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Around Hear: February 2012

| January 31, 2012 | 1 Comment

Veilside‘s sophomore effort, This Time . . ., mixes Godsmack riffs with Sevendust grooves. It’s six-songs of modern rock with huge power chords, multi-layered vocal harmonies, and well-thought out guitar leads. Otherwise radio-friendly with a melodic, hard-rock edge, an odd cover of Kansas’ “Dust In The Wind” – with dual lead guitars swapped for the original’s violin arrangement – adds a galloping, Southern-rock flavor. Veilside possesses a true rockstar mentality and This Time is solidly hard-driving with attitude and spirit. (veilsideband.com)
– Kelley Simms

Just because Abstract Giants is billed as a hip-hop act doesn’t mean all its beats are based on DJ samples, loops, or programming. In fact, its self-titled long player is a full-band affair (think The Roots) that makes ample use of bass and drums, but also more unconventional instruments in the genre, like violins, banjos, and even a pedal steel, allowing these eight versatile players to stand out from the overly auto-tuned pack. (abstractgiants.com)
– Andy Argyrakis

The Assembly‘s eight-track The Future Has Been Sold is worth getting together for. The veteran alt-rock band’s latest effort is slightly more pop-centric than past efforts without sacrificing the Cure/Psychedelic Furs pedigree. The guitar-driven songs are tight, an average of 3:30 in length, with just enough synth highlights, as on the catchy “Matters” and the bouncy rhythm of “Who Do You Need Now,” the latter made complete with chorus-like backing vocals. (theassemblyband.net)
– Jason Scales

Think of the last time – I mean the only time – you heard “I Gave My Love A Cherry.” Well, with this there is no guitar for Belushi to smash, because Andrew Calhoun sings it a cappella on his 19-track Grapevine. The solo artist has lovingly recorded his devotion to folk standards. His slightly gravelly crooning and acoustic-guitar picking are a warm throwback to days of yore: he sings the original four verses of “O Susanna” and ably tells the tales of “John Henry” and “Fifteen Years On The Erie Canal” in authentic busker fashion. (waterbug.com)
– Jason Scales

The title You’ll Not Take Us Alive is no idle boast. The Fisticuffs‘ 14 tracks bristle with high-energy punk delivered and traditional Irish folk instrumentation. These South Siders unabashedly embody the fighting Irish spirit, in tight instrumentation and lyrical content, proving they can hold their own against genre stalwarts like Dropkick Murphys. Whether it’s railing against discrimination, as on “Paddys Need Not Apply,” or telling an inspirational tale, as on “Young Ned Of The Hill,” it’s always rollicking and full of Celtic pride. (thefisticuffs.com)
– Jason Scales

Singer/songwriter Jennifer Hall revels in genre hopping, and there definitely is a lot to take in on her new full-length, In This. “Green And Blue” and “Oceans” are bona fide torch songs while “When We Were Good” offers a soulful rock approach that recalls Amy Winehouse and Duffy. Luckily, Hall possesses the pipes to pull this off, even when she’s raising the roof on the big production of “Like I Lie To You.” (jenniferhall.bandcamp.com)
– Terrence Flamm

Singer/guitarist Jeremy Keen’s engaging vocals can convey complex emotions as well as soar on Lock & Key, the latest effort from Jeremy Keen & The False Starts. The more energetic songs work best, particularly “Barnburner,” a prime example of Midwestern rock in the tradition of The BoDeans and Fire Town. “Brother” is the best of the slower tracks, thanks to Keen’s authentic portrayal of hard times and guest musician Bryan Meier’s pedal-steel guitar. (www. jeremykeen.com)
– Terrence Flamm

While Tsikago may not be a universally appealing flavor, it’s a true taste of world music. On the 15-song platter, Lamajamal provides original Balkan- and Middle Eastern-influenced melodies along with updated renditions of traditional tunes. Tracks such as “Oud Taxim” and “Jasmin Tea” aren’t overly distinctive, but all feature instruments like the santour and tambur in addition to familiar Western beats. In the end, it’s an accomplished but not terribly interesting or innovative effort. (lamajamal.com)
– Jeff Berkwits

Mission Man, a.k.a. Gary Milholland, conveys positive vibes through quick rhymes and jazz-influenced beats on his latest CD, liberty island. The better tracks, like “Starting Over” and “Living To The Rhythm,” paint a compelling picture of struggling to get by, but their message is diminished by Mission Man’s use of the same laid-back delivery throughout his music. He’ll need to light a fire under his vocals and vary his approach if he wants to succeed. (missionman.net)
– Terrence Flamm

Falling somewhere between folk and blues revival, Overman‘s The Future Is Gonna Be Great practically has “WXRT” written all over it, so it’s no wonder the Plainfield-dwelling players have already earned airtime on “Local Anesthetic.” With equal shades of The Decemberists as The Black Keys, the four-piece band are poised to breakout of the burbs and become a key player in the future of carefully crafted indie rock. (overman.info)
– Andy Argyrakis

