Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fitz and the Tantrums - Don't Gotta Work It Out (FREE)

Just wanted to throw this out there again. If you haven't listened to Fitz and the Tantrums, you need to. As an incentive to get new listeners (which you shouldn't need any prompting, you should just do it) they are giving away "Don't Gotta Work It Out" for free. I hope it's like a drug and you have to go back and buy the album to get your fix because they deserve your support and you deserve some pretty groovin music in your life. - The download link is right on the front page.  Just go do it because I say so.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Levi Kreis - Live @ Joe's Pub

Soul, Blues, Jazz, Gospel, Pop, Rock...all these could be used to describe Levi Kreis.  You could also throw in Tony Award Winner, Television Celebrity, Soundtrack Contributor and a whole host of other descriptors but what they all don't seem to do is properly define who/what Levi Kreis is all about.  If you want to do that, then you need to listen to this album to get maybe a 10th of a percent of understanding about this man.  This is where Levi is at his best, when it's him and a piano.  You don't hear people talking or singing along which tells me they were so enamored with the performance they couldn't do anything but sit and listen.  It's very easy to see how they are mesmerized because he is so engaging and charismatic and those are not things that can be bought or sold.  His voice is pure and unfiltered on this recording and it just makes you feel. 

Live @ Joe's Pub was recorded on February 28, 2011 at his last stop on the SidexSide tour where he performed along with Eric Himan and and Jason Anton.  I don't know anything about the venue but from the mastering on the album, it sounds like a small tight club where everyone was able to have their own experience with these artists in a manner that larger venues can't provide.  Levi takes you on a trip through his rise to popularity at this show and you get a glimpse into his process and how he became the artist he is today.

One of the first things you'll hear in this album is humility and honesty.  He speaks from a place that can only be described as heartfelt.  Being someone that had to come to terms with how a small portion of his life was going to affect his chance at his dream, Levi is exceptionally frank throughout the retelling of his past.  This type of honesty can only come from someone that has made peace with his parts and is totally all right where he is in life.

So much could be said about his music but the thing that always comes back to me every time  I listen to an album is how I feel like I've been taken to church and had my faith refilled a little more from each and every track.  I've talked about honesty and I'll throw integrity into the mix.  His voice speaks from a place of sincerity and makes you feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself.  It helps you understand that you aren't alone in your struggles and that no matter how alone you are, there are people that have been there too.  I have so much respect for Levi I can't properly express it.  His message is about acceptance and love and that's something that we all could use a little more of each and every day.

Here's a video clip from the performance at Joe's.  It's a cover of Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me"

I've talked about it over and over. Don't steal this album. Go buy it on iTunes or Amazon or eMusic. Don't be a dick. It's the little guys that make a difference and help artists like Levi continue to do the work they do that makes our world a little bit brighter.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

2Cellos - Smooth Criminal

For what this is, it's pretty damn amazing. It's 2 cellists taking a classical instrument and infusing new life into it and giving it some pretty far and wide stretching mass appeal.  I think it's amazing the talent these guys have but I don't know if  I could sit through an entire album much less a full concert.  They would have to get together will like some rock violinists or other members of the rock orchestral family and make a huge rock opera.  People online are saying they look like the Winchesters from Supernatural and I can see how they would say that.  The "Rock Face" they give during harder parts of the song cracks me up, but what else are they gonna do?  It's a fun track as is their cover of Guns and Roses, Welcome to the Jungle.

Go Radio - Lucky Street

Generally Alt-Rock or Alt-Pop isn't my bag to review on this blog, I'll let other bloggers do it much better than I can because they can make better generalizations and correlations between other groups but I'm going to make an exception for Tallahassee based musical group Go Radio's debut album Lucky Street.  I first heard this when I saw the video for "Goodnight Moon" and was immediately hooked on Jason Lancaster's voice and his vocals.  I started doing more research and found the video for "Any Other Heart" and again, was smitten.  One of the things that impressed me the most and was mostly entrancing was I thought he was Irish.  If you listen to the way he enunciates words on "Any Other Heart" there is some definite brogue coming through and being as much as an anglophile as I am, I had to hear more.  Color me surprised to find out that the ex-guitarist/ex-vocalist of The Mayday Parade was an American, born and bred.

