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The Dropa Stone Release their Starry Message

Starry Messenger, from Orlando rockers The Dropa Stone is now available, and it’s aptly titled.  These talented musicians describe their music as a groovy fusion of rock with rhythm and blues. I can see that, but I’d say it has more of a progressive jam feel to it. It’s different than most of the stuff on the airways and in the local venues and it’s a welcome change.

The album features deep, layered powerful songs and showcases the excellent musical talent in the line-up. It’s extremely difficult to categorize the band, and that’s a good thing. If I had to compare them to any artists, it would be a creative combination of Incubus and King Crimson.  It does not capture their sound perfectly, and I know it sounds odd, but it works.

The music on Starry Messenger is quite diverse; a fact that may hurt the band commercially, as it’s hard to find rock music fans who are going to enjoy all of the many directions the band pulls us. However, throughout the nine selections, the guitar work from Justin Henry and Jon Meyers is excellent.  Meyers is the lead vocalist and has a nice, fresh, unique voice.  Will Richey on bass and Joe Lederman on drums consistently provide a powerful bass groove.

The album kicks off with a spacey Rush-esque rocker titled “Vectors,” it’s a good peek at what to expect over the remainder of the album, but the songs, direction and groove change throughout.  There are a few nice tunes with more of a blues feel, such as “Catfish Blues” and Salsa Verde.”

The best cuts were the ones with more of an Alternative Rock bent, particularly my favorite “Kinski’s Spiral” and “Other Worlds Than These.”

The remainder of the album is pretty heavy on jam based rock with a clear classic rock feel. It well be well-received by fans of jam rock, but there are varied options for other rock fans. Starry Messenger is worth a listen for sure, and I suspect everyone will find a song or two that they really like.

Mike G

Check out the Central Florida Concert Highlights for April

 

Drew Yardis – Unto You Album Review

It was one of those unexpected winter nights in Orlando where it was actually cold.  I was at a party, and due to the frigid air, no one was outside watching the lone musician passionately singing and playing his guitar to a meager crowd. The guy in the suit was Drew Yardis, and he was working his ass off while all of the party-goers were inside enjoying the heat. I was impressed by his passion, and loved his very unique voice. He told me that night that his new album was on the way. Finally, it hits the streets on the 15th, and it’s a nice effort.

Yardis has been playing around Orlando for the past ten years in various incarnations, and now he’s back, fronting his new band, The Drew Yardis Project. He’s got an impressive and versatile voice and is an accomplished guitarist. He’s put together a good band of fellow Orlando music veterans, including Shane Smith on guitar, Dave Plakon on bass and drummer Austin Smith.

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The musicians sound great, and Yardis’ voice is great, particularly while hitting the higher notes. I found the album a bit heavy with slower paced songs. They do a nice job highlighting the range of his voice, and generally excellent guitar and bass work, but there’s a lot of slower tracks. Of these tunes, I felt that “Bright Child” and “Do What You Do” were the best, with the latter featuring beautiful vocals.

My favorite cuts on the album were generally the more fast-paced tracks. “Liberty” is a bitter look at today’s state of world affairs. The guitars are excellent, and we get to see a different side to Yardis’ vocals.  The chorus is one of the more memorable on the album, and Austin Smith’s powerful drums carry the song throughout. An excellent track.

Other highlights on the album include “Fallout” which features some fun funk-driven guitar riffs and “Human Heart” which will remind you in a good way of some of Jason Mraz’s best stuff.  It’s excellent, and probably the one song on the album song with the most commercial appeal.

All told, it’s a nice debut album from a talented group of musicians. Definitely worth a listen.

Mike G.

Check out the band’s upcoming shows at: DrewYardis.com

Monday’s Musical Manure – Random Crap Around the Farm

First a few reminders, then some random rock thoughts.

We reviewed the latest release from Lovedrug, Wild Blood today. Check it out here: Wild Blood Album Review

And, in case you missed it, we had a fun interview with David Uosikkinen, the drummer from The Hooters.  Read about his latest project: In The Pocket

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Some thoughts on some of the better new music I’ve been listening to lately:

  • I know I mentioned this before, but Provo Utah’s Neon Trees has absolutely nailed it with the first single off of their forthcoming  Picture Show album.  “Everybody Talks” is a great song that truly highlights Tyler Glenn’s excellent vocals. The full album hits the streets in late April.
  • Civil Twilight’s “Fire Escape” brings back memories of early U-2 Bono with a different sound.  The song is excellent with or without the Bono feel.  The South Africans’ album will be released on March 26th.
  • While we are comparing new music to legendary rock icons, let’s chat about Chappo.  It’s quirky stuff, but damn, it’s addictive.  And, Alex Chappo conjures up good memories of the great Neil Young. Check out Come Home
  • I love Shinedown’s “Bully.”  It’s an excellent song with a powerful and timely message. This should be mandatory heavy rotation in all high school cafeterias.
  • Walk The Moon had a great, fun, passionate song with last year’s release of “Anna Sun They signed a major label deal and truthfully saw all of the life get sucked out of the song.  It’s getting more airplay, but they wrecked the song.
  • From the “I Can’t Believe I Love This” department. Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know (feat. Kimbra)” – this one continues to grow on me.
  • The Boo – “I Want Revenge.”  Yup, there’s good reason it reminds us of Green Day. It’s Billie Joe Armstrong’s family project, featuring sons Jakob and Joe, as well as his wife Adrienne on vocals.  It’s a blast, but unfortunately not yet available on iTunes.
  • Yukon Blonde’s “Stairway” is another fun poppy alt rock tune, this one from North of the Border.
  • Not Your Fault” from AWOLNATION is another one that keeps growing on me.  Aaron Bruno’s vocals are distinctive and carry the song.
  • Trans-Siberian Orchestra meets Abba and it’s a beautiful thing.  Finland’s Nightwish tears it up with their classic metal and their powerful Storytime.”

Lots of good new rock these days, and with a bunch of albums headed our way, it only promises to get better.

As for some of our Veteran Cosmic Rockers, the Moody Blues have started their 45th Anniversary tour! They are in Florida this week for anyone interested in checking them out.  Back in the day, they put on a pretty good rock show, and their collection of rock classics is quite deep. Moody Blues Tour Dates

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, a quick shout out to the best Irish band in the country: Black 47.  They’ll be in their second home of New York City this weekend.  Another damn good Irish band is Flogging Molly – here’s our review of their recent show in Orlando.

Rock On! – Cretin

 

 

Lovedrug’s Wild Blood Worth the Wait

It’s been a crazy, yet rewarding, past few years for Lovedrug.  The band from Ohio, settled down in Nashville, funded their own album, took full creative control of their career, and ultimately delivered a strong album with this week’s long-awaited release of Wild Blood. From the opening notes of the title track to the riveting close of the beautiful final track “Anodyne” it’s a powerful, passionate and very “real” album.

The Alternative Rock veterans have had previous releases with Columbia and Militia Records which were received with modest levels of success.  This time, they went with a creative fan-funded approach that gave the band total freedom and full responsibility for the final product, and clearly, it works.  Lead singer Michael Shepard offered “We’ve been a band for ten years now, but at the same time, this feels like our first album. We feel like a new band, and that same energy is still there and I feel like it’s becoming even more intense.”

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Shepard’s unique voice is back in fine form, but the real power to Wild Blood is the fantastic guitar work throughout by both Shepard and Jeremy Gifford.  The band also took a different approach to recording this album, where the full band played the songs together rather then later meshing together the independent tracks as most other recordings do these days.  Coupled with bassist Thomas Bragg and drummer James Freshwater, the band sounds cohesive and passionate.

The album features some fantastic anthemic rock, particularly “Wild Blood,” “Ladders,” “We Were Owls” and “Pink Champagne.” “Dinosaur” is another fun sound that is likely to bounce around in your head for days after listening to it.

“Your Country” and “Premonition” are my personal favorites.  Both feature a great, fresh sound that actually reminds me musically of early 90’s U-2 guitar work. In “Your Country,” the lyrics and chorus are addictive and the message resonates with the struggles most Americans are faced with during these difficult times. “Premonition” offers Shepard’s finest vocal work and has a great real “budding relationship” feel to it.

Wild Blood closes powerfully with the emotional “Anodyne,” a musical olive branch offered to a troubled soul.  Strong, powerful stuff, and a great way to close the album.

There are a few mediocre tracks mixed in, but overall, it’s an excellent album (check it out below)

Rock On! Cretin

Interested in learning more about front man Michael Shepard: Check out this interview from late 2011.

 

Sweet and Sour Skull Candy

The deeply anticipated second album from Band of Skulls is available on iTunes now and hitting all other major retailers on Valentines Day. The album, Sweet Sour, shows how the British trio’s sound has evolved over the past few years.  It’s a fresh sound for them, yet one that hearkens back to the classic album rock of the Seventies.

