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Off the Dial

Music News, Reviews, Photos _ Podcasts

Album Review: Robert Plant ~ Band of Joy

Posted by lmelvin On October - 3 - 2010

Written by Laura M

On his fourth solo album, Band of Joy, Robert Plant plays around with covers and country and blues inspired tracks – perhaps sparked by his collaboration with bluegrass musician Alison Krauss.  The overall sound of the album is eclectic and engaging with a distinctly Plant-vibe.  While he may not be wailing into the mic like back in his Zeppelin days, his vocals are as free-spirited and powerful as they have always been.

Band of Joy is largely an album of covers.  Plant keeps the original spirit of each track but incorporates his own energy, like with opening track “Angel Dance”.  It’s an energetic, soulful cover that is a little less polished and a little more uninhibited than the Los Lobos original.  Other covers include country-great Towne Van Zandt’s “Harm’s Swift Way”, 60s sweetheart Barbara Lynn’s “You Can’t Buy My Love”, and two tracks by alt-rock Minnesota band Low.

Both “Silver Rider” and “Monkey” from Low’s album The Great Destroyer make it on to the album.  “Monkey” stands out as something a band like Tool or Deftones might cover on their album.  It’s sexy in a dark way – strong drums, bass and distorted guitar paired with soft female vocals courtesy of Patty Griffin that add depth and harmony to an otherwise heavy track.

Robert Plant has gone the way of Johnny Cash by challenging himself to record covers in an attempt to make them his own.  Rather than taking anything away from the songs or the artists that created them, Band of Joy adds value by drawing attention to the original artists and introducing their music to a new audience from a new perspective.  A great listen for those still hurting from the news that Led Zeppelin will never tour together again.

Popularity: unranked [?]

EP Review: The Episodes ~ Pilot

Posted by lmelvin On October - 3 - 2010

Written by Laura M

I love bands that are still at beginnings of their career.  They’re enthusiastic and determined, and sometimes you stumble across something pretty cool that not many people have discovered yet – like Montreal indie-rock band The Episodes.  Serge (guitar and lead vocals), Christ (bass), Spiro (drums) and Dina (keyboards and percussion) draw on the vibe of their city to create the energetically solid EP Pilot.

Opening track “Love Kills” has shades of The Fratellis “Chelsea Dagger” – fun, upbeat, and infectiously bouncy, meaning you’re going to be singing it long after you’ve stopped listening.  This track sets the energetic tone for the rest of the EP.  The band seems delightfully over-caffeinated throughout the album, mellowing slightly with fifth track, “Stay” before picking back up again to close strongly with final track “Mirrors”.

My favourite on Pilot is “On the Run” – and I do mean favourite.  This will probably end up on many future playlists.  It’s like the soundtrack to a smoke-filled gunfight in the Old West, complete with the Clint-Eastwood-whistle, but fought in a club in Montreal while the band on stage plays along.  Good stuff, The Episodes.  Eagerly waiting to see what comes next.

Popularity: unranked [?]

Album Review: The Constellations ~ Southern Gothic

Posted by lmelvin On June - 25 - 2010

Written by: Laura Melvin

Atlanta band The Constellations surprised me with their debut album Southern Gothic.  I’m on the fence whether or not it was a good surprise.  With a name like The Constellations, I expected soft, indie songs with acoustic guitar and sweet harmonies.  In contrast, with an album name like Southern Gothic, I expected loud, hard-rock tracks tinged with a dirty south vibe.  I got neither.  The album is actually an energetic electro-rock offering oddly paired with very dark, imagery-driven lyrics.

Southern Gothic examines the after hours scene in downtown Atlanta.   As it turns out, the nightlife in Atlanta has enough hookers, blow and drunks to rival the world’s biggest, most nefarious cities which makes for some good song writing.  Every song on the album paints a picture of darkened alleys, lost souls stumbling around street corners, chalk outlines on the pavement, and clubs teeming with debauchery.

Nine-minute-marathon track “Step Right Up” serves as an example of the gritty world after dark in Atlanta.  Disco beats meet spoken word lyrics narrated by a gravelly voice “ringmaster” to create a fun, yet gothic-themed, dance track: These five dollar hookers suck the blood from your toes/Wipe the blow from their nose/Just another lost soul/With crack pipe lips she blows me a kiss/But there’s a john on the corner she can turn her tricks/Step right up.

