Monday, September 29, 2014

Review: The Glass Child - I Must Be Gone And Live, Or Stay And Die

Let’s be honest, the life of a music reviewer isn’t one that’s laden with too many perks. Granted, we get to hear many albums prior to release date and get kept in the loop a little bit more than the general public on musical happenings here and there but we’re also tasked with meeting deadlines, trying to write intelligently about the albums, and are constantly on the lookout for new synonyms to color our reviews. Add in the stellar pay rate (sarcasm fully intended) and you might find yourself wondering while we even bother, right?

Artists like The Glass Child are exactly why reviewers keep writing, for the sheer opportunity to run across an artist with such great promise that you’re sure to find yourself saying one day, “Yeah, I was listening to them back in the day.” Yes, friends, The Glass Child and her latest release, I Must Be Gone And Live, Or Stay And Die is that type of album, the elusive diamond in the rough that helps keep reviewers like me going when all the music threatens to sound the same.
Yes, kids, it’s a great album and is one you’ll be glad to give a listen to when you get a chance.
The Glass Child, better known to her friends and family as Charlotte Eriksson, is an artist who gives new life to the concept of fully believing in her dream, leaving home at the tender age of eighteen to move to London, dedicating herself mind, body, and soul to her craft. And over four years, largely due to her ability to harness the power of social media, the artist has released five EPs and a full length record, scored high on the charts, and is now set to release her latest offering, I Must Be Gone And Live, Or Stay And Die.
Eriksson operates in a creative space that’s very alternative pop, drawing favorable comparisons to artists like Florence and the Machine and Paramore yet her sound is still resolutely hers as listeners will find through the thirteen tracks found here. Her voice is strong and resolute, her phrasing beyond her years, giving her a stiff leg up on the competition as she delivers soulful takes all along the way.
“The Fall” is an instant hit right off the bat with great lyrics like “I never knew that love could be/This much pain and misery” while surrounded by emotive keyboards and a warm, acoustic-based arrangement that frames the artist’s voice perfectly. Some eclectic percussion infuses “Heroes” before the artist lets loose and lets the rock out, her voice showing its full range and impressing while “Yesterday” showcases her voice against an acoustic guitar backdrop, her passion evident throughout.
“I’m Hidden So Well” is an inviting contrast between subdued tones and rocking notes, fueled with raging guitars and pounding guitars while “Winter Girls” is pleasingly experimental and atmospheric, hitting a stride at the end that presses things forward to the end. A poignant piano intro lays the groundwork for that ultimate question of youth, “Who Am I,” infusing some near reggae tones within before “London” offers up more acoustic vibes.
Relational angst colors the pulsing beat of “The Water’s Edge,” resounding guitar threads providing extra emotion as “Running Up That Hill” showcases Eriksson’s vocal creativity, layering vocals over against a sparse piano lead that is one of the more intriguing tracks to be found here. “Who I’ve Grown to Be” celebrates the artist’s journey to this point, breathing in the victory of her accomplishments and hard work with humility and honesty while “I Took His Smile Away” is a rocking explosion tempered by moments of quiet, Eriksson’s voice haunting. Things arrive at a close with an unplugged version of “The Water’s Edge,” still powerful in its stripped down setting and acoustic track, “Lonely In This Love,” which ends things on a high note.
I Must Be Gone And Live, Or Stay And Die is a great album from a wonderfully promising artist. If the Fates go the way of justice, this is an artist that we’ll all be glad to say that we were listening to back in the day for the road is bright ahead of this budding star.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Review: Barbara Lusch - Rock Me Sweet