The title track gets the album off to a powerful heavy soulful rock sound.  It’s got a big classic rock feel to it and sets the course for the remainder of the album. Russell Marsden’s vocals and guitar take a new turn for the band with good results. The drums of Matt Hayward are excellent, as well.

Overall, the album is quite diverse, as the band pushes new boundaries and tests new waters.  Most of it works great, and it is a fun listen.  There are a couple of tracks that don’t quite hit the mark, but they’re in the minority.

“Wanderluster” is a creative new approach that works perfectly.  It’s a fluid song where the tempo ebbs and flows fantastically and Marsden’s tender vocals pull it together nicely. Emma Richardson grabs the vocals and shines on “Lies.” This uptempo song is 2:30 seconds of rock and roll perfection, and my favorite song on the album. You’ll find a handful of other excellent powerful rock tunes, such as the bass-driven “Bruises” and “The Devil Takes Care of His Own.”

There’s also a nice selection of slower tunes on Sweet Sour, the best of which is Richardson’s beautiful “Hometown.” It’s got a sweet ballad feel, with lyrics that make you re-think its sweetness. “Navigate” is another of the slower tunes that works extremely well.  The vocals and guitar are hypnotic and memorable.

It’s not all perfect, and there are a couple of songs I could easily do without. The final track, “Close To Nowhere” feels like a B-Side. “Lay My Head Down” starts off as a delicate ballad with great potential, then suffers what seems like a random explosion of miscellaneous musical crap for a few seconds before sliding back into ballad mode. Sure, it’s creative, but it just doesn’t work, unfortunately, wasting a good song.

Overall, it’s a damn good album.  A nice flashback to the powerful arena rock from the classic Seventies with a great modern twist.  The Sweet far outweighs the Sour and we’ll be hearing cuts off of this one for years to come.

Chevelle – Hats Off to the Comfortable Old Model


The early generation Chevrolet Chevelle models were fast, powerful and muscular. Over the years, they morphed into a safer more reliable, and less exciting product.  Unfortunately I see the same thing happening with Chevelle, the hard rocking trio from Chicago.

Their sixth album, Hats Off to the Bull was released last month and generally has got their same comfortable feel, with a few strong songs.  Overall, it seems like the same old safe, mass produced rock and roll.

If you’re a fan of Chevelle, you’ll likely find this year’s model to your liking, especially the first single off of the album “Face to the Floor.”  It’s been a staple on rock stations since it’s release because it’s a powerful, memorable song with an excellent guitar riff and a nice hook that superbly features the guitar and vocals of front man Pete Loeffler.

A few songs later, the album takes a slower and deeper turn with “The Meddler” and it works extremely well.  After “Face to the Floor,” “The Meddler” is the best song on the album.  Unfortunately, it is surrounded by a lot of mediocrity.

Other than the two aforementioned tunes, the rest of the album is really quite average.  There are a few strong rockers in the mix, particularly “Ruse” and “Pinata,” but overall most of the rest of the album blends together.

The band also throw in their now standard offering of one ballad, and it’s one of the highlights of the album, “Prima Donna.” It’s a nice acoustic number and seems to be a good comfortable place for Pete Loeffler.  He’s toyed with the thought of an all acoustic effort in the past and it looks like it would be a nice future project.

All told, it’s a decent album, but like many other contemporaries in the post-grunge arena, this effort seems to be stuck in the same old rut as the prior models.

2011 Top Rock Songs

2011 was an interesting year for rock music, with a tremendous focus on artists with original sounds.  Sure, a few of these tunes have a familiar feel, but far more offer us a unique new sound.  That’s  exciting stuff and leaves me anxiously awaiting 2012. Check out the RARAsFarm Top 25 and let us know what you think.

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Bonus Track: Songbird – The Drowning Men. This album was released in 2009, but just re-released in the US this year. “Songbird” is a fantastic song that evokes darker memories of The Arcade Fire.

25. Shake It Out – Florence and the Machine. She’s back with a new album. Honestly, Ceremonials is not as powerful as 2009’s Lungs, but this tune is solid.

24. Get Some – Lykke Li. The Swedish muse told us this one was about power, everyone still believes it’s about sex.  Either way – the song rocks.

23. Sing – My Chemical Romance.  This is probably the most mainstream song the band has ever released.  It’s a synth-laden anthem in waiting.

22. Burn – Papa Roach. This was one of the few new ones on their live Monsters of Annihilation album. Glad we didn’t need to wait for their next studio album for this one.

