Tag Archives: Album Review

Band combines catchy beats and bluegrass sound

The unique sounds of bluegrass and country-rock collide to bring you Boston native band Comanchero.

This five-member band works together to bring catchy yet rhythmic music to Linfield’s radio station, KSLC.

Comanchero is defined as western Hispanic traders who were known for being the best customers of trading in that region, which inspired the western sounds found in the band’s music.

The band has performed together all across the United States for more than seven years. They have opened and worked with bands like Passion Pit and The Mother Truckers.

They have continued to travel after playing in more than 100 shows from coast to coast.

One of the tracks, titled “Jimmy Carter,” brings bongos and eclectic guitar sounds together to create a lively, foot-stomping beat. Clever lyrics are guaranteed when you listen to any of Comanchero’s songs.

Many different bands and artists, such as Wilco, Mumford and Sons and Led Zeppelin, influence Comanchero’s unique sounds. It is easy to pick up on these important contributors when you listen to this bluegrass and funk music.

Comanchero is continuing to grow in number of followers on the East coast after releasing its third album, “The Undeserved,” which can be found on its website.

Listen for Comanchero, a fun bluegrass band that will make you want to dance, on KSLC.

To hear more songs and to check them out for yourself, you can go to KSLC and listen.

We are now streaming online so go to our website and listen to the Best in the Northwest Student Station, KSLC 90.3 FM, www.linfield.edu/kslcfm.

Haydn Nason/
For the Review
Haydn Nason can be reached at kslcmusic@gmail.com.

Portland band provides upbeat rock album

Image courtesty of www.tenderlovingempire.com “Only Good Thoughts Can Stay” will be released May 10 on Tender Loving Empire.
Image courtesty of www.tenderlovingempire.com “Only Good Thoughts Can Stay” will be released May 10 on Tender Loving Empire.

Image courtesty of www.tenderlovingempire.com “Only Good Thoughts Can Stay” will be released May 10 on Tender Loving Empire.

Portland band Jared Mees & The Grown Children and their third album, “Only Good Thoughts Can Stay,” sound much like you would think at first — a bunch of adults acting like children and making music.

Their music is catchy, upbeat and downright fun. A playful innocence is preva¬lent from the get-go with the opening track, “Hungry Like a Tiger,” which feigns a sense of naivety and quickly gives way to heartfelt purity and more introspection than is immediately apparent.

The album brilliantly combines electric guitar riffs and piano chords with sweet yet complex melodies from horns, strings and the vocals of Mees and others.

Rather than smothering each track with energetic chord progressions and pep¬py lyrics, each song is deeply personal but maintain a posi¬tive outlook on life, making for for an immensely fun and cathartic experience.

“Good Thoughts” strikes a great balance between lively, danceable rock and deep, thoughtful lyrics. Mees’ pronounced singing is strong and creative, but it is through the intricate music of the rest of the band that the listener establishes a deep connection with the words. You can dance, clap and sing along and still come out with a fresh look at life, love and friendship.

The band keeps most songs on the album longer than four minutes to success¬fully shake free of the of the two-to-three-minute restraint of the typical single. How¬ever, none of the tracks ever become dull or repetitive; they each are filled with vari¬ance and driving energy and provide Mees, and each of the many instruments used, ample opportunity to make their presence known. The sheer vivacity and depth of each track beautifully push the listener through the entire album.
The sincerity portrayed in “Good Thoughts” is what ultimately makes it an enjoy¬able and exciting sample of the music that’s coming out of Portland right now. It’s one of those albums that you can tell the band had a ton of fun making. One listen through is bound to get almost anyone moving and singing along (at least in their heads).
The album is clearly the band’s strongest work, bring¬ing with it a more refined sound and complexity that grabs and holds attention throughout.

Some of the most interest¬ing tracks include the seven-minute-long emotional pow¬erhouse “Tiny Toy Piano” and the catchy but personal “Billy Bird.” The humor¬ous and somewhat morbid “Graverobbers” tells the story of a graverobber who meets poetic justice when he is buried alive by his accomplice — all to a driv¬ing rhythm reminiscent of a hoe-down. The final song, “Shake,” sums up the album by literally “shaking all these blues away” because “only good thoughts can stay.”
In addition to being a front man, Jared Mees also runs the emerging Portland record label/store/art collec¬tive Tender Loving Empire, responsible for the likes of Y La Bamba, Loch Lomond and Typhoon.
This album will be released May 10 and the band will have two release shows May 14 in addition to touring around Oregon and Califor¬nia. The first show (all ages) opens at 6 p.m. at Backspace and the second (21+) opens at 9 p.m. at Someday Lounge in Portland.
Tune in to KSLC 90.3 FM or listen online at www.lin¬field.edu/kslcfm.html (on campus only) to hear tracks from “Only Good Thoughts Can Stay.”

