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Todd Rundgren, White Knight, 2017

todd rundgren - white knightThe career of Todd Rundgren spans generations and genres, so this iconic songwriter, artist, producer and innovator probably has a rolodex with a lot of names… And he used quite a few of these on this, his newest album. To drop a few: Trent Reznor, Donald Fagen, Joe Walsh, Daryl Hall, Joe Satriani and Robyn are among the guest on White Knight. And those names also give a clue as to how diverse this album is.

Now diversity is often a good thing, at least in my book, and in this case I am bound to listen to styles I would normally not take the time for. Knowing Rundgren’s work, it is not always instant, so I try to keep and open mind and listen without prejudice. Even to raps and stuff like that. And this album requires a lot of willingness to listen properly. After all, you get to hear hip-hopped funk, synth rock, ballads and power pop. All in one go.
It is probably unavoidable that this will turn some people off. But I don’t think Rundgren for one second will reconsider his choices. This is the what he wants to say and he will say it no matter what. Something I admire, but that won’t come as a surprise either.

So, after a couple of spins, what did I think? To me this is a Rundgren record, period. Clever songs, diverse arrangements, and all done in a focused and mature matter. Of course some songs speak more easy to me than others. But I am also certain that over time, all will sink in and share an equal love.

Not sure this will gain him new fans, but those into his amazing body of work do not need to hesitate. And before I forget; I already love his stab at the current political climate with Tin Foil Hat 😉

Website

Doris Brendel and Lee Dunham, Eclectica, 2017

doris brendel - eclecticaRegular followers of the blog will surely be familiar with the name of Doris Brendel. This unique rock singer with the husky voice is going from strength to strength it seems. And as usual, again with the help of Lee Dunham, the songs on offer reflect her multi faceted personality and styles to the tee.

So far I have loved every album she has released (I even made sure to get a copy of her 1990 debut with The Violet Hour) and after a couple of spins of Ecleptica, I am starting to wonder if this is maybe her strongest effort yet. Yes, with every spin I am loving this album more and more. And while there are many moods and influences throughout this 10 track album, one thing is for sure, this might also well be her rockiest effort ever. And the rocker in me just cannot resist that.
Whether it is the tribal drums in opener The One, the rocky Love App, or the progressive 8+ minute epic (1 of 2, the other one clocking in at almost 10 minutes) I Rather Wear Black, I am really addicted. For me, all 10 songs hit home, and hit home hard. The choruses pick you up, the inventive arrangements keep you interested and the melodies make you want to hear it again.

So if this is your first encounter, or if you already own all her output, this comes heavily and heartily recommended. Outstanding album!

Website

Cellar Dwellers, Junkyard Chronicles parts 1 + 2, 2017

cellar dwellers - junkyard chroniclesSo now on to something new. Well, not quite perhaps. Turns out this band has been around since 1990. In various line-ups they have been gigging. And stopping. And starting again. And now, since early 2015 they are back and stronger than ever! First prove of this re-found energy is these 2 EP’s Part 1 from 2016 and a fresh part 2. The plan is to record 4 in total, each with 5 songs. Smart idea from this ehhh 5 piece 🙂

Part 1 starts very strong with the song Enemy. Raw power and energy, served with catchy hooks and good melodies. Melodies are memorable throughout the songs, and it sure helps they use more vocalists. It really enhances their mix of punk rock, classic rock and a dash of psychedelica. Another smart thing is additional arrangements, be it sound clips, or keyboards. Take for instance track 4 S.O.S. The overall sound creates a haunting atmosphere in the verses but when the guitars kick in on the chorus, you are back on earth in seconds. Oh, and closing track Ramones can only be a tribute to…. right!
EP 2 starts with another belter, the aptly titled Rock City. Lyrics go a little crazy with Pornosluts and Puke & Boogie without losing momentum. And the other 2 songs Long Distance Lovesong and Mayhem’s Trash (some Black Sabbath anyone?) are further testament to the talent in the band.

Energetic, powerful and experienced. You cannot go wrong with this music to start a party!

