Adaline’s Radio-Ready Pop Modernizes ‘Nostalgia’

Not gonna lie, I’m pretty sure Adaline chose to call her song “Nostalgia” as an homage to my most-of-the-time writing persona (covering legacy acts, ’60s music, and retro goodness). No? Okay, moving on.

Although its title indicates a wistful, maybe whimsical, tune, there’s nothing but modernity here from this Toronto-based pop goddess. Since hearing it for the first time, it’s since been added to my “New Music That’s Actually Good” playlist. (Yes, that exists, and it’s super difficult to earn a coveted spot.) It seamlessly blends with any number of songstresses on Top 40 today, including Ellie Goulding, Florence Welch, and even heatseekers like Echosmith, but

It seamlessly blends with any number of songstresses on Top 40 today, including Ellie Goulding, Florence Welch, and even heatseekers like Echosmith, but its dark, shifty, moody edge makes it distinctly Adaline. After one listen, you’ll need to cancel your plans for the next hour or so, because you’ll be playing this track on repeat — it’s that catchy.

Her new video, which features Grey’s Anatomy star Giacomo Gianniotti, perfectly illustrates the longing for the early days of new love, when everything is fresh and exciting. Complementing Adaline’s hook-filled vocals and pulsing backbeat, its black-and-white aesthetic ups the intensity. Truly, it’s a perfect visual for a near-perfect pop song.

Check out the video for Adaline’s “Nostalgia” below!

ALBUM REVIEW: THE DUSTBOWL REVIVAL, s/t

 

 

 

This 6th release from Los Angeles’ The Dustbowl Revival finds this band evolving in new directions; shaping and refining their music.  Self-titled, the band that’s gained a reputation for a good-time vibe has expanded its sound to include a soulful, funky groove that exudes deeper emotion and thus taps a more now/modern vibe.  This band has been known for their heady stew of quasi-Beale Street brassiness, mixed with some groove and roots music and yet again, they’ve raised their own bar higher.

“Call Me Now” kicks off the proceedings with a raucous, down-home, groove (yep, right there) filled with on-the-one harmonies, rousing horn charts and a get-down vibe; “If You Could See Me Now” has a sinister soundtrack feel – kind of a spy vibe mixed in with the clever melodic construction – and once again, those horns take center stage, punctuating the verses and lifting up the space between the choruses.  “The Story” has a slightly ’70’s funk feel, although the tempo moves in a 4/4 Motown time – it’s a stomper that’s a definite centerpiece; “Debtors’ Prison” goes in a completely different direction as it’s got a country feel; acoustic based and slower – and another high point and “Gonna Fix You” immediately reminds me of Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ “Let’s Make This Precious”, with its breezy soul feel and uptempo motor.  “Got Over” is another “quieter” piece; acoustic guitar and mandolin surround sweet harmonies and mournful horn interludes and “Leaving Time” is slick, in a New Orleans way – sly and no messing about.

All in all, a fine and solid effort from this ensemble.  I could rhapsodize about the philosophy behind The Dustbowl Revival’s sound and style but this is one of those cases where I don’t need to explain.  Put this album on and let the music do the talking.  I think it’s evident that what I hear in their music, you will too.  Which is more than enough reason to give this a spin.

RECOMMENDED

The Dustbowl Revival’s self-titled album is currently available

http://www.dustbowlrevival.com/

Album Review: All 4 1, “The World’s Best Hope”

Every music genre has cliches attached to it that either identify or characterize it. It’s unavoidable. A barometer for success usually means either how well an artist avoids the cliches, subverts the cliches, or uses them as a tool to help with audience identification. I am pretty tough on artists who do not succeed in any of these three exceptions, and as much as I hate to do it, The World’s Best Hope from All 4 1 indeed falls down on these tasks.

This is not, by the way, All-4-One, the ’90s R&B-pop vocal group that brought you the song “I Swear.” This is a supergroup formed by Frontiers Music head Alessandro Del Vecchio, featuring Terry Brock (Giant), Robert Berry (Three, with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer), Gary Pihl (Boston), and Matt Starr. The construct is not dissimilar to another Del Vecchio production, Revolution Saints featuring Jack Blades, Deen Castronovo, and Doug Aldrich. When I first read of All 4 1’s formation, I was hopeful. There’s a lot of talent in the band, much of which has been under-utilized through the years. To me, this sounded like a promising opportunity to strike out on their own and do something interesting.

