The O's: Between The Two

There’s a considerable amount of enjoyment and easy charm to Dallas indie folk duo, The O’s. I wonder how many indie folk duos there are in Texas? Must be quite a few I suppose, it’s a huge place. This is the follow up to their critically claimed 2009 album We Are The O’s that prompted Alternative Press to include them in their prestigious list, '100 bands you need to know'.

Taylor Young and John Pedgio of The O’s have made a great album. You get the impression that they are annoyed at people like music critics who try to squeeze them into a musical box. On the subject of being pigeonholed, Young himself isn’t one for labels, acerbically claiming that the band; ‘’sweat too much for a folk band.’’

A great opener in We’ll Go Walking but the stand out track for me is In Numbers We Survive where The O’s sway toward catchy Rolling Stones We Love You and Street Fighting Man territory, no bad thing. Trying To Have a Good Time is an infuriating catchy little number too and rocks along at a pace. Country ballad We Are Young ironically shows a musical maturity.

The playing is terrific, particularly the banjo work and Lowebro, that’s an acoustic lap steel, not a low fat or dumbed down German pilsner. The production captures the excitement of the bands live shows with Stuart Sikes, who has worked with Cat Power, White Stripes and Loretta Lynn bringing out the best in the duo.

There a few points when we get close to sounding like They Might Be Giants, particularly on Wrecking Ball but other than that minor irritation, The O’s Between The Two is a great album that like the man said is getting better all the time.

www.wearetheos.com

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

Review by Charlie Brown

~ Thursday, 30 June 2011

Sarah Jarosz: Follow Me Down

It’s incredible to think that this is multi instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz’s second album. Follow Me Down is the follow up to her 2009 debut Song Up In Her Head. Clearly a prodigious talent, she has the maturity to surround herself with exquisite musicians to help her deliver a fantastic album. Not only has she a sweet voice that could melt the heart of an axe murderer, she weighs in on claw hammer banjo and mandolin, oh and she’s still only 19.

I would imagine that true fans of traditional bluegrass and folk are concerned at the way Sarah Jarosz is edging her unique take on folk Americana toward the mainstream. It’s as if the bluegrass and folk scene has been in slumber for decades and Ms Jarosz has came along and dragged it kicking and screaming.

There are some really interesting covers on here as she is joined by the Punch Brothers on Radiohead’s The Tourist, not the easiest of songs to interpret but it’s given an even more melodramatic twist and Dylan’s Ring Them Bells shines gloriously.

She’s no slouch on the song writing front herself. Her own songs are great, Come Around allows her natural voice to meander and sway with confidence and there’s a sweet haunting quality to My Muse and an effortless grace to Gypsy.

Off on a tangent, I’d love to hear her interpretations of other artists. Might be worth a shot, have her do an album of covers by The Stoogies, Nirvana, Beck, Sonic Youth, Primal Scream, Kings of Leon and maybe the odd Kinks cover? Maybe not. What do I know? Follow Me Down is a very polished and accomplished album and I see she actually co-produced as well. Some people are just so talented it makes you sick.

www.sarahjarosz.com

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

Review by Charlie Brown

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Dave McPherson: The Hardship Diaries

Dave McPherson, front man of InMe, delivers an interesting and accomplished acoustic album. Nothing new in a front man breaking away to do his own thing. Nothing new in an artist splitting his work into four seasons as well, like The Music Critic’s much loved Larkin Po and eh, Vivaldi. Nothing new in terms of approach to the songs either.

The Hardship Diaries starts well but soon gets repetitive. You quickly realise that the point is lost as the songs are just metal songs played on acoustic. I know it sounds a bit pedantic but instead of getting an album of acoustic songs, you’re getting metal songs done on acoustic and it sounds like demos for the next InMe album. The overall effect is a bit wearing and by winter you start to wish the playing would be less complicated and more straightforward. The effectiveness of the songs are clogged up with this anxiety to show musical virtuosity. By the end the songs seemed to mould into one continual loop and I didn’t know what time of the year it was.

If you’re a fan of that type of acoustic singer songwriter who critics fawn over like Damien Rice and Loudon Wainwright then you may in fact really enjoy this. There are plenty of positives, it’s a well performed album with loads of intricacy, nice piano and acoustic guitar work. She Puts Me In a Good Mood kicks off the summer section and it moves along in a bright and breezy way. Hummingbird stands out as does Before I Even Had You. The latter again being a good case in point, sounding like an acoustic version of a metal song.