21. You Are A Tourist – Death Cab For Cutie. The band’s first number one hit, and well deserved. The guitars and layered vocals are beautiful.

20. The Roller – Beady Eye. Liam Gallagher seemingly channeling the Beatles, and it works very well.

19. If You Wanna – The Vaccines. A fun little ditty that will leave you singing. Reminds me lots of their UK brethren The Kaiser Chiefs.

18. Howlin’ For You – The Black Keys. This one was off of their previous album Brothers. The trance-like bass and drums are addictive.

17. Go Outside – Cults. A great debut from the young duo out of Manhattan. The sound is fresh and new. and features a xylophone solo.  Nice…

16. Help Is On The Way – Rise Against. The band’s highest charting song, and first to really garner some overdue mainstream attention.

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15. Changing – The Airborne Toxic Event. The West Coast rockers do it again. This one again features superb vocals from Mikel Jollet.

14. Baby Don’t Dance – Mother Mother – Ryan Guldemond’s unique vocals highlight this quirky hit from North of the Border.

13. New Low – Middle Class Rut. Finally a commercial success for this under appreciated band out of Sacramento.

12. Pumped Up Kicks – Foster the People – The hip, happy song with the dark lyrics swept the world and the festival circuit this summer.

11. Black Night – Dodos. The freight train drums and addictive lyrics powered this song to the band’s most significant airplay.

10. The Sound of Winter – Bush. Gavin and Company are back after a ten year hiatus. and sounding as good as ever.

9. Crystal Vases – The Last Royals. This catchy tune reminisces on a relationship gone bad, and is the highlight of the band’s excellent debut EP.

8. Shake Me Down – Cage the Elephant. The best song on our album of the year, Thank You Happy Birthday. The lyrics reflect on life’s disappointments while hoping for something better. (Check out The Albums of the Year)

7. These Days – Foo Fighters. It’s Dave Grohl’s favorite song that he’s written, ever.  Mine, too.

6. Colours – Grouplove. Christian Zucconi’s unique vocal stylings, grunts, groans and a distinctive sound make this the best offering off their excellent debut.

5. What About Us – Handsome Furs. This one brings back memories of a great 90’s rock dance tune from another excellent young Canadian band.

4. Lonely Boy – Black Keys. The only band with two songs on this list, and this might be their best ever. Great stuff off the just-released El Camino.

3. My Body – Young the Giant. These California rockers, created this gem in ten minutes at the conclusion of what was otherwise a crappy day. Amazing.

2. Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall – Coldplay. I think it’s their best ever, and we’ll be listening to this one forever.

1. The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie – Red Hot Chili Peppers. It started with a bass chord Flea couldn’t get out of his head.  It morphed into be the best Rock song of the year.

You can sample all of the songs below…

Rock On – Cretin

The Best Albums of 2011

When I started this, I suspected that when we look back on 2011, we wouldn’t consider this an amazing year for music.  Unlike the amazing contributions we heard both twenty and forty years ago, this year’s contributions seemed a bit  more mediocre.  Nonetheless, after digging through the candidates, it became clear there were a few future classics out there.

So, grab your favorite beverage, crank up the music and check out the RARA’s Farm Farmer’s Dozen, the Top 12 albums of 2011.  Take a look and a listen, and let us know what you think:

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Bonus Selection: The Last Royals EP (read the RARAs Farm review)
This eponymous debut from a talented band out of New York City was one of the best discoveries of 2011.  Everyone knows their wildly popular “Crystal Vases,” but the rest of the EP is just as good, and quite diverse, especially for a four song sampler.  These guys have a ton of potential; look for their first full length album, Twistification hitting the streets soon.

12. Angles, The Strokes
Returning after a five year respite, the lads from New York are back, and in great form.  All of the classic garage sound we’ve come to love from the band, as well as some more modern stuff, and an occasional retro rock flashback – the result is a long overdue strong return. The first cut “Machu Pichu” is a great example of their newer sound.

11. White Rabbit, Egypt Central (read the RARAs Farm review)
The second album from this Memphis based quartet was one of the best hard rock offerings of the year.  Kick Ass features a wide variety of polished powerful rock and has prompted well deserved airplay on stations like SiriusXM’s Octane. The title track is an excellent hard rock tune, while “Goodnight” spotlights more of the ballad side of their repertoire.

