Category Archives: Music Reviews

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Green River Ordinance Album Review

From the first notes of the catchy opening track “Dark Night,” to the excellent closing track “Lost In the World” these guys demand your attention.  Green River Ordinance’s brand of rock ‘n roll is hard to peg, but it’s music packed with lush melodies and fantastic harmonies in what is probably best described as Alt-Americana. The album is easy on the ears and a diverse collection of rich, comfortable musical offerings you’ll find yourself listening to repeatedly.

I was just recently introduced to this talented quintet out of Fort Worth, Texas, although the band has been on the rock scene for about a decade. They’re currently touring the country in support of their Kickstarter funded album Under Fire. Sure, I’m a little behind the curve, but nonetheless, here’s a review of the album, which is a nice broad introduction to the band that compares nicely to Train and Sister Hazel.

Lead vocalist, Josh Jenkins has a nice distinctive voice, and the band’s excellent harmonies make the vocals a focal point throughout. The line-up also features three guitarists, including Jamey Ice on lead guitar, which allows the band to offer impressive layered sounds throughout the fifteen tracks.

“Heard of Me” is an addictive tune with memorable lyrics and vocals that will stick in your head immediately.  The guitars and Denton Hunker’s drums are the perfect accompaniement to what is quite simply a damn good song that should be a mainstay on Adult Alternative radio. “Home” and “Heart of the Young” are two other songs which reek of commercial playability.

“Love Laid Down” is one of my faovrite tracks on the album.  The song features guitar and banjo and find Jenkins’ vocals in a different and compellingly interesting range.  “New Day” is another fantastic cut.  It features great keyboards and powerful drums throughout, giving it a different sound than most of the album.  Jenkins’ vocals are again excellent, and the lyrics and harmonies will stick in your memory.

Overall, Under Fire is a strong album, from a band in control of their own sound and it works extremely well.  Check it out on iTunes below.

Rock on!
Cretin

You can catch the band live in Orlando at The Social on Thursday, September 20th. Click here for tickets and information for this show and the rest of their tour.


 

City Rain and that New Sound of Philly

The Philadelphia music scene has turned over a new leaf. I recently had the chance to check out Montage, the brand new release from Philadelphia’s City Rain.  As a former resident of The City of Brotherly Love, and a long-time fan of the Philly music scene, I was in for a pleasant surprise. City Rain is a talented duo playing a fresh electronic rock. The EP is dominated by clever lyrics, catchy synthesizers and drum machines of Ben Runyan, but also offers some smooth guitar from Jarrett Zerrer.

The title track is a fun techno dance track that reminds me a bit of the now defunct Handsome Furs. It’s a hip song with hit potential.  “I Remember” is another fun poppy track along the same vein and was my favorite cut on the album.  It brought back pleasant memories of late night techno rock under the booming speakers of The Revival, the legendary Philly after hours haunt of years gone by.

“Hearts On Fire” is a bit less techno, and a good song that slows the beat down a bit and features some nice keyboards and piano from Runyan.  There are two versions of “Big Boys Do Cry.” I’d recommend the remix version which is a good instrumental, and avoids the over-the-top three minute introduction on the original version.

I’m typically more of a five piece guitar band fan, but this EP is a a fresh new sound from The City of Brotherly Love that’s worth a listen.

Rock On!
Cretin


Thousand Foot Krutch Goes Indie

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The End Is Where We Begin, the latest effort from Thousand Foot Krutch is a nice diverse album from this talented Canadian trio.  After more than a decade of successfully recording on major labels, the band has gone back to the Indie route, one of an increasing number of bands funding their release through a Kickstarter campaign, where the bands many fans actually become part of the creative process.

As is often the case when bands return to their Independent roots, we hear Thousand Foot Krutch playing their music the way they want and taking advantage of the increased creative liberties. It’s a sound that’s true to their core and it works extremely well.

The sound on The End Is Where We Begin is quite varied, at different times provoking thoughts of Linkin Park, Egypt Central and Red Hot Chili Peppers. The songs are positive Christian rock but these guys don’t slam you over the head with their beliefs.  It’s solid, active rock music that any hard rock fan will enjoy. You can almost characterize it as old-school Creed, only with a bit of raw passion and more of an edge; good stuff with diverse songs that highlight the threesome’s talent and versatility.

There are a handful of hard songs best categorized as aggressive rap-rock, with “Down” and “The War of Change” two prime examples.  “Light up the Sky” is another tune from this vein, and one that is the most likely to become a radio hit. You’ll recognize a few of these from ESPN and EA Sports highlight reels.

