Category Archives: Pop

Tyler Carter

tylercarterart1Leave Your Love by Tyler Carter (Velocity/Rise Records)

January 13th marked the official release of Tyler Carter’s debut solo EP via Rise Records — and it’s a breath of fresh air that you’re going to want to take.

Carter’s new EP, Leave Your Love, is a heavy-hearted wrestling match with how to love and how to deal with lost love. Amidst the apparent heartache of this unique collection, the Issues vocalist journeys into understanding who he is relative to who you are, who I am, and for that matter, who ALL of us are. In a very real way, Carter establishes his own musical identity through these six songs.

Style wise, an EDM listener might love this as much as an R&B fan. It’s somewhere in the middle with regard to genre. In fact, the genre of this EP is very blurred. This is, I think, intentionally done. A careful listener will hear the musical maturity of Carter’s implementation of dynamic, soulful vocal melody juxtaposed with blunt, over-honest rap sections.

Let’s get down to specifics…There are a few tracks to give very careful consideration on this EP. You won’t passively digest the content despite a somewhat easy listening feel. In the opening track, “Sophisticated”, Carter dives into a new pop-driven territory and explores a individualized love encounter. While extrapolating his examination of the love interest in this track, he is demonstrating something a little bit more raw in his vocal delivery.

By the time we get to the title track, “Leave Your Love”, Carter’s vocal dynamic is completely different than anything we’ve been made accustomed to by his performances in Issues or Woe, Is Me.

Carter drops into a lower register for most of what I can hear on this record, and saves that familiar tenor belting for artistic accents. Instead, he relies on his head voice for most of the higher parts in this record. This is highly evident in “Leave Your Love” and the EP’s first single, “Georgia”.

Carter is an avant-garde romantic in “So Slow” — the track which defines this EP’s cross pollination of Hip Hop and R&B. This song is an allegory of the touring musician’s battle with trying to maintain love. It even drops into something of a vocal breakdown — counteracting cool, upbeat synth with some brilliantly adjusted vocal freestyle.

If you want to get straight into the meat of this record, give thoughtful consideration to songs like “Sophisticated”, “Georgia” and “Tears on the Runway Pt. 1”. The interplay of Carter’s vocal style with guest vocalist Nylo in the latter track simply had to be forged in heaven.

Overall, the solid production of this EP alongside equally listenable musical content earned a well-deserved 4/5 from me. If we can look forward to a full-length release from Carter in the near future, this reviewer will be happy to give it a thorough listen.

(Review by Zachary S. Valladon)

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Swervedriver Return for I Wasn’t Born To Lose You, Stream new single Setting Sun

swervedriver full length cover 2015On the same day they officially announced the release date, cover art and tracklisting of their first album in 17 years, Swervedriver also share with us Setting Sun, the new single from I Wasn’t Born To Lose You Yet.  You can listen to Setting Sun HERE.

Swervedriver album cover 2015On January 13th, Swervedriver will release their second single from their long-awaited fifth album, Setting Sun and b-side Days, a cover of the Television song.

Swervedriver knocked on the doors of the rock world with their debut Raise and kicked it into splinters with their follow-up, Mezcal Head.  Songs like Son Of Mustang Ford, Rave Down, Duress, Last Train To Satansville and Duel inspired many to pick up a six-string and plug it into a multitude of pedals and effects but no one could beat the original for their revved up signature sound.

Ejector Seat Reservation and 99th Dream showed the band’s influence from The Beatles and The Byrds with more textured guitar layerings and spacey moods without losing focus on those driving guitars and rhythms on songs Stellar Caprice, You’ve Sealed My Fate, Son of Jaguar “E” and The Birds.

New single Setting Sun enters and exits on guitars, the opening setting a mood of positivity, the beat chipper, then Adam Franklin’s vocals soar in, singing of capsized ships, hearts of gold and casting shadows, creating just a bit of unease against the upbeat guitars, then before you realize it, there’s a spacey guitar part and it’s all over, leaving you grasping at the rays of light that just left the sky.

I Wasn’t Born To Lose You will be released March 3rd, the first day of Swervedriver’s North American Tour.  Below are the track listings and tour dates.

I Wasn’t Born to Lose You:
1. Autodidact
2. Last Rites
3. For a Day Like Tomorrow
4. Setting Sun
5. Everso
6. English Subtitles
7. Red Queen Arms Race
8. Deep Wound
9. Lone Star
10. I Wonder?

