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vedderoh1 "vedderoh1" RSS Feed (NJ United States)

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Crossing The Rubicon
Crossing The Rubicon
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Jumping the fence not quite landing on their feet, September 15, 2009
This review is from: Crossing The Rubicon (Audio CD)
Daring is only one of many adjectives to be used when you name your band The Sounds. After listening their second LP one wondered why they even bothered recording the same music thousands of others had not too long before. Perseverance pays off and despite the odds they have grown to face some of their weaknesses and turn them into a festive product like Crossing the Rubicon is.

There are no more fastidious attempts at being rebellious (remember Riot from their debut) or being taken seriously. There is instead a feeling of relaxed assertion with widening the palette and boarding topics closer to home. The musical influences that were so obvious in every song of Living in America have blended and taken shape, a very appealing one. They still sound like a Swedish band: they can never rid of keyboards to lead melody or the poppy cutesy; take any verse from the My lover for instance.

Maja Ivarsson's voice leads the pack with confidence from the slamming No one sleeps I'm awake and this time we do believe it when she cries "I hurt so bad just like I knew that I would / but I'd do it again if I could" Midnight sun has a suspicious similarity to the opener, but captures rapidly the story of a freshly discovered young love and any resemblance is forgiven. Home is where the heart is despite its conventional title conveys a sense of optimism hard to ignore, the rhythm section and he guitar solo are plain infectious.

Yet not everything shows signs of progress. They have a long way to go in the lyrics department and what seems to be a knack to makes room for recycled poetry or filler tracks. As a whole Crossing the Rubicon is a very solid record but flaws appear without effort specially when they insist on pairing power pop anthems with anemic ballads; the contrast does not work on their favor.

A friend recently said how he wishes they finally get a chance to make it in the United States. I highly doubt that will happen: for one their music would be immediately thrown into the already crowded teenage pack, and they would have a landslide of comparisons to respond to (if Beatbox does not belong to a Ting Tings album then I don't know where it does).

After two records that sounded like a high school band playing in their garage they have succeeded in making one that keeps that naive energy from younger years but has graduated into a slightly more mature entity. Closing an unsteady record with an instrumental is almost like offering the esplanade for bashing, and in this case a wasted opportunity to give one last memorable push to seal their name in everyone's memory.

Ambivalence Avenue
Ambivalence Avenue
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4.0 out of 5 stars Stale fresh air, September 15, 2009
This review is from: Ambivalence Avenue (Audio CD)
Real progress is often subtle. Stephen Wilkinson a.k.a. Bibio delivered an EP and an LP in less than a year and now, merely five months later, gives us a record that may be the crystallization of a vision so blurred and so genial at the same time.

Bibio has taken a chance and broaden in every direction to include pop and folk structures mixed with his trademark lo-fi and ethereal compositions. S'Vive is the clearest example of where he's headed as he perfects subtlety: it shows his obsession with sound wear and dirty noise all encased in a pop melody, likable yet daring.
All the flowers bears an irrepressible resemblance to Boards of Canada, but the step beyond he takes in Fire Ant shatters all comparisons at once.

A surprising improvement is the singing. He can truly sing and does it in a way that not only complements the music but also leads inserting cadence when needed and disruption when demanded. More robust with confidence he now makes a simple piece soar with indelible beauty.

There is not a straight line like in the folk-inspired Vignetting the compost but the permanent mutation of aesthetics is more than welcome. The entire album digests as a piece of candy, impossible not to like. The variety and convergence of genres in one place, or along many in little spurts, made me come back for pleasant discoveries each time.

The clear achievement in this record is the level of experimentation Wilkinson has mastered, more with urban and electronic sounds than with created atmospheres. What was stripped in Vignetting the compost has been dressed in a fine layer of refined and seemingly carefully composed arrangement that leaves lots to the imagination but much more to the listener's enjoyment. It is a richness that deserves to be shared and contemplated as the first step to something big in the future.

It is tough to compare the "old" and the "new" Bibio, mostly because each phase carries a unique personality, but it is unbelievable to witness such successful departure only months apart. If it was simple to box his music once as a "follower of" now it could easily be classified as "creator of" and for all that matters that is a leap forward worthy of celebration.

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A step forward and to the left, September 15, 2009
This review is from: Humbug (Audio CD)
We all know the cybernetic version of Cinderella starring the Arctic Monkeys like the national anthem: a band born in the myspace era that saw them become audience and critics darlings overnight. Backed by the smartly named campaign "Don't believe the hype" they soared steadily and even though their follow-up was not as rotund in its offer as their debut their popularity did not dwindled a bit.

