Rick Price - Heaven Knows (Album Review)

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Rick Price - Heaven Knows (Album Review)

When I think of the very best that the Australian music industry has to offer, Rick Price and his debut album are always at the top of my list. While it has been close to 25 years since I was first exposed to this exceptional album, I can say with complete honesty that it feels as fresh as the day it was released.

If you’re not overly familiar with Price's work, think John Farnham’s rock style and you will have a fair idea of what to expect. That said, Price is no imitation artist and it astonishes me that he didn’t have longer lasting success.

Thankfully, streaming services allow us to not only revisit our past music interests, but it also allows us to share them. As such, it pleases me that my son adores this album, so much so that he asked if he can get the CD. Unfortunately, Heaven Knows has been out of print for a number of years. Fortunately, The Essential Rick Price does contain the best songs from this album, hence, I will get my son for his upcoming birthday. Until then, Heaven Knows is getting played extensively on TIDAL Hi-Fi in our household.

Disappointingly, Heaven Knows is one album I can't simply pass on to my son, despite once owning the double CD edition that featured some amazing rarities. Unfortunately, that edition is not available for streaming and I stupidly sold the CD after digitising it in the new and "revolutionary" MP3 format. To use the Australian vernacular, I was a bloody idiot!

I can beat myself up for making ill-informed decisions, but a lesson can also be learnt from my mistakes. Buy and forever appreciate physical music as digital delivery options are forever changing and sometimes returning to the music that defined you is more complex than merely going to your own record collection.

Speaking for a moment about The Essential Rick Price, I'm pleased to mention that when I stream it on TIDAL Hi-Fi, the mastering is a significant improvement in soundstage and low-end sonics when compared directly against Heaven Knows. I mention this because I always felt the album lacked power and drive, even on the original CD release. Of course, I would love Sony/BMG music to re-issue Heaven Knows with a new mastering, but I fear the demand is just not there to justify this move, despite the album being awarded double platinum status in Australia.

Anyway, enough of my incessant ramblings let’s take a look at the songs that make up Heaven Knows.

What's Wrong With That Girl? is a sensational opening track with a rock-infused/pop-style that can be heard throughout the entire album. It has an addictive rhythm, beautiful guitar work, and Price's vocal will grab you from the first note.

Not A Day Goes By slows the album down to a rock ballad pace and as much as I adore this song, I have always felt the chorus to be too grating in the sonic highs of the song. That isn't to say the song is bad, just that I would have liked the chorus to be sung in a lower register. No doubt a delicate remastering could solve this problem.

A House Divided has an excellent rock-based overture. It suits the album and Price's style. My son absolutely loves this song, but it hasn’t always been my favourite song on the album. However, as I have matured over the past decades, I have grown quite fond of A House Divided.

Walk Away Renee is a fantastic cover of The Left Banke's original 1966 edition. Covers can be hit or miss, but Price's edition is a remarkable improvement over the original and is, in my opinion, the only version worth listening to.

Heaven Knows is simply magnificent and shows just how exceptionally talented Rick Price is as a vocalist.

Church On Fire is the first track on the album that doesn't immediately excite me. However, it becomes more palatable as the song builds towards the chorus. That said, it is still a B-side. Although, I really can't be disappointed by this as Heaven Knows plays like a greatest hits album with one exceptional recording after another.

Life Without You is an enjoyable song that fits perfectly with the tracking and overall style of the album. It has a country/folk/pop style to it that I appreciate.

Foolin’ Myself has a killer guitar intro but fails to compel me. It actually reminds me, style-wise, of another song I have heard over the years, yet I can't put my finger on which song that could be. Perhaps it is a combination of styles that is causing this temporal confusion. Regardless, it is a solid B-side, I just wouldn't play it outside of the album format.

Forever Me And You is exceptional!

Fragile closes out the album beautifully and certainly encourages me to listen to the album again or stay within Price's catalogue.

Overall, Heaven Knows is one of the greatest albums ever released in Australia. It further validates that Australia has much more to offer international music lovers than AC/DC and Kylie Minogue. While these two artists are exceptional in their own right, they are but a minuscule element of the Australian music scene and thanks to Ian McFarlane’s incredibly extensive Encyclopedia Of Australian Rock And Pop, I can make that claim with absolute assurance.

This review was based on listening to the CD-quality edition of the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi. While I still believe a remastering would be appropriate, it is tonality identical to the mastering I recall from the original CD release.

Heaven Knows is also available for purchase on the TIDAL Store and iTunes. For those of you who prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Midnight Oil - Place Without A Postcard (Album Review)

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Midnight Oil - Place Without A Postcard (Album Review)

Thus far, in my cycle of reviews to determine if I will pick up the soon-to-be-released Midnight Oil vinyl box set, I have determined that it would be a worthwhile addition to my collection. That said, Place Without A Postcard leaves me with mixed feelings as the band experimented with their tried and tested formula by introducing more pop elements into their songs.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with power pop, the shift in musical direction simply lacks the energy heard on their self-titled debut Midnight Oil and sophomore album Head Injuries.

Don't Wanna Be The One is a song that I have a love/hate relationship with. Yes, dear reader, I am once again questioning how a Midnight Oil song becomes a fan favourite. Okay, so there’s a good backbeat and there is nothing wrong with Garrett's vocal delivery, but I find the song to be too shrill in places. I also don’t connect with the song on an emotional level. I hear it, but I don't listen to it! I can assure you I have tried. I have listened to the original 1981, 1997 (as heard on 20,000 Watt R.S.L.), and 2008 masters and despite their different tonalities, none talk to me.

Brave Faces, by comparison, is a stronger song. It has an addictive rhythm and I just adore the instrumental backing to Garrett's vocals. Brave Faces should have been the album opener in my opinion.

Armistice Day is exceptional! It is arguably the best song on the album and one of the best in their catalogue. From the electric guitar introduction to the solid beat and Garrett's near A cappella vocal, it is nothing short of a perfect rock and roll song.

Someone Else To Blame, unfortunately, fails to maintain the high standard that can be heard on Armistice Day. It is filler! Nothing more, nothing less.

Basement Flat is a mixed bag as the vocal introduction and chorus are superb, along with the mid-song guitar solo. Yet, I find the verse to be rather irritating as I don't feel it helps the song progress either in literary terms or musically. That said, I do feel there is more good here than bad and subsequently Basement Flat is enjoyable to listen to.

