Kelly Campbell: Sweet Therapy

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Kelly Campbell, a singer-songwriter from Ohio, has released a five-song EP entitled Sweet Therapy. While Campbell herself claims not to have natural talent when it comes to music, this recording proves otherwise. Throughout the album, not not only does her musical skill stand out, but her band’s tightness and fluidity add to the solid musical performance.

The record begins with “Sweet Therapy,” a song that addresses how music can provide solace for many of life’s situations whether happy or sad. The song is a folk tune with shades of country, featuring Campbell’s voice and showing off her talented backing band who support her well. The band paints a colorful backdrop for Campbell, allowing her to express herself, vocally, lyrically, and musically.

“Cody’s Song” is about accepting people for who they are. The song tackles some subjects that are not always happy, yet it maintains a hopeful and gleeful feeling musically. “Something Beautiful In You,” a ballad about Kelly recognizing the beauty in those close to her, is a simple song. But in its simplicity expresses a deep, personal sincerity.

Sweet Therapy is an enjoyable musical venture. Kelly Campbell writes rich and vibrant songs sure to leave a lasting impression. And with Sweet Therapy, Campbell offers an album that both uplifts and inspires.

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Nataly Dawn: How I Knew Her

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Nataly Dawn’s new album How I Knew Her is a passionate album which brings up a range of emotions from happy and bright to very sad and dark. Natalie’s first taste of musical fame came when she founded the duo Pomplamoose in 2010; and the group has become a Youtube sensation.  Since breaking out on her own to pursue a solo career, Nataly Dawn’s first album is well done. Bringing in a wide array of percussive instruments, a stand up bass and a banjo, Dawn has created something different that sounds fresh among the artists of today.

Songs like Please Don’t Scream, a bluesy song with wailing guitars and a steady drum beat, will encourage head bobbing as listeners are able to feel the beat as they become immersed in the music. Araceli explores Dawn’s voice, which has a childlike quality. The rise and fall of her vocal range suits the song perfectly as the bouncy quality of the music will leave the audience wanting to hear more.

Halfway through the album, the album takes a darker turn and listeners will hear Nataly’s voice become more gritty and jarring on How I Knew Her, as she tackles a song about an absent parent.  This song features strings and a strong backbeat, which sounds like the snare drum will break at any moment.  Nataly’s songwriting is strong, and it’s good that she can write different sounding songs and not sound redundant.

Nataly Dawn has a wonderful aptitude for music and I look forward to her future albums.

Dylan Sneed: Texodus

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Dylan Sneed’s 2010 release Texodus is a folk album tinged with rough edges and beauty that will make Sneed’s audience fall in love with his songs, as he is dedicated to his new found career and true calling: playing music for all who will listen.  After abandoning the corporate world in Dallas, TX in 2006, Sneed took on the unpredictable career path of an independent musician, and with Texodus, he has shown that he has the drive and grit to succeed no matter what the cost.

Texodus, the opening song is a warm folk tune with a light snare drum and vocals at the forefront. With this opening number, Sneed invites listeners to pull up a chair and become fully engrossed in his music. The Garden, a slow ballad, which shows that simplicity is best when composing a song. With beautiful and rich harmonies throughout, The Garden is sure to be a hit among fans.

The tune Selfish Boy is an upbeat song that is great for dancing, as it provides skillful musical ability with vocals that are sure to please.  While Dylan Sneed’s success is slowing coming to the surface, Texodus is sure to be a hit several years after its release. Currently, Sneed has a Kickstarter Campaign to promote Texodus at radio stations around the globe, as well as funding his next European tour.

Barclay and Ichinose: Barclay and Ichinose I

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Song List: Five Out of Four, A Nail In My Head, Life is Passing By, (the Clown) And The Giant Other Side, Don’t Let Them

The Barclay and Ichinose debut album pulls influences ranging from 60’s and 70’s rock, as well as some punk, all mixed into a blender of sound. “Five Out of Four,” the opening song on the EP has an interesting sound, but can be hard to follow. Drummer Randy Ichinose seems to channel the ghost of Keith Moon, which beyond the context of The Who is oftentimes challenging to the album’s musicality.

“Nail In My Head” begins with an exciting pedal to the metal guitar riff played by Joe Barclay. It seems to indicate the start of an energetic anthem. The song takes a disappointing turn, as the adrenaline rush drops off and the song takes on the feel of a poor man’s rendition of The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues.” The lead guitar picks things up a bit, but isn’t enough to save the song.

While Barclay and Ichinose come across as gearheads, listing their equipment on their website, their musicianship doesn’t always live up to a gearhead’s expectation. The band strives to emulate their idols (including The Who, Pink Floyd, and The Kinks), but this debut EP is at times a bit of a noisy mess. Ichinose’s crash cymbals, alone, overpower the songs from time to time. Barclay’s voice seems to be somewhere else sometimes, coming across distant, disconnected, and not matching the energy of the instrumentation.

