Category Archives: Reviews

Dog Society – In The Shade Album Review

Coming full circle after their major label debut Test Your Own Eyes (East-West/Atlantic Records) and their critically acclaimed 2013 release, Emerge, the renown New York City pop rock collective, Dog Society, has created an album that continues to fulfil their promise as a great American rock band.

Their latest album, In The Shade, was released last week. In The Shade is a move forward from Emerge lending this band to sound evermore like those distinctly grungy 90s rock bands such as Nirvana.

Dog society

Dog Society

There are a lot of brilliant tracks on this record. To start with Heal Me Friend kick starts the album off in a grungy meets pop fashion. The chorus, “Please, please/Heal me friend…” sounds strangely familiar as if this song is a reworking of another. Heal Me Friend is upbeat with a fast tempo and repetitive guitar riff that makes this song easily recognisable. Straight away it allows Dog Society to show their Nirvana-esque style. It’s hard to believe this song didn’t exist in the 90s rock scene.

The next track, Oleander Girl, is slower and more relaxed in comparison to Heal Me Friend. This is a romantic number, the ballad of the record, “I once had an Oleander girl/A voice as soft as falling snow…” The vocals on this song are just perfect – they’re not showy; they’re simple, soft and effortless. Oleander Girl has a really solid sound to it – the electric guitar is minimal, the drums predominant alongside the vocals while the acoustic guitar can be heard clearly giving it that lighter rock sound.

Emerge features next and builds the album back to that faster pace and grungier tones. The electric guitar steps up a notch and the vocals take on a much more distinctive and strong tone. Emerge is a track that you can’t help but fall in love with. The lyrics are exposing of human behaviour, talking about the desire men have for women, “You give me something/And it feels so good just touching you/What a sight/Emerge/You circle and you weave/I am married and I am satisfied/I’ve rearranged this mess of mine so many times…”

Losing Her Again is another song that sounds very familiar in terms of musical arrangement and lyrics. It starts with a sole electric guitar riff with the vocals gradually making their appearance. This track is quite experimental – the vocals sound a little 60s as they’re more raw while the music is edgy and feels more spontaneous. It’s a brilliant track that’s worth a listen.

Dear Brother however is a really punchy Blues rock song that again resembles a different era. Dear Brother has recently been premiered on True Blood. It’s an outstanding Blues rock track with a fantastic jam section just over half way through. There’s so much going on in this track; the electric guitar is blending Blues and rock traits in its riff and chords, the bass line is predominant in parts demonstrating those Blues elements while the drums never soften, they’re dramatic all the way through. Musically, it’s an immense song that really shows off Dog Society’s dynamics as a band.

Dog Society are producing a sound that is around 20 years too late but that’s OK. Their music is the sort of music that always features on those American comedy films (think Road Trip, Ten Things I Hate About You and, dare I say it, Freaky Friday with bands such as American Hi-Fi). There’s a strong sense of reminiscing when you listen to this band and this may well be why they’re gathering so much attention. If you like Nirvana, American Hi-Fi and The Beatles then take a listen to Dog Society and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

In The Shade is out now.

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Random Order – Black Lipstick Kiss Album Review

Taking cues from Twin Peaks, James Bond and Quentin Tarantino films, Toronto based collective Random Order’s spine tingling swamp rock reggae attracts a diverse cultural audience. Their newest offering, Black Lipstick Kiss, which was released 29 July, injects their signature subversive rock into the sexy soundscapes of dangerous spy movies.

Since their inception in 1995, Random Order have consistently released great material, toured Canada, the East Coast and Japan, played Festivals, charted on Canadian Top 30 and opened for artists as diverse as Joan Osborne and Salt-n-Pepa.

Black Lipstick Kiss starts with The Morning After Kill which showcases Random Order’s strange combination of reggae, soul and rock with influences from Imelda May and Diana Ross being heard in the vocals. It’s a punchy yet seductive song which makes it an instantly great opening track.

The title track, Black Lipstick Kiss, appears next on the record. Black Lipstick Kiss is a soulful song where the seductive guitar riff and jazz drum beat compliment those sexy and gorgeous vocals.

The next track, Do It Quattro, is a great jam track where the vocals are suspended entirely; this track is solely about Random Order’s rock/reggae style – it’s totally all about the music. Do It Quattro has a distinct live sound – it’s raw giving it that automatic enthusiasm.

Spoiled is a silky track; the guitar is summery and soft while the vocals are airy and bright sounding. If you’ve ever seen Ten Things I Hate About You then Spoiled has a similar sound to the band, Save Ferris, who perform I Know at the school ball. Spoiled is reminiscent of No Doubt with its swing and reggae influences. It’s a brilliant upbeat song to get you moving.

