Category Archives: Review

Review: Eden Fine Day – Things Get Better

Eden Fine Day - Things Get Better
Eden Fine Day – Things Get Better. Self-released, 2013.

Eden Fine Day is a Canadian singer-songwriter from Vancouver. In the press release that we got for her, it talks about how distinctly Canadian her sound is, and how important her status as a member of the Sweetgrass First Nation is to her music. However, when I listen to her album Things Get Better, I don’t hear anything that screams,”This is a First Nations album” or “This is a Canadian album,” even on songs that specifically reference her identity (“The Res,” “Ndn Children”). Rather, Fine Day was created a pretty universal, albeit personal, pop album.

I think that the balance between personal and universal is often difficult to find, and few singer-songwriters do it well. Fine Day manages to stand firmly on that line, whether she is talking about a break up (“Alone Again”) or her brother’s death from Leukemia (“The Res,” “Damaged”), Eden manages to be just specific enough to make Things Get Better a sort of pop-rock memoir, yet open enough that it’s easy to relate to.

Sonically, this album sounds a little like a lower-key Rilo Kiley. However, there’s a certain coldness, a distance, in the music itself that contrasts the closeness and warmth of Fine Day’s voice. Perhaps that’s the Canadian sound the press release mentions, the influence of living in the North. Regardless, this coldness adds a twinge of sadness in even the more poppy songs (like the especially Rilo Kiley-esque and deceptively poppy title track), which I think is the whole point of the album: that, as the aforementioned title track says, “Things did get better/ after they got worse.”

Ultimately, the narrative of Things Get Better is one of growth and of finding peace, but only after the world trying to destroy you? The narrator? Eden? piece by piece. Fine Day sings of pushing through the bad things in life and becoming stronger because of them, and she manages to do so without sounding melodramatic or preachy. In doing so, she has managed to create an album that is both poppy and important.

After reviewing an album, I often take a break from it, deleting it from my mp3-player to make room for the next album. Things Get Better is staying in my rotation. It’s that good.

Things Get Better is available on iTunes, as well as in physical format directly from Eden Fine Day.

-jason

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REVIEW: King Champion Sounds — Different Drummer

Probably the most notable thing about King Champion Sounds (or at least the thing that will get them the most attention aside from Thurston Moore’s endorsement) is that they are helmed by GW Sok who was the vocalist for The Ex for, what, 30 years? KCS mostly eschews The Ex’s brand of militant and angular experimentation and instead favors an exhilarating blend of late-70s rude-boy 2-tone ska and deep ambient dub-jazz.

The record alternates between anthemic horn-driven blasts like “World of Confusion” and “Here We Go Again” (with its fist-pumping refrain, “lead us not into temptation”) and swirling beat-driven tone-poems like “Shouting At The Moon” and “Orbit Macht Frei ” (with its oddly affecting repeat, “TV the ruthless religion”). The uptempo rockers come off like a clumsily metronomic Fall playing manically forward material like The Specials. The more pastoral interludes contain nods to everything from Can, Muslimgauze, Bill Laswell, spaghetti westerns, and Bitches Brew.

Different Drummer is a highly intriguing and addictive record from a group with a foot in the past and an eye towards the future. Out now in Europe; LP/CD available domestically Feb. 25 from Chicago’s Sickroom Records. — Russell Emerson Hall

RIYL: The Specials, Gang of Four, Miles Davis, Bill Laswell

 

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REVIEW: Death Pedals — The Carvery

It’s nice to know that there are still folks out there working within the punk-rock aesthetic and not making it either a retro fashion review or nihilistically anachronistic. London’s Death Pedals are a refreshing blast, coming off like an amped up Hot Snakes or a UK-leaning Dischord band (or fellow Londoners Gallows with less swagger). Snotty and sweaty, they’re precise when they need to be and careening elsewhere. Whenever the proceedings get too straight ahead, the Pedals throw in a barbed twist that pushes things further along in a gloriously hedonistic and oddly satisfying way. The occasional bass and drum interludes hint at a more-than-passing-familiarity with Chicago noiserock but front and center are the damned classic-rock earworm hooks. It’s the soundtrack for a party at the end of the world and I’m guessing the live show is manic. — Russell Emerson Hall

RIYL: Gallows, Hot Snakes, Refused, Mayors of Miyazaki

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Review: Colleens – Wild Dreams

Colleens - Wild Dreams
Colleens – Wild Dreams. Self-released, 2014.

