The Academy Is… Tours

THE ACADEMY IS… ANNOUNCES DATES FOR

“SLEEPING WITH GIANTS” FALL HEADLINE TOUR;

Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen recording group The Academy Is… has unveiled details of their eagerly anticipated fall tour. The coast-to-coast headline trek dubbed the “Sleeping With Giants” Tour will take off September 5th in Milwaukee, with dates running non-stop through a Chicago hometown finale on November 24th (full itinerary below).  The pre-sale will begin thru the bands fan club via Myspace (www.myspace.com/theacademyis) on July 10th with the general on sale date following on July 13th.  Joining The Academy Is… on the trip will be special guests The Rocket Summer, Sherwood, and the band’s longtime friends, Armor For Sleep. Continue reading “The Academy Is… Tours”

Scott Cossu Trio – Islands

Scott Cossu Trio – Islands / 2007 MVD / 60 Minutes / http://www.mvdb2b.com /

Scott Cossu has been around in the jazz scene for longer than I have been on this earth. Ey started in 1981, I entered this world in 1983. That’s pretty impressive; this footage is as well. It is impressive not only for the cuts that are present, but rather because it is so sharp and well-recorded. Even now it is hard to get good footage, and Cossu was able to get it all the way back in 1986. This DVD does not have much on it besides the concert, only presenting interested viewers with a biography and a discography of Cossu. Regardless, this footage is a gem and worth the price itself. Continue reading “Scott Cossu Trio – Islands”

Kiss The Gunner – Why Are We So Dead?

Kiss The Gunner – Why Are We So Dead? / 2007 Harvest Earth / 9 Tracks / http://www.myspace.com/kissthegunner / http://www.harvestearth.com /

While Kiss The Gunner does a very hard-hitting brand of hardcore that verges on metal a great deal of the time, “Why Are We So Dead?” does not sound like the same thing that a number of artists in a similar genre try to pander their listeners. There is more than a fair share of a Stabbing Westward meets emo sound that comes forth quite a few times on “Why Are We So Dead?” For example, the track “That’s Some Good Yellin’” brings together these two disparate styles without making the uniting seams that visible. The band creates a wall of sound that will blow listeners away for the entirety of the disc’s near-thirty minute runtime. Continue reading “Kiss The Gunner – Why Are We So Dead?”

Jerry Lee Lewis – Last Man Standing

Jerry Lee Lewis – Last Man Standing / 2006 Shangri-La / 21 Tracks / http://www.jerryleelewis.com /

Jerry Lee Lewis is an individual whose time had came and left by the time that I started listening to music in the middle nineties. This does not mean that ey does not have anything left in the gas tank, but that I had never heard anything more than a few singles from Lewis in my musical existence. This album has the same general concept as the “American” series of albums that Johnny Cash released before ey died. This means that twenty-one tracks are played by Lewis (with guest musicians), ranging from those made famous by B.B. King to Toby Keith to Don Henley and Kid Rock.

The tracks represent some famous tracks “Rock and Roll” as well as songs that are probably pet projects of Lewis eirself (“Honky Tonk Woman”). The most interesting thing about “Last Man Standing” is that Lewis is able to bring these disparate tracks together into some semblance of cohesion. This means that, if individuals did not know that Neil Young was on “You Don’t Have To Go”, that they would think that the song is a solid contribution to the sound that is “Last Man Standing”. Even though the style of rock that Lewis is capable of and shows on this CD is definitely an older style of the genre, there is still a current and vital sound to eir contributions on this album. Despite creeping up in the years, Lewis has not lost a step.

Of particular note during this album have to be tracks like “Before the Night is Over” and “Pink Cadillac”. The sheer amount of tracks on this CD make this even more of a value; Lewis knows how to ensure that this disc will be flying off of the shelves, even if ey has not had an independent hit for quite a few years.  Lewis succeeds in much the same way as Cash did “American”. Lewis has so much charisma and ability that ey is able to keep the nuance of the accompanying artists on the tracks while still coming forth with eir own style and sound.  Lewis could conceivably release these type of albums every few years and end eir career on a strong note. If this sounds like a strong album, pick this up and give it a good few spins.  The duet album is something that is increasing in popularity, and for good reason; the joining in by talented musicians is bound to end well.

Top Tracks: Evening Gown, Twilight

Rating: 6.4/10

Andromeda – Playing Off The Board

Andromeda – Playing Off The Board / 2007 MVD / 205 Minutes / http://www.musicvideodistributors.com /

This Swedish progressive metal act has been around a relatively short time, providing their own take on the prog scene since 1999. The band has been able to cut four albums in that time, and this DVD shows the band touring in support of their last album – 2006’s Chimara. Instead of merely focusing on the tracks from their latest album, Andromeda pick out a selection of tracks from both the past and present, seemingly representing all albums equally well. Out of all of the progressive metal DVDs that have been released in the last few months, Andromeda’s “Playing Off The Board” has to be the one that is most jam-packed with valuable extras.

