Zero Verdict: Clarity – A Music Review

Zero Verdict - The BandZero Verdict, founded in 2013, is a rock band from Oulo, Finland, made up of members from existing bands Myon, Vermivore, Machina and King’s Ruin. Zero Verdict’s first EP, Clarity, was released in digital formats just recently and boy will the sound ever blow you away.

The EP kicks off with a track The Perfect White Lie and it grabs you immediately. It has an 80’s rock feel in both the musical and vocal department. The lyrics feel like they’ve been transported from the 80’s as well with a very strong Journey meets Black Sabbath feel. For a three piece band, these guys sure have a very strong musical ethic that could transcend so many different rock genres. Zero Verdict hinges on being a hard-core rock band with Metal flairs, yet you can still hear subtle hints of Europa-pop rock in the backgrounds which would allow this heavy rock band to also co-exist in the alternative-rock world as well.  Tapio Mattila, who writes the music and most of the lyrics on this EP, is also the guitarist and he is phenomenal. His guitar solo in this opening track is mind-blowingly amazing. As much as Sami Huotari is strong on vocals there are just times that I want to listen to the band play with nothing else. By the end of the first track on the EP you know that this is a band that hinges on being as equally talented as they are professional and you can’t wait for what’s next.

Their second track, Alone, has a Trans-Siberian Orchestra feel to it. They slow down the musical elements right after the heavy intro and rock on the rock opera ballad feeling that is conveyed through Huotari’s vocals. The musicality is ever present and continues to bloom as the song progresses as it creates a pleasant cacophony of instrumentation that will leave the listener in a state of rock-induced euphoria. Alone is a beautiful song that truly highlights the bands talents and makes the instrumentation sound much larger than just 3 people.

Lost in a Haze is the band’s third track and by now you realize that the songs are longer than your typical rock song (this 4 song EP is nearly 30 minutes long), but that’s alright because the band takes the time to allow every member to show off their talents and it’s worth it. Lost in a Haze starts off with the beautiful vocals of Huotari who asks: “am I dreaming or am I lost in a haze?” Throughout the piece Huotari explores life through memories and the escape of haziness through sleep. It’s a beautiful song of self-exploration and it seeks answers on an existential plane. As the journey unfolds the music picks up and carries Huotari to the end, an amazing trip had by all.

The final track on the EP, Clarity¸ is unfortunately the weakest song on the EP. It feels that it drags on much longer than it needs to and is very dependent on its strong chorus. This is the rock ballad for the band and is the only one whose lyrics aren’t written by Mattila.

Clarity Album CoverOverall this EP is fantastic and definitely worth the listen to if you are into form of rock genre. I expect we’ll be hearing a lot more from Zero Verdict in the near future.

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Tiger Suit: Tourist Attraction – A Music Review

TouristAttractionCoverOntario-based duo, Tiger Suit, is set to release their latest album Tourist Attraction on March 22, 2014. This album sets a new tone for the indie-fusion genre and is one that isn’t easily forgotten. Tiger Suit is comprised of Curtis Maranda and Renee Cross, who have been working together on this musical project since 2010. As Tiger Suit they have released one other album in 2011, and have spent a great amount of time touring through Canada introducing them to a new fusion of world, rock and electronic music. Before I continue I must admit my love for Canadian music, especially Ontario-based bands. It fills me full of Canadian pride to get to listen to new local artists and share them with the world.

Both Maranda and Cross are strong musicians. Each of their tracks starts off strong and carries a unique blend of cultural music into a modern fusion, light-rock setting. Tiger Suit does have some stronger tracks on the album including Lucid Dream which features Renee Cross on vocals and I’m assuming Curtis Maranda on instrumentation. While Cross is a strong vocalist it wasn’t her that won me over for this song, it was the beautiful backing. The melodic piano was soothing, relaxing and something that I wish carried over into every song on the album.

Tiger Suit LiveAnother strong track on the album was My Perfect Reflection which carried itself as a traditional folk song with haunting overtones. It was a song that just stuck with me, while I listened to it and even afterwards. It flowed flawlessly into the following track on the album Sleep Tonight which, similarly to My Perfect Reflection just jumps right into its lyrical content without any musical build-up, something that is very common with many of the tracks on this album, and it contains some of the best vocals on this entire album.

TigerSuitPressKit

Maranda doesn’t have many vocal opportunities on this album, which is a shame because the few songs he does have a chance to share that part of his talent, are very strong, especially All of Life near the end of the album. In fact, the more I reflect on this album, the stronger it gets as it gets closer to the end. That’s not to indicate that the beginning of the album isn’t good, the tracks flow well into each other, but they all sound very similar, a few songs even have a certain lo-fi feeling to them.

One of Tiger Suit’s biggest strengths is its use of musical styles and languages from multiple cultures. It truly creates an orchestral cascade of the musical world around us and is exciting to explore. Tiger Suit comes across as the Canadian Enya for a new generation. Another unique aspect to Tiger Suit’s music is that 10% of all of their performance fees go towards the Sukritham Home, a home for abandoned girls in Kakkur, Kozhikode, India.