Written In The Heart is a great song that, while pop/rock based, also pays homage to the punk origins of the band. As with many of their songs, the strength here is absolutely heard in the self-indulgent musicality.

I absolutely love the introduction of Burnie. Unfortunately, as the track progresses past the first minute, it becomes apparent that the song isn't as tight as it should be. It really sounds as though a demo tape was used to fill in the blanks of an otherwise exceptional performance.

Quinella Holiday isn't a bad song, but it isn't exceptional either.

Loves On Sale has a beautiful instrumental and vocal introduction but falls apart as the speed of the song and Garrett's vocals reach punk pace. While it isn't a bad song, it could have been so much better.

If Ned Kelly Was King should have never made it past the demo stage. It has some nice instrumental work, but no other aspect of the song appeals to me.

Lucky Country, as the final track on the album, does not encourage me to listen to the album again or stay within the Midnight Oil catalogue. I’d like to say something nice about it, but anything positive would be disingenuous. That said, perhaps we need substandard songs to ensure we fully appreciate the exceptional songs that Midnight Oil has given us over the years.

While Place Without A Postcard lacks the focus of their earlier albums. I'm not going to let a few B- sides prevent me from buying the re-issued vinyl collection when it is released. After all, the same scenario didn’t stop me buying Queen’s Studio Collection.

This review was based on listening to the 2008 remaster on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Interestingly, the original 1981 master is also available on TIDAL, but upon listening to it, I found it to be sonically concealed by comparison. That said, you may prefer it and therefore I suggest you listen to the edition that you subjectively prefer.

Place Without A Postcard is available for purchase on CD, the TIDAL Store, and iTunes. For those who prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!” (Album Review)

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Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!” (Album Review)

Video killed the radio star because of the visual connection that one could have with their favourite artist. In a similar manner, the vinyl resurgence has once again shown that imagery is an essential element to the consumption, appreciation, and perceived ownership of music. I refer to this as I came across Childish Gambino's "Awaken, My Love!" in a list of upcoming vinyl releases. I was immediately captivated by the visually stunning artwork and knew that if the music was to my liking, a purchase of the Virtual Reality Limited Vinyl edition would be inevitable.

Me And Your Mama is a glorious song that is beautifully atmospheric, yet the composition is not over-the-top. I also love the Kravitz inspired rock aspects that appear midway through the song. Me And Your Mama is a musical masterpiece that you simply must listen to.

Have Some Love is a song that tracks well in the album format, yet my soul is just not connecting with it. I feel this dichotomy because of the vocal overlapping, resulting in a sonic presentation that sounds a little too campy for my liking.

Boogieman has a very compelling rhythmic core that is sure to get your head bopping and toe tapping. Subjectively, I would like to see more development of the low-end frequencies as I feel it focuses on the midrange a little too heavily. Nevertheless, Boogieman is exceptional and this track alone is all the justification one needs for owning the album. It has a Motown vibe, mixed with a little world music inspiration and a touch of Steve Wonder.

Zombies is an enjoyable song, but it is let down by an underwhelming lyrical performance. That said, the instrumental aspects ensure that Zombies is a valued addition to the album.

Riot reminds me of a style that Lenny Kravitz occasionally adopted. The song is somewhat chaotic as it isn’t sure if it should be in the Rock, Hip Hop, or R&B genre. It is in this confused state that I find a dislike for the song, yet I also find it to be strangely compelling. Let’s just say that it’s not filler, but it isn’t a standout track either.

Redbone has a killer groove and exceptional vocal performance that is presented with a gritty exterior, but a soulful interior. It instantly reminds me of Prince and that isn't a bad thing. Redbone is full of spit and polish that will appeal to any music lover. It is absolutely incredible!

California has way too much vocal distortion; thank you Auto-Tune! I can appreciate the artistic approach, but this song is what I call filler as I don't feel that it adds substantially to the album.

Terrified has numerous stylistic influences, yet it remains fresh and hypnotically addictive. It is yet another exceptional song on a must own album.

Baby Boy has a glorious vocal and instrumental soundstage that reminds me instantly of the “The Motown Sound”, albeit in a modern context.

The Night Me And Your Mama Met has an acoustic and A cappella feel. I Love it! The vocal harmonies are simply gorgeous, as is the inclusion of the electric guitar. On paper, this combination just shouldn't work, but as I listen to this track all that crosses my mind is sonic perfection.

Stand Tall showcases how spectacular Gambino's vocal delivery is and, no, I'm not referring to the artistic elements in the song that clearly have been modified for effect by overusing Auto-Tune. As the final song on the album, it compels me to listen to this masterpiece again and again.

Overall, "Awaken, My Love!" is another album reminding me that exceptional musical performances, in the modern era, is not only a reality but an opportunity to squash naysayers that declare good music ended with the 70s. I say that as one of those very individuals and I can't begin to tell you how elated I am at being proven wrong.

This review was based on listening to the Spotify Premium edition at 320 kbps in the Ogg Vorbis format. The mastering is superb and while I would welcome the release of the album in TIDAL Hi-Fi's CD-quality, I honestly wouldn’t have enjoyed the album any more than I already have.

"Awaken, My Love!" is also available for purchase on CD and iTunes. You can also stream it on Apple Music

Ultimately, the production, recording, and mastering quality of "Awaken, My Love!" encourages me to pick up the Virtual Reality Limited Vinyl edition. Most importantly, however, I truly love the music and feel it is more revolutionary than evolutionary.

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Chris Abrahams – Thrown (Album Review)

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Chris Abrahams – Thrown (Album Review)

Music as a form of art is something that I feel is often overlooked. This is certainly the case in the modern era as music is always on, but seldom appreciated without distraction. It isn't until you come across a composition, such as Chris Abrahams' Thrown, that your belief of what music is, what it can be, and how it can be subjectively interpreted is challenged. It is only then that you truly begin to appreciate music as a form of performance art.

It would be fair to say that Thrown is not an album that I would actively seek out. Nor is it one that I would generally add to my collection. However, it is unique and I experience a very subjective series of emotional responses as I listen to the album. To be completely honest, I find much of the album to be unsettling, yet a concise description as to why escapes me. Therefore, dear reader, I implore you to join me on this incredibly unique experience as we traverse the album known simply as Thrown.

