Concert Review: Samantha Crain in Salt Lake City

I don’t even know where to begin with this one. Should it be the fact that she went out of her way to grant an interview? That during the interview, she was so down to earth that I couldn’t help but feel like we had known each other for years instead of mere minutes? How about the fact that this tiny little spitfire put on a show that kept people coming on to the floor immediately in front of the stage?

Where to start …

I guess I’ll just go in chronological order. At this point, it seems to make the most sense.

First off, I should mention that this is going to be a two-parter post: The concert review, and the discussion/interview we had. Again … damn. They really don’t come any more laid back than she.

So concert review. Here it is, from the top.

The venue was The Urban Lounge. I hadn’t been to a show there, so I did some poking around. Not a lot of favorable reviews, sadly. Even my friend in Colorado who had been to a show couldn’t think of a good thing to say. “It’s hot, AC sucks, sound system sucks … not my favorite place for a concert.” For all the reviews I read and all the dialog about the place I had had, I can’t help but say this: y’all are wrong. Okay … not about the AC. It was really warm in there. However, the intimacy of the venue trumps pretty much everything. The stage is tiny. The dance floor is tiny. Actually, the whole venue is tiny. It’s only designed to hold about 300 people, and there were possibly 200 people there last night. Very, very intimate place for a show. And I *loved* it. Our “seats” were bar stools on the fringe of the dance floor. I could have thrown a feather and hit the stage (if that feather were tied to a tiny pebble, or maybe a wad of semi-compacted paper).That’s how close the seats were.

My intent was to take pics and video the whole show. Both were accomplished, but not in the manner I had anticipated. I was hoping that I could just prop up my phone and record the show. That was tossed out within the first 2 minutes of the first song as everyone rushed the stage and staked their claim to band proximity. Hey … who am I to complain? Newbie to the venue, rules already well-established … who am I to demand a straight shot at the stage? No … I adapted and made the best of my newly acquired understanding of how the vibe works there. I held my phone aloft for all 10 songs (11, if you want to count the Britney Spears tribute for Will), and it looks great. Even better than I had planned. Lots of crowd interaction, lots of needing to maneuver to get a better angle because of the crowd … all of whom were awesomely enthusiastic to be there for Samantha, Penny and Anne.

Samantha opened her set with “Lions,” off her newest CD You (Understood). The first thing I noticed, and I love this about an artist, is that she sounds even better live than she does on her CDs. This takes NOTHING away from her studio performances, but man … the girl can rock out. And rock out she did. She danced and stomped around the stage with her guitar, threw her head back and let the moment sink in, never missing a note or a beat. Her feet were constantly moving. Her music and moves were of one mind. And her smile! What a genuinely awesome smile she has. Her music and love for it is so sincere that she cannot keep from smiling while she’s playing. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. The passion she displays for her art and for making sure the fans get everything out of her show that she can offer are the only things she’s worried about while on stage.

She’s also aligned herself with Penny Hill (bassist) and Anne Lillis (drummer). They equally throw themselves into the moment. Anne set my “wow” factor for drummers to an all-time high. Just … WOW. One quick note from the interview: Penny and Anne were on another couch while I chatted with Samantha. Very unassuming, quiet, and low-key. Yah … that was all left in the green room once the show started. Anne took her sticks, and with fluidity like I’ve never seen, she began pounding away in anthemic rhythm. She was Niagara Falls, flowing relentlessly and careening over the edge in one million gallons of pure drumming, crashing down upon her drumset with unbridled passion. Penny, the bassist, matched Anne pace for pace in her energy, constantly bouncing around the stage and enjoying every minute, her fingers flying up and down the frets as she sweetly and crooningly sang harmony and back-up. MOST excellent.

Their energy and playing was infectious, which the crowd obviously picked up on this vibe cuz the floor kept filling up with each passing minute, all longing to be part of that energy. And let’s face it … who wouldn’t want to be part of that energy?

