The lush, lovingly created Ocean Eyes, which was released by Universal Republic Records in July 2009 is filled with whimsical melodies and blissful beats that Young conjured up alone in the basement of his parent’s home in Owatonna. Ocean Eyes topped the Billboard Rock, Alternative, and Dance/Electronic charts and was certified gold or platinum in nine countries. The album spawned the quadruple – platinum first single “Fireflies” which was a No. 1 smash hit in 24 countries including the U.S. (where it the top spot twice) and sold more than four million downloads. Its eye-popping success has made Owl City an international phenomenon selling nearly 12 million tracks worldwide and massing an impressive touring record.
Exceptional studio talents in their own right, Chad Cisneros and Dave Reed banded together to form the prolific music production and DJing partnership Tritonal. Now after assailing dancefloors with one club hit after another, they’re ready to release their first long-player.
Very few electronic dance music acts find the speed of success Tritonal have enjoyed. Within the first 12 months of united production their original tracks were being supported by a host of the most renowned and respected DJs on the planet.
With their 7-days-a-week approach to trance music, the prodigious duo have now released an incredible 100+ original productions and remixes. Giving them immense presence throughout the scene, they’ve recorded for labels like Above & Beyond’s Anjunabeats, Ferry Corsten’s Flashover and Armin’s Armada, as well as ‘home-base’ Enhanced Recordings and most recently their just-launched sub-label Air Up There.
Adopting this formidable approach, they’ve also cemented their position as America’s foremost trance DJ duo, and have subsequently hard-rocked many leading North American events – Ultra Music Festival, the Electric Daisy Carnival and Spring Love Festival among them.
‘Piercing The Quiet’ is the culmination of two years of intense studio work, a period that’s seen Tritonal push every angle of their inimitable sound to the next level.
Opening with the film-score stylings of ‘Poem of Angels’, the album ranges out across 15 tracks, taking in the full realm of trance music’s sub-genres. With song-writing being a key asset of their partnership, Tritonal have re-teamed with long-term vocal muse, Cristina Soto to craft four magnificent tracks. Included among them are the beautiful down-tempo ‘Everafter’ and ‘Still With Me’, as well as a stunning update to their breakout record ‘Piercing Quiet’. Further collaborations see Winter Kill’s singer Meredith Call on the gorgeous ‘Broken Down’; U.S. songstress Fisher add lyrics and vox to the upbeat ‘Slave; and relative newcomers Jeza, Bethany and Jenry R. all provide outstanding vocal performances.
Peak-time main-room floor-stormers come just as quick to the laser, with ‘Ziziki’, ‘Retake’ and ‘Murakami’ all primed to rip roofs off nightclubs and uproot festival tent-pegs right the way through the summer.
Nick Drake’s debut album encapsulates a marriage between folk music and the singersongwriter genre. Part Donovan, part Jim Webb, he articulated an aching romanticism at a time when progressive rock ran rampant. Beautiful melodies and fragrant accompaniment, in particular Robert Kirby’s stunning string arrangements, enhance the artist’s sense of longing in which warm, but understated, vocals accentuate the album’s passive mystery. An aura of existential cool envelops the proceedings, accentuated by Danny Thompson’s sonorous bass lines and Drake’s poetic imagery. The result is a shimmering, autumnal collection, reflective but never morbid. It’s a tragedy that Drake never lived to see how his stature has grown.
As the son of folk-rock legends Richard and Linda Thompson, singer/songwriter Teddy Thompson has his work cut out for him. Fortunately, Thompson has tons of talent to support his pedigree, and that talent is evident everywhere on his sophomore album, Thompson’s music is graceful and melodic, with a lovely folk-rock feel that recalls his parents’ finest work. More importantly, Thompson proves himself an accomplished tunesmith with a penchant for wistful, melancholic, and, at times, sharply confessional songs that carry an emotional charge in their finely constructed fabric. Guest appearances from his parents, the Band’s Garth Hudson, and Martha and Rufus Wainwright add to SEPARATE WAYS’ special color.
Released 40 years after Orson Welles’ infamous radio version of the H.G. Wells tale, Jeff Wayne’s musical version of War of the Worlds straddles old-style radio drama and contemporary orchestrated narratives by Rick Wakeman and David Bedford. And while it lacks the sophisticated arrangements of, say, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, it does boast an impressively odd cast — this may be the only time that a member of Thin Lizzy worked with Richard Burton, and the presence of Julie Covington and the Moody Blues’ Justin Hayward in very attractive singing roles attest to its pop/rock aspirations. It’s Burton’s sonorous tones that sustain this work; his frequent solo narrations are eminently listenable, whereas sections featuring dialogue with other characters often come off as a bit stilted. The music is competent studio rock, and “Horsell Common and the Heat Ray” does strike just the right balance between Burton’s narration and an accompaniment built around a buzzsaw guitar riff. Overall, it’s pleasant as a period piece, and still a fine way to introduce younger listeners to Wells’ classic tale. (And if you can find it in a vinyl, it comes with a nicely produced narrative booklet with gloriously lurid illustrations by Geoff Taylor.) The album was actually appealing on too many fronts for its own good in many ways — the Justin Hayward-sung ballad “Forever Autumn,” extracted from a much longer piece on the double-LP — showed some signs of appealing to AM radio listeners and climbed to the Top 40 based on airplay alone, but by the time Columbia Records in America (missing this boat entirely) got copies of the single into stores so that people could actually buy the record, the song had dropped back down; in the meantime, the record became a favorite of discos and dance clubs in New York and elsewhere, where its extended, highly rhythmic, synthesizer-driven sections delighted deejays and audiences, and Columbia missed another bet by not releasing an instrumental-only assembly of those long passages.
Prior to ELECTRIC WARRIOR’s release, T. Rex (or, as it had mostly been known, Tyrannosaurus Rex) was a folk-rock duo that played acoustic guitar and bongos augmented by the occasional electric and full drum kit. While some of the hippie-prophet philosophy that dominated Tyrannosaurus Rex’s music can still be heard here (especially on the dreamy geneology of “Cosmic Dancer”), ELECTRIC WARRIOR, for the most part, represents a revolution in attitude and approach. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Marc Bolan expanded the band here for a full rock sound, and focused on lean, hook-heavy pop songs that relied on slinky grooves and the riveting energy of early rock & roll. Married to Bolan’s cheeky sexuality and theatrical flair, the results were undeniable.
Brian Wilson’s first solo album created a good share of media hoopla upon its release. This was not necessarily because of the music, but simply because his very existence — or, at least, proof of his existence via his first fully engaged recording project in about a decade was greeted as a cause for celebration. Although it did not shift tons of units, it did spark a landslide of ecstatic-to-charitable reviews, largely because so many critics were eager to latch on to any evidence that Wilson’s musical genius was intact. Viewed more coldly after the hype has faded, this self-titled release is an odd, flawed creation, certainly leagues above the Beach Boys’ post 1970s output, yet certainly leagues below Wilson’s best work with that group in the 1960s. While he retained his gift for catchy melodies and dense, symphonic production, there was a forced stiffness to both the songwriting and execution. Much of the blame for the album’s mixed success can be laid upon its sterile, synthesizer-laden arrangements and echoing percussion, which epitomized some of the less attractive aspects of late 1980s production. However, the songs were not among Wilson’s best either, their hooks pleasant but easily fading from memory, the lyrics full of ambiguous romantic optimism that was totally belied by the nervous, mannered vocals. The concluding eight-minute suite, “Rio Grande,” was a self-conscious and, again, only partially successful attempt to match the grandeur of the miniature conceptual pieces Wilson was penning in the Smile era. For all that, it remains the best album of Wilson’s solo career, principally because he has recorded so little material since then, and written even less. The 2000 Warner Archives/Rhino reissue adds more than a dozen bonus tracks, including demos, backing tracks, and alternates of songs from the album…..Class !!
Marc Cohn is one of the finest debut albums of the 1990s, and it brought adult piano pop back to the radio. Every song is well-crafted, and Cohn’s singalong choruses, introspective lyrics, and vocal stylings reveal his ’60s soul and ’70s singer/songwriter influences. His voice is rich, but has a roughness that adds emotion when stretching to the upper end of his range while remaining subtle at the lower end. Marc Cohn shows himself to be an accomplished and versatile songwriter, from the uplifting gospel opener “Walking in Memphis,” the hit for which he is widely known, to the concluding love letter “True Companion.” Cohn has a great ear for melody and a keen eye for detail that immediately grab your attention and reward the listener with repeated plays. The album’s highlight, “Silver Thunderbird,” is a prime example of Cohn’s ability to combine storytelling with an unbelievably catchy chorus. It is not surprising that the songs played on piano work better than those written for guitar; however, the album is surprisingly consistent, even for a debut. This album is worth checking out for any listener who wonders where the tuneful pop and soul of the Big Chill era went.
Burning the Daze
Though known to most as the “Walking In Memphis” guy, Marc Cohn is no one-hit wonder. Rather, he’s a serious, skillful composer capable of conveying a wide range of moods and emotions. Burning the Daze finds him moving through horn-driven R&B ”Already Home”, literary minor-key introspection “Girl Of Mysterious Sorrow” and much more. Produced by Cohn with Shawn Colvin’s right-hand man John Leventhal and Yardbird turned impresario Paul Samwell Smith, this album of thoughtful, heartfelt variations on the folk-rock tradition draws the listener into Cohn’s world. The polished-but-earthy production complements the humble insights of the songs.
Every track on ZIGGY STARDUST & THE SPIDERS FROM MARS sounds like it was pulled from the rock ‘n’ roll bible. The album created a mythology that reached beyond the Chuck Berry folklorisms of the everyday rocker to create a new type of rock star. With Ziggy, Bowie created a viable alter-ego to descend onto the planet and wreak havoc on rock’s fertile soil. In doing so, he created the most original rock creation since the music’s inception 20 years before. Musically, the album was as inspired as Ziggy’s persona. Mick Ronson’s snarling guitar evoked the triumphant power of the late ’60s guitar heroes, but added a flash so dynamic fans knew why the Spiders were labelled “glitter rockers.” As an album, ZIGGY STARDUST told the story of rock through the eyes of Ziggy, an alien–with a narrative that was equally sensational and intimate. Any doubts as to Bowie’s intentions to take over rock were displaced on a closer listen to “Star.” At the end of the song Bowie (as Ziggy) whispers, “just watch me now,” and his determination is eerily obvious. Combining skills as a mime artist and top-rate vocal dramatist, Bowie created Ziggy, the bisexual space man, who sang “songs of darkness and disgrace.” The planet was dying, something made evident on the first track “Five Years,” and the only way to survive was to “Hang On To Yourself.” In the end, “they had to break up the band,” according to the tale told in Ziggy Stardust, but the inevitably tragic strains of this “Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide” had left their mark on the dying planet. They are still being felt today. Principally recorded at Trident Studios, London, England.
No More Heroes
“You either love or you despise, there’s just no room for compromise” spat Anglo-French bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel on “Burning Up Time”. And by the time of No More Heroes–the Stranglers’ second album–the battle lines were drawn between those (the press and the women’s movement, mainly) who saw the future “Meninblack” as uncouth sexist pigs peddling aggressive punk Doors music and those for whom The Stranglers were a fantastically melodic, intelligent punk-rock combo, albeit one with a dangerously dry sense of humour and a swift-fingered, pipe-smoking keyboard player. The former had plenty to complain about: Elderly aunts up and down the land must have fainted the day an unwitting Dave Lee Travis played “I Feel Like A Wog” (“out on the dirty shitty jobs”) on Radio One, so it’s probably just as well they never got to hear the teacher-pupil relationship smut of “School Ma’m” (most unsavoury line–”disgusting behaviour, all over the parquet flooring”) or the infamously rude “Bring On The Nubiles”, which was chanted like testosterone-charged Daleks and featured the word “fuck” eight times. Musically, The Stranglers were on a roll–Dave Greenfield’s use of Hammond organ and Moogsynth coupled with Burnel’s sonorous belch of a bass and Hugh Cornwell’s not-bothered vocal made them instantly recognisable. And at least half of No More Heroes is every bit as good as Rattus Norvegicus (in fact, most of the album was recorded at the same time). It’s also the only Stranglers album to spawn two Top 10 singles, namely the gutteral call-to-arms of “Something Better Change” and the iconoclastic title track–a genuine rock classic.