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Indie Launchpad

Updated: 2008-03-11T14:42:44.797-04:00


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Album - On High - Kate Maki
(image) Sometimes there's a fine line between folk and country. Opening with "Highway", the slide guitar is there and the familiar country musical drawl, which I thought was going to whoosh straight over my head. Then I heard the vocals, demure and almost afraid, breaking through. Breaking through is something I found the vocals having to do a lot of, as the music mix, was in places not favorable to the vocals, there's still enough however to be latch onto and enjoy.

The forth track "White Noise" is for me the track where I finally fell into the groove. Gone are the slide guitars replace with a simple piano and guitar arrangement to compliment the vocals. This is an album that's at times like riding on a see-saw, with ups and down. While "White Noise" is definitely a high point, the track the follows "To Please", is a bit of a low point. It's a nice sing along kind of track, but it's just a little over the top with what sounds like a ukelele and the spoons. Nice on it's own merits, but just doesn't sit well on the album. The vocals too, are not as defined and strong as the rest of the album.

This is very much an album that can be pretty much divided into two halves, the country influenced slide guitar half and the acoustic half, which for me is the style I much prefer. "Beyond the Sun" and "We Are Gone" and prime examples of what I love about this album.

"Don't Look Down" is a surprise track, as Kate shares vocals, with someone who sounds very much like Lou Reed, I just wish there were more opportunity on this 2 and a half minute track to hear the two voices bounce off each other more, instead of singing in near isolation. "On a String", a wonderfully whimsical 1 minute instrumental track concludes an album which pretty much is a mixed bag for me. There is however much to enjoy.

Something I also noticed, is that while this is an 11 track album, the total running time is a tad under 28 minutes, the longest track being just shy of 4 minutes, while the shortest is the ever so short "On A String", weighing in at 1 minute 11. For musical content this could almost be considered an EP.

Conclusion : Not my usual cup of tea. The musical style, is something that took me a little while to get used to, but it's the vocals which really bring this album to life. Certainly an artists I'll be keeping an eye on.

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(image) There's many different styles of female vocalists that appeal to me. I do have to admit however I do have a soft spot for ones that have that air of vulnerability. Jane Taylor is one such artist, possessing such a delicate voice, that I feel an almost compelling need to scoop her up and tell her things really are going to be OK.

"Fall on Me" is a delicate song that really emphasis Jane's diminutive vocals. It's almost a contradiction, but with this particular track, she reminds me of Cyndi Lauper. Quite the contradiction, but that vocal similarity is evident. "My Street" is a wonderful track, that really paints an aural picture in fine and atmospheric detail. There's a lot here that reminds me of Suzanne Vega's first album, which is high praise indeed, as her debut is probably one of my top albums of all time, both for content and the memories it evokes.

"Hit the Ground" again brings to mind another artists that evokes fond memories for me, Eddie Reeder, formerly of Fairground Attraction. OK comparisons abound in this review, but that's not to say this is weak, also ran album because of it. Three songs, and three comparisons to artists who are simply amazing is no mean feat. What would not surprise me, is if in the near future, I'm not making comparisons to Jane Taylor, because here is an artist that quite frankly blows my socks off, in the best possible way.

"Landslide" has a delightful guitar intro and then the piano starts and I'm in heaven as soon as Jane opens her mouth. Just the right ingredients to make a wonderful song. I've been particularly aware of the production quality of albums of late and here again, everything is perfectly balanced, allowing everything to fuse into a perfect blend.

"Getting to Me" is the track that brings the journey to an end and I have to pray that this is just one journey of many.

Conclusion : It's albums like this that really remind me how spoiled I am. Reviewing this album was a sheer delight. I can feel the greed gurgling already, wanting more albums, but impatiently wanting them now.

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(image) I think one of the biggest compliments I get, is when an artists I've already reviewed, tells a musician friend of theirs about Indie Launchpad. This was the case when Rob Szabo, mentioned Indie Launchpad to Scott Cooper, who sent me an email to ask if I would be interested in reviewing his new CD, Tiny Increments. I only needed to hear a single track to know getting this album in would be a total no brainer.

Scott assisted Rob in the production of his wonderful album, Like a Metaphor. Here Rob returns the favor, also playing bass on most of the songs. You can also hear a strong Rob influence every now and then, and it's easy to see that there is a strong bond between the two.

"Tilt-A-Whirl" is the track that opens the CD. It's a very relaxed, melodic sound, with Scott's vocals, perfectly complimented by some gorgeous female harmonies provided by [Caroline Brooks]. "Don't Turn Around" continues in a similar vein, with words the flow effortlessly. The versus are easy going and laid back, but the hooks really sink in once it gets to the chorus.

"Insomnia Song" is the track that just totally blew me away on so many levels. It's funny the guitar intro, reminds me of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". I heard this song once and knew it was the track I had to end the with last week, even before reviewing the album. Now this gives me a great excuse to feature the track yet again, not that I need an excuse. As you can probably guess the song is about someones inability to get to sleep. Counting down the night from 2am onwards. It's such a beautifully simple song, but makes it's mark nonetheless.

This is another one of those albums, I have to prevent myself from going through track by track, for fear of coming across as a sycophantic fan. All 11 tracks are such a sheer joy and delight to listen to. However I do get to delight in the magic gems that shine out from this veritable box, crammed full jewels. I've already mentioned "Insomnia Song", but will again just say that even if the rest of the songs were pure drivel, this one track would make the album purchase worthwhile. Fortunately this isn't the case. Special mentions must also go to "Don't Turn Around", "Amen", and "Goodbye City". A goodbye indeed as this is the track the brings this fantastic album to a close.

Conclusion : Absolute magic, pure and simple. Few albums make their mark so quickly and so indelibly. Absolutely and thoroughly a recommended addition to your collection.

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(image) I didn't quite know what to make of this CD when I first put it into the CD player. It has a very Celtic, almost country feel to it. Yet again, I see the term Americana used by a band and it was then that the Byrds came to mind, specifically the later part of the Byrds catalog, which I have to admit, if I'm honest, wasn't my favorite era of theirs, but they still managed to shine the odd spark of brilliance. So there was no one more surprised than me, when I found myself really getting into the first track "Lay It Down". This is a track that conjured images of the wild west and dusty saloons and I found myself almost shooting a video in my head.