Upon first listen, you would be forgiven for wondering if Thrown is not merely the work of a slightly deranged individual. Well, that couldn't be further from the truth as Abrahams is a highly sought after pianist within the Australian music scene. While he is best known as a jazz pianist and session musician, his solo projects are largely experimental. While experimenting with sound is hardly revolutionary, the style applied throughout Thrown literally throws me as the composition is unlike anything I have heard before. It is, for lack of better terms, simultaneously beautiful and haunting.

Perhaps I shouldn't be so surprised with the direction Abrahams took on Thrown as he is one-third of the experimental jazz trio, The Necks. If you find Thrown to be a little too confronting then you would likely appreciate the slightly less intimidating experimentation that can be heard on The Necks’ song Transparent Roads. As I listen to both recordings, in conjunction with each other, certain musical elements link the two, but it is clear that Transparent Roads would appeal to a more mainstream audience.

Beyond this comparison in style, the artwork is most certainly relatable to the music presented on the album. I’m not sure if one would look at this artwork and be compelled to buy it, sound unheard, but the absent and lost feeling that you get when you look at the artwork, definitely mimics the musical style in visual form. 

Bellicose starts with what can only be described as recorder hell. The pitch, while perfect in intent, is traumatising for the mind as there is no escape from this somewhat daunting and very disturbing soundstage. Interestingly, it is compelling and recorded so well that I don't feel the need to tear my headphones from my ears and throw them across the room. To me, this song is the epitome of subjective interpretation and I dare say each listener will have their own subjective response when listening to Bellicose.

Can Of Faces almost seamlessly continues, but it is very different to Bellicose and is sonically compelling. Approximately midway through the song, a sound that is akin to wind comes bellowing through your headphones, yet it is relaxing and peaceful despite the sound being felt in your middle ear. This song is, certainly in the second half, absolutely gorgeous and simply must be heard to be believed. There really isn't an adjective in the English language that can adequately describe the experience of listening to Can Of Faces.

Horsenel returns the listener to the eerie wind instrument that previously plagued the senses in Bellicose. Thinking for a moment about film scores, I can say with certainty that Horsenel would perfectly suit a film like The Blair Witch Project. It is unrelenting in its eeriness, yet I feel strangely compelled to continue listening. Could this be a sign of my slightly mad psyche or the sign that I’m listening to an artistic masterpiece?

Remembrancer has undertones of madness as the piano is frantically played in a repetitious manner. Despite that, it is strangely comforting. I have to be honest when I say that I feel Thrown is my most subjective review to date. I’m sure some of you will detest Remembrancer, and the entire album, but I’m subjectively not feeling disdain towards this piece of art. As it is so subjective, I would love to read your thoughts. Do you find yourself enamoured with Abrahams experimentation, or not? One aspect of Remembrancer that I appreciate is the analogue television static sound effect. There is probably a technical term for it, but I’m sure many of you would recall the snow on the screen, and the associated noise, when there was no signal. Regardless, it closes out the song and repetitious music beautifully.

Coins In Vinegar is perhaps the least compelling song on the album. It never truly captured my mind and I find it to be too similar in style to the preceding tracks.

Hung Door is quite erratic and downright creepy. You have definitely happened across the haunted house in the woods with this track.

Them Hitting is the sonic equivalent of a human dog whistle, albeit with additional musical elements. Surprisingly, it isn't off-putting and I even appreciate the Morse code-styled element throughout the song.

Car Park Land literally increases my breathing and pulse rates every time I hear it. Yet, I'm at a loss to explain this reaction. Can music really have this much of an impact on the human mind? I believe so, otherwise we would cease to have likes and dislikes regarding specific artists, albums, and musical styles. The wind chimes in this song assist with the feeling of solitude and while many find wind chimes to be relaxing, I generally find them to be one of the most annoying instruments in existence. However, in another strange dichotomy, I don't feel that way about them as I listen to this track.

Nocturne, as the final track on the album, presents a repetitiously mismatched compilation of interweaving sounds. It is captivating enough to have me play the album again, yet I find myself compelled to sit in silence and ponder my subjective interpretation of the entire album.

The question that must logically be asked is if this album can really be classed as music, or is it merely a culmination of sounds, resulting in noise? While I have expressed my own subjective thoughts, I can't help but wonder if an album such as this can exist simultaneously as music and noise.

Overall, I find Thrown to be devilishly enticing. Everything I know about myself tells me that I shouldn't like this album, yet I appreciate and respect the experimentation and subjective journey it has taken me on. While I have more questions than answers, regarding my interpretation of Thrown, one certainty is that Thrown will remain in my streaming music library, to be listened to again and again.

Thrown is available for purchase on the TIDAL Store and iTunes. For those of you who prefer streaming, it is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Spotify, and Apple Music.

This review was based on listening to the 2005 edition that is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. It is important to note that while TIDAL Hi-Fi presents albums in CD-quality sound at 1,411kbps, Thrown is only presented as a 320kbps stream as TIDAL has not been given higher quality files from the artist. However, that is of little concern as the album remains sonically impressive. While I have referenced listening to this album on headphones, I have also heard it several times on speakers and can confirm that the sonic nuances remain transparent, regardless of playback method. This is, in part, because the album been beautifully recorded and mastered with kid gloves, thereby ensuring the experience takes your senses to a completely new level that will not easily be forgotten.

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Midnight Oil – Head Injuries (Album Review)

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Midnight Oil – Head Injuries (Album Review)

Head Injuries has to have one of the most recognisable Australian album covers in existence that truly captures the energy of the entire album and band. It certainly is an improvement over the visual absence of their debut album Midnight Oil, although many bands over the years have successfully adopted this simple design element that is as compelling as it is confusing.

As much as I adore the music from their debut album, it is fair to say that as a follow-up, Head Injuries takes their music to an entirely new level that is more reminiscent of the production qualities found in their later works. However, the shift between albums is more evolutionary than revolutionary; unlike Queen’s transition from their early albums.

