Franka De Mille, Bridge the Road, 2013

Franka De Mille - Bridge The RoadsBetween all the busy things happening here (I do not make a living writing these after all) I have been kicking things back with the album Bridge the Roads by Franka De Mille. And it really brought me some much needed peace of mind. So the right album for the occasion!

Personally I had never heard of her before, but as it turns out, she is making quite a name for herself lately. After all, not that many independents get selected for an industry campaign (Why Music Matters from the British Phonographic Industry, alongside names like Nina Simone, the Beatles, Kate Bush, etc.) and as a consequence she is now signed to the Chi Wara label.

As you might have guessed it is quite a contradictory album compared to the ones on offer on these pages off late. What I really like about it is the focus on the voice of Franka. Instrumentation is sparse and leaves a lot of room for the instruments that are used. And not the most obvious ones either. Think violin, cello, accordion, mandolin, or flute, besides piano, guitar and drums. The atmosphere is immense because of that. Every detail is crystal clear and no matter what you are listening to, it has impact. So in a time where we are often bombarded with sound, this is a wonderful and intimate album. Maybe not for every occasion, as this deserves your undivided attention, but a very welcome addition to any collection. Reminded me a bit of the also damn fine Patti Witten albums discussed earlier. Don´t let the folk tag deceive you, to me this is universal music that will appeal to a lot of people!

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Godsticks, The Envisage Conundrum, 2013

godsticks - the envisage conundrumSite regulars might remember Godsticks from a review I did earlier, about their Spiral Vendetta album. That was an album that impressed me very much. So you will understand I started listening to this new one with a lot of expectation! And despite the change in personnel (Brian Beller made way for now bass boy Dan Nelson), misters Steve Roberts (drums and keyboards) and Darran Charles (vocals, guitars and keyboards) have done it again, so let me explain:

Maybe you will agree with me that many progressive acts focus most on technique and can come across a bit clinical. Well, not this bunch. Despite a lot of genre characteristics (changing rhythms and time signatures) and more influences than I care to remember, I am again dumbfounded by the instant attraction of this music. It has feel pouring on just about every second of music. It is a simply wonderful album from start to finish. Everything I have said about them before is still valid. I can repeat myself by stating this is an album that any serious lover of music ought to own. Forget the genre tag, this is universal music that will creep under your skin and will make you want to hear it over and over again.

Easily one of the best albums so far in 2013, and maybe one of the best in  a long time!

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ShadowQueen, Don´t Tell, 2013

shadowqueen - don´t tellShadowQueen are a three pice hailing from Melbourne Australia, consisting of singer Robbi Zana (also bass and piano), with Si Hopman on guitars and Alex Deegan on drums. Coming from down under it is pretty normal to operate in a classic hard rock vein. Though I must say, there are a few surprises here!

First the vocals of Robbi. She may not (yet) be in the league of one Ann Wilson, but man, what she pulls off here is surely very convincing. Melodic, and still able to carry all the songs. Loved it in an instant. Add to that some little rhythmic twists here and there. The band prove they can handle some less obvious rhythmic ideas with ease. Nothing all too fancy, but still noticeable and giving them even more identity.

So despite being fairly short with about 38 minutes, I really enjoy listening to this debut album. After all, good singer and songs is a pretty fine starting point for anybody, especially if it grooves and rocks hard. So if you like that as well, say thank you to another fine release from Bad Reputation and head on over to the website to take a dive.

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Voodoo Vegas, The Rise Of Jimmy Silver, 2013

Voodoo Vegas - The Rise of Jimmy SilverDo you miss the Guns ´n Roses of back in the day? The time when they actually delivered and rocked everybody´s socks off? Well, then maybe I can point you to this English outfit with the apt name Voodoo Vegas. The fourth of March has seen their album The Rise Of Jimmy Silver released on Cargo and it has been making regular rounds in my CD-player lately.

The Guns ´n Roses reference is not only because of the style of rock they play, also the voice of Lawrence Case is reminiscent of that of one A. Rose. Just hope he is less of a basket-case 😉 Anyway, with added influences of bands like AC/DC and some more Badlands like moments this is an entertaining albeit short disk. After all, 11 songs (short intro and an interlude included) and 34 minutes is even under LP length…

But that has not stopped them from kicking the proverbial butt. Blues infused hard rock, best listened to loudly. Then you will certainly get the most out of it, even on the more thoughtful moments. Because besides rockers like King Without A Crown or No More, we are also treated to acoustics in What I Pay and some real life drama in Lost In Confusion. There is some room for improvement though, a bit more tightness here and there would not hurt, but overall I just want the next disk to arrive soon and be longer, I want more!

