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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Aaron Comess - Blues For Use



2014, Innsbruck Records

The Band
Aaron Comess came to fame playing drums for the Spin Doctors.  While that wild ride continues, Comess has also made a name for himself from his solo work, which blends rock, pop, jazz and world sounds into his own distinctive sound.  Comess’ most recent work is in collaboration with Teddy Kumpel and Richard Hammond.

The Album
Aaron Comess released his third solo album in May, entitled Blues For Use, consisting of 12 instrumental tracks.

The Buzz
Comess, Kumpel and Hammond are consummate professionals, and the music on Blues For Use is demonstrative of that fact.  The album waxes and wanes from aggressive to pensive.  Comess’ talents as a composer are often overlooked, but he drives the creative process here. 

Spotlights
“Hard Ball” focuses on the rhythm section in a percussive arrangement that sounds like an early outtake from Rush crossed with Pink Floyd.  “Guilty Until Proven Innocent” works a long, slow build into a plaintive yet ear-pleasing chorus.  The tight instrumental interplay is key here, with a subtle guitar lead that fluctuates in intensity.  Comess and company engage in a brilliant piece of non-visual art in “Sunrise”.  It’s a lazy, rolling number; the melody is a dog lying in the summer sun, occasionally rolling over to scratch its back in the dirt.  “Bajelirious” plays like an alternate James Bond theme.  The band is at their best here, with all cylinders pumping. 

Footlights
There’s little negative to say about the album.  There are slower moments, but they are part of the ebb and flow of the album.  There is definite inspiration here, but it is sometimes of the quieter, pensive kind.  Subtlety abounds.

The Rating:  4 Stars (Out of 5)

The Songs
Surprise, Pt. 1
Hard Ball
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
Sunrise
Gorilla
Bajelirious
Clear
Casa Colonial
Blues For Use
Moonrise
Finally
Surprise, Pt. 2

Where to Go
www.aaroncomess.com

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Delta Rae – Live at the Tralf – Buffalo, NY – June 25, 2014


Delta Rae – Live at the Tralf – Buffalo, NY – June 25, 2014

Delta Rae released their debut album, Carry The Fire, in 2012, and it was a musically mind blowing experience.  The intensity and quality of the music were breathtaking, and the album earned Desert Island Disc status.  I knew all of this walking into The Tralf last night, and yet I was not in the least prepared for the reality of Delta Rae on stage.

That intensity that comes through in the studio recording is a mere echo of what the band brings on the stage; and there the musicality of the band is absolutely unquestionable. Opening with a blend of “Dance In The Graveyards” and “Run”, Delta Rae established a surprisingly aggressive energy level from the get go.  And while it took the sound board the first song to get the vocal mix right, the band was nothing less than amazing out of the gate.  Up next was “Better Off Alone”; another knockout performance.  A brand new song, “Better Off Alone” followed, with Ian Hölljes opening up his impressive voice for the crowd.  It was an amazing moment; the first of many.  This led into a composite of “Is There Anyone Out There” and “Morning Comes”, which seemed to be a musical launching pad for the band.  Everything to this point was musically pristine and full of energy, but bar was about to be raised.

It began with Brittany Hölljes tackling “Bottom Of The River” like a woman possessed.  The entire band was taken with the primal rhythms of the song and it turned into not just a performance but an experience.  Liz Hopkins took over the mic for a cover of Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith’s “Because The Night” and blew the roof off the place.  Her intensity and tone were amazing, and the band matches her step for step.

The band went off mic for a new song; a moving and impressive turn entitled “Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This”.  Eric Hölljes took the lead this time, and the band backed him with a vocal collage that was unforgettable.  Up next was another new song, “We All Want Love”.  This time is was Ian alone on stage with piano for a lyric ballad that ought to see Delta Rae climb the charts when the song is released on the next album.  This was an absolute “Wow” moment. 

Liz Hopkins came out front again for “Chasing Twisters”, and once again raised the roof with a powerful and compelling performance.  As good as this was, it was a mere appetizer for “Bethlehem Steel”.  Delta Rae rocked the stage, the rafters and the very foundations.  Brittany’s vocal was incomparable as she prowled the stage like a woman possessed.  The song was based on the experiences of the Hölljes siblings’ father, who worked for Bethlehem Steel for many years, and laments the loss of factory jobs in a declining America.  Liz Hopkins kept the energy going with an intense and powerful “If I Loved You”.  This is one of my personal favorites from the debut album, and Delta Rae did not disappoint.  Brittany came back out front to close the set with “I Will Never Die”, from the band’s Chasing Twisters EP.  You couldn’t blame the band for letting up a bit at this point, but the energy and intensity of the performance never flagged.

