The Weekend Review: February 2012 Report

Originally posted 2012-05-28 12:24:57. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Go Fly A Kite (Ben Kweller)

Released: February 7, 2012

Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Jealous Girl” & “Mean to Me”

When I saw Ben Kweller open for the Barenaked Ladies a couple years ago, I was floored by this performer who managed to blend a wide variety of influences and crossed the genre lines while maintaining a coherent, high adrenaline rock show.  For months afterward, as I picked up his albums, I struggled and largely failed to find anything to match what I had experienced live.  Now, with Go Fly A Kite, Kweller has finally recorded an album that properly expresses all his strengths, alternating between electric rockers and softer acoustic tracks, all the while maintaining a power pop energy that works to his strengths.  Mainstream music critics will largely ignore this album.  Nicholas Moffitt of VZ Magazine went so far as to call it “likeable,” but not before qualifying even this statement with “fans of Kweller and power pop.”  Is Go Fly A Kite the next great rock album?  I’m not arguing that, but it is one of the few albums in recent memory that relies only upon instrumentation and vocals for its energy.  There are no computer tricks employed here: only good, old-fashioned human performance.  There isn’t a clunker in the bunch, and the track listing steadily unfolds larger ideas and themes (not to mention the diorama-style CD packaging, which is one of the most imaginative I’ve seen).  Forget Moffitt’s qualification: if you’re a fan of rock and upbeat, energetic music, Ben Kweller’s latest is a must-hear.




Kisses on the Bottom (Paul McCartney)

Producer: Tommy LiPuma

Released: February 7, 2012

Rating: 2 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “My Valentine” & “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter”

A confession before I commence: I’m admittedly predisposed to a bad taste in the mouth upon hearing a well-established artist has decided to record an album of covers.  (I know, I know: I write reviews predominantly for a cover songs music video blog.  But, to be fair, we post them for free and for practice in between our regularly-scheduled albums of originals.)  A brief history of just a few of the cover albums that should compel a roll of the eyes: Michael McDonald’s Motown (2003) and the following year’s oh-so-creatively titled Motown Two, all five volumes of Rod Stewart’s The Great American Songbook series (2002-2005, 2010), and perhaps the most disappointing fall into the valley of covers: Eric Clapton’s Me and Mr. Johnson, a follow-up to 2001’s excellent Reptile album, followed in 2010 by a disappointing album of covers – Clapton – masquerading as his latest solo album.  So, when it comes to albums of this ilk, I approach with caution.  In this case, it is not so much that McCartney’s Kisses on the Bottom is a bad album.  It clearly is a very well-thought-out, passionately rendered record.  And yet, on the heels of a string of masterful solo releases – Chaos & Creation in the Backyard (2005) and Memory Almost Full (2007) being probably the best of his career – this collection of traditional pop could do little else than fall short after five years without a new McCartney album.  For what they are, the songs are really done quite well.  It is clear from interviews with McCartney and his producer Tommy LiPuma that this was a labor of love, and it was even revealed that he held off on this project out of desire to avoid any allegations of jumping on the covers train (he even referenced Stewart’s Songbook series).  In the end, the clear standout is “My Valentine,” which just so happens to be one of two McCartney originals on the record.  Coincidence?  I think not.  He has referenced his next album as being along the same vein as the Foo Fighters’ analog, garage rock Wasting Light (2011), so I and others like me can rest easy on that.




Deep Space [EP] (Eisley)

Producer: Eisley

Released: February 14, 2012

Rating:  2.5 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Lights Out” & “Laugh It Off”

This pretty much fits the archetype of the EP: not bad, not great, just a little something to fill the silence between records.  If you enjoyed last year’s outstanding The Valley, then you’ll most likely enjoy Deep Space [EP].  Or, you could save yourself the five bucks and return to The Valley for more songs and a more fulfilling experience.





