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Archive for May, 2010

CD Review – Susan Cowsill

Thursday, May 27th, 2010


Threadhead Records

Rise up New Orleans! Ever since Hurricane Katrina, there have been a plethora of artists that have made songs/albums that are about/dedicated to New Orleans. Brace yourself for the next in a long line. Lighthouse is Susan Cowsill’s second solo effort and was inspired by the devestation the Katrina left. Cowsill, herself lost two brothers and almost all of her possessions.

The most heartfelt song is “River of Love.” Written by her late brother Barry, Susan played Barry’s guitar and sounds like Bonnie Raitt in her prime. Sadly, this is the only track with staying power. The rest of the album is decent, but it falls prey to the adult-contemporary trap: Mid-tempo tracks with no real punch. Cowsill is obviously talented. She’s been performing since she was eight with her family The Cowsills. But it seems that she has been sucked into the mid-tempo muck that so many other artists fall into. Hopefully she can pull herself out on her next album.

CD Review – Careful (Minimalist at its best)

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Oh, Light

Sounds Super Records

Eric Lindley (aka Careful) has made an album that pushes the boundaries between brilliance and something to help you’re toddler go to sleep. His second full-length album is full of drones and barely-whispered monotones, but he keeps it just dadaistic enough to be brilliant.

On “Every Epiphany” he incorporates several random things and instruments (namely a flute, coffee mug and what sounds like beads) making it sound like a more hushed Sufjan Stevens. The Will Oldham-sounding “Scrappy” is the best track on the album and the only track that you could consider “upbeat.” “New Life” incorporates audio scratches, but still is able to make them sound hushed.

Oh, Light is perfect for those that like Strays Don’t Sleep and other artists that can make so much sound by barely making a whisper.

CD Review – Frightened Rabbit

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

The Winter of Mixed Drinks

This quintet has a great sense of when enough is enough. The remarkable “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” is so full of sound, the music will fill you up, surround you and then set you in your favorite chair and serve you an icy cold beverage, so you can bask in beauty of the song. They could try to kick it up a notch with more vocals, louder instruments, more feedback or all of the above, but they don’t. This is what they do throughout the album. They take their music to the point where it is fantastic and then stop. “Nothing Like You” could be their breakout radio hit. It’s quick, right at three minutes and better than 85% of what’s on the radio right now. Each song on this, their fourth album is pure bliss. And they know when to make it perfect and stay put.

CD Review – Ryan States (Generic pop from the circus?)

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Strange Town

Drooling Class Records

Every heard of Steve Vansak? Most haven’t and there’s a reason for it. He, just like Ryan States does adult-alternative/pop too well. States’ debut follows the pop vein to a fault. He plays it way too safe. None of the songs are all that bad, or good. They are just there. “Planet Earth” plods along for over four minutes with States’ voice sliding up to reach the higher notes like a roller coaster before it gets to the first drop. “Better (When You’re Older)” is another mid-tempo and largely forgettable track.

States has been traveling with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus band for five years, literally living in a train car. While that certainly adds a spin to States repertoire, it doesn’t make for an enthralling listen. This album, unfortunately like Mr. Vansak, will go into the forgettable pile along with hundreds of other artists who aren’t good or bad, but just exist.

CD Review – Sara Jackson-Holman (For fans of Nellie McKay)

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

When You Dream

Expunged Records

Sara Jackson-Holman is a diamond-in-the-rough kind of talent. Her bouncy piano tracks like “Red Ink” and “Cellophane” are very much like Nellie McKay only without the biting cynicism. The title track reminds me of early Feist with the swirling array of instrumentation making a kalidescope of goodness around Jackson-Holman and her piano. Her voice interweaves McKay and Feist with a hint of Norah Jones, and it is highly addictive, while her music adds a bit of Regina Spektor. Essentially, if you like any of these artists, you will like the classically-trained Jackson-Holman. You will not be disappointed.