February 2014 Comics and Reviews from aka
babysue comix #186
babysue comix #187
babysue comix #188
babysue comix #189
The Book Thief
Eric Brace & Karl Straub*
Cars Can Be Blue*
Ferris & The Wheels
Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs
Hides A Well
Jackson & The Wargonauts
The Jigsaw Seen
The New Sound of Numbers*
Saving Mr. Banks
Tower of Power*
Kate Tucker and the Sons of Sweden*
Michael Vlatkovich Quartet
Winter By Lake*
Additional Items Received
Alcest - Shelter (CD, Prophecy, Dream pop)
Thick dense dream pop from France's Alcest. The band is the duo comprised of multi-instrumentalist Neige and drummer Winterhalter. The two began making music together in 2000. The sound was originally much harsher (they are credited with creating the "blackgaze" sound). Over the years the overall vibe has changed and evolved and now these two fellows are creating intense dreamy music that is hypnotic and surreal. Recorded in Iceland with Sigur Ros producer Birgir Jon Birgisson, you can certainly hear this man's influence and presence on these tracks. Although you've probably heard a great many shoegaze/dream pop bands in the past, there are very few whose music has the intensity of the guys in Alcest. We are particularly impressed by the fact that almost all of the songs here are sung in French. Housed in a beautiful tri-fold cardboard sleeve complete with lyric booklet and featuring some lovely photography by Andy Julia, Shelter features a finely crafted batch of tunes that listeners won't soon forget. Eight hypnotic cuts including "Wings," "Voix Sereine," "Shelter," and "Deliverance."
Sinister - Animals (CD, FU:M (File Under Music), Pop)
Is Bend Sinister the band most likely to succeed in 2014...? If there's any one group that we're guessing will hit the big time in the very near future, we're placing our bets on this Vancouver-based quartet. Combining sounds from classic bands from the past like Queen, Rush, and Supertramp, these guys have an upbeat keyboard-based sound that is melodic, intense, frenetic, and ultimately very, very appealing. And these guys are anything but a retro band. They use the basic idea of the aforementioned bands as a starting point...and then push the sound squarely into the twenty-first century by infusing their songs with plenty of extra punch. Bend Sinister is comprised of Dan Moxon (vocals, keyboards), Jason Dana (drums), Matt Rhode (bass, vocals), and Joseph Blood (guitars, vocals). These guys are going to be touring heavily this year to promote this album. Even though we haven't seen them live (yet), we have absolutely no doubt that these guys blow folks away at their concerts. Animals is a perfect loud jolt of loud modern pop/rock featuring smart lyrics, unforgettable melodies, and those soaring vocals that have quickly become the band's trademark. Ten kickass cuts here including "Best Of You," "Better Things To Do," "You Remind Me," and "It Will Never End." Top pick.
Blank Realm - Grassed Inn (CD, Fire,
More cool loud hazy underground rock from the nifty folks in Great Britain's Blank Realm. This band is comprised of siblings Daniel Spencer (vocals, drums), Sarah Spencer (synthesizers, vocals), and Luke Spencer (bass) along with guitarist Luke Walsh. Like the band's previous album, Grassed Inn has a decidedly rough sound that seems very much like the band recorded the material on the spot with very little preparation. As such, there are plenty of cool spontaneous threads running through these tunes that make them particularly appealing. The press release that accompanied this album compared the music to Big Star, The Zombies, and Echo and the Bunnymen (all of which hold true to some degree)...but to our ears there are even more similarities to early Velvet Underground. If you want your songs all glossy and perfect, this band will be far too real for your tastes. These tracks sound like a real band playing real music. Eight kickin' tracks here including "Back to the Flood," "Falling Down The Stairs," "Baby Closes The Door," and "Reach You On The Phone." The more we hear this band...the better they sound. Neat stuff...!
Book Thief - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack:
Music Composed and Conducted by John Williams (CD, Sony Classical, Soundtrack)
The Book Thief is a new film that offers a different sort of plot. Based on Markus Zusak's novel of the same name, the film "...tells the inspiration story of a spirited and courageous young girl who transforms the lives of everyone around her when she is sent to live with a foster family in World War II Germany." Well-known composer John Williams composed and conducted the music for the film. Williams fans may be surprised at this soundtrack. Whereas most of his soundtracks employ large orchestras and complex arrangements, this soundtrack has a more simple sparse sound...probably because the film involves more intimate and personal issues that required this. An interesting side note. Williams is the Academy Awards' most-nominated living person. The only other person who was nominated more was Walt Disney (!). After reading about this one and hearing the music, our appetites are focused on seeing this film. If the plot and music are any indication of what's in store, this is a very special film. Twenty-two tracks here that clock in at just under fifty-three minutes. Cool reflective compositions include "One Small Fact," "Learning To Read," "The Visitor at Himmel Street," and "Rudy Is Taken."
Brace & Karl Straub
- Hangtown Dancehall (CD, Red
Eric Brace is one helluva busy guy. This Nashville, Tennessee-based singer/songwriter isn't a household name...yet...but that's bound to change over the course of the next few years. Brace was originally a journalist at the Washington Post before moving to Nashville in 2003. Since that time he has started his own record label (Red Beet), recorded several albums, played lots of shows, and made a great many connections. Eric often works with his pal Peter Cooper But on this album he paired up with Karl Straub and together the two wrote a song-cycle that deals with the California Gold Rush. The story involves two lovers (Betsy and Ike) who leave their home in Missouri for the possible great fortunes to be found in California. The album has been in the works for many years but is only now a reality. The songs are great Americana-style pop with a heavy emphasis on lyrics. Joining Brace and Straub are some real heavyweights including Kelly Willis, Tim O'Brien, Darrell Scott, Jason Ringenberg, Andrea Zonn, and John Wesley Harding (whew!). The CD is housed in an oversized digipak sleeve which contains not only the disc but also a beautifully designed lyric/story booklet to assist the listener in following along. The cool packaging was created by Julie Sola with graphic design provided by Bill Thompson. This exceptional album features twenty-two tracks that clock in at just over fifty-three minutes. This project was obviously a labor of love and these two guys have succeeded here on a variety of levels. Well-crafted tracks include "Sweet Betsy From Pike," "Gone To California," "Marshall's Reel," "King Midas," "Pike County Rose," "Hanging Tree," and "El Dorado Farewell." Killer stuff from start to finish. TOP PICK.
