Dungen – 4

If understanding Swedish were as easy as eating Swedish fish, I’m sure more people would know about indie folk rock group Dungen. However, while I didn’t even dare to translate their latest album, 4, it is clear from the instrumental arrangement and the sound of Gustav Ejstes voice that this band is just as sweet as the candy.

The language barrier isn’t too much of a problem as many of the songs are mostly instrumental like the flute-driven “Marleras Finest” and “Fredag.”

The instrumentation on this album makes use of strings, flutes, xylophones, piano and horns. The arrangement reminds me a lot of songs you’d expect to hear in the classic television program “Charlie’s Angels.”

My main criticism of this album is that for a record filled with such flowy songs, the transition between many of them is very abrupt like that from “Det Tar Tid” into the rockier “Samtidigt 1.” I don’t think it would have been too hard for the band to improve this movement. Also, perhaps it is the language barrier, but I found it difficult to pick up on the connection between “Samtidigt 1” and “Samtidigt 2.”

Broaden your knowledge of European artists and dare to listen to songs in another language. 4 is available now.

Tracklisting:
01. Satt Att Se
02. Marleras Finest
03. Det Tar Tid
04. Samtidigt 1
05. Ingenting Ar Sig Likt
06. Fredag
07. Finns Det Nagon Majilighet
08. Mina Damer Och Fasaner
09. Samtidigt 2
10. Bandhagen

Dungen: website | myspace

Written by: Bethany

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Katy Mae – You May Already Be A Winner

“May” is the keyword and You May Already Be A Winner is not a winner of a release by country-rockers Katy Mae. There’s potential with this group that wants to bridge the gap between straight up rock and roll and country, but on their EP, this effort comes off as a little contrived. There are some positive messages in the lyrics about picking oneself up and knowing you’re not alone if you have a shitty day, but the delivery of these messages is presented in a way that is downright formulaic.

Philip Doucet does have some nice vocal moments. I really like when the vocal duty finally receives some variation on “Let Me Bring You Down.” This song brings me back to the 90s. However, these good vocals are often buried in the more noticeable, poor ones like when Doucet holds out “night” on “Dust of My Friends.”

Sometimes my dislike for the broken vocal pitches typical of country music tainted my view of some of the songs, but, setting that aside, “Two Dollars Late” is a rock song with a huge build-up. Instrumental build-up is something the band is quite skilled at and they do this again on many of the other songs. I also really like the variances in title track, “You May Already Be A Winner.”

You May Already Be A Winner is available now.

Tracklisting:
01. Two Dollars Late
02. Falls Down
03. Dust of My Friends
04. You May Already Be A Winner
05. Let Me Bring You Down

Katy Mae: website | myspace

Written by: Bethany

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The (International) Noise Conspiracy – The Cross of My Calling

With 2008 being a big election year in the United States, punk rockers The (International) Noise Conspiracy, never ones to miss out on political fun, are releasing their latest album The Cross of My Calling this November.

Although from Sweden, these boys have plenty to say about American life and politics. If the title didn’t give it away, “Washington Bullets” is one such song. However, many other songs have the American focus, too. On “Storm the Gates of Beverly Hills,” singer Dennis Lyxzén repeats, “All this shit is making us ill,” to drive his point home.

The aspect that most impresses me about this album, is the band’s ability to mix religious and political imagery-there’s no separation of Church and State here. The title itself, The Cross of My Calling, bares the religious implications and leading up to the “Interlude,” the band talks about following God before the second half of the album shows them giving into Satan and society’s materialistic tendencies.

“Child of God” works with “Interlude” to transition into the second half of the album. The succumbing to Satan is quite clear after a long instrumental break and the vocals returning saying he’ll be the “sinner,” “snake” and “seducer.” This song is followed by the angrier second half of the album which references the devil more.

If you’re a fan of punk rock in the vein of Bad Religion be sure to grab yourself a copy of The (International) Noise Conspiracy’s The Cross of My Calling out November 25 on Vagrant Records.