For their third record they have enlisted QOTSA frontman Josh Homme and Last Shadow Puppets' producer James Ford, both of who do not stain the Arctic Monkeys perspective but rather make it grow. Homme's presence can be perceived cleary in the vocals and the darker soundscape of heavier guitars. Ford's touch shows in the detailed arrangements that had been previewed in his work with the Puppets.

Singer Alex Turner sounds more mature, and that is a term that will stick in one's head throughout this album as the band is obviously taking baby steps into new horizons, cautiously but with determination. Growing up is a reality they have decided to embrace musically and the results have sprung a surprising detour on their ascension road.

Potion approaching and Cornerstone, two of the finest moments, are perfect examples of the new territories they explore: they are thinking sonically without abandoning the candid approach to lyrics. Lead single Crying lightning is not as immediate as anything off the infectious Whatever people say I am, that's what I'm not but it grows with each listening. Pretty visitors, rumored to be the next and third single, reminisces of their hyped-up more straightforward beginnings, while The jeweller's hands gives an amazing closing to a record that is destined to last beyond its immediacy.

Edgy sounds great in Humbug. Not only Turner's physique has become more robust, the entire the band has developed into a welcome improvement from the startling Favourite worst nightmare. Sexual innuendo, aggression and love declarations are omnipresent with a humorous and perverse twist that only helps to make the record sound complete and to slowly disengage it from angst-punk. The lyrics keep telling stories as usual but now they are embedded with melody; emotions turn into deviant habits and observance gives cue to elongated introspection.

It is not precise to call them a youth garage band anymore as their sound has expanded and landed them almost side to side with the big ones. It would be absurd to deny the improvements they've made in only four years as it would not be gratuitous to affirm that shall they continue not relishing on the success of first-timer luck, and we are quite sure that will be the case, they will be very soon looked at above the shoulder by everybody.

The Resistance
The Resistance
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enter at your own will, September 15, 2009
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This review is from: The Resistance (Audio CD)
Muse has been compared to just about any band in the British landscape from the moment set foot on a stage. Fortunately this has not affected their sense of identity and that once loathed alien/apocalyptic/surreal vision of the world has led them straight to the top of the charts and to the iPods of more people than we care to admit.

What is the appeal they have over their listeners? First, they CAN write great tunes but they add a twist and make them ridiculously fun. Second, they don't take themselves seriously and unlike most of their contemporaries they are able sail from political denounces to comedic spurts without problem. Third, they take in all the comparisons and make them part of who they are.

This is the most obvious point in their fifth studio recording. Having blown open the contrived label that capsuled "prog-rock" with Absolution and take it a notch further with Black holes and revelations, The resistance shows a Muse refusing to mature completely and using all their cards under the sleeve to reinvent a nearly extinct genre. This time the results might be less colored and more grey than in previous opportunities, but never dull.

As if the banner had been raised from the start first single United States Of Eurasia is an open homage to Queen, not only in length but in composition. Give or take some nods at Chopin and even the presence of an Exocet launch at the end. The rest of the album will see Matt Bellamy, Christopher Wolstenholme and Dominique Howard indulging in their conspiracy theories, orchestral fascination and spacial aesthetics.

They move from ballads (I belong to you) to straightforward rock (Unnatural selection) to a symphony in three movements (Exogenesis) that will not only give you an inside out cerebral trip but also leave you craving for nothing else when the odyssey is over. Uprising is a radio friendly cut that most reminisces what they've done in the past (like a breeding between the jolly Supermassive black hole and the sinister Time is running out), while the title track gives cue to the plot behind the record's concept: resistance against general corporatocracy and the idea that love can cross boundaries between different political views and religious beliefs.

One thing is impossible to deny: they have managed to deliver yet another amusing and tightly arranged album. The composition along with Bellamy's incredible vocals are exquisite in execution, and we can only imagine how this record will sound live. As Chris conferred on a recent interview, their sound does not necessarily becomes bigger but different. Whether they have achieved that with The Resistance is something each listener will have to deduce; if you asked me I would tell you I am eagerly expecting their new material.

Primary Colours
Primary Colours
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a horror show anymore, May 15, 2009
This review is from: Primary Colours (Audio CD)
It is always the same old story: your band's picture appears on the cover of NME and your fifteen minutes of fame turn into twelve, or less. Was not a surprise the reluctance of critics and audiences in welcoming the b-film inspired aesthetic of The Horrors when they stormed London with their particular names and looks and those infamous short lasting shows; after all they had been hailed as the next big thing even before their record was released and counting only on short gigs and the buzz in town.

