Review Rundown: The Echo Falls, Flyleaf, the Bravery, Slayer, Beth Thornley

The Review Rundown features looks at new releases from the Echo Falls, Flyleaf, the Bravery, Slayer and Beth Thornley.

File Under: Peaceful Acoustic Driven Indie/Folk
The Echo Falls – ‘the Echo Falls:’ The inclusion of acoustic tracks give the Echo Falls self titled release a nostalgic feel mostly, and while they could ultimately be viewed as somewhat dismissible, they do not detract much from the rest of the record. ‘Fire Down Below’ is one of the albums better cuts, and it demonstrates the fact that the Echo Falls don’t lose much when they transition from full band soirees and unplugged efforts. That really is one of the bands charms actually. The smooth blend of everyman folk with soothing indie causes the record to become a calming and comfortable listen, enjoyable and lounge-y. The replay value isn’t all that great though. Sounding like James Taylor more often than not is a huge chips on these guys’ shoulders. (
Grade: C
Go Download: ‘You Still Have It All’

File Under: Estrogen Fueled Hard Rock Goodness
Flyleaf – ‘Memento Mori’ (A&M/Octone Records): Even though lead singer Lacey Mosely doesn’t appreciate being compared to Evanescence frontwoman Amy Lee, it’s hard not to mention the two in the same breath after Mosely’s vocal efforts on her bands latest, ‘Memento Mori.’ She called Lee to mind on the bands self titled debut already, and with the bands smart decision to infuse more melody into their music, she sounds like Lee more than ever, but the Flyleaf and Evanscenece similarities mostly end there. Introducing more melodies into ‘Memento Mori’ songs was the best thing the band could have done, well besides not releasing another self titled record. Even though this record fades near the end, its opening 70 percent makes up the difference. Flyleaf succeeded in ramping up the albums commercial appeal through centralized grooves and a smooth ebb and flow that, in the end, makes ‘Memento Mori’ an easy listen. Much of the bands harder edge has gone, but that’s not saying these guys (and girl) forgot how to write a great hard rock tune. Mosely’s screams less than a handful of times throughout, but this time they are used wisely. This allows the listener to focus more on the bands furrow-laden hooks, which serve as a running theme from start to finish. The sometimes trite anguished temperament might not be as prevalent, but tracks like ‘Beautiful Brides,’ ‘Again,’ ‘Chasm’ and ‘Missing’ should be able to get enough people together for a respectable pit. (    
Grade: A
Go Download: ‘Beautiful Bride’

File Under: Electronic New Wave
The Bravery – ‘Stir the Blood’ (Island Records): The Bravery’s ‘Stir the Blood’ is as solid an album as anything that has come down the indie/new wave pipeline recently, and while it may not be as dense or dark as the band has been in years past, there still is a lot to like. The only song close to passable is ‘She’s So Bendable,’ and that’s only because it doesn’t fit with the flow of ‘Stir the Blood,’ not because it is a band song. From the enigmatic bounce of ‘Song for Jacob,’ ‘Slow Poison’ and ‘I Am Your Skin,’ to the electronically fueled brilliance of ‘Adored,’ ‘Hatef&*k’ and ‘the Spectator,’ ‘Stir the Blood’ is an album that packs a cocksure swagger from beginning to end. The Bravery also cap off this stunning affair with two of the albums best works (‘Red Hands and White Knuckles,’ ‘Jack-O-Lantern Man’), even though it’s hard to say they saved the best for last, because their best is littered about the entire work. ‘Stir the Blood’ is methodical in its execution, leading to a comprehensive sound on the whole that is equal parts atmospheric, layered and rich. This record is intense and passionate, one that demands attention. Is ‘Stir the Blood’ the best record to date for the venerable Bravery? Well, let the argument begin. (
Grade: A
Go Download: ‘Red Hands and White Knuckles’   

File Under: Slayer
Slayer – ‘World Painted Blood’ (American/Song Music): Just hearing the title ‘World Painted Blood’ should tell you most everything you need to know about it. The record is proof that Tom Araya, Kerry King, Jeff Hanneman and Dave Lombardo still have the legs to reign atop the heavy metal throne, and also proves that Slayer still has a lot to be pissed about. Throughout ‘World Painted Blood,’ you will hear Slayer call for bloodshed as well as question the government, a couple of themes these guys have made famous. Slayer can still shred and Kerry King is still one of, if not the, best axemen wielding the six-strings in the game today, not to take anything away from Lombardo’s monstrous, piston-like drum work. With ‘World Painted Blood,’ not much has changed for the speed and thrash pioneers; Araya is still at odds with God and organized religion (‘Public Display of Dismemberment’) as well as America and its leaders (‘Atrocity Vendor’). ‘World Painted Blood’ is a concise, no frills metal record that is apologetic and unrelenting in nature, but c’mon, its f@#$ing Slayer, so what else were you expecting? (
Grade: C
Go Download: ‘Americon’   

File Under: Heart-on-Sleeve Singer/Songwriter Indie pop
Beth Thornley – “Wash U Clean” (Stiff Hips Music): After listening to Beth Thornley’s latest, “Wash U Clean,” it has become painfully obvious that there is no justice in the music word. If there were justice in this industry of ours, hipsters poseurs like Katy Perry would be an afterthought, or better yet, a never thought, and true indie pop princesses like Beth Thornley would be famous. She is the real deal and she does all her own stunts, meaning she writes her own songs (OK, except for two), something other chart-topping females cannot say for themselves. With “Wash U Clean,” Thornley is a jack of all trades musically, showcasing her dexterity by balancing Ting-Ting style peppy bounce (‘Wash U Clean,’ ‘You’re So Pony’) with piano driven endeavors (‘Still Can’t Hide,’ ‘What the Heart Wants,’ ‘Never your Girl’), while taking the time to sound acoustically vulnerable (‘Everyone Falls’). No matter what she’s doing, Thornley is real, honest and passionate. She doesn’t need autotune or high priced production value to make good songs, that much is evident on “Wash U Clean,” an album that is very much ‘what you see is what you get.’ And what you get is a sincere and candid, straight forward record, that although understated in stature, is rife with over-the-top zeal. (
Grade: A
Go Download: ‘Bones’