La Rocca "Sing Song Sung" EP Review

Sing Song Sung gives a brief glimpse of what is expected for the band's debut release later this year, The Truth. Recorded under the guidance of Tony Hoffer (Beck, Belle & Sebastian) in LA, La Rocca take a brash step into blue collar indie with this 4 song EP. The title track's coarse harmony flows smoothly through English born Bjorn Baillie's voice, a gorgeous pattern that appears throughout the remaining tracks. For the recording, the Irish band ventured across the Atlantic in hopes of finding a wider audience. Success, it seems, is attracted to the band as recent appearances at SXSW and a feature on FOX's The OC have seemingly proven that La Rocca's sound has found its audience.

For the life of me, it seemed as though I couldn't read anything written about the band that shied away from U2 comparisons. What a basic thought, that bands from the same country don't necessarily sound the same; why then, I thought, must all Irish bands be compared to U2? Painfully, after multiple listens the similarities started to appear. While there is a raw power that U2 never captured, La Rocca liberally apply the band's popular early '80s sound throughout Sing Song Sung. Thankfully, however, The Edge is no where to be found.

Ane Brun "Duets" Review

A tremendous thing happened to me while listening to this album. The realization of just how dense I truly am popped out at me as it finally occurred to me that Ane Brun is a folk singer. I hadn't really considered this too much as I usually tend to think of Guthrie, Seeger and Baez when I think of folk. However something changed that; in reference to Brun's US debut, A Temporary Dive, "The US debut by this winsome, warbling Norwegian suggests the oddball folk movement of US acts like Banhart and Joanna Newsom is resonating." This suggestion from the May 4, 2006 edition of Rolling Stone changed my entire view of Brun and her music (but not really). Instead of my previous thoughts that "this album (A Temporary Dive) is a beautifully expressive warp of emotion, stressing not merely abstract love but the despair and all that follows," I can now see that she's a mere neo-folkie. Again - maybe, maybe not.

Duets takes a look at a year's worth of collaboration between Brun and a vast list of her compadres. This is a perfect outlet for such a body of work as I see Brun as a collaborative artist in the truest form of the term. After studying her songs she comes across as something of a sponge, not simply regurgitating others' influences, but rather her music has a unique quality which sensibly reflects those influences in its own way. With that, her voice has a tendency of finding a home in a variety of differing sounds and in a wide variety of relationships.

The depth of the collaborations on this album is outstanding. The Tiny's Ellekari Larsson's "Across The Bridge" is a slow, simple, harmony driven undertaking that lends itself as evidence that Brun does some of her best work with others. Brun adds light overtones to Madrugada’s Sivert Høyem’s overwhelmingly powerful voice in “Lift Me,” another key example of her expansive capabilities. A Temporary Dive’s “Rubber Soul” and “Song No. 6” offer key insights into Brun’s songwriting style, which again (without sounding ultra-repetitive) lends itself greatly to collaboration. Duets serves as a snapshot of what’s possible when Brun lends herself to mesh with the abilities of others, but for a more complete look at her work I would highly suggest turning to A Temporary Dive.

The Fever "In The City Of Sleep" Review

I was lucky enough to have had the chance to see The Fever in Minneapolis a little while back and I was absolutely blown away. Before seeing the show, I hadn't heard the band, but for some reason I had this inkling that they'd be a heavy-on-the-electronic light-on-the-rock type. Also on the bill were Rock Kills Kid and Electric Six if that helps explain where I'm coming from with my initial theory. Well, though the band utilizes a strong, pulsing keyboard, The Fever are anything but an electronic band. The Fever are rock - period(.)

In The City Of Sleep's first song after the album’s brief introduction, "Redhead," is just as amazing and spastic as it is live. However, as the album progresses I found myself stewing on a thought that wouldn’t leave. While I am personally guilty of using this term too much, I had to question what blues-rock is, exactly. The Fever use a tremendous amount of deep, bluesy chords, and hit the same level on the piano and vocals; especially in “Crying Wolf,” and “The Secret.” But the band can't really be considered a blues-rock band in my opinion. It’s not simply because of the fact that the group touches on Waits-ian alternative and experiment with a vast sound base, including chimes and saxophones, but for another reason altogether. The Fever's songs which touch on blues-based rock are modern reinterpretations of the '60s interpretation of the blues.

