Review: “Full Coverage” – Grumsling.

 

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Grumsling’s Full Coverage defies any sort of formal categorization. At times, there’s a punky energy to it, other times there are spacey jams, and in other songs nods to the weirdness of alt-rock favorites Pavement on “Downtime”.

Through their web-site, Grumsling describes themselves as a character; one who is a trickster and maker of mischief. That trait is apparent throughout Full Coverage: one moment they sound transcendent and majestical like My Morning Jacket records (“Whiskey”) and then follow-it up with a musical ode to slacker-ism in “Skyline”. The two songs couldn’t be more different: the first is perfectly executed in arrangement and playing the second is perfectly flawed in its sloppiness.

The odd-ball drums rolls and rhythms that make up much of Full Coverage are driving force behind the record. Drummer Dominic Rodriguez gives even the slower songs an aggressive edge and provides some structures to the otherwise jagged guitar lines that cut through some of the arrangements.

Full Coverage is an engaging listen, and you have to admire it’s oddness. However, the very thing that makes it interesting is also it’s major flaw. It lacks a coherency and cohesiveness for repeated listening. There’s not much of an identity to be found here other than just general strangeness. Even the best mischief makers have a purpose and intent, something which Grumsling seems to lack here.

Check out the lyric video for “Downtime” below.

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Review: “Sarah + 1, A Tribute To Sarah Vaughan” – Delilah

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Jazz-revivalist Delilah offers her take on Sarah Vaughan classics on her latest EP, Sarah + 1, A Tribute To Sarah Vaughan. Needless to say, this is a daunting task for any vocalist since Vaughan’s stature is beyond legendary.

But Delilah is more than up to the task at hand and presents a beautifully constructed tribute. Sarah + 1 isn’t a retread or a completely new take on the Vaughn classics.  It retains much of the smokey feel of  Vaughn’s classic era during the 40’s and 50’s while sounding contemporary enough to attract new listeners.  Delilah is in complete control of her voice here, letting some notes hang in the air like a soft summer wind while others go down like a smooth glass of wine. She strikes the right balance between technicality and soulfulness, especially on her stunning rendition of “Just Friends”.

While Delilah is clearly the star of the show here (and rightfully so), the backing musicians shouldn’t be forgotten. The piano, horns and drums are smooth and sultry, giving the EP a sense of romance and a tiny hint of sex. The musicians know when to pull back when Delilah pushes her harder, giving her vocals an extra sense of grandeur.

Delilah’s take on Sarah Vaughan is a reminder that the late Jazz singer had a profound influence on music in general, not just Jazz. Indeed, Vaughan’s music left a huge effect on a young Delilah who was born in Budapest, before moving to Toronto in 1988.  This EP, is clearly a love-letter from a young girl to one of her biggest idols. Even the title is a reference to Vaughan: her 1963 album was titled Sarah + 2, due to the backing of two instruments – double-bass and guitar.

Sarah + 1, A Tribute To Sarah Vaughan is definitely a worthwhile listen, and Delilah should be commended for her interpretation of a giant in the world of music.

Take a listen to “Just Friends” below:

 

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Review: “House of Words” – Aurian Haller Band

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The Aurian Haller Band might hail from Quebec, but the music found on House of Words is full of American sounds: Jazz, Americana, Alt-Country and Folk. Like Neil Young and (most members of) The Band, Haller’s takes most of his inspiration from the land below him. There at times when he references his homeland, by singing in French, but that seems more like a nod to fellow Canadian Leonard Cohen than anything else.

On paper, the different sounds found on House of Words might seem like they’d be out of place together. But Haller makes sure that House of Words blends all of these sounds together seamlessly. In part, it might be the dense production that gives a feeling of Autumn some of House of Words its focus or declaration of intent. Its stripped down enough so that every instrument can be heard perfectly, but also dense enough to give the songs a melancholic mood.

