reggae rocker that sounds like the single 311 has been trying to write since their last hit. If Bedolla can focus the energy and innovation in his music and write more with his brain instead of his hormones, maybe the rest of us will get a rise out of hearing Fantazzmo.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3

Fantazzmo on MySpace. Official site.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kneejerk: Rod Stewart – Phil Collins

Welcome to the latest edition of KNEEJERK, where we preview some new releases and give our short, "kneejerk" reaction...

Rod Stewart “Fly Me To The Moon: The Great American Songbook Volume V”

The resilient, forever young Rod Stewart is back again to serenade us yet another chapter of the Great American Songbook. This is the fifth one to be exact and you’re probably thinking what I am thinking…WHEN WILL IT END? There is no disputing Stewart is a pillar in the classic rock world and even put out some decent stuff in the 80s and early 90s, but his trashing of the Great American Songbook has gone on far too long. I have the same problem with volume V (!) that I have with the other four – his gravelly voice is simply not suited to the crooner genre. Would you wash your car with a Brillo pad? Use a hoof rasp to file your fingernail? Use sandpaper to wipe your eyeglasses clean? This time around he is adrift on “Beyond The Sea”, steps all over “I Get A Kick Out Of You”, and growls like a werewolf on “Moon River”. A part of me is happy that Stewart has been able to reinvent himself to remain commercially viable, but please please…somebody fly him to the moon.

Phil Collins “Going Back”

Perhaps taking a cue from Rod Stewart, Phil Collins takes a stab at covering classic Motown tunes on his latest, “Going Back”. Not an unreasonable idea considering that his cover of “You Can’t Hurry Love” (originally performed by The Supremes) conquered the chart back in 1981 and helped launch his solo career. The instrumentation on “Going Back” is of high quality, but as soon as Collins sings you’ll wish they kept it to instrumentals. What happened to his voice? Most of this sounds like Alvin and the Chipmunks Sing Motown. If I didn’t know better, I’d almost think Collins was joking. But seriously…you only need to listen to his near laughable cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight (Everything‘s Alright)” to see what I mean. Collins also butchers “Heatwave”, “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”, “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”, and, sadly, much more. “Going Back” is an unfortunate addition to an otherwise outstanding discography.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Review: Taylor Locke and The Roughs “Marathon”

How many people can put out 3 great albums in a single year? Virtually no one…no one but Taylor Locke, that is. Locke is best known as guitarist in the powerpop band Rooney, but he is quickly making his mark as a talented solo artist. It was only back in April when we reviewed his outstanding debut, “Grain and Grape” (review here). Then in July we reviewed Rooney’s latest CD, “Eureka” (review here). Now he throws a collection of 10 new songs at us on “Marathon” (review here…you’re reading it!). The most astonishing thing is that his work has been phenomenal throughout. To say the guy is on a roll is an understatement.

While most of “Marathon” is brilliant, it does get off to a false start – the epic opener, “The Honor Role” sounds like 3-4 completely different songs loosely patched together. I presume they were going for something that rivaled McCartney’s “Band On The Run” or a Jellyfish opus, but the disparate parts just don’t work together. They quickly get back into the race with a peppy acoustic driven rocker called “Jenny”. Things really start to pick up, ironically, when the band slows it down for the gorgeous “Don’t Forget”. “Don’t Forget” features moving chord changes and a terrific vocal performance from Locke. “My Only Drug” is my favorite track – powerpop at its best performed with gusto. Another highlight is the undeniably catchy “Badfinger”, which also gives the band a chance to nod to a major musical influence.

Some other tracks come close to being great, but have an irritating element or just feel like they’re missing something. For example, I would love to hear Locke slip up into his graceful falsetto on “One More Time” rather than struggle to scream it out. In fact, he screams too much on “Marathon” in general, as if he’s trying to prove he’s got what it takes to rock. You don’t need to do this, Taylor.

While not as immediately mind-blowing as “Grain and Grape”, “Marathon” is no slouch and stands heads above most of the stuff we’ve heard in 2010. But after hearing “Marathon” so soon after the debut, one is tempted to coach Taylor Locke and The Roughs to pace themselves. The band could have made a single record this year that combined the cream of the crop from each, and that record would have been an instant classic.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 4, 5, 6, 8

Taylor Locke and The Roughs on MySpace. Fansite.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

LITA FORD “Dangerous Curves” (1991)

After the somewhat blunt release of "Stiletto", I didn't expect Lita Ford to make a great return to form considering the musical climate had begin changing, but "Dangerous Curves" proved me wrong. Deliberately injected with a big amount of commercial fluid, Ford's style was stripped down to a more AOR feel rather than the typical hard rock outfit, but with around 8 enjoyable songs out of 11 presented, I guess the formula worked fine.

"Larger Than Life" begins the journey with an anthemic chorus - this track is probably the sleaziest tune and definitely an adrenaline pumper. Too bad she threw "What Do Ya Know Bout Love", which I think is far too decent compared to the next big hit, "Shot of Poison". This is one of her best songs as far as I remember and, together with "Playin' With Fire", they made a wonderful radio-friendly chart-conquering combo. "Black Widow" is also great, "Little Too Early" is good midtempo AOR, and "Holy Man" is like a lost Bon Jovi track.