A great song is a great song no matter what. If a song is truly great, it can transcend genres, artists, and interpretations and still deliver on its musical hook and impact with an emotional intensity. With her latest record, Rock Me Sweet, singer, model, and actress Barbara Lusch puts this theory to the test in a big way, taking on some of the biggest songs from the 80s and recreates them in a torch song setting, infusing each track with her own emotion and story. It’s a daunting task but Lusch delivers something rather interesting here for open minded listeners.
Inspired by an idea from friend and popular executive producer Tom Nunan, who suggested reinterpreting classic 80s male-fronted ballads in a jazz-flavored setting, Lusch took the idea and ran with it, drawing from eleven nostalgic classics from artists like Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, and U2, among others. The addition of Earl Sweet as arranger and orchestra leader only helped to strengthen the deal and give the recording even more polish.
Drawing from her acting experience, Lusch chose to approach these songs in a unique manner, seeking to find the unique story within each for her interpretations.
"I worked on these songs as if I were preparing a monologue,” she shares. “My acting experience has taught me story-telling techniques, and now it is so rewarding to perform this music, knowing that the lyrics have a deep significance for me and hoping this will be communicated to my audience as well."
The overall result is an album that brings something new to listeners as well as a renewed respect for Lusch of the artists whose work she draws from.
"Once we brought the tempos down, the emotions and stories contained in the lyrics emerged so clearly. I began to love these songs more and more, and to gain new admiration for the artists who conceived them,” she says.
Those emotions range from lovelorn and emotionally tortured to downright sultry and seductive from one track to another. Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me” is envisioned as a siren song, Lusch’s vocals warm and inviting, flirtatious in their delivery while “Dancing In the Dark” is treated to a slow, string-laden arrangement that tempers the lyric, putting it starkly at the front and echoing with a touch of sadness.
Bits of horn and subtle percussion color Lusch’s take on “Living on a Prayer,” the track infused almost with a touch of samba while “Sweet Child of Mine” is a light and airy affair, gentle strings and guitar pressing it forward, a far cry from the Guns ‘N’ Roses original. “Hungry Like the Wolf” is another sultry delivery, Lusch teasing listeners with the lyric and the easy going composition as “Hot Blooded” amps it up even more, rich swells of horns providing a sonic wink and a nod throughout.
“Owner of a Lonely Heart” has a blues tone to it, the horns continuing to provide added emotion alongside some smooth percussion and keys, Lusch crooning effortlessly through the track, evoking thoughts of a smoky singer in a classic pulp fiction noir. But the artist’s finest effort might be her rendition of the U2 classic, “Where the Streets Have No Name.” Engaging listeners with a tone that evokes sadness at the outset, the track builds, resonant strings providing a sense of movement before moving from sorrow to joy, Bono’s lyric as powerful here as ever.
Barbara Lusch’s Rock Me Sweet is not an album that will be for everyone but, for an adventurous listener, there’s a lot to be heard here. Taking on some daunting classics, the artist boldly dives into these eleven songs and infuses them with healthy doses of herself while maintaining the integrity of what are still great songs.

Review: Jay Soul - Stay With Me

The UK has been a hotbed of soul music singers for years, giving launch to artists like Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone, Adele, and most recently, Sam Smith, who has taken the recording world by storm. Now, South London born and raised Jay Soul is set to toss his hat into the ring, hoping that his signature style of eclectic blues, R&B, and pop will keep the trend going. 
The eldest of three siblings, Soul was raised in a single-parent home that encouraged him to pursue his talents. Among those talents was a genuine proclivity for working with technology, which the artist was able to parlay into a successful career as an IT professional. Yet, another muse also called to him, that of music. Taking time to work on his vocal skills as part of a gospel choir and later being afforded the opportunity to perform background vocals for several UK urban acts. Now, he’s stepping out of the shadows and is taking the mic into his own hands, set to deliver his own brand of Soul.
Part of that brand involves providing a dichotomy of sound, offering up some bright, sunny tones alongside darker, moodier vibes that evoke elements of the highs and lows of life, that same tone bleeding into the lyrical content as well.
“People will be surprised when they hear the album because I want to cover a broad range of subjects,” Soul shares. “It won’t just be a bland R& B album about love and relationships. It will also be about what I’ve witnessed around me, although I’m no activist. I believe in capitalism but also in presenting people with opportunities. I have been presented with opportunities but I have also looked for them. Everyone in this country is lucky in that sense." 
Soul gets things off to a strong start with the title track, framing his warm, smooth vocals against a sparse backdrop that really lets him shine. The subtle instrumentation really allows for the nuances of the artist's voice to stand out and proves to be one of the record's strongest tracks. "Any Day" takes another approach, offering up a beat-laden dance jam that lets Soul have a little fun, layering vocals and getting the party going. That's an angle that he echoes on the appropriately titled "Dance" as well, evoking thoughts of classic 90s R&B and pop jams.
"First Love" drops some more old school vibes, with rich and resonant keys highlighting Soul's tight baritone while "Get a Job" tackles some unexpected territory with a kicking groove that provides some sonic texture. But Soul is at his best when things are stripped down and "Afraid Reprised (Live)" and "Thank You" find the artist at his best, drawing both emotion and integrity into his sound.
While there are a lot of strong tracks, there are a few stumbles, namely when Soul tries to do too much as he does on "Up," the beat almost losing the richness of his voice and the layering of the vocals just feeling overwrought. Those same layering issues color "Inspiration" as well, the arrangement subdued but the layered vocal and a less than successful falsetto letting the artist down this time out.
But thankfully, those hiccups are the exception to the rule here and the whole of Jay Soul's Stay With Me showcases a bright artist on the rise. Soul evokes thoughts of an old soul while infusing plenty of his own unique charm into these songs, making this a promising debut that will have listeners hoping to hear more.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Review: The Mercy Alliance - Some Kind of Beautiful Story

Songwriter Joe Rathbone had lived in several big cities along the East Coast, hanging his hat in towns like Philadelphia, Nashville, and Atlanta. But there was something about his new home place of Washington, D.C., that simply called to him, awakening his muse and drawing him into a place of reflection and creativity. And with the help of a few old friends, Rathbone has brought those reflections to life with the September 9th release of The Mercy Alliance’s Some Kind of Beautiful Story.

