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March 2003 Reviews by

Absinthe Blind*
Mark Bacino

The BellRays
Boobie Browne and the Onions
Caustic Resin
Comment Piece

The Eyesores
The Few
Friends of Dean Martinez*
Grand National
Guitar Wolf
Happy Ashtray

Eric Idle*
Johnny Society
Eleni Mandell*

Pilot to Gunner
6 Minute Mile

Silent Kids

Sorry About Dresden
SubArachnoid Space

The Tossers
The Twin Atlas

Chris Whitley
Xiu Xiu*

*Top Picks
(Yeah, Yeah...there's a whole HELL of a LOT of 'em this month!)


March 2003 Comment Piece:
The Instant Creation of The Zilchicratic Party!

Political parties repulse us so much that we have decided to combat the pathetic state of American politics by creating our own party. Thus, the sudden and instant creation of...the Zilchicratic Party. The Democan and Republicratic parties have one thing in common. Both parties are intent on doing lots and lots of things that amount to nothing. The mission of the Zilchicratic Party is much more honest and reliable. Our mission is to do nothing about anything. As a result, our party will be MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE than either of the parties currently in power. Not only that, but our party will also be superior in every way imaginable to the other parties. Our leaders will all be INVISIBLE and will never make ANY promises to do anything...EVER. As a result, no campaign promises will ever be BROKEN. Our leaders will never let anyone DOWN. And they will never be involved in SCANDALS. We are proud...proud to now be a part of the American political process...a process filled to the brim with LIES and DECEPTION. God Bless the goddamn U.S.A....the country that has sunken to the lowest of lows...by becoming totally CRUMMY, ROTTEN, and WORTHLESS. So join the goddamn Zilchicratic Party NOW...before it DISSOLVES! Before it dissolves like PURTY PINK SUGAR on the greasy back of a great big ol' goddamn SLUG! Haha! We are not the only assholes on the planet...you are an asshole TOO! And so is your goddamn FAMILY! Yaaaaay! It feels GREAT knowing that we've all sunken into a depressing nation of pathetic two-bit LOSERS. Now get on that goddamn PONY and ride, partner! Ride right into the goddamn thongs of HELL! 2003 truly is the most BORING GODDAMN YEAR EVER!!! And we LOVE it! We LOVE being bored to goddamn TEARS! Yes indeedy!!! While the rest of the WORLD goes to HELL in a HAND BASKET...we'll still be SLAMMING PLASTIC DISCS into our CRUMMY little CD player and ROCKIN' AROUND THE GODDAMN HOUSE...avoiding anyone and everyone until the day we DIE! Trust us...these days it is BETTER to have your damn HEAD in the SAND. When things are THIS bad...who WANTS to know what's going on in the world...? La la la la la la la...we don't GIVE A DAMN about ANYTHING or ANYONE. No, yes we really actually DO!!! Don't we...or DOES we...???!!??? The HELL if we knows!!! Yeeeeeeeee-HAAAWWWW!!!

Aarktica - Pure Tone Audiometry (CD, Silber, Obtuse/ambient/stream of consciousness)
Raleigh's Silber label is a like a fine jewel that one finds at the bottom of the ocean. This small, eclectic label continues to release extraordinarily high quality releases that are unique, experimental, and thoroughly entertaining. Aarktica is Jon DeRosa. DeRosa's music is difficult to categorize. The man delves into wide variety of styles and sounds to create his own unique mindspace. Pure Tone Audiometry contains soft pop, ambient, electronic drone, and more. Beginning with the soft, soothing, and eerie sounds of "Out To Sea" and "The Mimicry All Women Use"...DeRosa then goes on to explore less obvious territory. The electronics on this album are a far cry from the generic sounds created by most modern electronic artists. DeRosa uses sounds to evoke moods...and the results are most effective. The music is sometimes unusual...sometimes strangely odd...and sometimes strikingly beautiful. A well-crafted and ultimately satisfying trip into one man's world of imagination. Totally hypnotic. (Rating: 5++)

Absinthe Blind - Rings (CD, Mud / Parasol, Progressive pop)
Most bands can be easily summed up after a single listen to their latest album. Urbana-Champaign's Absinthe Blind is not so easily categorized or described. Actually and in fact, Rings more closely resembles a detailed oil painting than a pop album. The songs are carefully crafted and the recording techniques meticulously incorporated. The result is a collection of mind-absorbing tunes produced to perfection. The band members appropriately chose producers Matt Talbott and Keith Cleversley to help them realize their dreams on this album. (Talbott has played in the bands Hum and Centaur and Cleversley has produced monumental recordings by Spiritualized, Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, and others). It is difficult to determine exactly who this band sounds like...but in our minds, the overall sound is a combination of modern girl/boy indie pop with slight reverberations of Wire and Pink Floyd thrown into the mix. The tunes on Rings have a familiar sound that is offset by the fact that...they sound strangely unfamiliar. One thing is for certain. This album gets better with repeated spins. Tunes such as "The Break (It's Been There All This Time)," "The Dreamers Song," and "Ease the Curtains Down" quietly entered our subconscious and by the tenth listen had taken up permanent residence in our brains. Wonderfully different and uniquely creative...Rings is a solid and direct HIT. (Rating: 5++)

