According to the press sheet Michael Malarkey is an actor, known from The Vampire Diaries. But since I hardly watch TV, I must say I wouldn’t know. So I guess the good thing about that is, being able to listen to this without any prejudice.
First thing I noticed about the album that it is pretty eclectic. Site regulars will probably understand that this counts for bonus points in my book. Second thing is that I think Malarkey can really sing. His dark and fairly low voice has presence and grabs you while delivering his lines. And last but not least; he writes quality songs too and lights them with thoughtful lyrics! And as a bonus; this is a musician not afraid to keep it sparse. Because when all you need to get the massage across is a guitar and a voice, there really is no need to expand in the arrangement.
Don’t worry though, variety is key on the album. Clearly a lot of thought went into the dressing up of the songs on the album. But all songs create an impact. Be it because of the vocal delivery, the sometimes chilling contributions on violin, or because the whole of the instruments just reaches out to touch you.
So the title might refer to a bastard dog, this is far from whimsical. Very moody and beautiful. Music that a lot of people will like if they take the time to soak it in. If you do; make sure to hear Uncomfortably Numb and the title track. Or even better, listen to it as a whole.
Alas 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.
Actually the picture on the left does not do justice to the packaging of this album. By now I would say “as usual” 17 pygmies spared no expense when it comes to wrapping their albums. Housed in a transparent little envelope comes a 26 page booklet, containing the essay Jackson Del Rey wrote about the story, a wrapper for the CD (beautiful) and a wrapper for the whole of it (pictured left), with the Fibonacci sequence on it (not visible here) if I am not mistaken. All very beautiful and probably costly.
And all that beauty is perhaps needed to match the music. Because beautiful is a word that pops up in my mind on a regular base while listening to this. The 10 tracks are Isabel XII to Isabel XXI, a logical continuation of the previous album. The opening track with the vocals of Meg Maryatt sets the tone. It may be mellow, but the tension building here is really great, very good start of the album and what we are to expect. Some of the songs are instrumental. Sometimes with a beat or percussion guiding the track along. Various instruments are used to help build the atmosphere needed. Especially the acoustic guitars and various violins prove helpful. The music is described as a mix of prog, classical and folk and that is a tag I understand. But for me this is a lovely album that anyone with ears and a heart will enjoy. So please give it a chance!
Time for something different! A yet unknown name, at least to me, Gabrielle Papillon is a singer whose music comes across as a mixture of country, folk and a bit of pop and rock. Emphasis is on melody and the arrangements succeed in highlighting the emotionally charged delivery of Gabrielle. These arrangements are done very well. Sometimes sparse, but with authentic sounds like violin, banjo, distorted guitars and percussion. In combination with vocal melodies that always seem to be hitting the right spot, this makes for a winning combination.
Opening track Got You Well proves the point, your attention is grabbed right away, and even the chants feel at home in this beautiful song. With Our Trouble has a distinct country feel because of the guitars (and later with the added banjo) and again the melody is just right. The whole of the album feels real and true. I am sure that if she would be singing in front of you, with only an acoustic guitar to accompany her, we would all be in awe. Her passion will take care of that.
So even if this is not music I listen to regularly, I am loving what I hear here. Pure and honest, songs with content, all done really well. Make sure you go check this out.
The Tim Young Band had a feature here back in the early days of the blog, and last year Tim Young decided to try a different route. You know that saying that a good song will show itself, even if only singing it at home, playing a guitar? Well, that is kinda what Tim did. And presuming the saying is true, he is delivering good songs!
Actually the whole Life Of A Song cycle is made up of 5 EP’s with 4 or 5 songs each. See them them pictured on the side. With a total of 22 songs, this procedure makes sense. As a whole it is quite a lot to listen to. But when divided into 5 bits, each of them is easy to handle. Not really good with referencing this, but I guess somewhere between Johnny Cash, Neil Young and a dash of Elvis comes close. Mind you, all is recorded live in a studio with Tim’s voice, his guitar and occasional some effects on that guitar. That is it. So it all comes down to mood and lyrics and I think he pulled it off. As the EP’s progress, his singing seems to become more confident and despite the minimalistic approach it is easy to connect. Sometimes a voice and a guitar is all you need!
So there you go, maybe not for all day every day, but enough fine moments to enjoy when the company is good! The CD’s can be found at CDBaby and iTunes by the way.
Between 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!