Taken all together, this DVD ‘s features will keep fans interested for almost three and a half hours. This includes the 12 tracks played during the live show, along with two different interviews, three different mini-documentaries, and older live videos for three of their prior hits (“Arch Angel”, “Extension of the Wish”, and “Crescendo of Thoughts”. Andromeda’s music rips through listener’s ears, while the band comes through with a personality that is sadly lacking in many metal-related acts. Fans both old and new alike will like the progressions each member contribute to what are very intricate and difficult arrangements. This DVD acts more as a capstone for the band, as it is the culmination of all the band had created and worked on for the last seven years (to that point).

By including older tracks at this concert, the members of Andromeda weave together a story about their existence as a band. The added features on this DVD further explicate the story and given individuals the full bit of information about the band. This is an essential purchase for any fan of Andromeda, and will undoubtedly keep individuals sated until 2008 or 2009, whenever it is that Andromeda is able to release their follow-up to “Chimara”. I may not have been familiar with the act before this DVD came across my doorstep, but after focusing in on the band for the entirety of the 205 minute runtime, I feel like I know a lot about this Swedish powerhouse. Andromeda is an act that speaks to the current, even when one considers that they would have succeeded just as well in 1987 as they do in 2007. This timelessness is just one of the many things that makes this band so compelling.

Top Tracks: Eclipse, Two Is One

Rating: 7.0/10

Suburban Pastoral

Suburban Pastoral / $? / 1:00 / 44M / http://www.voicesnewjersey.blogspot.net /

Suburban Pastoral is a collection of poems by Hank Kalet, who spends most of eir time editing newspapers in the New Jersey area, along with writing columns for The Progressive Populist. This is a chapbook containing Kalet’s works over the last few years. Voices of Reason, the imprint under which Kalet released this chapbook, “is an arts collective that seeks to raise money for organizations in central New Jersey working to alleviate hunger and aid the homeless”. So, with a good cause in mind, this chapbook was released. The poetry is strong, with Kalet attempting different things with seemingly every one of the twenty-plus poems here. Continue reading “Suburban Pastoral”

Sasha & Shawna – Siren

Sasha & Shawna – Siren / 2007 Blue Note / 12 Tracks / http://www.sashaandshawna.com / http://www.manhattanrecords.com /

I feel so un-educated when I get an album like “Siren”. For example, I was not familiar with Sasha Lazard, Shawna Stone, or Grammy-award winning producer Peter Asher. This album is a blend of classic opera tracks along with the duo’s reinterpretation of popular songs. These songs include Radiohead’s “Fade Out”, which opens the disc, along with Kansas’ “Dust In The Wind” and James Taylor’s “Close Your Eyes”.

While “Fade Out” is a typical Radiohead sound, the strong vocal presence in the track brings the resulting composition much more close to an Evanescence track. I know that I will be called a heretic by all of the Radiohead fans, but I feel that this track has a much more emotional and full sound than did the original, making this version the one I’d prefer. Regardless, this track is perfect as an opener, as it allows for individuals that may be intimidated by a track like “Per Te / For You” to gradually come into that track. The track is not hard to approach after given the emotional gravity of “Fade Out”; in fact, the track feels like it would be good in a Spanish-language version of a Disney movie. The only thing that seems odd about this track is that the instrumentation feels a little dated, even as the vocals are timeless. “I Know Itr’s Real” is a track that continues the slower sound of “Per Te/For You”, but the vocals of this duet just are not enough to further this track. Luckily for “Siren”, the inclusion of “Dust In The Wind” acts as a re-start.

The solid vocal work on this track re-energizes listeners, as does the instrumentation that largely stays true to the original. What I would like to see in Sasha and Shawna is something that represents a split of the two styles on “Siren”. Have a disc of their re-interpretations of rock classics, and have something a little more formal, such as their work on “Stabat Mater IXXI” and “O Del Mio Dolce Ardor”. Doing that would allow fans of either style just to listen to songs in that style, instead of bouncing back and forth between these two disparate styles throughout the disc. The disc suffers due to this split in focus, and while the singers cannot be faulted in the slightest for this, the album is not as enjoyable as it could be. Here’s to hoping that Blue Note goes the direction I suggest.

