Sunday, January 30, 2011

Vinyl!

Just a quick note: I discovered vinyl. And I LIKE it.


Having 2 or 3 vinyl LPs and no record player lead me to buy one some weeks ago. Now I find myself browsing flea markets and the internet for old LPs. What the heck? :-)

Already spinning on my record player:
  • Mike Viola - Hang On Mike / Lurch / Melon
  • Frank Sinatra - Live At The Sands / In The Wee Small Hours
  • Goldfrapp - Seventh Tree
  • Queen - The whole discography (my favorites: Innuendo / Queen II / Made In Heaven / News Of The World / A Day At The Races)
  • Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue
  • Robbie Williams - Swing When You're Winning (yes, I like this one!)
  • Johnny Cash - The Man Comes Around
  • The Beatles - 1
  • Elvis Presley - 30 # One Hits
  • Jim Boggia - Misadventures in Stereo (Mono Version!)
Coming soon:
  • Charlotte Gainsbourg - 5:55
  • Air - Moon Safari / Pocket Symphony
  • Freddie Mercury & Monserrat Caballe - Barcelona
  • Ron Sexsmith - Time Being
Any suggestions for LPs?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

CD Review: Mike Viola - Lurch

Being independent since 2005, Mike Viola's Lurch was available first as limited CD with only 1000 copies. It was also downloadable for free directly from Mike for a short time to share it around the world.
The album combines wonderful harmonies and songwriting resulting in simply addictive songs.

A short song by song review:

The opening track is "Maybe, Maybe Not" - there's one line ("I put my heart into it") which is the key to the whole record.
"Girly Worm" - a love song for a girly worm. Having myself a girly worm around, I love it and its lyrics.
"All Bent Out of Shape" is very much Candy Butchers and leads straight to my first personal highlight, "The Strawberry Blonde". As soon as the intro starts I'm trapped in this song. Just perfect, it's a song you simply can't turn off or stop listening, and it just brightens up your mood. It's uptempo, with wonderful harmonies, multi-layered sound and chorus.
It's slowing it down with the heartfelt and nice ballad "Dangerously Close".
"279 East 10th Street". A song about moving. About an address. And a classic pop song.
"It Comes in Waves" has a heavy burden, though being another very good song, it's followed by "So Much Better". Everytime I listen "Waves" I know what comes next. "So Much Better" is another or maybe THE killer tune of the record. With a length of just 1:50 min, it's get stuck in your head (for me: it never left).
"Snowman in Tompkins Park" - a lovely ballad about hotel mood and yearning. I love the harmonies at "I can't wait to see you again".
"When I Hold You in My Arms" - oh, a song with clapping along. Like it!
"Good Ideas Grow On Trees" - the official album closes with this truly beautiful ballad (with a beautiful video, sadly it's not on youtube anymore).

And now for the bonus: Buying the Japanese CD or the vinyl, you get three bonus songs. While bonus songs often having a B-side touch, these are the exact opposite. Many artists would create a whole record with these as key tracks: "Find Somebody To Love", "Something Electric" and "Motel Mood". So sad only few people are able to listen to them.

Final comment: There is only one bad thing about this album: it's too short! The three vinyl bonus songs are at least as good as the other songs on the album. But even without these songs you can't resist to this CD. And you won't find even one filler song there. Definitely one of my top three records of all time.

You can buy Lurch digital on CD and vinyl (vinyl includes also a mp3 download and the bonus disc) here.

Please listen here:


Monday, January 17, 2011

CD Review: Bleu - Redhead

Redhead - the second record of Bleu - hit the stores in 2003. I found it by chance in 2007. 
Listening to Owsley, Jellyfish and Ben Folds I stumbled upon his name several times. Then I listened - and immediately bought the CD. 
About six years later I managed to get him to Europe for a house concert. I also created this blog because of music exactly like he does.


