Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Summertime Kids - Table Manners

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Artist Website: Summertime Kids
Netlabel Website: N/A

Track list:

1 - JV
2 - Know
3 - Storm the Station
4 - August
5 - Rain on My Parade
6 - Bed Time

Download links: [Bandcamp]

Gainesville native Nick Roberts (aka Summertime Kids) is the perfect example to show that expensive recording equipment and record label deals are not required to make great music. Recorded over the span of six months, Table Manners is a wonderfully written, relaxing and enjoyable album to listen to.

Every track on the album has a wonderfully calm feel to it. Right from the opening chords of JV, I felt like I was lounging outside on a warm sunny day, or driving through the countryside with the top down. The second track, Know, added even more to the mix, with Roberts' soothing vocals, slightly reminiscent of John Mayer minus the undeserved self-importance. Every track is beautifully written, and considering it was self-recorded, the quality of sound is quite impressive. Despite the album having such a chill, relaxed feel to it, the music still has enough drive behind it to keep it interesting and keep you listening to the end.

Stand-out tracks on this album for me were the opening two, JV and Know. My least favorite would probably be the closer, Bed Time. I wouldn't say it's a bad song, it just didn't keep my attention like the other songs did. One of my only gripes with Table Manners is that it is over far too quickly, clocking in at just under 20 minutes total.

I love finding new bedroom musicians who are not only technically competent, but also fun to listen to, and Summertime Kids is definitely one that I'll be adding to that list. I sincerely hope that this is not the last we hear from Mr. Roberts.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Invaluable - Searching, Waiting

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Artist Website: Bandcamp
Netlabel Website: N/A

Track list:

1 - Atencion!
2 - Kyle Goodwin
3 - Depth
4- 2003
5 - Nationalistic Ties
6 - Capital Log

Download links: [Bandcamp]

I'm not sure why, but it seems that for many punk musicians, the progression to folk/acoustic music is a natural choice. Greg Graffin, Nikola Sarcevic and Frank Turner have all released fantastic solo folk albums, even though they've built their careers on the punk bands that they perform with. Whatever the reason, acoustic punk is something I always enjoy listening to, and Searching, Waiting by Invaluable is no exception.

On Invaluable's bandcamp page, frontman (and only man) Keith Baillargeon warns listeners that there is "no polish here folks, this is about as rough as they get." Personally, I've heard far rougher demos with much less polish. Even though the solo acoustic guitar and voice seem to leave the overall sound slightly anemic at times, Keith's playing is highly proficient for the style of music, and his voice was instantly reminiscent to me of such great punk vocalists as Jeff Rosenstock, Tomas Kalnoky, and Brian Fallon. The solid, slightly rough tone of his voice lends itself perfectly to his music, especially the more up-tempo tunes.

While there were a couple of tunes that didn't really do much for me (specifically Depth and Capitol Log), I enjoyed listening to the EP. The song 2003 was by far my favorite track of the bunch, and I couldn't help but imagine what the song would sound like with a full band to flesh out the sound a bit. Overall, Searching, Waiting is quite a solid demo/EP, and Invaluable shows quite a bit of promise as a solo musician. I only hope that Keith gets the chance at some point to record some of these songs with a few more instruments added into the mix.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Culture Voyage - Electroecstasy

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Artist Website: Culture Voyage
Netlabel Website: N/A

Track list:

1 - Genesis
2 - Electroecstasy

Download links: [Bandcamp]

It's been quite a while since I've had a chance to update this blog with any new music, so let's get right to it. Today's choice is a short one (a single), but definitely worth listening to in my opinion.

While I couldn't appreciate it much at the time, I've developed a strong appreciation for 80's pop culture over the last few years. Something about that decade's music, movies, television and overall fashion seems to strike a chord with me, and really makes me sit up and take notice. It was for this reason that I fell in love with Neon Neon's Stainless Style last year when it was introduced to me (here's a sample if you're interested), and it's for this same reason that I've really enjoyed the newest single from Atlanta-based musician Culture Voyage, Electroecstasy.

Right from the get-go, the opening bell tones and warm crackling sound of a vinyl record grabbed my attention, and I the laser sound effects in the background were a nice touch as well. As the main riff entered, I suddenly felt like I should be heading over to Flynn's Arcade to play a few games of Space Harrier, or perhaps watch some Tales of the Darkside while wearing my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirt. I also appreciated the beat underneath the synth notes, which really helps to drive the track and keep it from getting boring.