“I Get Wicked” is an excellent hard-driving song with catchy guitar riffs and some fun memorable lyrics.  “Let the Sparks Fly” is the best of the harder edged tunes.  It features great guitar, the powerful freight train drums of Steve Augustine and fantastic vocals from songwriter and guitarist Trevor McNevan. “The End is Where We Begin” and “We Are” are two other solid rockers with excellent vocals and nicely layered guitars and bass from McNevan and Joel Bruyere respectively.

On the softer end of the spectrum, “All I Need to Know is just a great track featuring pristine acoustic guitar and mandolin and tender vocals from McNevan.  It’s a beautiful song that should be a hit.  “So Far Gone” has a similar feel and is another nice foot-tapping acoustic gem.

All told, The End Is Where We Begin, is a broad selection of powerful, passionate rock from a veteran rock band getting to do things their own way, and it works exceptionally well. Check it out on iTunes below, and let us know what you think.

Rock On!
Cretin

Gaslight Anthem’s Handwritten Album Review

New Jersey rockers, The Gaslight Anthem are back with their fourth studio album, Handwritten.  The quartet out of New Brunswick have continuously evolved their sound, and continue to grow musically on this, their fourth album.

They’re often compared to that famous Garden State rocker from Asbury Park, and lead singer Brian Fallon admits the influence that Springsteen has had on his career.  But, these guys are not Springsteen clones, not by any far stretch of your imagination. Their sound reminds me much more of Paul Westerberg and The Replacements, or possibly a less punkified version of Against Me! They’ve got an edgy garage rock sound with catchy lyrics and memorable riffs.  It’s straight forward American rock and roll.

The first single off of the album, “45,” has enjoyed tremendous success on Alt-Rock radio. It’s the first cut off of Handwritten, and a great way to kick off the album, as Fallon sings about a long relationship that has run its course: “Turn the record over… I’ll see you on the flip side… Let her go, let somebody else lay at her feet.”  

The remainder of the album is filled with decent songs, but it’s not that special album we’ve come to expect from the band. Handwritten is the band’s first album on Mercury Records, after an amicable split with the typically less polished sound on Side One Dummy Records.  The result is an album with more personal lyrics, but one that is also missing some of the sharp edges we’re used to from Gaslight Anthem; in effect, we see a trade-off of musical passion for lyrical passion.

Make no mistake, it;s still a good album, and better than most of the stuff on the market, but it’s a step back from the previous efforts on The ’59 Sound and American Slang.  There is some good diversity here from the soulful classic rock sound of “Too Much Blood” and “Haul” and the powerful pop sound of “Desire” to the haunting closer “American Anthem” which highlights a tender side to Fallon’s voice, and is my favorite track on the album.

Check it out below and sample each of the songs, there’s definitely something for every rock fan from the new sound of New Jersey.

Rock On!
Cretin

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Into the Unknown with The Drowning Men


All of the Unknown – The Drowning Men

Passion… Creativity… Power… Vulnerability… Raw Emotion…

For years, these traits have defined what makes the best rock ‘n roll so special and personal. Unfortunately, today it seems to get more difficult to find, as a steady stream of Techno-driven music acts dominate the rock music landscape (see Foster the People and MGMT). It’s good stuff in its own right, but it’s just not that wonderful rock and roll that grabs you by the ears and screams that you pay attention.  Then, along came The Drowning Men.

The Drowning Men
The Drowning Men - credit: Ryan Renteria

They’re back with their second full-length album release, All of the Unknown, proving that there’s still a throbbing pulse left in the rock music universe.  The album, their first on Flogging Molly’s Borstal Beats label builds on the success of their debut album Beheading of the Songbird, and shows the talented quintet continuing to grow.

The Drowning Men, out of Oceanside, California are Indie rockers with a sound that reminds a bit of the layered harmonies of Arcade Fire, with a clear West Coast U.S. bent.  Nate ‘Nato’ Bardeen is the creative vision behind the tracks on All of the Unknown, yet all of the band members contribute, offering a unique powerful sound that builds as the songs move on.

