Friday, April 28, 2006

Music Review – "Pop" – Unknown Boy

File under: Electronica meets speed thrash with a catchy spin/alternative/cola rock pop

Adam Daniels, vocals; Chad Gunderson, Guitars; Manuel Baldanza, Drums; and Isaac Laskin, Guitars… With One from Los Angeles, two from Wisconsin, and one from Switzerland some may understand why Unknown Boy sounds so different from so many other bands. They are interesting in a fuzzy chord crunching, perplexing and howling, captivating and charismatic way with coarse, shrewd, pop sounds that manhandle the conformists' view without loosing that attention grabbing hook that makes rock ‘n’ roll so captivating. Unknown Boy is, to me, that rare hidden diamond in the rough.

Oh, and the song "Pop"... does!!!

  • Unknown Boy

  • * The Alternative One

    Album Review – “Oh No, It’s An EP!”– The Westminster Abbey

    Sounds like: Late John Lennon, Beatles – White Album, Beach Boys, Kinks, David Bowie, Donovan, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Mommas and the Papas, the Yardbirds, Blind Faith, the Shins, the Thrills and even Mozart, etc.

    File as: Retro low-fi rock n’ roll

    At first I wanted to call this a tribute album to the nostalgic sounds of the Beatles, the Kinks, the Beach Boys and Led Zeppelin all blended into one but after a second listening realized that they were not intentionally or deliberately trying to sound like any of the aforementioned bands and that made them very unique and on their way to genius status. This EP is light-hearted good-natured fun full of classic instrumentation and elegant harmonies and the music is insanely catchy.

    There seems to be a lot of comparison by reviewers to many of the early great bands but the real reason to compare them is not their sound but the fact that these guys are great musicians and songwriters. I repeat… they are exceptional musicians, songwriters and lyricists! There is no doubt that this music if filled with old school feelings, emotions and sounds but once you listen to this EP you don’t much care about that. If these guys were 40 years older we’d be comparing the great bands of the past to them!

    The songs:
    1. “Oh, No” – very reminiscent of The Kinks, Beach Boys, Mommas and Papas
    2. “Went to Bed” – Beatles fronting for the Beach Boys
    3. “Interlude 1” – 34 seconds of Classical Mozart mixed with Paul McCartney piano
    4. “Hangin’ On” – The Kinks, Beatles, Donovan all playing the same song together
    5. “Don’t Say Goodbye” – sounds like the Beatles “Birthday” with elements of the White Album
    6. “Interlude 2” – just over half a minute of Henri Mancini meets Mozart
    7. “What She Does” – Led Zeppelin vocals and guitar riffs with a Kinks influence (made me think of Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song”)
    8. “On Sunny Days” – Queen, Beatles, Kinks
    Running time - 20:47, Tracks: 8
    Label: I-Surrender Records
    The Band: Christophe Mudget: Lead Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Drums and Brett Nolan: Bass, Piano, Vocals, Keyboard (Yep! Two guys and a bunch of instruments!)

  • The Westminster Abbey

  • * The Alternative One

    Music Review - “Empty Boat”- The Birdwatcher

    From the album “Afternoon Tales The Morning Never Knew”

    It’s not every rock band that makes me progress towards poetry but everything about The Birdwatcher, including their name, whispered haiku!??! So I wrote one… and then another… And before long a full-fledged song review was born…

    “The Empty Boat” Haiku 1
    Ghostly hushed vocals
    Gliding through the soft journey
    Crash over whispers

    “Afternoon Tales the Morning Never Knew” is the second in a trilogy of albums following “The Darkest Hour Is Just Before the Dawn”. Unreleased to date; the third album will apparently be concerned with the subject of nightfall and darkness. The Birdwatcher reminds me of Radiohead with less punch and bear all the best qualities of music produced by singer/songwriters: inspired arrangements, “watchful” enhancement, and a coherent environment of sound. The entire album is filled with folksy ballads surrounded by thought-provoking lyricism and pop sensibilities.

    "Empty Boat" begins by descending into a light, rhythmic humming of synthesizers that sound like woodwinds and then light acoustic guitars provide the mood for the remainder of the song. Anna Neighbor backs up Dan Matz with a wonderfully sweet voice on the verses. The opening lyrics are easily suggestive: "Flying now, over top o’ me/ I'm grafted to the floor/ An empty boat, there's no stopping me/ On the trusting sea, I'm sunken on your shore." Along with a hot cup of coffee, this album with its soft, easy-going nature and its heartening spontaneity is all you’ll need for that relaxing Sunday morning.

