Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Music Review: Karl Latham - Resonance

resonance Karl Latham's Resonance is an album of jazz music played by a group of very talented individuals. With Karl Latham on drums, Vinnie Cutro on trumpet, John Hart on guitar, and Kermit Driscoll on acoustic bass, there is no denying their technical knowledge and skills. Listening to each one of them, especially during certain parts of the music where their individual instruments are featured, you can tell they are really good at what they do.

However, while their individual skills on their instruments are obvious, the music that results doesn't seem to be as good as I expected it to be. I spent many hours listening to Resonance, feeling there was something off. Then I asked both my father, who is an audiophile and a jazz enthusiast, and my boyfriend, who is a musician, to listen to the album and give me some feedback on what they thought about it. All of us felt the same thing; there was something not completely right with the music. My boyfriend said that many of the songs were 'messy'. My father said that the arrangement wasn't well done, the music doesn't mesh, and it feels like each of the musicians are playing separately from one another.

I have to agree with both of them. The music isn't terrible, in fact, some of the tracks aren't bad at all - I particularly enjoyed "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and "Pagan Poetry", but you do get the feeling that the music somehow just doesn't come together. "Manic Depression" in particular, is one of the messiest song on the album. For most of the song you wonder what the musicians are doing; the sounds seem jumbled up and going in all sorts of different directions. It gets better later in the song, but it still sounds pretty messed up.

Some of the other tracks aren't bad, I quite enjoyed listening to "Higher Ground", "Spanish Castle Magic", and "Past Time Paradise" as well, but as I have said, the arrangement could have been better. Latham, Cutro, Hart, and Driscoll are all extremely talented and skilled musicians, but sometimes when musicians are too skilled individually, they may not be able to play well together as a band. Each person's sound is too distinct and different from the others', and that may be what makes the tracks in this album sound so messy.

I do think that if the musicians practice together more often, and listen to each other instead of just focusing on their own parts, they will be able to come up with an extraordinary album in the future. They've got the skills, after all. Karl Latham's Resonance showcases each of the musician's talents very well, but it may not be the best buy if you're looking for something that has great arrangements and music that flows and meshes beautifully. Hopefully, Latham's future albums will be better.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Music Review: Laura Pursell - Somewhere In This Room

laurapursell I enjoy many genres of music, but as it gets harder to keep track of all the sub-genres that are popping up nowadays, I find it easier to simply divide music into two categories: "good music" and "bad music." Some people enjoy only one or two types of music, but I enjoy all kinds, as long as it fits into the "good music" category, that is. In addition, as musicians, my band mates and I enjoy playing many different styles of music.

That's why I was intrigued when I came across Laura Pursell's Somewhere In This Room. The album is a collaboration between singer and lyricist Laura Pursell and composer Andrew Bonime, and is a unique project for two reasons. The first is that it consists of songs in many different musical styles; there's jazz, rock, blues, bossa nova, gospel, and even a children's song. As a music lover, I admire Pursell and Bonime for making no distinctions among different music styles for this album other than the "good music"/"bad music" distinction.

The second reason it's unique is that the album isn't so much "a collection of songs" as it is "a book made up of songs." You have to listen to it from beginning to end. It even has an overture and a finale arranged by famous composer, arranger, and pianist, William Pursell, who is also Laura's father. Every single song has a story to tell, and while I was listening to the album I had the curious feeling that I was reading rather than listening to it. It was as if I were reading a book of short stories, and the songs were the chapters of the book, and the book was Laura Pursell's diary.

Set to Bonime's music, Pursell's lyrics are based on her experiences and her accounts of those experiences in her diaries. From falling in love, in the rock number "It Might As Well Be Magic," to heartbreak in the dark and somber "Not Much To Lose," and running away from love in the bittersweet ballad "Skywriting Neon Lights," and from the death of a close friend, in "My Heart Knows You Were Here," to her experiences as a child trying so desperately to fit in, in "A Maple Tree," Pursell tells her stories in her meaningful lyrics. My favorite tracks are the title track, "Somewhere in This Room," and "When You Come Down," which both tell very interesting stories.

Pursell's talent for writing beautiful lyrics is matched perfectly with Bonime's ability to create beautiful music and melodies, resulting in an incredibly unique album that is such a pleasure to listen to. The only thing I thought could be improved upon was Pursell's singing.

Fortunately, Pursell is blessed with an unusual voice; there's a happy, joyful tone to her voice that few singers have. When I was younger, my father, who's also a music lover, pointed this trait out to me while we were listening to The Corrs, my favorite band at the time. Andrea Corr, the lead singer, has that joyful tone in her voice that comes out even when singing sad songs; although you can hear the somber emotion in her voice, the joy is also there. The only other singers my father knew with that tone, before he heard Andrea Corr, was legendary Chinese singer Teresa Teng, and the equally legendary Karen Carpenter. Now we can add Laura Pursell to that exclusive list.