And that covers only a minuscule portion of the band's work with In The City Of Sleep. "Little Lamb & The Shiny Silver Bullets" sounds like an early '70s rock ballad put to the drum n' bass snares. "Eyes on the Road" creates a high tension unrest enforced by a distorted narrative vocal track. "Hotel Fantom" erases any previous notions that the band is simply reinterpreting classic sounds with its high pitched, organ driven fervor. In The City Of Sleep draws a considerable line between bands’ who perform modern interpretations of whatever a “classic” sound might be and bands that are constantly changing sounds to avoid sounding stale. The Fever offer both, and the band does so in a way entirely unique and unto itself.

Be Your Own PET

Out of Nashville, Be Your Own PET offer a brand female fronted rock that I have been waiting for. It seems that a female can't front a band without immediately being compared to the likes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or any number of other modern acts. Yeah, they all play rock, we get it. Be Your Own PET offer a hugely powerful, energetic sound...oh, and they honestly don't take themselves too seriously. Thurston Moore is a huge fan of their fantastic blend of cock-rock & post-punk with one exception: Be Your Own PET seem to have fun. What a world it would be if more bands at least pretended they were having fun?

Saturday Looks Good To Me

Detroit's Saturday Looks Good To Me come highly recommended from a few friends. One calls them "sort of Beach Boys, Camera Obscura, Belle and Sebastian - real lo fi, very pretty stuff." Another, Bethanne, says of the band "they're really poppy and fun. You can listen to them and feel better about yourself because the songs are just full of good stuff." Not bad right? I tend to shy away from using the term lo-fi, because when I think lo-fi I only really think of Beat Happening, but SLGTM offer a tasteful blend of hippie hi-fi (think about it...) mixed in with some great pop (without too much pop) tones. The band's songs sway from those in which vocals shadow each other perfectly to those which indulge in a single harmony. A real trip to say the least.

The Sounds "Dying To Say This To You" Review

Where did you first hear The Sounds? I heard the band far before I ever heard of the band, on a television commercial. Some might have first heard the group on a video game. No matter where you heard the band, your reaction was probably similar to mine and you probably thought they rocked. I put a little time into figuring out where the song came from and in no time I found the band and checked out some more of their initial release, Living In America. The craziness continued as I later saw Bam Margera support the band by wearing a hoodie bearing their name on an episode of his MTV show. Not bad for a little group from Helsingborg.

Dying To Say This To You starts off with the dramatic punch, "Song With A Mission;" an upbeat, hard-boiled, soul influenced rumble. There's a connection between this and "Queen of Apologies," which follows; the lyrics are amazingly simple, but are nonetheless hard to follow. It’s my belief that this reflects a sense of substantial depth within the meaning of the songs; a situation where "I think I know what it means, but I don't want to say so because I might be wrong," comes to mind.

A few mid to late '80s influenced pop-rock songs follow before another key track, "Painted By Numbers" breaks out. Continuing the retro theme with its synth-driven bounce, it offers "I think I might know what that means, so here goes" lyrics; concerning the genuine hardship of being with someone who wants to change you. How far in left field is that? It's after "...Numbers" that the album seems to fade away however. What brings this album power is its mix of vivid, colorful tones mixed with a deeper, powerful rock. The later tracks lack the power and don’t offer much past an homage to a retro pop/rock sound. But the tracks that rock are strong and serve as a great snapshot of The Sounds.

People In Planes "As Far As The Eye Can See..." Review

Sometimes it's really hard for me to determine whether or not hype is a good thing. Sometimes it can lead to a situation where expectations are far too demanding of a band, movie, book, television show, or anything along those lines. I can look back, and honestly remember hearing about how great Coldplay were. Point taken, right? VH1's You Oughta Know: Artists on the Rise mentions People in Planes as "Jagged guitar drama and ominous sounds from Wales." Currently at the You Oughta Know #1 spot, the band, I believe, is officially being hyped. Before checking in as flavor of the week (and/or month) the band was previously known under various names in their native Wales, Tetra Splendour and Robots In The Sky. People In Planes eventually found success after 2005's SXSW festival as Wind-Up Records approached and later signed the band.

