Kennedy Green: Kennedy Green

When I was listening to this album I had to bear in mind the tender years of the duo of Hannah Kennedy and Laura Green. I say this as both the girls are just 16 and 18. Now, I am not a great believer that age is an excuse if something isn't good even if the profits from the record are for charity and therein lies the problem. The songs are weak as it the production. The vocals are stage musical and the lyrics, well they are what you would expect from a 16 and 18 yr old.

Both the girls have voices that are crying out to be taken in hand, have the cabaret shaken out of them and release the obvious potential they have, but as it is we have Glee meets Fame in a head on car crash that tries too hard to be something it was never going to be. The producer must take a large proportion of the blame for this record. The guitars and drums sound awful and the vocals regularly stray off key, something any engineer or producer worth their salt would never have let out of the studio never mind onto a finished album.

The rock chick thing also just doesn't work for them.
Don't Waste My Time, Soap Girl, Teenage Devil and the new single Rocket Girl, a cover of the Wire Daisies song, lack any passion, guts or balls and just end up as limp teen fodder that wouldn't even make it as Jonas Brother's b-sides. The only glimmer of light comes in the form of Cocapah but still ain't no ray of sunshine. With a good producer on board and a descent writer to tailor songs that actually suit the girls they could certainly do something pretty special.

I applaud the girls and all those involved for the sentiment behind making this album as they are raising funds for children's cancer charity
CLIC (www.clicsargent.org.uk), so for that reason alone I would buy it but it would be handed into the local charity shop unopened at the soonest opportunity.

www.kennedygreen.co.uk

[][] (2/5)

~ Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Josephine: I Think It Was Love (ep)

Manchester based singer Josephine Oniyama has a bit of a jazz vibe going on with this 3 track ep. It's a folksy soulful kind of jazz vibe that is different enough to make her stand out from the current crop of singer songwriters around at the moment.

The title track congers up images of a smoke filled speakeasy, the dim lights accentuating the atmosphere while the immaculately dressed chanteuses hold the audience spellbound and Josephine certainly has a voice that is capable of holding your attention. It has a breathy earthiness which is is quite refreshing.

One Princess of Cheetham Hill flirts with flamenco and folk and proves Josephine's voice is adaptable and strong enough to detract from what is a mediocre song. The accapella One Song has an almost hymn like feel to it that highlights a lilt to her voice which belies her tender years. There is enough here to suggest that this young lady is one to keep an eye on.

www.myspace.com/thisisjosephine

~

Kinzli & the kiloWatts: Down Up Down

Kinzli is a singer songwriter who along with her mates, The kiloWatts has delivered a great collection of songs. Vocally her voice is interesting, a bit folk, a bit operatic and a big part pop. Lyrically, she’s eclectic, the album kicks of with Don’t Shoot, a reflectively haunting start while The Land of Il (3 Part Dance) is about brainwashing by Kim Jung Il. Immediately, you get the fact that we’re listening to a writer with integrity who has lived a life and is determined to express her art. At the very heart of this work is sterling songwriting delivered with a delicious pop feel.

Recorded mostly in her bedroom, there is an intimate and at times live feel to
Down Up Down and the album grabs you from start to finish. Each song is like a short story and we’re never sure what’s going to happen until the end. The songs meander from the challenging We Walk For Peace to the dreamily romantic in Stargazing.

It’s an album full of surprises and clever musical touches. It’s also refreshingly honest. Kinzli should be a star. She’s talented enough, has a great voice and with this album, deserves any recognition she receives. In terms of talent, she certainly stands out from the current female singer songwriters doing the rounds and must wonder what she has to do have a major breakthrough. She doesn’t strike me as someone who would get a huge beehive, tattoos and a crack habit in order to become famous.

www.kinzli.com

[][][][] (4/5)

Review by Charlie Brown

~ Saturday, 17 July 2010

Crosby Tyler: Lectric Prayer

Crosby Tyler is a sensitive soul. A passionate man with words in his head and a tune in his soul. The way that he interprets this is not always articulate but it is done with conviction and honesty. It will come as no surprise to those who have ever been engaged in conversation with Mr Tyler that he is this way, as his enthusiasm for life is as infectious as his past is troubled. I admit now that I like the man. He is hard not to like. Live, he performs with a child like enthusiasm and a real belief in what he is singing about. For me it is refreshing.

