On the Outside
On the Outside, the third album by Starsailor, is good rock’n’roll with strong lyrics that make you think. But in order to make themselves stand out and not sound like any other generic British rock band, Starsailor need to tighten and sharpen their sound to make it truly their own. Perhaps they could either experiment more with the rhythm of the tunes or have vocalist Ben Byrne sing in a wider variety of ranges, because his voice won’t necessarily appeal to everyone. Regardless, the singles “In The Crossfire” and “Get Out While You Can” are melodic pieces, while “I Don’t Know” and “Keep Us Together” make you want to sing along in an almost anthem-like style. As a whole, On the Outside is a promising record for a band with much talent and potential.
-Stephanie Ng Wan
The Lawrence Arms
(Fat Wreck Chords)
The Chicago trio the Lawrence Arms are back stronger than ever with their latest effort entitled Oh! Calcutta! On this their third opus with Fat Wreck Chords, the band explores new avenues and the most evident change being Brendan taking charge of the lead vocals. Though there are imperfections on the record; not always accurate harmonies and maybe even some mixing problems, they give the band their charm. Interesting bass lines and political lyrics are once again present. Although there are still remnants of their Alkaline Trio-influenced sound, it is definitely less prevalent. Though the band doesn’t break out of their mold for this one, they have made a significant progression to show they can compete with the big names in punk. Gritty, coarse, and just the way it should be. Album highlights: “Recovering The Opposable Thumb,” “Great Lakes/Great Escapes.”
Keys to the World
Richard Ashcroft’s Keys to the World did not unlock my frame of mind. Rather, it confirmed my suspisions to keep doors not containing new environments closed. Unfortunately for me and other listeners, Ashcroft is simply nothing new.
Songs like “Why do Lovers” and “World keeps Turning,” confirm that the album is dizzy with monotony, generic guitar riffs and lyrics that are far from poetic. Ashcroft is not the Pixies, so he should not be allowed to repeat the same three words 20 times over. His voice, which is yet again, nothing special, can be related to Bryan Adams’. And his style, not that it’s his, can be related to that of Coldplay; not that it’s theirs either.
Ashcroft has followed the mainstream bands’ trend of doing what’s easiest by sucking on other bands’ inspirations and calling it originality. With musicians like this, who needs executioners?
Super Toke MixTape Vol. I
(After Midnight Records)
Toronto hip-hop group Rhythnicru released their latest Super Toke MixTape Vol. I last December with producer D-Ray at the helm. Featuring special collaborations with friends from Montreal crew Island City Monsters, among others, the album is a fresh offering to the Canadian underground hip hop scene with songs with catchy beats, interesting samples and humourous musings. The 23-song album has themes that span from political to social to cultural issues, but at the same time, the group isn’t afraid let loose and have some fun either. Lighter tunes include “Time Flies, “An Observation” and “The Last Line is the Title,” and no song lasts longer than three-and-a-half minutes. The very short intro, the musical interludes and the concluding spin all work together to maintain the chill vibe of the ensemble, all backed by DJs, MCs and much more, making this album worth checking out.
-Stephanie Ng Wan
The Slackers’ newest musical effort is fun, smooth music in the vein of ska and reggae. Peculiar is an album that mixes an old school vibe with their own updated spin on the genre, giving us 13 inviting and accessible tunes. The third song, “Propaganda,” rings like a nostalgic yet reverent tribute to Bob Marley and other previous reggae greats, and choosing to end the record with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released,” is an unexpected but nice little treat. The Slackers are smart enough to diversify the tone, tempo and style of their tracks with songs like “I’d Rather Die Happy,” “What Went Wrong” and “Rider,” so that Peculiar won’t just appeal to fans of this kind of music. This is a great album to just sit back, relax and enjoy.
-Stephanie Ng Wan
Comfort of Strangers
Beth Orton’s Comfort of Strangers is as soothing to the ear as oatmeal is to the belly. The album is extremely personal, almost diary like, with Ortons smokey-yet-classic voice to back it up. She is also an instrumental goddess playing the guitar, harmonica and piano. With soulful accoustic ballads like “Heart of Soul,” Orton is a sound for sore ears that just can’t be reckoned with. Orton in no way a new addition to the folk scene either; she’s been in the solo business for 10 years, and the music business for several more. With ballads that relieve headaches, and lyrics that you, your mom and her mother can relate to, it doesn’t look Orton’s going any where anytime soon.
This Edmonton band isn’t at its first record and it shows. The fact that the guys have been playing together for the past decade or so, has enabled them to find their sound. The addition of keyboards to the mix and the singer’s nice raspy voice, are elements which help make the band stand out. From Below contains not only good fast-paced rock songs, but also some upbeat and catchy tunes that will make you want to dance. The one thing which the band could think of is adding variety to their guitar riffs. Our Mercury’s latest venture if proof the guys have matured.