Tag Archive | "Reviews"

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Album Review: Ferraby Lionheart – Jack of Hearts

Posted on 27 September 2010 by Mylynda Guthrie

If a film were made of Ferraby Lionheart’s life, I feel as if he’d be played by Gene Kelly. Of course, this would involve Lionheart having been born generations ago, which he wasn’t, but Lionheart has a certain type of old Hollywood charm about him that makes you feel like, were you to encounter the troubadour, he’d probably hold the door open for you and offer you a jacket if you looked cold.

Jack of Hearts, Lionheart’s second full length album, cements his position as a thinking girl’s heartthrob, as it’s rife with lyrics that are heavy on romantic ideals and songs that would perfectly orchestrate a slow dance under the stars.

Vocally, Lionheart bears a strong similarity to producer-composer extraordinaire Jon Brion (who just so happened to help give Lionheart is big break a few years back) but musically, he couldn’t be further from Brion’s multi-layered, modern oddities. Jack of Hearts, despite it’s impeccable production, is a very organic album with a timeless quality. Lionheart shows his roots with pride, bringing forth an album of folk tinged alt-country that hits it’s stride early on and continues to be memorable through out. With Jack of Hearts, Lionheart has produced his most polished and cohesive album to date.

The album is perfectly bookended with “Holding Me Back” and “Minuteman,” both of which perfectly encapsulate what Lionheart is all about. However, it’s third track “Harry and the Bees” that really forces you to pay attention. With it’s twangy guitar and Lionheart’s signature romantic croon, “Harry and the Bees” is the type of song to have your last first kiss to. What can I say? Lionheart makes music for lovers and for people who want to fall in love. Never is that so evident as it is with Jack of Heart’s second to last song, “Drag Me ‘Round”. The song describes imperfect love to a tee with lyrics like “You kick me when I’m down; Who knew that you packed such a punch?” When Lionheart sings “I never want to get over it”, you never want him to get over it either because, quite simply, it sounds too beautiful to let go.

Drag Me ‘Round – Ferraby Lionheart

Of course, as with the rest of the album, Lionheart’s smooth and seductive voice is the true stand out here. Lionheart doesn’t sing. He croons. When was the last time you heard a good crooner? Lionheart’s ability to sing a well-crafted, melodically solid song with perfect pitch is the shining attribute of Jack of Hearts and after the closing notes of album ender “Minuteman,” you can’t help but feel Lionheart is at the only just start of a long and glorious career.

-Amber Valentine

Ed note: check out other worthy writings by the kick-ars Amber Valentine on our fellow site in musical appreciation and spread-ation (it’s a word only here, only now) Radio Free Chicago, where Amber serves and directs as Editor in Chief.

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Album Review: RX Bandits – Mandala

Posted on 08 September 2010 by Mylynda Guthrie

The RX Bandits’ first album said it all: Progress.

For those of you that are already fans of the RX Bandits, you know that with each album their sound progresses and changes. Listeners should not expect the same thing from two different albums, and Mandala is no exception. For those of you that are just getting to know the band, now is as good a time as any.

Mandala has an underlying tragic yet inspiring theme that is present in both their meaningful rhythmic sections and their hard hitting experimental accents,  which together dance the line of becoming noise. From the open and explosive first track “My Lonesome Only Friend,” the mood is set for the album.  Mandala starts out in a heavy and intricate way. The tracks scream of intense creativity from not only front man Matt Embree, but from the entire band.

The album slows down partway through, and though these few songs lack some of the impacting progressive rock elements that originally caught my ear, they step up in a meaningful, deep-rooted way that fits right in with the band.

With the loss of horns in this album, the group’s reggae roots have been turned down but not entirely lost. Tracks such as “March of the Caterpillar” and “Bury it Down Low” show that the RX Bandits haven’t forgotten where they came from. “Breakfast Cat” pushes the experimental envelope that has been ever present with the band, and reminds me to spend some time this weekend listening to the RX Bandits’ side project The Sound of Animals Fighting. The album’s journey is summed up in the thought provoking and emotional ender, “Bring Our Children Home, or Everything is Nothing.”

Mandala is a well thought out and deliberate journey that shows both the band members love of the music and love of their message. They invest themselves in the music and it shows.  Their best work to date, Mandala is a perfect example of what the RX Bandits stand for: Progression.

-Mike Call

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Band of the Day: Agent Ribbons is…

Posted on 24 August 2010 by Mylynda Guthrie

Agent Ribbons is way too cool.