Braden Smith/Managing editor
Braden Smith can be reached at kslcmusic@gmail.com.

Ballerina Black’s album foreshadows success

Photo courtesy of www.ballerinablack.com Ballerina Black’s debut album “Cattle Arithmetic” was released January 1, 2010.

Photo courtesy of www.ballerinablack.com Ballerina Black’s debut album “Cattle Arithmetic” was released January 1, 2010.

Let me begin by saying that I wasn’t expecting much from a band named Ballerina Black. A band’s name tends to give off the subtle impression of an album’s content. Given this, one might assume Ballerina Black to be a contrived mixture of some sort of pseudo-intellectual pop music, but that person would be wrong. It would seem that Ballerina Black, like the Foo Fighters, Led Zeppelin or other bands with unusualmonikers, might have more to offer than its name would suggest.

The band’s latest album, “Cattle Arithmetic,” starts off strong with the track “Leaves,” which opens with a peppy bassline that builds into an overwhelmingly lush instrumental backing. Grungy with an influence of southern California mellowed punk, “Leaves” offers a snapshot of the complementary multiple personalities showcased on this album.

“Kelly Pain,” the second track, finishes off the genre worldview of Ballerina Black with a healthy dose of Gothic ramblings and sets the listener up for an album that sounds mostly like different permutations of the first two tracks.

This is not to say that this album is boring or not worth listening to. If you enjoy the sound of The Cure’s late-’80s foray into the Gothic genre, then this album, which sounds like a slightly more updated version of that signature melancholy moaning, will resonate with you. As much as there’s a touch of The Cure frontman Robert Smith’s gravel in the vocals, there’s also a good heaping of a lighter tonality which might be more familiar to fans of AFI lead vocalist Davey Havok.

There is an evident flow throughout “Cattle Arithmetic,” and even songs such as “Squeeze Through” and “Rivals,” which are less vocally and lyrically creative than others, have a great feeling of soft dirtiness about them. “Squeeze Through” exudes its strong bass undertones into a pool of filthy, dark satisfaction, while “Rival,” has a heavier, more metal version of the thudding backbeat.

“Cattle Arithmetic”features some songs you should listen to just because of their titles, which, honestly, do a great job of appealing to the inner 12-year-old in each of us while also speaking to the song’s content. Titles such as “Microphones in the Mattress” provide apt visual description of what we should expect aurally and delivers a rhythmically thudding base and lyrics that convey all of the plaintive sadness of going solo.

A well-rounded album, “Cattle Arithmetic” draws the listener into its dark bowels, smothering us in the suffocating beauty of its raw emotion.

The sound that Ballerina Black has plied throughout the album seems founded on a lush blend of guitars and basses complementing their brand of vocal yearning. Combine this with its angst-filled lyrics and Ballerina Black should be popular with the younger generation that needs a creative outlet for its angry self-obsession.

In light of all of this, whether “Cattle Arithmetic” is actually good seems irrelevant. It fills a necessary niche and just like the people who will enjoy listening to them, Ballerina Black doesn’t seem to mind being quietly popular.
Tune in to KSLC 90.3 FM to hear tracks from Ballerina Black’s debut album “Cattle Arithmetic.”

Eric Tompkins can be reached at kslcmusic@gmail.com

Artist combines multiple genres on third album

James Pan's third album will be released on Stones Throw Records on May 3. Photo courtesy of www.stonesthrow.com

James Pan's third album will be released on Stones Throw Records on May 3. Photo courtesy of www.stonesthrow.com

Singer and multi-instrumentalist James Pants (real name James Singleton) has been on fire since his debut album, “Welcome,” was released in 2008 to positive reviews.

Since then, he has released a second full album, “Seven Seals,” two EPs and a slew of singles through Stones Throw Records (Madlib, Aloe Blacc, Dam-Funk and others). Now, his fifth release and third LP is slated for release May 3. And it does not disappoint.

The album is self-titled and features Singleton at his best. It was originally named “Love Kraft,” but this was likely changed after it was discovered that Super Furry Animals had released an album of the same name in 2005.

His superb drumming, groovy bass lines and lush synthesizer harmonies drive many of his most successful tunes. All of these are wrapped in the warm, lo-fi glow of ’80s funk, new wave and post-punk styles — an amalgamation loosely known as “fresh beat.”