The Horrors self-titled debut EP was a guttural collection of garage rock that provided an interesting paving path for what was to come. Songs like Jack the ripper (a Screaming Lord Sutch's cover) and Sheena is a parasite put them on the music map.
For the follow-up they recruited producers Craig Silvey, Geoff Barrow of Portishead and Chris Cunningham. Gone were the outrageous outfits and the attention given to their outer form and in was the effort to giving birth to a signature, more elaborate sound.

Their new act is evident from the energetic, genially introduced Mirror's image. Three decades is a catchy tune with multiple layers of guitars and the omnipresent synth that keeps them loyal to their original noir theme. Who can say is the song that could open them doors to radio exposure in this side of the pond, a touch of 60's rock with a spoken line that delivers one of the most electrifying moments of the album. Sea within a sea is the longest track on the record clocking in at just under eight minutes and curiously the first single. It offers no original tricks: it is built on a sustained note (see multiple references to My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and Mary Chain) that never resolves into a climatic ending but provides the perfect exit to a startling record.

With a voice that reminds us sometimes of Ian Curtis and some others of a living zombie (isn't that what he is going for?)singer Faris Badwan manages to plunge confidently through forty-five minutes that beat all skepticism about the band's lasting quality. Primary Colours proves that The Horrors are a band beyond the makeup and the pages of the British pamphlets. A look at the first obvious clues, the new videos and the cover art, should be a hint.

They have achieved a cohesive sound without resorting to filling noise or yells; one can even understand the lyrics and enjoy the music without a flinch for the good reasons. They have admitted to the limitations of the genre they chose as a starting point and risked in turning it around for their benefit. Not to say that they have conquered yet but it is certainly a big step ahead and that is always a good thing.

21st Century Breakdown
21st Century Breakdown
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Same old with a pinch of improvement, May 15, 2009
This review is from: 21st Century Breakdown (Audio CD)
How do you follow up a record hailed unanimously as your best? It is the eternal question whose answer has made or broken many a band. Green Day conceived their breathtaking American idiot as a rock-opera that depicted a young man's discontent with the system and life but finds a way to redeem that dark reality by turning it around. So having pinpointed all the issues one could think of where do you go next?

21st Century breakdown carries on the same structure that made its predecessor so successful: operatic stadium rock sprinkled with sudden bursts of fast guitars and catchy chorus lines. It is divided in three acts - Heroes and cons, Charlatans and saints, and Horseshoes and handgrenades - that introduce two main characters through which we will witness disdain for oppression and the attempt to move on in the middle of a messed-up world.

Scream, America scream, believe what you see from heroes and cons Billie Joe sings in bombastic opening track, and up to that point everything marches swiftly. Things become incongruous past solid first single Know your enemy; little by little we step into a mangled nest of random protest, pro-revolution exhortations (what revolution?)and self-deprecative balladry. They do reach sublime with Last day on earth which breaks the mood momentarily before charging back into a new arch just like Up in arms did in Colour and the shape, and with the poignant 21 Guns a reflection on hope and brotherhood.

The main issue with Green Day's latest is that there are no converging lines. Where American idiot felt renewed, vibrant and optimistic among its gloom, Century falls repetitive and often tiresome. Most songs sound like reworks of old ones, something they have been finger pointed for but now becomes painfully obvious. It is not that they do not sound good, Butch Vig has raised the bar again with his magic touch but all the adornment cannot hide the fact that it is unfocused and the lyrics border the uninspired. They do make a statement but it is one that has been already shouted to exhaustion before.

"Laughter, there is no more laughter / songs of yesterday now live in the underground" Armstrong concludes in Before the lobotomy. We could not agree more: whether it's a sign of the times or a transition period, Green Day has left us with a bittersweet taste. They could well be referring to the memory loss they've suffered by hanging out with big stars or from adopting the messianic attitude of stage pals U2. Musically they have come around a full circle and morphed into a huge modern rock act, away from their punk roots, that sounds as believable as a millionaire advocating for working class rights.

