Friday, January 30, 2009

The Equation - Oxcart

The Equation is Portland, Oregon's Oxcart's followup album to their 2005 release, Sasquatch. In The Equation, the four-piece rock band unleashes conversation, thoughts, quandaries, and debates about a man both historical and mystical. This album is pure concept and experiment.

Genuinely unique, tracks Wishes and Office morph from psychedelic-jam to jazzy lounge sexiness, showcasing the bands ability to stir things up and do something angular. Some of their angularity works, and some falls flat (like Gambler Pt. 1), while others soar (like Gambler Pt. 2). Its like a rock opera; you cannot listen to this track for singles - its a piece of art, that lasts 13 tracks. And if you just skip around, its like you took a cliff notes tour of the Smithsonian.

The Equation might not be for you. Its a concept that takes an artist to appreciate it. But I enjoyed the ride. I look forward to another chapter from Oxcart!

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Rye

The Rye is a raw and energetic 5 piece, hailing all the way to the U.S. from Ireland. Their sound is no doubt Irish, full of danceable percussion, Celtic ferocity, and enough auxiliary instrumentation to put a smile on anyone's face.

Their self-titled 6 track e.p. is raw enough and "live" enough, that you'll feel like you're sitting in the same room with these guys. Its a true delight.

The strongest track is Fishin', a funky, bluesy, Irish song working from a simple riff that spouts stellar musicianship. The band clearly works together to create this song.

So if you're into Irish music or just want something a little different, check out The Rye (

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Exhale Your Blues - Hannah Spiro

Hannah Spiro, despite being only 18, writes beyond her years. Her album, Exhale Your Blues is an easy listening singer/songwriter album recorded sparsely with acoustic guitars, simple percussion, and layered vocals.

Her title track captures the versatility of her voice the best - a broader range from soulish low notes to a higher falsetto, beautiful harmonies, and even a fun spoken section. Its a signature sound that can be heard throughout her record.

Perhaps her spoken-heavy songs tell poignant and fun stories, but unfortunately don't translate through the production as strongly as her more melodic and sung pieces. Her voice is clear and confident and is her strong suit, really exposing itself on tracks like My Maple. I expect we'll be hearing a lot more from Hannah over the next few years.

If you find yourself in the D.C. area, be sure and check out an intimate show with Spiro!

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Amateur Hour - McTwist

The Maryland quartet McTwist is the culmination of power pop, punk, humor, and good energy, pulsating and rocking you into a good mood. Amateur Hour is a polished 12 track album, that is part quirky, part drive, but all good times.

Songs like Don't Say You're Fine and PFD work from simple riffs and hard hitting rhythms. More poppy tracks include Prizefighter, which more accurately captures a cohesive and working sound from the band. Its reminiscent of early Greenday and All Star United. The melody is extremely catchy and singable - their best work on the album.

Other than the album closer, Sugarcoat, there's not a lot of variation. The guitar tones, rhythms, and vocals are fairly singular.

All in all, its a well crafted album that's fun and will cause your head to bob.

Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wallflower - Paulina Logan

Paulina Logan does a fantastic balancing act between world music and adult contemporary genres, on her album Wallflower. The production of Wallflower is overwhelmingly stellar. It's one of those albums with a ton of sounds going on, but nothing muddying up the mix.

Logan's writing is fun and energetic. You cant help but have a good attitude when you're listening to her art.

True standout highlights are Too Far Gone, Stay, and Fly Away. Each of these I believe showcase her vocal talent in their best light.

The instrumentation throughout utilizes some non-traditional sounds, but crafts them all easily for a completely enjoyable album. The next time you're in California, look Paulina Logan up and catch a live show!

RATING: 4 of 5 stars

Thought You Should Know - FARKUS

Chicago band, FARKUS, delivers a succinct album in their 6 track e.p., Thought You Should Know. Performing as a well-oiled machine, FARKUS drives song after song in their singable alternative/rock sound.

From the school of Seattle, Chance has enough tonal grunge to put a smile on your face. Bitter Cinderella slows down and soothes. But its not too long before they launch you back into the drive of chorus on Supposed to Be.

The overall production value was very professional. Each instrument sounding and complimenting the overall band sound. Perhaps more vocal work could be done on follow-up albums. But all in all, this e.p. does the job!