Those friends include Rathbone’s longtime drummer and collaborator, David Lopez, who smooth rhythms have played foil to Rathbone’s crunchy guitar tones. Also along for the ride are some featured percussion parts from former Counting Crows drummer Steve Bowman, bassist Brad Jones, and David Henry’s string work providing the final cherry on top. Helping to keep it all together is producer Thomas Johansen.
Sonically, Some Kind of Beautiful Story toes the fine line between indie pop and rock with touches of Americana thrown in for good measure. Opening track “Washington” is a solid collision of all three, Rathbone’s sweeping composition rich and breezy, his vocals warm and accessible with gentle notes of hope throughout. In contrast, “Angel of Mercy” segues fully into indie rock mode, Rathbone’s guitars gritty throughout, grinding against a melodic lyric and kicking percussion while “All For the Love of You” keeps those hardcore guitar licks flowing, accenting them with some compelling string work.
Some old school rock textures and a moody vibe color “Moving In Time,” Rathbone and company evoking some tension with minor chords as “This Is How They Know” lightens the load, bright tones and some tasty drum work and percussive notes, with more of Henry’s strings bridging things together. “I Can’t Do It” is a simmering pop rock gem, Rathbone’s guitars playing just along the surface, their textures willing the track to just the edge and being brought back by swells of strings and his own smooth vocal delivery before “Libertine” allows him the opportunity to let the cat out of the bag, delivering a funky groove that really shines. It’s a rich, bluesy jam that showcases his flexible vocals and creative guitar work and is one of the album’s clear highlights.
“Save Me” finds things drawn back into a mid-tempo flow, Rathbone delivering some solid falsetto notes and pleading tones across lines of reaching guitar and Lopez’s consistent backbeat. And perhaps saving their greatest creative moments for the last, The Mercy Alliance close out their latest offering with “Drifting In,” a track that offers up a plodding yet engaging path, guitar feedback echoing thoughts of static reflected in the lyric as a myriad of textures build in the background. It’s a track that closes without any real resolution but, for some reason, that seems to work here.
Joe Rathbone and The Mercy Alliance have conceived of an album that is right in their wheelhouse, allowing for each component to shine while still contributing to the whole. At the forefront are Rathbone’s well-crafted lyrics and vocals, crooning throughout these nine tracks with purpose, while his guitar playing shows stellar creativity and musicianship, giving the rest of the members a launching point. And they build upon that and have crafted a worthwhile listen in Some Kind of Beautiful Story, a listen that will no doubt have many going back for more.
For more info on The Mercy Alliance and Some Kind of Beautiful Story, visit

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Review: Hello Echo - Echo

Today’s musical landscape is littered with a plethora of indie rock bands, each trying to develop and to promote that certain something that will help them rise to the top. All you have to do is screen through obscure music site after music site to see the incredible breadth of bands, all fighting to stay above water with gimmicky names and clever tricks. Yet, for rising act Hello Echo, there’s no need for tricks, gimmicks, or over-the-top antics; they simply let their music do the talking.

The band was formed when vocalist and guitarist Sean Aylward, who’d spent two years recording and touring with Apollo Sunshine, headed to the West Coast and began working on some solo material. A chance meeting with Mike Silva (drums, vocals) and Mike Sarno (bass) while on a surfing excursion in Baja, Mexico, led to an impromptu jam session and an explosion of chemistry which the trio couldn’t deny, leading to the birth of Hello Echo. Their debut release, Hello, grabbed great reviews and that’s something that’s bound to continue with the release of their sophomore project, Echo.
Drawing from a template that does recall acts like Modest Mouse and The Pixies, Hello Echo still crafts music that is altogether their own, bridging together elements of rock, folk, surf, punk, and blues, stirring it together to create a savory gumbo.

“Growing Old and Sleeping” kicks the party off to a shuffling start, the arrangement simple and almost sing-song like before giving way to the garage rock of “Country” with its big bass lines and gritty vocals. “Watch Through the Lines” connects a lot of dots, with a funky island groove in the bass lines while a rocking guitar riff rages over the top while “Coffee Cups” hints at some old school rock influences with its melodic jams and radio ready sound.
“Under a Spell” is appreciably funky, a swirly guitar line weaving its way through the composition with some creative flair which gives way to the plaintive Americana folk of “Tumbleweejy” and its sweeping strings and plaintive piano tones. In contrast, “Lion” is a slow builder assembled around Silva’s tight percussion and ambient tones that gradually develop while “A Drop is an Ocean” is a good, old fashioned blues rocker, Aylward’s guitar work and vocals well suited to the task.

Keeping listeners on their toes, the band then delivers the lighthearted island-tinged jam “Big Sur,” bright and simply beautiful before seguing into the ambling “I Wore it Too,” a track that hints at island tones with a plodding drive and smooth harmonies. “Don’t Add It Up” shifts gears back into the more creatively eclectic, blending harmonica, strings, guitars, and more to deliver a subtly moving soundscape before closing the record out with “And We Both Know,” a track that is gentle and moving.
On Echo, Hello Echo continue to impress, delivering hefty slices of creativity alongside solid musical chops and a poignant delivery. The result is an album that you want to hear again and again and there’s no better compliment to give than that.