    “The Empty Boat” Haiku 2
    Layered atmospheres
    Enchanting and mystical
    Warm Sunday morning

  • The Birdwatcher

  • * The Alternative One

    Monday, April 24, 2006

    Music Review – “Crown of Love” - Arcade Fire

    Let me be the first to label this music as hymnotic!! “Crown of Love” is a work-of-art combining a Roy Orbison revival with the Honeydrippers fronting for an early Roxy Music. Musically brilliant with a hauntingly stunning arrangement of piano and strings, this song is truly an intense epic. The ballad spills over with soothing waves of violin in an expression of remorse that continually builds until the song bursts into a whirling dance sequence, which fairly oozes despair. The Arcade Fire is a very unusual band with a curious, beautiful sound. There are 15 musicians listed as contributors and the instruments include violins, cello, accordion, xylophone and even a recorder. Yes, the normal equipment is here too, but the supplementary instruments add fullness to the song, so that you almost cross into the music rather than just listen to it. Win Butler and RĂ©gine Chassagne provide some of the most pure and sincere vocals that I have ever heard. Butler has that vocal quality that even David Byrne and Bryan Ferry might envy. These days it’s hard to find a band that means what it sings. I’m glad I found this one. You can wake up from that hymnotic trance now!

  • Arcade Fire

  • * The Alternative One

    Monday, April 17, 2006

    Music Review – “Ultimatum” - The Long Winters

    Twenty-eight years ago I wrote an article for my College newspaper about a new young musician named Elvis Costello and his band the Attractions and their first album. My original response then was that he would survive that very long list of new wave bands and would be creating great music for an exceedingly long time to come. This prediction was based on the talent and unique sound that I heard in every song. This was my very first accurate forecasting of the future. I’m going to make a prediction again… Twenty years from now The Long Winters (in whatever incarnation survives) will be around to entertain us and will be performing great music.

    I’ve never been known to use the word pretty when describing the music that I listen to. However, the song “Ultimatum” by The Long Winters may just be the prettiest and most appealing song that I’ve heard in the past few years. When you hear the lyrics “My arms miss you, my hands miss you, the stars sing I’ve got their song in my head” you know he means every word of it. My first thought was, “Wow, great poetry!” and my second was “Damn, I wish I’d written that!”

    When asked about the meaning of this song songwriter John Roderick pointed out that it was mostly about “being with someone” and that during the process of getting to know someone new, the words, I love you, somehow transforms the passion in a relationship to something else entirely.

    Enveloped in string ambiance, synthesizers and acoustic and electric fingerpicking “Ultimatum” is filled with the verse of naked confessions and intense and mischievous suggestion given to us in absolute crisp crystal-clear voices. The harmonizing reveals an astonishing vocal precision and is, quite simply, beautifully mixed with a touch of bitter-sweetness that is almost impossible to find in rock music today. Is this a sign of remarkable (and pretty) things to come? Again, I predict that it is!

    Current band members include: John Roderick, songwriter and guitarist; Eric Corson, bass and harmony vocals; Mike Squires, guitar and keyboards; and Nabil Ayers, drums.

    P.S. I still have the original music review from my school newspaper… I keep it neatly tucked into the slipcover of the first Elvis Costello vinyl recording in my collection.

  • The Long Winters

  • * The Alternative One

    Sunday, April 16, 2006

    Coming Soon

    Music Review - The Long Winters - "Ultimatum"
    Music Review - Pilate - "Alone"
    Music Review - Animal Collective - "Grass"
    Music Review - Arcade Fire - "Crown of Love"
    Book Review - The Templar Legacy - Steve Berry

    * The Alternative One

    Saturday, April 15, 2006

    Graphic Novel Review - "V For Vendetta"

    “V For Vendetta” is set in an alternate-reality future Britain in which a radical fascist state has surfaced. This regime retains control of the country through the supply of all provisions, government-proscribed media, secret police, a planned economic infrastructure, and internment camps for ethnic, political, and sexual minorities. All aspects are controlled by a supercomputer known as Fate, which is, in turn, controlled by the government. Political conflict has ended, the camps have completed their dark work and have been closed, and the public is, for the most part, complacent. That is until “V”, an anarchist terrorist dressed as Guy Fawkes, theatrical mask and all, with an incredible range of talents and resources begins a complicated, vicious, and dramatic operation to bring down the administration.