I don’t know whether the contrast of the lyrics and the electro-rock/dance genre helps or hinders the album.  It’s a strange pairing, and it takes a few listens to get past the electronica and actually hear the lyrics.  What I do know is that I no longer think of the dirty south as barefooted-bayou dwellers in overalls.  Thanks to The Constellations, now, when I think of the dirty south, I think of strung-out hookers snorting blow off the pavement.

Popularity: unranked [?]

CD Review: Jakob Dylan ~ Women & Country

Posted by lmelvin On May - 8 - 2010

Imagine an old, sepia toned photograph: a house with a wide sitting porch; a woman in a flowered dress bringing in laundry from the line; her husband coming up the dirt driveway in a vintage Chevy truck after a long day at work; the American flag waving in the breeze.

This kind of imagery spawned an entire genre of music.  It’s a little slice of Americana – just like Jakob Dylan’s second solo album Women _ Country. He pays homage to the roots of American music – the beginnings of country, blues, and rock n’ roll – by putting his own distinct voice and lyrics to the Americana genre.

The album is a sit-back-and-think-about-life offering from the former Wallflower.  Songs like “Yonder Come the Blues” and “Holy Rollers for Love” are mellow, slow tracks resembling early country tracks while a song like “Lend a Hand” steps away from traditional country with bluesy brass horns a la New Orleans.

While all the tracks demonstrate Dylan’s prowess as a songwriter, the most memorable song on Women _ Country is the haunting “We Don’t Live Here Anymore”.  His lyrics make a strong political comment on the American mortgage crisis currently plaguing the nation.  His words share the perspective of those who have lost their homes and are now scrambling to survive with vivid imagery.  This track is reminiscent of 60s protest songs…  Hm, I wonder why?  Did I mention that Jakob Dylan has an incredibly famous father who made huge waves in the musical revolution of the 60s?  Like you didn’t know already…

No matter his family tree, Jakob Dylan deserves the same respect and admiration as any genuine artist.  His lyrics are thought provoking and unpretentious, and there is nothing overdone or overproduced about his music.  Women _ Country is an excellent example of how something old can be made new again – Americana for the 21st century.

Popularity: unranked [?]

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – the band name may be a mouthful, but they’re worth the extra strain on the tongue.  Their latest release, Beat the Devil’s Tattoo, melds Southern rock, blues and punk in typical BRMC fashion to create a solid album that deserves permanent repeat on our iPods.

This album sees the addition of new drummer Leah Shapiro, replacing longtime drummer Nick Jago, to the founding duo of Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been.  Formerly of Danish band The Ravonettes, Shapiro introduced the inspiration for this album to the rest of the band – a book of short stories by American Gothic writer Edgar Allan Poe.  A line from Poe’s short story “The Devil In The Belfry” provided the album title.  The expression “to beat the devil’s tattoo” means to nervously drum one’s fingers on a table or anxiously tap one’s foot on the ground.

The American gothic genre is a great companion to Beat the Devil’s Tattoo – darkness infused with a little romance.  We see the band’s “dark side” in the punk inspired track “Conscience Killer” and the warped and distorted “War Machine”.  BRMC plays up their softer side with “Sweet Feeling” and “The Toll”: Southern ballad inspired songs with sweet harmonies and dulcet tones of banjo and harmonica.  And the band even manages to combine the two gothic themes, darkness and romance, on the sex-infused track “Aya” which alternates between deep, seductive verses and howling, passionate chorus.

Poe’s expression “to beat the devil’s tattoo” is a great description for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s album – listeners will not only be drumming their fingers on tabletops to the beat, but also in anticipation of what BRMC brings us next.

Popularity: unranked [?]

We Are The City to lead Vancouver music charge

Posted by rlatham On October - 26 - 2009

Written by: Robert Latham
Photo by: Branden Dunbar

We Are the City ~ Photo by: Branden DunbarKelowna-based rock trio We Are The City believe exciting times are just around the corner for the emerging Vancouver and British Columbia music scene and judging by their fledgling musical offerings they could be one of the bands to help lead the charge.

The young rockers, all just 19-years-old, are impressively down to earth and excited about their music when I meet them in a busy Vancouver bar the day before they performed a stunning set at The Cellar Nightclub, on Granville Street, on Thursday night (October 22) as part of the Peak Performance Project showcase.

The trio, who released their debut album In A Quiet World earlier this year, accept there is a lack of music making it big out of Vancouver but explain they are excited about a wealth of young musical talent ready to explode into the big time.

Drummer Andy Huculiak said, “I’d say there’s some pretty exciting bands coming out of Vancouver, especially now with the Peak Performance we’re in, so in like five or six years I think Vancouver will be seen as a very thriving place.