RATING: 3 of 5 stars

Monday, January 26, 2009

Introspection - The Maension

Introspection, the 5 track e.p. by Hollywood rocker's, The Maension is a great rock album! Lizard Eyes, the e.p. opener is very well produced, recorded, and written. In the vein of Tool, Lizard Eyes utilizes time and space in a creative and driving way.

Camilia (Opera Song) swirls with a delay-laden opening riff that sets the ominous mood of this 6+ minute song. Again, with great execution, The Maension is able to use non-traditional hits and percussive rhythms to set them apart from the bland mainstream of Hollywood rock.

Perhaps their most critical song, is Hedonistic Goat; a riff-laden song with punching bass lines and enough grit to blind you. By no means is it watered down and poppy, but it remains singable and will stick with you for hours. This song has real punch to it.

If you find yourself on the West Coast, be sure to check their tour calendar and take in the live show. If it stands up to their e.p., The Maension is sure to be an up and coming force to be reckoned with.

Rating: 4.5 of 5

Angela Predhomme

Carefree, folksy, soul and thought provoking are just a few words to describe Angela Predhomme and her music. A student of Motown, a writer of Americana, and a singer that's as transparent as her lyrics, Predhomme drifts with ease and delights the musicians soul.

Songs like, Passing the Days, showcase her Motown bent and her Michigan upbringing with poppy choruses and more upbeat melodies. But in her more reserved pieces is where she truly embraces what I believe to be "her sound."

When I'm Gone, a stripped-down delight with lilting vocals and sparse instrumentation, is performed in the vein of a Norah Jones, Joni Mitchell, Sara Bareilles hybrid.

Her best song though, is Release. It's a softly spoken tune with easy going piano work and a simple string arrangement. Predhomme's found her niche in this one - slightly soulful, mostly folksy singer/songwriter.

All in all, her album is a success! Be sure to check out Angela Predhomme and get a copy of her self-titled album.

RATING: 4 of 5 stars

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

From The Let Go (Bob Pepek)

Connecticut isn't known for its riveting music scene, but Bob Pepek emerges as a pop-rock artist. Pepek writes catchy melodies over simple, pop-acoustic instrumentation and rhythms.

His e.p., From The Let Go, begins with a singable song, A Little More. Performed in the vein of The Bare Naked Ladies, Pepek strums and leads a somewhat quirky and fun tune - perfect for a long summer day.

This Promise to You opens with an acoustic conversation anyone will admit to having at least once in their life. Its these stories and conversations of everyday life that Pepek captures and puts to song.

But perhaps Pepek's best effort is when he strips things down to his guitar and a smattering of strings for the album closer, Just One More Word. Its darker and more subtle, and suits his voice and talent most accurately.

RATING: 3.5 of 5 stars

Monday, January 5, 2009

Love Peace (Mary & Martin)

Mary & Martin, a duo from the UK writes unabashedly of two things: love and peace. Its a fitting title - Love Peace. The sounds the two produce sound like what they're going after too, warm songs, peaceful tunes, positive sounds.

Light of Love, will put a smile on your face and make you sway back and forth in the reggae infused tune. Remember, is a lighter waltz that will bring you and your loved ones close for an intimate dance, and Love Me, works its magic in the reverbial vocals, and elegant harmonies.

The duo's quest for all things Love and Peace should come as no surprise at learning of their past. Have fun and visit their website for more info:

RATING: 3 of 5 stars

When I Cross the River (Tom Bolton)

Melbourne's, Tom Bolton whisks you away in a transparent record, When I Cross the River. Like something you'd get if you crossed Nick Drake with Pink Floyd, the album stretches across many sounds and sub-genres.

Bolton's folkish tracks seem more forced, but when he eases into the space of his more atmospheric tracks, he really rises to the occasion.

Standout tracks include, Silver; a Pink Floyd meets Radiohead song with dissonance galore and haunting vocals, Longer Than My Life; another Radiohead-esque song that delivers dark scenes through well executed recording and producion, and lastly, Little Star; one of the simpliest songs I've heard in a while, but that captures more heart and rawness than you can give one sentence credit.

RATING: 3 of 5 stars