Guys, they are like the cool musician girlfriends you wish you had. Gals, they are the chicks that inspire you to pick up some bright hair dye and an instrument just hoping you will achieve an ounce of their utter, effortless, awesomeness. Yes, they’re so cool, they make awesomeness a word actually worthy of being used in print.

They’re press release was written by a media genius, because once you read such gems as “a tree house club of post-feminism dreamers trying to find their place in the scheme of things, like a hand-sewn and lovingly-crafted garment in a modern disposable world” and “banned in the UK in 2008,” you feel extremely compelled to give their music a spin and see what this Austin-by-way-of-Sacramento trio is all about. Or, at least I did.

If you, like me, feel there is not nearly enough appreciation and performance of cabaret and burlesque in the world today, you may find that Agent Ribbons is a comforting yet sexy breath of hope. After listening to the first few tracks off of the trio’s upcoming sophomore release Chateau Crone, it struck me that I had actually heard the group perform  in San Diego as a two-piece a couple of years ago. Vocalist Natalie Gordon belts out the band’s baroque pop in a style that is somehow both melancholy and exuberant, and hard to forget. Her delivery on Chateau Crone is the special little prize of the album, giving the sometimes threadbare garage band jams a decidedly more whimsical inflection.

Percussionist Lauren and Naomi, who does “violin and various odds and ends” provide a landscape that is vintage but not overly so, and I do declare – I think I hear a bit of punk influence mish mashed in there.

01 I’m Alright

Chateau Crone isn’t seeing the streets until October, but Natalie, Naomi, and Lauren Ribbons (they’ve adapted the unified Ribbons surname for the stage) are embarking on tour Aug. 16. To tide yourself over, check out them out on the web and if you like what you hear, preorder their album now on CD or LP (I vote vinyl). Both come with a full color handbook and a temporary tattoo!

Dang, those girls are so cool.

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“Would You Be Impressed?” By Streetlight Manifesto – Review

Posted on 30 June 2010 by Mike

A group of musically talented cartoon animals perch on the top of building in ruin, where they commence to rock.

I found this scene in a music video after revisiting one of my favorite bands, STREETLIGHT MANIFESTO. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit it, but i had lost connection with this high energy ska roots band and hadn’t checked in on them for quite some time.

I was pleasantly surprised to find an imaginative music video for the song WOULD YOU BE IMPRESSED. And yes, i would be impressed.

The video is as fast paced, energetic, and as meaningful as the song it represents. The animation is smooth, eye catching, and full of nice effects ( character movements, camera work, and BLOOD! ). I may be biased, but any music video that is animated has a special place in my heart.

In this tale of actions vs consequence, the band members are transformed into animals, with band leader Tomas Kalnoky as an appropriate lion. People beat on the animals, the animals fight back.

The message is clear: We keep destroying the world around us and we refuse to take responsibility, but if we don’t it’s going to come back to bite us.

Agree or disagree with the message, no one can deny that a violent cartoon music video about revenge is top notch.


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Janus – Red Right Return

Posted on 08 October 2009 by Gentry

RED RIGHT RETURN is a collection of ten seamlessly flowing tracks that showcase the band’s ability to bring the Rock world an intelligent fresh sound. JANUS’ debut harkens back to the days when albums were written as a total piece of work, as opposed to a group of single songs.  The Chicago natives recorded, produced, created all the themes, digital presence, and artwork on their own.  Lyrically, the songs have very strong universal underpinnings to real life experiences.  While they tell a particular story, the end result is left open to interpretation and the listener is free to draw their own conclusions.

JANUS uses a broad range of dynamics and instruments not often used in the Rock world (violins, cellos, timpani drums, a full choir, air raid sirens and a glockenspiel) to produce a sound of melodic, ethereal backdrops grounded in aggressive, heavy, rhythms.

In an early review of RED RIGHT RETURN, Absolutepunk.net raved:  “There are a few bands, given the opportunity, could take the radio by storm.  JANUS is a perfect example of this type of band.  If they were given the chance, and played on some larger radio stations alongside all of our alternative ‘favorites’ (sound-alikes), they could earn themselves hordes of fans.”  While Away-team.com hailed in a 9 out of 10 album review:  “Brilliant on many levels and impeccably engineered and produced to perfection.”

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The Greening New EP

Posted on 08 October 2009 by Gentry

THE GREENING, an experimental psychedelic power-pop band from Northern California, will release their latest EP, (SHE’S SO) ELECTRIC, on September 29 (ZaiRecords).  Marking the follow-up to their 2003 debut EP, AFTER SHOAL PARLOR, features four blisteringly catchy tunes and an encoded animated video for the single, “Sunday Afternoon,” directed by renowned local artist/animator Danny Ochoa.  It was recorded at a private studio in Marin, and was produced and mixed by guitarist/vocalist Will Loving.

