Posts Tagged ‘The Beach Boys’

Back in August, Cleveland was the host to the XMG Music Conference. The Conference was held at the Cleveland Hard Rock Cafe. For the Conference, people were able to see part of the music world first hand as bands and singers were put through the same type of experiences as the singers on American Idol: Following their performance of two required songs, the group or performer was told what was good about their performance or what needed improvement. After watching most of the bands or performers turn in performances on the level of William “She Bangs” Hung, it was apparent that the job of talent scout wasn’t as glamorous as you would think.

Having sat through many nameless/faceless bands turn in less than stellar performances, it was always a great relief to finally get to see those acts that could sing, play their instruments or just set themselves apart from the rest of the pack by just performing a song or two on-key.

One such group that made a good impact on me was a band from Madison, Wisconsin. The name of the group is Pine. Pine (who recently gained a new bass player) consists of Mike Delp on guitar, Scott Theis on Drums, Justin O’rourke on piano/synth, Mike “Buzz” Buzzell on vocals and James Jones on Bass.

At the time of the conference, the band was working on their self-titled release. They finally released the album in early December. This release contains several songs that could easily be included on any HOT A/C (adult contemporary) radio station. Some songs that could easily get airtime include “Another Perfect Day,” “Sweet Vicarious” and “Take Me There”.

Even though the first track on the self-titled release from Pine, “LC,” is a rather beautiful and simple track that features a nice vocal harmony that would easily remind anyone of the vocals from The Beach Boys, the album doesn’t truly begin until the second track called “Another Perfect Day”.

“Another Perfect Day” is a track that would make a band like Green Day proud: The track is a strong punk-oriented track that also has a generous amount of “pop” influence to it. The punk/pop mixture on the track creates music that will easily get the listener up and dancing to the beat. And along with the punk/pop, the track also features lyrics with a definite attitude. Although the lyrics (and song title) might suggest happy thoughts, the lyrics are forcefully sung by Mike “Buzz” Buzzell through clenched teeth.

While “Another Perfect Day” features punk/pop feel, the song “Sweet Vicarious” is a track with a heavier rock song with a generous amount of keyboard thrown in. The resulting track is, without a doubt, an Alternative Rock song and would usually not be mistakenly grouped with the pop-based rock and roll found on Top 40 radio. “Sweet Vicarious” is one of the strongest tracks on the 2005 release from Pine.

Easily one of the best and most commercial songs on the album is the track “Take Me There”. While the song has a strong “Alternative Rock” influence, it also has enough “pop” influence to it to make the song an easy candidate for play on both Alternative Rock and Top 40 radio formats. The track is very listener-friendly and has a definite hook that will immediately grab you. If any song on this release could become a “single,” odds are it would be “Take Me There”.

The self-titled album from Pine also includes two things that are “givens” on releases in the 2000s: the hidden track: “Tonight,” and the remake: Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire”.

We all know “I’m On Fire” from Bruce Springsteen as it was one of his biggest hits. And we know that the song is a rock ballad with a “pop” feel to it. But when Pine got their hands on the song, they took it in a much different direction. Their version of the song is a “power ballad,” with an emphasis on “power”. While Springsteen’s version is soft and easy, Pine’s version of the tune features electric guitars and cranks the energy level to produce one of the strongest tracks on Pine’s album. The band’s version of “I’m On Fire” will probably end up being one of the best “cover songs” in this first decade of the new millennium that has already become very heavy on the “cover songs”.

Once Pine’s new release comes to an end with the song “Shovelhead,” the CD continues to advance until it presents the “hidden track” of “Tonight”. “Tonight” is a simple ballad that features just an acoustic guitar with a light keyboard in the background to add some beautiful music to an emotionally powerful song about a man wishing he wasn’t alone.

The self-titled release by Pine showcases the talents of this noteworthy band. From the first song until the end of the album some forty minutes later, the listener can tell that this band could go places if it gets the right opportunities.

And Pine is already getting those opportunities: With the inclusion of “Another Perfect Day” on 96.3 WMAD’s 2005 “Rockin’ the Midwest” compilation and “Take Me There” being nominated for Best Song Of 2005 along with PINE’s self-titled album nominated for Best Album Of 2005, the band is certainly not just a nameless/faceless band to ignore.

This originally ran as a shortened article of less than 400 words back in 2005 in order to give the band Pine some coverage for their new release. At the time, I had to write an article/review to fit the space I was given in the publication I was writing for. I have now fleshed out the review to give the album the respect it deserved back at that time. And while the band has moved on, the album still deserves to be heard.
The Essex Lights is a band composed of singer/guitarist/songwriter Michael Brawer, guitarist Grady Axton Davis and drummer Ben Nelson. Together, these three musicians create a band that makes rock music that is hard rockin’ and passionate. This powerful combination comes together in the music that is found on the band’s new release entitled Fast Love California.
Fast Love California from The Essex Lights begins with the song “Pride of Worchester”. Featuring lyrics of “Head west, child,” the song is sort of autobiographical for Michael Brawer as he did just that to follow his dreams of working in the entertainment industry. The song features a strong acoustic sound, as the track is built around the acoustic guitar of Brawer with Grady Axton Davis adding just enough electric guitar to give the song real depth and create an anthem-like feel to the track.
The combination of acoustic guitar and harmonica on the album’s second track of “Belle of the Ball” gives this track a sort of folk music flavor to the track. Add to that the energetic vocals of Brawer and you get a part folk/part punk combination, an interesting sound that may have some people pondering which direction the band wants to go. Somehow, the band makes that musical mixture work and that mixture makes “Belle of the Ball” one of the strongest tracks on the album.
The Essex Lights take a very different approach to the song “Forever a Contender”. Gone away is the acoustic guitar as both Michael Brawer and Grady Axton Davis create this song with two electric guitars. The background vocals to the track might remind some of the type of harmonies created by The Beach Boys on their songs. The harmonies and the stronger electrified sound of this track set this song apart from the first two songs and add a nice variety to the music of this album.
For the song “Angel City Ghosts,” the energy level is taken back up a notch. This track is the first real time that the listener gets the chance to hear the ability of the band members to play some all-out rock music. Michael Brawer, Grady Axton Davis and Ben Nelson prove on this track that there are still some people out in the music industry who want to create that “good old-fashioned rock sound”.
Just as you get used to the upbeat style of “Angel City Ghosts,” the band pulls the musical rug out from under the listener and slows the pace down. With the song “Stay Gold,” The Essex Lights return to an acoustic sound and slower pace in their music. The band picks up the pace just a little about half way through the song to ensure that the tune doesn’t drag you down. “Life in the Time of the Crow” is probably the best song of the release from the Fast Love California release. The Essex Lights once again kick up the energy level and Brawer adds that same amount of energy to his lyrics as he sings. The resulting track is easily the hardest rockin’ song on the album, and just like “Angel City Ghosts,” the track allows the listener the chance to hear the band let loose with some good rock ’n’ roll.
After once again slowing the pace of the music down for the track “Postcards from Rio,” The Essex Lights return to their rockin’ ways on the song “Chelsea Smile”.The sound of “Chelsea Smile” might remind you a lot of the rock music that was played on college radio a few years before the term “Alternative Rock” was coined. The rock sound of this track brings back that sound and does it in a very strong way.
The final track of Fast Love California, “El Pistolero,” seems to contain the most production value as the music of the song was created using the most tracking of any of the songs on the release. The resulting song contains a lot of depth and really shows off the talent of the band. The song also brings the album to a close in a gentle way.
Throughout the nine tracks of Fast Love California from The Essex Lights, you get to experience the passion of the lyrics of the songs, the energy in the all-out rock songs contained within the release, and the passion of singer/guitarist Michael Brawer, guitarist Grady Axton Davis and drummer Ben Nelson. These elements help to create a very solid release from a trio of musicians who prove, from track to track, that there are still people out there who care about making good music.