Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sufjan Stevens - "The Lakes of Canada" Cover

I have long been a fan of the Innocence Mission especially of their unforgettable staple, "The Lakes of Canada." So when I stumbled across this video on William Fitzsimmons' MySpace page a few weeks back I was really delighted. Especially since it is a take on the song, by another favorite of mine, Sufjan Stevens.

Take a listen.

And while you are at it, look up the work of LaBlogothegue on YouTube, their videos are raw and seem to capture the true essence of the artist being filmed. Really beautiful stuff.

Anyways, here is the vid... enjoy.



-Mark Dougherty

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Project 86 - Rival Factions / Concert Review

Project 86
Rival Factions

Tooth & Nail 2007


I stood, sweat soaked, left ear muffled and possibly damaged, watching the members of Project 86 packing up their gear on the stage. What had just occurred: a frenzy of five bands, showcasing their talent for aggressive heavy rock branching in different directions respectively. The first four were edging towards the new breakdown- oriented heavy rock with raspy high screams and deep growls, some giving a fresh approach which was nice. The temperature in the small venue was sweltering, but I stayed cool under a lone air vent in the ceiling for most of the show. That was until Project 86 took the stage.

I have long been a Project fan. It’s been about a decade. Now, weathered from the major label storms and finally feeling comfortable to make the music they want, their shows are a world apart from the ones of their beginnings.

This time around they’re promoting Rival Factions, their sixth album. An almost 180 from their previous album, it’s more punk, more gothic, more industrial, and musically a far cry from what Project fans would come to expect. But lead singer Andrew Schwab is unwavering in his signature speak/scream vocals and poignant,
aggressive lyrics. On Rival Factions, he becomes more of an exhibitionist, as an attempt to be as forward and honest with his mistakes and beliefs.

On stage Schwab sings with pointed finger toward the crowd, teaching them of his gained wisdom from personal tragedies and experiences. The band plays fierce and calculated behind him.

Rival Factions in many parts looks at the band itself, the expectations it has faced, the success and failures it has had in its over ten year existence. Schwab, in the middle of it all, poetically and hopefully looks forward to continuing, simultaneously looking back to where he come from. In the most memorable track on the album, “The Forces of Radio Have Dropped a Viper Into the Rhythm Section” Schwab compare himself to analog tape, and in the digital world he declares “you don’t expect me to rear my head, but I’m not dead.”

Well after midnight, they took the stage and proved how alive they are.
Standing less than two feet from guitarist Randy Torres as he bangs out the distorted riffs on his Gibson, I reminisced back to the four or five times I’ve seen them over the years. I noticed they had aged, but that they still know how to make good, original hardcore music, and still stand apart from the new artists that come along and play more of the same.

They played a solid show. My usual complaint is that their shows are too short, and not full of surprises for a long time fan like me. This time was about the same, but they pulled out a few I hadn’t heard before, which was nice.

Their new angle with Rival Factions channels Depeche Mode in songs like “Molotov” and “Normandy,” and in songs like “Put Your Lips to the T.V.” they bring more energy than they’ve ever had. It’s definitely a new approach in a time where most rock comes out sounding generic and uninspired.

During the stage break down, Randy Torres took a break from packing his gear, and sat on the edge of the stage. I’d had conversations with him in the past, and my sweat drenched self has a question for him. Why such a difference in sound with the new album? “Well,” he began, obviously drained from the tour, the heat, and the late night, “we just didn’t want to make the same album twice.”

I left him at that, because when rock radio all blends together and many bands are indistinguishable in their genre, what else needs to be said? No Project album is perfect, but they are always reaching. For new sounds and dynamics, for changes in culture, and for hope.

-Mark Wingerter

Friday, July 20, 2007

Sorry for the hiatus! We have been away and our writers are diligently working on new material to rock your socks... expect new reviews later today!

Good to be back :-)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible


The Arcade Fire
Neon Bible
Merge 2007

The Arcade Fire's Neon Bible is not entirely different than Funeral - contrary to what most reviewers would have you believe. Sure, it isn't exactly the same, but it's not jazz either.

