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

Paris Luna – City Lights

Paris Luna – City Lights / 2007 Self / 11 Tracks / http://www.parisluna.com /

Paris Luna start out their “City Lights” in a way that reminds me of Sixpence None the Richer. The first track on “City Lights” is “Having a Hard Time”. “Having a Hard Time” is a rock track in the same vein as a Kelly Clarkson; the bass and drums make for an easy listening track, one in which the vocals of Paris rest comfortably. The band’s work on “Having a Hard Time” and on the second, more country-influenced “Someday” shows that they are very capable. During “Someday”, the band is able to craft a sound that is specifically their own, while moving to include a more Shania Twain-esque set of vocals at points.

The acoustic guitar that opens up “Tell Me Why” is yet another new thing that individuals will experience when it comes to Paris Luna’s “City Lights”. The guitar work opens up and the end result is again something that would not be surprising in the least ot hear on modern rock radio. The one thing that I feel is a difference between Paris Luna and the rest of the acts on those types of stations has to be that Paris Luna tells much more of a story with each track on “City Lights” than the other acts in the genre. The guitar progression on “Tell Me Why” shows that the rest of Paris Luna’s band is much more talented as musicians than many of the acts in that genre.

The fact that every one of the tracks on “City Lights” could conceivably rocket up the charts is further testament to the skills and abilities of Luna and the rest of eir band. “No Good For Me” is a track that breaks free of the general formula used by Luna, in that the tempo is much slower and the vocals are much more emotional than in prior tracks. There is some unity between “No Good For Me” and the rest of the tracks on the disc, but the success of this track shows that Paris Luna will succeed in any style, using any sort of influences that are thrown at them. Paris Luna will be big after the right individuals hear this album, and I have a feeling that this will happen in the short term rather than the long term. Check out Paris Luna now, and be sent on an emotional, fun, and impressive type of modern rock.

Top Tracks: Having a Hard Time, All for Nothing

Rating: 6.8/10

Street Dogs – Fading American Dream

Street Dogs – Fading American Dream / 2006 Brass Tacks / 13 Tracks / http://www.street-dogs.com / http://www.drt-entertainment.com /

Street Dogs’ first album was fucking amazing. Simple as that. Their second album was still decent, but it had less of the fury and fun style that “Savin Hill” had. Street Dogs are back with their third album, “Fading American Dream”, and it might just be the best of the three. The band links together Rancid with the streetpunk bands of the eighties, along with the sound that the band has to have given the fact that they have a former member of the Dropkick Murphys present. “Not Without A Purpose” catches individuals not only with catchy guitar lines and bouncy bass lines, but with a harmony on the vocals that in many ways is another instrument that can be used by the band. Continue reading “Street Dogs – Fading American Dream”

Albert Hammond, Jr – Yours To Keep

Albert Hammond, Jr – Yours To Keep / 2007 New Lie / 10 Tracks / http://www.myspace.com/alberthammonjr / http://www.newlinerecords.com /

Albert Hammond does not sound like much of a rocker. However, for those individuals that do not know, ey was one of the integral parts to the seminal band The Strokes. The opening track on “Yours To Keep” is “Cartoon Music For Superheroes”, and it does not sound like the hard, catchy rock of The Strokes for a second. Rather, Hammond plays a style of dreamy pop that has a lot of influence drawn from the sixties pop acts like The Turtles and The Monkees.

Hell, there is even a nod to the sun-baked sounds of the Beach Boys, with more than a passing glance to their “Kokomo”. The track is endearing but it does not yet mark a solo hit for Hammond. The second track on the disc makes a much stronger play for radio rotation. This track, “In Transit”, still uses a lot of the earlier influences to create a track. However, unlike “Cartoon Music”, “In Transit” has a link to the work of acts like Interpol and Fischerspooner, in that there is just a minor hit of electronic music that plays on the edge of the track. The hooky, Polaris-like drum beats of “Everyone Gets A Star” works with the deadpan vocals of Hammond during this track to play to the Bloodhound Gang crew. This track could make it up the charts in the “ironic” way, and the song should be noticed for its’ smart arrangements. This is the first track, in fact, that makes me appreciate Hammond as a master of arrangement. By the end of “Everyone Gets A Star”, Hammond is sitting pretty. For my money, it is the lead up to the chorus on “Bright Young Thing” that makes “Yours To Keep” for me.

