The National’s “High Violet” (2010) – Yes, No, or Maybe So

Originally posted 2010-05-22 23:45:29. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The National’s High Violet (2010) – MAYBE

The National's "High Violet" (2010)

The National's "High Violet" (2010)

(May 11, 2010)

Review:

Debuting higher on the charts than any previous album from the National, High Violet deserves the attention: these are some of the most pensive, most beautifully orchestrated tracks they’ve released (particularly on the second half of the album), even if they do threaten to lull you into a forlorn stupor by the end.

Top Two Tracks:

“Conversation 16” & “Lemonworld”

Foo Fighters’ “Foo Fighters” (1995) – Yes, No, or Maybe So

Originally posted 2010-04-21 16:19:49. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Foo Fighters’ Foo Fighters (1995) – MAYBE

The Foo Fighters' self-titled debut (1995)

The Foo Fighters' self-titled debut (1995)

(July 4, 1995)

Review: 

A bit raw and predictable around the edges, but an upbeat debut album with clear rock sensibilities and strong potential for the future (The Colour & the Shape, anyone?) from almost-Heartbreaker Dave Grohl…

Top Two Tracks:  

“This is a Call” & “I’ll Stick Around”

Barenaked Ladies Live in Concert: Fri., August 6, 2010 at Mohegan Sun – A Weekend Review Special Edition

Originally posted 2010-08-21 12:59:46. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

For the set list, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

To the public eye, and even to some fans, the Barenaked Ladies’ break with Steven Page is a loss that could nullify any future efforts in the band’s name.  This is understandable to some degree, as Page has appeared to be one half of the band in their most well-known singles (think: “If I Had $1000000” and “One Week”).  If Page is gone, some have said, then perhaps it is time for BnL to close up shop.

Anyone in attendance at the Mohegan Sun arena on Friday, August 6 would beg to differ.

(Correction: anyone with any sense, which is clearly not everyone based on other reviews which have been posted on the web, Ticketmaster.com in particular.)

The truth is that the Barenaked Ladies achieved live in concert what they recently achieved on record with All in Good Time: reminding their audience that their three supporting members are more than simply support members.  Kevin Hearn, in addition to being a skilled multi-instrumentalist is a songwriter in his own right.  And this is nothing new; remember “Sound of Your Voice,” the standout third track on Are Me?  Remember “Hidden Sun,” the hidden track on Maroon?  Yeah, those were Kevin Hearn songs, each another good reason to sing “Hold on, here comes a Kevin Hearn song” to his new track “Another Heartache,” as Mike had us all doing in the car on the way to the concert.

Jim Creegan is not only their bass player, but has released numerous albums apart from BnL, many with former Lady Andy as the Brothers Creegan.  Recently, he has begun adding his songs to BnL albums again, and it may come as a shock to realize that the band’s best singer is arguably a man known more for his background vocals than his leads.

Tyler Stewart has always been the guy who makes you laugh.  He’s a good drummer, but we’ve known that.  Well, starting with “Allergies” on 2008’s Snacktime, Stewart has asserted even his lead singing voice.  In the absence of Page, Stewart has accompanied frontman Ed Robertson at all of their All in Good Time promotional interviews, from radio to VH1, and his voice can be heard in a brief but significant role on what should have been the latest BnL single, “Four Seconds.”

Really, it should have come as no surprise that the 8/6/2010 Barenaked Ladies show at Mohegan Sun met and far exceeded any expectations I had for the concert — which were many and various, having seen the five-piece band in action and being the longtime fan that I am.

BnL keychain from their merch table

BnL keychain from their merch table

Aside from the improvisational numbers, the unmitigated high points of the concert were their performances of “Old Apartment,” “Eraser,” “On the Lookout,” “Sound of Your Voice,” and “Alcohol,” each highlighting a different strength of their live show.

