MUSIC REVIEWS: The Dimes, The Fall of Troy, Chuck & Albert, Wildbirds and Peacedrums, Watcha Clan, Kurt Vile, Kittens Ablaze, Jer Coons
This is a mellow album, perfect for those lazy sunny afternoons. To say that it sounds a bit like The Beatles, is pretty much right on target. There’s nothing surprising or crazy here, except maybe a whole album devoted to the history of Boston and some of its more famous inhabitants and locations. The Dimes’ singer and songwriter Johnny Clay came up with the idea to write about historic Boston, which is also the hometown of guitarist Pierre Kaiser, following up on their previous debut album The Silent Generation, inspired by old newspapers found in Kaiser’s floorboard.
In The King Can Drink The Harbor Dry, there are songs about Clara Barton, a nurse during the Civil War who later found the Red-Cross, Susan B. Anthony, Mary Dyer, and more famous streets like Charles Street. Despite this being a concept album devoted to an entire city, I really do like the album. The songwriting is clever and charming. There’s an earnest quality to the lyrics that makes it enjoyable to listen to. The music is harmonious and melodious – where the sum of all the parts, including the gentle vocals, acoustical guitars, soft percussion line, and even the use of the harmonica, really do fit together to create a much greater whole.
The musical style is indie folksy, mid-tempo, and pleasantly easy on the ears. Although the writing and musical sounds do seem refreshingly simple and innocent, there is a depth and quality to the arrangement and lyrical composition that gives it substance. It’s the type of album that is both relaxing and upbeat, but also thoughtful and intelligent. Even though the tracks are solid and consistent throughout, it doesn’t come off as boring nor predictable to me, but more cohesive and well-executed. Count me in as a fan. Sometimes easy is super nice.
The Fall of Troy is a three-piece band from the Seattle, Washington area, whose sound runs the gamut of Prog-Rock, all types of metal from Mathcore to Thrash and the occasional touch of mainstream Hard Rock. In The Unlikely Event, their fourth feature-length release, finds them creatively weaving through numerous landscapes that can often be groove-oriented and then without warning you’re getting your face melted by a heavy, blazing guitar riff. The same can be said for the vocals which are at times, clean and very accessible only to evolve into shrill screams seconds later.
Overall, the band has flashes of Coheed & Cambria, My Chemical Romance, Between The Buried and Me, Dream Theater and The Mars Volta, sometimes all within the same song. It makes for quite an interesting mix all the way through.
The album kicks off with “Panic Attack!”, which is the perfect title for a song that is all over the place with so much energy and intricate musicianship that those with the ears to keep up will be impressed right way. Singer/Guitarist, Thomas Erak, definitely knows his way around the fretboard of his guitar and the rhythm section of Andrew Forsman (Drums; Percussion) and Frank Ene (Bass) hold things down with dominance, providing a tight backline.
With legendary rock/metal producer, Terry Date, at the helm In The Unlikely Event has a crisp, full sound you wouldn’t imagine is coming from only a trio. Then again, this is the guy who made the sound of Pantera’s guitarist, the late-Dimebag Darrell, sound bigger than life itself. It’s no coincidence that Date has also worked with such bands as Dream Theater and Incubus that The Fall of Troy could easily share a stage with.
Things mellow out a bit towards the end of the album but for the most part In The Unlikely Event is a heavy, stellar piece of work from a band that although established is still very young and will probably continue to grow with each release.
I can’t tell you what Chuck and Albert Arsenault are singing about but they were nice enough to include the English translation (and some background) of each of the 13 songs on Énergie. The tunes might be energetic, employing the duo’s two-man fiddle/acoustic guitar/vocal interplay and harmonies but they are not all that varied…at least not enough for my jaded ears. If the guys were singing in English it might be easier for me to discern some differences (at least in the lyrics) but for me there’s not much difference (at least musically) between the fiddle happy, “Danse le caoutchouc (Dance Like Rubber),” the jaunty folk of “Moi et mes freres (Me and my brothers)” or “Set a’ mon pere’ (My Father’s Tunes).” Harmonica wails in a few though, like “Dans la ville d’Egmont-Baie (In The Village Of Egmont Bay)” the harmonica takes an especially solid lead.
