BLUENOTE TRIP: LOOKING BACK & MOVING FORWARD - JAZZANOVA

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Album:BLUENTOE TRIP: LOOKING BACK & MOVING FORWARD
Artist:JAZZANOVA
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BlueNote is renowned for trying to release compilations to get the kids into jazz. Big-hitting hip-hop producers like MadLib and the BlueNote Revisited Series have definitely brought their catalog to the forefront, so the latest Jazzanova release, entitled Jazzanova BlueNote Trip: Looking Back & Moving Forward, is very intriguing.

Instead of releasing yet another remix album, BlueNote let the Berlin DJ crew -Jazzanova - compile their favorite songs from the BlueNote catalog. Mixed into two discs, I’m guessing the vibe was to have mix in some tracks that non-jazz fans would be into, and could be thrown on in a lounge or even get radio play. This isn’t a breakbeat album. It’s a mix of songs that have energetic highpoints, Ron Burgandy flutes and enough vocals to keep newbie jazz fan’s interest. The double disc features some tracks from jazz legends like Herbie Hancock, Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan, Bobbi Humphries and (one of my personal favorites) Horace Silver.

That being said, I’m not really sure what audience this compilation is going to attract. I’m a big jazz fan, so I own most of these “obscure” tracks on other releases, but these silky jams aren’t filled with the recognizable hooks that are going to make new jazz fans want to take a chance on the album. I guess it falls into the “I am getting into Jazz and copped some of the stand out albums, but need a collection I can throw on for a party, or evening with friends” category. The tracks are all great, but they are all subtle. It’s great background music; the type of collection you would hear in a store that didn’t care if you actually shopped there.

The collection is focused into two discs. The first, Looking Back, is highlighted by Horace Silver’s I’ve Had a Little Talk and trumpet sensation Lee Morgan’s Afreaka. All of the songs on this disc are upbeat and finger snapping, and dive slowly into some nice soloing and without trapping people into a series of 11 or 12 minute songs (aside from the album closer – Freddie Hubbards, Blue Spirits). I like this strategy. It let’s people hear a collection of artists without getting bored or lost. This isn’t meant to be a collection made for serious Jazz fans who want to hear a quartet trade solos back and forth from standard melodies, so I think the Jazanova assembled a great collection. A special treat was the inclusion of Tin Tin Deo (James Moody and his Bop Men featuring the great Art Blakey).

The second disc, Moving Forward, opens with the soothing chimes of Bobby Hutcherson’s Love Song. The vibe of this disc changes into a more chilled, breakdown style part of the “set”. Track like Horace Silver’s Nobody Knows add some lovely vocals help push the more grooved out tracks. I was hyped to see Quantrale (Curtis Fuller) included in this collection. This track makes it on my “your first jazz mix” I give to any friend. The standout track on this disc is the upbeat, Latin vibed Merci Bon Dieu by Charlie Rouse. The subtle Spanish guitar compliments the horn perfectly and this is one track I wish was extended up to the 9 or 10 minute mark.

So overall, how can I grade this? I enjoy it, there is no question. It’s a great collection of tracks; I’m just not sure where it fits. If you want to expand your jazz base, this is a fantastic place to start, but if you are only looking for hooks, you might try one of BlueNote’s other comps. This is a nice CD for any person, who like Deron Williams, is new to the game and looking to get serious with the Jazz.


ROGUE WAVE - THE MEDIA CLUB/VANCOUVER

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Album: THE MEDIA CLUB
Artist: ROGUE WAVE
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As I walked towards the front door of the Media Club I wondered how many people would be showing up with me to watch the Oakland based band, Rogue Wave, rock through an indie rocked set. Considering the last time Shane and I showed up to see them play in Toronto (@ the ElMo), we were amongst the 15 people who shelled out to see them, I couldn't help but wonder if their recent hype had increased ticket sales. In the last month or so, Rogue Wave released their sophomore album, Descended Like Vultures, and were put on an OC compilation CD. This is roughly the equivalent of a nerd attending Bayside High and suddenly getting the chance to date Kelly Kapowski. The OC has turned indie rock into the buzz genre that mall punk was only a few years ago, and as a result, any band featured on the show becomes much more popular.

