Blues, R&B, Rock, Soul

Crack Of Dawn Put The Soul Back Into 2017 With New Release

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Once every blue moon, a band comes along that perfectly encapsulates what a genre is supposed to be about, and Crack of Dawn do exactly that. Honing their craft over the last 40 years, the band have reached a new height in their career with the release of their latest album and single ‘Spotlight’.

Introspective, honest and flavoured with the essence of ParliamentEarth Wind & Fire and Marvin Gaye, the album is a welcome trip through the old worlds of soul and funk, flavoured with a contemporary edge that wouldn’t be out of place up against some of today’s biggest R&B hits.

Listen to new single, Spotlight, here: https://soundcloud.com/user-956988938/8-spotlight/s-NwcPC#t=11:09

 

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Like pouring moonlight in one ear and sunshine into the other, this is true soul and funk music, performed by a band at the height of their powers playing their own instruments and bringing the glories of their past to the present day.”

Keep up with Crack of Dawn here:

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoNzxEP5sJc

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CrackofDawnBand/ 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/crackofdawnofficial/?hl=en

Website: https://www.crackofdawn.ca/ 

 

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Blues, Pop

Hunter- “So Gay” Review

Billed modestly in press releases as “The greatest gay anthem of all time?”, “So Gay” is the latest offering from Tanzanian singer Hunter. Raised to Indian parents in the former capital of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, an environment in which homophobia is governmentally sanctioned, it’s tempting to read “So Gay” as less of a timid emergence from the closet as a cavalry charge into Judy Garland’s swimming pool.

The track surprisingly eschews the Vengaboys-esque glitzy tat of many songs self-consciously styling themselves as gay anthems in favour of a measured, bluesy stomp, complete with bluegrass ornamentation and twanged slugs of walking Double Bass. Hunter works in his Indian heritage with blares of Bollywood brass, and unorthodox vocal processing in the chorus spools his voice into a digitised babble.

Vocally, the singer has apparently spent several decades gurgling battery acid in Tom Waits’ diaphragm, gnarling his voice into a wizened growl somewhere between a chain-smoking Genghis Khan and Moe from the Simpsons, which lends a delicious incongruity to his opening salvo “You think I’m weak, a fairy boy?” Although dealing in didactic and hackneyed gay-is-OK platitudes that are readily available in countless other songs, there is a wry playfulness to Hunter’s drawled instruction to “Never mess with the gays/Have a heavenly day”, and his impish awareness of his own daftness in his gruff boasts that “Your girlfriend wants me, sister too”. Although advertised as “the leader of an LGBT revolution”, he might have to settle for charmed bemusement and polite applause for now. CO

C+

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOyS3cF_zQA&sns=em

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experimental, Folk, Singer-songwriter

From Leeds to Tokyo – A Harpists Tale

A beautiful soundscape that takes you on a real trip through time and the imagination, Julia Mascetti’s In Bloom is an auditory treat full of intrigue and mystery from beginning to end.

Listen to a live version of her track In Bloom here:

Combining everything she learnt as a music student in Leeds with her more recent experiences living in Tokyo, the song is a real mish-mash of culture and atmosphere that is a treat to listen to. For fans of Kate BushMarina & The Diamonds and Joanna Newsom, the track builds in a theatrical, clever way, creating a haunting, spidery atmosphere that wouldn’t be out of place in a grainy, art house film. Her use of traditional, Japanese sound to decorate the mix is also really effective and has you listening to every second trying to work out what exactly it is that’s going on!

The end result though is something that is truly unique, emotive and haunting and showcases the storytelling of someone who truly loves and respects their craft

Keep up with Julia’s journey here:

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/juliamascetti

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/juliamascetti

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JuliaMascetti

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/juliamascetti

Website: https://tokyoharp.blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Alternative, Indie, Pop, Rock

Everything Everything- “A Fever Dream” Review

In 2015 Everything Everything released a superbly inventive pop album entitled “Get to Heaven”, which received infuriatingly little attention and soon sunk back into the mire of quiet, docile reputability that seems so oddly unbecoming of the band. This was obstinate, often luridly colourful and wryly brazen music that didn’t belong in the back lanes of British “indie”, even though the lumping of the band into this category at all strains credulity. After the opulent blowout of “Get to Heaven”, “A Fever Dream” feels strangely like an incidental epilogue, irrespective of its contents. If their last album didn’t have the requisite boldness to break them, what will?

