Archive for October, 2007

Stereoside – So Long

Jessica DePineuil

Out of Ocala, Florida, Stereoside is a four-piece band of radiant musicians with a knack for crafting music that etches itself into the mind. Jeff Shields (lead singer), David Oliver (bassist), Chris York (drummer), and Ben Foster (guitarist/vocalist) contribute their own unique styles to Stereoside, together creating a sound that is both recognizable and individual. After signing with Bieler Bros. Records in March of 2006, Stereoside released their debut album with Jeff Shields, So Long.

Anyone who has witnessed Stereoside’s superior performances in their shows can look forward to the same emotion-rich music on So Long. As “Sinner” is played on radio stations around the country, listeners should expect to hear many more hits from this album in the near future: Yes, So Long is packed with such radio-ready songs.

“Too High” starts the album with fire and force. One can literally feel the driving intention and emotion of each of the band members. In this song, Stereoside’s capabilities of creating musical masterpieces are made obvious, and Jeff’s vocal talent sends the already-amazing instrumentals to soaring heights. “Too High” is a track that necessitates driving with cruise-control and steering with your knees, while strumming away on your air guitar of choice and banging your fists on the dashboard.

The second track is “So Long,” and if listeners didn’t get enough of a head-nodding anthem from “Too High”, they’ll be sure to have no regrets in buying this album by the end of track number two. “So Long” is bursting with the same reproachful emotion that the first track featured, and though it would seem difficult to follow “Too High” with a song just as praise-worthy, Stereoside makes it happen. This is the next song I anticipate hearing on the radio and watching growing numbers of fans sing along to. With the intensity of York’s drum lines and Foster’s guitar, “So Long” possesses that exceptional sound destined for jam-packed concert floors.

“Sinner” demonstrates Shields’ true vocal talent and Stereoside’s ability to exemplify what perfected music should be. It’s no wonder that this track is already a radio hit; every instrument is tightly woven into “Sinner”, and one couldn’t possibly find a single replacing note or chord that would improve this track. These guys know how to write music that’s strung together flawlessly, and “Sinner” is full of remarkable instrumentals without being excessive or overcrowding the song itself.

Track number four is “Tattoo”. Stereoside’s southern-rock influences are confirmed in this track with squealing guitar solos and Shields’ penetrating vocals typical of the subgenre. The focus in this track is sound, as the lyrics aren’t “to die for.” All in all, “Tattoo” is a good quality addition to the album, but it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the first three tracks.

“Wasted” is one of the songs on this album that more sensitively describes heartbreak. Stereoside’s softer instrumentals accentuate the message of this song, and Shields’ melodic vocals efficiently express love-related anguish. Though heartrending, “Wasted” is one of my favorites on So Long. This track is yet another display of Stereoside’s talent in changing things up a bit without losing their distinguishing sound.

The sixth track is titled “Ain’t So Bad,” and is one more song that will beat through listeners’ veins just as “Too High” and “So Long” do. Stereoside has an inherent ability to change rhythm and tone so impeccably and smoothly, and this precision is recognizable in “Ain’t So Bad.”

“Always Remember” is a song of encouragement for those in “battle,” whether as soldiers or as regular people going through difficulties in life. The lyrics are somewhat repetitive, but that repetitiveness and the drums’ imitation of battle marches add to the theme of this track: staying strong when you feel like giving up.

“My Life,” is a catchy, up-beat song marked by positivity, which is felt through every change in tempo and intensity. This track is one to add to the list of favorites for its unique qualities that are difficult to find in mainstream rock’s genre-specific sound.

Another track rich in love and heartbreak is “On and On.” This song is beautiful in every instrumental piece, especially Foster’s guitar. Shields’ voice is incredible in its softer tones as well, and ladies will undoubtedly fall in love with Shields and Stereoside as a whole through this sensitive, love-struck track.

“It’s Not My Day” brings So Long back to its hard rock roots. Shields’ vocal range is again brought forth in his ability to vocally climb to astonishing highs and drift back down to rich, melodious lows. Foster, Oliver, and York work beautifully together in bringing this track to a perfect instrumental harmony that’s hard to come by when each instrument is so distinct and clear. “It’s Not My Day” will surely be another radio hit from this album.

“Little Pill” adds to the album’s theme of love and drug-related heartbreak. While the lyrics could use a little help, they don’t detract from the beauty of this song. This track is definitely the slowest on So Long, and, as can’t be said enough, Shields’ voice is beauty at its greatest. Stereoside transitions well from hard rock anthems to slower, more heartfelt tunes, and their versatility in creating damn-good music is commendable.