Top Tracks: Fade Out, Dust In The Wind

Rating: 5.2/10

Rachel Margaret – Buena Vista Park

Rachel Margaret – Buena Vista Park / 2007 Self / 4 Tracks  http://www.myspace.com/rachelmargaretmusic /

“Landfill” is one of the focal points on “Buena Vista Park”, and while the instrumentation is softly-stated and meanders around the vocals, Margaret here comes correct and creates a brand of modern pop-rock that is just as honest and impressive as anything released by Fiona Apple or others of her ilk. “Someday Soon” is a slightly faster song than “Landfill”, and brings Margaret into the space created by Annie Lennox and Enya, albeit with a more marketable sound. This more radio friendly sound is what links this track to “Landfill”, and ensures that listeners will keep focused in to “Buena Vista Park“. The title track for this EP uses more of the wide-open compositions that presented themselves on “Someday Soon”. “Buena Vista Park” is interesting due to the trend during the track for the instrumentation to rival the vocals in regards to the emotional content in each.

It takes a rare brand of musician to be able to create such a high level of emotional content on a track, but this trend is present throughout all of “Buena Vista Park“. “Solitude” may have a more inorganic sound to the instrumentation on the track, but this does not mean that the compositions on the track are sterile. Actually, the electronic, cold sound of the track feels to me to be a second set of vocals, the negative to the weary positive that Margaret puts forth on this track. “Buena Vista Group” may only be an EP, but individuals will understand quite well where Margaret is coming from by the time that this album spins to an end.

During the entirety of “Buena Vista Group”, Margaret handles eirself quite well. This gives me hope that the successes achieved here could easily be transferred to an album that is twice or thrice the time of “Buena Vista Park“. There is significant variation to the tracks on this EP, while still crafting a common thread of current pop-rock that runs through the songs here. Given the success of “Buena Vista Park“, it would not be a surprise to see Margaret receive rotation on contemporary and pop/rock format radio stations. All that ey needs is a video, and this could easily make it to the Good Life network or VH1 (if VH1 still plays videos, that is). Simply put, Rachel Margaret is an artist whose stock can only go up from here. Pick this EP up.

Top Track: Someday Soon

Rating: 6.2/10

Metal Band Obituary Works With I-Tunes

OBITUARY EXCLUSIVE I-TUNES PROMOTION

 

Candlelight Records together with I-Tunes will premiere the first song from Obituary’s upcoming new album Xecutioner’s Return via an advance single.  “Evil Ways” will be available for purchase starting July 31 and for fans will be the first and only advance listen of the album set to hit North American stores on August 28. Continue reading “Metal Band Obituary Works With I-Tunes”

The Christine Spero Group – My Spanish Dream

The Christine Spero Group – My Spanish Dream / 2007 Self / 9 Tracks / http://cdbaby.com/cd/christinespero2 /

One of the first things that is heard at the beginning of “My Spanish Dream” has to be the entirety of The Christine Spero Group weaving their instruments together to come up with a coherent and cohesive sound. Hints of Latin arrangements and jazz spontaneity immediately confront listeners during the disc’s first track, “My Spanish Dream”. The tango-like arrangements that end the chorus provide a form of onomatopoeia to this track that is simply to die for. “Don’t Say No” builds off of “My Spanish Dream” due primarily to the piano arrangements of Christine Spero. The smooth compositions in “Don’t Say No”, coupled with the vocals of Spero, elicits comparisons to Gloria Estefan and the talented musicians in the Miami Sound Machine.

While it is true that The Christine Spero Group tends to go towards the slower, more lounge-worthy tracks rather than the dance-fests that were often present during Estefan’s work, the talent exhibited by the bands and the distinctive vocals of the singers are similar. “Caribbean Nights” builds off of “Don’t Say No”, in that the set of influences influential in the creation of the track are the same between the tracks, giving each of the two songs a very early eighties feel.

However, at no point during “My Spanish Dream” does The Christine Spero Group sound dated in the least. One of the strong suits of The Christine Spero Group during this album has to be their ability to use older styles and couch it in a way that will entice listeners in the current
period to pick up the album.

Listeners will be enticed by the instrumental interplay present during “Just So You Know”, which brings the ropier sound of the bass into direct conflict with the twinkling high end of the track. Instead of creating dissonance during this track, the struggle for dominance between these two pieces of the band makes each side work harder and their efforts all the more impressive. The Christine Spero Group was only able to react in this way due to their amazing ability as musicians and the fact that Christine eirself has been working in creating these types of songs for well over a half decade. The tropical rhythms present on “My Spanish Dream” increase the replay value of this album, and ensures that listeners will be able to play the disc until that time
when The Christine Spero Group releases their next album.

Top Track: Don’t Say No, The Festival

Rating: 6.5/10