Tracklisting:
01. Intro
02. Assassination of Myself
03. Dustbins of History
04. Arm Yourself
05. Hiroshima Mon Amor
06. Boredom of Safety
07. Child of God
08. Interlude
09. I Am the Dynamite
10. Washington Bullets
11. Satan Made the Deal
12. Storm the Gates of Beverly Hills
13. Black September
14. Cross of My Calling

The (International) Noise Conspiracy: website | myspace

Written by: Bethany

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Brooke Waggoner – Heal For The Honey

Brooke Waggoner is something of a musical prodigy. She first started tapping the ivory keys at the youthful age of 4 and composed her first song at the age of 10. Still young in her early 20s, which is felt in the lightness of her musical tones, Waggoner has released her debut album, Heal for the Honey. The record follows on the heels of her first EP, Fresh Pair of Eyes.

The music, beautiful and soft, is crowned by her use of the piano, which Waggoner plays as a delicate extension of herself. It stands far and above any other piano compositions of other bands today: isolated, strong and complex. Because of this, Waggoner’s voice never takes control of her songs; it is secondary to the piano, which resonates as a distinct character of its own. Her voice is a hushed, afterthought that sleeks in comfortably.

The album delivers a melancholy, pensive feel. The kind of record you’d throw on in the evening while the rain splatters on the city streets below and you introspectively peer out the window, observing the storm outside. This seems apt, as according to Waggoner, the album is about healing and renewal.

The use of instruments is diverse and creative in her work. The touch of horns lends a power and control to otherwise soft and forlorn tracks. Violins add grandeur to numbers that otherwise lack depth. Yet, the bouncing piano keys remain the most joyful and calming part of each song.

The only aspect that hurts the album is that many of the songs blend into one another and lack a distinctive feel. Because of this slight repetition, some tracks lose their originality and individual character, making the album a musical piece you’d put on in the background rather than listen to intently.

“The Wrong” is a soft, soulful emotional ballad that is reminiscent of Elton John‘s “Your Song”. Its strength lies in Waggoner’s tender and inviting voice. “Colorbloods” is a potent, introspective song where each piano note drives deep enough to reach into any hidden emotion. “Beaut” is a faster track that is propelled through the delicate pressing of piano keys that feels like a rainy English afternoon, eventually revealing Waggoner’s lighthearted and coquettish side.

Heal For The Honey was released on September 9th by SwoonMoon Music.

Tracklisting:
01. Lung Speed, Lung Sped
02. Beaut
03. Heal for the Honey
04. Young Friend
05. Tender Mending
06. Daylover
07. Live for the Sounds
08. Colorbloods
09. The Wrong
10. Come Love, See My Hands
11. Fresh Pair of Eyes (Eyes o’ Eyes Remix)

Brooke Waggoner: website | myspace | interview with | Fresh Pair of Eyes review

Written by: Ali Hussain

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Joshua Radin – Simple Times

Would you like some cheese to go with that Iron & Wine? If so, Joshua Radin will be more than happy to oblige. Arriving two years after his Zach Braff-endorsed debut We Were Here, the all-too-aptly titled Simple Times doesn’t appear to have moved too far away from wherever Here was. Like that album, it’s another inoffensive, uninspiring set of indistinguishable love songs that range from subtle to slight to saccharine.

Maybe I’m being too hard on him. After all, there are more than a few hints of actual potential scattered throughout this effort. “Vegetable Car” is a valiant stab at tongue-in-cheek that proves Radin capable of genuine wit with a little more practice, while “You’ve Got Some Growin’ Up to Do” – in spite of its unintentionally self-deprecating title – is a charming duet with Patty Griffin. Griffin’s participation, as well as contributions from several other female singers (Schuyler Fisk, Meiko, Erin McCarley) elsewhere on the album, evokes a more willowy Rilo Kiley, and makes it all the more frustrating that Radin’s potential peeking through the blandness is never fully realized.

Instead, listeners are treated to the same whispery folk platitudes of countless Jason Mraz doppelgangers before him. Then there are songs like “Sky” that can’t even be bothered to reproduce those, coasting by on clichéd choruses of “Oh oh’s” and “Ah ah’s.” Radin clearly knows his way around an acoustic guitar, and has a suitably sweet voice for the material, but his singing often straddles a thin-to-the-point-of-non-existent line between soft and soporific, almost as if he has a harder time believing the sincerity of his songs than we do.

