Album Review: St. Lucia – When The Night

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St. LuciaWhen The Night
Columbia Records
Release Date – October 8th, 2013

Recommended if you like: Peter Gabriel, Ghost Beach, Charli XCX

Some songs have a way of sticking with you in an indescribable way. The first time you listen to the opening of St. Lucia’s single “Elevate,” odds are you had that feeling, too. Was it the opening synth riff? Was it the incredible bass line peaking its head out during the verses? Was it the huge gang vocals singing the chorus at the end of the song? Whatever it was for you, the catchiness of this lead single was unbelievable. After hearing this song and a handful of others on previous EPs, excitement exuded about the full release coming out.

What tends to happen when an EP precedes a full release is that the previously released tracks are the best ones on the album. While this is certainly not a new thing to do to artists releasing their major label debut, it’s an unfortunate one for previous fans.

This review should not be read as a disappointment towards St. Lucia, but comes as somewhat of a warning to returning fans expecting an album full of brand new songs. While the old songs like “Closer Than This” and “We Got It Wrong” continue to sound terrific, unfortunately the new songs have a harder time sticking their landing.

It would not be surprising to hear some of these songs take off on Top 40 radio, especially with the backing of a major label as strong as Columbia. With someone as talented as Jean-Philip Grobler, he certainly deserves all the attention he can garner. While this debut release has its hits and misses, the hits are most certainly grand slams.

You can order the album on Amazon. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

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Album Review: Campfire OK – When You Have Arrived

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Campfire OK When You Have Arrived
Fugitive Records
Release Date: September 17th, 2013

Recommended if you like: Deep Sea Diver, Rogue Valley, Bombadil

When a relatively unknown band goes on tour with a very recognizable act, there are essentially two routes the band can take. The first way is to feel overwhelmed by the headliner and just do your best to put on a good show. The second is to put all your cards on the table, play the best show of your life every night, and let people walk away wondering which band was the opener and which was the closer. When Campfire OK toured with Anberlin this summer, crowds raved about their live show and were ecstatic to hear the new songs recorded. For first time listeners of Campfire OK, you’ll find it difficult to put your finger on what exactly to call their music. Whether you call it indie folk, bluegrass, or indie pop, there is no doubt that this is some of the most creative and well crafted music to come out this year.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBTsV0lKYTQ]

Over a year ago, the band released a music video for their song “Wishing You The Best” and put it on YouTube. It’s modest view count does give the incredibly well crafted video the justice it deserves. The song showcases Andrew Eckes’ rolling banjo that is prevalent on most of the record as well as lead singer Mychal Cohen’s unique baritone voice. The hypnotic bass drum complements the lyrics in a way to bring them to the front row of the song as Cohen sings out “And I’m sorry if I was overbearing, but I didn’t mean it. But you’re so pretty, I couldn’t hold back, I couldn’t help it.

Song after song provides a slightly different sound on the indie rock spectrum, offering up plenty for new fans to love. The song “New Tradition” takes a step back from the banjo and brings in some Wilco-esque electric guitar as Cohen and background vocalist Zarni DeWet sing the majority of the song together in stunning harmony.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVc4vOXE3s8]

The lyrics on each song are just as magnificent as the instrumentation. The title track is near the end of the record, but certainly does not lack in content. The title “When You Have Arrived” is in reference to meeting the expectations of other people, especially from their personal standpoint of being an independent musician. In the chorus, he asks, “Do you know who I am? Do you know what I want? Tell me what it’s like to rise. Tell me how it feels to be admired, and tell me how you know when you’ve arrived.” He puts things into perspective with the second verse as he honestly says, “Oh, gentle sir, don’t you know how our lives are mirrors where we see clearer. I am the man selling roses on your street corner for two small dollars, and I am the man pouring coffee at 6 A.M. for your high school daughters.” The earnest lyrics leave you thinking twice about the work and dedication independent artists like Campfire OK put into their art in order to make a living doing what they love.

You can order the album on Amazon and iTunes. You can also like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

Song of the Week: John Mayer’s “Wildfire”

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“Wildfire”
John MayerParadise Valley
Columbia Records

If you ask John Mayer, he’s a completely changed man. After a throat injury that nearly ended his career, he has a new found respect and love the for the art of singing and songwriting. “I don’t drink really anymore. I warm up before I sing. I warm down,” he says in an interview with the Associated Press. “I do whatever I can. I don’t want to lose that part of my life again.”

