Music Review: Dhana – Confessions of Lily Rogue EP

Hi all…

More than a year ago, I reviewed Taxi Doll‘s album Here and Now and loved it. I’ve always had a soft spot for electro-synth-pop and Taxi Doll scratched that itch beautifully. Now lead singer Dhana Taprogge has released a new EP of solo material called Confessions of Lily Rogue. Deeper than Here and Now, Confessions offers a slower, more reflective approach to the music and lyrics.

In this slower, solo context, Dhana’s voice provides a textured, emotive counterpoint to the contagious dance beats of her work with Taxi Doll. Don’t let that statement fool you into thinking there’s no bite here. These songs deal with the fact that relationships aren’t always wine and roses…

Love is funny. Sometimes one person loves another and that causes tension. But what happens when someone you think of as just a friend finds another lover and you find there’s a spark of jealousy there? “Not Enough” focuses on this odd kind of love affair that happens every day. “You had a thing for me, but you faltered…” and “Today, you broke a piece of me, you had to leave me for another…” Smoothly orchestrated with strings, keyboards, and a heartbeat drum beat throughout, it’s Dhana’s voice that connects the threads without being trite or overly dramatic.

The video for “Not Enough” has a trippy, kaleidoscope feel:

“Wanted” moves on with more keyboards and strings, again keeping it slow as Dhana sings of love and loss. “What you wanted / is gone…” and the person left behind is struggling. “Little pieces of broken glass / just a memory, time has passed / tiny puzzle of tears and sorrow / what you gonna do tomorrow…” where “breathing is a painful thing…” Most people I know have had those moments where love has faded away and they’re not ready to let it go. But the chorus speaks of hope – “Probably better this way / you’ve had enough / now go and make the change…”

The next song, “Low”, has a bit faster beat as Dhana sings of someone seeking to lose themselves as a friend wonders “how low / can you go / love how low / can you go…” No matter how far you run, you can’t run away from yourself. This one has another beat and melody that reminded me more of Taxi Doll’s infectious beats.

And “Feel Right” deals with that tough spot in a relationship when you want to be with someone, “but it just don’t don’t feel right.” It’s that moment when the conflicted heart pulls and pushes and your head has to step in – “my head is straight when I’m far away” but “when I’m far away I’m still wanting you / and it just don’t feel right…” But when you’re with that person, for a while you can forget things don’t feel right – eventually though, the regrets and doubts pile up.

Also included is an acoustic version of “Not Enough,” which unwinds a bit of the electronic vibe of the track in favor of a stripped down feel. Dhana’s voice comes through loud and clear and the piano and strings don’t overwhelm her at all. That said, I think I like the version with electronics a bit better with its fuller sound.

I love Taxi Doll, but have to say I was impressed with Dhana’s solo work. The EP takes her voice in different directions focused on a darker side of life than the typically upbeat electronica of her band. I think if you like Taxi Doll, you’ll love hearing Dhana’s solo work with Confessions of Lily Rogue. Though I love the EP, I’m hoping Taxi Doll will releasing great music as an ensemble for many years to come and we hear new music from them soon!

For more about Dhana’s music, visit her website at DhanaMusic.com.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Also check out Taxi Doll’s release here:

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Music Review: Behave Yourself (Dig)[EP] – Cold War Kids

Hi there!

The Cold War Kids was formed just a few years ago in California and doesn’t seem to have taken much of a break since 2004. They have even been quoted saying with as often as they’re on tour “Why even have apartments?” CWK seems to thrive on live performances, rather than wanting to be regularly in the studio.

Behave Yourself (Dig) is a collection of four songs and a jam session that didn’t make it onto their Robbers & Cowards or Loyalty to Loyalty albums or their many EPs released since 2005. The band consists of Matt Aveiro on drums, Matt Maust on bass, Jonnie Bo Russell on guitar and Nathan Willett on vocals and piano. And based on these four songs, I have to say they have a unique sound that crosses boundaries.

“An Audience of One” opens the EP with Willett exploring his great range while not listening to the advice proposed by the EP title… Tough to “Behave Yourself” when singing lyrics like “Reach out and point a finger / And touch the globe / Spin around and where it stops / You’ve got to pack your bags and go…” Sounds good to me, but easier to do when you’re young and free!