"I Won't Break Down" is a softer sounding track, with a great chorus and some really nice guitar work. Throughout the verses I found myself almost mesmerized by the acoustic guitar that sits so subtly underneath. I put aside the puns I had for "Anti Climatic Girl", which has a real relaxed sound, almost akin to a drawl. "Caliber Eyes" continues the relaxed sound and I almost forget that I'm not listening to some classic album of yesteryear.

"Hold Me Now" has a slightly more contemporary sound, but still underpinned, by the great work preceding it on this 6 track EP. It was with this track that I realized the production is spot on. Not once do you feel overpowered by either the vocals nor music, it's just perfectly balanced. The final track "Follow", is is probably my favorite track on the EP, it has an ever so slightly disjointed feel to it, but it really works in the tracks favor, giving it some real body to bite into.

Conclusion : I have to admit, had I see this album on the shelves of a record store, I would probably discounted it in an instant. It's so satisfying then to be able to delight in finding another gem, from a genre that I'm suddenly becoming quite a fan of.

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(image) It took me a while to warm to this 5 track EP. I kept getting severe deja vu and couldn't get past the fact that Arrica's voice reminded me of someone, who's name I couldn't quite put my finger on. This meant I kept playing the EP, but just couldn't put fingers to keyboard. I think I'm finally over it now, as you can plainly see.

Opening with "Turn" this was the track that was the hump I just couldn't get over. It's has a very 80's feel, with Arrica providing vocals, that have an earthy, almost hungry feel to them. "Occasionally the World's an Unhappy Place", is where things really gets into their stride, feeling much more relaxed. From rock, we shift to a decidedly uncomfortable, almost country feel with the track "Rid of You". I say country, but it soon shifts to a more bluesy sound. Whilst showing Arrica's eclectic spectrum of tastes, the EP really feels somewhat unbalanced.

For me the final two tracks are where Arrica should concentrate her talents. "Wreck Me", is where this instant, I just realised that Arrica reminds me a lot of Elkie Brooks a name I haven't thought about for many years. "Silence (is all we need)" is the pure magic. It's worth buying the EP for that track alone, albeit at just under 3 minutes, it's could be a bit longer. I love the simplicity of the song and the minimalistic music, allowing Arrica's voice to really shine.

Conclusion : A great EP, with some flashes of brilliance, in particular the final track, with it's wonderful harmonies.

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Band / Artist : Philharmonia BaroqueGenre : ClassicalSample Track Download : N/ABuy CD : MagnatuneBuy Digital Download : MagnatuneRating : 9 out of 10I have to make a sort of apology, before I even begin this review, as I'm skipping "Opferlied" altogether. Opera is really not my thing, and it wasn't the real reason I got this CD in for review. The real reason is the version here of Beethoven's masterpiece "9th Symphony" a piece of classical music that has been with me, in one form or another since I was about 10 years old. I say in one form or another, because I discovered this music quite by accident. That's not to say I wouldn't have discovered it eventually, but my first introduction was via a hand held computer game called Merlin, on which one of the activities was a free form music keyboard. What was really challenging, was the keyboard only hand 11 keys. One of the songs, printed in the manual was, yes Beethoven's 9th, albeit on the highly recognizable bit. This is still something I bash out on a piano or electronic keyboard every time I pass one in a store.Now let me state, I'm not a classical music snob by any means. Many of the classical pieces I love, I'd be hard pressed to name. Certainly the names of contemporary musicians performing them, mean very little, if anything to me, apart from the everyday household named artists. Suffice to say however, the majority of the performances I've heard have on the whole been quite wonderful, apart from a truly awful version of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons", by someone who shall remain nameless.Beethoven's 9th Symphony is broken down into 4 movements, the most popular being the 4th movement, sometimes referred to as "Ode to Joy" as it features a poem of the same name, sung by a soloist and accompanied by a full chorus. This is the movement that always manages to give me goosebumps and is one that is probably one of the most powerful pieces of classical music I can think of. It builds and builds into an almost, pardon the expression, orgasmic climax. This is not a phrase I use lightly, but one I feel really captures the whole mood. Some people may be put off by the male soloist and chorus, especially those that are not necessarily into classical music, but I really beg that you give it a chance, as it really adds to the immense power of the performance. At 23 minutes, it really is weighty movement but by far my favorite, the other three coming in at between 13 and 14 minutes. What really surprised me, and something I didn't expect, was that this performance is live, something I must have missed on the sleeve notes and something that I didn't realize until hearing the applause at the end.I'm sure some people will be a bit confused as to why a classical album is featured on Indie Launchpad. It's something I've wanted to do for a long while and indeed did start to do when Indie Launchpad was begin. Hopefully I manage to introduce some new ears to the delights of classical music. After all, it's all around, especially in pop music and many people don't even realize.Conclusion : One of the most moving and powerful pieces of classical music, performed by a stunning ensemble of musicians. Sensational stuff and without doubt my favorite performance of this amazing work. Try to give this a spin at high volume to really swept up in the whole performance.[...]

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(image) I suppose I could be considered a bit of an old fart when it comes to the kind of music I like. It's not that I consciously prefer slower paced, more easy going songs, it's just that I really love a good melody and appreciate well crafted lyrics, this is something that seems to be amiss from many rock bands. This is not something that was a concern with this album from Daniel Bon and the FUTURE ghosts.

This eleven track album has a very contemporary sound, very much akin to Fall Out Boy and the plethora of other emo bands. It's the music however that differentiates this from the whole emo scene, being a much more well rounded sound. Again, something that seems to be happening a lot lately, the album opens with a very strong track, in this case "In the Meantime", which really gets you up to speed with what to expect. "You Don't have to Stay" was a really interesting song, and it wasn't until this track and actually while writing this album, that I finally thought of who the lead singer occasionally reminds me off. That would be Ali Champbell from UB40, not an artist I've heard in a long while.