Swervedriver – 2014 Tour Dates
03/04 San Diego, CA – Casbah
03/05 Los Angeles, CA – Roxy Theatre
03/06 San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall
03/08 Seattle, WA – Neumo’s Crystal Ball
03/09 Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge
03/12 St. Paul, MN – Turf Club
03/13 Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon
03/14 Chicago, IL – TBA
03/15 Grand Rapids, MI – Pyramid Scheme
03/16 Cincinnati, OH – The Woodward Theater
03/17 St. Louis, MO – The Duck Room @ Blueberry
03/19 Dallas, TX – Club Dada
03/20-21 – Austin, TX – SXSW
03/23 Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade – Hell Stage
03/24 Durham, NC – Motorco
03/25 Washington, DC – Rock & Roll Hotel
03/27 Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg
03/28 Cambridge, MA – The Sinclair
03/29 Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer

LINKS:
Swervedriver.com
facebook
Cobraside

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Stephen Emmer

International-Blue_1404463545International Blue by Stephen Emmer (Electric Fairytale Recordings)

As 2014 spins to its chaotic conclusion, one of the albums released this year that will stand the test of time is the superlative International Blue by Dutch composer Stephen Emmer. Filled with 10 wondrous cuts that will take your breath away, imagine Bowie channeling Sinatra within the confines of a David Lynch film – and you are only just beginning to envision what Emmer and his various guest vocalists has in store for those looking for a sweeping auditory adventure.

international-blue_collaborators-editedThe commencement of International Blue is destined to hook the listener in with first track Let The Silence Hold You, featuring the captivating vocal work of Glenn Gregory from the famed Heaven 17. Those who remember the new wave classics Let Me Go and We Don’t Need That Fascist Groove Thing will be enraptured by the smooth Bowie-like croon Gregory unleashes on this gorgeous opening track as well as his other vocal contributions throughout International Blue.

Another glorious highlight is Taking Back My Time, with the captivating vocals of Midge Ure of Ultravox gracefully weaving a magical spell through the timeless song. Sleep For England is another sumptuous song for the ages, embellished by the striking vocals of Neil Crossley (Furlined) – this is an earlier version which was recently re-imagined as a Christmas-time song featuring Julian Lennon on vocals. Song For A Deserted Wife is a dazzling standout cut, with Liam McKahey’s (Cousteau) devilishly heartbreaking vocals sending the cut into a whole other dimension of space and time.

And if all this style and flair isn’t enough to ensure the album reaches classic status for the ages, International Blue was mixed and produced by none other than Tony Visconti at Abbey Road Studios and Avator Studios in NYC. Known for his iconic work with David Bowie and Iggy Pop, Visconti’s inspired partnership with Emmer sends the entire project into the stratosphere. Be sure to check into Stephen Emmer’s International Blue, and prepare to be swept away by its intriguing soundscapes and overall elegance.

(Review by Ken Morton)

Stephen Emmer on Facebook

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The Bobbleheads

bobblemake1Make Yourself Happy by The Bobbleheads (Poppop Records)

Late 60’s psychedelic mixed with early 70’s bubble gum pop is The Bobbleheads signature sound. It sounds like they have gotten some help, on a few songs, with a female back-up singer. The additional vocals adds a fuller sound to the band’s second full length CD. The lyrics are terrific and shows off the band’s maturity. The Bobbleheads also possess a sort of edge to their sound on a few songs with stronger guitar work.

John Ashfield still writes catchy melodies with ease. You can’t help but feeling jazzed up and finding your happy place, when listening to this wonderful new CD. If in San Francisco, go catch The Bobbleheads performing for a great fun time.

Check out such standout songs such as: Mean Girls, Take It Down, Prove Yourself , Turn The Radio On and Who’s Gonna Love You. For more info on The Bobbleheads visit www.thebobbleheads.com or www.facebook.com/thebobbleheadspage!

(Review by Jonathan D. Wright)

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Bret’s top albums of 2014

Here are the bands I listened to endlessly throughout the year.  The music that stirred my soul, got my blood racing and made me drive fast on the freeway.

Cheatahs
Cheatahs

CHEATAHS BY CHEATAHS (WITCHITA RECORDINGS)

Cheatahs‘ S/T first album amazed me with their take on gloriously noisy shoegaze. I bought up their first EP’s and eagerly await their The Sunne EP in February. They’ve have already released lead track Controller on Soundcloud.  The feelings these Brits evoke are blissed out and energetic with a heady mix of melody and distortion.  Listening to  Cheatahs all these months later I’m still blown away by the immediacy of their performances.

