Category Archives: Music Reviews

We review music, duh.

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:

Follow @rarasfarm

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

 

Checking Out The Perms – Sofia Nights

Follow @rarasfarm

The Perms recently released fifth album Sofia Nights spotlights their melodic pop rock blend of music.  The Winnipeg, Manitoba trio has been around for a decade plus and continues to turn out likeable rock music.

The album kicks off with High School High,” a catchy ditty reflecting on those halcyon high school days gone by.  The song has a nice hook “It’s my life and I’ll do what I like, because I’m just another kid and I’m wound up like a string too tight.”  On this tune, and throughout, the threesome’s sound reminds me a bit of The Kooks and maybe even Simple Plan, without the edge.

“It’s You I’m Thinking Of” and “Live For the Day” are two other fun and catchy alternative rock tunes with hit potential, featuring the vocals of brothers  Shane (bass) and Chad Smith(guitar).  The latter has been stuck in my head for days and grows on me with each listen.  They are good representations of the album – generally happy, melodic tunes.

I’d describe the band as power-pop.  It’s good stuff, but I don’t see a breakthrough single on the album.  I liked most of the tunes and was also drawn to the songs where the instrumentation was stripped down a bit, such as the slower “Make It Through” and “Manheim,” which showcase the fine drumming of John Huver and features some of the strongest vocals of the album.

It’s worth a listen.  Check out the album now on iTunes.

Rock On! – Cretin

Drowning Men Beheading The Song Bird

The Drowning Men
The Drowning Men

Follow @rarasfarm

Damn, just seeing that album title convinced me that I needed to listen to this band.  Beheading of the Songbird?  Twisted? Maybe. Interesting? For sure. I think I’d describe it as eclectic and hectic – and good for the ears.

I first became aware of this San Diego area quintet when Flogging Molly brought them on tour and subsequently signed them as the first act on their new Indie label Borstal Beat.

The album was originally released in the UK two years ago, but has just now been released in the United States.  It’s an excellent introduction to their powerful and divers music.  It’s a unique sound. I would imagine the progeny of Arcade Fire and The Pogues would have resulted in a band just like The Drowning Men.

Their music is deep and layered, packed with dark lyrics and filled with passion.  It seems as though it would translate fantastically into an excellent live show.  And, you’ll be able to see for yourself this fall, as they tour the country supporting The Airborne Toxic Event.

The selections on Beheading of The Song Bird are hit or miss, but the best tunes are very strong.  “Songbird” is a future anthem in the making. It’s a song about a troubled youngster struggling with the aftermath of something horrible he’s done: “I took all his worries, I cut away his charm. From the nest to the hand, What a mess Iʼve done.” The song starts with some nice keys from Gabriel Messer and features moving vocals from Nathan “Nato” Bardeen throughout; where he seems to channel Arcade Fire’s Win Butler.

“Oracle Meets Weeping Willows” is beautiful and is a fitting intro to another strong song, “Down These Days,” which resembles Arcade Fire.  “Get A Heart”and “More Than This” are also excellent arrangements that spotlight the band broad musical talent. The songs that feeatured piano and keyboards were the most memorable.

The cut with the greatest potential for airplay is “Rita” driven by the powerful drums of Rory Dolan, and melancholy vocals of a relationship gone bad.  It’s got a nice sing-along vibe despite the dour message.

“Courageous Son” is my personal favorite. The lyrics reflect tough times adjusting to life in America. “This is the wishy washy land, That you hold so dear. This is the final cure, This is America. In their hearts you will never win!” The music belies the lyrics and conjure images of a crazy musical carnival ride. It brought back good memories of The Killers and Pogues. Good stuff!

Check out the tracks on iTunes.

Rock On – Cretin

Grouplove – You Can Trust These Happy Songs

Never Trust a Happy Song
Grouplove's latest album Never Trust a Happy Song

I was intrigued by this band the first time I heard their quirky Alt-Rock hit “Colours.” It’s a catchy tune that immediately grabs your attention with the unique and edgy vocals of Christian Zucconi and a memorable chorus.  I was expecting an album packed with similar songs, but “colour” me surprised, as it is a very diverse collection of mostly excellent songs.

