Recently by Jordan Richardson

The thing about Miles Davis that stands in most contrast to most of today's jazz musicians is his fierce insistence on forward motion. As George Cole writes in the liner notes to Live at Montreux 1991, "Miles Davis never went back." In many of discussions about "today's music," it isn't long before some wiseass decries modernity. This grand tradition exists in every generation, as the music of the contemporary never can quite capture the glory of the past. But with Davis: "If anybody wants to keep creating, they have to be about change." Not all change is good, but acceptance
Old Yellow Moon is every ounce a classic country record, a gleeful nod to times passed and memories fading. Yet it's also decidedly modern, a vigorous and sometimes boisterous take on classics and new tunes that feels as organic as a young band testing its weight on the road. These platitudes might wave around in the air for some time were it not for the fact that Old Yellow Moon is a collaborative record from Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. It is a piece some 30 or so years in the making, an album that has its roots in the

Review: Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city

Catching up with one of the best records of 2012.
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Compton-based rapper Kendrick Lamar’s brilliant good kid, m.A.A.d city is an inspired trip that reminds us that some artists are still making complete albums with realized visions and cinematic sensibilities. At just 25, Lamar’s wisdom is off the chain and his abilities on the microphone are amazing. He draws out bars in double and triple time, easing through intricate lines with the will and raw skill of a master. Lamar’s second record dropped to finish off 2012 in style and found itself on the Best Of lists of many publications, rightly earning accolades for its unconventional songcraft and robust sense

Review: Aeon - Aeons Black

Uncompromising death metal.
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Blistering and desolate, Aeons Black is icy Swedish death metal at its most adamant. The fourth full-length recording by Aeon, the follow-up to Path of Fire comes with more of the blasphemy and hatred fans have come to expect from this quintet. The band formed in 1999, coming out of the ashes of a group called Defaced Creation. Vocalist Tommy Dahlström, guitarist Zeb Nilsson and drummer Arttu Malkki were the early members, while some line-up changes eventually led to the arrival of guitarist Daniel Dlimi and bassist Marcus Edvardsson. As technically proficient as these cats are, the most striking element

Blu-ray Review: FCA! 35 Tour: An Evening with Peter Frampton

Do you feel like we do? If so, this Blu-ray is for you.
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Presented by Eagle Rock Entertainment, FCA! 35 Tour: An Evening with Peter Frampton includes footage from the icon’s 2011-2012 world tour in celebration of the 35th anniversary of the legendary Frampton Comes Alive! record. The release is available in a two-DVD set and on Blu-ray, while a three CD set entitled The Best of FCA! 35 Tour is also out. This review is for the Blu-ray release. Directed and produced by Pierre and Francois Lamoureux, FCA! 35 Tour features footage from two shows from February of 2012. Material from a New York gig at the Beacon Theatre is combined with

Review: Green Day - ¡Dos!

Green Day hits the garage.
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The tenth studio album for Green Day is ¡Dos!, the middle portion of a trilogy of records that began with ¡Uno! and will end with the upcoming ¡Tré!. While ¡Uno! set the tone with a collection of party pop-punk tunes, this record finds the trio a little more entrenched in the shindig to the point that the floor is beset with empty beer cans and cigarette butts and all the “cool people” have gone home. That is, of course, a damn good thing. ¡Dos! plainly makes a lot of sense in what is shaping up to be one hell of

Review: Ambassador Gun - Golden Eagle

A rip-and-tear nor'easter of pain.
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Ambassador Gun’s Golden Eagle feels like the sonic attack in Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. With a deluge of pandemonium, the Minnesota-based grind outfit punishes eardrums and hastens heart rates. Golden Eagle is raw, disordered detonations of noise and discomfort. It’s hard to characterize it as a listenable experience, but there’s little doubt that the band achieves what they’re after through these barely-contained knife fights. Ambassador Gun was formed by Tim Sieler and Luke Olson, a couple of high school buddies with chops in metal and punk bands. After relocating to Minnesota in 2000, the pair worked some different

Review: Neil Young with Crazy Horse - Psychedelic Pill

Going places with the Horse.
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There is a portion in Neil Young’s transcendent book Waging Heavy Peace that finds the rocker describing how he can “go places” with Crazy Horse. On their latest album, Psychedelic Pill, the listener gets to go places too. Young’s book is filled with lots of “anyways;” his thoughts come out in torrents, gushers really, and there’s no stopping him. When he gets something in his mind, he wants to go there. He’s willing to stretch out and take his time, even if things like rock and roll and thought and 50 shades of fucking book-writing don’t seem to accommodate that

Review: Dethklok - Dethalbum III

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They may be a virtual death metal band, but Dethklok tears at the very fabric of the universe with Dethalbum III, their third full length release. The band is featured on the Adult Swim animated series Metalocalpyse, but the real group behind the animated characters has toured with some pretty serious metal heavyweights. In 2009, Dethklok toured with Mastodon, High on Fire and Converge. And a 2012 tour was planned with Gojira and Lamb of God, but Randy Blythe’s bail hearings in the Czech Republic put a stop to that. Dethklok is the creation of Brandon Small and Tommy Blacha.

Jazz Review: Fred Hersch Trio - Alive at the Vanguard

"If it's right, it's transcendent."
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Five-time Grammy nominee Fred Hersch takes to Alive at the Vanguard with an exciting trio that rounds out with bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson. The pianist’s group has drawn enough water from the well for a double album. Hersch brought the trio to the attention of many with Whirl, his 2010 Palmetto debut. But here with Alive, the group takes to the legendary New York City club for a series that runs with gusto and professionalism. The program includes seven Hersch originals, seven classic jazz numbers and four pieces from the American Songbook. The trio plays the songs

Review: AxeWound - Vultures

A supergroup's one-off proves an entertaining listen.
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Featuring members of Bullet for My Valentine and Cancer Bats members, one could argue that AxeWound is a bit of a supergroup. Unveiled in May of 2012 and featuring Matt Tuck (guitars, vocals), Liam Cormier (vocals), Mike Kingswood (guitar), Joe Copcutt (bass), and Jason Bowld (drums), there’s little doubting the fact that this group hits hard. Their debut, Vultures, is a riff-infused salvo of super heavyweight stuff. It’s a fun listen, one that seems to come in the spirit of AxeWound influences like Slipknot and Pantera. The songs are striking, capable of digging holes in heads after just one listen.

Jazz Review: Erik Jekabson - Anti-Mass

Bridging the aural-visual gap.
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With his latest outing Anti-Mass, trumpeter and composer Erik Jekabson takes his String-tet group through pieces of chamber jazz inspired by artwork from San Francisco’s DeYoung Museum. Featuring Dayna Stephens (tenor saxophone), Mads Tolling (violin), Charith Prewardhana (viola), John Witala (bass), and Smith Dobson (drums, vibes), Jekabson’s group functions as a unit with a clear mind toward using space and tone to tell complete narratives. To have Jekabson tell it, it was Cornelia Parker’s “Anti-Mass” installation that provided the main impetus for the album of the same name. “I knew immediately it was the piece for me to interpret musically,”

Review: Maybeshewill - I Was Here For A Moment, Then I Was Gone

A meticulous, gorgeous instrumental rock record.
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Leicestershire’s Maybeshewill manages an engrossing, provocative experience with I Was Here For A Moment, Then I Was Gone. It’s a chilling record in many respects, vibrant with instrumental upheaval and divine gorgeousness all at once, but it’s also hopeful. The UK-based quintet features James Collins (drums), Matt Daly (keyboards), John Helps (guitar), Robin Southby (guitar), and Jamie Ward (bass). Adhering to a DIY aesthetic, the band has self-recorded all of its material and continues to evolve with each release. With Ward once again serving as producer, I Was Here For A Moment… feels like a comprehensive piece of work in

Review: Downfall of Gaia - Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes

A layered piece of work from a cohesive unit.
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Germany’s Downfall of Gaia may not be the first act one would associate with luminous music, but their cataclysmic new record does feature more than a few rays of sunshine. Laced with elements of post-hardcore, black metal and down-tempo music, Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes is a layered piece of work from a cohesive unit. The band formed in 2008 and went through the requisite changes modern musical acts seem to go through before settling on a quartet that includes Dominik Goncalves dos Reis (vocals, guitars), Peter Wolff (vocals, guitars), Anton Lisovoj (vocals, bass), and Johannes Stoltenburg (drums). There

Review: Dying Machines - Nicht Sprechen

The emotional aspect of ambient and mood music.
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Nicht Sprechen, the debut release from Dying Machines, is a lovely and expansive EP that acknowledges the emotional aspect of ambient and mood music. Dying Machines is Thomas Buschbach, a New Orleans-based multi-instrumentalist. His early artistic interests took him down some conventional and not-so-conventional paths, with piano and guitar training eventually giving way to classical training. With these elements in tow, Dying Machines’ EP seems to reflect every ounce of Buschbach’s development as an artist thus far. Some musicians take up bits of knowledge along the way and drop them off as their path expands, but Nicht Sprechen makes great

Jazz Review: Deborah Shulman and Larry Zalkind - Lost in the Stars: The Music of Bernstein, Weill & Sondheim

An enjoyable and imaginative retelling of musical theatre standards.
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The worlds of musical theatre and jazz music collide often, with the former providing plenty of room for exaggerated exploration and the latter setting the scene for improvisation and some compositional guidelines. Those worlds collide yet again with the release of Lost in the Stars: The Music of Bernstein, Weill & Sondheim, the latest release from vocalist Deborah Shulman and trombonist Larry Zalkind. The record is somewhat of a family affair, featuring Zalkind’s wife (and Shulman’s sister) Roberta (viola) and son Matthew (cello). Jeff Colella (piano), Terry Trotter (piano), Joe LaBarbera (drums), Larry Koonse (guitar), and Chris Colangelo (bass) are

Review: Heaven's Cry - Wheels of Impermanence

A Canadian prog act digs in again.
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Montreal’s Heaven’s Cry initially formed in the early 1990s, eventually recording Food For Thought Substitute in 1996. After releasing it in Japan, then Europe and Canada, the band headed through some line-up changes and released another album. The ever-evolving progressive metal act found themselves touring Canada in support of bands like the legendary Anvil and Nightwish. Now, after a seven-year hiatus, Heaven’s Cry is back with a new album and new designs on delivering the proggy goods. Founding members Pierre St-Jean (vocals, guitars) and Sylvain Auclair (vocals, bass) still form the one-two punch fans are used to, while Eric Jarrin

Review: Posthum - Lights Out

An ambitious but hardly innovative entry.
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Norway’s Posthum takes clear inspiration from the sparse, frozen environs of their home. The band formed in isolation in 2004 and spent their first five years purposely outside of the metal community, choosing instead to facilitate their own sound without outside influences. That’s not to say that Posthum accomplishes anything all that different with Lights Out, their second album. As the follow-up to 2009’s self-titled debut, it’s safe to say that the trio has learned from experiences like a European tour with Satyricon and Shining and a spot at the Under the Black Sun Festival in Germany. Comprised of Jon

Review: Empty Flowers - SIX

Strident but melodic post-punk noise.
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Comprised of seven tracks filled to the brim with monolithic but melodious noise, Empty Flowers’ debut SIX should sufficiently cement the East Coasters as formidable forces on the scene. Christian McKenna (vocals), Randy Larsen (guitar), Bernie Romanowski (bass) and Drew Juergens (drums) provide for a complex yet distilled attack, furthering the notion that SIX is the sound of seemingly contradictory elements colliding underwater. From the initial swells of noise to the pop-like beauty of later numbers, this is certainly a record of more than one stylistic note. Empty Flowers has earned comparisons to the likes of Fugazi, Hum and Slint,

Review: Muse - The 2nd Law

The Kitchen Sink.
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For English rockers Muse, the approach to their sixth studio album was one of letting go of expectations. The 2nd Law, recorded with few constrictions at Air in London, follows on the heels of a world tour and really could be christened The Kitchen Sink. The Devon-born band has come a long way since the Gothic Plague/Fixed Penalty/Rocket Baby Dolls days, of course, and The 2nd Law perhaps is their bravest step forward yet. Because its relatively frisky spirit, the record has a looser feel overall and the band’s lack of restraint has a place to park. “There’s an eccentricity

Review: Richard Hawley - Standing at the Sky's Edge

One of the best albums of the year.
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Richard Hawley's Standing at the Sky's Edge is a masterful piece of work, an artistic statement of longing and love and liberation supported by mesmerizing guitar and beautiful songcraft. The Sheffield-born English guitarist and singer has amassed quite a career for himself, urged as he was by the lads in Pulp to start releasing his solo work. After a brief stint with the aforementioned band, Hawley released a mini-album in April of 2001 and followed up with Late Night Final later that year. He's also worked as a session musician, plunging in with artists as diverse as Lisa Marie Presley

Review: Fins - Lawnmower EP

A demented racket.
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New Milford’s Fins have taken to Lawnmower, their four-song EP, with the same species of irresponsible poise that used to send embryonic punk bands into instrument-smashing, stage-destroying spasms. With vitality at a premium and well-crafted, well-bred pop seemingly all the rage with kids these days, the bracing spirit presented by these three blokes drizzles through the filthy speakers within seconds of Lawnmower’s takeoff. John Lydon, Scott Bowers-Defino, and Nate Sadowski may have emerged from the clippings of other experimental bands and may soak themselves in the art charade of noise rock and other appetites, but the ferocity of Fins is

Jazz Review: Greg Lewis - Organ Monk: Uwo in the Black

A lively, intricate probe of Monk's many moods.
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As the second volume in a proposed trilogy, Greg Lewis’ Organ Monk: Uwo in the Black is a neatly textured collection of music inspired and written by Thelonious Monk. Lewis plays the Hammond C3 organ and is supported by Ron Jackson (guitar), Reginald R. Woods (tenor saxophone) and Nasheet Waits (drums and cymbals). The organization is knowingly trim but surprisingly potent, capable of blowing through bursts of divine drama and musical pressure with ease. Lewis, based in Brooklyn, studied piano with Jaki Byard and Gil Coggins. He is self-taught on the Hammond C3, however, and found inspiration from sources as

Review: Satan's Wrath - Galloping Blasphemy

Full-blooded metal, with extra goat sacrifices for the kids!
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Staking a claim as “the only band in the world in communication with thy master through ceremonial black magic and necromantic rituals,” Greece’s Satan’s Wrath not only probably knows where Mitt Romney’s money is but they’ve crafted one hell of a fun record. Galloping Blasphemy boils with vintage riffing, scowling devil vocals and pummelling drums. Tas Danazoglou handles vocals, drums and bass guitars while his partner in demonic sacrifice Stamkos K brandishes the blood-spattered, virgin-killing guitars in the shadowy organization. With Galloping Blasphemy, Satan’s Wrath calls back to an era when the wrong record would earn a fledgling dude a

Review: NettleCarrier - NettleCarrier

There is no mercy here.
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Apparently a NettleCarrier is a “spreader of death,” so it makes sense that the icy Norwegian death metal act by the same name might leave a trail of frozen corpses in their wake. With their self-titled debut full length, the follow-up to seven-inch To Strangle the Hero of Heaven, the trio delivers the scraping, cold, malevolent goods in true darkened fashion. NettleCarrier, comprised of T.Ciekals (guitars and backing vocals), Mannevond (bass guitars and vocals) and Dirge Rep (drums), comes out of the sub-zero ashes of Norway stalwarts like Ljå and Koldbrann. In fact, after a Koldbrann/ Ljå split album, the

Review: As I Lay Dying - Awakened

Kicking off a second decade with more of the same. Seems about right.
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With their sixth studio album, San Diego’s As I Lay Dying elbows into their second decade with another chugging, pit-ready selection of metalcore. Awakened is less a step forward than more of the same, a tweak of the band’s attack more than an evolutionary course. "There's nothing totally out of left-field, we just refined our songwriting and incorporated some ideas that bring a real freshness to the record," guitarist Phil Sgrosso says. "We wanted something that was a lot bigger and more open sounding, and that's exactly what we achieved." Featuring Sgrosso, vocalist Tim Lambesis, guitarist Nick Hipa, bassist/vocalist Josh

Review: Boyfrndz - All Day Pass

The prize at the bottom of this disorderly cereal box may not be for everyone, but that's okay.
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Finding something to latch onto amid the tempting melange of the very technical and the very frenetic can be a chore for even the most enduring of listeners, as Boyfrndz’s All Day Pass proves. The Texas trio’s sophomore record is a challenging listen, much in the way of The Mars Volta or Hella, and finding the prize at the bottom of their disorderly cereal box may not be enough to snag some individuals. But that’s okay. In a day and age of appealing to the masses (or else), there’s something altogether encouraging about Boyfrndz’s strange brew. The unmelodious heap set

Jazz Review: Carol Saboya - Belezas: The Music of Ivan Lins and Milton Nascimento

The music of two Brazilian masters is treated with care.
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Brazil native Carol Saboya makes her U.S. solo debut with Belezas: The Music of Ivan Lins and Milton Nascimento. The record, like her previously recorded album based on the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, feels like a love letter to all things Brazilian. “I thought about great Brazilian composers who are known in the States and Ivan Lins and Milton Nascimento made sense,” says Saboya. “They’re modern in a way that’s not bossa nova. They have these great harmonies and beautiful melodies, and their music really lends itself to jazz.” Backed by a quartet that includes pianist (and father) Antonio

Review: Green Day - ¡Uno!

