The Silver Seas: Chateau Revenge


RIYL: Jackson Browne, Josh Rouse, The Gabe Dixon Band

What do you do when a band you love does the unthinkable? In the case of Nashville’s The Silver Seas, the unthinkable is one-upping their five-star worthy debut, High Society, and causing us to scratch our heads and wonder: do we give them six stars? Five and a half? We’ll have to settle on five and have you use your imagination beyond that. The point is, Daniel Tashian and company has returned with Chateau Revenge, and it’s once again a collection of songs that makes everything else you might be listening to at the moment seem like background noise. Tashian has a way with a hook, but he goes beyond crafting great songs with the help of the other Silver Seas – Jason Lehning, Lex Price and Dave Gehrke – to arrange them in a way that allows said songs to breathe. The result is a noticeable ‘70s bent complete with Tashian’s Jackson Browne-ish tenor and big harmony-drenched choruses. Two of the tracks in particular, “What’s the Drawback” and “The Best Things in Life,” are instant hits if they are released in 1976. In fact, on the former, Tashian sings about a woman who “likes the E.L.O.,” and the lyric is followed by strings reminiscent of the ‘70s icons. But that’s not to say The Silver Seas are hopelessly stuck in a time warp. “Jane” is a breezy, melodic, Josh Rouse-like toe-tapper, while “From My Windowsill” and “What If It Isn’t Out There” have a jazzy flavor. “Somebody Said Your Name” is a Jackson Browne-esque romp, and on “Those Streets,” the way the guitars and bass line marry is pure magic. Come to think of it, just about everything The Silver Seas do is magical, and the latest proof is that they have surpassed the brilliance of High Society with Chateau Revenge. (Self-release)

The Silver Seas MySpace Page

  

Rogue Wave: Permalight


RIYL: Nada Surf, Death Cab For Cutie, The Shins

Fans of alternative pop/rock band Rogue Wave know that their music can be somewhat of an acquired taste, just like the Shins or Death Cab for Cutie. But therein lies a big reason for their success. The music won’t instantly grow on you nor make you instantly tired of it. Instead, Zach Rogue (who has a soft tenor a la Josh Rouse) and his band mates make the kind of music that should have staying power on your master play list. Rogue Wave’s latest, Permalight, is a departure from previous work, though it’s not exactly easy to pinpoint just why. Maybe it’s because Rogue suffered a couple of slipped discs in his neck in late 2008, which rendered him unable to move and scared him into believing he had a life-threatening illness. Eventually the swelling went down, and he regained enough feeling in his hand to be able to play the guitar. Many of the songs on Permalight are noticeably bouncier and happier than what one would expect from Rogue Wave, but the quality of songwriting is definitely still there.

Rogue_Wave_01

If you like upbeat alt-pop, you’ll find the jangly “Solitary Gun” or “Stars and Stripes” to your liking. But if you favor the darker side of what made you love Rogue Wave, “Sleepwalker” or the acoustic driven “Fear Itself” will suit you more. Then there is the total oddity of the title track or the robotic “We Will Make a Song Destroy,” which shows Rogue Wave becoming more experimental. One thing is for sure, though; many of us are glad that Rogue is okay and that Rogue Wave is still making music. (Brushfire/Universal 2010)

Rogue Wave MySpace page

  

Josh Rouse: El Turista


RIYL: Paul Simon, your Brazilian grandfather’s record collection

When Josh Rouse moved to Spain a few years ago, nobody really expected things to change with regard to his music career. After all, there are many jobs that can be done from anywhere these days, with touring recording artist being one of them. But along the way, Rouse met and married a Spanish woman, singer Paz Suay, and along with learning to speak Spanish fluently, he also began writing songs in his new home’s language. That’s all well and good, but on his latest, El Turista, Rouse took things a step further by incorporating Brazilian and even Afro-Cuban flavors to the music, including a couple of covers. The entire set also reflects Rouse’s desire to lean toward jazz, without becoming a full-on jazz artist. The result? A mediocre experiment.

There is nothing wrong with trying new things, but the problem with Rouse’s recent musical offerings are that he’s been writing too much – causing his songs to become diluted, at least compared to the stuff he was making in his hometown of Nebraska and in Nashville. It’s not just that, but Rouse is better at the alt-pop thing than he is at the Bossa Nova sound he’s aspiring to, and El Turista is, well, it’s sleep-inducing. That said, dude still has a super smooth voice. The best track on here is the English-speaking “Lemon Tree,” and if you’re in the mood to drink a pina colada and start a conga line, put on the festive “Valencia.” However, if you were/are a fan of Rouse’s earlier material, you may want to run the other way before giving El Turista a listen. (Bedroom Classics/Nettwerk 2010)

Josh Rouse MySpace Page

  

Matthew Ryan: Dear Lover


RIYL: Bruce Springsteen, Josh Rouse, Ryan Adams

Singer and songwriter Matthew Ryan is one of the most prolific musical artists out there, as evidenced by the fact that his new release, Dear Lover, is his twelfth album, and his sixth since his last major label effort, 2000’s East Autumn Grin. Since then, Ryan has been refining and re-inventing his sound, enjoying the fact that he can make music his own way without the “input” a major label tends to impose on its artists. On Dear Lover, the same smoky, Americana-tinged vocal that is Ryan’s trademark is there, and the subject matter is personal and profound yet universally appealing. Musically, however, Ryan seems to have stalled a bit this time around, as if he’s been running on the same treadmill for a while and can’t get off of it. That doesn’t mean it’s awful; it only means that the music is not much different from recent efforts, and there is a bit too much similarity in tone, tempo and arrangement. If you’re a fan of Ryan’s, chances are you’ll find something to like here, particularly, the mid-tempo but raunchy title track, the piano-laced “We Are Snowmen” or the dark and introspective “The End of a Ghost Story.” But if you’re just discovering him for the first time, you might want to jump back into his catalog a bit for perspective. (The Dear Future Collective 2010)

Matthew Ryan MySpace Page

  

21 Century Breakdown: Mike Farley’s Top 10 Albums of the 2000s

The past decade to me was less about musical trends and styles, and more about how I listen to music. I’ve always been a mix tape guy, and as the ‘90s moved to Y2K, I was entering the world of burning mix CDs. But then around 2004, everything changed, and changed for the better, when I discovered iTunes. Now I could not only make up my own playlists from my music collection, but I could order single songs for 99 cents and add those to my collection. Suddenly I was re-discovering songs from my childhood and teen years, and basically every phase of my music-listening life. And I could arrange all those songs any way I liked…playlists galore and, as I described them, “kickass mixes.” Every four to six months, I make a new play list of what I’m currently listening to, and date that as a new Kickass Mix, something I can go back to that makes me remember what I was doing and feeling at that point in time.

As for the actual music I’ve been listening to and enjoying, there are a few acts that have entered my iTunes world this decade that have become favorites that I can’t get enough of, no matter how many times I listen: The Damnwells, the Silver Seas, Ari Hest, Jason Spooner and Butch Walker, to name a few. I know that radio is basically a shell of its former self and we find and listen to music in so many different ways, but I, for one, have fully embraced the digital world of music.

Here are my picks for top albums of the decade.
1. The Silver Seas: High Society
2. Jason Spooner: The Flame You Follow
3. Ari Hest: The Break In
4. Stereophonics: Langauge, Sex, Violence. Other?
5. The Damnwells: Air Stereo
6. The Southland: Influence of Geography
7. The Damnwells: One Last Century
8. Josh Rouse: 1972
9. Butch Walker: Left of Self Centered
10. Paddy Casey: Addicted To Company

  

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