The small but devoted crowd demanded one more song.  Delta Rae accommodated the applause and chants with two.  The first, “After All”, is a new song that will be on the new album if the band is wise.  The Hölljes siblings and Liz Hopkins were all featured on vocals this time around, and the music was a piece of pure beauty.  Delta Rae closed out the night with a buoyant take on “Dance In The Graveyards” that had the entire club swaying along.  It was a knockout blow worthy of one the most vibrant and musically apt bands working today.

Opening act Gabe Dixon was a revelation in his own right.  Even Ian Hölljes said that Dixon is writing some of his favorite music right now, and Dixon did not disappoint.  Trading back and forth between piano and guitar, Dixon traded ballads and blues-infused rockers that recalled past greats such as Billy Joel and Ray Charles.  Highlights included “Disappear”, “Runnin’ On Fumes” and the delicious piano work of “Till You’re Gone”. If nothing else, make sure to download his track “All Will Be Well”, a “Wow” moment all its own.

Both Delta Rae and Dixon were available and accessible after their sets.  Delta Rae came out and signed at a table after the show, but unlike many acts, each member took the time to greet and get the name of each person walking by.  It was a great dose of southern hospitality, and will pay dividends to the band from the personal connections they made.

Delta Rae’s tour continues tonight at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto.  Dates for the summer tour are currently scheduled through August 3rd.  Check out www.deltarae.com for more information, and go see them live if you get the chance.  You won’t be disappointed.

Gabe Dixon will be opening for Delta Rae through July 9th, and is currently booking shows for his Gabe Dixon band for the summer.  Get more info at www.GabeDixon.com



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Broken Quote - Foreshadowing Sunlight


Broken Quote – Foreshadowing Sunlight
2014, 563026 Records DK

The Band
Broken Quote is a multi-instrumentalist, writer and producer from Houston, Texas who has been creating music since he was a small child.  A self-taught musician, Broken Quote showed a distinctive ear early on.  While the lack of lessons would be a roadblock to some, it became an open playing field to Broken Quote.  Broken Quote credits influences such as Bjork, Eyedea, Beck, Radiohead, John Cage and Parliament Funkadelic, among others.  His musical milieu continues to grow and evolve, but his current sound is something of a stew of ambient funk, trip hop, electro rock and acid jazz.
The Album
Foreshadowing Sunlight, a five song EP, is Broken Quote’s first release.
The Buzz
Broken Quote is all about minimalist atmospherics.  Electronics and ambient sounds are the core of the sound on Foreshadowing Sunlight, but the focus is less musical than it is of painting collages of sound. 
Spotlights
“Late Night Ocean” has an intriguing rhythm and life all its own.  The overall effect is more distracting than cohesive, but there is a musical statement to be made here.  “Glass Ceiling” is similarly unsettling.  Angst-filled piano gives way to a slowly growing cacophony of rhythm, as Broken Quote seeks to unsettle all who would listen.

Footlights
The energy throughout Foreshadowing Sunlight is minimalist by intent, but the effectuation is downright painful at times.  Angst and ennui are the core emotions, and those vibes are imparted to the listener like a cudgel.  Effects very often rule the day, covering the gaps that are left behind by songs that are thought out and through, but often not fully.


The Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

The Songs
Ghost Crowd
Late Night Ocean
Glass Ceiling
Sparks Water The Seeds
Mispronounce

Where to Go
www.brokenquote.com.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Corvus - Never Forget


Corvus – Never Forget
2013, Corvus


The Band
Corvus is one of the most prolific American metal bands of the last five years, completing six full-length albums in that time.  Heavy guitar riffs, melodic solos, pounding rhythms and deep melodies have blended with an electric live show to charge up fans across the U.S., and have led to tours with Trapt, Mushroomhead, American Head Charge and Hed P.E.  The lineup includes:
Brock Brown – vocals
Josh Brown – bass
(v)att(v)an – electric guitar
DH – drums
Isadora Bevins – electric guitar
Sunny - keyboard

The Album
The latest effort from Corvus is Never Forget, a dynamic and powerful mix of metal and classic rock with distinctive pop undertones.