"When You Go Away", is a real upbeat and driven song, that I can just imagine blasting out the car stereo, while burning up the motorway. "In the Middle of the World" has a wonderful production quality to it and is just amazing to listen to while wearing headphones, especially that ethereal guitar sound that floats in and out throughout the track.

The second half of the album begins with "Last Goodbye", yet another great example of a well written pop/rock song and indeed apart from the first track, I really feel that the second half of the album, is where it really shines, where it's just track, after track of great pop songs. The end of the album, comes far too soon, but to accompany us to the end is "Boston Tonight", a track where you can just sense everything winding down and it's almost sad to hear the last note and know this cracking album is over. Thankfully it's painless to hit the play button all over again.

Conclusion : Certainly a more contemporary sound, than the usual bands reviewed on Indie Launchpad, but it's nice to be given a good kick up the backside. Good music, is good music, no matter what the genre.

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Band / Artist : Nathan Wiley - mySpaceGenre : RockSample Track Download : North American DreamBuy CD : CD BabyBuy Digital Download : CD Baby - iTunesRating : 9.5 out of 10I'd heard a few of Nathan's songs on various podcasts and think I actually approached him once to do a review. A few months passed and I was looking for a little something for the podcast and saw Nathan's name on the Podsafe Music Network. I listened to a few tracks and settled on "Back to Bed". This relit my fire and prompted me to find out a bit more about Nathan. When I heard the track "One of the Worst Ones" I was blown away. With a mix of great music and distinct vocals, it's very reminiscent of that 70's AM sound, with some very George Harrison style guitar.I finally got the album in for review a few weeks ago, and have to admit I was disappointed. The album begins with "One of the Worst Ones" and like the previously reviewed Voyce's album, the killer track is the one that opens and from there on in, everything seems to be measured against it. I played the album a couple of times, over the course of a week, without consciously trying to review it, listening in the car or at work and then when I came back to the album to listen with the aim of reviewing, everything seemed to fall into place.The title track takes a more sombre direction and it's probably the track that set me back a bit, after the relatively bouncy opener. It's when you really sit down and listen to this album, that it really begins to unfold before you, like a kind of narrative. "Seven Reasons" has an interesting feel to it and it's here that I feel those creative juices begin to flow. "Needle in the Groove", has an almost reggae feel to it and I can't help but get excited about all the diverse influences channeled into what has turned out to be a quite masterful album."Back to Bed" is the track I played on the podcast and it almost plays like a lullaby. It's a relatively short, but beautiful track. I've spoken before about artists using less than conventional instruments and it's nice to hear on "One Bad Woman" what sounds like a glockenspiel. "Graveyard" could almost be a homage to George Harrison, with those very distinctive guitars, a a very similar lyrical flow."Get Away" is I suppose you could say the official last track of the album and again has yet another unconventional instrument, this time a kazoo. The song itself has that lazy sunny day feel and would have been a great way to round off the album. It is however "Fistful of Throttle" that seems to have been added to the album, as it's not part of the 1-12, official track list, just appearing as "Also Including...". It's an interesting track, with a hint of the 70's, again it could be the guitar that gives this feel. It's not a closing song though, as I almost felt like there should have been another track after it.Conclusion : An absolutely stunning and interesting album, which will certainly be played to death and then some.[...]

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(image) Comparing a band to Neil Diamond, can either be taken as a huge compliment, or a slap in the face, depending on your perspective. Here it's meant very much as the former. It's almost like Neil Diamond for the 21st century, with Neil Diamond's very melodic vocals, backed by a terrific band and some killer songs. OK, so comparisons to an aging, 60s and 70s superstar are not something every band will appreciate, but the end result here is something quite special.

The album opens with "Hello New Day" and you can't help but be swept up with the positive vibe of the album. This really is one of those albums, you need when you're a grumpy git in need of some spirit elevation. In fact I had it on my portable player, while waiting for the bus, as my wife told me she wouldn't be able to pick me up from work. I don't take the dreaded bus often, so my mood was decidedly jaded.

When I hit play button, after selecting this album, it was almost like one of those moments, when you are standing in a torrential downpour and then the rain stop and the sun fights it's way through. That's exactly how I felt when "Hello New Day" started. This was the first time I'd actually really listened to this album, and thinking that this was one trick pony, "Bottom of the Bay" came on and I was immediately blown away, by the apparent consistency of this album. There's 14 tracks on this album and I have to say I'm very hard pressed to pick a single song that failed to live up to the expectations that had been heightened by the first two tracks. I know this is going to be a difficult album indeed to select a single song for the podcast, so I just may have to do a "Good Luck Joe" and feature two... that is if Roger lets me.

Something I always find strange, is this album is classified as Americana, which is a classification that has always baffled me. To me this is classic pop/rock and fantastic pop/rock at that.

Conclusion : A terrific album, that has been on constant rotation in my CD player for a good few weeks, and will no doubt be played for a long while to come.

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(image) This 6 track EP, really blends a 70's era feel, with a more contemporary sound and it works very well. Opening with "Call Your Bluff", I was at once reminded of the 70's glam band Sweet, but this has a slightly harder edge. It certainly has that real fresh, driving sound that propels the song from 0-60 in a matter of seconds. "Gimme Substance" continues the theme, and I keep detecting a hint of something more 90's.

I have to admit I'd pretty much zoned out when "Hey, George Bailey" came on, not because it was a boring song, but I was just sort of daydreaming. However when the end of the song came and I heard the line "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings", my ears pricked up and I looked at the CD for the name of the song. As soon as I saw the name, I couldn't help but smile and play the song again. "It's a Wonderful Life" has to be one of my favorite movies of all time, and essentially family watching in our household at Christmas, and it's that film, the songs draws it's theme from, George Bailey being the lead character.

"Clean" slows things down a bit, and takes the EP into the last half very nicely. Again I get that 90's hair band kind of vibe, but there's that little something more. "One More Night" takes a totally different direction and again livens the EP up. "Anthem for a Late Bloomer" rounds the EP off nicely, with some wonderful guitar work, lazy and laid back, wonderful stuff. In fact I have to say it's probably one of my favorite tracks on the album, along with "Hey, George Bailey".

