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February 2005 Reviews by

 The Advocate
Kelli Ali
The Angelus
Keren Ann

Blue Meanies
Bossy Bosses

Chatham County Line
Comment Piece
Doris Henson
FFA Coffi Pawb
The Foxymorons

Half Handed Cloud

Lily Holbrook
The Holy Ghost
Randy Kaplan
Larry the Canary

Eric Matthews
Monster Dog
Mt. Gigantic*
Parchman Farm
William Parker

The Plastic Fantastics
Steve Porter
Snow Machine
SubArachnoid Space
Mia Doi Todd
Rhonda Vincent and the Rage

The Waylons
Zoo Balls

*Top Picks

Additional Items Received


February 2005 Comment Piece Which Is A Poem:

Mousy Do and Mousy Don't

Mousy do and
Mousy don't.
Mousy will and
Mousy won't.

Mousy get backed up again.
Mousy shares a
Toothless grin.

Mousy Mouse,
Will you tell a star?

Mousy Mouse
Buys a brand new car.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Advocate (Magazine, January 18, 2005)
A close associate loaned us this magazine recently...mainly because it features a lengthy interview with Ellen DeGeneres. The interview was interesting but...the remainder of the magazine was unbearable. Once a somewhat credible voice for gays and lesbians in the United States, the magazine has now sadly regressed into a bad parody of itself. One thing is certain. If it doesn't have something to do with being a gay man or a lesbian woman (or how society so wrongly discriminates against them)...you certainly won't find it here. It seems odd that a magazine that constantly encourages the rest of the world to ACCEPT...is so obviously and dramatically closed-minded to everyone outside of its own clan. If the actor or actress or artist or musician isn't openly homosexual or lesbian, they are certain to be EXCLUDED from the pages of The Advocate. How narrow minded is that....? If you wonder why so many people hate homosexuals, all you need do is paw through the pages of this magazine and you will quickly realize why. One article after another depicts shallow sissies "coming out" (vomit) and whining about discrimination...while the advertisements feature the most sickeningly obvious gay retards whooping it up and showing off for the camera. The Advocate is embarrassing. Instead of helping "the cause"...this magazine is perpetuating stereotypes and myths. The folks at The Advocate aren't interested in anything other than making lots of money by appealing to the ultimately shallow and phony men and woman who are stupid enough to read their canned crap. Either that...or perhaps they themselves are the same sort of cheap generic sheep that they are writing for...and they just don't know any better. The saddest part is that there are so many people out there who honestly feel that...because they read this magazine...their lives are actually being "enlightened" (ha!!!). In the feature article, DeGeneres makes two interesting observations: (1) that she doesn't think of herself as a lesbian each and every day of her life, and (2) that she has never had the desire to get married. If more folks saw the world like Ellen...there might be fewer goddamn piece-of-shit magazines like The Advocate wasting space...and minds...across the country. (Rating: 1)

Kelli Ali - Psychic Cat (CD, One Little Indian, Pop)
Former Sneaker Pimps vocalist strikes out on her own...with wonderfully satisfying results. Produced by Dave McCracken (who has produced Depeche Mode and Tori Amos among others in the past), Psychic Cat is a slick and soothing collection of tunes that would make Madonna proud. Slick and highly produced albums are, for the most part, disposable pieces of garbage. In the case of Psychic Cat this is thankfully not the case (!). Kelli Ali has a great voice but even more importantly, she and her co-writers have come up with some killer songs. Slamming out of the gate with the thick addictive beat of "Hot Lips," the listener is immediately caught up in Ali's intense presence. The tunes on this album are danceable and upbeat...but they also pack a hearty punch in the rhythm department. Fuzzy guitars merge with thick synthesizers to create tunes that are a total treat for the ears. Kickass compositions include "Home Honey I'm High," "In Praise of Shadows," and "Last Boy on Earth." Cool stuff that ROCKS. (Rating: 5)