On the next song, “Songs in the Night,” Samantha traded in the mini-guitar solo opening for a kazoo solo.  I don’t know if the guys next to us were digging or making fun of it, but we loved it. Practically no one uses a kazoo anymore, but it fit so perfectly with the intro that going back and listening to the studio track almost seems … incomplete? This is the magic of Samantha Crain–“Surprise! Here’s a kazoo intro. Didn’t see that coming, did ya?!” Love it!

Here’s the entire set list from the show:

  • Lions
  • Songs in the Night
  • Equinox
  • Holdin’ that Move
  • New Song (not sure what it was called … something about convertibles)
  • Scissor Tales
  • Get the Fever Out
  • Religious Winds
  • Two-Sidedness
  • Toxic (Britney Spears cover, tribute to Will)
  • Up on the Table

Here are some pics from the show.


Videos of the show can be found on my YouTube channel.

For supposedly being an “opening act” for Langhorne Slim, she got the crowd on their feet and kept them there until well after the last note. After the show, I made it a point to get her attention before we left so that I could once again thank her for her time earlier in the evening for the interview and for such a spectacular show. What ended the night on such a personal high note was the huge, glowing smile that greeted me. I’m telling you … the girl has class. She knows how to make people happy, which is simply by being her good-natured self. I’ll get more into it when I write about the interview/conversation, but for now, just know that she is as geniunely friendly and kind a person as you can imagine, and my life is better for having met her.

Samantha Crain, thank you. 🙂

CD Review: Azam Ali – From Night to the Edge of Day

About four years ago, a co-worker asked me if I had borrowed her Vas CD In the Garden of Souls. I had never even heard of Vas at the time, so no–I hadn’t borrowed it. Being curious, I hopped on Amazon and picked up a copy. Once it shipped, I listened to it a few times, then as a gift turned it over to my co-worker.

After a few days, I found myself *really* wanting to listen to it again. She let me borrow it for a few days, during which I became absolutely enamored with Azam Ali’s voice and style. Then I started doing my homework …

I know I’ve mentioned this in other posts, but for the love of all that is holy, that chick is PROLIFIC. Not only did she have 3 other CDs with Vas, but she had a CD with her side project Niyaz, 2 solo CDs, and a bunch of collaboration projects, one of which was a single with Serj Tankian of SOAD and Buckethead. GREAT song.

That was an expensive Amazon day. I bought everything she had that I could find in one fell swoop. Over the years, I’ve kept tabs to see what else she had going on. She released a new CD with Niyaz a few years ago. Then her website started hinting at a new solo CD.

That CD was released today. From Night to the Edge of Day is a compilation of her takes on various children’s lullabies from her native Iran. 10 tracks of not understanding a single word she sings, but feeling every neuron respond to the pure musical magic of her incantations.

Some of her music is incredibly energetic, though in a subdued, refined way. I point to Elysium for the Brave for a few tracks, such as “Endless Reverie,” “Abode,” and “Forty One Ways.” There’s an energy to these that’s so … different. Not the “I can get up and dance to this!” kind of energy. No … this energy is different, and I just figured out what it is: it reminds me of the “energy” that Sarah Fimm creates in her music–one of a very strong … “amorous” energy. Yah–that’s it.

However, that energy is nowhere on this new CD. Like I said, it’s a collection of re-invented children’s’ lullabies, and every track does its intended job. There is a dreaminess and trance-inducing quality to these songs that is only hinted at on her other works.

Stand-out tracks:

“Tenderness” is absolutely ethereal. There is a I could listen to this one track on repeat pretty much all day. The deep, almost rumbling sounds of what may be a synth, layered with her breathy, luring vocals, mixed with various sounds, slowly mixing in another layer of synth a couple of octaves above the bass synth … it’s just an incredibly relaxing track.

“Neni Desem” starts similarly, but then a string instrument sounding suspiciously like a dulcimer kicks in. Gah … I wish I had the liner notes with me for this. This is a much more stripped down song than “Tenderness.” It really is just the keyboard synth, some string instruments, and her layered vocals that mesmerize and hypnotize.

