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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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.

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

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.

Phil Jones is Calling Everyone – Raise Up

Appearing out of nowhere earlier this year with a sound that combines the poetic nature of Leonard Cohen with the intense passion of Springsteen, Phil Jones has quickly established himself as the voice of reason in these incredibly complicated times. Jones gripping lyrics are complimented by exotic grooves and searing solos courtesy of his band of native Hawaiians.

This particular song samples Dr. Martin Luther King and comes across with the same gusto and sincerity as his speech. Phil is asking America to raise up and adhere to its own mission statement. Yes, we have been both right and wrong in our actions and it is time to admit this and move forward. It is a powerful message to our country, though the primary focus here seems to be on recreating our existence as humans, not Americans.

Interspersed with fire/hula dancers and sweeping shots of Kauai, this beautifully shot video has mass appeal and has already chalked up over 65,0000 hits. Jones’s full length record is due out sometime later this year and is sure to please fans of surf rock and sufi poetry. Check out more here: PHIL JONES

Jodi Shaw takes us to the Country

This poetic ballad has a sweeping vaudevillian quality and the video follows suite in boozy 70’s hand drawn animation. It is refreshing to see two bicycles cozy up and go for an evening ride to the county fair, is it not? The song is the real star here and I particularly love Jodi’s penetrating, dead on voice.

Jodi Shaw is a Brooklyn based Singer/Songwriter who combines the cerebral charm of 90’s rock with raw indie appeal. Her new album In Waterland is out today. Very addictive. Click the cover to link up.

Click the cover to get In Waterland

Cameron Stenger: Gentle Visionary

This young NYC songwriter has been making considerable waves this winter and spring and I can see why… it is perfect seasonal music to sink into. His lovely wind blown folk songs float around in an eerily sparse sonic atmosphere as he effectively lands an emotional punch with his poignant love lorn lyrics. Some tracks bare little overdubs and rely on powerfully intimate moments of singing and picking. This works particularly well on the transcendent “Come Home” which takes its listener to a warm, dreamy place under the frostbitten trees. Or perhaps I have just visited this place in his succinct little video for the song below. Either way, it is modern and beautiful in its simplicity.

Cameron’s album Lovers is out today​. Visit his BANDCAMP and pick it up. Now.

The Vows – Parallel

This haunting track fell into my lap out of the ethers. The groovy bass line is complimented by a great break beat accented by a tambourine. This fantastic rhythm holds steady until the soaring radiohead like vocals enter. This is modern psych rock that doesn’t rely on any formulas. If you can vibe the discordant builds and reach the double time chorus you will understand the vision and innovation taking place here. Lots of potential and definitely one to watch.