The album kicks off with a strong track that gives you a good idea of what you’re in for. “Lost in a Lullaby,” the first single off of the album is an excellent song about a relationship that couldn’t work out. It begins with a nice keyboard intro from Gabe Messer; then Bardeen jumps in with his mandolin, and finally the remainder of the group kicks in and ratchets it up a notch.  It’s a great start and a of hint of things to come, as many of the tunes on the album build to a crescendo as the song progresses. It’s rock and roll with an orchestral flair; music that highlights a fantastic juxtaposition hard to find these days: powerful driving rock and roll, lush melodies and beautiful harmonies.

Producer Billy Mohler has really done a masterful job on this album. Guitarist James Smith and Todd Eisenkerch on bass are played off expertly against the keys from Bardeen and Messer. One hallmark of the band’s music that remains on All of the Unknown is the powerful backbone supplied by drummer Rory Dolan. The raw powerful drums are prevalent and steady throughout and absolutely appreciated in these days where computer generated drums are the norm. “I am the Beggar Man” is a strong rocker that highlights some of Dolan’s best stuff and nicely pulls together the entire band.

Bardeen’s voice is strong and infectious, and his distinctive sound meshes perfectly with the expert musicianship from his band mates.  The lyrics remain poignant and introspective as Bardeen reflects and shares captivating life experiences. This is never more prevalent than in the introspective “The Waltz.” The vocals truly shine on “Smile” a hopeful song that features Bardeen’s voice, and on one of the album’s best tracks, “Bored in a Belly,” a swaying roller-coaster ride that finds Bardeen in top form. It’s also a nice showcase for some interesting keys from both Bardeen and Messer.

“A Long, Long Walk” takes us to the other end of the spectrum. It’s a beautiful song with Bardeen reminiscing back to the last night with a long lost love. It’s a great ballad that had me repeatedly flashing back to early George Harrison. Great stuff!

The best cut on the album is “A Fool’s Campaign.” The song features excellent guitar work from Smith, pristine drum work from Dolan and tender, honest vocals from Bardeen. It’s a song that would appeal to many different genres of rock fans and hopefully another cut that will find its way to US radio. I suspect that radio play in today’s “safe” radio landscape may be a challenge to find, but would not be surprised to see these men develop the same kind of passionate following as their record label sponsors, Flogging Molly.

A few of the deeper cuts are mediocre, but there’s a slew of great music on All of the Unknown.  For sure, it is not a perfect album, but it’s the perfect tonic for our current rock ‘n roll landscape screaming for passionate, powerful rock music.

Check out the album linked above – it’s only $7.99 on iTunes! If you like reading about rock music, please take a moment to Follow us on Twitter or Like us on Facebook and let us know what you think in the comments below.

Rock on!
Cretin

The Drowning Men concert review

Beheading of the Songbird album review

Jefferey Gaines Live in Europe Album Review


Jeffrey Gaines is back on the new music radar with his first album release in eight years. The Live in Europe album is a solo acoustic CD that features his soulful voice and heart-felt lyrics, recorded on a 2010 tour across the European continent supporting Joe Jackson.

Jeffrey Gaines Live in Europe
Jeffrey Gaines latest release, Live in Europe

Gaines’ voice, once touted by Rolling Stone as “the voice of a new generation” is still as powerful and poignant as ever and his guitar playing is excellent throughout. The collection of songs that he performs includes some selections from earlier albums, as well as some previously unreleased tracks all performed with a fresh new light.

The highlight for me was a killer version of  “Five Years,” the masterpiece opening track to David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (unbelievably recorded forty years ago), about the impending end of the world.  The vocals on this track are superb.

Other highlights included the second track, “Scares Me More” and the poignant “Headmasters of Time,” two tracks off of his debut album, recast twenty years later by a more seasoned rocker, but still possessing the same raw emotion and gritty vocals.

His biggest hit, “In Your Eyes,” the Peter Gabriel cover (which was better than Gabriel’s original), is not included on the album, which gives us more time to focus on the rest of his excellent catalog. We’ll reflect on relationships, the state of the world, war time and other introspective moments. It’s a nice collection of tunes.

Gaines will be touring throughout the Northeast over the summer in support of the new album.  In the mean time, grab a drink, kick up your feet and enjoy this quick trip to Europe with a classic storyteller.

Mike Gavan

Katie Herzig – The Waking Sleep Album Review

Katie Herzig The Waking Sleep
Katie Herzig The Waking Sleep

Time for us to wake up.  The Waking Sleep has been out awhile, but I just recently gave it a listen, didn’t know what I was missing…

Katie Herzig is evolving. With her latest release, The Waking Sleep, she has reinvented herself, building on her prior successes, while pushing herself in an entirely new direction. The result is a fantastically produced album, courtesy of Cason Cooley, packed with fresh, catchy tunes.