As someone who enjoyed Funeral, but didn't think it was the be all end all 2004-2005, I find the latest release to sound a bit more mature, and thought through.

The Arcade Fire always struck me as the drama club putting together a band. This is not terrible, and I don't want to come across as cutting down on the drama clubs around the country. But, everything is just a little too staged with lots of mimicry. Like when the sound like The Pixies, you'd have a hard time telling that it wasn't actually The Pixies. The singer screams. The singer croons, and he does it as well as anyone out there - except for Frank Black. The funny thing is, I find the Arcade Fire's music much more honest when the female vocalist takes over - even if she does do a hell of a Bjork impression.

The new album follows the same pattern. A lot of mimicry, fused with a lot of honest Arcade Fire moments.

For example, if you are someone who wonders what Bruce Springsteen would sound like if he broke through in 2007, this is the album for you. Yes, not only The Pixies and Bjork, but it sounds like Springsteen too. Again, the music is good, the songs are good, but c'mon!

Thankfully, the whole album isn't Bruce, or The Pixies or Bjork, but there's enough there that you might find yourself reaching for your Nebraska album before the end. The rest of the album is very good - a bit darker than Funeral, which I enjoy - but nothing that is unique or new. Nothing comes across as totally emotionally honest.

Now, for all of my judgments above, I have to admit that I enjoy this album - a lot. It's the love child of the aforementioned Springsteen - at times it even had me thinking Jesus Mary and Chain and Sisters of Mercy (see: "Black Mirror / Black Planet").

Standout tracks include:
- Keep the Car Running (Could be a cover from Born in the USA)
- Intervention (If you loved Funeral, this is your track)
- No Cars Go (Probably the best track on the album)

Arcade Fire isn't a tribute band, but they aren't far from being one. They do an amazing job playing other people's music - a good enough job that I would recommend their records - but unless something changes with future releases, they aren't likely to be relevant in the future, but instead just a clone of what once was good.

-Curt Meinhold

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Kelly Clarkson - My December


Kelly Clarkson
My December
19 Recordings 2007

I am 26 going on 13.

Any time I read about an artist who ‘pushes boundaries’ and ‘writes a dark album’ and gives the big F-U to their record label, I’m all over it. (Maybe it’s all those years that I spent as an adolescent listening to The Cure in the dark.) This is what Kelly Clarkson has done with her new album My December. I am not heartbroken or unhappy. I am not angry about how a man did me wrong and left me for someone else. In general, I’m quite a happy person. But this doesn’t stop me from absolutely adoring this album.

I’m fully aware that this instantly makes me lose my indie credibility. Maybe you have even stopped reading this, but hear me out: My December is a pop album with a rock underbelly. It’s aggressive for such a heavily marketed woman. Imagine if you took Avril Lavigne out of the mall and off her skateboard, added a few years to her, and gave her some talent.

Kelly Clarkson has one of the best voices I’ve heard in a very long time. There’s grit to it, which only emphasises her edgy pop-anthems all the more. I guess this album is this decade’s Jagged Little Pill. Just because she happened to win American Idol, and her first album was full of a terrible mish-mash of songs with absolutely no direction doesn’t really matter. That was an album written by old men who get paid entirely too much money for writing forgettable songs.

She started moving towards a much different direction with her 2004 album Breakaway. On My December, there are songs with an almost metal feel. (Of course, if metal had melody, keyboards, and a pretty, well dressed brunette singing.) The guitars are loud, the drums are heavy, and she absolutely wails. The opening track ‘Never Again’ is the formula that made her an International success with Breakaway. I’d say it’s like a follow up to ‘Since U Been Gone’. I’ll admit that a couple of the songs are hit and miss, and I could definitely do without tracks like ‘One Minute’ and ‘Yeah’... It’s a bit too Joss Stone for my liking. The thing that surprises me the most are the acoustic tracks. ‘Irvine’ is a song that, if you didn’t know any better, you would assume it was someone like Marissa Nadler or Cat Power (if she was sane). Following this is the hidden track ‘Chivas’ which carries on in the same vein and sounds like a tour bus jam.

