MAKING OF … AWAKEN THE DREAMER

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This is a new feature that I cooked up a little while back and I’m thrilled to bits that the person kicking it off is Rachael Teo, my dear friend and (former) apprentice. I can’t believe how far Rach has come since she was the budding songwriter with one & a half songs. Anyways, Making Of… is a series where recording artists chat about their new album or EP, giving us some insight into the creation of their art and other juicy tidbits. So here’s Rach to deliver her thoughts about Cove Red’s Awaken the Dreamer EP.

It’s ironic how the words “awaken the dreamer” came to me as I was drifting in and out of slumber, in one of those dream-like states where it’s hard to discern whether or not the idea is truly yours. I guess the phrase is an oxymoron. Awakening calls for an action of getting up, while the activity of dreaming can only be conjured by pacifying oneself to sleep. So what does “Awaken The Dreamer” truly mean?

Well, for one, it is the title of Cove Red’s unofficial debut album. Cove who, you may ask?

Cove Red is a two-piece band made up of two girls, Suyin on backing vocals, keyboards, guitar and violin, and me (Rachael) on lead vocals and guitar. As a band, we’ve only been around for about 4 months. And it still baffles us that while these songs were only written 3-6 months ago, we’ve already made a record out of them. To be honest, we wouldn’t have, if not for the call of a dream.

Awakening the dreamer, very simply put, means bidding what was once dead to live again.

And that is what our EP hopes to do. To walk the listener down the narrow hallway, into the dusty chamber of forgotten and broken dreams, clean up the grimy reminders of the past, and breathe new life into forsaken dreams that we once had.

Three days were all we had to finish recording this EP – complete with delivered meals, coffee, and plenty of perfume. (We recorded at our friend’s office’s band room, which housed a sewage pipe.) Another friend of ours also recorded 3 of her songs during the time we had, so the whole process was a bit mad, a bit tiring, sprinkled with large doses of fun and laughter.

The album contains 5 stripped-down acoustic songs written by me (Rachael), and it opens with a familiar tune, “Love & Water”, which incidentally was the first song that Kevin Mathews and I composed together. It highlights things like purpose, hope and faith, celebrates friendship, and likens love to water as an essential to see a dark world through difficult times. Despite the weight of its themes, its chirpy melody masks the seriousness of the tone, making it the ideal opening number.

The second track is a fairly new one entitled “Dreamer”. It was written after a very heated argument with my mom a few months back. At that time, I was actively pursuing my dream, and she was frustrated at me because the first fruit of success seemed to be taking a long time to grow. This song was birthed within 15 minutes. It’s about holding onto destiny even though everything seems to be working against you.

Next on the list is “Mistakes”. It speaks of how some problems keep resurfacing simply because we have yet to learn from them, and not letting the weight of our guilt crush and paralyze us to do what we were made for.

The following track, “Till You Come”, is a song to all single people out there who doubt that they’ll ever find love. I truly don’t know what came over me when I wrote this one. Friends around me would know that I generally do not wear my heart on my sleeves when it comes to relationships. So, surprise, surprise.

When Kevin Mathews first heard “Heart Conversations”, he commented that it’d be a good song to end an album. So we took his advice. This one’s about shedding anxiety and leaving it in Divine hands, and living in the now because the future has yet to arrive.

We hope “Awaken the Dreamer” will be instrumental in awakening fellow dreamers through its messages of faith, purpose, newness, hope, and resolute peace.

For more information about “Awaken The Dreamer” and Cove Red, check out www.awakenthedreamer.wordpress.com and www.myspace.com/cove2red. Drop us an email at cove2red@gmail.com; we’d love to connect with you!

The EP will be made available at Cove Red’s EP launch gigs on 24th and 31st May (Sundays) 5.30pm at Earshot Cafe@Arts House. Do come on down!

Next in Making Of – Vertical Rush’s Of Real Dreams.

…still there’s more…

ANDIE FRANCOEUR

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ANDIE FRANCOEUR Morning Light (Self-released)

According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, the label “folktronica” seems to have originated in the British press, having come to encompass performers and bands that include elements of ambient electronica, folk, jazz, classical, and even hip-hop. At face value, there is plenty that can go wrong with trying to combine the disparate sound and approache of folk music and electronica.

Andie Francoeur herself is the eldest daughter of a classic rock/blues artist & trained for 16 years as a classical pianist which makes her forays into so-called folktronica a puzzling choice. Having teamed up with producer/auteur Jazno (from Mercymachine) in 2005, Morning Light is the product of this collaboration and experimentations into the earthy and synthetic.

To be honest, for the first half of Morning Light, this hybrid does not quite work for me as the fake orchestral/exotic instrumental sounds overwhelm the torchy melodies on Fallen Out, Tears I Did Not Cry, Cloud Number 9 and Love Song. BUT beginning with Nothing, a thoughtful commentary on religion and parental relationship (which is the same thing), the electronics play a proper supporting role to the songs – which certainly rise up to the occassion. It does not hurt that a gorgeous pedal steel pulls all the (heart) strings to deliever an emotionally satisfying exercise.

The rest of Morning Light – the confessional title track, the fragile & musical Ordinary Romance and rather straightforward alt-poppy These Thoughts – provides enough promise for future projects. For the moment, Morning Light is bit of a mish-mash of good intentions but that 2nd half is certainly worth the price of admission, especially when Francoeur goes a little more trad/country-torch on us and brings the wailing pedal steel to the forefront.

Check out Andie Francoeur’s Myspace page.

LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN

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LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN (VOL III): CENTURY #1 – 1910 (Top Shelf) By Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill

Alan Moore returns with the latest volume of LOEG. For the uniniated – or those who came across LOEG via the truly risible film adaptation – LOEG is Alan Moore’s tribute to the literary heroes of the 19th century. OR if you’re cynical enough, an attempt at a ‘superhero’ grouping featuring recognisable public domain characters.