“Dandini” uses percussion to keep the flow of the song moving, though I’m sure it would sound just as incredible without. This track is similar to “In the Garden of Souls” in that you can hear similar percussion, used in a similarly slow, burning, yearning way.

If this becomes your first Azam Ali purchase, may I congratulate you for taking your first steps into a larger, more musically mature world. Unless you are fluent in Farsi or native Iranian dialects, odds are you won’t understand a word on this CD. that will have literally zero impact on your ability to flat-out enjoy this new offering.

Feel free to file this under “shiver” because this is almost guaranteed to give you goose bumps.

Review: Radiohead – The King of Limbs

Holy crap. Really? A day early?! The news is all over the place: Facebook, Twitter … Radiohead had nothing else going on today, so why wait until tomorrow to release their newest masterpiece?

And why indeed! For those of you who have heard “Lotus Flower,” you’ll know the excitement and anticipation this CD holds. One of my favorite songs of theirs is “Everything In Its Right Place.” For some reason, this song kind of has that vibe to it. LOVE LOVE *LOVE* this song.

For those of you who have been living under a musical rock aren’t familiar with Radiohead, a brief history is in order. The band consists of Thom Yorke, who handles the vocals, Jonny Greenwood on guitars and occasional keyboards, Ed O’Brien on guitars, Colin Greenwood providing bass and synth work, and Phil Selway on the drums. King of Limbs is their 8th studio recording, and if it’s anything like their previous works, you’ll want to grab this. Like … now.

Yet you’re still reading this. Why?! Why are you buying this RIGHT NOW?!

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, more and more bands are doing their own marketing and distribution. Radiohead is no exception. They’re jazzing it up for the “newspaper version.” Check out what all is included at the link above. I ponied up the $48 for that one, and I would strongly recommend that you do the same. For one, it comes with a CD, which I can then rip to wav if I want. For another, vinyl. Clear. Making a HUGE comeback. For the audiophile purist, vinyl is the way to go.

However, if you’re not into the ancillary peripherii, the $9 and $14 for mp3 and wav respectably is a great way to go. Either way, you’ll get your digital copy of the new CD immediately. Or, well … as fast as your throttled high-speed internet provider will allow (I’m spitting in your general direction, Comcast.).

So how does the new CD sound? What’s it like?

On one hand, it’s a rich, deep, haunting CD. At the same time, there is a more minimalistic approach than in Radiohead CDs of the past. By “minimalistic,” by no means do I mean that the music is sub-standard. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a pure sound to this that

“Bloom,” the first track, is a eargasmic trip into a soundscape that these little Apple earbuds simply do not do justice. I really need my Bose headphones back … *sigh*. Oh well. With the effect this song has had on me the two times I’ve listened to it, I’d swear that it’s binaural, but I can’t be positive. I do know that it’s extremely mellow and relaxing.

Compared to “Morning Mr. Magpie,” that is, which starts off, “You got some nerve, coming here. You stole it all … give it back.” There’s a very low-level feel of angst and just a hint of pissed-off-edness to keep you on the edge of your seat, waiting for the song to explode … and it never does. It maintains the air of “I’m going to kick your ass … maybe” throughout the entire song.

“Codex” is a fantastic piano piece that will haunt you until the day you die. There’s a warm mix of traditional piano, synth, a very subdued, possibly drum machine bass, and of course, Thom’s crooning. Mid-way through, there’s some synthetic horn sounds that mixes really well with the song. Overall, it’s a really peaceful piece.

You know my MO … I’m not reviewing every song. I will say this: If you’ve liked the last few Radiohead CDs, this one will grow on you really fast. This one is to be enjoyed with a a drink, dim lights, and a good pair of headphones or a fantastic home stereo. If you’re the brandy-sipping type, you might want to pour yourself a glass, sit back in your favorite chair, kick your feet up, and just chill with this. You’ll find yourself hitting repeat and zoning out for hours.

Review: Yanni – Truth of Touch

You all thought I was kidding when I told you I have a wide range of musical taste. Admit it. You thought I was just kidding.

Wrong. See?

