Tuesday 27 September 2011

Red Hot Chili Peppers Are Leaning Back Too Much

Bad news last year when John Frusciante announced that he left the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Peppers had a period without him before when he was replaced with Dave Navarro, but that proved they couldn't do without Frusciante. Their great comeback Californication was their last success album creatively. The successors didn't come near and Stadium Arcadium showed a quenched band, both on the album and on stage.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - I'm With You (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
Josh Klinghoffer is replacing Frusciante this time, but unfortunately cannot bring the fire they need. His guitar playing is good, but he songs are more of the same, even though they promised new experiments and directions before the release. Adding some piano and cowbell can hardly be regarded as experimental. I'm afraid the gap Frusciante left is bigger than they thought. He was important both for song writing and sound, not only for his unique guitar playing.

There's hardly any song that sticks out or that even comes close to the best songs in their impressive catalogue. According to Flea they didn't put the best songs on this album, but the most distinctive ones instead. I wish they hadn't.

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Friday 23 September 2011

Houses Blow Away...The House

Having seen this new band from Amsterdam a few times I am impressed by the quality of their songs and convincing performance. After releasing an EP last year Houses signed a record deal and are now releasing their début album Clean Life. So we headed to their release party in Paradiso.

Houses at Paradiso Amsterdam, 19 September 2011 (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)

And that new album sounds great. It holds a few songs from the EP but for the rest they are all new songs. It breaths the same atmosphere as their live performances: dynamic warm songs with the powerful vocals of Ella van der Woude. The front woman of the band is definitely the one that carries the band on stage. That's not any different tonight. She's the one in the spot lights. Her charismatic appearance together with her great voice draws most of the attention. She impresses even more when she walks away from the mic in 'Black Clothes' and sings a few lines without it.

But the rest of the band should not be forgotten. All are skilled musicians and are important building blocks for the sound of the band. The heavy Hammond sound, the playful guitar licks that sometimes turn into walls of noise and the solid bass groove. And last but not least the great drum sound of Tobias Ponsioen. His drumming style is solid and loose and he knows what a song needs: soft cymbal ticks and a whispering snare in slow, quiet parts, and heavy beats with rolling fills in loud parts. This all adds to the dynamics that are even more evident on stage.

With a sold out room full of fans it turns into a strong performance. The band members seem to be overwhelmed themselves by this response, although this is not directly obvious on stage. There they put down a professional, focused and convincing show. Houses prove tonight they are more than ready to play larger clubs in the low lands. Their international sound and skills should get them far. The future is looking bright for this promising band.

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Wednesday 21 September 2011

The Drums Are Ready For The Big Jump

The Drums are currently promoting their new album Portamento. Therefore they are playing a show case on Paradiso's small stage. Their self-titled début album received mixed reviews as did their live shows. Some people were not impressed by the band and thought they were over-hyped. Time to find out for myself and what the new songs will sound like.

The Drums at Paradiso Amsterdam, 14 September 2011 (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)

Of course the room is filled with many young people with a substantial part from the UK. They get a chance to see their heroes up close on a relatively small stage. The new songs prove the band has grown. Of course still chuck full of emotions but in a more grown up way. They kept the occasional nice Beach Boys like harmonies and the playful guitar lines. It's not hard to hear influences like The Strokes, Joy Division and The Smiths.

Front man Jonathan Pierce is a first class crooner and draws all the attention. The rest of the band are a looking a bit pale compared to him, but that's why you need a singer like him. His voice is clear and he's looking comfortable on stage. Even the falsetto parts are powerful. They are playing a pretty tight set although they do make some mistakes now and then. Nothing serious though and newcomers Chris Stein and Myles Matheny seem to fit in nicely.

The young crowd is loving every minute of it and responds to all songs and know every single one of them including the new ones. The Drums are proving that they have grown a lot in the past year. With a good new album in their hands they should be able to take it to the next level. 2012 could be an important year for this band.

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Monday 19 September 2011

Relaxed Show By Tika

After spending time together in Canada, David Pino and Marien Dorleijn came back with a great album for the 'In A Cabin With Project'. The album with this one time group Tika was more than a simple addition of the qualities of both musicians. However making an album together is one thing. Playing it live on stage is different.