For the first two volumes, LOEG featured Mina Harker (Dracula), Allan Quartermain (King Solomon’s Mines), Captain Nemo (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), Hawley Griffin (the Invisible Man) and Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde (well, y’know) and this Justice League of Victorian England was pitted against Fu Manchu and Professor Moriaty (Sherlock Holmes) and Martian invaders (from War of the Worlds).

For the third volume, published now by the indie Top Shelf, Moore revealed in a recent interview with Newasrama that “Well, there are other ways of doing drama. There are other approaches to drama other than keeping up a relentless pace and momentum to everything.” So, rather than relying totally on literary inventions, Moore has based 1910 on the Threepenny Opera, the Brecht-Weill musical (that was first performed in 1928, go figure).

You might say that Century features LOEG: The Next Generation, as only Harker and the now eternally youthful Quartermain remain and are joined by the slightly less prominent literary creations viz. Thomas Carnacki (Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder), Orlando (Orlando: A Biography) and AJ Raffles (The Amateur Cracksman). Now only that but Century also introduces Janni, Captain Nemo’s daughter. Caught up yet?

The villains of the piece (so to speak) is Aleister Crowley – represented by various analogues viz Oliver Haddo, Karswell, Dr. Trelawney, Adrian Marcato and Hjalmar Poelzig, who are all part of a secret society intent (hellbent?) on bringing about the end of the world (what else?) by summoning the Moonchild.

I know. All these literary references are pretty heavy going and intriguing and all that BUT what about the freaking story, you ask. Well, let’s just say that if you consider that the first two volumes were summer blockbusters then volume III is definitely an arthouse flick with deliberate arty touches that will take time (and effort) to absorb and contemplate.

To be honest, part of me was screaming – “where’s the beef” – as the story plodded along. Yes, its the first installment and these can be ponderous in setting out the overall plotline and there’s a general sense of foreboding throughout although you never think that – apart from Janni – any of the characters are in peril.

So yes, it’s extremely clever but bearing in mind Moore’s intent, it stands to reason that 1910 would lack conventional excitement as it reflects a ‘slower’ (by our hyperactive times) storytelling era. Me? I’m going back to 1910 to savour its delights slowly and wait in anticpation for the second and third installments, 1969 and 2009, respectively.

BLACK MOTH SUPER RAINBOW

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BLACK MOTH SUPER RAINBOW Eating Us (Graveface)

Joy! I mean when band members refer to themselves as Tobacco, Power Pill Fist, Father Hummingbird, The Seven Fields of Aphelion & Iffernaut rather than Tom Fec, Ken Fec, Seth Ciotti, Maureen Boyle & Donna Kyler, well, you just know that you’re in for a treat!

Black Moth Super Rainbow is what you may call a modern psychedelic rock band. No, they don’t really sound like Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd or Roky Erickson/13th Floor Elevators (maybe in tiny doses) BUT armed with electronics and an ubiquitous vocoder, BMSR certainly give the likes of Flaming Lips, MGMT and Tahiti 80, a run for their money. And it does not hurt one iota that David (Mercury Rev/Flaming Lips producer) Fridmann is on the boards.

Basically, BMSR are particularly adept at combining the disparate elements of trippy psych-rock, smooth soft jazz-pop and epic synth riffs into one heady melange that has no problem in leaving a smile on this reviewer’s face. Despite the electronica underpinnings, BMSR’s sonic approach is organic and there’s no doubt that they are a ‘proper’ band.

The vibe on the new Eating Us album is always chilled, with intriguing keyboard patches, dynamic rhythm section work and that other-worldly vocoder-drenched vocal. Here’s an collection of tracks you can easily “float upstream” to but with enough muscle to ensure you never fall off the deep end.

The great strength that Eating Us possesses may also be its most notable flaw, the songs do tend to merge into one aggregation after a few listens but that could just mean that the album is one which you can comfortably listen to from front to finish. There is a warm consistency that lends itself to repeated airings. And that, my dear friends is a good thing.

Check out BMSR’s Myspace page.

PoP10 – GLADSHOT

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1. Why play music?

Because time is long

2. Who are your influences?

Beatles, Denis Johnson, Joni, Fleet Foxes, that guy who drove the car with Kerouac

3. What is success?

A second bedroom

4. Why should people buy your music?

That’s a funny question

5. Who do you love?

Alain Delon

6. What do you hope to achieve with your music?

Space travel

7. Who comes to your gigs?

Fans of many species

8. What is your favorite album?

Right now we’re listening to Hold Steady “Stay Positive”, Aimee Mann “Lost in Space”, Traffic “Low Spark…” and The Monkees

9. What is your favorite song?

One song? Here’s 2 .. “16 Military Wives” by the Decemberists and “Stand” by Sly

10. How did you get here?

Definitely public transportation

Gladshot’s new album, Burn Up & Shine is out now.

EVERYBODY IS STUPID

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PETER BAGGE Everybody Is Stupid Except For Me And Other Astute Observations (Fantagraphics)

Peter Bagge – of Neat Stuff and Hate fame – has been a regular contributor to the Reason magazine for a decade now. Reason is a libertarian publication and Bagge came on board as a political cartoonist in 2001 which was a departure from his typical more personal. work. Everybody Is Stupid collects ten years’ worth of strips and covers such (expected) topics as war (The Right To Own A Bazooka is hilarious!), sex (Swingers Of The World Unite is informative – check out those polys!), art (“Real” Art is hard-hitting & Christian Rock is just too close for comfort), business (Malls is revealing), Boondoggles (Let’s Give All Our Money To The Rich Man is scathing), Tragedy (A Menace To Society is disturbing), politics (Fascists Have Feelings Too is downright funny) and the USA (the Nerd-ification of America is spot on!)

Something for everyone in this educational, humorous and borderline offensive tome. Communicated in Bagge’s trademarked bugged out style, this is a must-have for fans of incisive political commentary.

