Wednesday, October 17, 2007

St. Clair :: EP

Artist :: St. Clair
Album :: EP
Label :: DIY

Play This Cut First :: So Long

In a word :: Retrogressive

It's amazing how an EP that clocks in at just about 17 minutes can make you think so much. St. Clair pulls it off, however. That alone should be a testament to the power of good songwriting.

Musically, EP follows a path that seems to have been all but abandoned near the end of the 1990s. As the melodic-pop-post-hardcore sounds of bands like Yellowcard rose to the surface, a booming alt-rock movement that blended lo-fi dream pop production with shoegazer songwriting quickly decayed.

When you listen to EP, however, you get the sense that, had that path continued to be worn, that it would lead to St. Clair. The lo-fi sensibilities and beautiful lush reverbs that accent reverse guitar lines and deep pads are the stuff that production values were built upon. Couple that with dynamic vocal approach of vocalist, Jeff Geady, and you get an inspiring piece of alt-rock that seems to occupy a lone place in time.

When I say dynamic vocal approach, I'm talking about styles. Some cuts, like the raw Angels of Downtown showcase melodic vocal harmonies reminiscent of Sunny Day Real Estate, while cuts like Stars Over Toronto and Nordheimer Ravine feature a softer, almost whispering delivery that fans of Iron and Wine will gravitate toward.

Now Playing :: Nordheimer Ravine

Thematically, all of the songs are based on events that actually happened in St. Clair's hometown of Toronto. The city itself comes across as a character in these pieces, much like the city of Dublin effervesces in the works of James Joyce. And echo-drenched harmonica work gives each cut a sense of openness...of stars. In a some respects, it has mirrors shoegazing rock, but with an underlying feeling of peace fostered by solid songwriting and creative production values.

The Bottom Line :: Don't let the relatively short length of EP fool you. While it might be short in duration, it's long on impact. So much so that you'll likely listen to it two are three times at a setting. And for the seven bones it goes for, you can't beat that.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

scarecrow :: This House Has No Light

Artist :: scarecrow
Album :: This House Has No Light
Label :: DIY

Guest review provided by A. Gene Punckbowee.

This House Has No Light is a very moving album. It's one of those albums that you must play from start to finish straight through to get the full effect. It gives you the feeling that someone is looking back on their life. Not with rose colored glasses, or feelings of happiness, but with a cold hard look at the harsh realities of life.

It tells this story without words, only the feelings you get from the music. Loneliness, fear, regret, sadness, isolation and despair. The things you should've said, but didn't. The places you should've gone, but decided not to. Things you should've tried, but were too afraid to. The friends you made, but never see anymore. The love you had, but somehow lost. It tells this story without being melodramatic.

This House Has No Light is very impressive. It has a grandeur, a kind of cinematic feel like a Hollywood blockbuster soundtrack. Scarecrow does an excellent job of bringing the listener into the music - personalizing it in a way the listeners reflect on their own lives while they're listening. When an artist has made that kind of connection with the listener, then the music has done what music was meant to do.