The next (and final) track on the single, Electroecstasy didn't entice me quite as much as Genesis did, but it was still quite a solid song, and similar to the first track in many ways (running synth notes, driving synth drum beat, cracking static in the background). Both tracks will give any 80's buff a double-dose of nostalgia.

You can stream the single and download it for free at the Bandcamp address listed at the top of this entry.

Be sure to keep checking back here for more updates. I'm not planning a set schedule for new reviews, but I do plan to update this more often.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Airplane Noise - Getting Down

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Artist Website: Airplane Noise
Netlabel Website: Back to Work Records

Track list:

1 - Go Ahead
2 - Last Night
3 - One Cup of Coffee
4 - I Will Always Win
5 - Goodbye

Download links: [MP3]

When recording an album, most bands pick a single sound and, for better or worse, stick with it throughout the record. However, that is not the case with Airplane Noise's latest EP Getting Down. I can't remember an album in recent memory that caught me as off guard as to what comes next than this one. During a song, I'd think that I had finally pegged what the next song was going to sound like. Most of the time, I wasn't even close.

From the opening bass riff, I imagined this EP to be another typical romp through the realm of indie pop-punk. A few seconds later, the synthesizer kicks in, bringing to mind a slightly poppier, more polished version of a Bomb the Music Industry! song. The next song, Last Night, followed along the same general path as the first song, but the third track is where the music takes a complete right-turn.

One Cup of Coffee opens up with a piano line that instantly made me think of the song Mr. Jones by Ben Folds, and then continued on by introducing not only drums and guitars, but also a harmonica! While some people might have found this off-putting, I actually enjoyed the change of pace, as the pop-punk was quickly becoming a slight chore to listen to. I Will Always Win continued on with the acoustic feel of the previous track (albeit at a more upbeat tempo and featuring the acoustic guitar rather than piano). The backup vocals in particular really stood out for me on this track, and blended quite nicely with the soothing lead acoustic guitar melodies. The final track opened as a slow acoustic number, which is why I was surprised to hear the return of the distorted guitars about halfway through the song.

Airplane Noise is a great example of a band that's able to approach their music from several different styles, not only keeping it fresh but also keeping the listener actively engaged, waiting to hear what is in store for the next track. The pop-punk tracks were okay, but in my opinion the standout tracks were the acoustic songs, and in particular, One Cup of Coffee. If you'd like to stream the EP, you can visit the band's website at the top of this article. I'm also planning to start offering a sample of each album I cover right from this blog for those of you that just can't be bothered to take those few extra clicks. Click the link below to stream One Cup of Coffee.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Paul Baribeau - Unbearable

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Artist Website: Paul Baribeau
Netlabel Website: If You Make It

Track list:

1 - If I Knew
2 - Eight Letters
3 - How Could That Be True
4 - The Wall
5 - Rolling Clouds
6 - Blue Cool
7 - The Mall
8 - Poor Girls
9 - Black Strat
10 - Wild Eyes

Download links: [MP3]

While Paul Baribeau's unique, stripped down take on folk-punk certainly won't appeal to everyone (including some fans of the genre), his newest album Unbearable was recently offered as a free download through the indie/DIY website If You Make It, making it worth at least a listen or two.

For those listeners who haven't encountered Baribeau's work before, it's just Paul singing over his acoustic guitar. Most of his past songs (including the first few tracks from his previous album Grand Ledge) are played at an incredibly quick tempo, hence the "folk-punk" label. However, Unbearable marks several changes for Baribeau's sound; the overall tempo of the music being one of them. Right from the first track If I Knew, it becomes apparent that the feel of this album is decidedly more laid-back than his last full-length; with a more "rock" sound than punk. This isn't really a bad thing, and is actually quite refreshing, but fans of Baribeau's earlier music might mistake it as a lack of energy.

Another big change between Paul's last album and this one is the use of overdubs for the vocals. With Grand Ledge, it was a single vocal line and a single guitar line for every song. On Unbearable, several of the songs utilize a second vocal track during the choruses. Granted, most of the overdubs are just unison vocal lines, but it adds a bit of depth to the melodies, and makes it easier to stay focused on the music.