There’s some nice slower tunes amongst the French-Acadian tunes and 400 year- old melodies. “Le retour de l’amant (The lover’s return)” is really nice, but Chuck & Albert don’t have the strongest voices, though they do mix well and are competent. Out of all the tunes on Énergie, I’d say the one with the nicest melody is “En devirant le coin d’la rue (While Turning the corner)” and the last one, “Set du pigeon (The pigeon set)” moves the most for me.
Imagine a parallel universe where the White Stripes exist. But things aren’t quite right. They’re still married, but Jack White plays the drums, and Meg White sings. There’s very little guitar. They’re from Sweden. They have different names: Miriam Wallentin and Andreas Werllin. Oh, and they’re terrible.
Oh God, are they terrible. And what’s worse..it’s not a parallel universe! It’s an actual two piece band called Wildbirds and Peacedrums. They’re newest release The Snake is an exercise in overartsiness running wild: 10 tracks of Miriam Wallentin staying barely in key while warbling and wailing over some uninspired drumming by bandmate/husband Andreas. The album immediately loses points for going with a chanted uninspired opening number, “Island.” It’s a droning chant that might be acceptable if the band were Gregorian monks. They’re not. Moving on to the next track, is where things get really obnoxious as Miriam Wallentin does some exceptionally noiseome and arduous wailing over tribal drums. I guess they’re going for experimental/artsy here. They fail. What they do succeed in is creating an amazing atmosphere of jackass. Other fine examples of this include “Today/Tommorrow” and “Places.”
Here’s a random Miriam Walentin lyric: “arghrrrghghalllllrrgghhghglllllrhghlalghhhllll”
The only decent part of the album is on “Great Lines” when they add some additional instrumentation (Hey guitars, what a concept!) to the arrangement and Miriam manages to stay in tune. I’m pretty sure there’s a band out there that can pull off just vocals and drums. Unfortunately Wildbirds and Peacedrums are not that band.
Watcha Clan released “Diaspora Hi-Fi” in 2008 and lately allowed their album to fall prey to several different artists, such as Paris’s DJ Click, the Balkan, Shazalakazoo, as well as London’s Transglobal Underground, hence “Diaspora Remixed.” “Goumari” remixed by New York based EarthRise Sound System is a wonderfully earth friendly, organically magnificent techno-trance full of chorally layered vocals and a liltingly fun percussive driven chant track. The macrobiotic electric crisp is sonically wholesome. While Shazalakazoo’s version is purely rapid fire drums over hot as fire electric guitar riffs and a vertigo ready frenetic drum n’ bass assault so fast it trips over itself like loose shoe strings. The ethereal fuzz of guitar is the only thing that allows one to know none of this was done by mistake. France’s Undergang lends it hand to “Diaspora Dub” an oily slick industrial pouncing that matches the raw strength of Sista K’s vocals while she plays both the songstress and the lyrical poet.
Watcha Clan also consists of Clem, Matt and Soupa Ju. Openness and freedom seems to be this group’s creed as well as their ability to devastate many funky rhythm corners spelled out in French, Arabic, Hebrew and English. DJ Click’s version of “Gourmari” begins with creepy keys that move against a pulsating Jamaican-dub vibe. Steamy and hot, this song is guaranteed to crowd any dance floor. Short yet blistering guitars spiral alongside a choral mantra psychosis that tests dance endurance. The warmth of the low end strings, the demented chops of violin layered over stomp drums is creatively stunning. The fact that Watcha Clan can boast different versions of some of the same songs adds testament to the craft of excellent djs as well as a band who has laid such magnificent tracks to begin with.
