Posts Tagged With: solo

Second Hand War – Thomas Charlie Pedersen

The debut solo album Second Hand War from Vinyl Floor’s lead singer Thomas Charlie Pedersen offers an album experience a little different to what we might be used too from Vinyl Floor’s outlet, but one that is also every bit as accessible and enjoyable. The solo album gives Pedersen the time and space to begin expressing himself, drawing from his own thoughts and experiences in the creation of his first solo record. The result comes across mostly as a quintessential singer-songwriter album, with Pedersen drawing from many influences, but ultimately pushing out a rather intimate and enjoyable album experience.

Whereas Vinyl Floor’s sound characteristally seems to fall into the indie-rock genre, Pedersen strays away from this sound on Second Hand War, instead opting for a more stripped down approach to his song-writing. Anchoring themes of demise, breakups and recovery around a more sparse sound palette, we’re shown a much more intimate side to Pedersen’s music, and perhaps gain an understanding as to why this album has been released as a solo endeavor, rather than with the rest of Vinyl Floor. Much of the music and its content feels important, as though this is something Pedersen feels he has to say at this particular time in his life.

When we look at the bare elements of Second Hand War, we see a rather lovely album marred by a few inconsistencies. Many of the tracks are built up around singular instruments, and whilst this is what Pedersen has been specifically aiming for, it does result in a number of tracks sounding very similar to each other. Whilst the sparse nature of the album allows it to be more intimate, it does feel that Second Hand War could have benefited from some additional input at various places, just to help bring more out of what Pedersen is trying to convey.

Second Hand War is certainly an album of merit for Pedersen, and one that helps showcase many of his talents in a condensed form. Whilst certain elements and creative ideas do lack in certain places, it does seem that when it is working, it’s working well. It might not be as fun and upbeat as what Vinyl Floor fans might be used too, but it seems to be an important album for Pedersen. Whether this is simply a one-time thing for the artist, or whether we’ll see some more forays into solo-albums, only Pedersen knows. For now, there’s certainly evidence of good talent here, which has culminated into a charming album experience.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Selected Songs:

  • High Dust Devils
  • Appreciation Hymn
  • Golden Age
  • Kill With Kindness

Thomas Charlie Pedersen’s debut solo album ‘Second Hand War’ is out now.

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Hand. Cannot. Erase. – Steven Wilson

Progressive musician Steven Wilson sets the way for his latest solo album endeavor ‘Hand. Cannot. Erase’. Following on from his 2013 release of ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’, Wilson offers up more of his phenomenal and powerful progressive rock style, presenting an album that really sees the artist pushing out everything he can creatively. ‘Hand. Cannot. Erase.’ features much of Wilson’s progressive style, all presented to great effect, though there’s an element of Wilson progressing as well, pushing out a clearly envisioned album where many of the tracks work to great effect.

After the success of 2013’s ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’, it seems Wilson has set his sights on offering a true successor to the album, doing everything in his power to really progress forward and make another album of equal standing. ‘Hand. Cannot. Erase’. features many incredible elements, with the whole release offering up a nice and diverse range of progressive rock styles, all coming together comfortably in one cohesive vision. It’s an album that grabs the listener’s attention and maintains it, without ever demanding it at any point.

There’s an incredible amount to enjoy on ‘Hand. Cannot. Erase.’ which is certainly another strong release from the solo artist. It’s perhaps arguable that at times, Wilson is perhaps indulging himself a little too much, maybe pushing out an album that’s more for himself than for everyone else, though whilst this notion has merit, if it results in an album that is as creative, accessible and as enjoyable as ‘Hand. Cannot. Erase.’, then there’s never really a problem with indulging oneself.

Wilson seems to be on the right path after announcing his focus on solo work and away from his band work. Whilst the news carries an air of disappointment, the result of Wilson’s efforts on ‘Hand. Cannot. Erase.’ and his previous solo work shows this is a great direction to be heading in. Wilson’s latest album works phenomenally well, coming across as one of his most focused and ambitious solo projects to date, and a clear indicator of the incredible talent the musician is holding.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • 3 Years Older
  • Routine
  • Ancestral
  • Happy Returns

Steven Wilson’s latest solo album ‘Hand. Cannot. Erase.’ is out now.

