Archive for June, 2009

Preview – Dream Theater (Black Clouds & Silver Linings)

Posted in Features on 2009/06/11 by sturgeonmusic

Released – 23/06/09

Label – Roadrunner Records

Dream Theater are well known for their 20 minute epics, odd time signatures, deep lyrical content and amazing stage performance, but this new album is just on another level for them. 6 tracks may seem light, but when you consider most are over 10 minutes long the listener will not be short of a feast for the ears.

I was lucky enough to preview the tracks from the album released later this month, and I have to say I was blown away. Their back catalogue is indeed strong with songs such as Octavarium, though this album is not short of epics. Opening track ‘A Nightmare To Remember’ sounds like a soundtrack to a blockbuster movie, whilst the lyrics tell you a story about finding yourself. Odd measures are not absent in these new tracks, and neither are the amazingly heavy grooves. ‘A Rite Of Passage’, track 2 on the album, has been released as a single from the album, and the band have already filmed the video to go with it. Myungs bass work in this track are reminiscent of those used in ‘The Glass Prison’, and there are several passages throughout the album that will make you wonder how exactly he moves his fingers in such a way.

Wither is yet another simple and dark Dream Theater track, with a very melancholic tone to it.  As with all of the tracks, the song deals with the harsher side of life, however at the same time remaining optimistic for the future. ‘The Shattered Fortress’ is the last stage in the ’12 Step Suite’ theme that has been running throughout their past 4 albums. Named by fans as the ‘ Alcoholics Anonymous Suite’, this last track deals with the final stage of recovery from such an addiction, and it also features possibly the heaviest and dirtiest keyboard solo ever. Finally, ‘The Best Of Times’ and ‘The Count Of Tuscany’ bring the album to a spectacular close.  The final track remains my favourite from the album, purely due to the ways it changes, and tells the story of a long running battle between good and evil.

You realise when listening to this album that Dream Theater are one of those bands that are hear to stay. Whilst some argue against this due to the genre of music, I still believe they will go down in the record books as one of the all time best bands in musical history. Each member brings something to the band and the 5 piece gel now like they never have before. Tour dates are yet to be confirmed, but theres no doubt there will be many to support this epic album.

Single Review – Placebo (For What It’s Worth)

Posted in Music Reviews on 2009/06/05 by sturgeonmusic

Released – 31st May 2009

Album – ‘Battle For The Sun’

Placebo’s latest effort is by no means a dissapointment to the ears, fans are eagerly awaiting the arrival of ‘Battle For The Sun’ which is released on the 8th of June, and choosing this song as the first single puts them high up on expectations for the album itself.

In terms of playability, the song is very catchy, unlike many of their older releases For What It’s Worth features many new elements. Not to mention the addition of band members on stage, new drummer Steve Forrest joined the band mid last year, and adds a touch of fire and heaviness to their songs. The single itself could be considered by the die-hard Placebo fans as rather ‘poppy’ than usual, elements do sound like they were built for air-time on the radio.

Technically the song is well constructed and has a very catchy chorus, the strong bass intro sounds menacing and worthy of a show-opener. Bryan’s vocals are as pleasing as ever, stretching his range at several points in the 3:41 song. The band played 3 shows last month that were classed as an exclusive ‘pre tour’ tour. I attended the Bournemouth show and I have to say I was blown away. Playing every song from the new album, as well as old-school favourites such as Every You & Every Me, Infra-Red and Meds. The band seem stronger and fresher than ever and this single is a deffinate must for any Placebo fan, or in general – anyone who wants to check out their sound (this song has all of their elements)!

Price – Single: 79p  EP: £1.79p on ITunes.

Playability – 8/10

Structure – 7/10

Sound – 9/10

Artwork – 7/10

Overall – 7/10

CD? Vinyl? That’s so last year!

Posted in Features on 2009/06/04 by sturgeonmusic

It’s an interesting thought that since the days of Edison’s Gramophone and Phonograph in 1888 the Music Industry has grown and changed so much. There are now more record labels than ever before and the ways we, the audience, purchase our favourite songs and albums have grown along with them.

