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Reviews (Album, Movie, TV)
Arcade Fire's 'Reflektor' PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 19 November 2013 18:03

Well, it is time for arcade Fire to once again flex their critics’ darlings’ status and produce another fine album of anthemic chamber rock. After nods from Bowie, tours with U2, and an “album of the year” Grammy, Canada’s favorite indie band goes long with an ambitious double album, “Reflektor”.

With each step in their somewhat short career, Win Butler, his brother William, his wife Regine Chassagne, and the rest of the gang have added a new dimension to their sound with LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy on board as producer to add a little more bump and less strum.

“Reflektor” follows the Arcade’s tradition by making yet another cautious step into new territory. This time it comes with a solid dance floor beat. But even the Euro-disco feel (sax and synths punching the off beats) of the opening title track can’t help but sound just like Arcade Fire once Butler’s voice comes in. The same goes for the equally dancey “We Exist”. Things do shake up a little bit going from high energy to a solid reggae dance beat in the catchy “Here Comes the Night Time”.

There’s a few other tunes experimenting with the beat and the bleep and then disc two starts off a little slower and more like the Butlers’ traditional anthems like “Here Comes the Night Time part 2” and “Awful Sound (Oh Eurodice)” but once again Murphy’s big beat production makes itself heard with “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)” and “Porno”. And it all ends with a pretty whisper and looping synths on “Supersymmetry”.

Arcade Fire has once again delivered a solid album worth its accolades and all that. But as that “ambitious” double album, “Reflektor” even with the impossible to ignore upbeat production, somehow falls short of the expectations of some. Murphy is a great fit to Butler’s laments, but it seems like they might have played things a little safe instead of going for the guts like the Fire has done in the past. Still, “Reflektor” is a two disc full shot of soul from the rising Canadian art collective and well worth a listen.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 November 2013 18:05
Lipliplip Hands, 'L(i/o)ve EP' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alec Cunningham   
Tuesday, 19 November 2013 18:06

Although L(i/o)ve EP, the most recent release from Lipliplip Hands contains only six tracks, they prove to be a fulfilling six tracks. The group takes a touch of punk rock, indie and folk-rock and combines it into one rich, musical soup that listeners from various musical backgrounds will be able to enjoy. This band, which blossomed in 2010, is the brainchild of frontman Zach Gilleran, longtime musician and drummer of fellow Knoxville group O Youth. Gilleran’s brother Nathan joins him as the group’s drummer, as do a handful of other Knoxville musicians. The group is filled with musicians busy with projects of their own and they all have a busy schedule to contend with. Luckily, though, the quality of this release hasn’t seemed to suffer from this.

The guys chose “Ballroom” to commence their EP. Soft vocals and similarly soft instrumentation introduce both the track and the album with a sound that calls to mind Death Cab For Cutie. The track soon picks up, though, into something stronger and less indie/rock-infused. “Three Years” comes next and shares a similar indie-meets-punk-rock sound.

It’s not common that you find lyrics as rich as this within an EP, especially from a group who’s still fundamentally local. “Body,” for instance, is one of those tracks that will keep you listening intently from beginning to end. If there’s one track on this album that you’ll walk away with remembering, it’s this one. Gilleran, who wrote the lyrics to the entire album, shares a level of understanding within his lyrics that many musicians are not always able to convey.

The drawn-out guitar picking they use throughout their EP, especially within “Before We Go” gives these guys a very much earned maturity to their sound and oftentimes a classic rock sound as well. Surprisingly, they seem to have left one of the best songs for last with the final track, “Rooftops” It’s perhaps the most reflective track on the entire album. Gilleran references a handful of memorable instances in life, singing after each event, “There I thought I felt closer to God than I may ever be.”

