Jonathan Hill Dot EU

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Zaz Zaz Review

General Information:

Artist: Zaz
Album: Zaz
Genre(s): Folk, Jazz
Subgenres(s): Chanson, Gypsy Jazz
Released: 2010
Length: 39 minutes
Language(s): French
Label(s): Play On, Sony

Track List:

01. Les Passants
02. Je Veux
03. Le Long de la Route
04. La Fée
05. Trop Sensible
06. Prends Garde à ta Langue
07. Ni Oui Ni Non
08. Port Coton
09. J’aime à Nouveau
10. Dans Ma Rue
11. Éblouie Par la Nuit

Zaz Zaz Cover

Zaz Zaz Cover

Zaz Zaz Review

Zaz is the debut album and stage name of French singer Isabelle Geffroy. The first thing that the listener will pick up on over the course of this album is the many different directions that are taken. Starting with a series of four acoustic-driven songs, including the jaunty single Je Veux, the sound is then stripped back to a quiet acoustic guitar and even subtler harmonium to fill in the silence on Trop Sensible, the only song written solely by Zaz.

This song does have the advantage of letting her voice stand out although it is somewhat awkwardly followed by Prends Garde à Ta Langue and then Ni Oui Ni Non. The latter retains the jaunty attitude of Je Veux and the former is much the same after being moulded into a jazzy temperament that is accompanied by a brass section consisting of a trumpet, trombone and saxophone.

Aside from writing Trop Sensible herself, Zaz shares credit for five other song (Les Passants, Le Long de a Loute, Prends Garde à Ta Langue, Ni Out Ni Non and J’aime à Nouveau) while the other six were written by other composers. None of the songs on Zaz are inherently weak but it is apparent that some of the other composers have a different flair to that of Zaz.

For example, fellow French musician Raphaël Haroche is the sole composer of the piano-focused La Fée as well as the earnest Port Coton and Éblouie Par la Nuit. The latter two are more downbeat and are in the second half of the album, where this mood is more dominant, whereas the first half is livelier so when looking at the album as a whole it can come across as a bit of a “too many cooks in the kitchen” scenario. The theme is broken up by the cheerful J’aime à Nouveau but Zaz ultimately finishes in a very different place to where it starts.

In spite of having some uneven moment in terms of the overall mood of the album, it is highly enjoyable and the optimistic parts of it will certainly keep your attention irrespective of being able to understand the lyrics or not, some of which are positive when translated (Je Veux) whereas others tell more sombre tales (Dans Ma Rue).

Performers:

Zaz (Isabelle Geffroy): Lead Vocals (1-11)
Bruce Cherbit: Drums (1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 9), Tambourine (2)
Toby Dammit: Drums (4, 8)
Manuel Marches: Double Bass (1, 3, 9)
Antoine Reininger: Double Bass (2, 6, 7)
Mathieu Verlot: Double Bass (4, 8, 11)
Germain Guyot: Piano (1, 3, 10)
Fred Lafarge: Acoustic Guitar (1, 2, 3, 7, 9), Piano (4, 8, 11), Harmonium (5, 8)
Alban Sautour: Electric Guitar (1, 3), Programming (1)
Raphaël Haroche: Acoustic Guitar (8)

External Links:

Zaz Homepage
Zaz on Wikipedia
Zaz on Wikipedia

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Frank Turner Campfire Punkrock Review

General Information:

Artist: Frank Turner
Album: Campfire Punkrock
Genre(s): Folk, Folk Rock
Subgenres(s): N/A
Released: 2006
Length: 18 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): Xtra Mile Recordings, Good Friends Records

Track List:

01. Nashville Tennessee
02. Thatcher Fucked The Kids
03. This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The One Of Me
04. Casanova Lament
05. I Really Don’t Care What You Did On Your Gap Year

Frank Turner Campfire Punkrock Cover

Frank Turner Campfire Punkrock Cover

Frank Turner Campfire Punkrock Review

Campfire Punkrock is the first solo release of British folk musician Frank Turner. Taking the form of an acoustic folk EP, he departs from the punk rock sound of his previous band, Million Dead, entirely and it’s evident from the get-go that his voice is much more suited to the stripped down folk sound he has opted for.

His earnest lyricism always takes centre stage with the first song, a folk rock number titled Nashville Tennessee, acts as a sort of introduction to himself and his self-awareness when he sings “from the start, the land scaped my sound, before I’d ever been to America” as well as other references to his transatlantic influences while lacking knowledge of American geography from which they come. There’s also a sarcastic undertone to be found when he claims “and if I knew anybody who played pedal steel guitar/I’d get them in my band and then my band would get real far” as he points out the conventions, or formula, of country music that influenced him while defending himself by saying “and yes I’m in four-four time, and yes I use cheap, cheap rhymes/but I try to make a sound my own” and concludes his observations with a simple and honest mission statement of “the only thing I’m offering is me”.

