the blog @

Friday, February 27, 2009, 08:41 PM ( 3245 views ) - CD Reviews - Posted by dagmarsieglinde
Franz Ferdinand’s third CD, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, is glossy. It’s physically shiny, the liner notes and cover are silky to the touch and the cover photo is a dramatic and distinctive black-and-white shot from the magical Danish photographer Søren Solkær Starbird. You’ve probably seen his work on the Raveonettes’ Chain Gang of Love and Whip It On CDs.

So how does it sound? When I first heard Ulysses, the first single, I didn’t know what to think. I don’t know if it’s because I love this band so much that I was extra-critical and I have high expectations of them. Then I listened to Ulysses again and again and then some more. It grew on me. The CD's got great 70s-inspired rock and glam guitar riffs, it’s got disco beats and some really unusual yet appealing tempo changes. Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention the first time around on their prior releases, but I am struck by the sweet drumming of Paul Thomson – he’s top. There is more synth on this CD. That’s obvious and it’s cool. There’s quite a bit of complex bass work by Bob Hardy too – listen to Live Alone and Can’t Stop Feeling and isn’t that something of a gorgeous accomplishment? I like the skipping nature of this music. It’s choppy and still it’s shiny. Lucid Dreams eventually breaks down into a funky instrumental of strange elegance. It’s a risky song and probably my favorite track. Or maybe my favorite is the spooky Twilight Omens, a very classic swirling tune.

Though it’s got a lot of fast disco tunes it’s also got a ballad, Katherine Kiss Me and Alex Kapranos has a nice purr in No You Girls especially. The vocals of Nick McCarthy and Kapranos always gel and jar where they should. This CD is worth the wait since 2005’s You Could Have It So Much Better.
Listen to Ulysses and watch the video for Ulysses here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008, 08:34 PM ( 2738 views ) - CD Reviews - Posted by dagmarsieglinde
I adore Christmas music. One of my favorite Christmas songs is O Holy Night, it’s just so dramatic. I have always loved it. I listen to Christmas music at anytime of year - I always keep it on my ipod.

Hallmark/A&M Records

Sheryl Crow has released a cd of Christmas tunes called Home for Christmas and she does an amazing version of O Holy Night, as well as 8 other standards and an original song, There is a Star That Shines Tonight. I’d describe a lot of the interpretation of these songs as bluesy and jazzy. Crow has a flexible voice that goes from the sweetness of The Christmas Song and White Christmas to the sexiness of Merry Christmas, Baby with ease. I also like the delicate I’ll Be Home for Christmas, in particular the gentle guitar solo. The songs just give really good vibes. I’m impressed by the original and beautiful There is a Star That Shines Tonight too. I’ll admit it could be easy to tend towards the schmaltzy with these tunes, but Crow maintains a classy and genuine approach. She even gives Elvis Presley a run for his money on her version of Blue Christmas. You can check out Presley's version here.

Click here for a clip of Crow performing There is a Star That Shines Tonight.

Friday, November 21, 2008, 05:21 PM ( 3128 views ) - CD Reviews - Posted by dagmarsieglinde
It’s about time there was a really awesome Hanukkah cd to gather traditional and new songs and, yes, I have to make a terrible dreidel pun – put a new spin on them. And who is the person to do this? None other than Erran Baron Cohen (brother of Sacha and composer of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan). Baron Cohen brings an eclectic and yet entirely suitable group of artists to his compilation, Songs in the Key of Hanukkah.

From Israeli artists Yasmin Levy, Idan Raichel and Avivit Caspi to New York’s Y-Love to Jules Brookes, not one of the performances falls short. Hanukkah oh Hanukkah starts the cd off with a bit of rap flavor from Y-Love – and he raps his part in Yiddish. Dreidel, one of my very favorites (who couldn’t love this song?) is again updated with a more, shall I say urban nuance to it. The Ladino song Ocho Kandalikas gets a jazzy treatment, including the sultry vocals of Yasmin Levy. Original song Spin It Up has some beautiful trumpet playing from Baron Cohen and it’s just all around fun. Jules Brookes appears again on Look To The Light, a positive and very happy piece that’s actually inspiring. Another favorite of mine is Relics of Love and Light, featuring a gorgeous combination of vocals from Levy, Raichel and Caspi.

The cd wraps up with My Hanukkah (Keep the Fire Alive) and Ma’oz Tzur. My Hanukkah is nearly all Y-Love with some nice backing vocals by Israeli/British singer Dana Kerstein. Y-Love exhorts us to defend the tradition and then I think this is done in the end with Dana Kerstein’s performance of Ma’oz Tzur. I’m perhaps biased because I am a big fan of holiday music and yet I think this cd has great crossover appeal.
Watch the brilliant video for Dreidel here.

Monday, November 3, 2008, 04:19 PM ( 1451 views ) - CD Reviews - Posted by dagmarsieglinde
I want to get this out of the way – Blood Red Dancers sound a lot like the Doors. There’s nothing wrong with this – the Doors are one of my top bands ever. Would I still like this band, if say, I had never heard the Doors? Yes, yes, yes.