Conclusion : A real blast of fresh air and a very interesting first release. Although other influences bubble to the surface, this is a band that still manages to have it's own identity and one that is going to be very interesting with new releases to come.

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Band / Artist : Ferraby Lionheart - mySpaceGenre : Pop / RockSample Track Download : N/ABuy CD : AmazonBuy Digital Download : iTunesRating : 9 out of 10Sounding like some kind of British eccentric, Ferraby Lionheart is certainly a name you won't forget in a hurry. This is doubly so, when you actually take a listen to his latest album.Right out of the gate, you know this is going to be something quite different. The first track, "Uno Ballo Della Luna", has the feel of a children's lullaby, with a production style, that makes it almost sound like an AM radio. It almost feels like a throw away intro track, lasting just a tad under two minutes. The album proper begins for me, when "Small Planet" begins to play, but really captured me when it got to the chorus. "Vermont Avenue" is a delicate song, sounding almost like a throwback to the 60's, just my cup of tea. "Call me the Sea" continues the most delicate of melodies and softest of vocals, and you just can't help but fall in love with the direction things are taking. "The Car Maker" reminds me a lot of the Kinks in the 70's, an album in particular that springs to mind is the soundtrack to the movie "Percy", suffice to say I'm not going to go into the details of the movie, but let's just say it's not a cinematic tour de force."A Bell and Tumble" effortlessly rolls the album into it's second half and it's just about then that I noticed how great the musical accompaniment is. It has a very eclectic and spontaneous feel to it, giving the album, that magical creative spark. "Under the Texas Sky" really shines a spotlight on Ferraby's voice, which is very distinctive and full of character. "Youngest Frankenstein" while not having the most inspiring of titles, also unfortunately is probably my least favourite track on the album, as it just seems to plod along. "Before We're Dead" takes an interesting turn, sounding at first like something from a New Orleans funereal procession at the beginning, but soon gets into a more contemporary sound.Rounding things off are "The Octopus and the Ambulance" and "Put me in Play" and you can't help but feel like Ferraby had some out of body experience when coming up with the titles of some of his songs, which range from the strange, to the bizarre, but somehow, it's all in keeping with what you expect. This last track is also a favourite of mine and rounds things off nicely.Conclusion : Certainly a name to keep tabs on and certainly not one you are going to forget in a hurry. Couple that with just the most interesting and wonderful music and you're all set.[...]

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(image) Soulful and sweet, is probably best how to describe the voice of Amy LaCour. There's also a hint of something a bit deeper, something a bit darker. This EP reminds me a bit of Alicia Keys, without all the vocal gymnastics.

Opening with the title track, well title track of sorts, as the spelling is different, "Bittersweet". Not sure if this is intended or an oversight, but I can't help mull it over, each time I put the CD on. The Alicia Keys sounds is more evident on "One Man's Stone", but more for the piano accompaniment, than the vocals. It's probably my favourite track on this 5 track EP.

"I'm the One", has a fairly sombre mood, but though the music is downbeat, the vocals soar like a bird. "Fools Road" feels like a more complete song and I start hearing hints of Aretha Franklyn, bold and confidence abounding. The final track is "Fall", which really seals things nicely and brings the EP to a nice close.

Throughout the EP, Amy's voice is strong and sweet, but I can't help but feel, there lies a diva beneath. I'd love to hear Amy really let loose, just to see what it would sound like.

Conclusion : A real relaxing EP and one that fulfills that 5pm need for something to unwind to.

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Band / Artist : The Tacticians - mySpaceGenre : Pop / FolkSample Track Download : N/ABuy CD : Setanta RecordsBuy Digital Download : iTunesRating : 8.5 out of 10First off, I have to admit I do have a soft spot for this band. I first discovered them on a podcast that played the track "London's Alright". In it is mentioned my old stomping ground, which never fails to bring back fond memories. I actually liked the track so much, I ordered a 7" vinyl copy, do you remember vinyl? The lads follow up single was "Girls Grow Up Faster than Boys", which had that similar, 80's retro indie feel. A little while after that release the guys sent me an email to let me know they'd been signed to Setanta Records. This was great for them, but also great for us, as it meant a whole album of the Tacticians' great songs.The album does not disappoint. 11 tracks, with great lyrics and a musical style, that feels very raw, but also very tight and well executed. The lyrical style, reminds me a lot of the Kinks, were every song tells a story and is backed up by music that's spot on. Many of the tracks never fail to get me tapping something, whether it's fingers, hands, feet or any other extremities that can be tapped or shook.Opening with "Respectfully Proceeding" this is probably one of the more radio friend tracks and is one that you'll find yourself humming, long after it's finished. The following three tracks "Girls Grow Up Faster than Boys", "Hardcore Porn" and "London's Alright" are no stranger to Tacticians' fans, as they have all appeared on their two singles. "Hardcore Porn" is actually a pretty innocuous track, despite it's title. For me though "London's Alright" is the killer track, even though I'm not overly keen on the new arrangement, which varies quite a bit from the original single."Size" is one of those little gems, that behind the very simple title, hides a song of pure gold. "Honey You Ain't Needed Anymore" starts off pretty laid back and gets more frenetic the further the song progresses. "Get a Move on" is the last track also featuring on one of the singles."Dance Like Nobody's Watching" has an almost Elvis Costello feel to it to the music, with a Joe Strummer vocal accompaniment. In fact it was when I reached this song, that I realised that many of the vocals share a lot of similarities with Joe Strummer, which is praise indeed in my book. "Ordinary People" is a very pleasant track, but doesn't really captivate. It's a similar thing with "I Feel It's Over". In fact when I think about it more, they are very fairly laid back tracks and you very much get the feeling that the album is winding up, so maybe not a criticism as such, more an observation. Finishing up with "Town Full of Losers", it all ends far too quickly, but man what a ride.The only small niggle I have with the album, is when I make direct comparisons of tracks on the album, with the ones released on the two singles. Those tracks are "London's Alright" and "Hardcore Porn" and "Girls Grown Up Faster than Boys" and "Get a Move On". I found the production on the singles, was much nicer. Those tracks and to a certain degree the rest of the tracks on the album sound kind of muffled, when compared to the crisper and brighter sounding singles. Just a small niggle, but it's something I keep coming back to when I play the album.Conclusion : Production issues aside, this is still a great album, that manages to capture a great youthful spirit. They perform quite a bit, in and around London, and I can just image they're fantastic live. Do your CD collection a favour and pick up a copy.[...]