His last record, 10 Songs Of America Today, didn't quite capture the spirit of the man but with Lectric Prayer he sounds far more at ease, contented even. With the title track Tyler gives us a bluesy take on Americana that is a slightly dark yet uplifting affair with primitive harmonica jostling with some fine vocal harmonies for a mighty fine song.
Fugitive From The Law follows in a similar vein and is driven along brilliantly by Don Heffington's flawless drumming. Good Ol' Circus Days is a cleverly constructed tale of a circus clown's life with lyrics that are littered with sharp observational and topical comment making it both funny and sad in equal measure while Back On The Cross moves the tempo up with its driving bass line and harmonica hooks but it is Sara Watkins restrained fiddle playing that is the star of the show on this rockin' track.

Tyler has surrounded himself with some excellent musicians for this album who obviously have an understanding of what the man wants to achieve and the success of this record is in no small part due to the albums producer John Chelew who has brought the best out of Tyler.

There are a couple of misses on the album but they can easily be forgiven when you are confronted by songs like Pitchfork Brigade, a smoldering slide blues anthem in the mould of Seasick Steve and the beautiful Bless That Day. If you like your music to come with integrity and heart then you could do a lot worse than let Crosby Tyler into your soul. The man sounds like he has found his.

www.crosbytyler.com

[][][][] (4/5)

~ Thursday, 15 July 2010

Michael Weston King: I Didn't Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier

Weston King is one of those artists that seems to lurk just under most peoples radar. He is well known within the UK Americana field but this has never translated into record sales or an eager audience for his live shows. Pity, as Weston King is a passionate soul with some worthwhile listening in his back catalogue. I have seen the man live on several occasions after first catching him when he was touring with Jackie Leven and Andy White, and while it is fair to say he does not possess the same depth as either of his counterpart, he is capable of holding his own.

For this record Weston King has taken his fascination with the history of protest songs and the people who wrote them and paid tribute to them by reworking and interpreting the songs for the world today as well as updating the genre with his own words and music. The boots he has stepped into are mighty big ones to fill. Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie inspired a whole generation of songwriters like Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan to grasp the mantle and carry on the protest song tradition and Weston King sees himself as a keeper of these traditions. Indeed he even covers Ochs (Cops Of The World and Is There Anybody There?) and Dylan (I Pity The Poor Immigrant) and remains pretty faithful to the originals. All these tracks are as relevant today as they were when they first appeared and credit to Weston King for bringing these to a new generation.

The self penned material here is no less powerful than the covers and sung with true belief and conviction. The title track borrows its lyrics from a 1915 poem by Alfred Bryan and show that the world is not that different today from the world that inspired Bryan to write such stirring and powerful words. Hey Ma, I'm Coming Home is a delicate song that belies the lyrical sentiments contained within and even borrows a few bars of the Simon and Garfunkel classic Homeward Bound to brilliant effect.

The album ends on what is for me the best track of the twelve contained here, a sublime cover of Bobby Darin's Simple Song Of Freedom with the lyrics updated to reflect the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. I'm sure Darin would heartily approve.

This is a powerful and touching tribute to unsung heroes and forgotten ideals that should bring Weston King some richly deserved plaudits.

www.michaelwestonking.com

[][][][] (4/5)

~

The Dreaming Tree: Progress Has No Patience

The Dreaming Tree, the blurb said ‘are a West Midlands based progressive pop/rock band with a sound rich in dynamics (sic) and wry with an impelling quirkiness'. As well as being delusional, their grasp of music is even worse than their grasp of grammar. Do they mean compelling? Is it a mistake? Did they mean impel, as to hurl and throw and propel? Just like projectile vomit?

They think they’re a prog band. They don’t sound like Emerson Lake and Palmer or Yes, they sound like Nik Kershaw after electric shock treatment. I’m not sure whether to truly feel sorrow for them or be angered at how good they think they are? On Grown Up Too Small we have the buttock clenching moment of someone, I’m assuming the singer, shouting ‘take it away boys’. Doesn’t he know people listening to this understand he’s recording in a studio and not down the local boozer or maybe that was just their impelling quirkiness?

You may have guessed by now that there isn’t a happy ending. By track 5, called Moult we have a song about birds losing their feathers? Whatever floats your boat. For more impelling quirkiness what about giving a free orange Guantanamo Bay boiler suit to anyone stupid enough to download this, so we can all be water boarded and not have to listen. I had to close the windows in case the birds in the garden started committing suicide as even they were mesmerised by a song about their kin losing their feathers.

