MUSIC REVIEWS: Ted Leo, Hayaino Daisuke, Droids Attack, Gabriel Johnson, Blockhead, EarthRise SoundSystem, The Sunstreak, Elizabeth Fraser

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
The Brutalist Bricks

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If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. These are the words that Ted Leo lives by. And while he does believe there are things that need fixing (i.e., the government), his trademark sound is just as it always was. The Brutalist Bricks is yet another album of up-tempo power pop with a strong punk influence. From the opening bars of “The Mighty Sparrow” you hear that familiar voice, always in top form, and a typically pharmaceutical melody. This is both a good and a bad thing. It’s nice to have someone you can count on in the music world to always give his audience what they want at a certain standard of quality but you also don’t always want to know exactly what to expect.

It’s good to hear Ted and the boys really rock out and show some of his hardcore roots on songs like “The Stick” and “Where Was My Brain?” However most of the album consists of his usual catchy pop, though I can’t think of anyone else who would put lines like, “The means of production are now in the hands of the workers” or “There was a resolution pending on the United Nations floor” into a catchy pop song. The latter line comes from the excellent “Bottled Up in Cork,” an instant Ted Leo classic that sounds like he’s been listening to the World/Inferno Friendship Society. The World/Inferno influence is even more evident in the deep croon Leo employs on “One Polaroid a Day.” “Tuberculoids Arrive in Hop” got my attention for sounding like a Neil Young ballad. It’s nothing too special but hey, it’s different. All in all though, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists don’t have to be different. As the albums reaches it’s home stretch I still groove like I always do when listening to them. It’s not another Hearts of Oak but its a damn good album and in Leo’s case, good news is better than no news.

Jonathan Zuckerman

Hayaino Daisuki
The Invincible Gate Mind of the Infernal Fire Hell, or Did You Mean Hawaii Daisuke?

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Hayaino Daisuki’s EP release, The Invincible Gate Mind of the Infernal Fire Hell, or Did You Mean Hawaii Daisuke?, explodes straight out of the gate and doesn’t let up for a second. In fact, the songs are so fast that the album is almost over by the time you’re finally done just reading the title of this release.

Despite the lightning speed of each song, Hayaino Daisuki manages to cover several genres of metal in a short amount of time. Everything from Power Metal, Grindcore, Thrash and Death Metal can be found confined within each track, which average about three minutes in length.

There is some top notch guitar playing here, with very intricate riffing and blazing solos that will most certainly melt your face. And I may be mistaken but I’m convinced that their drummer is a Red Bull drinking octopus. How else could someone play that fast all over the drum kit in one sitting?

For me, the only weak point of the EP would have to be the vocals. It’s basically just screaming, which is fine sometimes, but I felt the intensity of Hayaino Daisuki’s music needed more. I’m not sure if clean vocals would be the missing element but perhaps a different type of screaming approach. Yes, music fans, there are many different types of screaming vocal possibilities out there. Regardless, this is definitely worth checking out.

E. Grey

Droids Attack
Must Destroy
(Crustacean Records)

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Be sure to duck and cover when the Droids Attack! Armageddon strikes early with these metal heads from the cheese state! The new release entitled Must Destroy is chunked full of metal attitude to satisfy ones appetite for heavy riffs and droning guitars! When listening to this album, you definitely get the feel of Melvins fury mixed with a layer of stoner rock the likes of Clutch and Corrosion of Conformity. The record kicks off with the title track “The Unforgiven” an instrumental track which would make The Melvins proud. Another favorite track of mine is “The Crisis In The City” a rockin’ track to get your body groovin’ and your head bangin’. Overall the record is pretty solid and is definitely worthy of being added to ones Mp3 collection!

Michael Santarpia

Gabriel Johnson
(Electrofone Music)

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The moody haunt of experimental electronic jazz moves against arena echoed bass drums that emerge from the post-modern eclipse of Fra_ctured. Elegantly remorseful inflections on “And Then It Was Over” rolls adjacent to tunes steeped in avant garde jazz, while more barbaric, city dwelling urban mole anthems abound on tunes such as “VTFO.” There is a lonely trumpet solo against fumes of smoke and a fallen city. Rumble stone bass and drum dictate, “Charisma Machine,” a more R&B leaned out, mid tempo jam where the snare rattles out against itself. The industrialized movement is heavy and arrogantly stretched. The make-up of Fra_ctured is similar to writing something as graceful as calligraphy with a pen running out of ink. Instrumentation dips in and out of view like chords that start in and leave out and pick back up again. The ink, hence, the fuel of Fra_ctured unlike an ink pen, never runs dry. Gabriel Johnson, based out of Los Angeles, began playing trumpet at eleven years old. He soon landed meetings with Clint Eastwood, and now his music can be found in the feature films, The Changeling and Invictus. His elegance as a trumpeter mixed with his gauge for electronic music makes Fra_ctured an album incredibly atmospheric and cutting edge.