And I’m more than qualified to write this review as more than just someone listening to his music for the first time cuz I own almost everything he’s ever made. Well, studio recordings, anyway. Not all the compilation discs, because what’s the point? I’m talking Niki Nana, Chameleon Days, Keys to Imagination … old-school Yanni.

It all started when I was living in Virginia Beach back in 1992. I had some pretty stringent rules that I was living by. One of which was that I could only listen to instrumental music. The guy I was living with had some interesting stuff: Tangerine Dream, Lanz and Spears, solo David Lanz stuff … and this guy named Yanni. My buddy recorded Yanni’s Reflections of Passion on one side of a 45 minute tape. Of course, I lost the last couple tracks and a portion of the last song on the recorded tape, but at least I had them.

Anyway, as I got more into CD collecting and music in general, I decided that his music is collection-worthy. By that, I don’t mean that his music is worthy to be in my collection … I mean that his music is worth collecting. I’m not that arrogant. 😉 So I picked up Dare To Dream, which had jus barely been released.

And that was that. Yah, I like Tool, and I really get into Metallica’s old stuff … I also have times where I like to chill. You’ll be hard-pressed to find more chill music than Yanni’s.

So how does the new CD rate?

After 2 tracks in, I knew he had another winner on his hands. The sounds are lush, full, and the music is as entrancing as it has always been. If there is one thing that can be said of Yanni, it is that he has the uncanny ability to convey the feeling of the song through the music. Almost every other artist requires lyrics to convey their meaning. Yanni’s music is the lyrics. You know exactly what he is trying to bring across. This has always been, and it always will be.

The CD starts off with the title track – “Truth of Touch.” Just from the key the music is written in, to the chosen melody, the accompanying bass line, the background strings … you can feel the truth of … of ….. well, everything. I know that sounds cheesy. Really … I do. But it’s the truth! No pun intended. This song is full of happiness and peaceful warm fuzzies … like you’ve just come out of the surf from swimming with turtles and clown fish, and you’re ready to sit in and dry yourself with warmth and sunshine.

“Echo of a Dream,” the second track on the CD, will very much make you question your own state of being. “Am I awake? Did I drift off ? How did I end up in this ethereal state …?” A lot of the sounds on this track seem to have an almost binaural effect … setting your mind to relaxation mode as you ride those alpha waves to a state of relaxation and tranquility. Put this on repeat, and you’ll probably be out within two or three rounds.

Conversely, “Vertigo” slams into the song with a force akin to free-falling from a rooftop and landing  on your back on the cement below. Again, the chords, the instrumentation, the beat … you get the feeling like you’re lost in space and tumbling endlessly through a void, yet you have that nagigng feeling like you’re going to hit a wall at some point … you just don’t know when.

As the CD progresses, some of the later tracks have a kind of Hooverphonic, Enigma sound to them. It’s different from anything I’ve ever heard him do. You could almost dance to some of this stuff.

There are some suprises on this CD, but I’m going to let you discover those on your own. Who am I to spoil anything?

I am not at all surprised that he’s been around these 25+ years, consistently coming up with new music. He has a style that is at once so unique yet so familiar that he becomes  his own enigmatic doppleganger. How someone is able to this much music on his own over the course of 14 CDs is amazing to me. Yes–there are similar elements from previous works. That doesn’t mean that these songs are not incredibly fresh and incredible. He maintains an air of familiarity, yet also re-invents himself with just about every new release.
File this under “shiver,” for you will get goosebumps when you listen to this.

Review: Moldover!

I know I already posted about this article, but I think it bears mentioning again in that I bought some stuff from reading it.

Namely, Moldover’s CD. If you check out his site, you’ll see why. It’s not rocket science. My copy came in the mail yesterday.

So, for now, we’re going to set aside the fact that the music will make you get up and shake your rump like you are the dance club. Let’s focus on the CD case.

In 2006, the legendary Tool released 10,000 Days with one of the most innovative jewel cases ever conceived. Built into the case was a set of lenses that allowed the user to view the images within the book in stereoscopic 3D. Pictures specifically designed for the CD case, members of the band … insane Alex Gray artwork.