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Band / Artist : Steve RobinsonGenre : Pop / Folk / RockSample Track Download : Forget About LoveBuy CD : CD BabyBuy Digital Download : iTunesRating : 9.5 out of 10Anyone who has an association with Roger McGuinn from the Byrds, is certainly going to cause my ears to prick up big time. However I didn't find out that Steve sometimes sings harmonies with Roger McGuinn, until after I had his album in my hands. Not that it would have made much difference, as I heard a few tracks before requesting the album and really enjoyed what I heard.This is very much a feel good record. I find myself returning to it frequently, as it never fails to deliver that feel good factor, especially needed after a hard day at work. The album opens with "Wooden Hill", a very jangly, lazy day summer kind of song and you can't help but wonder if Roger's influence is in there somewhere. "Please Emmalene" takes a subtle change in direction and immediately reminded me of Harry Chapin, with a smattering of one of my other favorite Indie Launchpad bands, 3 Blind Mice."The Best Days of Your Life" is one of those killer tracks. Not only because the lyrics and music are great, which they are, but also because it's able to evoke very strong memories, specifically my childhood school days. When I went to school in England, school uniforms were the order of the day. I can remember the first few weeks, arriving at school with nicely pressed shirt and trousers. A school blazer, emblazoned with our school's badge, nicely dusted a top a perfectly tied, school colours tie. A few weeks in and your standards begin to slide, not because you can't be bothered, but you want to mix in with the rest of the school and not have the "I'm a Target" look. Ah yes, those were the days. Brilliant stuff."Love is Real", has that McCartneyesque vocal style to it, with wonderful keyboards and is that tubular bells I hear. There's also a very interesting, almost George Harrison guitar solo, in the middle, giving this track a real assortment of interesting influences. Although I generally love slower, ballad style songs, I get much more satisfaction from the tracks of Steve's that are slightly more up tempo, "Wasted and Waiting" being a prime example. "Forget About Love" is another one, that has your feet tapping and head bobbing."Road to Ruin" sounds a tad like a Cat Stevens song and yet again I find myself making comparisons, but they bubble so vigorously in my mind's eye, that it's almost a sin not to mention them. "Class Clown" leads us into the last few tracks and you can almost hear that it's the tail end of the album, which suggest to me that this is a very well balanced album. I thought "Boring God" was going to be my least favorite track, as the beginning is pretty uninspiring, but again as soon as Steve's vocals start, the song comes alive. "I'm in Trouble (Again)", almost takes me back to my childhood again, but we won't go there. It rounds the album off nicely and something that I feel is very important in a CD. I like to feel like I've experienced something. Like a good book, I generally like a beginning, middle and end, and this is a perfect example.Conclusion : I love this album and return to it often. You really can't get a better recommendation than that. Looking forward to what the future may bring.[...]

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(image) A real folksy, soul sound, with just a hint of the blues, is probably how I'd best describe this offering from Milwaukee based Mike Mangione. The opening track "Waiting for No One", has that kick back and relaxed style, very reminiscent of the Commodores, "Easy", which is a great way to open an album and certainly made my ears prick up, when I first heard it. "It's Me Not You" develops things further, introducing a delicate balance of strings, which I think are either cello or fiddle, or perhaps both. Laid over the music, is a voice of earthy charm, with a hint of bluesy roughness, think a more Joe Cocker than BB King, but not quite so harsh.

The more I listened to the album, the more I kept coming back to the track "The Killing Floor". At a tad over 6 minutes, it's one of 3 lengthy tracks on the album, but it really engages and is probably the quickest 6 minutes you are going to encounter in a while. Many times, especially recently I've mentioned albums, that lack that killer track, but here it's almost the total opposite. Every track has Mike's hallmark firmly placed on them, but they all have that certain something, and more exciting, that something is different on nearly every track.

"You Don't Wanna Leave" has a sound that conjours memories of Dire Straits in the 80's, more album track, than single, but that's not to say it doesn't hold up as a great song. After all, I tend to find, many of a bands best songs tend to be album only tracks, as opposed to singles.

Picking killer tracks, proved relatively easy for this album. The opener, "Waiting for No One" is definitely up there and also "Great Divide" and "A Requiem For The Trash: Damnatio Memoriae".

As the album reaches the end with "Mama, Be Not Afraid", I can't help feeling that there's rockier side of Mike, waiting to be unleashed. I can just imagine his vocals, blasting with some wailing electric guitar. Don't get me wrong, I love this album, but would love to maybe hear something else with a bit of a kick.

Conclusion : A phenomenally great album, from an artist I'm sure is going to go far.

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(image) The Weakerthans are a band I got into relatively late in their 10 year career, only recently reviewing their third release, "Reconstructive Site". Now 4 years after that album was originally released, we have "Reunion Tour". I suppose I'm lucky, as it's only been a year since I previously discovered and reviewed their last album, but for many fans, I'm sure this album has been eagerly anticipated.

Opening with "Civil Twilight", I had an amazing sense of excitement wash over me. It's certainly easy to recognize as a Weakerthans record, as that sound is immediately recognizable. Part way through the opener, I had a bizarre sense of loss and then joy at rediscovering this terrific band, it's hard to describe it any other way. Listening to "Hymn for the Medical Oddity", I couldn't help but be reminded of the indie powerhouse band, They Might be Giants. Certainly vocally, there are some great comparisons, but also lyrically, there's that great humor and relaxed style. "Relative Surplus Value", gives us something rockier to munch on and you can sense that a lot of thought has gone into the balancing of this album.