The Angelus - The Angelus (CD EP, Pyramid Scheme, Progressive pop/rock)
Sounding something like a cross between The Chainsaw Kittens and The Smiths with sprinkled nuances reminiscent of the first U2 album...Texas-based The Angelus have come up with an intriguing EP that features five well arranged progressive pop/rock tunes. The band may perhaps sum up their sound best in their own words: "epic rock bearing bells, infectious piano melodies, and soaring vocals." This aptly describes the overall sound. These lengthy compositions feature articulate piano, smooth rhythms, distorted guitars, and wonderfully distant vocals. This band isn't playing a specific style of music...opting instead to follow their souls in their quest for critical acclaim. Cool cuts include "Story of the Shaken" and "Casts a Great Light." Good stuff. (Rating: 4++++)

Keren Ann - Nolita (CD, Blue Note, Soft pop)
Keren Ann's fourth album is a haunting and enchanting experience. This young French lady (who also now calls New York City her home) impressed many critics with her previous album (Not Going Anywhere)...but our guess is that Nolita will be the one to really boost her career. Keren writes moody subtle pop compositions which feature slick arrangements and provide the perfect background for her soothing and ultimately sensual vocals. The songs on this album alternate between English and French lyrics. But no matter what language she's singing in, Keren never manages to grasp her listeners firmly in the palm of her hand. Despite the fact that her style is decidedly laidback, this young woman is ultimately determined and focused on her craft. Relaxing tunes like "Que N'ai-je?," "Greatest You Can Find," "Nolita," and "Song of Alice" are wonderfully stated pieces that sound better with each and every spin. Polished to perfection, Nolita is a fantastic collection of soft pop. (Rating: 5+)

Berry - Sunday Morning Radio (Extended Play) (CD-R EP, Independent release), The Mirror EP (CD-R EP, Independent release)
Wow. Packaged in unassuming plain brown bags (tied with string and a band-aid), these little CD-Rs features several tracks of wonderfully moody and methodically produced underground pop. While there are plenty of artists who shouldn't be recording and releasing music just because they can...there are also plenty of unknown artists toiling away in obscurity who are producing some fantastic things. This fellow falls into the latter category. The invisible man who calls himself Berry is a killer singer/songwriter whose music can compete with just about anyone. Intelligently melodic and arranged to perfection, these songs are a true delight. Our only complaint...? That there aren't more songs on these discs. This guy's got a great future ahead of him no matter which way you look at it. There's no web site listed...only an e-mail...so this might be the best way to contact the man: sunday-breakfast@hotmail.com. Truly splendid stuff... (Rating: 5+)

Blue Meanies - Full Throttle (CD, Thick, Rock)
Strange cut-and-paste abrasive ska-based punk rock. This Chicago-based band packs a monster punch...as they stomp and thrash their way through sixteen tracks on the appropriately-titled Full Throttle (three are bonus tracks). This band is anything but predictable. Their music possesses strange schizophrenic qualities...making it difficult to understand and/or keep up with them. Rather than just being a noise band, these guys write tunes that are intelligent and different. The listener might be inclined at first to classify Blue Meanies as a noise band, but this would be completely inaccurate. While the proceedings are decidedly intense and harsh (most of the time), the band has no problem with toning things down on occasion. Spinning this disc is something like changing gears on a motor car. Sometimes things run in full tilt...at other times the motor simply hums along. If you're looking for easy listening, you won't find it here. These guys challenge their listeners in many ways...offering odd, crazy cuts like "The 4th of July," "Smother Me," "Get Nowhere," and "Deep in the Hops." Great stuff... (Rating: 5)

Bossy Bosses - Our Insecurity Manifests Itself in the Need to Boss Others Around (CD, Neatnuk, Classical)
There's something suspicious about everything all of a sudden. We're not sure what it is...but we're certain that something is going on somewhere. Bossy Bosses...who hasn't experienced 'em...? Those rude, smelly moron bastards who poot around telling others what to do. Those foul-mouthed cancerous tumors whose entire existence is built upon bossing people around. Sad little creatures, the bossy bosses...they don't know what not to do. But in the end their ends will clearly be the end of it all... (Rating: 1)