Moldover is no Alex Gray, but he is, if nothing else, at least as innovative and creative. See … his CD case is a printed circuit board. On the board is a button that activates a little piezo speaker and blue LED. Also on the board are two photo diodes that cause the speaker and the LED to react–either by lowering the pitch or by dimming the LED. In essence, the board is its own musical instrument. How cool is that?! It’s battery-operated, so if the board starts acting funky, you can replace the battery for cheap, and you’re back to making music. Or at least squawky light-up music.

There’s a headphone jack to soothe your narcissism and allow others some peace and quiet. Or, if you feel so ambitious

Also etched on the board are the song titles, in typical PCB line fashion. On the inside cover, where the CD sits, there is a maze of lines running all over the board. At least, Ithink it’s a maze. On the left side of the board are two holes. One says “In” while the other one says “Out.” I emailed Moldover to see if my guess is correct, but I haven’t heard back yet. He’s probably off making amazing music or something.

So if you watch that video on his site about how the CD case is a musical instrument unto itself, you automatically assume that all of his music is going to be this trippy squawk stuff. Your assumption would be so far left of right that you couldn’t even prop yourself up on the edge … you would end up tumbling into the other dimension that he specifically created for his music. But when you land, you’d be so happy that you got there, that you wouldn’t care that you were just that wrong.

There’s a diversity to this CD that you can’t really justify expecting if all you based this purchase on was the “buy this CD” video, which is precisely what I did. I fully expected to get this and file it under “Aphex Twin.” Ha ha ha ha ha!

I’m assuming that he plays all his own instruments. I have yet to confirm that. But there’s a lot going on here. Drums, guitar, bass, keyboard, synth … I’m also assuming a lot of it is processed through his home-made device.

There are dance tracks. There are rock tracks. There are melodic, pensive tracks. There are discordant, loud tracks. This has something for practically everyone.

Stand-out tracks:

“Say It.” The Speak’n’Spell track. Using his custom-made sequenceer, he integrated the iconic 80s toy and created a completely melancholy track. Every word he’s asked to spell is filled with hope, dreams and life … of which the machine tells him is wrong. I cannot express how cool this track is. Seriously. This alone should make you buy the CD.

“Slipping In.” The aforementioned rock track. A very Anthrax or RatM-style rap overlaying a metal guitar track. I’m a HUGE fan of the lyrics … in all honesty, he’s no Zach de la Rocha, but he can definitely hold his own. Very cool song.

“Reflex.” A very moody, atmospheric, kind of dark track. I was talking to my 6 year old girl about how she shouldn’t be playing “Nazi Zombies” (Seriously?! Her friend at school asked her if she likes playing that game. WHY would a 6-year old even know that game exists?! It’s not even a game unto itself … it’s a Call of Duty add-on. Just … wow.), and she asked, “Is this the music from that?”

“From … what? The game?”


“Ha ha. No, honey. This is daddy’s new CD.” Pretty funny. but yah–there’s that dark element to it. I think it has to do with the Hammond organ sound that pervades the whole track, mixed with the bass and freaky noises.

I am so much more than just pleased with this CD on multiple levels. The music itself is amazing. The jewel case is seriously a collector’s item. It’s too cool NOT to own! However, it is $40, so if that’s out of your budget, I would recommend the iTunes version at $9.90. However you manged to obtain this CD, I would suggest you do it as soon as possible.

Review: Gypsy Death and You – e.p. no. 1

Well, it showed up today. I’ve ordered and won literally hundreds of CDs over the last month. Far and away, this has been the most anticipated one. I have, in my hands, the first EP from Gypsy Death and You. That’s THE BAND–not the song by The Kills.

This is why I’m a big fan of sites like Feed the Muse and Kickstarter. These guys *need* a site like that, if they don’t already have one. If they do, I’m not aware of it, but a search of both those sites reveals nothing, so … hmm.

First off, a big thanks to the band for sending this. I couldn’t imagine working or communicating with a nicer couple.