STAR TREK

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For whatever reason, I prepped for the new Star Trek movie by watching Wrath of Khan the night before. The latter film is generally considered to be the best movie of this 30 year old movie franchise. So the challenge for this reboot of the original Star Trek crew was topping the achievements of Khan.

How was I to know that director JJ Abrams (the man behind TV hit Lost and recent sci-fi/monster flick Cloverfield) had decided to take many stylistic cues from Khan for his reimaging of this iconic series? And how does the new Star Trek fare in comparison? Suffice to say that Abrams has succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations to deliver a sci-fi film that is satisfying on almost every level.

In fact, the way and means by which Abrams conducts his “reimaging” is in itself a stroke of imaginative genius. Time travel (a Star Trek staple) is integral to Abrams’ re-interpretation but in a way that has never been done in any Star Trek before. Without spoiling this plot device for you, this allows Abrams (and Paramount) to create a new epoch of adventures of this new Star Trek without invalidating anything that came before. Truly brilliant.

In many ways, this film reminds me of Star Trek Generations whereby Kirk basically hands over the torch to Picard and the Next Generation crew. At the end, the elder Spock (Leonard Nimoy) more or less does the same time with the young Spock (Heroes’ Zachary Quinto – I could not help expecting him to bring out his index finger to saw through someone’s skull, whenever he was on screen – heh!).

It was obvious from the get-go that Abrams was on a good thing with the astonishing opening sequence, as Kirk’s father sacrifices himself so that 800 people (including his mother and himself) could be saved. Pure lump in throat stuff, I was shaking in tears at the end of that moving sequence. And any movie that makes me cry…

Abrams manages to walk the tightrope of meeting the expectations of the hardcore Trekkie and delivering an entertaining spectacle to mainstream audiences, which he does with aplomb. Sure, there are certain glaring plot holes here and now (e.g. why was nobody defending Earth when Nero attacked?) and some of the plot resolutions smack of Deus Ex Machina (e.g. Kirk is stranded on a planet and somehow manages to end up in the same cave as the elder Spock?)

The two leads (Chris Pine as Kirk, Quinto as Spock) perform admirably (considering the big shoes they’re stepping into) and Karl Urban’s portrayal of Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy is revealing. There isn’t too much time to develop the rest of the characters too much but I guess that can be left to the sequels to come. And believe me they’re coming.

So yes, Star Trek is as good, if not better, than Khan, indeed. Like Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, Abrams’ Star Trek has reinvented this grand old space opera for our modern times. Personally, I can’t wait to see what Abrams has in store for the future, which -like the film marketing hypes reminds us -begins now.

PoP10 – ANDREW RIPP

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1. Why play music?

Because when I have a long day, all I want to do is come home and play my guitar even though what I just did all day was play my guitar.

2. Who are your influences?

Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Otis Redding, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder

3. What is success?

Making a living creating music is success to me…while constantly evolving and challenging myself and working with those that inspire me.

4. Why should people buy your music?

Because they like it. If you don’t, I would suggest not buying it.

5. Who do you love?

I highly respect Tom Petty because he is a primo example of someone who doesn’t necessarily have the best voice and didn’t follow all the rules…but he went out and did it and people were attracted to that….and obviously the guy writes incredible stuff. I love Vince Gill’s voice. I love Freddy Mercury. He wasn’t afraid to be exactly who he was and there is NO one else like him. He has one of the most incredible voices out there.

6. What do you hope to achieve with your music?

I hope that one day I get to share my story with millions. Because I feel like I have an uplifting message and that I have stories that people can relate to and hopefully it makes them feel good and less alone. If I was in it for the fame and the money, trust me, I’d be back to painting tubs with my pops at this point.

7. Who comes to your gigs?

Old men with green hats.

8. What is your favorite album?

I don’t have one.

9. What is your favorite song?

Right now it’s Lost Highway by Hank Williams…because I feel like I’m there. I’m just another guy on the lost highway and I’m trying to find my way home. Trying to find exactly where I’m supposed to be. I don’t feel this way spiritually, but definitely musically. Which I guess can be a good cuz if I had all the answers, I wouldn’t have any songs to write.

10. How did you get here?

I’m here because someone told me once that if you get good enough at what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.

Andrew Ripp’s Fifty Miles to Chicago is out now.

NOFX

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NOFX Coaster (Fat Wreck Chords)

How do you keep your edge in an industry that moves faster than a celebrity’s ghost tweeter, much less satisfy your ever growing fan base after a span of 25 years? If you were taking a page out of NOFX’s book, then the answer is simple: Keep it real.

Fat Mike (vocals, bass) and the boys – Eric Melvin (guitar, vocals), Erik Sandin (drums) and El Hefe (guitar, trumpet, vocals) have emerged with their 12th consecutive album that has their seal of punk branded on every track. These guys are hailed as trailblazers in the punk rock genre for late Gen X-ers especially during the early to mid 90’s revival of the punk rock/skate punk movement – cases in point: The Offspring, Green Day, Bad Religion, Rancid, etc.

NOFX doesn’t disappoint with Coaster released on Fat Mike’s very own Fat Wreck Chords label which houses some of today’s influential acts on the punk scene. As usual, no subject is taboo and it doesn’t warrant any raised eyebrows especially when their material isn’t on heavy rotation on radio nor video veins. The band still exercises wit-whipped rantings on politics combined with their ever-evolving take on the usual subjects of religion, racism, inequality, capitalism and society in general. I have personally always admired their talent for witty word play and to have lyrics that make you smile, wince, frown and laugh out loud, all the while tapping your feet to the fast, melodic beats and riffs, it’s not something to sniff at.

Coaster kicks off with a fast punk rock track entitled We Called It America, a political satire on the current state of the country commencing with, “Remember when America had a middle class, and an upper class, that was way before the exodus…” and finishing off with “National bankruptcy, circumcised society, USA dined and ditched, Fox reports: poor is the new rich…”. The provocative riff on this track with Fat Mike’s trademark tone (turning the bass and treble all the way up, and the mids all the way down) is highly addictive.

