EP REVIEW: Rome Will Burn

ROME https://www.reverbnation.com/romewillburn/songs

Rome Will Burn are an electronic/pop duo hailing from Los Angeles. They consist of vocalist/songwriter Alyssa Suede and DJ/violinist Manifesto. Alyssa is the sister of Beck, and their father David Campbell acts as producer/arranger on this EP. After leaving drama school to pursue music, Alyssa became a guitarist and achieved success as a singer/songwriter, appearing at SXSW and Sundance as well as winning awards for her videos to Falling From Mars and Hollow (3D).

Manifesto started out in the classical world, studying violin as a child and gaining international renown performing to audiences around the world. He decided on a different path eventually, becoming a trance/progressive DJ whilst incorporating the electric violin. After becoming popular on the underground scene, he became a producer and collaborated with Seal, Benny Benassi and Paul Van Dyk amongst many others.

They formed in 2013 and this EP is their debut release. First track Chameleon is a strong example of their musical style. It’s a mid paced pop/electronica track with Manifesto’s Gypsy violin playing incorporated throughout to give it a unique sonic flavour. This is combined with synths and percussion, handclaps providing a four to the floor pulse which becomes a kick drum on the second verse.

Alyssa has a powerful, distinctive voice that is slightly reminiscent of Sia and grabs you immediately. The song is about a two faced character who she finds difficult to resist nonetheless: “Guess I like playing with danger, till you go and change your colours again…”.

The verse bursts into an anthemic chorus that lodges in the memory instantly: “You spin me round and I don’t know where to go…”. It works excellently as a commercial pop track for radio and would also go down well in the clubs, as I’m sure was intended.

These Three Words is another finely crafted track that uses a similar quiet verse/big chorus structure, though this is more mellow and romantic. It features another superb vocal performance from Alyssa, who shows her large vocal range on the sky-scraping chorus. The lyrical hook is simple effective “I love you, I do…you came into my life as soft as a butterfly…”. It’s such a strong chorus that it is another potential single.

Waging Romance starts out in a way similar to Chameleon, with a haunting violin melody interweaving with Alyssa’s vocal. Then the pulsing beat develops into a full dance groove on yet another memorable chorus, which gives the track a big lift. After the second chorus there is a violin solo which provides an unexpected contrast and works well. Rome Will Burn have a real gift for consistently great pop hooks and this is another one.

Live By The Beat continues the high quality, and this electro-dance/pop track seems particularly suited to the dancefloor with a pounding kick drum. This is the kind of song Lady Gaga would kill for, and I’d be surprised if these songs aren’t on their debut album, as they are simply too good for just an EP.

Body Language is the most musically diverse track here, starting out electro dance with a see-saw synth riff that draws you in, then morphing into a funk guitar section with Alyssa laying down an unpredictable but highly effective vocal melody. Another violin section combined with vocoder and spoken word elements thrown into the mix further add to the heady brew, all held together by the addictive “Work that body language…” chorus hook. This one is a lot to take in on first listen, but acts as a real grower.

Overall, this is a fantastic debut release from a pop/dance duo who have carefully cultivated and developed their sound in the studio and are already the ‘finished article’. The combination of Alyssa Suede’s voice and Manifesto’s Gypsy/classical influence makes for a unique sound that will help them stand apart from the crowd. Several of these tracks would make excellent singles, and Alyssa being Beck’s sister will not hurt in terms of publicity! No nepotism is necessary though, Rome Will Burn stand out as a musical force to be reckoned with and you’ll be hearing a lot more from them in the future.

 

Alex Faulkner

 

Verdict: 9.1 out of 10

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ALBUM REVIEW: …And The Walls Of The City Will Shake by The Colored Parade (Released May 6 2014)

COLORDE

The Colored Parade is essentially the brainchild of singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Adkins. Having been in the critically eluded Mellow Down Easy and voted one of the top three songwriters in Nashville, this album finds Adkins blending a mélange of musical styles to create something refreshingly unique.

It would difficult to  pigeonhole the music into any existing genre, it’s a melting pot of country, rock and blues, with shades of gospel, folk and electronica thrown for good measure. And let’s not forget the colourful flourishes of brass and strings. If pressed, I’d call it psych-country, but best the listener decide for themselves. The title, however, is most apt, coming from Plato’s old adage, “When the mode of the music changes, the walls of the city will shake…”.

His original twist on country/blues could be compared to Beck’s Odelay though stylistically is much closer to the home-spun authentic charm of The Band (if maybe with a little acid slipped in their tea!). Adkins’ voice is reminiscent of a more guttural and ballsy Marc Bolan, though musically also brings to mind such disparate influences as Steve Earle, 60’s legends Love, Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd (especially the very trippy finale Out Of The Ether) and the melding of different styles and instrumentation also made me think of Mercury Rev’s seminal Deserters’ Songs.

The joy of this album is that you never quite know where things are heading. Opener ‘Please, Be Kind’ wrong foots the listener halfway through via a dreamy pedal-steel section and the album takes many delightful left turns like this. The short-but-sweet second track ‘When The World’s Against Me’ is a nice contrast, which is notable for its mariachi-style brass arrangement.

Over the next few songs, Adkins also shows his skill as a lyricist with a deft Dylan-esque turn of phrase and gift for imagery (‘when the stars fall like confetti down the drain’ , ‘like a lightning bolt through a heart of stone’). The gritty ‘I’m Indestructible’ brought to mind the retro-blues of The Black Keys, currently huge, which shows the album has commercial potential.

Other highlights for me were ‘Too Much Out of Line’, which features a mellifluous guitar solo, and my personal favourite ‘Let’s Set Fire To This World’, a five-minute long call-to-arms against apathy in the face of worldly corruption. It must be said though that there’s no weak links at all here, and across thirteen songs, that’s quite an achievement.

While the subtleties and sophistication may go over the heads of the masses, this album will undoubtedly find its place in the hearts of the musically literate and eventually find a large following.  Though it owes much to the past, its innovations and more modern touches place it very much as an album of the moment and you could easily see it topping critics’ lists at the end of the year. And the walls may well be shaking…

 

Verdict: 8.6 out of 10

Alex Faulkner