[Cheatahs] hit all the notes that turn me on with heavily distorted guitars and quiet vocals as counterpoint to the noise.  With all the effects and volume you’ll also find a sense of pop melody throughout, with some exceptional instrumentation.

Further Deeper
Further/Deeper

FURTHER/DEEPER BY THE CHURCH (UNORTHODOX)

The Church return with Further/Deeper, their first without founding member Marty Wilson-Piper and their first with new guitarist Ian Haug.  Every song is lush, with a subdued beauty and menace. The mostly mid-tempo songs possess an energy that is undeniably captivating.  They’ll be on tour in the States in  February and the Highwire Daze boys will be at the El Rey Theater show singing along.

cynic_album__cover__kindly_bent_to_free_us

KINDLY BENT TO FREE US BY CYNIC (SEASON OF MIST)

I somehow missed the release of Cynic‘s Kindly Bent To Free Us after reviewing their three previous releases.  How these two guys combine metal, jazz, electronica and clean vocals with progressive arrangements is simply magical.  The new album is another example of emotional and rocking music performed by intelligent and talented musicians.  On Youtube you can watch their evolution from Florida death metallers through to the amazing genre-defying band they are today.

Engineers
Engineers

ALWAYS RETURNING BY ENGINEERS (KSCOPE)
Mark Peters and his Engineers band  come back after several years with Always Returning.  Peters recorded the songs in analog for a warm organic feel.  He’s also done two albums with electronic producer and Engineers member Ulrich Schnauss that are worth seeking out if you appreciate the meeting of these two talented and thoughtful musicians.

Always Returning is full of pretty songs that would float off in the clouds if it weren’t for the talents behind their making.  There’s a sense of sadness and longing permeating the album giving many songs a compelling emotional weight.”

exodus cover

BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT BY EXODUS (NUCLEAR BLAST)

Exodus kicked my ass this year with Blood In, Blood Out, a return to focused form by the Bay Area thrashers.  With founding singer Steve “Zetro” Souza back in the fold, the band are at the top of their game.

Food For The Worms is how you’ll feel after being battered and bruised by the last song on Blood In, Blood Out, a go-for-broke song that alternates between stupid-fast beats and heavyosity that still remains accessible.

 

Fairweather
Fairweather

FAIRWEATHER BY FAIRWEATHER (EQUAL VISION)

DC’s post-hardcore darlings Fairweather dropped out of  sight for a decade only to rise like a phoenix fully formed, as if they’d never left.  Though the members may be older and wiser, the songs on their Self-Titled return still contain the fire and passion the band instilled in their sound from their beginnings.

[On the song No Flags Fly] “The band surprise with a soulfullness in their instrumental interplay as well as a bare-it-all vocal performance by [Jay] Littleton.

The Glitch Mob unmasked
The Glitch Mob unmasked

LOVE DEATH IMMORTALITY BY THE GLITCH MOB (GLASS AIR)

The evil beat scientists that are The Glitch Mob crafted Love Death Immortality in their dark basements, feeding off the Big Beat spirits of their ancestors to make one of the funkiest albums of 2014 with some excellent vocal contributions from Metal Mother, Aja Volkman, Yaarohs and Sister Crayon.

“…[T]he trio of ediT, Boreta and Ooah have punched up the more visceral elements of their past efforts, bringing to mind The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers and The Crystal Method.  If you hear the young punk vitality of Liam Howlett, then the trio are doing something right.”

Photo credit: Wil Foster / rockcandyphoto.com
Information Society Photo by: Wil Foster / rockcandyphoto.com

_HELLO WORLD BY INFORMATION SOCIETY (HAKATAK International / MVD

_hello world is the fun(ky) return of Information Society, less interested in hairstyles and splashy music videos and more focused on moving booties.  Even if you didn’t care for their 80’s pop  hits, if you’re a fan of synth pop, Information Society show the youngsters how it’s done right. Not with auto-tune and computers cutting and pasting preset sounds but by actual drive, heart and talent.

There’s a techno dance party you might want to go to, and if Arnold Schwarzenegger tells you to ‘Get your ass to Mars’ you should listen.  The Prize is all pumping beats, buzzing synths and popping bass, with Kurt Harland singing ‘I’m coming up from the ground with my eyes on the prize’ like he’s trying to overcome some herculean challenge.  If the challenge is to get the listener to dance, then he’s succeeded.