Rogue Wave has also converted its biggest critics – the blogging music nerds – who seemed so hurtfully disappointed with their first release. Being on Sub Pop, people thought they should like the band, and went to the shows, but complained that the band was “a bunch of hippies form Oakland” and “left the show early.” Others complained that the songwriting seemed to lack focus and the band didn’t fit the songs they played. That is probably true since Zach wrote the songs and the band came after that, but I’m not one to split hairs. More accurately, someone probably deemed this band as hip, and the masses decided it must be true. This might sound jaded, but the changes the band made aren’t that substantial. They were a solid band who put on a great show in the past. Now they are still a solid band writing great pop songs, they’ve just got better at doing it.

The multi-instrumentation of Zach, Pat, Graham and Evan has helped Rogue Wave become a band, not just Zach and a backing band. The new album (as we reviewed earlier) is much more focused and cohesive, and their live show is tighter than those two sisters on Sister Sister. It seems obvious to say that a band that tours religiously for two years will get better, but in reality not many do. Rogue Wave not only has stronger material, but they have given a face lift to their older material. Adding more layers and parts to songs like Endless Shovel and Man-Revolutionary gives the songs new life.

The Media club was close to capacity. The beauty of the Media Club is simple. It hosts about 100 people. The band plays on a one foot high stage and the venue is filled with tea lights. You can’t help but feel you are seeing a local band at a frat party (minus the GHB fused Gatorade & vodkas, the date rape and the overt homosexual tendencies the frat guys hosting the event tend to exhibit). It’s big enough to get the energy up, but small enough that you feel like you are part of an intimate evening of rock. Couple that with the fact they have enough good beer on tap to let you sit through any opening act, and a good time is yours to be had.

Rogue Wave took the stage at about 11:30 pm, and the place was getting excited. The band tore through a set focused mostly on the new material. The first thing you notice about the band is the bigger, fuller sound they are producing. Pat drives the catchy songs along with his drumming, with Graham adding some depth to Zach’s simple acoustic riffs. The band adds four part harmonies, and switches instruments quite frequently through their set. It is also obvious some of the fans stumbled across the band from the track on the OC, because Publish My Love got the most crowd support. Highlights of the set were: Publish My Love, Endless Shovel, and the intense energy of 10:1 (which ironically is one of my least favorite songs). It was amazing to see the band at such a small venue, because next time through fans won’t be so lucky.




Album: Beyond the Spectrum: The Creamy Spy Chronicles
Artist: Digable Planets
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Many things in the world of pop culture are cyclical. Fashion is like that. Some genius has apparently decided that the clothes in the 80's weren't as bad as we all thought and that neon pink leg warmers should be brought back. While it might not be a great idea for fashion, making the old new again is usually a good thing in hip hop. So it's good to see albums like Digable Planets Beyond The Spectrum: The Creamy Spy Chronicles being released now, and it's also good to hear the Planets have been touring and are possibly working on new material.

The Creamy Spy Chronicles is a collection of hits, remixes, and b-sides from Digable's heyday of 1993-94. This album is being put out by famed Jazz label Blue Note, which makes sense as Digable Planets were one of the most successful purveyors of the Jazz-rap that was as common in the early 90's as references to Jacob The Jeweler are now. The insect-named Planets, Butterfly, Ladybug, and Doodlebug, made a splash in 1993 with their debut album Reachin' (A New Refutation Of Time And Space) and it's big single Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat). That album put them on the map with both hip hop fans and the mainstream, while their second album, Blowout Comb, released the next year, didn't make as much noise commercially but has remained a favorite in hip hop circles.

But how does Digable's early 90's Jazz-rap stand up to the test of time? Surprisingly well actually. I hadn't listened to these songs in ages, but they didn't sound dated to me. This is probably because the production on all the songs is sparse, yet infectious. Nickel Bags, for example, with it's bongos, finger snaps, and flute loop is going to sound good no matter when you hear it. The funky trumpet intro and kicking drums of Dog It are timeless, as is Rebirth of Slick with it's crazy upright bass line, finger snaps and classic horn loop. Lyrically the Planets still sound good as well. Their lyrics are smart, talking about reading Marx and name dropping Mingus' drummer, but it doesn't come off as nerdy. They also share a unique ability to sound laid back as hell but also sound like they're riding each beat perfectly.