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Weatherhouse – Philip Selway

Radiohead drummer Philip Selway follows up from his debut solo-album ‘Familial’, released back in 2010 with his latest solo endeavor ‘Weatherhouse’. The new album departs from the gentle acoustic setting the debut effort presented, opting for a much more darker and harrowing album experience. ‘Weatherhouse’ comes across as a somewhat odd little album experience, where we see much of the slightly reserved talents of Philip Selway being pushed forward to new lengths. Much of the album feels rather unsettling, making it come across as a very interesting and within its own right, an enjoyable album experience.

‘Weatherhouse’ presents a different style from Selway, showing the musician incorporating much more than what was presented on his debut solo effort. ‘Weatherhouse’ builds up much more textures, not being dominated by the acoustic guitar elements that were so prevalent in the first album. It’s an interesting effort that at times, echoes some of the creative ideas one would expect from an Radiohead album. On top of the lush instrumentals is Selway’s wonderfully relaxing and gentle vocals, which are given a bit more of an edge based on the backing instrumentals. It’s a bit of a new side to Selway, who showcases a lot of his own creative talents in his own personal way.

Selway has managed to branch out his own style in an interesting way, showcasing some great new ideas that are certainly a step-up from his first solo-effort. Whilst there’s a lot that work well on ‘Weatherhouse’, it feels as though the album itself is perhaps lacking in a few parts. The main problem with the album seems to be that songs end just as soon as they’ve begun, resulting in this somewhat odd experience where we don’t ever get to experience the true majesty of Selway’s creative ideas. For all the effort Selway has pushed into his latest solo album, it’s a shame that not everything has come across as strongly as it should have done.

There’s a lot to enjoy on ‘Weatherhouse’, which is a wholly different album experience compared to its predecessor. It seems though that for everything the album has managed to do right, it has almost equally done a lot of things wrong, or poorly. There’s a great flow to the album, and some great songs that showcase some great talent from Selway, but the whole experience is lacking in a few parts. It’s a shame, considering the brilliant strengths of the first album, which was a very down-played and reserved album. ‘Weatherhouse’ might have stepped forward in a few aspects, but it seems to have also stepped back in other places.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Selected Songs:

  • Coming Up For Air
  • Around Again
  • Don’t Go Now
  • Waiting For A Sign

Philip Selway’s second solo album ‘Weatherhouse’ is set for release on 7th October 2014.

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Hero Brother – Sarah Neufeld

Arcade Fire’s member Sarah Neufeld demonstrates her full capabilities with her first solo record. Release on Canadian record label Constellation Records, ‘Hero Brother’ is a full force in action, showing the full range and scope of the violin. Neufeld’s music calls up various emotions and settings as it progresses down a somewhat dark yet incredibly interesting path. With the exception of the odd track or two, ‘Hero Brother’ consists solely of Sarah Neufeld, and her violin, which she utilizes to produce a whole album of rich and rewarding music. There’s some wonderful composition present on the album, elevating Neufeld as one of the most interesting violin composers out now at the moment.

On ‘Hero Brother’, Neufeld uses the violin to conjure up an extraordinary number of emotions and feelings. Each track explores various moods and settings, solely through the use of Neufeld’s violin. Neufeld uses a number of different techniques of playing the violin to create what  is an incredibly interesting album that has a lot of depth, scope and range. Each track seems to explore it’s own world, full of it’s own ideas. It’s great to hear a composer manage to draw out so many emotions and ideas through the violin, without the album’s overall sound becoming boring or stale. There doesn’t seem to be an extraordinary amount of repetition on the album, but instead a nice range of differing tracks.

Neufeld has made a great accomplishment on ‘Hero Brother’, and managed to make an album that really works, in a genre that often produces rather dull and repetitive music. It seems the only disappointing element of ‘Hero Brother’ is that the presence of Nils Frahm, (who co-produced the album with Neufeld) is rather small. His appearance on the album is only on two songs, which are arguably two of the strongest tracks on the album. In some ways, it is a shame, as his elements add much more richness to the music, perfectly accompanying Neufeld’s violin compositions. However, if Nils Frahm was to appear on every single track on the album, then would it really be a Sarah Neufeld solo record? Arguably not.