Together with Haller’s craft at the forefront, the Jazz-inspired “Sister Moon” sits comfortably next to the Alt-Country vibe of “And Still”.  Strange as it may seem, the guitar solo found on “And Still” feels just as organic as the sliding piano, soft bass and harmonica that is the backbone of “Sister Moon”.  “Do Me a Favour” might be the set’s most rollicking number, but the song’s harmonies and organ make it clear, that it’s really just a country-song in disguise.

There’s an easy rhythm to be found here, and as tightly constructed as the songs are, Haller still gives the songs plenty of room to breathe and live. Even when songs of the songs break free for several bars, it’s never aimless. The overall effect just heightens the mood and atmosphere.

House of Words is probably best listened to on a cool evening with a neat glass of whiskey in hand. The individual songs sound good, but together as a piece House of Words is a rare breed in the digital era: a fully realized album.

Check out the video for “L’Amoure et Ses Couteaux” below:

 

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Review: “Disconnect” – Monks of Mellonwah

 

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When Alternative Rock turn into Alt-Pop? That’s a question I keep asking myself, every time a new “alternative rock” act emerges, and the focus seems to be more on the pop side of the spectrum of than the rock.

Australia’s Monks of Mellonwah seem to have taken that route to heart on their latest EP, Disconnect. Every vocal, instrumentation and arrangement here seems made with the intent of creating a hybrid of pop-rock. The vocals are pushed up front and the music itself, while clearly made by a band is layered enough, so as not to be confrontational or offending in any way.

Unfortunately Monks of Mellonwah never really seem to embrace either genre completely. Their songs are too melancholic to be considered “pop” and they never really catch fire a as band in any way. Opening track “Never Been Good Enough” starts with a synth track and processed drums that could be mistaken for a remix. Mid-way through a brief guitar solo breaks through, as if to tell the listener than Monks of Mellonwah are not, “pop” with a capital “P”.  Monks of Mellonwah would be wise to take a page out of Cheap Trick’s book if they want to have melodies and want to rock. Or, better yet take a listen to Sirius XM’s Alt-Nation to see how other Alt/Pop acts have crafted their songs.

The closest they get to a fully realized sound and vision is the piano-driven title track. It’s a sort of camp-fire song in the tradition of early Coldplay, but there’s a lack of passion in it that keeps it from becoming truly epic. The vocals are almost too polished and perfected for it to be believable or convincing.

And ultimately that goes for the entire EP as well. Try as they might, there’s little for the audience to actually grab onto, making Disconnect a pretty apt title.

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Review: “Watch it Sparkle” – dsfečo

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The spacey and futuristic sounds found on dsfečo’s Watch It Sparkle seem like they could be  perfect accompaniment soundtrack to soma, the fictional hallucinogenic found in Brave New World. It’s unsettling and jarring; purposefully so. As the tracks unfold, a certain paranoia takes hold of the listener.

The Brave New World comparison is even more apt, when you listen carefully to the apocalyptic visions found in the lyrics. The world found in Watch It Sparkle is one where laws are strictly enforced, and mankind seems to have undone much of what is good.  In this society, to “keep moving at all costs” is the law, make-believe futures are dissolved and  the “colonizers of your soul, are trying to seize control.” Watch It Sparkle seems to suggest (much like Brave New World) that if we’re not careful we could end becoming mindless entities of a warped regime.

It should come as no surprise then, that as a listening experience, Watch It Sparkle can be quite difficult. There are no formal song structures, chord progressions or hooks to lure the listener in. The mostly ambient music hangs like a dark cloud in the speakers with various sounds coming in and out at seemingly random moments. dsfečo’s voice is distant and cold, like the breath of a ghost in a haunted mansion.  While that effect perfectly captures the mood and intent of the EP, it also makes it hard to actually decipher the lyrics.

