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    What We're Listening To & Reading

   
             
   
Susan Hyatt —Pin-ups & Trumpets
Genre:

AAA, jazz, pop, chill

Musicianship: 3.5
Songwriting: 4.0
Production & Engineering: 4.0
Vibe: 3.5
Overall Rating: 4 Stars3.75

Susan Hyatt — Pin-ups & TrumpetsSusan Hyatt, the fantastic singer/songwriter/ guitarist of Stimulator and Pillbox fame, has branched out from her rock roots (sort of) to deliver an amazing collection of cover songs, remade as indie rock-meets-jazz hipster tunes that have a wicked cool vibe, and yes, the songs feature actual trumpet!

Songs ranging from “Life in the Fast Lane” to “Dangerous Type” to “Looks That Kill” will surely make you lose your mind, while Hyatt’s treatment of songs from the likes of Marilyn Manson, Depeche Mode, and David Bowie further make this CD an essential addition to your music collection. It’s almost a certainty you’ll hear Hyatt’s version of “Young American” in some film or television show by the time you read this.

Picking a favorite song here is impossible, as Hyatt selected an awesome variety of classic ‘80s and ‘90s rock songs and gave them a wholly unique treatment. This is impressive stuff to be sure, and Susan’s sultry voice is as dreamy, sexy, and definitive as ever. Kudos to the Susan’s co-producer, multi-instrumentalist Zack Leffew. For anyone who ever thought trumpet had no place in rock music—like us, Leffew will dispense with your ignorance in short order. These song treatments without the brass would be… an unimaginable nightmare!

— SK

 
Late Night Cable — Late Night Cable
Genre:

Synth pop, pop, alternative

Musicianship: 3.0
Songwriting: 3.5
Production & Engineering: 4.0
Vibe: 3.5
Overall Rating: 3.5 Stars3.5

Late Night CableDreamy synth pop. That’s all you really need to know about New York’s Late Night Cable. If you crave dreamy synth pop with lush keyboards and bouncy ‘80s-esque dance grooves matched by lush vocal harmonies, search no further. This delicious, seven-song EP from Pete Roessler and Severine Casati captures a classic new wave vibe but serves it up with a delicate, modern alt rock sensibility that will endear them to fans young and old alike. Synth geeks will love that the record is full of classic Juno 106 and Prophet VS keyboards, and it’s this combination of analog and digital that matches their classic-meets-modern songwriting. If you like the idea of Spandau Ballet meets Roxy Music with a female singer, you’ve come to the right place.

— SK

 
Roxette — Good Karma
Genre:

Pop, rock

Musicianship: 3.5
Songwriting: 3.5
Production & Engineering: 4.0
Vibe: 3.5
Overall Rating: 3.5 Stars3.63

Roxette — Good KarmaFinally, we’re treated to a new record from one of the greatest pop bands in the world, and we’re hoping it’s not the last, because Marie Fredriksson (vocals) and Per Gessle (vocals/guitars) continue to write fantastic, catchy pop music that remains relevant and continues to evolve stylistically with the evolving musical landscape, all while remaining true to the Roxette sound.

Good Karma’s title track provides a perfect example of the modern Roxette sound, deftly moving from modern synth pop to alt rock and back, with clever vocal arrangements along the way. The led single, “It Just Happens,” has that monstrous Roxette power ballad attitude, while songs like “You Can’t Do This to Me Anymore” have a dreamy and ethereal quality. Good Karma is a great listening album, happily ignoring the “singles mentality” of so many other pop releases. Fans of clever songwriting (yes, you prog rock fans) will find plenty to appreciate in the songwriting and arranging, as a lot of the music has a film soundtrack-esque quality, and outside of the big hooks, you’ll be treated to sections with unusual breakdowns, great musicianship, and superb production values.

— JH

 
MGT — Volumes
Genre:

Alt rock, goth rock

Musicianship: 3.5
Songwriting: 3.5
Production & Engineering: 3.0
Vibe: 3.5
Overall Rating: 3.5 Stars3.63

MGT — VolumesMark Gemini Thwaite (MGT, get it?) is a UK guitarist known for roles in bands including The Mission, Peter Murphy, Gary Numan, Roger Daltry, and more. His new solo album (not to be confused with the American band, MGMT) is a strong collection of heavy and sometimes dark alternative rock songs that showcase his diverse and formidable talent.

It pains us to listen to yet another cover song in this summer’s roundup, ironically another ABBA cover (“Knowing Me Knowing You” with Ville Valo of HIM), but fortunately that’s where the remakes end (they did a great job, by the way). The album is full of guest artists from track to track, and the variety of singers all bring top vocal performances to the table.

Thwaite’s guitar work is fantastic whether laying down hard rock grooves or acoustic fingerstyle, but what’s most impressive is that this album is about songwriting, and not merely a vehicle for soloing. He’s put out a real band album here, and it’s a pleasure for any fans who appreciate a melding of dark alternative and light hard rock styles. We hope this is the start of a fruitful solo career. It’s great music, and we’re hooked.

— SK

 
 


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Sylvia Massy — Recording Unhinged
Sylvia Massey — Recording Unhinged
Subject:
Audio Engineering
Bottom
Line:

A totally fresh title for engineers and producers that doesn't read anything like your other books... and that's a good thing!

Overall Rating: 4 Stars

Legendary producer/engineer Sylvia Massy has released a book that covers many aspects of her sometimes unorthodox and unconventional methods of recording artists or extracting top performances from them.

