Saturday, June 30, 2007

Doug Burr - On Promenade

Label: Velvet Blue Music/Spune Productions
Release date: Summer 2007

On Promenade is one of those albums where if you pick three songs as your favorites, you feel like you're cheating on the other ones. This album is one of those rare gems where every track is strong, chock full of hooks and great songwriting. If Doug Burr's not your new favorite singer/songwriter, it's because you haven't heard of him yet.

Doug Burr is truly a craftsman. On Promenade is 11 tracks carved by experience and stained by faith. The opener "Slow Southern Home" takes charge from the onset. It is the crown jewel of this record, and in my opinion defines Doug Burr as an up-and-coming star in this genre. This song makes you long for the simpler, more innocent times of your past. It conjures up some sad images and infuses some joy for good measure. I love the chorus in this song as it swells alongside the sound of the harmonica.

"Graniteville" is a slow ride in the open country. The lightly strummed guitar, heartfelt vocals, twang, and the gradually intensifying chorus will send chills up your spine:

Wake up baby, there's a train coming. Don't you know how much I love you?

"In The Garden" is the most upbeat tune on the record. It seriously rocks. Or, at least it comes pretty close to rocking. This will be the song that will have you kickin' up your heels as well as singing along.

"Always Travel Light" is so singable and country-inspired that it could easily be the video of the week on CMT and wouldn't sound out of place at all.

Doug Burr is Rocky Votolato without the angst. He's every bit as good of a songwriter too. His vocal style has a hint of Johnny Cash. Most of all, Doug Burr injects just enough hope and light into his songs and still keeps it real by keeping a somber tone. After all, we still live in a pretty dark world.

You could describe Doug Burr's songs as being down-home country, alt-country, indie, folk, indie-folk, or whatever category you like. One thing is for sure: Doug Burr's brand of music doesn't make you feel at home. It takes you home.
Listen to songs from On Promenade here.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Late Virginia Summers - Sundowning

Release Date: 5/16/07
Label: Red Star Community (RSC)

Instrumental music has a very difficult task. The artform must find a way to invoke passion, emotion, and meaning without the use of lyrics. Newcomers The Late Virginia Summers overcome the challenge as well as any instrumental band I've heard. They effectively use intriguing song titles and mood to affect the listener.

Simply put, this album is entrancing.

The Late Virginia Summers is a pleasantly surprising instrumental band that I discovered through a myspace friend request. Their first LP Sundowning is 11 tracks soaked in drum beats, bells, keys, guitars, and various other noises that will certainly arouse your ears. I was looking for music that would be mellow and ideal for late night listening. This album was just as sublime and experimental as I expected. To my surprise, tracks like "Winding Walk, Winter Rain", "Who's Afraid of The Late Virginia Summers", and "You Are What Gets Me In Trouble" are groovy good pop songs with neat vibes. These songs have addictive melodies that exceeded my expectations.

If I'm being completely honest, the only aspect of this album that I don't like is the artwork. For my taste, it doesn't fit the music. I would expect the artwork to reflect the somber tone of the music more than it does. Perhaps it's the mostly white background that doesn't seem quite right. It's a minor criticism and merely an aesthetic one at best.

This is a good album to listen to first thing in the morning because it gets you going without being overbearing or annoying. It's ideal music for "chilling-out" before bedtime or even while you sleep. The music lulls you to sleep with hypnotic sounds and gently pulls you back into consciousness with a catchy beat. Sundowning is a highly focused and cohesive effort as it sets a mood and sticks to it without jumping all around. It's not something I'd listen to while driving or doing yard work, but it certainly has its place in my CD player. All 11 tracks will transport you into a state of relaxation without being boring or mundane. If you need a break from the anxiety of the world, then this is the CD to consider adding to your collection. I highly recommend this album for fans of Unwed Sailor and Saxon Shore. Listen to some tracks from Sundowning here.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Silver Cities - Power and Strife

Label: Velvet Blue Music

Release date: 5/29/07

This CD should have one of those medical warnings on the cover: "Please consult a doctor before beginning a regimen of Power and Strife by Silver Cities." This CD is straight-up rock n' roll that doesn't give you a break with a slow tune. I don't dance, but I do take walks every day with my mp3 player. As I was listening to "Power and Strife", I noticed it had me walking faster...and faster...and faster. I didn't get a cool down while listening to this album. My doctor would be thrilled.

