Review Round Up #69's Review Round Up feature provides five quick-fire music reviews on a weekly basis. This edition includes Alec Empire's "Shivers," We're All Broken's "Blacktop Cry," Blackberry Smoke's "Little Piece Of Dixie – The EP," Jenny Gillespie's "Light Year," and Sparky Grinstead and Eric Kampman's "Winter Comes and Goes."


Alec Empire
(Eat Your Heart Out 2009)

After exploring his tongue-in-cheek self-described “indie” side on last year’s “The Golden Foretaste Of Heaven,” Alec Empire is previewing his upcoming full-length with “Shivers.” While the EP does include “If You Live Or Die (Live)” and “1000 Eyes (Film Version),” the focus is clearly on three new tracks, all of which are distinctly different. “Baby Skull” takes Wendy Carlos’ sci-fi/horror synth sound and adds a club beat while the title track is a six minute ethereal piano ballad that whispers like your subconscious.

Sounds Like: Empire continuing to explore his softer side without losing all the aggression

Key Tracks: “Control Drug”

buy it!
Blacktop Cry

We're All Broken
“Blacktop Cry”
(Devildance Records 2009)

Jersey boys We’re All Broken are working the melodies on their new EP, “Blacktop Cry.” Both with the vocal harmonies and the instrumentation, the band are tightly packing the melodics in, making each of the EP’s six tracks count. But the recording of “Blacktop Cry” lacks depth to do the layering right and each track ends up sounding, more or less, the same.

Sounds Like: Post-hardcore that’s not too edgy, emo that’s not too wimpy

Key Tracks: “The Working Life”

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Little Piece Of Dixie – The EP

Blackberry Smoke
“Little Piece Of Dixie – The EP”
(Big Karma Records/Adrenaline Music Group 2008)

When you say Southern rock, there’s a certain image and group of bands that come to mind. Classic acts like ZZ Top, the Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd are sure to be at the top of the list. Atlanta boys Blackberry Smoke emulate those bands with a twist of the modernity of The Black Crowes on “Little Piece Of Dixie – The EP.” Although they strut dangerously close to the country-line with “Dixie,” the larger than life sound driven by guitar riffs and clean sounding vocals is there.

Sounds Like: Follows the classic Southern rock tradition of having a good time

Key Tracks: “Up In Smoke”

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Light Year

Jenny Gillespie
“Light Year”
(Self-Released 2009)

Cast aside all preconceptions of folk music singer-songwriters. Jenny Gillespie’s “Light Year” might be full of ballads but there’s nothing minimal or quiet about them. Gillespie’s vocals are commanding over the lush and light melodies that are balanced out by dramatic arrangements. When she does go for a stripped down sound, such as on closing track “Shells,” you don’t even notice because Gillespie’s voice is turning so many tricks.

Sounds Like: Commanding female singer-songwriters like Feist and Martha Wainwright

Key Tracks: “Hydra”

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Winter Comes and Goes

Sparky Grinstead and Eric Kampman
“Winter Comes and Goes”
(Self-Released 2009)

On “Winter Comes and Goes,” which is being promoted as Sparky Grinstead’s first collection of new music in more than a quarter of a century (26 years, to be exact), there’s little that could be described as pop, as much he might want it to be. More akin to folk and easy-listening, with some head scratchingly odd quirks (i.e. the bass-thumping “Breathe”), the album has heart but is otherwise lacking.

Sounds Like: Heartfelt DIY you might hear at open mic night

Key Tracks: “Take This Life”