Trans Mission on the other hand lends itself to sound a little bit like Patti Smith especially on the vocals. The track is much darker than those heard previously on Black Lipstick Kiss. The notes held resemble Patti’s deeper vocals and there’s also a bit of spoken word with that angst and punk attitude that Patti has.

Pink Cloud closes the record on an upbeat, pop and totally absorbed reggae beat. This song will instantly lift your mood despite the lyrics, “I want to ride on your pink cloud/Even though I know it’s going nowhere/And I know it’s going to break…” Pink Cloud sings about being totally in love with someone or something and not caring about the consequences or worrying that the cloud could fall apart, “I know I’m going to be the one to fall…You don’t even know you gave up the fight to trust/In anyone a long time ago”. It’s about the danger and the passion behind our human reactions.

Random Order’s Black Lipstick Kiss is a brilliant reggae/rock/ska album that will make you fall in love with this band’s sound.

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To Rococo Rot – Instrument Album Review

Over the course of 18 years, Berlin-Duesseldorf trio To Rococo Rot have carved an identifiable niche for themselves and one which has crossed a variety of styles; neither wholly in the realms of ambient or pure electronics. The late 1990s albums of Veiculo and The Amateur View brought their fundamental and innovative landscapes of sound to the fore while 2001’s collaboration with I-Sound, Music is a Hungry Ghost, showed their ability to blend disparate influences into something cohesive. Remixed by Four Tet and Daniel Miller and heralded by the likes of Modeselektor, their influence extends as far as their unique approach deserves.

To Rococo Rot

To Rococo Rot Instrument artwork

The music of brothers Robert and Ronald Lippok and Stefan Schneider has always existed in its own world and Instrument is a landmark album for the group. The serenely soft melodies of No Wave pioneer Arto Lindsay (Lounge Lizards/Ambitious Lovers/DNA) adorn three tracks, offering up a new perspective. Though melodies have always been a big part of their sound, the inclusion of a human voice is a distinctive modification making it the most accessible introduction to their world of diverse electronics and experimentation.

Instrument starts with the single release, Many Descriptions, one of the three tracks on the record that features vocals while the latest single release, Classify, features later on the album.

Next comes Besides with its calming and ambient tones. This song has all those things that allow it to be the sort of background music everyone should have in their lives.

Down In The Traffic appears next with its jazz inspired ambience. The drum beat is heavily influenced by jazz and the whole song is mesmerising and interesting yet soothing. The melody is repetitive but it never becomes boring – there are so many other layers to this track that are brought in gradually which builds the song and allows it to expand and breathe, give it that pulsating effect. Similarly, Baritone has the same feel to it; it’s jazz with a distinct twist. In the background, there’s a synth used which creates the effect of distorted human voices. If you listen really carefully, it sounds like people talking in atmospheric places like cafes and coffee shops giving it that very real feel. There’s a sense of sophistication in this track – you imagine that those indecipherable conversations are of philosophy and poetry.

The last track on the album, Longest Escalator In The World is a little bit John Martyn influences on tracks of his such as Small Hours. It’s incredibly unusual and heavily synth based which all makes it entirely atmospheric and indulgent. There’s the recognisable spontaneous guitar twangs, lingering synths and randomness that make this song feel like Small Hours. There are also world influences heard in the drumming introducing a whole other level to Longest Escalator In The World.

Instrument may be a To Rococo Rot record unlike any other – and one that treads unfamiliar ground – but it also represents a return to the beginning. Instrument is out now via City Slang.

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The Desert Sea Release New Single, Reflection

After the best part of two years playing music together in various forms, defining their artistic direction, these three Sydney boys combined their love for blues and rock into a fusion of earthy riffs, pounding rhythms and raw yet soulful vocal melodies. These ingredients blended together are the fabric of the unique sound that is The Desert Sea.

The Sydney three-piece is excited to unveil their latest single Reflection set for release this August.

Shortly after formation, the band released their first single Settle The Score which received airplay on FBi radio as well as community stations across the continent. Armed with the new single, The Desert Sea began playing shows across Australia’s East Coast, honing their live skills while sharing the stage with quality acts like Sticky Fingers, Zeahorse and Jebediah.

Over the next 12 months the band continued to play regular shows while writing new material for their debut EP. With a collective of new songs in hand, The Desert Sea settled in at Oceanic studios on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Owned by Midnight Oil guitarist Jim Moginie, Oceanic Studios proved to be a perfect platform for The Desert Sea’s signature sound. With Ryan Miller on board for production and engineering the boys set to work on recording what would become the Oceanic EP.

