Friday, December 21, 2007

2007 Wrap-Up: Covers in 2007

2007 brought a plethora of karaoke wanna bes to the mainstream. It seemed like everyone from Tegan and Sara (Rihanna's "Umbrella") to Lily Allen (50 Cent's "Window Shopper") felt the need to get their "American Idol" on and borrow a fellow artists song. I normally don't condone this kind of recycling, but the following covers are a few of the best.

#3 Tom Thumb "Atlantic City" (Bruce Springsteen)

Anyone who decides to cover the Boss is either a brave soul or a crazy fool. Luckily, newcomer Tom Thumb's chilling voice more than adequately translates to the dark tale of a couple who might be involved with the mafia.

#2 Mark Ronson "Valerie" ft Amy Winehouse (The Zutons)

As a producer, Mark Ronson blew up in 2007 by pushing Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse and Kate Nash as the next "it" girls in music. He also had success on his album of covers, Version, with new twists on old favorites (ODB's appearance on "Toxic" is priceless). Winehouse returns the favor on "Valerie". Ronson's jazzy production soars and is puncuated by Winehouse on every note.

#1 Jenny Owens Young "Hot In Herre" (Nelly)

I promoted this jam earlier in the spring, but it was consistently part of my playlist throughout the year. Young's slowed down and stripped version of Nelly's "Hot In Herre" is hilarious and as catchy as the original. Its even better to hear the ridiculous lyrics (Stop placin, time wastin/I gotta a friend with a pole in the basement (What?)/I'm just Kiddin like Jason (Oh)/Unless you gon' do it) over the plucks of an acoustic guitar.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

2007 Wrap-Up: 10 Tracks in 2007

I feel like I might be shooting myself in the foot by neglecting some songs, but as far as I can remember, these were my favorites. Feel free to let me know of any suggestions.

#10 Emmy the Great "Two Steps Forward"

While 2008 will likely bring Emmy the Great to the masses, she started to build a name for herself with a few underground singles. "Two Steps Forward" is a sophisticated rant without a chorus, but you wouldn't know it with her soothing voice. This "anti-folk" single about past loves sounds amazing among a fiddle, light guitar riffs and Emmy's angelic voice.

#9 Arctic Monkeys "Do Me A Favor"

My Favourite band from Sheffield returned after a short hiatus with more stories of mischief in the U.K. This gripping narrative details a relationship headed for the guillotine with the soundtrack to match. The nerve wracking bass line leads to a guitar smashing result that works superbly.

#8 Kate Nash "Foundations"

Kate Nash acquired many comparisons to Lily Allen from her poetic storytelling to her alliance with Mark Ronson, but Nash made a name for herself on her 1st hit single . "Foundations" is solid as a sarcastic break-up monologue filled with clever wordplay over a piano and guitar landscape.

#7 Iron and Wine "Boy With A Coin"

Sam Beam shines on the first single from The Shepherd's Dog. In a departure from his past low key (but still great) work, the track's backing has more than the usual acoustic guitar. Hand claps, electric guitar, light drum and some vocal distortion help craft this song filled with religious imagery.

#6 Bright Eyes "Four Winds"

While it took me awhile to realize the genius that is Conor Oberst, the first single from Cassadaga made me a believer. "Four Winds" features political and religious musings over a refined bluegrass sound. Its easily the best toe-tapping apocalyptic tune of 2007.

#5 Patrick Wolf "The Magic Position"

Patrick Wolf made a name for himself in 2007 as an eccentric character on the upbeat single, "The Magic Position". As if it was plucked from the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory soundtrack, the track features hand clap percussion, a childish chant and a hypnotic hook. The not-so-subtle come on might not work for Wolf in reality, but it works perfectly in song.

#4 Jose Gonzalez "Down the Line"

Gonzalez's latest effort easy caught my ear this summer. His way with a guitar and a cool melody ease the tension on the simple, yet mesmerizing song about regret and temptation. This could also win the award for creepiest video of the year.

#3 The Black Kids "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend to Dance With You"

With a little help from Rolling Stone, Florida's The Black Kids have some of the best buzz leading into 2008. On this single, the band's garage rock sounds sweet intertwined with the bitter storyline surrounding it.

#2 Rogue Wave "Lake Michigan"

Rogue Wave burst back on the scene after recording their latest album, Asleep At Heaven's Gate in the Midwest. This melancholy and socially conscious track features some of their best work complete with crashing guitars and always welcome hand claps. Pay attention and you'll find its about pollution. Imagine that.

#1 Bon Iver "Skinny Love"

You might notice a theme here with minimalist yet dramatic songs featuring an emotional singer on this list, but Bon Iver deserves to be here as well. This folk classic about loneliness after love is as earnest as they come. Certainly my favorite of many favorites in 2007.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

2007 Wrap-Up: 10 Albums In 2007

3 years ago, if you would have told me that I would be writing a 2007 Best of List that didn't include a rap/hip-hop album, I would have probably spit beer in your face. I could go into a whole rant on why the current state of Hip-Hop didn't allow me to praise the genre, but I've already done that. Instead here is a short list of the great, new music I've discovered this year. Some of my opinions have changed from previous reviews, but that is bound to happen after repeated listening sessions.

#10 Georgie James Places

After a late 2007 release, Georgie James crept into heavy rotation with their fetching album Places. The album has enough addictive indie rock to arm Impact89FM playlists for months with james like "Need Your Needs", "More Lights", and "Look Me Up".

#9 The Rosebuds Night of the Furies

Raleigh, North Carolina's The Rosebuds added a risky electronic touch to their 3rd disc, Night of the Furies and it paid off. I was hooked by the dark, yet danceable "Get Up And Get Out", while "I Better Run" and "Hold Onto This Coat" made for a solid album.

#8 Tegan and Sara The Con

Though the Quinn sisters caught some flack from fans for a more commercial sound, The Con featured some of my favorite songs to date by the twins. The title track and "Back In Your Head" are particularly cathy, but "Knife Going In" and "Dark Come Soon" showcase the duo's unique story-telling abilties.

#7 Band of Horses Cease to Begin

Although I was late to jump on the Band of Horses hype machine, I soon found Cease to Begin was a near perfect fall album. Spectral sounds and loud riffs on "Is There A Ghost?", "Detlef Schrempf", "Marry Song", and "No One's Gonna Love You" made for a bright album in the dark months ahead.

#6 Spoon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Terribly titled, but Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is Spoon's six album and could easily be the band's best. "You've Got Your Cherry Bomb" and "The Underdog" were infectious enough to grace my i-pod countless times this year. "Don't You Evah" and "Don't Make Me A Target" were breezy, indie rock gems that rounded out the album's upbeat sound.