Can Be Blue - Trace The Tension (CD,
Happy Happy Birthday To Me, Rock/pop)
We've been big fans of music on the Athens, Georgia-based label Happy Happy Birthday To Me for years--not only because the label releases some great music, but also because you can always depend on them unearth great artists. We're huge fans of underground pop/rock bands from the 1990s (easily one of the most fertile periods ever for pop/rock in the United States). And we miss the direct energy jolt that so many of those great guitar-driven bands provided. Simple rhythms, loud guitars, great vocal melodies...these were all trademarks of the cool power pop bands treading around our country as the last century came to a close. Well dear readers, those days don't have to be over...because Cars Can Be Blue are delivering all the ingredients we know and love so well. This groovy three piece band is comprised of Nate Mitchell (drums, vocals), Becky Brooks (guitar, vocals), and Jeremy Dyson (bass/yelling). These folks have a sound that reminds us of a cross between Lazy and The Fastbacks. And if that's not a recipe for success we don't know what is. Totally groovy infectious tunes here that really pack a punch. Our favorite cuts include "You Gave Me," "Battleship," "You Should Be Begging," "Banging My Head," and "Don't Tell Me." We love this stuff... TOP PICK.
Gheorghe Costinescu - An Evolving Cycle (CD, Ravello,
The second Ravello release featuring the music of Gheorghe Costinescu. An Evolving Cycle presents four works for solo piano that explore "...the transition of these idioms from Baroque to 21st-century contemporary, charting the evolution of form and technique with a deft control of style" (quoted from the press release). New York's Stephen Gosling plays the piano...and the man is pure magic on the keys. Over forty-five minutes of music here spread out over four pieces: "Theme and Variations for the Piano," "Sonata For the Piano," "Evolving Cycle of Two-Part Model Inventions for Piano," and "Essay in Sound." This album should appeal equally to fans of traditional as well as modern classical music.
Who - Series 7: Original Television Soundtrack,
Music by Murray Gold (Double CD, Silva
The fine folks at Silva Screen continue their mission of releasing soundtrack music composed for the popular Doctor Who television series. Series 7 featured thirteen "self-contained stories" and these tracks are culled from those shows. Once again, Murray Gold created the music for the show (for which he has received two BAFTA nominations). Spread out over the space of two CDs, this set features a whopping 74 (!!??) tracks. The discs are divided up into thirteen chronological sections with each section offering music from that particular show. Gold's music fits somewhere in the terrain where classical meets pop...probably more the former than the latter. These compositions are slick, exciting, moving, and executed to perfection. This is a must for Doctor Who fans...as well as anyone who appreciates richly rewarding soundtrack music. There's so much to take in here...this double disc set is one WHIRLWIND of a roller coaster ride...
Day - Fade Out (CD, Fundog,
Hot damn. This is the real deal. If you're sick to death of all the processed cheese food glopping around the planet these days this is album is a MUST HAVE. Although we love most styles of music overall, underground guitar pop still remains our particular favorite. Accordingly, we realized on the very first spin that this one was a top pick. Fade Out is the fourth full-length release from the folks in Canada's Dog Day. And it is one HELLUVA killer spin. The band is the project created by Seth Smith and his wife Nancy Urich. These songs harken back to the 1970s and 1980s when underground guitar pop was really beginning to take hold. The songs are melodic, inspired, gutsy, and totally refreshing. These songs are so good that they remind us of why we fell in love with so many obscure pop bands in the first place. The guitars are wonderfully subdued but gripping...the vocals heavenly and never overdone...the rhythms propulsive and danceable. But songs take center stage here...and that's what makes Fade Out such a fantastic experience. Thirteen kickass tunes that we'll be playing over and over and over for years to come. All of these tracks are dynamite but our initial favorites include "Blackened," "In Another Life," "Sunset," "Leave Your Body," and "Before Us." Smart. Ultra intelligent. Focused. And completely irresistible. Highly recommended. TOP PICK.
Sarah Dooley - Stupid Things (Independently released CD, Pop)
The first thing that caught our attention about the debut full-length release from Sarah Dooley were the photos. The front cover features a photo of a very young Sarah with a perplexing look on her face. Open up the cardboard sleeve...and you see an all-grown-up present day Sarah with a similar odd look...and even wearing clothes that look identical. So...we could tell right off the bat that this lady has a sense of humor about herself. Originally from Valparaiso, Indiana, Dooley now lives in New York City. But back to the album...the songs on Stupid Things are more direct and straightforward than the cover might suggest. Sarah writes smart piano-based pop songs that come across sounding fresh and inspired...and they could easily appeal to a wide range of listeners. Ten clever melodic cuts here including "Stupid Things," "Teenage Elegance," "Shadows," and "Watching Goodies At My House."
Dovetail - Mount Karma (CD, OK!
The debut full-length release from the Dallas, Texas-based band Dovetail. In 2012 these guys won the John Lennon Songwriting Award for their song "Julie," which is the lead track on this album. Afterward they began recording a full-length album...and the result is Mount Karma. These fellows have a sound that is immediately catchy and familiar, combining sounds of radio pop from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. The band is driven by the songwriting skills of brothers Philip Creamer and Daniel Creamer. This is the most accessible sounding album we've yet to hear on the OK! Good label, so this just may be the one that pushes the label into the big spotlight. The promotional materials that accompanied this album compared the band's sound to The Byrds, The Beach Boys, and The Beatles all of which hold true to some degree. We would also add the band School of Fish to the list, as some of these tracks have a similar sound. This fourteen track album is sure to catch on with music fans worldwide. The songs are well written, the vocals exceptional, and the overall vibe is crisp and inviting. Our favorite tracks include "Julie," "Heavy," "Listen Children," and "Mount Karma."
& The Wheels - Hollow (Independently
released CD EP, Pop)
The guys in Nashville, Tennessee's Ferris & The Wheels have had a good bit of success with their recent anti-bullying music video "Can't By Yourself" which tells the story of three boys who get revenge on the school bully. That song is included on this EP along with four other brand new tracks. The band is the project created by singer/songwriter Geoff Ferris and drummer Patrick Gullett. When most folks think of Nashville they think country, bluegrass, or country/pop. Representing the new sound of Nashville are Ferris and Gullett, two guys who play powerful upbeat music with a pure classic pop sound. The emphasis here is on melodies and lyrics...and they're backed up by cool inviting rhythms and cool electric guitars. Our favorite cuts on this nifty independently released disc include "Hold Your Tongue," "Can't By Yourself," and "Let's Get Into Something." This EP should appeal to fans of Fountains of Wayne.
