Sunday, May 12, 2013

We're moving!!!

Thank you to all my readers over the last few months. I will be keeping this blog around for historical reasons but all future posts will be at:

Stay tuned! New stuff coming soon!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Siberia Acoustic - Lights

As a long time Lights fan, it's going to be difficult to write an unbiased review of her latest album "Siberia (Acoustic)" but I'm going to give it my best shot.

Overall, it's an impressive concept. "Siberia" was so electronic that no one could really be sure how the songs would be re-imagined for an acoustic album, and Lights pulls it off, mostly, but I'll come to that.

The album starts off with my favorite track from the original album Banner and it's still a sweet, uplifting tune, but a little more laid-back than the electronic anthem it was originally.

Next up is Cactus In The Valley which is interesting because there already was an acoustic version that was released as a bonus track, so the main differences here are arrangement and the addition of vocals by Owl City (Adam Young) I'll go on record as saying that I'm not even remotely an Owl City fan, and his contribution to this song is indicative of why. While I do enjoy the new musical arrangement of this version, Owl City's vocals commit the biggest crime of a duet, they add nothing to the song. If there was a Lights-only version of this song without OC then it would probably be my favorite song on the album, as it is, it's my least favorite. If this seems harsh, it's because the rest of the album is so good, this misstep really grates.

Where The Fence Is Low showcases some amazing folky guitar work, and is a great showcase for Lights' vocal prowess.

Just so everyone knows, I'm not against Lights doing a duet, and her work with Max Kerman on Siberia is the opposite of Owl City's contribution. Their voices have enough contrast with each other to give the song some real meat.

Suspension shows how much work has gone into this album, it's so heavily electronic in it's original form that it really is a completely different song now, and stripped down to it's roots, it's still an amazing song.

In my opinion Toes is the jewel of this album, instead of the sparkling, bass-heavy tune it was, it's now moody and almost melancholic, it truly is a re-imagining of the song and it gives me chills to listen to it.

Lights' gets some help from French-Canadian artist Couer de Pirate who adds French-language lyrics to Peace Sign and the vocals, gorgeous strings and delicate guitar work, make this song as comforting as a old, favorite blanket.

Heavy Rope is one of the most plaintive, sad songs on the album and the much slower arrangement intensifies that feeling.

Flux and Flow is nearly unrecognizable from it's original form, and again, it's what is magical about this album, same lyrics but such a different feeling you come away with from it, you pay much more attention to the lyrics and Lights' wrings every bit of emotion from them with her almost husky vocals .

And Counting... has probably changed the least from it's original form, it's still a lovely ballad, now with stirring strings and wonderful piano accompaniment.

The iTunes bonus track, Timing Is Everything is a charming, laid-back version of the original, you can picture her sitting around a bonfire with just a guitar.

Overall, it's a incredible piece of work, as stated above, it's not perfect, but it's an incredible re-imagining of already amazing songs, and it's a tribute to Lights' skill not only as a musician, but as a songwriter that she can translate these songs to an entirely different musical "language".

Go pick it up now on iTunes and be sure to follow Lights on Twitter, Facebook and her official site!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Darling Parade - Battle Scars and Broken Hearts

Nashville-based, alternative rock band Darling Parade has long had a place of honor on my iPod and with the release of their new full-length album "Battle Scars and Broken Hearts" they're assured of staying there for a long time to come.

As one of many donors to their very successful Kickstarter campaign, I've actually had the new album for weeks now and after listening almost daily, I've got a few things to say:

This is an album with attitude, it's catchy and hooky (radio, are you listening?) but also equal parts heartbreaking ("When It's Over", "Ghost","With You") and defiant ("Just Another","Messin' With Me", "Bad Habit") it really lives up to the album title, and it showcases feelings that anyone who has gone through a messy breakup will be all too familiar with.

This album paints a picture of someone who has gone through a war of the heart and has emerged on the other side, bloodied but unbowed as the chorus for "Messin' With Me" states, "You should know that you're fighting for nothing, when deep down you're just looking for something, you keep giving me the third degree, but you don't stand a chance if you're messin' with me"

Even if you're not going through your own personal battle right now, you'll still find yourself sucked into the raw emotion of the music, and headbanging right along with the excellent guitar and drum work. This is an album to be played full blast with the windows down while cruising a lonely highway.

Oh, did I mention frontwoman Kristin Kearns' voice? As you go through the album her voice takes you from wanting to hold her and make the pain go away, to staying out of her way, to giving a high-five for emerging victorious. It's an emotional trip and one I'm happy to go on.

No, this isn't a happy album, but it's a very human, emotional album and that's all too rare these days.