L(i/o)ve EP is a release full of realizations and introspections. This would be the perfect EP for a road trip or for a chilly fall day full of contemplation. If you’re a fan of Bright Eyes, Death Cab For Cutie, or Manchester Orchestra, you’ll more than likely find yourself falling in love with Lipliplip Hands as well. Their EP release show will be held Nov. 16 beginning at 10 p.m. at The Well with fellow Knoxville natives Johnny Astro and the Big Bang and Gamenight.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 November 2013 18:10
American Aquarium's 'Patriotic Fish Home' PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 19 November 2013 18:37

American Aquarium to play The Well with Jamie Cook on Nov. 20

In the business of music, many are called and many may try, but few cross the threshold of being able to say they are truly committed for the long haul.  With the release of their latest studio album, Burn.Flicker.Die., American Aquarium is proving that they have graduated to that class of professional musicians that have made an undeniable commitment to their music and their fans.

American Aquarium’s six years as a band have been a fast-moving blur of rubber on road, touring coast to coast through the states and Europe. Most nights of the year are spent far from their Raleigh homes, squinting out from bright stages at a growing legion of passionate fans who’ve followed them through the release of six albums that reflect a whirlwind of too many whiskey soaked nights, nameless women in smoky bars and fast living while your youth is in full bloom. But what happens when it all stops feeling good?

Burn.Flicker.Die. is what has emerged from that scenario for this group of hard working players.  After two years of writing, they journeyed to the legendary recording hub which gave birth to some of the greatest blues, country and rock records of all time: Muscle Shoals/Sheffield, AL. Recorded in eight days under the precise hand of friend/tour buddy Jason Isbell, the record is an aptly named milestone for the band, and their most painstaking effort to date. As a long-time Southern rock artisan, Isbell provided a weathered know-how in producing the record American Aquarium is proudest of. Described as a “consequence record” by vocalist BJ Barham, the band spent that week pushing out everything that’s been haunting them: working for six years, watching buzz bands peak and die, and pining for their own payoff.

“I wish my addictions didn’t mean so much/but we all can’t be born with that kind of luck,” Barham sings on the title track, capturing the fast lifestyle with images of subtle barroom horrors: Finding a high in a dingy bathroom stall, a pretty barfly from somewhere down south you won’t see again, free shots you can’t say no to. “Casualties” isa soaring, chorus-less ode to death by rock that confronts age and the band’s great fear of having made the wrong choice. They’ve watched artists ride the hype train right off the track. But that can’t be American Aquarium – they’ve been laying low too long, finding their way to the most poignant album of their careers through hard touring and waking up to realize that it’s not Saturday night anymore.

Some of the record hurts to hear, like the quiet, fine-spun “Harmless Sparks.” It sounds like the flicker of a solitary cigarette burning to its filter in the blue-black glow of a bar. Keys plink like shot glasses in the background, and you’re the last to go home. American Aquarium has been there before. But the record also looks to the end of a hard road, where there might be validation for good music, and even love. In “Jacksonville,” Barham promises someone a call if he “makes it out alive.” Taking a cue from Ryan Adams, he draws romance out of shame in “Northern Lights.” And in “Saturday Nights” and “Saint Mary’s,” he makes a subtle mockery of the dives they know too well – slick with spilled whiskey and crawling with restless women who all look the same.

Every grizzled image of Burn.Flicker.Die is real, which comes from the band’s profound understanding of small southern town debauchery and six years of pushing their careers off the bottom rung. Like many of their musical heroes that have paved the way before them, American Aquarium can wrap the ugliest feelings in the most spirited soundscape. Sonically uplifting instrumentation and vivid, wrenching lyrics illuminate the dark side of hanging out in rock ‘n’ roll limbo, but also how the band has clawed their way out of it. Through their struggle to sustain their career and resist the temptation of fire, American Aquarium’s demons have hung around. But so have they. Catch the band along with former Black Lillies drummer Jamie Cook at The Well on Wednesday, November 20th.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 November 2013 18:39
Clay Cook's “North Star” PDF Print E-mail
User Rating: / 3
Monday, 28 October 2013 14:58