Green Day rolls back the clock and loosens up.
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Released as the first part of a trilogy, Green Day’s ¡Uno! is a sharp slash of pop-punk and dance music. The follow-up to the politically-charged duo of American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown finds Billie Joe Armstrong (guitars, vocals), Mike Dirnt (bass, vocals) and Tre Cool (drums, vocals) looking to let their hair down and have a little fun. There will be those who’ll decry ¡Uno! for its perceived lack of impact, but this brush with the lighter side seems right on target. Green Day is back to revelling in the less consequential, into tackling the suburban ennui that laid

Jazz Review: Anna Estrada - Volando

Love of expression comes home to roost.
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Bay Area jazz vocalist Anna Estrada may have a lot of irons in the fire, working as an anesthesiologist and an actress as well as dominating as a champion fencer, but her love of expression through song comes home to roost with the beautiful Volando. Performing with an impressive group that includes Jonathan Alford (piano, Rhodes), Alex Baum (bass), Ray Scott (guitar), Phil Thompson (drums), Tommy Kesecher (vibes, marimba), Charlie McCarthy (tenor saxophone, flute), and Al Bent (trombone) among others, Estrada’s searching understanding of the lyrics and how they suit the greater good of the song forms the heart of

Review: Sean Paul - Tomahawk Technique

Gets in and gets out, leaving no memories behind.
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The fifth studio album from Jamaica’s Sean Paul is Tomahawk Technique. It adheres to the artist’s dancehall tradition, but branches out a bit more into mainstream pop music with traces of hip hop, electro-pop and R&B. Paul, who won a Best Reggae Album Grammy for his 2004 album Dutty Rock, succeeds because of his cordial musical sense. Singles like “Gimme the Light” and “Temperature” brought the Kingston native attention on the global stage, while appearances with artists like Beyoncé and Blu Cantrell helped solidify his presence. Paul is at his best when it brings his signature reggae style to the

Jazz Review: Kat Parra - Las Aventuras de Pasión!

The love of a good adventure.
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With her latest recording, Las Aventuras de Pasión!, Latin jazz vocalist Kat Parra merges countless musical traditions into one vivacious, thrilling form. Like the spectacular Dos Amantes, Las Aventuras de Pasión! walks the footpaths of Sephardic Jews and branches out from there. The new trail ambles through Latin American tradition, enlisting help from Grammy nominee Wayne Wallace and a host of other talents to flesh out the vision. Everything that proved so inviting on her previous records is here, but Parra ups the ante and creates an album that is intensely personal. She makes bolder choices, building on the escapades

Review: Sylencer - A Lethal Dose of Truth

A gargantuan thrash metal project.
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Sylencer’s A Lethal Dose of Truth may feature a crateful of guest performances from metal monarchs, but the colossal meat-and-potatoes thrash springing from Markus Johansson’s project is still very much the Chicago-based musician’s baby. Featuring Johansson, Johnny Rox and Kevin Talley, Sylencer should be set for a significant career. While there are a lot of thrash metal acts and retro groups cooking at the moment, few manifest the energy and technical proficiency as confidently as these dudes. Playing through a round of 16 songs like a boyish Metallica still sowing their wild oats, Sylencer is an exhilarating and lively thrash

Review: Castle - Blacklands

A woozy and cluttered routine.
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Castle’s Blacklands is an interesting album, to be kind. This is the second record from the Bay Area-based group and their American label debut. In Witch Order was released in spring of 2011 in Germany and wound up getting the trio some recognition. With Blacklands, the band merges a love for old school metal with flimsy gothic sensibility to come up with a formula that doesn’t really work. There are elements of Black Sabbath and Danzig at work, sure, but Castle’s own sound doesn’t carve anything into the tree and the album falls flat. Elizabeth Blackwell (vocals, bass), Mat Davis

Jazz Review: Connie Evingson - Sweet Happy Life

A sophisticated interpreter of some truly great songs.
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Minnesota-born jazz singer Connie Evingson delivers her clear, alluring character on Sweet Happy Life, her ninth release on Minnehaha Music. The record pays tribute to Oscar and Grammy-winning lyricist Norman Gimbel, whose words have driven hit songs like “Killing Me Softly with His Song” and “The Girl from Impanema.” Through it all, Evingson expresses her own voice. She has iridescent tone with just a dash of attitude. She never neglects the swing and ties in pleasantly with the instruments, forming a consistent vision of the songs that flows through the album. Evingson was born in Bob Dylan’s hometown of Hibbing,

Review: Legacy of Disorder - Last Man Standing

A robust but generic melodic thrash album.
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Taking more than a few pages from the books on thrash metal written by heavyweights like Pantera and Biohazard, New Zealand’s Legacy of Disorder materializes with the robust Last Man Standing. The Pantera comparisons gain more ground when one realizes that Sterling Winfield serves as producer. He produced Pantera’s Reinventing the Steel as well as Damageplan’s 2004 debut New Found Power. With Legacy of Disorder, the results are similarly hostile. That’s not to say that Last Man Standing is on par with the aforementioned or even deserves to stand in the same bloodied field, of course. Despite bursting at the

Maria Neckam - Unison: An Exciting, Clever, Daring Record

Unison is an appealing and freeing piece of work...
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Austrian-born singer Maria Neckam takes an amorphous approach to Unison, a piece of sprawling art that neglects musical limits but maintains cohesion nevertheless. Featuring Aaron Parks (piano), Thomas Morgan (bass) and Colin Stranahan (drums) along with other players like Nir Felder (guitar) and Lars Dietrich (alto saxophone), Neckam’s latest is hard to pin down. There are divine notes of jazz, but colours from avant pop, free form music and poetry readings in New York coffee shops also paint an elegant picture. Neckam, who grew up in Vienna, brings the wealth of her experiences to Unison and elegantly moves through space

Review: Billy Talent - Dead Silence

Billy Talent blisters and rages all over their fifth record.
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Formed in high school in 1993 as a band called Pezz, the artists now known as Billy Talent have been making their way through the Canadian rock scene for some time now. They have two multi-platinum records and took to a Led Zeppelin naming tack with their first three major releases. With Dead Silence, their fifth as a band and fourth as Billy Talent, these dudes set their legacy. Led by the one-two punch of vocalist Benjamin Kowalewicz and guitarist Ian D’Sa, Billy Talent emerges on Dead Silence with a set of riff-heavy, pissed-off punk rock tunes. Bassist Jonathan Gallant

Review: Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell - Don't Hear It...Fear It!

Get the Shovell, there's rock and roll to dig.
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Named for a 17th century English naval commander and taking hints from a giant red bird, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell plays things for authenticity on Don’t Hear It…Fear It! Influences are handpicked from bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and MC5. The Shovell, as they are called by fans, come right smack dab in the middle of a significant movement to resuscitate 70s rock awesomeness. Luckily, these guys are definitely pretty good at what they try to pull off. The aforesaid desire for authenticity works in their favour, as Don’t Hear It…Fear It! is recorded with enough low-fi tricks so

Jazz Review: Amikaeyla - Being in Love

An absence of pretence gives way to sheer love of art.
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Bay Area vocalist Amikaeyla doesn’t believe in confining herself. Being in Love exemplifies this approach confidently, with an absence of pretence giving way to sheer love of art. Like love, the rules are made to be broken and passion flows liberally through 10 authentic expressions of affection. “I really do feel a deep connection to so many types of sounds,” Amikaeyla says. “Currently in the music industry, where you kind of have to pocket yourself in one genre, it’s really challenging for me because I want to be a part of all the things that make me happy sonically.” Luckily

Matchbox Twenty Maintains Legacy Of Mediocrity On 'North'

Still predictable, pleasant, and unassuming even after a hiatus...
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With their first album in about ten years, Matchbox Twenty proves themselves arduous occupants of the middle. Theirs is a legacy filled with mediocrity, one built on erecting pleasant pop-rock tunes for summer events under patio lanterns. There is nothing at all wrong with North. Many obnoxious rock entries have passed this desk and through these headphones, afflicting these ears with some of the most shockingly rotten and unbearably trite sounds to ever reach the fading light of day. This album does not fall in that distended class, but it’s not particularly interesting either. Rob Thomas, Paul Doucette, Kyle Cook,

Review: Trey Songz - 'Chapter V'

A pop yawn of a record that mistakes talking dirty for raw sex appeal.
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There’s little doubt that Trey Songz, the Virginia-born singer and rapper, has taken more than a few pages out of R. Kelly’s book. Songz has the proclivity for sexualizing everything down pat and exacts emotional spasms at times, enlarging words in a corny gospel-meets-porno tenor and rubbing his moderate vocal talents for all they’re worth. The fixation makes Chapter V, his fifth album of course, into a lump of clay that somehow always manages to shape itself into some kind of genitalia. When Songz informs us on “2 Reasons” that he only “came here for the bitches and the drinks,”

Review: Martin Solveig - SMASH

SMASH isn't quite a smash.
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Martin Solveig’s SMASH has been available around the world and in download format for quite a while now, but the fifth record from the French DJ and producer is seeing its physical compact disc release in the United States on September 18. SMASH has been fuelling sweaty dance floors since 2010 at least, when the single “Hello” featuring Canada’s electro-pop group Dragonette took to airwaves. The track’s video has over 60 million views on YouTube and landed in a gum commercial, the sure marker of success for modern dance music. As dance music goes, Solveig’s brand is typical stuff. He

Jazz Review: Jessica Jones and Mark Taylor - Live at the Freight

A coffeehouse conversation.
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Mark Taylor (French horn) and Jessica Jones (tenor saxophone) get together to have a conversation with Live at the Freight, a record that illuminates a touching, subtle and somewhat eccentric dialogue between the two players. They are backed by drummer Jason Lewis and bassist John Shifflet and the recording took place in June of 2011 at the Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley, California. “Jessica and I really seem to connect musically on a lot of levels,” Taylor says. “I don’t think we play alike at all – and conceptually, we’re coming from different but complimentary places, which might be

Review: Gypsyhawk - Revelry And Resilience

Jesus H. Christ, can they rock!
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Drenched in economy beer and pot smoke, Pasadena’s Gypsyhawk materializes from the back of the decrepit van parked in the bad neighbourhood to present their brand of rock and roll with their second album Revelry & Resilience. The follow-up to 2010’s Patience & Perseverance is a bold statement of a record. With so many metal acts trafficking in the more “extreme” edges of the genre and drilling home the point with snarls and blast-beats, Gypsyhawk unabashedly cuddles the frayed denim vests of bigger, more groove-oriented heavy music. “Gypsyhawk is four metal dudes playing rock and roll and bringing the party

Review: Antlers - Undersea

A rich vision that gets in and gets out of the water in a touch over 20 minutes.
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Filled with cobalt textures and light effects, Undersea is every bit the subaquatic experience Antlers were aiming for. The EP from the Brooklyn-based outfit is couched in ambient influences that weave gracefully with notes of indie rock, providing a rich vision that gets in and gets out of the water in a touch over 20 minutes. Antlers haven’t exactly been known for being hopeful, which is why this submarine arrival may appear to come out of left field. After all, this is the group that tendered Hospice – a murky but emotive recording about a hospice worker and a person

Review: Sunday Lane - From Where You Are

Sunday Lane has the story down.
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Singer/songwriter Sunday Lane has the story down. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, she cultivated her love of music early. She learned classical music first and branched out to other forms later. Eventually she headed West, settling in Los Angeles and attending the Musicians Institute. With a couple of EPs under her belt and a pair of songs featured on One Tree Hill, the arrival of From Where You Are is right on schedule to write the next chapter in the Sunday Lane story. Despite the familiarity of the tale, there’s something organic about what she brings to the table – even
Vocalists David Linx and Maria Joao, along with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, present A Different Porgy & Another Bess, a distinctive take on George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward’s Porgy and Bess. The original folk opera is melded with swaying jazz, big band sound and ample influences from numerous film and theatrical interpretations. A Different Porgy & Another Bess is a project of imposing range, with no less than 11 arrangers offering takes on Gershwin standards. The program is mostly a stable chronicle, even as it missteps occasionally in finding its way around Catfish Row. Porgy and Bess faced criticism with

Review: Sunflower Dead - Sunflower Dead

Is this some extravagant joke?
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It’s hard to know what to do with Sunflower Dead and their self-titled debut, although there are a few ideas on my mind that range from breaking into peals of overpowering laughter (again) to locating the nearest wastebasket. The band was constructed by ex-Droid guitarist Jamie Teissere and built with the talents of Michael (vocals, piano, accordion), Jaboo (guitar), Luis Gascon (bass), and Jimmy Schultz (drums). After loading their shopping carts thanks to a sale on obsolete Hot Topic attire and applying make-up accordingly to offer that “aloof but perchance interested in casual encounters” look, Sunflower Dead toured with such

Jazz Review: Brooklyn Jazz Underground - A Portrait of Brooklyn

Ten pieces of vibrant, diverse jazz.
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The real essence of A Portrait of Brooklyn, the debut recording from the Brooklyn Jazz Underground, lies in the differences between compositions. There are two compositions from each member; each provides a diverse photograph of the city they call home. The roster features David Smith (trumpet), Dan Pratt (tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute), Adam Kolker (tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute), Anne Mette Iversen (bass), and Rob Garcia (drums). Defined as “an artist run association that is in constant motion and evolvement,” the Brooklyn Jazz Underground just unbolted their doors to three new members: David Cook (piano), Tammy Scheffer