Gypsy Death and You are Alex Wilson and Emily Cahill. They’re from the Philadelphia area. If they’re any indication of the music scene in Philly, then the City of Brotherly Love is in most excellent musical hands.

The overall sound is amazing,–very raw and un-refined. I consider this to be a beautiful, beautiful thing. Here’s why.

What you hear is what you get. This music is precisely what you would hear if they decided to drop by and perform an impromptu concert in your front yard. It sounds like there is very little, if any, processing or “cleansing.” It’s real. There’s nothing other than the instruments and the band. In baking, raw, unrefined sugar is preferred to processed, white, refined sugar. Unrefined sugar has nutritional properties that are flat-out missing in refined sugars. Processed sugar is useless. I feel the same would be true if GDaY were to run their sound through a bunch of “refinement.” Their energy comes through with all the nuance and precision of a seasoned band, yet this is just their first EP. They’re not bogged down with all the baggage of someone like Bob Rock mucking up their sound (think what Metallica *could* have been if he hadn’t produced the black album. I’m just saying.)

The only exception to this is the beginning of “Capitol Jump,” where the intro is this wonderfully cacophonous noise barrage, filled with pounding drums, raging guitars, and a mix that leaves you shocked when they move beyond. They grab you with this infectious “Ah-ah-ah-ahhhh-ahhhh …” I like. A lot. Then we’re treated to the only song on the EP where Alex performs the primary vocals. On ReverbNation, they’ve uploaded a new version that has a more harmonic intro. Personally, I like the original! At least, I think that’s the original intro. Actually, I don’t know which is new version. Guess I should find out!

UPDATE: Boy was I wrong. I had it backwards. The ReverbNation version is the original. The one on the EP is the newer version. So, to be clear, prefer the newer, love the older. Capiche?

“Smile” has a very 80’s sounding, Molly Ringwald flavor to it. Odd, cuz as far as I know, she has never released a CD in her life. I don’t know if it’s Emily’s vocals or what, but the first thing I thought of when I heard this song was “Pretty in Pink.” I have no idea why. And it’s catchy. “A smile on you is a smile on me.”

The thing I like about “Sound of the Sun” is the tempo. For some reason, this strikes me as a very Lush sound to the music with a Kim Deal (though muffled through the distortion of the guitars) quality to the vocals, all the while maintaining their own sound.

If you’re a fan of The Jesus and Mary Chain, you’ll love their cover of “Something I Can’t Have.” It sounds like they’ve taken it up an octave to play to Emily’s vocal strengths, and it comes off with an awesome vibe.

In a nutshell, I *highly* recommend finding a way to pick up their CD. They’re good, they’re talented, they have more going on upstairs than most bands. They’re young, they’re inspired, and they have the potential to be around for long, long time.

There is just one small, tiny little nagging issue: the lack of availability. These guys deserve to have their music dispersed through some place like iTunes or Amazon … somewhere. They should be getting paid for their music. I don’t want to see them become another “flash in the pan,” you know?! They sent me the CD on their dime, even though I requested a PayPal address to help fund them. Were they to put their music on iTunes, I would buy it just to support them because they deserve it.

Emily, Alex … if you’re reading this, ya gotta get this out there. You are not just some other band. Your music is danceable. It’s at once up-beat and introspective. This has stratospheric potential. I’m begging you … do not quit. Do not give up. Put it on iTunes! Why not?! I can almost guarantee you you’ll have at least a favorable reviews.

Again, I want to thank these guys for the CD. I’m glad to have it, and I can’t wait to hear what else these guys come up with.

Facebook page

Muxtape page

Interview with

That is all.

Review: The Dears – Gang of Losers

What I love about buying music I’ve never heard of is the thrill of wondering what I’ve just ppurchased. Will it rock? Will I be lulled into a wonderful trance of haunting chants? If ears  were eyes, would they be as taken aback as if they were seeing Yellowstone for the first time?

Today, my ears are thanking me profusely for the new stuff. Specifically, the ears and I are groovin’ on some Dear music.