The Greening’s mission statement is to push pop music to new frontiers through their blend of accessible experimentation.  Combining memorable hooks, strong melodies and cascading vocal harmonies, the band craft instantly memorable songs.  However, the radio friendly nature of the songwriting disguises its underlying complexity.  Surprise bridges and unexpected arrangements/time signatures unite to enhance the compositions in an integrated fashion.

The ideology behind their sound evolves from an appreciation of the psychedelic movement, forgotten ‘70s art rock, classic ‘60s pop, and the ultimate desire to combine elements of all of these with a psychotic injection of punk energy.
On (SHE’S SO) ELECTRIC, The Greening–—singer/guitarist Will Loving, keyboardist/vocalist Karl Meischen, drummer Nick Tatro–accomplish their mission again, delivering songs whose pop sensibilities are matched by their underlying attention to detail.  With stronger vocals and a more solid sound, songs like “(She’s So) Electric” and “Sunday Afternoon” detail the bands’ continual evolution.  While swathes of delayed resonance float between snare cracks and vocal lines, the compositions never fall apart, rather, coalescing into original numbers as unique as their San Francisco home base.  With their eccentric synergy coming to the forefront once again, listeners are left with a feeling reciprocal to the band’s – a feeling of curiosity.

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Muse: The Resistance

Posted on 22 September 2009 by Christine


Not all change is progressive.  This I learned while listening to the new Muse album.  Resistance starts out alright with an interesting goth pop vibe in Uprising and Resistance.  The lyrics are fairly typical for Muse, all looming paranoia about some lovely omnipotent “they.”  The chorus in Resistance is a little strangely done and the sound isn’t much like Muse, but nothing terribly objectionable.  Basically some muscicians trying out new things.

And then Undisclosed Desires happens.  I had to double check my computer to make sure Justin Timberlake hadn’t invaded with an army of bad 80’s pop.  And the lyrics!?

“I want to reconcile the violence in your heart

I want to recognise your beauty’s not just a mask

I want to exorcise the demons from your past

I want to satisfy the undisclosed desires in your heart

Please me

Show me how it’s done

Trust me

You are the one”

Desires is followed by an over-the-top United States of Eurasia–heavy on piano and Freddie Mercury-esque vocals.  Love the nod to Chopin at the end, but it seems lack-luster despite all that jazz.

And then Guiding Light happens.  This track is ripped straight out of one of those terrible teen inspirational 80’s movies.  Not going to lie, I appreciate a little synth there and here, but this is overboard.   It’s soaked in synth, and suffers from vapid lyrics and overpowering drums.

But it got better. Unnatural Selection comes off rock’n’roll well with layered guitar riffs and a serious beat.  Though, at one point, it sounds strangely like that ABBA song.  Compare:

“Counter balance this commotion

We’re not droplets in the ocean.”  (MUSE)

“Don’t go wasting your emotion,

don’t go sharing your devotion.” (ABBA)

Anyway.  There’s neat Hendrix-esque breakdown in the middle.  And then it slows down a bit and gets lighter which works really wells, building towards a somewhat satisfying conclusion.

And then MK Ultra happens.  It’s not stupendously awkward like Desires, but it’s heavy on the synth and really just heavy in the way that makes you want to drop it.  So I will.

Then I Belong To You happens.  And, well, that’s kind of a good thing.  It’s fun and somewhat self-referential (“You are my mu-se”).  There’s an enjoyable bounce in that piano and the vocals are tops.  Then Matthew Bellamy turns into a french lounge singer complete with clarinet solo.   And you know what? It was good.  A little odd.  Not really like anything we’ve heard from Muse in the past.  But live a little.

Which brings us to the last act, the long-awaited epic of Exogenesis: Symphony.  The Symphony, divided into three distinct sections, supposedly tells the story of humans escaping to space from a decimated Earth, but I could only tell after reading the lyrics.

The Overture slips us into a menacing world of tension.  It’s almost completely classical symphony stuff with a just a hint of rock and a bit Bellamy’s vocals.  The second act, Cross-Pollination, opens with an entrancing piano number, some synth in the background, and explodes slowly into all-out rock orchestra. Redemption, the conclusion of the album, is quiet.  It starts out slow and mellow, developing into its zenith of complexity and emotion three-fourths of the way in, and then leaves us with a cyclical reflection of the beginning.