A new year, a new Reincarnatus album, a New Life and a new wardrobe for the ladies (or so I have heard)… If you read my post about the first Reincarnatus album, you will remember I was quite fond of the musical quality on offer. The combination of medieval instruments like hurdy gurdy, key-fiddle, recorder etc. with a modern rock ensemble of drums, bass, guitars and keyboards just works.
On this record they updated their sound a little without straying too far from the folk and classical infused pop rock they delivered earlier. Maybe a little more guitars and keyboards, but still focussing on (vocal) melodies. No need to repeat the technical abilities of this full female band, they have proven to be professional musicians on every level.
Opening with the very strong couple of Festival Day and Orléans I am immediately caught by the catchy grooves. Ideal single candidates the both of them. But them comes Als Cathars. The Gregorian sounding choir sends shivers down my spine and I think this is one of the best songs on the album. If I recall correct, they already played it last year. The combination of the choir and the band is simple awesome and in itself a reason to buy this album. Yes it is that good!
Another good development is that more of the members bring in songs. I am sure that is another reason the bar is raised as it gives them more material to choose from. They also do a convincing cover of Anastacia’s Left Outside Alone, which fits seamlessly because of the Reincarnatus treatment. Another step forwards and a joy from beginning to end. Support them as I am sure that open minded rockers will dig this as well. (There are guitar solos on board…)
When the band Songs Of Water contacted me if I would give their CD The Sea Has Spoken a listen, I gladly accepted. Not knowing what to expect as I did not know the band at all. But I am always up for a fine surprise.
Well, the music couldn´t be further away from my previous post, but I got very excited listening to this. A warning before hand: if you need your music to include loud guitars, drums and vocals (emphasis on loud), then it is okay to point your attention elsewhere. To all those still reading, and into music that combines elements of folk (Celtic), new age and world music, you have to check this out!
I was immediately captured by the beautiful music on this disk. For the most part it is instrumental, utilizing for instance hammered dulcimer, acoustic guitars, violin, cello, bass, drums, accordion, tuba, banjo and exotic percussion. The latter naturally responsible for the world element. Songs are very moody, with beautiful melodies played on a variety of instruments. Because of the drumming and percussion, sometimes the groove rules, but all done with great taste. I find myself being very impressed by this album and would like to compliment the eight players and various songwriters. And oh, the 2 vocal tracks Sycamore and Willow capture you as well, so no worries. Hauntingly beautiful.
This album is a real labour of love from the Aland islands in Finland with the Finnish national instrument the Kantele having the major role. Musician Stäni Steinbock (a regular contributor to the Music Thoughts group) not only recorded 23 of his songs, but produced, mixed and did the artwork as well. So he is quite a busy guy!
The music on this album is pretty hard to categorize for me. Besides the kantele we hear slide guitar, cello, violin, keyboards, clarinet, occasional drums and various other less common instruments. So perhaps qualifying it as a mixture of folk and classical music comes close.
With this information up front, it will probably not come as a surprise that this is a very mellow album. For my regular taste that is. But that is not saying this cannot be enjoyed. Better yet, some songs and melodies are very beautiful. The Sun Cat for example is a very uplifting song with a simple and effective melody. Stäni sent me a little story to go with every song, but even without that, the mainly instrumental music has a way of getting your imagination fired quickly. And that is added value!
So maybe not for everyone, I still want to encourage you to check this out if you have a broad taste in music or can easily delve into all things folk or classical.
End November I paid attention to Patti´s previous album Sycamore Tryst. I can repeat a lot of what I said there, so I will just say it again, using other words 😉
Tell The Wind is a beautiful album that deserves your attention if you like quality music with a mystic touch. The opening songs of Encircled, Almost Just As Good and Obvious will already tell you a lot about the album’s scenery. Encircled changing between up and down tempo a lot, whilst making sure to tie your attention to it. Almost Just As Good is another fantastic song that just grabs you by the throat and makes you hit repeat.
Overall I think this record is somewhat slower in tempo, but the playing and writing is of the same high calibre. Expertly executed by the same team, so no surprises there. So that touch for detail is not lost either. I feel there is a little more emphasis on Patti´s vocal and acoustic guitar playing here, but that only adds to the picture.
As I said before, strange how this music gets under your skin. Something undefined, yet so strong. Coming from someone into more hard rocking sounds, that says a lot. Maybe not for every hour of the day, but I am unashamed to confess I really dig this stuff. So serious addiction warning, but please support Patti and check her music out!
Personal play tips: every track!