thebrotheregg - Aortica Mor (CD, Bingo Lady, Moody pop)
Some bands start off with a modest following and then promptly alter their music to cater to a larger fan base...losing their original vision in the process. And then there are bands like thebrotheregg. The band garnered a good bit of attention with their last album (Snowflake and Fingerprint Machine)...but instead of fine tuning their music to reach more fans, they chose instead to take the opposite path. Aortica Mor is a purely artistic effort. The gentlemen in this band aren't trying in the least to come up with a hit. The songs on this album are odd, peculiar journeys into this band's imagination. These cuts are hard to pigeonhole and categorize...yet they are highly inventive and effective. The melodies are like streams that wind and fall down the sides of mountains. Jazzy and subtle pop combines with flashes of progressive rock to create heady and intelligent compositions. This lengthy album (clocking in at over an hour) features wonderfully understated tunes that are simultaneously smooth and unpredictable. Great cuts include "Penny Farthing," "Dandelion Wildfires," "What the Zoo Did To You," and "That One Salty Sea." Great stuff, far outside the norm... (Rating: 5+)

Chatham County Line - Route 23 (CD, Yep Roc, Bluegrass/country)
This ain't no alternative country/bluegrass crap...this is the REAL thing. Raleigh, North Carolina-based Chatham County Line is a fantastic little classic bluegrass band...and Route 23 is as refreshing as a milkshake on a hot summer afternoon. The album features fourteen original tunes that are instantly memorable. The vocals are right on target from start to finish...and the playing is spirited and authentic. Produced by Chris Stamey, this album is almost certain to be on many "best of" lists for 2005. Great cuts include "Nowhere To Sleep," "Dark Clouds," "Parlour Light," and "Make Some Pay." (Rating: 5)

Doris Henson - Give Me All Your Money (CD, DeSoto, Pop)
What first struck us about Doris Henson is that these guys don't seem to be "trying too hard"...and that is a VERY GOOD THING (!). Your average generic twenty-first century band seems mainly concerned about two things: (1) creating a dumb image and (2) creating forgettable music that sounds like every other generic twenty-first century band on the planet. The guys in this Kansas-based band look just like average fellows...and their music is basic pop without excessive twists and frills. Nothing extraordinary here really...except for the MUSIC and the SONGS. Our guess is that Doris Henson is going to be overlooked by most folks because you have to play the album a few times for it to sink in. Give Me All Your Money won't clobber you over the head with clever inventiveness...but it is almost CERTAIN to stick with you over the long run. The band's straightforward pop seems to be based in early 1980s new wave...but it actually sounds more timeless than that. The mid-tempo pop tunes on this album are smart without trying to be smart. We most certainly get the impression that these five fellows are making music for the ALL THE RIGHT REASONS. Killer tracks like "Pollen Tom," "The Most," "Let You Down," "Joybirds," and "When You Go" are smooth, entertaining rides that you won't want to miss... (Rating: 5)

FFA Coffi Pawb - Am Byth (CD, Placid Casual / Empyrean, Underground pop)
Am Byth is a collection of tunes from FFA Coffi Pawb, an underground pop band from Wales who recorded and performed from 1986 to 1992 (. During their short career, the band released three albums, several flexi-discs, and also contributed tracks to several compilation albums. Sadly, the master tapes of many of the bands recordings no longer exist. As a result, much of the material here has been remastered from a variety of sources. Fortunately great care was taken in preparation and, as a result, the sound quality is surprisingly consistent most of the time. FFA Coffi Pawb does, of course, feature the talents of Gruff Rhys and Dafydd Ieuan (of Super Furry Animals). The band's music sounds very much like a cross between The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Television Personalities. Fuzzy and slightly obtuse underground pop music that is remarkably uplifting and good spirited. Am Byth features sixteen little gems that might've been lost if someone hadn't been out there weeding out the goods and cleaning them up for the rest of us. Cool stuff... (Rating: 4++++)

The Foxymorons - Hesitation Eyes (CD, Heatstroke, Pop)
More understated pop music from the duo of David Dewese and Jerry James. Hesitation Eyes is possibly the duo's most fully realized effort. The songs are well-written and thoughtful, the arrangements fit the tunes, and the recording quality is consistent throughout. Most folks may fail to recognize the inherent and understated qualities in this duo's music. These songs do not blow you away on the listen but will, instead, sound better with each and every repeated spin. Cool hummable pop tunes include "Harvard Hands," "I'm Still In Love," "Pistol By Your Side," and "Hesitation Eyes." Great stuff. (Rating: 5)

