The Art of the Concept Album

Yesterday saw the official release of Zurich-based Marty McKay’s Sins Disciple; a widely ambitious concept album that runs the gamut from nu metal and rap rock. McKay has shared the stage with Vanilla Ice, and in a way, ends up sounding a little like his protégé as he internalizes the 7 deadly sins and fires off first person raps over the glitchy Euro beats and clean cut pop hooks.

The album, which comes equipped with an elaborate booklet of beautifully shot and staged photos, is also accompanied by a graphic novel which mirrors the themes and characters laid out in the music. It is an incredibly ostentatious debut that has a lot going for it on several levels, namely:

1) It stands at the vanguard of technology; weaving together several formats that are available in both the digital and physical realms.

2) The album and the book feed into each other, creating a multi-dimensional universe curated by McKay. If you dig either the music or the book, there is plenty more to expand on.

3) Besides the somewhat throwback nature of the music, the content is extremely current and enlightening without any intentional finger pointing or name dropping. It is a socio-political masterwork.

I tip my hat to McKay, who had the gumshoe to not only tackle such a grandiose feat for his debut, but to express the songs in English, a language which is not his native tongue. The reason, however, is obvious… McKay has his sights set on bringing his concept art to the masses and has done an extraordinary job completing such an ambitious undertaking.

Sins Disciple is available here

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Nick Drake’s Mom sings from the Grave


One of 2013’s most poignant folk releases was recorded in the 1950s. Nick Drake’s mother, Molly Drake, used to record her own original songs at home on the family’s reel-to-reel recorder.

The 19 tracks were restored by John Wood — an engineer who frequently collaborated with Nick and is often credited for “discovering” him — and released as a self-titled album by the label Squirrel Things Recordings. They are accompanied by ” a biography written by Molly’s daughter Gabrielle Drake, a custom letter-pressed jacket and family photos.

Not only do these songs offer a new starting point as to Nick’s influence, but they also reveal the quietly fierce musings of a housewife in the ’50s, a woman with an artistic soul whose pristine voice and imagist poetry were captured, lost, and then rediscovered.

Via Buzzfeed

I had the good fortune of coming across this band earlier this year as I was yearning for some robust rock. I was immediately struck by the raw, un-cookie-cutter flavor and brash songwriting of The Jelly Project who are adored by their local St. Paul, Minnesota biker clubs.

The quartet has returned after their first national tour with this strangely insightful video for the kinky thrasher “Stupid Animal”. It is a clever attack on societal norms, reaffirming their penetrating outlaw image while giving the listener plenty of funky visuals to keep in their head after the song is over.

God Bless The Jelly Project for breathing some new, innovative life into the stale indie scene of 2012. Hopefully they can continue their unmasking of the sheepish and expose more and more people to their vital slice of American Rock.

Now I’m not much into silly YouTube videos of low res images set to someone’s famous song, so please forgive the nature of this video on my blog. I am however deeply effected by this video because it is done well with beautiful imagery and set to a completely awe inspiring song by Mr. Jai Uttal. There is something unearthly about the lyrics and arrangement that transcend traditional music yet bubble with more substantial power then the newage fusion he is known for. Perhaps if Leonard Cohen had gone to India, studied with a voice teacher and recorded with Phillip Glass it would sound something like this. My point being… I could listen to it all day long

Tini Grey : Positive Vibrations

It is wonderful to come across a new artist with such a well put together image and remarkably mainstream sound. Tini Grey’s debut album Shades of Grey retains his soulful island essence while exploring R&B, Pop and Folk Rock. It is diverse enough to hold your attention and cohesive enough to paint a full picture of the artist and his message, which is refreshingly positive in nature.

Even the songs that speak on his rougher times seem to have an upbeat vibe in both the music and delivery. “I Feel Lucky” and “Just Smile” both revolve around bringing the best out of a hard situation… and I must say that it is truly a gift to have these kind of emotions articulated in the form of an accessible pop song. If you’re having one of those days, you could simply flip on either of these tracks to shed some light on the darkness and bring some resolve to those negative feelings.

The video above for the catchy single “Company” is a great calling card for Mr. Grey as he moves through vibrant backdrops singing the addictive chorus, gradually becoming more and more surrounded by his loved ones and friends. A great use of color, simplicity and timing keep the viewer raptured and ensure you come away humming the melody line for days after.