There’s no doubting The Dreaming Tree’s musical proficiency but this album is weak, thin sounding and the material itself is extremely poor.

www.thedreamingtree.co.uk

(0/5)

Review by Charlie Brown

~ Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Tracy Bonham: Masts Of Manhatta

Expectation is a funny thing. Sometimes it is placed upon an artist and sometimes an artist bestows it upon themselves, either way, given Tracy Bonham's earlier career highs it is part and parcel of this record. It is five years since Bonham last released an album and you speculate if this time away has seen a musical sea change, a move in direction, but no. I personally never got the acclaim that was put Bonham's way, especially after the success of her 1996 album Burdens Of Being Upright. The voice never appealed and the music was way to generic and besides the likes of Alanis Morissette did it so much better.

Masts Of Manhatta sounds tired. There is no passion or soul to this album. The songs are workman like and the production sterile. There are a few nice moments in the shape of Your Night Is Wide Open and Reciprocal Feelings, even given the cringe inducing lyrics, but these are scant relief from what is a jumble of musical styles that range from Zydeco (kind of), Nova Scotia folk and AOR. If I was told that Bonham wrote the songs on this album 20 years ago I wouldn't be surprised.

I'm sure that there are those out there who will find a connection with this album in much the same way as some people think that line dancing is fun but I doubt it. Bohnam may be older but she is none the wiser.

www.tracybonham.com

[] (1/5)

~ Friday, 9 July 2010

Gina & Tony: Big Bang Love (ep)

Electro pop from Switzerland. Now that's a phrase you don't hear every day. The Geneva based duo of Gina & Tony make pretty electronica you can dance to with serious pop overtones. Calling this an ep is a bit misleading as it is the one song, Big Bang Love, and 4 remixes. Often a remix can radically change, improve even, the artists original but the only one that offers anything new from the duo's original is The Phenomenal Handclap Band mix which has a slight retro feel to it.

It not what you would call a floor filler, more of a mood piece. The type of track you are likely to hear in chilled pre club bars. The song itself is a tale of futuristic love which given the bleeps and blips of the music, suits it perfectly.

Gina & Tony's sound is nothing new but it is done with considerable flair making this a classy tune that's worth a listen.

www.myspace.com/ginaandtonyspace

~

Daniel Carlson: Avery Jackson

I listened to Daniel Carlson’s Aviary Jackson a number of times. I felt duty bound to be positive but I couldn’t I’m afraid. Then it struck me. It’s all the same American white guys about 40 who think they should’ve made in their twenties, now, with the advent of studio technology, suddenly they’re afforded a chance to garner all their influences and attempt to try and sound something like John Lennon but the result is a bad 10CC demo or an album by Jellyfish’s guitar tech.

Aviary Jackson all sounds too clean, homogenized, synthesized contrived and soulless to be of interest. In the opener The Innocents you hear straight away that Carlson and the producer are prone to self indulgence as they press the button in the studio marked ‘George Martin’ and hey presto we get a punchy Beatles string or brass sound, discordant backwards guitar or a sampled Ringo drum fill. On Ending there’s a nice little hook but vocally things are a bit flat. In truth, the best parts of the album are the sections without any vocals when like track 5, one of the better tracks called Landlocked we stray into an Abbey Road’s Because.

On Everywhere Is You we veer again towards acoustic guitar and piano Lennon pastiche. It’s OK but again is overclouded by studio effects and an annoying guitar effect like someone clearing their throat. Velvet sounds like a 10CC song, improves a bit then you get into it only to realise that they forgot to press the Beatle button and it goes off on a Sgt Pepper Day in the Life cacophony.

The record company site claims the songs are well written and beautifully crafted. I’m sure Dan Brown and Katie Jordan think their best selling books are well written and beautifully crafted but ultimately it’s about the content, and in this case, the songs just aren’t there. Aviary Jackson by Dylan Carlson is released on Folkwit Records. Like John Lennon would say if he were still around, I’d suggest only folk-wits would buy it. The one point is for the artwork, great sleeve.

www.danielcarlson.com


[] (1/5)

Review by Charlie Brown

~ Wednesday, 7 July 2010

The Bridgeheads: Best Ones/Pi (single)

This is the double A side single release from North London based trio The Bridgeheads who originally hail from Slovakia. They have a very strong artistic approach which is cool. They are auctioning a one off original handmade CD with handwritten lyrics, drawings and an oil painting of the album. If anyone’s interested the auction takes place on November 11, 2010 with a starting price of £10,000. This isn’t as daft as it sounds. Editors at the Guardian and The Independent love stuff like this and it will help, in the promotion of the bands album, Foreigners, set for release in January 2011.

