Archive for December, 2007

Hillcrest Road – Life After Liftoff

Hillcrest Road, a five piece band from Milwaukee, is the latest pop-rock sensation to command my attention. Their debut album, Life After Liftoff is a blend of traditional pop-rock sounds, mixed with a soulful voice, and a genuinely uplifting feel. Certainly a band that’s ready to take on the mainstream, their debut album was a pleasant surprise and a great way to cap 2007.

Having never before heard of Hillcrest Road, I was excited to see how they compared with the bands that were currently in line for a review. Life After Liftoff was excellent off the first listen, and not surprisingly, I was more than happy to give them my final review of the year. Hillcrest Road have taken the genre of pop-rock head on, and developed a sound that really solidifies them as the next generation. They have done an excellent job of retaining the fundamentals of the genre, but have also implemented an alternative feel to their sound. Their soulful influence is what puts them ahead of the pack, in what has become a highly critiqued, yet competitive year for the pop rock industry.

Hillcrest Road has great vocals, which is what really impressed me from the get go. Talent wise the vocals are good, but it’s the soft nature of, lead singer, Scott Dangerfield’s voice that attracts the soul, so to speak. Options Limit Actions is a song that gives off this exact notion, using a very catchy yet subtle guitar riff, accompanied by excellent vocals, the final product was a simple, yet great song.

Taking a slower pace than most other bands, Hillcrest Road gives the softer side of individuals an emotional trip. I get a really good vibe when listening to Hillcrest Road because they don’t try to do too much, which in the end, speaks volumes for their music. The use of slow verses quickly turning to faster paced chorus’ has been a winning strategy for other bands and is, no question, fitting for this band as well. Use of acoustic guitars, blended with electric guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards has developed a sound I’m really impressed with. It’s Been You shows the pop-rock style of Hillcrest Road, whereas as Marvelous goes back to the soulful alternative side of the band.

Overall, the vocals and instrumentals mesh well to produce simple satisfying songs. The lyrics are meaningful and match the vocals, providing listeners with something they can relate to. I would recommend this band to anyone who likes the slower paced pop rock that Hillcrest Road provides. Any fans of The Cab should also check out this band because they are very similar. Hopefully Hillcrest Road can do a show in Toronto, because in just a couple of listens they have become an instant favourite of mine.

Be sure to check out their Myspace to stream more songs.

You can also visit their Online Store for merch including their debut album Life After Liftoff.

Hillcrest Road – Options Limit Actions

Hillcrest Road – Marvelous

Drowning Girl – Bang!

Drowning Girl is a band out of Toronto fronted by 19-year old Hill Kourkoutis, and band members Dave Paoli and Jesse Porter. Drowning Girl has been playing some shows at Tattoo and plan to start touring across Canada.

Bang! was released in 2006 without much hype however they did win the grand prize of the Canadian Radio Star National Songwriting Competition for 2007 for the song Dead or Alive. This award arguably doesn’t impress me at all as I hate radio and probably gave me the wrong impression on what this type of band would be.

If you’ve followed this blog long enough, I love female fronted bands and you could say I get suckered into it pretty easily. Anyway the more I look into the things that Hill Kourkoutis does, the more impressed I become. Basically all songs on “Bang!” are written AND produced by her. She has done some acting, plays a wide range of instruments and has directed a video for Tara Slone (of Joydrop). She’s born in ’88 like me yet she’s probably done what many people dream of doing in their entire lifetime. I’m going to see if I can interview her (I’m very impressed!) but let’s get back to the music. Visit her personal myspace, she has a great cover of the Spice Girls – Say You’ll Be There.

Drowning Girl
has some really catchy songs. What made me decide to check them out was the single Bang!. Lyrically I found the lyrics very sexual yet at times very innocent. Singing wise, Hill has a great vocal range from times she utilizes this deep sounding voice (especially on Bang!) at other times you can see that she gathers influences from Blondie and The Cure (Dead or Alive uses the ba-ba-ba which I attribute to the Cure).

Drowning Girl is basically pop rock but dressed up with more a cooler/alternative feel by using synths and not being afraid to change it up a bit. I think musically the best song is “Boys Underwear” as it has the most versatility. It’s not my favorite song, maybe due to the subject matter and I don’t really like the song title and I really like the catchy stuff on her record.

All the way through though, Bang! is a solid record and is good from top to bottom. I wouldn’t be surprised if 2008 is a big year for them because whether it’s mainstream or indie success, they have some great music and with a front-woman like Hill Kourkoutis (she is pretty hot I must admit) they can establish a fan base. I don’t really think a score is appropriate but it’s definitely somewhere between a 4 and 4.25 out of 5 in comparison to other popular indie acts so I’m quite high on it. I may decide to catch them in concert (anyone want to go with?)

Buy Bang! from Amazon (though it’s temporarily out of stock)

Check out my two favorite tracks:
Bang by Drowning Girl

Tragic Romantic by Drowning Girl

The video for Caught By The Rope:

Klaxons – Myths of the Near Future Review

The Klaxons don’t really need an introduction when it comes to the internet. They had a huge year in 2007 winning the Mercury Prize and elected with having the top album of the year under some publications. This album follows the likes of The Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand. This award didn’t go out without controversy as I’ve heard many ripping this album and undeserving of such an honor against the likes of Amy Winehouse, Arctic Monkeys (probably because they won in ’06), Bat For Lashes among others.