Unfortunately, goodwill only gets you so far, and sadly All 4 1 buckles beneath the weight of a lot of bad choices. The main bad choice is that the sound of the music is trying so hard to reach verisimilitude with ’80s AOR/Melodic Rock that it never seems to attain an identity of its own. These are regularly heard in predictable melodies and lyrics that trade in the gray hairs of “standing for what you believe in,” and “never surrendering,” and “never giving up,” and “fighting to the end, no matter the cost.” In other words, the lyrics never rise from those of a theme from an ’80s Sylvester Stallone movie.

Harder to cope with is what I will call “Final Countdown Syndrome.” I remember back in the ’80s, a friend of mine was infatuated with the Europe song, “The Final Countdown,” and bought the CD. To his disappointment, every song opened with a variation of the lead singer saying, “yeah,” or “whoa-oh,” or “ungh!” or some other unnecessary interjection. That’s precisely what you get with the majority of The World’s Best Hope, and it contributes severely to that uncomfortable sense of audio deja vu.

It’s really a shame too, because the pieces are there for something a lot more interesting than what we get. In specific, I always felt like Berry had greater capabilities than he was allowed to show through the years. The Emerson Lake and Palmer fans never warmed to his presence in Three (or 3) and the sole Geffen Records release was destined to reside in cut-out bins across the nation. He contributed to some other prog-based tributes and such, but never had a platform to show off what he was capable of. The same is true of Pihl who had better fortunes working with Sammy Hagar than the famously dictatorial Tom Scholz of Boston.

I will give credit where it is due: Del Vecchio knows how to plate his productions with chrome and light it up with neon. The World’s Best Hope is slick and shiny, and the musicianship involved is not subpar, but it winds up feeling lackluster, buried by those previously stated bad choices. Had there been an aggressive figure in the mix to say “this song needs another pass, it’s not there yet,” or “cut all the opening adlibs immediately,” while Del Vecchio concentrated strictly on the sound production, this enterprise would really have been something to be excited about.

But as it stands at the moment, All 4 1’s The World’s Best Hope is a promise the album simply does not keep.

Calling All Film Noir Fans: Ben Lorentzen’s Music Video ‘Suite’ is Right Up Your Alley

There are a few indicators when you’re watching a music video that make you say, “Oh, this is going to be good.” One of those is a cold open, free of the song the video accompanies. Generally speaking (and utilizing my own opinion as a connoisseur of these things, natch), an introduction that sets up the plot of the video means that there’s something deeper there than simply some action with a song.

Rock singer/songwriter Ben Lorentzen gets it. He uses these cinematic sensibilities to craft not one, but two videos for “Dead Man in the Closet” and “Crows on the Wire,” both from his latest album, Pains and Pleasures. The Norway-born artist — whose voice is dense and dark, scruffy in all the right places — draws inspiration from his homeland, a place above the Arctic Circle where the sun doesn’t rise for months at a time. That distinct chill is felt throughout these two clips.

He and director Johan Anderson create a black-and-white world in which strange mysteries lurk around every corner. Both videos (along with others from the album) are tied together with a common storyline featuring a certain character. I’m not going to spoil the plot for you — where’s the fun in that? — but if you’re intrigued by the thought of watching a Bergman-esque short set to bit of toned-down modern rock, you’re in for a real treat.

Check out both videos below!

 

ALBUM REVIEW: THE THIN CHERRIES, s/t

It must be something in the water of Chicago.  For the last few years, the city has grown a plethora of bands from all different genres worth checking out.  And here again is another, The Thin Cherries.  A product of Mark Lofgren and Steve Delisi’s talents and vision, this band mixes the best elements of straightforward rock, slight psychedelic overtones and the early ’80’s (think the melodic space feel of bands like Lush without the noise factor or The Sound and The Comsat Angels with their density).

“Uncountry” has all the aforementioned influences rolled into one highly intense and enjoyable track; hypnotic and enticing, it’s the perfect way to start this album and keep you interested.  “Twonty” has the extra added ingredient of a quasi-country twang in its psychedelic manner (listen to that swirling keyboard riff); “I And Julia” is wonderfully reminiscent of The Chameleons; the vocals are soft with on-point harmonies and the middle-eight of the song builds but doesn’t distract from the song’s framework – it works in a cyclical manner and the guitar solo is just right.  “Dorian Gray” is the obvious “single” or focus track and the elements are just right – a chugging acoustic guitar, an offsetting guitar upstroke and warmly chiming melody; “Not My Love” is another acoustic-driven piece and on this, the vocals sound very Marc Bolan-esque in a sweeter fashion than the late T. Rex frontman; “Oven Mitt” is a hazy, dreamy track and “Star Lounge” closes out the collection with a late-period Rain Parade feel – guitars galore; again, slightly psychedelic and full of life with its structure.