Tika at Paradiso Amsterdam, September 13 2011 (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)

Since their album was recorded with the help of Canadian musicians they got members of both their own bands to help them out. And it is nicely divided between those bands. El Pino & The Volunteers' bass player Appie and Moss' drum player Finn Kruyning are completing the band on stage. They are only playing a handful of shows to support this occasion.

The show starts with the documentary around actor Carel Struycken and the song 'For Better Or For Worse'. The video doesn't play smoothly and it's not a good start. It will be characteristic for the entire show. Pino and Dorleijn take the stage and start playing. It's simply amazing how well their voices sound so good together. When Appie and Kruyning are joining them the harmonies are heavenly. Although the songs are great it doesn't really sound like a band. You can notice that they put this band together just for the occasion. It doesn't always sound tight and convincing, some things don't run smoothly and the musicians don't look like they are comfortable all time. Maybe they didn't have too much time either to prepare for it.

One can only hope that maybe this project will lead to more Tika music and that it will grow into something more steady in future. With a well prepared band this could turn into something great. They show that by stepping into the crowd in the last encore to play Fleetwood Mac's 'The Chain'. When they take the stage for a full blown climax to the song it's a great ending to a somewhat messy evening. But with these great musicians and fine songs it was a pleasure nevertheless.

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Saturday 17 September 2011

Cymbals Eat Guitars Impress Again

Two years ago Cymbals Eat Guitars released their début Why There Are Mountains. It made clear right away that the band have lots of potential. The well received album was full of bombastic songs that were all over the place. They weren't afraid to experiment and were looking for adventure all the time. Now there's the follow up Lenses Alien, that continues where they left off. The foursome fronted by Joseph D'Agostino are showing still to be full of ambition and this album has plenty of energy as well.

Cymbals Eat Guitars - Lenses Alien (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)

And they don't waste any time. They open with the eight and a half minute epos 'Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name)' right from the start. The track almost isn't a song any more. It's full of twists, loud guitar explosions and more relaxed parts. The noisy middle is exploding before the band eases down and goes back into the theme. What a way to start. After that it hardly settles down, but it stays interesting above all. The album's title has been derived from the lyrics of the opening song:

Betrayers of children exposed by distortions
His property swelling Lenses Alien

Yes, it's hard work lyrics wise and often you need to look up the words of the song. Not that it's very helpful all the time.

No song is following a standard pattern. There are always changes in tempo, a psychedelic intermezzo or it suddenly changes into an eruption of noise and guitars. Even 'Wavelengths', that starts like a normal ballad, has sudden twists. Just like 'Shore Points' that seems to play like a nice indie rock song, but then shows a different face. In short: they are all very dynamic and layered songs. But it never feels strained in any case.

Cymbals Eat Guitars managed to produce another impressive piece of art. In their logical follow up to their début they are deepening their sound and are trying to push the envelope even more. This seems to be running off the rails now and then, but eventually they are able to keep things together cleverly. It's definitely not an easy record with catchy songs or nice sing-alongs. No, this is hard work for the listener. But that repay itself with almost fourty minutes of total joy.

This review has been published on ROAR E-Zine in Dutch over here.

Listen to 'Lenses Alien' on Spotify

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Wednesday 14 September 2011

Into The Great Wide Open 2011 Day 3: Strong Comeback Of The Sun

After a nice camp fire session yesterday we looked up our tents only to wake up to a thunderstorm. We wake up to a grey morning. Hopefully the weather won't go completely mad today since there are still some bands to watch!

