Category Archives: Pop

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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ZOLA JESUS PREMIERES VIDEO FOR “DANGEROUS DAYS”

ZOLA JESUS PREMIERES VIDEO FOR “DANGEROUS DAYS” 
DIRECTED BY TIM SACCENTI

Video still taken from her new video, directed by Tim Saccenti

WATCH “DANGEROUS DAYS” HERE
NORTH AMERICAN TOUR STARTS OCTOBER 8TH

“TAIGA” OUT OCTOBER 7TH, 2014

Nika Danilova’s voice is an elemental, powerful thing.” (Best New Music) – Pitchfork

Zola Jesus’ most profound, accessible release to date.” – BILLBOARD Magazine

A beautiful electro-pop gem, and the only thing dangerous about it is how freaking addictive it is.” – NYLON

Elegant synth-pop banger” – SPIN Magazine

Danilova has a full-on anthem on her hands with this one.” – Flavorwire

NORTH AMERICAN TOUR DATES
10/8 – San Francisco, CA – Bimbo’s
10/9 – Los Angeles, CA – El Rey
10/16 – Chicago, IL – Thalia Hall
10/17 – Washington, DC – Hirshhorn Museum
10/19 – New York, NY – Webster Hall
Tickets available at www.zolajesus.com

Zola Jesus today unleashed her new video for “Dangerous Days” directed by contemporary visionary artist Tim Saccenti who has created an awe-inspiring backdrop for this anthemic song. Saccenti explains, “The song is a pure emotional plea, a future primitive call to arms. To create a moment of light in these dark times was our hope. Eschewing a heavy narrative we let the images of the Earth, filmed in wide screen and mixed with a tense unnatural presence, wash over the viewer while Nika communicates her powerful message.” Nika describes the video making process, “Working with Tim was effortless. His creative ambition to turn the abstract into a tangible feel is a rare treasure.” The video premiered today at Vogue.com. Watch and share the video for “Dangerous Days” here.

Zola Jesus’s TAIGA is due for release October 7th, 2014 on Mute (pre-order here: http://found.ee/taigadigital).

Nika is the 25-year-old behind Zola Jesus’ creative incarnations as sole singer and songwriter. Influenced by her time in Iceland, Vermont, and British Columbia, TAIGA was written on Vashon Island, WA and conjures all these places while creating a sonic space of its own that each listener can travel to, explore, hide in, and celebrate. Nika tracked and mixed the album in Los Angeles with co-producer Dean Hurley (David Lynch, Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse).At once challenging and accessible, TAIGA is a transition for Zola Jesus. Undeniably branded with what Nika terms a “piercing ambition,” the album is best described by the artist herself: “The music on the record is massive, with big brass and beats, crystal clear vocals…It’s the most accessible music I’ve ever made, but also the most earnest and passionate. I gave everything for this record, more than ever before.”

TAIGA TRACKLISTING
Taiga
Dangerous Days
Dust
Hunger
Go (Blank Sea)
Ego
Lawless
Nail
Long Way Down
Hollow
It’s Not Over

EUROPEAN TOUR DATES
10/29 – Bristol, England – Colston Hall
10/30 – Leeds, England – Belgrave Music Hall
10/31 – Glasgow, Scotland – Stereo
11/1 – Manchester, England – Manchester Cathedral – Columns
11/4 – Paris, France – Badaboum
11/5 – Strasbourg, France – La Laiterie
11/6 St Gallen, Switzerland – Palace
11/7 Geneva, Switzerland – l’Usine
11/8 – Reims, France – La Cartonnerie
11/10 – Köln, Germany – Gebäude 9
11/11 – Berlin, Germany – Berghain
11/12 – Hamburg, Germany – Uebel and Gefährlich
11/13 – Frankfurt, Germany – Zoom
11/14 – Brussels, Belgium – La Nuit Botanique
11/15 – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Melkweg
11/18 – London, England – KOKO
Tickets available at www.zolajesus.com
STREAM “DANGEROUS DAYS” HERELISTEN TO MAPS REMIX OF “DANGEROUS DAYS” HERE
 
 
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Midge Ure

midgeurefragile1Fragile by Midge Ure (Hypertension Music)

The vast and glorious career of Midge Ure features time spent in such notable bands as Visage, Ultravox and Thin Lizzy. The artist is also known for being the co-writer / producer of the Do They Know It’s Christmas? single for the Band Aid charity project with Bob Geldof in 1984.  Midge Ure also has a distinguished solo career, with Move Me being his last effort of original material released in 2001. Clearly demonstrating that all wonderful things are worth waiting for, Fragile by Midge Ure is an opulent masterwork whose sheer artistry should endear even the most hardened of music critic.

midgeure2Fragile commences with the exhilarating sounds of I Survived, a song of hope and perseverance that is wondrous to behold. Are We Connected then reverberates throughout your speakers like an exquisite dream. Let It Rise takes off into the stratosphere with its hypnotic passages – co-written by Christopher von Deylen from the electronica outfit Schiller.

The pulsating beats and vibrant vocals envelope the inspiring Become, a track that could be played all over the more adventurous radio airwaves. Star Crossed is a stunning composition, featuring breathtaking vocals rendering this poignant selection an absolute standout. Wire and Wood is a pensive instrumental showing Midge Ure at the very height of his creativity.