The first thing that struck me was the intro. Wasn’t quite ready for that. “Sinthro” is exactly what it sounds like–synth-based intro to a song that is nothing like what I expected based on the first track. “Ticket to Immortality starts off with a nifty little guitar riff with some orhcestral strings faintly accenting the background. It has a strangely familiar sound, though I can’t quite put my finger on it. I want to say that they sound like The Tragically Hip, but that’s not it … not sure what it is.

Oh. Ha. That explains it. They’re a Canadian band. That automatically adds a couple more stars on the 10-scale.

Yah … 3 tracks in, and every song sounds different. You know how there are those bands where everything sounds exactly the same (*AHEM*Nickelback*COUGH*Paramore*SNEEZE*)? Not these guys. Murray Lightburn goes to great lengths to mix it up. There’s some good keyboard use, and I’m DIGGING the guitars. My buddy Josh is a guitar player, and I’m betting he hasn’t heard of these guys. He could spend weeks de-constructing this CD. Probably won’t, but he would if he could. That’s my point.

Some songs are moody. Some are mellow. Some are rocking. All are well crafted and amazing. I’m starting to understand why Kylee at Graywhale said it was a good purchase. Stand-out tracks are:

  • Ticket to Immortality
  • Death or Life We Want You
  • Bandwagoners
  • Whites Only Party (no, that’s not a subliminal message from me to you … it really is a good track!!)
  • Ballad of Humankindness
  • Find Our Way to Freedom

Truthfully, the whole CD is great. I just really like their sound. There’s a LOT of different stuff going on here.

OH! I figured it out! There’s a kind of 70s throw-back sound to some of this! I definitely wouldn’t label this as classic rock, but you can tell there are some influences there.

If you like The Tragically Hip, Interpol , Band of Horses, Bright Eyes, or Cursive, you’ll really dig these guys.

Review: Drop Side Nine – A Perfectly Orchestrated Breakdown.

So, the other day, I got a friend request on Facebook. I had no idea who this guy was, so I checked out his page. Turns out he’s a local musician. I sent him a message asking him how he found me, thinking he found this blog. In actuality, he found me on The Depot‘s Facebook page. I told him about this site, and he said, “Well, hey. I have some stuff. Wanna review it?” Downloaded it, listened to it, and … well, here it is.

Drop Side Nine is comprised of Scott Peterson and Brandon Larsen, life-long friends who grew up in the same small town, went their separate ways, and ended up doing exactly what they’ve always wanted – making music. The result is what we’re given in A Perfectly Orchestrated Breakdown.

The first thing I noticed was the sound quality. I like the garage recording sound. We’re not talking Garage Days Re-revisited, but there’s definitely an awesome vibe to the recording … like they’re seriously just having fun. Gives it a very raw, unaltered sound. Having said all that, I’m also extremely excited to see what some more professional recording and mixing can do for these guys. There is potential. Lots. And lots. And LOTS.

As for the instrumentation, I’m … wow. There are two guys, right? Just two? I mean, there’s synth, piano, guitars, strings (violins? cellos? maybe it’s synth … hard to tell), standard drums, drum loops … there’s a lot going on here. I’m guessing a lot of this is track layering. I can see the need of a full, 4 or 5 piece band to pull off this stuff live. Probably two guitarists, a keyboardist, bassist, and drummer. Obviously, some of the elements are already there.

Brandon has a kind of pre-trained James LaBrie-type voice going on that with some proper training could seriously take off. I like that it sounds completely unprocessed. I *hate* processed voices that sound great on a CD, but then you go see a band live, and come to find out, the singer really sucks. Such is not the case here. What you hear is what you’ll get live. Again, with a bit of vocal training, we could have the next Geoff Tate.

It’s fairly evident from lyrics that either Scott or Brandon (or, both?) have been through some painful experiences–the genesis for many of the songs on the CD. (from “Broken Down”) “Make this go away, turn a page–a brand new day. Now I’m so alive. I know this time that I’ll get it right. Broken down, I’ve begun to bleed.” (from “Take”) “I want you all to see it. I want you all to hear it, and this is what I’m screaming so maybe now you’ll feel it, and I will say it again: the walls are closing and, and I can’t take it no more.” (from Something New”) “I’ve awakened from my downward slide. I won’t be a victim anymore. Take a hard look at yourself cuz I’m coming out swinging. Ready to take your ugly world and turn it into something new–maybe a taste of the blues will help you secretly.” They’ve taken their experiences and turned them into this first offering.