Century will find itself loved by their rabid followers and will do great in the charts, but as their fans age grow towards the negative so does their capacity to reinvent what they've learned or impress their existing audience. What once was a fun band to experience live has drifted into a dried image of a robust past. Not to say they are stale by any means, proof is the increasing attention to detail in the composition process, but after over a decade in the business maybe it is opportune to rethink and redirect. Making the crowds sing along and wave their fists in the air is not all. A third chance may be too much to ask.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A journey worth taking, May 6, 2009
This review is from: Actor (Audio CD)
I had to give this record a second and third listen to get through its hermetically built composition. Do not get me wrong, after loving Animal Collective and Burial in all their deconstructive beauty I thought St. Vincent, a.k.a. Annie Clark, posed no different challenge but I was mistaken.

Actor is a record that needs to be listened on a mood. An open hearted mood that is. Masked behind a facade of pristine neatness, like the cover art would suggest, hide the richly constructed layers of music and revolting lyrics that yearn to be digested by parts. Annie's voice remains ia happy medium throughout the record, what in other circumstances would be a tedious noise here serves as an additional tool that keeps the dramatic arrangements glued together.

That's how Black rainbow never loses direction with the grandiose climax towards the end or The strangers achieves its goal of giving just a peek of what's in store. If there are any straight forward rock tracks they are lead single Actor out of work with its intense guitars and radio friendly structure, and the entrancing slow number The sequel.

Clark still indulges in showing how many instruments she is able to squeeze effectively into one song but compared to Marry me the effort sounds more focused this time. One can find it all, from classical to dubbed arrangements, and the genres explored as varied as the topics she boards with swift confidence. The result is not an immediate love affair nor is it an impossible task to overcome.

The best way to immerse yourself into it would be becoming an actor, just like she does, and soak in the ethereal with the electronic, the affection with the rage, the dream with the reality. While most of the times I try to connect the dots and find a reflection of what I experience in music, this time I put on the acting hat and visualized through her eyes the determination to become something I am not, the fear of acting on my true desires, the sensation of being trap in a life I do not want and the urge to escape, the complicated nature of womanhood. Anybody remembers that picture perfect cover?

In a year that has not even reached its middle point this record is one of the highlights and a strong contender for that premium list that will be remembered as a step forward from its predecessor.

The Law of the Playground
The Law of the Playground
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The universal laws of the playground, May 6, 2009
I have to admit that the first time I found myself listening to The boy least likely I was slightly embarrassed. It started as curiosity but then mutated into real fondness for a bunch of tracks that sounded like the background music at a kids birthday party.

The brains behind this unusual entity are singer/lyricist Jof Owen and composer/multi-instrumentalist Pete Hobbs. Both wrote the scraps of what would become their debut album The best party ever in 2002, and since then the creation of their own indie label (Too young to die), a string of shows supporting bigger acts in Europe, the ominous comparison to Belle and Sebastian and They might be giants, commercial endorsements and word of mouth has made their name known in the music circuit.

The first thing that hits you about this band is the visuals. Deliberately designed to look inviting for a kid it would be a categoric reason for the unadventurous listener to dismiss them at once. But digging a little deeper one finds the logical connection between the artwork and the lyrics of the songs. Their tirade of never ending joy can be seen as a description of life from a child's point of view or as a concealed analysis of adult emotions from a positive perspective.

The law of the playground was released in the UK in March and last month in the US. Even with the lack of pompous promotion it has been one of the most anticipated releases this year. It was preceded by download-only single I box up all the butterflies, a merry story about summer fun with, what else, butterfly catching. A balloon on a broken string deals with honesty and freedom of spirit, while Every Goliath has its David, in my humble opinion one of the best singles they've written to date, tackles the courage to achieve one's dreams. Closing tracks The worm forgives the plough and A fairy tale ending show the other side of the coin and tell about coming to terms with life's puns and facing shattered dreams.

As I write this review the opening scene of the film Happy-go-lucky comes to mind, in which we see the annoyingly happy Sally Hawkins prancing around town trying to engage everyone in her cheerful mood. That allure that almost caused me to dump the movie for its artificial portrait of reality was the same reason why I decided to invest a couple of extra minutes and find out what it led to. It could be that the American market will never be ready for what their creators call "country disco" or that the pressure for labeling everything (a habit that needs to be exiled now) would push this record into oblivion. Their rich orchestration, impeccable arrangements and candid approach to this bold world we live in should be the reasons why it becomes the feel good album of the year. An anachronistic delight ready to be discovered and propelled to balance out the wave of deprecative lumps we are used to.