Website

Ivory Tower Project, How Much More?, 2017

Ivory Tower Project - How Much MoreNow here is a tale of determination for you. This New York based band has served as a safe haven for its members to process, and ultimately triumph, over trying times. These involve serious accidents with continued health issues, the passing of key members and so on. And I can personally relate to the feeling that making music helps with getting over troubles and keeping sane. Surviving member Mark Regula found a new partner in Tony Novarro. Their shared love for the music of Styx, Queen, Foreigner or Boston has helped shape this album, How Much More?.

Opening with the title track, that starts life as an emotive piano ballad accompanied by crying guitar lines. But it does not take that long before those melodic rock references are coming to the fore. Great chorus and harmony vocals, and more intense soloing too. Great way to start. Next is the Shakespearean tragedy made into a rock song The Ides Of March (et tu bruté). It is also nice to hear the band infuse some prog keyboard influences into their songs. Surprisingly maybe, next track Gotcha starts with a funky bass, something that is used in other tracks as well. Also scratched type vocals and additional sax give this song a light footed timbre, without losing the catchiness. Ring Around Rosie is a very commercial tune, with powerful chords and a fairly basic structure.
With 14 tracks and a playing time of almost 70 minutes, there is a lot on offer. Even if one is a remix made for dance clubs. Personal highlights for me are Burning, Way To Late and the beautiful ballad Always.

So easy choice for fans of the aforementioned bands, music tailor made to play loud while cruising.

Website

Lost Lakes, Self Titled, 2016

Lost-LakesAlas I cannot remember for the life of me how I got this. And unfortunately I did not receive any info with it either. So with the help of internet I have found Lost Lakes to be a four piece band. Central is the collaboration between Corey Mathew Hart and Paul Mitch, who met at a songwriting competition and just clicked. The style is described as pop infused folk rock, which I believe to be pretty accurate.

So in general this is a lot more mellow as most of the stuff I have been listening to off late. But that takes nothing away from it feeling authentic and heartfelt. The 12 songs all clock around 3 minutes and sometimes even have a hint of Country, or Americana if you will. All arranged with the song in mind, so no room for musical indulgence. Lots of vocals and melodies that want your attention.
So while this isn’t something I would usually pick up, I must confess that it is no punishment to listen to the album. At all! No, it is very well done and sounds honest and pure. In a time where fake music seems the standard, this is something to applaud.

All songs are of the same calibre so if you have a listen and still like it after Digital Tears and slight personal favourite Can’t It Wait, just buy it. Very enjoyable.

Website

The Sighs Of Monsters, Lie, 2017

the sighs of monsters - lieOh yeah, I cannot help but like a band who clearly state they love albums and respect the album as an art form. That’s the spirit boys! So hailing from London UK we have this quartet and their second album (after 2014’s Ground).  On it you will find 12 songs with a total running time of 46 minutes. In a way one could consider this as an art-rock or prog band. But actually that would be selling them short as the songs vary too much to put into one category. On the other hand, that might just be a very progressive thing…

Listening to the album I was hooked from the first bars of I Hear Drums. Call it infectious, call it catchy, call it what you like, it is a damn clever way to start. From a bit of distance it is quite remarkable how 4 guys can deliver music so diverse and still sound spot on in every second of it. Whether it is a more elaborate track like Superman In The Silence, the almost Johnny Cash sounding Fight or the almost New Wave sounding song like Hello. And if you now think this is a patchy work, forget it. Don’t know how they do it,  but nothing seems out of place here.

So there you go, the album as an art form and The Sighs Of Monsters as the advocate, I love it.

Website

Terry Draper, Window On The World, 2016

terry draper - window on the worldRemember Klaatu? No? Shame, anyone into progressive pop / rock should own their back catalogue, especially the album Hope. But anyway, one of the core member of Klaatu was Terry Draper, who continued to release music after the demise of the band in the early eighties. Recently we got in touch and he was so kind as to make this available to me.