We are now spoilt by the various ways to listen to music; the most recent of course being music downloads in the mp3 format. The days of the 8-track cassette player seem almost prehistoric in the wake of such technology, giving listeners crisp digital sound and a large stereo field. ITunes is now the most popular way to buy music, and it also seems to be the most convenient. You get passers-by jogging down the street with the latest iPod nano holder strapped round their arm and you instantly think you know where they purchase their music from, the ITunes online store. The songs aren’t too pricey either, 79p for a track 8 minutes long (as is the case with Prog Metal band Dream Theater) seems a lot more eye catching than a £50 collectable vinyl. There is something about being able to get music so easily that is very appealing to everyone, however this may not be any better than its predecessors. Sure, people who have a large ITunes library will be proud of it and show off to their friends their immense collection of ‘tunes’.

But there is something missing from this, Vinyl and CD collectors will say that this method of collecting music is hollow; you do not have the album sleeves and artwork that accompany such records. Any regular Vinyl will have a level of impressive artwork, although some collectables go over the top and include a level of art that would mirror work by any famous painter. This is just one reason why some people prefer the old school style of Vinyl, not to mention the strange coolness that comes with listening to the scratch of the needle. Old Jazz records from the 40’s just wouldn’t sound the same being listened to in Dolby Digital would they? Or would they? We asked members of the public and many music fans for their thoughts on this subject, as it surely affects everyone.

DrownedInSound is a popular music forum where many new bands, fans and older collectors share their thoughts on the ever growing industry. We posted a series of questions up on the forum, engaging with how often, where and how they purchase their music. Overall it appears that most people had brought a song or album within the last week or few days, and these were either CD or Vinyl. Interestingly many believe downloads to be the easiest and most effective way to buy music, though still purchase CD and Vinyl more. It’s clear that this is a relevant topic to everyone that loves music, for example the forum goers proceeded to argue over who was right and wrong immediately after we posted those questions. The following are some quotes taken from various replies during the forum war –

I prefer to own a CD, always, but recently I’ve found I can’t justify it anymore. Much cheaper on emusic, and then recently the Franz album was £5 on 7digital for the first week, so why would I go to HMV and buy it for double that?”

I prefer to buy a CD, every time. Admittedly I immediately rip it to MP3 then listen to it on my computer, but I love having the artwork and something tangible.”

So with all this in mind, we can hear you readers wondering how the famous ‘corporate’ companies like HMV are taking to this debate. Are downloads also affecting their welfare? They neglected to speak to us, however the evidence is there that they are being affected, in the past two years we have seen many high street names close due to problems with their profit margins. HMV, Zavi and many local stores are among the few that have closed in the UK, not to mention overseas – Tower Records and Sam Goody to name a few have also been axed. As all of these stores mainly sold hard copies of CD’s as their basis of profit, as a result the increase of downloads will have affected these sales. There is however a recent case of popularity that may just save the heritage of the CD. Wal-Mart was the largest retailer of music last year, with ITunes a close second. Wal-Mart made a deal with the Eagles to sell their new album, ‘Long Road out of Eden’, exclusively. It sold 711,000 copies in its first week alone, and the album was released as Double-Disc CD set. A very surprising case at a time when CD sales were in massive decline, so maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel for ‘old school’ styles of music consumption?

Moving back to Vinyl, favoured by many as the most entertaining way to listen to music, we’re sure almost everyone reading this owns at least one. Vinyl are still around today, despite all this new technology, surely that stands for something right? Well – it sure does, Vinyl may never die. I was first given a Vinyl as a hand-me-down from my Grandad, and my collection has grown over the years. Many of my colleagues and friends have also done the same, and we all notice that when your Vinyl display is out, you’re instantly the talk of the town. People seem to be drawn to the classic style of listening to music, the artwork, the look of the Vinyl itself and also the players. Small collectable stores still mainly sell Vinyl in their stores, and they are still up and running. It could also be down to many artists seemingly trying to ‘revive’ the prestige and popularity of Vinyl itself. Alternative Rock Trio Placebo is releasing their new album on download, CD and Vinyl. The reason why this is worth a mention is because the ‘limited addition’ set only comes with Vinyl, as opposed to being able to download the extras as an option on ITunes. This makes the Vinyl the most attractive option to purchase out of the 3, not to mention the CD having extended artwork inside, something you do not get with a downloaded mp3 version. Examples like this are a refreshing thing in the digital age; Vinyl and CD still battle on to be a regular standard of music consumption, although they could be fighting a losing battle in the long run.