So why should you buy this album? The "new" content here consists of a remix for Where I'm From and an Elaine Brown mix of 9th Wonder: Blackitolism, both of which are decent. There are also two b-sides, Dedicated and Three Slim's Dynamite, which are both good if not as classic as the other album favorites. So if you're a huge Digable fan or completest, then that might be reason enough to cop this album. But the main reason to check out this album is simple: it's good. A decade plus later the planets still sound crisp and fresh, and you'd be hard pressed to find any new hip hop that sounds like this. What's more, it sounds like one album; the production and rhyme schemes consistent, so you never get the feeling that you're listening to a greatest hits comp. Pick up this album today for the Jazz-rap fan on your Christmas list, and thank me later.


THE SUN/THE ROSEBUDS/THE SHOUT OUT LOUDS @ Dicks on Dicks

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Album: THE SUN/THE ROSEBUDS/THE SHOUT OUT LOUDS
Artist: Live @ Richards on Richards
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Walking into Richards on Richard’s last night, we were greeted with a wall of sound coming from the five piece from Columbus called the Sun. I was pretty unfamiliar with the band when I walked in, and the first song I heard caught me off guard. The lineup consisted of two 80’s influenced, pop rock bands that use keyboards and tambourines, so the three guitars, feedback, screaming vocals, solid bass fills and booming drums that the Sun relies on to give your eardrums a solid workout seemed slightly mismatched.

As the set progressed, the Sun found a good mix between ear shattering noise and melody to put together some rockers. It’s easy to see how these guys have shared the stage with people like the Flaming Lips and Hot, Hot Heat. What really stood out for me was the intricate, yet not dominating bass lines. Too often at shows the bass lines are either masked, or too self indulgent, but the sound was perfect last night. The band was tight, and really into their performance – which always makes me like the set more. My one complaint was that at times, lead singer Chris Burney’s vocals seemed stretched. On some songs he nailed the vocals, but at times, they seemed just slightly off, but that is nit picking, as this band delivered a solid set to start a long night of great music. The most unfortunate part of the set was that they had to open up for two great acts who owned the crowd.

As the Rosebuds hit the stage, I was feeling like a police artist: sketchy. This three-piece was as unique as ordering some KFC and getting three drumsticks, and none of those over-fried "breast" pieces that are more ribby than the Olsen twins. A guitar, a drummer, and a keyboard. That’s what you get from this husband/wife outfit from North Carolina. To those unfamiliar with the sound the Rosebuds create, seeing a lead singer who looks similar to Tony Hawk (and wears an outfit that may have been pilfered from Tiny Tim’s closet)and a keyboardist looking like she could be in Blondie, I can see how you would be baffled by the great voice and harmonies that this band is known for. Mixing equal parts Morrissey and the Kinks, the Rosebud’s rocked through a set featuring songs from their stellar debut (Back to Boston sounded great), their follow up EP, and their latest release (Birds make Good Neighbours). I’ve never actually seen an opener that called for people to move forward and dance and have the crowd respond, but within seconds of Ivan asking for some love, hipsters flooded the dance floor and danced away in awkward bliss. The crowd couldn’t help but sing along to songs like Hold Our Hands and Fight, the Lovers Right, Blue Bird, and the closer Shake Our Tree. To close a set with a sing-along, hand clap, guitar to acappella number shows true talent, and the fact the crowd was into it shows they pulled it off well.

Finally the headliners took the stage. The Shout Out Louds are a group hailing from Sweden. I had never seen a pic of the band, but if I walked in off the street with these guys playing I’d have to ask myself why are Jason Schwartzman and Hilary Duff playing obscure Cure b-sides. The SOLs debut album (Howl, Howl, Gaff, Gaff) was a blogger’s cyber wet dream. The album got rave reviews from the hippest of the hip, and to be honest the praise is well deserved; however after reading countless reviews I expected the band to basically be Stokes sound-a-likes when they played live. I’m not sure why every crunchy sounding outfit is lumped as Strokes-esque, but while the NY dandies venture towards the Velvet Underground, the SOL’s seem to venture towards the Robert Smith sounding side of things.

The band has perfected their stage routine. The set was high energy and sounded tight. Plus, Bebban played the accordion, the glockenspiel and I felt like Grant Fuhr as I watched a (andy) Moog in action. The girl/boy vocal combo reminded me of what I love about Stereolab, only with more punch. They tore through the set, playing crowd favorites Oh Sweetheart and Hurry Up and Go, and surprised me with a fantastic cover of Whiskey Streams (Pogues). All in all from start to finish, this was a great night of music. Check out this tour when it stops in your town.