#5 Amy Winehouse Back to Black

As if teleporting from the past, Amy Winehouse burst onto playlists everywhere with the retro-infused album, Back to Black. While her troublesome offstage antics caught the attention of many, her soul & jazz influenced album won over critics and bloggers most. "Rehab" burned up the pop charts, while "You No I'm No Good", the title track, and "Love Is A Losing Game" gave a feel of '60s Motown nostalgia.

#4 The Bees (Band of Bees) Octopus

One of my earliest reviews was of The Bee's (or Band of Bees in the US) stand out album, Octopus. 8 months later, my opinion hasn't changed. The Bees' eclectic musical offerings from the '60s rock stylings of "Love In The Harbor" to jazzier fare on "Got To Let Go" made for an amazing album. The musings on "Who Cares What The Question Is?" could easily make for the best bluegrass impressions of the year.

#3 The New Pornographers Challengers

Canada's "super group", The New Pornographers jumped the front of the list with Challengers. With that many great musicians contributing, how could the results not be amazing? "Mutiny I Promise You" and "My Right Versus Yours" dropped light political messages, while the title track, "All The Old Showstoppers", and "Go Places" were simply great indie rock.

#2 Feist The Reminder

Leslie Feist crafted an impressive indie pop breakthrough with The Reminder. While Apple and Verizon capitaled on the sounds of "1,2,3,4" and "My Moon My Man" for marketing campaigns, "I Feel It All" and "The Water" were equally ear pleasing. I was lucky enough to see her genius in Ann Arbor this fall and The Reminder was just as perfect live.

#1 Arcade Fire Neon Bible

In 2007, Win Butler and company crafted a hauntingly good follow-up to The Funeral. Chilling vocals and an eerie pipe organ made songs like "Intervention" and "My Body Is A Cage" creepy in a good way, allowing "Keep The Car Running" and "No Cars Go" to light up the album with '80s-esque energy. Neon Bible blessed more ear drums than any other album this year. Let's hope the band's recent success and sightings with Bruce Springsteen fuel more inspiration for another smash album.

Honorable Mention: Bright Eyes Cassadega, K-OS Atlantis: Hymns For Disco (US Release in 2007), Arctic Monkeys Favourite Worst Nightmare, Jay-Z American Gangster, Modest Mouse We Were Dead Before The Ship Was Sinking, Kanye West Graduation, Bloc Party A Weekend In The City, Editors An End Has A Start, Maximo Park Our Earthly Pleasures, Winterpills The Light Divides

Monday, November 26, 2007

Jeremy Fisher: Cure For A "Blue Monday"

Jeremy Fisher is singer-songwriter from Vancouver, Canada. With the release of his sophomore album, Goodbye Blue Monday, he sure to draw many comparisons, but it shouldn't hold him down. With story-telling skills in the mold of Bob Dylan and Paul Simon combined with a scratchy, likable voice similar to Josh Rouse, success shouldn't be hard to find.

"Scar That Never Heals" is sure to rise to the top of hipster playlists with its up beat, playful "Cecilia"-like flavor. With hand claps a plenty and a '70s folk pop backing, its hard not to nod your head. Though I don't understand the hook ("she runs guns everyone wants guns/She runs guns everyone wants there she goes"), my best guess is that his lover's disdain for monogamy, is the cause for Fisher's melancholy, pain.

Apparently, Fisher paid attention in English 101 as he perfects personification on "Cigarette". The single features Fisher's Paul Simon-like, story-telling skills as he continuously offers himself to a female who keeps coming back. He lazily croons, "I’ll be your cigarette/Light me up and get on with it/I’ll be hard to forget/Good or bad I’m just a habit."

Goodbye Blue Monday is filled with upbeat bounds of indie/folk rock. Other highlights including "Jolene", the Americana filled "Remind Me", and the bouncy track "Sula" are sure to cure any Winter blues. Any similarities Jeremy Fisher attains to the aforementioned greats should be welcomed as a hint of Fisher's bright future.

Jeremy Fisher - Cigarette

Jeremy Fisher - Scar That Never Heals

Monday, November 12, 2007

Show Stopper: Girl Talk @ Eagle Theater 11/10/07 - Insanity on the Dance Floor

Pandemonium. Mayhem. Insanity. These are the best words I could think of that described the scene I witnessed in Pontiac on Saturday night, and they don't even come close. Girl Talk came to Eagle Theater this weekend and nearly incited a riot with a frenzy of mash-ups that shook the venue. And it was amazing.

Girl Talk aka Greg Gillis, has quickly garnered a cult following among bloggers, hipsters and music fans everywhere with his knack for creating hits out of hits. An engineer by day, entertainer by night, Mr. Gillis soon realized making people dance to mixtures of Dr. Dre & Billy Squier was his true calling. The Night Ripper, gained so much attention that Girl Talk earned sets on the major festival circuit (check out these videos from Coachella and the Montreal Jazz Festival) over the past 2 years. Though I hate the term mash-up, its the only phrase I have heard that best portrays his work. It just doesn't give justice to the expertise Gillis has for the precise beat-making heard on Saturday.

With a line that stretched around the corner of Saginaw St in Pontiac, the anticipation was building for the sold out show. You could sense the feeling that my fellow concert goers weren't sure what to expect. The Eagle Theater's unique decor, was certainly perfect for a unique event. From the ballroom type ceiling fixtures, to the disco influenced platforms, the venue was a mash-up of eras past, collaborating for the sold out event. The opening band, Death Set, didn't show up (according to Girl Talk, the band rocked too hard the night before), but people didn't seem to mind, giving a short chant for the headliner to arrive.

After a brief introduction by Girl Talk, the festivities were ready to commence. Gillis' bare bones approach, dressed in a white track suit and headwrap with a card table and wireless laptop, gave the feeling that he was only here for one reason, to make everyone party. From the first note of the opening song (a revamped edition of "Hold Up"), the crowd was in a frenzy and it only took a few seconds before the entire stage was filled with rowdy dancers. It wasn't long before the aforementioned table helmed by Girl Talk was engulfed in a sea of sweating bodies. While some of my group ventured to the madhouse on stage, the floor was equally electric. Jumping, dancing, and bouncing off people from every angle was the only way to move and not a soul gave a care or sharp elbow. I don't think I've ever seen that many people in one confined area smiling and dancing.