But on my first listen, I was rather hyped out, and was determined that I was not going to find any real "keepers." After all, what does VH1 know about music? My mental block eventually gave way to a growing taste for the band’s ever-expansive As Far As The Eye Can See... The album begins with the thunderous blues-rock anthem "Barracuda," which I can liken to "My Black Widow." Both seem outliers to me, tracks that sound different for one reason or another, but both having leading lyrics that match their unique, dense rock.

I've been overly critical in some situations in the past in terms of lighter or softer sounding rock. In general I have a hard time trying to go back and forth between stronger tracks, as just mentioned, and those such as "Rush." Though its interesting vocal utilization adds a genuine hipness to the track, it seems out of place. A good portion of the album follows suit. The album opens with the powerful "Barracuda," but varies between solid guitar exploitation and borderline tender songs. If asking whether or not the hype concerning the band's first single "If You Talk Too Much (My Head Will Explode)" was warranted, I would say no. But after looking a little deeper into the band's sound and lyrics a solid album materializes. Touché VH1, touché.

Matthew Perry: Murderer?

OK, here it is, my pal Jon and I are watchin' Black Sheep and we were discussing the semantics surrounding Chris Farley's Death. We came to the conclusion that Matthew Perry is inadvertently responsible for the death of one Mr. Christopher Crosby Farley. Here's how it works: Chris Farley’s all out, 100%, best movies (Black Sheep & Tommy Boy) were completed with one David Spade. Spade, as we all know is not funny. Nor is he hilarious, humorous, side-slappingly funny, side splittingly-funny, mildly amusing, entertaining, worthy of a good ol' knee slap, and most certainly he is most certainly far from whimsical. But he made the ultimate yang to Farley’s ying, and he did so drug-free. No biggie...or is it?

Enter scene: Matthew Perry. Chris Farley, a notoriously straightlaced, drug free saint, insisted on completing his work towards the historical glorification of the accurate portrayal of Lewis & Clark’s main competition in the movie (film) Almost Heroes. But David Spade was no where to be found. Why David…why? Matthew Perry, corrupter of wholesome family values, came on the scene, raising hell, and literally, taking names. For the record, Chris Farley was indeed one of said names.

The ever-drunk, ever-stoned Perry, who rarely remembered a scripted line and often referred to director Christopher Guest as "Satchmo," began wreaking havoc on the set. Chris Farley, ever the word of reason and often quoted as "I've had my limit for the evening thank you," was one of his victims. Instantly causing a drug-fueled riot on the set, Perry viciously insisted on "pushing" his wares on other actors, including SCTV's Eugene Levy, The Big Hit's Bokeen Woodbine and, yes, even Beverly Hills Ninja's Chris Farley. As such, mayhem ensued. But where was David Spade?

Indulging on a whimsical dose of donuts and (alcohol free) Yoo-Hoo, Spade was in Hackensack, New Jersey, entertaining "of age" "entertainers" during the duration of Almost Heroes. Disposing of his friendship with Farley, Spade took no notice of the man's downfall, and subsequent befriending of Matthew Perry. Damn him! (Note: furthermore, Spade's current Showbiz Show is not funny, nor will it be funny as long as David Spade continues his affiliation with said show) David Spade, you sir, sold out. Fact.

As all of this was undoubtedly occurring, Matthew Perry was forcing, "Just Say No" campaign spokesman, Chris Farley into a world of hurt. With drugs, alcohol, hookers and most importantly drugs involved, Farley fell deeper and deeper into a desperate world of insane paranoia. Violence followed. Weight gain followed. And most saddening, comparisons to the late John Belushi followed. It was all downhill for the man.

