Corner Boy – Morning Morning E.P.

Corner Boy

Bluegrass, folk, a big double bass and an ole banjo thrown in for good measure. Sound familiar? Of course it does! Corner Boy are relatively new kids on the tweed covered block, can a block be covered in tweed? We’ll it was only a metaphor, but disprove me if you must. The ‘Irish Folk Rockers’ formed under the guidance of singer and guitarist, Michael D’Arcy, and have recently released their debut EP Morning Morning.  The 5 track EP, recorded in the secluded railway town of Lennoxville, Quebec, contains many points of reference within the modern folk scene. And before we go any further with this review it’s only fair to get these over-obvious comparisons out of the way so I can keep the focus on musicians at hand.

In 2011 Corner Boy packed a bag full of all things musically related to Irish and English folk and headed for the bright lights of Montreal. There the band garnered as much Americana Bluegrass and Gospel as their baggage allowance would permit and returned home with their debut E.P. Morning Morning and  a hefty fine for excess baggage. The overriding sound produced from this intercultural pick n mix is nothing short of an impromptu jam session between Mumford and Son’s and The Lumineers  in an Irish pub. Sure it’s not highly original but everyone is tapping their feet, clapping their hands and having a great time. Session on!

And that is what this E.P. is all about. From the explosive opening title track to the subtly crafted ‘Move to Paris’  you are bombarded with ‘catchy melodies and instant sing along lyrics that radiate energy; bringing the marriage of the new folk revival and Irish trad into the 21st century.’ For a debut record, Morning Morning is a very positive sign of things to come. They have already graced the stages of Other Voices Derry and have picked up nominations in the MRU Awards. Big things are most definitely around the corner….boys.

Check out their official website for updates.

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Mumford and Sons – Babel

Mumford and Sons have done well over the years to forge a solid and comfortable throne for themselves. As the undisputed kings of modern day folk, they have brought the humble genre to new heights. With their previous musical offering, Sigh No More, reaching Quadruple Platinum success and their new album, Babel, looking very likely to surpass this, it’s fair to say that the Londoners have brought folk music to the masses. But have they brought the masses to folk?

Babel has already seen staggering success and propelled the band to the top of the album charts with the UK’s fastest selling album of the year so far. The reasons for this however may not be entirely or even remotely down to the music. It seems more likely that this surge in sales was triggered by the guilt of missing out on the debut album and a determination not to overlook the next. Musically, Babel offers up an irksome and insipid selection of tracks, the prime example coming in the form of their newest single ‘I Will Wait’. With the precision and subtlety of a sledgehammer it marks the bands slow and steady slip into the mires of pop.

But it isn’t all bad, don’t get me wrong. The title track, ‘Babel’, is fierce and embodies all the elements we’ve come to associate with Mumford and Son’s energetic live performances.  ‘Lovers Eyes’ is a timeless classic and true showcase of the bands ingenious talent. Other nostalgic fragments come in the form of ‘Not With Haste’ and ‘Holland Road’. But unfortunately great tracks are few and far between on this album. The search for which will have listeners feeling like a ‘truffle pig’ in search of rare and precious musical delights.

The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

Having taken the same path over the course of three albums, The Gaslight Anthem‘s major label debut marks a significant change for the band. It sees them shaking off their punk shackles of old, as they prepare to take on the stadiums of the world. Handwritten is a rock album and makes no apologies for being such, laden with atmospheric anthems designed purely to be sung by large crowds and produced by Brendan O’Brien, who has previously worked with the likes of Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen.

Read the whole review here

 

Regina Spektor – What we saw from the cheap seats

What-We-Saw-From-the-Cheap-SeatsWhat We Saw from the Cheap Seats is the sixth studio album by Russian–American singer-songwriter Regina Spektor. The album comes after a three year musical drought following the 2009 release  of her album ‘Far’. ‘What We Saw From The Cheap Seats’ is a  bizarre roller-coaster ride that takes us through almost every facet of Spektor’s musical repertoire. This album contains everything from corrupt politicians, stereotypical Italian accents, a beat boxing drum solo that would rival the Eastenders intro and even a call for maturity at the end of it all.

We are introduced to the album in the form of ‘Small Town Moon’ a piano-jazz number that takes us back to Spektor’s older days.  The track is stripped back and more ‘normal’ than fans have come to expect.  But any fears that Spektor has lost her quirky edge are immediately abolished  with the albums second track. ‘Oh Marcello’ is a clear stand out track on the album. It contains two main elements, the first of which being the ‘dodgy’ Italian accent i alluded to above and the second takes the form a more ‘interpretative’ version of the classic ‘Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’. Other stand out track’s include recently released singles ‘All The Rowboats’ and ‘Don’t Leave Me (Ne me quitte pas)’ which actually featured on her 2002 album ‘Songs’. ‘All The Rowboats’ in my opinion, is a sort of pop invasion track. Its catchy beat is overpowering and backed up by Spektor’s trusty piano. It is a best of both worlds track, poppy enough to be current and still peculiar enough to fit the alternative bracket. Her unique songwriting style also features with some interesting lyrics, especially with her comparison of museums and galleries to ‘public mausoleums’. So it’s fair to say that Regina Spektor is the whimsical yardstick by which all quirkiness is measured by.

But its not all whimsical idiosyncrasies. On my first listen I almost wrote off the album for being  ‘gimmicky’, that is until I stumbled across ‘Firewood’. It is just simply vocals and piano, nothing else. It was a true showcase of her talent. Rather than hiding behind a wall of musical uniqueness she was vocally exposed and vulnerable. And prehaps we will be seeing more of this in the future? The album aptly ends with ‘Jessica’ a sort of call for personal growth and maturity. ‘We must get older now, So please wake up.’ Is this a sign that Spektor’s music is about to take on a deeper level? If its anything like ‘Firewood’ then I can’t complain. But lets just hope that she doesn’t lose her uniqueness in the process.

Michael MacLennan – Wolves

‘Wolves’ is the debut album release from Scottish singer-songwriter Michael MacLennan. ‘Wolves’ is  an eclectic mix of both vocal and musical ability and the intricate blend of both effortlessly guides us through the album. Michael Maclennan has spent years honing his craft and is now ready to explode, or more rather saunter delicately, onto the music scene. With upcoming single releases in the form of ‘To The Fire and Avalanche It looks like Michael may have a solid musical career ahead of him.

Michael MacLennan is a grafter with some strong political and social views. This can be clearly heard in his debut single,  ‘To The Fire. It is a harrowing anti-war song with some strong sediments. In fact this theme is reflected in several other tracks especially in The Old Tree. ‘Wolves’ is an emotionally charged album in parts but fails to impact as an overall collection. The album has many contrasting themes, some deep such as war and death and others shallow such as the jovial pursuit of romance. Rather than compliment each other it is clear that deeper more emotionally poignant songs have been diluted by the others.

Michael MacLennan is a great singer and it is clear that his voice is his strongest asset. However he is yet to lay down a unique vocal style. Listening to the album strong comparisons can be made to a wide array of bands and musicians. In the case of the first track Fall Down On Me strong shades of The Script and The Goo Goo Dolls can be heard. And I think this is a fatal flaw that requires immediate attention. If MacLennan is to have any success then he quickly needs to establish himself and his own style.

Michael MacLennan is a very talented musician. His years at the Royal Collage of music have stood to him and as a recording artist  he may potentially go far. As a debut album, ‘Wolves’  is safe and sensible with an overall lack of emotional vulnerability. Songs like To The Fire and The Old Tree offer shades of hope for the future. If it is true that MacLennan has written two songs a day for the past year then this may very well not be the last we’ve heard from him.