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Jessie Frye is a pop artist that should be making the kind of songs that should be anthems and heard in every other TV show and movie but for the time being, she isn’t on that level. However, one listen to Obsidian (self-released) and you’ll realize she should be.
What I like about Frye is the strength of her voice, the music, and the songwriting found within. She’s not afraid to show occasional vulnerability but she’s also not afraid to show strength in what she can provide and what she seeks in life. It’s done in a manner that avoids cliches and hashtag lyricism that has become tiresome in the last few years. I love hooks, I love songs that will grab me but not when it ends up sounding like the last ten movie trailers I watched online. A song like “White Heat” has the kind of uplifting feel that would make it appeal to a wide range of people, but sometimes hearing someone who offers some level of perceived strength will make people fear listening, as if the simple task of listening is harmful. Frye could easily move through a wide range of genres, from country to hard rock but here, she plays around with notions of pop and power pop with occasional dips into the rock pool. Some of the music also leans towards the freedom and innocence of early to mid-80′s new wave, almost as she’s trying to let people know where she may be rooted but also where some of her influences reside. I find with Obsidian that when one song hooks you, the rest of them will and everything will fall into one cohesive place. Listen to it as a whole and then pick and choose. You may find picking and choosing involves you choosing the entire album as a favorite.
Deadkill have created an album that very much sounds like the Seattle rock I’ve known of for the last 30 or so years, with hints of Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Coffin Break, and other bands where things cross over the boundaries of rock, punk, hardcore, and metal to become distinctively Seattle while showing love for all of the bands they’ve been listening to in their dingy basements. No, Never! (Good To Die) sounds like the kind of music you specifically want to buy beer or drugs for, head into a room and listen to it on your own or with friends. If you’re with friends, you’ll want to jump over the walls and couches to get your rage out or even better, you head to other concerts and sing Deadkill’s songs over the other band. It’s the kind of music that are filled with lyrics of hope and hopelessness, losing and finding, along with redefining what it means to dwell in the pity but knowing that the small bit of anger felt (expressed in the music) will only lead to better days. Someday. It’s the kind of record you’d expect to not intentionally want but when you want into a record store and hear them playing it, you realize this is the one that you needed to hear at that moment, and it’s the one that will change you in some fashion. It would be silly to call this a feel good album, because “feel good albums aren’t supposed to sound this raw and rugged” but you know and understand the music, and why it sounds the way it does. No, Never! suits you because it sounds like the kind of melodic punk that was placed in front of you to disrupt everything, and for the better.
This song is not about heading to the store to buy some toilet tissue because you or a loved one have a serious case of diarrhea, but “Store Runs” is a song by David May and Gunnah that touch on a different type of runs, specfically one that lacks color or odor. The song is from their latest Video 94 EP (which you may download for free, and I hope this project leads to more from them in the future.
If you know of Prince Rogers Nelson, you will know who Andre Cymone is. Cymone eventually had a solo career which lead to one of my favorite songs of the 80′s, “The Dance Electric”. As with a number of artists who were close with Prince, Cymone moved on and seemed to have stayed quiet for awhile, but no longer. Cymone has called California home for a few years and he is back with a new album called The Stone (Blind Tango). I will say that if you’re expecting to hear a continuation of the music he created throughout the 80′s, think again.
Cymone is showing that he is very much a rocker, which wouldn’t be surprising considering some of his musical roots. As I’m listening to the music on The Stone, I found myself enjoying the nice mixture of rock, popl, and soul, some of the lyrics having a bit of an attitude and swagger, but also finding him having a good time with the music he writes and plays. If there’s anyone to compare this style of music to, I would say it is close to the works of Dan Reed or even the grit of Garland Jeffries. Some of it sounds like the kind of new wave that would’ve ended up becoming stronger had the mainstream not had enough with it, or at least the influence of what was to become what it is today. Lyrically, they range from the sultry (“Naked”) to deep and compassionate love (“If Not For You”), while “One Day” seems to touch on a friendship that used to be strong but no longer. The title suggests that perhaps there will be a time when a meeting between them will take place again.
I honestly don’t see the music on The Stone taking off on pop radio or within pop circles, but I would love to be wrong on that. I can, however, see these eleven songs doing well in different circles, be it for television shows or movies, where the songs reach an audience perhaps not originally intended, but it touches those who want to feel something from strong material. Cymone enjoys balancing on a line between the savage and the sanctuary, realizing that no matter what path one takes, let’s manage to get to a final destination in one piece. As the liner notes say in the album, “let the change begin” and if this is a means of change for him, he is going in the right direction. There is confidence in Cymone’s music, and I hope people will sense this.