The band’s take on religion is covered with Best God in Show and Blasphemy (The Victimless Criminals) sharing insights such as “Horus similar to Mithra, Attis analogous to Krishna, Jesus – different name same story, all based on ancient Egyptian allegory…”, which leads me to believe that the subject has been either thoroughly researched or that they’re recent viewers of the documentary Zeitgeist.

Tracks worthy of mention (if not every single one of them) include; Creeping Out Sara, a slower paced, tongue-in-cheek account of a back-stage conversation on lesbianism with either Tegan or Sara Quinn (Mike isn’t sure), one of the identical twins from band Tegan and Sara. Another track is the hilarious Eddie, Bruce and Paul which pays homage to Iron Maiden’s mascot and members (Dickinson and former Paul DiAnno) with a love triangle scenario, complete with the trademark Dickinson falsetto and the heavy metal guitar riffs.

The Agony of Victory (as opposed to the agony of defeat) is the band dealing with their success in a nonchalant manner, citing “We’ve got no competition, we’ve got no accomplished mission…” and My Orphan Year is a track where Mike speaks of his parents’ recent demise and memories of his lonely childhood.

The final track of the album aptly titled One Million Coasters is a dig at the music industry, coasters, frisbees and Christmas tree ornaments are one of the many current and future uses of compact discs (CDs), which would be the jest of the album’s chosen title.

Expect dives into ska and hard rock styles with a couple of the tracks, not overtly overwhelming but definitely in line with the messages and subjects in question. Again, not the best album from NOFX, if you’re using Punk in Drublic (1994) as a benchmark but definitely one for the fans and followers alike. Why? Because these guys are keeping it real.

Strictly for fans: NOFX have also released a DVD in March this year titled NOFX: Backstage Passport, which showcases their stints and stunts during their tour stops in countries where they felt punk music wasn’t too popular and this includes their antics during their stop in Singapore in 2007.

(Charlotte Lourdes)

You’ll find the trailer on their website and Myspace page.

LANE STEINBERG

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LANE STEINBERG Passion & Faith (Transparency)

If you like your music completely unique and bashfully eclectic in every possible way, then this album is right up your alley. An alley that echoes the beats and rhythms of old school jazz, Brazilian bossa nova, flights of calypso, the Grateful Dead and the Beatles. It’s almost like picking out the broken pieces of the shattered identity of someone with multiple personalities. Venturing into the variety that this album offers definitely requires an open mind.

This is Steinberg’s third solo effort having had stints as part of the equally eclectic duo Tan Sleeve. Passion & Faith comprises of 13 tracks, each burrowing into the ambience of the specific style being served with relish. Seven of which are Steinberg’s take on ethnic and rock classics that inspired him.

It begins with the first track, a cover of A Pagina Do Relampago Electrico by Beto Guedes, sung in its original language and nicely complemented by the jangly guitar riffs reminiscent of George Harrison’s licks. This is followed by the very interesting and original What Do I Do With The Rest Of My Life – co-written with R. Stevie Moore. It starts off once again with a comfortable and familiar Beatles-esque chord repetition and a catchy hook with the guys melodiously singing, “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus…”. Don’t be surprised to hear a baby’s gurgling laughter mid-way through the track and just when you think it’s done, it starts again.

The next track is titled Clube Da Esquina after the legendary album by a selection of Brazilian musicians of the same name. Steinberg claims to have been floored by the album without understanding any of its lyrics and he pays tribute to it with this track sung in its native Portuguese. The rest of the tracks are truly an ecelectic (have I used the word enough?) mix of calypso with Two Bananas, country/blue grass with Equatorial (sung again in it’s native language), psychedelic rock with How Insensitive originally a Brazilian song but covered by Sinatra in English and it’s this version that Steinberg chose to do.

The title track Paixao E Fe (which translates to Passion & Faith) originally a Brazilian number as well and sung in Portuguese once again, in the likes of the Fab Four with psychedelic movements, complete with Harpsichords and harmonies.

Worthy of special mention is the very accurate take on Grateful Dead’s Dark Star, down to the vocals, the guitar work and the atmospheric echoes of the organ. This track just barely hits the 21 minute mark and it is quite the trip. Steinberg is a self confessed Deadhead.

An encouraging effort by Steinberg and definitely not for the masses but it does tatefully satisfy and calm the growing few who have embraced the wide and unconventional direction that music is heading towards. To quote Steinberg on his thoughts about the album, “I suppose most people’s eyes will simply glaze over at the eclecticism contained within this new CD. I can’t blame them, really. I have long made a career out of shooting myself in the foot, so why make things easier now?”. Enough said.

Check out Lane Steinberg’s Myspace page.

PoP10 – CHEWY MARBLE

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Brian Kassan (far right) – the man behind Chewy Marble – gives us the lowdown.

1. Why play music?

It makes me happy and because I’m not happy when I don’t.

2. Who are your influences?

Beatles and British Invasion, 60s/70s radio pop and FM rock, Ray Davies, Elvis Costello, Brian Wilson, Burt Bacharach, Elton John, XTC, Elliot Smith, Jason Falkner…

3. What is success?

Having the time to do what you want, when you want to.

4. Why should people buy your music?

Because it makes them happy.

5. Who do you love?

My family, my girlfriend, and the creator

6. What do you hope to achieve with your music?

High quality; that it connects somehow with the listener; that it keeps me interested and creative.

7. Who comes to your gigs?

Chewy Marble doesn’t play out, but I play in an exotica band called The Tikiyaki Orchestra and very, very committed tiki fans come out in surprising numbers to see us.

8. What is your favorite album?

The Zombies-Odessey and Oracle

9. What is your favorite song?

Waterloo Sunset

10. How did you get here?

I am an expression of the creator.

Chewy Marble’s album Modulations is out now.

