The NBT Review 76

Gorgeous Enormous

Through A Screen Door Darkly – Carolyn Alroy (Wussy Records)

Love can be funny in a bitter sighing sweet way, especially when connected to a desire that is unspoken but deeply felt, mulled over, knocked about in an internal debate, while the focus of all this remains blithely ignorant. And so it begins with crystal clear simple guitar gracefully (all Byrds jangle) waiting for the vocal to complete it.

Alroy continues with the theme of things left unsaid, actions not yet taken, one gets the feeling that with every hidden thought, the picture of the singer’s self awareness becomes stronger, crisper. There is a flexing against mental bonds and this is the story of how they were broken.

Sometimes she changes personas and we get sweet with the bitter almost dropped, but made palatable by her intuitive sense of detail and mood. In those songs Love isn’t complicated it’s just something you want to, HAVE to flow along with. If you dare allow yourself that is.

Then back to the internal, the sound of revolution, heard by the girl who wants to be on the front line, wants her shout noticed wants her tears acknowledged, wants it to be the world where anything can happen.

This is a set of songs that seem to try putting into words what so many of us feel day to day, in our private ramblings and our social striving. This is an album about the delicious tension of WAITING.

Even the wondrous cover of Helter Skelter strips the fear and insanity of the original away and aims rather, for the taught desire, the Waiting to get that dance..just..right..

And what is beautiful about all this, is the fact that the outcome is nowhere near predictable.

The EP that follows is indeed a darker thing. Less pop country now, this has an eerie folk feel about it.  The perceptions here are distorted by mirrors, through the textures of screen doors, refracted by flickers of light. Love becomes as dangerous as the sea, and the common things in the girl’s world become talismans , roses and phones and tea all become extraordinary as we move in slow haunted motion in and out of these songs.

I for one look forward to whatever comes next from this talented songrwriter.

http://www.carolynalroy.com

Catch Tunes from both Album and EP on the next NBt podcast going out on the 8th July 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of the Tunes here

                               http://www.nextbigthing.co.za

  (After the intro Click on the ‘#Just want to look around# text it will take u thru to next page)

   A chart made up from browsers rating and listening to the song streams can be found here:

                                      http://nbttopten.podbean.com/

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The NBT Review 63

Second Chances – Danika Holmes (independent release)

It is a brave thing to start a set of modern American country folk songs with a tale of loss and vulnerability,  but this brave thing  defines the music that follows, it states from the get go that this is a candid and original glimpse  of the those that survive, but still are fragile, human, even scared. In this opening the singers prayers are perhaps not answered but by the asking, she is, one feels, made stronger, strong enough to carry on.

The sultry percussive ‘Unlit Match’ carries on this theme, the singer, detached, watches the girl on the stage, deconstructs the rebel boy myth, and the music is an invitation to let go, take those dangerous chances and prove those who would box you into a cliché, totally wrong.

All is not internal though, in stand out track, the ballad ‘Annie May’ Holmes sings the life of a quietly extraordinary woman, sketching the passage of time and history with remarkable subtlety and grace.

Then in ‘Pockets Full Of Gold’ she brings it back to the intimate world of the couple, through faith and love in each other surviving the (harsher) world around them.  In fact all through this album, she commits her self to the belief that its ok to lean on those you trust, to show diary like the simple secrets of the soul.

This is a set that describes how the cold country of Alone, is left behind.

All this is tied together in the title track, the darkness has been preserved against, and the night is turning into day.  What I particularly like here is the admission that even in this brand new hope of a day the journey may still be tough and even third chances may be needed.

Yes this is mainstream music, but I find no concessions here, or cynical production tricks, no artifice.

That all these songs are wrapped in a perfectly balanced mix of the pop smooth and the country honest lets us know that her message will soon get into the hearts of radio listeners everywhere.

Listen here: http://www.danikaholmes.com/

Hear tracks from this album on the NBT Podcast going out on the 13th May

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

The NBT Review 59

Between Customers – Matt Keating (Red Parlor Records)

Keating constructs his songs like sketches that the artist keeps returning to,  adding details and colour and mood until the picture before you is a personal memoir, the simple perfect lines that tell all, recalling ‘’Darkness On The Edge Of Town’’ era Springsteen;  that fine balance between studio mastery and narrative grit.

He loves his characters, no matter how broken and flawed they may appear, affection and empathy shown in the turn of a verse and the way the strings slide comfortably to (old blanket on a cold night like)tangle delicate into some of the songs.

No scene is overstated, no drama played for giddy dramatics, there is craft here on display, as he strips away what does not need to be said and keeps the core, the finite details of what really matters.

There is steel in the sensitive, and yes the tunes are so damn pretty, but there is no impression of weakness, no concession to safety, no desire for blandness. If the songs soothe it is because they sing true not because they play nice.