While the album still suffered with some flat and dull tracks such as "Bad Love", "Tambourine Dream", or "Little Black Spider", I think this one is beautiful, especially if you can accept the commercial-fueled hard rock common in the late 80s/early 90s. Fantastic stuff!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Review: Vinyl Candy “Dirty Third”

Everyone’s favorite California power pop band is back with their third release, aptly titled “Dirty Third”. The third part is obvious, but the “dirty” part also applies, as this record strikes me as a tad darker than the band’s first two releases, which required sunglasses they were so bright and sunny. I’m not saying that Vinyl Candy has gone Goth or anything, but let’s just say some of the songs feel more partly cloudy than previous efforts. And that is not necessarily a bad thing.

“Human” kicks things off, exploring human nature as only Vinyl Candy does – with an optimistic perspective. It is a rapid reminder why we love Vinyl Candy so much – instantly memorable choruses, compelling chord changes, and plenty of 70s-styled bubble gum harmonies. “Fallen” follows and, while not quite as remarkable, will appeal to members of the Vinyl Candy army. Then the clouds move in with a haunting ballad appropriately entitled “Ghost Of You” – some fans are going to dig this change of pace from the band, but others will want to skip to more predictable fare like “I Want To Be Just Like You” or “Shine”. “Just Another Movie” is a ballad bookended with a sparse acoustic arrangement with an eruption of electric guitar in the middle – the dynamics keep this song engaging. One of things I enjoyed about this track was how well Matt Corey’s vocals are suited to the acoustic sound. “On Again Off Again” is another highlight with a signature sing-a-long chorus. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Vinyl Candy record without a song about their home state, and the driving “California Georgia” does the job this time out.

Just in time for Halloween, Vinyl Candy’s “Dirty Third” is another bag of sweet treats – and a few tricks.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9

Vinyl Candy on MySpace. Official site.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Review: Dot Dot Dot “II” [EP]

The latest EP from up-and-coming band Dot Dot Dot, simply called “II”, is a blast of fresh air. You may have caught them on “The Next Great American Band” in 2007 but, if not, one listen should be enough to convince you that they are true contenders to become a household name.

To be honest, I almost thought the opening track, “Walking In A Straight Line” sounded a bit to clubby for my tastes. Indeed, Dot Dot Dot bills themselves as a “union of rock elements cloaked in dance beats with synthy frills.” “Walking In A Straight Line” had just enough of a gritty rock edge to keep me interested…and I am very glad for that. The other four songs on “II” turned out to be some fantastic pop rockers, each with a screaming hook and full throttle rhythm section that makes you want to get up and go. “Around The World (And Back)” even has a playful 80s vibe and some “Sha la la” vocals that make it a particularly sweet guilty pleasure. “Stay” is the current single, a strategic pick that has the most cross-over potential. “Antidote” is one of the meatier tracks with heavy guitar riffing between the 80s style synths and backing vocals. “Hold You Tonight” wraps things up, another track of pop rock perfection. Any and all of these tracks could easily create a buzz at radio.

With huge choruses, superb vocals, slick production, and catchy songs, Dot Dot Dot delivers the whole package. Rock, pop, and dance may seem like a bunch of disparate dots, but this band connects them well, leaving us with a picture of what the future of music holds.

Dot Dot Dot on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for “Around The World (And Back):

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Review: Unruly Child “Worlds Collide”

After disbanding over sixteen years ago, the original members of Unruly Child have reunited to produce a brand new album entitled “Worlds Collide”. Marcie Michelle Free (vocalist - King Kobra, Signal), Bruce Gowdy (guitarist – Stone Fury, World Trade), Guy Allison (keyboardist – Lodgic, World Trade, Doobie Brothers), Jay Schellen (drummer - Hurricane, World Trade, Asia), and Larry Antonino (bassist - Pablo Cruise). This is the team that crafted the self-titled debut from 1992, which has become an underground classic among fans of melodic hard rock.

The rebirth of Unruly Child in 2010 is going to take a lot of people by surprise. On “Worlds Collide”, the band springs to life with all the excitement and energy of a newborn. The first two tracks did little to excite me, but then “When We Were Young” kicks off a six song string that 1990 radio would have been all over. “When We Were Young” has a nostalgic theme perfect for a reunion of this kind and is surely going to relate to older fans. “Love Is Blind” is another great tune that fuses the classic Unruly Child sound with that of contemporary hard rock, all helped by a huge sing-a-long chorus with great backing vocals – reminds me a lot of the new Foreigner record. “When Worlds Collide” is an engaging tune with interesting time changes and another memorable chorus. Things stay strong as we move into the final stretch of the album with terrific AOR candy like “Read My Mind” (very modern Bon Jovi) and the rugged cry to be forever young in “Neverland”. The first single is “Very First Time” (video below) – an excellent choice with one of the most instantly enjoyable choruses on the album. If power ballads are your thing, there are a couple of winners such as “Tell Another Lie” and “Talk To Me”, the latter featuring one of the more chill-inducing vocal performances by the great Marcie Michelle Free.

Undoubtedly one of the most thrilling comebacks for a melodic hard rock band this year, “Worlds Collide” is essential for new and old fans alike. The band has brought their sound to the 2010s without alienating loyal fans. Don’t miss them if you like Foreigner, Journey, or Bon Jovi.

iPOD-worthy: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11

Unruly Child - Official site.

Check out the video for “Very First Time”:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review: Fun With Atoms “Smart”

The nucleus of the power pop band Fun With Atoms is comprised of three particles: Rick Smith (vocals, guitars, keys), Dan Collins (vocals, bass, keys), and Curt Lefevre (drums, vocals). They are packed together tight, emitting a steady stream of sound waves that will electrify listeners.