Whilst many believe CD and Vinyl to be a popular choice because of its history, it still remains hazy as to whether they will be around in years to come. With so many people now referring to mp3 downloads as their source of music, why would we want a hard copy you have to carry around with you everywhere? You would look rather stupid carrying a record player around with you on the way to work.  There is also another important factor in this music standoff, the role the industry plays. Here is a fact you may not have known about it – The major label deal ONLY gives artist between 10% – 18% of the retail selling price AFTER deductions. Not too surprising then that many artists are releasing their music free of charge or on self-release. The easiest way then for artists to get their music ‘out there’ is to make it available as a download; word spreads faster over the internet nowadays than actual word of mouth! Younger ages growing up now will be used to downloads as the main way to download the latest tunes to their computers and mp3 players, and up-coming artists are no different. Why would the new generation of musicians go to the effort of selecting packaging, labelling, licensing and red tape that comes with official releases when they could be signed and released either on their own or to smaller labels?

All of the issues in the article are indeed up for strong debate, we imagine that those of you reading this in groups have already begun arguing over what is better, however it is hard to tell. There is something about a CD or Vinyl that gives a sense of satisfaction when purchased, the roll up and hype to a release date used to be satisfied by the wait in the queue at the retailer before you finally got home and played the tracks on your player. Now it’s the countdown on a website for a download link to be put up, linking you to Amazon, ITunes or Napster to name a few, where you can download the whole album to your computer. Is this just another convenient way to purchase your music? Will people still be interested in Vinyl or CD in 10 years time? Or will they fight back when the downloading industry goes downhill (if it ever does)? It’s a matter of taste and individuality at the end of the day, some people prefer the crackly sound of a Vinyl spinning around, and many people like the pure digital format and easy downloading of an mp3. Vinyl, CD or Download, it’s your choice, though I’m a bit old school I think, Vinyl Megastore here I come!

 

SaveTheVinyl.jpg save the vinyl image by lady-chaos

2008 Album

Posted in Music Reviews on 2009/06/04 by sturgeonmusic

I do this same thing every year, once all the celebrating is over I try and look back on the year of Music listening and playing I’ll attempt to come up with my favourite or most listened to album of the last 12 months. (Its taken me this long to decide!)

Usually I have a tough time doing this, as there are many or a few albums that stand out from the rest. Similar case for 2008, however one album in particular has shined through for me.

Kings of Leon released their latest album ‘Only by the Night’ on the 22nd September and it was evident that the album was destined for success almost immediately. Both ‘Sex on Fire’ and ‘Use Somebody’ were featured in the UK top 10 chart and the album itself was declared the UK’s third best selling album and the best selling album in Australia.

With the popularity and chart issues aside, the album itself features an array of songs spanning different genres of music. The band stated in an early interview that the album would ‘rock harder’ and it certainly does this. Track 2 on the album, ‘Crawl’ features many heavy riffs and distorted bass to blow your face off, after a some what chilled out intro track.
The bands ‘Southern’ roots can also be heard in the album, certain tracks such as ‘Revelry’ and ‘Manhattan’ feature many guitar tones and rhythmic choices by the drummer to make this style appear in the music. Not to mention the Bass player, Jared Followill who is very clever at creating grooves and harmonies with the right choice of notes to suit the song, at the same time remaining prominent in the music. Perhaps more so than on any other Rock/Indie album I’ve heard.

With all this in mind, the chiled out style coupled with Rock roots gives this album great playability (Ive lost count of how many times I’ve listened through it) and so gets my seal of approval as album of 2008.

Example Sports Bulletin

Posted in Back - Catalogue of Work on 2009/06/04 by sturgeonmusic

And now for the sports, with Christian Sturgess and Oumar Mussa

Christian:

Englands cricket team are set to donate half of their match fees from Thursdays test match against India to the victims of terror attacks in Mumbai.

The team released a joint statement pledging £35,000 to the cause, after a meeting at the player’s hotel.

England and Wales cricket board officials are confident that the second test match in Mo-hali will go ahead. This will start on the 19th of December and was moved to Mo-hali instead of Mumbai, due to the recent events.

The team received a good response from the public when they arrived in India on Monday, many people believing their donation to be a sign of support and care for all those involved in the attacks.

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Oumar:

Tottenham won a closely-fought London derby against West Ham to move them closer to the top ten of the Premiership.

Goals from Ledley King and Jamie O’Hara ensured that Harry Redknapp’s side emerged victorious at Upton Park.

Their victory means that they go level on points with West Ham in 14th but are ahead on goal difference.

Luis Felipe Scolari insists he can cope with the pressure as his Chelsea side prepare for a massive European tie against Romanian outfit CFR Cluj.