Half Handed Cloud - Thy Is A Word and Feet Need Lamps (CD, Asthmatic Kitty, Progressive pop)
Simultaneously funny, moving, intelligent, goofy, and thought-provoking. Half Handed Cloud is singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist John Ringhofer, a young man whose creativity expands well beyond the normal boundaries of mankind. The confusingly-titled Thy Is A Word and Feet Need Lamps is a bizarre, short spin (the album clocks in at just over 30 minutes) and features progressive pop numbers with busy arrangements, reflective lyrics, and strange sounding vocals. Ringhofer seems to be a master at combining the silly with the profound. At one moment his music is hilarious...the next moment it comes across sounding quite serious and sombre. The feeling we get listening to this music is that we're tip-toeing through a baby's playpen and stop for just a moment to hear the child in the room playing adult tunes on its toy piano. Making things even stranger are the persistent Bible references (?!?). You won't often hear anyone recording tunes like "You Get A Horse's Hoe," "Flea Market Temple," and "Grandfather Foreskin." The sad part is that this material is so smart and inventive that most folks simply aren't going to be able to follow John in his crazy musical endeavors. This is a superb, highly-imaginative collection of tunes that most certainly deserves your attention...if you don't mind being challenged, that is... (Rating: 5+)

Hermano - Dare I Say (CD, MeteorCity, Stoner rock)
Rip-roaring stoner rock from Hermano, a band featuring former members of Supafuzz, Orquesta del Desierto, Unida, and Kyuss. Dare I Say is one kickass rock and roll album...chock full of thick churning rhythms...and the unmistakably macho vocals of John Garcia. This band absolutely sounds like they're on fire as they churn out one hot and heavy number after another. The playing is fierce and tight and the guitars are forceful and inventive. The guys in Hermano draw as much from 1970s pothead rock as they do from modern twenty-first century heavy metal. Killer cuts include "Cowboys Suck," "Life," "Quite F*cked," "Let's Get It On," and "Angry American." Loud, ballsy, and INTENSE. Great stuff... (Rating: 5++)

Lily Holbrook - Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt (CD, Back Porch, Soft pop)
Originally known only by her first name, Lily Holbrook now goes by her full name...perhaps to follow in line with her continually expanding musical consciousness. Before we even get to the music here, we must first note that the record company (Back Porch) has issued this CD in a very user-unfriendly format...only playable on your computer if you have the proper software to do so. This backfire approach to marketing music is hurting many artists and will most likely hamper the success of this album. It is unfortunate, therefore, that this company has released Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt...because it is a beautiful and haunting album full of Ms. Holbrook's thoughtful and imaginative music. Originally a street musician in Boston, Lily has made great strikes in a very short amount of time. This album features thick, lush arrangements that would make Tori Amos proud. Her voice just keeps getting better...and her songs are absolutely magnetic. Ten cool tracks here including "Welcome to the Slaughterhouse," "Better Left Unsaid," "Bleed," and "Three Inch Heels." Great stuff... (Rating: 5+)

The Holy Ghost - Welcome To Ignore Us (CD, Clearly, Pop/rock)
We've been raving about The Holy Ghost for some time now. We are pleased to report that Welcome to Ignore Us is, quite possibly, the band's best release yet. It would be sad indeed if the lead track ("Commercial") does not become a huge hit...because the tune is absolutely KILLER. Before you can catch your breath from the first track, the ultimately catchy refrain of "Genghis Khan" invades your consciousness and permanently takes up residence. The rest of the album is like a great roller coaster ride featuring top-notch twenty-first-century modern rock. This band really has it all. Alec Ferrell provides constantly challenging guitar licks. Christopher Dean Heine's vocals are absolutely hypnotic and intense. Angela Webster can certain pound most male drummers into the pavement. And Kent Heine's solid bass lines hold the entire package together. A lot of alternative snobs probably won't like The Holy Ghost because they aren't noisy enough, weird enough, and strange enough...but those folks will be the sad losers because they will be missing out on one of the very best bands of the past few years. Killer tracks on this album include "Chez Paree," "40 Winks," "Pyramid," and "Shoe." This band is highly recommended for anyone who ever loved The Doors, The Cure, and The Strokes. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Kamelot - The Black Halo (CD, SPV USA, Progressive power metal)
Great anthemic rock from Florida's Kamelot, a wonderfully intense power metal band from Tampa, Florida. These fellows play complicated progressive metallic rock music that features pounding rhythms and angelic vocals. The Black Halo features a really thick, slick, BIG produced sound that is perfectly effective for this style of music. Most metal bands play one song over and over...but not these guys. Each and every selection is an entity unto itself...and each is easily identified from the other. The lead guitar playing is so good that it hurts (!). These songs are incredibly well-written, each one coming off like some kind of sonic, epic journey into the center of the mind. There's a lot to digest here...fourteen whopping cuts, including "March of the Mephisto," "Abandoned," "Nothing Ever Dies," and "Serenade." Combining the best elements from 1970s metal to the present, the guys in Kamelot have come up with a direct HIT. (Rating: 5+)