Palio Superspeed Donkey (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
These young musicians have an average age of 15! But they are playing like they're in their twenties. One of their big examples are the Arctic Monkeys and that's not hard to hear. They put down a convincing rock show with good songs that make you forget they are just teenagers. They still have to develop their own sound and looks but man do these boys have lots of potential!
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Junip (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
Time to take it slow with this Swedish band. A bit too slow even because this show is just really boring. It all has the same tempo and same vocal lines. And therefore it sounds like they're playing the same song over and over again. So we're sitting down for a nice breakfast instead.
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Villagers (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Conor J. O'Brien and his band have played a lot of shows the past year after their break through record Becoming a Jackal. His voice is clear and recognizable and the songs come out strong. But still it looks and sounds like extensive touring has gotten the best of them. They all look a bit quenched and so this show won't go down as legendary but as decent instead.
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Bastian (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
Bas Bron is all over the place as producer and musician. Figuring as the Neger des Heils for De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig and many other projects, but today he's playing with his funk rock band. It's a solid show with heavy rock tunes and some funky sides. At the same time that's kind of the problem. It all sounds too much as a copy of Prince's rock catalogue. The musicians are kind of overdoing it with their rock poses while Bron is more the modest nerd musician type. Only when he's playing his old big hit You've Got My Love it doesn't give you the idea you're listening to just any funk cover band.
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Jiggy By Night (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
When afro-beat band Jungle by Night take the stage the weather has cleared up and the sun is shining. Coincidence? Maybe. Slowly they turn the field into a tropical party like they do everywhere they're playing. Rapper Jiggy Djé is joining them but isn't adding a lot more than some crowd participation. His raps aren't anything special and the songs are good enough without them. But everyone's enjoying themselves and it results in a worthy swinging closer to this great festival.
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I can only say "seeing is believing". This festival really is special. It has great vibes. Visitors and musicians are enjoying themselves a lot. You run into artists all the time who, like everyone else, are enjoying the bands, the food, the drinks but above all the great atmosphere. The small island of Vlieland truly is a magical place.

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Tuesday 13 September 2011

Into The Great Wide Open 2011 Day 2: Magical and Perfect Day

We wake up to a gorgeous sunny day. It will stay that way the entire day which is great for the fullest day of the festival. So no time to waste and we head for the first band.

Into The Great Wide Open 2011 Day 2, September 3 2011

Alamo Race Track (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
It's nice waking up with a cup of coffee and this Dutch band on stage. It's hard to put a label on their music. They have never restricted themselves to a music genre or even the laws of song writing. Their creative songs are definitely growing even more in a live setting. The band is focused but also a bit modest. Maybe they need to wake up a bit themselves too.
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Onder Invloed Sessions
One of the nice things are the live sessions with the musicians at different places on the island. We went to this one in the only village on the island, in a garden behind a dyke separating it from the sea. We just missed Roy Santiago and sit down when Rebecca Sier is playing a Nick Drake cover. All musicians were asked to play cover songs. And so Dave von Raven, front man of The Kik and MC on the main stage this year, is cracking jokes and playing songs by The Beatles and Herman's Hermits. Bettie Serveert's Carol van Dijk is also playing, but especially Case Mayfield's impressive and passionate version of Damian Rice's '9 Crimes' is
outrageously beautiful.
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Agnes Obel (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
After hearing about her highly acclaimed shows I was ready to be impressed. Her songs are beautiful and it's great how she and cellist Anne Ostsee can manage themselves on this stage. But somehow she's not focused enough today. The show is a bit messy, also due to a sliding pedal, and therefore it misses the impact I was expecting.
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La Pegatina (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
Their show on Lowlands ended in a big party a few years ago, therefore this was expected to be a big hit. And with this great sunny weather the Catalan band turns the field into a Spanish fiesta. But at the same time it is clear how weak their songs are. It's all very cheerful and full of energy, but it's nothing more than playing easy party tunes. The musicians are loving it themselves and even when their time is up they continue playing in the crowd.
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GEM (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
Maurits Westerik didn't have an easy time after GEM's last album. The rest of the band quit and he was left behind. But now he's back with a great new band including fine musicians like bass player Daniel Rose (C-Mon & Kypski) and drummer Bram Hakkens (Kyteman, Dazzled Kid). The songs of the new album sound great with some potential hits and Westerik is a convincing front man. The stage in the forest is the perfect setting to show case the new album and I'm pretty sure it will put GEM back on the map.
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Kings of Convenience (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
After Erlend Øye played here with The Whitest Boy alive last year, he was so excited he really wanted to come back. And so this year he's here with his good friend Eirik Glambek Bøe as the Kings of Convenience. Their Simon and Garfunkel like songs are perfect for this sunny and warm day. Øye is looking completely at ease again and is enjoying every minute. When he brings in his other friends of Kakkmaddafakka who are playing later that day, it even turns into a happy party.
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dEUS (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
After this year's program was completed the organization had one more surprise up its sleeves: Belgian rock band and superstars dEUS were also coming. They played a small intimate set a day earlier in the forest that I sadly didn't know about, but tonight it's a full on greatest hits rock show. Front man Tom Barman is looking even more focused and driven as ever nowadays and we get treated to all the big hits and a few new songs of their upcoming album Keep You Close. Maybe the crowd is a bit too relaxed since it doesn't really catch fire but they prove once more how big a rock band they are.
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Crystal Fighters (Ronald Says 5 out of 10)
Because of their one hit 'Plage' Crystal Fighters are invited to many festivals. Although they turn the main stage into a big party, their songs are not interesting at all. It's actually a poor performance with just loud, messy songs. Even their big hit 'Plage' sounds pretty awful.
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Time to leave for better parties. After a while we find ourselves on the beach at one of the camp fires. People are playing camp fire songs and the boys of Kings of Convenience and Kakkmaddafakka are entertaining everyone by playing cheesy cover songs. Even Willy Wartaal is treating us to a song. Can this day get any better?