J.D. and Jessica Wilkes of the Dirt Daubers Photo by Bret Miller
J.D. and Jessica Wilkes of the Dirt Daubers Photo by Bret Miller

WILD MOON BY J.D. WILKES AND THE DIRT DAUBERS (PLOWBOY RECORDS)

J.D. Wilkes and the Dirt Daubers started out the year right with their jumping rhythm and blues album Wild Moon. Wilkes also heads Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers but this is his new baby.  Joined by wife and bassist / vocalist Jessica, drummer Preston Corn and guitarist Rod Hamdallah (also of the Shack Shakers) , Wilkes sings, plays guitar, bass and harmonica on a collection of riveting and rocking songs about good love gone bad, bad love gone worse and all the things that make life worth living with an understated aw shucks delivery that is inviting and enjoyable for even people that aren’t normally fans of the sound he’s keeping alive. And Jessica’s sass and sway is a wonder to hear, and pleasantly surprised at this new voice in roots rock.

Here’s what Wilkes had to say in an interview we did at the beginning of the year when asked who he was thinking about when writing and recording Wild Moon:  “I guess Little Walter, Ray Charles, a little Creedence, a 60′s rock and blues and R&B thing.  There’s something intangible, there’s something like a Ouija board: you never know what you’re going to get out of it.  All these personalities coming together in the middle.  There’s something odd and cool about this record when you listen to it.  Its a weird, dark feeling you get in the end, you can’t put your finger on it.  I get that over and over, even though I took a trip back after recording it because I was sick of hearing it.  Then I went back and listened to it and it gave me a weird, cool feeling, its kind of dark and strange and dreamlike.  I’m glad that still comes through, even after hearing it to death.

Days of the Fallen Stars
Days of the Fallen Stars

DAYS OF THE FALLEN STARS BY JUNIUS (PROSTHETIC)

On Days of the Fallen Stars, Junius inspired my to write a short story instead of a standard album review.  Their uplifting yet dark rock sound is epic in scope and in a live setting absolutely thrilling.  Play their music loudly and revel in the soaring vocals and muscular performances of Junius.

He breathed in deeply the smells of freshly cooked meals, of perfume and musk, felt a pleasant chill as the trees and plants exhaled their life-giving oxygen.  Then the trumpet announced the arrival of the night and the audience got to their activities with a crash of cymbals.

Lightfoils Photo by Shawn Brackbill

HIERARCHY BY LIGHTFOILS (SAINT MARIE RECORDS)

On Hierarchy Lightfoils wrapped me in a warm blanket of lush melodies and female vocals.   Lightfoils excel at blissed out vocals and guitars set to punky and punchy bass and drums, the band manage to bring something new to the shoegaze genre.

Here’s what drummer John Rungger said in our interview:  “The basic tracks for the album were recorded with us all in the same room, playing the songs. Something that doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should nowadays. I think it gives it an organic base that translates through to the rest of the music.

Machine Fucking Head 2014
Machine Fucking Head 2014

BLOODSTONE AND DIAMONDS BY MACHINE HEAD (NUCLEAR BLAST)

Machine Head continue to amaze with Bloodstone and Diamonds, their first on Nuclear Blast and with new bassist  Jared MacEachern.  It’s also their highest charting album to date.  Epic doesn’t even begin to describe the songs on the album.  Progressive in the best sense, Robb Flynn and band leads the listener on a journey through hate and hope, with heavy yet fast instrumentation and intelligent lyrics and impassioned vocals.  Bloodstone and Diamonds reveals new facets every time you listen.  

Photo Credit: Shawn Brackbill
Nothing Photo by: Shawn Brackbill

GUILTY OF EVERYTHING BY NOTHING (RELAPSE RECORDS)

Coming out of the hardcore scene, Nothing‘s Dominic Palerno wanted something different for his new life after his time in prison.  Inspired by the shoegaze bands of the 90’s he began Nothing.  With the release of Guilty of Everything music fans the world over are sure Palerno is on the right musical track with his beautifully noisy new songs.  They’re touring constantly so be sure to be on the look out for this amazing new band.

B&E begins in a pleasant mid-tempo, their wall of sound getting knocked down to an anxiously mellow segment reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s Animals album before tearing into their instruments for a heart-wrenching finale that will leave you gasping for breath.

seasurfer band
Seasurfer

DIVE IN BY SEASURFER (SAINT MARIE RECORDS)

Since learning of Saint Marie Records this year I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every album I’ve bought and reviewed (see Lightfoils, SPC ECO).  Their Static Waves compilations are a treasure-trove of excellence, now there’s three editions to delve into, the third physical release including a third disc of Slowdive covers.  German trio Seasurfer’s Dive In was my first purchase and I immediately fell in love with their drama and flair and dynamic arrangements. Singer Dorian E.  has range and control of her voice and her delivery is confident and sassy, the perfect foil for band leader Dirk Knight’s textured guitars and Mikel Wegener’s chunky bass.

