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Music CD's - Rock

Gary Jules And the Group Rules: Bird

LA’s favorite sweet-voiced singer continues to mine the depths of soulful acoustic songwriting and has come up with gold. Jules is smart enough to know not to polish these tunes too much, though, keeping the grit, the grime, the rough and ragged elements that leave listeners feeling alive and broken all at once. He is probably best known for his cover of the Tears for Fears classic “Mad World” which appeared in the film Donnie Darko, but this urban-folkster has been consistently cranking out stellar original material all along. Any song on this collection is certainly worthy of being covered and re-popularized by some young up-and-comer a decade or two down the road. So why not be ahead of the curve and familiarize yourself with the original versions now?

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CD price: $14.00 / MP3 price: $9.99

 

Lucy Child: Mirrors and Folly

Capable of both delicate whisper-sings and full-bore belting, this is a singer/songwriter who takes pieces that are already strong, builds them up, and knows just how to cool them off without extinguishing the spark. You could call this modern rock, but there's pop in there too, as well as bits of jazz and tinges of the most tasteful lounge. The tracks are powered by piano and other keys, and Child's ability as a vocalist to both go toe-to-toe with the larger layers of sound (the wonderfully rumbling opener "Naked Eye") and dance seductively with the sparser arrangements ("Whispering," "Dusk") is a testament to both her abilities as a singer and her expertise in the area of crafting an effective song. The spot-on production presents itself as another key element, making room for strings, mellotron, and subtle but solid percussion. It may be hard to definitively classify the music she's making, but in the end, that also ends up being one of the best things about this album.

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CD price: $13.97 / MP3 price: $9.99

 

Pawnshop Diamond: Leaning to the Sun

Pawnshop Diamond: Leaning to the Sun

Folk rock takes on many forms, and though its basic elements have remained relatively untouched through the years, there have been endless avenues leading to the genre's evolution and reinvention. This Vancouver, BC five-piece is a great example, incorporating the time-tested tools of solid songwriting with decidedly modern musicianship, sharp lyricism, and angles of production that leave the songs sounding both vintage and timeless. The tracks are initially driven by versatile acoustic guitar and effectively layered harmonies, but it's the addition of piano that really starts the sound swelling. Electric bass and guitar take it a step further, whether the song calls for clean and precise ("Liquor Store"), or heavy and boisterous (the wonderfully titled "Flowers Are For Hippies"). The lyrics move with the melodies, flickering between coy, quirky, and off-the-cuff linear narratives, while continuously toggling between feelings of nostalgia and preoccupations of urgency. But don't worry, the songs sound anything but rushed. They're fleshed out in arrangement, polished smooth, and they're sure to stick with you.


CD price: $12.97

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AQUAPLANAGE: Aquaplanage

AQUAPLANAGE: Aquaplanage

Progressive rock is tough to pull off. By its nature, the genre requires more players than the average band, and with the chops it takes to successfully fulfill the requirements of the oft-complex arrangements, there's plenty of room for error. This London group has been at the prog game for a while, with some of the core members having cut their teeth in a celebrated Yes cover band. It must have been great practice, because this, their debut of original material (which has been years in the making), is classic rock prog done right: the time changes are challenging, the layers of instruments are distinct but cohesive, and the vocal harmonies are spot-on, serving as one more instrument in the already impressive arsenal. If there was any doubt as to the level of ambition invested in this record, the 15 minute-plus opening track, "Ode to Grey Mornings, " is clear proof that this is no band of amateurs. It's a huge song, twisting through various sections while never straying too far from the initial intent of the track. And that's just the beginning. If you're a fan of Jethro Tull, early Genesis, and, of course, Yes, you'll definitely want to check this out.

CD price: $14.98 / MP3 price: $9.98

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Junebug Spade: Junebug Spade

Junebug Spade: Junebug Spade

"Beyond the Horizon," the first track on the eponymous debut EP from these Oklahoma City psych-rockers (easy on the psych), starts innocently enough: a tidy little guitar line eases the song in, feeling like it may become the backbone for a semi-peppy progression and an ultimately mellow song. When the keys begin to tinker on top, you can sense it building, and before you know it, the drums crash in and they're off. The song does indeed build off those humble beginnings, but where they take it is certainly bigger than anticipated. Favoring tones between the instruments that are well-tailored for a separation of sound, the parts expertly hold tight together over these six tracks, paving the way for layered vocal melodies that make perfect sense, are never obvious, and are sure to be a welcome guest when they're inevitably stuck in your head.

CD price: $5.99 / MP3 price: $3.99

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