Thursday, June 28, 2012

CD Review: Will Magid's 'Midnight High'

Will Magid
Midnight High
Happy Rabbit Music

Will Magid is a music producer and trumpeter with an educated development and understanding of world music, jazz, electronica, and dance music. The Afro-Cuban swing elements of "Cuban Swing," are sure to amaze fans of Afro-Cuban music. The instrumental song is jazzy and classy. "The Box" is a jazzy romp toward heaven with vocals by Iggy Mon, Ezekiel McCarter, and guitar/bass by Joe McGuire. The funky, classy, and jazzy tune contains wailing trumpet work, too. "Love Step" is Will's attempt to experiment with Balkan Brass and electronica. Thankfully, Will succeeds admirably with characteristic brass sounds and a giddy melody with sketchy, brushy, and static-driven noises accompanying the percussion. "Ghanaian Pavane" may be titled for a funeral, but the music is down-tempo and atmospheric all the way. "Brown Paper Bag" is a lightly percussive tune with a folksy tune and playful ambiance in the vein of Paul Simon's world music leanings. Fans of adventurous trumpet music from around the world should add Will Magid to their list of listening pleasure. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: MC Yogi & The Sacred Sound Society's 'Pilgrimage'

MC Yogi & The Sacred Sound Society
Mindful Talent/White Swan Records

MC Yogi lights up the charts with blissful banter that is performed in the style of hip hop, rap, urban, and South Asian-inspired styles. The largely contemporary work contains a plethora of genres, including dance, electronica, street music, rap, rock, hip hop, klezmer, and pop with a nice dose of jazz. The music is similar in tone to the Beastie Boys--if they were yogis. At any rate, the electronic wizardry, record scratches, boisterous horns, rock drum-kits, and harmonium-inspired melodies create an energetic appeal to young yogis the world over. The incredibly catchy and divine "Jai Sita Ram" contains a steady, but slow beat with Sanskrit vocals and a droning harmonium. There are nineteen incredible tracks with lovely flutes, percussion, urban jingles, and danceable riffs that are sure to awaken anyone's darkened soul. Let MC Yogi & The Sacred Sound Society lead you on the path to enlightenment with their latest, poignantly-titled devotion--Pilgrimage. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Na Palapalai's 'Ha'a'

Na Palapalai
Mountain Apple Company

Formed in 1995 in Hilo, Hawaii, Na Palapalai makes beautiful, sweepingly melodious, and folk-tinged music with all the glitz and glammer Hawaiian music is known for. This is not your average tourist-minded music, because there is authenticity and depth in the musical instruments and harmonic vocals. Ha'a is named for hula and to be humbled. The yodel-esque, vocal calisthenics of "Ka 'Ohaohala" are energetic, along with the steel guitars. There is a classic resonance to the music overall. Besides vocals, the steel guitar, bass, ipu, and piano are featured on the album. Twelve tracks round out the album with a rousing set of danceable tunes that are pure Hawaiian folk. The spritely melodies and sparkling steel strings resemble the lazy days of a summer afternoon, but Na Palapalai are not lazy with the musicianship here. Liner notes include Hawaiian and English translations. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Andra Kouyate and Seke Chi's 'Saro'

Andra Kouyate and Seke Chi
Studio Mali

With a name like Kouyate, you know the music is going to be good. Hailing from Mali, Andra Kouyate and his band, Seke Chi, are joined by a plethora of top artists from the region, including Amadou & Mariam, Mah Bara Soumano, Bassekou Kouyate, Ami Sacko, Harouna Samake, and Lassana Diabate. Andra's specialty is the n'goni lute, which is a staple in North African folk music. The acoustic and earthy feel of the instrument is matched with the varied vocals. Overall, the tunes are laid-back and take on the characteristics of Ali Farka Toure's instrumental music, as well as Rokia Traore's instrumental repertoire. The n'goni instrumentation, balafon, calabash, and other infectious instruments are very easy to listen to. This is a contemporary release, but the guitars, and other typical rock elements are nowhere to be found. Fans of North African percussion, Malian music, and n'goni lute aficionados will love Andra's latest venture. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Lac La Belle's 'Bring On The Light'