"Tournament of Hearts" stands out as one of my favorite tracks on the album, with a driving guitar and drumbeat, managing to bubble under, rather than drown out the vocals. On the flip side of that "Virtue the Cat Explains Her Departure", whilst having an amazing title, fails to live up to it, for me, proving one of the two humdrum track on the album. The other mediocre track, is the one that follows it, "Elegy for Gump Worsley". It's way more Leonard Cohen (whom I actually love a lot), than what we come to expect from the Weakerthans, way too dour for my tastes. This blip in the album, is only slight and things rebound nicely with "Sun in an Empty Room", giving pure and unadulterated Weakerthans goodness, followed closely by the excellent "Night Windows".

"Big Foot!" leads us into the last third of the album and has a very familiar feel to it. I'm never sure if it's deja vu, or just the Weakerthans being exceedingly good at what they do, lulling me like a muse. The title track at last, manages to deliver and not let the album down, as seems to be the case with many title tracks of late. "Utilities" ends the album with a twist and fade to black.

Conclusion : A shining example of all that's great about the independent Canadian music scene. With many peaks and just a couple of very small troughs, make no mistake this is a cracking album. It may take the Weakerthans a while to come up with a new album, but man, when they do, it's worth the wait.

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  • Band / Artist : Good Luck Joes - mySpace

  • Genre : Pop / Rock

  • Sample Track Download : N/A

  • Buy CD : CD Baby

  • Buy Digital Download : N/A

  • Rating : 9 out of 10

Listening to the Good Luck Joes, I couldn't help but think it was me that had the good luck. This EP from the Milwaukee based band, is simply amazing. It's not very often that an EP has such a strong lineup. Normally you get the leading strong track an a bunch of fillers, which if you are lucky are also fairly good, otherwise it's tracks to just plug the gaps and bulk things up a bit. None of that is true for this 5 track EP.

The EP opens with "Invincible" and you really get that sense of confidence. The lyrics are almost delivered with a cocky swagger and it very much sets the tone for the whole EP. This is surely a track that would get the band picked up by a major label, it's just getting it in front of an A&R man's ears. What am I saying! Well strike that from your memory, but I'm sure you know what I mean. "My Little Thief" has a great beat to it and I can almost hear that contemporary sound, very popular at the moment, with bands like Fall Out Boy and Panic at the Disco, but this is more rock than pop, which means I don't feel so guilty for loving it to death.

"The Peter Principle" gives the EP a chance to catch it's breath and while it's very pleasant, it's the faster tracks that really get excite to hear more. "ATM" machine returns to the of sound earlier and it's just sheer class. The last track "One in a Million" takes things down a few notches and I could easily come to hate this track as it's when it finishes that the EP is over... thank God for the [Replay] button. While I do like the slower tracks, it's the faster ones that really sell this EP. Here's hoping that a new album is forthcoming in the near future.

Conclusion : I think you could say I like this album a lot. Actually I could say that with a whole bunch of expletives with knobs on and it would still be understated. I just wish there was an electronic way to buy the EP, as I'm sure many more people would love an easier way to buy it, than through the post.

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(image) Having just released the review for General Fuzz, I was given a mental reminder, that I had the new Julius album lying on my hard disk waiting for review. Now why would General Fuzz remind me of Julius. Well Julius is another one of those daft buggers, releasing his music to the world for free. Yes you can pick up a physical copy for a minimal price, which barely covers the cost of media, but essentially you are getting the musical equivalent of free beer.

I reviewed Julius' Yern EP, back in November and was totally blown away. So barely 7 months later, here I am with another chunk of great music. It's funny, I was checking out Julius' MySpace page, when I noticed his new release, Alumni. Not 10 minutes after doing this, I get an email from the man himself, offering me a copy for review. Now that's what I call coincidence.

This 8 track album, has everything I've come to love about Julius, simplicity and a haunting honesty. It's very much acoustic, with no frills or gimmicks, and all the better for it.

The album opens up with "Dust PT II", a pretty upbeat track, well for Julius anyway. There's something very quintessentially British about this album, almost eccentric, but it just a sheer delight to listen to. "Sweet" bares comparison to Jeff Buckley, but not so much the music itself, but the haunting aura surrounding it, and indeed the majority of the album.

"World in You" is an odd little track. It's a tad under 2 minutes, but something about it, just seems out of place. I think some of this stems from the vocals, which sound like someone, trying to imitate an accent, with very pronounced annunciation. "Sideways", has an almost Tudor, sound, not too far removed, from how you imagine a court minstrel to sound. The following track "Anne-Marie Says" has an almost 60's folk feel to it, and wouldn't seem too out of place as a track on a period movie.

Rounding off the album is "Save the Day". While there isn't a track on here that will blow you away, it's not really that kind of album. Very similar to the William Fitzsimmons album reviewed recently, this is an album, that you choose to put on at specific times, usually to unwind from the great rat race. At that task, it succeeds very well.

Conclusion : Another fantastic release and a real joy to listen to when you just need to escape yourself for a while.

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  • Band / Artist : Finniston - mySpace

  • Genre : Acoustic / Pop

  • Sample Track Download : N/A

  • Buy CD : N/A

  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes

  • Rating : 8.5 out of 10

It's always truly a joy when a new Finniston CD drops into my mailbox. I know, without doubt, that whatever it is, it's going to be a wonderful collection of songs and I've not been disappointed so far. This time around it's a two track single, called Week Days Off, from their forthcoming album on Ruby Records, another album I will be looking forward to greatly.

As mentioned before this single comprises of two tracks, the title track, which has all those wonderful Finniston hallmarks running throughout, from Steven Finnie's great lead vocals, to Jolene Crawford's great harmonies. What was originally a two piece band, has nicely blossomed to include Andrew Gifford on bass and Jamie Attridge on drums. Musically it all sounds very tight and just a sheer joy to listen to. The second track "Words Can Only Try" continues the acoustic, mellow theme and I'm reminded again that this is indie music at it's finest.

Conclusion : Buy the single to fuel your Finniston fire, until the hotly anticipated album finally arrives. If you are suitably devoid of other Finniston music, the previous EP, "Golden Hour of Strict Tempo Dancing" is also still available.

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(image) Mellow is probably a bit of an understatement when talking about Goodnight from William Fitzsimmons. I found out about William via another artist, Ingrid Michaelson, who I've also been trying to review. I saw Ingrid recommmend a few other artists on her MySpace page and knew instantly upon hearing William's music that here was something truly magic.