Review: The Foreshadowing - Second World

A bold statement and a step in the right direction.
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With Oionos, Italy’s The Foreshadowing delivered a well-rendered but repetitive portrait of doom. The follow-up, Second World, is a broader, richer recording that tells a better story and conveys a better experience overall. Between Oionos and Second World, The Foreshadowing remained largely the same with the exception of the departure of bassist Davide Pesola and the arrival of his replacement Francesco Giulianelli. Vocalist Marco Benevento, guitarists Alessandro Pace and Andrea Chiodetti, keyboardist Francesco Sosto, and drummer Jonah Padella still commit fully to the shadows and gloom. If Oionos is an omen, Second World is the transition from one desolate universe

Review: The Foreshadowing - Oionos

Looking at The Foreshadowing's 2010 release before we enter a Second World.
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The Foreshadowing’s Oionos was originally released in April of 2010, landing the Italian doom metal outfit in a storm of critical praise. Thanks to Metal Blade Records, the album is seeing issue in North America (again?) and surfaces just as Second World (review forthcoming) takes to the air. The Foreshadowing originated in 2005, with guitarist Alessandro Pace, guitarist Andrea Chiodett, keyboardist Francesco Sosto, drummer Jonah Padella, bassist Davide Pesola, and vocalist Marco Benevento entering the fold. Their first record was 2006’s Days of Nothing, the opening volley in what would become an apocalyptic revelation coursing through consequent releases. Oionos is the

Jazz Review: Arthur Kell Quartet - Jester

Bells and funny outfits optional.
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Jester, the new recording from bassist and composer Arthur Kell’s quartet, attempts to cultivate the social role of the artists often associated with wearing bells and funny outfits prior to decapitation at the jewel-stained order of a particularly sedate monarch in the Middle Ages. To have Kell tell it, “the jesters became essential in society because they used any skill they had – physical, verbal, musical, and political – to educate and illuminate. Any artist or activist today can understand how speaking to the world with intelligence, humour and insight remains a vital role…Jesters come in all shapes and sizes

Review: King of Asgard - North

Viking metal to roast a goat to.
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There are days when I’ve been out in the backyard roasting a whole goat over an open fire with my blade sleeping against a neighbouring boulder and, as flames lick the enchanting meat, I wonder why there isn’t any decent music to play in these situations. This happens more than you might think. Enter King of Asgard and their …of North record. The band formed in 2008 by guitarist and vocalist Karl Breckman, with drummer Karsten Larsson serving as the first addition. With a thirst for Norse mythology and bassist Jonas Albrektsson in the flock, the band took to recording

Review: Neil Welch - Sleeper

Distorting the lines between composition and improvisation.
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Saxophonist Neil Welch’s bony approach to his instrument and to distorting the lines between composition and improvisation come into play on the elegiac Sleeper. This is composition of slightly over 27 minutes, comprised of a constructive, distressed and emotive chain of tones, subtleties and context. Welch recorded the piece with a small ensemble in June of 2011 and released it last year. He composed it “living in seclusion” on Whidbey Island and drew up the final touches in Seattle. Sleeper is not an “easy” or traditional listen. It is filled with flooding tones and kaleidoscopic temperaments. It is a recording

Review: Friend Slash Lover - The Grey Area

A sonically pretty but creatively mediocre recording.
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Connecticut native Josh Mintz’s band, Friend Slash Lover, is more than a channel to bring the singer, songwriter and artist’s vision to the fore. It is a fully functioning indie rock band, with flourishes of electro-pop and Los Angeles sun soaked into its veins. Featuring Mintz, bassist Frank Day, drummer Jake Hayden, and guitarist Greg Pajer, Friend Slash Lover has been making waves in California by playing at clubs like The Viper Room and Skinny’s Lounge. The live sound was first put to record on the 2010 EP As American as Ones and Zeroes and now makes its way back

Review: Dublin Death Patrol - Death Sentence

The volume is right and the speed is just breakneck enough to work.
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There are a few things you should know about Dublin Death Patrol. First, they aren’t from Ireland. They hail from Dublin, California. Second, there are 11 members of the band. It started as a meek seven-piece, but the recording process of their debut album DDP 4 Life saw the addition of another three. After the release, they added another and brought the total to 11. Death Sentence, their second album, continues the boisterous thrash in meat-and-potatoes mode. Make no mistake about it, the band’s pedigree runs deep. Commenced in 2006 by thrash royalty, including Testament’s Chuck Billy (vocals) and former

Jazz Review: Duke Ellington Legacy (feat. Houston Person) - Single Petal of a Rose

An impressive presentation of the music of the master.
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The Duke Ellington Legacy swings hard and swings often on the sublime Single Petal of a Rose, an impressive presentation of the music of the master. The band takes Ellington’s soaring sound and brings it to the modern era, soaking his determined variety of work in contemporary angles. Delivered in one breath like an Ellington session might roll out from the bandstand at some hot nightclub in the wrong part of town, Single Petal of a Rose is jazz done right. It is music with feeling, with hunger. It explores the silhouettes of the charts as much as it revels

Review: Victoria Duffield - Shut Up and Dance

'Canada's Next Star' contestant makes inauspicious debut...
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British Columbia native Victoria Duffield hit the charts hard with her debut single, “Shut Up and Dance.” The track achieved platinum status and the video topped the MuchMusic countdown. The full length album of the same name is set for an August 21 release. This 17-year-old should nail down her target audience well, but anyone not interested or entertained by weak pop music best give this a wide berth. There’s absolutely nothing noteworthy about Duffield. Her voice is augmented by studio effects at every turn, transforming what could be a natural tone into an indecipherable, nasally whine. Duffield’s claim to

Darkness By Oath Is Repulsively Ordinary On Latest 'Near Death Experience'

Dazzlingly ordinary melodic death metal.
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Released in Europe in March of 2012, Darkness By Oath’s Near Death Experience is finally seeing its official North American release thanks to the good folks at Metal Blade Records. The melodic death metal effort from the Spanish band is dazzlingly ordinary stuff, though, and there’s not much to it beyond the customary genre conventions. The musicians are gifted, but the material is uninspiring. There’s no sense of menace or blackness, despite Aritz Nabarro’s snarls and the twin guitar spasm of Tristan Iñiguez and Alain Castaño. Darkness By Oath came into being in 2002. Influenced by Swedish death metal, the

Review: Marianne Solivan's 'Prisoner of Love' Best Jazz Vocal Recording Of The Year

The best vocal jazz recording of the year.
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This is it. Marianne Solivan’s Prisoner of Love is probably the best vocal jazz record of the year. The exquisiteness, expression and sentiment of her singing are supreme and matched only by her skill in enunciation. The record, produced by Jeremy Pelt, finds Solivan delivering a set of clever pieces with uncommon honesty, sensuality and wisdom. The Queens-born singer and composer lived with her family in Venezuela and New Jersey before settling in Massachusetts. She attended high school there and began studying classical voice, having already played alto saxophone. She appeared in some school productions and subsequently entered The Boston

Review: Witchsorrow - God Curse Us

A sloooooooow, doom-filled ride that goes nowhere in particular.
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To enter the world of Witchsorrow is to enter the tiresome depths of doom and despair without a lantern. The shadowy triad has amassed an assortment of slow-moving, down-tuned hopelessness all over their God Curse Us, a bleak record if there ever was one. This is the follow-up to the band’s 2010 self-titled debut and it pitilessly continues their mission to carry on the darkness set in motion by Black Sabbath in the 1970s. The Black Death brought about by Witchsorrow carries a lot of resemblance to what Ozzy and the gang were up to way back when. Fans of

Jazz Review: Kevin Coelho - Funkengruven: The Joy of Driving a B3

A teenager with an old soul tackles the Hammond B3.
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16-year-old Kevin Coelho was originally drawn to the Hammond B3 thanks to Booker T & the MGs. A recording of “Green Onions” sealed the deal and the kid was on his way through the likes of Jimmy McGriff and Don Patterson. R&B from the 60s also proved food for Coelho’s soul. With Funkengruven: The Joy of Driving a B3, the teenager from California gets to rev his engines. Having started piano school at age six, the curiosity came early. At age 11, he was into the organ and had a slew of jazz teachers, including Randy Masters and Wil Blades.

Review: Rob Zombie Gets Remixed on 'Mondo Sex Head'

Exploiting the groove in Rob Zombie's music including remixes from Korn's Jonathan Davis, Deftones' Chino Moreno...
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Musician, filmmaker, and theme park designer Rob Zombie is no stranger to the remix. 1996’s Supersexy Swingin Sounds featured remixes of songs by his White Zombie group, while 1999’s American Made Music to Strip By packed in remixes of tracks from Zombie’s Hellbilly Deluxe record. Now, Mondo Sex Head becomes the third album to feature remixes of Zombie hits and its job is to capitalize on the inherent groove found within his music. “I always thought my stuff had a groove to it,” he says. “We’re not a rigid, straight-ahead metal band. That’s woven into what we’ve always done anyway.

Jazz Review: Peter Appleyard - Sophisticated Ladies

Canadian jazz is alive and well.
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At 84 years of age, Canadian jazz music legend Peter Appleyard shows no signs of slowing down. The vibraphonist has shared bandstands with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Miles Davis, and fellow Canuck Oscar Peterson. He has enjoyed gigs at the Baldwin Club and Colonial Tavern, rubbing elbows with Duke Ellington and Clark Terry along the way. With Sophisticated Ladies, Appleyard proves that he’s still got the get-up-and-go to work with some of the best in the business. Not only does the album prove that Appleyard is still capable of putting together some beautiful music, it showcases the

Review: Serj Tankian - Harakiri

Tankian takes us on a diverse musical journey.
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The multi-talented Serj Tankian’s third solo record, Harakiri, is a diverse musical journey that carries an awful lot of philosophical weight on its back. The lead vocalist of System of a Down brings his distinctive singing style and peculiar songwriting capabilities to the table, unveiling a veritable abundance of punk rock-tinged goodness with a melodic edge. Harakiri is actually one of four new albums set to be released by Tankian over the next little while. There’s also the orchestral Orca, the jazz-kissed and hilariously-titled Jazz-Iz-Christ and an electronic music collaboration with Mindless Self Indulgence’s Jimmy Urine that goes by the

Jazz Review: Rich Halley 4 - Back from Beyond

Halley leads a resonant and conversant group.
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I last checked out the work of trained field biologist/saxophonist/composer Rich Halley with Requiem for a Pit Viper, a record that swung with “dense grooves and high-level blasts.” Now here’s Back from Beyond, the next entry in the Rich Halley 4 catalogue. Halley is joined by his son Carson (drums, percussion), Clyde Reed (bass) and Michael Vlatkovich (trombone, percussion, squeak toys). This record picks up where Requiem left off, carrying similar energy and pursuing grooves while maintain an avant-garde edge that actually turns out to be quite elegant in the more spacious passages. Once again, it is the instinctive interplay

Review: Miss May I - At Heart

File under unoriginal but meaningful.
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Ohioan metal act Miss May I takes things personally with the aptly-titled At Heart. The band came out of Troy, Ohio, four years ago and debuted in 2009 with Apologies Are For The Weak. 2010’s Monument followed and this year’s At Heart builds on the legacy for a very energetic, very honest group. Miss May I is comprised of vocalist Levi Benton, guitarists B.J. Stead and Justin Aufdemkampe, bassist and vocalist Ryan Neff, and drummer Jerod Boyd. At Heart was produced by Machine (Lamb of God, Every Time I Die) in New Jersey. In this instance, the presence of the
Whether she's dipping into the magic of Blossom Dearie on Blossom & Bee or belting in front of a German instrumental jazz act on Where Time Stands Still, Seattle-born Sara Gazarek is as close to a jazz "it" girl as you can get right now. Her love of that one great lyric coupled with her unfussy but stunning vocal tone is apparent through every phrase she sings. Gazarek grew up without much exposure to jazz and was inspired in her early teens by musical theatre and dance. In high school, she fell in love with the jazz choir and was

Jazz Review: Amina Figarova - Twelve

Another stunning record from the intuitive performer and her sextet.
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Amina Figarova's 12th album just so happens to be her debut record with In + Out, an independent German label. The Netherlands-based composer and pianist wrote the songs for Twelve in 2011 and transitioned, along with husband and musical partner Bart Platteau (flute), to Queens. The move benefits the record in a number of ways, namely by providing a slick European take on New York's blue-lit nightlife. The arrangements and compositions are sophisticated and yet utterly ensconced in the brilliant but busy skylines and dusky but diverse curves that comprise the city. The sextet plays right into this creative space

Review: Jets Overhead - Boredom and Joy

Lights on the tedium, heavy on the delight.
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With infectious grooves and heavenly dream pop sensibilities, Jets Overhead’s Boredom and Joy is light on the tedium and heavy on the delight. This is the third record by the Victoria, British Columbia, band. Their 2006 debut, Bridges, was actually one of the first “pay what you want” records to be released. Radiohead would eventually use a similar model for its In Rainbows. Boredom and Joy carries all the weight of a band interested in solving modern issues, like the rise of the digital universe and what it means to artists, but soaks it in a nostalgic sweetness that blends

Review: Concord Chamber Music Society - Brubeck/Gandolfi/Foss

Showcases three composers at vibrant heights interpreting beautiful music with the voices of accomplished musicians.
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Featuring two recordings from two of America’s most-commissioned composers and one recording from the fascinating Lukas Foss, the Concord Chamber Music Society’s release of Chris Brubeck and Michael Gandolfi’s Danza del Soul and Line Drawings, respectively, is a captivating and lovely release. All of the pieces were recorded at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts. Brubeck is, of course, the son of legendary jazz musician Dave Brubeck. Father and son have collaborated over recent years, producing some smart and stimulating work. Here, Chris is centre stage with a composition that features excellent players in the form of a sextet that comprises

Jazz Review: Veronneau - Jazz Samba Project

No measly imitation, this is a poignant step along the same path set by the masters.
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It perhaps makes perfect sense that the Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz classic Jazz Samba was recorded in a church. There was, after all, something intently spiritual about the blending of bossa nova and American jazz that took place over three hours on a February day in 1962. And there is something altogether spiritual about revisiting the music, even through the eyes of another. The delightful jazz outfit Veronneau returns with Jazz Samba Project, a collection of music recorded at the same place, Washington’s All Souls Church, that Getz and Byrd uncorked “the new music of Brazil.” Featuring vocalist Lynn

Review: Whitechapel - Whitechapel

Whitechapel's fourth is the culmination of the journey so far.
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Whitechapel’s fourth studio album is the culmination of the Tennessee deathcore band’s journey so far, so it stands to reason that it would be released eponymously. "These songs are some of the best material we have released to date, and the whole vibe of the record compelled us to self-title it," says guitarist Alex Wade. "With every record we strive for something different – we're always going to stay true to what Whitechapel is, but we want to evolve and do something that is fresh and engaging both for ourselves and for the people who support us." Wade, along with

Jazz Review: Sara Gazarek - Blossom & Bee

This young jazz vocalist is impossible to ignore.
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“I’ve always seen myself more as an interpreter of lyrics,” says Sara Gazarek. “I’ve never been drawn to flashy vocal gymnastics, so I naturally fell in love with the simplicity of her voice and delivery.” The “her” that Gazarek, the energetic and crystalline jazz singer you should be listening to, is one Blossom Dearie. An incorrigible jazz legend with get-up-and-go in spades and a kind-hearted but acerbic tone that could sink a million ships, Dearie was one of the last distinguished supper club singers. Her ability to entertain was second-to-none and Gazarek seems to be following in her footsteps eagerly.