Fun With Atoms hails from Green Bay, Wisconsin and has released two acclaimed records already – their indie debut “Main Street” was produced by none other than Butch Vig (Nirvana, Garbage). Their sophomore set, “Northern Distortion” saw power pop icon Jeff Murphy (Shoes, Material Issue) at the helm. Infusing Beatles inspired songwriting with multi-layered harmonies quickly garnered the band plenty of college radio airplay. Now they are back with “Smart”, perhaps partly named after being mixed and mastered by Mike Zirkel at the legendary Smart Studios in Madison.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that “Smart” is a record that promises to please the band’s fan base and expand it considerably. The band prides itself on writing great song hooks, surrounding them with inventive guitar arrangements and harmonies galore. According to Smith, “we wanted this record to capture the energy of our live shows, without a lot of overdubs and additional instrumentation”. If that was indeed the band’s goal, I say they have accomplished it – “Smart” sounds more like raw, garage rock then your highly polished, overly processed million-dollar sound. But they key thing is that the boys have created a truly “fun” record in every sense of the word.

Opening track “Walking the Razor's Edge” is a perfect mid-tempo starter with cool chord progressions and a satisfying hook in the chorus. Things really get moving with “Really Happy”, a sunny song with a memorable wah-wah vocal that you’ll fight singing aloud all day long. Additional highlights include the Cars-sounding “Restless Kind”, the bluesy mid-tempo ballad, “Feels Like Rain”, and the pop rock perfection of “Mystery”. The record closes with “Jones”, a notable fable of a song about those striving for empty pleasures by struggling to keep up with the you know whos.

If you like Gin Blossoms, Del Amitri, or Urge Overkill, don’t miss Fun With Atoms.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10

Fun With Atoms on MySpace. Official site.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kneejerk: Sister Hazel – Willy Porter

Welcome to the latest edition of KNEEJERK, where we preview some new releases and give our short, "kneejerk" reaction...

Sister Hazel “Heartland Highway”

The prolific Sister Hazel is back with another serving of their brand of organic pop rock. Sister Hazel is best known for their smash hit “All For You” from the 90s, and if you ask most people they probably think the band dropped off the face of the earth after that breakthrough – not true! Sister Hazel has been quietly but consistently delivering some of the best guitar driven rock ever since, and “Heartland Highway” keeps that spirit alive. No autotune, no synths, no synthetic anything…just pure music based on a mix of acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, and strings. As usual, the band continues to write about positive things to match their sunny musical disposition – “Stay Awhile” is about hanging in there, “Great Escape” is about taking time to absorb the things that make life worth living, and “Far Away” is an anthem of reassurance to a loved one. There are so many likeable tunes on this one, but the upbeat “Let The Fire Burn” is the one I find myself wanting to go back to the most. True to the record’s name, there is a palpable flavor of heartland rock, especially on “The Saddest Song” and “Where You’re Going”. The band does something new on this one, too – a three song saga at the end entitled “Lessons in Love, Hope, and Faith”. In short, another winner from my brothers in Sister Hazel.

Willy Porter and Carpe Diem “Live at BoMA”

Take an extraordinary talent like Willy Porter and pair him with the acclaimed Carpe Diem String Quartet and you have a match made in heaven – or at least something that rivals the Reese’s chocolate peanut butter cup. “Live at BoMA” captures this magical collaboration, featuring seven previously released fan favorites rearranged with the quartet. The beautiful performances from Carpe Diem do not take away from the jaw dropping skills of this extraordinary acoustic guitarist, who plays a 9-string guitar custom designed by him, but synergize and elevate the songs to new heights (you can read our review of Porter’s last effort, “How To Rob A Bank” here). “Live at BoMA” marks his eighth release and is a perfect introduction to Porter’s gift, and makes a great addition to any fan’s collection.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Review: Elizabeth and the Catapult “The Other Side of Zero”

Elizabeth and the Catapult is an indie pop duo comprised of Elizabeth Ziman and Danny Molad. On the heels of their acclaimed debut, their latest, “The Other Side of Zero”, was recorded with producer Tony Berg (Peter Gabriel, Phantom Planet, Jesca Hoop), and features respected sidemen such as guitarist Blake Mills and Tom Waits’ longtime touring keyboardist, Patrick Warren. As Molad puts it, “The record is more blatantly honest, even rude at times..." Elizabeth continues, "Even the happiest sounding pop songs on this record have a tinge of regret and darkness to them…And thank goodness for that. Ultimately that’s the only way I’d feel comfortable singing them. I’m drawn to the ambiguity like a menacing smile.”

If you like your pop music with a side of intelligence and quirkiness, Elizabeth and the Catapult is the band for you. Ziman and Molad have crafted a very enjoyable sophomore record that is utterly refreshing, yet retains smart melodies throughout that easily imprint on the mind. Ziman’s voice is delicate and unpretentious, not far removed from Colbie Caillat in tone and style. But the band’s music is more like XTC mixed in with Cake. The introductory track, “Julian Darling”, is a bouncy and cheery tune that effortlessly grabs attention. Even better, however, is the second track, “You & Me”, which should resonate with anyone who has felt like they were “dressed like a present that’s no longer wanted.” Heartbreaking yet catchy at the same time, this song is their most accessible and could even be a hit at radio. Additional highlights include the gorgeous piano-driven ballad “Open Book” and “Worn Out Tune”, which features one of the most hauntingly memorable choruses on the record. The experimental pop of “Go Away” is a tad too eclectic and “Heart Goes Boom” (bonus track) is a rather goofy dance track, both of which sound out of place on this otherwise consistently good indie pop record.