Cold Cold Change has, in my opinion, one of the greatest guitar-driven introductions in rock music history. You can’t help but get your air guitar out and bounce across the room. It may just be the remastering of this song, but the hi-hats sound mashed to pieces. To me, the musicality of the piece just sounds a little hollow, as though too much treble has been dialled in. That, of course, doesn’t prevent me from thoroughly enjoying this ripper rock and roll track, but it is one aspect that I hope is addressed in the upcoming reissues. Thinking about vinyl production for a moment, this is one track that I’m sure would benefit from vinyl mastering and playback limitations.

Section 5 (Bus To Bondi) returns the band to their punk roots and reminds me of a band that were at their peak during the same era: 999 (Nine Nine Nine). Section 5 (Bus To Bondi) is fun and full of energy. While not my favourite song on the album, it does grow on you. Yes, even the self-serving guitar solo midway through the song.

Naked Flame has an incredible rhythm and I absolutely love Garrett’s high-pitched vocal introduction. I will probably get crucified for this comment, but songs like this make me immediately ponder if Midnight Oil was Australia’s answer to Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones. That isn’t to say any copy-cat action was taking place, just that it is interesting to ponder the thoughts of the mind as one is enjoying the music. I should also add that I don’t subscribe to the theory that Aerosmith is a carbon copy of The Rolling Stones. Yes, I can see the similarities, but claiming this to be the case undermines the longevity and success that Aerosmith has had. Despite all this, Naked Flame is an incredible song with some simply gorgeous guitar work and backing vocals. It is one of my favourite songs on the album and in their entire catalogue. In fact, this song is much more worthy of being included on a greatest hits album than Back On The Borderline.

Back On The Borderline is a good song, but I feel it is overrated. I know it is a Midnight Oil staple, but it has always been one of their songs that I have to be in the mood to listen to.

Koala Spirit has a Lou Reed vocal style that works extremely well for not only Garrett but the entire song. The composition while erratic is utterly perfect. Koala Spirit is both mellow and heavy hitting with an incredible level of musicality from the band. I absolutely adore the musical chorus throughout. It simply has the goods and delivers an exceptional performance in every meaning of the word. Unlike the poor mastering that is present in Cold Cold Change, Koala Spirit is simply magnificent. As I’m writing this review and listening to the album countless times, I am drawn to my own subjective thoughts regarding the songs that I would place on a Greatest Hits album by Midnight Oil. I dare say it would be significantly different to all that have come before.

No Reaction is the perfect song for you headbangers out there. It will get you moving and if you only ever listen to music to toe tap and head bop, then you should simply move on to the next song as this one is not for you. It is Australian rock and roll at its best.

Stand In Line has a Skyhooks vibe and I absolutely love the depth of the drums and the forward nature of the bass guitar throughout the song. As I listen to the song, I can understand exactly where Garrett's dishevelled dance moves come from. Your body simply relaxes and you move without conscious thought as you become one with the music. It is exceptionally enjoyable!

Profiteers slows the album down somewhat. The first minute or so of the song is a confused mess, but then the song comes into its own. It isn’t the greatest song on the album, but it isn’t filler either. Although, it is more instrumentally focused than the other songs on the album and that may put some listeners off. Personally, I enjoy rock and roll albums that have an instrumental focus.

Is It Now? has a very familiar guitar riff, yet I can’t place it. Perhaps the riffs have been mimicked over the years, hence the familiarity. However, Is It Now? suffers from the bad mastering that was present at the beginning of the album. If all songs, on this remaster, were done by the same mastering engineer then this discrepancy shouldn’t be present. I can’t help but wonder if the songs that suffer from the mashed percussions weren’t the result of variances in the recording sessions. Regardless, Is It Now? is still a memorable song and as the final track on the album, it does encourage me to listen to the album once again.

Head Injuries is currently available on CD, the TIDAL Store, and iTunes. Streamers can listen to the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Spotify, and Apple Music. For those of you interested in the vinyl release, you will have to wait until the release of the Deluxe Box Set as there has been no news about this album being re-issued separately. As mentioned in my Midnight Oil review, depending on how successful the re-issues are, I would assume it is likely that these albums will also be released separately, in order to capitalise on the 2017 concerts, just don't quote me on it!

This review was based on listening to the 2008 remastered edition that is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. Other than the mastering variances, throughout the album, it is an exceptional release that should be part of any collection or playlist. As far as I am concerned, it sits amongst some of the best Australian rock albums and would certainly be included in my top 100 of all time.

There is little doubt, knowing Midnight Oil’s later works, that I will be picking up one of the new collections when they are released. Based on listening to Head Injuries, I have a feeling that I will order the box set through Matau Records as I have no doubt the Head Injuries album cover would look exceptional in the vinyl format. I’m also sincerely hoping the mastering artefacts, that I have heard on the existing remasters, are removed from the vinyl mastering process. I guess time will tell and it will all depend on which masters they decided to use for the project.

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Jen Gloeckner – VINE Album Review

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Jen Gloeckner – VINE Album Review

The sheer talent that our world has to offer never ceases to amaze me. I am constantly blown away by the music that I have yet to discover and Jen Gloeckner’s new album VINE is no exception.

As I listen to VINE, I am drawn to the atmospheric depth of the album. The overall soundstage and sonic presentation truly defy explanation and the only way to fully appreciate this sonic masterpiece is to listen to it for yourself. That said, I will offer you, dear reader, my own subjective opinion and trust that I can capture a mere fraction of the essence that is Jen Gloeckner’s VINE.

Whenever I commence a review, I like to do a little background research. Sometimes it is to clarify facts, other times it is for no other reason than mere curiosity. Curiously, Gloeckner’s Twitter account simply states in the about section: Living, dreaming, singing. I found that tidbit of information intriguing as listening to Gloeckner’s music truly gives you a sense of life being merged with dreams, culminating in song. However, that wasn’t the only astonishing revelation I came across as I found out the album was produced and recorded entirely in Gloeckner’s bedroom. I kid you not, it is stated in the liner notes! The reason I bring it up is that I am simply amazed that such an epic performance could be captured in a non-traditional location. While I acknowledge that the recording studio is also not always the greatest location for numerous reasons, I can’t help but wonder how much the aforementioned culmination of life and dreams were as a direct result of the recording location. Regardless, it has resulted in an album that is a must listen for anyone who is interested in ambient music with a touch of seductively haunting vocals.