With the non-stop party in full swing, it was hard to take note of the exact sources of the many new creations blasting from the towering speakers. Which is really just a testament as to how amazing the whole event was. Aside from a smattering of tweaked tracks from The Night Ripper (including the classic Elton John/Notorious B.I.G. collabo, "Smash Your Head"), there was a mini Daft Punk tribute, a memorable rendition of Soulja Boy's "Crank That" with Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin" and countless new gems that will hopefully surface on a future album. After almost two hours of a non-stop dance party, everyone in Eagle Theater looked like they had left the best rain shower they had ever been in. Sign me up for Round 2.

I didn't have a camera, so thanks to whoever's pictures I borrowed...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Duran Duran: Pop Chart "Massacre"

Duran Duran wanted to make more than a comeback after threatening to fall into the abyss of fallen rock stars, they wanted to take over the pop charts. The band hoped to return to their new wave roots that made them staples on MTV in the '80s with hits like "Hungry Like The Wolf" and "Rio". So, they went out and hired two of the biggest names in music, Justin Timberlake and Timbaland (not to mention, protege Nate "Danja" Hills). Lead singer Simon le Bon confessed, Timbaland "was the only producer out there that we knew we all liked" and the collaboration turned into "Red Carpet Massacre".

Duran Duran's 12th album, Red Carpet Massacre, should be a sure-fire hit, when it is released on November 12th. Anticipation has already begun building from leaks of three tracks featuring Timbaland and JT's genii behind the boards. Will their seemingly midas touch give Duran Duran the success its already given Timbaland and JT's solo albums and other collaborations (Bjork, 50 Cent, Nelly Furtado, etc)?

If the early results are any indications, then the answer is a resounding yes. The first single, "Falling Down", is a mid-tempo ballad reminscent of tracks from "Future Sex/Love Sound". Listeners that didn't even see the '80s will easily relate to the reflective cut. The pace quickens on "Nite Runner". Timbaland quips ad-libs, while JT backs le Bon on the sexually charged hook with sublte cow-bell hits and beat boxing. "Skin Divers" delves further into new wave inspired territory with futuristic keyboard synth and irresistibly odd chorus ("It's a skin dive/In deep silence we are/Going underwater/It's a lifeline/Teardrop, bullets, all night/Dip into the water"). Timbaland shines with a funky few bars ("Babygirl you're swimming/A little too deep/So deep....that I think you might hit a reef") and trademark turntable-like vocals (think Aaliyah's "Try Again").

Though its more of a testament to the hit-making machine that is Timbaland and Justin Timberlake, Duran Duran show they can still convincingly make good pop songs. Simon le Bon told Rolling Stone earlier this month "We want Top Forty", Thats exactly what they will do.

Duran Duran - Falling Down (produced Justin Timberlake)

Duran Duran - Nite Runner ft Timbaland

Duran Duran - Skin Divers ft Timbaland

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Beck - "Timebomb"

Beck recently caught my ear again, when he released a new single, "Timebomb". Though I hadn't paid much attention to Beck's career, his last album, The Information, hooked me with an experimental, new wave sound. Similar to hits like "Cell Phone's Dead" and "Nausea", "Timebomb" continues the trend with futuristic beeps and kinetic energy abound. I wasn't intrigued the first time I heard it with its non-sense driven chorus, but it grew on me with the tune's bouncy, progressive beat. Clearly, lyrics like "We got a timebomb/We got a timebomb/Na na na na" aren't exactly ground breaking, but synthesized chants mixed with hand claps and a bass guitar make for a catchy fun, song.

Perhaps one of the more interesting notes about the single, is that it is a single. Meaning, that is isn't attached to a Beck album past, present of future. It is a stand alone song released exclusively (at first) on I-Tunes. With the state of abysmal record sales plaguing the record industry, you have to wonder if many artists will release more singles and EPs rather than full length albums. You can't have a record sales showdown every Tuesday....or can you??

Beck - Timebomb

Friday, September 21, 2007

Eisely - Family "Combinations"

Eisley is a collective lead by the serene vocals of Sherri DuPree and made up of four siblings and one cousin. I was made aware of the band when they were featured as the "NPR Song of the Day" last week. They immediately caught my attention as soon as I heard them with intricate indie sensibilities mixed with pop flare and made me an instant fan.

Combinations is their second full length album on Warner Bros Records and it is chock full of lush, indie pop sounds reminiscent of the '60s. Eisley has many of the same ear-pleasing attributes as Rilo Kiley: a great lead singer, catchy, story-like songs and a strong band. The first single, "Invasion" shines as a political statement (possibly?) with an amped up, guitar driven chorus and dramatic lyrics: "And you, you, you, you/you would take the breath from my throat/and you, you, you, you,/you would take the cherished people that i hold". "A Sight to Behold" features the band's Radiohead influence with a heavier sound, but is still very accessible. It matches the love story about a forging ahead despite past failed relationships amid the new wave, bass-laden backing.

"Taking Control" stands out as an immediate favorite that should receive pop attention. The song refers to a romance in a downward spiral, where the narrator has no control of the situation. She finally stands her ground at the end by switching to chorus to the stand offish: "You've been making a joke of our lives/And you've been letting this go/You've been taking control of our lives/And you've been letting this go". Hopefully, it doesn't get overplayed (but I'm sure the band would be flattered) by being picked up by a "Grey's Anatomy"-like show as a theme song or something. I wouldn't be surprised if it did though, because it seems Eisley has crafted an album that shouldn't be overlooked.

Eisley - Invasion

Eisley - Taking Control

Eisely is currently on tour with Mute Math and will be playing at St Andrews Hall on October 13th. Check them out if you are in the area.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Kanye West: "Graduation" with Honors

Kanye West - Graduation 4/5 Narks

With the massive anticipation for Kanye West's third opus, Graduation, many people wondered if he could rise to the top of the class. In the past 2 years, since Late Registration, Kanye has injected his larger than life persona into popular culture by a public displeasure with George Bush, unleashed tirades at various award shows, successfully launched his G.O.O.D. Music label with the help of John Legend and Common, and engaged in a sales competition with 50 Cent. Needless to say, these events gave Kanye plenty of material to create a colorful and inventive new album.

Kanye West continues his flavor of digging in the crates for classic samples on Graduation, but this time he infuses his penchant for soul with a futuristic/new wave sound. T-Pain assists with his trademark vocal distortion over a sample from Michael Jackson's "P.Y.T." and synthesizers on the party driven next single, "Good Life". "Stronger" may not be the first time a hip-hop producer has sampled Daft Punk (see Busta Rhymes' "Touch It" helmed by Swizz Beatz), but it certainly is the best. The futuristic drum beat reverberates through the speakers while Kanye confidently rhymes his way in to space.