Unfortunately, while she has that tone, she doesn't seem to know how to use it as well as the other singers I mentioned. I thought that her singing was quite flat and emotionless at times. Her lack of color and dynamics are most apparent in the song "It Might As Well Be Magic" - or perhaps she's just not meant to sing rock songs. I do hope she cultivates her singing talent though, it would be such a shame to waste that wonderful voice of hers.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Music Review: Karmina - The Kiss (EP)

I knew I was going to like Karmina the minute I heard the band's first single "The Kiss." The title track of their five-track EP illustrates exactly what people love about pop music.

With a catchy melody, fun music, and Karmina's sweet voices, "The Kiss" is sure to win the ears and hearts of listeners. It's better than anything other popular two-girl-bands, such as M2M or The Veronicas, ever released. The way Karmina's going, I'm sure it will be much more successful, too.

Karmina is made up of sisters Kelly and Kamille, who write their karminaown songs and already have plenty of experience under their belts. When Kamille was younger, she worked with veteran producer David Foster and performed with a younger Josh Groban at various high-profile fundraisers. Kelly and Kamille have competed in various music and songwriting competitions, such as the John Lennon Songwriting Competition and the San Francisco Concerto Orchestra Competition among others. The sisters even won the California State Vocal Competition 27 times!

Their first national exposure came when they competed and won in Disney Channel's "Two Hour Tour," which later led to Darren Hayes of Savage Garden mentoring the girls and selecting them to open for his band at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. All that experience and they are only 23 and 21 years old respectively!

There is much to admire about Karmina, but I love the fact that the sisters write their own songs and that these songs are amazing. Other than the catchy title track of their album, The Kiss, they have four other beautiful tracks all of which I really like as well.

"Free" is a song that really touches you with its emotion and the keyboard and guitar melodies in this track haunt you with their bitter sweetness. "Stay" is a vocal-focused song, and shows the emotional power of the girls' voices. "The Whoa Song" is very sweet, melodious, fun, sexy, and seductive all at once. My favorite track in this album is "Inside of You", which is soft, dreamy, and so hauntingly beautiful that all I can do when I listen to this track is close my eyes and let it take me into a fantasy world where I'm a princess waiting for my prince to come rescue me.

Karmina's The Kiss is a wonderful album of dreams brought to life. It showcases sisters Kelly's and Kamille's amazing musical talents in both instrument and voice.

The album is full of fun and catchy melodies, and the sisters' voices are beautiful and emotionally-packed. If you enjoy M2M or The Veronicas, you will love Karmina much more. There is more depth to Karmina's music that you don't find in the other bands.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake by Laurie Brown

hundredyrsrake Laurie Brown has written exactly the kind of romance novel I enjoy most in Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake. It has humor, mystery, ghosts, history and romance all packaged up nicely into an enjoyable paranormal love story. What can I say? I'm a sucker for paranormal romance, and judging from the fact that paranormal romance is one of the bestselling romance subgenres, I'm not the only one.

Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake tells the story of Josie Drummond, who is a modern career woman. In fact, she is a professional paranormal investigator, and she has been hired by the ghost of Deverell Thornton, the ninth Earl of Waite, to go back in time to when the earl was still living during the Regency period. She is to prove that Madame X, the medium Deverell's mother hired to contact her dead husband, is a dangerous charlatan who wants to swindle his mother out of the family fortune. Sounds intriguing already, doesn't it? Wait until you hear the rest of it.

Josie meets the living Earl of Waite, who of course has no idea who she really is, much less that it was his own ghost who brought her from the future, and predictably, they make each other's hormones rage. So amidst all the trials that Josie has to face, trying to unmask Madame X while at the same time pretending to fit in as a proper, respectable lady in the complicated scene of the Regency period, she and Deverell fall in love. Unfortunately, time is running out for the lovers, because the longer Josie stays in the past, the more she forgets about her future, and in the end she has to choose between her modern comfortable life as a professional, and life in the Regency period with Deverell. We all know how that's going to end, but the journey is so much fun.

As with most romance novels, and especially romances with paranormal elements, many things don't make perfect sense, I mean, Deverell's ghost has abilities that are way too out there for us to even try to believe. But then again, sense is never the point with romance novels. It's all about the romance; boy meets girl, girl meets boy, they fall in love and live happily ever after. The fun is in the telling of it, and Laurie Brown has done such a great job with Josie and Deverell's love story. Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake is pure fun, great for a late weekend night read, or a rainy Sunday afternoon, or anytime you just feel like having a dose of romance. If you enjoy paranormal romance as much as I do, you'll enjoy Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Fables from the Mud by Erik Quisling

fablesmudErik Quisling first released handmade copies of his new book, Fables from the Mud, nine months ago. Since then, this little text has gone on to becoming a classic with the likes of Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince and Axel Hacke's and Michael Sowa's The Little King December. The thing is, Quisling's Fables from the Mud can hardly be considered a children's book. It is quite dark at times, and more than a little gory too, and it is told in succinctly few words to express profound ideas.

The first fable of "The Angry Clam", for example, tells the story of a mollusk who struggles with its existence and goes through many trials trying to find meaning in his life, even converting to Islam, and then abandoning it again when it doesn't seem to help. Quisling includes a tragic but completely realistic epilogue of the angry clam's ending days.

