Friday, October 10, 2008

BSS Presents: Brendan Canning - Something For All of Us...

The members of Broken Social Scene are numerous. Many of their names are now known outside of the band collective: Kevin Drew, Jason Collett, Leslie Feist, and Emily Haines. The founding members were Drew and Brendan Canning. After recording a few albums and touring with whoever was available (tour line ups) Kevin Drew wanted to record a solo album but still keep things close to BSS material. Thus began the Broken Social Scene Presents series. First in line was Kevin Drew (reviewed by me last year), and now it is Brendan Canning's turn. Being the lead vocalist for BSS, his crooning will sound familiar (if you know the band). He's usually very hushed, laid back, and can't always decipher his lyrics but he creates an extra layer to an already textured sound.

Something For All of Us... was released back at the end of July without a whole lof of fanfare, but it's a pretty solid album. I'm not sure what each of these members are trying to achieve by releasing "solo" albums. Maybe they feel more passionate about these songs that they could write without the help of the band setting. Maybe they just wanted different packaging. Maybe it's none of these things. A full-fledged BSS album has a distinctive sound, whereas these two "Presents" album do feel the same but different. On BSS studio releases there is a usually a large feeling of the collective. Whereas on these two individualized releases it feels only collaborative when they're playing together, and the songwriting came from the solo artists' vault. Brendan Canning does a sufficient job utilizing the various skills of his bandmates but doesn't really explore anything new or discover new uncharted territory. To be blunt, it's a pretty safe album. But, when you're good a safe album is better than many many things. I would have been a little interested to hear some new thoughts or experimentation, but that doesn't happen on this record. I still think seeing BSS live is the best way to go. I haven't had that luxury, but I imagine it would be quite a show. You never know who's going to show up, but it would probably be a great experience. The first single is "Hit the Wall" and is the best song on the album. Enjoy.

"Hit the Wall"

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Pretenders - Break Up the Concrete

The Pretenders have been around since before I was born. Now that that's out of the way, I can tell you that if you haven't at least heard of them or their mainstay lead singer Chrissie Hynde you've probably been living under a rock. For a quick low-down on their history you can read the bio at AllMusic. What you need to know is that this new album is the first studio album since 2002. It continues a trend that has seen the personnel change through the years but it's said to be only for the studio recording. The current roster for the studio is comprised of Hynde, guitarist James Walbourne, pedal steel player Eric Heywood, bassist Nick Wilkinson and session drummer Jim Keltner. The usual drummer Martin Chambers will retake his position behind the drum kit for the upcoming tour.

Break Up the Concrete is out today (10/7) via Shangri-La Music and clocks in at 36.5 minutes with 11 songs ranging from 2:14 to 4:48 in length. Top to bottom it's a solid album. It's groovy with crunchy guitars, some great percussion rhythms, and of course Hynde's signature voice. She's truly a rock 'n roll woman whose music can stand up against the men, and crush many of them. There are straight out rockers, slower ballads, and a few songs in between. This release is special not only because Hynde doesn't go into the studio all that often, but this is only the 2nd album to bear The Pretenders name in the past 10 years. Clearly, Hynde is standing firmly behind this music and wanted to put the ultimate stamp of approval on the album. For having been singing for 20+ years it's amazing that Hynde's voice still sounds fresh, dynamic, and full of verve. Musically speaking, this album is a return to form for Hynde and The Pretenders name. Not that they were gone and forgotten, but this is a rebirth. It's not as rough and hard-rock tinged as early efforts. The hard rock swagger has been substituted with a rockabilly bounce and country-rock sensibility (on the ballads). Overall, this Pretenders album feels like that old sweatshirt I have in the back of my closet that hasn't been worn in a while (because I live in SoCal): it's familiar, comfortable, and makes me wonder how I could have gone so long without it.