Randy Kaplan - Perfect Gentleman (Double CD, Yellow Thing Records & Books, Pop)
Quality recordings from lo-fi underground recording popster Randy Kaplan. Kaplan's tunes are nice and laidback...often recalling the music of Paul Simon and Bob Dylan. This is a whopping collection of songs...two discs containing a total of 28 tracks. That's a lot...even from an established artist. Releasing a double CD containing so much material is probably not the best career move in the world (shorter albums tend to be better received by listeners)...but if you like what Kaplan is doing, these discs will provide a great deal of spinning power. Unlike most underground songwriters, Randy doesn't write weird or crazy music. Instead, he writes tunes that could easily be accepted by the general public...if they were recorded in a big slick studio and had tons of money devoted to marketing them. But because he offers home recordings using only the bare essentials, Kaplan's fan base is likely to remain small...and this just may be exactly what he is searching for--a relatively small number of listeners who genuinely care about him and his music. Keeping company with other credible artists like Dan Bern...we get the idea that Randy Kaplan's heart is definitely in the right place. And...in the end...isn't that what really matters? (Rating: 4+++)

Larry the Canary - Stop Feeding Me Goddamn Seeds! (CD, Granlope, Jazz/pop)
Larry the Canary is one big fat unhappy bird. Stop Feeding Me Goddamn Seeds! is Larry's plea to the rest of the world. And what a plea it is. His tail feathers are narrow and brittle and his beak is rather lop-sided. He sneaks into other birds' cages and takes a sit-down. Then, just when you think he won't ruffle his feathers again, he carries out his hidden, dark things to get right on with "the brothers" in a new situation comedy. The sad part is that...people will probably continue to feed Larry seeds. Oh well. Who gives a damn if another bird bites the dust? (Rating: 1)

Eric Matthews - Six Kinds of Passion Looking For An Exit (CD, 451 Music, Soft pop)
Everyone probably has a different take on Eric Matthews. For an underground artist, his music is surprisingly accessible and familiar sounding. In our minds, Matthews' music seems to draw heavily from David Bowie's Space Oddity album. The tunes are subtle, highly melodic, and feature exceptional lyrics. This is a short disc featuring a mere seven tracks. But this man does a lot with a little...managing to come up with nothing but winners here. Eric released two albums in the mid-1990s which were well-received. He then seemed to drop out of the picture...until now. Fans of the man...as well as many others...will find these tunes delightfully rewarding. Polished to perfection, these songs come off sounding genuinely sincere. Top picks: "Worthy," "Cardinal Is More," "Underground Song," "Black to Light Brown." (Rating: 5)

Monster Dog (DVD, Music Video Distributors, Horror)
This obscure 1984 film stars Alice Cooper...who puts in an impressive performance as Vince "Raven" Roberts (a rock singer who returns to his family home to shoot a video). Monster Dog is a campy film that features wonderfully spooky lighting effects (lots of smoke and eerie blue lights) and acting that is highly reminiscent of Russ Meyers films. This is really more of a gore film than a horror film. There's lots of blood spurting and people dying...but there's nothing that's really all that frightening by modern-day standards. Quite possibly the most scarey thing about this film is how much Cooper looks and even sounds like Jeff Goldblum (!). But fortunately Monster Dog is still a good view, even if it does seem to go on and on at times. One wonders where these actors and actresses are now (?). The musical score (courtesy of Grupo Dichotomy) fits the images and is quite instrumental in keeping the flow going. The film contains two exclusive Cooper songs. While not the most intense film ever made, Dogs is still rather enlightening...shedding light on what horror movies were like in the early 1980s... (Rating: 4++)