The last track on the album is “On Our Way,” which features more of a blues/southern rock feel as a reminiscent tribute to the rock n’ roll heroes of the past. Just as in “Little Pill,” the lyrics aren’t great, but Stereoside still manages to pull off including them, through the band’s clean intensity in the instrumentals and Shields’ vocals.

So Long is an album to put on your must-buy list. Stereoside’s music features a familiar, yet still unique, sound not typical of today’s mainstream rock. Jeff Shields, Ben Foster, David Oliver, and Chris York form a band with true talent, and So Long is a must-hear album filled with songs to sing along to and get to know by heart.

http://www.myspace.com/stereoside

http://www.stereoside.com

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Xerus – “…this impossible everything”

Jazz Babbage

From Minneapolis, Minnesota, Xerus is an extremely original band of three: Michael Townsend Letsinger (vocals/guitar/songwriter), Travis Washnieski (drums), and Scott Sachs (bass guitar). “…this impossible everything” on SkinCell Record Group is Xerus’ second album, preceded by “Wrath of Ra” which included number one hit on New Artist Radio, “Easy Pieces.”

Slipping “…this impossible everything” into my CD player, I was surprised at the intro, “Recoil.” The a cappella track starts quietly and calmly, with lyrics touching on the end of the world, politics, and relationships. Soon, the proposed meaning of this track gets jumbled and covered by screeching and deep vocal rambling: disharmony at its greatest. I listened on with a smile on my face, thinking this would be a comical band, purposefully comical, that is.

The rest of the album featured the same whirlwind of disharmony. I will say that most of the tracks start out crisp and fresh in the instrumentals. The guitar, drum, and bass lines fit well together. The music isn’t terrific, but it is somewhat harmonious and almost pleasing to the ears. In just about every song a funky guitar riff sets a mood of amusement and enjoyment until Letsinger’s vocals come in and disturb the flow of the track. “Invisible Excuse,” “Sacra-Official,” and “Full Circle” are three tracks that I was pleased with in their early moments, but disappointed with as soon as the vocals were introduced. Neither the band as a whole nor its vocalist has a clear, defined sound, and this is demonstrated in the rough changes in tempo and Letsinger’s constant variations in tone of voice. The songs lack synchronization and present themselves as a bunch of notes and beats crammed into a track with off-key vocals.

Without regard to the previous tracks, my favorite track on “…this impossible everything” is the last one, “Another Friday.” This upbeat, fast-paced song got my attention, as it is about having an orgy with friends. Letsinger’s crazy vocals fit so much better in comical music, and I enjoyed this song for its absurdity.

M.T. Letsinger’s voice, and Xerus collectively, have potential to be admirable once they discover their sound. In an industry full of mainstream music that tends to blend identities, Xerus does “sound unlike most everything else you have heard.”

http://www.Xeruslives.com http://www.myspace.com/xerus

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Ko-Lija

Tim Black

I had the pleasure of getting to see the band Ko-lija on September 9th, at the Government Street Grocery in Ocean Springs. I had never been to the Grocery before and was quite taken with the friendliness of the staff and shocked by how small the venue is. There was a benefit show going on that I never quite heard the reason for and several bands played before Ko-lija. When you first look at the guys in Ko-lija standing on the stage you can’t help but wonder what type of music they might play. These are guys that are more worried about comfort than impressing people with their fashion sense. As they kicked in to their first song you could hear the zeppelin-esque guitar lines and the southern influences pour from the music. The singer, Matt Hudnall, was quite entertaining to watch and listen to in between songs. His voice belied his age and size and his “dancing” during the songs was surprisingly rhythmic. The band itself ran the gamut of song variety from Clutch to The Charlie Daniels band and back again to their own original music. The song Big **** hat had a great feel and was indicative of the bands sense of humor and ability to enjoy their music without taking themselves too seriously. I enjoyed the dobro and harmonica and the guitar player had a decent grasp on the use of the wah pedal. While having a good time and enjoying themselves, Matt took a moment out to dedicate a song to a friend that was lost the day before. As he explained to the crowd what had happened with Stephanie Koll he was quite serious and obviously shaken. His choice of songs was quite appropriate; Live forever by Billy Joe Shively. Few people take the time out of their rock star lives to think of others and I was impressed with how open Matt was with his feelings. Ko-lija over all is not the band you want to go see if you want flash and the usual circus tricks you get from other bands. What you will get however, is a band that truly enjoys music, playing in front of people and has the ability to be themselves at all times. Be sure to request Long haired country boy and sing along…the song is a perfect example of how Ko-lija live and play.

Ko-Lija on Myspace

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