Golightly & The Brokeoffs - It's Her
Fault (CD, Transdreamer, Bluesy swamp
More homegrown foot stompin' bluesy pop from Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs. Holly is a woman who is driven to create. Along with her partner Lawyer Dave she has released about 20 albums thus far in her career. And there are no signs that she's going to be letting up anytime soon. Originally from England, Golightly now lives on a farm just outside of Athens, Georgia. If you've loved the sound of this band in the past (as have we), then you're bound to dig the groovy swampy sounds on It's Her Fault. If you haven't yet been exposed...then this is as good a disc to start with as any. Dave and Holly will be touring the country this year to support the album so catch 'em if you can. Our guess is that the duo puts on one helluva show. Kickass cuts include "For All That Ails You," "Bless Your Heart," "1 2 3 4," and "No Business." Recommended for fans of Southern Culture on the Skids.
Hammock - Oblivion Hymns (Independently released CD, Progressive/dream/ambient)
Hammock returns with another slick, hypnotic, cerebral album. The band is the Nashville, Tennessee-based duo consisting of Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson...two fellows who have made some amazing connections all around the world over the past few years. While most folks in the Southeast might not be familiar with Hammock, there are many other folks around the world who are. One reason why this band remains an underground art band is the fact that Byrd and Thompson don't write and record hits, opting instead to compose and release dreamy hypnotic modern mood music with a difference. Oblivion Hymns takes the Hammock sound to another level as this time around the duo incorporates a string quartet and a children's choir into their music (along with some other well-chosen surprises). Ten lovely tracks here crafted with ultimate skill and precision, and bound to please Hammock fans. The disc is housed in an absolutely remarkable quadruple-fold cardboard sleeve featuring subtle cool artwork by Amy Pleasant. Beautiful dreamy cuts include "My Mind Was A Fog...My Heart Became A Bomb," "Turning Into Tiny Particles," and "In The Middle of This Nowhere."
Hawkins - Semisolids (Limited Edition
CD, Intangible Arts,
We kinda knew this one was gonna be something special before we even heard it. We were big fans of the uniquely unusual underground band Blue Sausage Infant. After 28 years being in operation, the band and name are no more...but Chester Hawkins continues experimenting with sound and music using his own name. The press release sums up the sound well, stating that Hawkins' music ranges "...from amniotic soundscapes (Iodine) to 1970s Italian horror cinema vibes (Malattia del Sonno), heady kosmische excursions (Isle of Dogs), and massive glacial drone (The Brood)." As you might guess from this quote, this stuff is not for everyone...nor does it try to be. Nine puzzling experiments in sound here and each one has something unique to offer. This disc sounds something like the soundtrack to a bizarre art film. We're sad that Blue Sausage Infant is no more (we always loved the name as well as the music), but we're mighty pleased that Mr. Hawkins has chosen to continue throwing cool curve balls into the world of music. Top pick.
A Well - From A Safe Distance (CD-R,
Not Rock, Progressive
The new album from Hides A Well features Adam Kaniper, Bryan Kwasnik, and John Fisher who were previously in the underground band Insouciant. These guys seem to be taking a more accessible approach this time around but this is by no means commercial sellout music. From A Safe Distance features cool melodic progressive pop/rock tracks with a different sort of sound and feel. Just as was the case with Insouciant, it is difficult to come up with specific comparisons and/or influences here. According to the short letter/press release that accompanied this disc, the songs are "mostly about looking at things from a distance of space or time and over-analyzing them." Well now, that's an idea we can definitely identify with (!). Although these songs fit comfortably within the confines of the pop/rock genre, they are actually more hypnotic and dreamy than such a categorization might suggest. Ten groovy intelligent cuts here and every one pushes the right buttons. Our favorites include "Secret Sitcoms," "Sleepyhead," "One Step At A Time," and "Things That Don't Exist."
Frankenstein - Original Motion Picture Score:
Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil (CD, Lakeshore,
Motion picture score)
If there's one thing that's certain, folks out there in the real world love Frankenstein. As such, this new film has an instant built-in audience ready to welcome it with open arms. Created by the producers of Underworld and being offered in 2D, real 3D, and Imax 3D, this one's bound to be a box office smash. Here's a direct quote from the official film web site: "200 years after his shocking creation, Dr. Frankenstein's creature, Adam, still walks the earth. But when he finds himself in the middle of a war over the fat of humanity, Adam discovers he holds the key that could destroy humankind." So...you can probably tell that this one isn't offering any light fluffy entertainment, eh? Heh heh heh... The score for the film was composed by Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil. These tracks have a huge moody slightly puzzling sound that will no doubt enhance the viewing experience greatly. Twenty-six perfectly executed tracks here that were recorded with precise attention to detail. Readers should note that there is also a separate soundtrack CD that features music from the band By Maker, which is the duo comprised of Geno Lenardo and Daniel Davies.
& The Wargonauts - The Summer's Eye
(CD, Doughnut, Pop)
The debut release from Cypress, California's Jackson & The Wargonauts. The band is driven by the songwriting skills of Jackson Wargo, a fellow who has a remarkable way of crafting melodies and lyrics. When we read in the cover letter that the band features ten members we were concerned that this album might be one of those where too many cooks spoil the broth. But upon spinning the disc we found that the exact opposite is true. Instead of sounding overproduced or cluttered, these tunes are presented simply with each musician adding only what is necessary or essential for each composition. The Summer's Eye offers a pure shot of pure pop, with no artsy noise getting in the way of the feelgood melodies. Wargo's songs have a surprising amount of commercial appeal...and yet they are a far cry from generic twenty-first century pop. Ten well-crafted cuts here including "Fine Tooth Comb," "Pelican Hill," and "The Summer's Salt." Excellent vocals from start to finish. Great pop stuff delivered with heart and soul.
