The NBT Review 73

Land Of Shadows – Ben Bedford (Hopeful Sky Records)

The story unfolds slow, delicate, unwinds from the sharply written focus of the first line, and shifts into the mood and soul of a young soldier from long ago, and the words take on a frenzy made tense as they are counterpointed by the gentleness, the regret, the empathy of the musicians. As we are led back, full circle, to the opening vision, we have to wonder is this a song of hope (that the beauty exists even as we kill each other) or a song of almost unbearable sadness because the memory evoked shows there is no way for our ‘hero’ to get home.

Welcome then to the Land Of Shadows, where ghosts are created as we listen. Where the naïve recruits, the worn out rejects, the wounded romantics, the doomed and the survivors all demand, with quiet insistence that their tales be told.

Musically the tracks are rich in subtle variation, dabs of accordion, banjo, dobro, fiddles and such, blend into the melodies, but no showboating here, no production tricks seeking unwanted attention.

This collection has something of the way that Springsteen has about capturing the soul of the so called Common Joe, but without the bombast that sometimes sneaks into his songs, these are no widescreen epics, these heroes do not fight or toil for death or glory, but to survive, to love again, to get home and live their lives, their desire is to carry on, and let the brutality wash away, if it can.

The paradox here is that these tunes are not depressing, rather there is something uplifting, even joyful in the hushed revelations. And when the singer tackles the love song (You’re The Weather, One Night At A Time) It is his skill with the tiny details that seem to make these things personal to whoever is listening.

I found this a joy to discover and hear. These are stories I will return to again and again.

http://benbedford.com

You can hear tracks from this album on the NBT Podcast going out on the 30th June 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

The NBT Review 72

The PanicKing – Million Dollar Mouth (Atonal Records)

It’s hard to be a pop star who wants to make thrilling three to four minute missiles of rock, keeping the hooks and the guile needed for mainstream airplay, but never losing sight of that tension and dirt that make for a rewarding Pow!! to the senses musical explosion.

Million Dollar Mouth belong in that sparse wasteland, somewhere between the loose jams of the independent and the too fine polish of the Adult Alternative crowd. This is a land where the tunes are crafted yes, but not for a second losing their fragile heart or their honest intensity.

In other words, their wasteland is a delightful place to be.

There is something comforting in the way they deliver a thrashing guitar melody, and counterpoint it with a carefully judged lead vocal that floats above subtle harmonies. In some reviews they are called tasteful, and while that’s well meant, I think it does them a disservice, because it implies that the band play it safe with their songs. This is so not the case, sure these are creations aimed straight to the heart of the chart, but they are also pulsing real things tensed up with pop steel.

The tension is the thing here, they write about darker times, scary times, where the soul shattered and picking up the pieces seemed an impossible task, then they gleefully shove in some messy dollops of hope and the ability of rock n roll to release you, if only for the time it takes the tune to unravel.

There will be some hip young things that will not listen here and that will be their loss, and there will be some that are taken by surprise and as the chords and voice and sonics sink in, find them selves thoughtful, even disturbed.

In a very good way.

Dig deeper

http://www.milliondollarmouth.com

You can hear tracks from this album on the NBT Podcast going out on the 30th June 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/

The NBT Review 71

Peter Comes From Neverland – Peter Comes From Neverland (independent release)

I like a twist in a newly born song, and the twist comes quickly on the opening track here (Trigger), starting off as what seems to be an acoustic shuffle, it explodes mighty prettily into a full blooded rock creature. Then the harmonies, then the slightly left of centre poppy tangle, oh yes, this is one of those songs that sound effortless, from thought to player as it were, but is tightly constructed, woven, into a perfect listening pleasure.

Next track, Airplane, is well named, it is that breed of tune that was made for introspection AND movement while Absorb turns the lights down low, shuts the bedroom door and seduces the intellect with a Grizzly Bear/Iron and Wine vibe.

The secret here, I think, is this singers tightrope walk ‘tween detachment and observation, and the intimacy of a small room performer.  A good example of this is the tune, Not A Beatles Song, which will soothe my hunger for a new Sufjan Stevens tune for a small while.

The EP plays out with the cool and satisfying strangeness of what sounds like New Order or the Cure going acoustic, Peter entrancing with that Robert Smith trick of setting mood for at least 80 or so seconds before a vocal is lightly added, allowing the song to build in mood and depth, so that the listener doesn’t want it to end.