Hearing “Old Apartment” three songs into the show was a surprise and a treat.  It was almost as if to make a statement that they will still play their older songs regardless of Page’s absence.  “The Old Apartment” has classic Steven Page lead vocal written all over it, but Robertson did an outstanding job of leading the song as if he, not Page, had been singing it for two decades.  In the encore, they again made a statement with Stewart taking the lead on “Alcohol,” bringing the house down as he stepped out from behind the drum kit (with Robertson taking over there) and channeled Jack Black in his energetic performance.  This was not simply a novelty, like, “Oh, that’s nice that they gave Tyler something else to do.”  This was a surprising, thrilling, straight-up amazing performance of a track I never expected to hear in concert again.

“Sound of Your Voice” was originally performed by its writer, Hearn, in concert until they realized that Page’s presence took the song to whole new level.  Again, I was disappointed to think that I would never hear this song performed to its full potential again.  Not so.  Their new arrangement of “Sound of Your Voice” features Hearn on acoustic guitar, singing lead, and the three other band members singing Temptations-style backup, perfectly voicing the signature parts of the song that were previously hit by guitars and other instruments.  This was an impressive, funny, and yet seriously good version of the song.

When Creegan took to the piano, my first response was, “Wait.  Jim plays piano?”  Making like the Band, the Ladies mixed up instruments all night long, and this was perhaps the pinnacle.  Creegan’s performance of “On the Lookout” was beautiful and perfect, except perhaps for the absence of Robertson’s “Let’s roll this one from the top” intro from the studio recording.  Another piano song that stood out was “Eraser,” introduced by Hearn and Robertson competing to see who could hold out the “Eeeeeeeeee-” note longer than the other.  Suffice it to say that this ended with Robertson pretending to fall, ending up “unconscious” on his back.  Even the songs from their children’s album held up here, and “Eraser” was every bit as impressive as the other, more “serious” songs.

True to form, a Barenaked Ladies concert wouldn’t be complete without improvisation.  Twice during the night, the four-piece experimented musically, sans Steven Page who had always been their most theatrical member.  In his place, Robertson put together a hilarious medley of Herman’s Hermits’ “Something Tells Me I’m Into Something Good” and a rap about gambling at Mohegan Sun, the latter of which was a theme returned to all night in their stage banter.  Then, with Hearn on piano for a medley of recent pop songs kicked off with the 1974 Pilot song “Magic” — best known for the chorus line, “Oh, oh, it’s magic, you know” — Robertson, Creegan, and Stewart performed a dance number that not only caused the most energetic crowd reaction of the night, but was also fantastically choreographed and obviously well-rehearsed.  The next time I have to explain BnL to someone who has only heard their hits, I will mention this final improv:  they didn’t settle for being goofy; instead, they put together a tight performance that demonstrated just how seriously they take their on-stage personas.

The Barenaked Ladies are as tight, impressive, and enterprising a band as they have ever been.  After two decades as one of rock music’s most under-appreciated quintets, save for a short stint at the top of the charts in 1998, it looks like they’re poised to be one of rock music’s most under-appreciated quartets of the new decade.  Their live act is as exciting and as long (in the range of two hours) as my favorite act of last summer, Wilco, a band that has reached what is perhaps their critical prime.  Do yourself a favor and tune in to BnL as well.

Sara Bareilles’ “Kaleidoscope Heart” (2010) – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2010-10-03 10:00:03. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

RATING:  4 / 5 stars

Isn’t Sara Bareilles the girl from that Rhapsody commercial?

Yes, Bareilles is the singer you were most likely introduced to through that commercial, playing her “Love Song” on a piano in someone’s living room.  He comes in and changes the track, and she switches to “Bottle It Up.”  Although it was overplayed, it was a clever commercial, and it seems to have taken Bareilles’ career up a notch.

Her follow-up effort, Kaleidoscope Heart, finds her further developing her piano/power pop sound, writing several more characteristically tight tracks, stretching out for some ballads, and even experimenting a bit.