Jigsaw Seen - The Jigsaw Seen For The Discriminating
Completist (Download, Vibro-phonic,
When we heard there was a download of an album of rarities from the guys in The Jigsaw Seen we were excited and just a wee bit disappointed. Because we technically don't review downloads, we figured we'd miss out on letting folks know about this one. But then the fine folks at Vibro-phonic made the extra effort to send us a CD-R of the tracks...which leads us to the present. The Jigsaw Seen For The Discriminating Completist is a collection that presents ten rare single, EP, and compilation versions of some of the band's songs plus covers of tunes by The Bee Gees, Henry Mancini (?), and Arthur Lee (?!). We love everything this band records...so you can draw your own conclusions here. This cool album can be downloaded on iTunes and/or Amazon.
Jupe - Crooked Kisses (Independently
released CD, Pop)
The third full-length release from the Seattle, Washington-based band Jupe Jupe. These folks have developed a good solid fan base by providing synthesizer-based modern pop reminiscent of 1980s bands like New Order. The band is comprised of My Young (vocals, synthesizers), Bryan Manzo (guitar), Patrick Partington (guitar), and Jarrod Arbini (drums, percussion). This band's sound is becoming more focused with the release of each album. Recorded by Martin Feveryear at Jupiter Studios, Crooked Kisses will probably be the album that pushes these folks' career to the next level. These ten tracks are memorable, melodic, danceable, and ultimately quite infectious overall. Our favorite cuts here are "Pieces Of You," "Never Ask Why," "Autumn October," "Darkness," and "New Stars In The Sky."
Kristina - Sonja Kristina (CD, Angel Air, Pop)
Sonja Kristina has always held a special place in our hearts. As the lead vocalist of the wildly creative 1970s British progressive rock band Curved Air, Ms. Kristina hypnotized and captivated a great many people with her beautiful eerie voice and cool presence. This album was recorded after Curved Air dissolved. It was originally released on vinyl in the late 1970s under the name Sonja Kristina Escape. We never heard the album until it was reissued by the Market Square label on CD. The fine folks at Britain's Angel Air have reissued the album again with a slightly different track listing. Joining Sonja on these tracks are Liam Genockey, Alfie Agus, Steve Byrd, Colin Towns, Gaspar Lawal, Nigel Gray, and Darryl Way. This album is in the same general vein as the last two or three Curved Air albums. The songs feature nice thick arrangements and, of course, those trademark dreamy vocals. We're glad that this album is once again being made available to the public. We've loved anything/everything that Sonja has been involved in. Ten groovy cuts here including "Street Run," "Breaking Out of Silence," "Full Time Woman," and "Fade Away."
Kershaw - Big Hits Volume One (CD, Big
This is a bit different from your average best of collection. On Big Hits Volume One Sammy Kershaw went into the studio and re-recorded ten of his biggest hits in order to present the material with the latest slick recording technology. As such, the album breathes fresh new life into songs that Kershaw's fans already know and love. All the biggies are here including "Don't Go Near The Water," "She Don't Know She's Beautiful," "Cadillac Style," and "Queen Of My Doublewide Trailer." Sammy's still got that slick voice that the fans love and he's sounding mighty solid these days. What impresses us most about this album is the fact that restraint was used in creating these new recordings. Instead of layering everything to death, there's plenty of wide open space in the tracks that gives the music room to breathe. In addition to the old hits, Big Hits also features two new tracks: "The Middle" and "Can't Put My Finger On It." Kershaw is sometimes referred to as the "heir apparent to the legendary George Jones." Spin this album a time or two and you'll hear why. Another nice solid release from one of country music's most reliable performers.
Laurel - Periscope (CD, Roaring Twenties,
The third full-length studio album from Katey Laurel. Ms. Laurel is one talented lady driven to succeed. We've been impressed by her music in the past. And we have a strange feeling that Periscope is going to be the album that pushes her career to the next level. Katey writes songs that could be appreciated by just about anyone who loves smart melodic modern pop. She isn't taking the artsy or noisy approach with her music. These tracks are slick, polished, and accessible. But don't let that scare you away. Even though we detest the majority of twenty-first century commercial pop, we always appreciate the slick stuff when it's created for the right reasons. And you can bet your best Easter bonnet that Laurel's songs were created first and foremost because she loves making music. Her passion for what she does clearly shines through on these tracks. Produced by Warren Huart, Periscope "...explores the dichotomy and tension in which most humans live." And that makes for some interesting lyrics and observations. Ten well-crafted cuts here including "The Optimist," "All The Way Home," "Battlesong," and "Beautiful World."
Lee - Till and Mule (Independently released
It seems ironic that only a couple of days ago we were spinning Mary Hopkins' incredible Postcard (the fifth album released on The Beatles' Apple label)...because Julie Lee's voice immediately reminded us of Ms. Hopkins. Although the voices are similar, the style of music is quite different. Rather than pure pop, Lee presents moody dreamy modern pop that has a nice organic feel. This is Julie's eighth full-length release. It was originally intended to be a double disc but was finally pared down to a single CD. Lee has worked with a variety of well-known artists over the years including Jars of Clay, Peter Cooper & Eric Brace, Alison Krauss, Pam Tillis, and many more. Nashville is producing much more than processed cheese country artists these days. Lee is yet another example of the extreme variety of cool talent found in Music City. Till and Mule is smart, resilient, provocative, and rewarding. Ten groovy cuts here and they all hit the target. Our initial favorites include "Bravely," "Till and Mule," "You Found Me," and "Never Mine."
Lewis - Whiskey Halo (Independently
released CD, Country/pop)
There's so much country pop in the world that sounds like plasticized slices of processed cheese. It's always refreshing to come across an artist whose music doesn't fall prey to the makings of that big money machine in the sky. To quote directly from her web site, Ms. Lewis is "a native of the Missouri Ozarks, Jodee was raised on folk songs and honky-tonk, and her music reflects the best of both worlds." That pretty much sums things up rather succinctly. Whiskey Halo presents thirteen well-crafted tracks that incorporate elements from country, pop, and bluegrass. Jodee's got a voice that really pushes her songs to the next level. She's got a very resonant sound and the way she delivers her tunes is both genuine and personal. Some of these songs are reminiscent of Alison Krauss but Jodee is by no means a copycat artist. If you've grown tired of all the country music artists whose music sounds virtually the same...Whiskey Halo will come across like a welcome breath of fresh air. Our favorite tracks include "O, Mother," "In The End," "All Alone," and "There Is A Fountain."
