meLLo – Gettin @ Mine and Take Me Away

March 9, 2009

meLLo is a talented producer, who obviously knows his way around the boards – his remixes are of top quality – but, on some of the songs he is one of many biting off Kanye West’s synths and T-Pain’s auto-tuned vocal effects (all the rave these days).  It’s a talent that could take him places, but it sounds to me like he’s settling with a few of his songs.  One stand out is Gettin @ Mine – the beat is large, the piano staccato, and the breaks move from right to left in your headphones – giving you a true banger with a huge hook.

On Take Me Away, meL falls back onto the popular vocal effects, but the beat is raw.  The break beat gets in your head and won’t let go until you’re movin’ side to side with attitude.  The flow is tight as well, like I said, the kid’s got talent.

Here’s to hearin’ from the meLLo in the future – the sky’s the limit for a guy of this talent.



Oui Si Only You EPK review

March 5, 2009

Oui Si Only You is not nu metal, they don’t deserve any comparisons to Limp Bizkit, Korn, or any other late 90’s Q101 bands.  What they do sound like is a Sigur Ros inspired, less hardcore Linkin Park.  Ben Muniz’s flow sounds similar to Mike Shinoda’s – and on Shadow Riot, the effects on the vocals are almost a carbon copy of Mike’s on “Bleed it Out”.  Their guitars run the gamut from  acoustic to angsty, emo, distortion ridden punk to reverb laden Pink Floydish chords (Off to Stall).  They have no problem with politically driven lyrics, but in doing so, they are asking for comparisons to POD and Rage Against the Machine – in all fairness, Rage rocks much, much harder.  What OSOY lacks in all of their songs, and it may be a stylistic choice on their part, is a noticable hook in the tunes.  Aside from the sound, this is their major zag against the zig of typical rap rock.

Todd Kessler – Golden Bird

March 5, 2009

With music you know you’ve got something good within 20 seconds of hearing it. Todd Kessler’s song, “Golden Bird” has a Led Zepplin like melody at the beginning – really a classic rock sound with a simple arrangement: handclaps/piano/acoustic guitar and beautiful vocals. Honestly probably the best combination of voices I’ve heard in two months, Todd and Erika Brett (of “Empty Pockets”), come together in a collaboration of ages and present us with a gift in the form of music. Golden Bird is really a wonderfully done song they have perfected the phrase less is more – all the accents are right where they should be, and the mix is exactly right for this type of song. The vocals lay perfectly next to one another. It’s folk music at its finest, tells a lovely story using a woven in metaphor, allusions to flying, jumping and being free – Todd Kessler uses clichés to remind the audience of what they already know – he doesn’t haphazardly throw them into the lyrics because it’s the first thing that came to his mind. You can tell this is a well thought out recording and a well thought out collaboration between two fantastic artists. What would otherwise be a very boring guitar strum comes across as comforting when accompanied by the simple piano chords and small tinkering throughout. Their sound is one that is very very similar to one of my favorite acoustic bands, “The Weepies” and here my only wish is for a little more low-end. Possibly an upright bass, but me thinks an electric bass would work nicely here as well.

If you like folk music and dig on the Coffee House station on Sirius XM radio, then Todd Kessler is your cup o’ joe. Come see him play Golden Bird March 11th at Schuba’s on Belmont and Southport for a relaxing night of lovely music.

Dennis Maxwell, Sr. – Inside Out and Pops

March 4, 2009

Mr. Dennis Maxwell was recommended to me by email – mysteriously, the email address had many letters that are also in Dennis’s last name, ahem, maxwell…the correspondance informed me that Dennis is “friggin awesome” and that he recently released an album, Crazy Dream, so naturally, I gave him a listen.

I’m happy to say he is the first country artist, and I mean real country – right down to the baritone vocals and the clean twangy guitar – that we’ve reviewed.  There are some squirrely issues vocally, falling flat on quite a few notes during “Inside Out”, but the message is clear – he loves you baby.  It’s a nice ballad with consistent strumming throughout, it left me wishing for a full backing band.  I liked the tone of the guitar, but I felt like this song deserved to be acoustic – it’s begging to be flat picked on a nice Martin – with some mandolin filling out the really high end…mmmm…mmandolin…

Pops begins with a violin and the sound of thunder – kind of reminds me of Thunder Rolls by Garth Brooks – the phrasing of the vocal lines and the heavy guitar are immediate give aways.  The guitar tone is a little harsh for a country tune in this song, I think more twang..and less metal…would serve the music well.  I have to say, this recording is about 200 times better than Inside Out.  One major hint, and something I believe would really really help these two heartfelt offerings would be Dynamics…as the Pixies put it: loudQUIETloud.  The songs both just kind of barrel into you and never give you a chance to rest.  None the less, the songs are straight from Dennis’s soul, you can tell that much.  A little bit more musicality and he’ll be on his way.