The second fable, "Adventures of Glen in My Stone Garden", is a slightly ridiculous but hilarious look at the adventures of a pessimistic ant named Glen. His adventures include a garden barbeque, getting stomped on by a boot, and captaining a pirate crew. What happens to Glen in his adventures gets pretty gory, because he gets swallowed by a dog and even gets his own head severed, but don't worry, everything works out in the end for Glen.

Things don't end as well for the protagonist of the final fable though. "Grant's Tomb" is about a has-been warrior worm whose best days are behind him and find the future to be empty and meaningless. He plots to commit suicide in a spectacular manner as a glorified finale, but needs to evade other dangers that face him on this new quest. Inevitably, he finds meaning with his quest and loses the will for suicide, but unfortunately with this new turn of events, only tragedy can result.

These fables of Quisling's are so funny and popular that Hollywood animation studio Luma Pictures have now optioned the right to create short animated films from Fables from the Mud. They plan to enter the films into film festivals and also the Academy Award Short film competition, and also market them to networks to be converted to animated series. Not too shabby for Quisling's little book about invertebrates.

I enjoyed these little stories very much, although I cringed at some of the gory parts. Fables from the Mud is a realistic parody of life, for us and for the invertebrates, and I'm sure when my brain recovers from the gore, I will find that it was an enlightening read too. I can't wait to see what Luma Pictures does with the fables, and I'm waiting anxiously for Quisling's next book!

Music Review: Clare Burson - Thieves

clareburson_thieves_02The first time I heard Clare Burson sing on one of her older songs, I thought she had a beautiful, mellow voice that intrigues the listener. I was very excited when I got her new album Thieves because I was looking forward to listening to more of that beautiful and mellow voice, but when I first listened to this album, I wasn't sure if I could like it. Her songs on this album are so different from what I normally listen to. The songs are so dark and somber, that when combined with her melancholy voice, my ears just couldn't like them at first.

As I listened more, however, and started getting used to the melancholy, I started to really like and enjoy the music. Thieves brings images of a cold, colorless winter spent reminiscing about the past. I could just imagine myself, sitting on a windowsill, looking out the window wistfully, staring at trees bare of leaves and snowflakes falling down from the sky, and engrossed in nostalgic memories while I listened to Clare Burson's Thieves. It helps my imagination somewhat that one of the most beautiful tracks on the album is entitled "Love is Snow."burson_photo

This album is beautiful, I can't use this word enough, and so poignant. The music draws you in, the lyrics are profound, and Burson's voice is just so hauntingly alluring. My favorite track on the album is "Let Me Lose Me." Burson croons this beautiful (there's that word again) love song with the emotion of a woman desperately, but so gently, asking her man to let her love him. Its melody lingers long after you've stopped listening to all the other tracks. "Angels" is another favorite of mine, and is much more memorable than Sara McLachlan's highly popular song, "Angel."

Burson also sings a cover version of "These Boots Are Made For Walking", and I must say, I'm very impressed with her take on it. I've heard dozens of versions of this song, but none the way Burson does it. It defies description, it's just so different and unique. "1000 Miles" is also one of my favorite tracks on the album and the only song that can be described as a happy, uplifting song.

It took me a while to warm up to Clare Burson's Thieves, but once I did, I loved it so much that I've been listening to it every chance I get. The songs on this album are just so beautiful (last time I'm using this word, I promise) and heartbreaking. They weave such an enchanting spell on you that you can't help falling in love with them and letting them bring you into that melancholy winter world where "Love is Snow." I'm glad I didn't let my first listen to Clare Burson's Thieves turn me off, I would've missed out on a beautiful (oops...absolutely the last time!) album.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Release Alerts for Your Favorite Authors' and Musicians' New Releases

Sponsored Review

I've always found it a hassle to check Amazon.com for my favorite authors' new releases, or my favorite musicians' new albums, and I hate scrolling through all those lists just to find if one of my favorite authors has written a new book or if one of my favorite singers has a new album out. The worst thing is spending hours scrolling through the lists just to find there isn't anything new. And sometimes because I get so tired of checking for new releases, I just can't be bothered anymore and end up missing my favorites' new releases. It's a major annoyance.

Now there's this new site, ReleaseAlerts.com, that has made it so much easier to keep track of my favorite authors' and musicians' new releases. It does the checking for new releases in Amazon.com for us, and it's free! I love free services!

If like me, you've missed any new releases from your favorite authors or musicians in the past, and if you can't be bothered to scroll through lists and lists to check if your favorites might have released something new, then why not sign up for ReleaseAlerts.com's email alerts.

It's really easy to use, all you have to do is sign up, search for your favorite authors and musicians, and register for free email alerts whenever your favorite authors release new books, or whenever your favorite musicians release new albums. Don't worry, you won't get any unsolicited emails, the only email you'll receive are the release alerts you registered for. I've signed up for a couple of my favorite authors already, and I've bookmarked the site so I
can add more of my favorites in the future.

All I have to do now is sit back and wait for ReleaseAlerts.com to let me know whenever there's a new release. I don't have to waste hours and hours of my time, and I don't have to anxiously check Amazon.com for new releases anymore. That's the best thing!

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