Concert for Life Bios

Hiccup Hellen, featuring the Nace brothers Justin and Jesse, formed from students in Quakertown High School. After just going through a lineup change, they plan to show that they are stronger than ever but just as fun. Influenced by all types of rock music, the band has recorded two demos, an EP, and a full-length album in their short career.

The Danger Os are essentially the project of singer and bassist Justin, who wanted to create his own music without any genre specifications. Although from West Chester, the band has played Quakertown before (at Relay for Life), yet this is their first Concert for Life. Above all, the Danger Os want to convey their fun-loving attitude towards music. Fans will be able to buy their brand new album Nineteen Ninety-Four (out February 29th, the day before the concert).

This Fever Called Living are a fairly new band, formed in the summer of 2007 as the meshing together of two separate projects. The band is making their first appearance as This Fever Called Living this year and will be promoting their new 4-song EP The Symptom. Their music and influences lie in post-hardcore and metalcore with bands like Thrice, Norma Jean, and As I Lay Dying, but they hope that their music is interpreted differently by all of their fans. Everyone has different emotions, they say, and they try to evoke those feelings out of their listeners.

Hey Hey have existed for about two years, but they underwent a few member changes and added a keyboardist to become the band they are today. An amalgamation of genres including rock, jazz, and dance music, Hey Hey are all about a good live show and benefit concerts. Concert for Life is just one on their list of benefits, and hopefully they will continue to perform in the area.

Many of the members of Joey Got His Groove Back have been playing together since their preteen days, but this is essentially the longest standing project of the childhood friends. After many names (The Girls You Don’t Date, Smaller Angles at Sea), they now stand together as Joey Got His Groove Back and hope to have a good time while making great music. Despite lineup and name changes, the members are true veterans of Concert for Life, performing for the third time.

Also performing will be Charade (including yours truly), Amarachi, Zero Society, Red Letter Day, and others!


Inside the Concert for Life

For the next month, I will be covering a local event at Quakertown High School called the Concert for Life. An annual event and cultural aspect unique to our high school, the Concert for Life is a benefit concert that allows high school bands to demonstrate their talents for a large audience. The event will host 12 artists, and if you get a ticket from one of the artists, it will cost $5. The event is March 1, 2008. More coverage coming soon.


2007 Year End Thoughts

How odd that winter begins and ends a year. At a year’s end, the slow diminution of botanic life, from the proverbial descent of autumn’s leaves to the death of all the grass around us, seems to contradict the frenetic nature of the holiday season. While consumerism reaches yearly heights in November and December, our surroundings suggest that everyone should take a step back, relax, and reflect upon eleven months of undoubtedly eventful change and growth. In fact, it seems to be the only way I can write this reflection. School just let out early, and I have nothing better to do for the next few hours other than watch the ice pellets fall and think.

I hardly remember the beginning of 2007 musically. Of course, I remember my own performances- various jazz band performances on bass guitar while scrapping away at acoustic guitar in an indoor drumline. Yet none of those events stick out as definitive; they feel more like a blur. Winter begins each year as well, where nature seems to hibernate, letting whatever precipitation the sky rains down upon us bury nature’s dead. The environment never notices the change of a year; after all, the calendar is an inexact science made by man. Fittingly, the music industry laid dormant through the beginning of the year. Aside from a few notable releases (including Eluvium’s Copia, my favorite album of the year), the world had to wait until spring for the industry to pick up in activity. From March until November, the music world remained incredibly active, with the ascent and descent in activity paralleling the change of seasons. From the end of the year through the beginning of the next, however, the record industry lies in wait.

Looking back in recent history, this seems to be the normal wave of activity throughout the year. An unusual constant, however, was the consistently good material released in 2007. I lack the hindsight to truly look back on other years with experience, but I can say this: I truly enjoyed the music of 2007. Currently, I rate six albums from this year a 4.5/5, where at the end of 2006, I had three (note: I do not believe in rating albums a full 5/5 upon their release). Undoubtedly, I will discover more gems from the year as time moves on, and hopefully, I can look back in later years and remember 2007 as a fantastic year for music.