While most of West's best raps are boastful, bravado filled with fashion-sense and pop references (see "The Glory"), he usually includes a few tracks that give a more personal look at the inner demons of Kanye West. "Everything I Am" shines as a laid back piano sampled track featuring turntable work courtesy of DJ Premier. He addresses naysayers who chastise his actions and simply states "everything i'm not, made me everything i am". "Big Brother" gives a personal account of West's rise in the Roc-a-Fella crew and his admiration for idol/label head Jay-Z. From being too star struck to speak with 'Hova to trying to match Jay-Z's success and being humbled by Def Jam's president at Madison Square Garden, it shows West's vulnerable side.

While West earns many A's on Graduation, there are still a few spots where you can see he has a few more things to learn from the "Best Rapper Alive". "Drunk and Hot Girls" follows late night exploits of the rich and famous with promiscuous ladies with a lazy, annoying flow. "Barry Bonds" would suffice as a mixtape cut (Lil' Wayne continues his streak of hit guest appearances), but seems out of place with the sonic-soul feel of the album.

Kanye West has quickly risen to the top of the hip-hop A-list with spit fire rhymes paired with innovative production. Graduation continues the tradition with West's earnest, unapologetic approach and catchy, but soulful beats.

BTW, Curtis lost....

Kanye West - The Glory

Kanye West - Everything I Am

Kanye West - Bittersweet ft John Mayer (Bonus Track)

Friday, September 7, 2007

Kanye vs. Curtis: The Heavyweight Matchup

Everyone else has an opinion about it, why not me? Two rap superstars. 1 day. 1 winner. Kanye vs. 50 Cent. Graduation vs. Curtis. The hype surrounding the rap album showdown on Tuesday, September 11th is about to bubble over. Though my interest in today's rap game is waning (can you blame me?), this feud caught my attention. Even my favorite indie rock journal, My Old Kentucky Blog, commented on it. If you have been living under a rock, here's the run down:

50 Cent was set to release Before I Self Destruct earlier this summer. After releasing the lackluster, "Candy Shop" leftover, "Amusement Park" and street single "Straight to the Bank", 50 decided to head back to the studio. After a hilarious feud with rapper Cam'ron, where Killa Cam tried to belittle 50 by calling him by his real first name, 50 changed the name of the album to Curtis. He recruited Akon, JT, Timbaland, Nicole Scherzinger and usual contributors Eminem and Dr. Dre to beef up his lukewarm reception. These changes pushed the album back to September 11th.

Meanwhile, Kanye West had been in the lab crafting his third disc, Graduation, hoping for an August release date. Just when the street single, "Can Tell Me Nothing" was gaining steam, Def Jam decided to delay the disc until September 11th. Even though Curtis was already scheduled to drop, he had the gall to say "I hope that they see and understand what’s getting ready to happen."

What 50 didn't know, was the fire-starter single Kanye had in his back pocket. The Daft Punk sampled single, "Stronger" generated enough buzz to burn G-Unit offices down, getting love from the indie set and mainstream fans. 50 came back with his own scorcher, "I Get Money", but its success has paled in comparison to Kanye's first. Even the release of the JT & Timbaland assisted "AYO Technology" hasn't propelled 50 back to his lofty perch. The latest Billboard Hot 100 singles charts has "Stronger" at #2 and "AYO" at #20. "I Get Money" has made some noise in radio play, but it still can't match Kanye's heat. For those counting, 50 released 4 singles to Kanye's 2. Just wait 'til Kanye drops "Good Life" with T-Pain...

The biggest headline of the story though, is 50's claim that he will retire if Kanye sells more than him the first week. He claims that he won't release any new solo material, but will appear on other artists' records from the G-Unit camp. If that were true, he might as well start looking for a resting spot in Florida now, because Kanye's presales are already beating him.

What do I think? I definitely think Graduation will sell more than Curtis, though they will both hit big numbers. 50 Cent had his time to shine and while his fan base used to be as wide as Eminem's and Dr. Dre's, his arrogance and rap's overall sales decline will take a chunk out of his Soundscan numbers. Kanye West is very arrogant as well, but he still has the hunger to want to be #1 that 50 lost after "In the Club". 50 Cent is a marketing genius, from books to Vitamin Water to clothing. I don't even doubt the possibility that he could have met with Kanye earlier this summer and set this whole charade up. Other labels saw the opportunity and now Kenny Chesney will drop the same day. 50 just isn't as musically innovative and lyrically gifted as Kanye to remain relevant. Kanye might call himself the Louis Vuitton Don, but when he gets respected from backpackers and hip-hop heads for his beats and rhyme skills.

Winner = Kanye West Graduation

Kanye West - Stronger

Kanye West - Good Life ft T-Pain

50 Cent - I Get Money

50 Cent - AYO Technology ft JT & Timbaland

..and Kenny Chesney - Never Wanted Nothin More

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Klaxons: Mercury Winners? Is It A "Myth"?

I have mentioned the Nationwide Mercury Prize a few times in posts, but haven't really explained it. Basically, its an award show that highlights the best British and Irish albums of the past year. The albums nominated are voted on by a board of music executives from across the pond and usually don't get much play in the States (sad, but true).

Klaxons won this year's prize for their 1st album, Myths of the Near Future. The album beat out the likes of Amy Winehouse, Arctic Monkeys (last year's winner), and the New Young Pony Club. Now I would never call my self a journalist or a music critic, I just happen to like writing about music I feel others should pay attention to (or at least give a listen). I don't have a literary degree or have ever been in a band, but I still like to voice my opinion. I just wonder how the "expert" voters came about choosing the Klaxons' album over the list of other nominees. Don't get me wrong, songs like "Golden Skans" and "Gravity's Rainbow" have been in heavy rotation on my i-pod since I heard them. I can definitely appreciate that the band is leading the way in the creation of the "new rave" genre.

The fact of the matter is that Myths of the Near Future is an uneven album, as I mentioned in an earlier post. I may have even been a bit harsh in my initial review, the album was probably a 3 after few more listens. But I have a hard time believing its the best Brit or Irish album of 2007. Especially in comparison to Back to Black and Favourite Worst Nightmare. I am sure Ms. Winehouse will get her due and the Arctic Monkeys got their fair share of praise last year, I just think Klaxons should be rewarded in the "Future", when they create a more focused record.