Now for the review: 
Starting with "Get Up" - catchy, guitar driven, arousing interest in what comes next, which is ...
"I Won't Go Hollywood". It's not just a rock song, it's an anthem.
"We'll Do It All Again" - a song that you may fell in love with. For years and years.
"Searchin' For The Satellites" - a wonderful and powerful ballad.
"Could Be Worse" is again more upbeat. There are two things I connect with this song. First, I remember finding the video clip on youtube. My first thought was "What the f...k?!?" Still, it's ... interesting ;-) Second, my girlfriend askes me literally everytime she listens to the song "WTF does he sing there in the first line?". I told her it's "You had us all fooled for a little while". And some days later - she asked again (She still does! Help!).
"Watchin' You Sleep" - just gorgeous. Is there any other song in the world about stalking you call gorgeous?
"Somebody Else" - for many it was the first contact with Bleu's music. It was featured at the Spiderman Soundtrack. And it's great. Period.
"You Know, I Know, You Know" - bluesy, powerful, it grows up to the end of the song.
"3's A Charm" - the powerful closing song for one perfect album.
Not to forget the hidden tunes "Feet Don't Fail" and "Dance dance baby doll dance" (a collaboration with Andy Sturmer).

The first pressing of Redhead had two songs, "Sayonara" and "Ursula Major, Ursula Minor" which were dropped for new ones on the second release. My suggestion: buy both.

Closing comments: Okay, before you listen below a last warning - these songs get stuck in your head (and after that in your iPod or CD-Player). And they won't leave!
By the release of Redhead (and his following albums) Bleu has gained a loyal fan in me.

Epilogue: After Redhead, Bleu recorded A Watched Pot in 2005. Just after the record was done, Bleu was dropped from the label along with many other artists (and employees) - Sony’s downsizing was responsible for that. For four long years the album remained unreleased. I couldn't believe it when A Watched Pot was finally released in 2009, but that's another story for another great album. A Watched Pot is probably my favorite record of the last years because of its tremendous songs, but probably it's also because it lasted four long years to get a proper release for these great songs.
 

CD Review: Badly Drawn Boy - The Hour Of Bewilderbeast

The Hour Of Bewilderbeast - the debut LP of Badly Drawn Boy - is an exceptional piece of work.
It opens up with "The Shining", a beautiful melancholic intro with an even more beautiful song. Followed by "Everybody's Stalking", it's darker, heavy guitars. "Camping Next To Water", a song full of soul and melancholy. "Stone In The Water" leads you to "Another Pearl", which is less experimental, more radio friendly (as "Once Around The Block"). "Body Rap" shows a funky hip-hop part of the album, which is first strange, now I love it. "Magic In The Air" is again a melancholic, sweet song (perfect for a rainy autumn day). "Cause A Rockslide" is probably the most experimental song of the album, especially the instrumental at the end. It seems to end in chaos, suddenly leading straight to "Pissing In The Wind", a simply heartwarming song. "Disillusion" is a designated radio single, it has a kind of disco feeling. The record closes with "Epitaph", one of the best closing songs I ever heard.


Final comment: There are very few records that fit as good together as "The Hour Of Bewilderbeast". It's so hard to listen to one song of the album without thinking "Oh wait, now comes ...". And it's strangely disappointing if it doesn't follow. The only album with a similar feeling for me is "Queen II". It's just an classic record. Sadly Badly Drawn Boy changed his style after that a bit. Don't get me wrong - he still creates very beautiful songs, but not as coherent as "The Hour Of Bewilderbeast".

Highlights: "The Shining", "Everybody's Stalking", "Camping Next To Water" and "Disillusion"

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Taylor Locke & The Roughs - Review "Marathon" & "Grain & Grape"

Yes, Rooney. Again. Solo Record. Again. This time it's Taylor Locke. Seriously: The band members of Rooney seemed to be very productive in 2010. Rooney with their latest album "Eureka", Ned Brower with his solo record "Great To Say Hello" and finally Taylor Locke & The Roughs with "Grain & Grape" and "Marathon". Yes. Two records. In one year. Both are just great.