Elizabeth & The Catapult's “The Other Side of Zero” will be released on October 25.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 7, 8

Elizabeth and the Catapult on MySpace. Official site.

Check out a video:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

LILLIAN AXE "Psychoschizophrenia" (1993)

Lillian Axe had just begun turning people's heads with several hits from their "Poetic Justice" in 1992, just as the grunge wave came crashing in. The band tried to survive the change by releasing "Psychoschizophrenia", an album that incorporated a darker element and deeper essence to the music and lyric department, respectively. Big thumbs up to Steve Blaze who wrote all the songs - this man is simply a genius, not to mention the thrilling guitar solos he had on this album.

"Crucified" is a blazing opener, crushing forward with intense hard rock, followed by a groovy track of "Deepfreeze" with a wonderful solo. "Sign of The Times" has a combination of dark verses, a melodic bridge, and a catchy but rough chorus – it is a stunning delivery by the band and one of the best tracks off the album. A couple of great ballads on the record are unbelievably pretty. "The Needle And Your Pain" is dedicated to a late friend who died of cancer, and "The Day I Met You", an ode to the lost love, this track is emotionally sad and touching. Some other great songs that I like are "Stop The Hate", "Deep Blue Shadows", and the Japanese bonus track, "Here Is Christmas".

To sum up, "Psychoschizophrenia" contained a mix of early glam with a bit of alternative influence – it is a bit dark and heavy, but melodic and accessible at the same time. This is a grower and not an easy album, probably needs at least 4-5 spins to capture the magic of Blaze's ideas. A brilliant underrated album that came out in 1993!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Review: Normandie Wilson “The Flower Box”

West Virginia native Normandie Wilson specializes in homegrown, vintage, DIY organic indie-pop (and painting). She grew up listening to 1960's music like Burt Bacharach, Beach Boys, and Motown soul while watching birds with her grandma. In fact, one of her goals outside music is to paint every species of bird. The question we’re concerned with here, however, is does her music make us want to soar?

“The Flower Box” follows her 2009 release, “Music For Smart People”, and continues her trend to defy musical convention. Lyrically, Wilson is heads above the rest, writing about familiar subjects like love and love lost with acerbic wit and humor. She makes no bones about wearing her heart on her sleeve and putting everything out there for all to see…warts and all. Same goes for her music, though. The collection is not without its warts, or perhaps “weeds” given the title. “The Flower Box” contains only five vocal tracks separated by four instrumental numbers. Most tunes are piano-based and quite beautiful at times, highlighting Wilson’s training in classic jazz. Vocally Wilson is not bad, but I think it is safe to say that she is an acquired taste for most.

Several of her tunes exude a 70s lounge feel with some soul or jazz peppered in for good measure. The end result is generally an amusingly warm and perky sound, but at times it comes across like a confused and drunken doo-wop group (take opening track “Elevator!” for example). Alternatively, the blunt and abrasive lyrics of “Been Cryin’ My Eyes Out” simply don’t mesh with the old-fashioned jangly piano and gentle retro horns at all – it sounds like a Ben Folds parody gone wrong. “I’m Not Dead Yet” is the most enjoyable to my ears. “I’m Not Dead Yet” is the type of song Wilson could really take flight with – cute and quirky, this is her element. The rest is, well, for the birds.

iPOD-worthy: 3

Normandie Wilson on MySpace. Official site.

Friday, October 15, 2010

News: Nelson comeback record coming soon

Here is a preview of the forthcoming "comeback" CD from the brothers Nelson. The upcoming record is called "Lightning Strikes Twice" and is described as the true sequel to their blockbuster debut ("After The Rain") from 20 years ago. Sounds promising!

Review: Bombastic Meatbats “More Meat” – Free mp3

The Bombastic Meatbats, featuring Chad Smith of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Chickenfoot fame, are back already with another serving of their jazz, rock, and funk fusion (read our review of their debut record here, which hit the iTUNES Top 10 Jazz albums and reached #48 on Billboard’s Jazz Albums Chart last year). “More Meat” is exactly what the title implies – another instrumental jam session by these ultra-talented musicians that aims to throw as many musical genres as they can into the frying pan.

Chad Smith and his fellow meatbats (Ed Roth on keys, Jeff Kollman on guitar, and Kevin Chown on bass) have even greater chemistry this time around. The 60+ minute record flows easily and, despite the musical variation, gels remarkably well, perhaps due to the fact that these jams were recorded in just a three day weekend. The first single is “Shag”, which has amore written all over it, slinking through your ear canal like vintage 70s silk. “Shag” proves that the Meatbats don’t give a damn about the world’s overpopulation problem. “Roller Girl” is another cool tune that stood out for me, with its retro lounge feel peppered with feisty modern guitar licks. But the greatest highlight for me was the opener, “Passing The Ace”, which finds the Bombastic Meatbats firing on all pistons to deliver the most accessible piece they’ve put to tape yet. Some of the tracks marinade a bit too long and still come out dry, but overall “More Meat” is melt in your mouth tasty.

There is a jam on here to suit whatever mood you find yourself in, and if you play Bombastic Meatbats at your next party it will surely be a topic of conversation. “More Meat” will be available October 19. But go to iTUNES for it, not your local butcher.

The band also gave permission to offer you a free download – check it out here!