Perry's habits rubbed off, with the exception of his indisputable reign as the king of pirated, family-themed DVDs. No one really understands that, but some people are strange, Perry is one of them. As all this happened Almost Heroes went from a historically correct reinterpretation of a duo's journey across the U.S. into a warped, inaccurate mockery of one of the most important points in American history. A shame; a damn shame. I believe that the rest, as the saying goes, is history. And I lay the blame on one Matthew Perry. Subsequently, by association, David Spade is to blame. But for the sake of this post’s popularity, it’s all on you Perry. It’s all on you.

Islands "Return To The Sea" Review

Islands is the ultimate summation of talents from a group of musicians from Montreal, with members from acclaimed, defunct band The Unicorns. Forming in 2005, the band saw a rotational membership in which musicians came and left, but ultimately became a solid six piece. The band later opened for Beck at the Pop Montreal Music Festival which turned into an all out tour, and the rest is, how they say, history.

Return to the Sea is completely full of playful, delicate space folk. But don't mistake them as a Canadian version of Animal Collective, or anything along those lines, because in the grand scheme of things, the two aren't all that alike. I mean, really...instead of all that blurry musical magic, there's hand clapping and whistling.

What I find so genuinely enjoyable is how the band melds an absolutely innocent musical background with puzzling lyrics (Rough Gem) in one track and moves forward with a strange, synth-strong walk on the moon (Tsuxiit) in the next. I suppose that's the beauty of the band though; such broad concepts which have no real reason for working together, but they do. "Where There's a Will There's a Whalebone" takes a electronic-heavy rock song and blends it into an all out hip hop experience. "Jogging Gorgeous Summer" jumps into a tropicalia fueled beach fiesta, further fueling my wonder of how this album sincerely flows without reason. Damn, starting to sound like Animal Collective, huh?

Strangely enough, the album's softer, slower songs are what brings it together. Instead of going further into a strange realm of musical diversity simply to add more flair to the album, tracks like "If" and "One" balance out the bizarre. Oh, and I don't know if I covered this or not, but Islands are really nothing like Animal Collective.

Nardwuar The Human Serviette "Doot Doola Doot Doot...Doot Doo!" DVD Review

I first became in the know on who Nardwuar was like many Canadians, through his segments on Much Music. It was his absolutely distinct interviews with the celebrities, rock stars and even the average schmuck (but for the most part, celebrities and rock stars) with which Nardwuar carved a name for himself within the scene. He's hosted the likes of Gwar, Snoop Dogg and Jello Biafra. He conducted Nirvana's last Canadian interview. He is the man, the myth, the...no, he's just Nardwuar!

This two disc set collects over five hours of Nard's greatest interviews, moments and mix-ups. The two made-for-TV Nardwars episodes, hosted by Sloan's Chris Murphy, takes care of the "greatest hits" side of things. But that leaves a mere few hours to examine and relive Nardwuar's ongoing gift giving fiasco with Snoop Dogg, his record collecting one-upmanship with Jello Biafra, his overcoming a brain hemorrhage, and his insanity with Henry Rollins.

Also featured in the set are various pieces of live footage and music videos from Nardwuar's bands, The Evaporators and Thee Goblins (Thee Dublins, Thee Skablins, Thee Dis-Goblins, and so on and so forth). The Evaporators, a favorite of mine, play a wild, upbeat show that greatly mimics Nard's insane intensity...oh and the band features members of The New Pornographers and The Smugglers, not bad, huh?

Doot Doola Doot Doot... Doot Doo! is a definitive piece of work summing up the tremendous amount of effort the man has put forth in his efforts with Much Music, CiRT FM and various magazines. If only it were a 4 or 5 disc set we would get to relive some of my favorite interviews with the likes of Andrew WK, Ian MacKaye and The White Stripes in their entirety. But I'm definitely not complaining!

Gus Black "Autumn Days" Review

Gus Black, formerly the "Don't Fear The Reaper" guy from Scream, as well as "that guy with that song" from shows like Alias, Smallville and One Tree Hill, performs a variety of smooth and upbeat pop-rock songs on his latest album Autumn Days. It's hard for me to put together any more info on his influence on these shows as I haven't really seen them. But, with such an association with such pop culture establishments, a few questions became apparent. Do Black's songs make certain scenes more powerful? And on the flip side of that, do these mediums ultimately affect Black's music. The answer to both seems to lead to yes.