Tiger Suit

Tiger Suit will be hosting an album release party on March 22, 2014, at the A.N.A.F. Club in Guelph, Ontario with opening act Jesse Ronan.

Check out Tiger Suit’s Website!

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Young Coconut: I Got a Vibe – A Music Review

I Got a VibeI know it was only a few days ago that I was writing about Kitchener’s solo rock/punk/funk musician Young Coconut, but here I am again, with a different album of his. The album I reviewed last week, On Vacation, was one of his earlier works so I figured it would be fair to review something more recent. His latest album I Got a Vibe came out in January 2013, so approximately 3 years after On Vacation, and it’s a very different album.

On Vacation was an album that was having a hard time finding its place in any specific musical genre. I Got a Vibe gets rid of the eclectic mess of genres and really does find itself in a core rock state of mind. While Young Coconut is a solo act he definitely shares the limelight in this album by bringing in many other talented musicians to aid him through this project. They all help add a much more polished sound than his previous albums, while still holding true to his indie-garage roots.

Young CoconutThe album starts off with Pity Junction which is the perfect example of how Young Coconut has evolved as a musician. In his previous works he would mix genres into a song and it would sound muddied and unbalanced, with Pity Junction we have a rock background with jazz and country overtones, yet everything is held together from the beginning to the end of the song. The Right Foot is just so damn fun and catchy. It has a Flight of the Concords feel to it and was the one track that I would constantly go back to listen to repeatedly.

It should be noted that for the most part Young Coconut’s lyrics have deepened through the years as well, no longer is he singing about Justin Bieber in a weirdly obsessive way, yet he’s still able to write lyrics that are very tongue-in-cheek, playful and most importantly intelligent.

Sumotuwe is another one of my favourites on the album, but maybe that’s just because deep down inside I have a weird guilty pleasure for mixing country and hip-hop together, which it does around the 2:30 mark. Torch Bearer, which follows Sumotuwe, is by far one of Young Coconut’s most polished rock songs on the album; unfortunately, I just found it to be extremely generic in its sound. I felt like it was an homage to Rush which just kept missing the mark. Another song on the album that just didn’t mesh for me is called Lazy Liars, it just felt off tempo and a little scattered and I had a hard time really finding myself in the music.

Young CoconutOther notable and fun tracks on the album include Bye Bye Ninja and Give to Get. It is however, the last song on the album, Cat’s Pajamas, that is indeed one of my favourites. I accidently listened to this song first when I checked out the album and definitely fell in love with it the moment it started playing. This was not the same Young Coconut that I had been listening to the week before and actually put him on my radar as a musician that is a serious contender in the indie-garage band market, and one that I will definitely be following from here on out.

Young Coconut’s Website

Young Coconut’s Bandcamp

Adam Astbury: From Here We Can See Forever – A Music Review

Adam Astbury CoverBritish indie pop-rock artist Adam Astbury’s second feature length album, From Here We Can See Forever, hit shelves on December 9, 2013, and what a breath of fresh air it is. Astbury hails from Leeds, UK and over the past 2 years has now released two studio albums, one EP and the single Balloon Hearted Boy which appears on his current album. From Here We Can See Forever definitely steps up the indie scene’s game as Astbury exudes a professional sound, an intense musical talent, and an emotional range of lyrical expression.

Astbury ProfileMusic is supposed to elicit an emotion. It’s supposed to connect you to a person, an event, or ultimately the medium (artist) who is baring themselves in front of you. Adam Astbury does this. I’ve only listened to his album a handful of times, never met the man, and yet I feel like I know him. I feel connected to him through his music. The feeling I get when I listen to this album is the feeling that keeps me looking for new bands and artists all the time. As I’ve been writing this review and going back over and editing it I find myself constantly being distracted because I have the album playing on repeat in the background.  I just keep getting so caught up in the album that I have to stop, close my eyes and just soak in the music.

Astbury Playing

The first time I listened to this album I was instantly hooked. I was sitting at work, had my headphones in my laptop, turned to a co-worker and said: ‘you need to hear this.’ When I pulled out the headphones and let the laptop speaker take over we both just sat there and soaked in the rich melodies and profound depth to the music. In that instant two new Adam Astbury fans were born.

Recording Session

The first track on the album is Living in Colour and it’s a great start to a great album that continues to get better with each song. Living in Colour features Sarah Lloyd on vocals alongside Astbury and he gives her room to shine throughout the entirety of the song. Throughout the album it is clear that Astbury has a great voice. It is controlled and yet has a great vocal range that allows him to really take a lead and keep it, yet there’s something humbling about the way that when he shares the mic with a featured artist, you know he is giving them his spotlight and it doesn’t faze him in the least bit.  Just by listening to a single song on this album you can tell that Astbury is truly in this profession for the musical integrity, and not for any personal gain. The other album featuring an artist is the final track on the album I Guess It’s Over Now which features Lucy Mizen, who I’m assuming has some relation to Dan Mizen, the amazing producer on this remarkable album.