Like most bands with a strong artistic concept, they’ve forgotten to work on the music. I really wanted to like Best Ones and Pi but sadly they just washed over me. There music just didn’t grab me. The songs weren’t as imaginative as the band are. There is also a clear absence of any bass on the two songs and this isn’t as original as the band’s publicists would have us believe. Keene don’t have a bas player either but The Bridgeheads are far better than them.

Early days and I hope for better. Pass marks because of the art but work on the songs guys.

www.thebridgeheads.com

Review by Charlie Brown

~

Testbild!: Aquatint - Album of the Month - July 2010

Aquatint is not so much an album as a soundtrack, a conceptual piece that has as much to do with art and sound as it does with music. It is what we have came to expect from the Malmo based collective Testbild!. Their music has always been on the edge of sheer brilliance and total annoyance but I've always fell on the side that these guys are borderline geniuses. The music is born from folk foundations with hints of electronica and a new wave psychedelic haircut. This is an album that is good for the soul. It is calming and captivating without being pretentious.

I don't for one minute think that this will appeal to a wide audience. I mean is has no singles or radio hits on it. I can't see them whipping a Glastonbury crowd into a frenzy but that isn't the point of what they do anyway. If you get it, you get it. Simple as that. Forget about the song titles as they give little away. Take Solid Food Invented By Tigers as an example. The title is nonsense as are the lyrics but the track is a sensory experience with the sound of birds and running water acting as a backdrop to the ethereal and atmospheric music woven on top. Perhaps it is the old hippy in me but I seriously love this record.

I'm not going to go through this album pointing out individual tracks as there is no point. Although there are 20 tracks on here it is not intended to be dipped in and out of, although you easily can. It works as a whole and should be appreciated as such. This is beautiful and beguiling music that has a calming effect and heightens your emotional senses. I can't recommend this record highly enough.

www.myspace.com/testbildsweden


[][][][][] (5/5)

~ Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Boy On A Bicycle: Everything You Do Is A Miracle

Boy On A Bicycle is the solo vehicle for Northwich based songwriter and producer Ian Scanlan, a guy with an ear for whimsical pop songs and while Everything You Do Is A Miracle has some real moments of unbridled joy, at times it is let down by sterile production and an attempt to cover too many musical bases.

The album opens with
Just A Feeling, the bossa nova beat adds an instant air of summer and some lovely vocal harmonies from Sarah Ennor raise it well above the ordinary. This is a quality pop song in the mould of Prefab Sprout, as is Life Viewed From The Outside and proves that he does indeed have the ability to produce pop/folk of the highest quality. This is why it comes as such a disappointment when the unconvincing Tired and abismal Boy With Faraway Eyes come along. The former sounding like Ian Broadie at his worst while the latter with its feeble Ramones meets The Smiths approach is totally unconvincing and forgettable.

Just when you are about to give up along comes the title track and you find yourself asking if this could possibly be by the same person. The difference is night and day. It's atmospheric, beautifully structured and an extremely accomplished lush slice of pop. Wonderful. He strikes gold again on the lilting Painfully Happy. The restrained arrangement acting as the perfect foil for his spirited vocals.

Love and Regrets, Warmth Of The Sun and Wunderkind are pleasant enough, more filler than killer if you will, but Scanlan saves the best for last in the shape of the stirring and evocative Another Chance. This instrumental track exudes a beauty that touches on bands like the Blue Nile and Sigur Ros and proves the moments of true beauty on this album are no fluke. With the some noticeable exceptions this is descent showcase of Scanlan's talents as a songwriter. Perhaps another set of ears with him in the studio would have made all the difference. We'll never know.

www.reverbnation.com/boyonabicycle

[][][][ (3.5/5)

~

Fortuna: Fortuna (Feat:: Asia Argento)

One of the most difficult things to do when reviewing music is to accurately place were a band fits in. Who would buy it? Where would you find it in a shop? Are they indie, blues, dance, jazz, or grunge? It would surprise you how little time bands themselves spend time understanding what they’re about and fail to realise how important it is for record companies to try and sell their work. Yes, it turns music into product, like corporate soulless Tesco rock bands such as Coldplay and Muse where you can go to the dumb rawk isle and overload on your favourite forced fed tin of rock beans. I know this seems a bit of a digression but it is important in Fortuna’s case.