Two of the tracks that I'm particular to are "Long Beach (It's a Miracle)" and "Certain Kind of Light." Both are distinct, yet oddly similar given my previous statements and the context of the remainder of Autumn Days. I mean that in the sense that I can see these songs being played at absolute crucial plot moments in something like The O.C. OK, bad example, haven't seen The O.C., but from what I hear about the show, these songs seem like they could be played at absolute crucial plot moments in The O.C. I don't mean that in a bad way at all, as I find both songs very smooth yet inclusive of guitar which explains the songs meaning in entirely different ways from one another. But with few exceptions, these two tracks are different from the rest of the album, which is considerably slower and sung in whispered harmonies. Both are done well, but with the long track list of the album, the non-made for TV sounding songs tend to drain on and lose emphasis.

Stellastarr* "Sweet Troubled Soul - The Remixes" Review

I first got turned onto the band earlier this year and I got into them a bit, no matter how overdone the genre might be. This remix single, or EP, or whatever it is, offers a few remixes of the band's single "Sweet Troubled Soul." Surprisingly good remixes, actually. James Iha, of Smashing Pumpkins fame, puts out a very sharp, drum driven sound; probably the best of the bunch. Morel's Pink Noise mixes are a little more typical remixes, with the vocal mix adding a bit of ambient over the a new mix of the song while the dub mix resembles more of a club track. Not bad for a few quick tracks, as its easy to listen to three mixes of the same song and not get bored...which I think...is a good thing.

Wolfmother "Wolfmother" Review

Wolfmother, the three piece from Sydney, Australia, will either hit you as a complete knock-off of late psychedelic hard rock, or a band that takes the essence of that time period and continues it wholeheartedly. My preference lies in the latter as the band completely embodies the classic metal sound without neglecting to complete the package as they express an attitude as cross as a frog in a sac. Initially putting out a 4 track EP in order to help book gigs, the band soon found huge success and released a follow-up EP, Dimensions, which hit it big time in the band's native Australia. The band was able to then move up in the wide world of music as they performed at such renowned festivals as Big Day Out and recently SXSW. Already a huge success internationally, the Wolfmother LP boasted 6 tracks on 2005's Triple J Hottest 100 list in Sydney. No big deal, but they're the only band every to do so since the list started in the '80s.

And in my opinion, the album completely lives up to its international hype. "White Unicorn" throbs and pops like Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. "Pyramid" is an instant follow up with the other side of things, a progressive wave of guitar, along the lines of Zeppelin III. Despite my comparisons, please don't pigeonhole the band as that of being complete rip-offs of a sound unique to those who first made it popular. Let me put it like this, the album starts out with the tracks that force you to see who the band's influences are, but by the fourth or fifth track, you begin to only hear Wolfmother.

A friend of mine and I have a game we play at parties. We like to see how many freshmen (or first year students as we are supposed to call them now, in this P.C. America) have heard of the following bands: 1. Collective Soul and 2. Live. Why these bands? Despite what others may believe, these two bands helped shift modern rock in a new way in the mid-90s; though I think it goes without saying that their last few records have been sub-par (any Sabbath past Ozzy?). The vast majority of people we ask have no idea who these bands are however, but I assume they're all too familiar with your Fallout Boys and your Nickelbacks. Not to compare Collective Soul and Live with Sabbath and Zeppelin by any means, but for the sake of argument, just go with it... To those who are familiar with the Zeppelins, the Sabbaths and The Whos, Wolfmother will be a band reminiscent of a sound that you are oh so familiar with. And if for those who represent the other side of things, Wolfmother will be a completely new, amazing experience. Either way, you will be rocked!

The Tiny "Starring; Someone Like You" Review

The Tiny are a collective that came about through a decisive decision to abandon a life of safety and discover the full capabilities of band members' creativity. And that is simply what makes The Tiny such a special group, its members' willingness to experiment. Throughout the course of "Starring; Someone Like You" there is a completely unorthodox mixture of instruments used which makes for a delightful listen. Ranging from the typical piano and violin, the band also ventures into the unconventional, using a musical saw, toy piano and wind chimes to create a wonderful musical experience.