Astbury NightOther notable tracks on the album include the already mentioned single Balloon Hearted Boy whose acoustic opening sucks you in and holds you until the last beat. My favourite song on the album is Vaccine. I don’t fully know what it is about this song that gets at me, but lyrically it tugs at my heart strings, musically it just stays with me. It’s haunting, yet hopefully optimistic and manages to make me as, an individual, feel very much like the music that Astbury is deconstructing: stripped down and raw. Making Rain Clouds is another favourite as it adds a brassier touch to the Astbury feel. I wish there were more songs that incorporate the brass band backing, but I’ll definitely take what I can get!

AstburyThe more I listen to this Adam Astbury album the more I want to see him live. His musical styles (not his vocals in this example) are very similar to that of Chris Carrabba, formerly of Dashboard Confessional and currently of Twin Forks. As someone who has had a blast every chance (and it’s been multiple times) I’ve had to see Carrabba live with either band, I just imagine that Astbury would carry the same energy, professionalism and fun-going spirit that would make a small, intimate concert in a local bar, by far one of the greatest musical events I would ever attend. Adam, if you ever read this and ever end up touring Canada, please make a stop in Ottawa and play at Zaphod Beeblebrox, it is by far the perfect venue for you! I’ll show up and bring a crowd!

Check out Adam Astbury’s website

Check out Adam Astbury’s Music Videos

Stream some of Adam Astbury’s songs here

Jacelyn Holmes – Music Review

cd coverI was given Jacelyn Holmes EP As Is a few months ago at Chuckles for CHEO, a charity event to raise money for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. After seeing Jacelyn perform at this event I was really excited to give the album a listen. A few months later I decided to write up a quick review of her debut EP as I’m hopeful that there is more music from her coming down the line.

Jacelyn Holmes debut EP As Is has already turned heads with her dynamic singing, song writing and musical talents. Within her first year on the scene Jacelyn Holmes won Original Song of the Year at the Niagara Music Awards for the song Growin’ Up, her debut EP’s opening track. The following year she won Adult Contemporary Artist of the Year. Jacelyn has come a long way from being the Grade 2 student in the film Billy Madison who couldn’t spell the word couch as she’s n   ot only the singer, songwriter, with presumably correct spelling, and musician on her EP, but she’s also the producer.

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The EP is short and sweet. It teases the listener just enough to entice them to buy a full length album, whenever that happens to be released. Her tunes, for the most part, are catchy, and her melodies will stick in your head. But what will immediately grab your attention is her voice. Musically, Jacelyn’s EP has a very soft rock, alt-country feel to it, but you can just hear the jazz musician in Jacelyn’s voice dying to be unleashed. She has the smoky and sultry feel to that of a jazz singer with a well-rounded vocal range. Her voice is actually so captivating that it drowns out the accompaniment. Part of me almost wished it were an a cappella album because I think it would have been a much more intimate listening experience than to have to compete with the background piano and programmed drum beat kit.

jacelyn holmesThe EP is a fairly strong start for a new artist. It has its strengths and its weaknesses. But overall whatever weaknesses that may be found in the music or the lyrics are forgotten by the beautiful voice of Jacelyn Holmes.  Her first song Growin’ Up is by far the best song on the EP. It draws you in from the first beat and never backs down from being a playful and pop-like exploration of love. Growin’ Up is also the song mentioned above which has won Jacelyn critical acclaim in the music industry. Circles is the second song on the EP and right off the bat it has a Sarah McLaughlin feel to it, but once Jacelyn comes in with those strong vocals and we, the listener, can hear the jazz screaming to be let loose in this soft rock ballad, it takes on a life of its own. Speechless is the third song on her EP and as the music starts all I can hear in my head is the start to the song: Waiting on the World to Change. Then when Jacelyn starts singing she takes the music in a completely opposite direction. And maybe that’s why I really like this song. I go into it expecting this very poppy optimistic fluff piece of a song and end up with a song that was still light and catchy, but much more unique than originally thought to be. I would almost say that this rivals Growin’ Up for my favourite song on the EP. My least favourite song on the EP is Let Me Go. Just the lyrical content alone reminds me of the 1940’s Dub Williams song Release Me. While yes, there is obviously nothing new under the sun, the inane repetition of the lyrics in this song, however, and yes even Jacelyn herself take a backseat to the music, which in truth sounds like it could be a musical interlude near the end of an album by The Rocket Summer. I don’t skip it when it comes on, but I definitely don’t always look forward to it.

jacelyn holmesI do like the EP. A lot. I’ve seen Jacelyn perform live at a charity event. It was just her, an acoustic guitar and a mic, and I wish that that would have been exactly what the album had sounded like. She is a great performer, a great musician with an amazing and beautiful voice, and I hope to see her live again someday. I would also love to see her release a jazz album because I truly believe that she would shine in that genre more than any other.

Jacelyn Holmes Web Site

Jacelyn Holmes EP for download

Check Out Jacelyn Holmes Songs on CBC Music

-Champ Out