SUN KIL MOON - TINY CITIES

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Album: Tiny Cities
Artist: Sun Kil Moon
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Releasing an all cover album is a tough gig. You either offend fans of the original artist, or disappoint your own fans who were waiting on new material. So when I read that Mark Kozelek was releasing a Modest Mouse cover album, I was firmly split between the two camps. I'm a big Modest Mouse fan, which until they got popular by writing one of the catchiest songs in recent memory, could be said without feeling the need to justify the statement. Lonesome Crowded West still goes down as one of my favorite driving CDs. Mark has been pretty prolific, releasing solo albums and as front man of the Red House Painters, but his most successful work to date (in my humble opinion) is Ghosts of the Grey Highway by his new band, Sun Kil Moon. This album is featured throughout ShopGirl, and if the film hadn't been on the shelf for so long, Sun Kil Moon would probably be a household name by now.

Jump ahead to today and the new album, called Tiny Cities (Modest Mouse Rein), is Mark's take on the Modest Mouse catalog. This is not new territory for Mr. Kozelek - he stripped down AC/DC's songs in the same manner - but still, anyone who heard both bands would probably wonder how these two styles will mesh. Isaac has a rapid fire, high energy vocal style, where as Mark's vocals laze over tracks, lulling you into submission before you realize you have become enthralled in the track. Modest Mouse is fast, exciting, and raw and converting their songs to an acoustic environment takes a majority of what makes the songs great out of the equation.

I guess without being too critical, I really enjoy the songs on the album. He picks a lot of classic Modest Mouse tracks from the early days, and manages to avoid covering "Float On". If this was a gimmick for a guy playing in a coffee house, I'd be all over it, but as an album I find the tracks seem to blend together and never expand to all they could be. This isn't for lack of emotion or effort on Kozelek's part. He obviously feels strongly about each song he has chosen, and the songs do sound good, but it is hard to listen to "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes" and not want to hear the high pitched, high paced original. Several songs ("Ocean Breathes Salty" stands out) sound fantastic. If you were unfamiliar with the originals, you'd have no idea these songs were Modest Mouse track and would be happy to listen to them over and over again.

For me, after falling in love with Ghosts of the Grey Highway, which is so diverse, and waiting impatiently to hear Sun Kil Moon's next release I can't help but feel let down a bit by this 30 minute cover album. But to continue sittinguncertaintye of uncertainity, if anyone else tried this, I'd probably hate the idea and the result. Kozelek really takes some chances on material with a strong fan base, and a distinct style. To quote Mr. Burns, "I know what I hate and I don't hate this." I guess that is the problem with high expectations - I was hoping for so much with this release, even a better than average album seems to leave me slightly disappointed. Full points for effort, and it is worth a listpreferredst would have prefered to hear new material from such a great band.


BASHY BAZOOKS - DEMO

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Demo
Bashy Bazooks:
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People don’t read blogs to find out about bands they already know about. If they are on MuchMusic or MTV, chances are you won’t be finding much press about them on the Hill. We are starting a new review segment featuring bands just starting out that we think have the skills to pay the bills.

The first band we are going to review is the Bashy Bazooks. The Bazooks are a Brit Pop band from the small city of Utrecht, Holland. They are heavily influenced by OK Computer era Radiohead and offer enjoyable shoe-gazing style jams. They have three mp3’s on their site, the first of which we are hosting as well (Stardust). Stardust follows the pattern of subtle verses which explode into a guitar heavy chorus. The minor chord sound fits perfectly, and the track is very enjoyable, and I am not one to complain about a face melting guitar solo thrown in for good measure.

Ground Control is a more straight forward rocker, and lead singer Roger is the focal point. The riff and rhythm section more–or-less houses his garage band style vocals and lets him take center stage. The final 1:45 of this song is a nice head nodding fade out that I would think would make a nice set closer for the band to expand on and really rock out.

The last song they have is the sun. The sun is made up of a bouncy guitar riff and some heavy drum work. I’d love to see the drummer take more control of this song and really and some thick fills and power the song forward, but it’s very enjoyable none the less. The song gets stronger once the drummer and guitarist start syncing up, and the cowbell factor is increased.

Take advantage of this bands charity, and grab the demo versions of their songs. We look forward to more tracks from this up and coming band.



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