Klaxons - Golden Skans

Klaxons - Gravity's Rainbow

Bonus: Amy Winehouse - Love Is A Losing Game @ Mercury Prize

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Show Stopper: The Format @ St. Andrew's Hall 8/31/07

The Format - St. Andrew's Hall - Detroit - 8/31/07

Since I have 4 concerts lined up this fall, I figured I would try writing a few concert reviews. One of the first indie bands I was introduced to, also happened to be the first band I saw in concert this year, The Format. The Format are a band from Arizona, who's name refers to their variety in sound, as in, not following the norm. They have released 2 albums (most recently Dog Problems) and a number of EPs that range in style from indie pop to alternative. The were dropped from Atlantic Records, just before the release of Dog Problems, but have gained a huge following due to the band's critical success and loyal fan base.

Last Friday, Laura and I were lucky enough to see The Format at St. Andrew's Hall. The mood was upbeat and harmonious throughout the night and it showed in each of the bands' performances. Members of the Format and the three opening bands frequently sat in on each others sets with ease and excitement.

Since this was an early show (a 5:00 start), we arrived a bit late and missed the first opening band, Reuben's Accomplice. But gladly, we there just in time to take in the scenery before Limbeck took the stage and the sold out crowd began to filter in. I had never been to St. Andrew's before, so I had been looking forward to visiting a new venue. The historic location emitted all of the nostalgic stories I had heard about with its dusty hardwood floor, elevated balcony, and mountainous speakers.

Limbeck was the only band I was able to check out before the concert and they aptly met my expectations. Their indie/alt country sound was very crowd friendly and kept the audience's attention. "Big Drag" and "Honk and Wave" persuaded me to purchase their latest self-titled album. Limbeck was followed by a rousing set by New Jersey's own, Steel Train. Lead singer, Jack Antonoff created a great show with a passionate display of on stage antics echoing the band's classic rock influenced sound. Not to be outdone, Piebald's Travis Shettel had his own way for grabbing the audiences' attention. As I was later told, this would be the band's last stop in Detroit after deciding to amicably break up after the tour and the band played like it. Piebald's entertaining set shot even more adrenaline into the crowd with piano driven indie rock, a crowd surfing attempt and parachuting toy soldiers from the highest speaker in the room.

When the Format reached the stage, it was clear who the Detroit fans were there to see. From the horn-flavored start on "Dog Problems", to the bouncy rendition of "Snails", the crowd served as back-up choir, echoing lead singer Nate Reuss' every word. Though the band only slowed things down a bit on an acoustic session featuring the heartfelt "On Your Porch", it was perfect for the intimate setting. Things quickly picked up with snappy renditions of "The Compromise" and the label-bashing "My First Single" before the raucous encore. The encore came with a run through of "I'm Actual" and "Inches and Falling" and following an invitation, members of all of the opening bands joined in for "Caravan". Nearing the end of a long tour, you could clearly see the new found camaraderie of all the musicians as they grabbed any instrument available to end their Detroit stop on a high note. Concert #1 = Success.

The Format - The First Single (Cause A Scene)

The Format - On Your Porch

The Format - Inches and Falling

*Thanks to a fellow fan who posted more pictures here (I'm too cheap to buy a digital camera).

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The New Pornographers: Taking All "Challengers"

The New Pornographers - Challengers 5/5 Narks

2007 has been the year of the reunion. From the Police to Rage Against the Machine, to Genesis and the Wu Tang Clan, bands are trying to recreate past magic for fans and frankly, one last run at a boat load of cash. One of the lesser-hyped reconciliations of the year, happened when The New Pornographers decided to give it another go. And it might just be the best of the bunch.

The new album Challengers stands out as not only a great reunion, but one of the best albums of 2007. The New Pornographers are made up of some of the most talented Canadian musicians from Vancouver and have the resumes to prove it. Danny Bejar, singer and pianist, also formed indie favorite, Swan Lake. Neko Case gained fame last year with her atl. country album, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. Even the band's leader, A.C. Newman, had mild success with a few Canadian indie bands, before heading up the formation of the group. He writes the majority of the band's melodic, hook-flavored music and plays a smattering of instruments, including bass mandolin.

A.C. Newman notes Burt Bacharach and the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson as influences and both are apparent throughout the album's song structure. Songs like the conversational "Myriad Harbor" and the politically charged "My Right Versus Yours" ooze with catchy hooks and sophisticated instrumentation. "Unguided" starts with a minamalist echo-backing, as if the narrator is worried about not having control of their own life. To the chorus of march-worth drum kicks and mindful lyrics ("Killing time because I have to/why?/Because it isn't mine, remember?/Killing time because it wasn't mine"), they later realize that having a plan doesn't mean nature will pay attention to it.

One of the best attributes of The New Pornographers, is that they have the ability to intermingle statements and poignant messages with breezy, pop-friendly hooks. If you don't stop and take a listen to the blasphemous new take on religious figures ("All The Old Showstoppers") or political observations ("My Right Versus Yours"), you might miss what makes the album poetic.

Challengers should mangage to satisfy indie-hipsters along with occasional pop listeners. Even though their music won't match the latest receipts from the Police tour, it will make me anxiously await The New Pornographers' next reunion.

The New Pornographers - My Right Versus Yours

The New Pornographers - Unguided

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Northern State: More Than "Better Already"

When I bought Tegan and Sara tickets, I was pumped because I thought Great Northern would be opening. Upon further research, I found that I was wrong, it would actually be Northern State (an unknown band to me) warming up the stage in November. Although I was disappointed at first, it didn't take long before I realized this was a blessing in disguise.

Northern State are a trio of ladies who infuse their indie-rock talents with good enough rapping skills to make you press rewind (I guess it would be "left arrow" on i-pods). Hesta Prynn, Spero, & Sprout hail from New York and while I doubt you would ever see them on a Brooklyn corner with The Notorious B.I.G., their hip-hop flavored rhymes will bring a smile to your face. Their high strung, upbeat flow on "Sucka Mofo" might remind you of a female version of the Beastie Boys, and for good reason. After garnering buzz from their EP, "Dying In Stereo", Adrock of the Beastie Boys offered to remix one of their tracks and ended up executive producing their latest album.

The girls' most recent album, Can I Keep This Pen, dropped Tuesday and should not be ignored. Songs like "Better Already" and "Mother May I" are playful enough for casual rap listeners and experimental enough for indie fans alike. With support from Questlove, Pete Rock, and a Pop Candy podcast feature this week, the buzz should only continue.

Northern State - Better Already

Northern State - Mother May I

Northern State will open for Tegan and Sara on November 28th @ St. Andrew's Hall. Buy your tickets here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Common: Hip Hop "Forever"

Common - Finding Forever 4/5 Narks

Common has blessed the masses once again with a great album. While most of the rap industry is focused on making a new dance, dropping a non-sense radio hit or selling the most ringtones, Common keeps hip-hop alive. Over and over, he has consistently dropped knowledge for backpackers, street scripture for hip-hop heads and enough eclecticism to grab mainstream listeners and Finding Forever furthers that notion. Continuing on the momentum of 2006's hip-hop album of the year, Be (arguably, album of the year in any genre), Common, with the help of usual suspect Kanye West, has created songs full of rich narrative and unrivaled soul appeal.