Vine is, as many of the songs are, a sonic wonderland that is not only beautiful but mystical and haunting. The song is incredibly relaxing as Gloeckner’s vocal delivery is perfectly suited to this style of music.

Firefly (War Dance) increases the rhythm of the album. It is primarily an instrumental track with vocal interludes throughout. It reminds me of Enya, Kate Bush, and even Jamiroquai. I simply love it!

Breathe is a perfectly balanced song. Rather than simply listening to the song, you become immersed in the soundstage as the song builds around you. That is certainly the feeling I get when I listen to the album with headphones. It is strange at first because so very few songs are recorded and mastered in this manner, but I appreciate the inclusive feeling as it brings me one step closer to the musician. Breathe also showcases the incredible control and clarity Gloeckner has over her vocal delivery.

Ginger Ale has me swaying from side to side. I can’t stress how much I am enjoying the mix and mastering of this album. You honestly get the feeling that you are the only person present in a personal concert with Gloeckner at the helm. The more I listen to Ginger Ale, the more I want to play it. It is nothing short of exceptional and is one of the best new songs I have heard this year.

The Last Thought has an oriental feel that I enjoy, but I don’t find myself connecting with this song as much as I have with the previous tracks. That isn’t to say it is bad, just that Ginger Ale is a hard act to follow. I also feel there is a lack of vocal depth between the vocal interludes. It subsequently reduces the echo that I assume Gloeckner was aiming for. That all said, it is still a very pleasant song.

Blowing Through is a lovely composition, but I would love to hear more separation between Gloeckner’s vocal and the backing instrumental track as her vocal gets lost in the soundstage. A couple of decibel drop in the instrumental track would be perfect in my option.

Counting Sheep is a lovely song that will help you go to sleep! Seriously, it is so soothing that I couldn’t initially describe the feeling. At first, I wondered if the song simply wasn’t appealing to me, yet I wanted to listen to it again and again. At the same time, by the end of each listen, I could have quite happy slipped into sleep. It is unique and perhaps the best thing I can say about Counting Sheep is that you should listen to it for yourself and as you close your eyes, see where the darkness and dreams take you.

Prayers, by comparison to Counting Sheep, will wake you from your slumber with an increased rhythmic beat. I absolutely love the raw feminine tonality of Gloeckner’s vocal in this song. However, I am less pleased with the level of distortion that is present as I find it distracting.

Colors is a simply stunning song.

Row With The Flow has a really intriguing backing vocal throughout the chorus. It is almost demonic sounding in an otherwise peaceful song. It reminds me of the style I would normally associate with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. When I first heard Row With The Flow I was unsure if I liked it, but it does grow on you the more you listen to the song.

I am Sold on this album! On a serious note, Sold closes out the album perfectly. The song itself is unlike any other on the album, yet it is strangely familiar and encourages me to listen to the album once again. I also love the gradual reduction in volume towards the end of the track. This technique is present across the entire album and it is a shame that it is not as common a practice amongst musicians as it once was.

VINE is an album that I implore you to listen to, if not purchase, as it is truly worth the investment. Having never heard Gloeckner’s work before, I can say with complete honesty that I am now a fan. I’m also looking forward to exploring her back catalogue, reviewing albums such as Miles Away and Mouth Of Mars.

This review was based on listening to an MP3 320kbps edition of the album that was provided to me by the artist’s management. While I would usually prefer to review an album based on FLAC CD-quality tracks, with a bit rate of 1,411 kbps, I can assure you that the mastering is done so well that I’m sure I couldn’t tell the difference if I had both editions side-by-side. VINE once again proves that if an album is well recorded and mastered, then the delivery format need not be a contentious issue. The bottom line is: regardless of how you listen to this album, your ears will thank you.

VINE will be available for purchase via bandcamp and the artist’s website at jengloeckner.com. The album will also be available on iTunes and all popular streaming services from April 14, 2017.

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Midnight Oil - Self-Titled Debut Album Review

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Midnight Oil - Self-Titled Debut Album Review

On May 5th, Midnight Oil is set to re-issue their entire catalogue in a Deluxe Vinyl Box Set, along with The Full Tank and The Over Flow Tank CD-based collections that are sure to appeal to many Midnight Oil fans.

While I do consider myself to be a fan of this iconic Australian band, I must admit that I have never really focused my attention toward their albums. Various singles and compilations have always given me my Midnight Oil fix. However, with the re-issues on the horizon, I thought it would be a good idea to review their catalogue of albums in order to ascertain if these new releases are worthy of inclusion in my collection.

I'm not currently sold on the vinyl box set as it is rather plain, especially when compared to the Tank editions. However, one of the key issues to be considered is the cost. At AU$299 for each Tank edition and AU$499 for the vinyl box set, one must truly appreciate the majority of their work, not just the singles and compilations as I have in the past.

I find it interesting that the CD collection is AU$200 cheaper than the vinyl release. Some of you may point out the differences in artwork and sonic representation and that would be totally valid. Although I believe Steve Smart of Studios 301 in Sydney remastered both sets of releases from the original tapes, hence there will be some consistency in the mastering and quite frankly mastering efficiency trumps format comparisons. Plus, if I want the previously unreleased material, then that is only available with The Over Flow Tank release.

Throughout the coming weeks I will be reviewing each album from their catalogue while discussing my thoughts and the decision making process, ultimately culminating in declaring my final purchase decision when I review the final Midnight Oil album Capricornia. Until then, let's take a look at their 1978 self-titled release, Midnight Oil.

Midnight Oil while their first release under that moniker, was not the origin of the band as prior to this release they were known on the Sydney pub scene as Farm. Farm was originally formed in 1972 and while this self-titled release is significantly different in style and composition to their later albums, such as Diesel and Dust or Blue Sky Mining, there is a certain level of polish and musicality that comes through in this Punk/Progressive Rock release, proving that the many nights spent traversing the Sydney pubs certainly provided a worthy training ground. As I listen to this debut album, I can't help but feel the energy that the band must have had when performing live. To say that this is one of the greatest debut albums wouldn't be an understatement, but I know many who would disagree with my subjective opinion.

Recorded in the September of 1978, Midnight Oil heralded a singular single, Run By Night. While I don't feel that it is the strongest song on the album, especially in an era when radio play was an essential element separating success from obscurity, it is a solid punk-inspired rock tune that highlights the recognisable tonality of Garrett's vocal delivery.