Punch Cabbie pound their way through the five-song Human Intrusion with macho/aggro vocals, calculated breakdowns, big hooks, crushing drums, and melodic leads and riffs. “Sin Eater” opens with down-tuned, fuzzy, guitar distortion and a big low-end rumble from punchy, thunderous drums. The band’s hardcore roots are displayed on “Bite Back,” including shouted gang vocals, while metalcore elements are present on “Big Oaks.” Punch Cabbie’s screamo/metalcore/post-hardcore cycle gets repetitive, but it’s dangerous with a dirty street sound. I can only imagine the pit rages at their shows. (facebook.com/punchcabbieband)
– Kelley Simms

Psychedelic/blues/rock trio Rosetta West play fuzzy and distorted riffs with heavy basslines on Racoon. It’s a short disc at 33 minutes for 12 tracks, and its recording technique gives it a ’60s-’70s vibe. Similarities to Grand Funk Railroad, The Guess Who (“I Don’t Care”), Simon & Garfunkel (“River Of Days”), BLS Zakk Wylde-ish vocals, and Robin Trower-ish songs “Bridge Of Sighs” and “Jack And Jill” (“The Temple”) are present here. The distinctive, hippy-like crooning of Joe Demagore gives Rosetta West its unique character. His raspy vocals are the perfect complement to the old-school space-rock jams. (myspace.com/rosettawest)
– Kelley Simms

Just when the first few moments of The Escapist lead one to expect a full CD of string-enhanced acoustic/trad folk guitar music, the Jason Seed Stringtet takes a serious and not surprising classical turn, seeing as its members hail from various local symphonies. Clearly, all are proficient players and guitarist/ringleader Jason Seed’s mostly original compositions successfully navigate the shoreline where classical laps teasingly into rock/folk/jazz. In this impressive sampling of the Stringtet’s breadth and scope, one is reminded of fellow traveler string quartet Ethel, yet thankfully Seed’s group is far less obsessed with classical music’s avant garde/experimental edges. (jasonseedmusic.com)
– David C. Eldredge

Symphonic-metal band Shield Of Wings play a mix of black metal and classical arrangements interwoven with metal elements on their self-produced, self-released EP, Solarium. The six songs consist of melody-based, keyboard-driven pieces that complement Grace Meridan’s elegant, operatic vocals and James Gregor’s aggressive growls. The “Beauty And The Beast” singing technique works without overwhelming or sacrificing the music’s heaviness. Nightwish, Epica, Delain, as well as Dimmu Borgir and Therion influences pop up, mostly because of the orchestral tones. Solarium‘s dark, yet insightful lyrics go hand-in-hand with the music, mood, and atmosphere that the band create. (www. myspace.com/shieldofwingsrock)
– Kelley Simms

Terata‘s Red Means Go, a three-track collection neatly marketed on a rubber bracelet USB device, is upbeat and peppy party rock. “I Made It All Up” and “You Are” each build to a relationship-gone-wrong chorus punctuated by crashing cymbals and power chords. The vocals, delivered Liz Phair-like, are mixed far too loudly, which is less of a problem with “Someday” due to its ballad style. (teratamusic.com)
– Jason Scales

When he keeps it simple (just him and his acoustic) and stays in the lower end of his vocal range on his seven-cut EP, Carol Streamer Troy Leif Thompson serves up his Americana originals most convincingly. Otherwise, Angels In The Attic‘s not really pushing any musical boundaries and Thompson’s originals, while serviceable enough vehicles for him this time out, aren’t anything any other artist will jump to cover. (myspace.com/troyleifthompson)
– David C. Eldredge

Promising MC/producer Tizone may have titled his new album The Interpretation, but the tracks aren’t quite so committed to a single view. After an intro cut and opener where he establishes himself back in the game, Tizone switches course into playa/loverman mode for several tunes, and then weaves in and out of personalities for the remainder. It makes for a schizophrenic listen through the 18 songs, and ultimately bears the energetic, wanna-freak-ya side out. (tizoneonline.com)
– Steve Forstneger

Vapor Eyes has mastered the rapid-fire, hard-hitting rhymes fans expect from rap, but on his ambitious new CD, It’s Moving So Fast It’s Standing Still, he also incorporates elements of jazz, ambient, and gospel music. “Terra Incognita” sounds the alarm on global warming while “New Proof Material” delves into street crime. Space-age keyboards and sound bites add to the sense of intrigue on “Hypermart” and “Int3rlood,” while “Caressed By Sin” is smooth and seductive. (vaporeyesdj.com)
– Terrence Flamm

Chuck Maurer’s What Rebel began as a cover band in a west-suburban basement that eventually felt confident to move into originals. Tracks like “Rise Up” and “Time Is Running Out” force commonplace riffs and chord changes through a cardboard amplifier, which competes in the clasutrophobic mix with click-track vocal performances and A/B (sometimes just A/A) rhyme schemes. Clearly this is an act in its infancy – or maybe it’s several weeks premature. (reverbnation.com/WhatRebel)
– Steve Forstneger

With so many aged pop stars performing the Great American Songbook, it’s easy to dismiss Sometimes I’m Happy as yet another effort to rejuvenate hoary harmonies. Yet newcomer Amy Yassinger does something few old hands have accomplished: delivering genuinely fresh interpretations of classic tunes. “Slow Boat To China” and “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon” are standouts, but almost all of the 11 melodies are delightful. This is one artist who proves that what’s old truly can be new again. (amydoesjazz.com)
– Jeff Berkwits

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  1. Stacy says:

    I’ve already worn out my copy of Overman’s album. Great album, great review!

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