Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Verra Cruz: Innocence (2008)

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

Innocence punishes those who might take the title in vain and press play without first buckling in.

From the first track, the UK band Verra Cruz unleashes a torrent of blues-infused licks that lets up only long enough for you to pick your chin off the ground. The lead single, Not in the Fire, implores its listeners to “rise up” at the risk of being tread upon by its own charged chorus. Following closely is the beautiful train wreck Blind Man, with its driving percussion and sufficiently-shredded lead.

The album takes a slight detour on Friend to You which simmers and soaks in its own sappy juices. The title track, too, seems a bit out of place with its uncharacteristically predictable melody. Fortunately for the long-laden, the album quickly turns back to the rhythm and soul that has become the band’s trademark.

In all, Innocence has all the trappings of a well-seasoned album that knows where it’s going and exactly how to get there. Verra Cruz is verra good riff-rocking roll. Verra, verra good.

Would put on a mixtape between: Silverchair and Soundgarden

Tracks to sample: “Not in the Fire” (myspace), “Blind Man”, “How Long for This World”

Gileah and the Ghost Train – Gileah and the Ghost Train (2007)

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

Gileah Taylor and her backing Ghost Train create a hauntingly beautiful chorus in 2007’s self-titled release.

Gileah and the Ghost TrainThe album spans a great distance in range and emotion, from the throbbing dirge “The Devil” to the blooming optimism of “The Spirit”. The band finds its voice in “The Shadow,” exploring mystery through a jangly, piano-driven chorus. Most interestingly is Gileah’s ability to bend genres, as in the spiritual-turned-pop track “The Slave” with its declarations of “surely, surely, surely,” “swing low,” and “meet you at the river.”

Gileah proves to be a voyage of biblical proportions. Delicate vocals echo out over tight melodies, leaving this album to haunt your memory spin after spin.

Would put on a mixtape between: Eisley and The Innocence Mission

Tracks to sample: “The Slave” (iTunes), “The Shadow” (iTunes), “The Lazarus” (iTunes)

Ghosts of Cité Soleil (2006)

Friday, December 7th, 2007

Having been to Haiti several times, I was interested to explore the dangerous side of this civil war-torn nation—an area that internationals and journalists are warned to avoid. The documentary follows the story of two brothers, 2Pac and Bily, who rule the slums of Cité Soleil outside of Port Au Prince as “Chimeres”—gang leaders who do the dirty work of then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. We follow the brothers as they attempt to control their city with guns and intimidation, care for their impoverished families, fall in love with a French relief worker, and even rap with Haitian-born music mogul Wyclef Jean. In the end, the brothers are forced struggle between themselves to maintain power and fight for life.

Would put on a Netflix queue between: Hotel Rwanda and Boyz n the Hood.

Air Guitar Nation (2006)

Friday, December 7th, 2007

For those about to rock, this documentary covers the internationally-sanctioned sport of Air Guitar. (Yes, that thing you do when “Welcome To the Jungle” comes on the radio.) Filmmaker Alexandra Lipsitz documents the surreal world of competitive air guitar, from the first-ever U.S. Championship to the World tournament in Oulu, Finland. Along the way, viewers cheer for the two American likelies: New Yorker Björn Turouk (Dan Crane) and asian sensation C-Diddy (David Jung). During the journey, viewers are sucked into the action and begin to understand the intricacies of technical accuracy, stage presence and the ever-elusive “airness.”

Caveat: some brief, if not bizarre, male nudity. But it wouldn’t be air guitar without it, right?

Would put on a Netflix queue between This is Spinal Tap and School of Rock.

John Davis: Arigato (2007)

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

When Knoxville indie rockers Superdrag disbanded in 2003, somebody forgot to tell frontman John Davis to unplug.

John Davis - ArigatoDavis is back with his second solo album, Arigato—an unapologetic Christian apologetic that is as ferocious in sound as it is convicting in lyric. Davis has a knack for straight-ahead rock ‘n roll that pulls no punches and delivers pulsing rock revelations.

The album’s lead track, Chant Down Babylon,” sets the pace for a rollicking exploration of Davis’ constant struggles between spirit and flesh. On “Lamentation vs. Laughter,” Davis declares, “Every step further along / feels alright for a time but it comes out wrong / We still trespass, we still transgress” — later admitting that “without You, all of this means nothing.”

Arigato is a big musical thank you both to a Creator who provides in spite of personal failure and to die-hard fans who continue to stick with a post-Superdrag John Davis.

Would put on a mixtape between: Superdrag and Stone Temple Pilots

Tracks to sample: “Chant Down Babylon” (iTunes), “I Need Someone” (iTunes), “Lamentation vs. Laughter” (iTunes)