The album, Never Trust A Happy Song kicks off with a cool handclap intro to “Itchin’ On A Photograph,” and bounces across the spectrum with a bunch of clever, original, happy pop tunes.  It’s good stuff for the most part and definitely worth a listen. The quintet is clearly taking chances on this album; there’s no cookie cutter recipe for success here.  They throw out a bunch of stuff, lots of different sounds and approaches, and although they’re not all perfect, this album is packed with excellent tracks.

Follow @rarasfarm

The first four cuts are all mainstream Alt-Rock tunes, with “Colours” and “Itchin’ On a Photograph” the two with potential to get the most AltNation-like airtime.  But, the album grinds to a halt on the aptly titled “Slow.” Not a bad tune, but it belongs somewhere else on the album. The next few songs are back along the happy vein, “Naked Kids” is a fun ode to adolescent fun, and “Spun” is a catchy tune with a great ukulele intro, another nice surprising nugget on an album packed with them!  Then, it’s another trip down the roller coaster for “Betty’s a Bombshell.”

The next two back-to-back tracks are my favorites on the album. “Chloe” is a fantastic song. Absolutely fun – a blast to listen to, and one of my top 2011 discoveries.  It’s got a bit of a rockabilly sound and features powerful drumming from Ryan Rabin, the son of uber-talented Trevor Rabin.  “Love Will Save Your Soul” is another great track, and spotlights Hannah Hooper’s superb vocals.  Along with “Colours,” these two are the highlights of the album.

As the album winds down, the last few cuts continue to highlight the band’s diversity, “Cruel and Beautiful World” offers Zucconi’s strongest vocals and great harmonies from Hooper and the rest of the band.  It is a beautiful song, and destined to be a soundtrack staple for years to come. On this song and throughout, Ryan Rabin’s production is fantastic.

I have to give the band credit. They’re talented and they’ve experimented a bit here – and it works.  There are a few misses, but for the most part, this is a strong and deep album that features a handful of great songs, and a few more that are destined to grow on you over time.  Buy the album; just rearrange the songs on your playlist.

Cretin

 

Grouplove’s Official Website

Egypt Central’s – White Rabbit Album Review

While doing some online music browsing recently I stumbled across Egypt Central. “White Rabbit” is their sophomore album and one that took some time to produce. This twelve track CD hosts a wide variety of musical tastes, as some songs are all-out hard core rock songs, while others are slower rock.

The lyrics are all very personal and clearly based on personal experiences. Egypt Central doesn’t just make up words for their songs, they sing about things they have experienced, hardships they face, and feelings they must deal with. I think the personal side of their music makes it very easy for people to relate. They sing about such a wide variety of stuff; drugs, heartbreak, abandonment, fear and power, so that almost any person of any background can relate to at least one of their songs.

Their first song, “Ghost Town” opens the album on the calmer side. This is not one of my favorite songs, there’s no real hook and the beat is kind of hard to get into. I thought this song was an odd choice to open the album and it didn’t really leave me dying to listen to the rest of the CD… but boy am I glad that I did.

“White Rabbit,” their second track and first single is one of my favorites! I could listen to this song over and over again. The chorus is extremely catchy, reflecting about Alice from Alice in Wonderland and her magic white rabbit. The lyrics talk about how they keep diving down the hole and can’t seem to break out of this terrible addiction that they have. The more I hear this song the more I love it. There is a line in the middle of the song where John Falls sings; “I won’t be pushed aside, I will be heard. I will get what I want, what I deserve.” And then the entire band repeats the line with much more heart and you sense that they are passionate about these lyrics.

“Goodnight” takes things a little slower. Another one of my favorite songs on the CD, this one really brings out Falls’ focal talent. He spends a lot more time in this song singing soulfully as opposed to screaming and rocking out. The tune shows a softer side to Egypt Central singing about a relationship that didn’t last – “Goodnight, goodnight, this pain won’t last forever.” Once again a very catchy song that’s extremely relatable, and by far one of the best displays of vocal talent on this album.

“Are you ready too… are you ready to… Kick Ass?” The fourth song and currently the band’s most popular, “Kick Ass” has been heard on radio stations and is quickly climbing the charts. I must say I don’t completely agree that this is the best song on the album. It is catchy and a good crowd pleasing song but I feel like there are other tracks that deserve more recognition. “Kick Ass” is probably the most upbeat, head-banging song on the CD. A very hard rock beat with loud vocals, it’s sure to get any rock and roll fan going.

