Tag Archives: Pop rock

Sheppard EP Review


Sheppard – Geronimo EP Review

Riding a huge wave of success fresh on the heels of their smashing breakthrough hit single, “Geronimo” I was intrigued by this fresh six-piece Brisbane, Australia band.

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As the catchy lyrics bounced around in my head, I had an instant thirst to hear more. Were they a one-hit wonder, or rather an artist that truly deserved a spot on our new music radar?

It didn’t take long to get my answer. This band has “it” and we are going to be listening as their sumptuous pop rock dominates the alternative rock airwaves for years to come. If you’re not nodding your head, tapping your feet and smiling incessantly when listening to this band, you just don’t have a pulse, because the Geronimo EP is absolutely filled with poppy, cheerful indie-pop rock that’s a blast to listen to.  And, let me be clear, this is not toss-away bubble-gum rock, this band has plenty of artistic talent.

In Australia, they are dominating the charts, but in the US, most of us have only heard “Geronimo,” the title track from this EP. It’s an addictive rocker that is all over the radio. Tribal beats, soaring synths, clever guitar riffs, powerful vocals and dreamy boy/girl harmonies. It’s probably the best effort on the EP, but all of the other tracks are compelling in their own way, as well.

“Flying Away” is a fun rocker, with the best vocals on the EP. Powered by great keys and hard-driving drums, it’s got a bit of a harder edge at times, but at its essence is another catchy pop rock hit-in-the-waiting. Next, we hear a more tender offering, “Smile,” a bouncy pop tune with purely Australian female vocals. I absolutely guarantee that this intoxicating tune finds it’s way onto American commercials in short time.

The EP closes with a more diverse offering. “Something Missing” is performed at a lower key, but is just as captivating. Acoustic guitars dominate, and the song features a slick surf guitar feel. It brought back pleasant memories of RARA’s Farm favorite’s The Mowgli’s and Cayucas. Good, good stuff!

It’s excellent pop-rock, if you’re one of our fans more into heavy rock, you probably won’t love the EP, but fans of Indie rock and Alt rock need to get Sheppard on their radar. After sampling the music, I’m anxiously awaiting a full-length from this band, and am quite curious to see how this fun invigorating music translates live on stage. In the meantime, I’ll be wearing these four tracks out, and suggest you grab them below, and do the same.

Bombs away…

Rock On!

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Leanne Kingwell Album Review


Album Review – Choking On Halos

First, let me just say that I absolutely hate my iPhone. Sadly, challenges with my over-priced piece of crap with its incessant software updates made it damn near impossible for me to preview the album during recent travels across the East Coast. Bummer, because this creative album would have been a wonderful accompaniment. Depriving me of the opportunity to enjoy this fine album is the last straw – Android here I come.

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Kingwell is an Aussie chanteuse just dripping with potential. Her self-released new album, Choking on Halos is a breath of fresh air on the music landscape and boasts a handful of songs worthy of significant radio play on an album that offers non-stop diverse creative rock tracks.

The vocals are consistently strong, powerful and attention-grabbing. Kingwell has a broad range and seemingly spotlights her voice in a different way on every song; gritty and edgy on one track, saccharine sweet on the next, but throughout, the vocals are consistently tender and vulnerable – quite captivating.

“Saviour,” which boasts a dirty surf rock guitar amidst a bed of the mainstreamiest (yup, I’m sure that’s a word) of pop rock is one of my favorite tracks.  Her song, “Sunshine,” which was penned as love song to a rescued cat, is an absolute blast to listen to, particularly at max volume.

My two favorite tracks again are quite diverse, “My Flag On the Moon,” is an offbeat rocker with a slinky feel, and fantastic lyrics, while “Slingshot” is an active popular rock track destined for big things on the radio (if we could only find a radio station somewhere nearby that played good new music).

The album produced by David J Holman, (No Doubt, Bush) was created as Kingwell shuttled between Australia and Los Angeles.  Clearly, an endeavor worthy of the effort and all of the late nights and flights, as it is eminently listenable.  Not a perfect album, but a damn good offering in a day where solid albums from start to finish are increasingly difficult to discover.

Check it out and grab it on iTunes below.

Rock On!

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Hillary Hand and The Roseliers Dash Onto My Radar

hillary hand

Hillary Hand and The Roseliers Release New Video

This song is absolutely addictive and I can’t wait to hear what’s next from this talented fivesome from Colorado Springs.

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So, I’ll admit; although this Colorado-based artist has been toiling around the music scene for a few years now, I just stumbled across them this week. Hillary Hand is a classically trained pianist who just a few years began toiling around the local club and coffee room scene, and just drips with potential.