On the whole, well actually, I can’t really write about this album as a whole.  While there are some common themes and sounds throughout, it never really ever comes together. Uprising, Unnatural Selection, and I Belong To You work and Exogenisis was a pleasure.  Some experimentations are more successful than others; that is what this album was about–experimentation.  And like with most experiments, we got mixed results.

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Animal Collective

Posted on 26 August 2009 by Christine

Atmospheric.  Electronic. Powerful.  Fun.  And who doesn’t enjoy a little powerfully atmospheric, electronic fun? Animal Collective‘s latest album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, certainly provides.

Animal Collective

My roomies and I listened to the stand-out, smooth track My Girls on repeat.  There’s always been some oddly fulfilling sound present in the Collective‘s…sound.  With tracks like Brother Sport, Bluish, In The Flowers, Summertime Clothes, and of course, the psychedelic My Girls, Merriweather Post Pavilion may be a skosh more mature and cohesive than previous albums but still satisfies.

But what do I know, I just listen.

Website:  http://www.myanimalhome.net/

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Sigur Ros live in SLC with the Parachutes

Posted on 26 August 2009 by Gentry

sigur ros guitar singing

Honestly, I would have paid just as much to go see the Parachutes play on their own after seeing them open for Sigur Ros.  They were amazing in their own rite.  However, Sigur Ros was more than amazing.  They were moving.  It was like being in slow motion watching events move around you and then all of sudden feeling like you were apart of it.  Something beautiful.

As they play you keep thinking that they have hit a peak but they all of a sudden they take off again.  The sound gets more full.  You start to wonder if their is even enough room for their music and all of these people in the same building.  At one point they dropped confetti down like snow.  Pieces fell onto the drummer as he played.  It bounced off the cymbals as he hit them.  I took some home with me to remind me of the show.  Sigur Ros has for years been on my “bands I need to see list.”  Now that I have seen them I can say with out a doubt I waited way to long.  I can’t help but wonder if my life would be different had I not waited so long.  Until next time Sigur Ros, Thank you.



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Live Review: San Diego’s FM 94.9 Independence Jam

Posted on 26 August 2009 by Mylynda Guthrie


San Diego’s FM 94.9 presented the Miller Lite Independence Jam 2008 on Sunday, June 8 at Southwestern College.  I went, I saw, I danced, and I got rocked. Oh, and sun burnt.

Everyone in San Diego had been aflutter about this annually held event for weeks before the festival, and why wouldn’t they with a lineup like this? Acts included Santogold, the Ting Tings, the Whigs, MGMT, Cold War Kids, the Hold Steady, and Flogging Molly.  Local music friendly station FM 94.9 also presented a stage for buzz worthy San Diego acts.  

Santogold has recently exploded onto the popular rock scene with a Tegan and Sara-esque hit “L.E.S. Artistes”, but this chick has far more flava than the twins.  She put on a great hip-hop set that got the entire football field bumping.  Her DJ was phenomenal, and her perfectly symmetrical dancers taught everyone a few new moves to try throughout the day.  

London based duo the Ting Tings came next.  If I had to use one word to describe this set, it would be fun.  So.  Much.  Fun.  That’s three words, but who’s counting?  This band deserves it.  Their pint sized front woman worked the mic and the stage like she was born to do so.  Her sweet appearance is only a cover for a gritty rocker spirit.  She was knocking over mic stands and throwing clothing and mallets around with reckless abandon.  This group is getting a lot of attention due to their danceable songs and catchy lyrics.  Anyone heard the song “Shut Up & Let Me Go” recently?  Thought so.

 The indie kids hit the beer garden and the rockers came forward for the Whigs’ powerful set.  Southern rockers through and through, this group completely blew me away with heavy, intricate guitar work and amazing percussion.  Ladies, their vocalist may not be the most photogenic of the group, but in concert he is downright dreamy.  

Of course the band on everyone’s playlist right now is MGMT, and they definitely lived up to their hype.  The band played all of their singles to an extremely enthusiastic crowd.  It seemed the football field swayed in unison to MGMT’s trance tunes, and then danced as one during their better known singles.  I can’t imagine anyone was let down by this set.

Unfortunately for myself, I was unable to stay for The Hold Steady, Cold War Kids, and Flogging Molly.   Internet browsing turned up the following general consensus: The Hold Steady were drunk off of their asses, Cold War Kids surprised many with progressive songs from their upcoming album, and Flogging Molly gave everyone the perfect soundtrack to get beat up to in the day’s only mosh pit.

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