At its best, Watch It Sparkle recalls the For Your Pleasure era of Roxy Music (i.e. – when Eno was still in charge of the band.) The boundary pushing music is noteworthy and can be intriguing, but whether it lingers solely depends on whether ambient music is your speed or you’re willing to dive into something as unconventional as this.

Visit dsfečo’s Facebook page for more info on Watch It Sparkle and take a listen to “Not Again” below:

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Review: “The Unveiling” – Rimi Basu

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Indian-American artist Rimi Basu’s EP, The Unveiling is melding of two distinct cultures: the old-world sound of India mixed with American Pop sensibilities and soundscapes.

You’d be wrong for thinking that The Unveiling is a novel project. It’s not simply a mash-up of East vs. West. This is an an artist who has been immersed in both cultures and is attempting to bring both together through music.

The daughter of Indian-Immigrants, Basu’s path to becoming a pop-star is a long and interesting one. Growing up loving both Indian music and American R&B and pop, it was  shock when she decided to drop out of medical school to pursue her dreams as a musician in India. Once there, she soaked up as much as she could and studied with renowned musicians such as Ajoy Chakrobarty. Since then she has produced two albums in India, while generating lots of press and accolades along the way.

Now, Basu has her sights on America. Much of The Unveiling is produced with that audience in mind. Due to the familiar thump of bass and electronic drums, The Unveiling’s backbone will be mostly familiar to Western ears. With pulsing rhythms and electronic flourishes, the mostly mid-tempo songs are ones you could dance to in a club. There are hints of rock as well: “Surmayee” contains a brief guitar solo.

Still, The Unveiling has a distinct Indian flavor to it. The sounds of India slide over the beats, conjuring up images of the old world, its rhythm and its people. Basu’s sultry voice, (sung mostly in Hindi) confirms this.

Her versatility as a singer is apparent throughout The Unveiling. On “Surmayee” she coos softly over an acoustic guitar, while giving an aura of confidence on the driving “Mat Ja”.  The sexy “Keh Du?” finds her cloaking her voice in what sounds like Auto-Tune. At first this sounds a bit weird, but the effect works: it make her voice alluring and mysterious.

The Unveiling could certainly achieve a cross-over. If you like club-ready music that is different and exciting, you should definitely check out The Unveiling.

Watch the video for “Maahiya” below:

 

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Review: “Delta Deep” – Delta Deep

 

 

10321045_1581720182079895_1102858770077223036_oThe debut album from blues-rock supergroup Delta Deep is full of greasy licks, whiskey-soaked rock ‘n roll and soulful vocals. Imagine a smoking-hot bar blues-bar band playing the best straight-ahead rock and roll you’ve heard with the likes of Aretha Franklin or Darlene Love belting over some furious riffs and you’ve got an idea of what Delta Deep sounds like.

Founded by Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen, Delta Deep consists of established and esteemed musicians as guitarist Dean DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots), drummer Forrest Robinson (India.Arie/TLC) and singer Debbi Blackwell-Cook (former background singer for Michael Buble and Luther Vandross.)

Supergroups often have a reputation of being a vanity project: they’re fun for the musicians, but for listeners the results can be cumbersome and underwhelming. Too often, supergroups from different genres have trouble gelling and creating their own sound. You only need to look at Audioslave or Mick Jagger’s ill-fated Super Heavy project for proof.

For Delta Deep, the opposite is true. From the very start, this is a band that seems to be completely in sync with each other, even as their individual parts are readily apparent. DeLeo and Collen provide Delta Deep with their muscular riffs reminiscent or early Led Zeppelin. The solos are white-hot and fiery, but never excessive or overblown. Robinson’s drumming past in R&B gives the album its sense of groove (which is sorely lacking in a lot of retro-blues rockers).

But it’s Blackwell-Cook who really sets things on fire throughout Delta Deep. Her soaring voice gives these songs an extra rush. The loose songs structures give her plenty of room to work her magic as she weaves in and out of the music behind her. Her ability to not only be heard over these heavy riffs, but command the chaos is a thing to behold. Blackwell’s voice ensures an aura of authenticity that they may or not may have already have earned without her.