She released her first EP, Paper Doll, in 2012, and saw nice success, especially on the small screen. Two songs made it onto MTV shows, “Domino” (Awkward) and “Say Goodbye”(Finding Carter). More recently, a newer single, “Tameless Tongues” was featured on ABC’s Black Box. But I missed all of that 🙂

The new release. “Run Like A Rabbit” is a synth-driven journey that is absolutely captivating. It’s danceable pop-rock that crosses several genres, and should be destined for regular airplay on Alternative and Indie rock outlets. Hand’s vocals are intriguing and authentic, and she boasts an impressive range. The music is nicely arranged, and chock full of mesmerizing riffs.

Check out the video below. While we wait for the 2015 release of the band’s forthcoming album, grab the single here on iTunes – you’ll be hooked, too: Run Like a Rabbit – Single

Rock On!

Let It Happen: Cause + Effect Album Review


Let It Happen Album Review

Last week was a big week for Let It Happen, an up-and-coming pop rock band out of Ohio. They released a new album on In Vogue Records, and headlined a quick tour through The Sunshine State. Unfortunately, their timing just sucked for me, as I was celebrating a big anniversary with my wonderful rocking wife, RARAs Girl.

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By the time I awoke from my bliss-filled post-Anniversary stupor, I had missed a chance to catch these guys on stage, which is a shame because their music sounds like it would translate excellently live. Fortunately, the album, Cause + Effect is a timeless offering.

During my first listening, they evoked pleasant comparisons to mainstream successes like Dashboard Confessional and Blink 182, and later they interestingly reminded me of 21 Pilots, I’m not sure exactly why, but that’s ok – let’s just assume that has to be a good thing.  For sure they have some of the tendencies of those bands, but they definitely deliver music with a unique sound that is all of their own.

Let It Happen had my attention thirty seconds into the album. I’d heard that their music was your typical power pop, but the first track, “Cause” is a raw powerful journey, and just a captivating track. It might not be the best track on the album but is a stellar opener. The song gently builds to a crescendo, before slipping in vulnerable vocals from lead singer Drew Brown and then exploding with a crescendo of guitars. Great stuff.

The album is exceptionally mixed, and the music sounds cohesive throughout. I think it’s worth noting that the songs on Cause + Effect are “full,” the vocals, bass, guitars and drums all fit well, masterfully weaving in and out throughout the entire album. The eleven tracks on the album boast numerous catchy guitar riffs and memorable lyrics throughout. Drummer Sean Highley is talented and dishes out a diverse sampling of drums; at times driving the music and at other times subtly adding accents.

In all, it’s a dynamic mix of tracks, offering a great glimpse into the breadth and talent of the band. “The Lonely One” is a fantastic track; one which showcases the range and power of Brown’s vocals. It’s an excellent song built for radio. “Effect,” “High And Dry” and “Astray” are all strong offerings, and all pleasantly unique. This is far from an album with a eleven cookie cutter songs.

“Ebb And Flow,” one of the last few tracks, was my favorite cut. Contemplative lyrics demand your attention: “The winds of change are blowing me away and I’m not going back; the tree of life has grown in the way and I’m all tangled up,” but the guitar is the centerpiece of the song. Subtle at times and even a bit understated, the guitar work was pristine and captivating and highlighted the song.

Check out the album below on iTunes below, and let us know if you agree that this is one of the year’s most intriguing new albums.

Rock On!

Marco With Love Hits The Road

Marco Argiro Chats About His Tour


marco (485x249)

This band intrigues me. They describe their unique, tasty blend of rock as “Foot stompin’, Ass shaking, Hook laden, Indie Rock’n Roll from NYC.” From what I’ve heard on their last album, and on their recent videos, it’s an apt description of a band that is definitely worth checking out.

The band is the brainchild of Marco Argiro, a self-professed fan of Revolver-era Beatles, The Kinks, and The Traveling Wilburys, among a diverse group of influences (although his music is far from punk, he also has linkages to The Ramones, among others). His most recent full-length release, Love, just oozes cool seventies swagger, on songs about, well, Love.  Argiro’s voice actually pleasantly reminds me at times of Paul Westerberg during his more uplifting releases.

The musicianship is not the most pristine I’ve ever heard, but the music is eminently listenable.  The vocals are raw, yet hopeful, the lyrics creatively poignant and generally just a pleasure to listen to, and the music is captivating. He’s a modern rock ‘n roll troubadour that should be on your radar.

We had a chance to catch up briefly with Marco on what to expect on this tour:

Q: In one sentence, how would you describe your live shows?
A: A sonic journey through a musical universe.

Q: Which song is your favorite track live, why?
A: We really enjoy playing “Love” as the closer for our set. It’s a high energy rocker and always gets the kids dancing.

