Category Archives: Music Videos

Album Review -THE BRILLIANT GLOW – Handsome Ghost

thebrilliantglowhandsomeghost

Vote for this Review/Purchase on Amazon.com

Visit the Official Website of Handsome Ghost

Dear Music Appreciators,

AllMusic isn’t really paying attention yet. Even the artist’s own record label provides surprisingly little information on their website and not a single related item for sale in their store. Are they aware how good the music is? Do they appreciate the marketability of the name? Despite listener numbers in the millions on Spotify, at the time of this writing it seems there is relatively little to hang my hat on as a brand new fan of the musical artist Handsome Ghost.

So don’t overlook this new EP as some kind of too-typical playlist filler that works best for background music. This tantalizingly brief collection of personal pop songs is a pretty beautiful piece of musical art. Though I may be using words like “beautiful” based mostly on the haunting and ethereal vocals and melody from the closing track (“Didn’t I Fade”) that have been circulating in my head for the last couple of hours. Circulating and percolating on their own without any conscious effort from me.

“Graduate” is a proper album opener with a capital “O” – a radio friendly synthpop rouser with an ultra-catchy chorus and lyrical imagery that puts pictures in your mind (“bloodshot eyes under the bleachers”). “Eyes Wide” also sounds radio ready and weaves pizzicato synths around an addictive and nearly wordless electro chorus. It’s one of those soul cleansing road-tripping-to-a-new-beginning songs that works well as the soundtrack to any kind of clean slate moment. “Promises” circles quirkily and then soars, and “Lions” and “Suiteness” come down from that high to push off exploring in new and reflective directions. Which brings us back to the end that I mentioned at the beginning – the otherworldly “Didn’t I Fade,” which works so well as an exit piece for a handsome ghost.

Well I want a full length album now and there is none to be had This makes three EP’s in three years. This one and the last one can be found streaming and are also downloadable on Amazon and iTunes, which is great, but when I like an artist this much I still like to hold a CD in my hands when I can. And the only one I can find anywhere on like the whole internet right now is the first EP, released in 2014. It’s called “Blood Stutter,” and it appears it’s only available on CD and two of the four tracks also appear on the 2015 EP “Steps.” At the moment there are six copies of “Blood Stutter” available from third party sellers on Amazon for anywhere from $2-$20. Well, now it’s five copies because I just bought one. The two dollar one, of course. Hmmm, “acceptable” condition from Seattle Goodwill, we’ll see what that’s all about. Scrounging the ol’ thrift store bargain bin for a worn out copy of the only CD release by a new and sparkling musical talent that hasn’t even released his first proper album yet. The music business sure has changed.

Maybe we’ll at least be able to say we knew him when.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review – WAKING UP THE GIANTS – Grizfolk

grizfolkwakingupthegiants

Vote for This Review/Purchase on Amazon.com

Visit the Official Website of Grizfolk

Dear Music Appreciators,

Who are these guys? I like them. I like them a lot. They have a big, polished, radio friendly sound and for now I won’t hold that against them. It’s a pleasure to press play on the debut album of a band I’ve never heard of and to be so pleasantly surprised.

And this is one of those rare albums where I find myself waiting in vain for all the good songs to be over. Where is the filler here? It all sounds so good I almost don’t trust it. If I wanted to be critical I guess I could say nothing really challenges the listener here. Musically speaking, if Grizfolk is picking the listener up for a date, they don’t sit in the car and honk the horn and then brood mysteriously when you get in. No, Grizfolk comes to the door and walks you to the car. They’ve got flowers for you and all that. They make it easy to like them – if you’re not too jaded that is.

With a name like Grizfolk I expected more guitars I guess. Maybe more of an acoustic flavored folk rock sound. Not so much here. Yes, the guitars are there but there are no big guitar solos and the overall sound of the band seems more keyboards and drums driven. Much of the album is dipped in a poppy, electronic coating that candies everything up nicely. Hooks abound, and you may find yourself singing along pretty quickly. There are multiple moments that sound taylor made for big crowd concert sing alongs.

