The NBTMusic Review 142

review 143

The Random Playlist Experiment

Older Reviews (1 – 123) can be found here

So I thought I would try something different, Take three very talented, very different artists, throw all their new songs into a folder and let my player spit out the music at will, and I will attempt to convey my emotional, my sensual, my heart’s response to what hits me, and for three tracks from each artist I shall discover what private movies are created, what memories are triggered. I shall leave the technical dissection for other worthy critics; they have my permission, to conduct strenuous autopsies upon the verse and chorus of each song.

The three albums I will listen to are:

Monsters by Dudley Saunders (Strange Troubadours)

Tokyo’s Fifth – Tokyo Rosenthal (Rock and Sock Records)

Long Way Home – Max Carmichael (Independent Release)

So as a famous pair of lips once said in a cult film one dark rainy night, ‘’let’s get to it boppers’’

The first track up is Rosenthal’s ‘’What Did I Used To be’’ a reflective dark start to the proceedings.  3AM fragile where sunrise seems a lifetime away, and the hope that kept the younger man going seems in short supply. What surprises is how gentle this is, perhaps this is how depression hits us not with blunt force, but cloaked in sweet melody.

Saunder’s ‘’ What Rats Are We’’ stays in that temperamental time zone,  part of the night where time slows to a crawl, but this is  jazz romantic, neon sign reflected in puddle moody, kinda hip as the ghosts of Marlon Brando and Miles Davis are evoked. These too are lost men, but watch for the proud tilt of the head, the small wicked smile.

And so we leave the street and enter a packed club, An impossibly cool band whose members all look like Max Carmichael are playing on a tiny cramped stage, the song is, ‘’ Yellow Mud’’, we think of the Beatles, but not in Hamburg, rather in CBGBs, Jonathan Richman looks on and takes notes, a yuppie in the corner is loudly demanding a coloured drink, perhaps because his girlfriend is paying too much attention to the band.

Speaking of the Beatles, Tokyo takes back control of their ‘’Helter Skelter’’ but with none of the affectation of U2. This is country fiddle joyful, recalling a glorious time in the mid 70s when the American charts were full of country rock boogie, sing along anthems devoid of guile, you know, like when the Doobie Brothers were NOT slick, NOT polished, and there wasn’t a genre called adult contemporary.

Carmichael’s ‘’Plateau’’ comes skipping in, keeping the party vibe going, Everly Brothers overdosed on Paul Simon sanctioned subliminal afro rhythms, the singer enjoying the insecurity of sunshine through clouds,  we feel we are on a roundabout ,things become a pleasant blur, tension and giggles in equal measure.

Dudley Saunders brings back the fear, but oh how tactile, stirring seductive he makes it, in ’’ The Man In The Game’’ we cuddle up nervous next to one of his curiously broken characters, find an understanding for the approaching horror, glory in the detachment, this is how nightmares should be written, not with screeches and bombast, but rather with a slightly dangerous empathy.

Rosenthal’s ‘’Waste Of A Heart’’ with its traditional Oprey feel, and shy lilting harmonies from Andrea Connolly, makes us wish that Leonard Cohen, had written more Country songs. Regret and acceptance he moves out towards the dawn at last

In ‘’Zero Out (In These Boxes) ‘’ by Dudley Saunders,  we discover how memories can trap the soul, how powerful inanimate objects can be, as if they are magic, that just by looking at them, taking them out of that box in the attic or the top of the cupboard, they bestow the not  completely welcome gift of time travel. This for me is the most personal track on this album and all the more beautiful for it.

And finally we head down into Max Carmichael’s ‘’Rifted Valley.’’ What amazes me here is suddenly we are no longer in the artist’s beloved New York post Punk Loft dreamscape, but somewhere deep in that intellectual alt Americana that folks like Andrew Bird inhabit. It is fitting that this is the last song of this random journey, because the music is epic, growing, dense and like all that we have heard today, full of ideas, but never disregarding the raw emotion of it all.

Find out more from these artists right here:

http://www.tokyorosenthal.com/tokyo_rosenthal/home.html

http://www.dudleysaunders.com/index.php

http://www.maxcarmichael.com/

And you can hear LOADS of tracks from these three albums on the NBTMusicRadio 24 hour stream

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The NBT Review 135

Whitehorse – Whitehorse (Six Shooter Records)

Let’s mood swing for a moment into this new dream. Old time radio filtered captured thoughts, a lazy ghost drifting across wild western desert or is this hazy vision really Russian winter bleak? The music hints that both worlds could be here, within this fragile opening.

We are taken from this delicate tension, (almost Wim Wender Serene Soundtrack like) into the echoed dramatic of, ‘’Killing Time Is Murder’’ the ghosts become rock n roll real, a finger snapping delightfully urgent harmonic surge, the girl boy balance fine tuned, so it’s not truck driver macho or even ethereal femme detached, but rather that space in between.

Even when Luke Doucet takes on lead vocals, there is enough of Melissa McClelland’s dream pop sensibility to make these songs a wonderful fantasy version of what Okkervil River might sound like mixed lovingly with Beach House.

What delights here is that, just when you think you have tied down this duo to some genre or other, they jump/dance away from the label and throw in something else. There is haunted rock-a-billy here, there is AM radio power pop,  there are slivers of wounded wondering Folk songs and there is even that old time roots pop that the Loving Spoonful got so very right which makes their version of Springsteen’s ‘’I’m On Fire’’ a natural marvel.