Chanda Jones

The Music Scene
(Ninja Tune)

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Having produced tracks for indie artists such as Aesop Rock, Murs and Mike Ladd as well as being a part of the music collective Fun Action Committee, Blockhead’s latest project is an eclectic mix of mellow tunes culled from a wide array of jazz, funk, and obscure vocal samples. Most notably, his use of Fapardokly’s 1966 classic, “The Music Scene” for the album’s name and title track.

With a heavy beat on the jump and a hint of drum n bass at the end, the intro song “It’s Raining Clouds” is a great journey into the Manhattan-bred DJ-producer’s mind. Anthony Simon blends hip hop with the smooth sensibilities of downtempo, making it a uniquely dope album.

Other standouts: “The Daily Routine” with its gritty beat and vulgar dialogue between what appears to be a couple in love (or not) is classic material. Not only does Blockhead create some fresh sounds, his knack for naming tracks is out of the ordinary: “Which One Of You Jerks Drank My Arnold Palmer,” “The Prettiest Sea Slug,” “Tricky Turtle,” “Hell Camp” and “Farewell Spaceman.”

Nonetheless, as part of the UK-based Ninja Tune label, The Music Scene is the indie producer’s third LP, following Downtown Science (2005) and his solo debut, Music By Cavelight (2004).

ND McCray

EarthRise SoundSystem
The Yoga Sessions
(Yoga Organix/White Swan)

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Seeking to reinvent standard yoga music, Derek Beres and Duke Mushroom created The Yoga Sessions, a hot and sweaty tour de force of global funk fusion and ambient soul. A powerhouse of perfectly crafted organic bohemian tracks that move with tribal hypnotic grooves and gorgeous spatterings of healthy, preservative-free lustful, sensual, steamy yearnings of music and vocals. One of the most engaging vocalists of our time, and product of Jamaica Queens, New York, former yoga teacher and world renowned singer, Morley begins the album with “Intention” a stripped down showcase of her rare gem of a voice. On “Embrace,” gentle early morning acoustic guitar blankets her voice with a sweet, sun-kissed charm. There is a precious delicacy to the soft strings and the slightly wistful violins. “Ajnabee,” featuring Go-Ray is a jaunting harmonious beat heavy track. The reverberation of bass is dark and moody. “Daylight as Sunset,” featuring Lucy Woodward yearns back to the sexy vibrancy of vintage soul music. Lucy Woodward’s voice is ultimately remarkable and the music is accented sensually with mixes of dub beats and rhythm and blues. “Marom,” featuring Basya Schechter is reggae-infused. The vocals melt against a wicked rhythmic aptitude. Schechter’s rich luminous voice moves dramatically thick against a melodramatic beauty. The Yoga Sessions is not an average album. Remarkably funky, soulful and expansive, it is easily rich in musical dynamics for yoga and beyond. The beats are so refined, the vocal performances are so electrifying, The Yoga Sessions, is a music lover’s dream.

Chanda Jones

The Sunstreak
Once Upon A Lie
(Stay Streakin’ Publishing)

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Take the Goo Goo Dolls and ask them to aim for a younger audience, here you will get The Sunstreak. Once Upon A Lie is hauntingly like many other bands who spend an entire album tortured by a girl. With the right output I think they could be massively popular, this is predominantly because I get a commercial vibe. “Here I Go Again” depicts a broken man looking for ways to keep a girl, “My words are growing old and all I need to do, is find a new way to say ‘I love you.’” If The Sunstreak’s target audience is aimed at a high school crowd the band is on the right track. However for anyone over seventeen, this album won’t cut it as a late-night shoulder to hang on to.

Miranda Dillworth

Elizabeth Fraser
Moses EP
(Rough Trade)

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I first fell in love with Elizabeth Fraser during a moment I had with “Heaven or Las Vegas,” a song performed by her former band, The Cocteau Twins. Then I became immersed in her solo and collaborative work when I heard her sing “This Love” with Craig Armstrong, on the soundtrack to Cruel Intentions. The epitome of Fraser’s vocals for me, however, was within Massive Attack’s “Teardrop;” aka one of the most beautifully written songs ever, that for some reason was chosen as the theme song for House.

No matter what musical setting or format, Fraser undoubtedly has a voice worth remembering, and only a few females have been able to do this successfully, especially within an ambient, shoe gaze or abstract genre. Moses is one of the first times in a long time that fans get to see Fraser’s solo side. It is a limited edition, UK twelve inch vinyl pressing of the single, which contains three different versions of the original. The Original mix is probably my favorite, with the Spaceland Mix and Thighpaulsandra Mix revealing a more ominous and electronic version of the track. Apparently this song was written as a tribute from Fraser to the late Jake Drake-Brockman, also known as the keyboardist for Echo and the Bunnymen. Brockman died in a motorcycle accident in September 2009.

Lucy Tonic

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