(The Stone will be released on February 18th on MP3, vinyl, and compact disc. You may order it below via Amazon.)
The title of this short 4-song album is called 51°37’35″N8°42’05″E, which suggests we are meant to punch in those coordinates and figure out where that is. I found it to be east of the city of Dortmund in Germany, but whether that is meant to be what it refers to or something that is only found in videos games, I can’t answer that. What I can answer is that Leaf has created an album called 51°37’35″N8°42’05″E and it is my mission, our mission, to find out where he plans on going with the sounds provided.
The tracks are a mix of ambient tranquility with segments of down tempo grooves and minimalism. Some portions of this would sound perfect for dramatic scenes in movies or even video games, where things are meant to seem surreal and mysterious. The songs don’t have actual titles, alhtough since they are called “Part I”, “Part II” and so on, I would assume “51°37’35″N8°42’05″E” is the title track. “Part III” is something that almost borders on the serene feel of Portishead’s works, except Leaf tends to go slightly off-tempo at times so it’s not as super tight as the Portis-folks. “Part IV”, the album closer, is a song you may not want to listen to down a dark highway at 2:42am, it may lead to thoughts of horror, even though the sporadic synthesized rhythms may be sexy to some (and it can be if you allow your mind to go that way). Most of the album is about creating a feeling, an aura, and the funky moments are isolated to where you really have to listen for it if that’s what you want. 51°37’35″N8°42’05″E is an album you could also meditate to, but it may take you somewhere unexpected, perhaps the coordinates will lead the way.
It has been almost five years since I last heard from Lara MacMillan and when the name came through, I had to think “where did I hear of this lady before?” I then remembered I had reviewed her Miss Mercury album back in the summer of 2009, so I already knew that this new album was going to be quite good.
The comparisons I made five years ago are still valid, I feel the same way about her now as I did then. This time around, I felt the song structures and lyrics had a feel very similar to Sara Bareilles’ “Love Song”, except MacMillan is not singing about singing or whether or not her music is worthy enough to last. The heart of MacMillan is in these lyrics and music, and it’s the kind of voice I would prefer to hear other other singers who may be more successful but aren’t as strong or heartfelt. As I’m listening to songs such as “Good-bye Tennessee”, “Keepin’ Me From Sleep” and the great “All Your Black Colours” I started thinking in a different way. Can McMillan still be a powerhouse in 2014? She easily could, but the way the music industry works today, it’s almost a crap shoot not unlike Bareilles having a hit with “Love Song”, but if there is that one chance, why not take that chance? I could easily see someone like MacMillan take a chance on a show like The Voice or American Idol but would that ruin her in some way and limit her talent to just being a “talent show singer”? I would hope not. By me even suggesting she could go on these shows, I feel she has the versatility and capability to sing a wide range of styles. It’s not just straightforward pop I hear in her voice, even though she does that brilliantly. Now, could she even be a contender to do commercial jingles? A gig is a gig, and she could easily be effective in that too, I would want someone who could take mundane lyrics and make them sell a project. Yet would you want to be known as a sales pitch singer or would/does that matter anymore?
I’m mentioning this because I hear someone whose voice does wonders, and whose lyrics and musicianship deserves a lot of attention. I could easily see her songs also being covered by others so that her light shines bright towards that direction. Whatever direction MacMillan chooses, I hope she keeps on doing it for the love of the music because she has a gift of song that is very much needed.
The first time I became familiar with The Flaming Lips name was in the early days of Rip magazine, when the magazine wasn’t afraid to show an alternate side to music before they became an all hard rock/heavy metal publication. Even the album reviews made them out to be wild musically and very few people, including themselves, thought they would be around 30 years later. Here they are, Oklahoma’s finest, still making fine music and productions. 2nd Cassette Demo (Lovely Sorts of Death) is self-explanatory, as it dips into the Wayne Coyne archives and shows the very young band from the late summer of 1983. They sound like a lot of punk bands from the area, but you’re hearing an Oklahoma perspective of what these guys wanted to be and eventually became. The rugged rock sounds like something you might hear on albums by The Stooges, MC5, Dead Kennedys, D.O.A., or the Sex Pistols. It very much has that lively spirit of “we want to rock and get the hell out of here, let’s see what we can do”, and what’s also heard is how the group were playing with volume and distortion. They were not the noisy mavens they would become three years later, but it’s obvious what they wanted to do.