Rose Berlin Garcia of SPC ECO
Rose Berlin Garcia of SPC ECO

SIRENS & SATELLITES BY SPC ECO (SAINT MARIE RECORDS)

In a year of amazing music SPC ECO has been busy. They released Sirens & Satellites, The Art of Pop, The Art of  Pop Remixes+ and the Nocturnal EP and 2+2=5 free downloads plus many singles.  The duo of  Dean Garcia, formerly of Curve, and artist daughter Rose Berlin juxtapose ice and fire throughout the songs on Sirens.

Make Me Say is brutal and bloody guitar slashes and crunchy rhythm loops, Rose purring and cooing like a mantis before taking off your head.”

Terrestrials
Terrestrials

TERRESTRIALS BY ULVER AND SUNN 0))) (SOUTHERN LORD RECORDS)

Terrestrials is an EP credited to Ulver and Sunn 0))) featuring contributions from multi-instrumentalist Daniel O’Sullivan, who performed with Sunn 0)))’s Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley for the band’s 200th show in Oslo, Norway in 2008.  The band jammed at Ulver’s studio and Ulver’s Krystoffer Rygg pieced together the performances with bassist Anderson, O’Sullivan adding trumpet and keyboards and Rygg contributing vocals along the way.  O’Sullivan has since joined Ulver. The end result is an  atmospheric, ominous and involving journey through the psychedelic reaches of space.

Eternal Return puts some of Ulver’s atmospheric dark beauty into the alloy with O’Sullivan’s languid keys softening  O’Malley’s sharp guitar strums and drones.  As the music surges, violins and trumpet float in.  At about the halfway mark the arrangement segues to a looping and vibrant synthesizer and Rygg’s velvety voice.  The finale drifts in with sawed violins, percussive guitars and menacing atmospheres.  Quivering strings fade out at the end.”

Eddie Spaghetti Photo by Bret Miller
Eddie Spaghetti Photo by Bret Miller

GET THE HELL BY SUPERSUCKERS (ACETATE RECORDS)

The Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band in the World, The Supersuckers, are back with their most rocking album in years, Get The Hell.  Their first without founding guitarist Rontrose Heathman, and first album with current drummer Christopher Von Streichan and new guitarist Marty Chandler.  Singer/bassist Eddie Sphaghetti and Dan “Thunder” Bolton lead the charge and wail on the future classics Something About You and Pushin’ Thru.

Supersuckers’ Get the Hell is focused on boot kicking, middle finger raising and sing-along anthems sure to please the most jaded of music fans.

Family photo by Cassandra-Bialek
Walking Bicycles family photo by Cassandra-Bialek

TO HIM THAT WILLS THE WAY BY WALKING BICYCLES (HIGHWHEEL RECORDS)

The Chicago quartet Walking Bicycles are back with their most focused, angry and cathartic album to date in To Him That Wills The Way.  Noisy, catchy, danceable music, Walking Bicycles sound like no one else.

Here’s what guitarist and founder Julius Moriarty said in our interview about Walking Bicycles’ balance of noise and pop: “We have always tried to walk the line between weird and catchy.  If both exist within a track then there can’t be too much of either.”

Loco and "Weird" Al Yankovic
“Weird” Al Yankovic

MANDATORY FUN BY “WEIRD” AL YANKOVIC (RCA RECORDS)

There are a few constants in pop culture: talentless “artists” appear daily with a flick of an auto-tune machine and synthesizer preset to sell clothes and fast food, and one “Weird” Al Yankovic will make fun of the pop songs that these supposed singers and bands churn out.  He’ll also write some funny “homage” songs played in the style of someone, on 14th studio album Mandatory Fun Al tips his hat to Southern Culture on the Skids and Foo Fighters, as well as hoary oldies Crosby, Stills and Nash and Cat Stevens.  My favorite though, is First World Problems done in the style of The Pixies.  When Al rants about how the barista forgot to make a design on his banana latte you just have to laugh.  One of the best lyrics Yankovic has ever written is to Blurred Lines, here called Word Crimes, a song that is both hilarious AND educational.  Sample lyric: “You should never/ Write words using numbers/ Unless you’re seven/ Or your name is Prince”.  “Weird” Al Yankovic makes pop music palatable for those with intelligence, humor and self-awareness.