“Change” is another more alternative rock cut and one that also accentuates the singer’s vocals as well as some good guitar riffs. I didn’t love nor dislike this song, it is a good track and suits the album well but nothing extremely different. It is once again a relatable song for most people who need to step up and make changes in their lives before it’s too late.

The sixth song on the album “The Drug, Part 1” is a fun song! On this one in particular, I really enjoy the guitar and drums more so then the vocals. It’s a very fast paced track that keeps my head nodding the entire time. It’s written about drugs, hence the name, and the band’s personal preference on their choices and beliefs on the drug scene.

“Down in Flames” is my least favorite song on the album. It’s not a bad song, just nothing special in my mind. They open with a man talking as opposed to music and the lyrics and beat just don’t really do anything for me. One thing I will say about this song is the guitar has some nice solos in the middle of this song.

“Enemy Inside, Part 2” is another one of my favorites, and another very slow paced song. I really like when Falls slows down the music and you can really hear his voice – which sounds amazing in the beginning of this song. The first verse gives me chills listening to his vocals. You can feel his relationship with the song. I like the lyrics, too, talking about the enemies we all battle inside ourselves. Sometimes our dark problems take control of us – “one last time to feed the enemy inside.” This is a great song.

Ah number nine, “Blame” – This song is a completely different type of song from any song on the CD; a very upbeat, fun song to listen to. The chorus is the highlight of this song – very catchy and the music backing up the lyrics works perfectly. We hear some of Falls’ more raspy vocals in this song and also a bit of his screaming talent. “Blame it’s a dangerous game to play, you better watch who you betray”- the lyrics couldn’t be more true.

“Dying to Leave” is probably the saddest song on the album. Basically a song where a guy just needs a girl to make up her mind and decide if she wants to be with him or not. This is a typical heartache song, well written and performed.

“Surrender” opens up with a very fun guitar, bass, and drum solo. They keep this upbeat tempo going throughout the entire song. It’s a very fun almost dance type track. Definitely not a song you can sit still and listen to. I guarantee you’ll be bobbing your head and tapping your feet by the end of this one. I love this cut and I think it’s very fun.

The last song on the album, “Backfire,” is an interesting way to close out an album. I love the song, it’s very slow, and the vocals once again are amazing. At first I doubted it was even Egypt Central; it sounded so different, but after a few listens I really like it. This track also features the other members of the band singing and it adds a lot to the song. An unexpected end to the album but I was pleasantly surprised.

Check out the album at iTunes:

Mother Mother – Eureka

Eureka! Yup, I’m a little late, but I finally got my hands on Eureka, the third album from Mother Mother, a talented and under-appreciated quintet from Vancouver, British Columbia. Definitely worth the wait for this 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.  And, that’s just fine for open-minded rock and roll animals like myself.

The album is pretty damn entertaining and definitely worth a few listems. I strongly recommend giving it a few spins (and “yes” it is available on vinyl), as these ditties grow on you.

Eureka is produced by Ryan Guldemold, the band’s principal writer, lead guitarist and male vocalist. Mother Mother also features the vocals of Ryan’s sister Molly and Jasmin Parkin and their three part harmonies are found throughout. Those smooth harmonies coupled with their quirky distinctive music deliver a handful of unique infectious tunes.

The first four tracks are all excellent. “Chasing It Down” kicks off the album. The song is a roller coaster ride of mixed tempos, and features a hook from Ryan’s distinctive falsetto that will bounce in your head for days.  The harmonies from the ladies and 70’s influenced organ riffs are unique and entertaining.  It is followed by “The Stand” the first single released by the band, which features a humorous Boy vs. Girl call-and-answer vocal performance from all three singers. The song is not great, but the lyrics are, as evidenced by Ryan explaining his vices; “There’s women on bikes or just women who straddle.”

“Baby Don’t Dance” is my favorite track off of the album. I reflexively cranked up the volume to this tune, and it became an instant favorite and is just a total blast to listen to. Fantastic vocals, great keys, cool bass and guitar. Simply described, it’s just a great party song, possibly one of my Top 10 for the year. You may find yourself reminiscing about classic B-52 dance tunes. “Original Sin” gets off to a mediocre musical start, but the vocals as usual are superb, with all three vocalists playing key roles.  It’s another one that you’ll find yourself singing along with.

