This week’s CD Reviews are on:
>> The Alice Project : Traveling With Lady Berlin
>> The Asteroid No.4 : King Richard’s Collectibles
>> Isle of Q : Isle of Q
>> Mazarin : A Tell Tale Storyline
>> Ursula Rucker : Supa Sista
>> Kelly Slusher : The Lonely Leave
>> The Trouble with Sweeney : Dear Life
The Alice Project
Traveling With Lady Berlin
For those who think the Continental Drifters and Edie Brickell are where it’s at, then The Alice Project may be for you. If, on the other hand, you are like me and cringe when odes to pottery are uttered in song, you’ll understand why I’m a bit dubious of Traveling. Lead singer Alice Leon has a pretty good voice, but her band sounds like Hootie and the Blowfish playing at Lilith Fair and that’s just unacceptable. The latter half of the album shows what TAP’s forte could be – ballads. If they’re lucky, they may get some air-time as music accompanying an especially bittersweet scene on “Dawson’s Creek.” For the most part, the album is “cute” for lack of a better word. Their style is quite bland, but they sound like they are enjoying themselves, so hopefully that’s all that matters to them.
The Asteroid No.4
King Richard’s Collectibles
The Asteroid No.4 has finally made the record of its career. Plowing the barren fields of shoegazing in their early days, this new album finds the group exploring ’60s fetishism. Hell, the No.4 could be a long lost garage band like the Creation or John’s Children. Scott Vitt’s Jim Morrison-like vocals can be melodramatic, but the tight-rhythm section of drummer Steven Keller and bassist Joe Patitucci gels perfectly with the adventurous guitar antics of Eric Harms and Jamie Scythes. From the lo-fi perfection of “Thank You R.E.A.” to the sophisticated songcraft of “You Said,” the depth of this sophomore effort is indisputable. King Richard’s Collectibles is the most self-assured local rock release since the Interpreter’s Back in the U.S.S.A. Only thing is, this record has more than two good songs.
Isle of Q
Isle of Q
Together now for more than 15 years, Isle of Q is a Philly based hard-rock group born in Susquehanna University in the mid-80s. After several years of local gigs and national competitions, IOQ released their first independent album in 1994. Continuing to play clubs up-and-down the East Coast, IOQ landed a deal with Universal in 1999. With vibrant tunes, booming chords and ready-to-wear themes, the album is a throwback to the days of hard edge rock and metal with a post grunge taste. It’s competent, well polished and boasts a big rock star sound. “Little Scene” the first single is aggressive and catchy, but deceiving to their sound, which is best represented by “Bittersweet,” “Driving Nails” or “The Clone.” Effectively using romantic hardships and lingering memories, where others fail IOQ succeeds on “Sweet Potato,” “Here and Gone” and the simply beautiful “Bag Of Tricks.” Any of the 14 tracks could easily survive the roughest club and “Bag of Tricks” could conquer radio, if given the right chance to showcase its beautiful melodies and brilliant guitar work. But when a record company doesn’t push its product, it’s hard to see IOQ’s impact reaching outside Philly.
A Tell Tale Storyline
The child of The Azusa Plane’s drummer Quentin Stoltzfus, Mazarin has become a high profile Philadelphia pop group. Their sophomore record, A Tell Tale Storyline, is an album full of lush pop songs. A cross between Belle and Sebastian and The Byrds, it has more dimensions than most folk-pop. The songs blend country, pop, folk, and rock, and are executed with precision and skill, creating a well-rounded, friendly album. Blended harmonies on “My Favorite Green Hill” call to mind The Beach Boys, while the title track – starting out simply, with organ and guitar – is similar to Sir Paul McCartney. The album at first seems very summer-y, something best listened to on road trips. But after listening to the whole thing, it could also be the background music to snowball fights.
A Another Temple alum has hit the music scene with a vivid and poetic album. Ursula Rucker’s Supa Sista is an entertaining combination of various cultural elements such as hip-hop, R&B and spoken word. Although you can see the influences of Philly artists like Jill Scott, The Roots (Rucker’s poetry closed three of their albums), and other politically conscious musicians, her music style is full of novelty. There are unifying moments in every track. All tracks present a social commentary on various situations of the 21st century, and the music is simple and ballad-like while the words take on the complexity. However, each track does have its unique style, varying in musical presentation. The title track features Rucker rhyming over a smooth acoustic guitar, while “Digichant” is poetry with a synthetic and computerized influence. “7” is a soulful song, a combination of R&B and a classical accompaniment along with a stunning guest artist (M.A.D). Some may find Rucker’s messages overwhelming, but they intrigue and stimulate nonetheless. The album glows in talent and musical artistry, Rucker beyond a doubt proves to be a supa sista.
The Lonely Leave
On this new EP, recent Philadelphia transplant Kelly Slusher conjures up five songs that will keep you lying in bed all day hitting the repeat button on the CD player and wondering if true love prevails. The best songs are the Marine Girls-ish “What About That,” the uplifting “55 Dollars” and “I Need You,” which is one of the best pop songs of the year. Unfortunately, the Syd Barrett cover “Wined & Dined” and the opener “Ill Affections” are too lackluster to get the blood flowing. Overall, The Lonely Leave is a competent sample of one of Philadelphia’s better songwriters. The only question is, when the hell is the full-length coming?!
The Trouble With Sweeney
(Burnt Toast Vinyl)
Hailing from Ardmore Pa., The Trouble With Sweeney is one Philly’s most
talented bands. Their debut EP contained six tracks reminiscent of
alt-country-hero-gone-indie-rock-babies Wilco. Interestingly, their first
full-length has taken a similar path.
On Dear Life the band’s sound has matured and transcended musical
boundaries. Equal parts the Replacements, Belle and Sebastian, Buffalo Tom
and Wilco; the new Sweeney sound is hard to pigeonhole.
Frontman/vocalist Joey Sweeney is joined by lead guitarist John Howkins
(brother of Sweeney’s girlfriend) and Joe Mangan on bass. Erik Schmidt has
taken over drumming duties for recently departed Joseph Siwinski. Howkins’
simple guitar licks and Mangan’s catchy bass lines bolster Sweeney’s clever
lyrics, which are always narrative and often biographical.
Fast-paced pop songs like “Is That Your Car” and “$500 Hall of Mirrors” are
clearly influenced by Paul Westerberg, while more ominous songs like “The
Ghosts of “97” and “Master of the Scouts” yield comparisons to Lou Reed.
The Trouble With Sweeney have a bright future. It is already a gem in the
burgeoning Philadelphia music scene. Combine Dylan-esque songwriting with
captivating and challenging instrumentals, and The Trouble is bound for
success in any genre.