Buy it. Now. [iTunes] [Amazon]

Please be sure to follow Darling Parade on Facebook and Twitter, and check out their official site.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Candy Hearts - The Best Ways To Disappear

I discovered Candy Hearts probably the same way many people recently have, through a tweet from Paramore's Hayley Williams (her boyfriend, Chad Gilbert has signed Candy Hearts to his label) and I decided to give them a chance.


I've been trying to figure out how to classify them, on first listen you might be tempted to just call them pop, but there is more there, I got a tweet from the band and their answer was "alternative indie with pop punk influences" which is a good classification, but with all due respect, I've got my own - "candy-coated hopeful heartbreaks with some serious 90s rock influences", which might be a little long for a record store label, but it works on this blog.

Seriously, listen to them. Mariel Loveland's sweet voice belie the pain and longing that permeate songs like "Miles and Interstates" ("The same white lines that brought you here will take you away") or "Bad Idea" where she's making the same mistake many of us do, but she makes getting your heart broken somehow appealing. "Sick Of It" is a bittersweet, and hopeful song for the downtrodden, and I think it's the standout track on the album.

To sum up. It's an album that on the surface is a poppy little confection, but if you listen...really listen, you get something a lot more meaty than the band's name would imply and it's worth the effort.

You can follow the band on Facebook Twitter and their official site and be sure to grab their album on iTunes or Amazon!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Nothing wrong with being Strange

Now don't take what I'm about to say the wrong way, because I adore every band/singer I've ever posted about on my blog, but every so often you find an artist that epitomizes why I started this blog in the first place. Quirky, fun, interesting, and independent.

Kieran Strange is all these things and more. Originally from England, Kieran moved to Canada at seventeen to chase her dream and has gotten quite the online following.

I'm late to the game, having only discovered her yesterday, but I've been totally blown away by not only her talent, but her spirit and attitude toward life. She embraces who she is and incorporates it in her music, she's...well, a geek, and that's a badge of honor.

She was bullied in school for being awkward and loving geeky things, and I think that's something a lot of us have gone through and she has a message of self-acceptance for her fans which is one of the things I appreciate about her. I don't insist that the musicians I like be role models, it's not their job, but it's always nice to find one that stands up for what's right.

Now to the music, it has a definite geek theme, from the lovely and uplifting "Adamantine Hearts" to "Rock N Roleplay" whose storyline should be familiar to most of us geeks but it never passes into novelty song status.They're just amazing pop songs with a geek sensibility.

Oh, did I mention the voice? She's got a lot of power in there, and she knows when to hold back or let it loose. Mark my words, we've got a potential rock goddess here when she finally gets the attention she deserves and breaks out.

Go check out her music and I'll leave you with her amazing Xmas video - "Merry Undead Christmas"

Be sure to check out Kieran on her official page, Twitter, Facebook and grab her music on iTunes or her Bandcamp page.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

An interview with...Kelly Sweet!

Following up on my review of her amazing album "Ashes Of My Paradise", Kelly Sweet was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions for us.

For my readers who might not be familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself and your music?

Well, my name is Kelly Sweet and I like to think of myself as a poet/singer. If you want to know me, read my lyrics. Every song on my record Ashes of My Paradise is a side of myself... I've been singing since I can remember, and I don't remember a time when music wasn't intensely a part of my life. :)

Your new album “Ashes Of My Paradise” has recently been released in Japan. What are your feelings about it finally getting a release?

I am thrilled! It has been years now since I even began the record, and several since I've released anything. I am beyond happy to finally share this music I have spent countless hours on with all my fans. They have patiently waited all this time!

A follow-up to that, I understand you're still trying to find ways to get the album into the hands of your other fans around the world, any news on that?

No official news yet on that. My team and I are working very hard every day on finding a way to get it released here in the US, and the rest of the world will hopefully follow. 

What are your tour plans? I understand you're going to Japan, excited? Any possibility of US dates? (selfishly hoping for Portland someday) 

Yes, I am making plans to tour in Japan, either in the end of this year or early next. the record is doing well there, and I am so excited to perform this record live! I’ll be playing a few shows in Los Angeles before I leave for Japan, and then probably next year, fingers crossed I will tour the US once there is release date for the record here!

All the songs on your new album are amazing, but which ones are your favorites and/or mean the most to you?

Every song is a side of myself and has multiple meanings for me. If you want to know me, look to my lyrics, this is how I see the world, how I think. Some moments I am the woman warrior in Black Gun Parade, fighting a war in her own head, battling the opposing forces of joy and fear and living through both simultaneously. Other moments
I am the goddess in My Amazing Grace, falling in love, seeing the beauty in
everything, and the fear simply drops away. And other moments still, I am
still a child, a daughter, like in Why (Nothing Else Matters), You and I,
and Pictures and Numbers going through the process of saying goodbye to her parents, her guides and mentors, learning to stand alone. I can't really choose my favorite! They are all me!