10. Move Like This, The Cars
These guys are back for the first time since the eighties.  The only original member missing is the late Benjamin Orr who passed away ten years ago.  The rest of the band sounds eerily similar to their trademark sound that made them New Wave royalty.  It’s odd that so many other bands are tapping into that 80’s vein nowadays, but these true masters couldn’t get a sniff of airplay.  Nonetheless, it’s a nice overlooked return effort.

9. Codes and Keys, Death Cab for Cutie
Benjamin Gibbard and Chris Walla took a new approach for Death Cab on this album, eschewing their previous guitar laden sound for more of a keyboard driven groove.  It’s a refreshing change and makes the album more enjoyable than their previous six.  “You Are a Tourist” and “Stay Young and Go Dancing” are prime examples of the excellent new sound.

8. Torches, Foster the People
A nice debut from the L.A. trio includes their huge breakout hit “Pumped Up Kicks.” Their sound is modern through and through and Mark Foster’s vocals truly unique.  Admittedly there are a few weak tracks on the album, but the good far outweighs the bad.  Make sure you check out “Helena Beat” and “Don’t Stop.”

7. Covering Ground, Chuck Ragan
The long-time punk rocker turned folk troubadour gifted us with this excellent collection of introspective songs early this year. His gravely voice is paired perfectly with the stripped down instruments: an acoustic guitar, a fiddle and a stand up bass.   The songs reflect on a tough life on the road and the loved ones in his life.  Grab a whiskey and give it a listen.

6. Suck It and See, The Arctic Monkeys
Album number four is the band’s best yet.  It’s a different sound for the foursome, and a welcome change.  “She’s Thunderstorms” is a great opening cut on an album packed with excellent tunes all the way through to the closer  “That’s Where You Belong.” “Piledriver Waltz and “Black Treacle” are two of the stronger offerings. Listening to the band I’m reminded of a comfortable old favorite: Echo and the Bunnymen – good stuff!

5. Eureka, Mother Mother (read the RARAs Farm review)
In our album review, we described their unique sound as a diverse collection of alt-country-dance-funkadelic-harmonic rock. It’s impossible to classify their sound as anything but original; they sound like Mother Mother, period. Their sound is all their own, and it’s great stuff. The group revolves around the infectious harmonies of brother/sister combination Ryan and molly Guldemold. The Canadians really shine on “Baby Don’t Dance,” “The Stand” and “Chasing It Down.”

4. El Camino, The Black Keys
The Akron based duo broke through last year with the hugely popular album Brothers. This one might be even better.  There’s a bit more commercial appeal to this one, and the songs will translate well into live versions on their forthcoming tour. It’s straight forward, stripped down raw rock and roll; sounds a bit like a modernized version of Bad Company, if you can imagine that.  “Lonely Boy” is one of the best songs of the year, and has plenty of competition on the rest of the album. “Money Maker” and “Hell of a Season” are two other powerful tracks.

3. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Noel Gallagher and friends prove that there is life after Oasis for both brothers.  Liam’s Beady Eye project was decent, but Noel’s new offering is great stuff.   The talented guitarist penned all of these tunes and nails the vocals throughout. Some of the tunes will remind you of What’s The Story Morning Glory era Oasis (“Dream On” and “AKA What A Life”), which is a good thing, and all of them are well produced and written. Favorite track: “The Death of You and Me.”

2. Never Trust a Happy Song, Grouplove (read the RARAs Farm review)
A great collection of songs from this quintet who met by chance at an artists’ retreat in Crete a few summers ago. The band has put together a fantastic assortment of Alt Rock anthems.  The feel of each song is distinctive yet they weave together nicely thanks to the consistent strong vocals from Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi. “Chloe” is the best cut on the album, but has plenty of company including “Colours,” “Lovely Cup,” and iPod favorite “Tongue Tied.”

1. Thank You Happy Birthday, Cage the Elephant
Fantastic album that also has a cool back story: The band basically had an album in the can ready to release when they realized no one was really passionate about what they recorded. They started over leveraging songs that the band members were planning to use for their own side projects.  The result is a tremendous passion-filled trip from the opening notes of “Always Something” through all dozen tunes.  “Around My Head,”  “Aberdeen” and “Shake Me Down are already classics for the quintet from Kentucky. It’s only their second album, but these guys are key linchpins for the future of American Rock and Roll.

There you go, twelve great albums that will define 2011 music for years to come.   Let us know what you think; what did we leave out? what doesn’t belong? And, if you want to take a trip down memory lane, check out how these discs compare with some classics: The Best of 1971 and The Best of 1991.

Rock On – Cretin