Speaking of concerts, after listening to WAKING UP THE GIANTS I found myself wanting to know more about Grizfolk. Who are the band members, where are they from, what are they like, and what do these guys sound like live? Holden Caulfield said certain books make you “wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it” I say that certain albums make you wish the band was from your hometown and you could go see them live and in concert whenever you felt like it. WAKING UP THE GIANTS by Grizfolk is one of those albums.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review – 4 1/2 – Steven Wilson

stevenwilson412

Vote for this Review/Purchase on Amazon.com

Visit the Official Website of Steven Wilson

Dear Music Appreciators,

Here is an alphabetized list of random words and names that came to mind while I listened to 4 1/2 by Steven Wilson:

addictive, artful, art-pop, atmospheric, avant garde, epic, experimental, futuristic, George Harrison, groovy, grungy, hard rock, haunting, healing, heavy, industrial, jazzy, Jeff Lynne, Jon Auer, Led Zeppelin, Manheim Steamroller, masterful, Neal Casal, Nick Drake, noirish, outer space, prog rock, psychedelia, robots, rubbery, shimmery, soaring, soothing, sprawling, swirling, Yes…

These are things that came to mind based on my own music collection, experiences, and exposure – some of them may not be relatable or even make sense, I don’t know, but I do know that they popped into my head. This is my first Steven Wilson experience and I feel lucky coming in late on him. Looks like I’ve got some more albums to work back through, that is, if I ever feel like I want to stop listening to this one.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review – WATER FOR YOUR SOUL – Joss Stone

jossstonewaterforyoursoul

Vote for this review//Purchase album on Amazon.com

Visit the Official Website of Joss Stone

Dear Music Appreciators,

What a cool album cover. Kind of a lofty suggestion though, water for MY soul? Water, with all it’s refreshing, restorative, and life-sustaining qualities, for “my soul?” I hate to be the semantics police (I know, I know, there might be other meanings here) but unfortunately the music on this album doesn’t quite do these implied concepts justice for me.

But for plenty of Joss Stone’s fans, perhaps this album will be sort of like water for their souls I guess, in the sense that Joss always has a beautiful voice and a sort of a hand-holding, healing-soul-sister “we’re all in this together” kind of vibe going on, and lots of people will enjoy and identify with that regardless of what she does on her records.

Yes, there are reggae beats and a wide variety of instruments spread around on this album, and that’s pretty cool and groovy and everything but where is there any sense of joy or fun or at least some good ol’ fashioned showing off of that big expressive voice? Even the “up with people” type songs (such as “Star” or “Clean Water”) seem restrained by an overly busy instrumental background and relatively understated vocals and never quite seem to take off and soar. “Star” hands the big chorus off to a children’s choir for example, which gives the song a sort of plodding, creepy feeling rather than turning it into the jubilant, people-come-together kind of anthem it could have been. And this one particular example of choosing a musical style or effect over a chance to feature Joss Stone’s greatest asset (her voice) might just be symbolic of the main issue that infects the entire album.

In many ways WATER FOR YOUR SOUL is too long and too serious, and it lacks the big vocal moments that have made Joss Stone a pleasure to listen to so many times in the past.

But I criticize because I care. Funny thing is, despite all of it’s issues, with each succeeding listen I’ve found more to like and can’t deny that there are words and music and beats here that want to wear some grooves in my mind. Okay, fine, I’ll take numbers 1 through 5…oh and numbers 7 and 8…basically I’ll take half the album and you can keep the rest.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review – SOMETHING MORE THAN FREE – Jason Isbell

jasonisbellsomethingmorethanfree

VOTE FOR THIS REVIEW ON AMAZON.COM

BUY INDIE, BUY LOCAL Read this review/buy this album at Easy Street Records in Seattle, WA

Visit the Official Website of Jason Isbell

Dear Music Appreciators,

If music were clothing then Jason Isbell’s latest album would be like one of those favorite shirts. You know, the one you reach for more than the others, the one that fits right and feels good – the one that doesn’t go out of style. SOMETHING MORE THAN FREE is a comfortable, well-made album that deserves some heavy rotation in the playlists of singer-songwriter appreciators everywhere.

Opening track “If It Takes a Lifetime” would not sound too out of place on a late 70’s Kenny Rogers album – and if you don’t think that’s a compliment then I don’t know what to do with you. “Hudson Commodore” could have been a hit for Eagles in their heyday. “Speed Trap Town” evokes the best of NEBRASKA era Springsteen.

Don’t put this one on to rock out. Don’t put this one on to dance. Put this album on to think and reflect and question, to come to terms and plan and move forward somehow. This music is good for staying up late, driving around, learning lyrics and singing a long. There’s a lot of acoustic, mid-tempo shuffling stuff and the electric guitar flavors are used sparingly but to great effect on songs like “24 Frames,” “Children of Children,” and “Palmetto Rose.”

