Even If You Knew The Language
Textured and grungy, Milo's first independent EP sounds like grinding early 90s rock but with an attitude and maturity transcending the band's inexperience.
A fresh and impressive blend of alternative and indie sounds, Milo weaves hypnotic rhythms and haunting vocals into a forceful voice. Coming from humble beginnings in Chapel Hill, Milo is a little bit of Radiohead and a lot of Pearl Jam but with a style and sound all their own.
Tim Smith rips through the tracks with soaring guitar riffs, leaping gracefully from calming chords to driving, distorted solos without ever breaking stride. Tim Ellis beats out a forceful yet never overpowering rhythm on the drums backed by the enchanting wail and thumb of Andrew Kinghorn and Jeremy Buenviaje on rhythm guitar and bass.
Floating seamlessly over the entire mix are the raspy yet refined vocals of Russ Baggett. His lyrics focus on mature issues, and the album becomes a thoughtful journey through life. The entire effect creates a sound balanced on a razor's edge between tranquil and turbulent.
The pulsing "Traps" cranks out energy and gusto while the surreal "Clockwork" oozes spellbinding beauty. The title track, "Even If You Knew The Language," blends the two styles in a smooth serenade which purrs through long guitar solos only to crash into a powerful pulse of raucous vocals and grinding guitars.
The album sweeps you away like a hurricane, at first wild and merciless, then fading into a nervous calm, threatening a storm of sound at any time. Smith leads the attack through "Nothing Given," assaulting with wicked riffs beautifully balanced with melodic interludes. In "Low Flying Planes" Baggett gets a chance to really exhibit his talents as both a singer and songwriter backed by burning, experimental guitars.
Milo makes its debut with intensity and talent, which can only grow better with time and experience.
By Nick Parker
Tad Dreis' new album showcases the area singer/songwriter's melodic arrangements for what should be a promising future.
But Dreis has not quite caught up with his potential.
Yours Asleep, the UNC graduate's debut album, is filled with 40 minutes of folk-pop sunshine built on the songwriter's ear-catching tunes. Throughout the album, Dreis builds his pop confections from the ground up, adding keyboard and vocal flourishes that play with his sugary melodies.
The best moments on Yours Asleep are when Dreis' knack for songwriting and arranging mold together seamlessly. "Helpful Diagrams" combines a wry description of boy-girl relationships with an inventive arrangement of vocals, accordion and guitar. "She wore a dress like a sock on a hot dog/ I watched her with relish," Dreis intones, while his acoustic guitar frolics through the line with hormonal bliss.
Other highlights are the gentle sway of "The Traveling Red-velvet Curtain" and the up-tempo "Snow On The Ground," in which Dreis, with a happy-go-lucky guitar lick, comes as close to rocking out as a folk singer can.
But elsewhere the results are less compelling.
While tracks like "Bug on the 4th of July" and "Old Friend of a Friend" showcase Dreis' talent for infusing vivid imagery into his songs, some tracks fall short of crisp lyricism. For instance, the title track begins with an all-too-cute "Wizard of Oz" reference and progresses into a lyrical stew of nonsensical irony.
And sometimes Dreis' vocals miss the mark. "Matchbox" contains an ear-splitting falsetto harmony, and Dreis' vocals slip off key too often to make the track a pleasurable listen.
The album suffers most from a bad mix in which Dreis' vocals are placed too high and overshadow the pleasantness of his songs and arrangements. "Bittersweet With Lime" should be a haunting ode to heartbreak.
But instead of floating in, his vocals burst in abruptly, and the lack of transition is nothing short of rude.
Despite its flaws, Yours Asleep boasts a fresh spirit and a sense of gentle, homegrown comfort. And while Dreis has an ear for some truly great arrangements, his inexperience is evident.
In the end, Dreis' heart is in the right place, and he has a great pop album floating around in him somewhere.
By Michael Abernethy
Sticking to the same formula that garnered so much fame, Alan Jackson's Drive breaks no new ground but will please old fans with his characteristic honky-tonk drawl and basic chords.
A simple man from simple beginnings, Alan Jackson is the everyday man's country star, focusing on issues and feelings that everyone has to deal with. His 10th original LP, Drive proves that he has not lost touch with his roots but also shows that his music has not matured.
Jackson's soothing drawl, the perfect example of country, from the drawn yawls all the way down to his pronunciation of "flying," purrs through 12 tracks about everything from love to drinking.
The background music blends nicely with his voice and is also raw country, sporting only a few chords but leaving Jackson plenty of room to play around.
But all that country style and honky-tonk attitude leaves the album monotonous and boring, save for a few standouts.
Tracks often bleed together in a intangible blur that not only detracts from the album but also each individual songs. It is hard to appreciate a beautiful track when you can't tell one from the other.
Jackson's formula for success has become a little antiquated, full of Nashville pop, but that is it and it simply isn't enough.
Though marred by repetition and lop-sided production (with four empty love songs stacked at the end), Drive boosts a few cuts that break the boredom with laughter and tears. "Designated Drinker," is a somber yet amusing song about drinking away heartbreak, while the title track, "Drive," is a nostalgic and deeply emotional amalgamation of memories.
Jackson even pokes fun at himself in the lighthearted romp "Work In Progress," proclaiming "And I read that book you gave me 'bout Mars and Venus/ I think it's sinking in but I probably need to reread it/But I'm starting to see now, what you been sayin' is right."
But his most impressive work comes in the slow and tear-jerking "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)," where his songwriting talent confronts the terrorist attacks in a simple, earthly tone. Everyone can relate with the sadness ringing through the chords as Jackson disregards politics and puts his heart on display.
Filled with the same slightly bluesy, honky-tonk, Nashville attitude, Jackson hasn't changed a bit over 10 LPs. His lyrics are still simple and sometimes silly, his rhythms have that same deep Appalachian twang and his voice is sometimes so deeply country it hurts; but as the old adage goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
By Nick Parker
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