This is, indeed, a very fine bow in a year of so-so debut offerings.  And as I’m often wont to do, I’d love to hear where The Thin Cherries go from here.  Certainly, they can’t head anyplace but up.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

The Thin Cherries’ self-titled debut album is currently available

https://www.facebook.com/thethincherries/

 

Dizzy Heights #21: In the Snow We All Look Cold

Assembled in roughly 24 hours after a lengthy and fantastic vacation. Said to the wife, “I’m not sure what to play this week.” Minutes later, lots of (incongruous) ideas, including:

– A Gary Numan cover block
– The Other Single (songs that received airplay – just not as much as the big hit)
– Guest vocals by A First Wave superstar

And, of course, more mellow gold, but with a twist.

Thank you, as always, for listening.

Minus the Bear’s Visionary Video for New Single ‘Last Kiss’ Dazzles

When making a music video, the ultimate outcome is often a mixture of the director’s vision and the artist’s music. It may seem obvious that the best videos result from a collaboration where both parties are on the same wavelength. As we’ve all seen, however, that’s not often the case.

Luckily for Minus the Bear, director Dan Huiting immediately envisioned a divine video concept for their song “Last Kiss.” “I instantly saw the band performing in a new, digital world that would be beautifully surreal and also very geometrically pattern inspired,” says Huiting.

They were able to pull it off in a way that reflects both Huiting’s taste and Minus the Bear’s signature rock/experimental sound. With vignette reminiscent of those silhouetted Apple commercials and mysterious shadows, it drapes the band in allure and complements the song, which extolls the very real emotions that go along with complicated relationships.

“I think we ended up with a video that represents the band very well,” says Huiting. “They look and sound great, and we were able to come up with some super rad effects and a piece as a whole that everyone involved is proud of.”

Check out the video for Minus the Bear’s “Last Kiss” below!

 

POPDOSE SINGLE PREMIERE: NEZROK, “Andy Please”

Popdose is very pleased to premiere for you the latest single from power pop master Chris Korzen, who operates under the moniker of Nezrok.  This release is pretty special, to me, especially, as it’s a song originally written and recorded by Van Duren and Jody Stephens back in the ’70’s, but never released.  As it happens, Mr. Duren is singing background vocals; among the players that worked with Mr. Korzen is Dennis Diken, thunder-drummer for The Smithereens and this song just motors.  Upbeat – poppy – classic and glad to see this song finally see the light of day.

Listen to “Andy Please” and you’ll be playing it over and over and over…

https://nezrok.bandcamp.com/


Nobody’s Favorite Record Review #2: Neil Young’s Landing on Water

Almost everyone loves Neil Young. And Mr. Young has given us many, many excellent records which a lot of people love very much. However, some are more loved than others, and I can’t think of too many of them that are less loved than this one.

1986’s Landing on Water is nobody’s favorite Neil Young album. Of course, most of us know how Neil flailed around (or by all appearances he did, anyway) in the 80’s, trying on musical genres like he was trying to find the perfect tux to wear to prom or something, royally pissing off and even alienating the ardent fanbase he had built with his earthy, deeply felt, and mostly introspective and indisputably classic 70’s work. I mean, sure, he had always presented a restless intellect and mercurial nature, but he seemed to go off the deep end after signing with Geffen Records after the sludgy Crazy Horse-backed stomper Re-Ac-Tor failed to make much of an impression on anyone in 1981. In fact, that’s another worthy subject for one of these, but later for that. Anyway, the first shot of insanity (to staunch Neil fans, anyway) was 1982’s proto-techno Trans, born from Neil’s fascination with using early 80’s tech to communicate with his autistic son. 30 years later, it’s actually quite listenable, hindsight has been kind to it. Not content to expand on that and maybe taken a little aback to the reaction, Our Man Neil abruptly decided to do rockabilly to middling effect (Everybody’s Rockin’), and a half-assed, mock-serious attempt at doing an Nashville Country & Western album that was watered down even further by nervous record label suits (Old Ways). Especially galling was the knowledge that the fondly-remembered Harvest album was also recorded in Nashville, and fans really had their hopes up for it. While these records do have their admirers (I can take or leave the former, but I can’t stand the latter), by now all but the hard core were fed up with all the genre-hopping, including record label head David Geffen himself, who dispatched a battalion of lawyers to sue Mr. Shakey for making albums that were “non-commercial and musically uncharacteristic”. This was settled out of court prior to the recording of Landing, and Geffen himself eventually apologized, but many folks kinda saw his point.