Wild Dreams (self-released) is a short album running a little over 30 minutes, which for some might mean an EP but technically, an album over 26 minutes and 59 seconds is considered an album. Sue me. But do not sue Colleens, who create the kind of cool and smoothed out pop with rock and blues touches that will make people remember some great classic rock and oldies radio station that still plays the stuff, but not to the point of repetitious sweating to where it feels as if you’re drowning in a pool of your own sweat, which is gross but then again, it’s your own bodily fluids, why should anyone care you are drinking your own perspiration, right?
The bluesiness, for mat at least, comes from the use of the Hammond B-3 and the slide guitar, so immediately I’m reminded of something that is a cross between the Allman Brothers Band and George Harrison, especially evident in songs like “Do You Remember Love”. where about three-quarters of the way in it leads to a false crescendo before revealing its falsehood and coming to its proper conclusion. What I also liked was the string arrangements, which I didn’t expect to hear throughout this album when the first song started, but it was a brilliant addition for all of the songs and I hope this is what they’ll continue to do to make it an element of their sound. It’s very nice and moving to hear music pushed onto a public that needs to hear work like this, and while this may be loosely considered alternative, I’d rather hear work like this than what is the actual alternative to it.
(Wild Dreams will be released on February 4th.)
One thing that struck me about Amigos is how each song isn’t sure whether to remain within pop’s boundaries or strike out and rock the hell out of itself. At least that’s what I was getting out of this new EP by Cassorla, and I mean that in a positive way.
Each of the EP’s six songs stays minorly sensitive, in that one could easily hear how they started out acoustically, or almost like folk songs. Then they decided to apply some pop sensibilities and do it in a way that is very moving and powerful. I was thinking along the lines of a Matthew Sweet or Ben Folds, where all of the emotions in the lyrics are pushed within the limits they’ve established, but they restrain themselves from going over the edge. Yet you can hear what could happen if they went overboard, and I think that tentativeness is what will make fans want to experience this music in a live setting, in the hopes that the guys in Cassorla will go overboard and make these songs melt and drip. Pop is very much the keyword, and it’s driving pop with a nice rock edge but not explosive rock. Again, that’s where the tentativeness lies.
Cassorla is a band and a man, in this case, Ben Cassorla, and what some may also find of interest is the inclusion of actress Aubrey Plaza in the track “Bona Fide”. While she is seen in the video playing a saxophone, you’ll immediately realize it doesn’t sound like a normal saxophone. One will ask “is that a saxophone run through Auto-Tune?” or after another listen, it sounded more like a Stylophone more than a sax. Also, is that really Plaza playing or just Cassorla getting snarky? No matter, it’s a good song, and Amigos is a fine EP for friends and enemies who wish to drop their guard to become friends.
(Amigos will be released on February 4th.)
Even though his new album is called I’ll Only Break Your Heart (Darla), BVDUB’s music sounds quite festive throughout this four-track release.
Once again, Brock Van Wey goes through the motions of exploring the inner sanctity of his musical consciousness by stretching things a bit longer than the expected norm, although his expected norms are always in-depth and at times very mind blowing. I’m not sure if it’s because I had a different perspective during my listening of this new album, but it sounds like each of the four tracks on the album had three or four different segments, movements if you will, so that you can sense the different moods and textures a bit more. Not that taking the singular route is bad, but having three or four different movements made it feel as if this album had 12 to 16 songs. For me at least, each track will go through different things, whether it be how he arranges the vocal samples, adding different echoes and reverbs, or changing the keyboards and synthesizers or trying a different rhythmic/beat sequence. I found the diversity in textures quite nice in the album’s closing track, “Broken, Whole”, as if the title is suggesting what goes in (i.e. “the broken”) and what it may become (i.e. “whole again”). If you base your views of each song by title, it could easily be relationship-related but BVDUB is always in a mode of “love lost, love must be seeked again”) but with this album, I chose to ignore that upon first listen. “Broken, Whole” is quite funky and could easily be viewed in a slightly hip-hop or R&B context, or at least something you may expect to hear on a dance floor and not in a chillout lounge. What I’ve always liked about his use of vocals is how they’ll create melodies and countermelodies, and become a part of the bassline, maybe even a subliminal bassline. You may not even understand some of the lyrics, and that may be intentional. The vocals are used as color and may not be directly significant at first but once the vocals get out of the echo and reverb and can be heard distinctively, one gets a sense of what he may be trying to achieve.
I’ll Only Break Your Heart sounds less distant and more about the here and the now, it sounds more personal, although one can also hear this as a means of escaping and getting caught up in the emotions Van Wey is creating. He may only exist to break the heart of his listeners, but what a heartbreak.