When I was given the opportunity to review Diana Krall’s latest album, Wallflower, I already had an idea of what I was getting into. Other than knowing that she is married to rock legend Elvis Costello, I remembered that she played piano accompaniment on my hero Paul McCartney’s mostly standards album, Kisses on the Bottom. Sure enough, that was exactly the tone that Wallflower had, consisting entirely of jazz twists on classic pop songs such as “Superstar” by the Carpenters and the titular “Wallflower” by Bob Dylan, and that was also its greatest downfall. At least McCartney’s album featured two lukewarm McCartney originals to break through the clutter, and even though he recorded the album at age 69, he sounded nowhere near as bad as Krall does on this album. Try to imagine Norah Jones with a perpetual cold and a limited vocal range; that’s what Diana Krall sounds like. Not even vocal cameos by Michael Bublé and Bryan Adams could save this clunker of an album. The only song that could be considered a standout track, and I say this only because I am an ardent fan of the original version, is her cover of “I Can’t Tell You Why” by the Eagles. Other than this, I would not recommend this album to anybody with taste. Listen to Norah Jones instead; at least she writes some of her own stuff. 3 out of 10 stars.
Punch Brothers new album The Phosphorescent Blues was absolutely fantastic. The Punch Brothers a five-piece bluegrass acoustic band featuring Chris Thile, a Macarthur Fellow who received the grant of $500 thousand just to continue playing the mandolin. The album opens with “Familiarity,” a ten-minute tour de force showing off Thile’s absolute mastery of his instrument. The rest of the album does not lack anything as well. On “Passepied,” there are no lyrics, which really highlights Thile’s amazing ability to compose for a more classical pallet as well. With “Boll Weevil,” the mood switches to a more bluegrass almost country feel, where most of the lyrics are harmonized and there is a lot of interplay with the instruments. Overall I think anyone with ears should check out the Punch Brothers, especially this album, The Phosphorescent Blues.
Dolly Spartans is an indie rock band that has vibes of The Strokes, Morning Benders and post punk indie pop. The album itself has a pretty eclectic mix of songs and garners sounds from garage rock to jangle pop but at the core it all still holds to the influence from the Strokes with it’s lead singers droneing voice and the loud guitar riffs and slapdash drumming. The songs are easy to sing along to and easy to get into. it’s really good driving music for when your alone and wanna jam out like an insane person. The track Don’t Be Sad is a highlight of the album it’s just all along catchy get stuck in our head material. I’d rate the album a solid six out of ten it is nothing special but it is definitley some good tunage. They have potential to be a pretty good rock outfit and I am pretty intrested in seeing what they come out with in the future.
Barren Seranade by Elephant Wrecking Ball was a very pleasant surprise. The band clearly demonstrates a high level of technical skill, as well as chemistry through their tighter than tight rhythms, and beautiful, but also at times very “out there” melodies. As hard as it may be to believe, the band is only a trio, consisting of a drummer, a bassist, and a trombonist. Scott Flynn, the trombonist, hooks his trombone up through a rig of all different kinds of effect pedals, which give his playing a very interesting, distinct, and for lack of a better word, cool sound, which is simply captivating. Their songs clearly have a jazzy dub influence, but it’s certainly difficult to put concrete label on this band as a whole, for their sound is unlike anything that I’ve heard and is experimental to say the least. Throughout history, so many things in music have been done over and over again, and in this day and age, it’s harder than ever to escape the generics and create something fresh and new. If you’re into that spacey sound, jazz, appreciate technical and theoretical skill, or are just looking for something fresh and unlike anything you’ve ever heard, you’ve gotta give Barren Seranade a listen.
– Brian Carducci
Genevèive Bellmare’s new EP ‘Live and Die’ is a balance of jazz, indie rock rhythms and a light and smooth voice. Having worked with producers such as Mitchell Froom, Paul O’duffy, busbee and Tony Berg, it’s clear that Bellemare’s album was carefully composed. However, she still has a long way to go. The Live and Die EP had very slow tempo, repetitive and gloomy beats that made me fall asleep rather than draw me into her music. It’s mainly seen in her now released single “Live and Die” but it’s clear there was an attempt to make it a little upbeat in “The Way” and “Riddle” but she still comes out short. Although, I find that her song “Hiding Space” is the best track within the EP because it has a good balance between the gloomy jazz and indie rock beat that critics have acclaimed her for. Overall, Genevèive has a mediocre start and I’m hoping to see if there are any improvements in future singles and/or albums.
Song by Song Ratings:
Track 1: Live and Die – 2/5
Track 2: Hiding Space – 4/5
Track 3: Riddle – 3/4
Track 4: The Way – 1/5