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    Monday, September 22, 2008

    Review: The Gaslight Anthem - "The '59 Sound"

    By: David Edscorn

    I’ve always been a fan of classic rock and oldies, but generally find myself proceeding with caution when I find out that a modern band roots its sound in those genres. The result sometimes turns out to work perfectly and make me fall in love with it, but just as frequently crashes and burns in a conflagration of tired AC/DC or Righteous Brothers stereotypes. Fortunately, The Gaslight Anthem’s newest album, The ’59 Sound, falls firmly in the first category. The New Jersey band manages to perfectly toe the line between modern punk and old time rock and roll without sounding clich├ęd or boring.

    The album begins with “Great Expectations,” a hard hitting track that starts with a needle dropping onto a record before kicking into powerful drumming from Benny Horowitz and just as powerful vocals from Brian Fallon. A chorus with just the right amount of catchiness and guitars that would fit in fine on London Calling round out the solid opener. 

    The title track is an infectious nostalgia-filled first single about death and what comes after. Bleak as that may sound, the band manages to carry it out in an upbeat and hopeful manner. Nostalgia is a common theme on the album, even though the young men in Gaslight and their target audience aren’t old enough to remember much of what they sing about. Nonetheless, the tracks manage to create time long gone in such a way that you feel like you know exactly what they’re singing about. Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen are obvious influences (Petty’s name and one of his songs get dropped on several songs), as well as fellow Jersey act The Bouncing Souls and punk band Against Me!

    The album is crammed full of good tracks, but standouts include the gritty “Film Noir,” rockabilly-infused “Casanova, Baby” and the anthematic closer “The Backseat.” At first listen the album seems rather repetitive, but repeated play shows that this is not the case. Each track has its own sound and its own story. Although The Gaslight Anthem have only been around for a couple of years, they have managed to produce an outstanding album. 8.5 out of 10

    Download: “The ’59 Sound,” “Film Noir,” “The Backseat”

    Thursday, September 18, 2008

    Review: Dead Confederate - "Wrecking Ball"

    By: Daniel Earney

    With a name like Dead Confederate, you have to expect something at least somewhat Southern from this band. On their debut LP, Wrecking Ball, Dead Confederate take Southern rock, turn it on its head and cover it in thick, heavy mud. But that's a good thing.            

    Previously named The Redbelly Band, kicking around the Augusta club scene, and playing a Phishy jamband style of rock, the guys of Dead Confederate graduated from college and decided it was time for a change. They moved to the big city (Atlanta), changed their name, and adopted an entirely new sound. The band is already drawing comparisons to Sonic Youth, Band of Horses, and (what really caught my eye) Nirvana. Sonic Youth, for both bands' use of highly distorted atmospheric noise, I can see; Band of Horses, not so much; and Nirvana, though I had to make sure Tulsa’s Carter Tanton didn’t have a side project, at times, and not too often, the vocals are spot-on Cobain.  If it weren’t for the sometimes weeping, sometimes screaming slide guitar, I’d place DC among Seattle’s elite.

    I was scared at first that Dead Confederate would let me down: “Heavy Petting” starts abruptly and awkwardly enough with Hardy Morris belting out the song’s title, a pinch of Southern drawl showing through. Slow, soaring guitar permeates the first half of the track. Then the song erupts halfway through with an ominously fierce guitar solo mixing with Jason Scarboro’s heavily crashing drums. All the while, Hardy’s voice scratches and cracks in true Cobain fashion. Walker Howle’s guitar takes off a few more times before the song fades.

    On the Album’s first single, “The Rat,” Morris continues the screechy wail as it becomes clear that the dark, war-torn lyrics are a common theme. Dead Confederate’s live performances, so far, have drawn positive reviews, and seeing the band perform “The Rat” on KEXP’s website made me, for the first time in a long time, intensely miss going to concerts.

    At times Wrecking Ball can be slow, but the payoffs for being patient are immense. 2:50 into “It Was a Rose,” Howle’s slide is at once eloquent and overwhelming; later in the song, it’s simply insane.  “Yer Circus,” “All the Angels,” “The News Underneath,” and the 12-minute “Flesh Colored Canvas” showcase DC’s slower, more melodic and elegant capabilities, but are not without their powerful punctuations. “Start Me Laughing” is a pure gem worthy of Nirvana’s songbook. The album finishes out with the title track, in all its destructive glory. The album, however, is not without its flaws; you have to listen too closely to make out John Watkins’ keys (when they’re present), and Brantley Senn’s bass is often buried beneath drums and guitars.