Review: Curren$y - The Stoned Immaculate

An inopportune festival of excess.
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New Orleans rapper Curren$y is under the bright lights with The Stoned Immaculate, his eighth studio album since 2009, and he has the talent to use the opportunity to get his message out to the world. It’s just too bad said message is extraordinarily uninspiring, misogynistic and unoriginal. The inexhaustible artist, also known as "Spitta," was born Shante Scott Franklin and dropped into the rap game as a member of the 504 Boyz on Master P’s No Limit Records. This was back in 2002. After moving around labels and guest-spotting on tracks by the likes of Lil' Wayne and C-Murder,

Review: Six Feet Under - Undead

A gruelling record faithful to death metal basics.
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Begun as a side project when vocalist Chris Barnes was fronting Cannibal Corpse, Six Feet Under has blossomed into a death metal headliner since it first formed in 1993. Undead is the ninth album in what has become a storied career. The band has remained faithful to the death metal basics, as gruelling as that can get at times, and the new record is more of the same destruction and despair. Along with Barnes, Six Feet Under features Rob Arnold (guitars), Steve Swanson (guitars), Jeff Hughell (bassist), and Kevin Talley (drums). Arnold is the newest member of the band and

Review: Kimbra - Vows

A formidable artist in her own right.
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Probably best known to North American audiences for her part in Goyte’s megahit “Somebody That I Used To Know,” New Zealand’s Kimbra proves she’s a formidable artist in her own right with Vows. Her debut record was released in August of 2011 in her native country and peaked in the top five in New Zealand and Australia. Now, Vows has made its North American release with a special version of the Australian release to help earn her some new fans. Kimbra’s effortless, windswept amalgam of jazz, pop, dance, neo-soul, and world music elements is intoxicating and refreshing. Her work on

Review: Horisont - Second Assault

Big, messy Swedish rock with a '70s kiss.
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Drenched in influences from the late 60s and early 70s, Sweden’s Horisont is ready to crank their maverick brand of fire-breathing whiskey rock into your ears. While they have grasped a very American style to go with their metal chops, the band also integrates the nitty-gritties from characteristic countrymen like Witchcraft and Graveyard. Second Assault, the follow-up to 2010’s Två Sidor Av Horisonten, is a sweltering release that lays down a good buzz for these guys and showcases some damn fine songs. It helps that the band is enormously accomplished, showcasing some marvellous guitar back-and-forth and thrashing away with a killer

Jazz Review: Jazz Punks - Smashups

These Jazz Punks are the real deal.
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The mission statement of Jazz Punks is essentially to draw things together. It’s easier said than done, of course, but with Smashups this Los Angles band manages to tie various musical styles and genres together without sacrificing any integrity. The art not only doesn’t suffer, it benefits. When Jazz Punks hammer a pair of Radiohead tunes to a Billy Strayhorn classic, all of the pieces of music involved benefit from the larger experience. The commonalities between numbers become apparent and the music blends to broaden the net, so to speak. “The key is melding tunes in a way that doesn’t

Review: John 5 - God Told Me To

John 5's sixth solo effort showcases his diversity and depth.
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John 5 may be best known for his tenures as guitarists for David Lee Roth, Marilyn Manson and currently Rob Zombie, but he’s also quite the prolific solo artist. In fact, God Told Me To is the Michigan-born musician’s sixth solo release. The record proves John 5 as a diverse, slick player with a strong emotional centre. He plays in service of the song and isn’t overly showy, which is a refreshing change for many noodling, flamboyant rock-oriented players. He is also an impressive songwriter, having penned music for soundtracks as well as his releases. The “trouble” with the record

Review: Exumer - Fire & Damnation

A return to thrash after 25 years yields rigid results.
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Returning with their first studio album in 25 years, Exumer blows through roughly 33 minutes of German thrash metal on Fire & Damnation. As the follow-up to 1987’s Rising from the Sea, Exumer’s latest is an overly rigid measure of vintage thrash. The band formed in 1985, with Mem V. Stein (vocals) and Ray Mensh (guitar) forging the flames. Exumer fleshed out with T. Schiavo (bass), H.K. (guitar) and Matthias Kassner (drums) and captured popularity in markets as diverse as Brazil and Poland. Their first record, Possessed By Fire, made its debut in 1986 and the band pushed out to

Jazz Review: Cathy Segal-Garcia & Yoonseung Cho - Bohemian

An adventurous jazz vocal record.
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Bohemian is the result of the musical relationship between pianist Yoonseung Chon and singer Cathy Segal-Garcia. The two came together as many musical relationships do, with a series of meetings and encounters through the Los Angeles scene. With Cho heading back to Korea, the decision was made to get the pair into the studio to document the bond in the form of an album. As jazz vocal records go, Bohemian is an interesting one. It is minimalistic without feeling small, with Cho’s keys and Segal-Garcia’s adventurous vocals trading exchanges throughout the dozen songs. It also boasts a sense of exploration,

Review: West of Hell - Spiral Empire

A killer metal act that would benefit from a more succinct attack.
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Based in Vancouver by way of West Auckland, West of Hell hammers down influences from Iron Maiden to Judas Priest on their Spiral Empire. The band’s debut is a rock-solid compendium of 80s metal clichés mixed with just a touch of West Coast flavour. It is a devilishly fun piece of work, as a result, cementing these cats as a band to watch for years to come. West of Hell originated as an instrumental band in New Zealand. Bassist Jordan Kemp, drummer Andrew Hulme and guitarists Sean Parkinson and Ivan Vrdoljak drew critical acclaim and local notice after relocating to

Jazz Review: Cristina Morrison

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Making her debut with I Love, singer/songwriter Cristina Morrison proves to be a performer with potential. She is a skilled vocalist and has certainly studied the craft, but there are moments where it feels as though she’s holding back somewhat and that keeps this record from sticking as much as it should. Morrison is an American Academy of Dramatic Arts grad and a well-travelled individual. She’s assembled a top-notch band for I Love, including the likes of composer/arranger/saxophonist Christian Hidrobo (Morrison’s longtime colleague and “partner in crime”), trumpeter Walter Szymanski, pianist Steve Einerson, bassists Marcus McLaurine and Alex Alvear, and

Review: Allegaeon - Formshifter

A metal act blessed with an intelligent sense of melody.
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Based out of Fort Collins, Colorado, Allegaeon is a metal act blessed with an intelligent sense of melody. The band still brings its death metal chops to the table, but behind the wall of growls and scowls is a divine musical foundation that comes largely because of guitarist Greg Burgess’ classical background. Burgess, along with guitarist Ryan Glisan, forms the core of Allegaeon and makes up the best parts of Formshifter. Vocalist Ezra Haynes is a presence worth paying attention to and bassist Corey Archuleta holds it down, but this record is mostly about the guitars. The band currently finds

Review: Cattle Decapitation - Monolith of Inhumanity

So this is deathgrind...
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With a name like Cattle Decapitation, you have to know you’re probably not getting smooth jazz. Monolith of Inhumanity is the San Diego “deathgrind” outfit’s seventh full length release and it is a blistering, grisly blast of metal malice. Relentless in its brutality and caustic in its lack of respect for humanity, this record is not for the queasy. Songs are punctuated by gruesome sound effects and jacked up by “vocalist” Travis Ryan’s flexible cache of barks, yelps, shouts, rumbles, and hellacious noises. The band certainly boasts a technical prowess to go with the evil presence it unleashes through the

Review: B.o.B - Strange Clouds

Palatable pop rap - and not much else.
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As far as radio-ready pop rap goes, B.o.B’s second record is pretty decent fare. Strange Clouds has all of the markings of a hit, including a wide array of guest stars and melodic, offhand tracks good for summer cruising and spring clubbing. As the follow-up to B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray, Strange Clouds is about what fans have come to expect. That record featured edible tracks like “Airplanes” and “Nothin’ on You,” both of which featured big name guest spots. This album packs similar singles and will enjoy similar success, but there’s nothing here that sets Bobby Ray

Review: Job for a Cowboy - Demonocracy

Death metal meets deathcore and creates a big slab of awesome.
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On their third release, Demonocracy, Arizona death metal outfit Job for a Cowboy wastes little time and goes straight for the jugular. Backed by a somewhat reordered line-up and a mound of impressive guitar solos, the latest release is a nourishing hunk of metal. Genre fiddlers may find that Demonocracy bridges the gap, so to speak, between the realms of deathcore and death metal. Indeed, there are elements of both genres packed in the record. Guitarists Al Glassman and Tony Sannicandro exchange electrifying barbs throughout the record, showing their technical sides with winding, careening solos taken straight from death metal’s

Jazz Review: Melissa Stylianou - Silent Movie

Lovely - but a little too lovely.
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Melissa Stylianou’s Silent Movie is a pristine, well-produced, beautifully performed record – and that’s the problem. Indeed, that’s the problem with a lot of today’s vocal jazz artists. The incessant focus on tradition, on getting things “right,” typically obstructs any emotional journey the singer can take with a piece and performances feel more like aerobics than connections. Make no mistake about it, Stylianou can sing. The Brooklyn resident certainly has the musical pedigree, having performed a five-year-long Friday night gig at the Rex Hotel in Toronto and a run over three years at the 55 Bar in New York. Silent

No Sophomore Slump For Santigold On 'Master of My Make-Believe'

Diverse, fascinating, and intuitive...
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Santigold shows up in so many places that it can be hard to believe that Master of My Make-Believe is just her second album. The new record affirms why she’s featured on tracks from the Beastie Boys, Kanye West, M.I.A., GZA, and many others. It also displays her formidable song-writing chops. The follow-up to her sublime debut, Santogold, is a varied mix of styles and influences, but Santi White’s thread runs through the entire thing. This is her record and her musical journey, gathered and sewn together from her punk days in Stiffed and her days opening for the likes

Review: Cancer Bats - Dead Set on Living

Enter the groove.
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With their fourth studio album, Dead Set on Living, Toronto’s Cancer Bats have unlocked a hellacious groove monster. The record is certainly still caked in the band’s hardcore chops, but things are more expectant and more groove-oriented. While Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones was a pretty dark affair, Dead Set on Living is almost the answer to the pessimism. Make no mistake about it, the Bats haven’t gone all sunshiny and hyper. But there is a decidedly jubilant edge to these tunes, for the most part, and the album is the better for it. When vocalist Liam Cormier announced that

Jazz Review: Toots Thielemans - Yesterday & Today

Truly one of the most “on” musicians one can come across...
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With Yesterday & Today, fans of the remarkable Toots Thielemans will enjoy a rare treat. The double album is packed with rarities and all sorts of coveted goodies, from Thielemans’ earliest performances to a record-closing duet that puts the 89-year-old alongside keyboardist Kenny Werner for a little magic. Now known mostly as one hell of a harmonica player and a whistler, the Belgian jazz legend is also an incredible guitarist. This collection displays the multiple prongs of his work, from early recordings from 1946 to jams in the 1980s, 1990s and beyond. The fun opens with “Jazz Band Ball,” a

Review: Angel Witch - As Above, So Below

A NWOBHM band returns at last.
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Ah, what might have been. Angel Witch, formed in the midst of the famed New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement, first entered the fray in 1977 as a band called Lucifer. After some member departures and replacements, the band eventually renamed themselves Angel Witch and signed a record deal. A self-titled record emerged to some fanfare in 1980, but that didn’t settle down the band’s line-up issues. Indeed, if anything stopped Angel Witch from becoming a household name like other NWOBHM era bands, it was the fact that they couldn’t keep their shit straight. Guitarist and vocalist Kevin Heybourne

Jazz Review: Lisa Hilton - American Impressions

Hilton's American Impressions certainly stand out on jazz’s unfortunate parcel of uniformity.
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With her 14th album as a leader, pianist and composer Lisa Hilton explores the “bridge” between improvised and composed music. American Impressions is designed from the top to bottom as an examination of American music, with influences from Gershwin to Green Day serving as the indelible foundation for Hilton’s work. She is joined by J.D. Allen (tenor saxophone), Larry Grenadier (bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums). In working with the same group she worked with on Underground, Hilton set out immediately with that essential sense of familiarity. The awareness of the players is apparent from the outset of album opener “Too
Jason Mraz has always struck me as a very nice but very boring individual. He’s the sort of dude you describe as “nice.” He’s got a head full of decent ideas about world peace and helping people across the street and all that, but when it comes to being interesting or compelling in any way he comes up short. The “I’m Yours” singer continues to mark the borders of bland with Love is a Four Letter Word, his latest outing. This is his fourth studio album and the follow-up to 2008’s We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. Mraz has

Review: Anya Marina - Felony Flats

Marina's solid collection of songs bypasses the trappings of cultural saturation.
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With her second album, Felony Flats, singer/songwriter Anya Marina sidesteps the curse of cultural saturation thanks to a collection of solid songs. The Portland-based recording artist saw her 2009 debut Slow and Steady Seduction: Phase II land with a splash. She followed up with a number of singles and found some tracks, like a cover of “Whatever You Like,” featured on television shows and in films. Her “Satellite Heart” was exposed to tween girls everywhere via the soundtrack for The Twilight Saga: New Moon, while other tracks found their way to 90210 and Gossip Girl. While the aforementioned pop culture
With After the Rainfall, pianist and composer Hiroe Sekine follows up her 2010 debut, Rain, with a collection that spans multiple styles. The shoe doesn’t always fit, mind you, but her spirit and sense of adventure pervades each track. Sekine thankfully isn’t bound by many of the encumbrances of traditional labels and that has helped the Japanese native push boundaries that other musicians don’t dare to, but the trouble is finding her identity in what are some really lush, interesting pieces of music. The closest to the real Hiroe Sekine comes, I think, with the appearance of “Song of the

Our Lady Peace Get Back To Basics Without Rehashing Past On 'Curve'

This journey back to basics is a step in the right direction.
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My criticism of Our Lady Peace has been pretty consistent. With Naveed and Clumsy, the Canadian rockers became the country’s foremost grunge act. When grunge washed out, however, OLP struggled to solidify an identity and began pursuing fruitful reverberations that worked for other bands. This was never more apparent than on their 2009 release, Burn, Burn. Reviewing it on some other site, I called the album “more of the same.” So here’s Curve, OLP’s eighth studio album. It features Canadian boxer George Chuvalo on the cover and was recorded at lead singer Raine Maida’s Los Angeles studio. So is Curve

Review: OSI - Fire Make Thunder

A prog record for people who don't like prog records.
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OSI’s Fire Make Thunder is a prog record for people who typically don’t like prog records. OSI is the collaboration between Jim Matheos (Fates Warning, Arch/Matheos) and Kevin Moore (Chroma Key, Dream Theater). The band formed in 2002 and is considered a long-distance partnership. Writing and recording is done along and music is sent back and forth for collaboration via the channels allowed by glorious modern technology. Fire Make Thunder is OSI’s fourth album and it features Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison in the mix as well. The album was written throughout 2011 and both Matheos and Moore handled instrumental

Jazz Review: Jeff Hamilton Trio - Red Sparkle

Jeff Hamilton Trio walks the musical tightrope between improvisation and disaster and makes it to the other side...
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Jeff Hamilton, with over three decades under his belt as one of jazz’s most composed and precise drummers, returns to the trio setting with Red Sparkle. Here, the Indiana native takes a look back and a leap forward with a set of tributes and originals. The trio includes bassist Christoph Luty and pianist Tamir Hendelman, completing a group that Hamilton’s been working with for a decade or more. The experience shows, but it’s the camaraderie that really makes these tunes fly. Red Sparkle is, as you might expect, a very rhythmic recording. There are lots of cymbal splashes and coats

Nicki Minaj - 'Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded': "Roman Zolanski" Delivers, Minaj Falters

Good groundwork, but Nicki and Roman are capable of so much more.
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At her best, Nicki Minaj is a perverse Barbie doll with a filthy mouth, a bogus accent, and semi-psychotic leanings. At her worst, the Queens-based rapper and singer produces the sort of bland noise that can be found on just about every other rap-tinged pop recording. Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded is Minaj’s second album and it finds her concentrating more of her energy on her alter-ego, Roman Zolanski. Roman is, in Minaj’s mind, her “twin brother.” “He” is an outlet for her resentment, apparently, and “he” pulls out her aggressive side. As delightful as it is to consider an album
With their self-titled release, Boston’s Ro Sham Beaux proudly announces their lack of regard for genre borders. Theirs is a mesh of funk, soul, jazz, and even indie rock piled into one well-oiled machine. Featuring pianist and keyboardist Luke Marantz, saxophonist Zac Shaiman, bassist Oliver Watkinson, and drummer Jacob Cole, Ro Sham Beaux wears their influences front and centre. They certainly have all the markings of a traditional jazz group to please mature classicists, but a little push from the indie rock and funk camps helps add some much-needed diversity. If anything, Ro Sham Beaux would benefit from an even

Review: Cannibal Corpse - Torture

Face-destroying death metal.
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Cannibal Corpse has been grinding up body parts and destroying faces for about two dozen years now, with a dozen full-lengths and a trail of gore to show for themselves. The band that once raised the soiled bile of the likes of Bob "Where Are My Keys?" Dole and Joe "Where Are My Principles?" Lieberman supplies more death metal devastation with their 12th release, Torture. Cannibal Corpse originated from the ashes of Buffalo-based death metal acts like Tirant Sin and Leviathan. They've gone through a few personnel changes since their inauguration in 1988, but the modern manifestation still breathes fire.