This album is full of high energy and it is easily sustained throughout all 13 tracks with an ease that most seasoned acts have a hard time pulling off.  There are a number of ballads intermixed throughout the set and it all comes together to make a pretty cool album.  The track, "Forever my Father" is pretty great considering it has Jason's siblings accompanying him on it.  It's a pretty emotional song and it's done really well.  "Goodbye Moon" is probably my favorite song on the album because it full of emotion and is just a pretty sweet song.

I'd recommend this album to anyone that is looking for a bit more rock in their pop collection.  I'd go see them in concert without hesitation.  They've made a spot in my MP3 player and they'll be there for a while.  Plus Jason's a ginger and I have a huge soft spot for gingers :)

Cher Lloyd - Sticks and Stones

Placing 4th in this year's X-Factor, Cher Lloyd got a recording contract from Simon Cowell on his SyCo label. I don't care what you think about Simon Cowell, he knows music and has had remarkable success propelling acts to the top (Leona Lewis anyone?).  Her debut album, Sticks and Stones is full on twee-pop realized.  What sets her apart from other "Twee-pop" acts like Eliza Doolittle or Lily Allen is that she is also a pretty talented rapper.  On several of the songs she easily transitions from rapping to singing like most of us do putting on our clothes.  She's got some pretty impressive guests on the album in the form of Busta Rhymes, Carolina Liar and Mike Posner.  It's a super fun album and from start to finish and doesn't really offer anything new to the game.  She takes what she knows how to do and honors those standards.

If you saw her on X-Factor, then you'll probably be a fan of the album and what she has to offer.  New fans are going to take a little convincing to come around but I think it's not going to be to terribly hard.  The singles that have been released so far are "Swagger Jagger" and "With Ur Love". Swagger Jagger is an interesting song in that the chorus and the hook are nothing more than the children's song "Oh My Darling Clementine" and for me this took away from the song and made it more difficult to like.  However, she redeemed herself somewhat on "With  Ur Love" because it's more of an all out Pop song.  My favorite track on the album would have to be "Grow Up" because I like hearing her rap and the cameo by Busta Rhymes is pretty cool.  "Dub on the Track" is supposed to be her harder side but to me it just kind of tries to hard.  The repetition of "I'm the kind of girl that puts dub on the track" doesn't really do it for me and makes me ask, who are you trying to convince?

The album isn't perfect but it takes what it does and does well with it.  It's fun and playful and you can dance to it.  The remixes of the songs are going to be killer and will probably sound amazing in clubs.  Give it a listen on Spotify and see what you think.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Ice Choir - Two Rings

Picture yourself right in the middle of the Nu-Romantic movement in London in 1982. You could wander into any club and hear this track pounding from the speakers while the patrons look maudlin and pine over love lost and love yet to be had. Somewhere there is a raven haired girl sitting in the bar with a copy of Wuthering Heights or something by Sylvia Plath. People talking about Morrissey and the new album by The Cure. This song is so moody and melodramatic and it's awesome and more incredibly, they are a Brooklyn based band. This new synth pop movement has made me so happy because it all appeals to every sensibility I have. I look forward to hearing much more from these guys.

Little Boots - Shake

So I'm a bit late to the game with this but I'm damn glad I showed up for the party. Listen to the throbbing bass line and the crazy ass breakdowns. I am so impressed with Little Boots on this I can't properly express it. It is so big and mindblowing. It's a bit different than her first album only because it has more of an ass shaking vibe to it. It's a super hot track that would sound amazing to hear in a club. Big ups to LB on this track!!!