This 13 track album opens with "It's Not True", with vocals that are barely more forceful than a whisper. Indeed the whole album is very much of this style, so while you are not going to put the album on to get the adrenalin flowing, it's a good album to do the exact opposite, so lay back and let the world pass you by. Whilst being mainly acoustic, there are subtle hints of electronica, namely I think either drum machines or sequencers, but it's very well thought out and doesn't kill the flavour of the music.

Due to the style of this album, it's really hard to pick out killer tracks, but several come to mind as ones I partcularly enjoyed. "It's Not True" being probably my favorite track on the album, closely followed by "Everything has Changed" and "Please Don't Go", which also features vocals by Ingrid Michaelson. Funnily enough, I found this last piece of information on William's MySpace page, and as coincidence would have it, these three tracks also feature on William's MySpace player.

Conclusion : Certainly an album that you'll need to conciously chooseto play, rather than haphzardly throw on, but once those lilting music and lyrics wash over you, you can be sure that your fractured soul will nicely heal.

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I find it amazing that a band as good as this can be on their third album and yet have barely made a blip on my music radar. Some of this could be the fact that they hail from Sweden, so maybe their earlier albums, were a pretty low key affair. Whatever the reason, I'm sure their low profile is soon to be a thing of the past, as when I first heard this album, I was absolutely blown away. It didn't help that I got the album over a month before it's official release, which meant that while I could enjoy listening to it over and over again, I couldn't post a review, as it's Indie Launchpads policy to only post reviews of bands/artists who actually have their albums/EPs available for purchase or download.

The album opens with "Midnight Skies", setting the tone very well for what's to come. There's a real dark side to this album, but it's balancing on a knifes edge, between that and an almost hopeless optimism. Starting at a real slow tempo, things soon pick up and you feel like there's an inner spirit dying to break out. Too and fro, from laid back and mellow to upbeat. "Never Bloom" reminds me a lot of some early Morrissey stuff. "Carefree" is probably the most radio friendly track on the album, but that's in no way a complaint. That Morrissey sound comes back with "My Own", not so much with the vocals, but the phrasing of the lyrics and the basic understated melody.

"Victorious" is another more radio friendly track, which I'm sure would also sound great live. There's all but a hint of an accent here, and on a few of the other tracks, but you'd be pretty hard pressed too guess that this is a Swedish band. There's certainly some parallels between the Perishers and the Norwegian powerhouse band, A-Ha. Both having a very distinctive sound and know how to craft well written and catchy songs.

Everytrack has that certain something. That undefinable ingrediant, that makes magic. I've read reviews of some of the bands other releases and seen a few people mention, how this album is not as good as some of their previous stuff. I find that hard to believe, but am quite willing to be proved wrong. Either way I'll end up with amazing music.

Conclusion : Simply a stunning album, that's been in constant rotation on my stereo and I'm sure will be for a long time to come.

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Band / Artist : Kellie Coffey - mySpaceGenre : Country / Pop / RockSample Track Download : N/ABuy CD : CD BabyBuy Digital Download : iTunesRating : 9 out of 10Country is not a genre of music, I usually have a lot of time for. However on the odd occasion, an artist appears that manages to strike the right chord. I was approached by the marketing company representing Kellie and given her MySpace details. The first song I heard was "I Would Die for That" and I can honestly say I was genuinely moved, not just by the subject matter, a woman coping with infertility, but also by Kellie's wonderful and emotive voice. I knew that this was going to be an artist I had to review. After listening to the album just once, I was blown away and it continues to capture a bigger space in my music heart.Kellie is one of those artists that has travelled the major label route, and now finds herself an independent artist. Major lable's loss, is indie's gain.The album begins with "Walk On", which certainly has hints of dare I say it, Shania Twain. Certainly when you get to the chorus, you feel like that hint of familiarity, which is not always a bad thing. While this track is definitely more pop than country, the roles are reversed with the next track "When Pigs Fly", with it's banjo and fiddle accompaniment. "Everything She Never Wanted" also has that very country feel, but it's not all out, full on country and it's not really pop, but falls just in that middle catchment area, which is probably why it appeals to me so much. "Strong Enough to Cry" is a nice platform for Kellie's great voice and it's probably here that I really began to notice the great production on this track and indeed the rest of the album.As I mentioned before "I Would Die for That" is an absolutely killer track, that is sure to melt all but the coldest hearts. There's also a video for this track, which you can find pretty easily on YouTube. "I Thought I Knew You Well" has a tune that reminds me of a track from another band, more specifically the guitar accompaniment, but it is a great melodic, laid back track, with a wonderful hook for a chorus.OK, so everything has been going swimmingly, well that was until I got to "Bandwagon". This track for me, while being fun and light hearted, is just a bit too square dance for me and always has me reaching for the [Next] button, when close to hand. The final 5 tracks are totally in keeping with the rest of the album, rounding off with "There You Go Again", which while fairly downbeat, provides a fitting end, to a wonderful journey.Conclusion : Aside from a single track that is maybe a little too, jingle, jangle country for me, this is an incredible album, that's really made me sit up and listen to country, so no mean feat in itself. I can't wait to see what comes over the horizon from Kellie and can thoroughly recommend this album, if you like good music, lyrics and a voice that is both sensual and full of raw emotion. Truly wondrous.[...]