Review: Madonna - MDNA

Madonna's a different kind of girl.
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Madonna isn’t the best singer in the world, but she may well be the best pop artist on the planet. While her vocal talents are certainly passable, to suggest she’s more noted for her ability to provoke and entertain isn’t too provocative. Her albums have emphasized this quality, providing impressive soundscapes and melodious excursions rather than vocal gymnastics and subtle observations. Madge’s 12th, MDNA, is no different. The record is a taut, well-tuned and well-toned album that allows the superstar to get personal, tense and spectacular – sometimes all at once. It is as understated as a sledgehammer to the

Review: Church of Misery - The Second Coming

Take a walk on the doomed side.
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The second of two reissues from Japan doom metallers Church of Misery, The Second Coming is more raucous than the band’s debut, Master of Reality, but it’s still every bit the killer recording for genre fans. The Second Coming is Church of Misery’s second “official” full-length and it still packs all the grooves and doom goodness the band is known for, but it’s got a bit of a quicker clip and the jams don’t play out as long as they did on Master of Reality. Once more, serial killers are in full bloom and the Church’s fascination with the sociopaths

Review: Church of Misery - Master of Brutality

Serial killer-themed sludge rock from Japan. Yep.
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Japan’s Church of Misery has made creepy waves with its serial killer obsession, grinding out sludge and doom metal with themes that many find disturbing. Their 2001 debut, Master of Brutality, now sees a reissue (along with their 2004 follow-up The Second Coming) and it is a menacing way to dip into the blood pool for fans who have missed the bus on the first pass. Perhaps the most stunning thing about Master of Brutality is the fact that Church of Misery is Japanese. The record is filled with Southern-fried sludge with a little Black Sabbath kiss. Sure, bands like

Jazz Review: Jane Scheckter - Easy to Remember

More from the Great American Songbook.
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Tackling the Great American Songbook is a rite of passage for jazz vocalists regardless of age and experience. There is little doubt that the songs work, but there is a tendency for things to get somewhat samey. If I had a nickel for every recording from a modern jazz singer that takes on the works within, well… Jane Scheckter’s Easy to Remember is yet another jazz vocal album that takes pages out of the Great American Songbook. The good news is that she can sing. She wields her experience proudly, but still vocalizes with the wonder and energy of someone

Review: White Hills - Frying on this Rock

Droning, repetitive space rock for your earholes.
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An expansive master class in droning psychedelica, White Hills’ Frying on this Rock is a somewhat energetic and somewhat draining recording that tears at the edges of the universes and peels back the stars to see what’s beneath. This is intelligent, weighty space rock, brought as a platter of seemingly spontaneous spaciousness, but it’s also a study in excessiveness and overdoing it. White Hills capably builds layer on top of layer on top of layer, encrusting expansive and repetitive jams with a somewhat murky barrier but still somehow allowing the music to have meaning. White Hills is guitarist Dave W.

Jazz Review: Tania Maria's 'Tempo' Is Brazilian Jazz At Its Finest

Veteran performer continues to deliver...
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Charmingly intimate, Tania Maria's Tempo is a duo album that finds the pianist/vocalist pairing up with bassist Eddie Gomez for a run through eight beautiful pieces of work. Maria released her debut, Olha Quem Chega, back in 1971 in her birthplace of Brazil. A move to France in the late 70s really allowed her to reach the stratosphere of the international jazz community and she was eventually noticed by Charlie Byrd at an Australian concert. From there, Maria was introduced to the founder of Concord Records, Carl Jefferson, and the action headed to North America. Since then, she has over 25

Review: Insense - Burn in Beautiful Fire

A silly and strange metal record.
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Oslo’s Insense has the stamp of approval from In Flames’ Anders Fridén (he also manages the band) and the studio magic of Daniel Bergstrand (Meshuggah, In Flames) on their side, but Burn in Beautiful Fire may well be the silliest and strangest metal record I’ve heard so far this year. This, Insense’s fourth full-length, was released last year in Europe and helped vault the band to festival bookings at Hove, Norway Rock and the Inferno Festival. It was also nominated for a Norwegian Grammy Award for Best Metal Album in 2011 and is Insense’s first on Norway’s Indie Recordings. Insense

Jazz Review: Marshall Gilkes - Sound Stories

Freedom through composition.
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One of the reasons I dig jazz is the freedom involved. Past all the customarily inane quarrels about what jazz is and isn’t lies a humble belief in following the music where it leads, even if it’s off the sheets of the composition at times. With his new record Sound Stories, trombonist Marshall Gilkes walks the line between compositional organization and improvisational autonomy without missing a step. He’s accumulated a group of cunningly compatible players to go through his arrangements with an orchestral resolve and it works like a charm. On Sound Stories, Gilkes plays with saxophonist Donny McCaslin, pianist

Review: Djerv - Djerv

Norwegian hard rock with a secret weapon: Agnete Kjølsrud!
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Some might call it metal, some might call it hard rock and some might not give a shit what to call Djerv. The Norwegian band’s sonic attack comes coated with strips of black metal, hard rock, regular rock, glam metal, and the proverbial kitchen sink. They aren’t the most ground-breaking band on the tag, but they do spit fire through razor wire. That counts for something. At the centre of it all is vocalist Agnete Kjølsrud, an authentic rocket of a singer who hoists this strident trio on her shoulders. Her vocals are unspoiled and lethal all at once, with

Jazz Review: Triosence with Sara Gazarek - Where Time Stands Still

A Seattle-born singer and a German trio create something wonderful.
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What do you get when you take a successful German instrumental jazz group and combine them with a Seattle-born singer with near-faultless tone and phraseology? Where Time Stands Still offers an answer. The record from Germany’s Triosence with the vocals of Sara Gazarek is a delightful demonstration of the futility of musical margins when it comes to thrashing out a legitimately divine piece of art. Triosence features pianist and composer Bernhard Schuler, bassist Ingo Senst and drummer Stephan Emig. The band was formed in 1999 and has won several awards on Germany’s jazz landscape. Gazarek has three of her own albums as

Review: Carolina Chocolate Drops - Leaving Eden

Drawing out tradition with a good solid coat of modern cool.
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Based out of Durham, North Carolina, the Carolina Chocolate Drops entered the broader consciousness with an old-time string band rendition of the Blu Cantrell song “Hit ‘em Up Style (Oops!)” and grew from there. Their 2010 release, Genuine Negro Jig, earned the group a Grammy. The follow-up to that album, and the band’s third release, is Leaving Eden. It features more of the same authenticity fans have come to expect from Carolina Chocolate Drops and an expanded line-up to boot. Founding members Dom Flemons and Rhiannon Giddens have brought multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins, beatboxer Adam Matta and cellist Leyla McCalla into

Jazz Review: Josh Ginsburg - Zembla Variations

The Brooklyn-based bassist debut is a passionate treat.
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Zembla Variations is Brooklyn-based bassist Josh Ginsburg’s debut recording of all-original pieces. Out now on Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records, the album demonstrates Ginsburg’s command of the composition and his love of Brooklyn. Zembla Variations takes its name from a small furniture company in Red Hook and is ensconced in the neighbourhood. Ginsburg wrote all but one of the pieces on the record over the last five years in the Brooklyn locale and it shows in the dreamlike but grounded construction of the songs. There is an understated, working class texture to his arrangements that makes things feel remarkably alive and

Review: Doe Paoro - Slow to Love

"Ghost soul" arrives.
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Doe Paoro describes her sound as “ghost soul” and the terminology fits like an eerie glove. Her lingering, out-there tone is disconnected and yet wholehearted. Slow to Love, the Brooklyn-based artist’s debut record, is a succinct jaunt through slightly haunted old-school R&B, soul, pop, and funk. There’s a lot to nod your head to, but there’s also a deeply unsettling vibe rest just under the surface. Paoro’s study of lhamo, Tibetan-style operatic singing that she came across when travelling through the Himalayas, may have something to do with that. There are also strokes of Imogen Heap, Portishead and Lykke Li

Jazz Review: Amy Cervini - Digging Me, Digging You

An homage to Blossom Dearie that swings, swings, swings.
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Filled with humour and wit, Amy Cervini’s Digging Me, Digging You is a loving but never hokey homage to Blossom Dearie. Dearie (1924-2009) was one of those jazz singers adored by people “in the know.” She counted Miles Davis, Gil Evans and even John Lennon among her famous fans and amassed quite a career for herself with her playful renditions of classic songs and sprightly originals. Cervini, a Canadian expat who is no slouch in the humour department herself, takes to these Dearie tunes with a vibrant sense of rhythm and step to go with the quick-fire funniness. The lyrics,

Review: Ribozyme - Presenting the Problem

And the problem is...
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If you took a little Tool, some nebulous Nine Inch Nails, a smidge of Filter, and some Alice in Chains sludge and stuffed it into a blender on a low setting, you’d end up with Norway’s Ribozyme. The band’s Presenting the Problem is as good a place to start as any, I suppose. Their latest release is 10 tracks of generally undemanding hard rock music. No Cookie Monster stuff, no death metal to scare the children, no flashy prog bits. Ribozyme came into existence in 1998 and is now a trio. Original members Kjartan Ericsson (guitars and vocals) and Bård

Jazz Review: Chris Brubeck's Triple Play - Live at the Arthur Zankel Music Center

An inter-generational jam session well worth catching.
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Chris Brubeck’s Triple Play brings the house down with Live at the Arthur Zankel Music Center. Recorded in June of 2011 in Saratoga Springs, New York, this recording captures the playfulness and energy of jazz, Delta blues, Tin Pan Alley music, and even a trace of ragtime. Triple Play is comprised of bassist/trombonist/pianist Chris Brubeck, guitarist Joel Brown and multi-instrumentalist Peter Madcat Ruth. Special guests include Joel’s father Frank Brown and Chris’ legendary father Dave Brubeck. The younger Brubeck is, like his dad, a hell of a musician. He stunningly plays through some of his father’s classic pieces and fluently

Review: Goatwhore - Blood for the Master

With a name like Goatwhore, it has to be good...
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Goatwhore, rumoured to be Rick Santorum’s favourite band, kicks your teeth in to start Blood for the Master and never looks back. This, the band’s fifth studio recording, is an attack of the blackest of black metal proportions. Goatwhore formed in 1997 in New Orleans, with singer/guitarist Sammy Duet bringing together a crew of otherworldly metal demons to play in service of the Dark Lord. Through their many years of destruction, a few line-up changes were in order. Of the original line-up, only Duet and vocalist Louis Benjamin Falgoust II remains. Drummer Zack Simmons joined in 2004, while former Ritual

Jazz Review: Lorraine Feather - Tales of the Unusual

What does it mean to be normal?
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What does it mean to be normal? In today’s age of technological saturation, the question takes on special meaning when there are countless examples of odd and even nasty behaviour out there. One doesn’t have to look very far to find a plethora of weird nuts wallowing in their own skewed sense of reality. Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with the unusual. I revel in it, in fact, and apparently so does Lorraine Feather. The jazz vocalist’s latest, Tales of the Unusual, traffics in stories of the strange. Feather mines the tales for the humanity under the abnormality,

Didn't We Almost Have It All: Whitney Houston Dead at 48

"I need you here to wipe away my tears..."
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Just hours before Clive Davis was to hold his annual pre-Grammy party, Whitney Houston was found unresponsive in her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. By around 4 pm, she was pronounced dead. She was 48. So where do we go from here? What is there to say through the tears and the shock? Houston had one of the best pure voices in music. Period She was the most awarded female vocalist of all time, landing six Grammy Awards, 22 American Music Awards, two Emmys, and 30 Billboard Music Awards among other honours. She sold over 170 million albums.