The Buzz
Corvus takes listeners on a schizophonic buzz fest across the thirteen songs on Never Forget.  Crushing guitar riffs, rapid-fire rhythms and high precision will appeal to metal fans.  The band also delves into Top-40 blends that feature hook filled choruses and even a power metal ballad or two.  The changes back and forth happen so fast at times that listeners may be subject to aural whiplash.  The guitar work is strong and the vocals are more than competent.  At the same time, Corvus seems to be trying to be too many things to too many people.

Spotlights
“Hear No See No Speak No” is a quintessential pop/metal blend, featuring big guitars, a bigger rhythm section and the screaming/chortling vocal that’s come to epitomize heavy metal music.  The band settles into smooth sailing mode with an Edge radio style chorus that totally changes the momentum of the song, but this sudden change is compelling.  “Sweet Revenge” is a delicious mix of angst and anger, contained in the bulging arrhythmia that Corvus builds around it.  “Déjà vu” is a theme song for the seriously depressed or paranoid.  The downward trajectory is represented here as inescapable.  Big powerful, powerful rhythms and an innate musicality make this a winner in spite of the compellingly dark outlook.  “Never Forget” could have been written by Dante himself: a monologue by Satan himself full of short-sighted hubris and pride.

Footlights
When Corvus is on, they are on.  But there is also a distinct push toward commercial viability on Never Forget that makes the band sound unsettled and uncertain of whom they are.  There’s nothing wrong with going for the brass ring, but the efforts here are so transparent and so different from their natural sound that the gap is glaring.

The Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

The Songs
Hear No See No Speak No
Sweet Revenge
Through Dead Eyes
Used
Soldiers On Demand
Déjà vu
Plastic Skies
My Greatest Mistake
The Spider And The Fly
Breath
Food For The Gods
Never Forget
Crucify

Where to Go

Friday, June 20, 2014

Matty Ride - Matty Ride [EP]


Matty Ride - Matty Ride [EP]
2014, Matty Ride

Disco, pop, hip-hop and soul.  Welcome to the world of Matty Ride, a retro-pop musical chemist based out of Nashville, Tennessee.  With a pleasing voice and an effervescent energy, Ride revives and blends pop music styles from the last 30 years into an eclectic, yet still relevant, ganache.  His latest effort, a five-song self-titled EP, shows why there is room for guys like Matty Ride in today’s dance clubs and on the charts.

Ride opens with the wispy pop confection "That Girl", which has enough snap to be danceable but is light enough to get caught up in the pop ether of Top 40 radio. The songwriting is compact and driven by an infectious hook that will keep calling listeners back. The only downfall is the breakdown in the last 45 seconds of the track, which could (and should) be cut from a single release without any loss to the listener.  "All Over Again" is straight ahead, angst-filled pop. It's solid album material with a bit of Matthew Wilder flair. "Come on and Dance" is as flagrantly bubblegum as 1980's soul/pop ever was, and is likely to inspire seriously mistaken déjà vu or those who grew up in the 1980's.

"First Day of Summer" is an overexcited piece of fluff that tries to sound modern but ends up very dated. There is serious hook action at work here, but the song is almost a caricature of 1980's dance/pop acts. The video, on the other hand, will give the song serious life.  It’s a fun little cinematic escape that features miniature musicians, flying cars and a uniquely comic sensibility that chronicles what happens when geek meet chic.  Matty Ride slows it all down for the closing number, "Hold Me Closer". The ballad is a sleepy affair that sounds melancholy in spite of its protestations of undying love. Ride does a pretty decent job on the vocal, but there's no vitality to the arrangement.
Matty Ride is a serious musician, but at the end of the day he doesn’t take himself too seriously.  The Matty Ride EP is a fun excursion of retro pop with a modern edge.  There are a couple of missteps here, but nothing overly critical.  Fans of pop, dance pop and light soul are going to dig this big time.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at www.mattyride.com.  In the mean time, check out Matty Ride's video for "First Day of Summer"!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Break of Reality - Ten

Ten

Break of Reality – Ten
2014, Break of Reality

Eastman School of Music alum Break of Reality has been plying its distinct brand of cello rock for nearly a decade now.  The New York City-based quartet has released a series of albums that run the gamut from original tunes to dynamic covers; developing a dedicated following.  The band recently released their fifth album; a collection of original tunes entitled Ten.