Overall, ‘Hero Brother’ is perhaps one of the more interesting records to have come out of 2013. Neufeld has managed to create a very rich and vibrant record that perfectly shows off her talents as a solo composer. What is interesting is how her presence on Arcade Fire’s records doesn’t reflect the true scope of her talent, which she has managed to achieve on her first solo record. It is also one of the more interesting records that features violin composition, as most artists in this genre seem to produce albums where each song contains the same tricks and gimmicks. Neufeld has instead opted to only use these tricks and techniques if it suits the mood and emotion of the song itself, making ‘Hero Brother’ a very strong record.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Hero Brother
  • Breathing Black Ground
  • Wrong Thought
  • Forcelessness

Sarah Neufeld’s debut solo album ‘Hero Brother’ is set for release on 20th August 2013, and can be pre-ordered at: http://cstrecords.com/cst095/

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#willpower – Will.i.am

Black Eyed Pea’s front-man Will.i.am’s fourth solo-album ‘#willpower’ offers up many club-anthem tracks that feature copious amounts of electronic beats and even more copious amounts of auto-tune. ‘#willpower’ is simply one of those albums that derives from what is easily the laziest of song-writing, and is all about the package rather than the actual music itself, which is simply, incredibly boring and tedious. It surprises me, considering that Will.i.am has been behind some great music in the past. It seems that as the years have gone on, Will.i.am has simply learnt that you can still make money without putting as much effort in, which has ultimately resulted in this new album of material that sounds like everything else in its genre, and has absolutely nothing to offer.

Albums like ‘#willpower’ confuse me, as they seem to act more like compilation albums than actual albums. The whole album is riddled with guest appearances from an absurd number of artists, including the likes of Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, Chris Brown, Miley Cyrus and even Nicole Scherzinger. It seems that albums like this aren’t designed with the whole album sounding great in mind, but rather that they’re trying to make it appeal to the maximum number of people (hence the ridiculous number of guest appearances, as fans of the guests appearances will ultimately be drawn to Will.i.am’s music). It seems more like one big marketing gimmick than an actual attempt to make music.

‘#willpower’ is essentially a lazy album. Musically, there is absolutely nothing to offer, with the instrumentals being incredibly sparse, and simply dull and boring. I’m surprised whether fans would actually find anything to enjoy on this, considering it all seems to be electronic beats that start and stop and simply go nowhere. It seems more than the basic cliches that is so often used within this genre, as it seems they’ve taken it one step further by making it even more boring and contrived. It seems Will.i.am’s love of auto-tune plays a huge part on the album, with everything sound like it’s been pulled through an old dial-up internet modem. Lyrically, the album is appalling as well, with the lyrics being every bit as contrived and cliched as everything else within the genre.

To put it simply, ‘#willpower’ is just a poor and incredibly laughable album that has been designed for the twitter generation (which would certainly explain the pretentious album title). It’s a testament to how music has simply dipped in quality over the years, if albums like this can even be described as music. It is more than just a poor album, it is a terrible album. Everything is incredibly contrived and cliched, and sounds like everything else that is being constantly produced in this genre. I can only hope that Will.i.am will go back to the days when he and the other members of Black Eyed Peas produced some incredibly well-written and socially conscious music. I wouldn’t hold my breath though.

Album Rating:

  • ★☆☆☆☆  1/5

Selected Songs:

  • None

 

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The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) – Steven Wilson

The third official solo album by Steven Wilson, known for his work in numerous bands, such as Porcupine Tree, Storm Corrosion, No-Man and many more. Steven Wilson’s third solo effort ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)’ is seemingly another chapter in the progressive rock genre that Wilson so deeply dives into. This time, it seems that Wilson is attempting to try some new things, and perhaps go back to the early roots of progressive rock, that was so brilliantly established by such bands like Pink Floyd and King Crimson.