The band don’t seem to have an answer either, merely dimming the technicolour glare of “Get to Heaven” into muted blacks and oranges, Dante’s inferno via grainy polaroid. “A Fever Dream” is aptly named, a murkier and subtler work that eschews the punchy bombast of their previous albums in favour of more uncertain, introspective tones. “Good Shot, Good Soldier” emerges from beige aimlessness into a weary, rotating grandeur, while “Run the Numbers” buries a superb vocal melody beneath a down-tuned riff and Tom Morello-aping solo. As always, the unusual intonation and dynamism of Jonathan Higgs’ vocals dominate, as he gently wrings sympathy from the likes of the tender “Put Me Together”.

Despite the floaty moodiness of many of the tracks, much of the songwriting here is noticeably more conventional. “Desire” bludgeons its listener into submission with dreadnought synths and the belted brashness of its chorus, although it redeems itself with a superb bridge. Some sort of newfound fuzzy rockism tramples the intricacy of “Big Game”, with a dash of Rush or even Dream Theatre slashed into the proggy riffing of “Ivory Tower”. Although perhaps momentarily diverting, the allure of Everything Everything is their genre-bending and oddball vim, and they are far more unremarkable as a conventional rock band.

Unsurprisingly, there are scattered moments of transcendent beauty here, such as the swell of brass midway through “Good Shot, Good Soldier”, the complex arpeggios “Big Game” breaks into around the 2-minute mark or the entirety of the enveloping stateliness of “New Deep”. However, a faint air of anti-climax pervades the album, which was perhaps inevitable when it was tailing the cocksure cohesion of “Get to Heaven”. For the first time in their career the band feel suspended in aural stasis, treading water, with little here that they haven’t already attempted elsewhere. Unsure of how to progress, they have concaved slightly into the (by their standards) conventionalism of their second record, “Arc”. It’s a real pity they took the rather self-consciously “credible” path on “A Fever Dream”, because there’s a phenomenally strange pop band in there somewhere, nibbling at the walls. CO

B-

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LR3nXuBwGcI

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Pop, Rock

Weezer- “Pacific Daydream” Review

The Beach Boys. The Doors. The Smiths. Steve Ray Vaughan. Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers.

Whether these references, liberally scattered throughout the album, are simply intended to cushion the inevitable scorn of Weezer’s fanbase towards the work billed as the band’s foray into pure pop, or whether they betray a deeper sense of nostalgia and loss, is the central intrigue of “Pacific Daydream”. For all its breezy hooks and Pro Tools sheen, a wistfulness and melancholy slinks beneath the surface of the album. With its members well into their late 40s and early 50s, Weezer is an ageing band, and one that seems acutely aware that this may be its last comically futile gasp at pop viability, even if it is little more than an asthmatic wheeze. To be absolutely clear, “Pacific Daydream” is not going to produce hit singles, regardless of its tracks’ commerciality or lack of it. Just as Linkin Park’s “Heavy” didn’t catapult them into the hit parade, “Feels Like Summer” or, heaven forbid, “Beach Boys”, will not beckon Rhianna guest features and VMA glitz. It’s just not going to happen. But I digress.

Given that chart hits seem out of reach, “Pacific Daydream” is worryingly only readable as part of the Weezer canon. Though far from the band’s first venture into squeaky-clean pop—there’s the scrubbed-from-the-record “Raditude”, the not-as-bad-but-still-embarrassing “Hurley” and arguably even “The Green Album”—it’s their most overt and fully-realised. However, despite the cosmetic stylistic revamp, Rivers Cuomo’s old lyrical themes quickly resurface: loneliness and confusion, societal otherness, a childishly absolute faith in the wonders of love. Potentially jarring references to romantic longing and summer at the beach are somehow acceptable from Weezer. At this point, midlife crisis has become their house style.

Although they have dabbled in electronic pop—2009’s nightmarish “Can’t Stop Partying” looms ominously into view—“Pacific Daydream” is far more Train than Avicii. Surprisingly, the album often gets away with its glib, blustery commercialism thanks to the sturdiness of its tracks: “Weekend Woman” is as good a pop song as the band have ever recorded, and “Sweet Mary” is a lush evocation of both vintage Weezer and the ‘60s Californian harmonies they incessantly fetishize. Even “Feels Like Summer”, once the antiseptic cleanliness of the album has been acclimatised to, is a punchy, effectively constructed track.

