For all those around us…a review of Those Around Us

Originally posted 2012-02-13 20:40:35. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jeff Copperthite:

Wait a minute…who is this?

Why yes it’s Jeff!  I hope you missed me.  I for one have missed my contributions to the web site, but I am back to post a review – a review of Jim Fusco’s incredible album Those Around Us.

As one of many eager fans of Jim Fusco (and as a good friend), I was thrilled as always to hear that he was releasing a new album.  I have been among the people that are privileged enough to have heard the evolution of Jim’s work – from Walkin’ in the Dark to Halfway There.  He went from using a MIDI program to track his music to dedicating space in his own home strictly for the incredible collection of instruments, microphones, recorders, drum sets, and of course his guitars.

So naturally when his CD release party came about for Those Around Us, I was the fifth person to purchase the CD.  I was hoping for a limited edition numbering on it, but that’s ok.  I’ll just get it from his next album Three Quarters There.

I don’t write reviews often, but I’m required to use a set up.  Now for the album review.

Those Around Us is an album that continues to make me say “How does Jim top himself?”  Every time Jim comes out with another collection of his work and recording, he manages to raise his own level in such a stunning way.  Jim has really pulled off an incredible collection of songs that showcase his songwriting ability, sound engineering, and instrumentation.  I always joke with Jim when I listen to a new album “How did you get all those guys to sound like you?”

The starting track is called “Run My Way” and starts off with a soft opening acoustic guitar.  Then in kicks the lead guitar riff, followed by a drum fill.  The album kicks off with this great song with a super catchy chorus.  Jim manages to work in the right effect at all parts of the song – whether it be the phased electric during the verse, or the stereo panned vocal track.  The song even tosses in a whammy bar.  The outro to the song is like the intro – gradually reducing the instrumentation until it’s just the acoustic guitar.  It is a great opening track – something Jim has a knack for.

The next song “Choose Your Words (carefully)” is another equally strong track.  Jim is putting more effort into making his guitar sound stand out, yet work perfectly in the background of his songs.  In this song, everything blends so well.  The chorus of the song stands out a bit more than the rest of the song – not a flaw by any means.  Just like the previous track, very catchy.  I like how the pre-chorus lead guitar changes ever so slightly to lead perfectly into the “You say those words…” line.

“Don’t Give Up” is an interesting track because Jim has made the song sound full, but there are some typical elements missing – again, not a flaw.  Jim uses only one vocal track for this song, and throws in some delayed vocals during the verse.  The chorus is once again quite catchy.  One minor blip is during the instrument break – the song seems to lose its drive.  The chorus in the song is another catchy one as well.  The line “Don’t stop don’t ever give up on me girl” is complemented nicely by the instrumentation.  The 12-string guitar also stands out in this song.

Jim’s first fast track is “Opportunities”.  This song reminds me of another song from Masters of the Universe called “Only a Dream” during the chorus.  The bass in this song really pops to me (as a bassist).  Jim effectively displays his vocal prowess superbly in this song.  He mixes oohs in during the chorus, and double tracks his vocals during most of the song.  The instrument break is absolutely incredible in this song.  It really should be considered a vocal break as it gradually builds to the end.  A really terrific song in the clean-up spot.

“Good Enough” is the next song.  Jim succeeds in having the music blend perfectly with his vocals.  The builds leading into the chorus are spot on.  He lets his voice do most of the work in this song.  The guitar solo is very strong in this song.

Jim typically does not do very many down tempo songs in his albums.  “Chameleon” is very unique in Jim’s repertoire.  The song works so well that it makes me wonder why he hasn’t written other songs in a similar vein.  The xylophone and electric piano make a very solid chorus riff and build into the nice backing vocals.  I love the electric guitar work in this song as well – the offbeat strumming that Jim does make the song work quite well.  The fade out seems a bit quick on the song, however.  I think it would’ve benefited from a good 15-20 seconds in that department.

I think my 2nd favorite song in the album is the next track “Look Around”.  I almost don’t want to write too much about this song.  The vocals work so superbly at all points, the bass punches, the guitar work is incredible, and the percussion pushes the song forward.  Jim manages to work in a guitar slide to a few tracks, and a lap steel guitar to boot – including the guitar solo.  This song is so impressive – a clear standout.

“Anything for Love” is another “fast” song.  I am a big fan of the bass line of this song.  Jim’s vocal work stands out in this song.  The pitch range in the chorus may sound a bit odd at first, but it catches on really quick.  This one you’ll find yourself singing in the car.  The guitars work solidly in the background, but given the vocals, they seem like they’re there simply to let Jim know what notes belong to the backing vocals.  They work very well in the song.  Again, the bass line makes a great hook.