Simple Times should not have to call for simple music. After all, love is many things, but seldom if ever simple. The sooner that Jason… I mean Joshua realizes this, the better his future output will be.

Tracklisting:
01. One Of Those Days
02. I’d Rather Be With You
03. Sky
04. Friend Like You
05. Brand New Day
06. They Bring Me To You
07. Vegetable
08. Free Of Me
09. You Got Growin’ Up To Do
10. We Are Okay
11. No Envy No Fear

Joshua Radin: website | myspace

Written by: Rob Huff

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Sebastien Grainger – Sebastien Grainger & the Mountains

Canadian solo musician Sebastien Grainger, better known for his part (vocals, drums) in the dance rock duo Death From Above 1979, has something to say, and he is going to tell you October 21 with a little help from Saddle Creek. Grainger is looking for some post DFA1979 success, like that seen with Jesse F. Keeler’s new project MSTRKRFT. With that said, one big question is left in the air. Will this forthcoming album, Sebastien Grainger & the Mountains, live up to the hype and expectation given to us from his American Names EP released earlier this year?

Grainger’s new album starts right off the bat with the DFA sound observable in the first track “Love Can Be So Mean,” yet without the pick-dragging/ loose change feel, it seems to be more refined. This songwriting virtuoso brings it down to earth with songs like “(Are There) Ways to Come Home” and “Love is Not a Contest,” with unexpected instruments like the piano and cooling vocals that remind me slightly of The Killers.

The album ends strong with songs like “American Names” and “Meet New Friends,” echoing that, oh-so-familiar DFA high-hat and drum beat radiating off of the skins. Locking this wonderful set of songs down at the end is my personal favorite “Renegade Silence.” Featuring The Rhythm Method (Sebastien’s side project), he turns the tone a little more electric and brings a pulsing, dancing beat (tambourine included).

Sebastien Grainger will get that well deserved success and is definitely going to be raising an eyebrow or two. I have a feeling that he will be around to blow minds for years to come, and make quite a name for himself in the music industry. You should check out his new album. We can’t say what will happen if you don’t.

Tracklisting:
01. Love Can Be So Mean
02. Who Do We Care For?
03. By Cover of Night (Fire Fight)
04. I’m All Rage ( Live ’05)
05. I Hate My Friends
06. (Are There) Ways to Come Home?
07. Niagara
08. ( I am Like a) River
09. Love Is Not a Contest
10. American Names
11. Meet New Friends
12. Renegade Silence (feat. The Rhythm Method)

Sebastien Grainger: website | myspace

Written by: Joe Gotschall

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Jay Reatard – Matador Singles ’08

While there are pop artists that are bringing sexy back, Jay Reatard may quite possibly be the man to bring punk back from the dead to the ears of the living.

Jay Reatard is a punk-garage band from Memphis, Tennessee with a new album that came out October 7. The music on this album, which is titled Matador Singles ’08, is short, but most defiantly not sweet. This is true, because punk is calcified as anything but sweet, and in most cases it is sour. This album’s sound is a very raw recorded album, which gives off the same kind of vibe that you would get from playing old punk records like Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, or any of the early Clash records.

Jay Reatard’s vocals in his album have some what of a grunge version of the vocals from Cheap Trick in a few of the songs off this new album, such as the song “Always Wanting More.” The music in every song on this album has a fast paced, up beat tempo and is full of energy, which I can imagine, is transferred from sound and the movement of the people.

If you are a lover of punk, defiantly check this man’s music out.

Tracklisting:
01. See Saw
02. Screaming Hand
03. Painted Shut
04. An Ugly Death
05. Always Wanting More
06. You Mean Nothing to Me
07. Flourescent Grey
08. Trapped Here
09. Hiding Hole
10. D.O.A.
11. No Time
12. You Were Sleeping
13. I’m Watching You

Jay Reatard: website | myspace

Written by: Kyle Thurin

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