Photo by Jeff Elstone
Zola Jesus photo by Jeff Elstone

TAIGA BY ZOLA JESUS (MUTE RECORDS)

One of the most stunning albums of the year came from 25 year old Nika Rosa Danilova, aka Zola Jesus.  Her most accomplished album to date, Taiga references the coniferous ancient forests that cover 1/5th of the world and over northern Russia and Siberia.  The album is filled with soulful and textured electronic and live instrumentation and Danilova’s bold and emotional vocals.

Dangerous Days is catchy and often light, yet has a delicious and dark under current of churning and scraping synths that bring solidity to the song.  Danilova sings sultry and soaring, drawing you in to her world.”

diothisisyour1_375x164
This Is Your Life expanded album cover

RONNIE JAMES DIO – THIS IS YOUR LIFE BY VARIOUS ARTISTS (RHINO RECORDS)

Anyone that calls themselves a metal head or fan of rock’n’roll should know the name Dio.  Ronnie James Dio passed on to the great stage in the sky but his legacy lives on in the lives and spirits of musicians the world over.  This Is Your Life is a tribute to the great man and a thrilling listening experience.  The album is also a great introduction to bands in the heavy metal arena as they all do a fantastic job of channeling the soul and positive energies of Dio.

I confess to knowing nothing of Adrenaline Mob but their take on Black Sabbath’s Mob Rules is killer.  I mean, this song wails, kicks ass, all those metal clichés.  The song was Sabbath’s attempt to remain relavent in the punk era is clear in the fast pace and raw power and the suitably named band distill all the fury of the original and spit out flames. Amazing guitars at the end too.”

(by Bret Miller)

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Luke Potter

lukepottersosugar1So Sugar by Luke Potter (Self-released)

At long last, Luke Potter’s first official full length album has been released onto the world at large, and it was surely worth the wait. Pure power pop rock complete with wondrously infect-ious choruses, the ten cuts featured on So Sugar would sweeten up the day of even the most sour of music critic. Based out of the UK, it won’t be long before the world discovers Luke Potter. Managed by Johnny Wright and Melinda Bell for Wright Entertainment (Justin Timberlake, Before You Exit) and Gina Orr of Orrigami Entertainment (David Archuleta, Crystal Bowersox), the star making machine is in place for this massive talent ready to break out into the big leagues.

The disc kicks into supersonic gear with the rocking refrains of the title track So Sugar – instantly hooking the listener in for a stratospheric ride into the heart of an up-and-coming singer / songwriter. There It Goes Again will remain in your head for ages with its delightful melodies and Luke Potter’s expressive vocals. Crazy Enough is a gorgeous ballad sure to captivate the senses of hopeless romantics and dreamers all over the world. Then it’s back to pop rocking when Sadie shows up to joyously set your imagination in flight.

lukepottersosugar2A definitely highlight on So Sugar is the poignant One Day, where a lush musical score and Luke Potter’s vividly emotional vocals render this piece an absolute standout. One Day would be the classic any artist who hope to write, and it shows Potter’s wonderful knack for delivering a truly timeless song. Terrified exhibits yet another side to Potter’s songwriting, complete with pensive lyrics and a magnetic chorus. It’s Okay To Dream is another top notch track destined to become a Luke Potter fan favorite.

I want to wake up every day in a different place, maybe today LA,” sings Luke Potter with a wide-eyed wonder on the spiraling Possibility. Chance Worth Taking is a wistful track about navigating through the grand puzzle known as love. And then closing out So Sugar on a gloriously positive note is the magnificent I’m Alive, a track that absolutely soars into the stratosphere.

The production work on So Sugar is first rate, featuring the superlative work of the noted Bleu (Demi Lovato, Jonas Brothers) sending the material into even greater heights. Be sure to check into So Sugar by Luke Potter, and catch up with rising star. With an album so exhilarating filled to the brim with radio friendly compositions, expect to see Luke Potter signed to a major label any day now!

(Review by Ken Morton)

Luke Potter on Facebook

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WALKING BICYCLES RELEASE TWO NEW VIDEOS FOR “SO” AND “BADADA” ON YOUTUBE

walking-biycles_xray_digitalWalking Bicycles have two new videos up at Youtube for So and Badada.  Both songs are from their latest album and the videos incorporate live footage filmed at their record release show this past summer at the Empty Bottle in their hometown of Chicago.  The visuals capture the controlled chaos and intensity of Walking Bicycles, and the energy singer Jocelyn Moriarty gives out both onstage and in the studio.