Track number four, The Wall brings about the last noticeable change between the two albums. The song opens up with Baribeau's signature acoustic guitar strumming, but also adds an electric guitar to play a few bars of melody before the vocals come in, and then also a little later in the song. This caught me a little by surprise, since every song of Paul's that I've listened to up to this point were just his voice and his guitar.

Other than the differences listed above, Unbearable still retains the simplicity and charm of Baribeau's past work. Most of the songs either focus on, or are indirectly about love, while other songs like The Mall and Rolling Clouds deal with activities that almost everyone did when they were younger, like riding bikes and going to the mall.

Even though Paul Baribeau's music might be considered "stripped-down" or "bare bones" by some, his easily relatable lyrics and charming vocals make Unbearable more than bearable to listen to.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bad Religion - 30 Years Live

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Artist Website: Bad Religion
Record Label Website: Epitaph Records

Track list:
1 - Fuck Armageddon, This Is Hell
2 - Dearly Beloved
3 - Suffer
4 - Man With A Mission
5 - New Dark Ages
6 - Germs Of Perfection
7 - Marked
8 - A Walk
9 - Flat Earth Society
10 - Resist Stance
11 - American Jesus
12 - Social Suicide
13 - Atheist Peace
14 - Tomorrow
15 - Won't Somebody
16 - Los Angeles Is Burning
17 - We're Only Gonna Die

Download links: [MP3]

I adore Bad Religion. After discovering them through their songs in the video games Crazy Taxi and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 I started grabbing all the music of theirs I could find. The fast-paced mosh pit-inciting guitar riffs, combined with intelligent lyrics covering a variety of social, political, and religious topics appealed to me in a way that, at that point in my life, no other music had. Needless to say, when I found out earlier this year that Bad Religion was releasing a live album in honor of their 30th anniversary as a band (for free!), I was incredibly excited. While the setlist isn't perfect in my opinion, the album is quite solid.

I think that choosing to open and close the album with songs from their debut LP How Could Hell Be Any Worse? was a great idea, especially with two of the more popular songs from the album, We're Only Gonna Die and Fuck Armageddon...This is Hell. Both songs represent the more raw, adrenaline-charged youth of the band, and while the original studio versions of the songs are classics, its nice to hear them redone by the band with 30 extra years of practice under their belts.

The album goes on to include several songs from their latest album, New Maps of Hell, including Dearly Beloved, an atheistic anthem, and Germs of Perfection, which showcases Bad Religion's trademark thesaurus-like lyrics. Also included are songs from Suffer, The Empire Strikes First, Recipe For Hate, and several others.

The sound is as good as you'd expect a live album to sound in today's industry. It's easy to tell that numerous studio touch-ups were made, especially in the "oozin-aahs" (backup vocals), but it doesn't detract from the overall listening experience. It was nice to hear some of their older songs performed with Brooks Wackerman, their newest (and in my opinion, most talented and energenic) drummer.

One of my only gripes with this album is the fact that, although it is supposedly a representation of their 30 years as a band, there are seven Bad Religion albums that don't have a single song represented, including The Process of Belief, my favorite album of theirs. I found this odd, because there are several songs from that album that have been staples of their live shows since its release in 2002. At the very least, the inclusion of either Supersonic or Sorrow would have been great.

This album is a must-have for fans of this group, and for people on the fence or who have never heard their material, this might be a good place to start, as there are quite a few of their hits on this album.

Just a quick note about the distribution of this album: 30 Years Live was originally released as a free digital download through Bad Religion's website. However, the album is no longer available through the band, and there is no hard copy available for purchase. As such, I've taken the liberty of uploading the album to Mediafire so people interested in listening can download it. If for some reason anyone from Epitaph Records happens to read this and wishes me to remove the download link, please send me an email letting me know, and I'll be happy to take it down.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

until next time!

As most of you can probably tell, it's been a while since I've posted anything in this blog. I've come to the realization that as much as I love writing and finding free music, setting a weekly deadline for a blog that I write in my spare time is only going to cause me to write about music that I don't really enjoy, just for the sake of meeting the deadline. Therefore, I've decided that I'm not going to be updating this blog as frequently as I have in the past, and instead update it only when I find something really special that I enjoy listening to or want to talk about in the music biz. When an update does occur, I'll be sure to post links on my facebook, twitter, and netlabel twitter accounts.

Until then, keep listening!