Mt. Gigantic - Old Smiler (CD, Friends and Relatives / Harlan, Obtuse experimental pop/rock)
Mt. Gigantic is a group of insanely creative musicians (mainly from Bloomington, Indiana). Old Smiler is a truly weird spin...and it is VERY DIFFICULT to describe. One thing is certain. This music is MUCH too creative and much too UNUSUAL for the average listener. For our own peculiar tastes, however, this stuff HITS THE TARGET. Combining way too much of everything into musical collages that range from subdued and peculiar...to extremely nervous and crazed...these folks have created a whirlwind of a listening experience that is as perplexing and entertaining as it is hilarious. The lyrics MUST BE READ to be believed. Rarely have we seen such creativity in the lyric department (!). If you're searching for something truly DIFFERENT, you won't do much better than this. Consider the song titles: "Bring Back the Healthy," "Dip Into My Daddy," "Grampa Plays the Drums," "Raechei and Her Children," "Bells," "Hey There Is No Birthday Party For Me In Here I Want To Punch You," "Making Time For / It Is Time For." This crazed album sounds something like the 1960s group The G.T.O.'s...if their feet had gotten hit by lightning. Wild, intense, unpredictable, funny...and very, very ODD. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Parchman Farm - Parchman Farm (CD EP, Jackpine Social Club, Rock)
Playing bluesy loud rock in the grand tradition of Mountain, the folks in Parchman Farm mean what they play. Lead vocalist Eric Shea's vocals are decidedly reminiscent of Leslie West. Add big thick overdriven guitars and a super macho rhythm section...and you have a band that is a big ol' hairy rush of adrenaline. Combining the best of 1970s heavy metal with a modern style and sound, this EP presents a fine young band with a future. Five choice cuts here...including "Mirror Spirit," "Chosen Child," and "Cook You Up." Really meaty stuff that truly rocks... (Rating: 4++++)

William Parker - Luc's Lantern (CD, Thirsty Ear, Jazz)
Luc's Lantern features the superb jazz trio of William Parker (bass), Eri Yamamoto (piano), and Michael Thompson (drums). Parker's bass lines are fluid and spontaneous and they merge perfectly with Yamamoto's beautifully understated piano. Lantern is a subdued, relaxing spin...making it the perfect choice for dinner music or entertaining guests. Instead of overplaying, each member of the trio shows marked restraint...which allows the listener to easily concentrate on the contributions of the individual players. The album features ten tracks, including "Adena," "Evening Star Song," "Bud in Alphaville," and "Candlesticks on the Lake." Extraordinarily tasteful and satisfying... (Rating: 5)

The Plastic Fantastics - The Plastic Fantastics (CD EP, DNA Productions, Rock/pop)
Hard hitting thick pop/rock from New York's The Plastic Fantastics. This is the band's first release...and it's a keeper. Beginning with the incredibly catchy refrain of "God Damn Radio," the band instantly grabs their audience by the balls. Headed by singer/songwriter lionel Cohen, the band's technology-rich hard sound sounds something like a cross between Nine Inch Nails and Love and Rockets. The tunes feature heavy synthesizers, crazy guitars, and an even heavier rock beat...and vocals that will most certainly drive listeners into a frenzy. This impressive EP features six tracks including "So Far Away," "Sorry I Killed You," and "Untitled 97." Great stuff. (Rating: 5)