Regardless, the year had its drawbacks. The issue of music piracy exploded in later months, beginning with the shutdown of OiNK.cd, the most popular site for advance releases on the Internet. From there, Albumbase and Demonoid were taken down. While these sites encouraged illegal activity, the authorities had little legal ground to stand on when arresting the site owners. The sites had no central servers where they held these albums. They provided links to the albums instead. It seems more like arresting a school principal for a student possessing illegal drugs in his locker rather than arresting the student. And, as OiNK argues, Google provides many of those links with a simple search. Type “Frank Sinatra.rar” and many links to torrent downloads appear on the first page of Google’s results. While I am not taking sides to this argument, I contend that the record labels putting a bounty on these sites only infuriates the labels’ consumers, therefore moving them further to piracy. Something must be done.

Once again paralleling the progress of nature’s seasons, too many musicians have died in the last few months. Ike Turner, Casey Calvert of Hawthorne Heights, and Kevin DuBrow of Quiet Riot have made the most headlines, but many others have perished within the last month. András Szöllősy, the Hungarian classical composer and contemporary of Béla Bartók, died on December 6th. Pimp C, who recently appeared on the new Chamillionaire album and part of the hip-hop duo UGK, died on December 4th. And of course, we lost Luciano Pavarotti on September 4th. The list goes on…

Personally, the year means something much more than a collection of great albums or a year to remember great musicians. 2007 marks my first full year as an active writer and reviewer, and, looking upon my first review of that year, I feel confident in my improvement as a writer. I worked to break my formulaic style, and I feel that I have succeeded in that effort, although I still use fallbacks and cliché statements here and there. Through consistent writing and listening, I attempted to make keener musical insight. With various different genres, I continued to broaden my horizons, delving into more mainstream music at points (James Blunt, Yellowcard) and working on writing negative reviews of higher quality. As Sputnikmusic gained popularity on the Internet, I gathered more contacts with record labels as a means to establish a reputation not only for myself but also for the website.

Most importantly, however, I discovered a purpose to my writing. I do not review to gain attention or inflate my self esteem but rather as a means to express my views on art and music as a whole. I try to promote innovation and originality over the refined borrowing of ideas and repeating the same process over and over again. I love when artists grow and change, when they experiment, when they forget what their record labels want and express their own creative motives above all. While my opinion may be small and ineffective to the music world as a whole, I feel a need to express these opinions. Jaga Jazzist titled their 2005 landmark album What We Must. This is what I must, and shall continue, for years to come.

2007 Best Albums:

15. Ken Andrews- Secrets of the Lost Satellite
14. The Pax Cecilia- Blessed are the Bonds
13. Ghastly City Sleep- Ghastly City Sleep
12. Telescreen- The Solar Sea EP
11. Caspian- The Four Trees
10. Burial- Untrue
9. Oceansize- Frames
8. Terence Blanchard- A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina)
7. Radiohead- In Rainbows
6. Between the Buried and Me- Colors
5. Paul Marshall- Vultures
4. Lindsey Boullt- Composition
3. Minus the Bear- Planet of Ice
2. Thrice- The Alchemy Index Vol. I and II: Fire and Water
1. Eluvium- Copia

Worst Albums of 2007:

5. Architecture in Helsinki- Places Like This
4. The Nightwatchman- One Man Revolution
3. Daughtry- Daughtry
2. James Blunt- All the Lost Souls
1. Soulja Boy- Souljaboytellem.com


The Heritage Orchestra- The Heritage Orchestra


Heritage, something that comes or belongs to one by reason of birth, refers to many different “somethings”: estates, heirlooms, genetic diseases, but most importantly, traditions. If Tevye did not teach us already, traditions build cultures, yet it is always those who break tradition that we remember. We call it innovation. The aptly named Heritage Orchestra, however, have discovered the key to combining tradition with innovation, pushing boundaries through reverting to old techniques.

First, one must understand that The Heritage Orchestra is truly an orchestra, 45 strong with a deep string section and powerful brass. Mingled inside the orchestral set up lies a jazz rhythm section, with guitar, bass, drums, vibes, keyboards, and other various instruments. Unlike an unbalanced mesh of two completely different styles (e.g. Trans-Siberian Orchestra), this group manages to mix jazz and classical music perfectly, where the modern rhythm section does not dominate the strings or vice versa. They truly play like one group, a remarkable achievement for the wide variety of instruments played at the same time. Under the leadership of Jules Buckley, conductor and composer, as well as co-founder Chris Wheeler, The Heritage Orchestra takes the best young musicians of London and crams them together into a gigantic force thus far unknown to music. The music sounds as much like Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” as it does Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat,” (more commonly known as the Napoleon Dynamite dance song). The stunning amount of variety is the album’s strongest point by far.