The best thing about Delta Deep is that it sounds so effortless. There’s no pretense of trying to be cool; just a some musicians conjuring up the ghosts of legends past and presenting them in a light and exciting light.

Check out the video for “Down in the Delta” below:

Delta Deep is available now and you can follow the band on Facebook or check out their web-site.

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Review: “Master Drone” – The Unravelling

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A while back, Leading Us Absurd featured industrial metal band’s The Unravelling’s grinding single “Revolt”.  Their follow-up is the brooding and complex “Master Drone”.  Perhaps even mores than the previous single”, “Master Drone” never let up musically or lyrically.

It begins with interlocking walls of distorted guitars and drums that run to an apocalyptic military march. The pace is kept throughout the song, with the drums and guitars giving nightmarish anguish to Steve Moore’s revolutionary lyrics. Together the combination is quite jarring and with good reason.

Right from the beginning, singer Steve Moore doesn’t hold back any punches, announcing that  “the fuse is lit.” A new beginning is coming and it’s going to come through any way that’s necessary.

It’s also been a new beginning for the Unravelling who have had to endure numerous personal issues over the last few years, particularly Steve Moore’s diagnosis with cancer in 2011. When Moore recovered, he and collaborator Gustavo De Beauville once again  teamed up for The UnRavelling. “Revolt” became their come-back single, and has since gained numerous praises among the metal community.

“Master Drone” should surely gain just as much, if not more attention. Moore himself seems particularly pleased with the results. Explaining the songs lyrics, Moore gives some insight: “The Master Drone is certain of his reality, and therefore living through an artifact. He is opinionated, and likely a respectable, ambitious member of society. He could be a motivational speaker, an atheist, a religious leader, a ‘life coach’ or a serial entrepreneur. He thrives within identity and strives for new identities as he grows old. He’s in all of us. He represents our human programming.”

Check out “Master Drone” below:

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EP Preview: “The Hand You Never Seem to Lend” – The Winter Brave

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At the bottom of the sleeve for The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, David Bowie included a warning that the record should be played loud. That thought comes to mind when playing the latest EP, The Hand You Never Seem to Lend by blues-rockers The Winter Brave.

Formed by identical twin brothers Jake (vocals/guitars) and Sam (drums/vocals), The Winter Brave take the blues-rock approach of The Black Keys and add tons of unbridled energy. Nearly all of the five tracks on The Hand You Never Seem to Lend leap with a punk-like aggression and chaos.

You can tell the chemistry between the brothers runs deeper than musicality. During the bridge in “As You Once Were” they push and pull each other to the extreme that it seems like they’re both competing for the spotlight. (Siblings in bands do have a reputation.)  “You Got It” switches between a clean and distorted riff that packs a wallop when Sam rolls his ways into the sing-along chorus.

When the band slows down for the slightly psychedelic new single, “Taken” you feel like they’ve earned the right to turn things down a notch. It’s here that it becomes apparent that the Winter Brave are more than just two brothers bashing away with their surprising vocals harmonies becoming a highlight.

 

 

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New Music: “Hide in Vermont (Find You in Maine)” – Archer Brady & The All Americans

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Indie singer-songwriter Archer Brady (who goes under the moniker Archer Brady & The All Americans) combines elements of the past and the future on his latest single “Hide in Vermont (Find You in Maine)”.  At its heart, “Hide In Vermont” is a sentimental acoustic ballad, with a pop audience in mind. To achieve the pop cross-over, Brady coats his song in electronic blurbs and covers his voice in Auto-Tune.  The two different approaches together make for an interesting combination.

“Hide in Vermont (Find You in Maine)” can be found on Archer Brady & The All Americans newest release, Truck & Guns due out later this summer.

 

 

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