Steve Porter - Homegrown (CD, Fade / FDS Recordings, Dance)
Originally a record store clerk who morphed into a popular New England DJ, Steve Porter has quickly made a name for himself around the globe as a producer extraordinaire. If there is a point that Porter seems to be making, it just might be that dance music doesn't have to sound stupid. The tunes on Homegrown are anything but predictable generic dance club fodder. The album features plenty of thick meaty beats...but the unpredictable layered instruments are what make these tunes such a treat. Simultaneously heady and trippy, these tracks can be appreciated on many different levels. Sure, they're great for dancing...but they also make for some simply wonderful driving music. Porter isn't content to merely program a computer and let things run their course. Instead, he injects his tunes with a great deal of spontaneity and variety. These fourteen tunes are pumped up feelgood cuts...sure to put the listener in a positive frame of mind. Killer tracks include "Fluffer Nutter," "Swanky," "Sandbox," and "Purina." Absolutely great stuff...! (Rating: 5+)

Shearwater - Thieves (CD EP, MISRA, Progressive folk/pop)
Texas-based Shearwater is a band unafraid to take a different approach to music. Instead of adopting a single style, the folks in this band incorporate ideas from a variety of sources to create their own unique sound. The five songs on Thieves range from slow and distant... to somewhat intense and complicated. The melodies and words are strong...making the band's music ultimately rewarding. This EP won't blow you away on the first listen...but will, rather, end up sounding rather great a few days later. Neat reflective cuts include "I Can't Wait," "Mountain Laurel," and "There's A Mark Where You Were Breathing." (Rating: 4+++)

Snow Machine - Snow Machine (CD, Daemon, Pop)
Fantastic piano pop. Snow Machine features the wonderfully melodic tunes of Katharine McElroy, a young lady whose voice is as smooth as pudding and as refreshing as newborn bunny rabbits. The tunes on this album are classic modern pop nuggets that you've never heard before. The tunes have the same basic overall feel as Ben Fold's music. The music is simple and direct, allowing the listener to concentrate on the melodies and lyrics. This stuff is so good that you almost can't help but sing along on the very first listen. Nine clean pure pop cuts here...including "Birmingham," "Summer Snow," "Feature Film," and "Wrecking Ball." Very refined...and very refreshing. Recommended. (Rating: 5+)

SubArachnoid Space - The Red Veil (CD, Strange Attractors, Space rock/psychedelic/instrumental)
God...what a GREAT album. If you've never been exposed to the music of San Francisco's SubArachnoid Space, now is most DEFINITELY the time to jump on the bandwagon. The band has been making exceptional mind-expanding psychedelic/instrumental music for some time now...and they just keep getting better over time. The Red Veil just may be the band's best body of work yet. The album features six lengthy, meaty, and totally trippy compositions that are sure the bend the minds and souls of those who hear them. Most bands simply plod away in the background making pleasant music that will be forgotten in a few months. The folks in SubArachnoid Space play aggressive rock music that pounds with unrelenting energy and takes the listener on a wild journey that seems to go on forever (!). And journey you will...as the band's crazy rhythms and incredibly intense electric guitars lift you up into the sky and beyond. The band's music is highly reminiscent of artists like Hawkwind and early Steve Hillage. Playing The Red Veil will take you to heights you may never have experienced before...and never will again. This album spins like drugs for the mind...and every single cut is KILLER. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. (Rating: 6)

Mia Doi Todd - Manzanita (CD, Plug Research, Soft pop)
The cover of Manzanita is deceptive. Our initial reaction was to toss this disc based solely upon the cover. Fortunately we were in one our more "patient" moods...and instead allowed the beautiful music of Mia Doi Todd to invade our mental space. Ms. Todd's music sounds something like a cross between Heidi Berry and Joan Baez (much more the former than the latter). Her songs are thoughtful and understated, as are her vocals. Manzanita is Mia's fourth album. It features surprisingly mature and well-arranged moody pop music with a difference. Her songs won't clobber you over the head but will, instead, slowly creep into your consciousness. Mia has worked with a whole slew of other notable artists including Beachwood Sparks and Folk Implosion. Ms. Todd's beautiful, haunting songs have real staying power...and will stand up to many, many repeated spins. Top picks: "The Way," "My Room Is White," "Casa Nova," "I Gave You My Home." (Rating: 4++++)