Those first four tunes are all very strong.  Afterwards, some of the songs seem a bit over-produced, but do a good job highlighting the band’s intricate harmonies and clear musical talent, including bassist Jeremy Page and Ali Siadat on drums.

“Simply Simple” is a beautiful song with amazing lyrics from Ryan, clearly showcasing the high end of his great range.  Again the harmonies are dead on.  They remind me of the beautiful harmonies from the 90’s talented yet under-the-radar Voice of the Beehive. “Simply Simple” is immediately followed by “Problems,” which again accentuates the band’s incredible diversity.  This ditty hearkens back to the more rockabilly sound from their earlier recordings.  The guitar is great, Jeremy Page’s bass is superbly hypnotic, and it’s just a blast to listen to. “Oleander” is a big song that again features great vocals, and nice keys.

The remainder of the songs are enjoyable, if not unremarkable.  I feel as though the band was trying to highlight their musicianship, harmonies and diversity. Personally, I’d prefer a few more like “Baby Don’t Dance!”

Check out the album linked below from iTunes, where you can get the entire thing, plus a few bonus tracks for an excellent price of $7.99.

 

 

Top Rock Albums From 1971

There’s been an immense amount of focus on the great albums of 1991, as we reach the 20th Anniversary of their release.  You can’t turn on your Sirius XM radio without announcements celebrating the Big 2-0 for such classics as Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pearl Jam’s 10, Metallica’s Black Album, U2’s Achtung Baby or the Lose Your Illusion albums from Guns n Roses.  Those albums were all great in their own right, but I started wondering about the prior generations’ classics; the best from 1971. It too, was one hell of a year.

Here’s my Top 10 in Reverse Order:

10. Electric Warrior, T. Rex – The album was huge in England, but only a mild success in the States. Featured “Mambo Sun,” “Jeepster,” and the band’s biggest hit “Bang A Gong (Get It On).”
Electric Warrior - T. Rex

9. Imagine, John Lennon – The album features the fabulous “Jealous Guy” one of the greatest from one of Rock’s greatest writers.  Most of the remaining songs border on mediocre, with the exception of the title track which is unquestionably one of the greatest rock songs ever.
Imagine (Remastered) - John Lennon

8. L.A. Woman, The Doors – this was the last album for The Doors before Morrison’s death in July of 1971.  The Album features the title track, “Love Her Madly,” Riders on the Storm,” and my favorite Doors song, “The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat).'”
L.A. Woman (40th Anniversary Mixes) - The Doors

7.  The Yes Album, Yes – This one was the last for keyboardist Tony Kaye, but more importantly the first for guitar virtuoso Steve Howe.  The album feature three progressive rock standards: “Yours Is No Disgrace,” “Starship Trooper,” and “I’ve Seen All Good People.”
The Yes Album (Remastered) - Yes

6. Sticky Fingers, The Rolling Stones – The bands 11th album, and their first entry in the 70’s, kicks off with “Brown Sugar” and features “Bitch,” “Wild Horses'” and “Dead Flowers.” It was the first album on the band’s new Rolling Stones Records label.Sticky Fingers (Remastered) - The Rolling Stones

5. Aqualung, Jethro Tull – Ian Anderson and his ever changing crew at their best. The album kicks off with their classic “Aqualung” title track and also includes two other Tull staples, “Cross-Eyed Mary” and “Locomotive Breath.”
Aqualung - Jethro Tull

4. Fragile, Yes – This was the band’s first release featuring Rick Wakeman on keyboards, and he made an immediate impression.  The album starts out with a beautiful intro from Steve Howe as they kick into their seminal hit “Roundabout.” The album also includes the classics “Heart of the Sunrise” and “Long Distance Runaround.”
Fragile (Remastered) - Yes

3. Every Picture Tells A Story, Rod Stewart – Aside from the excellent title track (featuring fellow Faces alum Ronnie Wood), this album arguably includes two of Rockin’ Rod’s all-time best: “Maggie May” and “Reason To Believe.” Interestingly, “Maggie May,” was initially the flip-side to “Reason To Believe,” until the public got a hold of it. “Mandolin Wind” and “(I Know) I’m Losing You” are also packed onto the excellent second side.
Every Picture Tells a Story - Rod Stewart