Besides being the lead guitarist for The War on Drugs and a member of The Violators, Kurt Vile is also a solo artist, and this Philadelphia native displays immensely unique talent within his third creation, Childish Prodigy. One could easily classify this album as indie-folk but only for lack of a more descriptive genre.
Vile’s MySpace page describes his sound as “When you wake from a long and glorious slumber, then you realize you don’t have to go to work, then you fall back into long and glorious slumber…” Specifically, I’d place Childish Prodigy in the same vein as Pete Yorn and Jeff Buckley, with the lyrical style of Bob Dylan and vocals resembling Iggy Pop and Lou Reed. Nonetheless, this album refreshingly strays from the cookie-cutter studio sound that most bands in the “indie” category tend to produce.
Opening track “Hunchback” is the perfect preview for what’s to come; a mix of menacing, distorted guitars aligned with different patterns of percussion and keys. “Blackberry Song” is the perfect, bittersweet driving tune, while “Monkey” reflects why many have compared Vile to Tom Petty, although the keys and structure of this song remind me of tracks by Oasis and The Verve. With lyrics like “You better get your head; re-screw it on” and “You tell me a good man is hard to find. Well, what are you blind?”, “Heart Attack” and “Dead Alive” are my favorite tracks on this album, if only for the Dylan/Buckley association being most prevalent here.
Vile’s often indefinable sound is probably to blame for the frequent comparison of his music to that of other great artists. However, I hope he takes this as a compliment, because there really is no need for conventional and definable music these days.
Kittens Ablaze is the deﬁnition of a modern day musical masterpiece. The combination of emotions is addicting, and refreshing. With songs like “Gloom Doom Buttercups” and lyrics that seep through the speakers causing your bones to melt and want to dance all around. The self produced new album The Monstrous Vanguard is like diving into the thoughts of a brilliant mind as it brushes the lips of emotions we all wish we could hold long enough to truly feel. This band is reintroducing the pulsation of a heartbeat to the art and music world. They are talented and drowning in passion with songs that can be left on repeat for days without end. The record is pure perfection. Like a canvas brought to life, it’s captivating and intriguing. Listening to each track made me feel like I was seeing color for the first time from a life of black and white. It’s slow and deep enough to whisper, yet its beats are ﬁlled with all the life of a Saturday night dance party. Each song gives birth to a poetry form only the greats can tell. To sum it up, it’s like ﬁnding a chocolate cake in fat camp! It’s simply indie-licious, with layers of meaning and beats that ooze of dance ﬂoor worthiness. This Brooklyn six piece band is bringing it like the rent is due, so shine up your dancing shoes and check out The Monstrous Vanguard.
Jer Coons has little need to invent some catchy stage name since his parents apparently did that for him. I guess they knew their boy would grow up strumming, writing, touring, and strumming some more. But, while having a cool name might slightly increase the odds of your staying power, life in the music business is really about having songs with enough pull to move people somewhere else. On this album, Jer just about delivers that.
Jer has obviously kept himself busy crafting catchy pop tunes with decent melodies. He also has the perfect voice to carry the day. However, based on the samples on his website (JerCoons.com), it seems that his writing has only achieved the nice and glossy stage. There seems to be a lack of raw, naked emotion. I’d hate to see this guy end up writing tunes only fit for an elevator, which would just seem like something got lost along the way. I think there is more talent there and I await the day that it shines forth.
Right now, he’s busy knocking the East coast into shape; out there hitting the streets and coming soon to a city near you, or maybe even your city. Jer is doing his part. Are you doing yours?
Oh yeah, one of his tunes is getting played in all of Hollister’s clothing stores but I ain’t going to tell you which one. You’re going to have to do yourself a favor and check out his website for that. A pair of jeans, a t-shirt and an acoustic guitar, did rock’n’roll ever need anything more? Not when you have the likes of Jer Coons keeping it tight and focused.
LISTEN + DOWNLOAD
Jer Coons – I Want you Back (Jackson 5 cover)