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by Mike Breen 06.05.2012
Posted In: Local Music, Reviews at 12:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Review: Pomegranates' 'Heaven'

Cincinnati Indie foursome reaches new heights on fourth LP

Heaven, the fourth album by remarkable Cincinnati-based Indie Pop troupe Pomegranates, is in stores today (cyber or otherwise) and, this weekend, the group presents a hometown album release party to celebrate. And there’s plenty of reason to celebrate — Heaven is a stunning work of art that manages to top not only the Poms’ past three albums, but also most “big name” releases this year so far.

You can listen to a full-album stream of Heaven through AOL's Spinner here.

Heaven is the quartet’s first album under their new deal with Modern Outsider, the relatively new Austin, Tex.-based label that released the latest LP by Cincinnati Indie duo Bad Veins, The Mess We’ve Made, earlier this year.

Heaven is the Poms’ most dynamic effort yet, perfectly meshing the group’s trademark twilight sparkle, artsy but fluid experimentalism and hooks that creep rather than nag. That mysterious, trickling, hypnotic ambiance that has pervaded the group’s sound from the start is layered more vividly thanks to the strong new material and co-producer Miguel Urbitztondo, who has worked magic on similarly enigmatic recordings by Sparklehorse and Daniel Johnston.

Heaven is a great sounding album, for you fidelity-heads — with a good set of headphones or speakers, one can hear in crystal clarity the subtle yet magnetic ornamentation lurking around each corner. “Art Pop” is perhaps the most fitting descriptor of the Poms and Heaven is a modern Indie music masterwork, eschewing the rule-book of Pop music with structural twists and turns that are consistent and fluid but rarely predictable. 

Listening to the album in full for the first time is a completely mesmerizing experience, reminding me of the way a great film or the best albums by Popadelic Indie giants of Montreal can pull you into a different dimension. On Heaven, the listener follows Pomegranates as if the four musicians were spirit guides on the thrilling sonic journey, rolling through Ambient Pop like the title track, then traveling on through the falsettoed New Wave Funk of “Passaway,” the pining, emotional piano-ballad-on-a-heartbeat “Surfing the Human Heart” and the Bon Iver-esque “Dream.”

“Letters” is a clear standout and encapsulates everything Pomegranates do so well in one track; it’s the song you should send your friends who ask, “What do they sound like?” The track opens with harp-strings and floats on a gauzy, hazy and lazy pulse of tom-drums and other sparse percussion, reverbed-out Surf-like guitar and a chant-like melody. Then, without notice, about a minute and a half in, the tranquility is interrupted by a distorted blast of noise before falling back into the song at a more lively pace, those chanting melodies becoming more extroverted and less muted. The song continues to build, the harmonies stacked higher and higher, the dirty bass dirtier than ever, and the drums trekking along like a vintage train-shuffle beat rewired for a Bullet Train trying to break a speed record, before collapsing in overdriven, buzzed-out exhaustion.

Listening to “Letters” alone is more rewarding than listening to 75 percent of the albums being released today. Tack on the nine other gloriously creative tracks and you have an album so fantastic, if it doesn’t move the semi-underground cult faves closer to becoming more of a household name to the majority of Indie music fans on the planet, I’ll weep for the future of music.

Pomegranates all-ages release party for Heaven is this Saturday at the Madison Theater in Covington with special guests Josh Eagle and the Harvest City, The Yugos and Shadowraptr. Tickets are $10 and showtime is 8 p.m.

by Brian Baker 05.01.2012
Posted In: New Releases, Reviews at 03:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Review: Dar Williams' 'In the Time of Gods'

Since her 1994 indie debut, The Honesty Room, Dar Williams has attracted a diverse and pathologically loyal fan base with her quirkily hybridized Folk/Pop ministrations. Like an elegant gene splice of Shawn Colvin and Loudon Wainwright III, Williams can easily triangulate the emotional distance between breezy humor, somber reflection and crystalline heartbreak, on subjects as intimate as family and love and as broad as culture and politics, by finding the commonalities between them and translating them through her muse. Equally relevant is the fact that Williams hasn’t shied away from experimenting with her base formula over the past two decades; her desire to extend her reach is a testament to her restless creative spirit and her success in doing just that is a testament to her steadfast audience.

In the Time of Gods is Williams’ ninth studio album and, like the majority of her catalog, it is a work that somehow manages to be both spectacular and subtle. In keeping with her need to experiment, Williams conceived In the Time of Gods as a concept album with each song representing a particular Greek mythological archetype, while also weaving contemporary emotional, social and cultural concerns into the narrative. It’s an unlikely formula, and one that requires an almost impossible songwriting balance, but Williams was clearly up to the task, because In the Time of Gods stands with the best of her albums to date.

Part of its brilliance is that Williams uses the Greek pantheon as a launch point to create her own dieties and address her unique issues, proving that mythology must be both consistent to be permanent and malleable to be relevent. The element that drives all of this home is Williams’ impeccable songwriting skill as she finds the connective tissue between gods and goddesses like Hera (“I Am the One Who Will Remember Everything”), Hermes (“You Will Ride with Me Tonight”), Dionysus (“I Will Free Myself”) and Poseidon (“The Light and the Sea”) and places their gifted and flawed archetypes in real life situations with real life outcomes.

As always, Williams’ musical accompaniment in this endeavor is engaging and beautiful and exactly right, providing the consistency that runs through her  estimable canon. With a surgeon’s skill, Dar Williams has grafted the wisdom, wonder and humanity of Greece’s ancient pantheon onto In the Time of Gods’ modern cautionary tales, further evidence of the contention that Williams is among the finest Folk/Pop songwriters of the last half century.

