Category Archives: Music Reviews

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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.

Checking Out The Perms – Sofia Nights

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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

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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.

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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