Lac La Belle
Bring On The Light
Double Lot

The music of Appalachia is not particularly well-known in the state of Michigan, but Lac La Belle is set to change all that. Jennie Knaggs is the primary vocalist, but she also plays the accordion, ghost fiddle (spooky!), guitar, mandolin, and ukulele. Nick Schillace is also a vocalist, but plays the 12-string guitar, 5 and 6-string banjo, and resonator guitar. The thirteen songs represent heartfelt, lyrical displays of good'ol folk music with splendid picking, plucking, and strumming. Jennie's vocals are sweet, smooth, and crystal clear throughout. Jennie's vocals are reminiscent of Shawn Colvin's earlier days. The mostly instrumental "New Memories of Oklahoma" contains a good dose of plucking splendor that shines with Appalachian nostalgia and Jennie's folksy vocals. The guitar-driven "Housebreaker" contains Nick's vocals, alongside the banjo. The rousing blues and rock-tinged "I Am A Hammer" is littered with folk leanings and Appalachian charm with Nick's old timey voice. Fans of Appalachian folk music, Americana, and old time music will love the music of Lac La Belle. ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

CD Review: Adam Gilbert's 'A Generation Of Forgotten Kings'

Adam Gilbert
A Generation Of Forgotten Kings

The piano-driven pop/rock concoctions in Adam Gilbert’s new release, A Generation Of Forgotten Kings, is an uplifting and emotive work of musical art.  The New Jersey-native lends his talents as a singer, songwriter, music director, and producer.  Adam presents thirteen songs that border on ballads with a classic rock vein, while including pop standards, gospel-tinged, R&B/down-tempo grooves that are not electronic, but firmly-rooted in bass, guitar, piano, and percussion.
“A Generation Of Forgotten Kings” opens with unaccompanied and non-descript vocals in an anthem-type format.  The mostly spoken vocals kick-in and a piano, percussion, and acoustic rock beat follows.  The lengthy and rhythmic Coldplay-esque drumming techniques and punchy piano overtures signify a large-scale, anthemic song with background, non-descript vocals throughout the louder parts.  There is a good variation with guitar accompaniment, piano, drums, vocals, and bass, which evokes what would happen if Queen and Coldplay formed a modern-day group together.
“How Do We Respond” opens with Adam’s clear vocals and an ever-increasing piano melody that is punchy and persistent.  A few guitar notes permeate the piano notes, before a percussive drum-kit adds another layer of complexity.  The shimmering guitar notes, thudding drums, and open air vocals provides an anthemic presence overall.  Of course, Coldplay signatures are not too far away with spacious, echoing vocals and lengthy guitar/piano arrangements.  The end of the song is more chaotic with crashing cymbals, energetic piano and guitars, and moving vocals.
“On A Hill” begins with a jaunty solo piano, but a jazzy, sauntering drum-kit enters with Adam’s classy vocals.  A guitar is added to the mix near the end of the song with a conglomeration of piano, vocals, percussion, and strings that signify a cinematic presence.  There is enough diversity to keep listeners appeased.
“Everywhere I Go” opens with a pensive, but classic pop standard piano melody and Adam’s smoky vocals.  The heartfelt vocals are joined by layered, back-up vocals and a sauntering, percussive beat.  The down-tempo groove merges into an R&B classic with smooth bass, clattering cymbals, and throaty vocals with bluesy guitar stylings later on.  This song is a small departure from other songs on the album, due to its raw, organic, and R&B sensibilities.
“Better” begins with a steady, punchy piano melody and soaring vocals.  The bass starts up and accompanies the fluttering piano notes.  A militaristic drum-beat appears for a few seconds, which morphs into a full-blown piano/rock ballad chorus.  Cinematic strings appear, as in some of the other songs.  The difference lies in the catchiness of the chorus that includes lush percussion, twinkling piano notes, and guitar work that blends in to various degrees.
Adam Gilbert’s new album, A Generation Of Forgotten Kings, contains a baker’s dozen of songs that finds recipes for success with lush piano melodies, ballad-esque arrangements, and spacious rock arrangements that soar into areas of pure beauty.  Adam’s vocals are more clear than both Queen and Coldplay, but not as rock-centric.  The vocals seem to match the complex percussion and lavish arrangements with ease.  The pop/rock sensibilities are matched by a good piano base, but nothing that overshadows the rest of the music.  For instance, the piano does not provide a sense of classical arrangements, but rather a jazzy inflection that is pure singer/songwriter material.  The use of guitars, piano, drums, bass, and violin are fairly rudimentary, but their tonal ranges are anything but limited.  Though, some of the songs are long-winded and repetitive in parts.  Adam’s songwriting is top-notch and all of the songs reflect a sense of introspection and hope.  Anyone with an interest in the music of Queen, Coldplay, and similar groups will find Adam’s new release worthwhile. ~ Matthew Forss    