I’m not na├»ve enough to say that this album is anything more than a severe case of guilty pleasure. But that’s not to say that it’s not worthy of getting a proper review, because it is. Kelly Clarkson isn’t just a puppet on a string anymore. She values her music, she values what she does as an artist, and she co-wrote every song on the album. Just because they are pop songs and she won a reality TV contest a few years back doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have any weight or merit for fans of ‘Real Music’. I say good on her, for pissing off Clive Davis, and wanting to take control of the music that she’s putting out there. It might be mostly marketed towards girls in their late teens, but if you look a little deeper, you’ll uncover a lot more to the MTV-laden hit singles. These are solid songs, they have a point, and I am a fan. Sue me.

-Tiffany Fosberry

Monday, July 9, 2007

The National - "Start a War" Video

Most of you already know about my fixation for The National... well, this vid just added to that.


Check it out. Yes?!



-Mark Dougherty

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Bruce Huss - "Patience" from Patience


Bruce Huss
"Patience" from Patience

Self Released 2007


Instrumental acoustic guitar pieces have always had a soft spot in my heart. A really soft spot. Perhaps, this is because the first concert I ever attended (Crosby, Stills and Nash in Atlantic City, 1992) had an opener of Michael Hedges. Hedges' work was magical, at times it felt like I was listening to three guitars all at once — but it was only the one. He would strum away at his guitar almost like a percussive instrument, or he would make it sing like a delicate voice of an angel. A true gift.

Hedges became one of my favorites, ever, in any music medium (still to this day). And with his passing in the late 9o's there was a deep part to me that was heartbroken. But here, I have found a new voice on the acoustic guitar, a new master; Bruce Huss.

Huss is a rare talent, and on his gorgeously constructed instrumental, I am reminded of a warm sunny day, the kind that you sit and enjoy with a perfect glass of iced tea next to a deep country lake. Very pastoral and serene. It is what I feel when I listen to Huss. The same brilliance that I found with Hedges.

What astounds me with these guitar masters (and that is what Huss is) is how through one instrument they can produce such emotion and depth that full bands search for years to find (and sometimes never do). Patience has cool and soft delicate moments and a musical depth that sinks to the regions of your heart.

I urge you to look Bruce Huss up on iTunes and download it, or visit his myspace page at www.myspace.com/brucehuss. It is brilliant.

-Mark Dougherty

Monday, July 2, 2007

Jonah Michea Judy - Milk Sink


Jonah Michea Judy
Milk Sink

Self Released 2007


I was quite happy when the North Carolina based emo-acoustic singer songwriter, Jonah Michea Judy, contacted with a submission to the site. Normally, I have to tread through the abyss of MySpace pages, and search through peoples "top friends" and the like to hopefully, stumble across a musician that seems to have "the goods." And by "the goods" I mean, someone who seems to have that unique spirit to their music — demanding that you take notice. Such is the work of Jonah Michea Judy.

On first listen to this evocative singer, I was immediately transported to the early days of my college life when hordes of us would travel into downtown Philadelphia to see the then both alive and great Elliott Smith. Like Smith, Judy plays a type of song that plunges into the deep ravines and chasms of the soul. With musicians like these, it is kind of like staring into the sun; there is a deep part of you so very tempted to look but when you do, you know it hurts. And the passion the Judy sings with equates to such an experience.

Judy plays a solitary acoustic guitar, that could at times sound as soft as his breathy verses or as raw and passionate as his vocally explosive choruses. Imagine a mixture of previously mentioned Elliott Smith, with a little Trent Reznor circa Broken era and Dashboard Confessional.

It's good stuff. So take a listen (www.myspace.com/jonahmicheajudy).

-Mark Dougherty