Penguin Prison - Penguin Prison

There are times when you can just sit back and trust an artist.  It's these times when you don't mind turning all control over to them and letting them do what they do best.  I wish these moments came more often but when they do happen, you cherish them because they are all the more special.  As corny as those two sentences are, when talking about the debut album from Penguin Prison, every word is true.  He knows what he's doing and there aren't many people that can work their way around a synthesizer like he can.  Chris Glover grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and had some pretty diverse musical influences ranging from Johnny Cash to Aaron Neville.  Being in New York City, he was influenced by the city and the culture and everyone around him.
Those influences have made a huge impact in his musical career and you can hear them coming through in his music.  Over the past handful of years, he has been releasing single after single and finally has compiled them all into an amazing album that is nothing more than pure synthpop magic.  From the opening beat in Don't Fuck With My Money to the outro of Someone Got Everything, this album defied every expectation I had of it. The first single I heard a year or so ago was Fair Warning and I immediately fell in love with his talent and the message he represented in his music.  The album doesn't reinvent the wheel but it takes the best of the genre and makes the best possible use of all the tools available.  There isn't a low point in the album and it's one of the only albums in a long time that I can just throw on and listen from start to finish.  A Funny Thing is one of the high points in the album and I think it's probably one of my favorite tracks.  The video below is an exclusive video performance he did in Paris of A Funny Thing.   Take a minute to listen to it and then go buy the album.  It's well worth it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Justin Utley - Nothing This Real

Since I found out this CD was going to be released, I have been eagerly awaiting it.  I fell in love with Justin's story and his music and his message and became a huge fan with his first album, "Runaway".  With Justin, there is something about him that is so familiar.  It's not that he's the "boy next door" per say but he seems to be the conglomeration of all the boys next door all across the country.  He's the guy that is always doing a solid for someone else and mending fences when no one else is willing to.  He's the guy that always has a smile for you even though he's probably not having the best of day because he doesn't want to burden you will his issues.  The best art is born from tragedy and life experience and it makes me feel for Justin because he is someone that has had more experience that most people in the world will have in a small portion of their lives and this album seems to be born from those experiences in his life.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Penguin Prison - Don't Fuck With My Money

I can make all kinds of statements about this video being filmed at an Occupy Wall Street demonstration but all I'm gonna say it was a damn smart idea. It's totally socially relevant and it is going to be a cause that their fans are already behind so it's like two great tastes that go great together. The song is a pretty awesome track off their self titled album. Chris Glover, aka Penguin Prison does an amazing job on the vocals on this track and the video is really amazing. Chris says this about the song/video:
“I wrote and recorded “Don’t F*** With My Money” some time before the Occupy Wall Street protest began but I felt that some of the lyrics reflected the sentiments that a lot of people have right now, ” Glover says. “Inspired by OWS and by the other protests that have sprung up all over the world, I decided to film a video for ‘Don’t F*** With My Money’ at the Occupy Wall Street March that went from Zuccotti Park to Times Square.”

The Good Natured - Skeleton

Upon first listen, "Skeleton" by The Good Natured is a super infectious synth pop album with track after track that will get stuck in your head.  But when you listen right below the surface, you'll hear a bit of darkness trying to get out.  Not a lot of darkness, think of this more as "I Can't Believe It's Not Siouxsie and the Banshees".  It's Darkwave-lite.  It's 80s goth culture with training wheels.  Now I realize what I just typed and how hokey and gimmicky that can sound, but if you give it a shot, you'll probably not be disappointed. To some extent, even some of Sarah's visuals are evocative of Our Lady of Melancholy, Miss Sioux, herself.  This is an outstanding way to introduce people to this type of music because The Good Natured make it very ground floor.  You can step right into their sound and you won't feel intimidated.

There are quite a few things about this EP that I like.  Each song has it's own personality and they are all a bit different from each other.  There is an overarching theme through the entire record so it's not disjointed and you have a good sense of who The Good Natured are by the end of the 6 tracks and a remix.  Skeleton,  the single, not the album title, was an amazing choice by the band.  It's more mainstream and has more mass appeal than songs like Hourglass or Be My Animal.  It's an earworm of a song and the chorus will get stuck in your head without trying.  Sarah's vocals are another thing I really like.  Most British accents fade away but not hers.  It is loud and proud and gives the album more depth.  It's one of those things where people say even a British accent can class the joint up and it does.  I dig this album and know it's going to stay in heavy rotation in my library for quite some time.  Do yourself a favor and pick it up because it's super fun and it'll have you digging out your Concrete Blonde and Bauhaus albums before you know it.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Matt Zarley - Perfect

Matt's follow-up single to W.T.F. is Perfect. a song about finding the "perfect" person.  Perfect takes on a very subjective meaning because the song isn't about physical perfection or mental well being or any of that.  It's about realizing that sometimes perfect isn't about traits and features, it's about those imperfections that you see and bring someone closer to being who they should be, not what you want them to be.  It's about meeting that person and realizing that outside of all their own perceived faults, they are the person that helps to make you, and you help them to see they are everything they need to be in order to be a better person.  We aren't all lucky enough to find this person in our lives but when we do, it's a magical thing that can really never be duplicated.