Bombastic Meatbats on MySpace. Official site.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Review: Tumbledown “Empty Bottle”

Tumbledown is the brainchild of Mike Herrera, frontman for renowned 90s punk rockers MxPx. Combining his love for roots rock Americana (the likes of Woody Guthrie, Woody Nelson, Johnny Cash) with punk rock, Herrera has carved a rather unique niche out for Tumbledown. The two seemingly disparate musical genres actually have quite a lot in common – songs of hard luck sung with a lot of heart and a snotty attitude make up many of our country’s timeless classics. Tumbledown, which takes its name from the “tumbledown shacks” described in Guthrie’s biography, “takes the sepia-tinged image of Americana and sends it hurtling into the present”.

“Empty Bottle” is the latest from the band, following the notable self-titled debut (reviewed here). On this second release, Tumbledown sounds matured and comfortable, with Jack Parker providing plenty of licks and brothers Marshall and Harley Trotland providing plenty of kick on the stand up bass and drums. Bass is particularly important in this style of music and the country thumpin’ notes laid down here drive the music along like a rambling Ford truck speeding downhill on a worn dirt road. “Empty Bottle” may as well be a concept album about drinking, although other vices are usually mentioned as well. It’s not bad for a song or two, but such narrow lyrical themes begin to wear themselves out pretty quick. After the initial laughs, the lampshade over your head routine just isn’t funny anymore.

The raucous opener, “Places In This Town” is a promising way to start the record – classic Tumbledown sound with interesting chord changes and a big sing-a-long chorus. The bass in the title track is terrific, but it’s the chemistry of the band as a whole that makes “Meet The Devil” a better track overall. First single, “Arrested In El Paso Blues”, is a nod to Johnny Cash and will surely please fans of the first record. For my money, I’d bet on “Great Big World” and “Bad News” to be the favorites of new fans – these two are among the most radio-friendly songs the band has written. Finally, “A Thousand More Times” is a welcome change of pace, a ballad climaxing with some unexpected and effective strings.

Tumbledown delivers another solid slice of Americana punk, but it is a great big world indeed and I wish these guys would write about something other than drinking. Consequently, “Empty Bottle” goes down better as a quick shot rather than a fine wine.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 5, 8, 10

Tumbledown on MySpace. Official site.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review: Andrew Ripp “She Remains The Same”

Chicago singer/songwriter Andrew Ripp returns with his sophomore set, “She Remains The Same”, which follows his impressive debut record, “Fifty Miles To Chicago” (reviewed here). Also returning is that soulful rock and pop voice, sounding like a cross between David Mead and Jason Mraz.

Ripp sounds a little rougher and tougher on this outing, largely due to the raw rock edge coating several of the songs. The talented vocalist is well suited to this terrain and it hasn’t diminished his capacity to shine on ballads as well. “She Remains The Same” gets off to a fiery start with gritty rockers like “Growing Old Too Young” and “Savior”. Lead off track “Growing Old Too Young” is my instant favorite, encapsulating Ripp’s full potential and hitting all the radio-friendly buttons. “Star” is another likeable tune that I can imagine getting lots of airplay. The middle of the record, however, is weighted down with many slower, sleepy tunes. Bunched together like this, it makes going through the center a bit cumbersome. The exception is “Rider”, a murky and haunting song that has an enticing melody in the chorus that is well sung. The grit comes back in “When The Deal Goes Down”, but the choppy arrangement was a deal-breaker for me. “A Reason To Breathe” resuscitates the record briefly, but I did not enjoy much of anything else until the closing track. “Forever After Love” is a bare bones acoustic piece that lets Ripp’s vocals shine through – a tender song, beautifully sung.

“She Remains The Same” is a strong record, but doesn’t reach the high bar set by Ripp’s remarkable debut. Great performances, quality lyrics, but generally unexciting songs.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 6, 8, 11

Andrew Ripp on MySpace. Official site.

Check out a video for “You Will Find Me”:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kneejerk: Guster - Finger Eleven

Welcome to the latest edition of KNEEJERK, where we preview some new releases and give our short, "kneejerk" reaction...

Guster “Easy Wonderful”

We haven’t heard from alt rockers Guster since their 2006 release, “Ganging Up on the Sun”, a somewhat uneven follow up to what many refer to as their masterpiece, “Keep It Together”. After a four year break, one would hope that the new full-length studio release would be stellar – four years is plenty time to gather an abundant crop of songs and sort the wheat from the chaff. My kneejerk reaction is that Guster still needs to work at this…yes, there are some crafty harmonies and clever instrumentation, but all of this means nothing if the song is not set on a solid foundation. Too many overt religious references also make the record uncomfortable for me to hear. “Easy Wonderful” is going to please their devoted indie pop fans and people who like hearing Jesus in the lyrics, but I do not anticipate that Guster will draw in too many new recruits with this one. The key tracks that work best include “Do You Love Me”, “This Could All Be Yours”, “Bad Bad World”, and “This Is How It Feels To Have A Broken Heart”. If Guster can play on these strengths more consistently, they might produce another cross-over hit to rival “Keep It Together”.