"Break Up the Concrete"

Love's A Mystery (LIVE on The Today Show)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Daniel Martin Moore - Stray Age

You've probably never heard of Daniel Martin Moore. That's okay. Neither had I up until a couple weeks ago. I stumbled upon him while perusing Sub Pop Records website just to see what might be new and exciting. If you're somehow not familiar with Sub Pop, firstly: FOR SHAME. Secondly, it is the definition of an indie label and became famous by signing bands such as Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Mudhoney in the late 1980's. Their current stable of artists is like a who's who of bands that I enjoy tremendously: Band of Horses, The Go! Team, Postal Service, The Shins, Iron & Wine, Fleet Foxes, and Wolf Parade. Basically, they have great taste that generally matches my own. Anywho, back to Daniel Martin Moore. Originally from Cold Spring, Kentucky he sent an unsolicited demo to Sub Pop back in beginning of 2007 knowing that there was only the slimmest of chances it would ever be heard. Lucky for him, Sub Pop took down their "no solicitation" sign for a scant moment and liked what they heard enough to track him down. Although, tracking him down sounds like it was a chore, as he was working at a friend's B&B in Costa Rica. The idea that he received a record deal from an unsolicited submission is ridiculous, as that happens pretty much never ever. And for your information his debut Stray Age was recorded in L.A. during three different spells, the first two of which in October and December of 2007, and finally a third in February of 2008. Joe Chiccarelli (The Shins, U2, The White Stripes) took on co-production, recording and mixing duties. Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Beck, Tori Amos) played upright bass. Jesca Hoop lent her voice on a couple tracks. And Petra Haden (Bill Frisell, Beck) adds violin for a couple cuts too.

Stray Age is being released by Sub Pop tomorrow October 7th. By now you're probably wondering what it sounds like. Good question. I like your curiosity. Personally, I think he's a mixture of various characteristics from Jack Johnson, M. Ward, Mason Jennings and Nick Drake. He is oh so very laid back and calm that he makes Jack Johnson look uptight. What he shares is a talent for infusing emotion into his lyrics. He's genuinely telling you a story or conveying an emotion. The music really comes through his voice. But at the same time he's not forcing you to feel one way or another. He's putting the music out there for you to have a unique response to it. His voice has a soft and lilting swing to it that sounds natural and unforced, as if the words were meant to be sung that way without any thought. Thankfully, his music isn't melancholy and downtrodden, DMM is looking forward and has a refreshing air of optimism. It's hard to see him becoming a huge sensation, but once people find out about him he'll probably have a solid fanbase. I could see his songs being licensed for TV and film easily, and leaving people scratching their heads as to what that song was playing in the background. It's a nice collection of songs for a debut, and a great story that just goes to show anything is possible when you've gotten nothing to lose except the price of postage.

"It's You"

The Break and Repair Method - Milk the Bee

The Break and Repair Method isn't a totally new band, it's actually a side project of Matchbox Twenty's guitarist Paul Doucette. While on a break from his usual band, Paul Doucette rounded up a few musicians including Tracy Bonham, Moon Zappa (Doucette's wife) and Matchbox Twenty's Matt Beck to record material he'd been working on personally. After a couple record deals fell through, he ended up with a fully developed album that is much better than anything someone would produce just looking for a way to pass time between tours.

Milk the Bee actually kind of sounds like the follow-up to The Fray's debut How to Save A Life. While this may be a stigma or a knock in some circles, I mean that they sound similar. Both have great pounding pianos and a knack for melody. It's playful, and different than anything Matchbox Twenty has ever put out. Doucette doesn't have an amazing voice, but he works with what he has and makes up for what he doesn't with catchy melodies that ask to be sung along to. In fact, many of the songs are really really catchy. He manages to do pay homage to the Beatles, Randy Newman, and Jeff Tweedy. If you're wondering about the title of the album, it's in reference to the difficulty of making the album as well as working without a record deal at the outset. I wasn't expecting the album to be stunning or life-changing, but it has been a delightful surprise to hear that creativity doesn't die when you're playing rhythm guitar for years and years in a successful pop band.

"You Won't Be Able To Be Sad"