A few years ago she had proven herself as a reputable folk rock talent, well-known for her heart felt acoustic performances. Then she took an unexpected new route, when she had the opportunity to pen and perform a handful of songs for both the big and small screen (i.e. Grey’s Anatomy, Sex and the City).

Subsequent to that experience, she started experimenting with tape loops, sampling and digital recording. The result is a new sound for the Nashville-based singer-songwriter, a sound that is more energetic and diverse, a sound that is unique. Where else can you find beautiful cello mixed with techno drum beats? Cool stuff for sure.  At times I think of Metric, other times Enya, but most frequently it is her own distinctive sound.

The album kicks off with “Free My Mind,” a melodic, rich song that will leave you singing and bopping along joyfully.  It’s an excellent cut and one of several on the album cut from the same cloth, along with “Way To the Future” and the unforgettably addictive “Best Day of Your Life.”

Herzig demonstrates her immense versatility throughout the album, On “Make a Noise” she reflects on current world affairs and the need to speak out, while deftly channeling derivative sounds of Enya. “Midnight Serenade” is similar musically but focuses on a challenging relationship while beautifully spotlighting Herzig’s soulful voice.

“Oh My Darlin” is a bit more stripped down compared to the rest of the album but the perfect showcase for her captivating vocals as she reminisces about early love. It’s also my favorite cut on a superb album.

Check it out below and prepare for a nice selection of creative tunes on an album you won’t soon get tired of.

Rock On!
Cretin

RCE – Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Your Anger

SMS Audio LLC

You can’t go more than a few minutes on any Alternative rock station without hearing the latest folk rock band and their twist on Indie-Americana. So much of today’s music blends together, post-Mumford and Sons malaise, but the latest release from River City Extension, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Your Anger truly stands out.  I’m guessing it never reaches the heights of Sigh No More, but it should, as it’s better and deeper.

The second release from this talented octet out of New Jersey is a musical and lyrical journey well worth a listen or two (or twelve). It’s an album packed with original sounds and with each listen a different track stands out.

Joe Michelini, the band’s singer and guitarist is the primary songwriter and he takes us through a varied collection of memories. He offers: “Half of this record is love songs, and the other half is ‘I’m sorry that I fucked up’ songs,” and he writes about both in a compelling way.

The album kicks off with Glastonbury,” a beautiful song that ebbs and flows magnificently as it builds up from a stripped down start to the full eight piece ensemble, then ultimately winds down with just Michelini on guitar and vocals. It’s a microcosm of the album and a good preview for what’s in store for the next sixty minutes.  Michelini’s vocals are damn near perfect, and showcase his broad range, both on the opener and throughout.  On “If You Need Me Back in Brooklyn” we hear a nice boy/girl duet with Sam Tacon, but for most of the album it’s all Michelini expertly carrying the vocals.

The musicians accompanying Michelini are quite talented, and the diversity of instruments offered is musical bliss. With superb production, we hear all eight musicians blend together perfectly, nicely highlighting each of the various instruments without overloading our senses.  Mike Costaney on drums and percussion offers an amazingly creative approach which is an absolute highlight of the album. Jenn Fantaccione’s cello is a refreshing change.  The cello is an under-utilized instrument in the rock world, but as River City Extension proves, there’s a definite place for it.  It was refreshing to hear, and one of the features that sets this band apart. You’ll also hear mandolin, trumpet, banjo, piano, melaphone and so much more – a feast for the ears.

There are a few cuts on the album that absolutely scream out for airplay.  Hopefully, we’ll be hearing tracks like “Welcome to Pittsburgh,” “Down, Down, Down” and “Point of Surrender” gracing the airwaves at some point in the future.

My two personal favorites highlight the diversity of the band, “Ballad of Oregon” is a fantastic introspective tune that spotlights all of the band members as it travels through Michelini’s troubled search for love; and “Lord I Have Changed” which is a stark introspective peek into Michelini’s past with him accompanied solely by Costantey’s drums, an interesting conclusion to an excellent album.

Don’t let this excellent new album pass you by, pick it up and give it a few spins. You’ll be happy to have found this Alt-Americana gem.

Rock on – Cretin

Related Story: River City Extension Live in Orlando

River City Extension. Photo credit: Danny Clinch
River City Extension. Photo credit: Danny Clinch