Q: You have a strong attachment to a diverse group of classic rock bands, do you ever cover any songs?
A: Yes. In fact we’ve recently started covering “Anything That’s Rock ‘N’ Roll” by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers on this tour.

Q: Do any songs evolve significantly when you play them live?
A: Definitely. The members of the band certainly breathe new life into the songs from the album. We’re all strong musicians and our live shows are an opportunity to add our own flair. I’d say the biggest evolution of our sound has been the addition of the pedal steel guitar.

Q: Are you writing new material, and if so, playing any of the new stuff on the road?
A: Yes. the guys and I have been working hard in the studio on the new songs. We actually debuted our latest tune on this tour, “Tidal Wave.” It’s a great moment for us during the set and people have been responding really well to us playing it live.

Marco With Love wraps up a weeklong journey into the Sunshine State; unfortunately, nothing in Central Florida, but they’ll be making stops just about everywhere else before working their way up to the East Coast headed home to NYC. Tour dates below.

Grab his album then snag some tickets for the shows.

Sep 08 LIBERTY BAR w/ Eternal Summers, Tallahassee, FL
Sep 09 The Legendary Dobbs w/ Zymotic Flow. Philadelphia, PA
Sep 12 The Pinch w/ Cue the Deer, Washington, DC
Sep 13 Hardywood Park Craft Brewery w/ Patrick Bates, Richmond, VA
Sep 14 THE BROADBERRY w/ Patrick Bates, Richmond, VA
Sep 17 Pete’s Candy Store w/ Justin Dean Thomas, Brooklyn, NY
Sep 18 R Bar w/ Brandy Row, New York, NY

Grab your tickets here: Marco With Love

Rock On!

James Durbin Celebrate Album Review

Photo credit: rarasfarm.com
James Durbin live in concert at Will’s Pub

James Durbin – Celebrate Album Review

At the beginning of the year, I was able to catch rising talent James Durbin in a cozy Orlando setting. He was in the midst of an intimate, stripped-down tour where he offered a promising glimpse of his forthcoming album, Celebrate.

Somehow over the ensuing months, I missed the album release, which hit the streets in late April, immediately debuting inside the Billboard 100.  Better late than never, I finally took it for a spin. The first time I heard these songs in the aforementioned live show, they were quite raw; basically just Durbin, his wonderful voice and an acoustic guitar. This time? Certainly not raw, but rather meticulously produced.

In an earlier interview, I asked Durbin about the more mainstream feel to the title track, and whether that’s what we would see on the album. “The whole record is composed of songs that are very hooky and catchy. It’s all fairly ‘mainstream,’ if that word even still holds value.” (Check out the full conversation here: James Durbin Interview). He nailed it, as the album is packed with nice pop hooks, and a slick well-produced sound.

There are a handful of radio ready tracks on this album, and a slew that should instantly appeal to his legion of American Idol fans. Listening, it really is a safe commercial approach, but after seeing Durbin play these stripped down, I was a bit disappointed that the album felt over-produced.

Simply put, I found the album was just a bit too clean. I missed some of the grit we saw on his debut album and that same passion that oozed out when he performed acoustically. I can’t blame him, and really have no idea whether this incarnation of Durbin is a better reflection of the artist he wants to become, but I’d prefer something a little “dirtier.”

In any event, it’s clear that Durbin is growing as a songwriter and stretching his wings as a musician, as he had ample time to create what he wanted. “The greatest advantage to having more time to make the record was that it gave me more time to write and craft the record itself. On the physical record I co-wrote 10 of the 11 tracks. That definitely wouldn’t have happened without having that solid, creative time span.”

The album kicks off with two strong offerings, the soaring rocker, “Children Under The Sun,” where we immediately witness the growth and broad range of Durbin’s already fantastic voice; and “Parachute,” the first single and a song just oozing with hit potential. It’s an addictive pop-rock anthem in waiting. From that point forward, it really is more of a pop album, but that takes nothing away from the quality of the songs.

For me, one of the highlights is the slick, bouncy “Fool For You,” It’s got a catchy sound and an addictive hook that just screams for Top 40 airplay. Other highlights include “Louder Than A Loaded Gun,” and the tender, touching ballad “Real Love,” where I finally get to hear a bit of that raw James Durbin I missed on most of the album.

It’s an excellent pop record, and if there’s any sense in this world, songs from the album will decorate the Top 40 playlists throughout the year. Fans of Idol will be pleased. Me? I’m still looking for the grit he left behind on the last tour.

Rock On!

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Related Links:
James Durbin Concert Review
James Durbin Interview


Hedley Wild Life Album Review


Hedley Wild Life Album Review

This hard-working Canadian quartet has been making waves in their homeland for a decade, and it’s only a matter of time before they explode South of their border.