(Dar Williams performs in Cincinnati on June 23 at Mt. Lookout club The Redmoor.)

by Dave Tobias 06.24.2009
Posted In: Reviews, Live Music at 02:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Review: Bonnaroo 2009, Part 2

As we reached the halfway point of the festival, I took a step back and reflected a bit. I was dirty, sweaty and sleep-deprived; and yet I could not have been more excited for what was to come. Phish had whet my appetite for their festival-closing performance on Sunday, and who could forget that one of the greatest live acts in the history of music (maybe a little hyperbole), Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, would be rocking the stage this very night. There was a sense that truly magical musical moments were on the horizon and little did I know what those inclinations would bring.

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by Mike Breen 09.23.2011
Posted In: MidPoint Music Festival, Live Music, Reviews at 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

MPMF.11 Day 1: Turn On, Tune In, Rock Out

I haven't done LSD in at least a decade, but Thursday's MidPoint Music Festival sure felt like a psychedelic flashback. My long-ish, strange-ish trip began at 9 a.m., as I drove into downtown and found Central Parkway colorfully dressed up as if an army of elderly women had sneaked in overnight and turned the strip into a Dr. Seussian wonderland. The colorful crocheting that hugged the trees, lampposts and practically everything else sticking out of the ground was actually the work of The BombShells' Yarn,  who've dropped similar "yard bombs" on statues downtown (like the William Henry Harrison one in Garfield Park).

Regardless of whence it came, it set the trippy tone for my first day at MPMF.11. And things only got trippier. I'm a big fan of the surreal and bizarre, so it wasn't a bad trip, by any means. And the soundtrack was pretty kick-ass.

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by Ric Hickey 06.14.2011
Posted In: Reviews, Live Music, Festivals at 10:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Live from Bonnaroo 2011, Part 4

The Bonnaroo Whirlwind kicks into high gear on Saturday afternoon. Today it was hardly half past twelve when Black Joe Lewis & the Honey Bears ripped the Other Tent in half with 60 minutes of high fructose Funk and Gospel that had the surrounding throng speaking in tongues.

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by Ric Hickey 06.15.2011
Posted In: Live Music, Festivals, Reviews at 12:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Live from Bonnaroo 2011, Part 5

Our third and final day on-site at Bonnaroo was no less crazy than the previous two. I took occasional breaks during the day, sometimes in the air-conditioned press tent, and other times back at the campsite where I’d snack, get off my feet for a few minutes and pour water over my head.

The day began with an 11:30 a.m. press-tent panel discussion on changes in the concert industry since Bonnaroo’s inception 10 years ago. The panel included Bonnaroo founder Ashley Capps who reminisced about the festival’s early days. Capps and crew intentionally booked bands for the inaugural festival who already had direct contact with their fan base via the internet. By tapping into this pre-existing network, they were able to sell out the first Bonnaroo in just 18 days.

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by Jason Gargano 03.24.2011
Posted In: Reviews, Music Commentary at 03:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Listen Up!: New Tunes Alert

I've had nearly a dozen different people ask me the same question over the last week or so: “What have you been listening to?” 

Luckily, it's been a fruitful season for (relatively) new music. Here's my answer:

PJ Harvey —Let England Shake: Harvey's latest gets better and digs deeper with every spin via its textured arrangements and curious, Folk-tinged genre U-turns. I'm still not sure I like her more overtly topical lyrical bent, but her voice is as affecting as ever.

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by Ric Hickey 07.20.2009
Posted In: Reviews, MidPoint Music Festival at 12:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

My Time in NAMM

CityBeat Advertising Director Brian Kitzmiller and I went to Nashville for the weekend to cover this year’s Summer NAMM show. NAMM stands for the National Association of Music Merchants and they actually host two big conventions each year. Generally, the Winter NAMM fest is a bigger event held in California, but this year’s Summer NAMM show in Nashville is no small event. The premier music industry trade show, most in the business consider participation in NAMM to be crucial to the development and sales of their wares and services.

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by mbreen 01.12.2009
Posted In: Local Music, Reviews at 01:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Local CD of the Week: Eric Falstrom

Singer/songwriter Eric Falstrom has been performing locally for several years, including with the rockin’ Mystery Wagon in the early ’90s. Since then, Falstrom has been working the solo route, releasing records on his own off and on since the end of the Wagon.

But Falstrom’s latest disc, Love Will Come Through, feels much like a reintroduction, featuring some of the best writing and performing of his career so far. The album is rich and focused, bringing Falstrom’s strengths (poetic lyrics, a heartfelt singing voice and beautiful arrangements) to the forefront.

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by Brian Baker 01.13.2012
Posted In: New Releases, Reviews at 01:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
little willies

I Shall Be Released: Timing Is (Not Always) Everything

New and recent reviews of releases by The Little Willies, Snow Patrol, Trent Reznor, Red Wanting Blue and others

 I’m still getting used to my new digs here at The Daily Beat as everyone rushes about, delivering their stories with right-this-minute immediacy and what not. Of course, with my continuing effort to bring you up to date on the reviews from last summer and fall that were missed for a variety of reasons, my breaking news has all the timeliness of “Bin Laden is dead!” and “I’m so happy for Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries — it’s nice to see a celebrity couple in it for the long haul.”

Luckily, the early weeks of this new year, with a couple of well-stocked exceptions, are pretty light on titles, allowing me the time and space to revisit some deserving highlights from bygone months while checking out the latest and greatest from the new calendar. Wait, there’s something coming across the teletype in the Bunker — apparently, the war is over! The Falkland Islands are free at last!

Celebrate with new reviews, then some old reviews. Then a drink and possibly a nap.

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