Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rich Batsford - Valentine Court

As a pianist, I'm always interested in hearing how other musicians use the instrument to create something new.  Due to the vast amount of classical pianists who stick to the great compositions of this genre, I find original contemporary pieces or new interpretations of classical works to be refreshing.  Rich Batsford is a British pianist whose album, Valentine Court, is made up of melodic instrumentals.  Each song has a clear motif that sets the mood.  Perhaps due to the strong chord progressions within each piece, every composition, aside from the pause of "Just Sitting", feels incredibly accessible.  The album is peaceful and although there are strong rhythms to be found, a flowing ambient feeling is present on Valentine Court.

If you would like a taste of the album then you can download or stream two tracks, "Namaste" and "Gudonya", below.  You can check out Valentine Court in its entirety here.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Patrick Wolf - Lupercalia

Patrick Wolf's last album, The Bachelor, was dark and heavy.  His image was significantly more glam than usual, and the music mirrored this.  The Bachelor was originally part of Battle, a double album.  Part two would be The Conqueror, released one year after part one.  That was two years ago. The Conqueror was never fully developed and the title transformed into Lupercalia.  Lupercalia is the complete opposite of The Bachelor.  It still has that orchestral electro-folk sound that Patrick is known for, but the mood has changed.  The title is a celebration and the album is easily one of this year's happiest records.  Joy and love is the common theme with almost every track on Lupercalia.

Lupercalia's opening track, "The City", is driven by a pounding beat and a blaring saxophone.  The lyrics are a good sign of what's to come, "Won't let this city destroy our love...".  Patrick's general mood is something along the lines of "nothing else matters as long as I have you".  You can hear it in his voice and you can see it in the accompanying video for "The City".

The album's instrumentals are beautiful on their own.  A mix of horns, piano, violin, and harp create a somewhat nostalgic feeling.  Bouncing beats are prominent on many tracks, creating a vibe of sentimental pop music.  "Together" pushes into a more dance oriented direction with bleeping synths. The quirky use of oddball instruments are reminiscent of Imogen Heap.

"William" may be the source of Patrick's overwhelmingly optimistic music.  William is the name of his husband.  They entered a civil partnership together during the making of Lupercalia and the track is a small interlude where he asks, "William, will you be my conqueror?".  That relationship is reflected in the music and gives it a euphoria of life.

Lupercalia manages to avoid the melodramatic cheesy territories while still capturing a sensual and blissful mood.  It's filled with distinct melodies and beaming lyrics that never seem to wear out.  If you need a bright record to improve your summer, then Lupercalia is your answer.

Reader Request: Girlicious

It's been over four months since the last reader request.  Thanks to a reader by the name of Anonymous, the feature is back.  This time, they wanted me to talk about Girlicious.  I had never listened to the group before and knew little about them aside from their Pussycat Dolls connection.  Turns out that Girlicious is the result of a reality television competition entitled, Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious.  The group released two albums after the show, and currently all but one member of the group quit, leaving Nichole Cordova as the only remaining member.

If you push all of that drama to the side, then you have their music.  So far, they've only released physical albums in Canada.  It's a strange marketing move that surely didn't help them.  To familiarize myself with Girlicious, I dove into their catalog starting with the singles.  The group's music is quite similar to the Pussycat Dolls.  The vocalists switch off after every few lines, singing the chorus together.  It's radio friendly in the Top 40 sense.  "Maniac" has the synthy dance-pop sound that's currently the key to success.  "2 In The Morning" which is also from their Rebuilt album contains a rap bridge.  "Stupid S**t" sounds like what a girl group led by Ke$ha would create, very sugary and bratty and could be seen as party music.

Currently, Girlicious is on a hiatus until they can find more members to join the group.  I'm not sure how well they would do if they were to reunite.  They tend to lack strong melodies even compared to the Pussycat Dolls.  Girlicious isn't exactly my cup of tea, but fans of the dance focused girl group image may enjoy them.

Thank you to the nameless reader who submitted this request! 

Friday, July 15, 2011

EDM - Night People

After changing their name and finding a new record label, EDM is ready to release their new album, Night People.  The band formerly known as Early Day Miners is now signed to Western Vinyl, their original home where they put out their debut record, Placer Found.  Night People is an album that keeps a steady pace.  Every song is at a similar mid-tempo which creates a flowing feeling.  This could be seen as a pro or a con.  It benefits through the idea of an album being a complete body of work.  The songs work best together.  Night People sounds complete in a similar fashion.  The eight tracks compliment each other at this ideal length.  However, the lack of variety may cause some listeners to lose interest after a few tracks.

Night People starts off with "Hold Me Down", a guitar driven number.  It's an appropriate beginning that leads in a driving "Stereo/Video".  "Open Bar" is a hit and miss track.  The song's first half feels dreary and tedious, but once the grittier vocals come in with an alternate beat, the song finds its place, and it's a great place.  The heavier vocals throughout the album really add a needed element of energy that I prefer over the soft tones as found on "How To Fall".

"Milking The Moon" is one of Night People's highlights.  It's a mostly instrumental track that clocks in at eight and a half minutes.  The buildup is perfect.  It's filled with sweeping melodies under a blanket of distortion.

Unfortunately, the lack of memorable moments gets the best of Night People at times.  Even though there are only eight tracks, the album can drag on for what seems like much longer.  Night People does have its handful of shining moments, though.  Moments such as "Hold Me Down" and "Milking The Moon" just might tip the scales and make the album more than worthwhile.

Night People is out on July 19.  You can order a copy of the album for yourself, here.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Imogen Heap - Propeller Seeds

Imogen Heap just released part two of her Heapsong adventure.  The quirky songstress is releasing her fourth album in a most unusual way of creating one track from the record every three months.  The first track, "Lifeline", proved to be a good start to the project with hundreds of fans submitting sounds, stories, and artwork to be used within the single.  Single number two is "Propeller Seeds" and the accompanying video matches the song's organic atmosphere perfectly.  The lyrical melodies call back to Speak For Yourself, while the instrumental style is closer to Ellipse.  The song is in "3D Sound" and headphones are truly the optimal listening experience.

You can purchase the song in various formats and bundles on Imogen's website. Check out the video for "Propeller Seeds" below...

Imogen Heap - Propeller Seeds from Imogen Heap on Vimeo.