One has to interpret the lyrical tone of the album as that of a capture and release story. There isa theme of ever-longing for something more, whether it be yourself, or those around you, but a constant message is that of being incomplete. "Kind of Like You" immediately starts this impressive venture into uneasy relationships. It brings about emotions of commonly throwing away love on whatever or whoever may be around you in the hope of finding something or someone worthy of such emotion.

"Know Your Demons" is one of my favorite song on the album, both musically and lyrically as it offers a differentiation of tone and beat, while continuing the album's theme. "Know tour demons, they know you, wherever you go, they go too," becomes a line that is essential when understanding the remainder of the album. The musical differentiation comes near the end of the track, where there is either a blossoming of noise or a deterioration of the song, depending how you approach it. A positive and more likely approach is taking it as a blossoming of innocence, as the song becomes a primary school sing along, with a visceral clashing of drums and variety of tones.

The remainder of the album touches on Scandinavian soul, up-tempo violin that seems to chase you and Ed Harcourt, as found with his contribution on "Sorry." While there are a great many different musical tangents, the album generally broods, but rather than burning out at the end, to use the quote, it merely fades away. In doing so however, the album creates an environment which musters nothing less than a curiosity for more from the listener. The Tiny are experimental, but not for the sake of merely doing so, and avoiding a mainstream sound or audience. Rather, the sound and message which emanate are a product of internal factors, a need to produce art, and in a sense, take the road less traveled. In this, the band does nothing but succeed.

The Meligrove Band "Planets Conspire" Review

So many great bands have come from Ontario and Quebec as of late that it's becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with things. Toronto's Meligrove Band is one of the recent buzzers that have really clicked with me. The band’s brand of smooth, piano driven rock might not exactly rock your face off, but it doesn't kick back and let smooth grooves encompass the sound either.

I hate making straight up comparisons, especially when I'm not really in the "know" on things like piano-rock, but I'm going to try. I’ve always imagined that Ben Folds' version of the "piano driven rock" that everyone is talking about (or maybe just me) is so draining and weak that it loses meaning. After all, does "Rockin' the Suburbs" really rock? Does it? The Meligrove Band put me in my place for even thinking about clumping the two together; "Everyone's a Winner" succeeds at what I'm talking about here. It doesn't drain on, and there is even a (gasp) bit of rockin' going on.

"Everyone's..." isn't the only track on Planets Conspire that succeeds along these lines as most of the record maintains a bouncy, energetic beat. To get into what else bothered me about the style I have to mention something along the lines of the sappy piano sound that often is the proverbial straw... Here, however, the band just isn't sappy. The piano is borderline funky at times. After some solid listening, you can see why such acts as Spoon, Ted Leo, and the Constantines all toured with the boys. Oh, and they’re big in Japan; but, no big deal, right?

Ashley MacIsaac "Pride" Review

My first encounter with Ashley MacIsaac was with the high tempo punk-fiddle "The Devil in the Closet" off of his 1995 crossover album, Hi, How Are You Today? I went to a classy, sit down concert of the Nova Scotian's at Calgary's Jubilee Auditorium...with my mom...and it was rad; from there on out I’ve been a fan. The Celtic fiddle, played with an edge, had me hooked, and MacIsaac sold over 500,000 albums in Canada. He went mainstream, by that, I mean you can find him in the database of songs "suitable for airplay" at my school, in Iowa, but eventually lost it. It all became too much, and his life went a little crazy. If my memory serves me correctly, he purchased Elvis' pink Cadillac, fell into legal problems with drugs and found far too much negative feedback for highly controversial statements made in live shows, ultimately leaving him a fallen idol. And all this while battling inner demons about his own sexuality.

Pride proves as a wake up, back to the scene, but far from where he began. Where his fame came from a mix of traditional Celtic tunes, pop, electronic and even a hint of punk, his latest offering does so similarly, with the exception of his Celtic-heavy songs. There is a constant shift between rock, which makes up the majority of the album, uptempo-country/folk from "Revolution," and further presence of bluesy and soft rhythms throughout.