People who don't take time to listen hip-hop/"conscious rap" claim it doesn't keep their attention. Fortunately, one of Common's strongest qualities is the way he tells stories through song, which attributes to fans often pressing rewind. It is like listening to a spoken word poet who knows how to prophesies with rhythm. On "The Game", Common tears through DJ Premier cuts and Kanye's menacing production while speaking on the current status of the hip-hop culture. "Southside" stomps through with the hardest beat on the album. Common and fellow Chi-Town affiliate, Kanye West spit battle raps back and forth as if trying to one up each other with clever lines like: "Back in ‘94 they call me Chi-town’s Nas/Now them n***** know I’m one of Chi-town’s gods" and "Thinking back to the projects, and they way they tore ‘em all up/Like when I do a project, and come back and tear the mall up".

Common trades some of the pop-tinged songs of Be for soul on Finding Forever. His deep voice has never sounded better intertwined with samples looped by way of producers Devo Springsteen and the late JDilla. D'Angelo sufficiently guests on "So Far To Go" where Common shows appreciation and lust for a lady for bettering herself. The peak of the album is the aptly titled, "Misunderstood". Once again, Common weaves haunting tales of lost souls in the ghetto over the lush, Nina Simone sample. Its as if he has cast himself as the narrator as an AIDS-stricken young man and a young stripper wander through lives spiraling out of control.

Another standout track is the radio-friendly, "Drivin' Me Wild", surprisingly featuring Lily Allen. Although the song doesn't make uses of Lily's sly humor (though her voice is very recognizable), it does showcase Common's storytelling ability at its finest. While he lyrically disects a female narcicist ("Had a body, A body that you can't pay fo'/That mean she had some Ds on her but they wasn't fake though") and a playboy with too much money ("Spendin cash at the bar to get credit/Drinkin Chaundon just because BIG said it"), Lily uses breathy vocals to get the point across. The chorus, "It's this thing now, that's drivin' me wild/I gotta see what's up before it gets me down/No it's not a mystery, it's everything", explains how meaningless obsessions can take over one's life.

Finding Forever is another classic album by Common that should appeal to fans of all kinds. While it lacks some of the pop appeal of his last album, it fills the void with insightful, soul-filled tales backed by some of the year's best production in hip-hop. Look for Finding Forever to rack up a number of accolades before the 2007 is over.

Common ft Lily Allen - Drivin' Me Wild

Friday, July 27, 2007

Idgy Vaughn: Story of the "River"

Idgy Vaughn is a refreshing addition to the country/folk rock scene by way of Austin, Texas. Pop Candy blogger, Whitney Matheson, expressed her appreciation for Vaughn's "groovy...wailing" on the outstanding "Red Bone Hound" and after a listen I was immediately hooked. Vaughn's affinity for poetic story-telling and breathy vocals make for easy listening no matter the topic. She could even be mistaken for Neko Case with matching fire-red hair and an appreciation for folk rock with country influence.

If ladies are looking for tips as to how to off a cheating boyfriend, they could learn a thing or to from Idgy Vaughn (she puts the Dixie Chicks to shame). On the mid-tempo cut "Dragging the River", her voice emits a deceivingly melancholy, innocent tone over the dark premise. She speaks softly and sweetly enough throughout, that you may not notice the haunting subject matter, the vengeful murder of a former lover. Mockingly, Vaughn croons, "Look into my eyes/do I look like the dangerous type?/you'd never tell by these small hands".

Vaughn is effortlessly bewitching over the backyard sound of the banjo and harmonica. Her narrative skills effectively make the listener feel like an accomplice to the crime. After watching the victim plunge into the Mississippi without remorese, she concludes, "No one ever thinks that little hands are capable of much/but in the end these little hands were just capable enough". Though Idgy Vaughn may claim to have "small" features, her talent is tremendous. Her album Origin Story is in stores now.

Idgy Vaughn - Dragging the River

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Spoon: "Ga Ga" for a Summer Album

Anyone who has filed through any place for music news and reviews in the past few months has probably read some sort of praise for Spoon. Their latest album, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, has been lauded by many and even mentioned in some early discussion for album of the year. Unfortunately, it took me longer than usual to check it out. Partially due to the onslaught of new records released this season and honestly, I think I subconsciously avoided it because of all the hype.

It wasn't until I finally got around to watching the highly underrated Will Ferrell film (also featuring the great talents of Emma Thompson and Dustin "I've been in every movie you can think of" Hoffman), Stranger Than Fiction, that my interest in Spoon peaked. I waded through the credits to find out who the band was that had me humming along throughout the movie. I was pleasantly surprised to find Spoon had 6 songs in the film and I was eager for more (I also decided I would love to be the person to create soundtracks for movies and TV shows).

Coincidentally, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga had just been released and I didn't need to be convinced, the album is great. It is classic indie rock for devout followers or pop music fans. Songs like "The Underdog" and "You've Got Yr Cherry Bomb" are breezy enough for an afternoon on the beach and catchy enough for a rowdy game of beer pong. The band's Brian Wilson-like abilities for writing fetching hooks and layered sounds are both pleasant and addicting. Lyrically, its not exactly profound, but is more than sufficient as a fun, summer album.

If you are in the Detroit area on October 13th, check out Spoon at The Majestic Theater. Tickets are are $20 before Live Nation adds all of their garbage charges, but the band's shows have been getting rave reviews as well.

The whole album is streaming here if you need to give it a trial run.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Rilo Kiley: Potential "Moneymaker"

I am glad to say Los Angeles indie stalwarts, Rilo Kiley have returned with their first major label single, "The Moneymaker". After the success of the potent album More Adventurous and touring with the likes of Bright Eyes and Coldplay, Warner Bros. Records quickly snatched the band up for future hits.

I first heard about Rilo Kiley last summer after numerous plugs from fellow blogger Ms. Waters and found the folk/indie rock infused More Adventurous to be more than worth the hype. The country-blues flavored title track "More Adventurous", "I Never", and practically the entire set are a lyrical relief and musical genius.