This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The One Of Me continues the upbeat folk rock sound to sing about escaping from his current town of residence and cites “…talking to girls hazardous to my health. They’ve been in this gene pool so long they’ve got wrinkled toes” and “I still want to be buried here, just like I said but I’d prefer it if you’d wait until I’m actually dead” as his concerns whereas Thatcher Fucked The Kids shows a completely different side of Frank Turner.

He drops his backing band for a solo song using only his voice and acoustic guitar to dive into the world of protest songs. As the title implies, it focuses on former British Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and how she affected the youth of society in his eyes. The punk rock passion flairs up in his scathing analysis which ranges from calling children “a violent bunch of bastard little shits” to addressing the upper class reducing social mobility by saying that “as they were settled as the richest of the rich/they kicked away the ladder, told the rest of us that life’s a bitch”.

Casanova Lament and I Really Don’t Care What You Did On Your Gap Year shake things up further in terms of song-writing as they are low-key compared to the first three songs. The former being from the school of sad sounding singer-songwriters sitting on a stool sullenly and the latter brings the backing band into the mix again but without the energy that grips the listener at the beginning of Campfire Punkrock. This leaves the EP flagging a bit towards the end but Frank Turner’s ability to tell stories and convey his thoughts through matter-of-fact lyrics are the biggest strength and draw of Campfire Punkrock that will keep listeners attentive.

Performers:

Frank Turner: Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
Ben Lloyd: Electric Guitar
Nigel Powell: Drums
Tarrant Anderson: Bass

External Links:

Frank Turner Homepage
Frank Turner on Wikipedia
Campfire Punkrock on Wikipedia

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Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues Review

Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues Review

Artist: Fleet Foxes
Album: Helplessness Blues
Genre(s): Folk, Folk Rock
Subgenres(s): Progressive Folk
Released: 2011
Length: 50 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): Bella Union, Sub Pop

Track List:

01. Montezuma
02. Bedouin Dress
03. Sim Sala Bim
04. Battery Kinzie
05. The Plains/Bitter Dancer
06. Helplessness Blues
07. The Cascades
08. Lorelei
09. Someone You’d Admire
10. The Shrine/An Argument
11. Blue Spotted Tail
12. Grown Ocean

Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues Cover

Helplessness Blues is the second album by American folk band Fleet Foxes. While having many of the hallmarks of their self-titled debut, Helplessness Blues show some growth in the Fleet Foxes repertoire that proves they aren’t afraid to branch out. The song-writing has gotten more adventurous with half of them averaging 4.5 minutes compared to their debut which only has 3 songs over the 4 minute mark. Elements of progressive music have also trickled in with the influence being most noticeable on The Plains/Bitter Dancer, Helplessness Blues and The Shrine/An Argument.

While the title Helplessness Blues could allure to an influence from blues music this isn’t the case. It would be more accurate to say Fleet Foxes are singing the blues as many of their lyrical themes deal with reflection, finding your place in life, sadness and nostalgia. Nature is still a recurring theme though it is less central than it was on their debut.

In all of the diverse instrumentation found on Helplessness Blues, the only low point to mention is the trumpet on The Shrine/An Argument. It sounds like it is being sexually assaulted by a feral badger when Fleet Foxes summons the worst of Neutral Milk Hotel on an otherwise standout song.

Fleet Foxes push themselves creatively and come out on top so if you can overlook the trumpet incident there’s no reason not to pick up Helplessness Blues.

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Various Artists Flowers Made of Snow Review

Various Artists Flowers Made of Snow Review

Artist: Various Artists
Album: Flowers Made of Snow
Genre(s): Ambient, Folk, Industrial, Neoclassical, Noise
Subgenres(s): Dark Ambient, Martial Industrial, Neoclassical, Neofolk, Power Electronics
Released: 2004
Length: 55 minutes (CD 1), 63 minutes (CD 2)
Language(s): English
Label(s): Cold Meat Industries

Track List (CD 1):

01. Coph Nia – The Oath
02. The Protagonist – The Sick Rose
03. In Slaughter Natives – The Vulture
04. Olen’k – Season of Tears
05. All My Faith Lost – Sleep Now
06. The Last Hour – Into Empty Depth
07. Apatheia – Safehouse
08. Ataraxia – Incabala
09. Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio – Yesterday Brings But a Serpent of Ash
10. Hexperos – The Warm Whisper of the Wind
11. Sibelian – The Sin Eater
12. Sanctum – Lie Low

Various Artists Flowers Made of Snow Cover

Flowers Made of Snow is a Various Artists compilation by the Cold Meat Industry label. Presented as a sampler of the labels current artists, the compilation covers ambient, folk, industrial and noise music across 2 CDs and 23 different artists. The first CD focuses largely on the more accessible side of Cold Meat Industry with a diverse set of neofolk, martial industrial and neoclassical songs.