The whole album is full of little bits that you would expect from Steven Wilson, regardless of what one of his bands you have listened to. There’s the expected elements of progressive rock on this album, which starts pretty much from the word go. Heavy bass lines and guitar riffs run through many of the songs, which is a style that Wilson has managed to perfect over the course of his career. We’ve seen this used to great effect on Wilson’s previous solo efforts. His first solo album ‘Insurgentes’, which was released in 2008 delved deeply into the progressive rock genre, and wasn’t too dissimilar to Wilson’s work with Porcupine Tree. The second solo-album ‘Grace For Drowning’, released in 2011, seemed to expand somewhat out of the progressive rock genre to incorporate more experimental elements. On this third solo album, Wilson has incorporated even more experimental elements, including many more genres to help branch out the sounds in a much more creative way. In contrast to Wilson’s previous solo albums, it could be argued that ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)’ is perhaps the most experimental of his three solo albums.

There is lots to enjoy on this album. The progressive rock elements work brilliantly, and when broadened out with other elements, such as jazz for example, it just makes it sound much more rewarding than the previous albums. It helps to show the creativity of Wilson, that he truly understands how genres can work with each other, and that repeating the same style over just makes music stale and boring. It seems that Wilson hasn’t only wanted to create a new album, but also one that can be seen differently from his previous albums, and one that can be seen as an expansion on what he has worked on before. One of the most enjoyable elements on this album is what could been seen as a reference to the history of progressive rock. The opening track, ‘Luminol’ has  a section of what could be described as free-form jazz perhaps, which seems to be a tribute to ’21st Century Schizoid Man’ from King Crimson’s debut album ‘In The Court Of The Crimson King’, which was released in 1969. It doesn’t seem to be a rip-off of the song, but as mentioned earlier, a tribute to the track, which is arguably one of the first progressive rock albums.

Overall, ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)’ is a very strong album, and in my personal opinion, easily the best out of Wilson’s three solo albums. It might be hard to swallow, but I don’t see Wilson’s solo work as being stronger than his Porcupine Tree albums. But that isn’t to say that they don’t have their own merit. There is a lot to enjoy on not only this album, but all of Wilson’s solo albums. This album is particular just has a lot of strengths that make it work for it, including great instrumentals, some interesting lyrics and a brilliant presentation by one of music’s most under-rated artists to this day.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Luminol
  • Drive Home
  • The Holy Drinker
  • The Raven That Refused To Sing
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Former Lives – Benjamin Gibbard

‘Former Lives’ is the first full-length solo-album by Death Cab for Cutie’s front-man Benjamin Gibbard. The past few years have seen Gibbard doing a number of solo-recordings and some collaborations with other artists (including his masterpiece work ‘The Postal Service’ with Dntel’s Jimmy Tamborello). ‘Former Lives’ is Gibbard’s chance to now express himself fully to his own design, which is an interesting move, considering how well he’s been able to express himself with Death Cab for Cutie’s studio albums.

The album has a quite a jolly atmosphere to it. Most of the songs are tinged with a sort of enjoyment and happiness, making for a highly enjoyable listening experience. It is a rather relaxing album, just oozing out feelings of happiness and such. It certainly makes a difference to some of Death Cab for Cutie’s albums, which tend to drift in-between jolly songs and darker songs, (though this effect was much less so on their last album ‘Codes & Keys’). It makes the whole album a highly enjoyable album to listen too.

What makes the album interesting is that due to Ben’s distinctive writing style, and singing style, that it makes the album almost sound like a lost Death Cab album. It sort of sounds like their much earlier work, from around ‘These Are The Facts And We’re Voting Yes’ or ‘The Photo Album’. It’s a welcome sound, as it was during their early era that Death Cab had my favourite songs. Thus I feel a sort of joy for this album, for sounding so much like their earlier work that was so highly enjoyable. There are many enjoyable songs on the album, all of which have gentle feelings to them. Each song compliments the next in terms of it’s pacing, sound and the emotions it gives off.

For his first full-solo effort, Benjamin Gibbard has done himself justice. No album is perfect, and this is certainly no exception, but it is a wonderful solo album. Perhaps it sounds a little too much like Death Cab for Cutie, but it is irrelevant, considering how much Gibbard makes up that band. The album is just Gibbard’s own effort, and it doesn’t require the effort of rest of Death Cab. It is a good solo effort, and it puts me in anticipation of anything to come from Ben Gibbard, both in terms of his solo work, and his work in Death Cab.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Dream Song
  • Something’s Rattling (Cowpoke)
  • Duncan, Where Have You Gone?
  • I’m Building A Fire
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