Side F/X spices pop/rock grooves with helpings from the blues, country, and funk

Reviewed by Brooke Curtis

Side F/X/Contradictions

Major-label tastemakers would probably have a headache of a time trying to pigeonhole Side F/X. Here we have a fairly straightforward pop/rock group that spices their grooves with helpings from the blues, country, funk, jazz, reggae, and even New Wave. A decade ago, when musicians were still expected to find a single unifying sound and stick to it, Side F/X would’ve gotten the same three-letter grade and question mark: WTF? However, times have changed, and the creation of the iPod is making the record industry, whether they like it or not, realize that most people do not restrict themselves to one form of music.

Side F/X take the plunge, liberating themselves from any stylistic shackles, even in the same track. On “My Hero,” Side F/X stitch together light funk, reggae, and ’70s Adult Contemporary; in “Her Escape,” Side F/X marry jazz and blues, letting sweaty sax glide across sizzling Robert Cray licks; the slow, emotionally evocative “Come a Little Closer” contrasts AOR riffs with moving piano. On paper, it reads like a car crash, but when you listen to it all, it is smooth sailing. There isn’t a wasted moment here; the nine cuts that populate Contradictions express real feeling with ambitious musicianship, blending together with ease and excitement.

http://www.sidefxband.net

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Published in: on September 15, 2008 at 4:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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Orchestral touches power Laura Pursell’s new album

Reviewed by Brooke Curtis

Laura Pursell/Somewhere in this Room

Singer/songwriter Laura Pursell has never been on my radar before but she certainly will be after hearing Somewhere in this Room. Unlike most solo projects, this seems to be more of a collaboration between her and her producer Andrew Bonime, who arranged and co-wrote these lovely songs. In other words, this is no mere folk or acoustic confessional, stripped down to its basic ingredients. Bonime has gifted Pursell as massive lens in which to shoot with. This isn’t just a record a with a girl and a guitar but a girl with the power of an orchestra behind her. Violins, cellos, violas, French horns, saxophones, oboes, and organs complement the basic guitar/bass/drums set-up. Actually, complement is an understatement; they elevate these songs to another level.

Those who prefer the less-is-more standard of today’s pop craftsmanship might be puzzled by all the added instrumentation here, but Pursell and Bonime are reaching for the artistic heights set by the jazz and soul artists of the past when having a Big Band behind you was considered cool. It certainly is a breath of fresh air, and not everything on Somewhere in this Room climbs to such mountainous extremes. The softly melodic “It Might As Well Be Magic” bridges together folk and smooth jazz with subtlety and technical precision while “Skywriting Neon Lights” is reminiscent of Heart’s vintage mellow-yellow dreaminess. The rainy-afternoon melancholy of “My Heart Knows You Were Here” plumbs the depths of Pursell’s heartbroken emotional state after a friend’s suicide. It’ll leave you knocked to the ground.

http://www.somewhereinthisroom.com

Joy Adler’s ‘Postcards’ crackles with passion

Reviewed by Brooke Curtis

Joy Adler/Postcards

There’s certainly no shortage of female singer/songwriters out there, and the number has certainly grown since the mammoth success of Sheryl Crow and Norah Jones. Alas, there are many women who arrive with a catchy guitar riff and a poetic pen but have no voice, either one that is stylistically distinct or technically impressive. Joy Adler is among the few with all of those qualities intact.

Although the songs on Postcards are easily accessible, they seem more personal to me than radio-ready attempts to achieve commercial success. You instantly get the feeling that Adler recorded this CD mainly to express herself and not just to acquire a quick pop hit, which has sadly become harder without a million-dollar record label behind you. Avoiding the bland slickness of Adult Contemporary radio, Adler looks to Americana, blues, and jazz for inspiration. Even the Cult’s Goth-metal landmark “She Sells Sanctuary” is given a bluesy makeover, quite unlike anything you’d hear on alternative-rock stations either during the mid-’80s or today.

Of Adler’s original material, many of them sparkle, some way more than others. I’m partial to the pretty piano compositions like “Our Rapture” and “Your Love Is Everything,” wherein Adler is reminiscent of Tori Amos but with definitely more soul. It’s the passion that Adler equips these tunes with that make them crackle, give them added intimacy.

http://joyadler.com