The Oath by Coph Nia sets the tone with a dramatic spoken word performance. The lyrics act as a proclamation for Cold Meat Industries, which are seemingly the rejection of mainstream culture and more specifically the music associated with it. Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio is the only other martial industrial band featured on Flowers Made of Snow and while the subgenre is sadly underrepresented, together they show what can be offered in their brief but powerful presence.

There are 3 neoclassical nightmares courtesy of The Protagonist, In Slaughter Natives and The Last Hour. The only thing to be said for certain of the neoclassical songs is that the performers are not happy people. Between the hushed murmurs, haunting soprano wails, tense violins and bleak ambiance, you’ll feel as though you’ve found yourself in the middle of someone else’s misery in these emotive pieces.

Making up about half of the first CD is a set of groups playing neofolk music that at times sounds worlds apart from each other despite being under the same umbrella. All My Faith Lost and O’lenk play low key songs with female lead singers that don’t pull any punches. In contrast Hexperos follow suit until their song (The Warm Whisper of the Wind) is warped into another neoclassical nightmare akin to The Vulture by In Slaughter Natives.

Apatheia and Ataraxia both perform uncharacteristically lively songs that are like reimagining’s of medieval folk music. They both have catchy acoustic guitars and more upbeat singing styles (the latter of which sounds like a cross between chanting, yodelling and opera singing) that evens out some of the tension present in many of the other songs.

Sibelian takes influence from both the neoclassical and martial industrial camps for the 9 minute mini-epic The Sin Eater. Some elements of electronic music can be heard through the sound effects and (what sounds like programmed) drumming. This conceptually links to Lie Low by Sanctum, the final song on the first CD. It is a dissonant song belonging to the power electronics subgenre of noise music. It doesn’t fit in with the rest of the music found here and acts as a disturbingly unwelcome prelude to the second CD.

The first CD in the Flowers Made of Snow compilation does an excellent job of showcasing what Cold Meat Industries and the fringe genres of martial industrial, neoclassical and neofolk have to offer if you can stomach melancholic music in this diverse and ever twisting compilation.

Track List (CD 2):

01. Desiderii Marginis – Where I End and You Begin
02. Raison D’etre – Mouldering the Forlorn II
03. Atrium Carceri – Impaled Butterfly
04. Mz.412 – In Hoc Signe Vinces
05. Brighter Death Now – While You Sleep
06. IRM – My Mother
07. Deutsch Nepal – Of Parasites and Disguises
08. Nacht – Death Posture
09. Beyond Sensory Experience – The Trade
10. Sephiroth – Therasia
11. Skin Area – Choose Art… Not Life

The second CD of the Flowers Made of Snow compilation is in stark contrast to the first. It focuses exclusively on the subtle and the abrasive (and arguably hostile) side of Cold Meat Industries in the form of dark ambient and power electronics music.

It starts out harmless enough with Where I End and You Begin by Desiderii Marginis, a dark ambient song fused with soft guitar distortion and what sounds like the slow, distant groans of a didgeridoo. Raison D’etre and Atrium Carceri carry on the dark ambient themes and almost link together to create an interesting 3 part song.

Mz.412, Brighter Death Now and IRM are three noise groups that work together in the same way as the dark ambient trilogy do. Unfortunately these songs are on the opposite side of the musical spectrum and are grating enough to make blood ooze profusely from every orifice on your body. Thankfully Nacht and Skin Area are the only other 2 noise groups on the CD with Deutsch Nepal, Beyond Sensory Experience and Sephiroth stepping in between these seemingly unending harsh songs to offer some relief from the discomfort they cause.

You could just as easily sit in a cement mixer and get someone to bash it with crowbar to achieve the same headache inducing effect that you get from the noise songs. The only difference is that you wouldn’t need to put up with the artistic pretence to get one.

The coupling of these genres provides an excellent contrast in sound if nothing else. The dark ambient songs on the second CD of the Flowers Made of Snow compilation are certainly worth a listen if you have the patience for eerie soundscapes but the noise songs should be left well alone unless you are a masochist or hate yourself.