If she hopes to hold her audience’s attention, or especially if she’d like to expand it, then it would be advisable for her to take some more risks.  The a cappella title track and the unfiltered “Basket Case” are promising starting points, though most of the songs on her record conform to the pre-established formula.

That’s not to say that it isn’t a good formula…

Bareilles has tremendous ability on the piano, and she takes to time to tinker with a harmonica this time around (always a positive, in this writer’s book!).  She has that deep, yet richly feminine voice that would have served her well in a jazz career and has made her instantly recognizable.

There are, of course, echoes of Vanessa Carlton here, but Carlton’s second album Harmonium found her burying her vocals in overly produced efforts.  By beginning with an a cappella track, Bareilles clearly has other priorities.

Some would say better priorities.  And I would agree.

Still, early reviews have criticized her (as I have, above) for not pushing the envelope, for being content to stick to that aforementioned formula.  While this is a valid criticism, and while I obviously agree to a point, I would also ask such critics to consider not only the formula, but also what she is able to do with it.

Sara Bareilles' "Kaleidoscope Heart" (2010)

Sara Bareilles' "Kaleidoscope Heart" (2010)

While I hesitate to say it is superior to her breakout single “Love Song,” “King of Anything” is an excellent track, and certainly a single-worthy effort.  The big attitude, the piano bursts, and the hand clapping all contribute to this catchy and fun song.

“Uncharted” is even better, and the perfect choice for the first full-length track.  This is arguably a better candidate for the first single, being the perfect amalgamation of vocals, piano, with strings and electric guitar layered to good effect.

These are only two of the many strong piano rock tracks throughout Kaleidoscope Heart.  There is also “Gonna Get Over You,” with its fifties rock sensibilities sped up to meet modern day standards, the uber-poppy “Say You’re Sorry,” and “Not Alone,” a plea for a lover to stay that adopts a slightly darker edge that comes complete with Alfred Hitchcock’s voice in the middle.

This is not to say that Bareilles gets stuck in one gear.  Elsewhere — most notably on “The Light” and Breathe Again” — she pulls away from her typical pop sound to embrace slower, more introspective tracks. “Hold My Heart” is indisputably the flagship piano ballad here, anchored by a chorus that will resonate in your head long after the track has faded out.

Perhaps the most interesting, if not the most entertaining, song comes midway through the album.  “Basket Case” is an unabashed confession that finds Bareilles on acoustic guitar and harmonica, adopting a traditional arrangement that is distinctive, diverging from the established sound of the album at just the right point to avoid an aura of complacency.

It is aptly followed by “Let it Rain,” another acoustic track and one that rocks out.  Whether intentionally or not, she is channeling my favorite female singer/songwriter; I’m referring to Michelle Branch, an artist I’ve been smitten with since I heard her first single on the radio.  I have since followed her career closely, from the better-than-solid debut The Spirit Room (2001) to the outstanding follow up Hotel Paper (2003).  Branch has since declined, not having released a solo album until her third, dragged along for over two years, was released this year as a six-song country EP.  Her partnership with Jessica Harp as The Wreckers was great and all, but Harp contributed the superior tracks to that effort.

I diverge into the realm of Branch’s catalog as a means of complimenting Bareilles.  Although Kaleidoscope Heart is no Hotel Paper, “Let The Rain” is a Branch-esque song done better than Branch can manage herself these days.  I predict nothing but increasing excellence from Bareilles if she is able to keep her independence by writing her own songs (not even Branch did that on either of her albums) and playing her own instruments, even if it is an acoustic track that takes her away from her trademark piano.

For now, Kaleidoscope Heart is an above average sophomore effort, and expresses the vast potential that I can only hope she will have the fortitude to make good on.  Since it’s become painfully clear that Michelle Branch will not be this generation’s premier female rock singer/songwriter, I’m hearing more and more reasons to cast my lot with Sara Bareilles.