From there we progress to “Coffee Spoon” with its easy pop guitar and percussion backing Willett’s smooth lyrics once again. This one’s meaning is a bit darker though, perhaps in response to some of the economic troubles the world has been seeing. He sings “my indulgence is a joke / and while everyone laughs / I’m clipping coupons / and saving my breath…” The upbeat music mixed with the messages of consumption and the mismatch with how the voice of the song actually feels makes this one stand out.

Santa Ana Winds” is my favorite of the four songs. Like “Coffee Spoon” it mixes upbeat and almost happy melodies and percussion with observations of the gritty California world around them. “Easter on Olvera Street / Girls nursing new babies in alleyways / In between is a basin like the great divide…” showing the disconnect between different sides of the same street all too familiar to most inner cities today. Socially conscious rock songs make me feel that younger generations actually have the hope to see a change in their lifetime.

And the last song, “Sermons vs. the Gospel,” continues the socially deep trend, but this time slowing it down to almost a Southern Church feel stripped down to a few bare instruments and voices. “Got this idea in my head and I can’t get it out / cause all your money and all your culture / I can surely live without…” Begging for mercy from the lord in a world where the rich get richer and the poor keep getting poorer…

Having never heard of the Cold War Kids before, I have to say I’m impressed. Solid music and lyrics that make you stop and think. There may be hope yet.

For more details about CWK, their touring schedule, and previous releases be sure to check out their website at www.coldwarkids.com.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this CWK EP and other albums at Amazon!

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Music Review: Hope Sandoval and The Warm Inventions – Through the Devil Softly

Hi all…

Many years ago now I was asked by a friend to figure out who sang a particular song on the radio. He knew one line from the lyrics – “You put your hands into your head…” and that was it. Within a day or two, I’d figured out that this was “Fade Into You” from Mazzy Star’s album So Tonight That I Might See with Hope Sandoval singing lead vocals. Ever since then, Sandoval’s haunting vocals managed to set up shop in one corner of my brain and haunt me every now and again.

After 1996 and three albums with Mazzy Star, Sandoval went her separate way, eventually joining the band The Warm Intentions. Though they released their first album (Bavarian Fruit Bread) in 2001, it didn’t gain much commercial success, as it sounds quite a bit different from Mazzy Star. Since 2001, they’ve released three EPs, but have had very little radio play.

That brings us to their latest release – Through the Devil Softly – which was released on September 29, 2009. Having not heard anything from The Warm Inventions, I really had no idea what to expect. Unfortunately, I find myself on the side of the fans who don’t really like this band’s sound. I miss the simpler, less acid-trippy instrumentation and vocals from Sandoval’s Mazzy Star days.

I honestly think this album would have felt right at home during the 1960s, probably blaring over the speakers in Timothy Leary‘s pad. Perhaps if I was on drugs I might have enjoyed it more. As it was, I found it very difficult to continue to listen all the way through.

The band consists of Sandoval (vocals, production, engineering, instrumentation), Colm O’Coisoig (production, engineering, instrumentation), Suki Ewers (keyboards), Ji Young Moon (cello), Dave Trumfio (mixing), and Jim Putnam (mixing). As I expected after listening to the tracks, the band seems determined to mix/re-mix/engineer these tracks into oblivion.

There were a few tracks I liked the music of, including “Baby Sam,” “Sets the Blaze,” and “Thinking Like That.” But Sandoval seems like she was in a Jim Morrison-type trance as she sang her way through the album. I kept waiting to see if the Lizard King would pop out somewhere. The song “Trouble” almost like the ghost of The Doors – all it needed was an old beat up organ in the background.

If you’re interested in background music for your hookah pipe, I’d definitely check out Hope Sandoval and The Warm Inventions’ new album Through the Devil Softly. It’s an interesting trip, though not one I’m likely to want to repeat. Can we have the old Mazzy Star back?

–Fitz

p.s. Find links to this and other Hope Sandoval/Warm Inventions/Mazzy Star albums at Amazon!

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