According to Wiki, many of Landing’s songs were originally slated for recording with Crazy Horse in 1984, but apparently the results were unsatisfactory and were shelved. In ‘86, Neil recruited longtime LA session guy Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar (James Taylor, Nilsson, Warren Zevon, Crosby & Nash, Carole KIng, Linda Ronstadt and many more) as well as drummer Steve Jordan (who also did a multitude of sessions for a multitude of people, as well as eventually backing Keith Richards’ solo work) and on a few cuts, the San Francisco Boys’ Chorus, and decided to dust a few of the Horse tunes off. No bass player was listed, so I suppose it was done on keys by Kortchmar or Neil.  The album’s sound was harder and more rock-edged than anything he’d done since the aforementioned Re-Ac-Tor, but many were once again taken aback by the preponderance of electronic instruments used- the only organic sounds that emanated from this album was the Boys’ Chorus. All done up with a digital-to-a-fault 1980’s production sound, the obvious comparisons were to Trans; but this album has more of an edge and attitude to my ears, and while many listeners were nonplussed yet again, I’ve come to love this album, and place it higher than almost any of his 80’s efforts, possibly excepting Trans and the release that got him back in people’s good graces, 1989’s Freedom.

I must, at this point, make special mention of Jordan’s electronic snare drum sound he uses in this album (and in some of the subsequent work I’ve heard him on as well). It sounds flat and dead and loud, like he’s smacking a plastic barrel with a hollow wooden bat or something, and I simply love it.

So. This isn’t long enough, so what say we do a track-by-track, shall we? You can listen along using the full-album video below!

Weight of the World – The lead track clues you in right off the bat to what you’ll be hearing on this entire album; a rolling tumbling stop-start beat, punctuated with synthesizer notes, and Neil’s falsetto processed voice singing about all the pressures he’s faced and how he’s treated other people; real 70’s style introspection, all gussied up in “modern” 80’s clothes. No guitar solo, except for a few pinched notes on the fadeout. This one had a really odd, Young-filmed, and almost nightmarish to watch video.

Violent Side – Neil finally breaks out his guitar on this one, as he enjoins his listeners to control, yes, your “violent side”. While the lyrical sentiment is a little on the naive side, the backing isn’t- growling guitars & synths, Jordan spraying beats everywhere, and the Boys Chorus singing away on the chorus, it’s a (ironically enough) chaotic, if melodic, exercise in pop/rock.

Hippie Dream is one of the best tracks on the album, and is the one from this album which is most fondly remembered by those who care to remember such things. I’d bet my house this is one of the aborted Crazy Horse songs. Against ominous, downbeat washes of synth sound and bass notes, backed with Jordan beating hell out of his drum kit like he was trying to break out of jail or something, Young looks back with regret, coldly dismissing David Crosby, Paul Kantner & Stephen Stills’ hippie optimism (“But the wooden ships/were a hippie dream/capsized in excess/if you know what I mean)…but determined to look forward and remain true to himself. A mission statement if you will, and to further prove his point, he freaks out on guitar to impressive effect on the way out- the interplay between his loopy soloing and Jordan’s fierce drum is amazing.

Bad News Beat finds Young using newspaper and TV News metaphors to tell us that his baby doesn’t love him, more or less. It’s not the strongest cut on the album, it rolls and tumbles to no real good effect but doesn’t really last too long so it gets a pass. It provides a little break before segueing into the next song…

Touch the Night, which was the first track I heard from this record when MTV aired the video that featured Neil dressed as yet another TV News reporter (see previous song), at the chaotic scene of an accident, red-robed chorus in tow. Rather striking image, and the video is full of sly humor. The straight-ahead driving guitar-rock of the accompaniment compliments the reflective nature of the lyrics, as Neil meditates on the transience of life or something like that. The SFBC is on hand again here to provide angelic textures to the choruses, and ooh-ah to great effect as the band crashes and bashes to the end of the song. Again, Jordan really brings the thunder.

Next up, we get the funky drum & synth (no bass can I discern, if it’s there, its very low in the mix) shuffle of People on the Street, which is a disconcertingly light-in-tone treatment of a serious problem (as much in 1986 as it is now), homelessness. Still, I can’t help but get a kick out of the nice shooby-doo-wah style vocals on the middle section. You stay busy tapping your toe, even as you digest lyrics such as:

There’s a muffled scream from the alley scene
From the alley scene comes a muffled scream
And the siren wails while the system fails
In the steaming heat people walk in the street
People can’t run and hide
If you want to feel good then you gotta feel good inside.