A strong sense of memory and character and story abounds on these songs, and there’s plenty of conflict and regret, but there’s also a feeling of purpose and potential for good. Isbell asks questions (“The Life You Chose”) and he offers answers (“24 Frames”) and he sings about work like the grown-ass man that he is (“If It Takes a Lifetime,” “Something More than Free”). Recently my 12-year old nephew declared that I didn’t like the same kind of music he did because he was into “singer-songwriter.” He offered 17-year old internet discovery Shawn Mendes as an example of a singer-songwriter he was into. I’ve got nothing against Shawn Mendes, nephew, but hopefully someday you’ll learn to think of someone like Jason Isbell instead, because SOMETHING MORE THAN FREE is what real man singing and songwriting is all about.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review – GHOST NOTES – Veruca Salt

verucasaltghostnotes

Support this Review/Purchase on Amazon.com

Visit the Official Website of Veruca Salt

Dear Music Appreciators,

Why is this a great album that you should buy right now? Because this is a half-female half-male band playing alternative rock with pop appeal and punk attitude, and playing it well. Yes, they sound like the nineties sometimes and yes supposedly this is the band’s first album in like ten years and maybe there has been some breakup drama in the past or whatever, but maybe none of that really matters all that much if you think about it. All that stuff is just filler.

On GHOST NOTES you’ll find heavy riffs, Ann Wilson-esque wailing, and in-your-face attitude vs. gentle guitar, hushed vocals, and even some touches of vulnerability, despite the “it’s gonna get loud, it’s gonna get heavy” forewarning on the opening track. “Empty Bottle” displays the band’s full range of powers and dynamics and it’s good to find such a strong song anchoring the middle of the record instead of weighing down the front end. And there are plenty more strong songs to be found on GHOST NOTES, all studded with memorable moments. Notice how the meandering slow intro to “Black and Blonde” morphs into a heavy, room-shaking riff. Notice the triple rhymes and rapid fire wordplay of “Laughing in the Sugar Bowl,” See if you can spot the subtle tribute to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecelia” on “The Museum of Broken Relationships,” Try and find a song that isn’t interesting in some way. Maybe you can do it but I couldn’t.

When I was younger I had a roommate from Uruguay, and whenever he encountered an American food he wasn’t familiar with, before trying it he would ask me “is this a sweet or a salt?” If he was here to ask me that question about Veruca Salt’s new album, I would tell him “it’s both.” Yes, my Uruguayan roommate, despite her name, this Veruca is both sweet and salty, and that quality, that contrast between the soft and loud, light and heavy, pretty and pained, is just one of many reasons why GHOST NOTES is such a satisfying listen. Now get me a Snickers bar, beeyotch

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review – VENUS – Joy Williams

joywilliamsvenus

Support this Review/Purchase on Amazon.com

Visit the Official Website of Joy Williams

Dear Music Appreciators,

Until this album I knew Joy Williams only as the female half of “The Civil Wars,” an Americana duo known for having their own little wars between themselves. Interesting that she should mark her return to a solo career with an opening track that samples Robert Frost, one of the great “Americana” poets of the twentieth century, a man who was probably no stranger to conflict, who has the words “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world” engraved on his gravestone.

Notice the album cover – the photograph suggests a woman exposed, surrounded by darkness, and if I remember anything from my film study classes I remember that when a character is covered with those horizontal shadow lines from the venetian blinds, they might be feeling internally divided or conflicted.

Notice the album title – “Venus” – the Goddess of Love, the brightest star in the sky – and a fun coincidence that the planet Venus completed a rare double star conjunction with Jupiter on the evening of June 30th, the release date for this album in North America.

Conflict, poetry, planetary conjunction coincidences – it’s all very well and good, but what about the music on this album? Well it’s more poppy and electronic and produced than the Civil Wars, but some of that trademark rootsiness and rusticity is still there. The music and vocals are beautiful and tasteful and thoughtful throughout, though at times a sort of earth mother “I’m gonna put a spell on you” kind of dark intensity creeps in. “I am woman, hear me roar” and all that.

In multiple interviews Joy Williams has discussed the album’s themes in relation to being a woman and has quoted the line “I am a universe wrapped in skin” as one of her favorites. And it’s this kind of exploration of the interplay between darkness and light that stamps this album as a memorable work worthy of repeated listening – though it’s pretty enough for mass audiences, VENUS is no puff piece designed to blow away and be forgotten. Hopefully other women, and all lovers of great music will be listening for a long time.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener