album reviews

    The Blood Brothers

    Burn Piano Island, Burn

    Artist Direct Records

    *****

    “”Do you remember us?”” shouts co-front man Johnny Whitney, opening the Blood Brothers’ third full-length album, Burn Piano Island, Burn. By the chaotic blast of guitar and drums, infused with an immediate vocal assault, it’s safe to say that the unique style of the Blood Brothers is something impossible to forget.

    The band, hailing from Seattle, consists of five members. Mark Ganjadhar plays drums, Morgan Henderson plays bass and keyboard, Cody Votolato plays guitar and Whitney shares the spotlight with vocalist Jordan Billie. While Ganjadhar and Henderson create low, polyrhythmic foundations for every track, Votolato controls the melodies with blisteringly high metallic guitar parts, laced with soft, crisp distortion and a wide range of other effects. However, the band is driven by the hyperactive dueling vocalists, each packing both energy and spirit.

    Whitney’s high, snotty voice is effectively foiled by Billie’s low-end sass and murderous scream. The difference in voice not only changes the dynamic of the music’s presentation, but helps extenuate every change in every line throughout the record. The dueling vocal pattern facilitates tracks like “”USA Nails,”” detailing continuing exchange between an operator and a prisoner.

    Throughout the album, the lyrics seem to address the unpleasant aspects of society through obscure, stream-of-consciousness metaphorical statements.

    Burn Piano Island, Burn has it all — musical mastery, lyrical genius and terrific album art. The Blood Brothers redefine the hardcore mind with this release. It’s a must-own album for any fan of music.

    — Richie Lauridsen

    Contributing Writer

    Gus Black

    Uncivilized Love

    Immergent Records

    ****

    Gus Black is a breath of fresh air in a stale, suffocating industry. Today’s pop music producers are scrambling to become more “”authentic,”” as they flood the sound waves with the likes of Michelle Branch and John Mayer, while quietly shelving Britney Spears and those Backstreet Boys. Gus Black’s album Uncivilized Love, however, strides into this circus of second-rate talent and first-rate greed to show the public what it has been missing for so many years.

    With a voice reminiscent of the likes of Cat Stevens and his contemporaries, Black’s rich, husky vocals lend a nostalgic and authentic feel to his album.

    In addition to the potent blend of his ardent voice and strong acoustic guitar, Black incorporates drums, maracas, even electric guitar. The artist follows his own advice that he sings in the second track of his album; you must “”be who you wanna be.”” With the introduction of an eclectic and varied range of musical surprises in this album, Black creates a truly unique and innovative sound.

    At times equally soothing and intense, Black possesses a deep enough understanding of his craft that experimentation within his music is refreshing rather than cliched. Additionally, Uncivilized Love epitomizes risk itself, with tracks embracing folk, blues and even jazz roots, rather than limiting itself to one genre of (pop) music.

    The lyrics contained within Black’s soaring vocals and potent melodies add to the twist that makes his music so refreshing. Black takes the unspoken need to be a dependable singer and embraces it, something that has been missing from music for far too long.

    — Jessica Vachal

    Contributing Writer

    Ms. Jade

    girl Interrupted

    Beat Club/Interscope

    ***

    Ms. Jade might be the first mainstream female rapper to not try and sell sex through her lyrics; she instead wants you to judge her on what she is saying. The Philadelphia native sounds like a mix between Foxy Brown and Eve, but embraces her style as if she’s been flowing for just as long as the more established rappers. She isn’t afraid to tell the world she’s “”rude, cocky and arrogant,”” as she states on her track, “”Step Up,”” and won’t be making any apologies if she brushes people the wrong way.

    Ms. Jade is definitely aided on her album with production from Timbaland on all but two of the 17 tracks. He once again shows why he’s the best in the business, by making each track sound fresh and different from anything we’ve heard before. Her club song, “”Ching, Ching,”” featuring Nelly Furtado, is catchy, and Furtado has found a niche in the Timbaland-produced, hip-hop genre. In other songs, Jade tackles the issue of a deadbeat boyfriend and frustrations she’s gone through while growing up. Jay-Z, Nate Dogg and Missy Elliot are a few big-name stars that show up on different tracks throughout the album as well.

    The worst track, as weird as it sounds, is “”The Come Up,”” produced by the Neptunes. The beats seem like a rerun of an old Neptunes track, and every two seconds throughout the track, Pharrell Williams gives an annoying exhale, making you stop listening to Jade, instead wondering if Pharrell is hyperventilating. Also, Timbaland seems to like to include loud guitars on tracks like “”Jade’s the Champ,”” but when he mixed it, he forgot to lower their sound, because Jade’s voice is drowned out each time.

    — Tim Spulecki

    Contributing Writer

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