INDUS GENDI

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Indus Gendi – Esplanade Concourse

I first heard Indus Gendi briefly at the NOISE EDITION of the last WEEKENDTRIP. That brief moment had my interest piqued. When the opportunity arose to hear them live again, I was thrilled.

There were two sets that day, and another 2 the following day. I got there early and settled myself comfortably onto the seats available. Slowly, other people joined me, including 3 tourists from Indonesia who were looking for a place to rest and found themselves part of the cosy audience.

The set started with the upbeat song, Dream, where Esther’s vocals enticed the audience to leave their worries behind, drawing them in and making them feel at home. By the time the song ended, more people had arrived, bringing with them smiling faces and feet tapping to the music.

There was a nice blend of slower songs and catchier ones. The setlist for the night included Rocks Will Cushion Your Fall, What We Are, Little Girls, The Smallest Eyes and Then And Now. What caught my attention were the intro to songs like What We Are and The Smallest Eyes. Coupled with Esther’s vocals, I was mesmerised at how fluid and complementary the vocals were with the band. The vocals of Melissa, the guest vocalist who sang harmonies, complimented Esther’s vocals and helped set the mood perfectly.

I really liked the chemistry the band members shared. Throughout the set, the drummer, Adam, would smile at both guitarists and the bassist, who would laugh in response. It made the whole set livelier, and it was great to know that they were having fun. I was drawn in by the music, lyrics, the chemistry between the members and the cosy atmosphere of the Esplanade Concourse. It was the perfect way to end a Tuesday night.

I was glad that I was able to catch a full set of Indus Gendi. As with some of the more recent bands, it’s nice to discover hidden gems within our music scene.

(Rebecca Lincoln)

Check out Indus Gendi’s Myspace page.

PATRICK WOLF

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PATRICK WOLF The Bachelor (Bloody Chamber)

What was meant to be a double disc album titled Battle has become two separate offerings by Patrick Wolf, a 25 year old, English singer songwriter and multi talented musician playing the harp, clavinet, harpsichord, guitar, piano, autoharp, organ, mountain dulcimer, clavichord, harmonium, accordion, theremin, ukulele, spoons, harmonica, mandolin, viola, and violin, among others. He has decided to release his epic musical cum rock, techno, electronic, indie, celtic themed opera storyline with The Bachelor (to be released on June 1 2009)  and The Conqueror (to be released in 2010). Wolf had gained international success with his previous album, The Magic Position (2007).

The Bachelor boasts of 14 artistically refined tracks which span from the cinematic promise of Middle Earth’s landscape, the futuristic beats and electric disco sensations of a psychedelic space age, to the gothic musings of a lonely drifter, who can easily be substituted for a modern day teenager. The album, originally conceived with political themes shifted focus to the depression experienced by Wolf while on tour. However, before entering the studio, he fell in love, changing the direction of the album again, and eventually providing enough material for two releases.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make out of this album when I caught a glimpse of the cover and of the titles of the tracks listed. But once the first track Kriespiel began, the 47 second intro set the tone for the amazing narrative that started to unfold. Again, this is in every way a soundtrack album for me. I don’t know how else to describe the beautiful eastern ethnic strings of the Sitar, complementing the clear and manifesting voice of Tilda Swinton (the actress) echoing Wolf’s deep, passionate and melodious pleas on the 12th track: Theseus. Swinton is featured as the “voice of hope”, the narrator on four tracks of the album. Wolf’s list of collaborations on the album also include, Alec Empire from Atari Teenage Rioter, electronic maestro Matthew Herbert, folkie Eliza Carthy and classical musician Thomas Bloch.

The first single of the album, Vulture opens with a snazzy feel of the post-disco, retro eighties hook and I’m already sold. Again, this is a one off in the genre pool explored throughout the album – because it immediately follows with the stirrings of a soft, piano ballad of Blackdown, building up slowly and beautifully with claps, drums, violins and winds down again with the lonely notes of the piano.

The Bachelor is an ambitious, complex yet sophisticated presentation of an amazing musical and narrative journey. I have to say that I was impressed with this album. Wolf’s music is perhaps best described in Tilda Swinton’s words in relation to working with him on this album – “His music feels like the unexpressed soundtrack of a great film I want to see — and try to catch every night before I go to sleep. It’s a lovely thing to be a part of that magical landscape.”

This is one artiste and the first of two albums to look out for if you enjoy musical storytelling and fantasy laden escapades with an assortment of genres all packed in one amazing production.

Check out Wolf’s Myspace page

GLADSHOT

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GLADSHOT Burn Up and Shine (Self released)

I love this album! Yes, it’s simple as that. Back to basics pop songcraft that maintains a consistently high quality of music and lyrics, laden with fresh sounds despite the weight of the obvious debts to the 60s and 70s. Immediately lovable yet filled with nuances that begs for repeated study, hearkening back to the time where the melange of country music and pop-rock still resided in experimental mode, full of excitement, wide-eyed optimism and unbridled enthusiasm.

References galore, boys and girls – from the classic viz. the Beatles, the Byrds, Gram Parsons, Gene Clark, Big Star, Blondie to the modern viz. REM, Wilco, the Jayhawks, Teenage Fanclub, Belle and Sebastian and the Elephant 6 collective – this album’s for all the ‘true’ pop kids out there.

Gladshot hails from New York and is made up of Debbie Andrews and Mike Blaxill and Burn Up and Shine is their third album (produced by John Agnello, who has worked with Sonic Youth & Hold Steady, amongst others) & is a band that the pop underground needs to champion and how!

Personal faves? All I Want is a really infectious pop ditty, Like the Angels Do is a smooth groover, American Night is a raucous country rock ‘n’ roller, Fabulous Friends is a tongue-in-cheek ode to materialism and 1961 (You Could Still Get Lost) is a spine tingling piano ballad. That said, Burn Up and Shine is an album you can listen to from beginning to end without reservation.

A shot in the arm for anyone feeling the depressing blues of a world in perpetual crisis.

Check out Gladshot’s Myspace page.

Download: All I Want

BLACK LABEL SOCIETY

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BLACK LABEL SOCIETY Skullage DVD + CD collectors’ edition (Eagle Rock)

It’s easy to chuckle and snigger at heavy metal, with its cartoony imagery, leather uniforms and its creed of “faster and louder” but scrape beneath the superficial and like any other genre of music, you will find genuine artists who are simply good at what they do i.e. entertain and provoke thought.

I must confess that when I received this DVD + CD package in the mail, I laughed out loud. It took me a while to give it a go but here’s the review, better late then never. For someone who grew up on Deep Purple, Led Zepellin, Rainbow, Mountain, KISS, Rush, Budgie et al, you can bet I appreciate a tasty riff now and then but always leavened with melody, where possible.

Now Zakk Wylde, the brains behind BLS, is probably best known as the guitar sidesman of Ozzy Osbourne and judging from the cover artwork of skulls, killer dogs, beer and guns, I expected non-stop headbanging stereotypes to be ripping from the get-go. Instead, the opening scene on the DVD is Wylde on stage (somewhere in France) alone with a freakin’ acoustic guitar singing Spoke in the Wheel! Sure, the rest of BLS join Wylde at the end for a terribly loooong solo but hey, it sure got my attention. And of course, the rest of the live performances and videos revert to type somewhat.

Then, I slot in the CD compilation and I’m hit with two Southern Rock numbers – Machine Gun Man and Dead As Yesterday – with the latter track an absolute killer with acoustic guitar and cello (!) and a chorus that goes – “Oh Lord, can you help me find some shelter” and a string accompaniment that will touch you! And no guitar solo?!! What the hell is going on? Heh. The rest of the CD delivers blistering metal with 13 Years of Grief, Doomsday Jesus and Suicide Messiah. Pretty fine old school metal in fact.

But… the icing on the cake is the interview section where we find out a little more (too much?) about Wylde. He talks about his friendship with the late Dimebag Darrell Abbott, the stories behind the songs, his obsession with Barbie dolls and his penchant for wearing pretty dresses. Definitely someone who isn’t taking himself or his music too seriously (those Black Metal blokes may wanna take note!).

So, despite initial reservations, I would recommend this package to all metal & non-metal fans purely to enjoy honest-to-goodness rock music without pretensions or arrogance. Good enough for me.

Check out Black Label Society’s Myspace page.

YEAH YEAH YEAHS

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YEAH YEAH YEAHS It’s Blitz! (Polydor/Universal)

New York trio Yeah Yeah Yeahs viz. Karen O (vocals), Brian Chase (Drums) & Nick Zinner (everything else), have been on a upward spiral ever since they self-released their debut self-titled EP in 2001 (which incidentally hit #1 on the UK Indie Chart). In the course of eight years they have released 2 more EPs (Machine and Is Is) and 2 albums (Fever To Tell, Show Your Bones) to critical acclaim and commercial success.

It isn’t difficult to understand why. Riding the early wave of the post-punk revival, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ undeniable hip and cool factor, irresistibly melodic synth dance pop and of course, hot front woman in Karen O is a potent recipe for sustained universal (no pun intended) acceptance. The serious rock enthusiast can obsess on the band’s uncanny knack of referencing all the right post-punk influences whilst the casual pop listener will be thrilled to the tunes and simply dance along. Critics have suggested that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs provide a comfortable middle ground between the Killers and MGMT and they’re not too far off the mark.

Karen O has remarked that It’s Blitz is a change in direction for the band, as it continues to grow and mature. Well, the dance pop is still well in evidence, as showcased in the opening two dynamic singles – Zero and Heads Will Roll, which I’m sure you’ve already heard on the radio and elsewhere. For crucial portions of It’s Blitz, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, to their immense credit, expand their palette to include slower, deeper songs that allow the pace and atmosphere to dictate the sound. On these tracks e.g. Dull Life, Shame and Fortune and Runaway, the style is almost Gothic, with Karen O coming across like a very modern-day Siouxsie Sioux (of the Banshees).

That said, the finer moments of It’s Blitz, are encapsulated in sweet indie pop goodies like the hypnotic Soft Shock, the gorgeous Irish soulful Skeletons, the new wavy Dragon Queen, the shimmering Hysteric and the fragile nearly alt-country-folky Little Shadow. Included in this CD are four bonus tracks of the band in acoustic mode – Soft Shock, Skeletons, Hysteric and Little Shadow. Which is always the sign of a band confident of their songs to be able to stand up even without the bells and whistles of full instrumentation. But of course, in this case, the guitars are embellished by lush strings, and that never hurts. For once, the songs live up to the “bonus” tag.

If after 400-odd words, you don’t feel the urge to acquire this stellar album by all means necessary, then I have failed to do the Yeah Yeah Yeahs justice. Believe me, It’s Blitz contains some of the best new music I’ve heard this year.

Check out Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Myspace page.

Video of Yeah Yeah Yeahs performing Heads Will Roll and Zero below.

CAMERA OBSCURA

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CAMERA OBSCURA My Maudlin Career (4AD)

Fans of this amazing Scottish band (and there are a handful that I personally know) can finally rejoice – their fourth and latest album My Maudlin Career was officially released last week. I’m fairly new to this brand of indie pop and was admittedly swept long with the tide of success from their pivotal previous album, Let’s Get Out of This Country (2006).

Having immersed myself in their warm and at times upbeat latest offering, I must confess that although it’s not a far stretch from their previous album, it does strongly charter a bolder presence lyrically and melodically. Even with a switch in their record label, the band wisely chose to work again with Swedish producer Jari Haapalainen (The Concretes, Peter, Björn & John). Probably attributing to some of the tracks being reminiscent of the previous album.

However the key element amidst Haapalainen’s masterful touch of layering the keyboards, horns and being very liberal with the saturation of echoes, is Tracyanne Campbell’s vocals. The band has been celebrated for connecting with its audience on a very personal level and this is largely due to Campbell’s ability to draw you into her world with her vulnerable, wistful voice and her first person narrative of situations, incidents, going as far as walking you through the stages of decisions made.

The album opens with its perky first single, French Navy, complete with hooks of string and horn arrangements. This is strongly followed by the harmonious The Sweetest Thing with Campbell sounding almost like Dusty Springfield as she sings “I’m going on a date tonight, to try to fall out of love with you..”. One can safely assume that the lyrical stance taken on all the tracks is one of a very personal nature. From start to finish, I found myself relating very strongly to Campbell’s dischanted/sensitive view of relationships and the manner in which they were conveyed. Not succumbing to the deluge of melancholy that might have easily been the album’s selling point, Camera Obsura instead builds a connection that eventually validates our voyeuristic tendencies and keeps it in check with Campbell’s sarcasm and wit in her lyrics.

My favourite tracks of the album are Away with Murder which begins with muffled drums and haunting keyboards. The very ballady and catchy James, which speaks of ex-partners missing the connection shared but dealing with the choices made – reminiscent of one of their earlier songs aptly titled, The Last Song. The title track My Maudlin Career opens with a beautiful early sixties feel to it and keeps it going with the help of raindrop-like notes from the keyboard and early Clapton-esque guitar style towards the end. The rest of the tracks have a pleasant Cowboy Junkies type aura to them save for the last track of the album Honey In the Sun which comes full circle, ending things perfectly with the same pace as the first track.

All in all this 11 track album moves at a pace much slower than the band’s previous one but what it sets the tone from the start so there aren’t any unpleasant surprises. Dare I say it, My Maudlin Career is fuller and richer and simmers with the maturity that can only come from a band that knows its audience.

(Charlotte Lourdes)

Check out their Myspace page

WOLVERINE

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine (to give it its proper title) is so bad that I can barely contain my animosity towards everyone connected with this pile of animal droppings. This is the kind of super hero movie that people who basically hate super heroes make. The characters are re-written beyond recognition, the plot makes absolutely no sense and there is no dramatic or emotional impact whatsoever.

From the first sequence (re-telling the Origins comic) and the opening credits (which rips off Zack Snyder’s well crafted Watchmen opening), its already clear that the makers of this film have decided to throw all logic out of the window. Sure, it looks good to see Wolverine and Sabretooth fighting side by side through the American civil war, World War I, World War II and Vietnam War (which is strange as the duo are CANADIANS!) but no one ever notices that these two jokers are immortal?!!! C’mon!!!!

From then on, all bets are off as scene after scene is either filled with illogical plot devices, corny dialogue and cringing love scenes. Basically, Wolverine and Sabretooth join up with Team X, carry out missions, Wolverine begins to have 2nd doubts, leaves the team and is then hunted down and betrayed by Stryker and Sabretooth with predictable results. Ho hum.

What do you expect from a comic book movie, you say? Heck of a lot, especially after the high standards set by The Dark Knight, Watchmen, Hellboy, Spider-Man 2 to name but few. Yes, it takes talent, love and respect for the source material and guts to stand up to the studio herd mentality but it can be done. Unfortunately, with the likes of director Gavin Hood and star Hugh Jackman sacrificing artistic integrity for commercial appeal, all we are left with is a dumbed-down summer blockbuster.

Avoid.

CHEWY MARBLE

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Brian Kassan formed power poppers Chewy Marble in 1995. In the years since, the band has been fairly active in the pop underground releasing two albums. New album Modulations – six years in the making – is perhaps its best so far. As expected, it draws from the usual power pop influences which any keen observer of the pop undergroung would be familiar with. That said, in order to appreciate Chewy Marble and Modulation, one has to realize that most of the material here are slow-burners. They may lack the immediency of Sloan (or even the energy) but careful repeated listens wil reveal nuggets of melodic inspiration.

Highlights include the twisting tune of Cross-Hatched World, the 70s rock-channelling Black and White, the psych-folk Picture the Finger and bossa nova XTC referencing instrumental Mental Toothache. Be warned though, much of the repertoire showcased on Modulations sound unfinished in terms of arrangements, almost to the point of coming across like demos in parts. Which is the only serious reservation I’ve always had about Chewy Marble – great musical ideas and concepts but somehow lacking in the final execution.

Strictly for fans of the band and the genre.

Check out Chewy Marble’s Myspace page.

THE QUEERS

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THE QUEERS Alive in Hollyweird (Punk Rock Social)

A 32 track album that captures the band’s 2007 performance in LA was released with the DVD of the live show on March 24. The reason why they could fit 32 tracks on one CD – as any hardcore punk enthusiast would know, each live track is less than 3 minutes long, blending perfectly from one track to the next in organized chaos.

These guys love their Ramones and their Black Flag and its clearly evident in their tight, fast and melodic set. The brainchild of the band Joe Queer, is the only original member since its birth in 1982 – with roughly 30 changes in the band’s lineup since then. The band officially broke up in 1984 and had a new lease of life when Queer rounded up yet another new line up in 1990 and has been kicking it since then.

Word of caution though, these guys aren’t your anarchy-fused Sex Pistols with the angst of a whole generation screaming out in violence and pain. They have often been cited as representing punk with a combination of the legendary Ramones with the melodic chord repetition of the Beach Boys. So if you had always been afraid to experiment with Punk as we know it, The Queers would prove to be the baby steps that you need, before you delve deeper into the glorious abyss of desolation.

Granted the tracks are about the essential subjects of drugs, sex, waste and hate but it’s packaged in such a manner that you would be singing along to the tracks before realizing that this wouldn’t be an album you would be playing out loud when your folks are visiting. Think MXPX or NOFX but with old school tributes to the pioneers and a hint of Dropkick Murphys’ bouyant vocal stylings.

Check out The Queers’ Myspace page.

An Interview with Joe Queer is here: Let Purity Ring

PoP10 – CLAIRE DENAMUR

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1. Why play music?

because, it’s what i know best!

2. Who are your influences?

nat king cole, ella fitzgerald, billie holiday, nina simone, bessie smith, elvis presley, big mama thornton, canned heat, les soeurs étienne, andrew sisters, simon and garfunkel, janis joplin…

3. What is success?

when, in life, you manage to do what makes you happiest, and staying true to yourself all the while.

4. Why should people buy your music?

i can only respond: why not..?!

5. Who do you love?

my family first, my man, my friends, those i trust around me. but also, elliott smith, bon iver, lhasa, erik satie, beck, boris vian, jean paul sartre, wes anderson, martin scorcese..

6. What do you hope to achieve with your music?

i only hope i will be so lucky as to still be writing and singing many years from now…!

7. Who comes to your gigs?

pretty much all types of people, wether they are young or older. wether they speak english or not. i think they appreciate how crazy i can get on stage. so, in a way, maybe mostly crazy folk come to my gigs…!?

8. What is your favorite album?

weezer, the blue album

9. What is your favorite song?

wish you were here (pink floyd)

10. How did you get here?

by being myself up until now…? and then, one day, by creating my myspace page with which my manager discovered my songs… thank you, o’ beloved manager!

Claire Denamur’s new album Le Prince Charmant is out now.

ANDREW RIPP

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ANDREW RIPP 50 Miles to Chicago (Self released)

As far as endorsements go, they don’t come much more impressive than one by Audioslave and Rage Against The Machine guitarist, Tom Morello. It makes it even more impressive when the artist in question is a soulful funk riffer who comfortably incorporates jazz, funk, soul and slick R&B into his brand of pop-rock. Muses Morello in his blog, “He sounded great…like a mix between Ray LaMontagne and someone else I can’t quite put my finger on…” We’re talking about Chicago native Andrew Ripp, who debuted last year with his first album, 50 Miles To Chicago.

Produced by former Tonic bassist Dan Lavery, 50 Miles To Chicago is a collection of heartfelt songs that sound readily comfortable for Top 40 airplay. Album starter Get Your Smile On is infectiously funky and energetic with a bouncing bass, light keyboard flourishes and a confident vocal performance that assuredly straddles the middle ground between Jason Mraz and Anthony Kiedis. 3rd on the track listing finds Tim’s Song, a quieter piano-driven track strongly reminiscent of Gavin DeGraw, while hints of cowpunk find their way onto It’s All Good, from where the album takes its title.

It should be noted too that the talented Mr. Ripp is no stranger to a good hook. On  The Privileged Life, a track that makes a strong case for best track of the album, the Caribbean rhythms are incredibly infectious in that odd sort of manner where your body feels like its been taken over and you can’t stop yourself from moving to the beat. Throw in a snarling vocal, stirring lyrics and inspired, gleeful instrumental breaks and you have a winner. Unfortunately the album takes a detour into filler blandness after the genius of Privileged Life. The Gavin DeGraw influence makes a return together with shades of Train on Lifeline, a song that is a tad too MOR for my taste. The same goes for Just Another Song About California, a song title ironic in its self-fulfilment. Thankfully, however, the record picks up towards the end with the inspired bluesy You Saved My Life, a rollicking rocker drenched in gospel choruses. Dresden Wine finishes the album on a somber yet awfully emotional note, as Ripp holds nothing back and sings his heart out.

I’m going to stick my head out and predict that we’ll seeing a lot more of this fella in years to come as well as hearing him on our airwaves. Andrew Ripp marries a  strong, soulful and expressive voice with a fine ear for a pop hook and an inspired invention in arrangement. He’s harder than Mraz, looser than Mayer and edgier than Maroon 5, and I wouldn’t like to be the one who bets against him becoming just as popular as any of the aforementioned. One to watch out for.

(Samuel C Wee)

Check out Andrew Ripp’s Myspace page.

Video of Dresden Wine live in the studio below.

AU REVOIR SIMONE

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AU REVOIR SIMONE Still Night, Still Light (Label – US: Our Secret Record Company / UK: Moshi Moshi Records)

Let me start off by confessing that I’m a huge fan of synth-pop infused tracks. Its one of the many marks of growing up in the eighties I guess. A reason why I’m hooked on this album.

It’s delectable and delivers warm, powerful electronic melodies fused with ethereal female voices – soothingly. The best way to describe the emotions invoked is to allow you a glimpse of the images running through my mind as the album unfolded into a flurry of pop sweetness. Floating on clouds and breaking out into a ballet jump from one cloud to another with the track Only You Can Make You Happy. Other images emerging throughout the album ranged from a slide show of foggy castles with moats at breakneck speed to sinking languidly with arms outstretched into a pond of beautiful lilies with sunlight breaking through the water between the gigantic lily pads. Love it.

Three ladies with three keyboards, a drum machine and their ethereal melodic voices is what Au Revoir Simone is about. Formed in Brooklyn, New York in 2003 and having had considerable success with their first effort – Verses of Comfort, Assurance & Salvation (2005) and the critically acclaimed The Bird of Music (2007), the band have remained true to their originality and have not added anything unsavoury to their pot of electronic mastery. You might have heard their tracks on TV dramas such as Ugly Betty, Grey’s Anatomy, etc.

If you like your Kings of Convenience and Stereolab, with a touch of mellow, a hint of melancholy and a breath of fresh, clean air – these ladies will fix you up nicely.

Produced by Thom Monahan (Vetiver, Little Joy), and recorded in various studios between Brooklyn – New York and Los Angeles, Still Night, Still Light will be released on their own label – Our Secret Record Company on May 19th. Au Revoir Simone will be playing this year’s SXSW (South by SouthWest), with a Still Night, Still Light supporting tour throughout the States till end of June.

(Charlotte Lourdes)

Check out their Myspace page.