Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Platinum Weird, Gracer, Built For The Sea

Platinum Weird - Make Believe (2006)

After finding a promo CD single from this band with Kara DioGuardi (American Idol) and David Stewart of the Eurythmics both mentioned, I kept an eye out for the full album.

The Verdict: I'm pretty knowledgeable about music but I had never heard of this before. David and Kara teamed up and released an album which pretended to be from 1974 and a precursor to the classic Fleetwood Mac sound. Surprisingly good, most notably the effective and nuanced vocals.

Rating:   12/15

Gracer - Voices Travel (2006)

This indie release was cheap and I liked the cover.

The Verdict: Another surprise, with engaging melodies and a full sound. Lyrically adventurous. Not bad at all. Reminds me of Athlete.

Rating:   11/15

Built For The Sea - Mise En Scene (2008)

I totally bought this for the beautiful art on the digipak, which was even tied with a bow.

The Verdict: A 5 track EP, the first number was nothing special. Halfway through the second track I was thinking about the relative weak vocals against the dark and swirling melodies. I was going to dismiss it but then I thought, if this was a Cure song I'd think it was brilliant alright. With that reference point, I really liked the middle three tracks. So overall  a good, interesting release. Sounds better in the car, actually.

Rating:   8/15

Worthy download:   Gracer - Emily Taylor
Bonus download:   Platinum Weird -  Will You Be Around

Friday, May 21, 2010

Great Northern, Boondogs, The Red Thread

Great Northern - Remind Me Where The Light Is (2009)

I remembered reading a fairly good review of this one somewhere.

The Verdict: I only played the first two tracks and was undecided about it. The musicianship is good, just didn't particularly make me want to listen to more. Unfair, perhaps.

Rating: 4/15

Boondogs - Fever Dreams (2005)

I liked the cover. Plus, it's a digipak. Yay!

The Verdict: Very promising. I liked the first three tracks right away. They alternate between male and female vocals. I liked the guy better at first, but also the songwriting seemed interesting. I'm looking forward to hearing more of this.

Rating:   10/15

The Red Thread - Ship in the Attic, Birds in the Subway (2005)

I won this one for a cent on eBay. The artwork is nothing special.

The Verdict: Really good. Very nice dynamics, two strong opening tracks and then a cool acoustic number for the third. I played the last track and it was another pretty acoustic instrumental. Sounds great, quite focused. Best of the day which I didn't anticipate at all.

Rating:   13/15

Worthy download:   The Red Thread - A Distance
Bonus download:   Boondogs - Up For Days

Downloads are low quality for sampling purposes only. Buy the official downloads here and here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sound The Alarm, Ben Shive, Saucy Monky

Sound The Alarm - Stay Inside (2007)

Nice cover. Major label, mixed by Tom Lord-Alge. That's a clue right there.

The Verdict: Somebody somewhere loves this band. I guarantee they are younger than me and possibly on first name terms with the drummer. Competent, professional, and utterly uninspiring.

Rating:   2/15

Ben Shive - The Ill-Tempered Klavier (2008)

Not sure what to expect with this one. No barcode, so maybe a local Nashville release.

The Verdict: Turns out Ben is a well known producer and keyboardist in CCM circles (Caedmon's Call, Andrew Osenga, etc.) The sound is polished and grounded, well crafted piano pop. I actually listened to this most of the way home. In the right mood, I really like this kind of music. He has a good voice. The first track is one of those "sad people" songs (like Fountains of Wayne) so I'm liking this.

Rating:   12/15

Saucy Monky - Turbulence (2004)

This one was cheap and had bi-planes on the cover. I love bi-planes!

The Verdict: Girl driven pop-rock. Not terrible but didn't really grab me. Lots of tracks to choose from so maybe I just played the wrong ones. Seems a little precious.

Rating:   5/15 

Worthy download:   Ben Shive - A Name, A Name, A Name

Download is low quality, for sampling purposes only. If you like it, buy it here

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Medic Droid, Janet Bean, Blanche, Mezzanine Owls

The Medic Droid - What's Your Medium (2008)

I bought this CD based on the artwork and a possible Star Wars reference.