“At the moment Vancouver isn’t seen as a big place in the grand scheme of things but I think it’s pretty big, when you add in the rest of British Columbia, and I’m really excited about lots of emerging bands coming out of the area right now – and it’s awesome to be friends with some of them.”

The band has come from extremely varied musical backgrounds to form their intoxicating rock-indie based alternative sound. Andy’s drumming life began playing along to Christian rockers P.O.D, before getting into a jazz band at school and then joining a screamo band during a black hair, tight pants-wearing period during his teen years in the Okanagan.

Meanwhile, vocals/keyboard player Cayne McKenzie and guitarist David Menzel have been friends since the age of eight, began jamming at school and formed a band that fused the sounds of P.O.D and U2, an interesting sound no doubt.

The result of this mixture is an engaging, progressive sound which switches between beautiful melodic passages and good old head-banging, foot-tapping rock, with an interesting lack of a bass guitar that the band explains was never an intentional omission.

David said, “We didn’t start out thinking ‘let’s not have bass.’ In the beginning we wanted to be like Coldplay but now to add another member just to add the bass would be like uncharted territory, it’s not all about the music it’s more about he brotherhood and now we really love our music.”

The trio remains unsigned out of their own choice, rather than going out shopping for a major label, and the are keen to stay that way for the time being as it gives them the freedom to own their music, choose their own management team and, most importantly, know exactly where their money is.

As Andy puts it, “Signing onto a big label is sometimes almost the kiss of death rather than the jump-start to your career.”

Upon forming three years ago perhaps the band’s biggest challenge was coming up with a name. Originally beginning life as The City, as reference to the bible verse “a city on a hill cannot be hidden,” they soon discovered a surge of bands on MySpace under the same name, hence the switch to We Are the City. And the switch seems to have been a success, much to the band’s relief.

Andy explains, “Names are tough – it’s the worst thing as it can be the make and break because if people can say they don’t like the name and won’t listen to you.”

We Are the City are currently touring throughout British Columbia until mid-December and plan to be out on tour for at least the next two years. Speaking to them it is obvious that they live for life on the road and the thrill of being away from home, playing gigs and enjoying spending time together.

Andy says, “We were home for one day recently and I woke up the next morning really ready to go, I was almost bored. It’s nice to always be on the road, it is kind of trying for relationships but we were already good friends before the band so we already knew what pushes each others’ buttons and being together every hour of the day is also a good lesson in what not to do.”

To check out We Are The City and see their upcoming tour dates visit their MySpace page.

Popularity: unranked [?]

NYC-Based Kongcrete Show Plenty of Promise

Posted by rlatham On October - 16 - 2009

Written by: Robert Latham

KongcreteMany bands have tried and failed to fuse the genres of rock and hip-hop but New York-based quartet Kongcrete look set to smash down the barriers and succeed in their goal to combine the two.

The band define their music as ‘Ghetto Rock,’ a combination of hip-hop, hard rock, funk and reggae and the results are impressive with big, dominating tunes like “Bulldozer” and “Greyhound Bus” an excellent example of the band’s energy and blow your head off aggressive musical style.

The band is working hard to get their name known but the promise they hold is evidenced by the fact that their independently produced 2008 debut album Kongcrete was created alongside the legendary sound engineer Vlado Meller, who has helped master albums for (to name but a few) Public Enemy, Rage Against The Machine and System of a Down who all act as massive influences to Kongcrete‘s musical style.

Bassist Jeff To explains; “Our influences aren’t confined to any particular genre. What matters is the attitude and energy these guys put into their work, that raw live energy that is authentic and honest. That’s what we try to convey through our music.”

The band’s sound is unmistakable with MC Taiwo D’Aguilar alternating between rap and growling and snarling sounds and low-tuned, bouncing overdrive guitar riffs that help drive the energetic rhythm to headier heights.

Yet their music is outrageously diverse, with funk rock track “RadioActive” an example of the band’s ability to mix up their style as they flicker between down and dirty funk and heavy rock, sounding unmistakably similar to Rage Against The Machine.

And the band believe they have what it takes to convince the masses that real music is still alive and kicking, without the need for the modern day obsession with technology.

“The technical skill of playing a real instrument, its nuances and imperfections, the epic journey that music is supposed to take you on and the long struggle and thought that musicians must put into their art – these things are rare,” said To.