Opening Midnight Oil, Powderworks is erratic, yet organised in composition. You immediately get the sense that this is a band that is very familiar with playing in garages and pubs. I adore the guitar soloing mid-song and while the song is rough around the edges, it isn't a bad entry for the album. That said, in the era of music streaming you would be forgiven if you gave the album a miss based on this introduction track. Perhaps I am being overly harsh as the song would be genuinely enjoyable for fans of the band, but I fear new listeners may not feel the same way. 

Head Over Heels begins with a lovely guitar introduction that continues throughout much of the song. One element you will notice on Midnight Oil is the extended soloing. While some may not appreciate this showmanship, I find it to be suited to the songs and the overall sound of the album. Also of note is the layered instrumental backing. While it does force Garrett's vocals to be somewhat hidden in the soundstage, it is perfectly executed and my subjective feeling is that Head Over Heels is one of the strongest songs on the album.

Dust is a really interesting song. It is punk rock meets jazz. I know that sounds strange, but when you listen to it, you will understand what I mean. There is a distinct jazz fusion inspired feel to the song that is strangely compelling. The album wouldn't be complete without it and it is another highlight from this self-titled release. 

Used And Abused speeds the album back up to punk rock speed. Musically I thoroughly enjoy this song, but I don't feel Garrett's vocals were well executed on this song. As a result, I honestly feel that it could have been left as an awesome instrumental only track as the electric guitar work is once again glorious.

Surfing With A Spoon is a gorgeous track with a beautiful minute-long introduction. As I reflect on this song, I have to admit that the entire composition is a masterpiece that certainly merges punk-rock/pop with progressive rock elements. It is not only one of the best songs on the album, but one of their greatest.

While I have already discussed the album's only single, Run By Night, I feel it is important to note how well this song fits into the tracking of the album. There really isn't a song out of place on the entire album and Run By Night certainly grows on you the more you listen to it.

Nothing Lost - Nothing Gained is a sonic masterpiece that compels you to listen to the album again. In my opinion, it is the best song on the album with a perfect beat and gorgeous electric guitar riffs. It doesn't get much better than this as Garrett's vocal delivery is also perfectly suited for this song.

Midnight Oil is an exceptional debut release that should be in everyone's collection. It is currently available on CD, the TIDAL Store, and iTunes. Streamers can listen to the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi, Spotify, and Apple Music. For those of you interested in the vinyl release, you will have to wait until the release of the Deluxe Box Set as there has been no news about this album being re-issued separately. Depending on how successful the re-issues are, I would assume it is likely that these albums will also be released separately, in order to capitalise on the 2017 concerts, just don't quote me on it!

This review was based on listening to the remastered edition that is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi. While I have never heard the original release, sonically Midnight Oil is appealing and doesn't cause listener fatigue when listening on speakers. Headphones, by comparison, will bring you closer to the recording, but it does tend to present a shallower soundstage that is a little more jarring. This is most likely a result of the remastering process rather than the original recording. That said, I find Midnight Oil to be one of the few rock-based albums that can be enjoyed at any volume level. Seriously, try to listen to AC/DC at any volume below 60%. Yes, it's doable, but the experience is lacklustre. That certainly isn't the case with 'The Oils' debut release.

Overall, I find that I am enamoured with Midnight Oil and if this album is any indication, the box sets are going to be well worth the investment.

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Barry Gibb – In The Now (Deluxe Edition CD Review)

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Barry Gibb – In The Now (Deluxe Edition CD Review)

In November 2016, I reviewed the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition of In The Now. While my opinion of the album remains unchanged, I did want to comment on the Deluxe Edition CD as it includes three additional songs that are exclusive to this release.

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The Deluxe Edition CD comes in a standard jewel case and includes a full-featured liner notes booklet. However, the lyrics for the bonus tracks are omitted. Interestingly, the liner note credits for these additional tracks are included behind the CD storage shell, rather than in the master booklet. This has most likely been done as a cost saving measure and while it isn’t a major issue, I would like to see more effort put into releases that are considered to be deluxe. While the additional tracks are most important, a redesigned booklet and digipak presentation would have made this collector very happy.

Another interesting omission, in the liner notes booklet, is the lack of photographs with Gibb and his sons Stephen and Ashley. Both his sons were instrumental in the writing of the album and it seems to be a missed opportunity, much like a deluxe edition that isn’t all that deluxe and the vinyl release isn’t all that limited. Nevertheless, Gibb’s sons are certainly credited for their contributions and perhaps their exclusion is an attempt to highlight Gibb as a solo performer and avoid obvious comparisons between this work and that of the Bee Gees trio.

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Regardless, the recording is exceptional and Bob Ludwig has once again blown me away with a mastering job that is spot on. When comparing the CD to the TIDAL edition, both are tonally and dynamically identical to my ears. That said, at the same volume levels, using the same equipment, I did notice a slight increase in the bass frequencies of the TIDAL Hi-Fi edition. This minor variation could be due to a number of factors, but unless you’re going to listen to both versions side-by-side, this comparison is moot.

So, are the additional three tracks worth it? Absolutely!

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I do wish that the album had been re-tracked, rather than adding the bonus tracks to the end of the album. I say this because I still believe that End Of The Rainbow is the perfect song to close this album on. That shouldn’t take anything away from the additional tracks, as they are exceptional, but it does change the feeling of the album, especially when the first additional track, Grey Ghost, is quite a musical shift from End Of The Rainbow. Grey Ghost has an oriental influence that is lovely in its own right, although it isn’t the strongest song in Gibb’s collection and it causes the album to become disjointed.

Daddy’s Little Girl, by comparison, is simply gorgeous and should have been included with the standard release of the album. Perhaps it is meaningful to me as my own daughter is fast becoming a teenager and there will be a day, in the not too distant future, when the meaning of this song will truly become relevant. I don’t like to think about it, but at least my daughter and I will have this song to reflect upon. The song features some exquisite guitar work and Gibb’s vocal reaches out and will touch your soul.

Soldier’s Son is epic! The beat, the tonality of vocal, the instrumentation, the guitar work, simply everything just fits into place perfectly. While this song becomes a fitting end to the Deluxe Edition CD, I still prefer End Of The Rainbow for it’s inferred meaning.