Finger Eleven “Life Turns Electric”

I’ve often wondered what it feels like for a band that has a breakthrough single that is nothing like most of what they write and perform. Canadian hard rockers Finger Eleven had a huge single in the sparse acoustic track “One Thing” a few years back, but this song is far from representative of what they normally sound like. Finger Eleven rock, and have been doing so in an increasingly melodic manner since “One Thing” hit it big. Three years since their last offering, “Life Turns Electric” continues along this trajectory, bursting with hard riffing verses and king size choruses. This time out the songs are short and to the point – mostly upbeat or mid-tempo numbers. The first single is “Living In A Dream”, which is a heavy funk rocker, but it is not as good as some of the other tracks. More radio-friendly cuts include the excellent “Whatever Doesn’t Kill Me”, the groovy acoustic rocker “Stone Soul”, and pop rocker “Ordinary Life”. There is a lone ballad at the end, “Love's What You Left Me With”, but like the other final few tracks it fails to thrill. There are only ten tracks, six worthy of repeat listens, so not a perfect album by any means, but a solid attempt.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Review: Alternate Routes “Lately”

Longtime readers of BMF know that I am passionate about the Alternate Routes, a pop rock band co-founded by Tim Warren (vocals, guitar) and Eric Donnelly (lead guitar) in 2004 (read my previous reviews here). From the beginning, the Alternate Routes have amazed me with the depth of their songwriting – rarely are such moving and intelligent lyrics surrounded by chillingly good melodies. As if it couldn’t get any better, Tim Warren’s warm and clear vocal tone wraps itself around every word, often building to a jaw dropping climax. It is with great dismay and disbelief that I find myself struggling to say something more positive about the band’s latest, simply called “Lately”.

“Lately” has its charms. After a prosaic instrumental opener, Warren’s vocals caress the ears like a gentle breeze on “Carry Me Home”, and it is inviting to hear his magical tone once again. But like too many of the songs on this record, “Carry Me Home” never takes off - we just taxi around the runway for nearly five minutes. “Rocking Chair” provides a little relief and sounds more like the Alternate Routes I’ve grown to love. Other highlights include “Love The Way”, which showcases a fantastic and inventive vocal, and the earnest ballad, “Raincoat”, but honestly, even those don’t grab me as much as their previous material. Producer Teddy Morgan brings a rougher edge to some of the tunes, but the band’s core sound is left intact. The problem, frankly stated, is that this batch of songs is rather dull and lacks the hooks needed to make them memorable.

Warren sings on “Tell Me Your Name” that he can’t smoke a cigarette sober, but is happy to just watch it burn. I think that is how I feel about “Lately”. I’ve given “Lately” more than its fair share of spins, and the subtle hooks do start to sink in with time, but I hope the Alternate Routes can get back on the main drag next outing…or fewer will want to join them on their journey.

iPOD-worthy: 3, 7, 11, 14

Alternate Routes on MySpace. Official site.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

GUNS N ROSES "Lies" (1988)

The follow-up to the major explosion created by "Appetite For Destruction" captured Guns N' Roses doing an intense and raw performance, portraying the band as rebellious youth seething with shocking naughtiness. Consisting of four live tracks and four acoustical tunes, "Lies" is an important release by the band, successfully bridging the magical moment of their crazy debut and the next big double-release hit. This album was often compared to Lennon's "Some Time In New York City" – they not only share similarity in their front sleeve design, but inside you'll also find live-recordings.

The first half of the album contains my two fave tracks, "Reckless Life" and a cover of Aerosmith's "Mama Kin", but the rest of the album shines too. "Patience" is no doubt one of their biggest ballads - just listen to the memorable whistling and the gentle acoustic strumming…mind-blowing! And this song is even better played live with electric guitar and drums. "Used To Love Her" is a fun sing-along track and the acoustic rendition of "You're Crazy" is also nicely delivered, but the huge controversy of "One In A Million" is a bit exaggerated since this track is among their weakest I believe.

"Lies" is definitely not their greatest, but it ain't no dull release - extremely underrated and condemned by many fans. It is a must-buy for hardcore GNR fans and good to have if you're a casual hard rock fan for the sake of "Mama Kin" and "Patience" tracks alone.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Review: Farrah “Farrah”

If you are in the mood for some modern power pop, you really just can’t go wrong with Farrah. Farrah hails from the UK and consists of Jez Ashurst (vocals, guitar), Andy Campbell (guitar, keyboards and vocals), Michelle Margherita (bass, vocals), and Dana Myzer (drums, vocals). You’ll notice everyone contributes vocals, so you can bet there are plenty of harmonies to go around on a Farrah album…their latest self-titled effort being no exception.

Lead off track “Swings and Roundabouts” - a reference to how to life works - marches right into your memory with a happy go lucky piano line before swinging full blast into an irresistible Beatles-esque jam. The quartet delivers another winner with the lyrically smart “Stereotypes”, a nod to their Jason Falkner worship. “Scarborough” is a breezy, folky number that reminds me a lot of Fountains of Wayne’s “Valley Winter Song”. “DNA” is an amusing piece that wonders how emotions can arise from mere organic matter – a biologist’s wedding song, perhaps. Michelle takes charge of the vocal duties on “Got The Best Of Me”, providing a refreshing change of pace mid-record. But a string of four consecutive knockouts follows, including “If You Were Mine”, “Missed The Boat”, “Wasting Time” (the best of the slower tracks on the record), and “Just Driving”, which features the type of 80s-styled harmonies you might hear in a Jimmy Eat World tune. The tail end of the record fizzles just a bit, but this is largely due to the fact that it follows an oasis of particularly strong songs.

Farrah is for fans of Fountains of Wayne, Owsley, and Jason Falkner. Don’t miss out on these unsung heroes (and heroine) of modern powerpop!