“Myths of Near Future” was released in the UK on January 29 and in the US on March 27 of this year. To say I’m “late” is an under statement but music is supposed to be timeless so who cares. I really just wanted to judge for myself what the hype/anti-hype was and to form my own opinion.

I don’t know really where to start when writing a review for this album but the Klaxons are placed in the category of Dance-punk or psychedelic pop so I would have to say it’s pretty enjoyable music to listen to as it’s rather upbeat and it offers you much more than what you would expect from a simple pop rock band. Some songs I really dug like “Gravity’s Rainbow” (I didn’t know it was the first single but I can see why), “Atlantis to Interzone”, “It’s Not Over Yet” and much more… this album definitely doesn’t challenge me in any way, lyrically and musically structured the same but hey it’s hard not to like for me.

The Klaxons are probably doing going to do extremely well in the mainstream here with most songs being under 4 minutes. I am not quite sure the Klaxons have the ability would be able to put out epic songs of a long period of time (like a 12 minute song).

Vocally, I’m not really all that impressed. I am not quite sure there’s anything I would be impressed about but their music (instrumental wise I guess) is catchy, with some great intros and pretty impressive hooks.

As you can see I am really leaning toward in favor of it but I find myself struggling to say why I am so impressed by it. I’m a sucker for pop rock and the Klaxons are slightly more complex in terms of their sound but I don’t feel like they really stand out from other bands. As for the album, I would call it great but hesitate to say it’s amazing/absolutely the best thing ever. It gets a 4.25 out of 5 from me. I would say it’s a solid choice for the Mercury Prize and if you visit the net and see how successful they are now, some wouldn’t disagree.

It’s Not Over Yet by The Klaxons

Buy Myths of the Near Future @ Amazon

Buy Myths of the Near Future at @Insound for $9.99 US

Allan’s Top Songs of 07 #25-1

I decided to change my mind and do the rest of the list today. As you can see, Okkervil dominated the top songs of ’07 quite handedly with 4 tracks placing in the top 50.

I actually hated doing this list…not that it was subpar but I think I would’ve felt better doing a review today. Just no writing quality in putting out this list though it’s great for traffic bait.

25. She’s a Rejector by Of Montreal (link)
24. Patty Lee by Les Savy Fav (link)
23. Open Doors by Josh Ritter (link)
22. White Dove by John Vanderslice (link)
21. Handsome Furs Hate This City by The Handsome Furs
20. Weekend Without Makeup by The Long Blondes (link)
19. Meat Market by Everybody Else (link)
18. 1234 by Feist
17. Wolf and Crane by Siberian (link)
16. Walcott by Vampire Weekend
15. Fluorescent Adolescent by The Arctic Monkeys
14. Apartment Story by The National (link)
13. Red Rabbits by The Shins
12. Impossible by The Shout Out Louds
11. Right Moves by Josh Ritter (link)
10. Up On Your Leopard, Upon The End of Your Feral Days by Sunset Rubdown (link)
9. (Antichrist) Television Blues by The Arcade Fire (link)
8. Bunny Ain’t No Kind of Rider by Of Montreal (link)
7. Unless It Kicks by Okkervil River (link)
6. Back in Your Head by Tegan & Sara
5. The Mending of the Gown by Sunset Rubdown
4. Oxford Comma by Vampire Weekend
3. Once and Never Again by The Long Blondes (link)
2. Mistaken For Strangers by The National
1. Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe by Okkervil River (link)

Allan’s Top Songs of 07 #50-26

I actually quite enjoyed picking out the top songs of 2007. There were many tracks from albums I loved and other singles that stood out in a lackluster album. Most of these tracks I have posted before (I’ll link to the post if you wish to dig hard enough to download them) and are mainly bands I am familiar with. Generally, I blogged about the band if they appeared in the top 50. There are some tracks I haven’t posted yet so you’ll be able to download them here (I think it looks bad if I have every mp3 listed available for download). I linked to the post where the other mp3s are available.

I did hate uploading tracks though and the linking stuff (takes forever). I also had to re-upload some tracks after annoying my friend Jack with bandwidth usage. Look out for the rest tomorrow.

50. A Girl in Port by Okkervil River
49. Shirin by Jens Lekman (link)
48. I Know I’ll See You by A Place To Bury Strangers (link)
47. For Science Fiction by Maritime (link)
46. Freak Out by Liars (link)
45. Phantom by Justice (link)
44. Sleep Deprivation by Simian Mobile Disco
43. Take Me To the Ballroom by the Moonbabies
42. Tthhee Ppaarrttyy by Justice (link)
41. Myriad Harbour by The New Pornographers (link)
40. Objects of My Affection by Peter, Bjorn and John
39. Blue Headlights by The Shout Out Louds (link)
38. No I in Threesome by Interpol
37. My Moon, My Man by Feist
36. Kookaburra by John Vanderslice
35. Paper Birds by Siberian (link)
34. Make A Plan To Love Me by the Bright Eyes
33. Philadelphia Grand Jury by the Fiery Furnaces
32. I Believe by Simian Mobile Disco
31. You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb by Spoon
30. I’m Not Going to Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You by the Black Kids
29. You Can’t Hold the Hand of the Rock and Roll Man by Okkervil River
28. Airship by Siberian (link)
27. Turn On Me by The Shins (link)
26. White Winter Hymnal by the Fleet Foxes (link)

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