Indeed they construct rare beauty in songs that make the listener think of Ryan Adams for a few seconds, then KD Lang for a few more, while never losing their own trance logic, an ‘other’ worldly shimmer that is their own.

Find out more about this incredibly seductive band here:

http://www.whitehorsemusic.ca

You can hear tracks from this album spread ALL over the 24 hour stream that is the NBTMusicRadio

But specially during the ‘’Essence Of The Song’’ Hours which go out every day

3 and 4 PM Berlin Time for our European listeners (2 and 3 PM UK Time)

And 9 and 10 PM New York time for our USA and Canadian Listeners.

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Burner – TERRANOVACAIN (Independent Release)

I confess to have succumbed to the jagged post punk soul of this album, so my thoughts are those of the converted, are purely spiritual , personal, chaotic random and deep as thought can be in the moment of the music, so critical detachment, a cold clear look or listen is not what happens here. But maybe like this collection, it is something more, more true to the ambition inside the rhythms

This is all oiled machine flirting though with the rust of hard use, it is all friction versus the fluid, the darkest sigh against the pounding hammer. It’s Stax era funk, folded smooth into white boy need, jittering and jerking, animated clown, loose limbed new wave under the mirrorball at 4 am in the morning.

It’s disco with abrasive guitars, it’s the Bass as half robot half panther, these songs never stop prowling, disturbing, they are electro shock without terror, but embracing the fear as a wicked jive partner.

These songs are songs of hope from a cynic’s point of view, where defeat is ever on the edge of its seat, grinning with excitement only to be surprised by the magic and love, the ultimate daring of what comes next.

My job is to listen to those that call themselves ‘’Independent’’ and I have noticed how few earn that title.

TERRANOVACAIN wear it with pride.

Find out more:

http://www.reverbnation.com/terranovacain#!

You can hear this band’s music ALL over the 24 Hour stream that is the NBTMusicRadio

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The NBT Review 133

Kara McGraw – Kara McGraw (independent release)
Older reviews (1 – 123) can be found here
The story song is a difficult creature to tame; the writer has just a few minutes to show a lifetime, just a few verses to illuminate adventures and journeys. In many ways it is a skill that comic book writers share, they must distil the story down to its essential essence, move it along with graceful speed even while taking care to keep important details intact and hinting at others.

The story song is a beautiful thing because it allows the listener, (just as well crafted comic books do) to explore the spaces and add their own imaginative constructions, while still reaching the destination the creator wishes. So it is fitting that this collection opens with a song called ‘’ Comic Books and Flashlights’’ A track that has shape shifting magic designed into its DNA.

This set is a complicated undertaking, in which the artist strives to marry the multilayered strands of the show tune to the sensually skinny format of the folk pop missive. (As a side note, I have been listening to Tori Amos’s album ‘Night Of Hunters’ in which she attempts to achieve many of the things McGraw does here, and while finding many delightful parallels, I think Kara gets it right more often!)

The incredibly rich arrangements and orchestration never overwhelm the melodic drive, never move us too far from the girl and her piano, so we sit and listen and are not afraid to get emotionally involved, never feel that this is just music for Broadway aficionados, or Stephen Merritt fans.

McGraw has fashioned a pop album that feels timeless, it could have been dreamed up when ‘Singing In The Rain’ was huge, or selections from this could drive the latest episode of Glee with ease.

You can hear trax from this album spread all over the 24 hour stream that is the NBTMusicRadio, but specially during the hours of  9 PM New York Time and for the European Listeners 3 PM (Berlin Time) which is 9 AM New York Time.
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Find out more here:
http://www.karamcgraw.com/

The NBT Review 132

Living Your Dreams – Danika Holmes (Independent Release)

 

Older reviews (1 – 123) can be found here

It is fitting that this album is the first reviewed of the New Year; because it speaks about the need to pick yourself up and get fighting, get dreaming again, something that the artist needs to do a fair deal as their turbulent lives roll on. During the opening track, Holmes does not shout at us like a pumped cheerleader, all huge smiles and desperation, but rather quietly along a delicate groove, country soul subtle, no self help thing this but rather self aware and so much better for it.

The writer balances this on the title track and the track, ‘’How To Be Beautiful’’ with the realisation that dreams must be personal things as well, that each person must make his or her own way through, the former comes wrapped in a rich and romantic arrangement that should guarantee it a long and happy life on many a radio station.

With the single, ‘’Bluebird’’ Holmes goes all pop ballad stadium on us, the kind of song that the Taylor Swifts of this business would love to have on their next album. Again the restraint and subtle production is a joy ensuring that a grumpy alternative like myself can get into this, just as much as the housewife and the business man.

What we watch here with this second album, is an artist refining what makes her songs work, letting the musicians smoothly have their say, while never losing sight of what she wants to say and how she wants to say it.

This bodes incredibly well for her release after this one, as she leaves behind the internal and  starts to dive into the larger world, but this excellent set will more than suffice for now and will touch many a lucky listener who discovers it.

You can hear trax from this album spread all over the 24 hour stream that is the NBTMusicRadio, but specially during the hours of  9 PM New York Time and for the European Listeners 3 PM (Berlin Time) which is 9 AM New York Time.
http://nbtmusicradio.playtheradio.com/
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Stream thru yr media player: http://listen.radionomy.com/nbtmusicradio.m3u

Find out more about Ms Holmes here:
http://www.danikaholmes.com