Monday, June 16, 2014

Monica Richards: Kindred

Monica Richards
Reviewed by Lisa Selvaggio
Rating: 5/5

I have to begin by saying that this review is pathetically long overdue, and I want to first apologize to Monica for that. Kindred is her third solo release and, yet again, she doesn't disappoint. The packaging is unique, complete with a 16-page book filled with inspiring lyrics, artwork, and photos in a DVD digipack. The booklet also contains "Spring," which is the story written for her graphic novel Anafae. What I personally really like about this album, though, is that it was written to honor all of the kindred animal spirits that have touched Monica's life. From frogs and bats to rain and thunder, Monica recorded animal sounds and elements from Nature to incorporate them impeccably into every song on the album, effectively turning them into music.

The album will suck you in immediately, and by the third track, "Fall," if you're anything like me, you'll get the urge to get up and dance along to the lyrics that tell you to "fight the Fall." There isn't a track I don't like, but some that stand out include "The Bird and the Snake," which was written with Strange Boutique bassist Steve Willett, and "Let You Go," which is beautiful in every single way and will have you in tears knowing that it was written for her beloved cat, Mina. Faith and The Muse fans will also enjoy the reincarnation of one of the band's most famous tracks, "Sparks."

"50 Euro Boy," with its many layers, is one of my favorites. But the most adorable element of the album is when Penelope the cat makes her musical debut on "Penelope" and, I must say, she is quite good on those keys--must be a result of all that time spent with Monica!

As with all of Monica's other solo work, this album proves what a versatile artist she is. She is able to take recordings of the natural world and seamlessly fuse them with a dynamic musical landscape (case in point: "Speak"). With a combination of electronic and tribal elements and, of course, her signature voice, if you've enjoyed Monica's previous work, you must pick up Kindred as well. I highly recommend taking the time out to listen to each track as you look through the booklet and read the lyrics.  

To purchase Monica Richards' music, click here.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Sevendust Acoustic, Live at the Starland Ballroom

An Evening With Sevendust, Acoustic
Reviewed by Rob Acocella
Rating: 2/5

It pains me to write the words I'm about to put below this, but it has to be said. I've been a fan of Sevendust for a long time and I've seen them more times than I can count, but the show I just witnessed was the worst one so far. I feel like I'd be doing an injustice and a disservice if I were to gloss over the negative details and sugar coat this, so in the interest of this hopefully being seen as constructive criticism, here we go:

When I see a show billed as an acoustic performance, I expect an acoustic performance. This was not an acoustic performance. Some people may argue that a few of the songs had been re-arranged in an acoustic fashion, which I'll give you. Others may argue that the guitarists were playing acoustic guitars, again, this would be true. However, there is more to playing acoustic than simply performing songs on a hollow-body guitar. I understand that in a live and studio setting, you need to plug in, and run through an amp, and I have no issue with that at all. I do have an issue with running effects pedals in your signal chain, and making your acoustic sound like the Les Paul you use on all your other tours. I have an issue with the drums being mixed as though you're using them to perforate the lungs of the audience. I have an issue with the vocal performance of a song barely deviating from the original despite the band having claimed to have rearranged the songs. More importantly, I have a huge issue with showing up with a set of expectations, mostly consisting of 1) seeing a true acoustic performance, and 2) not having my ears ringing to the point I'm checking them for blood, only to have those expectations greatly let down.

I don't feel I'm being unfair here. I'm not taking away from Sevendust the fact that they practically ooze positive energy or that I've never seem them put on a bad show, even tonight. In fact, it's not the performance or the vibe that has me disappointed at all. I've seen many bands go the acoustic route for either part of their set or for a full tour, and none have missed the mark quite like Sevendust. This was not an acoustic show, this was a regular Sevendust show played with two hollow-body guitars mixed in with electric bass, drums, and keyboards.

The show was divided into 2 parts, with about a 30 minute intermission. The first half of the show, I felt was full of less-recognizeable songs, even for someone who has been seeing the band live, on just about every tour, since about 2003. With just a few songs that stood out instantly, most of them just sounded the same to me. The second set, which had a few more favorites, was stronger, but by then I'd already given up on the idea of the show being a more laid-back acoustic variation on what I'm used to. Also, a note to any band that is going to cover Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt": Don't change the lyrics. More specifically, don't change "I wear this crown of shit" into "I wear this crown of thorns." Not only is it such an iconic song that you shouldn't ever consider changing the lyrics, but the implication of those 2 lines are completely different and you ruin that part of the song by changing it as such. A crown of shit means you're the king of garbage, negativity, sorrow, nothingness. A crown of thorns implies condemnation and accusation. Completely different, please don't do it again.

I really wanted to like this show, and I really hate giving Sevendust a poor review for a live show, but I can't lie about this, it really failed to impress me or even meet the most basic expectations.