Their latest offering, Wild Life offers up precisely engineered pop rock that will appeal to the masses; and let’s be perfectly clear here, this stuff leans a lot more towards the pop side of that spectrum.

While we witness a theme of pure pop slicing through the album, it’s actually quite diverse stuff, at times making me think of 80’s one-hit wonder Scritti Politti, at times it’s Foster and The Peopleish, and yet others, the music evokes horrible flashbacks to the Toto-Age of rock music. Fortunately, at the other extreme, the band demonstrates some cutting edge talent.

“Heaven in Our Headlights” is a Fun. (see what I did there?) song that reminds a little bit of Avici and has a very timely feel to it. The song features absolutely everything it takes to be an Alt-Rock hit. Jacob Hoggard’s tender vocals are highlighted in a powerful, melodic performance that carries the hit-in-the-waiting. The opening track “Anything” is another catchy offering that absolutely belongs on today’s radio playlists.

My favorite track is the grittiest offering on the album. It’s a dark dirty ode to life South of the border, “Mexico.” It’s a violent powerful collision of musical instruments that’s just a blast to listen to. It was a welcome expedition, listening to the band journey into their darker side.

But, it’s not all great stuff; there were a few songs that epitomized mediocrity, and were just too pretty and tight – not what I’m looking for in rock music.  Of course there’s the obligatory power ballad or two and they’re decent but really nothing special.

But, what the hell do I know? Their first single “Crazy For You” has absolutely exploded on Youtube, and it grows on me everytime I hear it.  Check it out yourself here: Hedley: Crazy For You

At the end of the day it’s a nice, well produced album – probably one better suited for the teenage rock fans out there. the ones with the 2 X chromosomes more likely. But, there’s enough variety, that there’s something for any rock fan to enjoy, something that will appeal to everybody. Take a listen and let me know what you think?

Rock On,

Nate Currin – You and I Are Ghosts

Nate Currin Album Review

Up until this point working with RARASFARM, I have almost exclusively reviewed albums formed by bands in their youth.

Being in my early twenties I feel a certain draw to bands composed of people my age. The lyrics are strong, emotional, and generally surround things I can relate to. Bands in their youth are a wonderful thing; their lyrics and sound often personify the uneasy and awkward transition between childhood and adulthood. These bands are experiencing many things for the first time and these new experiences and transitions make for powerful songs. However, eventually young bands grow up and if their lucky they become something like Nate Currin.

It’s hard to make a good album but it’s even harder to make a better follow-up album. Nate Currin’s 2013 concept album The Pilgrim was nearly flawless and listeners will be happy to hear that his follow up album You and I are Ghosts is equally if not more pleasing.

Music is such a subjective art that it’s hard to call any one album perfect but Nate Currin has come as close as possible, twice in a row. His latest offering is a blessing to the music world. I respect young artists depicting their growing pains through their music but what I respect even more is a seasoned artist’s understanding of life.

Nate Currin has been through it all and what’s better is he is so clearly able to express his emotions and life experience through his music. You and I Are Ghosts covers issues from relationship and friends to lifestyles and places. The concept behind the album is that everyone goes through phases in their lives and everything we leave behind are ghosts. Nate has an incredible understanding and a vastly inspiring outlook on all aspects of life.

On “Our Fading Numbered Days,” Nate says “I’ve no regrets the things we all forget lost and gone in distant haste.” The album is all about taking the best outlook on all facets of life; it’s a textbook on the best way to view life. Not all of life is wonderful but Currin reminds us all that life only exists as we view it.

The message and lyrics on the album should be looked at as a bible for growing bands but the mighty shadow that the album’s message casts does not block out the other amazing elements of the album. Not since Yellowcard have I heard a violin incorporated in rock music so well. Given, Nate Currin is in an entirely different genre of rock but it makes the violin on the album no less enthralling. Nate knows when to bring in the violin and when to let the acoustic guitar do the talking.

The instrumentals have a very solemn sound to them that compliment Nate’s voice exceptionally well. The album stays true to its pop rock/ folk genre but leans more to the folk side. Nate’s voice naturally lends itself to a folk twang; he has the voice of a weathered man, a man who has seen the world and has something to say about it.

After listening to You and I are Ghosts nearly 1000 times, I am left wondering how it is possible that artists like Nate Currin exist outside of the top forty charts. His style isn’t the kind you’d normally hear blasted on the radio over and over but it is the kind you listen to once and get hooked.

If you have time on your hands to reflect on your entire life, I highly recommend you download Nate Currin’s You and I Are Ghosts from iTunes immediately. Even if you don’t have time for all that, still download the album because I promise you it will instantly become a new favorite.

Joey Farese