Review: Cocaine Moustache - On the Mirror

A soundtrack for douchebags.
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Everybody knows at least one douchebag with a closet full of Affliction T-shirts and a litany of exaggerated stories about getting drunk and high every weekend. There are countless Facebook wall posts bragging about how wasted he got and pictures of his fake-and-bake face grinning like an idiot. He listens to Nickelback and gets in fights with people for making incidental eye contact with him. Somehow he has a really hot girlfriend, but she’s a comatose space cadet with a helium voice and he’s only into her for her fake tits and Costco card. He uses the word "bro" in

Jazz Review: Gary Smulyan - Smul's Paradise

An homage to organist Don Patterson swings with one voice.
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Making his debut for Capri Records, baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan mixes the power of his instrument with the light, swanky flavour of organ jazz. The resulting vibes of Smul’s Paradise are intoxicating and different. It’s not every day that one gets to hear a baritone saxophonist fronting what is essentially an organ trio, yet that’s the setup here. B3-Hammond player Mike LeDonne, drummer Kenny Washington and guitarist Peter Bernstein complete the group and their repartee clearly helps the album win its name. Washington and Bernstein are largely tasked with holding the rhythm down, but they offer so much more than

Review: Lana Del Rey - Born to Die

Does Lana Del Rey live up to the alarming hype?
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The strange engine of hype has been fuelling talk of one Lana Del Rey for quite a few months, but I’ve somehow avoided most of the fervent, slobbering discourse. With the release of Born to Die, her second studio album and major label debut, the opportunity to explore what the fuss is about has come. The 25-year-old describes herself as a “self-styled gangsta Nancy Sinatra” and cites influences from Britney Spears and Kurt Cobain. According to an article from the worshipful NME, she still holds a babysitting job and leads a really normal life – or as normal a life

Review: Rumer - Seasons of My Soul

Another brilliant UK talent hits North American shores.
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The dastardly United Kingdom may have been basking in the warm glow of Rumer’s Seasons of My Soul since November of 2010, but with an American release date of just a few days ago I figured it would be a good time to get acquainted. Rumer (Sarah Joyce) was born in Pakistan. She began her musical career in London with a folk band called La Honda, forming Rumer & the Denials shortly after in 2004. By 2007, an album of solo material entitled Coffee and Honey was released under her real name hit South Korea. Seasons of My Soul eventually dropped

Jazz Review: Mike Wofford and Holly Hofmann Quintet - Turn Signal

A swing down memory lane.
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It’s not every day that I get to check out the work of a “jazz power couple,” but that’s just what Turn Signal packs. Pianist Mike Wofford and flutist Holly Hofmann lead a quintet into some familiar territory with this recording and it’s a beautiful swing down memory lane. The arrangements in Wofford’s first quintet session as co-pilot are neat and tidy without being rigid. There’s a slow, delicate swing through each of the seven tracks. The expanded orchestral capabilities make for a good foundation for Wofford’s arrangements and he makes the most of his band members, including trumpet Terell Stafford,

Review: Anthony Green - Beautiful Things

The beauty of honesty.
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The art of self-realization sometimes comes to us in indulgent doses, with singers and bands floating their thoughts on waves of pretentious wanking and bullshit esotericism. Anthony Green, he of the oft-esoteric Circa Survive, takes the higher road with his Beautiful Things. This is the second solo album for the former vocalist of Saosin. It comes after 2008’s Avalon and is a hodgepodge of indie rock, psych rock, alt-country, folk, post-punk, post-whatever madness that can be hard to get a read on at first. Luckily for Green, the stylistic busyness works in his favour when it comes to spinning the

Jazz Review: Eddie Daniels/Roger Kellaway - Live at the Library of Congress

In service of music and friendship.
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It pays to remember the beauty of the humble foundation. In these days of instant gratification and ego-stroking, it can be tough to lay down one’s sense of pride in service of something greater. With Live at the Library of Congress, the latest recording from Eddie Daniels and Roger Kellaway, these two musicians play in service of music, friendship and the joy of sharing an experience. Daniels’ clarinet and Kellaway’s piano are the only instruments required to set nine compositions to life before a very fortunate audience. Recorded in February of 2011, Live at the Library of Congress is a

Jazz Review: Jamie Ousley - A Sea of Voices

Dive in, the water's wonderful.
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The nature of water is at the core of Jamie Ousley’s lovely new record, A Sea of Voices. The bassist, recently named the “Best South Florida Jazz Musician of 2011” by Boca Life magazine, plays with cordiality and fluidity. Ousley has assembled a beautifully balanced band for the recording, including pianist Joe Davidian and drummer Austin McMahon. Guest musicians include vocalist Nanami Morikawa, percussionist Carlomango Araya and pianist Gabriel Saientz. Ousley and his group play with a sense of wholeness, rendering each composition on the record a complete experience with no missing pieces. There are brave flourishes of piano and

Kayo Dot's Toby Driver on "Jazz," Mysticism and Lazy Listening

Interview with Kayo Dot's Toby Driver...
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I recently had the opportunity to talk to Kayo Dot's Toby Driver about the band's new record, Gamma Knife, and some other subjects, including the nature of "jazz" and other genre conventions. The conversation was an interesting one and Driver's opinions are compelling. Kayo Dot has always been a band to defy easy categorization and it should be that way. There are various style elements to the music that are impossible to pin down. Whether they're labelled an "avant-rock/experimental music group" or whether you, like me and many other critics, discover elements of free form "jazz" in the music,

Review: Kayo Dot - Gamma Knife

A genre-defying challenge.
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The incongruous, sometimes wacky metal-jazz fusion of Kayo Dot is back with the Boston band’s latest release. Gamma Knife is available digitally now on Kayo Dot’s Bandcamp page and will see a vinyl release in April of 2012 just ahead of a United States tour set to commence in May. Toby Driver (guitar, vocals, keys, bass guitar) has perhaps been the only constant in this experimental outfit. He has dutifully buried much of Kayo Dot’s original metal edge, pissing off fans of records like Choirs of the Eye and Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue while heading off in a John

Jazz Review: Jimmy Owens - The Monk Project

A lively, daring take on Monk.
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The tribute is big stuff in jazz and the tribute to Thelonious Monk is really big stuff. That Jimmy Owens would choose to do such a thing on his debut recording as a leader on IPO Recordings is gutsy, to say the least, but The Monk Project largely works because of the trumpeter’s commitment to Monk’s insistence that those tackling his work “play it right.” The jazz world is a tricky one, sometimes a maddening mistress. It can be narrow-minded and big-headed, often snubbing the “outside world” in favour of its own mores. This approach, while sometimes vital when it

The Sweet Pain of Discovery: Alabama Shakes' "You Ain't Alone" (Video)

Alabama Shakes and so will you.
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Every so often I stagger upon a piece of music by a band or artist that I’ve never heard of that simply blows my mind. It takes away all my stalwart self-importance and baroque semantics (nearly), strips away my sureness and leaves me a trembling bulk of reverential madness. The last time that happened, the suspect was one Gary Clark Jr. I’m still trying to track down that license plate. This time, I’d like to introduce you to Alabama Shakes. Based out of Athens, Alabama, this outfit is led by the everywoman presence of Brittany Howard. She is a

Rihanna Lets The Music Do The Talking On 'Talk That Talk'

A refreshing step into the sun for a singer who's seen her fair share of shadows.
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At just 23 years of age, Robyn Rihanna Fenty has been through a hell of a lot. The Barbadian singer, upon her initial arrival on the pop music scene, was bound by comparisons to Beyoncé and other similar vocals. She was cute and innocent, everyone’s girl from the Caribbean. But sometimes life gets in the way of even the best intentions and Rihanna’s conversion took place not so much by design but by inevitability. A domestic violence incident involving her and Chris Brown, who astonishingly still has a career and pathetic platoons of fans, was explicably life-altering for Rihanna. Suffering

Warrior Queen: Lady Gaga's "Marry the Night" (Video)

Music videos still rule.
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Apart from perhaps the wild hours of the early morning, music videos don’t seem to be part of the agenda over at MTV. It’s all the more ironic when the channel that originally killed (or maimed) the radio star offers up a slab of “awards” for the music videos they rarely play. Luckily, the art of music videos remains and some artists are putting out impressive short films that call to mind the experiences of Michael Jackson videos like “Thriller” and “Black or White.” In that tradition of music video events comes the latest from Lady Gaga. I have

Review: Martyr - Circle of 8

Be thankful for this hefty slice of retro thrash awesomeness.
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With little more than two renowned, solid albums in the 80s to harken back to, Martyr emerges full of guts and glory with Circle of 8. Their first full length record since 1986 (!!!), this is pure retro thrash metal awesomeness. Martyr, not to be confused with the Quebec death metal band of the same name, came out of Holland in 1982 and made their debut on the compilation album Dutch Steel in 1984. A year later, their debut record For the Universe was released on Megaton. After another album, 1986’s Darkness at Time’s Edge (sounds like a potential title

Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

there is some damn good music here – even if it does provide the ambiance for one of the flattest and most disconcerting tales of love ever spun on screen...
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Featuring artists like Muse, Florence + The Machine, Band of Horses, Thom Yorke, Editors, Grizzly Bear, and Iron & Wine, the soundtracks for the Twilight films have clearly eclipsed the movies themselves in terms of quality. So it was with great curiosity and slight trepidation that I took to my review copy of the soundtrack for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1. Like with the other films in the series, the soundtrack for Breaking Dawn Part 1 is a compendium of alternative rock and indie musicians (for the most part). The songs are well-selected and generally befitting of the

Review: Action Bronson and Statik Selektah - Well Done

A hip hop full meal deal.
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Queens rapper Action Bronson knows his culinary delights, that’s for damn sure. As a chef-turned-emcee, he’s not above dropping names like Morimoto between references to duck prosciutto and smoked brisket. His Well Done, an apt title if there ever was one, isn’t all food references and lip-smacking notions. Proud of his Albanian descent, Action Bronson rolls easily over production by Static Selektah and edges it with a Ghostface Killah tone. Make no mistake, though, Action Bronson is his own man. Well Done is a proclamation of intent. As the follow-up to his digitally-released debut (and Pitchfork-adored), Dr. Lecter, this is

Review: Meaghan Smith - It Snowed

Christmas music doesn't have to suck.
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Years of working retail in shopping centres has pretty much soured me on Christmas music, so the standard carols and 80s pop singles from high-powered collectives singing to raise awareness of famine have, quite frankly, repulsed me like images of Ann Coulter with nothing but a Santa hat on. Maybe it’s post-traumatic stress. Yet Meaghan Smith’s It Snowed, the first Christmas record I’ve subjected myself to in a very long time without copious amounts of scotch in my system, manages to rock and roll its way through a series of Christmas standards and some pretty damn sparkly originals. Smith is

Review: Autumn - Cold Comfort

With a mountain to climb, Autumn happily takes to the adventure with its fifth record.
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Much has been made about the female-fronted hard rock band. It’s challenging to flip past reviews and YouTube clips without discovering an accumulation of “she’s hot” or “I’d bang her” commentary from the residue of society. It seems the idea of a woman daring to sing in front of rough-edged guitars is still a novelty, I suppose, and so it is the case with Autumn. The Dutch rock band traffics in hard rock with gobs of beautiful harmony. Led by vocalist Marjan Welman, Autumn ventures into its fifth studio album by broadening its borders and deepening its sound. As the

Heavy Hittin': As I Lay Dying - Decas

The metalcore pioneers celebrate a decade with this compilation record.
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Celebrating ten years as a band, San Diego’s As I Lay Dying presents Decas. This is a compilation offering, one with three new songs, four covers, four remixes, and a re-recording for good measure. It is the metalcore band’s way of saying “thanks” to fans after a decade of laying kids to righteous waste in mosh pits. The band was founded in California in 2000 by vocalist Tim Lambesis. Having gone through a number of line-up changes throughout the decade, As I Lay Dying now humbly features drummer Jordan Mancino as the only other original member. Guitarists Nick Hipa and

Review: Noctem - Oblivion

Hide your Bibles, it's Noctem!
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Called Spain’s answer to Behemoth, death metal band Noctem lands with unholy force on their latest record. The band, which came into existence in 2001, defines its ideals as “based in the antithesis of the whole absurd human religions, misanthropy and cult to former civilizations, violence, destruction and death.” Okey doke. Oblivion, for its part, is a dynamic, unrelenting hunk of melodic extreme metal. It challenges with technical guitar riffs and castigates with throat-shredding vocals, taunting us all the while by never letting up on the gas pedal of this caustic atrocity. In my line of “work,” I listen to a

Review: Immortal Technique - The Martyr

One of the best hip hop records of the year just so happens to be free.
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Rapper Immortal Technique opens The Martyr, his free mixtape, with a commandment to burn the music onto a CD for the purposes of sharing it with as many people as humanly possible. The album from the Peruvian-born, New York-based emcee is an astounding piece of dedication and intelligence, a sea of information and political science set to hard beats and near-perfect production. The fact that Tech is giving it all away for free asserts his position that the message trumps the money, that true culture and morality trumps pseudo-intellectual navel-gazing and hollow braggadocio. With 15 tracks of pure hip hop,

Review: Dub Trio - Dub Trio IV

Dub meets metal. The results will grind your face off.
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King Tubby was a Jamaican sound engineer who influenced dub in the 60s and 70s. For many, King Tubby’s work on the dials and switches would be influential in how albums were handled in post-production and how the wires and circuits could be used to augment and at times completely alter the constructs of the song, instruments and tempo. Dub Trio takes the dub style of King Tubby to another level, recreating the dub style in the context of experimental metal. Dub Trio IV is my first experience with the band. It won’t be my last. Comprised of Dave Holmes

Review: Lou Reed and Metallica - Lulu

A bizarre meeting of the minds that digs deep and takes chances.
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Art is a tricky, even belligerent thing. Some cite that there are strict borders, like those who suggest a certain song is “not music” despite its possession of tempo, sound, pitch, whatever. Some suggest that a certain poem is “not poetry” despite its use of language for aesthetic qualities, while others say that a painting isn’t a painting because it’s “just a bunch of crap on a piece of paper.” The debate over what art is and what art isn’t rages on in light of Lulu, the joint venture of the peculiar from Lou Reed and Metallica. Upon the exposure
San Francisco’s Hammers of Misfortune take to their 17th Street with a sense for the theatrical. Indeed, many of the arrangements on this underground metal release carry a decided Lloyd Webber feel, with patches of Phantom of the Opera and Jesus Christ Superstar woven in. That sense for the theatrical will either thrill or distract, depending on what draws you to the party. Hammers of Misfortune have created something special out of their rejuvenated line-up. The band lost two members (bassist/vocalist Jamie Meyers and vocalist/guitarist Mike Scalzi) after 2005’s The Locust Years was released. Guitarist and producer John Cobbett drafted new

Review: As You Drown - Rat King

A vicious, remorseless extreme metal record.
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Vicious and remorseless in its brutality, As You Drown’s Rat King is a repetitive but demanding bombardment of extreme metal. As You Drown emerged from Borås, Sweden in 2003 with cold death on their minds. Within two years, they were playing in support sets for the likes of Vader and Entombed. In 2009, after the addition of bassist Robert Karlsson and vocalist Henrik Blomqvist to the crew that already included Mikael Åkerström, Simon Exner and drummer Martin Latvala, the band released its debut recording entitled Reflection. The band’s sophomore record is more of the same persistent punishment. Mixed and mastered

Review: Skeletonwitch - Forever Abomination

Musical punishment at one speed: head-explodingly fast.
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Skeletonwitch’s Forever Abomination is not for the faint of heart, I can tell you that. The battering from these Ohio thrashers comes generally at one speed: head-explodingly fast. Their fourth full length is a never-let-up assault on the senses, a devastating kick to the mouth and a fall off a very tall structure. It is musical punishment, a test of fortitude set to bone-chewing guitars and Starscream-meets-your-mother vocals. Forever Abomination is the band’s first record to feature new drummer Dustin Boltjes and he proves his mettle (and metal) with a diabolically fast percussive barrage from the back. Vocalist Chance Garnette

Five Finger Death Punch's 'American Capitalist' A Shallow Celebration Of Greed, Rage

FFDP’s American Capitalist is undistinguished and silly.
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For tough guy, fist-in-the-air kicks, Five Finger Death Punch’s American Capitalist will fit the testosterone-heavy bill. Not a concept album decrying economic injustice, FFDP’s third studio album is a corny carnival of having the freedom to be an inconsiderate prick “buying in” to the wonders of capitalistic society. In these days of global Occupy Wall Street movements, it’s an interesting message to send. It doesn’t help that the message feels like it’s been written by a fermenting 13-year-old male in a Staind t-shirt. Instead of providing an intricate examination of the state of American capitalism, the album is absorbed with

Review: Jack's Mannequin - People and Things

We've heard it all before, but it somehow works anyway.
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The third studio album from Jack’s Mannequin is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, there’s a pop sensibility to the piano-based alt-rockish songs of People and Things that works to produce atmospheric mass – at least in a musical sense. On the other hand, however, much of what goes on is derivative, sappy, anticipated, and plain. The trick is in determining if the predictability is an obstacle that can be overcome, especially when the manifestation of familiar melodies and hokey lyrics is so robust. Formed in 2004, Jack’s Mannequin is the “side project” of Something Corporate’s Andrew