CD Review: Art Decade's 'Western Sunrise'

Art Decade
Western Sunrise
Eldest Only Recordings

The progressive/experimental rock music of Boston's Art Decade is something that is turning the world of contemporary music upside-down. The plethora of sounds, stemming mainly from punk/classical/rock avenues of the 1970s, 80s and 90s, contain a heady mix of soaring vocals, wailing guitars, brashy strings, and pulsating rhythms. They admit influences as diverse as David Bowie, Radiohead, The Mars Volta, and The Muse. Art Decade's instrumental repertoire consists of strings, durms, bass, and guitars. The powerful strings and static-driven guitars provides a sense of urgency that is musical and magical. "A Lie" is a loud, string-based medley with electronic vocals performed in an exciting manner with a bit of a dance beat. "Western Sunrise" contains lively strings and a patriotic melody in-between the vocal parts. "Breeze" contains spacious, guitar echoes, and scintillating strings with airy vocals. "Steam Punk Sticker War" is a thrashy mix of futuristic punk with a dose of acoustic metal that is very good. "Kids and Kings" adds a little punk to the table with vocals similar in style to McFly and similar groups. Whatever you call it, Art Decade is nothing short of a work of 'art'. ~ Matthew Forss

Sunday, June 17, 2012

CD Review: Kelly Padrick's 'Soulmate'

Kelly Padrick

The Providence, Rhode Island-born electronica temptress, Kelly Padrick, flexes her angelic wings on this dreamy, gritty, and laid-back recording of heavenly noise. Kelly's down-tempo grooves and sweet vocals are backed by a little keyboard tones, acoustic guitar, lilting percussion, and cinematic string sounds. The effect is similar to anything laid-back by Lolo, Katie Melua, or Hooverphonic. The opening crystalline tones, scattered percussion, and electronic ambiance of the first track, "Piercing," is only some of what Kelly Padrick is all about. The bluesy, gritty, and Western-tinged electronica tune, "Tangled Forest," is something that one would likely hear in the opening sequences of HBO's True Blood, but this is only a comparison, as Kelly does not have any connection with the show. At any rate, "This Time" contains a breakbeat sound that is quite acoustic and groundbreaking with a slight dance tone and full cinematic beauty. "So Long" opens with a bit of acoustic guitar, which is a small departure from the other songs. This is more of a drawn out acoustic guitar song with some electronic pings, washes, and fluctuations. The eleven songs are perfect for the down-tempo, lounge, and trip-hop music fan. I give it five stars out of five. ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

CD Review: Antioquia's 'Viajero'


Colombian-born and Oakland, California-based, Antioquia [pron. an-tee-OH-kee-ah], brings us a rousing set of edgy, rock and folk songs inspired by Afro-Colombian psychedelica permeating throughout their new album, Viajero. The quasi-electronic, “Attack of the Killer Balafon,” is a pensive, slightly spacious song with meandering balafon sounds, lilting guitar notes, and special effects that signify more of a Saharan blues connection than South America. The jangly, jungle sounds of the highly percussive “Dibon,” are rich in South American flavor without the rock elements of a few other songs. The instrumental song is very short, but it serves as a nice break from longer songs and it shows their versatility with different sounds. “Kassa - Nisoro” follows the same musical style as “Dibon.” The beginning of “No Sleep Til Oakland” follows a similar vein, but an urban, hip hop sound takes over with a percussive-driven background. The slightly progressive tone of “Idaho” and “Sister” contain more guitar-driven song structures and wild vocals that stay grounded overall. Antioquia is a new voice in Neuvo Colombian music that is not afraid to cross borders, musical boundaries, and leave listeners reeling for more. ~ Matthew Forss