As study in contradictions, Neil in the 80’s. The bizarre video he made for this song doesn’t improve things one bit,  even doubling up on the incongruity via some shameless mugging by the performers.

On Hard Luck Stories, Neil basically echoes George Harrison in 1964 via “Don’t Bother Me”, requesting that we don’t tell him our hard luck stories, and in exchange he won’t tell us his. Simple enough, and this song boogies along amiably with a nice little guitar lick accent or two as we go back to the lyrics after the solo break as well as in the fadeout.

I Got a Problem is another hard rocking cut with a great riff at its base and a jagged, staccato beat. Neil has a problem. He can’t explain it and doesn’t want talk about it either. Great music for dancing around spastically, as some of us did back then. Jordan shines in the breaks after Neil sings “Every time we talk about it/I break out in a cold cold sweat”.

Pressure (not to be confused with the Billy Joel hit from ’84) starts out with a nice Beatlish riff (played by Danny Kootch, I bet), and chugs along with a Devo-like approach (he had made a great public show of embracing the pioneering synth-poppers in previous years, wonder if this was left over from some abandoned collaboration?), especially on the breaks in which the backing singers sing

Don’t feel, don’t feel
Feel pressure from me
Don’t feel, don’t feel
No pressure from me
Don’t feel, don’t feel
Feel pressure from me.

Immediately followed by synth-processed vocals which sound like screams. Max Headroom gets a sly namecheck at one point, remember him? Young made a video for this one too, and it’s just as bizarre as the others.

The album closes with Drifter, which kinda, well, drifts- lumbering along, Frankenstein-like, until the end. The synth-drum-guitar mix is the same as on most of the other tracks. It’s another kind of mission statement from Mr. Young, in which he seems to express confusion as to why people react so aversely to his wayward nature and seeks to defend himself. To wit:

What about you, did I ever take a thing from you?
What about me, how do I know that your love is true?
What about you, how can I count on you to count on me?

Neil’s feelings aside, I wish there had been a stronger way to close this record…not that it would have mattered anyway. This album wasn’t successful at all sales-wise, reflecting how many had given up on the Neil that gave us After the Gold Rush or Zuma or even Rust Never Sleeps ever coming back. However, for all practical purposes, this album brought a close to the restless experimentation; he reunited with Crazy Horse on the 1987 followup Life, and its more conventional rock gave the faithful hope, and soon he won a lot of lost sheep back to the fold with 1989’s Freedom, which paved the way for his well-received 00’s and 10’s albums.

But I never forgot this record, even though it, too, took me aback when I bought it in ’86 after liking “Touch the Night”. Obviously, I eventually warmed to it, though it took a little while, and I like it as much as any record he put out post-Rust Never Sleeps.

When I was taking graphic design classes in the late 90’s, I had the opportunity to meet the artist who did the package design, Laura LiPuma. She didn’t have a lot to say about this job, (mostly she talked about doing Prince’s LoveSexy as well as Sign ‘O’ the Times) but she remembered that it was an enjoyable assignment and Neil was supportive of what she did.

Next up, the Toxic Twins burn out.

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode Nineteen

Radio City with Jon Grayson and Rob Ross:  Hey Nineteen!

Rolling along with the new format, Jon and Rob have a lively, riveting and powerful conversation which you don’t want to miss.  Laughs – seriousness – thought and off-color observations – you get it all, regularly.  This week’s episode starts with a comparison on performance venues nowadays and seeing older artists currently on tour; the Popdose Staff piece of Paul McCartney’s Top 75 Songs For Paul’s 75th Birthday (a great read and some very choice selections) and a shoutout to Brian Wilson on his 75th birthday; the usual Donald Trump press circus and use of distractions; Ken Shane’s choice of Carla Thomas’ “B-A-B-Y”; Anna Coogan’s recent album; summer television – the end of certain shows and the return of others; the NHL’s expansion draft, introducing the Las Vegas Golden Knights and this week’s brilliant “In Our Heads” segment, which you do not want to pass by.

Sit down on this 4th of July and celebrate that Jon and Rob are out there, bringing you all the news that’s fit to inspect…

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Episode Nineteen


The podcast will be on the site as well as for subscription via iTunes and other podcast aggregators. Subscribe and let people know about Radio City, as well as Popdose’s other great podcasts David Medsker’s Dizzy Heights and In:Sound with Michael Parr and Zack Stiegler.