Fronted by lead singer Jenny Lewis's best seductive lounge singer impression and the band's bluesy accompaniment, "The Moneymaker" is sure to catch the ears of old and new listeners. The lyrics aren't exactly ground breaking (a bit repetitive, actually), but the band's alliance with frequent Dr. Dre collaborator, Mike Elizondo has only evolved their resonance further. Lewis' breathy vocals sound as though she is scouting her prey and the chorus is her cue to pounce. The lyrics "You've got the money maker/You've got the money maker/This is your chance to make it/Out out out oh yeah/You'll get out out out oh yeah" could be a mating ritual or foreshadow their impending rise to fame.

Mark August 20th on your calendars, when the band's fourth album, Under the Blacklight is scheduled to be released.

Rilo Kiley - The Moneymaker

Friday, July 6, 2007

Maximo Park: UK "Pleasure"

Maximo Park - Our Earthly Pleasures - 4/5 Narks

Our Earthly Pleasures is the sophomore offering from North-East England based Maximo Park. The album celebrates the many aspects of human emotion from a post-punk revival point of view. Lead by front man Paul Smith, the band was more than able in forming a collection that embodies the roller-coaster that is life.

"Our Velocity" exploits the band's strength in creating dance-able tunes no matter the pace. Featuring a synthesizer straight out of the '80s, the song's frenzied tempo matches the Smith's schizophrenic rant about life careening out of control. He sings, "Never, never try to gauge temperature/When you tend to travel at such speed/It's our velocity." To further the effect, he implements a yodeling dynamic as guitars and drums jump up and down like a lie detector test. It is like he is trying to combat his new feeling of loneliness in the rat race by arguing with himself. Concluding by repeating "I’ve got no one to call/In the middle of the night anymore/I’m just alone/With my thoughts." Interesting subject matter for a dance-rock track.

"Books From Boxes" also speaks to relationships gone awry, as Smith recounts the signs of a break-up. Looking over each detail of the situation like a detective adding up clues, he explains "We rarely see/Warning signs in the air we breathe/Right now I feel each and every fragment." The lines are very reflective and point to the way love can make people oblivious or at least ignore the subconscious. The act of "unpacking books from boxes" could be used to describe feelings that were never opened in the failed relationship, as literature the goes unread.

Similar to Arctic Monkeys and other post punk stalwarts, one of Maximo Park's strongest attributes is the vivid story-telling that evokes memories of nights in saloons that resonate with great imagery. "By the Monument" belabors over flashbacks with almost obsessive detail like a "photobooth smile" and "disparate futures". Further,"Your Urge", a mid-tempo tune about needs that come with shame, descriptively sets the stage with words like "Oh but the pinkness near your iris,/Reveals that you've been crying,/But I don't know what my crime is,/Behind my crumbling veneer."

Maximo Park easily avoids the ominous sophomore slump on Our Earthly Pleasures by playing to their strong points: crafting energetic tracks at a variety of paces that are also lyrically reflective.

Maximo Park - Books From Boxes

Monday, July 2, 2007

Emmy the Great: "Two Steps" to Greatness

Emmy the Great is a young, British, singer-songwriter type that should be penetrating your eardrums soon, if she isn't already. I first heard her on the popular site, My Old Kentucky Blog, and my interest was accelerated with a post about her on the Daily Growl. There really isn't much more I can pontificate about Emmy the Great that those two gentlemen didn't already say, but I would like to reinforce them.

Mostly, I can't fathom why she hasn't been scooped up by a label yet. She is precisely the reason I wish I could start my own record company. She would easily be the flagship artist. Her soft-spoken, troubadour approach is very accessible to a variety of audiences. Not to mention that her voice delicately laces each melody, but makes you listen (similar to Feist).

One of the Emmy's greats so far, is "Two Steps Forward". The run down of an encounter with a past love reminisces about how times have changed since the couples' last rendezvous, including vivid imagery of the her first sexual encounter, religious opinions, and the fun of music before it was a "job". Emmy's airy vocals combined with the impassioned subject matter effectively give a sense of the innocence lost and the pain it has caused. The track is sure to conjure emotions and thoughts of nostalgia over the acoustic guitar strums and subtle fiddling. You hardly notice that there isn't a chorus because you are enamored with every earnest detail.

Emmy the Great - Two Steps Forward

Be sure to check out the Black Cab Sessions video as well

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Editors: Head "Start"

Editors An End Has A Start - 4/5 Narks

One of the U.K.'s finest rising bands, Editors, have returned with their highly anticipated album, An End Has A Start. As mentioned in a previous post, Editors are one of the first bands I stumbled upon when I was in search of new music last year. Its fair to say, they are one of the first bands I can say I've followed, which is great because I can see how they grow and evolve (Arctic Monkeys are a close second). After playing their platinum debut, The Back Room, countless times in the past year and catching them in concert last summer, I have been more than anxiously awaiting their next offering. This also makes it tougher for me to a) criticize their latest effort without bias and b) not be jaded to the fact that it might not be better than The Back Room, but I did my best.

After a first listen, it was apparent that the band has only got better at playing together. Whether it was by the guidance of recruited producer Jackknife Lee or touring the globe, their improved efforts have not been wasted. However, improving a craft does always translate into dramatic results. The new album treads much of the same ground as Editors' debut, specifically the epic ballads that highlighted The Back Room: "Camera" and "All Sparks". In a post on the band's myspace page, they cite deaths and trials throughout last year fueled the morbid, yet truthful finished product. Fortunately, dark themes and art rock are one of the band's strongest attributes.

The first single, "Smokers Outside the Hospital Door", opens the album on a grandeur note in heart breaking fashion. This tale features lead singer Tom Smith wondering how his life got to this point, seemingly in ruins, simply asking, "Someone turn me around/Can I start this again?" The song climaxes with a choir chanting, "We've all been changed/From what we were/Our broken parts/Smashed off the floor" almost as an otherworldly being answering his calls for redemption. "Weight of the World" continues the trend with commentary about a person's role in the world pondering, "Every little piece in your life/Will add up to one/Every little piece in your life/Will it mean something to someone?".

One of the standout tracks on the album is "Bones". The song is a heartfelt conversation about striving for a love that never quite matches the trouble. On the mid-tempo cut, the words "In the end all you can hope for/Is the love you felt to equal the pain you've gone through" speak to how relationships can be just as taxing on a person as physical injury. Further, "A system's put in place/Put there to protect us/For you I throw a life line every time" is explains how a person's skeletal structure is there to safeguard from pain and heal wounds. The parallel is made to the way a person can be hurt and but still be able to heal and forgive, even if they subconsciously know they will be hurt again.