    V for Vendetta is a groundbreaking graphic novel. It is an intelligent, perceptive in its view of politics (if somewhat paranoid), and complex comic book for adults. The story develops slowly but once we see all the separate pieces they reveal a disturbing future that-could-have-been. This is one story that you will reflect on for days after reading especially given the political climate of the world today. The original series was created in black and white and that added to the grittiness and darkness of the political atmosphere it portrays. Skillfully plotted and crafted, V is an essential read for all those who love comics (or graphic novels for those of us afraid to entertain our childhoods). I give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

    And because of my fondness for useless trivia and for those of you who love trivia there are many references to the letter V (Roman numeral 5) and the number 5 in the graphic novel:
    * The character V is seen reading and quoting from Thomas Pynchon’s novel, V.
    * V is listening to Beethoven’s fifth symphony (the first four notes can be represented as the letter V in Morse code.)
    * V always introduces himself with a five-syllable phrase: “You can call me V.”
    * The phrase “Remember, remember, the fifth of November” is also referenced; it is the first line of a nursery rhyme detailing the exploits of Guy Fawkes.
    * The name of every chapter begins with the letter V.
    * Another link to that letter comes from his past as the “Prisoner of Room Five”, as later revealed in the series.

  • V For Vendetta Tribute Page

  • Note: Since I am going to see the movie this afternoon I'll most likely have a movie review in the near future.

    * The Alternative One

    Friday, April 14, 2006

    Music review – “Very Loud” - Shout Out Louds

    From Stockholm, Sweden come the “Shout Out Louds” and their first album “Howl Howl Gaff Gaff”. After listening to this album, and especially the song “Very Loud”, you’ll come to know that there truly is a rock-pop garage-band machine alive and well and procreating in Sweden. This five-piece band performs a dazzling style of graceful melodic music in the tradition of Ace of Base and the Cardigans. Theirs is an impressive sound of a subtle, yet confident optimism. This is a band of broken hearts attempting to communicate a tender idealistic outlook on love. “Very Loud” is beautifully executed song, which reminds me of a mix between Material Issue and The Flaming Lips meet the Proclaimers. They merge raw emotion with garage-guitar passion in painful, sometimes crushing longing that now and then borders on the saccharine.
    There is a tongue-in-cheek irony that is both wistful and entertaining about this band. They never shout, the track “Very Loud” isn’t, very, and “Howl Howl Gaff Gaff” is not the celebration of noise that the title suggests. But there is a playful focus and simplicity in the music that makes all their naked emotions believable. Comprised of Adam Olenius (vocal, guitarist), Ted Malmros (bass), Carl von Arbin (guitar), Eric Edman (drums) and Bebban Stenborg (keyboards), Shout Out Louds write songs that are passionate and sinister, poignant and thoughtful, blissful and gloomy, clever, elemental but above all delivered from the soul.

    While certainly not the Next Big Thing, this remarkable debut is the next excellent thing!

    “…everything about the record is brilliantly clear and brilliant in the true definition of the word -- that is, glittering, striking, and distinctive.”
    -Tim Sendra, All Music Guide

    …Swedish rock factory… perfectly formed, retro-rock quintet bustles with handclaps, keyboard-driven pop melodies and a potent new-wave punch…
    - Mundane Sounds.

  • Shout Out Louds

  • * The Alternative One

    Tuesday, April 11, 2006

    Album Review -"New Dawn Breaking" - The Walls

    The Walls “New Dawn Breaking” is a genuinely gratifying album that is well formed and appealing and has a brilliant and emotional necessity surrounding it. More like an aura of quality than an actual visible light. But there is plenty of radiance here!! This whole album proves infectious. If you like the Replacements you’ll like this music. The more I listened to this the more I liked it and I loved it the first time through. I still have trouble deciding which is my favorite song but “To the Bright and Shining Sun” gets a lot of air time on my iPod.