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9

Farrah on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for “Swings and Roundabouts”:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Review: Megan McCormick “Honest Words”

I was first introduced to Megan McCormick at a Toad the Wet Sprocket show, promoting her debut album “Honest Words”, which was released this August on Ryko. She was perfect as an opening act for TTWS and thrilled the crowd with her pop rock sound, which is generously seasoned with blues and soul. McCormick’s vocals match her musical style well, as she can wail when things are rocking out like Bonnie Raitt or move you to tears with her vulnerability on her simmering ballads like K.D. Lang. On “Honest Words”, which is produced by Grammy Award-winner Dave O'Donnell (John Mayer, Joss Stone, James Taylor), McCormick addresses love, life and addiction with wisdom and grace: "My songs reflect a deep look inward as well as the world around me. I find inspiration sometimes in my guitar, on a street corner, or even in a lover. The new album will touch on love, family, addiction and the never-ending search for self-understanding."

McCormick is a formidable guitar player, but this is much more evident live than on her album - on stage she really let loose, producing some jaw dropping solos. Highlights from her impressive debut record include more radio-friendly cuts like “Things Change”, “Do Right”, and “Addiction”, but be sure not to miss the raw, seductive nature of “Shiver” and “Drifting”. Some breezy ballads like “Wreck (I Could Change)” and “Oh My Love” serve to round things out and showcase her versatility as a songwriting and performer. Also, be sure not to miss the epic “Pick Up The Phone”, a powerful song of longing and regret.

While a little sleepy at times due to excessive balladry, “Honest Words” is a treat, and Megan McCormick – just 23 years young - is certainly one to watch. Honestly.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 11

Megan McCormick on MySpace.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Review: The Riffbackers “The Curtain Shop And Alterations”

Time for some excellent powerpop and rock from Spain! The Riffbackers is the new project of Fausto Martin (guitar and lead vocals) and Nacho Garcia (drums), which follows the breakup of their former band, The Winnerys (Rock Indiana-Spain/Rainbow Quartz-USA). This time around they are joined by Octavio Vinck (guitar on Paul Collins’ Beat and Amaral) and Dani Montero (bass on Cooper).

The Riffbackers were born in the springtime of 2007 in Madrid and took nearly two years to craft their debut record, “The Curtain Shop And Alterations”. The album is a new 11-song set that is heavily inspired by 70s and early 80s pop and rock. Musically, the band sounds like a mix of The Knack and Badfinger, with vocals that are often reminiscent of Paul McCartney. These guys are no strangers to writing good song hooks with strategically placed harmonies.

The record blasts into action with the attention-grabbing cut “Now It’s Fine” - bristling with energy, it is sure to make your playlist. “Do It Again” is a mid-tempo follower that is equally catchy, with enchanting harmonies in the chorus that will have you singing along in no time. After a quick diversion with the country-tinged “You’d Do Anything”, the band bounces back with a snappy garage pop rocker called “Sometimes”. Additional highlights include the presumably autobiographical “Stupid Rock Star’s Dream” as well as the harmony-laden gems “Step By Step” and “Under Your Spell”. The guys showcase their love for Beatles-styled acoustic ballads with the terrific “After All These Years”.

“The Curtain Shop And Alterations” was released at the end of 2009 under the band’s own label, Rainbow Lane Records, and has been gaining accolades ever since. And now they have another one. Fans of catchy, crunchy rock and pop will not want to let this one pass by.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11

The Riffbackers on MySpace.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Kneejerk: Posies – Jimmy Eat World

Welcome to the latest edition of KNEEJERK, where we preview some new releases and give our short, "kneejerk" reaction...

The Posies “Blood/Candy”

There’s something magical about those harmonies of Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow, which bolster the clever pop of the Posies. Their long-awaited new release, “Blood/Candy” is true to its name in that it contains a mix of the sugary sweet melodies we’d expect from their early days and the darker, less melodious elements from more recent releases. The record, especially the first two thirds, is generally upbeat and wonderfully catchy – it will finally satisfy fans who have been longing for a return to their 90s output. This time around, the harmonies are plentiful and well placed, illuminating the intriguing song structures to result in tunes that are instantly likeable. With that classic mix of acoustic and electric guitars, “Blood/Candy” serves up its juiciest morsels right at the get-go with soon to be classics like “Plastic Paperbacks”, “The Glitter Prize”, and “Licenses To Hide”. The strummed goodness of the acoustic yet upbeat “So Caroline” is another welcome treat, followed by another standout entitled, “Take Care of Yourself”. The most brilliant example of the vocal synergy between the Posies can be heard in “Accidental Architecture”. With exception of “She's Coming Down Again!”, the tail end of the record is a little lukewarm, but overall you really have to struggle to find something you won’t like on this record.

Jimmy Eat World “Invented”

The sixth full-length album from emo-turned-pop rockers Jimmy Eat World tries to recapture the brush with success they had with their breakthrough, 2001’s “Bleed American” (also known as a self-titled release for those of you who purchased it after 9/11). Even “Bleed American” producer Mark Trombino is back at the helm, balancing the band’s 80s-inspired guitar tones with modernized distortion. But sadly what seems to be missing here are the contagious melodies. The songs on “Invented” are not bad, but they don’t hold a candle to the earlier hits, or even a lot of the tracks on the excellent “Chase This Light” from 2007. Shame. Strangely, the strongest cuts include the less energetic tracks “Evidence”, “Movielike”, and “Littlething”.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Review: Neil Young “Le Noise”

You would think that a legendary artist like Neil Young, who has been making music since the 60s, would have done it all by now. By the same token, you would think that Daniel Lanois, best known for producing landmark albums for U2, Bob Dylan, and Peter Gabriel, has also done it all by now. But one thing that these esteemed musicians have not done is work together on a record.