Where does your inspiration come from? Any tips for struggling songwriters?

Life, and the way I see it. My view of the world around me, and everything
in it! Also, I sort of get into “modes”. When I know I must begin writing for a record, my mind begins to explore and find the “theme” of the record. Sometimes one will just happen upon me. Sometimes, the theme is only apparent after writing several songs that I know will go on the record. Then, this theme is what inspires me! I can see the many sides of the story, or theme and I want to write them all! 
For struggling songwriters, I would say, don’t call yourself “struggling” first of all. Call yourself a songwriter, whatever stage you are at. We’re all still learning. And secondly, worry and work only on your craft. Study other songs, many different types of songs, and study every part of them, melody, chord, production, sounds, lyrics, harmonics, etc. Be honest to yourself before you push your songs out into the world. Are they ready? And once your answer is yes, let them go. You can always write another. You will only get better with practice and time.

The style of music on “Ashes Of My Paradise” is a lot different than your earlier music, what has been the fan reaction to then change?

So far, it has been overwhelmingly positive, which I am thrilled about! I adore my own record, but of course, I made it! It is my child! And to watch so many of my fans rave about it and hear and enjoy the nuances that I carefully crafted, brings me so much joy!

What music do you normally listen to? Anyone new we should check out?

Right now, I am in love with an artist named Fink. His records both Perfect Darkness and Distance and Time are amazing. A few new artists that I’m liking are Chelsea Lankes and Frank + Derol. Also, loving Stateless, especially the song Bloodstream. Their record came out a few years ago, but I’ve just discovered it. Robyn, of course. Love it. And who doesn’t love the following UK girls: Ellie Goulding, Marina and the Diamonds, etc.!

If you had your pick of tourmates, what bands/singers would you select?

Robyn!! Or Metric, Dragonette, Bat For Lashes, The xx, Lykke Li...

Just had a personal request from my wife :) “What does “Glass Made Man” mean?”

Haha! Glass Made Man is about a man...A beautiful man I could see all the good in, even in the few moments it appeared. I could see he wanted to be vulnerable, to fall in love, but it was like he was frozen from previous heartbreak. He just teetered on the edge of love with me. Neither in it, or out of it. I could see all of this happening, and all I could do was wait, and try to melt his frozen heart with my own warmth. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions Kelly!!

Be sure to check out Kelly on Twitter, Facebook and on the newly revamped
If you're not in Japan and curious about how to get her album, it is available for import from Amazon or you can see my previous post about how to purchase it from iTunes Japan.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Kelly Sweet - Ashes Of My Paradise

Let me preface this with a little information about Kelly Sweet. I discovered her a few years back when she was singing some sweet soft vocal/pop songs and I was entranced by her voice, but times change and a artist has to change and grow as well. I remember a couple of years ago when Kelly first teased her new songs (I remember a in-studio clip where I heard "Sirens" and I was hooked) but time kept passing and still no release date...I could tell that Kelly was as frustrated as her fans about her record label (Razor & Tie) not releasing the album.

Now I'm not claiming to know the details about what occurred between Kelly and R&T but I do know that she left her label, and her album, "Ashes Of My Paradise" is about to be released in Japan on Victor Entertainment's label, unfortunately there is no current word about a North American release, but I dearly hope it happens. This album is special, It's hard for me to put into words the heart, soul and emotion that has been put into this album. Razor & Tie has made a serious error, "Ashes Of My Paradise" is a perfect album for the current market, it's got impeccable songwriting, great beats and heartfelt (and heartbreaking) vocals.

It's a little bit LIGHTS, a little bit Ellie Goulding, but mostly Kelly Sweet, and that's what makes it perfect.

My picks for standout tracks are the first single "My Amazing Grace" which is just simply one of the most gorgeous love songs I've ever heard, "Walking On Mars" is a perfect track for those of us who march to a different drummer and look to the stars, the aforementioned "Sirens" and "You And I", which if it doesn't tug at your heart when you hear it, you don't have one.

Right now the only way for us in North America to get the album (Japan release date, Aug 22) is by importing it (I'll post a link at the bottom) or purchasing a iTunes Japan gift card (for example, from this website.) Now I hope that success in Japan will mean a NA release, but it's certainly up in the air right now.

If you'd like to listen to some samples of the album you can do so on her Japanese label website or on iTunes Japan . You can import "Ashes Of My Paradise" here and please be sure to follow Kelly on Twitter and Facebook and listen to "My Amazing Grace" on her BandPage!