It was rather pleasant to find something recently that reminded me why I keep reviving this stupid blog: I still want to thank musicians for the great free music and, in my excitement, to tell as many people as possible that they could download some lovely stuff if only they'd look in this neck of the woods. Having said that, I must advise you to look in the dusty "About" section of CTW and notice that it falls within my remit to publicise commercial releases once in a very long while. Today is that day, and I do so without fear or favour even though I risk becoming part of Musicblogocide 2010. Yes, my humble loons readers, reviewing music can be a risky business. I'm so manly.
You don't give a stuff, do you? You come here for free music... and here it is. (Weird) Uncle CTW wasn't going to let you down. Yup, the about-to-be-mentioned music is free although, tiresomely, you'll have to give up an email address. Failing that, buy the CD and think yourself lucky. In Chains by Dead Heart Bloom (from New York) was once a fully fledged 2008 commercial release, but DHB, in their Buddha-like wisdom, have decided to cut the chains (boom-boom) and let it go for free. Note that this is not a Creative Commons-licensed album - so please respect the copyright.
In Chains is a five-track EP made by a four-piece band that will satisfy all three of your ears. First off, it sounds wonderful: the mix is as clear as the Hubble telescope. On first listen, Boris Skalsky's vocals are buried in too much reverb, particularly in the opener Flash In A Bottle; hear the lyrics again and it comes as a shock to hear just how much is effortlessly audible. It also comes as a pleasure to hear lyrics that sound like they come from a newly minted classic American folk song, if that makes sense. As for the album's milieu: those of you who love late 60s/early 70s folk-rock should fetch your flares from the back of the wardrobe and settle in for some serious tokeing tapping of your feet. Falling Towards Goodbye features guitar picking, the lightest imaginable percussion and lead vocals so warm and cosy that they could replace a duvet.
Halfway through the album comes Halfway Gone, a very laidback reminder not to let The Man get you down. It's a polite, competent mid-tempo folk-rock ditty for the first thirty seconds until the vocal harmonies begin to swoop and swell... when it becomes a lost track from the White Album. It's gorgeous, and I'm especially fond of the little organ asides near the end of the track. George Martin would approve. Let's see if you do:
Continuing the utterly satisfying retro-rock feel, Farther Than You rides in on the back of a rolling blues riff. The high-pitched, whispered lead vocal reminds me of none other than, wait for it, Mickey Dolenz of The Monkees, while the background vocals and rich, echoing slide guitar/violin are redolent of Ennio Morricone.
By this time, the hash harmonies will have you looking at the ceiling, so it's appropriate that In Chains ends with Impossible New City Dream, which is literally a lullaby albeit a gently (blues) rocking one. Like all the other tracks, its strong melody will make sweet, sweet love to your eardrums. You could also strum your new Apple iAirguitar, but I suspect you'll shrug at it and wait for the Google AirGuitarOneTM to appear in the shops.
If it was hard to pick out a track to recommend (and it was) from such a good album, imagine my horror delight when I realised that In Chains is part of a conceptual trilogy. Dead Heart Bloom describe IC as "ambient rock", Fall In as "dream pop" and Oh Mercy as something called "rock", although there's a hint in it of that legendary Tyrannosaurus (if not T-Rex) of Rock: "Glam". They too sound superb, they too are free, and although they don't quite measure up to In Chains, I must mention Fall In's deeply Lennonesque Here We Are...
...and the gold medallion that is Blues 3, which nestles snugly in the hairy chest of Oh Mercy:
While being utterly wonderful, Dead Heart Bloom's folk/pop/rock is also utterly traditional; it doesn't innovate and it owes an awful lot to music from quite a few decades ago. But so does "traditional" classical music - and I love that to bits, too. In short, it makes me feel happy, and there is no greater praise than that in the CTW household - except when I look in the mirror. If you like the EPs, please think about sending DHB a "thank you" email and/or buying a CD or two. All the albums are available in most musical formats from Bandcamp via the DHB website.
My grateful thanks to Casey of Rock Proper netlabel (for people who love rock and hate adverbs), who recommended DHB's stuff in his Rock Proper blog.