The onset of the haunting Dark, Dark Night then emerges, featuring the keyboards and programming of none other than special guest Moby. For All We Know conveys an explosive amount of emotions all within the realm of an ominous soundscape. Bridges is a second instrumental cut weaving an intriguing spell throughout. And then closing out the album is the tremendous title track Fragile, featuring Midge Ure’s heartfelt vocalist sweeping the listener towards a dazzling grand finale.

Fragile is a fragrant bouquet of goodness that should enrapture both ardent fans and those discovering the magic that is Midge Ure for the very first time.  Ten gorgeous tracks await all whom wish to endeavor upon the auditory journey, and it’s surely one that listeners will want to revisit time and again.

(Review by Ken Morton)

Midge Ure Official Homepage
Midge Ure on Facebook

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My Cardboard Rocket

ThePositiveThe Positive & Negative by My Cardboard Rocket (Self-released EP)

Many actually were introduced to A.J. Garces last year, as he traveled across the country on the Summerfest Tour as a support guitarist for Keep It Cute . Also on the bill were such notable bands as  We The Kings, Breathe Carolina, and The Ready Set.  Now a solo project has been launched with the moniker of My Cardboard Rocket – and judging by what’s ignited on the debut EP entitled The Positive & Negative, expect Garces and his pop rocking project to shoot straight up into the stratosphere. Containing five wildly infectious tunes that will remain embedded in your head long after the music spins to its grand finale, The Positive & Negative by My Cardboard Rocket is surely on the most electrifying new releases of 2014!

ajgarces1The countdown commences with the sweet sonic perfection of The Best Team, featuring the participation of Phillip Wolf in a hip hopping cameo. The fireworks continue with the blissful refrains of Dangerous, where opposites attract with wondrously addictive results. First Shot then envelops your speakers with its vibrant chorus and exhilarating vocal performance rendering this one an absolute standout.

Gold Watch is a reflective track about attaining your dreams no matter what adversity surrounds you, featuring another hip hopping guest solo, this time none other than YouTube sensation Nathan Ryan.   And then closing out the EP way to soon is the powerhouse inflections of Last Dance, where “Oh no, we’re dying at the disco, run, run, they’re never gonna catch us” is urgently conveyed to a ultra-pulsating beat.  An extraordinary, heart pumping conclusion showing A.J. Garces at the very height of his solo artistry.

Fans of acts such as The Ready Set and Goldhouse will surely unearth an all-out favorite when jumping aboard the soundscapes of My Cardboard Rocket. Even with these comparisons, A.J. Garces clearly demonstrates his own style and flair that will surely captivate all looking to discover some exciting new songs to enjoy. Be sure to check out what the talented A.J. Garces has to offer to world at large, because My Cardboard Rocket is destined for the brightest stars and beyond.

(Review by Ken Morton)

My Cardboard Rocket on Facebook

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The Downtown Fiction

losersandkings2Losers & Kings by The Downtown Fiction (Fearless Records)

This certainly seems to be the year The Downtown Fiction are slated to hit the big leagues, especially if their winning sophomore release Losers & Kings is any indication of what’s in store for this band. The best pop punk summer album since Yellowcard surfed effortlessly through the streets of Ocean Avenue, Losers & Kings by The Downtown Fiction present 12 solid tracks of wildly infectious tunes. After three EP’s and a previous full length entitled Let’s Be Animals, expect this new puppy to roar into the hearts and minds of many a music fan.

downtownfiction2014The kick-off track Some Place On Earth is pure pop perfection, a wistful track of epic proportions with a driving chorus ready to hook the listener in for even more glorious anthems ahead. Hope I Die On A Saturday Night is certainly a grim title for a track, but the melodies are so spiraling and joyous, you’ll be singing along to this one for the many days to come. Don’t Count Me Out is a song of perseverance that could be an anthem for anyone searching for that elusive dream.

Kiss My Friends recalls the power pop movement from the 80’s, brought back with an ultramodern twist – it’s the albums second single and it’s sure to ignite a frenzy when performed live. The pace is then slowed down a bit with a visit to Santa Cruz, where the gorgeous refrains of “I’ve got my skateboard, I’m never coming home” jubilantly ring through. “This one’s for the broken hearted,” the lyrics proclaim on the radiant No Generation, with its chorus jangling through your head like a wondrously rebellious dream.

Cool Kids has a Beatlesque sound that will rock and roll your world while So Called Life is filled with attitude and style set to grooving melody. Big Mistakes especially shows off Cameron Leahy’s emotional vocals combining well with the soaring melodies. Right Where We Left Off is a definitive highlight, a heartfelt acoustic ballad demonstrating another side to The Downtown Fiction sound. And then closing out Losers & Kings on an all-out rocking note is Sometimes, leaving an indelible impression with its breathtaking vibrancy.

The musicianship found within The Downtown Fiction is inspired and resourceful, featuring the talents of the aforementioned Cameron Leahy on vocals and guitar, David Pavluk on bass and vocals, Wes Dimond on guitar and vocals, and Kyle Rodgers on drums. The band has grown tremendously since their inception in 2008, and with Losers & Kings, The Downtown Fiction appear ready to transport a brilliant career in music into an uptown reality!

(Review by Ken Morton)

The Downtown Fiction on Facebook

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