They seem like cool guys, are hip and even have a cool actress on board but they aren’t a dance band. The publicity, the pitch and the look of the band is one of dance project. A producer should’ve said this is the wrong genre and point of attack. This isn’t good dance music but it’s brilliant soundtrack work.

Once you get the genre right, tracks like A Radical Bravery sound at home on a macabre Roman art house movie. Track 3, Roma belongs on a dark sinister melodramatic European movie involving loads of car chases. Black Water sounds like the perfect accompaniment to a gritty detective show in Belgium. They are very good at European soundtrack music.

Fortuna is the goddess of luck in Roman religion. I hope they get some but I believe it’ll be in movie soundtracks and not on the dance floor.

www.myspace.com/thisistherealfortuna

[][][] (3/5)

~ Monday, 5 July 2010

Superhumanoids: Urgency (ep)

This is the debut ep from LA based quartet Superhumanoids and you get the feeling when listen to them that they take their influences from the late 80's and early 90's as their sound brings to mind Echo & The Bunnymen, Joy Division, Altered Images and Talking Heads. Not a combination that you would think would produce the sound it does but the lo-fi pop that Superhumanoids make is undeniably endearing.

The straight forwardness of tracks like Persona and Simple Severin is refreshing. This is pop with a indie bent that is just plain simple.... and good. The mix of electronica and live instruments on Contemporary Individual has a hypnotic effect on the ears sounding like The Smiths jamming with New Order while Cranial Contest and Hey Big Bang are brilliant slices of twee pop much loved by shoe gazers across the land.

This is a well crafted and charming ep that should open a few doors for one of the best new bands I have heard in quite some time. Strongly recommended.

www.superhumanoids.com

The ep is available to download from the bands website for free or you can buy it on a limited edition red vinyl and listen to it the way music should be listened to. On a record player...

~

We Happy Few: Empty Boxes

It’s quite difficult for white middle class boys to cover black blues artists, though The Stones and The Yardbirds managed to make a career out of it. We Happy Few have managed to pull it off. Particularly on I’m Satisfied and Pay Day they remain faithful to Mississippi John Hurt’s originals. There’s also a decent shot at Robert Johnson’s Little Queen of Spades, no mean feat at all. I find it incredible that groups like this don’t have a record deal. Major labels should form subsidiary labels to get acts like this out there.

We Happy Few’s Empty Boxes is an enjoyable experience. It’s stripped back and clever in its simplicity like an unplugged album should be. There’s a cool, laid back sound that points to a confidence and adds an authentic British blues feel that goes back to Fairport Convention and the unassuming but very skilled acts you’d see at the Cambridge Folk Festival.

A slight criticism and it’s just a personal one, after a while the album becomes a little bit one dimensional and I was hoping the band would maybe find themselves a generator and plug in. I was hoping to hear a full drum kit and a Jimmy Page or Jeff Beck solo come in but that probably says more about me than the band, who are clearly sticking to their guns in keeping it acoustic.

The most noticeable aspect to Empty Boxes is the high level of musicianship. There’s some fine slide guitar and intricate finger picking going on as the band bring a modern, contemporary feel to the genre and the future seems bright for English Blues but for the next album let’s do a Dylan and go electric. Fine work.

www.myspace.com/wehappyfewmusic


[][][][] (4/5)

Review by Charlie Brown

~ Sunday, 4 July 2010

Jil Is Lucky: The Wanderer (single)

24 year old songwriter Jil is Lucky hails from Paris and this his UK debut single is a musical sandwich loaded with Parisian flair, a large side order of folk and topped off with some middle eastern relish. It has a ramshackle quality to it which grown increasingly endearing with every listen.

He has already garnered considerable attention in France where this track is featured on a perfume ad (to be shown in the UK this Autumn) but whether this particular song is to the taste of the British consumer is a tricky one. The British record buying public tend to baulk at any music coming out of Europe which can't be fitted into into the Euro Pop or Dance
categories. It may be narrow minded but as the radio, press and media on these little islands simply won't give the airplay or column inches to this type of music, it is not surprising.

If you like your folk and pop with a twist and an air of Bohemia then check out Jil Is Lucky. He may just change a few peoples attitudes. The Wanderer is released in the UK on the 5th July.

www.jilislucky.com

Watch a live video of Jil Is Lucky: The Wanderer

~ Saturday, 3 July 2010