Posts tagged CD Review
Within the last six months, my little brother has introduced me to some seriously cool music. One of my favorite bands from this "education" is Emery, a hard-hitting "screamo" band hailing from the Tooth and Nail label. Instantaly I fell in love with their unique, emotive style and have practically memorized their first two full-length albums.
A few days ago, I heard rumors from my brother that a new album was imminently forthcoming from the band, a fact subsequently substantiated by the release of "I'm Only a Man" on Monday. Going into this album, I had high expectations and even greater anxiety. It is also nerve-wracking to go into a new album, not knowing whether or not it will engender a significant move forward for the band or an equally, but more devasting and disappointing mistake.
Undaunted, I loaded Napster at work and pressed "play" (I love Napster, BTW). I listened without pause through all the tracks, listening intently for indications of how the newest project would impress itself upon my musical conscience. After the first run-through, I admit I was a bit disappointed. To begin, this album is a lot more subdued on the "scream" part of the "screamo". While More >
Since their self-titled debut in 2000, Rascal Flatts has consistently and with ever-growing force become a presence within the country-pop crossover music scene to be reckoned with. Boasting such awards as two-time CMT Vocal Group of the Year, CMT Group/Duo of the Year, and an Emmy for the unforgettable phenomenon of “Bless the Broken Road,” this trio continues to assert itself on the charts and in the musical consciousness of America.
If gross reductionism will be forgiven, the success of Rascal Flatts is incontrovertibly linked to front man Gary LeVox’s enthralling and ever-soaring tenor vocals. While the band’s songs show all too infrequent flashes of artistic innovation, the sheer force, intensity and beauty of LeVox’s performances—both live and recorded—rescue and imbue with vigor songs that would otherwise be resigned to the purgatory of the “country formulae.”
In their newest release, Still Feels Good, this unfortunate tension between overall unimaginative songwriting and LeVox’s breathtaking performance virtuosity is thankfully and significantly more subdued than in their previous release, Me and My Gang. This time around, the band jettisons nearly every remnant of hardcore country that may have clung on in their transition to the world of crossover. While the steel guitars, mandolins and fiddles More >
If you've listened to the radio in the last 10 years, you know about Train. With mega hits such as the frantically original "Meet Virginia", the year-long chart-occupying "Drops of Jupiter" and the funky feel-good anthem "Get to Me," Train has made an indelible and enduring mark on popular music. While every album is ultimately a band effort, it cannot be denied that the band’s success is intrinsically rooted in the compelling originality of frontman Pat Monahan's voice.
Yesterday, Monahan released his first solo album, Last of Seven. Lest the listener fear that this is yet another failed attempt of a successful lead vocalist to fly alone, Last of Seven merges the very best of Train's sound with a clear attempt to explore the range and styling of Monahan's voice.
Musically, Monahan does not depart dramatically from the genre in which Train is firmly entrenched. While a few songs attempt a significant deviation (like the gospel-inspired "Raise Your Hands" and the dirty-blues infused duet "Pirate on the Run"), the vast majority pursue the same Southern countrified moods of Train's earlier work.
Despite the musical unoriginality, Monahan's vocals are as good as ever. Whether bellowing the soaring choruses of "Two Ways to More >
The perrenial liability of pop music is the tendancy of over-produced, singles'-charts-minded arrangements to betray lyrical meaning, as the value of words is sacrificed on the alter of commercial viability. Such a depraved environment craves seriousness, originality and a disavowal of the all-too-great temptation to jettison thought, form and artistry for air-play.
In many ways, Sarah Blasko's What The Sea Wants, The Sea Will Have is a strong beacon admist the stormy, churning seas of the burned-over homogeneity of pop music. Hailing from Austraila, Blasko offers a mature and sobering collection of songs in her second album. The beauty of What The Sea Wants finds its terminus in its utter simplicity in exceptional diversity. Although the arrangements extend from complete orchestral sections on songs like "[explain]" to the innovative usage of steel drums on "Planet New Year," they are incorporated seamlessly into the thoughtful melancholy of Blasko's artistry without pretension and without ever feeling as if the production is trying too hard. Deep and brooding, what this produces, musically, is the perfect backdrop for Blasko's penetrating songwriting which is matched only by her hauntingly beautiful and intoxicatingly melodic arrangements. Here, joy, pain, love, loss and hope are fused with a realism that embraces, More >
In the mid-90's, Suzy Bogguss was a powerhouse name in country music, garnering a half-dozen top-ten singles, numerous awards, and even the coveted Academy of Country Music's award for Top New Female Vocalist. However, as with all things, time and age took their toll. After a brief hiatus from the music scene to raise her family, Bogguss returned to an ambivalent audience of listeners who had seemingly moved on from her tender style of song writing.
For those who may have moved on, however, Sweet Danger represents a modest redefinition of Bogguss as a singer, songwriter and musician. To begin, it is difficult to classify this album as "country." While there are certainly discernible country roots underlying the melodies, tracks like "The Bus Ride" and "It's Not Gonna Happen" are delightfully steeped in soft washes of jazz, transforming Bogguss' voice from country-twanger to smoky-club crooner. Yet on songs such as "Sweet Danger" and "Chain Lover", the subdued jazz tones are seamlessly exchanged for intoxicatingly gritty and indefatigable blues' themes. However, lest this album be seen as a manufactured attempt at personal redefinition, the transformation is short of total–the listener is quickly reminded of Bogguss' country roots on cuts like the melodically mesmerizing More >
Boasting a career spanning over a decade and a half, Caedmon's Call is, without question, one of Christian alternative music's most successful and beloved never-to-go-mainstream bands. Overdressed, the eighth full-length release from the band, continues the band’s legacy of folk-inspired alternative rock and welcomes back Derek Webb who left the band in 2003 to pursue three solo records.