It seems that I’m listening to a lot of alt-country/Americana recently. I don’t know if that’s because it’s what’s in right now, or if it’s because the more alt-country I review, the more I get sent, but it’s totally a thing. This is a blessing and a curse; while I’m really getting into this stuff, it becomes harder and harder to talk about it, as most of it has a sort of folksy, sitting-on-the-porch-in-a-rocking-chair feeling to it. However, I’m not here to talk about that kind of thing. I’m here to talk about Colleens’ debut LP, Wild Dreams.

Wild Dreams is more of the Wilco style of Americana: just as much rock as it is country. IN fact, at times, such as the slightly Beatle-esque “Sun Before I Set,” it largely strays from the alt-country idiom, keeping the honky-tonk piano and little else. It’s a refreshing change of pace from some of the stuff I’ve listened to recently, and I glad brothers Josh and Jon Harter and company don’t feel the need to be married to that particular sound. Other songs, such as the title track, are sterling examples of what’s right with the genre, with its steel guitars and melancholy vocals (“My voice is turning down/My voice is tuning out/You’ll never hear back/You’ll never hear”).

Perhaps my favorite thing about this album is that it feels like it’s building to something all the way to its complex-but-somber climax (Again, the title track, which is probably my favorite song on the album). This is not a hastily put together collection of songs; Colleens has self-produced an Album, which I think is a feat for a newly-minted band to do on its own.

At 31 minutes, it would seem that Wild Dreams would feel a bit short, but this is one of the few times that an album as short and as near-perfect as this one doesn’t leave me wishing it were longer. Wild Dreams is precisely as long as it needs to be.

In summary: Colleens’ Wild Dreams is an excellent debut from a band that should be on your musical radar right now.

Colleens’ Wild Dreams is available on iTunes and Amazon.

-jason

Colleens – About You [OFFICIAL VIDEO] from Colleens on Vimeo.

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Review: Beauty Queen Autopsy – Roughest Cuts – the demos (EP)

BQA_Roughest_Cuts_cover
Beauty Queen Autopsy – Roughest Cuts – The Demos (EP). Undustrial Records, 2013.

I’ll be honest; Beauty Queen Autopsy’s Roughest Cuts showed up in out inbox, I almost gave it a pass. See, when I see something like this, you know, that 80′s goth-pop revival stuff, it just doesn’t seem to work. It’s real easy to go over the top and try to hard, plunging too far into the camp parts of the goth aesthetic. The whole scene gives me the Amanda Palmer Douchechills. And if you look at the cover of Roughest Cuts, it certainly looks like Erica Mulkey (Unwoman) and Matt Fanale (Caustic) are Trying Too Hard(tm).

However, I did give them a chance. I mean, it’s a 4-song EP. If I didn’t like it, that was only 14 minutes of my time. So I listened. And I listened again.

I’m glad to say that musically, these guys are trying exactly as hard as they should. If you were to play the opening track, “Good, Giving, Game” and you told me it was recorded in 1981, I’d believe it, I’d bob my head, and if I knew how to dance, I would probably do that, too. The whole thing has a sort of Joy Division/Jesus and Mary Chain/Q Lazzarus sound, but it doesn’t sound as if Beauty Queen Autopsy are trying to sound like any of them. Rather, it sounds authentic.

It’s all good stuff here, with my favorite tracks being “Birthday Pony” and the cover of the Sex Pistol’s “Submission,” which they make their own in this rendition. If this is just a collection of demos, though, I’m eager to see what the full album, due out later this year, going to sound like. I’m glad I didn’t give Roughest Cutsa pass.

Roughest Cuts – The Demos is available for free (or name your price) on Beauty Queen Autopsy’s Bandcamp site.

-jason

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