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Cheap Star- Bona Head- Lars Boutrup- Planting Claymore

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Cheap Star
Speaking Like an Elephant

Z&Zoe

This French band's name may or may not be a bit of homage to deified American band Big Star; either way the comparison is appropriate. Full of breathless lead vocals, rich harmonies and jangling guitars, Speaking Like an Elephant is an impressive set of understated pop gems informed not only by Big Star but by acts like the Posies, an influence clearly audible on tunes like "Sugar & Candy" and "For Saving Grace." The Cheap Star sound didn't come without some significant guidance; Posies/Big Star members Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow produced the album, each working separately on half of the set list. But giving credit where credit is due Auer and Stringfellow should be viewed as mentors only since Cheap Star singer Remi Vaissiere wrote all the songs and he's obviously the source of the bulk of the creativity here and maybe a new legendary pop hero in the making.

Bona Head
Colours Doors Planet

(Self released)

This album begins with "The Traveller," a quiet swelling of melodic synthesizer with lasers-going-off-in-outer-space effects that lead the listener to suppose that Colours Doors Planet might be a prog rock effort. But Italian artist Roberto Bonazzoli, aka Bona Head, works more in the vein of suave singers like Bryan Ferry, at times arranging his songs in a manner that recalls but doesn't mimic later-days Roxy Music, like on "Kites (Lost in Thought)." This is a one-man recording where Bona Head sounds good on vocals, keys and guitar and even though the programmed beats occasionally sound a little sterile Bonazzoli's debut shows plenty of promise.

Lars Boutrup's Music For Keyboards
The Symphonic Dream

Ex'cess

Boutrup specializes in composing music for films and he's handled that chore for over 200 films in Sweden and his native Denmark. He's also been in a handful of prog bands, so combine that influence with his propensity for film work and you can sort of imagine what The Symphonic Dream sounds like---big, cinematic instrumentals in a Rick Wakeman vein amongst passages that, with their King Crimson-like quirks, bring to mind groups like Agents of Mercy. It is said that most dreams play out in a matter of seconds; The Symphonic Dream on the other hand lights up the mind for nearly a full hour.

Planting Claymore
(Self released)

This is a three-song teaser from the Bristol, England-based 5-piece and they've tailored their sound to fit American hard rock and AAA radio, varying their style slightly to incorporate prog overtones on "Airlock," spin "Re-gen" as a friendly and soaring number dressed up in faux orchestration and infuse "Killcycle" with an amount of anger appropriate to the song title.

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