Tag: 2014

Sonny Knight & the Lakers – I’m Still Here

ARTIST: Sonny Knight & the Lakers                          sonny knight

TITLE: I’m Still Here

YEAR RELEASED: 2014

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Hey Girl

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Obscure, so no. Yet powerful.

LINEUP: Sonny Knight, Blair Krivenek, Bryan Highill, Calvin Knight, Casey O’Brien, Cole Pulice, Eric Foss, Sam Harvey-Carlson, Tony Beaderstadt

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Old school soul man (formerly of Haze) and a group of soul-drenched revivalist get together and burn it up.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s been a trend that old-school obscure soul singers find sympathetic current bands and release albums that just cook. That’s the case with this from Sonny Knight and the Lakers.

This Sonny Knight was in Haze, and had gigged without much traction in the 60’s, but when he got together with the Lakers in the 2010’s, it was magic. The horns and arrangements by the band fit in with Sonny Knight’s hard-soul voice that has power and some surprising finesse.

All in all, this is a damn fine soul record that sounded like it could have been made in 1968, if not for the better production values. Quite a find!

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Vietnam was the main reason for Knight to stall out in the 60’s

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE: A: It’ll burn up your digital memory!

Sam Smith – In the Lonely Hour

ARTIST: Sam Smith                       sam_smith_-_in_the_lonely_hour_official_album_cover

TITLE:  In the Lonely Hour

YEAR RELEASED: 2014

CHART ACTION: #2 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Money on My Mind (#107 US, #1 UK), Stay with Me (#2 US, #1 UK), I’m Not the Only One (#5 US, #3 UK), Like I Can (#99 US, #9 UK), Lay Me Down (#8 US, #15 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not on the radio

LINEUP: Sam Smith and a boatload of session musicians, producers, etc.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Angelic voiced English singer-songwriter breaks out big time as a solo artist after collaborating with Disclosure, and his voice and material meld effortlessly.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: He’s kind of a throwback, in a way. Not really a crooner, because he’s got a high tenor, but he’s definitely one that is more of a love song / torch singer. What is appealing about Smith is that his songwriting is on par with his vocal ability.

Unlike some other pop stars, the album’s deep cuts are just as well-crafted and thought out as the singles. Even though there are a lot of producers and engineers, the album just sounds good, and that’s important. The arrangements are fitting, not forced, and while it sounds great on the radio, it’s not built especially for that medium. file-sam_smith_-_in_the_lonely_hour_drowning_shadows_edition

Smith’s debut showed that there’s still good musical craftsmanship in today’s pop music.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Yes, that’s right, he did unwittingly plagiarize “I Won’t Back Down” for “Stay with Me”, but just a little, and Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne get a 12.5% cut of that song. Well, that’ll help the bank account a bit.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, at nine: Deluxe, European, Google Play, Target, three in Japan, a special deluxe and a Drowning Shadows edition. $$ on the prize.

GRADE: A-:  I really like this. There aren’t many negatives, and it’s well done.

Little Red Wolf – Junk Sparrow

ARTIST: Little Red Wolf        a3576190281_16

TITLE:  Junk Sparrow

YEAR RELEASED: 2014

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: In Wisconsin, you betcha some know these songs.

LINEUP: Meghan Rose, Kelly Maxwell, Emily Mills, Laura Detert.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second record from Madison-based quartet varies up the styles for good effect, mostly.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Great music isn’t always by national acts. Sometimes, they’re made my artists who can’t really get out and tour very far afield due to day jobs and other commitments. Little Red Wolf is based in Madison, and the four women who make up this group are versatile artists. It shows in this, their second album.

They change up their sound a little bit, adding for flavors like alt-country and gospel to their mix. Still, the emphasis is on song and harmonies. The latter are strong, and the former shows they have great ears for structure and melody.