Clay cook is known for a lot of things in the music industry. He got his start in a band called Lo-Fi Masters, a duo he began with John Mayer in 1996 while they attended Berkley.A few years later, they moved to Atlanta and the rest is history. Considering himself more of a producer, he co wrote “Neon”, “Why Georgia,” and “No Such Thing.” After parting way, He went on to play with Shawn Mullins, Sugarland, The Marshall Tucker Band, and most recently Zac Brown Band. Impressive huh? The later has lead to a Grammy award. Not to have his name secondary, Cook has released his third solo effort, “North Star,” on October 22, 2013, on Zac Brown's Southern Ground Records. Appearing on the record are John Mayer, The Wood Brothers, Steel Magnolia and Clare Brown. “North Star” is rollercoaster of emotion, but Cook has taken the ride and in the end, it is worth all the terrifying moments.

Comfortably sitting in a chair, plugged in and crooning, Cook is ready. “I am the man on the side/Hoping you'll make up your mind/I am the one who will swallow his pride/Life as the man on the side.” This year will end this notion. Cook will be at the forefront and easing into your radio.

North Star is packed full of the same influence he has on those listed above. The entire album from start to finish, is a great “on the road” travel companion. Full of longing and loss and breaking through, the listener is taken by the hand though hard endings and new beginnings. Cook is ready to break out. “How many dreams have died while waiting on the right time?” Cook asks.  With exemplary lyrics and raw harnessed talent, North Star is a shines. “I'll walk into fire if water is waiting on the other side,” and Cook is not waiting

On first listen, I am immediately drawn to “Terrible Timing.” At a cursory glance, it is reminiscent of my wilder years. Being thrown out of a girls house by her father...ah memories. This, however is a love song about falling and realizing that not being ready to be the man you have to be and that rushing in, can be the mistakes regretted most.

The quiet slide of a steel guitar and gentle pound of an acoustic guitar create a settling calm in “Falling Over You.” Cook is full of wonder and woe and the finally the joy of breaking through. “There's a maze I built around my heart bordered by mistakes” is the line that shines. Overly relatable and passionate, Cook feels like a character from a romantic comedy that you just have to root for.

“North Star” is well rounded. It is complex in its instrumentation and simple in its relatability. It is quiet and bold and caring and all the magical parts that make music the heart and soul of our existence. Cook has hit a home run. Get ready to know his name.

Last Updated on Monday, 18 November 2013 15:52
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.'s "The Speed of Things" PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 27 October 2013 09:51

The two guys from Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. may or may not be racing fans, but their second album sounds tuned in, revved up and ready for the checkered flag.

“The Speed of Things” turns up the energy, raises the danceability, and pours on the sugar, setting the bar even higher than their excellent 2011 debut. It’s a sweet combination of melodies, keyboards, the occasional folk elements, and dancable rhythms all into a nice pop package. And though these are all good things, sometimes too much of a good thing…

“Beautiful Dream” starts it all with just that, a dream- like arena setting somewhere between the Flaming Lips and E.L.O. Things keep bumping along with “Run”, the charming and sentimental love song “Knock Louder” and the perfect dance single “If You Didn’t See Me (then You Weren’t On the Dancefloor}” which is dreamy enough to have fallen off a Washed Out album.

The energy keeps going and going throughout “Speed” filled with enough gooey pop to give you a sugar rush, but that’s not necessarily a major complaint. Maybe the boys are trying just a little too hard to please, revving the engine a bit too high. And once you listen to second half numbers like “Dark Water” or “Gloria” separate from the rest of the happy production you can really appreciate how many well crafted gems there are on the album.

So maybe Dale Earnhardt Jr. jr. spends a little too much time on the sweet side of the track, they’ve still got the goods to finish with flying colors.


Last Updated on Sunday, 27 October 2013 09:54
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