While not particularly musically innovative, Caedmon's Call has been a consistently compelling band because of the depth and thoughtfulness of their lyricism. In a scene glutted with sterilized and genericized musical platitudes about faith, love and hope, Caedmon's Call infused their writing with penetrating intensity and poignant, unapologetically (and sometimes offensively) prophetic insight. The depth of this commitment to writing can be perhaps seen best in 2004's Share the Well, in which the band applied their talents to tackle issues of poverty and injustice they had personally witnessed on trips to India, Ecuador and Brazil.
Overdressed, like other Caedmon's Call releases, is an enjoyable collection of the band’s now standard unassuming folk-driven rock united to thought-provoking lyrics. However, after 15 years of a practically unchanged format, Overdressed leaves the longtime listener with much to be desired. True enough, the songs—in typical Caedmon's Call fashion–are certainly catchy and More >
Over 17 years in the making, The Trumpet Child—the 13th studio album from Cincinnati-based husband and wife duo (Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist) Over the Rhine —is a late-coming, albeit welcome and invigorating redefinition of the band’s sound. Known for their gritty emotionalisim and often dark aesthetic, The Trumpet Child is a sort of reawakening for OTR. Infusing an infectious blend of trumpets, trombones and saxophones to their standard acoustic set, The Trumpet Child sounds brighter and airier, as if the non-chalaunt freedom of the horns have liberated the band from an acoustically ethereal purgatory.
But despite the radically care-free sound of The Trumpet Child, the infectious lyrical pathos for which OTR is beloved remains, albeit translated in a new direction. A song like "Trouble," although saucy and sassy, wittily explores while thoughtfully deconstructing the vagrancies of infatuation and love. Yet later on, "Let's Spend the Day in Bed" celebrates the simplicity of life and love in the bright and equally ordinary images of everyday life.
But The Trumpet Child is not all light and air. The darker lyrical directions for which the band is known force their way to the surface periodically. The plodding, incessantly melancholic melody of "Nothing is Innocent" conjures meanings More >
In the post-grunge rock fallout of the late 90's and early 00's, Fuel became a mainstay for rock fans, fusing the emotive spirit of Nirvana's musical revolution with a progressive and compelling sound that made alternative rock a viable option in the face of the rise of rap and hip-hop. Although bands are always more than the sum of their parts, Fuel was uniquely successful because of their long-time frontman, Brett Scallions, and his equally unique vocal stylings. In a world of mass-produced and equally burned-over redundancies like Nickelback and Creed, Fuel found in Scallions a vocal persona with sufficient gravitas to provide separation and differentiation from the broader and more painfully genericized rock genre.
However, with their 2007 release, "Angels and Demons," all of this has changed. Pursuing other musical interests, Scallions recently parted ways with Fuel, leaving the band to find another to fill the incredible void, a space filled by Toryn Green, formerly of the band Something to Burn.
From a somewhat disinterested perspective, "Angels and Demons" is a fairly solid album. Although Green brings an extreme measure of newness to the sound, Fuel does not depart significantly from the status quo, delivering the typically-Fuel fusion of hard-hitting, More >
In the face of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans native Jake Smith proves that even disaster cannot stifle the soul of the Big Easy. Released under Christian pop guru Michael W. Smith’s Rocketown Records, Smith’s debut album, Real, is a funky, soul-filled musical journey fused with penetratingly thoughtful lyrics that broach subjects of faith, loss, hope and love.
Musically, Real is significantly diverse. Tracks like “Get Up” and “Can’t Save Your Soul” are bright and groovy, while others like “Real Love” and “Run” are hauntingly melancholy. Yet within the diversity, a common thread of soulfulness unifies each track to the whole, creating the impression of a well-crafted, robust, and surprisingly mature project.
Somewhat reminiscent of Elliot Yamin’s earlier, and less impressive, 2007 release, Smith’s vocals are smooth and infectious, enrapturing the listeners’ attention without becoming overbearing. Yet behind these inherently accessible vocal performances is a depth and earnestness of lyricism that sets Smith worlds apart from the burned-over, made-for-radio pop which is so characteristic of today’s music scene. While comparisons to the artistry of John Mayer are surely overreaching, Jake Smith’s debut with Real heralds significant promise for this new artist.
As a final note, Smith has recently partnered with More >
Hmmm…two CD posts in a row…
Anyway, I checked out Lifehouse's newest album, "Who We Are," a couple of weeks ago and…
Wait, let's cover this first. If you are a Lifehouse fan, you know the appeal of their music. The songs are thoughtfully written with intelligent lyrics. Musically, they are not phenomenal, but the songs are interesting and something one might like to listen to repetitively. Finally–and perhaps the biggest draw–is the incredible melodies which they consistenly deliver from song to song. I can think of few other bands that I listen to that are capable of producing songs that are endemically sing-a-ble and incessantly hooky.
…I loved this album. Like their other work, Lifehouse's "Who We Are" brings no surprises, no random stylistic changes that smack of artistic evolution (or devolution, as it might be). To the contrary, Lifehouse continues indefatiguably to BE Lifehouse. It is similar to eating at McDonald's. With every visit, one is not expecting to have a gourmand rebirth; one goes there because it tastes like you want it to taste, and how you know it will ALWAYS taste. On this album, Lifehouse continues to be the double-quarter pounder with cheese that is not a revolution in taste More >