The past seems to linger, as the majority of the songs seem to be aimed at bitter feelings toward those close to him, and other onlookers who watched him struggle to find himself. But I believe that this is the purpose of the album. While he has a tremendous gift with his trademark fiddle, by moving on and releasing an entire album going against that, and aimed at the people who were against him through the process seems to leave MacIsaac with a victorious sense of pride.

Clit 45 "2, 4, 6, 8...We're The Ones You Love To Hate" Review

Typically, gutter-punk is best done when you have a string of experiences that give you the edge that the music requires. It's hard a lot of times to define whether or not the music is genuine, example: Mr. Billy Joe Armstrong slummed it when growing up, and you don't really hear the same bitter, aggressive music from Green Day these days...do you? The boys from Clit 45, who I don't believe have anything to do with the Coalition for Liberation of Itinerate Tree-dwellers, have a history in the scene that began when they were all 15 and 16 years old. Releasing their first EP in 1998, they've stepped further into the street punk scene and have gained quite a bit of recognition in the process.

I have typically never been a fan of gutter-punk no matter the label, but the band offers a few songs that really kill. 2, 4, 6, 8's lead track, "Your Life to Choose," has the essential punk rock mentality, but adds a vocal variety not heard on the other tracks. Not that punk as of late is really known for its ingenuity, but the album falters for its lack of overall musical variety and song presence. Lyrically, street punk seems to be vulgar for the sake of being vulgar, and it waters down the unchanging theme that the band's music surrounds. I have similar thoughts about one time Clit 45 tour-mates The Casualties, however, which reflects my personal taste more than the music in general. There aren't a whole hell of a lot bands that make it out of the garage, let alone on international tours, so props to them, it's just not my piece of pie.

Girls In Hawaii "From Here To There" Review

Gentle, dreamy pop-rock is something I don't usually kick back and relax to. Belgium-based Girls From Hawaii are some such band, yet they aren't a typical abstract, hazy band as the band is both part Belle and Sebastian and part rockers. I say this because when I first heard the band, the song was "Flavor." I was completely blown away by the distortion that blurred the song, allowing it to bloom into what ultimately becomes an explosive track. I later found the band to follow a far calmer, laid back pace, which allowed it to sink in and make the power at certain points that much more visible.

When I was growing up, my mother left me with a thought that still settles in when listening to non-English speaking bands; I’d like to call it the ABBA effect. It always boggles my mind when a band can write songs that aren’t in their foreign language, yet, spill so beautifully from behind the speakers. This ranges from the utmost simple “I’m not worthy” pop song “Short Song for a Short Mind” to the delicate, abstract “Bees & Butterflies (Down).” When you have a band that can go from the soft, to the hard, and still manage to hit on early ‘90s alt-rock, I think you’ve got yourself a winner, and Girls In Hawaii seem to deliver all of the above.

Duane Andrews

Recent East Coast Music Award winner for "Instrumental Recording of the Year," St. John's, Newfoundland's Duane Andrews serves as not merely a guitar player, but a continuation of history. His use of traditional folk, jazz and classical styles effortlessly plot a scene, voice dialogue, and peak before concluding and exiting the song in an entirely elegant manner. Andrews is, in my opinion, the epitome of what instrumental music should be. Simply playing your instrument should not give excuse to lack the creative power to tell a story, no matter the interpretation. It is in doing such that I make my original statement of continuing the history; even if most all of which I know nothing of.

Ane Brun "A Temporary Dive" Review

Norwegian born Ane Brun comes from an amazing background of international indie success. Her 2003 release, Spending Time with Morgan, was nominated for the 2003 Swedish Independent Music Awards and its follow-up, A Temporary Drive, went gold after only three weeks. This album is a beautifully expressive warp of emotion, stressing not merely abstract love but the despair and all that follows. The album's fourth track, "My Lover Will Go," is such a track. Finding that life alone becomes far too sobering, this intoxicating song saunters through a sad tale of abandoned efforts.