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Matt has an uncanny knack for taking everything that you feel and distilling it into an amazing piece of art.  The video for the song echos the sentiment laid out in the track and the visuals are pretty amazing.  Everyone looks amazingly happy and it just gives the song an injection of positivity that helps propel it to a higher plane.

Matt's next single is going to be Trust Me,  a super sexy anthem about letting your guard down and trying something new.  I hope that the video for that has a treatment as outstanding as what has been done for the previous two singles because it's one of my favorite songs on the album.  And Matt is quickly moving up in my estimation of my favorite independent artists.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Turning Page - Sleeping at Last

Not only can I not wait for this movie to come out, I can't wait until the day when I feel these feelings for someone again. This song is beautiful and it is so full of emotion. Edward and Bella may not be the most appropriate example for a stable, loving relationship but this song makes me feel things that I haven't felt in a while. Don't misunderstand me, I still miss Sean...I miss him every day but sometimes that loneliness can be a bit much to bear so I want to feel these feelings again. I need to feel these feelings again.  This is a gorgeous example of a fan made video and I applaud the creator.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sarah Burgess - Sassy

Every now and then a song comes along that is nothing more than cotton candy but if you're super lucky, that cotton candy has a bite that you weren't expecting. On the surface you could perceive Sassy as nothing more than that; a super poppy bubble gum track that leaves you still wanting more but if you dig a little deeper, Sarah's vocals on this track give it a much needed infusion of depth.  I love bubble gum pop more than most people and this song does not let me down.  From the beginning to the end, you just want to bob your head and move your feet.  Sarah is another in the long line of artists from American Idol that actually has talent and should be more in the spotlight than she is.  And with a track like Sassy, she needs mainstream radio play.

Amy Meredith - Pick Up Your Tricks

The new single from these hot alt-rock boys from the land down under was released today. Pick Up Your Tricks shows a new sound compared to their previous release.  It has more of an electronic/synth vibe to it but I think it really stays true to their sound.  The chorus is big and over the top and Christian's vocals just shine.  The video shows the band members and I assume their girlfriends showing their tricks.  It's a super fun song and the video matches the vibe of the song.  I can't wait until the full album because they are by far one of my most favorite bands.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lana Del Rey - Video Games

The voice that comes out of this 25 year old woman is damn near criminal.  I just don't understand how something so old and so soulful can come out of someone so young.  It's just blows my mind.  Her voice is so comfortable and easy that it just slips over you like a warm blanket on a cold winter day.  It's just perfect.  She gets her stage name from combining Lana Turner and Ford Del Rey because her manager felt her musical style was reminiscent of the old style Hollywood glamour that escapes us today. This song is so dreamy and melodic that you can just close your eyes and drift through the track.  I purchased her EP and both tracks showcase her voice beautifully.  I hope that she works with amazing producers because there's the potential she could eventually become one note.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Samantha Newark - Something Good

Most people won't have a clue who Samantha Newark is because you've never really seen her face.  Her voice, however spoke to millions of children growing up in the 80s and for me; it's a voice that brings back so many memories of simpler days and much more of a carefree attitude.  A time when you would wake up at 6 AM on a Saturday morning with a bowl of your favorite cereal and sit in front of the television until noon and then you were kicked outside to go play.  During that time, one of the greatest of things in the world was Jem.  I am going to make my one obligatory, "Truly, Truly, Truly Outrageous" because she was.  The cartoon was so far ahead of it's time and it had something for everyone.  It was full of amazing music, action and adventure, love and romance and most importantly friendship.  The stories were actually pretty mature without being preachy and they were just fun.  To this day, I consider myself a Jem Boy and I will be until I die.  Samantha Newark was the speaking voice of Jem and her civilian alter ego, Jerica.  If you aren't familiar with Jem, you can find her all over the web so I won't go into it.  I'll post some links at the end of this post to give you head start if you need it.