The artist’s upcoming full album should be a revelation

http://www.myspace.com/petecovington

You can hear tracks from this EP on the NBT Podcast

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/songs_burning_brightly

 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/

The NBT Review 70

The Happy Masochist

Rust – Apollo’s Sun (STLP)

Various New tracks from forthcoming new album: Falling Becomes Great

As the random begins we see the composer staring out at a shuffling past, the mood is ambiguous, seems lazy languid except, the pictures invoked are so well sketched, defined, so haunting, that when he says the word Fragile, we can only murmur, ‘oh yes, and continue watching, listening.

This is an album about an artist looking back, looking around, to push gently forward as he takes notes, sets those notes into jazz and soul beds, sometimes adds heartbreaking melodies, this is an album creating those heavy sunset thoughts, driving slowly towards that redeeming sunrise epiphany.

As the piano in the tune, ‘Life Cant be’ slides a benign tension across the room, the crackle and fizz of a master story teller sinks into the way we lean into this music, the harmony and seduction is total, and we know that when the silence comes, the only answer will to be to scrabble for a new set or replay, replay and find the different secrets embedded there.

Then on to Rust.

When the sun sneaks into a cold room, we can see the tattered posters on the wall, see the wounded proud dust collection of cardboard and plastic greatness, timeless artifacts, a record collection made for Saturday night hedonism and Sunday morning review. This music is at once removed from the laughter and chaos of the gathering and street night and, also as a detached memory , perhaps, very much part of it.

The Writers chosen name is apt indeed, when I hear his music I see the colour gold, sometimes, or fire low orange, or yes, the scary defeat and strangeness of Rust.

For music that sadness is a coiled snake within the machine, there is no angst here, or fuzziness, or strident complaining for better things deserved, but rather sonic snapshots of bits of a life not often glanced at in this preening sometimes nervously insecure genre.

I believe this music.

Then right up to date, done as recently as June if the details on the mp3 are to be taken as gospel, I’m Doing Fine, is a wry yet uplifting groove, an optimistic feel pulses through. For this artist, it seems he has decided that the BATTLE of being independent, be creative, being this storyteller is a delight in itself, not a giddy scream oh yeah delight, but something deeper, stronger.

Rewarding.

All these tracks , these EPs deserve exposure,  discovery is essential.

http://apollossun.com

You can hear tracks from the EPs on the next NBT Podcast this 23rd June 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

                              If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of Apollo’s Sun’s 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/

The NBT Review 68

Fly Gallery – Frequency Theater (independent release)

One mans journey into the heart beyond the switches, travelling along the giddy current, he rides the dark sparks into a unique messy world.

The intro hints at the disturbance to follow, ancient voices saved perhaps from apocalypse, counterpoint the alluring lethal future siren full landscape.

Fragile mechanical rattle shivers for a few seconds then POW the song explodes, driving martial foot-stomp brave, call to arms call to dance call to PoP over artifice, call to commercial breakthrough, the chorus will save us.

Then we feel the wave motion, sultry swim of the Modern Myth, recalling the exact moment the young boys from the Depeche machine, plugged in, tuned out and lost their innocence and found a wry sense of melody.

                                Ahh the poignancy of the retro electronica, the percussion slinks in, all criminal rough telling us this ballad is being lead, willingly, lovingly to the slaughter.

This Theatre loves the chaos, but loves the sadness too, hear how the almost drum and bass chaotic rumbles detached as a gentle tune unfolds. This is Frenzy sure, but a wry thing indeed.

The vocals are unwrapped from their steel camouflage, allowed to be flimsy even personal, within a song that dares to be modern soul, the orchestral syrup of the latter day urban.

The pilot of this rocked up spaceship, Nathan Butler has a keen ear for hooks and a steady grasp of the human emotional behind the flickering effects. These are chart songs shooting down from a cool planet.

Finally the squelch slow build as we are pushed Over The Edge, sculpted tension the song spirals seductively outward.

The bodies undulate, the trance smokes in, and all too soon the song gurgles out.

Take a breath.