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Band / Artist : Nica Brooke - mySpaceGenre : Soul / Alternative / JazzSample Track Download : Old Dog, New TricksBuy CD : PendingBuy Digital Download : Artist's StoreRating : 9.5 out of 10I love it when an artist gets in contact and asks to be considered for review. Actually with the advent of mySpace this usually isn't quite the way it happens. Many people ask to be added to the Indie Launchpad friends list, but I'm actually pretty strict in only allowing people and companies that I have a special relationship with, or bands/artists that have been reviewed. When Nica asked to be submitted to the Indie Launchpad friends list, I checked out her mySpace music and asked her if she'd like to submit her EP for review.As is sometimes the way, something throws a spanner in the works and while I had a review in the bag for the EP, Nica held the EP back from release, instead to release it as an 11 track album. This however doesn't happen overnight. Indeed from the submission of the original EP, to the release of this review of the album, I think nearly a year has passed. When it comes to good music though, as was the case with the EP, I'm like a like an elephant that never forgets. I'd drop Nica the occasional email just to check in and then finally she told me the album was ready, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.Nica has that wonderful bluesy, almost bohemian sound that is just a sheer joy to listen to. Of the eleven tracks on the album, there is something quite different on each, while sharing that common vibe. I've lost track of the amount of times I've stated my love for some female artists and that's the music I'm talking about here. One of the things that clinches it for me, is an artists ability to caress the soul. Yes I know that sounds unbelievable poncy, but I can't really define it any better than that. When I listen to Nica's voice, it's almost like she's singing to an audience of one, me. It's not just the vocals however, it's the whole package of music and vocals.Opening with the old standard "My Heart Belongs to Daddy", it's surely never sounded so good and so sassy. The production of this and the majority of the album has that real 40's feel, but with a tinge of modern day magic. This is every evident in the second track "Get Back". My favorite track on the EP is "Head in the Sand", with that wondrous hypnotic drum beat. It's funny, this tracks reminds me of one of those Bob Hope and Bing Crosby "Road to...: movies, where some siren is trying to seduce them with a song. Terrific stuff."Old Dog, New Tricks", has a more jazz flavor and is my least favorite track, but let me put that into context. It's like asking Bill Gates, which is the least favorite car in his garage. You know they're all going to be brilliant cars in their own right. The EP rounds off with the tranquil and mysterious "Transitioning", with some wonderful Flute accompaniment, I think it is.Conclusion : Yes very good. OK maybe I restrained my self too much there. Absolutely fantastic is more like it. Certainly up there as one of my top 3 female vocalists, so far this year.[...]

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Band / Artist : General Fuzz - mySpaceGenre : Down-tempo / Electronica / IDMSample Track Download : Flow TaterBuy CD : N/AFree Digital Download : Artists StoreRating : 9.5 out of 10I'm constantly amazed at the amount of amazing music I discover. I'm also occasionally amazed at the amount of artists that give away their music for free. I first reviewed General Fuzz back in September, with his great Messy's Place album. I was totally blown away then, by the album that I'd found on my hard disk, with no recollection of downloading it. This time around however, I was conciously looking at his site, hoping that there would be something new, as I've done several times before. A few weeks ago I hit pay dirt and this is the album, that in his own words, when talking about his music "...raising the bar for free quality music a little higher". I have to disagree a little. This doesn't raise the bar a little, it elevates it into the stratosphere.As with the previous album, the majority of the tracks weigh in at between 4 and 6 minutes, but there's a few of the 11 tracks at around the 3 minute mark, the first track "Acclimate" being one of them. Man, what a way to begin an album. For anyone not familiar with General Fuzz's music, it's a kind of mix between Vangelis, Sven Vath and Tangerine Dream. Very atmospheric, moody and infectious as hell."Flow Tater" is a very interesting track, that feels somewhat disjointed, having several very distinctive sections, but they flow beautifully. "Fugal" continues to evolve the album's sound, but that signature, is still omnipresent, as if it were scripted in gold. "Reasonable Ability" is one of those tracks that's a feast for your ears, especially when you listen using headphones. Again new influences are introduced with the track "Cliff Notes", with distinctive Indian drums, that add flavor, rather than conflicting sounds.The album finishes off with "Acoustic Junction", one of the mellower tracks and a great way to put an album to bed. You can't help but feel you've listened to something rather special and indeed this is an album that has an interesting story. Every track has had different artists collaborating with General Fuzz, which accounts for the little twists and deviations throughout. If you go to the website you can read the story behind each track.Conclusion : There's just no excuse for not checking out this phenomenal artists. So far I've reviewed two of the artists 4 albums. All of them are available for free. In giving this album a 9.5, I've left myself very little room to manoeuvre should his future albums continue to improve. What do I care, I'll worry about that with each subsequent release.I can't help feeling that General Fuzz is either a crackpot for giving his music away for free, or just a philanthropist, because this is one of the biggest cases of sharing the wealth.[...]

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(image) I have to be honest. I heard one track from the album via the Dark Compass podcast and thought, "That's an interesting sound". When I got the album in, I don't think I was quite prepared for what unraveled from my CD player. Actually that's probably an understatement. When I put the album on, I think my shy reserved side, had a stroke and my darker side got a bit overloaded. This certainly isn't an album, you put on for light relief, or maybe it is, depending on what floats your boat.

Consequently, unreasonably or not, the CD dropped down in the review pecking order, not because it wasn't good, but rather I wasn't quite ready to review it. A good while passed and I found myself listening to the album again with fresh ears. As sometimes happens, with an album that jars me first time around, this time around I was ready, almost eager to get my teeth into it and it's almost like my aural senses have been reborn.

I'm sure anyone who is familiar with Morgan's work, will understand some people will find it aloof, almost unapproachable. I'm sure a lot of this is down to the almost dramastic (a word I made up, many moons ago, when I combined dramatic with drastic), theatrical underpinnings. At time it reminds me a lot of Kate Bush, but here there is a much darker side. This darker side feels very sexual, almost ritualistic. Don't get me wrong, this isn't an album for perverts, only that it has a very adult feel to it.

The album opens with "The King", which probably isn't the lightest way to open an album, but second time around, I found my self being drawn in, no not drawn in, more like dragged, but with my aural fingers letting go, without much of a fight. "La Mer Enchante" begins with the most gorgeous, operatic vocals. This is probably the track that should have opened the album. "Nice Day" is an interesting track, with a real sense of almost fragile sanity. Deliciously fractured.

The later half of the album, is a lot more relaxed, but it still has a quantifiably dark edge. The album rounds off with "Sonnet" a weighty 7 minutes, or there abouts.

This is an album that drags you in, roughs you up and then casts you aside, but you can't help coming back for more. Delicious.

Conclusion : This is a difficult album to recommend. Not that I don't whole heartedly love it, but it's one that may take you a while to really appreciate. Well worth it though.