Mayer strikes gold with the release of his new album Paradise Valley and starts it off with “Wildfire.” The upbeat song welcomes you to the new sound he brings to the table. Part country, part blues, this song showcases Mayer’s carefully cared for vocals and his always impressive guitar playing. This song is sure to leave you tapping your foot and the rest of the record will remind you of why John Mayer is one of our generation’s greatest songwriters.

You can download the song for FREE below.

You can also download John Mayer’s newest album on iTunes or Amazon, as well as like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

FREE DOWNLOAD

(To download song, right click link and select “Save Link As…”)

Album Review: Matt Wertz – Heatwave

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Matt WertzHeatwave
Handwritten Records
August 27th 2013

Recommended if you like: Ben Rector, Augustana, Kenny Loggins

The love for music always originates from the artists we first hear performing it. Whether it was hearing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Boston playing on the classic rock station, or perhaps Boyz II Men and *NSYNC on the Top 40 station, these influential musicians permeate the sound of music still being written and produced today. For Matt Wertz, he took those influences to the next level with his latest release Heatwave.

Wertz, who is known for his acoustic guitar driven love songs, takes a different direction that has the potential to throw off first time listeners. For casual fans who may be more familiar with songs like “5:19” or “Everything’s Right,” this album may sound like it’s out of left field. However, those fans who follow Wertz closely see this album as both an outlet and a growing opportunity for his already stellar sound.

This release from Wertz is somewhat of a themed album, taking on the sound of the instantly recognizable 80s soft rock music made popular by artists like Kenny Loggins, Don Henley, and Bryan Adams. The lead single “Get To You” is a perfect mix of  Wertz’s songwriting and vocals with that great 80s electric guitar. The music video is a terrific parody of the former pop culture and features cameos from fellow Nashville singer-songwriters Ben Rector and Steve Moakler.

Song after song hits home with that sound he was looking to get from this record, including outstanding songs like “Last Good Girl” and the pop ballad “Whenever You Love Somebody.” The jangling guitars on “Shine” show heavy influence of Don Henley and his time with The Eagles.

While Heatwave is certainly geared towards being a themed record, Wertz shows off his spectacular songwriting skills with the closing song “Thing About Freedom” that takes a step back from the synths and drums. In the chorus of the song he sings, “I’m downright evil, deeper down I’m good. There are things I’ve done I swore I never would. The thing about freedom that’s so misunderstood, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

Heatwave is certainly a fun record, but Wertz certainly doesn’t spend all this time working hard on it so that it may be taken lightly. This is a well written record from top to bottom and will undoubtedly be one that stays in your late summer rotation.

You can order the album on Amazon and iTunes. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Song of the Week: Jameson Elder’s “Pony Ride”

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“Pony Ride”
Jameson ElderWhere Beauty Remains EP
Self-Released

The sound of some classic rock artists may never day. It’s evident in Jameson Elder’s sound that the influence of artists like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty run deep in each strum of his guitar. His song “Pony Ride” is no exception with its slow and steady verses chugging towards the wide open sound of the chorus. Musically, Elder’s sound has grown in an encouraging way thanks to the addition of some well placed sampled drums in the opening verse, the humming organ, and the fantastic guitar solo after the second chorus.

You can download the song for FREE below.

You can also download Jameson Elder’s latest EP on iTunes or stream it on SoundCloud, as well as like befriend him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

FREE DOWNLOAD

(To download song, right click link and select “Save Link As…”)

Album Review: Ben Rector – The Walking In Between

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Ben RectorThe Walking In Between
Aptly Named Recordings
Release Date – August 20th 2013

Recommended if you like: Dave Barnes, Green River Ordinance, Jason Reeves

Ben Rector’s career has come a long way over the last 3 years. In 2010, his record Into The Morning received plenty of recognition by charting high on the iTunes Charts as well as Billboard’s Top Heatseekers chart. The next release, Something Like This, earned him the #4 overall spot on the iTunes chart and opening slots on tours with highly touted bands like Needtobreathe and Colbie Caillat. His most recent release out on August 20th has raised the bar even higher. After years of being the second-to-last act on tours, Rector is headlining a fall tour hitting some pretty large venues. Spanning from Los Angeles’ House of Blues to New York’s Irving Plaza, this tour is set to be the largest headlining tour of his career.