Recording Unhinged is not a book about proper studio technique. It’s not about proper mic placement. It’s not about using the best music gear.  And it’s not about codling your vocalist with gratuitous compliments. Really, Recording Unhinged is the antichrist of recording studio books, as witty as Mixerman’s series of recording and production titles, but filled with unorthodox recording techniques, first-person accounts of the making of numerous classic recordings by the artists themselves, and adorned with crazy illustrations, often drawn by Massy herself.

Singing into a wall or through a snare drum, using an EBow on piano, using a pepper shaker and fire extinguisher as musical instruments, recording twelve drummers at once (with full kits)… all this and more is waiting to be discovered in this thoroughly enjoyable, highly informative, and beautifully presented, hardcover book.  As the book’s subtitle indicates, Recording Unhinged is full of creative and unconventional music recording techniques. Engineers and producers alike should waste no time picking up a copy of this book, reading it, and then using it as a drum.

— SK

 

Dan Reed Network — Fight Another Day

Genre:

Hard rock, AOR, melodic rock

Musicianship: 4.0
Songwriting: 4.0
Production & Engineering: 3.5
Vibe: 3.5
Overall Rating: 4 Stars3.75

Dan Reed Network — Fight Another DayThey’re back, and this is definitely one amazing blast from the past! A few decades ago, the Dan Reed Network were one of the industry’s best kept secrets. Despite a few minor hits and exposure touring with Bon Jovi, the funk rock group from Portland, OR was best known in musician circles than with the general public. Dan Reed put out a few excellent solo records over the past decade from his home in Europe, so it came as great surprise when he reunited with his Portland band for the latest release, which is definitely more rock in the DRN vein than his AAA format solo efforts.

The record has thirteen great rock songs that showcase a more mature band. No longer singing about tigers in a dress, today’s Dan Reed (vocals, guitars) sings insightful lyrics with themes of love, world peace, and tranquility. The band, featuring keyboardist Rob Daiker, Brion James (guitars, keys), Melvin Brannon Jr. (bass), and drummer Dan Pred, is completely on top of its game. And while it would be a wild stretch to call this record a funk-rock release overall (though it does have some killer funk grooves as should be expected), it’s definitely a catchy hard rock release with an ‘80s vibe delivered with modern production values and superior songwriting and arrangement. Strong production values makes Fight Another Day a real treat of a rock record, delivering a pop vibe with obvious live rock performance attitude. In our books, this is a modern day rival to the band’s last effort, The Heat. Thank you, Dan! Rock music today needs more records like this one.

—SK

 
Jørn — Heavy Rock Radio
Genre:

AOR, Hard Rock, Metal

Musicianship: 3.5
Songwriting: 4.0
Production & Engineering: 2.5
Vibe: 3.0
Overall Rating: 3 Stars3.25

Jorn — Heavy Rock RadioNorwegian vocalist Jørn Lande has one of the most recognized voices in European metal, and his latest solo record is a collection of classic hard rock covers from artists as diverse as Abba, Kate Bush, Journey, Iron Maiden, and Queen.

Jørn brings an amazing heavy rock attitude to classics like “Running Up That Hill” and “You’re the Voice,” a gothic metal vibe to “Hotel California,” and fist pumping attitude to “Don’t Stop Believing,” which happily sounds nothing like the wimpified and all-too-familiar wedding band version. But sadly, inconsistent and poor production values mar a release that otherwise features stellar vocals and guitars.

We never point out issues with record labels, but this is far from the only Frontiers record that is marred by a horribly shitty electronic drum sound, lifted right out of classic RATT records from the ‘80s. Seriously, let drummers sound like drummers with modern acoustic kits! The electronic kick and toms kill so many great songs and records from this otherwise awesome label. And having been listening to so many records lately with great production values, it’s easy to hear where the sonics of Heavy Rock Radio disappoint, particularly due to significant inconsistencies in production/mix from one song to the next. Some songs (“Killer Queen”) sound great, while others (“Rainbow in the Dark”) sound like demo recordings. We’ll keep listening, because the record rocks, but we’ll be cringing along the way, too.

—SK

 
Karmakanic DOT
Genre:

Progressive Rock

Musicianship: 4.0
Songwriting: 4.0
Production & Engineering: 3.5
Vibe: 3.5
Overall Rating: 4 Stars3.75

Karmakanic — DOTRoxette isn’t the only band from Sweden to make it into our summertime listening roundup. One of the best progressive rock bands that most American prog fans still don’t know, Karmakanic are back with one of their best albums ever. Six songs may sound like just an EP until you realize that the second track is over twenty-three minutes long, followed by an obviously more radio-friendly, ten-minute track. Suffice to say that if you’re a fan of the long format prog epic, look no further.

DOT finds band founder Jonas Reingold (also known for his role in The Flower Kings) playing bass/guitars/keys, joined by vocalist Göran Edman (Yngwie Malmsteen), drummer Morgan Ågren (Casualties Of Cool, Frank Zappa, Steve Vai), and keyboardist Lalle Larsson (Agents Of Mercy, Nils Erikson), all delivering fantastic musical performances.

Historically, the band’s sound was somewhat derivative of Gilmore-era Pink Floyd, but DOT really finds the band standing on its own. If anything, their latest release sounds more like The Flower Kings, with a ‘70s prog rock vibe, and a heavier vibe overall. It’s a musical treat for any fan of melodic prog rock, and a welcome addition to the already fantastic Karmakanic catalog.

—SK

 
 

   
             
             
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