2.Led Zeppelin IV, Led Zeppelin – (aka Zoso) – the tricky lads from England never named this album, so it has basically become known as Led Zeppelin 4.  The album kicks into high gear with the amazing “Black Dog” and also features “Rock and Roll,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” “Going to California,” and an obscure dance hit you may have heard titled “Stairway To Heaven.” The album closes with the under-appreciated “When the Levee Breaks.” Useless trivia: In Fast Times At Ridgemont High; Damone tells Rat to play side 1 of Led Zeppelin 4 to get a girl to make out.  Rat plays Side 2 of Physical Graffiti. Damone gets the girl, so obviously it pays to know your rock and roll.
Led Zeppelin IV (Remastered) - Led Zeppelin

1.  Who’s Next, The Who – Interestingly, this album started out as a disastrous attempt to record Lifehouse, a follow-up rock opera to the band’s huge 1969 hit Tommy.  Pete Townshend later admitted he almost killed himself during those failed sessions.  The band strung together the remnants for this fantastic album. Every song is a classic, from the opening keyboard notes of “Baba O’Riley” to the last chord on “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” this album is damn near perfect. The remaining tracks are “Bargain,” “Love Ain’t For Keeping,” “My Wife,” “The Song is Over,” “Getting In Tune,” Going Mobile,” and my personal favorite “Behind Blue Eyes.”

A few others I considered: At Fillmore East by The Allman Brothers Band. Didn’t include it because it was a live album, but the 23+ minute version of “Whipping Post” is one of the best live songs ever. Pearl, Janis Joplin, released after her death, which includes “Bobby McGee” and “Mercedes Benz” and Sir Elton’s Madman Across The Water which starts off with a bang: “Tiny Dancer” and “Levon” but the rest of the album doesn’t compare.

There you have it the Top 10 from 40 years ago.  You can check out the Top 10 from 1991 and decide which generation was better. For my money, I’d rather be stuck in the 70’s on this one.

Mike Gavan

 banner

The Last Royals EP Review

I recently had a chance to check out The Last Royals self-titled debut EP on Ooh La La Records, and find myself anxious to hear some more. The 5 song EP includes four original tunes penned by Eric James, one half of this New York City based duo. James had previously released these songs as part of his Early Hours solo project. The other member is drummer Mason Ingram, and since he has paired up with James, they’ve taken a new cut at these tunes.

The EP kicks off with “Backseat Lovers” probably the most raw song on the EP. It’s a song that is incredibly easy to listen to, and each time I hear it, I find something else to enjoy. The piano and keyboards lend a unique sound that is pervasive throughout, and it’s just a fun song to listen to despite the edgy lyrics.

I had previously heard the next track, “Crystal Vases” on Sirius XM’s Alt Nation; a quirky upbeat song oozing urban angst. The song was a hit on AltNation, and has been a constant in their Alt18 count-down for weeks, and for good reason. It’s a catchy song that gets better every time I listen to it. It reminds me of old Smiths’ records where you were driven to skip along happily despite the gloomy lyrics. It’s a great story, backed with fantastic lyrics, wrapped in a song you won’t be able to get enough of.

“Always To Belong” is the closest thing to a ballad on this EP and is another one that grows on me with every listen. The guitar and piano is subdued, highlighting James’ superb vocals. I’m not positive that I understand the message in the lyrics, but I wouldn’t be surprised hearing it on a soundtrack as we watch two friends on the screen coming to the realization that they’ll never fit in.

“Come Take My Hand” is another cut that is just easy to listen to. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one included on the forthcoming album, tweaked a bit and released as a single. The chorus is addictive, and again the vocals are excellent.

The EP closes with the “Crayon Remix” of “Backstreet Lovers.” It’s a more stripped down version of the song, and although less likely to be a hit, I like the feel of this version more than the original.

That’s it. Four plus songs; just 20 minutes of a sample, but clearly a nice debut that’s left me anxious to hear more. They evoke memories of Cake, Luna, MGMT, Foster the People and a slew of other Alternative rock bands, but it wouldn’t be fair to pigeonhole them as sounding like any of them. Their style stands on it’s own; it’s The Last Royals’ sound, and I’m thinking it’s going to be around for awhile.

Track Listing:
1. Backseat Lovers
2. Crystal Vases
3. Always, To Belong
4. Come Take My Hand (Demo)
5. Backseat Lovers (Crayon Remix)

Read our interview with The Last Royals’ Eric James

If you’re interested in hearing more of their music, including three interesting covers, check out their website at:

The Last Royals

Ooh La La Records