Obviously, upon listening to their music, The Heritage Orchestra makes more of a live band than a studio band. Mixed with the energetic rhythm section, improvised solos, and beautiful string chorales thrown into the music, they leave a lot open to interpretation. Therefore, it is not surprising to discover that the band actually formed at a club-night event called Heritage, designed to showcase jazz and classical music. Unfortunately, the event ceased in 2005, and the orchestra decided to make the orchestra a full-time job as they set out to record their debut album. The result- six brilliant compositions that fully immerse into the fields that artists like Jaga Jazzist and The Cinematic Orchestra merely touch. Each song is sure to include a gorgeous string and brass chorale section that grows into an acid jazz jam, although sometimes this process is reversed or inverted. Chris Bowden gives an outstanding performance on alto sax in “Mothers and Daughters Now Mothers” and the second movement of “The 1890 Affair”, while Natalie Williams provides her brilliant voice on album centerpiece “Sky Breaks” and “Tell Me Stories.”

To describe the music of The Heritage Orchestra in depth would be redundant. Everything they play has been done before, but no one has combined everything they do quite like this. The overall concepts stun on this album, not the finer details. Certainly a strong debut, The Heritage Orchestra has a rich future ahead of them, even while they keep looking to the past for inspiration.

I Hear Sirens- EP


When judging anything artistic, whether it is figure skating, marching band, ballroom dancing, or obscure post rock, many cannot balance two hugely important factors: level of performance and level of difficulty. Personally, I believe more in weighing originality and difficulty of repertoire higher than the actual level of performance. I will listen to (and rate higher) more challenging music with a few mistakes over more cliché music played perfectly any day. After all, if artists keep employing the same techniques and creating the same works over and over, are they truly creating art? Yet we must praise those who perfect an already attempted art, for striving to perfection is honorable enough as well, and it is for this reason that the post rock genre continues to thrive. The genre begs for its first truly perfect album, devoid of pretentiousness and senseless filler. Have I Hear Sirens achieved that? No, but their debut EP shows certain promise.

I Hear Sirens continues along the lines of instrumental, guitar-based post rock much like Caspian, This Will Destroy You, and Explosions in the Sky. However, if they can claim any originality, they can claim the contraction of song ideas into more concise nuggets of music, all well executed. In fact, the worst part of the album passes quickly in the first 8 seconds, a pointless fade in of ambient noises that transition awkwardly into the first crushing chord. A wall of distorted guitar and synth, the band’s two melodic weapons, powerfully opens the album musically until the sound masterfully draws back, building to the next climax. Where many bands compose each song with the intention of building to one immense climax, I Hear Sirens knows better. Although shorter than the average post rock song, the band uses more than one climax to make the entire song interesting rather than a constant build that never surprises.

Still, most of the I Hear Sirens EP is fairly predictable. The sound, while full and well-rehearsed, brings nothing new to the table. The distorted guitar picking backed with powerful piano chords might get repetitive, but they sound like true professionals. They use a variety of different structures, such as letting the bass lay out the opening chord progression in “Like a Leaf from a Tree in it’s Dying Season” or the unexpected piano outro of opening song “This Is The Last Time I’ll Say Goodbye.” The biggest surprise, however, comes in the middle of album where vocals suddenly appear at the end of “September Isn't Too Far and I'm Not Sure I'll Return.” Airy and atmospheric, they fit perfectly inside the sound, not too overbearing yet certainly noticeable. The rest of the band lulls in volume and intensity, the last resting point before the push to the end. Despite these slight anomalies throughout the EP, the bulk of the album demonstrates the true strengths of the band. “Everything Was Black and White Except the City Lights” masterfully rises and falls, one of the most perfected demonstrations of guitar post rock of the year. The intense crescendo into the dragged out, huge chord progression shows that a little intensity and vigor doesn’t hurt.

Despite the clichéd sound, song titles, and unoriginal band name (The Receiving End of Sirens?), I Hear Sirens conveys their sound well. Still, the music needs something more to stick out from all the other well-executed post rock. Or maybe they can continue with this sound and perfect it to the point of no return, and the indie world will celebrate, but shouldn’t we ask for more from our music?