    Wrecking Ball begins with a furor nothing short of Sherman tear-assing his way through Georgia circa 1864. (Luckily Sherman wasn't a Confederate.) Yet, instead of glorifying war, Dead Confederate show us that war indeed is hell; it’s loud, it’s painful, and it’s sad. A man can toil endlessly only to find that he has brought about nothing but death and destruction – a wrecking ball. 8.7 out of 10.

    Wednesday, September 17, 2008

    Review: Paper Route - "Are We All Forgotten"

    By: Tyler Sloan

    There is not enough that I can say about Paper Route’s latest EP Are We All Forgotten. After listening to it 15 times or more, it continues to grow. It is so magnificently layered and mixed that you hear something new every time. The vocals are clean, the drums are epic, and the lyrics are powerful. Sometimes, as in “Empty House,” Paper Route reminds me of Band of Horses, and at other times I think back to the days when U2 was actually very good, as in “Are We All Forgotten.”

    With the days of electronic music upon us, I did not know it was possible to be this innovative. The synthesizer and piano are used ingeniously and appropriately in each track. The opener, “American Clouds,” sounds as if it came out of the 80’s electro movement when Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode were making their best music. These tracks never get old and while “Waiting for the Final Leaf to Fall” is by far the most thought-provoking of tracks, if you were to only give the album one shot check out the title track, “Are We All Forgotten.” From what I hear, Paper Route has much more to offer, which means I begin my anticipation of a full-length album. 

    What is most impressive about Are We All Forgotten is that Paper Route produced, engineered, mixed, and

    designed the EP themselves. If you enjoy listening to Paper Route, check out the other artists on their indie label, Low Altitude Records. Lydia is a new signee to the label and Patrick Wolf rounds out the roster. 

    My biggest complaint about this EP is that it is short, but I guess EP’s are supposed to leave you wanting more. 9 out of 10.

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    Review: Sing It Loud - "Come Around"

    By: Tyler Sloan

    Come Around
    is Sing it Loud's debut album with Epitaph records. Epitaph, one of the most well respected independent labels boasts great artists such as
    Pennywise, The Weakerthans, Sage Frances and Danger Doom. Honestly, I'm not sure what label head and Bad Religion guitarist, Brett Gurewitz, had in mind when he signed the band. At first listen, Sing It Loud sounds like a mediocre punk band turned pop from earlier this decade. I can't quite decide what band from that era they remind me of, but it is apparent that they are trying their best to emulate Motion City/New Found Glory. If they were to succeed in just doing that, it would sound better than this album. The album lacks one ingredient crucial to the pop/punk genre and that is catchy choruses. After listening to the album multiple times, I can't remember a single line.

    On the plus side, I'm a huge fan of the synthesizer, which Sing It Loud utilizes. On the down side, the synth that opens track one, "I've Got A Feeling," is cheesy at best. It didn't take long to realize that this is a
     pattern. The bright spot on this album is the title track, "Come Around," the vocals mix well and the track has a very upbeat arena rock feel, which makes your foot tap, even if you don't want it to. I'm pretty sure every song is about a girl, and I'm pretty sure I have heard the lyrics before. The CD drops September 23rd, and while I think Sing it Loud would fare better in 2002, I look for much better things from them and Epitaph in the future. 3 out of 10.

    Review: The Dodos - "Visiter"

    By: David Edscorn

    the second LP from The Dodos begins unobtrusively with the sweetly banjo-laden "Walking." Right as you think that this is just another indie-folk band riding in the wake of Iron & Wine's success, they smack you across the face with "Red and Purple." This track takes everything you thought that folk was and throws it out the window. It's here that the Dodos establish their belief that acoustic instruments can rock just as hard, if not harder, than electric ones. From here on out the album is a journey through what exactly these instruments can do, and more importantly, what these two young men from San Francisco can do. Meric Long switches between delicate picking and rapid machine-gun-paced strumming of guitars, while Logan Kroeber gives the drums plenty of energy but never allows them to dominate the show (although they certainly drive "It's That Time Again"). The lyrics delivered by Long are packed full of emotion, even if their meaning isn't always discernable. "Fools" starts off sounding like it belongs on the Braveheart soundtrack, then turns abruptly into a fun upbeat romp. Other highlights include the gentle folksy "Undeclared" (which showcases Long's impressive falsetto), and the unplugged anthems "Paint the Rust" and "God?" The latter is an appropriately powerful album closer, smooth and epically driving at the same time. Visiter might not be an album that will change the music industry, but it certainly challenges the definitions of music that have been set forth, and is therefore definitely worth a listen. 8 out of 10.