Taylor Locke & The Roughs - Grain & Grape:
The album opens with "Start Me Over" and "Jennifer" - two straight rock song (and i like them a lot!). "Joy" reminds me of ELO & Bleu, "Amnesia" is upbeat & catchy while "What Have I Done?" is my favorite of the whole album. And so we are at record no. 2:

Taylor Locke & The Roughs - Marathon:
The brilliant opener "The Honor Role" is minioperaesque* in tradition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" or "Band On The Run", while "Jenny" and "tarred, feathered & scarlet lettered" are straight rock songs. "Don't Forget" reminds me of Queen & ELO (or LEO ...) - I confess, I like the "wooo-hoo". "My Only Drug" along with "One More Time" are no less than perfect radio singles (which can still be a good thing these days).
"Sleeping with the enemy" is like listening to a good Def Leppard song (do I hear "Loud Lion" here?).

So thank you Rooney for 2010 - what a surprise! Just one thing: bring Bleu and/or Mike Viola with on your next tour to us in Germany (like the "Ménage A Tour 2011". The people here don't know what they are missing :-)

* checked Google: the word "minioperaesque" wasn't used before. I claim copyright for this :-)

Official website: Taylor Locke & The Roughs

CD Review: Ned Brower - Great To Say Hello

"Are you high Ned? Drummers don't make solo records. Next you're going to tell me you've actually gone and written some songs. Say it isn't so."
It is - Ned Brower, the drummer of Rooney has a solo album called "Great To Say Hello" out for some weeks. The songs were produced by no other than Mike Viola and recorded in just 10 days. Ned says, the album "has been in my mental works for a couple of years". It's a mix of styles, yet it fits in the end.
Ned: "I think we made a record that blends my northwest indie roots, my southern R&B leanings, and my Californian pop sensibility into an eclectic yet cohesive album."


Here are some short notes to some standout tracks: "Underneath You Spell" is a great upbeat opener, "Love And Affection #3" has powerpop written all over it and "Hide Your Secrets Away" immediately got stuck in my head. "Mine And Mine Alone" is just groovy! "Father To Son" has a nice 1960s feeling. I instantly had to think of the 1955 "Back To The Future" while listening to it :-) I also enjoy "Together For All Time" and "The Alleyway" very much.

Final words: It's surely different from Rooney. It's upbeat, very catchy (no surprise with a producer like Mike Viola) and makes me listen to it again right away.

Ned Brower - Official website: nedbrower.com

Listen to samples of the whole album here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jon Brion



What would you think of a producer writing soundtracks for some of the best movies in the last years (Magnolia, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or I ♥ Huckabees) and producing exceptional artists like Aimee Mann, Rufus Wainwright, Fiona Apple, Elliott Smith, Spoon, Keane, Dido or Of Montreal? A busy man, is he? But Jon Brion also has a solo career (okay, it's just one album: Meaningless from 2001 - sadly there was never a follow up).


In 2006 a tendonitis in Brion's right hand forced him to cancel his live shows.
Today he plays live again. But unfortunately there are very few news about him.

Jim Boggia

To be influenced by the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel or Brian Wilson isn't a bad thing for a songwriter, is it? Jim Boggia, a songwriter and performer from Philadelphia proves this can be actually a excellent mix: Jim has become a fixture in the pop scene in the last ten years: in 2001, Boggia released his first full-length studio album "Fidelity is the Enemy", following "Safe In Sound" in 2005 and "Misadventures in Stereo" in 2008.


Remembering Jim playing on the ukulele at The Borderline in London last year and performing "I hate New York" or "Listening to NRBQ" or "No Way Out" with Bleu and Tracy Bonham brings back memories of a tremendous concert.

Listen to three of his best songs here:




Official website: www.jimboggia.com