Their debut ep, Let Him Fight, I’ll Be In The Breadline, starts with Sweetie’s Gettin’ Mobbed, and it sounds like an ode to a stripper: I like watching all those boys watching you/ Some might say I’m jealous, and yeah I guess it’s true/ I find it amazing watching all that watching you go through/ I like watching all those boys watching you. It, as do the other six tracks, has a throbbing bass line that you would do well to pay close attention to. It’s also got warm keyboards - it’s sinister and it coordinates well with the rattling and brutal voice of singer Aaron Poppick.

Blood Red Dancers - photo by Mary Henlin

1000 Times features a harmonica and organ. Strange? Damn right. Does it work though? Absolutely: Drinkin’ that liquor gets me mean sometimes/ If I get that woman Lord I’ll be fine. . . You take one look at her and she’ll heal your eyes. It’s no wonder the band lists drinking, pretty girls and pretty girls drinking as influences on their myspace. The vocal delivery is again so brutal you feel like the singer is right in the room with you. All For You is a hallucinogenic song and it’s got lovely guitars carrying it.

Fur Skin Coat is a weird romantic piece: Gonna get my woman something real, real nice/ once I get those pennies off that dead guy’s eyes. It’s spooky with what sounds like jangling chains and ghosts singing in the background. The Lamb is again sleazy and dramatic – and bless it for that. It swirls out of control as sometimes you want rock to do: Come and take my hand/ as we burn down the land. . . if we do it in the name of God/ Then the blood will wash off. Muddy Water starts off Poppick’s groan, then elaborates with a cool, cool bass line.

This Seattle band has made one of the best eps/cds of the year. I want more.

Friday, October 31, 2008, 01:01 AM ( 1490 views ) - CD Reviews - Posted by dagmarsieglinde
Ode to J. Smith, Travis’ sixth album, is totally beautiful. Each track stands out and they’re the kind of band whose members are absolutely integral to their sound. I wouldn’t want to swap out any of these guys from this band.

Get Up bounds along with quite tribal drumming and dare I say it, but without being a cliché it has a Celtic flavor to it. Before You Were Young, with its charming cymbals, intricate guitar work and blessed piano asks: in the days before you were young/ we used to sit in the morning sun we used to turn the radio on/ what happened? Now it could be that you can have too much rhyming – but it works in this song perfectly and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Broken Mirror and Friends groove along at smooth and wonderfully trippy speeds. Travis knows how to set a mood and move you in the process. Last Words is perhaps the most instantly recognizable as Travis (there’s very distinctive guitar playing) and I think Long Way Down is probably my top track on the album: it makes no difference when you live in a puddle/ Now that I see it/ How can I breathe
When my heart’s in my mouth/ And not on my sleeve?/ Better run little rabbit/
Back to your hole in the ground
. . . then it ends with the refrain: they’re never taking me alive.

With this cd Travis set up shop on their own label, Red Telephone Box, and they’ve opened up business with a boom.

Thursday, October 2, 2008, 03:34 PM ( 2097 views ) - CD Reviews - Posted by Administrator
The Royal Bear's debut ep is ideal. It's got four songs on it filled with a juicy wallop of flickering guitar work and New Romantic rhythm – add to this synths and pensive vocals, then shake it up and let it have its way.

The Royal Bear - design by Russ Smith

At its heart it's dance music. Pins in My Heart pops open the ep, complete with cowbell, rapid drumming and lines like In class we would share glances/keep secret our romances – I always like things that rhyme and it's cleverly done. Last Leg is a perfectly dramatic heartbreak piece with groovy guitars: I can stay out way out later than you every night till I don't know you anymore. Better Off Lonely has some really cool bass work in it, another thing I think that is important in music – as are the lyrics that fit so well: This conversation's making me lose my sentimentality . . . Save your tears/I'm sure someone will be impressed. The final song of the ep, Dance Alone, gathers all strength and explodes: Your fishnets make me sweat . . . Don't make me beg or dance alone.

Though the band's sound is nearly an anomaly in Seattle, they remind me a bit of Classic Nouveaux, Visage and Ultravox – singer Rain's vocals are quite similar to Midge Ure's yet different enough that they are not derivative.

Friday, August 29, 2008, 10:33 AM ( 2272 views ) - CD Reviews - Posted by Administrator
Brent Amaker and the Rodeo live in Seattle but by some mystery I did not know about them until last month. They are cowboys dressed in black and they are entirely welcome in the Seattle music scene.

I can say a lot about their attractive image - again, they're cowboys dressed all in black - and surreal live show but first this is a music review. Some music I love right away and some I have to hear over and over again to decide on it. This music hit me in the gut immediately and I love it. The songs' structures are so perfect that I don't care if you like country music you will like this country music.