“There will be a return to these fundamentals and a backlash against fillers and empty music, we think our form of ghetto rock will be a major force and we work our asses off on every song to make it perfect.”

Kongcrete‘s trademark rule-breaking sound deserves checking out and their unique brand of ghetto rock, fusing roll off the tongue rap lyrics with in your face guitar riffs and bouncing rhythms combine to make this a band to look out for in 2010.

To check out Kongcrete visit http://www.myspace.com/kongcrete

Popularity: unranked [?]

CD Review: AFI ~ Crash Love

Posted by rlatham On October - 15 - 2009

Written By: Robert Latham

AFI ~ Crash LoveA word of warning for anyone, like this writer, who has been in a musical time warp when it comes to AFI. If the last thing you knew of them was remembering them as hardcore punk rockers in the mid-90s then you’re in for a mighty shock, with the California rockers now adopting a more emo approach to their music.

But if the tag of emo instantly puts you off don’t let it as Crash Love, the band’s eighth studio album, successfully retains the band’s rocky edge and emerges as a culmination of their past offerings, ending up as a perfectly-rounded rock album mixing their punk rock rhythm and hardcore emo tendencies in one big sound.

Evidence of this is the hugely enjoyable “Where We Used To Play,” for some reason left until the penultimate track of the record, a classic singalong, air guitar-inducing rock anthem.

Another major highlight is “Fainting Spells,” which begins slowly with emo-esque crying lyrics before launching into a huge screaming chorus, repeating both before diving into a lively rock guitar solo which sets up an energetic outro to the track.

AFI have successfully managed to fuse their emo-punk tendencies with big rock sound as demonstrated in “Beautiful Thieves,” a big sweeping rock tune that slides between funky high-octane guitar riffs and jangling, edgy verses combined with a big singalong rock chorus.

The band’s emo yearnings are still very much prevalent as evidenced in laboriously predictable mid-album tracks “Too Shy To Scream,” “Veronica Sawyer Smokes” and “Okay, I Feel Better Now.”

But all this is forgotten as the album launches into “Medicate,” a big ripping rocky anthem with huge hooky guitar riffs and shouty choruses topped off by a ripping guitar solo.

The album also signs off in style with “100 Words,” a song which typifies everything AFI have achieved in Crash Love, a pop-punk singalong thanks to lead-man Davey Havok‘s whiny vocals crossed with big rock power chords, singalong choruses and finished off with a floaty guitar solo.

AFI have achieved things many band’s can only dream of, uniting the genres of rock, emo and punk music with a record that will please fans of all three for different reasons. While it is easy to write the band off for tending towards mainstream emo this record is a perfect retort – an energetic, enjoyable rock offering.

Popularity: unranked [?]

Women of rock?

Posted by show On July - 27 - 2009

spinnerette09While in the UK a short time ago I had an interesting hops-fuelled discussion with a friend of mine about women and their place in music. Specifically, the debate focused on a woman’s ability to deliver rock at the same level as their male counterparts, or whether they are only good at delivering pop/Lilith Fair type performances.

Now, I’m not going to give you info on which side of the debate I was on, in the interest of this discussion it doesn’t matter. What does matter is your opinion, as I’m curious to see what all of you out there on the internets think.

So, the gist of what was said was (keep in mind it cuts out about 30 minutes and a combined total of 6 beers from the discussion):

Although women are good performers they have never, and will never, achieve the level of success that their male counterparts have enjoyed in the genre of rock. What rock requires in the form of attitude and aggression women simply can’t deliver and only come across as caricatures when they attempt it.

So that’s it, give me your thoughts on either side of the fence. Can women deliver rock at the same level as their male counterparts? If so, why haven’t we seen a female band/performer achieve that success yet?

Show.

MAKE SURE TO LEAVE YOUR COMMENT WITH YOUR OPINIONS ON THIS TOPIC!

Popularity: unranked [?]

Live Photos: Tomcat Combat, Slate Pacific & Bike Rodeo

Posted by cristóvão On July - 27 - 2009

~ July 24th, 2009 @ the Seahorse Taver, Halifax, NS
Words and Photos by Tiffany Naugler of Post-Rock Love Affair

So, last nights venture was to the Seahorse Tavern for Tomcat Combat, Slate Pacific and Bike Rodeo. I had not been to the Seahorse for ages so, I was definitely excited to enjoy the change of scenery.

I was amazingly tired, so with a red bull in one hand and the camera in the other, this is what I saw…

Make sure to visit Post-Rock Love Affair to see more photos from this show!

Popularity: unranked [?]

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