Lighter fare can be found in the pulsing title track, "An End Has A Start". It features a rapid guitar with some synth assistance and states "You came on your own,/And that's how you'll leave,/With hope in your hands,/And air to breathe." A bit morbid, but a scenario for a variety of situations (birth and death or the rise and fall of a relationship). "Racing Rats" has up tempo energy and an industrial sound similar to "Fingers In The Factories", and speaks about being caught up in the contemporary world unable to keep in touch with whats important. Enough that you might not even notice the apocalypse. Many of these tracks will only further the comparisons to Interpol and Coldplay, but is inevitable with those bands citing similar influences (U2 and Joy Division).

Though experimentation is usually lauded in this forum, there is something to be said for consistency. An End Has A Start may not cover a lot of new territory, but Editors should be admired for creating a solid follow-up to their debut. Fans familiar with the band should enjoy it and I expect a larger US following after the release on July 17th. They are truly championing their sound which I would describe as industrial, with a touch of grandeur.

Editors - Bones

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Pharoahe Monch: "Body" Shot

Its as if the leaders of hip-hop read my post about the decline of my favorite musical genre. Kanye West dropped the "Can't Tell Me Nothing" mixtape in an effort to push his release date up to August, Talib Kweli's "Eardrum" album has leaked (but worth buying), Wu Tang Clan is reuniting for a new album, and UGK's collaboration with OutKast, "International Player's Anthem" is gaining steam. Within the past two weeks, I have felt a jolt of excitement about hip-hop music, which hasn't happened since Little Brother shook the underground with "The Listening" in 2003.

Further fueling my anticipation of hip-hop on the rebound is Pharoahe Monch. The underappreciated MC returns from an astounding 8 year absence after his critically-lauded 1st release, Internal Affairs. Pharoahe Monch's complex flow and thought provoking lyrics were highly regarded in hip-hop ciphers and caught the ear of many in 1999. Since then, he has kept a low profile since former powerhouse label, Rawkus Records folded. His name popped a few years ago when he was said to have been courted by a number record labels, including Eminem's Shady Records, before finally settling with Street Records (headed by former Loud Records CED Steve Rifkind).

Pharoahe Monch's latest offering, Desire, is sure to headline a number of year-end lists and might even climb mainstream music charts. The street single, "Push", already has the underground buzzing and "Body Baby" should catch some of the OutKast crowd with Pharaohe's over-the-top, soulful crooning, mixed with spitfire rapping and a jazzy, infectious beat.

Pharoahe Monch - Body Baby

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Rosebuds: Indie Sounds of the "Night"

The Rosebuds Night of the Furies - 4/5 Narks

The Rosebuds are back with their latest offering, Night of the Furies and they've added a new twist to their style. The husband and wife duo of Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp, known for their folk/indie rock melodies on the stellar Birds Make Good Neighbors, decided an electronic touch would be the perfect complement. This added element makes for catchy hooks that bring an indie-feel to the dancefloor.

The lead single, "Get Up Get Out", is one of the stand out tracks that showcases the group's embrace of dance beats. The dark, yet danceable tune features Ivan suggesting a companion the opportunity to "get out" and experience something new and exciting. It seems as though the song could also be in reference to this new and welcome sound the Rosebuds experimented with on Night of the Furies.

Other favorites include the grandeur sound of "Cemetary Lawns", the sonic handclaps on "Hold On To This Coat", and the odd, yet foot-tapping "I Better Run". The cowbell infested track features Ivan as a one man choir on the chorus, while Kelly seductively speaks of family heirlooms and her need to escape (as far as I can tell).

The only bad thing I can mention about the Night of the Furies is the short track list. At 9 tracks, it leaves the listener eager for more. Maybe its the fact that I am used to most rap (not hip-hop) albums that boast bloated tracklists 19 to 22 songs deep. Those albums usually contain garbage skits and filler tracks that aren't worth more than one listen. Fortunately, the replay value of the Rosebuds music is very high, especially on this album.

In the Rosebud's bio, it states "we set about recording these and other stories right away and Night of the Furies is the result. It is a dark, sexy, danceable, nuanced, and sublime record." And they effectively did so, its just a shame there wasn't more of it.

The Rosebuds - I Better Run

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Little Ones - West Coast "Sing Song"

The Little Ones is an indie pop group from Los Angeles that has an penchant for writing addictive hooks over festive instrumentals. Though they have only begun to gain notoriety in the indie realm, they already have amassed a small following on the road, opening for the likes of Tilly and the Wall and the Kaiser Chiefs. They were recently blessed with the rotation of their singles on the Zane Lowe Show and given a spot on the NME New Music Tour across Europe.

Their Southern California background and '60's pop influence is fittingly similar to fellow West Coast alumni, The Beach Boys. On their first release, Sing Song EP, The Little Ones use handclaps along with traditional instruments to create catchy tracks reminiscent of Pet Sounds. "Cha Cha Cha" comes off as beachside guitar pop with a chorus featuring wave-like strokes that sound inspired by the Pacific.

I first heard "Lovers Who Uncover" on the greatest college radio station in the country, Impact89 FM. I managed to write down their name for further research, all while dodging orange barrels and orders from ornary, middle-aged "ruffers" at Michigan State University last summer.

The Little Ones - Lovers Who Uncover

Friday, June 1, 2007

Scott Matthews: More Than "Passing"

One of the best songs of last year was finally rewarded for its excellence. It wasn't a Grammy or American Music Award, it was an Ivor Norvello award. Until today, I had never heard of the awards, but it is well deserved in this instance. "Elusive" by Scott Matthews was given the prestigious British award for merit in songwriting and composing.

Scott Matthews is part of the wave of singer/songwriters from across the pond and has shown he can craft a great song in a variety of styles. His debut album, "Passing Stranger", covers America-esque storytelling ("Elusive", "Earth to Calm"), experimental rock ("Dream Song", "Eyes Wider Than Before", "City Headache") and even some bluegrass ("Passing Stranger", "Sweet Scented Figure"). The effort is very much worth checking out.

"Elusive" is a bare-bones tale of a woman who always seems to be just out of reach. Matthews' chilling voice reverberates over the subtle guitar strums and elevates later with the background vocals that could easliy be mistaken for a string section. On the chorus he states "She's elusive and I'm awake,/You're finally real, there's nothing fake./A mystery now to me and you, /Open my eyes and I'm next to you./She said my destiny lies in the hands that set me free." But he later realizes his love interest is only part of his past and may only be accessible through memories.

Scott Matthews will open for Snow Patrol at Freedom Hill Ampitheatre in Sterling Heights on August 6th.

Scott Matthews - Passing Stranger

**I posted both a zshare link and an audio player your your listening pleasure. Any comments as to your preferences would be greatly appreciated.