Young, soon to be 66, could have churned out another rocking classic like “Freedom” or solidified his label as the ‘Godfather of Grunge’ with another “Ragged Glory”. Or, he could have gone the tender folk route and delivered another “Harvest” or “Harvest Moon”. But collaboration between two pillars in the music world called for something truly remarkable. Something that hadn’t been done before – something that most people wouldn’t even dream of doing. But with countless solo records, not to mention his timeless work with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, and Nash, what else is there for Young to do?

Lanois must have said it. “How about we record you and your guitar – nothing else.” Then Neil interjects, “But I’ve done an unplugged record.” Lanois retorts, “No, no…we do one with you plugged in.” “No band?” “No band.” Neil slowly nods. And out comes “Le Noise”. The collaboration is so intimate that Young got credit as the artist and Lanois (pronounced “Le Noise”) got credit in the title.

Few artists have the courage to be so exposed, so let’s at least give the team high marks for audacious, out-of-the-box thinking. For six of the eight new songs on “Le Noise”, all we hear is Neil’s electric guitar cranked to 11 and his signature vocals shouting and soaring above the distortion. Sound maestro Lanois does a remarkable job creating different sonic textures from these limited options and strategically places two acoustic numbers into the collection to cleanse the palate now and again. Despite their creative efforts, “Le Noise” is obviously not an album for everyone. Even the most ardent fan is probably left wondering how amazing some of these songs would have sounded if performed with an entire band.

But I don’t think that is what “Le Noise” is all about – it is meant to amaze through minimalism, and I found the record to be mesmerizing. While it is not an album I see myself playing from start to finish very often, “Le Noise” is astonishing in concept and execution. To listen to it straight through just once was an experience I will not soon forget – and that is what I imagine Young and Lanois wanted. Highlights include an old live favorite finally put to tape in “Hitchhiker” and the reflective closer, “Rumblin’”. While a bit redundant, “Walk With Me” has an urgency about it that I find difficult to ignore. The driving “Someone's Gonna Rescue You” features vocal dynamics that make the track a compelling listen as well. For those of you hoping for the softer side, Young delivers two incredible acoustic ballads you’ll want to cherry pick, “Love and War” and “Peaceful Valley Boulevard”. Easily the most accessible tracks among the eight, but also two of the best ballads Young has written in years.

Missing the sound of a full band, some will call “Le Noise” dull, perhaps even lazy. Others will insist that the sparse arrangements place focus on the guitar, lyrics, and sonic fireworks. Some will call it madness, others will call it genius. Some will say FTW, others WTF? What do you say?

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 7, 8

Neil Young on MySpace. Official site.

Check out a trailer describing the making of “Le Noise”:

Le Noise Trailer

Neil Young | MySpace Music Videos

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

ALICE COOPER “Trash” (1989)

I still have a vivid memory of playing this tape over and over again when I first discovered Alice Cooper years ago. "Poison" and "Bed of Nails" are my most fave tracks of the album and those two songs are the reason I decided to backtrack Cooper's early catalogue to learn more about him. "Trash", even though it was a more commercial approach and a far departure from his roots, is still highly enjoyable, especially if you're into the late-80s style of Aerosmith, Motley Crue, or Bon Jovi. This album is Cooper's best-selling release thanks to the several singles that were intensively aired back in the days.

The anthem "Poison" is a great album opener with its catchy chorus. "Spark In The Dark" is also a great track with some groovy riffs but "House of Fire" stole my attention. The refreshing nuance made this a fun party track. "Bed of Nails" is definitely the album's diamond - a brilliant up-tempo tune with a memorable chorus and killer guitar solo. "Only My Heart Talkin'" is a mandatory ballad, a beautiful one, and I love the screaming duel with Steven Tyler at the end of the song. "Hell Is Living Without You" is the second ballad attempt, quite okay but inferior compared to the prior. The title track is a decent filler but "This Maniac" is horribly boring, I always skip this track.

Produced by Desmond Child, fans expected a more commercial sound. The production value is acceptable and this album is perhaps not for his long time fans, but for glam/pop-metal lovers, "Trash" is a big gem not to miss.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Review: Hollywood Tramp “Lies About The Truth” [EP]

Hollywood Tramp is a pop rock band with a funky twist based in London, England, and they’ve just released a new four-song EP entitled, “Lies About The Truth”. These infectious tunes wiggle themselves into your ears and head straight for the patches of neurons that govern your mobility. No lie, it is hard to resist the will to move to the beat and glide to the grooves set down by Hollywood Tramp.

Don’t let the name fool you – yeah, Hollywood Tramp sounds like a late 80s glam band, but these four lads won’t impress you with fret board gymnastics or mile high hair. But their music does possess a seductive lure, intertwining slinky melodies and sexy rhythms. In a phrase, Hollywood Tramp aims to get your body moving with irresistible pop rock hooks.

The opener and title track sizzles with funk guitar before launching into a standard pop rock sing-a-long chorus. The next track, “Undone” is very Maroon 5, with the bass and drums snaking their way around your eardrums. With its emotive vocal and relatable lyrics, “Undone” would fit well on commercial radio today. “Orthodox Paradox”, which touches on the deeper subjects of democracy and politics, is another engaging track featuring a strutting bass line that reminds me of the great Aussie band Boom Crash Opera. The EP closes with “Now That You’re Gone”, another sweet dessert that leaves you wanting more of Hollywood Tramp.

Check out Hollywood Tramp if you dig Maroon 5, Lenny Kravitz, and Prince. With their blend of contemporary pop and rock, it is hard to imagine this band not taking off in the UK and beyond.

Hollywood Tramp on MySpace. Official site.