Singleton uses this fun and catchy sound that still allows for a large degree of complexity to draw the listener into a warm, ’80s embrace in his latest album.

The album is more rock-oriented than previous releases, even incorporating some elements of rock ‘n’ roll and doo-wop from the ’50s and ’60s, and features backbeat rhythms with a stronger emphasis on the electric guitar although it never overshadows the other instruments.

Singleton’s unique singing is also heard more frequently along with other vocalists.

Likely the result of a mix of heavy production effects and intentionally poor-quality recording, all the sounds on the album have that lo-fi ’80s electronic quality to them from echoing, sometimes incomprehensible, lyrics,muffled drumming, fuzzy guitars and cosmic
synthesizer effects. It stands in stark yet infinitely amusing contrast to the sleek, over-produced pop music of today.

While these elements seem like they might be a turn-off to most listeners, James Pants is always danceable, and Singleton is known for some killer live performances.

James Pants can be placed loosely under the umbrella genre of electronica, but his use of live instruments stands out.

The new album began strongly with the energetic and driving “Beta,” a minimal tune with great drumming and a nice guitar solo.

The music branches out as the album progresses but always features a solid beat to move to. The most enjoyable tracks come near the end with the songs, “Alone” and “These Girls.”

“Alone” features some excellent guitar work and a beautifully intriguing saxophone part and “These Girls” is definitely the most rockin’ track on the album with some great synth effects.

All of the songs also have plenty of cheesy ’80s vocals that constantly entertain in a humorous light. For some nice, romantic ’80s introspection, check out “Screams of Passion” and “Kathleen.”

While the album isn’t as groundbreaking as past releases, it still stands solidly on its own with a unique sound that reminds us that the music of the ’80s wasn’t as bad as everybody assumes.

“James Pants” doesn’t come out until May 3, but Stones Throw has 7” vinyl singles for “Every Night I Dream” and “Clouds Over The Pacific” available on its website.

Tune in to KSLC 90.3 FM to hear tracks from “James Pants.”

Braden Smith/KSLC 90.3 FM
Braden Smith can be reached at kslcmusic@gmail.com.

‘Shoegazer’ trips, falls flat on its face

Dismal. That’s really the only word to describe this year’s music offerings.

Disappointing works, too, I suppose. The year 2011 has heralded a new decade of music, and things are looking grim. Simple, mind-blowingly self-involved and wasteful, this sort of music, which is slowly becoming mainstream, has been paraded about for years. Only now it seems the scarcity of real talent has increased and even independent artists are jumping on the bandwagon.

This week’s album for review, “Shoegazer” by Alfred John, is a perfect example of the resounding lack of vision and tepid success of this year’s music.

Leader of the one-man band, John seems to be nursing a bit of an ’80s fetish, something made glaringly evident in his music, which echoes that same signature synth and keyboard that was integral to the glitzy and melodramatic sound of the period.

The ’80s, with its big hair and overwhelming lack of truly decent music, make the decade’s eventual revival dreaded. It is best to nip this in the bud and make it emphatically clear that any music which attempts to capture the ‘80s era is simply 20-some years too late.

Opening the album is “Hold Your Light On Me,” a song which somehow manages to capture the desperate trappings of this album in one horrific piece. The song teases with a promising beginning and sounds like agreeable background music for all of 22 seconds, at which point the horribly out-of-tune vocals ruin the entire experience and betray the listener. This out-of-tune theme carries throughout the entire album.

Although there are rare instances when vocals are spot-on in pitch, they are all over the place; only vaguely following the
tempo of a song. It’s unfortunately crippling for “Shoegazer,” for even though the melody bounds forward eager and spry, the
disjointed harmony of those ridiculous vocal effects saddles them with a depressive weight.

Everything about this album harkens back to a time best forgotten with even the title of the album: “Shoegazer.” It seems to attempt to set itself apart by being named after a subgenre of a subgenre which never really caught on.

While this music may prove popular with trendy, vegan hipsters, let’s be realistic. Anyone forced to take three bowel movements a day because of diet has to have developed a marked ability to deny that shit stinks.

Finally, clocking in at well over an hour, it takes dedication to listen to every track of “Shoegazer,” especially if you notice the off-key vocals.

With its laconic lyrics, ’80s obsession and a vocal disharmony that makes ears bleed, “Shoegazer” is an album
better suited for the trash can than the review rack.

Eric Tompkins/KSLC 90.3
Eric Tompkins can be reached at kslcmusic@gmail.com.