Despite my misgivings, it’s a decent album and I’m sure InMe fans will love it. But it’s the big world out there Dave McPherson has to win over and with The Hardship Diaries the jury is still out.

www.davemcphersonsolo.co.uk

[][][] (3/5)

Review by Charlie Brown

~ Sunday, 26 June 2011

Sophie Barker: Seagull

The moment I saw the cover of Sophie Barker’s second album, Seagull, I knew what the album was going to be like. It’s a rainy Sunday and the dinner’s cooking slowly, very slowly, with another four hours to go and you doze off, peacefully. But as she perched ever so ruefully on the roof, in a floral dress, with her acoustic guitar, I noticed even the seagulls and pigeons had flown off. I wanted so much more from Sophie Barker but what it felt like was a collection of B sides from Dido.

She’s clearly a talented singer and songwriter with a great, smoky, voice but there was something lacking and that was excitement. If Top Gear can release albums full of petrol head anthems then imagine Come Dine With Me released a muzak soundtrack. Muzak for the middle classes. Albums for people who don’t really like music to stumble upon by accident in Tesco.

She’s making a noise and it’s not a bad one just a very mellow, uninteresting and uninspiring one. I’d expect more from someone who has worked with Zero 7, David Guetta and Groove Armada. Sadly, this album isn’t one that either moved or intrigued me. Positives? Bluebell stood out as did Just For You but overall, the album is bigger on style than content.

Seagull is obviously a plaintive and reflective album but I feel it isn’t a body of work that will propel her to the heights required to take on the likes of Adele or Rumur. It’s a ferocious marketplace just now with female vocalists singing songs about heartache. This felt like an opportunity lost. You know she can deliver and maybe next time with better songs and more passion and assertion her time will come but for now, sadly, this bird has flown.

www.sophiebarker.com

[][] (2/5)

Review by Charlie Brown

~ Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Foghorn Trio: Sud De La Louisiane

From the opener I Want to be Loved (But Only By You) The Foghorn Trio take us on a magnificent alt country Cajun odyssey laced with moonshine, as they go on the run in what sounds like a soundtrack for a Coen Brothers film. This album is fantastic from start to finish.

When you think of harmony you think of the Beach Boys, the Beatles, The Byrds, Simon and Garfunkel. It’s time to add in Stephen Sammy Lynd; fiddle, guitar, banjo and vocals. Caleb Klauder; mandolin, guitar, fiddle and vocals. Nadine Landry; guitar, bass and vocals. The Foghorn Trio do all the above but have an incredible natural and primitive feel to the way they sing together.

Most of the songs are covers and those which stand out are the Carter Family’s tear jerking Hello Central and a wonderfully rueful version of the Kitty Wells song I Don’t Claim to be an Angel.

If those of you out there want to know what bands like Mumford and Son and their ilk could only ever dream of coming close to, then this is the album to buy. Of course The Foghorn Trio will never have a major breakthrough. They don’t have the required record company folk-cash-till-register-beard-angst-riddled X factor. The trustafarian who in reality listened to Cure records at boarding school, then faked it by throwing the razors away, learning some mandolin and banjo and jumped on the nearest folk sounding bandwagon marked irony.

The Foghorn Trio are talented beyond belief and are the real deal. Best of all not a beard in sight.

www.foghornstringband.com

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

Review by Charlie Brown

~ Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Savage Nomads: Coloured Clutter

The first thing that strikes you about the Savage Nomads, especially if you were the only one in class who listened in Modern Studies, is the name. There was an infamous street gang from the Bronx, with the same name, who I think might still be going. Just to let them know, just in case, eh...anyway. The Savage Nomads we’re discussing here are a very young group with a very mature and eclectic musical ear.

This eclecticism can be found on the first single, Magic Eye. All parts XTC, The Fall, Gang of Four, Orange Juice, Joseph K, Franz Ferdinand and Futureheads, mixed by Mike Crossey of Arctic Monkeys fame. I liked Subside The Shakes, it’s a bit more poppy and probably the most simple in terms of structure.

They remind me of interesting pop bands in the 80’s like Wire, Public Image and Big Audio Dynamite, who liked to experiment with different ideas meandering toward dance, dub and ambiance as well as great pop, evident on What The Angel Said, also a great single, all eighties, all over the place with clever drumming and fantastic guitar work. I also found the hook in Eternal Elizabeth impossible to get out of my head.

I do have a slight personal concern for Coloured Clutter. The songs can become too busy, blinding us with virtuosity and cleverness when the song just needs simplicity. As great as this album is, I fear The Savage Nomads, all still teenagers, will struggle to find their niche. They seem part prog, part punk, part ambient, part electronica, post punk, pop, dub and garage. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be too clever.

