Dig These Discs :: Noah and the Whale, Space Cowboy, Maps, Logan Lynn, The Swimmers

by Kevin Mark Kline

Director of Promotions

Wednesday December 2, 2009

Noah and the Whale takes us through a painful break up, Logan Lynn shows us alternative rock can indeed be re imagined for the club, and Space Cowboy makes it more than apparent that his style has heavily influenced Lady Gaga.

Space Cowboy- Digital Rock Star

Anyone who has heard of Lady Gaga (who hasn’t) will immediately recognize the style on Digital Rock Star, the latest album from Space Cowboy.

Gaga herself generously used Cowboy on her debut and on his new effort, everyone will realize why. This guy knows a thing or two about creating a damn catchy tune.

"Falling Down," featuring Chelsea Korka, is pure dance euphoria that mixes techno, rock, and maybe even a little bit of hip hop. "Devastated" is an equally successful slinky club banger despite some creaky lyrics. "I Came to Party" follows suit as Space Cowboy cheers, "Lights out, turning the fucking system up."

Think that’s intense? Well next he channels his arrogant side in the catchy "Boyfriends Hate Me," which is basically self-explanatory. The album climaxes with the playful "Party Like Animal," which is no holds barred giddy pop that attacks all senses full force.

Aside from the rare misstep ("Egyptian Lover"), the only downfall to Digital Rock Star is the idiotic lyrics. "Talking in Your Sleep" especially tends to test listener intelligence, despite the irresistible rock beat and hook. In fact, more than half of the album is lyrically challenging. This places the material in danger of losing its appeal rather quickly.

Still, no one can deny Space Cowboy’s absolutely astounding talent when it comes to creating heavenly music. No matter how simple the content, the arrangements can set fire to any dance floor. Lady Gaga owes him a very detailed thank-you note.

The Swimmers - People Are Soft

People Are Soft, the sophomore effort from The Swimmers, is quite a nice surprise. Essentially a rock-Electro hybrid not dissimilar to The Killers, the group and head vocalist Steve Burkey have created a standout effort.

For the most part, Burkey sings like he’s deeply broken inside, and fortunately for him, that’s also when the material really shines. "Shelter," highlighted by Burkey’s frail vocals, is a quirky song about seeking solace from the storm. "A Hundred Hearts" has some nice ’80s flair, with clever lyrics that chronicle the escapades of someone who take advantage of others emotions. The rock tinged, energetic "Drug Party" makes for a good, angry ditty about outcasts looking in. Similarly, "Save Me," which easily could have been a misfire with a less capable artist, perfectly captures a feeling of desperation and isolation.

As enveloping as People are Soft can be, there are a few weak moments here and there. "What This World is Coming To" is a bit of a slow awkward attempt, and "To the Bells" has the energy, but still comes off dull. Again, Burkey and company do much better when they stick to the melancholy template.

People Are Soft is a dark rapturing music release. The songs are consistently vulnerable for the most part, and The Swimmers do an expert job of drawing the listener into all of the pain. When there is still a feeling of life and hope even at the close of such heavy material, it is clear that the group has achieved the tricky task of sending the message without alienating the listener.

Logan Lynn- From Pillar to Post

Logan Lynn has made quite a name for himself in the gay community, becoming somewhat of a staple in both Portland and San Francisco. Two albums later, he arrives with From Pillar to Post, and the whole effort can best be described as alternative rock meets techno pop.

That may sound like an odd combination, but Lynn does manage to pull off the marriage quite well for the most part. "I will find a way to make you stay," Logan desperately cries in "Feed me to the Wolves," as he begs for a lover to ease the incredible pain a breakup is causing. In "Bottom Your way to the Top," Lynn fights his way back from submission and begins to make sense of it all.

"I can see where you want me to stay," Logan sings in "Burning your Glory," a pretty, passionate song about two people accepting that they belong together. Meanwhile, "Write It on My Left Arm" sounds like vulnerable, coffeehouse rock retooled especially for the club.

Sometimes Lynn stumbles and caves in to some corny and schmoozy lyrics, but the beats are never far behind to help hoist him back up. Some of his music also awkwardly clashes the artistic and the mainstream, but for the most part, Pillar to Post is a success. Lynn is truly an interesting artist/songwriter and someone to keep an eye on in the future.

Maps - Turning the Mind

Two years after Maps debuted on the scene, front man James Chapman has arrived with the sophomore effort. Turning the Mind is truly a melancholy dance floor experience, but Chapman has a hard time connecting the soft vocals with the edgy material.

The dreamy title track swirls about in a sea of electro beats and synthesizers as Chapman copes with drugs and depression. "I Dream of Crystal" continues the drug addiction fantasy by taking it to the next level. "It aint always fun, but at least you’ll be living some" James sneers, as he justifies the habit.

"Let Go of Fear" is an angry song about letting go of the turmoil and self-hate that burns deep within. The stirring "Papercuts" creates a convincing case that all love may, in fact, have a timeline.

However, for the most part, Turning the Mind is fairly hollow. The electro pop structure pulses and the techno sound is in full effect, but the music often fails to connect. Chapman’s voice is very weak most of the time, often barely rising above whisper status, failing to engage, distinguish or ignite much passion behind the beats.

The lyrics can be exceptional, such as in the aforementioned "Papercuts," "Everything is Shattering," and in the hollow "Chemeleon," but the vocals just don’t bring the content to life.

Turning the Mind can only really be appreciated for the actual sounds and effects, and even those start to feel samey and old as the album reaches it’s ending point. There is a silky, trance like quality to Chapman’s music, but as a package it’s more or less sleep inducing.

Noah and The Whale- The First Days of Spring

The First Days of Spring is about a breakup and all of the pain, healing, and ultimately resolution that goes along with the territory. The effort is essentially a hit-or-miss affair, but the complex, deep lyrics, and the accomplished musical arrangements make this a trip worth taking.

Things open with the beautifully moody title track. "I’m still hoping that one day you may come back," a sad voice murmurs as the guitar gently strums and the violin soars. It’s a song about love and loss realized beautifully. This is followed up with the somber "Our Window," a downer that finds connection with emotional lyrics and another stunning melodic arrangement.

Eventually, optimism is found in "Blue Skies," a tune that indicates there is indeed light at the end of the heartbreak tunnel. Finally, "Love of An Orchestra" is a joyful, holiday-esque choir based track that feels awfully out of place, but plays like a breath of fresh air amidst the sorrow.

Still, when thing are down, the album becomes a little much to take. "I Have Nothing" comes across more or less like a case of the blahs without much personality. "My Broken Heart" is meant to come across as a sincere ballad, but fails to make a connection despite strong lyrics and the blaring trumpets.

In the end, Noah and the Whale has managed to create a stirring and true compilation of what happens when a relationship goes down hill. Just like an actual breakup, there are moments that are tough to take, and others that are cathartic and uplifting. Think of it as musical therapy.