It really doesn’t matter which edition of In The Now you decide to listen to. As an album and a piece of art, In The Now will appeal to fans of Gibb and the Bee Gees alike. The Deluxe Edition CD was certainly worth picking up and it gives me great joy to add it to my CD collection.

The standard edition of In The Now is also available for purchase on Vinyl, CD, iTunes, and in 16/44 FLAC from the TIDAL Store.

The standard edition is also available for streaming on TIDAL Hi-Fi.

If you enjoyed this review, make sure you check out the reviews for Bee Gees – Extended (RSD 2015 Edition) and Robin Gibb's – 50 St. Catherine's Drive (TIDAL Hi-Fi).

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Andrea Bocelli – Cinema (Deluxe Edition CD Review)

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Andrea Bocelli – Cinema (Deluxe Edition CD Review)

Every now and then an album comes along that is the pinnacle of perfection. Cinema is just that as it blew my mind the first time I listened to it. While I am well aware of Bocelli’s work, having been a fan since his Romanza album in 1994, I wasn’t prepared for the quality of his latest work Cinema. There is little doubt regarding Bocelli’s exceptional talent, but I feel that recent albums, such as Passione, didn’t showcase his true potential. That said, I appreciate films and their associated scores, hence it could very well be my own subjectivity that passes judgement against this recent work. Regardless, the song selection and tracking on Cinema is perfect. The songs not only bring out the best in Bocelli, but many of these interpretations surpass their original compositions.

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The Deluxe Edition CD is housed in a beautiful tri-fold digipak with full featured liner notes. The booklet is presented so well that I can honestly say it is one of the most detailed I have seen in recent years. It describes not only the inspiration and history of the songs, but all production elements are meticulously added. This level of detail is what audiophiles ask for but rarely get. It is wonderful to see this level of production, given the CD format has been faltering in sales recently.

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There is a vinyl edition of Cinema, but I won’t be adding it to my collection. The CD offers one of the best masterings in my collection. If you want a CD that is reference quality, for auditioning new hardware, just use this one. This is how digital music should sound and proves that CD is a truly capable medium that has, more often than not, never been utilised to its full potential. Subsequently, I see no justification for higher resolution editions of this album, especially considering the audiophile 96kHz/24bit edition from HDtracks features exactly the same dynamic range as that available on the CD. While I have yet to see dynamic range numbers for the vinyl release, I think we could confidently assume that it would have been created from the same Hi-res master used for both HDtracks and the CD, therefore resulting in no improved dynamic range. The only benefit may be the analogue sound that some listeners may prefer. Although, as much as I love vinyl, I prefer listening to classical music in a high-quality digital format as the organic surface noise of vinyl can be distracting in low volume passages.

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Maria (from “West Side Story”) is simply a gorgeous song that is perfectly suited for the tenor voice. While I’m not sure it is the best interpretation of the song, it is amongst the best and is thoroughly pleasing.

La Chanson De Lara (from “Doctor Zhivago”) is incredibly moving. It encourages the man with two left feet to dance with his significant other. It also reminds me of how exceptional the film Doctor Zhivago is. In fact, Doctor Zhivago is my second favourite film of all time, second only to Casablanca.

Moon River (from “Breakfast At Tiffany’s) is beautiful. When I think of this song, it is with Frank Sinatra in mind as I have always preferred his version. However, Bocelli has made this song his own while paying homage to the classical renditions by Sinatra and many others. It is sensational!

E Pit Ti Penso [duet with Ariana Grande] (from “Once Upon A Time In America”) is a song that I’m unfamiliar with, but I love it when Bocelli does duets as the intermingling vocals are always respectfully done and in cohesion. It is a beautiful song and worthy of inclusion on Cinema. I certainly look forward to hearing it many more times over the coming years.

Be My Love (from “The Toast Of New Orleans”) is another song I am unfamiliar with, yet it sounds somewhat familiar. Regardless, Bocelli delivers another stunning performance that works perfectly with his vocal register.

The Music Of The Night (from “Phantom Of The Opera”) is one of the most recognisable pieces of music in the world. Personally, I consider Michael Crawford’s interpretation to be the one to beat. No-one else has ever come close in my opinion. That said, I’m extremely impressed with Bocelli’s rendition and I have a feeling that even Michael Crawford would acknowledge this as nothing short of a stellar performance. If you haven’t already got your stereo turned up to ear-bleeding levels, you will definitely want to turn that volume knob to the right. Bocelli is absolutely amazing!

Brucia La Terra (from “The Godfather”) is one of my favourite film-based songs. I’ve been a fan of The Godfather series for decades and while the original song is superb, it is nothing like this. Bocelli has left me speechless and all I can say is: Wow!

Por Una Cabeza (from “Scent Of A Woman”) picks up the pace a little from the solemn notes of Brucia La Terra, but it doesn’t feel out of place. Personally, I feel it was a wise tracking choice as there is a similar vocal tonality throughout this song, despite the obvious shift in tempo.

No Llores Por Mi Argentina [duet with Nicole Scherzinger] (from “Evita”) reminds me vividly of the exceptional Elaine Paige version. However, I feel Bocelli and Scherzinger have done an exceptional job with this song. I can’t help but wonder if they also recorded the English version. That said, the utilisation of foreign tongue in music doesn’t concern me, especially when the performing artists are so incredibly talented and blessed with voices that instrumentalise emotion more succinctly than any instrument is capable of.

L’Amore E Una Cosa Meravigliosa (from “Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing”) is a beautiful song that I am not familiar with. That said, I truly appreciate a compilation-styled album such as this because it expands one’s musical appreciation into a series of songs that one may otherwise have never heard. It still amazes me how much beautiful music exists in the world and I can only imagine how much I have yet to experience.

Mi Mancherai (from “Il Postino: The Postman”) takes you on a musical journey that is simply exquisite.

Cheek To Cheek [duet with Veronica Berti] (from “Top Hat”) is an incredible song and while it has been played and interpreted numerous times, it never gets old. My personal favourite rendition, however, is the Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong recording from their 1956 album Ella And Louis. As good as the Bocelli/Berti version is, no one does it better than Fitzgerald and Armstrong in my opinion. That said, I would love to see Bocelli do more jazz-inspired songs as his vocal capabilities are perfectly suited to that style of music.