However, what is most pervasive is a sense of dislocation from modern musical trends, and society generally. Allusions to this abound, from “It’s a hip-hop world” on “Beach Boys” to “You gotta choose between the internet and me” on the finger-picked “QB Blitz”. However, despite risking down-with-the-kids desperation, Weezer’s submersion in earnest poptimism feels far less incongruous than it should; the band have always written pop hooks, and their lovelorn sincerity slots right into the pop vernacular. “Pacific Daydream” therefore treads an uneasy line, somehow both not Weezer at all and the logical conclusion of the band. Not nearly as bad as you might think. CO

B

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGod7Xnqr20

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Folk, Singer-songwriter

Cholesterol Jones- “Satan’s in Heaven” Review

In all the hopelessly optimistic discussions about a revival of punk in the Trump era, it seems unlikely that anyone envisioned the most likeable and gently funny protest music thus far emerging from the mouth of a nonplussed folk singer named Cholesterol Jones. Over a pleasant, inoffensive and largely acoustic backing reminiscent of late-period R.E.M. or a pasteurised Sufjan Stevens, Jones voices his discontent with the current regime and whatever else crosses his mind with benign understatement.

Vocally, Jones resembles Mr Harvey from down the street singing in church. There is a little of Moby in the flat drabness of his vocals, but here it lends a laconic, bemused wryness to his indictments of the stop-the-ride-I-want-to-get-off surrealism of modern politics. Even the title track, whose title feels glaringly direct, is perhaps the only political diatribe to open, rather wonderfully, “You have got a droopy face”.

Emerging far closer to the offbeat poptimism of They Might Be Giants than the snarled rancour of punk, the childlike, Daniel Johnston-esque simplicity of Jones’ lyrics itself becomes a source of placid humour throughout the E.P., with “You are fun and lovely, I’d like to know your name” on “Bradford Street” standing out as particularly, almost antagonistically, banal. Although the more forthright title track was released as the single, the true standout here is “The River Styx”, which ebbs with a soft melancholy, evoking the more thoughtful moments of Pavement or Wire. Rest assured, this isn’t your father’s protest music, but it may well be your grandfather’s protest music. However, for all its almost glacial placidity, there is a warmly endearing realism to “Satan’s in Heaven” that will win over the layman far more effectively than any 2-minute power chord tirade. CO

C+

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Metal, Prog-Rock

System of a Down- “Toxicity” Review

Perhaps the weirdest band ever to go multi-platinum, System of a Down were unfairly whisked on a one-way trip to critical infamy and collective industry embarrassment aboard the loathed nu-metal train, despite being neither “nu” (they formed in 1994), nor metal in the conventional sense of the term. Though undoubtedly heavy, their Armenian melisma, consummate theatricality, unusual song structures and pervasive oddness drag them quite a way from the frat-boy bleached cornrows, cargo shorts and drop-D thrash of nu-metal.

“Toxicity” marks the high tide of System’s unlikely tryst with widespread acceptance. Bizarrely and amusingly, the album not only peaked at number 1, but by some ridiculous act of divine providence did so the same week that 9/11 shook the Western world, meaning that an album endlessly critical of American government policy briefly reigned supreme commercially. Indeed, barely a stone is left unturned in the album’s excoriation of society, man. Opener “Prison Song” intercuts drab spoken facts with deranged riffing—there is an element of absurdist comedy in mercurial vocalist Serj Tankian’s roared assertions that “ALL RESEARCH ON SUCCESSFUL DRUG POLICY SHOWS THAT TREATMENT SHOULD BE INCREASED”, and this is compounded on the ferocious “Needles”, which peaks with Tankian’s emphatic bellow to “Pull the tapeworm out of your ass!” (a line which truly demands an exclamation mark).

Today, the album is probably best known for “Chop Suey”, a track that is strangely unrepresentative of the album’s musical style. Though the sugar-rush thrash of the verses is all over “Toxicity”, the piano and string section of the song’s terrific, soaring climax are rarely found elsewhere on the album. The three singles, “Chop Suey”, “Toxicity” and “Aerials” are easily the softest and most outwardly melodic tracks here, with the rest of the album adhering to its idiosyncratic house style of wacky, convulsive mania.

However, startling rewards are reaped within these relatively strict confines. “Science” is a flaying rocket-ride of a cut, enlivened by Tankian’s superbly violent vocal delivery and the band’s watertight precision. The meat-headed pound of “Deer Dance” concaves into the jittery propulsion of the verses and their hilariously simplistic dichotomy of “peaceful loving youth against the brutality of plastic existence”. To criticise System of a Down for producing late-onset juvenilia somehow seems beyond the pale though, when the music is this hyper-stylised and knowingly ludicrous. Bellowed, maniacal excess is the band’s default setting, and their inventive vocal melodies, pummelling ferocity and keen sense of the absurd keep “Toxicity” interesting, revealing surprising depths in an album which initially seems fairly musically uniform. CO

B+

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGpoEPcmOK4

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