All the Plans
All the Plans
Offered by MEGA Media
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid record, but is it enough?, May 6, 2009
This review is from: All the Plans (Audio CD)
When the acoustic teaser of a new album was offered earlier this year as a free download for the pre-order of All the plans I was delighted to hear that Starsailor had gone back to their roots. They, along with Travis and Coldplay, were the most promising of the bunch of bands that were born under the Radiohead shadow in the beginning of the decade. Travis went political and soon lost their warm appeal and the cheerful hope their lyrics suggested, while Coldplay grew to be the impossibly big act many love and hate in equal numbers.

Starsailor's story could be summarized as one of frustration: from the start they had all the odds on their side with a frontman gifted with a beautiful voice and a knack for writing songs at the same level of Jeff Buckley (find the relation with the brother and their name), the stripped-down sound that an increasing audience yearned for in the midst of electronic saturation, and the ambition to soar as the next big thing. It was that ambition that saw them crash against the wall with their second record, ironically produced in part by Phil Spector, which already showed signs of weakness. On the outside, their third record, was a desperate attempt to sound as a more commercial Rufus Wainwright. It also failed to reignite their disappearing flame.
It was no surprise that after a couple of years in the studio they announced their first public appearances as acoustic performances, most of them with just Walsh singing solo.

All the plans is not a groundbreaking record nor does it redeem Starsailor for past faults. It is a solid collection of tracks that picks up the sound from that lukewarm period between their debut and second album, when they experimented with electric guitars and elaborate string arrangements.
First single Tell me it's not over does a very good job in opening the album on an upbeat note. Boy in waiting is the only track that gives us a taste of Love is here, while Hurts too much, a beautiful ballad that was introduced during the live shows at the beginning of the year has lost some of its power with the inclusion of unnecessary instruments. This seems to be the recurrent problem with this band: they don't seem to grasp when they've got a jewel in their hands. The diamond in raw is there, one cannot deny that they can write a great tune without recurring to adorned language but the production is what lacks the magic. Just take any one track from the bonus disc with acoustic versions of the same songs and you will know exactly what I mean.

In the tradition of singer-songwriters (a term as obsolete as alternative rock) James Walsh could still be in the process for self-discovery, a quality that has irrefutably spawned unforgettable masterpieces, but the obvious need for acceptance is often confused with the direction he takes for music. If he ever takes a couple of steps back to listen to what he has done in the past and maybe learn some tips from his idols he will most certainly overcome the curse that has clouded them for years now. Closing track Safe at home ends the record with a particularly self explanatory line: But there's still a cloud hangs over my head / can't block it out so I'm going to bed. We hope not for the sake of all of us who still wait for the real Starsailor to come back.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 8, 2009 10:14 PM PDT

Years Of Refusal
Years Of Refusal
Price: $4.99
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5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An uplifting record, a relevant voice, February 17, 2009
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This review is from: Years Of Refusal (Audio CD)
Morrissey's career has been one of ups and downs but the one constant that has fueled his praise-worthy songwriting has been unhappiness; sometimes manifested as a pedantic cynicism, some others as the sole victim of deception.
His last two records dealt with politics and longing, but this one has a slightly more uplifting tone to it. That can be perceived from the cover art: he goes from holding a gun and a violin (seriously, can he more explicit than that?) to holding a baby -another chapter would be necessary to explain that weird arm piece- as if to signify that there is still hope in purity.
This could be easily refuted by listening to the two known tracks in the record ( the previously released All you need is me and That's how people grow up), or even the leading single in which he cries "in the absence of your love/ in the absence of human touch/ I'm throwing my arms around Paris". But soon after the first track one realizes that this is typical Moz work yet it offers a hint of optimism that was not there before, or that was very well masked in the woeful tone. Instead of beating himself down with the bat in "One day goodbye will be farewell" he suggests to always be careful with the one you love, only to sprinkle it immediately after with his trademark "and when I die I want to go to hell". We wouldn't want it any other way.
This record offers arguably the best vocal rendition since he first went solo, a subtle way to tell us he still has a fantastic range to go along with those majestic lyrics, to remind us that he is as relevant now as during the flamboyant Smiths years.
"It's not your birthday anymore" is hands down the standout track of the record and would make a fine single, just as closing track "I'm OK by myself" would. While in Ringleaders of tormentors he cried "Life is a pigsty" surrounded by gloom, Years of refusal finds him turning the page declaring "this might make you bump in your bed but I'm OK with myself/ and I don't need you/ and I never have".
Morrissey has not reinvented the wheel here, but for a man who embodies drama and tragic love this might as well be a step forward in the right direction. And whatever that direction is it I embrace it.

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