Overall, there is serious potential for these guys. It’s obvious from Scott’s Facebook page that there’s already a growing interest. Now is the time to “get on board” and have the chance to say, “Hey … I knew them and saw them before YOU did!” If they keep plugging away (get it?! guitar and amp joke!), there’s no telling where they can go. We, the fortunate ones, get to watch the entire ride.

To Scott, who I know will read this, thanks for finding me. It’s been my privilege and pleasure to listen to your stuff. I’m serious … keep this up.

Muse – The Resistence

It’s like my brother with a new Tragically Hip release: it’s a very slow, lingering, burning process.

It’s also how a long-lasting relationship maintains its fervor and ardor long after the initial burn has faded into abeyance.

I purposefully did not review this CD right out of the gate because of the relationship I have with Muse’s music. It wouldn’t be fair to my readers or to the band to give the CD one pass and review it. With some bands, you can do that. My initial listening to Alice in Chains’ “Black Gives Way to Blue” was a one-pass. It didn’t take me any time to see the musical genius behind their most recent offering.

Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard are true musicians. Their art is not something to be appreciated in the “Oh look … here’s a lovely mountain picture hanging above my hotel bed” kind of way. If there were a Louvre for music, their music would have a wing unto itself. It’s something to be drunk slowly. Sipped, as it were. Appreciated over a long, long period of time. They don’t write music; they compose it. And they do it with such finesse and precision that it simply wouldn’t be right to review their new CD without proper time to digest it.

And no–I don’t consider the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a “Louvre.”

Having said that …

The layering on this is phenomenal. “Uprising,” the anthemic opening track, treats us to Wolstenholme’s thick, prominant bass playing and Dom’s driving drum beat. They start off the track with such energy that you can’t help but get up and move. Bellamy bounces between keyboards and guitar. I don’t know who “they” is supposed to represent–government? media? Whoever the phantom power is, they will not control us; we will be victorious. Hands down. If you don’t believe that by the end of the song, you’re not paying close enough attention.

As is so often the case with many Muse songs, the next track, “Resistance,” lulls you into a trance with some ethereal, soft keyboards, then flows effortlessly into the meat of the song with more of Dom’s bombastic drumming, Matt’s keyboarding, and Chris’ single bass lines.

I’m just blown away by the hooks on this CD. “Undisclosed Desires” has some deep, soul-shaking, bass synth on the chorus that just rocks your ears and has the capicty to turn your innie into an outie. If you don’t think so, get yourself a pair of high-end headphones and listen to this track. Mix in the plucked-strings sound that echoes throughout, layered with the rest of the keyboards and synth … whoa.

One of my favorite tracks is “Unnatural Selection.” It has this completely “Do We Really Need This/Hullabaloo feel to it musically. Lyrically, it’s pretty in-your-face, conjuring protests and rallies. “I am hungry for some unrest; let’s push it beyond a peaceful protest. I want to speak in a language that you will understand …” If you want to hear an amazing live version of this track, check out this site. Download the Admiralspalast show.

Here’s the thing with Muse. I might have said this before, and if I have, I won’t apologize because it’s absolutely true.

Muse is the new Rush. Both 3-piece bands that do more with those 3 pieces than most 5-pieces bands. Their “less is more” approach to music bears the unavoidable comparison. Most want to compare Muse to Queen, and while there is no denying the influence Freddy Mercury et al have on the band, Muse does it better with less. Sorry, Queen fans … that’s just my opinion, and you don’t have to agree with it or like it.

I won’t review each song. I’ve given you enough of a reason to get this CD. This has “stuck on a desert island” potential. Seriously. Soak in it. Drink it in slowly and deliberately. You’ll thank yourself. And me.   🙂


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