Review: Ernesto Cervini Quartet - There

The next best thing to being There.
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Recorded live in November of 2010 at Cory Weed’s Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver (my home town), Ernesto Cervini’s third recording as a leader is an energetic, ultimately present piece of work. There, as it is aptly titled, features the drummer/composer along with Joel Frahm (saxophones), Adrean Farrugia (piano) and Dan Loomis (bass). At the forefront is Cervini’s dynamic stick work. The record captures the live experience well and really zeroes in on the drums as they form the hinge on just about every composition on the record. That’s not to say that the other instruments aren’t given their due,

Music Review: 3 - The Ghost You Gave to Me

A prog masterpiece that comes in 3s.
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The Ghost You Gave to Me is one of the most diverse, stimulating, enjoyable pieces of music I’ve heard in quite some time. This, the sixth recording from 3, is a glorious and gleeful webbing of '80s rock, technical progressive stuff, metal riffs, dance music goodness, and the notorious kitchen sink. Indeed, the Woodstock-based band fiddles with so many musical elements here that it probably shouldn’t work. But some exercises of sonic hedonism and keen copiousness do, in fact, produce results that are altogether awesome. 3 is considered an “American hybrid band” by the illustrious Wikipedia, which cites vocalist

Review: Ernie Krivda - Blues for Pekar

Krivda's homage to Pekar is a swinging success.
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Harvey Pekar once called Ernie Krivda “one of the greatest jazz tenor saxophonists in the world,” adding that nobody would know it because “he chooses to live in Cleveland.” Location, and soaking up the soul of said location, is very important to Krivda. His Blues for Pekar, a tribute to the music critic and underground comic book writer, has Cleveland written all over it, but there are also doses of Detroit, Pittsburgh, Columbus, and other Midwest cities in the United States. For Krivda, this Midwest circuit is the musical atmosphere he longs for. Interestingly, it was a tobacco tax that

Jason Derulo - Future History: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Jason Derulo's second album is a pedestrian step back.
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When an album starts with the vocalist singing his own name with cumbersome Auto-Tune, it’s hard to feel enthusiastic about what’s to come. Still, Jason Derulo’s Future History isn’t all bad - it's just mostly bad. The multi-platinum singer’s sophomore record has the bones of some fairly good songs on it, but it is so overproduced and busy it’s hard to track the message. Derulo, now 22, is trying to persuade listeners he’s come a long way since his self-titled debut. He has, in fact, opened for Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas (in Canada). And he does have

Never Shout Never - Time Travel: You'll Wish You Could Go Back In Time And Unhear This Record

One of the worst albums of the year is...
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When Never Shout Never first cranked open the doors to wailing teen/tween girls back in the sooty prehistoric wilds of 2005, Christofer Drew Ingle was calling it NeverShoutNever. He achieved substantial MySpace success thanks to an EP that featured a ukulele and a sugary, "aw shucks" vibe that drove girls bananas. In 2008, Ingle went through a colossal personal transformation and converted the name of NeverShoutNever to NeverShoutNever! Things would never be the same again…until a few years later when the spacebar was finally discovered and Ingle’s alias legitimately became Never Shout Never. His debut major label LP, What Is

Review: Needtobreathe - The Reckoning

Predictable, safe, bland rock music.
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Needtobreathe seems to have pulled nearly every page out of The Boss’s book to create The Reckoning, an album that, even in title, tries to operate every bit like a Springsteen record with a distinctly dutiful authority. Throw in a little Kings of Leon, complete with the brother act but sans the devil’s tonic, and you’ve got it down. The band from Seneca, South Carolina, has factored heavily on Christian music charts and is now opening for Taylor Swift on the North American leg of her Speak Now tour. The band features Bear Rinehart (lead vocals, guitar, piano), Bo Rinehart

John Brown Trio Pays Homage to Ellington With 'Dancing With Duke'

Fashionable, sophisticated, cool.
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The sophomore effort from John Brown, Dancing with Duke: An Homage to Duke Ellington, is a fashionable and sophisticated piece of work that makes the best of his splendid trio. Featuring Brown on bass, Cyrus Chestnut on piano and New Orleans’ Adonis Rose on drums, the trio slickly glides across numerous standards. Before I even listened to the first bar of the record, the album entranced me. In the liner notes, Brown says “His (Ellington’s) music makes it easy for people to find their own voices.” Isn’t that the greatest? No snootiness, no self-importance. Ellington’s gift is in helping people

As a Friend: Nirvana's Nevermind at 20

Nirvana's Nevermind turns 20.
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Nirvana’s Nevermind turns 20 this week. The record, the band’s second, was released on September 24, 1991. In January of 1992, Nevermind knocked Michael Jackson out of the top spot on the Billboard charts. That wasn’t supposed to happen. This was grunge rock, whatever the hell that was, and Nirvana was at the forefront of something counter-cultural, something rare, something that didn’t belong to those conventional motherfuckers. Nirvana started to plan what would become Nevermind in the spring of 1990. It was to be their second release for Sub Pop and the tentative title was Sheep. Butch Vig, a producer

Review: Ed Reed - Born to Be Blue

Ed Reed proves that there's no substitute for a lifetime of experience.
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There probably couldn’t be a better title for Ed Reed’s third album than Born to Be Blue. Reed has, after all, lived a life of the blues. He’s taken the long road to get to where he finds himself, that’s for sure, and the fissures and characters in his rich voice illustrate the history. Four years ago, Reed released his debut album Ed Reed Sings Love Stories. The catch? He was 78. The Song is You was released a year later and Reed, already an elder statesman by default, trotted through an expanded touring slate and guested on Marian McPartland’s

Review: Rich Halley Quartet - Requiem for a Pit Viper

Jazz tradition meets the natural world.
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What we have with the Rich Halley Quartet’s Requiem for a Pit Viper is an organic, mighty jazz album that packs a bite with every dense groove and high-level blast. Halley was educated as a field biologist, interestingly enough, and he transfers his love for the natural world to every note of saxophone he plays. His compositions also encompass a larger space, reaching out to the environment outside with one arm and pulling in to a tight, traditional understanding of jazz with the other. This provides a compelling juxtaposition of freedom and form. Halley’s quartet includes trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, bassist

Review: Satoko Fujii Min-Yoh Ensemble - Watershed

A dreamlike, complex trip down the rabbit hole.
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From the outset of Watershed, one can tell that what’s to come isn’t going to be the most lovely of experiences. Challenging screeches and screams of trumpet, provided gamely by the genius Natsuki Tamura, chill the spine in "The Thaw." Indeed, any ensemble led by Satoko Fujii isn’t particularly renowned for its pleasantness or ease. Such is also the case with her Min-Yoh Ensemble, a group featuring Fujii on piano, Curtis Hasselbring on trombone, Andrea Parkins on accordion, and of course Mr. Tamura creating his ungodly, unearthly sounds on trumpet. Inspired by Japanese folk music (Min-Yoh), Fujii’s quartet takes to

Staind - Staind|Let's Be Clear: This Is Not A Good Album

Not again! Staind is back with their eponymous seventh album.
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Staind's brand of Alice In Chains-lite angst has been stimulating the tormented histrionics of spoiled suburban white kids for quite some time now, but no album broke as big for the Springfield band as 2001’s mega-hit Break the Cycle. Featuring the cigarette-chomping melodrama of “It’s Been Awhile,” that record drew the band’s pouting spearhead Aaron Lewis into the light. Fast-forward 10 years and Lewis enters Staind’s eponymous seventh record with something to prove. His solo EP, Town Line, was a dip into the country music end of the pond and it seems that the vocalist is going a long

Review: Anterior - Echoes of the Fallen

Technical guitar magic can't save this one from some seriously boring territory.
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With Echoes of the Fallen, Welsh metal band Anterior explores the art of the riff with a foundation of chugging rhythm guitar and pounding drums to go along with it. The band’s second album picks up where their debut, 2007’s This Age of Silence, left off. But the new record also builds on the experiences of the then-teenagers as they captured local interest and landed bigger support gigs for the likes of 3 Inches of Blood and Skindred. After some changes to the line-up and more touring, including a 2009 UK tour with All That Remains and The Haunted, Anterior’s

Rahsaan Barber's "Everyday Magic" Exposes Real Nashville Jazz

Yes, Tennessee, there really is jazz in Nashville.
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It may be considered Music City, but Nashville isn’t exactly known for being a hotbed of jazz. With Rahsaan Barber, however, that may change in fairly short order. The saxophonist and flutist is intensifying possibilities with his new record Everyday Magic, but there’s still a big hunk of that Nashville essence lodged inside. “When I tell my New York friends there are all these fantastic jazz musicians in Nashville, they say ‘come on, really?’” says Barber. With his new label, Jazz Music City Records, the 31-year-old dynamo hopes to change that impression. The arrival of Everyday Magic actually debuts the

The Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York Celebrates a Birthday with 'ETO'

A charming, comedic, challenging recording.
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Whenever I get a chance to check out what Satoko Fujii is up to, I jump at the chance. The pianist-composer is one of the most exhilarating working today and each development represents the passage of a different musical stroke that must be crossed if we’re to be truly creatively free. The Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York commemorates the 60th birthday of Fujii’s husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, with ETO. The Orchestra New York is the longest standing big band of the quartet of big bands Fujii works with, so it’s the perfect fit for such merriment. At the core of

White Arms of Athena Make Satisfying Prog-Metal On 'Astrodrama'

A prog-metal journey that surprises and satisfies.
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At first, the debut full-length from White Arms of Athena sounds like your undistinguished post-hardcore record. The amalgamation of clean vocals and throat-shredding howls from Josh Everett blend well with the sonic battering perpetrated by the rest of the Texas-based band, but there really isn’t anything new right out of the box. But wait…there’s more. Astrodrama mutates into something, well, remarkable. The progressive metal act exercises some pretty mean thrash chops, but there are hints of jazz, blues and free-form moving around that help draw it all together under one roof. Indeed, under closer examination it turns out that Astrodrama

Review: Jay-Z and Kanye West - Watch the Throne

A sonically amazing, lyrically problematic joint effort from two hip hop icons.
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The partnership between Jay-Z, one of hip hop’s most popular artists, and Kanye West, one of music’s most polarizing figures, was greatly anticipated. Sure, the two traded barbs and guest spots on albums for ages up to this point. But Watch the Throne offers a new opportunity to couple them in an environment a long way off from the Reasonable Doubt and College Dropout days. Kanye West’s production game is colossal, with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy a significant recording. His ability to combine an enormous sum of incongruent elements and artists made that album pulse, while his poise as a

Review: Gary Clark Jr. - The Bright Lights EP

Holy shit.
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A big, thick slab of blues, rock, R&B, and whatever the fuck he wants, Gary Clark Jr.’s EP is the first masterpiece I’ve heard all year. Now sure, The Bright Lights is only four songs long and it clocks in at just a pinch over 21 minutes. In those 21 minutes, however, Clark Jr. bares his teeth and beats the hell out of his guitar in ways that you have to hear to believe. The most pressing matter is how hard this Austin, Texas, native hits when he wants to. He offsets it with some truly lovely acoustic work on

Review: Lisa Hilton - Underground

A fan of traditional jazz shirks traditionalism, thank God.
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Lisa Hilton’s thirteenth release stateside, Underground, has her playing piano with a tight ensemble and riding on waves of elegant but challenging melodies that will please fans of jazz and blues everywhere. Along with Larry Grenadier (bass), Nasheet Waits (drums) and J. D. Allen (tenor sax), Hilton takes to the keys with a style and panache seldom seen. The pianist grew up in a small Southern California town and was passionate about the ivories from an early age. Her great uncle, Willem Bloemendaall, fuelled her imagination and a coloured keyboard guide helped Hilton become self-taught in piano by around six

Review: Deborah Pearl - Souvenir of You

Pearl's lyrics to Benny Carter's gems make this one well worth a few spins.
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Putting lyrics to instrumental classics is the type of stuff that doesn’t always work out. In the case of Deborah Pearl’s Souvenir of You, however, magic happens. Pearl, a singer/playright/screenwriter/songwriter, has constructed Souvenir of You as a loving spotlight on Benny Carter. Through her friendship with the late bandleader/composer/arranger, Pearl was able to transform his pieces into refreshing new sounds worth many a groove and smile. Her work with Benny’s widow Hilma has made Souvenir an even deeper, even warmer recording that becomes every bit the labour of love it’s advertised as. The record opens with the big fat swing of

Review: Teddybears - Devil's Music

A boring pile of dance music.
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Teddybears have been fiddling around with various genres of music since the early 90s. The Swedish band trafficked in death metal, reggae, pop, and almost everything in between before settling on the sort of dance magic found on their newest album. Devil’s Music is the sixth studio recording for Patrik Arve and brothers Joakim and Klas Åhlund. What we have on Devil’s Music is a hodgepodge of inoffensive, easy, boring dance pop-rock. There are loads of guest stars and nothing interesting happens, but perhaps these Teddybears aren’t supposed to be stimulating on a deeper level. The formulaic record essentially drills

"Tears Dry On Their Own" - Amy Winehouse Dead at 27

A tragic end to a life filled with promise and struggles...
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I don’t normally try to write tributes or death notices or articles about someone’s passing (you're about to find out why with this drivel), but I woke to the news of Amy Winehouse’s passing and found myself in the odd position of wanting to say...something. Winehouse, 27, was found dead at her London home. To say she was troubled would be an understatement. She was born in north of London to a Jewish family and cultivated an early interest in jazz music. When Amy was ten, she had a rap group called Sweet ‘n Sour. A few years later,

Review: Taking Back Sunday - S/T

Their eponymous record, complete with a return from a classic line-up, rocks like it should.
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With their eponymous record, Taking Back Sunday brings the heat with the Tell All Your Friends line-up and manages a full-sounding blast of a rock record. It may seem that the fifth record is designed to banish the mediocrity of New Again, an album the band didn’t like all that much. Overall, though, beyond new beginnings or a recapturing of the emo spirit, Taking Back Sunday is all about the Rock. The return of guitarist/vocalist John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper to the outfit is certainly a welcome thing, as the band sounds immensely whole and satisfied. Now in their

Review: Dolly Parton - Better Day

Dolly's genius is in her unassuming, unadorned delivery.
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As huge a star as Dolly Parton is, there’s something about the way she communicates that makes it seem like she’s sitting at our respective kitchen tables and offering us a helping hand or a listening ear. With Better Day, Dolly’s in full consoler mode. She offers up prayers and visions for better times, spreading comfort through her exquisite storytelling and incredible vocals. There’s a soft and warm side to every note of every song. At the same time, there are cracks and some very human threads to be heard. The balminess never really leaves when she tosses out a

Review: Barn Owl - Shadowland EP

An intelligent, challenging drone and ambient recording.
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Barn Owl, comprised of Jon Porras and Evan Caminiti, soared into existence in 2006 with two guitars and a whole whack of gear. Their drone/ambient/Americana/black metal vibe is hard to quantify in words, but their influences and imaginations wisely coalesce into something remarkable each time these cats put sound to tape. Their first release for Thrill Jockey was 2010’s Ancestral Star, a challenging but rewarding recording that drew comparisons to the likes of drone masters Sunn O))) and composer Ennio Morricone. Such a broad base had me convinced that their new EP, Shadowland, would be something to tune in and