The strongest song on the EP is “(the Clown) And the Giant Other Side.” This song’s production is the strongest, as is the performance; the songwriting is more mature, the sound more cohesive. If this song is indicative of the band’s future course, they are on the right track.

Plug In Stereo: The Acoustic EP

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The latest EP by Portland musician Trevor Dahl, also known by his stage name Plug In Stereo has released four acoustic songs from his upcoming album. Once again, Plug In Stereo does not disappoint. Following in the footsteps of his previous releases, the songs that Dahl has written for the Acoustic EP are beautiful and simple.

The EP opens up with To Be Wanted, a piano ballad that is about being wanted by someone, platonic or otherwise, while also showing Trevor’s musical gifts, as his vocals shine on this song. The next song, Priceless, brings in a guitar and Trevor’s impressive songwriting abilities. Sounding like a young Jack Johnson, Plug In Stereo is ready for radio airplay, writing radio friendly guitar hooks while drawing in listeners with his warm and inviting voice.

Wait For Me, the third song on the EP has a laidback feel that makes Trevor’s songs very addicting.  When listening to Wait For Me, Trevor’s audience will wish that Plug In Stereo was a much more successful act.  While the hooks are plentiful with catchy moments, the drum beat adds another element to the song that begs for a sing along. The Little Things is the last song on the EP, which is the perfect closing song, with its peaceful vibe and harmonies that will get the crowd singing along. Another positive song about treasuring the little things in life, Plug In Stereo’s appeal will hopefully extend beyond the teenage crowd, as The Acoustic EP shows just how talented Trevor is in his musical pursuits. Plug In Stereo’s full length album will be released soon.

Brando Albers: Fading Away

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Song List: Future World, Nothing Left To Be Afraid Of, Lakes Of Burden, Procrastinate, Wash Away Your Tears, Chase Your Shadow, Your Kisses Are Mine, Fall In Love, Worked Out, Fading Away

Brando Albers album Fade Away is a great album that treats the listener to a flood of sounds, leaving the listener wondering what they will hear next. This is an emotional album, epitomized by its nearly-title track, “Fading Away,” with its reverberating vocals adding an intensity to the song that glues listeners to their seats.

Brando works hard to make sure his listeners feel the emotions that flow through this, and each song on the album. Along that vein, “Nothing Left To Be Afraid Of” is a creatively appealing endeavor, and what stands out about it in particular are its lyrics.

As the world is falling apart, turn and look the other way.
He said… I’ve got nothing left to be afraid of.
He looked back into his life, there is nothing left for him now to reclaim.
He said… I’ve got nothing left to be afraid of.”

Brando’s lyrics take his audience into his head and paint a picture of sadness and love, with the music providing a beautiful and interesting backdrop to illustrate his joy, pain, and his entire life’s experience.

“Lakes of Burden” paints a more dreary picture, speaking of friends severing ties, conveying that its narrator is mentally in a dark place. While this song drags on musically, its lyrics and composition convey a crystal clear state of mind.

Brando Albers is a talented artist who has taken computer-generated music to a higher mentally conscious level. Fade Away is carefully written, covering a range of tough emotions that listeners of all backgrounds might relate to.

Justin Bieber: Believe Acoustic

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Teenage music sensations are gaining ground in popular music and Justin Bieber is no exception.  Six years after his start on Youtube, he is back with his second acoustic album Believe Acoustic. The album features nine tracks from his latest album Believe and three new tracks. While Bieber is not a popular choice among adult music fans, this acoustic effort may give way to a change of heart. If nothing else Bieber’s young fan base which is made up entirely of teenage girls will eat it up and want more from the singer.

Believe Acoustic gives fans a more intimate feel than his typical bubblegum pop albums. The production has a more stripped down and raw feel, going back to Justin’s days of playing his guitar outside the Avon Theatre in his hometown of Stratford, Ontario, Canada. No fancy sounds and effects, just a voice and guitar, which works in Justin’s favor.

The first song on the album is a bare bones version of his hit song Boyfriend.  Justin’s vocals in this song are strong and show how much his voice has matured over his career.  The guitar is a nice accompaniment as well.  “She Don’t Like the Lights” is another solid track that leaves one to wonder how Justin will sound when he enters his 20’s and beyond.  While the guitar playing is not great, it suits the purpose of this album, which show’s a softer side of Bieber when it comes to his music, something that is not seen too often.  Take You is a strong song musically, but Justin’s vocals seem to waver a bit on this cut, as he seems to be mumbling the words, but towards the middle of the song he picks it up and finishes the song on a high note. Fall is by far the best song on the record. The music and vocals are well done, letting the listener relax and let everything fall away.

While Justin’s latest effort at an acoustic album will take several listens for many adult music fans to recognize his talent, Bieber’s fans will love the record as it gives them a taste of Bieber’s roots and how he got his start.