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The Aurora Project, Selling The Aggression, 2013

the aurora project - selling the aggressionShould anybody worry about the future of progressive rock, there is no need for that. At least I think that is the case as long as bands like The Aurora Project keep popping up. Not that the band is about creating a new niche for themselves. No, it is because they are able to create music in the best prog rock traditions and still manage to let it sound fresh and interesting.

So no new mixing of contradictory styles, impossible time signatures or infusing strange ideas or instruments into the songs. Instead we get 7 songs reminding me of genre greats like Arena, Marillion and Pendragon. They work a lot with dynamics and prove to have a good ear for melody. And with this third release they also prove to have enough experience to carry the weight of the almost obligatory concept album. Which in this case is handling the development of society since the introduction of the internet. So yes, expect recurring themes and a lot of words sometimes. But in my ears this is an entertaining album, that withstands repeated play with ease and just keeps on getting better.

Label Freia once again releases this on both (beautiful) digipack as on limited edition vinyl for the true collectors. Combos are also available. I say grab  a copy pronto and delve in deep!

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Kingbathmat, Truth button, 2013

kingbathmat - truth buttonMhm, this is an odd bunch… Or is it? First the name: do I really read King of a bath mat in there? Well that is just about as funny as the title of the album. But as you all know, this blog is all about music. And as you perhaps suspected, these dudes move along nicely in the traditional progressive rock field. But spice things up with some enthusing seventies heavy rock influences. So maybe we should think of them as the illegal spawn of King Crimson and Black Sabbath, joining forces with some former British wave rock hopefuls on a psychedelic trip. And if that sounds strange, you should not worry. For some reason they succeed in making it all work.

And they do take the time to develop their songs. Shortest one on offer here is almost 6 minutes. With 6 songs clocking in at over 50 minutes that is more claim of that progressive tag. But again, never a dull moment here. Instrumental parts are carried by melodies on guitar or filled with lush keyboard arrangements. Vocally they tend to add colour with the use of harmony vocals. Even if they have that typical neo prog sound (at least in my humble opinion), they get the job done. So for me a pleasant first acquaintance, check them out at:

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Staton, Mapped: Sins, 2013

staton - mapped sinsIn my mailbox landed this introduction to Dutch alternative rock hopefuls Staton. Introduction, as this is a 4 song EP to get things into gear. And from the looks and sound of it, tempo will raise surely!  Coming across as the bastard children of Muse, the mighty Pure Reason Revolution, and some other names that I am too lazy to look up right now. But what I do know is that bonus points are earned by the performance of singer Lara Mol. Here we have a girl that, while having a timbre that reminds me a bit of No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani, (in my humble opinion) is able to maximise her delivery by using every trick in the book. And her book is lengthy and she knows it by heart. Really impressive! But it is a quintet, and with 3 of the guys adding backing vocals, there is more to the band.

Judging from the people involved I am not alone in thinking this. Not only has the band been on a tight touring schedule, they also managed to pull producers Ken Stringfellow (REM, Posies) and JB Meijers (de Dijk) on board. So on to a full release then, but first head on over to their website and get to know them!

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VanderLinde, Perfect Sadness, 2013

vanderlinde - perfect sadnesA while back I described the second album Vanderlism by VanderLinde as a promising classic rock album. I thought at the time that if the band raised their game on a couple of things, future would really be bright. So now this fourth album Perfect Sadness has landed (I sadly missed the 2011 release Wind And Rain) and it is quite hard to fathom this is the same band. Or actually the same singer and principal songwriter, as I understand it.

At the time I thought that Arjan Van der Linde should work on his lead vocals a bit more. Man, I am pretty stunned at his development. He sure raised the bar, and more than a couple of notches! While it may be a bit of a pity that the rock days are gone for the most part, in return we get a very sophisticated, open and, by lack of a better word, mature album. Again recorded with help of famed producer Erwin Musper and recorded in his Cincinnati studio. A lot of songs have HIT written al over them, so it is no wonder that a beautiful track like Little Things will air alongside the pilot of a new American reality soap.

The press info describes this as a mix of Crowded House and Jason Mraz. That is not quite the way I hear it, but I can´t really pinpoint a more striking resemblance. Still I think that anyone into quality pop / rock should grab a bite of this pronto. It is that good and no wonder that they are really taking off in The Netherlands and Germany.

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