Review: Claire Dickson - Scattin' Doll

Jazz from the mouths of babes isn't always sweet and innocent.
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When Claire Dickson was just 11, a key revelation took place: her dad loaded Ella Fitzgerald into the MP3 player. The rest, for the now-14-year-old jazz singer, is history. How much history can be absorbed by a mere three years? That’s hard for anyone to say, but Dickson sings and scats through 10 swinging and scorching numbers with a world-weariness and a funk that singers three times her age can’t muster on their best day. Think I’m kidding? Check out Scattin’ Doll and be wowed. Dickson’s first CD was recorded in two sessions when she was 12 and 13. She

Review: Jill Scott - The Light of the Sun

A stunningly emotional, raw journey.
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A playful, spiritual, sexual record, Jill Scott’s The Light of the Sun is a revelation for the Philadelphia singer/songwriter/poet/actress. Her fourth studio album, her first release for Warner Bros. Records, follows a four-year hiatus from recording music and puts her back on solid ground. A lot happened has for Scott since 2007’s The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol. 3. Not only did she take a break from the music business, she took on some pretty big acting roles, including a starring role in HBO’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. During her hiatus, Scott divorced her husband of six

Review: Pontiak - Comecrudos

A soundtrack for the desolate landscape of our world.
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Perhaps the most amazing thing to consider when listening to Pontiak’s Comecrudos is that no distortion or overdrive pedals were used in the making of the album. The gear, bare and raw, is straightforward. The music, however, is anything but straightforward. There are four pieces, named by part alone. The intent behind Comecrudos was to serve as a sort of soundtrack for the desolate landscapes of our world. It was recorded by the band as the music for a drive from Phoenix to the Big Bend area of Texas, in fact, and the vibe is open, sparse, bleak. Yet there’s

Review: Neil Young - A Treasure

This time capsule is a solid example of country musicians rocking the barn down to the ground.
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A Treasure is a live album from Neil Young and The International Harvesters. Taken from Young’s 1984 and 1985 U.S. tours back when artists toured just to tour and not just to support an album, the dozen tracks found here come when the iconic performer was experimenting with country music and facing off with Geffen Records in an ongoing legal battle. In fact, Geffen sued Neil Young in 1984 because he apparently turned in a record that was found to be “uncharacteristic” and, horror of all horrors, “uncommercial.” That record was Old Ways and it was rejected by Geffen. A

Review: Book of Black Earth - The Cold Testament

A harsh, relentless, repetitive assault on the ears.
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On the cover of Book of Black Earth's monstrous The Cold Testament is a demonic wolf with a bloody mouth. The thing probably took a bite out of Taylor Lautner. For those not in the know, and that included me until I started ripping through this brutal record, Book of Black Earth is a Seattle metal outlet. The incessant rain may have something to do with the relentless attack this beast of a group drops on a routine basis. Featuring TJ Cowgill on vocals/guitar, Rob Beebe on guitar/vocals, Ricky Way on bass, and Joe Axler on drums, these four ass-kickers

Review: New Boyz - Too Cool to Care

Who turned up the suck?
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There are times when a piece of music slides across my desk that makes my brain rise up and run for cover. Sometimes I enjoy checking my brain at the door, as long as the music is, you know, good. Other times, though, the feeling of brain cells rotting is enough to make me turn inside out. Trust me, it's not as fun as it sounds. New Boyz have done it this time. Their Too Cool to Care is their second studio album. Apparently this "rap" duo debuted with the viral hit "You're a Jerk" from the summer of 2009.

Review: Reform the Resistance - The Truth is Dangerous

These Christian rockers want war.
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Reform the Resistance isn't afraid to scream, shout and sing about their beliefs. This is a Christian band, make no mistake about it. Whether that's your thing or not is up to you, of course, but there are moments on The Truth is Dangerous that prove downright off-putting in their lyrical imagery. The band is all over the map in terms of style (see cover art, for instance), which is both a help and a hindrance. It's hard to get a read on an act that swings wildly from Radiohead-influenced backdrops to splices of hardcore, screamo and electronica woven into

Review: Marie-Christine - Walk In Beauty

This could have been so much more than an excuse to drag Corey Hart out of the shadows.
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Marie-Christine may have accomplished something few others have done in convincing Corey Hart to haul out "Sunglasses at Night" and to come out of his musical hibernation, but she doesn't really wear the interpolation well. In fact, "Girl in Shades," the first track on Marie-Christine's debut record, is a little wobbly. Marie-Christine is Marie-Christine Depestre, a Montreal singer. Her Walk In Beauty is an uneven effort that sparkles with greatness when the beat is right but collapses under the pressure of its samples when things aren't so right. The 29-year-old vocalist leans a little too much on 80s cheese on

Review: The Sea and Cake - The Moonlight Butterfly

A "mini-album" journey through time, flight and space.
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The soft-spoken nature of The Moonlight Butterfly, the ninth album from The Sea and Cake, is kind of hard to shake. Sure, these are pop songs that work their way inside and stay there. They aren't built of the sturdiest stuff at the outset - or so it seems. Here's the guitar interplay of Sam Prekop and Archer Prewitt to anchor us. And there's the rhythm of Eric Claridge (bass) and John McEntire (drums) to drive us a little further. Yet all the while, Prekop tries to climb in our heads with his hushed, nearly whispered vocals. And the songs

Review: Christina Perri - lovestrong.

Angsty, bare, repetitive goodness from a talented and brutally honest singer/songwriter.
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Philadelphia's Christina Perri spills her guts on lovestrong., her debut record. It's clear that making the album took an emotional toll on the singer/songwriter, as these are bare songs that don't hide much. She sings with an unassuming energy, opening her heart for the listener and delivering the goods like it means something for a change. Stylistically, I can't say that Perri offers much more than your run-of-the-mill indie popster. The arrangements are nice, pleasant diversions, but she's not taking many creative risks with respect to composition. It's in the oft-brutal, always honest lyricism that lovestrong. becomes something unique. Perri's

Review: Musiq Soulchild - MusiqInTheMagiq

A sleek, sexy record perfect for a romantic evening in.
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The sleek, funky, sensual neo-soul vibes of Musiq Soulchild groove their way all over his sixth studio recording, MusiqInTheMagiq. Even after a number of hit records, the Philly singer/songwriter hasn't hit the stratosphere in terms of mainstream popularity. MusiqInTheMagiq rides the funky train through a series of easy songs that call back to his contemporary R&B roots. While there's nothing here that reinvents the proverbial wheel, Musiq is smooth enough to make it all go off like clockwork. As the follow-up to 2008's OnMyRadio, the spacebar hater's MusiqInTheMagiq delves into casual, conversational lyricism over smooth, oft-jazzy beats and soundscapes. The

Review: Billy Bang and Bill Cole - Billy Bang/Bill Cole

What can I say about Billy Bang?
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As a relative newbie to the world of jazz, I'd not heard of Billy Bang prior to receiving his recording with Bill Cole to review. There it sat, waiting in the pile with the rest. Possessed by something probably otherworldly, I slipped the disc in and closed my eyes. Bang, a violinist, jammed himself into my consciousness with startling immediacy. I had to know more, I had to "discover" Billy Bang for myself. A quick search turned up some disheartening news that affected me more than I thought it could. Billy Bang died just a few days ago on April

Review: The Forms - Derealization EP

The joy of deconstruction.
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I've noticed that I've been senselessly wrapped up in American Idol again. The show, which I dig like a car crash, is almost entirely built around the concept of realization. When you consider how the various vocalists, most of them exceptionally talented, approach a song, the concept of realization emerges. The competition centres around the idea of bringing out the concrete nature of a song, of making it something tangible and something that will sell to a mass audience. What would happen if American Idol were based around the idea of derealization? One might imagine that the notion behind singing

Review: Panic! at the Disco - Vices & Virtues

Panic! is down to two members but back to its unimpressive, boring basics.
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Creativity can be an slippery creature, especially if you've made your bacon in one more or less immutable fashion. For a band like Panic! at the Disco, creativity can be damning - at least in the eyes of mercurial music fans. The band debuted with A Fever You Can't Sweat Out in 2004, a record that flirted with some rather eclectic influences but played it really close to the emo chest. Long-winded song titles ("There's a Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered Honey, You Just Haven't Thought of It Yet") revealed the pretentiousness beneath the terrible songs, with tracks like

Review: The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar

Stadium-ready rock from an unassuming trio.
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The buzz over The Joy Formidable is, er, formidable. We've all heard more than our fair share of overzealously hyped bands cruising through the hip lips of bloggers, though, and it's hard to know quite how to greet the idea of yet another act whose debut EP is considered the next best thing to the other next best thing's best thing. In the case of The Joy Formidable, the proof is in the sonic pudding now that their debut full-length has hit the shelves in North America. Along with a fat, juicy rock sound, the trio from North Wales, now

Review: Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows (D.R.U.G.S.) - S/T

Angst for the food court set.
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Some bands are best born in turmoil and drama, with the pain of past events providing ample fuel for angst-riddled diatribes of unignorable passion. In the case of Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows (D.R.U.G.S., get it?), the turmoil and drama of vocalist Craig Owens is the cataylst. For fans of post-hardcore act Chiodos, the Owens name resonates. He was "famously" bounced from the band in 2009 thanks to a bout of tension and problems. Owens had been subject to considerable criticism and even attempted suicide in 2008 due to his struggles with bipolar disorder. In any event, such a dramatic,

Review: Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes

Sadness is her boyfriend.
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Sweden's Lykke Li smoulders with all sorts of raspy and dark torch songs on Wounded Rhymes, her second record. Her debut album, Youth Novels, was released in 2008 to considerable acclaim. Wounded Rhymes builds on Youth Novels well, engaging with lots of dusty, open-faced soundscapes and plenty of shade. Lykke Li doesn't hold back, bringing her bleakness and mystery to some rather melodic pop tunes. The resulting stew is equal parts sinister and sweet, creating a rich experience that may well be one of the best records of the year so far. Li has a way of tracking through songs

Review: Chris Dahlgren & Lexicon - Mystic Maze

Dahlgren critiques the critics, but does it work as an adequate revenge fantasy?
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Critics, we of the great unwashed variety, are always ruining things. Our unwarranted, unqualified shenanigans have slaughtered many a classic artist and wrecked many a deified professional. We laugh about it now, sure, but in our quiet moments we've been known to shed a few tears. Not human tears, mind you. We critics are an evil lot. Chris Dahlgren and Lexicon "critique the critics" with Mystic Maze, a concept album of sorts that sets negative reviews of Béla Bartók's music to the bassist-composer's work. So who was Béla Bartók? He was a Hungarian composer and pianist, widely considered one of

Review: Ron Sexsmith - Long Player Late Bloomer

A pensive, intelligent recording - as expected.
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Unassuming songsmith Ron Sexsmith may be one of the last people in the world you'd expect to work with super-producer Bob Rock, but with Long Player Late Bloomer it all magically comes together. The record is Sexsmith's 12th and "song" is, without question, this Canadian singer's "saviour." Sexsmith is a traditionalist in every sense of the word. He's been admired by the likes of Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, and friend Elvis Costello, but he's always struggled to maintain much by way of chart presence. It really doesn't matter at this point, as Sexsmith's niche is that of integrity

Review: Wayne Wallace Jazz Quintet - To Hear from There

Sitting in on this jazz conversation is a spicy affair. Bring water.
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The Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet sizzles all over their spicy new record To Hear from There, engaging with grooves from the soul and rhythm from the hip. The trombonist and composer from San Francisco follows up his Grammy-nominated ¡Bien Bien! with this corker and he leaves nothing out of the arrangements. Along with Murray Low (piano), Michael Spiro (Latin percussion), David Belove (bass), and Paul van Wageningen (trap drums), Wallace blasts through this collection of standards and originals with a style and precision most only dream of. There's a straightforwardness to Wallace's presentation that sucks all of the nonsensical

Review: Jessica Lea Mayfield - Tell Me

Celebrate the sad.
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Jessica Lea Mayfield's Tell Me is a pensive, nearly mournful record that reminds me of shuffling slowly through the rain without paying mind to how soaked the situation becomes. Mayfield seems to revel in the drops of cold, soaking up the moment with beautifully simple lyrics and touches of nervousness. Mayfield's first release, With Blasphemy So Heartfelt, was released in September of 2008 and featured The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach as its producer. Later, Mayfield held the honour of being the first guest vocalist to appear on a record by The Black Keys when she supplied backing vocals to "Things

Review: Cold War Kids - Mine is Yours

What's mine is yours, but what's theirs is glossy arena rock.
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I last experienced Cold War Kids on 2008's Loyalty to Loyalty, a recording that dazzled with its "big-tent revival showmanship." With their new disc, Mine is Yours, there's a shift in tone that proves surprising. The shift is immediately recognizable and the use of producer Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Tom Waits, Modest Mouse) has something to do with it. The album is very nearly a complete about-face from their past catalogue. Many indie critics went rightly apeshit over the California rockers' debut, Robbers & Cowards, but this one is proving a tougher sell. Perhaps it's the instant presence of

Review: Jinx Jones - Rip and Run

A chugging, thundering bit of rockabilly that rolls like an illegal street race.
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I first came in contact with Jinx Jones without knowing it, I'm sure. He played guitar with En Vogue and I'm pretty sure that's him cutting a big swath across "Free Your Mind." I'm positive that's him backing up Solomon Burke and I know that's him playing with Chuck Berry "on and off" for nearly a decade form the late 1970s through the 1980s. I also know that's him strapping in with Roy Buchanan in 1984. So with a streak slashed through R&B, rock, soul, and damn near everything else, where does a cat like Jinx Jones go next? With

Review: Cake - Showroom of Compassion

Cake's latest takes some doing, but when it sinks in it really sinks in.
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My experience with Cake's Showroom of Compassion began with a lot of shifty looks. Truth be told, I didn't really dig the band's sixth record on its initial listen. I can't cop to being much of a fan of these Sacramento cats either, so that may have had something to do with my reluctance. Nevertheless, I continued to give Showroom of Compassion its opportunity to dig its way into my head and it eventually did. This is Cake's first album since 2004's Pressure Chief, representing the longest gap in the band's catalogue thus far. What captivates, sooner or later, about

Review: Tanya Davis - Clocks and Hearts Keep Going

Disarmingly affecting. Stunningly tender. Real.
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Tanya Davis' third record, Clocks and Hearts Keep Going, opens with a beautiful piece of work entitled "Please Bless." Gauzy guitar, handclaps and tenderness over "prayers of righteousness" glide through, touching things like a spirit slipping around in the dark looking for the lightswitch. She operates in what seems like a contradiction, but there's quiet confidence to her fumbling that charms from the outset. Davis debuted in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with 2006's Make a List. Also a poet, she won the CBC National Poetry Face-off twice. Along the way, Davis found time to collaborate with indie filmmaker Andrea Dorfman to

Review: Blood Warrior - S/T

Bleaker places haven't been thought of yet.
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I've been listening to the worn, rugged, bleak sounds of Blood Warrior for some while now. It's been spinning through my mind, cascading around my head like a glass full of cigarette butts soaking in somebody else's bourbon. It's been making its way through my consciousness, drilling in like old boots scraping across wood with rats exploring the world 'neath the floorboards. It's been calling to me like the bearded old stranger down by the diner on the corner who strangely knows my name and never lets me forget my sins. Blood Warrior is "the culmination of a life long