Sorridi Amore Vai (from “Life Is Beautiful”) is a beautiful song. As I listen, I remain amazed at the restraint that Bocelli has on his vocal performance. Many artists tend to reach too high and it sounds forced. As far as I can recall, I have never heard Bocelli extend his vocal beyond the requirements of a song. It is this professionalism that makes him one of the best vocalists in the world.

Historian De Amor (from “Love Story”) is a song I absolutely adore and I don’t recall ever hearing a bad rendition of it. Bocelli's interpretation carries on that trend and is an absolute pleasure to listen to.

Ol’ Man River (from “Show Boat”) is a song that I’m not overly familiar with and is probably the one song that I feel doesn’t fit well on the album. Bocelli’s vocals just don’t seem well suited to this song. That isn’t to say it is bad, but it doesn’t reach me on an emotional level.

Nelle Tue Mani [Now We Are Free] (from “Gladiator”) is one of the most stunning songs on the album and in any film that I can recall. It is moving and emotionally engaging. While I felt the film was lacklustre, this song is completely opposite as it empowers the listener and creates a sonic visualisation that is incredibly vivid. Bocelli’s performance is simply flawless. We, as music lovers, are truly blessed to have such sonic perfection in our lives. It literally brings me to tears.

Mere words can not explain just how moving this album is and how perfect the performance and production is from start to finish. While Bocelli is most certainly the star attraction and performs flawlessly, this album has an A-list of who’s who in the musical and studio production world. While this review would never end if I mentioned them all, all I can say is a sincere thank you to everyone involved in the making of Cinema.

Music simply doesn’t get any better than this and while Cinema is available on vinyl, the Deluxe Edition CD is all you will ever need to truly enjoy this masterpiece. Plus, if you play albums as I do, you will wear out the vinyl edition from the inability to put the record back on the shelf. It really is that good!

For those of you who are interested in streaming, the Deluxe Edition is unavailable. However, both the Standard 13-track and 19-track Special Edition of Cinema are currently available on TIDAL Hi-Fi.

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Shy Girls – Salt (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

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Shy Girls – Salt (TIDAL Hi-Fi Review)

We all know what alternative rock and roll is, but alternative pop and R&B is somewhat new territory; at least to me, it is. Leading me through this new found musical landscape is Shy Girls. Shy Girls is the performance vehicle for the solo works of Dan Vidmar, but there is nothing shy about the music employed on the Salt album. It is bold, daring, and doesn’t conform to traditional styles of music.

The album artwork is exceptional and while this is obviously a TIDAL Hi-Fi review, I have to say that this is still the reason to collect vinyl; although my iPad Pro does showcase the artwork nicely. That said, I can’t help but wonder why liner notes in the digital age seem to be more complicated to reproduce than their physical counterparts.

Intro is a sonic overture full of vocal improvisations. It reminds me of the vocal techniques used by Daniel Johns on his exceptional album Talk. It is a lovely way to start the album and a perfect introduction for You Like The Pain Too, whereby this vocal interlude continues as part of the overall harmony. In places, You Like The Pain Too feels as though there is some jazz inspiration that has been uniquely mixed with a hip-hop style sound. It is different, but truly captivating with an incredibly immersive soundstage.

Watercolor Dreams has a killer introduction with tones so low that they sound like they are coming from underwater. It instantly reminds me of the sound found on …And Then Shoot Your Cousin, by The Roots. The subsonic presentation alone will test the bass response of your audio gear, but thanks to the clarity of TIDAL Hi-Fi and the accuracy of the Oppo HA-2, the Bose Lifestyle 235 Series II system can perform at its very best. There is no unintended distortion present in this exceptional song. It is a pure joy to listen to and you will feel this track resonate with your soul. I’m a true believer of feeling music, as well as hearing it, as it brings you closer to the music.

Trivial Motion permits the body to sway and tap to the incredible bass beat. The one amazing thing about this song, and most of the songs on this album, is that the bass beats are not overused to whereby they drown out other aspects of the music. Actually, while I don’t have exact dynamic range figures to quote, this recording would have to be a 10+ out of 20. It is just so atmospheric that I am blown away. The vocals are clear and well defined and never demoted to being just another instrument in the soundstage.

Why I Love also has a gorgeous beat and it is clear that Shy Girls isn’t just a thrown together album. This is true talent and Vidmar has a real understanding of music composition both from a listener standpoint and technical execution. Plus, if I haven’t mentioned it already, he has an exceptionally smooth high-toned vocal. You will close your eyes, sway to the harmonics, and sing the chorus ‘that’s why I love’ with as much vigour as Vidmar. The grungy acoustic guitar that closes out the song creates a perfect closing point.

Say You Will is exceptional. The vocal presentation is incredible, as is the beat that despite vibrating your teeth, never distorts. It is impressive to see such professionalism and refrain shown in this song. Songs like this can be a disaster as they can be taken too far. This is not the case with Say You Will. If you like Ed Sheeran, you’re going to love this song.

What If I Can is a song that I haven’t truly connected with it. The vocal and beat feel disjointed to me. My mind is unsure of which aspect of the composition to primarily listen to as both elements are fighting to be heard. I do, however, enjoy the horn-styled instrumental ending of the song.

Time (Hell Won’t Wait For Us) is exceptional!

I Am Only A Man is a good song, but I feel the vocal tracking lets this song down. The vocal is somewhat lost in the mix and I’d love to see it further forward in the soundstage. The musical elements are very enjoyable, but this is definitely a B-side in my opinion.

Collecting is quite different to the rest of the album. The bass beat is removed to make way for a vocal and piano based performance. To be completely honest, I’m unsure of how I feel about this song. It does encourage me to listen to the album again, but I just don’t feel a strong association to this song.

Salt is an amazing album that will appeal to many music lovers of various genres. There is something here for everyone. It is immersive, unique, and will push your equipment beyond their limits. You will honestly sit in pure wonderment as you ponder how Shy Girls was able to compose such an incredible soundstage throughout the entire album.

The TIDAL Hi-Fi stream is flawless and while it is all you would ever need, I strongly encourage you to seek out the vinyl release; I know I will be.

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