Far too often are female artists coupled; grouped together for no more reason than that of their sexuality and often not their sound. Brun adds an interesting take on this statement as she notes many contemporaries as her influences, something many shy away from doing for fear of those comparisons. Names like Wainwright, DiFranco, Cat Power and Jose Gonzalez are a few that stick out to me. This is important as while Brun may or may not be associated with these artists for their similar sounds, she seems to be associated with them on a far different level than many would assume. She's not simply clumped in with female singer/songwriters, and she doesn't seem to put herself aside from them by listing the great influence that many in that community have on one another. This sponge mentality is evident all throughout A Temporary Drive.

I can only wonder how Ron Sexsmith helped shape her with his support on "Song No. 6." The album is a smooth wave, where you can hear the bouncy DiFranco from time to time, Chan Marshall's picking style, and Gonzales' soft, gentle, romantic sound. The grace that is in the music is genuinely Brun's despite the similarities. The songs and the stories are her own, and their beauty is a surprising simplistic one that I hadn't expected. And most importantly, the desperate loss that is clearly evident in her words seem to find a healing power, helping show the allure of her pain, and the champion of her triumph.

Die! Die! Die!

Auckland, New Zealand's Die! Die! Die! have a dramatic power that has been noticed by some essential bands in todays musical environment. The trio has proven that their powerful, spastic rock translates into a live setting through tours with Franz Ferdinand, Wire and current tour-mates Wolfmother. Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies) recorded the bands last album and it has experienced tremendous underground success, garnering shows at Australia's Big Day Out festival and Austin, Texas' SXSW.

The Birthday Massacre: Violet Review

Ah yes, the spooky kids. It's really hard to stay away from poking fun at a band which appear entirely in Hot Topic clad, and call themselves Chibi, M. Falcore, Rainbow, Aslan, Rhim and o-en. OK, and they have song titles like "Horror Show," "Play Dead," and "Happy Birthday." Please bear with me. The band is actually pretty good. Hailing originally from London, Ontario, TBM began in 2000 calling themselves Imagica; once again, please bear with me.

I'd like to refer to a band that I really enjoyed at their peak in popularity, Orgy. Like them, The Birthday Massacre play to a very distinct audience; one that is generally criticized and looked down on. The band plays the same electro-power chord driven hard rock that was under-appreciated when clumped in with the nĂ¼-metal of the late '90s. I say under-appreciated, because it's actually good. While I could go on about how corny the shell of the music is, it's the underlying sound that really shows the band's substance.

The first song I ever heard of the band was their track "Video Kid." It was floating around the SXSW page, where they appeared recently, and it struck me as really sharp; definitely not what I had been hearing in indie rock as of late. After getting further into the band, Violet really shapes up as something that I think some indie rockers border on and attempt to succeed at. "Happy Birthday" is a fairly powerful track, despite the tackiness found in its lyrically "dark" facade. It harkens back to the best music Orgy ever put out (sorry I keep referring to them, but they're really about as far deep into the genre as I went). It's harder and harder to find a musical niche, and genre-come-lately has been electro/synth rock. The Birthday Massacre play a harder version of what a lot of other modern bands are playing, and do it a lot better than many out there. It just so happens that the band's music is associated with a fairly unsettling period for hard rock. Them's the breaks, I suppose.

Ultimate Power Duo

One would think that "the masters and purveyors of demolition rock" would hail from a multi-decade history of kickin' ass and takin' names. Well, they don't. Saskatoon's Ultimate Power Duo started two years ago, and have seen both coasts of Canada and all places in between. Their sound calls back to original American punk, y'know The Ramones & Johnny Thunders among others. The bands were never amazing musicians, but they left everything they had on the stage. Demolition rock?...starting to make sense now.

Bullets and Octane

Hailing from California is one of my latest guilty pleasures, Bullets and Octane. I found these guys on Shoutweb, a site I visited in high school to stay hip with the smooth sounds of nĂ¼-metal. Why should you care? Drummer Ty Smith played with Guttermouth, one of my favorite punk bands of the last few years and Helmet's Page Hamilton produced their album In the Mouth of the Young. On top of that, Mike Ness was so impressed with the band's live act that he extended their two weeks of opening for Social Distortion into six. Flogging Molly and The Eagles of Death Metal have also offered the opening spot, not bad...not bad.