Keating distills the world into intimate bulletins so the storm becomes the sigh in a fractured relationship; he makes the immeasurable understandable, touchable, he revives the art of telling just enough and telling all you need to know.

 Subtly descriptive in the way Don MacLean and few since have managed he brings the little bits of what he sees, (wherever he is) to us, making the telling of these tales seem effortless and the listening to them valuable.

Listen here:

http://www.mattkeating.com

Catch songs from this album on the NBT Podcasts going out on the 30th April,  13th and 20th May

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

Matt will also be playing concerts in Vienna with NBT favourites Richard Kapp and Cassis.. check the website for details.

The NBT Review 57

Looking For Landmarks – Two Loons For Tea (Sarathan)

I started this as a normal review. This word went here; these thoughts there. Then I realized, sometimes albums should not be dissected, no aural autopsy done. Rather the ‘letting go’ and then just…try, describe the journey.

Put on this music and this movie plays.

She drives through a landscape of rapidly changing storms. Escaping the thrum of her sweet nightmare, sometimes the sunlight sparkles on the cold metal, sparkles turn to sparks, blue sky to night. It was easier when she just believed him.

Subtle scene change, the camera zooms swoons over the car abandoned, the girl is gone and the boy is lost. The sound of reason, the sound of the past, the sound of mothers and lovers beat slow steady (deliverance) in another room, but he just can’t quite get up.

In a flash, the house is empty, no I take that back there is a Newsom ghost, a rock n roll Johanna, dusty sensual dancer, haughty almost even in the dying, even in the fade.

Cut to the city and strangely drifting along with a Roy Orbison mood she finds her self aging delicate, the prizes wrapped in unclear memories looking kind of ugly now in the intensity of her gaze.

This is all about adults looking for the children they were. And the children dreaming of the beautiful adults they may just become.

And then.

What is actually found.

A balance of regret and nostalgia, the rainbow breaks through the sepia and the colours bleed all over everything, the blur shifts and the band shudders into focus.

Finally this reverie explodes outward, the fragile characters in this movie twist and vanish and in a song named after a women who bound herself in words and wordplay and language and the paths of communication, sensual dangerous and enticing, in this song, the music speaks.

Then the writing is done, the album complete.  I listen to the sounds of a quiet room, a church bell ringing far away, a typewriter creating not so far away. I savor the calm as it stretches over the minutes of my thoughts.

Then I press play and begin the journey again.

Find out for yourself about this collection here:

http://sarathan.com/artists/twoloonsfortea.html

Buy Two Loons For Tea

http://tinyurl.com/NLD-Amazon

http://tinyurl.com/LoonsL4LAmazon

Songs from this album will be featured on a very special broadcast of the NBT Podcast

Going out on the 8th April 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.org/

Also read about Sarathan Records on the NBT Portal Website

http://nbtmusic.de/page10.php

The NBT Review 37

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Songs Of Sins And Redemption – The Molenes (Independent Release)

Take in the purity of Roots Americana, dirty it lovingly with hints of feedback, splashes of political anger and huge gulps of driving rock n roll, and you have the first two tracks, the gateway into the world of very human very fragile saints, and  sometimes beautiful sometimes scary and sinister devils.

As just music this collection is oh so easy to fall in love with. There is not an instrument out of place, no arrangement over blown or underdone, and the nuanced interplay between musicians (who follow each others rhythms as instinctively as brothers) is thrilling.

Of course it’s not just about the playing and the tunes, but a journey towards the light with all the perilous thoughts and shadowy images that the odyssey entails.

Stealing from the track, ‘Bring the Bottle’ these are often snapshots onto a world that is ‘One Righteous bloody mess!’ and as the cover of the CD suggests, there is  an allure to the decay, there is something deeply uplifting in the fact that the broken souls will keep standing, keep moving on.

And the Molenes will be the dance band they party  loud to, in wicked stops along the way.

Find out more here

http://www.themolenes.com

And you can hear the Molenes on this episode of the NBT podcast

http://www.nextbigthing.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=495389

Foresight/Poorsight- The Johns (Ghost In The Cupboard)

Rewind the film, slowly. A train sneaks back tragic into a tunnel, and the sun slipSlides behind a cloud. With rolling thunder, the drama of ‘Sun For Days’ unrolls. This is the end. NO, actually this is a seductively brutal beginning.

The theme of loss continues, made strangely sweet with a power pop chug, kinda like Mathew Sweet fronting a new wave Byrds. These are songs about dancing as close to the edge as possible, sometimes accepting that the fall is the most wonderful thing, these are songs that SEEM to be about giving up, but look/listen closer and they are about surviving the dull chaos of break ups and fractured dreams.

