Saturday 26 February 2011

Cold War Kids Try To Hit But Miss

After their promising debut 'Robbers & Cowards' back in 2006 Cold War Kids' second album was greeted with a lot less excitement. So for their new album the guys from Long Beach California hired an external producer. And not just any one but Jacquire King who worked with Modest Mouse, Kings of Leon, Tom Waits and Norah Jones a.o. in the past. Cold War Kids seem to be going for gold this time.

Cold War Kids - Mine Is Yours (Ronald Says 5 out of 10)

The production certainly sounds a lot more polished and smooth because of that but unfortunately at the expense of their sound. Where earlier work sounded perky, nice indie rock with some bluesy influences, they had to make quite some concessions in this case. It all sounds a lot more bloated and pretentious and misses subtlety. The characteristic tantalizing and occasionally panicked vocals of Nathan Willett spin out of control way too much now and then like in 'Sensitive Kid'. In the first single 'Louder Than Ever' they even become whiny in the end.

On top of that the songs just aren't very original. You get the feeling that you've heard it all before. Right from the album's opener and title track you'll hear traces of Kings of Leon as is the case for more songs. With this producer this probably isn't a coincidence. Where they were sometimes digging deep in the past things stay pretty cliched and superficial this time. Sometimes the record seems to revive like in 'Cold Toes On The Cold Floor' which eventually sinks back into endless repetitions. The record simply lacks really good songs like the great 'Hang Me Up To Dry' of their debut.

It may be clear that the Cold War Kids have pushed it too far this time. Their intentions to force a break through to a wider audience are clear. But with these songs it will be hard to accomplish since few people will be convinced or even fascinated by this record. The band had to pay a too high a price for that: Cold War Kids doesn't sound like themselves anymore but above all like a cheap copy of other bands instead.

This review has been published on ROARezine in Dutch over here.

Listen to 'Mine Is Yours' on Spotify

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Tuesday 22 February 2011

Pleasant Songs By Gruff Rhys

Gruff Rhys - Hotel Shampoo (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)

The lead singer of Super Furry Animals has proven to be a creative man. Gruff Rhys' band is known for a variety in sound and experiments that sometimes can be a bit hard to get into. This however resulted in beautiful music and some less fortunate results. On this solo album he stays on the safe side. His voice is pleasant to listen to like we're used to and the poppy songs are nicely produced. It's not ground breaking stuff but who said that should be the goal. Especially fans of his other work (like me) will enjoy this album a lot.

Listen to 'Hotel Shampoo' on Spotify

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Friday 18 February 2011

Radiohead's New Single "Lotus Flower" Gets Thom Yorke Dancing

Well, dancing...kind of I guess. The track sounds pretty interesting with high pitched vocals and a groovy drum beat. I'm curious what the album 'The King Of Limbs' is gonna sound like.

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Tuesday 15 February 2011

Great Singalong With Happy Camper

Regular readers of my blog probably know I'm very fond of bands on the Excelsior label and will have read about the band 'El Pino & The Volunteers' a few times in the past. One of the things I like is the one big family feeling of the record label and the way they encourage artists to be creative and come up with new collaborations and projects. The 'Happy Camper' project is a perfect example. Job Roggeveen, keyboard player for El Pino, has worked on this project for three years. This month the album was released on the Excelsior label and turns out a musical journey filled with encounters with other artists. Just what you would expect from a happy camper.

Happy Camper - Happy Camper (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)

Roggeveen who is also a designer came up with the friendly yeti Manfred as the frontman for the project. And the video for the song 'Born With A Bothered Mind' featuring Bouke Zoete (The Kevin Costners) shows him on his camping trip. Both the song and video are typical for the album: beautifully arranged jaunty indie pop songs with a kind of gypsy twist. A violin fiddles around playfully in the music that perfectly matches the original and appealing cartoon animation.

And so the album contains 14 atmospheric songs in the same sunny style. 11 songs feature guest vocals by an interesting selection of mostly Dutch indie singers and singer/songwriters like Tim Knol, Janne Schra, Ricky Koole and not surprisingly David Pino. This approach results in a nice variety in songs due to the different singing styles ranging from an agitated indie song like 'Run' with Johannes Sigmond (or Blaudzun) and country ('Stop Fooling Yourself' with Leine) to a melancholic ballad like 'All These Lousy Conversations' with Storybox's Helge Slikker.

Although it's a totally Dutch project it certainly has enough international appeal. So listen to some of the songs and judge for yourself. And then of course buy the album over here! I can't wait to see Happy Camper and the Volunteers perform the album live in April with most of the singers on stage. And of course see more of Manfred's adventures in one of these great videos.

Listen to 'Happy Camper' on Spotify

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Monday 14 February 2011

Foo Fighters Release New Video On Valentine's Day

Not exactly the most romantic video but the Foo Fighters released the video for 'White Limo' today. It's a hilarious one featuring Motörhead singer Lemmy driving a white limo around while sipping Jack Daniels. More importantly the song is a hard rocking song and the boys seem to hold their promise that the new album will be hard and loud. This oughta be good.

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Wednesday 9 February 2011

The Boxer Rebellion Persist In What They Believe In

The Boxer Rebellion - The Cold Still (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)

Illness and label trouble are part of the history of this four piece band from London with members from three continents. And a search for the right sound. Now they have come up with their third album 'The Cold Still'. For this album they called in producer Ethan Johns who worked with Laura Marling, Kings Of Leon and Paolo Nutini in the past. The result is a well produced album that sounds great, but is a bit on the safe side. The melodic and warm pop songs are a mix of Radiohead, Coldplay and Keane but aren't really world shocking or original. This album may not be their big break through but their persistence may get them there in the end.

Listen to 'The Cold Still' on Spotify

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