Joey Molland - Return To Memphis (Independently released CD, Pop)
Joey Molland's name will forever be associated with the legendary British band Badfinger. Molland was a member of the band during its peak and, fortunately, did follow the path chosen by the other members. Molland was third-in-line in terms of songwriting, following the lead provided by Pete Ham and Tom Evans. So it somehow seems interesting that he would be the one to survive and continue playing music for so long. Return To Memphis is the fourth solo release from Molland. Named after the city where it was recorded, the album was produced by Carl 'Blue' Wise and features backing musicians Dave Smith (bass), Lester Snell (piano, keys), and Steve Potts (drums). Joey plays all the guitars on the album. Molland's voice still sounds remarkably similar to his Badfinger days...but the songs on this album are a departure in many ways. More subdued and soulful, these cuts reflect where Joey probably feels most comfortable in 2014. With the release of this album, Molland once again proves that his musical spirit is still alive and relevant in the twenty-first century. Cool upbeat pop cuts include "Walk Out In The Rain," "Frank and Me," "All I Need Is Love," and "Still I Love You."
Muggies - 1st Album (CD, Popular,
Friendly upbeat underground guitar pop/rock. The Muggies is the one man band driven by the talents of Josh Paladini...although it wasn't always that way. The group's origins go all the way back to 1999 (see the band web site for details of how the band evolved...link above). 1st Album features cool and refreshing pop tunes that are instantly appealing. Paladini's got a great voice that's exactly suited for underground pop...and the guy's an absolute top notch one man band. We like the fact that these tunes are, for the most part, delivered in a very straightforward manner. The emphasis is on lyrics, vocal melodies, kickass guitars, and inviting grooves. Many of these tracks harken back to the late 1980s and early 1990s when underground guitar pop was all the rage. Twelve clever cuts here including "Kiss Me Jane," "Julie In A Bottle," "Funky Lurch," and "Big In Britain."
New Sound of Numbers - Invisible Magnetic
(Vinyl LP, Cloud Recordings,
The New Sound of Numbers is a new Athens, Georgia-based band that is fronted by Hannah Jones and also includes former members of Pylon, Olivia Tremor Control, and Bubbly Mommy Gun. This is the band's second full-length release and it's bound to please music fans all over the globe. The tunes on Invisible Magnetic are reminiscent of new wave artists from the late 1970s and early 1980s when there were nifty new threads of excitement entering the world of pop music. If you like upbeat stuff that puts you in a great mood, there's a good chance you're gonna go apeshit over this album. Jones has a great voice and you can just feel her positive presence here. Fourteen way groovy cuts including "Invisible Magnetic," "Complete," "Green Wind," "Feel," and "Galaxies." Pressed on beautiful clear blue vinyl. Top pick.
Nox Boys - Nox Boys (CD, Get
Hip, Garage rock/psychedelic)
If you're into garage rock, you probably already know the best place to find the cream of the crop is on Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's Get Hip Recordings label. Based in the same city as the label are Nox Boys...four guys who know how to turn up and play some totally cool and refreshing garage rock infused with threads of neat psychedelia. Recorded in Detroit, Michigan with Jim Diamond at the helm, this self-titled album has an infectious feel and sound that will appeal to a wide range of music fans. The guitars are loud and fuzzy, the rhythms tight and danceable, and the vocals are always spot on. In a world where so many artists are overusing technology to make up for a lack of talent and songs, this band stands out like a sore thumb. You won't hear tons of digital effects here. No unnecessary overdubs. No wall of sound. Just four guys playing like their lives depend on it. Eleven well-crafted rockers. Our favorites include "Desperate Girl," "Mrs. Jackson," and "Mr. No One." Great loud gutsy stuff delivered with style.
Nudie - Remember This (Independently released CD, Pop)
With a name like Nudie there's no telling what kind of initial images might appear in the mind of the listener. But names can be misleading, of course...and folks will probably be surprised at how normal and instantly accessible the music on Remember This is. Nudie originally fronted the band Nudie and the Turks who were out and about from 2005 to 2012. The band experienced a good bit of success before he decided to go solo. This is an extremely strong solo debut. The songs are basic Americana pop with a heavy emphasis on lyrics and vocal melodies. Instead of relying on gimmicks or technology, Nudie lets his songs speak for themselves...using only the essentials necessary in order to get the point across. This guy has the voice and the presence to go all the way. His overall sound could appeal to millions and millions of music fans. Smart classic cuts include "If A Heart Could Tell," "Sex Kisses," "Walking The Streets," and "I Miss The Love (But I Never Miss You)." Top pick.
O'Riordan - Strange Flowers: Chamber Music
by Kirk O'Riordan (CD, Ravello,
Kirk O'Riordan is a composer, conductor, and saxophonist who currently works at Lafayette College where he teaches composition and music theory. Before this, he was a faculty member at Bucknell University and Susquehanna University. Kirk has received numerous awards for his compositions and his works have been performed all over the world. Strange Flowers is his first album to be released on the Ravello label. It features six of O'Riordan's chamber works as performed by Marianne Gythfeldt, Holly Roadfeldt, Reuben Council, and Lawrence Stomberg. The compositions on this album are sparse, reflective, and emotional...and they are presented simply without unnecessary instruments or effects clouding the music. Divided into six sections, Strange Flowers serves as an excellent introduction to this man's subtle captivating sound. Our favorites include "Sonata Rapsodica," "Pressing Forward, Pushing Back," and "A Strange Flower for Bids and Butterflies." The album is meant to be played as a whole as together the compositions tell a story. Intriguing.