The singer is a cynic, the singer is conflicted, and the singer is a romantic, he searches through the shudders of the songs, through leftovers of a rock n roll explosion, the shattered remains of affairs and love, and he tries to explore the truth of things. And with this band, these are his findings.

This is no one man quest though; this band is a whirling strumming thrumming beating heart of a music machine, creating swirls and harmonies, a subtle modern wall of noise.

Through the loneliness, this band wants to reach out and touch you.

Find out more here

http://www.thejohnschicago.com/

Catch songs from this album on this weeks NBT podcast.. Going out this Friday

http://www.nextbigthing.libsyn.com

The NBT Review 36

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Heart Anchors  – Dune Tran (Independent Release)

Think of a movie. The beach at dawn, the film sped up, the sun thrown UP out of the darkness into the sky, the waves crashing senseless lonely.

Think of this movie. The 1st track of this tender collection is the soundtrack to that movie.

The movie slides into sepia crackle, and we see a young girl skip, dance kinda innocent, then falter walk backwards, the weight of the questions push at her, almost stop the shimmy, too much passion here though, the dance continue, the kites fly.

She can’t help herself she wants to always to hop, canter, swing herself around, then the Internal of the song takes her, things get slower, she allows herself to fall, hoping no, knowing, the music will catch her.

Time shifts, TimeChanges, this is sparkles, sparkling in the darkness illuminating lost lovers sitting quiet on cluttered couches, memories craving release.

Her songs are complicated things who wear a subtle orchestration, they are ballet dancers, half child half ghost.

Imagine another movie. A window, a fluttering curtain, the night sky, now here, now hidden.

She sings from another room, where moonlight shines through another window.

She invites you to dream.

Find out more here

http://www.dunetran.com

My Blacks Don’t Match – Darren Gaines and the Key Party (Independent Release)

Oh I adore this dirty Swing.

Gaines takes his ragged words and pokes them into the skin of proudly bruised songs, howling poetic, scaring the neighbors while seducing their daughters.

Track ‘She Says She Does’ is a poker game between Jim Carroll and Lou Reed, the shock sweetened by jiving horns and vocalist/violinist Sara Syms adding grace to the battle.

This is an alternate universe’s Blues Brothers, who kept their love of classical soul, but shared a beer or twenty with Joe Strummer and played messy and murky with Patti Smith.

While the swagger is infectious, this music has heart too, huge beating bleeding wanting pounding.

There is a true sense of urban epic in these songs that match a beautiful and honest story telling, images, harsh, vivid, intensely moving, completely unforgettable, spill out of the tunes and skitter restlessly around the listener’s soul.

Already, for me, an album of the year.

Find out for yourself

http://www.thekeypartynyc.com/

Hear Darren Gaines and the Key Party on this episode of the NBT Podcast

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=495389

and Dune Tran on this weeks broadcast (either Thursday or Friday)

 http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com

The NBT Review 34

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BQEP – The Bloodsugars (EngineRoom Recordings)

The song glides into focus, shivery buildup then POW, a PoPManAngel floats, no, swoops down, grabs us, and now we fly, now dance in this cool indie heaven. This wicked angel sings of the Quiet of Space and we find ourselves slow dancing beneath glitter ball sparkleStars.

This then is the single, ‘’Purpose Was Again.’’

Then guilty pleasures taken, with 80s keyboard kisses, the melody flirts but the lyrics are sharp, anger wrapped in sweet shy hooks.

Cinderella drum driven, chart song tensionNfrenzy recalling  the days when MTV, showed shy daughters sway and strut with lines of highly choreographed boys behind them.

Polished and shiny sure, a gentle post punk song-craft here, allowing the harmonic dangerous to slip through, ripples of disturbance, softly softly maybe, but these songs are not fragile things.

Get your sugar high here

http://thebloodsugars.com/

http://www.engineroomrecordings.com/artists.html

She’s Like A British Car – The Thromboes (CatErratic Records)

Oh its back to the garage, and just in time too, its dirty delightful here, oil stain glamour, spare part rough slinky raw rock squeezed into 3 minute nuggets.

Its Iggy meets the Yardbirds picking a fight with those freaky Monks (ironically a copy of ‘Black Monk Time’ >from 1966> fell into my hands about the same time I received ‘British car’.) Its twisted and sneering, the Troggs watching the Kingsmen, SLOUCHING around, waiting around for Punk to hit them hard.

Every tune makes you want to do that strange shuffle, where the body hardly moves but is full of poetic slinky menace.

This is music made by handsome savages sound tracking wry  17 year olds, on their brand new adventures.

This is ancient voodoo messy unapologetic , it is the return of the Junk and the Jive.

Get hooked here

http://www.myspace.com/thethromboes

Hear both these bands on this upcoming podcast Friday 12 June

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/