The verdict: A three piece electropop combo, the sound of the band was appealing from track one. But the vocals on most tracks were so heavily processed with a vocoder that it put me off. About halfway through there was an unexpected cover version of "Into The Groove" that I enjoyed. The next track was also decent, but by the end, the wretched vocoder was back.

Rating:   4/15

Janet Bean - Dragging Wonder Lake (2003)

This one came in a box lot. The cover looked interesting so I thought I'd give it a spin. 

The verdict: Wistful Americana. Perfectly pleasant, a little bit sleepy, just not my kind of thing. I was hoping for something a little more quirky. A Randy Newman cover ("God's Song") is disappointing, but then again no one performs like Randy.

Rating:   2/15

Blanche - If We Can't Trust The Doctors (2004)

I can't remember buying this but it comes in a nice digipak (I have a soft spot for digipaks!) and is on the V2 record label. I'm expecting maybe a dynamic pop/rock combo. 

The verdict: Wrong again! Dusky, mandolin ridden folk music with alternating male/female vocal lines. I think I might like this with a few listens. But for now, it doesn't reach out and grab me. The vocals seem to stray too much to the edges of the melody which make it harder to listen to.

Rating: 3/15

Mezzanine Owls - Slingshot Echoes (2006)

I liked the name. And it was cheap. Self-released, so not expecting too much here.

The verdict: Much more like it. Very strong opening with gorgeous guitar lines. In the Coldplay mold perhaps, but doesn't sound too derivative. I listened to the first three tracks all the way through, and had a hard time picking a favorite. Today's clear winner. Excellent production and sound considering it's not on a major label. Well done!

Rating:   11/15          

Worthy download:   Mezzanine Owls - Coyote

Bonus download:   Medic Droid - Into The Groove (low quality, download the proper version here)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Kate Lush, Simian, Let's Get It

I've been mulling over how to get this blog going again in a way that maintains my interest while providing some fresh content and, most importantly, gets me away from the kind of posts that take days to write.

Here's what I've come up with. On the one hand, I have boxes and boxes of CD's that I have acquired one way or another, most of which I plan to sell or trade on. On the other hand, I have very limited time and a fifteen minute commute to work which is about the only time I can settle down and actually listen to anything.

I going to provide lightning reviews of albums selected at random from my boxes. These will mostly be lesser known works from the last decade or so from a bunch of different genres, but to keep things interesting I'm not going to filter anything. So, my 15 minute commute could include several tracks from one album, or several different albums if I really don't like what I'm hearing. I'll select one track to post which is the best I heard and rate the albums based on how much time I actually decided to spend listening to it.

Let's roll the dice and see what happens.

Kate Lush - Don't Wait Too Long (2008)

I picked this one out because it's Australian and produced by Michael Carpenter. I didn't know what to expect but I do like antipodean pop in the style of Neil Finn, Bic Runga, Carla Werner and others.

The verdict: Too bland for my taste. Some tracks might make good soundtrack selections, and there is something of a Crowded House influence in places, and country pop in others. Just nothing special.

Rating:   5/15                         Buy my copy here!

Simian - Chemistry Is What We Are (2001)

This caught my eye because it's on the Astralwerks label and they tend to work with interesting electronic artists, and I noticed they were British. Nice sheep-dog, too.

The verdict: Yuk! I skipped the first track because it took too long to start. I gave the next track a few more seconds, but it was much too ambient with beeps and blips and no discernible structure. By the third track, I was hitting eject. Just not my thing at all.

Rating:   2/15

Let's Get It - Digital Spaces EP (2009)

I got this just because it was a recent release with attractive artwork. I see a lot of albums on the Fearless label and I got the impression they were mostly emo and punk-pop. In other words, I wasn't expecting much from this.

The verdict: A pleasant surprise! I only had time to listen to three of the tracks (there are 6 total) but I liked what I heard. So much going on, but it felt cohesive and interesting. I'll put this on again.

Rating:   11/15                          Check them out here!

Worthy download:   Let's Get It - Duck, Duck, Grey Goose

Download is low quality, for sampling purposes only. If you like it, buy it here.