Press play

Begin the journey again.

http://www.frequencytheater.com

Hear tracks from this album and thoughts from Mr Butler on the NBT Dark Electric Podcast going out on the 17th June 2010

http://nbtdarkelectric.podbean.com/

And later in June on the NBT Flagship Podcast

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

                              If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of Frequency Theater’s 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/

The NBT Review 67

Ghosts – Tokyo Rosenthal (Rock & Sock Records)

Begin with the urgent, like when Elvis was more country than Las Vegas; this is Sun Sessions with a lyrical sting in the tail. Is this about the way obsession wounds, or is it about the will to escape from a relationship where destruction’s maybe it’s only saving grace? In a skillful bit of minimalist writing Rosenthal shows this story from multiple points of view, and all the while the music rock-a-billys on.

Then the song gets gentle, gets personal, the insight is tempered with deep love, and a character (a soul) is sketched as we listen. A life is shared, the small tragedies and tiny (yet tremendous) triumphs, this is the way one person keeps, keeping on.

There is no perfect love but there is damn near perfect old time Americana swing here, the affectionate dance prevails, giddy yet tender it heals.

Almost an island lilt to the title track, the singer treats his darkness with care, as he moves into ballad; the beauty is in the details (no need for a million words of explanation) just the hint of a touch or a smell or, perhaps most importantly, an echo. Poignant memory, stripped off angst, no brittle thing this, rather considerate and eternal.

Mister Tell Me why this next song shouldn’t be a miracle of a cross over hit , just enough rough, just enough dirt, the smile this induces, is an intimate thing.

Then a curveball, an jazzy pop 60s curveball,  the less frantic Loving Spoonful perhaps, or the Monkees drifting towards psychedelic bubblegum, A lazy charming thing.

These are songs that are constantly surprised by the danger within an emotion let loose, are amazed by how the smooth flow of a day’s journey can be tumbled chaotic with just a word or a gesture. These are songs that are entranced with the Consequences of love and anger, how we travelers have too much understanding sometimes, thoughtlessness other times. These are songs that know that it is not necessary to preach an answer, but it is rather cool to set a listener down the road towards his or her own conclusion.

These are songs that seem to talk to each different one of us they are immediate in their connection yet their caress abides long after the player has stopped spinning.

http://www.tokyorosenthal.com

Hear tracks from this album on several NBT Podcast shows

 http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=619263

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=614489

And coming up on the 30th June 2010 as well.

If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of Tokyo’s 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/

(personally I hope this cool Americana music will be up there really soon J)

The NBT Review 65

Song Selection from 88 Kilos Of Sunshine

It is this writer’s prerogative to not name the songs, just play them in order from bottom to top and attempt to capture the illusion of understanding and the reality of this music’s allurement.

The instrumental starts it all. Hollywood played in an empty small town hall. The drums as willful steady as a drunk’s inconsolable rage the guitar is devious widescreen thoughtful. The Clean here is a wicked clean, a Neil Young solo tempered by intellect and latent horror. This is a tune Stretched between school boy yearning for the redemptive solo, and the modern detachment.

Then chant then confess swim in the warm bubbles of regret, this treated ocean this seductive call and wanting response. Don’t want to get lost in this?  I couldn’t, ‘’even if I tried.’’

As John Peel was known to say, ‘this one fades in slowly’’ this is warped Americana played in the old house across the road, you stop and listen on your way home and weep, and leave strangely enriched. The ragged reserve of the (treated) singing, the two personas within connects you to this drama, traces still there even as you lock your front door walk to the living room and switch on the babbling evening news.

Thank fuck for a modern pop maker whose idea of the 80s is darker than skewed memories of big hair and Duran Duran. I recall fragile 7 inch singles cased in cardboard two tone manifestos.

This song is a slow growl, scary and beautiful. That’s all that needs to be said except perhaps  listen to all the songs on the page and look for it. You will know it the second you hear it, and then your day will change slightly, no matter if you are sneaking time from office work, or surfing idle in your bedroom.

Another slow fade in, another capture of the minutia of a moment in time, this is subtle true alternative.

If you have lost your faith in the power of music to provoke and please, to entrance and edify, then this collection shall attempt to find it for you.

Go NOW and listen

http://www.reverbnation.com/88kilosofsunshine

You can hear tracks from the band on the NBT Podcast going out on the 27th May 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

And this will be the featured artist on the NBT portal page in JUNE

http://nbtmusic.de/

Also check out a couple of tunes (if you use internet explorer) on the

http://nextbigthing.co.za website (after the intro just Click on the ‘#Just want to look around# text it will take u thru to next page).