I guess the “the lost 80’s tapes” sub title really tells you a lot. But what it does not say is that this is really a release on USB. It includes not only the 10 tracks from the album, but also videos, an extensive booklet and info sheet and no less than 12 bonus songs. Terry calls 2 of them an attempt at Euro-pop, 5 are songs about loved ones with female lead vocals, and 5 are demos in various states of completion.
Now, if you are familiar with the Endangered Species album from Klaatu, then I think the 10 songs will sound familiar as I think they come closest to that period in the Klaatu history. At that time there was more focus on straight songs it seems. And there is really nothing wrong with that as they’ve always shown a keen ear for melodies. That “The undercover Beatles” rumour from back in the day had to have a little root… Standout tracks for me are opener I Have A Dream, You Don’t See Me Laughing and closer and title track Window On The World. But I am sure that any song would have fitted well on any album.

So this makes me a happy man, and not only for the insights in the more obscure tracks!

Website

The Foxholes, Un Mal Menor, 2016

the foxholes - un mal menorOkay, this is great idea: a pseudo compilation album! From a band I had yet never heard of before either. So on to some info: The Foxholes are a trio, consisting of Jonah A. Luke on guitar and vocals, Vincenc Molina on drums and vocals and Carmelo Gomez on bass. As far as I can tell they are from Spain and this is not their first album (duh).

Named after the only as yet unreleased opening track, this trio delivers 9 songs and almost 39 minutes of a very pleasant brand of somewhat psychedelic rock. What struck me most was the almost constant duo harmony singing, giving them an unique voicing I think. Three of the songs are sung in Spanish, the other six in English, but this language change did not bother me at all. From the art I deducted that they have released albums in 2009, 2010 and 2011, but that might be incomplete.

In the end, what counts are the songs, and those are easy on the ears. Good melodies, and enough spice in the arrangements to enjoy them on repeat. So yes, I liked it!

Website

Mark Bogert, Painting The World, 2016

mark bogert - painting the worldYes, sometimes one can discuss the quality of artwork. Personally, I do not like the cover chosen for this release. On the other hand, when it comes to music, and more specific playing the guitar, things turn around very quickly. As with the previous release from Bogert, from the get go it is obvious this guy is one heck of a player. And when you get help from Knight Area mates Pieter van Hoorn on drums and Peter Vink on bass, you know you will have all the foundation you will ever need.

What I like most about Mark’s playing is his use of melody. In that aspect he comes from the Satriani way of doing things. Opener Earning The Best is a great introduction to that. Very nice piano playing and then the guitar hits us with melodies. And okay, several flashy bits, but I never once thought he was pushing it too hard. And the same applies to most of the songs on the album. Nature Of Stone is another song that mister Satriani would be proud of. Great melodies and moods. Other songs show the influence of Vai, which of course is no bad reference either. And in songs like Friends On Holiday and especially Missing The Loved Ones, I cannot escape the absolute haunting delivery. Achingly beautiful!

So all lovers of great playing, this is a record you have to check!

Website

Dolcetti, Arriver, 2016

dolcetti - arriverIn all honesty, I am not too keen on EP’s. But, as they say, no rule without exception. And to prove the point here we have the Arriver album by Dolcetti. Who are a self described crazy duo consisting of Gianni Rojatti on guitar and everything besides drums, as those are played by Erik Tulissio. And believe it or not, this duo plays live on a regular bases and despite the use of loops and stuff, manage to throw in improvisations in between their already virtuoso playing.

There are a lot of things to like about this album. For instance there are 8 tracks and 7 of them last 3:34. The last one, track 5 lasts 0:34. And if you pull a stunt like that off without sounding far fetched, you rank high upon my genius scale. And genius this is. It is very clear why mister Vai took them on board to support his tour. Or why they have played with the likes of The Aristocrats, Paul Gilbert or Tosin Abasi.

Yes, some out of this world playing and wizardry here, especially from Rojatti. And if you think this is all about technical display, you are wrong! No, they keep their eyes strongly on the delivery of songs and melodies. With exciting arrangements and flashy solos, but that is needless to say.

So there you go, a must have for people into the names mentioned. Brilliant!

Website

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