Their first cd is the self-titled 2005 Brent Amaker and the Rodeo. The longest song, Bring Me the Whiskey, clocks in at 3:14 - it's the cd's epic. You're No Good opens things up, complete with perfectly placed horns and a nice twang guitar. The lyrics throughout the cd are clever - still about lost or tortured love and bar fights you want in country music - but I think the music has a sense of humor about itself at the same time. I've Got a Little Hillbilly in Me has handclaps and one contagious refrain. My favorite song off here might be Sissy New Age Cowboy: I hope you won't mind if we mess up your pretty face, someone's got to put you in your place. I don't know, you just want to hang around with whoever does these songs. Especially when Amaker asks Is the Rodeo in Town? in Get the Hell Out, you want them around - it all sounds like a party. You can criticize and say the songs are in the same key but this is fine with me. The vocals are durable and deep - entirely able to carry off the drinking pieces and the more romantic Babe: I Figure Satan had Something to Do With the Creation of You - and he's got something to do with the creation of B.A.R.

Their new cd Howdy Do! begins with Welcome to the Rodeo. I like that this cd has a welcome and an Outro (and rattling bottles in the background) as in old country albums. This one is bold enough to tell you No Refunds in the welcome, and why would you want one? I'm the Man Who Writes the Country Hits is a great classic and They Make Cowboys in Montana reminds you in Texas They Make Men and to Keep Your Loved Ones Close - Kill the Rest. These songs build cool scenarios with galloping rhythms and Amaker's voice has an entrancing quality. I get the impression he could be singing about anything and it would sound sexy. The title track is sweet indeed and Walking in My Sleep is haunting. This is the Gun, where Amaker sings Die I Will But Not Before I Break Your Heart is as warped as it is gorgeous. . . okay you can break my heart.

Friday, August 29, 2008, 01:00 AM ( 849 views ) - CD Reviews - Posted by Administrator
When the Futureheads debuted with their self-titled cd in 2004 it was a pivotal moment for me – and I think for music. I don't know of other bands that sound quite like them and they're superb songwriters – you listen to Carnival Kids or Stupid and Shallow and tell me these aren't inspired songs. In 2006 they followed up with News and Tributes, which included the brilliant and matchless The Return of the Beserker, Favours for Favours and Burnt. They achieved what very few bands achieve – they made two amazing cds in a row.

Now they are back with This is Not the World, a cd that puts them in an elite spot for me along with the Beatles – that's right, the Beatles. The talent in this band is deep – in many ways deeper than is fair. That they can keep up the momentum of their previous work and in some ways do it better – it just shouldn't be allowed. Lucky us it is.

The cd opens up with The Beginning of the Twist, where singer/guitarist Barry Hyde asks Why Don't We Get it Started with a Kiss? I also love the backing vocals in this song – combining vocals is something the Futureheads do so well and with real style. Think Tonight's powerful beat is fantastic – listen to Dave Hyde's drumming closely – the guitar work is spiny and crafty and the lyrics are nimble:I Take Risks but I Don't Rely on Them. Radio Heart is a tight, I will call it romantic piece in some ways: We've Never Met but We've Never Been Apart. Sale of the Century is simply one of the best songs I have heard – it's got seriously throbbing guitar and bass work and the vocals have an intriguing distance to them. Hard to Bear is I think in some ways one of their most moving songs – the stammer Barry Hyde uses in You're not Always Going to Miss Her Tttttttouch is right on, as is the vocal blending. Again, the guitar work is fabulous and slightly different than in their other songs. Guitarist/singer Ross Millard makes a late appearance on the cd – track 8 – in Work is Never Done. It's a gem with a really cool but brief guitar solo. See What You Want to See is just awesome – and it's an apt song to close out the cd with a bang: Don't Reflect What You Can't See in Me .

Working with Primal Scream's producer, Youth, suits them. There's nothing superfluous about their music – everything there is necessary. It's constantly forceful and rampantly gorgeous.

Thursday, August 28, 2008, 09:23 PM ( 1895 views ) - CD Reviews - Posted by Administrator
-This review originally appeared on my Seattle PI Blog, Beat Back.-

Alison Goldfrapp is a goddess. She has done it again and released a super sexy cd with her co-composer Will Gregory. Goldfrapp's is as surreal as it is consoling with dreamy tunes and cool vibes.

Starting off with Clowns - complete with bird sounds and easing into the fairy tale of Little Bird - Seventh Tree recalls their Felt Mountain. This is a good thing. I really love all tracks on this cd - Happiness has an oompah beat and the vocals are breathy and sexy. Eat Yourself is melodic and hauntingly sad; A&E is a key track - a paean from a mental ward and I just think the concept is brilliant. It even has frog croak noises in it. Perhaps the real center of the cd is Cologne Cerrone Houdini. I am not the only one who has long-hoped that Goldfrapp will snag the next James Bond theme. It is a high honor and I think this track in particular of almost anything they have done screams the Broccoli people need to sign this band up. Fast. Her voice will make the difficult title of Quantum of Solace hot.

It's a cleverly put together cd ending with a poppy Caravan Girl and the love song Monster Love. I am always amazed by how Goldfrapp brings strange sounds together and makes them even more different than I can expect.

Check out the video for A&E and photos I took of Goldfrapp at the Showbox.

| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 |