Saving Mr. Banks - 2-Disc Deluxe Edition Soundtrack: Original Music by Thomas
Newman (Double CD, Disney,
There are few films in the world that are as universally loved and appreciated as Walt Disney's Mary Poppins. At the time of its release the movie seemed to serve as a perfect example of America's fascination with great storytelling and everything British. Not only was the film a smashing success, but the accompanying soundtrack album was also tremendously popular. And all those familiar songs written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman remain all-time favorites even to this day. Most folks probably aren't aware of what a long and difficult affair it was for the film to actually be made...and that is the subject of Saving Mr. Banks. The seeds for the project were sewn when Walt's daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book written by P.L. Travers. But things didn't go as quickly and as smoothly as planned. Instead of welcoming the idea, Travers was initially totally against it. And it took Disney about 20 years (!) to finally convince her that the movie would be a good idea. And that was only after sales of the book were declining which caused Travers to reconsider. Saving Mr. Banks features Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers. Film composer extraordinaire Thomas Newman created the original music for the film. Thomas is one of our all-time favorite composers, creating music for such unforgettable classics as The Shawshank Redemption, American Beauty, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Wall-E, and more. In addition to the music from the new film, this deluxe double disc set includes a second CD which includes the Mary Poppins pre-demo recordings of the songs "The Pearly Song," "Chim Chim Cher-ee," "Tuppence A Bag," and "Let's Go Fly A Kite" (some song titles were obviously changed later on). Mary Poppins fans and filmgoers everywhere are bound to go ape over this one. We just saw the film and we can sum it up by saying...this is one of the best films we have ever seen. Yet another resounding hit for Disney.
Sun - Be Here When You Get There (CD,
Young Love, Pop)
Setting Sun is a way cool underground pop band currently based in Brooklyn, New York. Be Here When You Get There will hopefully be the album that makes more music fans aware of this cool band. If smart songs and integrity have anything to do it, that's exactly what will happen. This band is the project spearheaded by singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Gary Levitt and a continually revolving cast of supporting musicians. The album opens with the immediately inviting sound of "Got It Made," a song that--in a perfect world--would be an instant hit. There's already a video the band created that can be seen on the web site (click link above). Some of the songs on this album remind us of Donovan's albums from the late 1970s, a period during which he wrote some of his best material even though very few folks seemed to notice it at the time. Like Donovan, Levitt has a great subdued breathy voice that is the centerpiece of his compositions. Ten well-written tracks here including "Got It Made," "Selfish Love," "Seasons," and "Singularity." Truly nifty stuff.
Sexbots - Junk Sick (Independently released
We totally dig The Sexbots. Driven by the creative energies of a cool lady named Ilma Considine, the band's music is a blast back to the 1980s and 1990s when techno/dance artists were all the rage. Recorded in her own living room and bedroom, Junk Sick is yet another rewarding collection of modern dance tracks. While the steady 4/4 beats pulse, dreamy keyboards pump in and out of the mix, with everything supporting those neat breathy vocals that Sexbots fans have come to know and love. What we love most about Considine's music is how direct and uncomplicated it is. Instead of being overproduced to death (which is the case with 99.9% of most modern dance music), her songs feature only the essentials. If you love intoxicating dance music, you owe it to yourself to check out this album. Eleven well-crafted tunes including "The Only Thing," "My Job Is To Make Love To Strangers," "Petting A Cat," and "You Get A Taste." Recommended. Top pick.
Snowflake - We All Grow Toward The Sea (CD, The
Satellite Union, Progressive pop)
Intriguingly produced modern progressive pop from well-known producer/mixer D. James Goodwin. Goodwin has worked with a remarkable array of artists over the years including (but not limited to) Norah Jones, The Bravery, and Devo. We All Grow Toward The Sea was recorded entirely by Goodwin in 2012 and it's quite a remarkable debut. Although we don't get the impression there's any aping of other artists happening here, the overall sound of these tunes reminds us of some of the great progressive artists from the past like Pink Floyd, early Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, and Jethro Tull. This album is a great showcase not only for Goodwin's producing talents, but also for his skills as a unique songwriter. Nine perfectly executed tracks here...dreamy and eclectic...focused and ultimately satisfying. Our favorite tracks include "Bombs," "Fifteen Degrees and the Sea Is Quiet," and "Snakes and Spiders." Absolutely killer vocals throughout.
Bee - Caterwaul (CD, Pancake
Productions, Harsh underground experimental rock)
If you've been feeling kinda sleepy and lethargic lately and need a good kick in the nuts...Caterwaul will most likely deliver the jolt you need. This band plays a harsh and intense style of underground rock that employs elements from thrash, punk, metal, and modern jazz. The overall sound is directed to a very specific audience, that being folks who really like it loud, intense, and over-the-top. We love the cool unexpected energy blasts here. These folks play with unbridled fire in their souls and they aren't afraid to frighten folks with their strange sound. Nine perplexing tracks that clock in at just under eighteen minutes. Cool stuff. The fine folks at Pancake Productions also sent us some brand new vinyl 45s from Googolplexia and Bunnygrunt. Hot damn!
Sweet - Hits (CD, Angel
The story of the British band The Sweet is an odd one. More calculated than their peers at the time (T. Rex, Queen), the band seems to have been created mainly as a hit making machine for the songwriting duo of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, two fellows who could certainly write some ultra catchy tracks. Eventually the band members took on more and more of the writing chores but in the early days Chinn and Chapman wrote most of the successful tracks. After the band's initial splash Brian Connolly left the band due to well-documented substance abuse and personal problems. Thus, Andy Scott is the only surviving member from the early days continuing to carry the torch for the band's fans around the world. This time he's come up with what most of the fans probably want most...reworkings of the early hits with all the advantages that twenty-first century technology allows. This thirteen track album features the band's best known tunes: "Blockbuster," "Ballroom Blitz," "Fox On The Run," "Little Willy," and more. The songs have held up surprisingly well over time and with the extra jolt added to these recordings, new Sweet fans are bound to pop up all around the globe. Scott managed to capture the original essence of these songs while injecting them with new threads of electricity.
of Power - Hipper Than Hip (Double CD,
Warner Bros., Pop/rock/funk)
It's 1974 and the guys in the power funk band Tower of Power are on top of their game. During touring the guys stopped off at the Ultrasonic Recording Studio in Hempstead, Long Island and recorded a live-in-the-studio concert that was broadcast over WLIR-FM on May 14. Switch to 2012. A tape collector sends the band his recording of the show. They flip out and plans were immediately underway to release this long lost concert recording to the public. The result...is the mind-boggling intensity of the tracks on Hipper Than Hip...a double CD set featuring some of the most intense and gripping pop/rock/funk ever recorded. The band rips through fourteen of their best tracks including our all-time favorite, "Down To The Nightclub" (we were turned onto the track via one of Warner Bros. Loss Leaders albums way back when). Even though these cuts were captured about about four decades ago, they still sound completely fresh and vital. Hats off to the band and the fine folks at Warner Bros. for making these recordings available to the public. Frenetic, intense, and irresistible... Top pick.