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Monday 12 September 2011

Into The Great Wide Open 2011 Day 1: Relaxed Start

I heard so many good things about this intimate festival on the small island of Vlieland in the north of The Netherlands. Everyone was raving about the previous two editions, the atmosphere, the location and the magic that's happening to all visitors and artists. Therefore I really had to find out myself.

Into The Great Wide Open 2011 Day 1, September 2 2011

After a trip that started off pretty bad with us losing our car we finally arrive by the morning ferry on Friday. It's only a short walk to the camping site Stortemelk that's the centre of the festival and before we know it we are settled. Time to explore the site and head to the main festival stage on a big soccer field.

BCUC (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
This band from South-Africa are kicking it off on the main stage halfway the afternoon. Their music is an exciting mix of soul, rap and traditional African music. The lyrics are about South-African politics a lot and the musicians are bringing it full of fire and dedication. But it's not coming over easily. It's maybe too early, but the crowd is not picking it up. Maybe the longs jams or the heavy lyrics that are hard to understand properly are asking too much of the crowd.

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Intergalactic Lovers (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
Next to the camping site's restaurant there's a small concert venue called De Bolder. One of Belgium's fast rising bands is playing there. Like we're used of these kind of Belgian bands, it's music with a nice twist, the Belgian touch. Lara Chedraoui's vocals are warm and her voice is strong. This is a band to keep an eye on.

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Bettie Serveert (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
One of the biggest bands in the Dutch alternative scene are celebrating the twentieth anniversary of their album Palomine that hit the Dutch music scene like a bomb at that time. They are playing the complete album and even in the original line-up with Berend Dubbe on drums. It's a nostalgic trip and all songs have stood the test of time. Title track 'http://youtu.be/dZ8QTo7NV5I' still sounds impressive and fresh. They save the title track 'Leg' for last because it's so hard to play according to the band. But it still gives everyone goose bumps.

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Pete and the Pirates (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
It doesn't get more British than Pete and the Pirates. The band looks British and their music is as British as Big Ben. It reminds me of Pulp now and then. They have some real catchy songs and many of them go down well. Of course like a good Britpop band they keep their cool and expose some theatrical arrogance. But maybe because of that they don't really connect to the crowd and it never gets wild.
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Bonobo (Ronald Says 5 out of 10)
Bonobo is the project of Simon Green, a British DJ/Producer. He brought a band with him on stage to perform his music live. The mellow trip-hop like songs could work out well after this nice day where everyone has enjoyed the weather and the beers. But the songs all sound alike and it's getting quite boring after a while. It's a bit of a disappointment after a good first day.
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After that it's time to find the best places for partying. The camping site is also the centre of these parties with camp fires on the beach. More and more we get sucked into the relaxing vibes of the festival.

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Wednesday 7 September 2011

Tika Chases The Cold Away

Put a few musicians in a cabin for a while and maybe nice things will happen. That's in short the idea behind 'In A Cabin With'. It lead to nice and surprising combinations in the past. This time it was Moss' Marien Dorleijn and El Pino & The Volunteers' David Pino. They headed to La Peche in Canada and moved into a cabin in the bitter cold. Assisted by local musicians from the Canadian music scene and a black Labrador, named Tika. The result is now out on the album In A Cabin With. The duo call themselves Tika, yes indeed, named after the loyal dog...