    Song titles: Open Road, Passing Through, To The Bright and Shining Sun, Black and Blue, Romantic Ireland's Dead and Gone, Know Your Love, Ghosts, Out of the Fog,
    Drowning Pool, Highwire, Birthday Girl, New Dawn Breaking

    If you have windows media player or Real Player loaded on your computer you can hear the songs on this album by clicking on the “Music & Video” control knob on “The Walls” home page at:

  • The Walls

  • * The Alternative One

    Music Review - "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" - K. T. Tunstall

    From the “Eye to the Telescope” album.

    K.T. Tunstall is that rare solo artist who sounds like a four piece band. Heavy with Midi work and a floor full of guitar petals she uses cool jazzy-blues style vocals in a catchy world-beat way to drag you in kicking and screaming. There is a compelling sound to her silky-blues Scottish voice that sounds like it’s right off the streets of New York City. Look out every other pop star in America, here comes K.T. Tunstall. This song can be previewed at
  • iTunes

  • This song demands a rating of 5 out of 5 stars.

    * The Alternative One

    Monday, April 10, 2006

    Music Review “Las Cruces Jail” - Two Gallants.

    This song, which has a Spaghetti Western beginning (complete with wind sound effect), quickly turns into a song that displays elements of rockabilly, blues and folk. The vocals are cigarette harsh and the lyrics tell an epic story of the old (and the new) west. “Well, a restless wind is whistlin’/Through my window through my head/Through all the strife that I’ve survived/And in my hour of darkness/I keep counsel with the dead/Just enough to remind me I’m alive.” The band is evidently named after a short story by James Joyce and is comprised of a very young guitar-and-drums alt-country duo from San Francisco named Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel, both not yet 20. This song can be found on the CMJ – College Music Journal website Issue 138 New Music Journal or at the band's website.
    "Las Cruces Jail" deserves 4 and a half out of 5 stars.
  • CMJ

  • Two Gallants

  • * The Alternative One

    Music Review - "A Chi Sa Dove Sara" - Tarantella

    This song, like most of their album "Esqueletos", is haunting, moody and emotional. It’s brimming with violins and acoustic guitars but the most stunning, extraordinary and mesmerizing instrument you hear is the voice of lead singer and songwriter, Kal Cahoone. When Kal sings, "You’re as sweet as hon-ey/or least you used to be" you’re happy she isn't singing to you.

    Tarantella draws its personality from a mixture of different locales and cultures, which include the streets of Denver, the tarantella dance and traditions of Italy and the passion and flamboyance of Argentina. The music is very similar to the Western-traditional-American-folk-rock (i.e. unclassifiable) now coming out of Colorado. Their distinctive arrangements are a consequence of Kal Cahoone’s experiences. She grew up in California and Colorado and while living in Argentina, married a well-known instrumentalist and composer in Buenos Aires.

    The remainder of the band is made up of guitarist John Rumley, violin player Kelly O’Dea, bass fiddle player Dan Jon Grandbois, drummer Chad Johnson, and guitarist and recording engineer ‘Big Bad Bob’ Ferbrache. The disc was released on former Dead Kennedy’s front-man Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles Records.

  • Marquee Magazine

  • 16 Horsepower

  • Alternative Tentacles Records

  • * The Alternative One

    Sunday, April 09, 2006

    Gadget Review - iRiver MP3 Player/Recorder

    The iRiver specializes in MP3 playback and recording. It starts at less than $150, records up to 16 hours of voice, has a built in microphone, and records directly into MP3 format. The T-series offers a full color display, extended battery life and faster exchange of music from computer to player. The only unfortunate feature Concerning the T-10 is that it operates only under the Windows XP operating system. For Mac or other Windows platform users the iRiver I.F.P. series is the model of choice. Extremely lightweight this product comes with a sport band and a neck strap. The iRiver is becoming one of those must have one stop solutions to portable podcasting. It allows you to perform podcasting functions on the fly – like interviews, voice notes or messages, etc.
  • iRiver America

  • * The Alternative One

    04/25/06 Update: I purchased this item in the third week of April and couldn't be happier. The iRiver does all it advertises and some that it doesn't. Two features that make this a must MP3 player is the deletetion from the unit of MP3 files (no more plugging into the hardware and manipulating the software to delete a song) and the ability to record on the fly. The built in microphone tranfers voice (and any other sound) into an MP3 file right onto the unit. One minor drawback is the Microsoft Media Player software that is needed to swap files, etc. This program is a little harder to manipulate than others on the market (including iTunes.)

