Thursday, February 18, 2010


Artist: Mainsail
Label: (self-released)
Length: 10 tracks / 33 min, 58 sec
Release Date 01/01/2010

By SS Mertens

“Mainsail” is an effort by Joel C. Bennett to meld the sunshine and beaches of Ventura, California, indie rock, and a dash of shoegaze to create a new and updated form of surf music. To a great extent he succeeds in combining surf, beach, and ‘80s brit-rock. All songs are written and played by Bennett with the exception of drums. “Mainsail” follows his previous albums “Blue Shade Witness” and “Give Away Your Hearts”.

The album’s ten compact songs provide a touch of sun and surf. “Endless Summer”, the album’s first cut, gives the lay of the land with a heavy drum foundation and synth laden melody. “Clean Line” sets the lyrical tone for the album. “13 Miles” strikes home with a sold lyrical refrain, while other songs add to the surf story line. “Better Days” is shoegaze at its best, dream-like and possibly the best of the album. The final song “Wave Hymn” gives a solemn, hard end to the CD providing requiem for a surfer.

“Mainsail” succeeds in creating surf mood music but misses the mark on providing a meaningful message. The song list provides continuity and is just plain fun for a listen with dreamy, post-modern “Beach Boys” sound. This is a niche album, but then again, it probably wasn’t meant to be anything more than that.

The Drawing Room

The Drawing Room
Artist: The Drawing Room
Label: Tooth & Nail Records
Length: 12 tracks: 33 minutes, 21 seconds

By SS Mertens

There is something about The Drawing Room that keeps me coming back for another listen. Is it the haunting melodies and lively lyrics, or the albums adventurous character? This is one of those albums that confuses on the first listen, keeps pulling the listener back in, and becomes a regular on their pallet of favorites.

Admittedly, at first I agreed with the majority of critics that the album lacked focus and flow. But being a project of a TFK (Thousand Foot Krutch) member was enough to add this LP to my collection and provide a serious listen. TFK bassist Joel Bruyere collected thoughts, lyrics, and chords over time to create this surprising collection of songs.

Evocative, bright, and bouncing in content, the music pulls the listener into the various moods created. With lyrics for the serious listener and melodies that grab our attention, the combination provides a haunting experience. Songs are driven by acoustic guitar working together with percussion to create a clear, crisp sound. Each song provides a story reminiscent of early Genesis (sans Peter Gabriel) albums ‘Wind and Wuthering’ and ‘A Trick of the Tail’. Where the album’s down side may be a lack of continuity or flow from song to song the overall effect is light, clear, and full of energy creating an overall great listen.

The opening song “Keys (The Liaison)” features tight lyrics and guitar. “Trip” and “Garden of Even”’ follow with crisp acoustic guitar and percussion playing off the lyrics. Upbeat songs give way to darker, melancholy stories in “The Hounds of Winter” and ‘”Windsor for the Winter”, both showing a change of pace and tempo. “Skeleton Key” again provides the unique play between vocals and guitar that is present in a number of this LP's songs, but the heavy bass drum takes away from songs continuity. “Pocketwatch” and “Peddle” complete the album with the unique play between vocals and guitar.

Where The Drawing Room is a side project of Bruyere’s, excelling in his individual musical direction and experimentation, the overall effect leaves the listener asking “Where will this go?” and “What is next?". Here’s hoping for Drawing Room 2.

Seabird - Rocks Into Rivers

Rocks Into Rivers
Artist: Seabird
Label: Credential Recordings / EMI
Length: 12 tracks / 43.05 min
Release Date 12/15/2009

By SS Mertens

“Rocks Into Rivers” is the sophomore release of Seabird, a piano driven pop rock band out of Cincinnati, Ohio. With this release, Seabird hopes to build on its successful debut LP, “‘Til We See the Shore”, which received rave reviews in 2008. “Rocks Into Rivers” continues in the footprint of their debut release, its only departure in the form of additional ballads with lyrics based on personal experiences of main singer / songwriter Aaron Morgan. Like the debut album, songs have catchy lyrics and many hooks.

The title track and pilot release “Don’t You Know You’re Beautiful” stories a young girl’s trials when her world is crushed by divorcing parents. “Believe Me”, “The Good King”, and “Baby I’m In Love” are built around lyrics focused on Morgan’s recent family experiences. “Trust” provides the LP’s first rocker separating itself from the album’s previous ballads. “This Ain’t Home” is a good, solid ballad highlighted by two vocals alternating between lead and background. “Finally Done Right” finally gives the album a rocker with much needed lead guitar. The album’s name sake “Rocks Into Rivers” is the highlight of this LP with heavy bass drum laying the foundation for excellent lead vocals, piano, guitars, and percussion.

“Rocks Into Rivers” lacks song-to-song continuity and could use less piano-pounding leads, and more guitar and percussion to mark a move forward from “Seabird’s” debut release. While there is little on this album to improve on their debut release, there is hope in the rockers found on this album.

Fireflight - For Those Who Wait

For Those Who Wait
Release Date: February 9, 2009

By SS Mertens

For those unfamiliar with Fireflight, think Skillet meets Super Chick. Ten year plus veterans of Christian rock, this band has a solid foundation of both message and music. Providing a mix of hard rock anthems and soul wrenching ballads aimed at those weathered by these disparaging days and times, For Those Who Wait marks the third major release for Fireflight.

From past efforts “Healing of Harms” and “Unbreakable” to ‘For Those Who Wait”, orchestration, engineering, and production continue to improve to the point where this release shows the musical growth and maturity of a band about to break into the realm of the top Christian rockers. Beyond the accolades of “Unbreakable”, this new LP promises to be a very strong junior release, with powerful lyrics and resilient voices, solid lead guitar, hard hitting rhythm and percussion.

Although the song “Desperate” is planned as the pilot single, others show greater strength and character. “Recovery Begins” is a misty, dreamlike promise of change with awesome musical backdrop for angelic yet dark lyrical narrative. “Core of My Addiction” is a hard charging mover with meaningful lyrics taking advantage of great breaks and harmony. The albums title track, “For Those Who Wait” and “Name” show extensive growth as a band. “All I Need To Be” is a gem among the remaining tunes with a good gothic fairytale story line, great harmony, instrument flow and break, and good bass. Remaining tunes are cut from the bands rock anthem roots.

“For Those Who Wait” is a landmark for Fireflight by showing maturity in song writing by providing orchestral arrangements and ballads to their hard rock anthem anthology. This is a CD worth acquiring and wearing out for a number of reasons – all of them good.

It has always been considered a key indicator to an artist’s success to win with a big sophomore release. With the high speed of new music reaching the general public today, it is a big win to make it past the sophomore release and have bigger success with the junior or third major release. Time will tell if _For Those Who Wait_ will have this success, propelling Fireflight on their run forward and eventually hitting their stride like Skillet, Disciple, and Kutless.