“Helpless” is my favorite song lyric-wise.  As a fellow married man, I share the feeling of the song.  Jim’s vocal work is at it again making beautiful harmonies during the chorus and echoes.  The guitar tracks are wonderfully played – even though at times there’s a lot going on, it works very well.

“In Your Head” is the third “fast” song on the album.  The chorus is catchy and the instrumentation drives the song very well.  In the interlude after the 2nd chorus, there is something about the vocals that seems out of place to me.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it is after the line “up front with me”.  The song’s ending is great, but the way it ends makes it seem like there should be more.  It’s probably the music theorist in me.  It actually works as a great way to lead in the next song, however.

“Follow You Home” is the next song on the album.  This song reminds me most of “classic” Jim – a driven quarter note piano track that is constant in the entire song.  His vocal work is great.  I absolutely love the chorus and the interlude he places in the chorus.  The guitar in the background complements the song quite well.

My favorite song on the album – as has been the case for the last four albums – is again the last track.  Again, everything just works together so well.  Jim’s multitracked lyrics are perfect, as is the electric keyboard that reminds me so much of The Doobie Brothers.  The distorted guitar lead is another great compliment.  I think the catchy outro is what makes the song for me.  Having everything come together and lead the album out just ends the album on such a high note.  This you’ll find yourself singing along to even on the first listen.

To summarize, Those Around Us is an incredible work by Jim Fusco.  How he continues to top himself is an attestation to his ability to improve his own standards and methods.  What amazes me continually is how I say “Wow this album is the best I’ve heard” and then the next one is even better.  Jim has succeeded in what he does best – creating a great rock album that sounds great at any volume with enough hooks and catches to keep you listening to the entire album over and over again.  Jim has really outperformed himself.   You will not be disappointed in this album.

 

—–

If you are curious, my life has treated me well since my last session despite the loss of my Youtube channel.  Due to a variety of copyright flags I was forced to close my account.  Jim can attest to the annoyance that was.  What I will do in the meantime is re-upload some of my old videos and re-publish the pages when I do so.  Hopefully in the future I will begin to post new videos – if my daughter will actually let me do so!

Until then, buy Those Around Us and enjoy it!  My daughter loves it and can sing along to 4 of the songs already.  Maybe Jim will let me cover a song from the album…

Click to go to the Those Around Us page and buy the album for $10 with Free Shipping!

The Weekend Review: January 2011 Report

Originally posted 2011-05-15 23:30:36. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to the first Weekend Review of the new year.  I hope you’ll enjoy our new monthly format, optimized for ease of use with the hope that you’ll be able to turn to LaptopSessions.com for new music news in 2011.  Hurry back next weekend for the February report!

The King is Dead
The DecemberistsProducer:
Tucker Martine

Released:
January 14, 2011

Rating:
4.5/5 stars

Top Two Tracks:
“Rox in the Box” & “Rise to Me”

After the impressive – and yet distracting – complexity of 2009’s The Hazards of Love, the Decemberists return to kick off 2011 with what may very possibly be the best album of the year.  The King is Dead, referred to as a “barn album” by band members in the deluxe edition doc Pendarvia, is an album of simple and yet profound beauty.While, to be fair, it lacks the mind-blowing scale of recent previous efforts, there is something to be said for a cohesive and eminently listenable collection of tracks.

Think of it as an acoustic rock masterpiece, headlined by the soaring “Rox in the Box” and the sing-along anthem waiting to happen “This is Why We Fight.”  Even the fully acoustic, balladic tracks like “Dear Avery” are gorgeous to such an extent that you won’t be able to skip the track, even if you’re on the road looking for a rock song.  Although the lead single, “Down By the Water,” lacks something of the “x factor” that makes songs truly great, it is still a tightly packaged, catchy tune indicative of the best of the King is Dead sound.  Oh, and if you think “Calamity Song” sounds like an aural love-child of R.E.M., you won’t be surprised to learn that it actually features Peter Buck on lead guitar.

Good, good stuff, and a high bar to be set this early in the year.

 

Mine is Yours
Cold War KidsProducer:
Jacquire King

Released:
January 25, 2011

Rating:
2.5/5 stars

Top Two Tracks:
“Royal Blue” & “Flying Upside Down”

2008’s Loyalty to Loyaltywas the album that introduced me to and left me in awe of the Cold War Kids.  Their unique sound and keen sense for mixing the slow and off-center with the straightforward and single-worthy led me to high expectations for their next release.Well, as is often the case with high expectations, the reality rarely compares.