The Walking In Between is a record about the ordinary things in life and the beauty that lives in them. Throughout these 13 songs, we’re reminded of that unique sound that has made Rector a staple in his genre. His unmistakeable voice has a way of cutting through the layers of sound and blasting its way to the forefront. In the lead single “Beautiful,” the acoustic guitar and mandolin led song give the feel of a truly nostalgic song while Rector sings, “I was 16 with an open heart/ Windows down in a beat-up car/ When I was dumb and the world was young and she was beautiful/ she was beautiful.” He seems to sum up the feel of the album in the song “I Like You” when he says, “There are way too many love songs/ and I think they’ve got it all wrong/ ‘cause life is not the mountain tops/ it’s the walking in between.”

While this album is certainly a solid album, it doesn’t offer much growth from a musical standpoint. The songs tend to follow the same flow and feel that can be found on much of Rector’s previous releases. This should not be seen as a huge downfall, especially considering Rector focuses more of his attention on the lyrics and theme of the record and less on the musical composition.

For many people, The Walking In Between may be the first Ben Rector album they have ever heard due in part to having the opportunity to play in front of a lot more people across the nation on this new tour. For those new found fans, this record will be a home run. For those who have been around for the last three records, the response may be a bit more mixed. Regardless of your own personal opinion, we can all agree that it’s exciting to see music like this getting its fair share of mainstream attention.

You can order the album on Amazon and iTunes. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Album Review: Little Comets – Life is Elsewhere

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Little CometsLife is Elsewhere
Dualtone Records
Release Date – August 20th 2013

Recommended if you like: Ra Ra Riot, Cold War Kids, Hockey

Remember last year when you saw that video of a random band playing a one guitar version of “Somebody That I Used To Know” on YouTube? Almost 153 million people have seen that video, and thought it was one of the coolest videos they had ever seen on the internet. But well before that, way back in 2010, an odd little band from Newcastle, England did the same thing with an original song of their own. Despite being nearly 3 years old, the video’s view count pales in comparison to the former, racking up just over half a million views. That band is Little Comets, and they are following in a line of tremendous releases from the great people at Dualtone Records. Having originally released in their homeland back in October 2012, Life is Elsewhere is receiving its American release on August 20th while being welcomed by a coast to coast headlining tour.

In what sounds like something out of a sitcom, a Cambridge graduate, a particle physicist, and a sailor make up the trio that is Little Comets. The band was once signed by Columbia Records in 2008, but was released in 2010 before even releasing their first album. Now on their second record, Little Comets is doing their best to show everyone their unabashed joy for producing music that makes you move and think simultaneously.

From the opening of the album, the tremendous guitar playing is showcased in addition to lead singer Robert Coles’ quirky yet intriguing vocals. The first single “Jennifer” is sure to catch your attention. The song lyrically sings of a terribly timid girl in an uncommunicative relationship, but musically makes you want to dance around belting out the chorus. Despite it’s incredibly upbeat and Peter Gabriel-esque production, the song may be at its best when it is stripped down to show the trio’s remarkable harmonies.

To be honest, there is not a track that misses a beat on this record. Listening to song after song, you cannot help but bob your head, follow along with the cruising bass lines, and sing along in your best falsetto voice harmony. Whether it’s the heartbreaking balled “Violence Out Tonight,” or the nearly obtuse dance tune “Worry,” these songs reaches an entire spectrum of dance rock songs that you will never hear anywhere else.

What makes these songs so fantastic is perhaps not just the music, but the depth of the lyrical content as well. “A Little Opus” is a song about the restraints of old scholarly institutions in British society. “Waiting In The Shadows In The Dead Of Night” sings about the inevitable demise of a mortal relationship. “In Blue Music We Trust” is a personal song that thematically explores impending fatherhood and the simplistic beauty of familial attachment.

After the first listen of Life is Elsewhere, you might find yourself questioning how this odd collection of tunes could ever stay in your iTunes library. Give it another chance. By the time you’ve heard this record 3 or 4 times, you’ll begin to question why you ever consider disposing of it.

You can order the album on Amazon and iTunes. You can also like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.