Tucker and the Sons of Sweden - The Shape
The Color The Feel (CD, Red Valise Recordings, Pop)
Kate Tucker is an up-and-coming singer/songwriter with a passion to create, share, and entertain. Originally from Akron, Ohio, Tucker eventually moved to Paris, France...then to Seattle, Washington...and Brooklyn, New York...before eventually settling in the ultimately hip city of Nashville, Tennessee. The Shape The Color The Feel is a collaborative project in which several different artists/film makers were enlisted to create videos for each song on the album. In addition, Australia's Jessie English has created a photo installation based on the songs that will be showing in different galleries around the world to bring attention to the release of the album. The ten tracks on this album feature dreamy melodic modern pop with a heavy emphasis on arrangements. Housed in a beautifully designed cardboard foldout sleeve (complete with thick glossy lyric booklet), this album will appeal to a wide range of listeners. The songs are smart and solid and they are delivered with style and integrity. All of these tracks hit the target, but out own particular favorites include "Hangover," "Looking Around," "Best Friends' Love," and "Island of the Misfit." Top pick.
Twink - Happy Houses (Independently released CD, Toy pop instrumentals)
Toy instruments have managed to occasionally snuggle their way into pop and rock music over the past few decades. But in most cases the instruments are used for one song or one album...and they are usually just novelties an artist uses to create a new or temporary sound. Mike Langlie (the man who is Twink) has turned his fascination with toy instruments into a lifelong career. And, as such, he is now the reigning king of the genre. With multiple albums under his belt (almost all of which have received unanimous praise), Langlie has created a unique presence in the world of music by sticking to what he enjoys. Instead of changing his sound to meet the expectations or demands of others, Langlie has remained surprisingly constant over the years. But he always manages to capture and captivate his legion of fans with every release. Happy Houses was recorded to celebrate Mike's recent move to a nineteenth century gingerbread house. For this album, Langlie enlisted support from some friends playing real (!) instruments. Backing the toys this time around are Burt Mueller (guitar, banjo), Matt Renzi (horns, flutes), Guy Turner (melodic bass), and Jair-Rohm (melodic bass). The basic Twink sound remains intact...but this time the sound is fuller and more produced sounding. Will this be the one to introduce Twink music to the masses? There's no way of knowing. But more importantly, Langlie's musical experiments are once again a resounding artistic success. This is a short album clocking in at just under thirty minutes. Eight killer cuts here including "Close To Home," "Chickaboo," "Turtle Trap," and "Frankentoy." We could never ever get enough of this stuff. Wonderfully different instrumentals overflowing with pure imagination. Highly recommended music for anyone who still knows how to have some real fun out there in the world... TOP PICK.
Vlatkovich Quartet - You're Too Dimensional
(CD, pfMENTUM, Modern jazz)
This album arrived in our trusty mailbox without any accompanying information. But because we've reviewed Michael Vlatkovich's music before...and because the CD was released by the fine folks at pfMENTUM label we knew it would be great. And...it is. Vlatkovich is one of the best improvisational trombone players around and his music never fails to please. Clocking in at just under an hour, the humorously titled You're Too Dimensional offers a mighty nice and satisfying slice of modern jazz music. Spontaneity is the key word here as Vlatkovich and his comrades feed off one another's energies...creating some strangely moody and intoxicating music. Joining Michael on these tracks are Jim Knodle on trumpet, Phil Sparks on bass, and Greg Campbell on drums and french horn. The players are focused and proficient from start to finish. Ten curious tracks here with titles that are even more curious. Our favorite cuts include "No Candy For the Wagon Full of Devils," "Blue Peepers," "The Curious Intensity of a Refrigerator Defrosting," and "Fools, Drunks & Angels." Way cool stuff with cool exotic vibes.
Walkley - Shoulders (CD, Bathing
Suit Music, Pop)
Highly produced soulful modern pop from PT Walkley. This young musician has made quite a name for himself in the world of television and film composition. He is probably best known up to this point in time for the music he has created for the Nickelodeon show Team Umizoomi, the perpetually popular children's show Sesame Street, and even Super Bowl commercials for Bud Light and Ritz. But our guess is that Walkley's real passion is directly related to creating his own pop music. Although he hasn't achieved mass fame in his solo career...yet...Walkley has managed to impress a large number of music fans, DJs, and reviewers along the way. Shoulders presents a pure blast of modern day soul-influenced pop that is heavily produced with multiple layers of sound. Thirteen interesting tracks here including "Leeches," "Don't Forget About Me," "Children," and "A Toast."