The one issue I have is sequencing. A couple of tracks with similar ‘breathy’ vocals are stacked back to back. Maybe that’s my personal taste, but I’d have like them broken up. Still, if that’s the only real quibble, what we have here is a fine record to hear.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Rose and Maxwell collaborated on the musical Held, premiering at the NYC Fringe Festival.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: A talented quartet that should be heard outside of the upper Midwest.

The Preatures – Blue Planet Eyes

ARTIST: The Preatures                      The_Preatures_-_Blue_Planet_Eyes_album_cover

TITLE:  Blue Planet Eyes

YEAR RELEASED: 2014

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Is This How You Feel?, Somebody’s Talking, Two Tone Melody, Cruel

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Maybe something else on college radio.

LINEUP: Thomas Champion, Luke Davison, Isabella Manfredi, Jack Moffitt, Gideon Bensen.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Australian band releases nice pop album with some rock and some electronic elements, and it’s pleasant but maybe a little too safe and nice.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This Australian band hit it pretty big down there with “Is This How You Feel?”, which gave them the momentum and means to record a full album. The result is a record that’s pleasant, and poppy with enough rock elements to keep it somewhat energetic.

The whole mood is one of a nice, safe album. The hooks are there, but there’s nothing edgy or revealing about these 10 songs. All of the rough edges are sanded off, for better or worse. They’re catchy, though, thanks to the hooks.

The Preatures are a band to watch, especially if they can work out more duet vocals, as Manfredi works well against another voice. The songwriting is there for more hits; I just prefer a little more grit is all.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Bensen has left the band just recently. He was the one who sang with Manfredi on the duets.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B+: It’s catchy, and the more you hear it the more the hooks sink in.

Nick Jonas – Nick Jonas

ARTIST: Nick Jonas Nick_Jonas_-_Nick_Jonas_(Official_Album_Cover)

TITLE: Nick Jonas
YEAR RELEASED: 2014
CHART ACTION: #6 US, #16 UK
SINGLES: Chains (#13 US, #1 US Dance, #79 UK), Jealous (#7 US, #1 US Dance, #2 UK), Teacher (#13 US Dance)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Numb
LINEUP: Nick Jonas, Nolan Lambroza, Jason Evigan, Pierre-Luc Rioux, Nick Ruth, Nick Seely. Guest appreances by Demi Lovato and Angel Haze. A whole buncha producers and writers who may or may not have played on the record itself. I looked for ‘instrumentation’ and credited them above.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Hooky pop songs that are ear candy for this generation.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Nick Jonas seems to be the one Jonas Brother really trying to establish himself as a respected solo artist in the pop music world. (Joe is trying, sorta, and Kevin is just Kevin and a reality TV guy now.) He’s doing all the right things – assembling a team of writers and song craftsmen to churn out radio-friendly pop hits and asking some friends to sing some key tracks alongside him.

The result? A pop-music confection that goes down easy and has hooks galore. In five years, this stuff will be on all of the nostalgia streaming radio stations as in “Remember the 2010’s!” or something. In 30 years, this will probably be some of the featured songs on the Jonas Brothers stage show in Branson or wherever. Nick_Jonas_-_Nick_Jonas_X2_(Official_Album_Cover)

Not to say that it isn’t enjoyable as pop music. It is. I exiled only a few tracks (I don’t like the ballads – I think they’re maudlin and sloshy) but kept the rest because they don’t offend and are good to hear when you’re making pasta carbonara and you don’t want to focus on the music because you want to make sure the eggs don’t scramble when you add it to the pasta and the bacon.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He’s released a solo album before in 2005, which, no. He also released a ‘band’ album called Nick Jonas & The Administration. No again.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes a deluxe edition highlighted by a collaboration with Mike Posner, and Nick Jonas X2 with remixes and a new single called “Levels” (#44 US, #1 US Dance, #46 UK) and a great remix of “Jealous” with Tinashe

GRADE: B-: No one’s going to exalt this as one of the best albums ever, but for what it is, and what it’s trying to do, it’s decent enough, with stuff like the remix of “Jealous” on X2 darn good.