Keith Harrison Band – Side A EP

March 3, 2009

With the exception of the definite pop rock arrangement of “It Was Me”, Keith Harrison Band’s release, Side A, sounds like it was originally a musical – soaring vocals and solidly entertaining melodies harmonize with the piano giving the music a fun, playful feel that sometimes teeters on the edge of camp (Pizza or Chinese).  The rest of the songs are all lead by the piano – which stands directly in front of everything in the mix – the guitar and some drums coming in only as a complement to the broadway-esque sounding keys.  The storytelling ability of the songsmith is evident in two tracks, the Decemberist wannabe “Black Night” and the  almost waltz, “Ants on a Log” – which are both two of the higher points on the album.  The recordings are all great quality and Keith Harrison’s voice doesn’t wear on you over time as is the tendency with other male vocalists.  Keith’s vocal sytlings remind me of another songwriter from the Chicago area – Brian Mazzefari, lead singer of I Fight Dragons.

Overall, this is an above average release from an above average songwriter – fans of musical theatre, you certainly won’t be disappointed.  Looking forward to their upcoming album, “Counterculture Angel”, out soon…

Chester – Tranquilicious, Wake Up

March 2, 2009

A mix of heavily distorted and wah wah flavored guitars along with a rock-picked bassline and vocals and lyrics simliar Edward Kowalczyk (of Live) create a sound not unlike Velvet Revolver. This is Chester.  They play rock music, not screamo, not hardcore, just straight up, whiskey with ice and a splash of water, mid 90’s alternative rock.  The slow stomping, electrified rhythms surely propel their audiences into a jumping and fist pumping frenzy at their live show – and having played more than their fair share of shows at the dingy Elbo Room, I don’t deny it. The vocals and the lead guitar usually follow one another, snaking around the song, really belting when appropriate and shutting down where appropriate as well.  The recordings are really good quality and the band is tight together, which is more than can be said for ALOT of the rock bands out there these days.  Although there are some political overtones (Wake Up) , the message does not disrupt the music and you are never overpowered by the heaviness of the lyrics.

If you are ready to pump the volume up and start elevating that blood pressure a little, stop by one of Chester’s shows and bounce off a few bodies.


Big Wig Mechanic – Tropiko and World in a Box

March 2, 2009

White-boy reggae group Big Wig Mechanic is a slave to tropical rhythm and big, fat, sloppy, upstrummed, reverb-laden guitars.  Tropiko had me bobbing my head throughout. A constant, James Jamerson-ish walking bassline holds the song down until the chorus comes rolling in and receding out without screaming out “Hey! I’m the CHORUS! I’m CATCHY!” – it really sneaks up on you and leaves a lasting impression.   It was nice to hear a little falsetto ringing out from lead singer Brian Lamarca, who peppered the tune with enough “yeah!’s” and “ugh’s” – that I can hear a little bit of the King of Falsetto (and awkward white-man dance), Chris Martin sneaking up in there.  Fortunately for us, the music grooves much too hard to be a soft rocker.

At the beginning of “World in a Box” I was a put off a bit by the unbalanced bass riff, but quickly got into the groove as the song moved along.  This sounds to me like a bit of a throwback to some “vintage” DMB, back in the real jam band days.  For those in the area – it’s a dead ringer for sitting in the sticky August heat at Alpine Valley, hippies twirling all around, while the frat boys spy the girls up and down.  Now I’m not sure if the heat is indicitive of the music or the other way around, but either way, this song fits the bill for sure.  As for the recording, I could use a little less buzz from the guitars/bass, but a polished engineer could surely rid you of those bugs.  The thing that stands out the most to me about this song is the dynamics.  These guys know how to quiet down and let the music take care of itself.  Its a testament to true musicianship, so great job fellas – and keep up the good work.

Although there are plenty of reggae bands out there and the lyrical content leaves something to be desired, overall these guys present quality music for half the price.  Fans of OAR, Dispatch and DMB will be sure to enjoy their jam-band friendly sound.