Reflection is the first single spawned from the bands debut EP. Kicking off with a chunky blues-rock riff, Reflection’s guitar groove evokes nostalgia of bands like Led Zeppelin and The White Stripes. The drums come next, exploding onto the track with every beat. Then the bass line drops, pounding heavily as it locks in with the guitar to set a relentless foundation for the vocals. A tale of arrogance is told through powerful vocal melodies and provocative lyrics, laying bare the shortcomings of the self absorbed in an attempt to widen their gaze.

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Ships Have Sailed – Someday EP Review

The brainchild of singer/songwriter Will Carpenter, Ships Have Sailed was formed in early 2013 as an outlet for material that didn’t fit into Carpenter’s role as guitarist for Hip-Hop Rockers, 7Lions (2101/Capitol).

The resulting six song EP is a heady blend of current alternative rock, cathartic song writing and dreamy pop which has already found a home on college radio with over 40 CMJ stations keeping several tracks from the EP (including the single Midnight) currently on rotation.

Midnight is a pure pop song with its catchy melody and lyrics. It sets the tone of this EP incorrectly as the next song, Clouds, is a well crafted and beautifully written acoustic number. It’s the gentle ballad of the EP. Taking influence from the likes of Dashboard Confessional, Cloud has some beautiful lyrics, “Clouds on water/Sons and daughters/Don’t you falter in this life” set against the backdrop of the steady, slow acoustic guitar.

The third track featured on the Someday EP is Bring You Down which Ships Have Sailed are streaming here. Bring You Down also has some fantastic lyrics, “Don’t you let me bring you down again/Demons in me twisting round again/Find myself in this old town again/Baby don’t you let me bring you down again.”

Title track Someday concludes the EP. Sounding heavily influenced by Dashboard Confessional once more, this track has a strong American acoustic rock feel to it. It’s a soft ending to a rather riotous, up and down, EP. The song finishes the EP contemplating life, “It feels like I’m living someone else’s life/Think I’ve forgiven those who caused me strife/And I know/Someday might go/But someday might be long.”

Someday is a good debut EP from Ships Have Sailed. There’s nothing that ultimately stands out as a must hear but if you like Dashboard, this might be a band for you.

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Tomás Doncker – Moanin’ At Midnight: The Howlin’ Wolf Project Album Review

New York City soul icon Tomás Doncker with his Tomás Doncker Band have just released their newest album, Moanin’ At Midnight: The Howlin’ Wolf Project. Tomás is the head of True Groove Records who recently signed a worldwide distribution deal with The Orchard. Because of his “global soul” mission and dedication to musical experimentation, he’s been on CNN and Guitar World as well as headlining NYC Summerstage and the Shanghai World Expo.

His latest release is an expanded full-length tribute to one of his idols, Howlin’ Wolf, whose website recently featured Tomás. Developed during a critically acclaimed run at NYC SummerStage during the summer of 2013, this project is now being shaped into a multimedia performance concert.

Doncker said about the release: “We had been bouncing the idea of a Blues record around for awhile. A hardcore modern Blues record. Every time we discussed it The Wolf came up. Willie Dixon came up. Smokestack Lightning, Spoonful, Evil – on and on…The stories – so vivid, even today. We wanted to be a part of that lineage, that history. We wanted to tell that “Same Ol’ Story” one more time…Our way. We felt the time was right”.

And tell it their way is exactly what they do. Evil sheds the heavy piano riff of the original and has been replaced by slick electric guitar. Killing Floor is made more solemn than Howlin’ Wolf’s. Howlin’ Wolf’s was jolly and upbeat with that typical rock ‘n’ roll Blues scale being heard predominantly throughout. Tomás Doncker’s version is darker and more dramatic.

Spoonful stays quite true to the original. It’s not so gentle but vocally and also musically, Tomás hasn’t drifted too far away on this track in comparison to some of the other tracks on the new record. Tomás’ Spoonful sounds like Jimi Hendrix’s Foxy Lady to start with before that insane harmonica comes in.

I Ain’t Superstitious has been completely altered taking out a lot of those old, woe-be-me Blues and making it a much livelier number. The beginning of the track has keyboards reminiscent of The Doors. Tomás has given this track a faster tempo than the original, removing that sense of American soulful Blues slightly. It’s a good rendition though regardless of this alteration.

Tomás Doncker’s new record, Moanin’ At Midnight: The Howlin’ Wolf Project, will be released tomorrow (8 July 2014).

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Tenfivesixty Release New Single, Control

The north-west outfit, Tenfivesixty, are among the latest wave of plaintive pop torch-bearers produced and mixed by renowned producer Robert Harder, well known for working alongside the likes of Brian Eno, Herbie Hancock, Whitey and Squarepusher as well as supporting Suede on a string of dates recently.

Their new single, Control, is an expansive, sonic explosion of guitar and drums with a slight reminiscence to the 80s.

Control will be released on 28 July.

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