White - Live Performance at Andrew
Jackson Hall (January 11, 2014, Nashville, TN)
We're not particularly keen on Blue Collar Comedy's Ron White. But when JS scored two free front row tickets we knew we had to go...just for the experience, whatever it might be. Heading into the auditorium was weird. A bored female voice kept warning repeatedly that "NO RECORDING DEVICES ARE ALLOWED" and crap like that. But meanwhile no one was frisking anyone...so of course it was impossible to enforce this ridiculous rule. It certainly didn't make folks feel relaxed and welcome. And once you get an idea of what the show consisted of (keep on a' readin') it seemed even more peculiar that anyone would even want to record it (!). Andrew Jackson Hall is beautiful and the seats were comfortable although a bit claustrophobic. Even with the great seats JS was forced to sit next to an obese pig that couldn't keep its blubber from flopping over into the adjoining seats...sheesh! But anyway, ladies and gentlemen, on to the show... There was an opening act, some comedian whose name escapes us. He was NOT FUNNY AT ALL. Just about every joke centered around sex. B-O-R-I-N-G. Sex isn't a very creative topic anyway, much less when it's used for cheap jokes. We couldn't wait for the guy to leave the stage. We didn't laugh once. Whoever he was, he was...AWFUL. Bad choice of an opening act. Then came the man who everyone had paid $55 (?!!!!?) to see...Mr. Ron White. He was immediately welcomed by the crowd. The folks attending the show obviously love him. From what we'd seen and heard from White in the past we didn't really like or dislike him. He was just some miscellaneous comedian we'd seen once or twice who didn't make much of an impression. On this particular night, we were surprised that Ron actually made us laugh several times. That's the good part, and somewhat of a surprise. He can be very, very funny. Ron does indeed have some good material and he has the personality and presence to really work a crowd. The bad part...is that he proudly chain-smoked and drank Tequila throughout the entire show. Not impressive...at all. Rather sadly, as he got near the end of his act, the alcohol was affecting his speech and his timing. Thus unfortunately the show went on for about fifteen grueling minutes too long. We enjoyed some segments to be certain. But near the end Ron started going off about some stupid yacht party he attended that was given by Dr. Phil (yeeeeecccccchhhhhh...) and his shitty wife Robin (double yeeeeecccccchhhhhh...). At this point not only we were NOT impressed...we were also completely sickened by the fact that he was bragging about hanging out with two MAJOR LEAGUE SHITHEADS. What we found surprising was that quite a few people had actually shelled out even more money to hang around after the show (y'know...those dreaded VIP crapola tickets that appeal to retards...). Leaving the show we felt kinda sad. After all, Ron is a likable guy who comes up with some funny material. It seems unfortunate that he's choosing to destroy himself (physically and mentally) with alcohol. He may think it's funny. But if you've ever dealt with an alcoholic in the real world you know it's not funny...AT ALL. Would we do this all over again? Well absolutely. If it's FREE...then whee whee WHEE. Plus we love doing anything and everything with JS. But if we HAD paid to see this "show"...we would have left feeling completely RIPPED OFF. Nice to write a review where we can be completely honest here...because this time around someone else had the free tickets. Thank you, JS
Wild / Ensemble
Dal Niente - Abhanden (CD, Navona, Classical)
Strange moody classical music featuring Chris Wild on cello and his musical associates in Chicago's Ensemble Dal Niente. Wild is Director of Orchestras at DeKalb High School and is also the co-founder of The Music Room, a group of musicians who play contemporary music in and around Chicago. To quote directly from the web site, the Ensemble Dal Niente "...is a Chicago-based contemporary music collective that presents and performs new music in ways that redefine the listening experience and advance the art form." You may be able to guess that Abhanden is not your average collection of works featuring the music of Beethoven and Bach. This album presents work by lesser-known composers whose music is more unusual and provocative. This album presents six pieces by composers Chinary Ung, Claude Vivier, Daniel Dehaan, Andrew Greenwald, Marcos Balter, and Eliza Brown. These pieces tend to have a nice wide open sound, never cluttered or over-arranged. This may be too peculiar for the casual classical fan. But for those who are more adventurous, there's a lot to love here. Our favorite tracks are "Spiral," "If It Encounters the Animal, If It Becomes Animalized," and "Memoria."
By Lake - Wooden Spirits (CD, Traveling Music, Folktronica)
Totally cool and moody French groove pop. This is the second full-length release from Winter By Lake...and it's a keeper. The album features nine subtle voyages into the world of modern electronic pop. These songs are dreamy and direct, slightly commercial, but much more artistic in nature overall. We can't speak or read French, so we couldn't make out much from the press release that accompanied this album. But we were able to determine that the band is the solo project created by Nicolas Cancel. One of the reasons why Cancel's songs work so well...is the fact that they are presented so simply without a lot of unnecessary ingredients muddying the mix. The arrangements here are specific to each song...and the vocals are wonderfully breathy and hushed. If you're a fan of folktronica, dream pop, or electronica...there's a good chance you'll totally dig the nifty heady sound of these tracks. Our favorite cuts include "Night Birds," "The Fall," and "The War Is Over." Top pick.
Additional Items Received:
Activator - Activator
Amen Ittys - Pliers
Alana Amram & The Rogh Gems - Spring river
Annette - Dream with me
Apollo Chamber Players - European folkscapes
Arrested Development - At long last...music ans songs from Arrested Development
Auris + Gino - Rub
Sherman Baker - Sherman Baker
Bee Bee Bee Bee - Eee Eee Eee Eee
Erica Blinn - Lovers in the dust
Roger Bourland - Four quartets of songs and arias
Bowed Piano Ensemble - Ice and fire
Ellen Burr / Michael Unruh - Where am i from, where am i going
Rosemary Butler - You just watch me
Che Prasad - Christmastime in the apocalypse
Che Prasad - Shiva me timbers
David G. Cortes - Time away but home again
Bob Dorough - Bob Dorough
Drockulette - Smock
Jace Everett - Terra rosa
Jace Everett Bad things
Ezzeethere - Not so...
Fair Ophelia - 2
Far West - Any day now
Foundations - Modern works in the clasical tradition
Morgan Frazier - Morgan Frazier
Frozen - Original soundtrack
Nick Gallant - Wanderlust
Glass House - Long way down
Global Unified - Global Unified
Good Grief / Eureka California - Rusty nail & another round b/w Turn on autopilot, DC sniper
Hard Soul - Seize the year
Kandia Crazy Horse - Stampede
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! - The musical
Il Rumore Bianco - Mediocrazia
Intimate Dream - Wonderful thing
Jokeless - Smoke free
Carolyn Lee Jones - The performer
Just A Machine - Piqured jacks
Kaak - Licked and licker
Adrian Krygowski - Roam
Jackie Lomax - Against all odds
Machine Don't Lie - Nobody panic
Magnolia - Magnolia
Ray Majors - The 7% solution
Josh Matthews - A sides
McCormick Percussion Group - Soli for soprano with percussion orchestra
Moistboyz - 5
Mud - Original motion picture soundtrack: Score by David Wingo
My Education - 5 popes
Old Cabin - Old Cabin
Oooooo - Noooooo
Orchestra of Spheres - Vibration animal sex brain music
Troy Petty - Fairy tale pen
Reacta - Refraction
James Tristan Redding - Walking into Brooklyn
Royal Oui - Royal Oui
Sarah - Featuring Bruce Barth
Scan Hopper - Mariana bridges
David Serby and the Latest Scam - David Serby and the Latest Scam
Sine Qua Non - Simple pleasures
Spell Kasters - Kastin' the spell
Spycker - Voted away
Dinah Thorpe - Lullabies & walke up calls
Tippy - Getting Tippy
Alex Tjoland Band - Silent revelry
Ugly Quartet - Mars needs Maurice
Vinny Vegas - The big white whale
Week of Wonders - Piggybacks b/w The end of the day
Stan Wells - High tide
Woodshedders - Wildfire
Yippee - A, D, and U
Frank Zappa - Everyone hates my wife now
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