Seen and Heard
Building off of its growing Homegroan franchise and last year's launch of TulsaOriginalMusic.com, Z104.5 The Edge has returned with a sequel to last year's Homegroan disc. Available only at Edge remote broadcasts and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (formerly Cherokee Casino), this one is definitely worth checking out if you're a local music fan.
The 13 tracks provide a nice mix of genres and overview of Oklahoma's music scene at the moment. The disc open's with a nice kick, jumpstarted by PDA's "Stuck Up," a bouncy rap that grabs your attention and should make even the rockers in the crowd want to dance. Ironically, even though it's a stand out of the Homegroan disc, this tune actually won't appear on PDA's forthcoming disc, so make sure to get it here.
As should be expected, we've got a few of the familiar culprits making appearances. Even if we already know them, it's hard to argue that My Solstice, Stars Go Dim and RadioRadio shouldn't be on the compilation. It would defeat the purpose of the disc if Solstice's "Let Me Stay," perhaps the strongest local modern rock single of the year, wasn't included. Likewise, Stars Go Dim's "Get Over It" and RadioRadio's "I, Computer" seems custom-made for radio, even if the latter has a new mix of the song that will be released this fall.
We've also got the debut of Driveby Sonata with "Through the Madness," building on Jocelyn Rowland-Hughes background in Rook, while updating the sound to be a little more pop friendly.
Cody Clinton and the Bishops' "Ballad of Misused Hearts" proved to be a personal highlight and surprise, mining a classic Tom Petty vibe and infusing it with a modern vibe and punchy energy.
The other surprise here was the inclusion of Restless Ribbon, a serious contender for in the Music Awards' Best New Artist category, proving the kids have some serious chops with "Roses."
Elsewhere, Kawnar breaks from the rapper mold with "Heartbreaker" and we get a glimpse of new acts like Junebug Spade, Western Heritage and BleedCircuit. While Western Heritage probably provides the most promise from a pop and radio exposure perspective, the inclusion of BleedCircuit rounds out the disc with a true hard rock band that has both potential and polish.
VanRisseghem's "We Are Full of Love" closes the disc with a strong singer-songwriter cut and a big hook that finishes the snapshot of Tulsa's current music scene. All said, the disc is incredibly well-rounded, with something for everyone.
The only misstep on the disc, in my opinion, is the inclusion of Aranda's "It Ain't Easy." The band should probably be a given, considering the amount of industry buzz the brothers have created during the past year, but I somehow expected something more from them. Yes, there's a catchy guitar hook and a swagger, and I guess it delivers as far as summer party-rock songs go; it's just not what I expected from the boys that landed songwriting credits with Kelly Clarkson.
Indie rock fans will likely feel left out, but this disc shows we've got more commercial potential in our local pop and rock scene than we might initially recognize. It's a must for local pop and rock fans, if only to support your bands and get a couple of songs that aren't available elsewhere yet.
Off the Hook
One of Those Days
Primarily known for his role in Full Moon Café's dueling piano shows, Kitt Bender has just released his self-produced debut, One of Those Days. Considering his background, the disc comes as a bit of a surprise. Although all of the songs feel like they've been written on piano, Bender has fleshed them out nicely, making a more rounded pop record.
The title track, "One of Those Days," is easily the standout track on the disc, a melancholy ballad that builds to a soaring chorus. Unfortunately, after that opening track, it all becomes more of the same. That's not to say there's anything terrible here, just nothing terribly memorable.
What we've got is a collection of 10 neatly packaged three and a half minute pop songs. In a perfect world, it's custom packaged and ready for pop radio. The only thing that's missing is the memorable hook that doesn't leave your brain. Unfortunately, there's not one on here.
Fans of '80s pop music and A/C radio will find some solace in this disc. The mid-tempo pop tunes and ballads cater to the Adult Contemporary market mining a similar vibe as much of the mid to late '80s pop songwriters. Bender's taken his lessons well from the school of Phil Collins, Richard Marx and Dan Hill. The only problem is, it's now 2009 and the game has changed. When Bender is fully orchestrated, including live drums, the songs have some depth and strength. On the five cuts that incorporate drum machines, however, any energy is stripped away and the songs sound dated.
Overall, it's a promising debut for a pop songwriter who likely will have for us in the future. Once he finds the inescapable hook, he'll have his launching pad. As for now, however, it's an honorable effort, if a false start.
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