The Strokes: Comedown Machine

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The Strokes have just released their latest album Comedown Machine, a record full of pop and disco influenced tracks. Based in New York City, the group formed in 2001, and has had continued success throughout their career, while honing their garage rock sound to perfection.  However, Comedown Machine is not your typical garage rock record; it is so much more than that. The opening song One Way Trigger is a catchy opening number that fuses disco and rock together that will grab the listener’s attention with the bouncy drum beat and the clean, bright guitar part that paints a vivid preview for the remaining songs on the record. 80’s Comedown Machine is another crowd pleaser and definite single material, as the group heads more towards their typical indie rock sound. The only complaint about this tune would have to be lead singer Julian Casablancas, who seems to be straining his vocal chords at times in order to give off a more gritty rock and roll edge to the track. With the song sounding like it was recorded in a garage, it will give old fans a familiar taste of previous records.

Subsequently after giving fans a dose of adrenaline, the record slows down a bit with 50/50 which brings in an electronic influence that is different from the rest of the songs. 50/50 sounds very bland and has an odd presence, considering that Comedown Machine is The Strokes best album of the bands career so far. After listening to several colorful tunes, this song could be labeled as filler for an otherwise good album. Partners In Crime is an 80’s sounding tune, going heavy on the synths, but still heading in a positive direction for the band.

For music fans that were not fond of The Strokes before this release, Comedown Machine may convince them of The Strokes undeniable talent for writing catchy songs that have substance and quantity.

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Richard Murray: Desert Wind

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In 2008, Irish singer-songwriter Richard Murray released Desert Wind, a mixture of acoustic guitars, pop music, and country music that spotlights his gift for writing music. If you didn’t know he was from the UK, you might guess Murray was a contemporary of Central Texas native Steve Earle or the Mississippi-born Steve Forbert. Murray’s storyteller songwriting style draws you in to hear his tales.

“Forgive Me Sera” is a bouncier song, merging a pop sensibility with an Americana vibe. The accompanying female vocal adds a pleasant contrast against Richard’s more raw, gruff voice. The second song on Desert Wind is a ballad, “Enlighten Me.” While the acoustic guitar intro isn’t remarkably in its originality (think Lifehouse’s hit “You and Me”), the song offers a great deal lyrically in its call to be carefree and to wholly enjoy of life.

Something that stands out about Richard’s music is his lyrics, detailed in the imagery he paints for his audience. His words offer a window into his thoughts. It seems that Richard expresses himself best through his lyrics instead of his music, which serves more of a backdrop for the stories he tells. “Thinking of Cristina” picks up the pace and shows the side of Murray that is different and fun, as he shows that he has variety in his music by playing a more straight-forward country song.

Desert Wind is an enjoyable record, and it is nice to hear an artist go deep into songwriting to tell a compelling story with their lyrics. It is clear that Richard Murray only wants to give his fans and new listeners the best experience possible when listening to his albums. You can listen to Desert Wind on Richard’s Youtube channel.

Crowe: Self titled album

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Crowe, a rock band from Burlington, Canada has released their self-titled independent debut, produced by the band. The invigorating thing about Crowe’s first album is how raw it sounds. Refraining from studio staples such as auto tune, pro tools and other studio magic, what the listener gets is four guys in a studio playing music because they enjoy it, not because they are trying to make a quick buck.

The first song, “Satellite,” sounds similar to Dinosaur Jr’s record Beyond, with wailing guitars and pounding drums that have no frills attached. The vocals in “Satellite” are strong, though without much range, but serve the purpose in a hard-hitting rock song. Songs like “Charms” begin with a punch-in-the-face guitar riff that causes people to take notice of what Crowe has to offer musically—a feel good rock record ideally suited for a lazy afternoon with a beer in hand.

Songs like “Troubadour” have more of a garage band sound, with its fuzzy guitars and rougher vocals. “Troubadour” gets a bit lazy once the chorus hits, as if the band could use an energy drink, but still shows off the rock and roll riffs that drive the album as a whole.

Despite the weaker track, Crowe is slowing climbing the ladder when it comes to success—they have been included on playlists for local radio stations in their native Canada. Hopefully with continued airplay, Crowe will see success in the United States and beyond. You can download Crowe for free via crowetunes.bandcamp.com.

Youth Lagoon: Wondrous Bughouse

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Youth Lagoon, the brainchild of Idaho native Trevor Powers has released his sophomore album Wondrous Bughouse. While his blend of Americana and electronic music may seem intriguing, mixing the two not only turns into a huge musical mess, but claiming an Americana influence seems to be a bit farfetched.  The album starts out with “Through The Mind and Back”, an intro that sounds like echoes bouncing off the walls. With an atmospheric vibe to it, the song has an interesting start but at the half way mark it begins to sound cluttered with the rush of sounds that come through the speakers. Power’s audience may become weary of what the rest of the album holds.

Songs like Dropla have hints of piano that sound like an old time piano roll, and listeners finally get a taste of Power’s washed out vocals, which have a parched and nasally quality, making the audience assume that his vocals are added in just to add more sounds. When it comes to lyrical content, Wondrous Bughouse has a theme of mortality, but one would never know it, since Power’s voice sounds faint and too far in the background to get the full grasp of the album’s lyrical message.

While the lo-fi bedroom quality may sit well with listeners, the quality of the album makes it hard for anyone to take Trevor Powers and his music seriously. Due to his different style of music, it will be interesting to see how successful Trevor becomes, but time will only tell. Youth Lagoon is currently on the road supporting Wondrous Bughouse.

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.

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.