    Saturday, April 08, 2006

    Music Review - “Blind Boys” - Free Diamonds

    This is a rhythm-section heavy novelty song with vocals that verge on the grating yet is bratty, harsh and punk all at the same time. Not quite dance punk and yet danceable with a punk twist. This is one song that will grow on you the more you listen and hopefully, this band will be around awhile to hone their remarkable skills. Band members include: Scott Anderson on guitars and vocals, Paul Cosgrove on bass, and Dave Morton on drums. This song is featured at the Indiefeed Alternative Modern Rock website. I give this song a rating of 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Indiefeed

  • Free Diamonds

  • * The Alternative One

    Friday, April 07, 2006

    Book Review - "Who's Afraid of Beowulf?" - Tom Holt

    This is a fast paced amusing novel involving rampaging Vikings in the rock-strewn hills of Scotland. Hildy Fredricksen (or Fredriksdaughter as the Viking King insistently refers to her) is an American archaeologist who is summoned to dreary god-forsaken Rolfsness, Scotland to investigate the discovery of an ancient Viking interment mound, complete with a perfectly preserved enchanted long-ship and thirteen dead Vikings.

    Except the Vikings are far from dead, and when Hildy opens the burial mound they awake from their centuries-long sleep bickering, annoyed at being woke up, hungry for a dinner of burnt seagull and ready for some bloody battle. Among the warriors are King Hrolf Ketilsson, called Earthstar, the shaman Kotkel, and Brynjolf, the shape-changer. They have been sleeping in the mound for twelve hundred years, waiting for the day when their foe, the sorcerer-king, will once again imperil the world. Then they will arise and wage war with him for the last time. They are puzzled however, to find that the disturbance of their mound was an accident by the local sewer diggers and not a deliberate call to battle.

    They decide they might as well search for the sorcerer-king and see what he's gotten into during their absence. They discover that he has taken on the name Eric Swenson and can be found in his headquarters in a high-rise office building in the heart of London. They agree to go after him, thinking that he won't have any way of knowing they are coming for him. They are very mistaken. His state-of-the-art computers alert him to the fact that King Hrolf and his companions are on the move.

    The Vikings' most powerful weapon is a dragon-brooch that was buried with them, stolen by Hildy from the site and in a fit of remorse returned. When powered by the two sprites, Prexz and Zxerp (sentient puddles of pure power that snack on electricity), the brooch makes the owner invincible. The sorcerer-king and his werewolf side-kick Thorgeir Storm-Shepherd want this trinket, and they want to destroy the Viking king once and for all and take over all of humankind. The Kings Heroes, an irritable bunch of witless warriors, provide some fabulous moments of humor but, in my estimation, the spirits provide the most enjoyable moments in the story.

    The greater part of the story is taken up with the efforts of the Vikings and the sorcerer-king attempting to locate each other and employ battle. A subplot involves Danny Bennett, who works for the BBC and who is eager to film an award-winning documentary about the mysterious Viking mound and the American archaeologist who has mysteriously disappeared. There are many encounters with the police, a great deal of riding around in vans and buses, some shape changing, and a lot of seagull snacking. Magic and technology are contrasted amusingly and the Vikings make many comparisons between their world and the twentieth century.

    The finale is somewhat anti-climactic and hardly seems worth all the energy it took the bands of Scottish warrior to get there, but this is a forgotten point since you really don't read this book to see how it ends, you read it to try and figure out the rules of the game Goblin's Teeth, which seems to be a fabulously complex game with the fundamentals of Chess, Monopoly, Bridge, Chutes and Ladders, Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots and a dozen other games. I don't believe that even the sprites playing it know all the rules.

    This is an amusing, witty, and humorous story and is in refreshing contrast to the dark, urban fantasies that are so popular today. The humor is frequent and the characters outstanding and fleshed out extremely well, with the noble and long-suffering King, the constantly bickering warriors, the preoccupied wizard (who spends a majority of his time trying to create a magical ever-replenishing can of beer), two voltage-sucking spirits, and of course, the Sorcerer-King himself.

    Tom Holt has once again taken the chronicles of the past and turned them over, resulting in a superbly marvelous book. I recommend you beg, borrow, steal, scrounge, buy, rent or otherwise acquire. You certainly won't regret it. A solid 5 out of 5 stars.
  • Tom Holt

  • * The Alternative One