Rhonda Vincent and the Rage - Ragin' Live (CD, Rounder, Bluegrass/country)
Ragin' Live presents Rhonda Vincent doing what she does best...belting it out for a live audience. Recorded in her home state of Missouri, this album captures all the energy and excitement of Rhonda and her band in concert. Instead of just churning out familiar material, the band chose to include 8 new never-before-recorded tunes in their 20 song set. The playing is tight and furious...and you can just feel the energy of the audience. Vincent is already a red hot new talent...and this album will only heat up the flames even more. Killer cuts include "Kentucky Borderline," "One Step Ahead of the Blues," "Son Drop In," and "The Last Best Place." Great, heartfelt music played with gusto and style... (Rating: 5+)

The Waylons - The Waylons EP (Independently released CD EP, Pop)
Beautifully absorbing guitar pop from Brooklyn, New York's The Waylons. This six-song EP presents a young band with a real knack for writing great guitar pop. The tunes are meaningful, sincere, and instantly memorable...and feature some wonderfully intertwined guitars. The overall sound is timeless and soothing. The vocals are right on target throughout. Killer tracks include "To Me," "Stunning," and "Whisky." What more can we say...? This excellent little EP paves the way for an upcoming full-length, due out later in 2005. (Rating: 5)

Worldclass - Worldclass (CD, Undependent, Progressive pop)
Uniquely cool progressive pop delivered with exuberance and distinctively world class style. This New York-based quartet plays unusually well-written pop music. These guys are no hippie punks. Their tunes are smart and inventive. Worldclass is the band's first album which was produced and released by the members themselves. The songs feature complex guitar riffs, precise rhythms, and excellent vocals. Instead of using familiar formulas, these fellows prefer to let their songs take them wherever they may. As a result, there are many wonderfully spontaneous moments to be found here. Considering how complicated these tunes are, it is rather amazing how catchy many of the melodies are. This superb collection of tunes clocks in at just under thirty minutes. The guys in Worldclass have done what many other bands can only dream of. They have written and recorded a batch of tunes that is certain to grab hold of folks from the very first spin. Killer cuts include "Escudos," "Etcetera," "Playing Possum," and "Mistuck." Great stuff. (Rating: 5)

Zoo Balls - Who Balls the Zoo Balls? (CD, Bun-Bun, Digital answering machine)
There's a bunch of little white things that all sing and play together...and they call themselves Zoo Balls. The balls melt and get pucky and then get very small. The songs the balls sing are routine and yucky. They dress like kings and eat three cheeses. And then they tries to whack their neices. The question is not who balls the Zoo Balls...but who would want to ball the Zoo Balls...! We don't want to ball nobody...thus, this disc is a worthless and tidy tradition that gets shoved into the bathroom cabinet for good. (Rating: 1)

Additional Items Received:

Akron - Family
Angiescreams - Angiescreams
Alan Astor - Everything is possible
Angels of Light - Other people
Avid Cadaver - Sire, you're on fire!
Bear Claw - Find the sun
Bettie Serveert - Attagirl
Bunky - Born to be a motorcycle
Chemical Burn - Three song CD-R
Jimmy Chamberlin Complex - Life begins again
Citified - Citified
Lou DeAdder - Loud
Dig Shovel Dig - Recent works from the most important composers in the universe (7" vinyl 45)
Emperor X - Central hug / friend army / factal dunes
Alex Gomez - Always never
Susan Hamlin - Younger than the sun
Heartscore - Straight to the brain
Hen House Studios - Anthology 4 - 2004
i - The Nominonivore
InsomniaMIGGs - InsomniaMIGGs
Jimvick Combo - Surfing the web of life
Life in Exile - Life in Exile
Lyrics Born - Same !@#$ different day
Malachai - These sounds of the spirit world
The Mattoid - Eternifinity
The 101 - Green street
Martin Peter - Enough of this?
Pepper's Ghost - Shake the hand that shook the world
Plain White T's - All that we needed
Pretendo - Pretendo
PTI - Blackout
Pushstart Wagon - L.A. was our alamo
Reza Ray - Of the wine
Rat Cat Hogan - We're bicoastal
The Samples - Very best of...
Stratocruiser - Suburban contemporary
Suns of March - Bulletproof heart
This Level Is Clouds - The whir LP
Tiny Idols - Transmissions from the indie underground, 1991-1995
Toast - All in
Brian Travis Band - Past the breakers
Patrick Wolf - Wind in the wires

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