Whether my reaction is due to what I had expected to find on Mine is Yours is honestly too early to say, but what I’ve heard here is a collection of underwhelming tracks, many of which seem to promise more than they deliver and are often longer than they deserve to be.  Tracks like “Royal Blue,” “Sensitive Kid,” and “Flying Upside Down” stand out as excellent without need of qualification, but others like “Broken Open,” “Louder Than Ever,” and “Cold Toes on the Cold Floor” beg for more consideration, more development, in order to reach the heights established on the previous record.

This is not to say that it should be like a sequel to Loyalty to Loyalty, but the songs of Mine is Yours should at least be as interesting.  While I was initially turned off by the slicker production values, I’ve entirely come around on that, which makes me wish that more attention to detail had been paid.

 

The Party
Ain’t Over

Wanda JacksonProducer:
Jack White

Released:
January 25, 2011

Rating:
3.5/5 stars

Top Two Tracks:
“Shakin’ All Over” & “Nervous Breakdown”

Slogans like “The Queen of Rockabilly” don’t typically entice me to purchase music, but in this case, it was bookended by Jack White’s name in the production credits and a nod to Bob Dylan’s “Thunder on the Mountain.”In short, I couldn’t resist at least one listen.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that The Party Ain’t Over holds up to repeated listens, fronted by the outstanding “Shakin’ All Over,” a track that aptly blends the gritty alternative sound for which White is so well known with the sonic signature of 50s rock and, I suppose, rockabilly.  Here, as on the rest of the record, riffs abound and Jackson’s ragged voice establishes her in my mind as the female equivalent of a contemporary Dylan, in vocal delivery if not in lyricism, craftsmanship, etc.  In the area of originality, it is clear she doesn’t hold a candle to aforementioned Bard, but her choice of covers is impeccably fitting: a devastating take on “Busted” (see: Johnny Cash), the closest anyone has come to covering a 2000s Dylan track without earning a sneer from me, and a redefining arrangement of Amy Winehouse’s “You Know That I’m No Good.”

Even the latter half tracks are enjoyable, foot-tappers like “Nervous Breakdown” and “Dust on the Bible,” as well as slower tunes such as “Blue Yodel #6” (not to be confused with #4, or my personal favorite, #9).  All in all, for an impulse purchase out of raw curiosity, The Party Ain’t Over is a testament to Jack White’s capabilities as producer and studio musician; it may not be the best album of 2011, but it bears a certain quality and strength of arrangement (both within tracks and across the album) that it deserves to be noticed.

The BEST VOCAL PERFORMANCES of 2011 (The Year-End Awards)

Originally posted 2012-01-16 20:00:47. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

This is a tough category.  All of the songs on the my upcoming top fifty songs list have excellent vocals, many of which are standout performances.  However, there are also songs that go unrecognized on the top fifty list that are notable for their outstanding vocals.  Thus, as a rule, songs included in the top fifty list are not considered here.

I suppose you could consider this my way of sneaking in an extra ten songs that I didn’t find room for on my best songs list, but I hope you’ll consider it an additional category.  These ten songs are great in their own rights, but especially by virtue of the excellence of their vocals.  Some are smooth, some are rough; some are passionately outraged, some are tenderly heartfelt.  Taken together, they’re the standout vocal performances of 2011:

1) “Something to Believe In” – Parachute (The Way It Was)

2) “Estate Sale Sign” – The Mountain Goats (All Eternals Deck)

3) “Blue Spotted Tail” – Fleet Foxes (Helplessness Blues)

4) “Shakin’ All Over” – Wanda Jackson (The Party Ain’t Over)

5) “2012” – The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (La Carotte Bleue)

6) “When You Wish Upon A Star” – Brian Wilson (In the Key of Disney)

7) “Talking At The Same Time” – Tom Waits (Bad As Me)

8 ) “Sunloathe” – Wilco (The Whole Love)

9) “Bridge Burning” – Foo Fighters (Wasting Light)

10) “Amy, I” – Jack’s Mannequin (People And Things)

 

Belle and Sebastian’s “Write About Love” (2010) – YES, NO, MAYBE SO?

Originally posted 2011-01-03 22:12:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Belle and Sebastian’s Write About Love (2010) – MAYBE NOT

Write About Love (Belle and Sebastian, 2010)

Write About Love (Belle and Sebastian, 2010)

(October 11, 2010)

Review:

Belle and Sebastian have certainly made their niche in the middle ground between indie pop quirkiness and sixties quasi-nostalgia — and no one should dispute that they make beautiful music on Write About Love — but too much of it simply fails to get off the ground.

Top Two Tracks:

“Come On Sister” & “I Can See Your Future”