Ten opens with the self-referential strains of “Helix”, driven by a serious rock and roll sensibility.  Lyric and percussive cello lines intertwine, with percussion providing a sense of sanity and stability.  The energy here is tremendous, and Break of Reality sounds like they’re ready to explode.  The listener is wrapped up in a revolving wall of sound from the outset.  “Storm’s End” is a highly artistic piece of baroque pop.  The rhythms are pure rock and roll, yet the melody line has an early Italian madrigal feel.  This is serious music for fans of classical music, film scores and unusual rock and roll hybrids.  Break of Reality explores gorgeous and complex moods on “Star”, building pensive swells with a sagacious sense of internal energy.  The band uses dual melody lines that circumscribe beauty with an edge of minor key darkness.

“Drift Apart” begins with a rhythmic pizzicato base and adding a lyric, mid-to-low range melody line.  You’ll want to close your eyes and soak in the depth and breadth of sound here; it’s simply gorgeous.  “Nine Deep” has a dark and percussive underpinning.  The lyric melodic build is right out front, creating an atmosphere that is powerful and moving.  Break of Reality changes moods with “Light the Fuse”, a quietly rolling composition that transitions into a thunderous dance.  “Uprising” begins with an aboriginal sound; an ancient feel to the percussion.  Break of Reality takes a more atmospheric approach this time, building musical scenery that is lush and full of dramatic turns.

“Levy” is a pensive and perambulating piece; an intriguing orchestral still life full of movement and color.  The band transitions on “Other Worlds” to more of a mid-range musical score sound.  There’s a bit too much center in this recording, particularly in the early going, but this is more an issue of production than of composition.  The breaks in this piece have a stunningly dark beauty in them full of rhythms and tonal rhyme.  Ten closes with “Six”, with Break of Reality utilizing layered melody lines and incorporating glock and xylophone in with their distinctive 3-cello sound.  There’s a lazy energy that runs throughout the piece, and at five minutes in length this might become a bit overwhelming, but it is a quietly ambitious effort that is off the beaten path.

Break of Reality reaches for new heights on Ten, going all original with a stylistic approach that blends the best elements of classical, rock and pop music styles.  The compositions on Ten are highly original and full of life, and Break of Reality use killer phrasing and a nearly flawless sense of timing and presence to build a collection of songs that will live in your mind long after the tunes have faded from your ears.

Rating:  4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at www.breakofreality.com.  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Blue Skies For Black Hearts - Blue Skies For Black Hearts



Blue Skies For Black Hearts – Blue Skies For Black Hearts
2014, Blue Skies For Black Hearts

Blues Skies For Black Hearts are a Portland, Oregon quintet with serious pop sensibilities and power pop tendencies.  Blending heavy 1970s and 1980s influences with a modern AAA sound, the band has a consistently accessible sound that has carried them through 12 years, 5 albums and a number of lineup changes.  Their forthcoming self-titled album, due July 15, 2014, continues in the band’s tradition of working class, sweet sounding rock and roll.

Blue Skies For Black Hearts opens with "Keep On Keeping On", an easy going rocker with a memorable, easy to sing chorus. "It's Gone On Too Long" is a catchy Americana rocker with vibrant yet easy on the ears guitar work. Vocalist Pat Kearns has a down home sound that's appealing, and this song slips into your ears like butter on warm toast. "Nothing Came In The Mail" is a solid album cut that's accessible but doesn't call attention to itself.   "Love Songs" finds BSFBH reaching back into the 1950's for a mellow pop ballad sound. This works well, save for the messy backing vocals.  "You Gotta Quit Kickin' My Dog" has great energy and a decidedly low-fi aesthetic that will find it kicking around your head for hours.

"Waiting To Run" is a gentle pop rocker about the imminent failure of a commitment. The pop sensibility and guitar work here calls a resemblance to Blue Rodeo, with a lonely vocal flourish that can only be laid at the feet of Brian Wilson. "The Past" is a middle of the road rocker, a solid album cut. "Don't Look Back" is a catchy little rocker that sounds like it should be a cover tune. Various elements of the song will be highly familiar to fans of classic rock. BSFBH closes with "Back Home", a nondescript number that's more numbing than anything else. While sonically safe, the song doesn't do much to call listeners back again.

Blues Skies For Black Hearts succeeds in promulgating a sound that’s steeped in the past but ready for the moment.  The band’s sixth album is their smoothest and most appealing to date.  Blues Skies For Black Hearts spend most of their time hidden away in the Northwest, but do have some planned dates coming up in California this July.  Catch them if you can.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)