Tika - In A Cabin With (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)

The combination between Dorleijn and Pino may not be a surprising one, but it is a logical one. The styles of both bands are not far apart and they both belong to the Excelsior group that produces interesting combinations more often. And it does result in nice music as hoped for. The voices of both men are colouring nicely and the harmonies are beautiful. Especially when Dorleijn with his characteristic voice takes the lead and Pino is supporting it. What's striking is that it all sounds familiar and convincing. As if the two musicians have been playing and recording for years.

The songs themselves are perfectly fine as well as can be expected. Some have been kept small and sound, maybe because of the freezing cold, intense and thin ('Hardware Store') or even threatening ('Guest House'). The songs are supported in a minimal way; smouldering like the last log in the fireplace. Other songs are full of fire or sound warm and friendly ('My Little Truth'). With a song like 'Different Shades of White' that remarkably sounds summery, it's nice to just dream away. Plenty of variation in those ten songs I'd say.

Again the In A Cabin With project succeeded in putting together a nice collaboration. It results in strong and varying songs, despite the fact that the choice of the musicians isn't that surprising and quite obvious. It may be a confirmation of how rich the Dutch music scene is in this segment. With an open approach and by stimulating musicians and enabling them to express their creativity, it is even getting more rich. Just take a look at the Happy Camper project or the collaboration between Roosbeef and Torre Florim in De Speeldoos. And now the more than successful Tika.

This review has been published on ROAR E-Zine in Dutch over here.

Official Website In A Cabin With

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Thursday 1 September 2011

Visual Spectacle With Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire hasn't played this country, The Netherlands, a lot. Somehow they decided to skip it many times. The Lowlands festival would have loved to have them close this year's edition but the band arrived in our country one week later to play the Heineken Music Hall. With the release of their brilliant and highly acclaimed last album The Suburbs they have grown in one of the more popular indie bands of today. Many are praising their lively performances so it was time to find out ourselves.

Arcade Fire at Heineken Music Hall Amsterdam, 29 August 2011 (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)

The band Austra are the ones to warm up the big hall that has already filled up. Their music may be an interesting return to 80s new wave but on stage it's hardly a warm up. Everyone is either hardly moving or moving in the same way the entire show. This stage is definitely too big for them. The dark somewhat cold music doesn't help either.

How different this is when Arcade Fire take to the stage and kick it off with the very appropriate 'Ready To Start'. It's clear what their mission is: to conquer the music world by force. The sound is big, the stage setting is big and Win Butler has transformed into a big front man. And this works very well. For one and a half hour they take us on a musical journey through their world filled with beautiful visuals, great music and a very focused band. The show has no weak moments and never falls in. It has a high tempo but also has been stripped from subtleties.

The band members themselves are already great to look at with most of them changing positions a lot. Especially Will Butler and Richard Parry are all over the place and are playing with great enthusiasm. Régine Chassagne also is playing several instruments and of course she's getting her share of the spot lights as well.

'The Suburbs' is accompanied by bits of the Spike Jonze directed video and short film 'Scenes from the Suburbs'. All the visuals throughout the show are well chosen and powerful, adding more depth to the performances. When there are no clips to show we can see shots of the band. A great savage version of 'Month of May' with quickly changing shots and stroboscopic lights turns into one of the highlights of the set.

After one encore with 'Intervention' and 'Wake Up', one and a half hour later, the show is over. Although it was a convincing show, somehow it didn't look like the crowd was really following Butler's request at the beginning of the show for everyone to stand up and give them energy. Maybe that has to do with the kind of people that are here tonight: men and women into their thirties that are enjoying a night out with live music. The kind of music they listen to at home, nodding their head approvingly to the beat of the music. Arcade Fire could use a larger group of young wild dogs to fire up the party. Although I fall into the group of over thirty myself, they really deserve the response of an excited crowd.

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Set List:
Ready to Start
Keep the Car Running
Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
No Cars Go
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Empty Room
The Suburbs
The Suburbs (Continued)
Month of May
Rebellion (Lies)
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
We Used to Wait Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)

Wake Up

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