Walking Bicycles balance noise and pop elements with cathartic dynamics and these two songs and accompanying videos are just a small sample of what the band are about.

Walking Bicycles released their latest album To Him That Wills The Way via their label Highwheel Records in August, their first in four years.  The band was forced into hiatus when guitarist/songwriter Julius Moriarty was sentenced to three years in prison on marijuana charges.  Moriarty opened up about his experiences with Noisey back in August.  It’s an inspiring read and it shows Moriarty and wife Jocelyn coming out of the experiences stronger for having been through them.

Walking Bicycles are currently working on tracks for a new album and I, for one, am excited to hear where the revitalized band is going next!

LINKS:
So video
Badada video
Noisey Interview
Highwheel Records
Highwire Daze Interview

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Erasure

erasure1The Violet Flame by Erasure (Mute Records)

I actually enjoy this whole CD, and the deeper you get into it, the better it gets. The Violet Flame is the 16th studio album from UK electro-pop duo which has lasted close now to nearly 30 years in the music pop business. The music will sound like the old 1980’s synth style we have become a custom to. You’ll still find Andy Bell’s crystal lush vocals ringing out over Vince Clarke’s upbeat lavish melodies. The album comes across as a lightness of touch which makes you enjoy the bass dance background beat to get you moving faster. Many of the songs are infectious. My favorite song on here would make for a great video which is: Under The Wave. Under The Wave would also work well for radio. This CD is one of those that grows on you with each listen. This was really a nice treat because I had to really listen to the whole CD this time around instead of only getting a couple of great tracks. Listen to other great songs on here as well such as Paradise, Be The One, Elevation and Promises.

The Violet Flame is a great comeback to last year’s great package Snow Globe for Christmas. As a matter of fact the same producer from Snow Globe is the one who is also producing The Violet Flame. The Violent Flame should get the best production and best overall produced album of the year.

(Review by Jonathan D. Wright)

Erasure on Facebook

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Zola Jesus

zolajesustaiga1500_6Taiga by Zola Jesus (Mute Records)

Nika Roza Danilova’s Zola Jesus releases are works of a singular talent, made by someone willing to experiment with styles, textures, traditional instruments and a voice that shines through strong and has an emotional weight not heard often enough in modern music. Listening through Danilova’s back catalog of EPs and full length albums brightness shines through the dark, upbeat tempos burst out of seemingly gloomy mood music, pop songs are buried in goth/industrial trappings yet always with Danilova’s voice the prominent instrument, the ship you ride through the storm.

To ground  the music of Taiga, Danilova and her husband spent time on Vashon Island, a forest island in the Puget Sound near Seattle, only reachable by ferry.  She wrote the songs there in the peaceful, natural surroundings.  Taiga is a word that refers to Coniferous forests, the likes that cover over 1/5 of the northern hemisphere, specifically in Russia and Siberia.  Places removed from people and technology where the chatter of the modern world is replaced by the sounds of wind through the trees, the bending of branches, the chatter of birds, the melting of ice.  Danilova then took her songs and with the aid of co-producer Dean Hurley, who has worked as a sound editor and music arranger for the likes of David Lynch, crafted a collection of beautiful, mysterious and heartfelt songs.

(Photo by Jeff Elstone)
(Photo by Jeff Elstone)

Danilova also wisely couched some of the incredible songs on Taiga in the framework of modern music, mainly that of the dancefloor-ready pop songs of today.

The opening title track is our introduction: her heavenly layered voice repeating the word “taiga”, a blast of drum’n’bass, a shadowing of ominous horns.  Dangerous Days, is catchy and often light, yet has a delicious and dark undercurrent of churning and scraping synths that brings solidity to the song. Danilova sings sultry and soaring, drawing you into her world.  Dust is a torch song with horns that pepper the song, itchy electronics and a pretty breakdown at the end.  Hunger grabs you immediately with brash horns and pounding drums, Danilova growling “I got the hunger, I got the hunger in my veins/ I won’t surrender, still it takes me away” like a mantra.  Go* blends primal and earthly with heavenly and electronic elements, another cathartic chanted vocal delivery “And I say no, I say no one can stop me now/And I say no, I say no one can stop me now” that will have you wanting to follow her wherever she takes you.  While Ego does have sounds in it other than vocals, it’s Danilova’s voice that is front and center, clear and powerful, a Venus rising from the ocean.  Lawless starts up with clattering percussion and a creepy cool undertow backing soulful and searching vocals, then majestic strings join in and the song morphs into a brightly-colored butterfly.

