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N.E.D. Six Degrees

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I had never heard of N.E.D. prior to listening to their forthcoming release Six Degrees and thought it best to keep it that way until completing my task. Let me be honest, after I had given the album the once-through, I was prepared to write a very different review than the one you will get here. The reason for this is because I did a little research into this band and…um…well I felt guilty.  And here is the reason. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

N.E.D. is comprised of six practicing gynecologic oncologists who spend their days caring for women — in the operating room, clinic , your-pharmacies.com , and research lab, striving for better ways to treat cancers unique to women.  They formed a band to raise awareness and money for the fight against these cancers.

So, you see, I had to cut them some slack. I had to cut the a lot of slack. If this band was anything other than what it is I would have no problem being harsh and super critical. However, I find myself a little fascinated by this endeavor called N.E.D. and see no need to treat these people like I would had they been far less noble in their cause. N.E.D. stands for no evidence of disease, which is what every cancer patient wants their doctor to tell them after treatment. Man I really have to be nice to this band.

The songs on Six Degrees, (get it? Six medical degrees) are pleasant and innocuous, sprinkled with some decent guitar licks and sometimes-interesting harmonies. They label themselves as alternative rock but this is as adult contemporary as it gets. Not much edge here at all.

There are two vocalists in the band, John Boggess and Joanie Hope but if it were up to me I would have Joanie Hope be the only vocalist in the band.  Her voice works better with the pervading middle-of-the-road sound of the band and at its best moments adopts a  Natalie Merchant tone, which serves the music well.  The fifth track, Let The Singing Begin is one of the highlights on the album. It’s a lovely and soulful tune where all the musician’s strengths coalesce nicely. Intoxication works for the same reasons but provides a little more attitude both lyrically and musically.

One gets the sense that N.E.D. has in its ranks some very accomplished musicians but what you don’t get is the sense of any sort of identity. The sound suffers from being a little too generic and this lack of identity is only exacerbated by alternating vocalists and their seemingly different directions in substance. But as I said, this record is serving a greater cause than simply N.E.D. becoming rock stars. I wish this band the very best and I hope people find it in their hearts to at the very least, check them out and sample the music.

You may love it. You may not. But your karma will be well served.

Release date June 21

[box type=”info”] Spark Media Group out of Washington DC is producing a feature-length documentary of the band titled “Dancing with N.E.D.” The film charts the dual careers of the musicians/surgeons, from operating rooms to music halls. The viewer will get an intimate look at the life-affirming work of these band mates as they grapple with the realities of treating life-altering gynecological cancers. The documentary is scheduled to be completed in November, 2011 and shown on the national film circuit during 2012. [/box]

CD Reviews

Transistor-on Takes “The Way Back Down” on EP

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Transistor-on calls their goods “fuzzed out reverb music,” and in the spirit of post-rock, EP The Way Back Down is full of that melodious texture and sensation. Recorded at The Cottage with Damon Moon, The Way Back Down is a mere four tracks. But those songs make a satisfying sampling of a band with a big future ahead.

Atlanta duo Joey Piersante and Chris Armistead offer up a hazy fugue state that is the blueprint for this coming summer, showing that they can run with the best of the lo-fi crowd with their unique rhythms and finger-picking. The minimalist use of instruments that whip up the dream poppy wall of sound succeeds in taking the listener in a layered, chill journey.

Tracks like “Calling Out” and “Solar Flare” are so catchy (the former with its title refrain; the latter with its main guitar melody), that they etch onto your brain and trick you into thinking these are songs that have been around for maybe 20 years or so already.

Reviewers are throwing out comparisons—and they’ll continue to—of Transistor-on to Explosions in the Sky. The similarities are there for sure; both bands share a genre, after all. But saying only “they remind me of Explosions in the Sky” overlooks the fact that Transistor-on are stepping out in earnest on this EP, sounding comfortable in their skin without being jaded. Plus, having smoky vocals on the tracks adds to the spacey miasma and mystery that serves as the overarching feel of the record. The singing on “Empty Planet,” for example, highlights the track’s slow burn into its rocking guitar-driven crescendo.

Though the last piece on The Way Back Down is called “Exit,” by no means is that a harbinger of the band’s future. Transistor-on closes with a sure-footed tapestry of distortion and crisp rhythm, wrapping up a consistent and skillful release that definitely marks their arrival.

The Way Back Down is available to stream on SoundCloud or for purchase on iTunes. The gorgeous photo cover by Richard Casteel.

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Muse “Drones” Review

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Emily Hearn Saves Time in a Bottle on “Hourglass”

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Emily Hearn’s sonic journey on Hourglass shows that she is a woman coming into her own, figuring out the knots of past heartache, the bliss of newlywed life, and the passage of time.

Time acts as the overarching narrative on the record; Hourglass spans the two years following the Athens, GA native’s debut Red Balloon and 2013 EP Promises. “We fall in or out of love as time moves us,” she explains. “We learn life-changing lessons as time goes on. We figure out how to handle important relationships as time shapes us. We decide who we want to be and what we believe as time reveals our priorities. And ultimately, we grow older as time goes by.”

Hearn sings wistfully “Oh, to be young, and to have time” on the third track “Oak Tree,” longing for the naïve feeling that time would never move forward, or at least not so fast. She frets over seeing her parents age so quickly. The existential worries of a twenty-something come delivered in a package of a catchy, infectious chorus and clap-along-able melody.

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