My personal favorite on the album is the closer “Raise Them Up”. It is a compassionate and patriotic plea to acknowledge our fallen war heroes. Tini’s voice works really well here, especially when he bites into the lyrics of the last chorus. Again the song seems to deal with very heavy subject matter in a upflifting way, something extremely hard to do, especially with something as controversial as war.

Connect with Tini Grey HERE

David Gergen’s music sits somewhere between indie and Americana, channeling Beck’s melancholy Sea Change vibe on his lead-off single “We Wont Cry at the Burial”. There is an unsettling sadness in David’s inflections that innocently tug at the heart-strings. He manages a confessional attitude while painting a beautifully abstract picture, allowing the listener to draw on his emotions rather than be manipulated by his words.

His latest EP “Odyssey” is full of well crafted, astute songs told from a wise, yet aching heart. CHECK IT OUT

When another culture reflects back it’s light hearted take on 60’s – 70’s English pop music, one can only hope its as adorable as this 7 inch single by Aniss & Lacanca. “You’re Cool” is a bright and fun little ditty begging to be featured in the next Scott Pilgrim movie and elicits a similar indie appeal in this creative, shoe-string video by Japanese director Yu Osaki.

These girls work their carefree magic over the garage punk riff, making for an fun listen while providing a touching perspective on the once popular, now cult music of yesteryear.

The single is available in Japan and overseas. CHECK IT OUT

The Facts about Ugly Dirty

Bursting on the scene with same defiant attitude as Nirvana, female fronted rock band The Jelly Project, from St. Paul’s Minneapolis, comes bearing a similar rebellious musical offering for our lost youth. But unlike Nirvana, this bands message should not be misconstrued as ‘all is lost’ for it exudes a strong positive force coupled with a freewheeling ‘I just don’t give a hoot, let me play my rock and roll!’ attitude.

The overall sound is in a sense throwback and at times, like in the case of “Crazy World”, transports one back to the 60’s with a stripped down delivery akin to Janis Joplin with Big Brother and The Holding Company. The band does however flip the script several times on this debut, getting downright funky on the social commentary of “Stupid Animal” and epitomizing speakeasy coolness with “One in My Pocket”.

The passion in these recordings can be felt from both the musicians and the young lady singing – none more gratifying then the title track “Ugly Dirty”, which spins its lyrical and musical threads like an enlightening mushroom trip. It is a booming discourse on feeling alive in your body and your soul, culminating in the strange and challenging chorus “I know you wont go down with me tonight”.

This is a fun album to listen to and its deeper more reflective qualities begin to shine through upon further spins. It is, above all, nice to hear a female authentically asserting herself in these prepackaged, post veritable times.

Download “Crazy World” for Free!

Then check in and buy their debut album Ugly Dirty

 

 

 

Curse in the Woods – Perfect Lawns

This delectable commentary on the ‘perfect life’ scenario is a great listen – note perfect from beginning to end. The witching cabaret rhythm and sultry Beth Gibbons like vocal deliver a unwavering, cynical punch without waging a pretentious attack on the superficial way most people choose to live.

I was delighted to find that Curse in the Woods new album The Deals They Made is not entirely made up of jazzy burlesque songs. Instead it is filled with wonderful dynamics… thoughtful piano ballads “Wise Up”, indie sensibilities “Echoes” and quirky beat driven pop “Widow” all tied together with acoustic European carnivalesque instrumentation.

From the looks of the video below it seems CITW truly has their act together, performing with up to 6 members and coming across with the same cinematic undertones as their recorded material. Probably more. The enchanting lead signer puts it best when she says “If Nina Simone and Beck had a baby that grew up in a haunted house.. they would probably be fans of Curse in the Woods”.

I certainly feel more and more great music will come from these folks and look forward to tuning in. Drop by their BandCamp and purchase their phenomenal new album: http://curseinthewoods.bandcamp.com/

Looking Back: Virtual Insanity

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This prothetic song from 96 signaled the great technological revolution of the 00’s. A momentous message is conveyed in this slice of effortless acid jazz pop. Virtual reality has become virtual insanity with people hooked into their Bluetooth’s and iPhones like Cyborgs.

With their hip neo soul trappings and hefty hat wearing frontman, Jamiroquai burst onto the scene in a blaze of funked out glory. Their 3rd release Travelling Without Moving yielded the megahit “Virtual Insanity”, due in part to its Jonathan Glazer-directed video, which featured lead singer Jason Kay’s Michael Jackson esque dance moves and some physics-defying images.

Any guesses on how they pulled this off? I have some ideas.