Anything less than a Blues win sees them knocked out of the Champions League stage for the first time in their history.

Scolari insists that there is more pressure managing the Brazil national side than coaching the West London outfit.
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Christian:

Rugby News Now,

The Welsh rugby winger Shane Williams is delighted to have been awarded the BBC Wales Sports personality of the year.

Williams beat the Olympic cycling gold medalist Nicola Cooke and undefeated world champion Joe Cal-zag-he.

The trophy brings another award to the table for Wales as they celebrate a very successful year in sports.

—————–

London Irish and Gloucester are making the premiership table nail bitingly close as both are now on 27 points.

Gloucester beat Cal-vi-sano 40 to 17 on Saturday and the London Irish managed to hold off Bristol long enough to obtain an 18 – 13 win.

Following closely behind the two teams with 26 points is Bath after a very close win of 35 – 31 against the Glasgow Warriors.

—————–

Oumar:

And finally, Carl Froch’s hopes of fighting Joe Calzaghe seems likely to fade after Calzaghe said he would ‘probably retire’ in the New Year.

The Welsh boxer admitted that he would consider whether or not he still has the desire to continue his career after spending time with his family over Christmas.

Froch, the new WBC super-middleweight title holder from Nottingham, had made it clear he is keen to fight Calzaghe and said he would be prepared to move up a weight class in order to do so.

Drinking Problems

Posted in Back - Catalogue of Work on 2009/06/04 by sturgeonmusic

A conference was held at Winchester’s Discovery Centre on Wednesday, to discuss the impact of alcohol in the Hampshire area.

The conference brought together many local authorities such as emergency services and health experts. Also acting as keynote speaker was Alex Marshall, the newly appointed head of the Hampshire Constabulary.

Organisations such as ‘Winchester DRAG’ (Drug & Alcohol Awareness Group) and ‘Hampshire DAAT’ (Drug & Alcohol Action Team) are set to help in the conferences issues, and whilst Hampshire is considered safer than most other Counties, alcohol still remains a problem with crime.

Mike Webb, from Hampshire DAAT said: “The conference was one way to continue to raise the profile of work that needs to be done in the county to address this issue.” A hand – out produced by Mike also stated some alarming statistics about Winchester an Alcohol. For instance – ‘Within Hampshire, 52% of young people aged 11-18 drink alcohol.’ And – ‘Winchester prison has 10 times as many dependant drinkers as the general population’

Jill Guppy, Project Manager of Winchester Youth Counselling said: “Quite a few young people access our service for alcohol related issues”. Jill moved on to state that this is not just a recent problem in Winchester, “On average we will see approximately 30 young people per year with alcohol related issues.”

The Conference also highlighted event situations held within Winchester that involved a large consumption of alcohol, many student nights within the City, such as the upcoming ‘Stamina’ event involve ‘Pub Crawls’ and drinking games.

Chris Barnett, from the Stamina headquarters states on the Facebook group: “Stamina 7 is set to be the biggest student t-shirt bar crawl around Winchester – ever!” With this level of enthusiasm around student events, spreading alcohol awareness across Hampshire may be a more difficult process.

Winchester Out Loud

Posted in Back - Catalogue of Work on 2009/06/04 by sturgeonmusic

A brand new method of making literature exciting and new is taking place this month in Winchester’s Guild Hall. ‘Winchester Out Loud’ is part of a national campaign designed to introduce literature to those who have negative views about it.

This Friday will see ‘Fright Night’ taking place, and will offer children the chance create their own ghostly poetry as well as other festive Halloween events. Parents are being encouraged to come with their children to the event, as many activities will involve the whole family.

Marilyn Michalowicz, Arts Development Officer at the Guild Hall said: “A more literate and sociable community is what we aim to achieve, and I think that every little helps in this context, especially if it leads to other language-based activity.”

Plans to link this literature scheme to Winchester Library are also in place, with leaflets being released at £1 serving as a guide to Winchester’s literary connections. Marilyn continued: “We hope that families will try something out, and then perhaps get turned onto further activities such as joining or forming a book group.”

The main event of the programme takes place next month from the 24th to the 30th, ‘Wessex Children’s Book Festival’ and is hoped to be a success with the children of Winchester.

Extra plans were proposed for the programme however at this time resources such as money and staff time is limited. If the programme is a success, more funds should be donated to the programme by next year.