V/ABy admin • Jul 19th, 2010 • Category: By Anita Morf, Featured Review 2, Reviews
Dorm Sessions 7
Heavy Rotation Records
Dorm Sessions 7 is produced by Heavy Rotation Records, a student-run label showcasing some of the Berklee College Of Music’s promising students and alumni. Unlike a few of the previous Dorm Sessions albums, there is not a bad song in this bunch. The artists are talented, creative and versatile, the songs are refined and ready for mass consumption and the musicianship is good to outstanding.
Ann Driscoll creates entire worlds with each song, utilizing instruments, sound effects, lyrics, and tone to paint a very vivid picture. “I Wanna Be Your Zombie” has her clawing out of the grave to sinister organ music that veers into rousing goth-rock opera. “Ringmaster” takes the listener on a trip to the circus with a heartbreaking, beautiful violin score interrupted by comically abrasive trumpet. Julia Easterlin’s “Mild Response” and Liz Longley’s “When I See Your Face,” are on the other end of the spectrum- upbeat, poppy tunes recently favored by advertisers (e.g.: Apple’s use of Feist) because of their irresistible hooks and cheerful appeal.
Tin Soldier’s “October” shifts between a Jack Johnson beach vibe and a gritty rock alternative sound, with complex, perfectly executed arrangements. The song turns into a full-blown jam session midway, with fingers racing over the piano keys to booming drums. Jordan Tarrant’s unbelievably catchy “I’m A Loser (But You Love Me)” has a bluesy honky-tonk feel. Set to the toe-tapping, head-nodding music you might expect in a smoky bar, his raspy vocals perfectly complement the whine of the electric guitar.
Julia Easterlin’s “Render” is another bright light on the album. Built on the sound of a beating heart, “scritchy” acoustic guitar quietly sets the stage for the ultimate siren song: words dissolving into a ghostly, angelic wail that is electronically overlapped to phenomenal effect. Switching over to clubbish electro-pop with a touch of hip hop, it’s all about the sound effects with Liptease, as they reach deep into their bag of electronic tricks with “Dangerous”. With its heart-thumping beats and brain-teasing effects, this is another standout on Dorm Sessions 7.
Melancholy ballads, both Liz Longley’s “AnnaBelle” and Black Kettle’s “I Don’t Want to Know” tell an intriguing story. The former does so with acoustic guitar and a sweetness to soften the words; the latter with violin reminiscent of the Dixie Chicks combined with the band’s signature, though subdued quirkiness. Tais Alvarenga pairs her clear voice, holding the barest hint of smokiness and the sexy gutturalness of the Portuguese language to Latin pop/jazz, with Spanish-style guitar. It is not necessary to be fluent to enjoy her work; the emotion translates. Bringing a little heat and rapid-fire lyrics, the tango-influenced “Nem La Nem Ca” has backup singers that sound almost feline.
KR & The Future closes the album with an electronic feel and sinister laugh. “Figure it Out” has a rave vibe with ’90s dance beats overlaid by hip hop. With Timberland and Kanye-style accents and a touch of Bloodhound Gang, it’s a mystery as to why this is not already a huge mainstream hit.
Dorm Sessions 7 is an excellent album presenting the best up-and-comers, some of whom might just become the “next big thing”. In fact, many are much more talented than today’s chart-toppers, perhaps due to the fact that they have technical training, were given the freedom and means to experiment and were chosen for their potential rather than scooped up simply because they fit a marketing mold. Although not everyone will love every song or every style on the album, there is no denying that this is music with substance and quality.