Power and Strife takes the three best songs from their debut EP, "Fast Forward", "The Emergency", and "Impressionable". The songs sound pretty much the same except for some new organs or synths in the background. These songs were great on the EP, so I'm glad they didn't mess with them too much. To see these songs included on the full-length was a huge plus for me.

The opening track "Power and Strife" sets the tone that this record is gonna be a party and you're gonna have some fun. My favorites are "Kiss Killer", "Sound The Alarms", and "Impressionable". If you like to dance and sing then these tunes will not disappoint because they really get you moving. The two tracks that kinda get lost in the shuffle are "Dostoevsky's Tears", and "Terrible Lovers." These are good songs, but are a bit forgettable when packaged with 9 superb tracks that cast a pretty big shadow. The song "Beautiful Lie" speaks to me in a spiritual way (I think we've all been there before) about failure and redemption.

Silver Cities brings us 11 high-octane tunes that meld the best elements of 70s and 80s rock 'n roll. These are dance-floor compatible songs about greed, frustration, bad lovers, class struggle, and redemption. I have a great compliment to describe this record. You know those lame CD release parties where the band doesn't actually play and some obnoxious DJ just spins the record instead? Everyone is supposed to get drunk, dance, and pretend they're at an actual rock show. Well, Power and Strife is so good that it might actually be able to pull off a pretty cool CD release party. This band probably puts on a hot live show and hopefully I'll get to see them play someday.

Overall, the band has a fresh and unique sound that is very catchy and fun. The running time of the album is 32:10. But if you're not careful, you could easily look at your watch and realize you have been listening to this record for more than three hours. Listen to 4 tracks from Power and Strife here.


The Dark Romantics - Some Midnight Kissin'

Label: Lujo Records

Release date: 2/13/07

Hot Lips and guitar licks. This album rocks, picking up right where the Another Song EP left off. Exactly as billed, all ten tracks are dripped in hot guitar licks, sexy lyrics, and singable choruses that will have you moving your booty in no time.

First off, it's always a smart move to mention it was produced by Jason Martin (frontman of indie rock favorite Starflyer 59). Enough said.

Also, I LOVE the cover art. It sets the tone for the record before the CD even leaves the jewel case. The lips on the cover lure you in and say to you,"this album is hot, sexy, and it's about love and breakin' hearts." The flip-side of the cover insert is the exact same, except it has red lips instead of blue. You have a choice depending on your mood, which is unique.

Some Midnight Kissin' has two tracks from the EP: "So Confused", and "Another Song For Another Night". The tracks sound the same and essentially untouched and not re-recorded. They sound great packaged with the new songs, so why mess with them, right? Of the new tracks, the stand-outs for me are "A Million Bucks", "This Is The Sound", "Baby Boy, Baby Girl", and the closer "I Gotta Feeling". All tracks have scorching guitars and singable hooks that will grip you like a vice.

I have to say that the final track on most albums is normally forgettable. That is not the case with last track on this record, "I Gotta Feeling" is arguably the best song of the bunch. It's a very sulty, 1980s-sounding song that has the best chorus I've heard in some time:

It's alright if you wanna dance

I gotta feelin' that these jams will lead you to romance.

It's alright if you wanna move I gotta feeling that you know exactly what to do...

Staunch indie rocksters may recognize the bluesy tune "This Is The Sound" which was taken from lead singer Eric Collin's side project The Party People EP, released by Velvet Blue Music. The song was re-recorded to fit the sound of this record and as a fan of The Party People, I was very stoked to see it included on this album. It sounds even better than the original version.

The debut LP from The Dark Romantics certainly lives up to it's moniker. It's dark. It's romantically dark and sexy. It's 10 tracks of unrelenting rock 'n roll, so don't expect it to give you and that special someone a slow dance. Listen to some tracks from Some Midnight Kissin' at their Myspace page.