Taiga closes with It’s Not Over, a song that combines Danilova’s love for both dark and brooding and big and bold, as she sings enigmatically about only she knows what, chanting “It’s not over tonight” at the end of the song making you believe that whatever she’s working through will have a positive outcome and she’ll be stronger for it.

The artist known as Zola Jesus is only 25 and Taiga took four years to make. Her new album reveals an intelligent and bold woman willing to bare her soul in her vocals even while her moving lyrics are pictures to be interpreted by the listener however they like.  And the music contains traditional and modern instrumentation with an ear towards the dancefloor while retaining a serious significance that will keep music fans interested and engaged for years to come.

Go was originally released in 2010 on the Valusia EP as Sea Talk.

(Review by Bret Miller)

LINKS:
Official Website
Facebook
Soundcloud
Youtube
Video for Orbital’s New France (with Zola Jesus)

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The Ocean Blue at The Troubadour

theoceanbluejl1The Ocean Blue, The Troubadour, September 9, 2014

The famous West Hollywood venue was filling in for second support band Western Lows as the trio started out quiet and midtempo, their gazy style soon picked up tempo and distortion ending their short set to guitar squalls and glorious applause.

Perhaps as a joke to the Hershey, Pennsylvania band, Nirvana blared over the speakers as the members set up their equipment.  The Ocean Blue was an antidote to all the distorted guitar angst of the “grunge” bands.  They started out their set with Mercury, one of their peppier numbers from second album Cerulean, singer/guitarist David Schelzel and bassist Bobby Mittan still boyish after all these years. Their first two albums were written and released while the members were still teens and it is on the edge of the loss of innocence that some of their best music rests.  The band followed up with the more muscular Sad Night, Where Is The Morning? from their 2013 comeback album Ultramarine and it was evident that the band still has the fire and melodic sense to write thrilling and catchy tunes.  Shelzel prepared the audience to hear some new tunes, that it wasn’t going to be a nostalgia tour, yet their music is so timeless, decades of music blended into an exciting flashback and forward to good times throughout our lives, The Ocean Blue our soundtrack.

theoceanbluejl2The title track to their second album Cerulean came next, Shelzel’s ethereal vocals were well grounded by Mittan’s muscular bass playing. From the new Waterworks re-release the band broke out previously unreleased Can’t Let Go, a song that echoes 80’s British bands pre-Brit-Pop with well-paced vocals that channeled JAMC’s Jim Reid and Ian Curtis for thrilling effect.  Released on the original Waterworks, the lush Pedestrian had a shuffling beat and dramatic and jangly guitar work from Oed Ronne.

Sublime on album is one thing, but live, Mittan and Anderson’s rhythm section really boost the energy of the song, Shelzel’s lilting vocals took us on flights of fancy, the audience singing along “sub-bu-bu-buliiime”.  On Vanity Fair, from their S/T debut the boys took the song from twee to raveup with the tempo winding up, Mittan and Anderson looking at each other to see how fast they could get. On Give it A Try the band once again displays power and focus and Mittan’s slinky bass rhythm smoldered while Ronne’s guitars sizzled and sparked.

theoceanbluejl3After the double whammy of Ballerina Out of Control and Between Something and Nothing, The Ocean Blue presented us with a previously unreleased song that Shelzel wrote in high school.  The band originally recorded it for the movie Naked In New York but the song was cut.  Now fans can find it on the Waterworks reissue.  City Traffic sounds like the singer was listening to a whole lot of Peter Weller as a teen.  The breezy and fun song  kept the audience moving even as some were leaving the venue.  The Ocean Blue finished the night with a rough version of The Cure’s Just Like Heaven, Shelzel inviting the audience to sing along. We didn’t dissapoint, raising the song to a celebration of the power of music.

The Ocean Blue in 2014 look and sound like they’re doing it for all the right reasons, without outside stress, releasing their music on their own.  The sold out Troubadour proved that the boys still have much to offer from their past accomplishments as well as their future endeavors. I’ll be at their next L.A. show!

(Review by Bret Miller –  Photos by Jack Lue)

LINKS
The Ocean Blue 
Facebook
Korda Records
Shelflife Records
City Traffic Video
Can’t Let Go Video

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