Thursday, December 6, 2007

Soulganic: All Directions Forward

The first time I heard Soulganic's music I thought to myself ", hey those are great female vocals!" I looked around their website trying to find the lead singer. After reading the bios of every musician on the page I was a little frustrated. I could not find a description of this singer. All that was listed was a bio for a lead singer, Anthony Rodriguez. Obviously I was missing something. It suddenly occurred to me that perhaps it was a man singing! I listened to the track again with a more open mind and decided it was possible. So I emailed Mr. Rodriguez and he confirmed it himself.

Now that I know it's a man I can't really picture anyone else. His voice is extremely reminiscent of Michael Jackson. But the music is worlds away from that genre. We're looking at soul/R&B here folks. The first track on the album sounds straight out of the movie, "Jackie Brown".

Every track has a new groove and the same impressive vocals. But there is also enough variety to keep things new and fresh throughout the album. Track three, "If I Could Forget You", goes into a lush and organic flamenco guitar solo toward the end. And the following track is a smooth and heavy blues song.

This band is groovy, solid and original. I highly recommend checking it out for yourself.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Jennifer Parde: Natural Surreality

I'm proud to present to you my first review of a jazz album. And a very good one I might add. Jennifer Parde is an obviously talented jazz vocalist. Her talents beyond her voice lie strongly in arranging old standards. The few original tunes on her album are definitely strong, but it seems she finds most of her creativity in altering standards with her own twist of "Pardeness".

I also found the production quality to be quite immaculate for a debut album. And the level of musicianship from all who perform is outstanding. Anyone who enjoys listening to good jazz would enjoy this album.

"Morning Has Broken" has great interludes of harmonic expression that are intertwined with the lyrical song. This was the first thing that caught my attention. I also found consistently that Parde shines with the accompaniment of guitarist, Rob Levitt.

Of Parde's original tunes my favorite by far is "Black Unicorn" which is dark, mysterious, and refreshing. I would strongly recommend that Parde spend some more time writing her own tunes. Her lyrics are gems and when the song is good, it's real good. So, I can see much growth in this direction and would also love to see her experiment more with her own tunes as she does on the standards such as "Lazy Afternoon", which has a large improvisational section that moves and changes unexpectedly. Her original tune, "Undertide", starts to explore this more fully.

Overall, Parde has captured a side of jazz music that I have missed. I'm happy to hear the more natural side of jazz, with themes that are more unique than broken hearts and true love. Her music focuses on the mystical and natural, thus the title of her album, "Natural Surreality".

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Comforters: Transplants

I first met the Comforters when they opened for me at a house concert in Eugene, Oregon in 2006. The group is comprised of Pia and Jason; a laid back married couple that tours around playing music. The first thing you notice is Pia's voice, which is extremely comforting and perfect for lullabies, thus their name. The music is also very mellow and perfect for being lazy and listening to music.

On their album, "Transplants", The Comforters fill out their sound with perfectly placed harmonies and guitar solos. And they seem to really start getting "comfortable" on the third track of the album with "Saturday Night" which is a sweetly sad ballad: something The Comforters do best. I like them the most when they bravely keep the music quiet, soft, and so slow it's almost still.

My favorite song by far, is the fourth song, "The Call", which provides a dramatic contrast to the rest of the album. The style is still mellow and soft, but subtly tragic. The various guitars and simple drum work create a wide-open and ominous sound. And the lyrics make me think of a long time secret that is just starting to surface. The feeling is that of impending doom mixed with a hope for freedom, or innocence with a dark past. Very cool....

I'd say this is my favorite album I've reviewed so far on Ultra Indie. Please check it out.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Jesse Dyen: Contents Under Pressure

Jesse Dyen's music hooked me very quickly. I'm not sure what it is that has music click with me so quickly sometimes, but this album has it. He's got a natural understanding of how to create catchy melodies and sweet chord structures that enhance the song. I've been grappling for months on how to give his music a review that will capture its treasures. The best way, of course, is to just click the album link and take a listen for yourself.

Dyen's style can easily be compared to Paul McCartney, Elton John, and at times even the Bee Gees. One great thing about his music that I wish I could incorporate into my own, is his ability to keep things light even when the lyrics can be downright resentful or angry. Things are never overly significant with Dyen. Even when he's singing the words "your display was rather vile with your half assed smile", he keeps singing like life is all good. I find this intriguing and refreshing.

I don't want you to think now that all of his lyrics are angry. In fact, being the idealist that I am, one of my favorite songs on the album is called "Love One Another". And he also has quite a sense of humor. His song, "You Are What You Eat", is great commentary on what they put in processed foods, which could easily be a Weird Al song.

My favorite song however, must be the reprise of the album, "Have 2 Lie". Unfortunately it's buried in the track with some other things before and after, almost as a hidden track. But let's just say it's the hidden treasure of the album.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Phantom City: City of Dreams

Phantom City's premier release, "City of Dreams", is full of nostalgia, good times, and classic vibes. Listening to it constantly conjures up good memories of hanging out with friends from the past. And I'm thankful. I think of times in high school, when we acted like we were up to no good but we really weren't, or when we did silly things for no reason. Phantom City conjures up these images because they are a band that has fun for the sake of having fun and nothing more.

Their music could easily be dropped into a Classic Rock play list and blend in perfectly. The style however changes enough from track to track to keep things interesting. Much of the first half of the album reminds me of some of my favorite Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. By track six, we are treated with "Holding On To Long", an up-tempo blues song that is reminiscent of Santana. Slow it down and you could have an awesome tune by Billy Holiday. And intertwined with it all, I hear some good old rock that reminds me of something you'd here from Journey.

Now I'm not saying that they sound just like these folks, not at all. I'm saying that they could easily be played right next to them without falter. Anyone who is a Classic Rock junkie could be swept up in Phantom City's tunes after just a couple listens.

The Band is based out of San Francisco, consisting of five individuals who have played music for most of their lives. You can hear the comfort they have with their instruments, and the sheer joy they get out of playing.