The emotional gravity, coupled with impressive instrumentation, is THE reason why individuals should pick up this album. Couple that with a linkage back to the sixties sound of prior tracks along with the dance-like drumming, and one has a track that shines in both the single and album context.  Albert Hammond, Jr on eir “Yours To Keep” does well in the construction of a post-Strokes style. I actually prefer Hammond’s sound at points over the highly repetitive sound of The Strokes. I just hope, that as the years pass, that Hammond can come up with more in the way of solo efforts that are up to the same high quality of “Yours To Keep”. 

Top Tracks: Bright Young Thing, Blue Skies

Rating: 6.1/10

Bad Religion – New Maps of Hell

Bad Religion – New Maps of Hell / 2007 Epitaph / 16 Tracks / http://www.badreligion.com / http://www.epitaph.com /

Anyone that actually knows me knows that Bad Religion is one of my favorite bands of all time. I thought that they had a trying time in the Atlantic days, but that they came back to true form with “The Process of Belief” and “The Empire Strikes First”. With Joe Barresi at the helm (Tool, Queens of the Stone Age), how will the band sound? Well, Bad Religion sounds a lot like they always have, but the band seems to have included some Weezer into their overall sound. Now, I did not like what Todd Rungren did to the band for their “New America” album. Continue reading “Bad Religion – New Maps of Hell”

Cashis – The County Hound EP

Cashis – The County Hound EP / 2007 Shady / 8 Tracks / http://www.myspace.com/cashisoc / http://www.shadyrecords.com /

Cashis is the latest project put forth by Eminem and eir Shady Records. Eminem’s touch has not been the strongest with the last few releases on the label, with Obie Trice being the most notable failure up to that point. “That Nigga A Gangster” is the first full track on the disc, and it has a strong flow. The fuzzy backdrop for Cashis to flow on works well as well, and the second set of vocals give a nice contrast to the track. Overall, Cashis starts this EP in a strong way. Continue reading “Cashis – The County Hound EP”

OST: 300 Soundtrack

OST: 300 / 2007 WB / 25 Tracks / http://www.300themovie.warnerbros.com /

Pretty much everyone has seen 300 at this point. It is the story of the valiant Spartan army against the evil Persians; what individuals may not be immediately familiar with is the work of Tyler Bates. Bates, who composed the score to this movie, is best known for creating the soundtrack to movies like Dawn of the Dead and The Devil’s Rejects. The subject matter is a little different, but Bates comes up with a score that fits the movie and the current period well. Continue reading “OST: 300 Soundtrack”

Videohippos – Unbeast The Leash

Videohippos – Unbeast The Leash / 2007 Monitor / 12 Tracks / http://www.videohippos.com / http://www.monitorrecords.com /

The electro-indie rock of Videohippos reminds me of a coked-out reinterpretation of Neil Young’s Trans album. There is an earthy, natural progression to the track even as the synthesizer and electronic fuzz seem to paint a picture opposed to that. “Tooth Sub” is the first track on the disc, and the band’s only fault at the onset of this disc has to be a little too much reliance on the same arrangements that were present throughout the entirety of the disc. However, the band flips the script for “The List”. The overall structure of the track is the same, but there is a little bit of a depressed and downtrodden sound to this track. Continue reading “Videohippos – Unbeast The Leash”

Amber Pacific – Truth In Sincerity

Amber Pacific – Truth In Sincerity / 2007 Hopeless / 12 Tracks / http://www.amberpacific.com / http://www.hopelessrecords.com /

For a few years back when I first started the magazine, The Red Hot Valentines were the band that could do no wrong. Through four or five releases, everything they did was golden. They broke p a few years back, but it did not take me too terribly long to find another band to take their spot. This band is Amber Pacific, and “Truth In Sincerity” marks their second album. “Rule #76” is a short introductory track, but the band immediately starts kicking ass again with their “Summer (In B)”. The same fast, almost punk-infused emo rock of Amber Pacific is as clear and as vibrant as on any other tracks. The sizzling guitar tracks link themselves well with the catchy vocals and splashy drums. Continue reading “Amber Pacific – Truth In Sincerity”

Baby Boy Da Prince – Across The Water

Baby Boy Da Prince – Across The Water / 2007 Republic / 18 Tracks / http://www.babyboydaprince.com / http://www.universalrepublic.com

Baby Boy Da Prince is one of the few artists that I actually knew about before I received the disc. “The Way I Live” (featuring the up and coming Lil Boosie) has been played on all the local radio stations on high rotation, and “Naw Meen” is another track that has been making waves. However, the biggest question is whether Baby Boy Da Prince is able to string together a cohesive album or if the rest of the album. The one thing that immediately becomes clear to listeners of “Across The Water” is that Baby Boy Da Prince throws too much extra chaff on the disc. Continue reading “Baby Boy Da Prince – Across The Water”