On the fourth listen, it’s evident The Savage Nomads have delivered an intelligent, modern and contemporary urban sounding debut album, one that shows much imagination and once they find their musical voice, promise for the future.

www.myspace.com/thesavagenomads

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

Review by Charlie Brown
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Captain Dangerous: Forgive Us We're British (single)

This Nottingham based band are a quirky bunch making eclectic pop melodies that could be lifted from the Jonathan Richman book of songwriting and witty lyrics. If you are going to sound like someone, then the Modern Lovers front man is a pretty good one.

Lead track is the tongue and cheek take on a serious subject, the British governments foreign policy and willingness to get involved in conflicts abroad. Forgive Us We're British is an energy packed song that seems to include every instrument under the sun fighting it out in a cacophony of blissful pop mastery that is a breath of fresh air. 'B' side Everything Beautiful Reminds Me Of You is not as instant the 'A' side but it certainly has its charms with chiming guitars that bring to mind Vampire Weekend and has a decidedly summery feel.

As fine as this single is, I don't know if I would want to listen to an albums worth of this kind of quirkiness.

www.captaindangerous.com

~ Tuesday, 7 June 2011

selectalldeletesaveas: selectalldeletesaveas

The press biog states that a pair of music students from Jersey, Anthony Walker and Terry Emm have recorded this self-titled album through, ‘the frustration of being on a music course and the incredibly hard task of trying to earn money in the music business’. Get the tissues out and see if Mario the violin player can come in for a few hours, poor boys. I approached the CD dreaming of a Derek and Clive discovery or a new Flight of the Conchords type sensation as we all love the comedy album don’t we? Billy Connolly, Eddie Murphy, The Pythons, The Macc Lads and Chubby Brown even! At some point in the evening we look for a laugh. Well this isn’t it and to quote the biog again, ‘This is an album like no other’.

Join The Navy is just cringey, badly written, supposed to be funny bollocks and I’m hoping it’s not setting a theme for the rest of the album because there’s another 9 tracks to go. My Dabid Icke really is awful. First of all the vocals are buried in the production, probably because they’re not funny for a start and secondly because the producer turned them down. Now I might be wrong but I would take a guess and say that the vocals are quite important on a comedy album aren’t they? It also has an unfunny and non-ironic piano solo and I must be missing the point of such genius surrealism.

Best Damn Wolf is just a bit better. The vocals are louder for a start, but they are doing a Wurzels type farmer accent, very challenging that university course eh? Can you do Margaret Thatcher or David Bellamy? It’s about a wolf by the way. Does anyone fancy a pint? The chorus chimes, ‘You gotta be the best damn wolf you know you can be’. As opposed to being an excellent badger or a 1st class blue tit? Also one of these c**ts sings in an American accent like the di*k out of Weezer. It wasn’t better actually; I’m starting to get the fear. Binman is a song about the daily routine of a Binman. I’m torn between praising them for the refreshing detail documented about this occupation or more realistically I’m fuming with them for trying to take the piss out of this profession. Are Binmen funny, poor little students? I bet spending half an hour at the dump listening to the people that work there would be a thousand times funnier than this condescending s*it.

Land Of The Dinosaurs is worse if that’s possible. Brett and Jermaine and Howard and Vince have nothing to worry about. Come to think about it, neither does Lenny Henry. Confession actually has four lines of some sort of humour type dialogue but is then followed by absolute carnage. Reading more of the press statement, this duo actually have dedicated hard-core followers. Replies on a stamped addressed envelope please in this week’s competition to find a name for these wa*kers. I’m starting to think there was no other way to market this guff, “I know let’s say it’s a comedy album.”
Kozzalekk sounds like Weezer and Faith No More underwater. Again, there is a piano solo and I’m wondering if he was pulling a funny face whilst playing it. Restaurant is more observational observation about a Restaurant. Did it have nice toilets? There is a real attempt at comedy on the track Football. This lasts one and a half minutes and then somebody wakes the fu**ers up again. Sorry about the profanity but I don’t get paid for this! They sing, ‘There’s a nice old man, I wouldn’t call him a fan, he told me that he hates me.’ That’s two of us then.

At last the end with R U Sitting On A Goldmine? This states that this album has been ‘commissioned’. I dug deeper and found on the CD booklet that none other than one of these dweebs’ Dad ‘commissioned’ the CD. That’s an interesting term, ‘commissioned’ isn’t it? Is that the same as your daddy paid for this digital tantrum? Just like those idiot parents on the X Factor and Britain’s Got Toilets who say their kid really ‘wants this’ and deserves a shot at the big time without actually ever listening to this supposed talent, this man has indulged his son and ‘commissioned’ the whole shebang. How will you face you’re friends down at the Bergerac’s? As funny as a hardened haemorrhoid.

www.selectalldeletesaveas.com


(0/5)

Review by Captain Dhilin Kunderan

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