Sounds from Nowheresville (The Ting Tings)

Producer: Jules De Martino

Released: February 24, 2012

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Hang It Up” & “Guggenheim”

Don’t let the modern production qualities fool you: there is more here than the extensive list of “engineers” and “mixers” in the credits would have you believe.  The critics have called the Ting Tings out for this and any number of other criticisms: the album is too short, too frivolous, inane, etc.  What they have missed – and what most tracks on Sounds from Nowheresville have to offer – is energy and ambition, subtle touches in the harmonies beyond what is more readily apparent in the synthesized sounds, not to mention the centrality of Katie White’s guitar (yes, that is a real instrument in the mix and it is the female lead singer playing it; if only for that, I have reason to respect this album).  “Hit Me Down Sonny” and “Hang It Up” are as bright, cool, and catchy as you would expect, and yet other tracks like the passionately delivered “Guggenheim” and the tender, acoustic-based “Day to Day” and “Help” express the range the band has to offer.  While this is definitely not a development I would have expected, I have to admit that the Ting Tings have put out one of what will probably be the best albums of the year.




Rooms Filled With Light (Fanfarlo)

Released: February 28, 2012

Rating:  3.5 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Shiny Things” & “Lenslife”

On Rooms Filled With Light, Fanfarlo have done a nice job of bringing a certain bright quality to the domain of oft-introspective synthesized music.  Aside from channeling a bit too much Ric Ocasek in his vocals at times, Simon Balthazar and company have recorded and sequenced a cohesive and purposeful record that boasts elements of artistic intention while maintaining pop-ready hooks, riffs, and overall production quality.

CD Review: Songwriter (and Former Beatle) Ringo Starr’s New Music on “Liverpool 8”

Originally posted 2008-02-06 23:33:46. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

RATING:  3.5 / 5 stars

By Chris Moore:

When I read that Ringo and his longtime musical partner Mark Hudson had severed their working relationship, I was concerned for what Liverpool 8 might end up sounding like. Would it follow in the solid, enjoyable footsteps of 2003’s Ringo Rama and 2005’s Choose Love, or would it embrace a new sound altogether? How would Dave Stewart’s influence as producer manifest itself in the music? As much as I’d like to believe I’m open-minded about artistic development, I have also grown fond of Ringo’s recent sound.

A couple nights after the album’s release, I sat in my car outside the CD store, hurriedly tearing the shrink wrap off of Liverpool 8. As the title track began, I was simultaneously hesitant and intrigued – it was a new sound, but certainly not a negative one – hearing Ringo tumble words-first into the autobiographical, “I was a sailor first…” Some may say (and, in fact, some reviewers have already said) that this song is a campy rehashing of his past exploits as a Beatle. I, however, have to scoff at those sentiments.

It strikes me as far too easy to write off or make fun of an “I remember when” song by an ex-Beatle. Have we forgotten the great ex-Beatle autobiographical songs? (George Harrison’s “All Those Years Ago” and “When We Was Fab,” just to name a couple.) Listen to the track for yourself; I hope you’ll find it as interesting, informative, and fun as I did. My favorite line has to be (referring to the leader of the band he was in when Lennon and McCartney saw him play and asked him to join the Beatles), “Played Butlin’s camp/with my friend Rory/It was good for him/it was great for me.” In a recent live version, I’m certain I saw him grinning on that last part, as if to say, “Of course it was ‘great’ for me!”

Initially, I did find the album to be somewhat darker than his recent work, but that is by no means to suggest that his basic advocacy of the “Peace and Love” lifestyle has lessened; if anything, it is just as strong as it has ever been. Songs like “For Love” and (my personal favorite) the solid rocker “If It’s Love That You Want” may not have the most original lyrics, but they have all the heart that we have grown to expect out of Ringo. Even the more serious songs, such as “Now That She’s Gone Away” and “Gone Are the Days,” shine through with lively guitar solos and, of course, reminders that “it don’t come easy” (Any fan of Ringo’s recent, excellent albums who has checked their Billboard ratings would agree!).

At the end of the day, I cannot say that I like this album more than Choose Love or especially Ringo Rama, but I can say that it is a solid, enjoyable album that proves Ringo cannot be written off as the least talented ex-Beatle. He has been smart enough to surround himself with talented young musician/songwriters who compliment his excellent drumming. He has created and maintained an exciting new sound in his recent work. He possesses a larger-than-life personality that drives even his lesser songs forward. And, if nothing else, he still knows how to rock n’roll!