Mark Bacino - The Million Dollar Milkshake (CD, Parasol, Pop)
Non stop classic pop. This is the second full-length release from Mark Bacino. This young gentleman seems influenced by popsters from the 1960s right on through to the present. His uplifting and intelligently written tunes possess an optimistic quality that is refreshing and genuine. The arrangements are particularly effective. A wide variety of instruments are used to add interest to the tunes, including trumpet, flugel horn, cello, electric piano, flute, pedal steel guitar, toy piano, and more. Bacino wrote all twelve tunes himself. This guy seems to be doing everything right. His vocals are excellent...recalling everyone from David Cassidy to Tom Evans. This album is a pure feelgood experience. Upbeat pop nuggets include "Want You Around," "Take Your Time," "All I Want," and "Walking on Air." Exceptionally fun stuff. You can expect even bigger and better things from this rising star in the near future. (Rating: 4+++)

The BellRays - Raw Collection (CD, Uppercut, Rock/soul/pop)
The BellRays are one hell of a quartet. Unlike most super hip bands...they are truly deserving of all the praise they receive in the press. If you've heard the band then you already know the score. If you haven't heard them yet, The BellRays can best be described as power soul. The band plays hard rock with one unique difference. Vocalist Lisa Kekaula is the Tina Turner of underground rock in the United States. This charged up lady can belt out tunes like nobody's business. She's got the voice...she's got a great sassy look...and she has a voice that'll literally knock you out of your seat. Raw Collection is exactly that. The album collects previous vinyl 7" releases, compilation tracks, and other various choice nuggets by the band...all slapped together on one goddamn rockin' little motherf*ckin' CD. The sound quality varies from track to track (which is to be expected)...but that detracts little from fifteen cuts that reaffirm this band's position in the undercurrents of American rock music. Includes "You're Sorry Now," "Half A Mind," "Suicide Baby," "The Same Way," and much, much more. Killer stuff. (Rating: 5+)

birddog - Songs From Willipa Bay (CD, Karma / Happy Happy Birthday To Me, Pop)
birddog is led by Bill Santen. Santen began releasing music as birddog in 1995. His music is difficult to describe. Some of the tunes on Songs From Willipa Bay have familiar qualities...while at other times we are left baffled and confused. One thing is obvious. This man is a songwriter of the highest caliber. His tunes are thoughtful, meaningful, and ultimately incredibly satisfying. Best of all, Santen doesn't seem to be trying to impress anyone. His lyrics are puzzling, personal, and effective. This is a strangely hypnotic album that will stand the test of time. The vocals are exceptional throughout. Top notch tunes like "$100 Wedding," "Red Red Wine," "Sycamore" and "Willipa Bay" are about as good as pop music gets. This band is instantly one of our top favorites. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Box-O-Car - In the Future... (CD EP, Modern Record Company, Rock/pop)
Hard pop with heavy British influences. This Chicago quintet's music harkens back to the days when hooks were king and melodies meant everything. The tunes offered on this seven song EP are uplifting and energetic...and the band plays with definite conviction. Box-O-Car would make it difficult indeed for any pop fan to sit still while their music is playing. The band consists of Skid Marks (vocals, guitar), Ken Sluiter (guitar, vocals, sounds), Dan Polonsky (bass), Cory Hance (guitar, vocals), and Randy Payne (drums). This band's sound is reminiscent of Material Issue and The Chainsaw Kittens, yet incorporates energy from the British invasion of the 1960s. In the Future... is chock full of smart pop played just the way we like to hear it. Top notch kickers like "I Wanna Be a Girl," "Under Your Command," and "The True Wheel" make this EP a real standout... (Rating: 5+)

Boobie Browne and the Onions - Birth of the Chickenpick (Independently released CD, Guitar instrumentals)
Wonderfully entertaining guitar instrumentals. True to the claim of the press release that accompanied this CD, Canada's Boobie Browne "is not your typical instrumental guitarist." As the title of the album suggests, Mr. Browne finger plucks his electric guitar...making his guitar sound very much indeed like a chicken at times. Influenced by artists such as Danny Gatton, Chet Atkins, Albert Collins, Jeff Beck, and Les Paul, Mr. Browne proves that he can indeed compete with the best. Backed by the tight, funky rhythm section of Keith Power (bass) and Scott MacCulloch (drums), Boobie serves up some mighty tasty guitar pickin'. You aren't likely to find this limited edition release through familiar channels, so your best bet is to visit the web site (link above). Our top picks are "Two Eggs Any Style" and "Pink Chicken." Totally cool stuff. (Rating: 5)

Caustic Resin - Keep on Truckin (CD, Up, Rock)
Caustic Resin...getting stranger by the year. While a lot of bands claim to play "acid drenched rock"...this band is the REAL THING. What would J Mascis and Captain Beefheart sound like if they both got really drunk and had a baby? Caustic Resin might just be what that little bastard would sound like. This band's music sounds strange. Really strange. But they don't sound like they are trying to sound strange...that's just the way they their music is. As such, Keep on Truckin is an acquired taste. You don't "get it" on the first spin. In fact, most folks won't even get it on the tenth or twentieth spin. Fortunately we get what these guys are about. There's some cool depth to these tunes although it doesn't immediately jump out and grab you. Caustic Resin is Brett Netson (guitar, vocals), Mike Johnson (bass, guitar), and Pat Perkins (drums). These three guys create music that sounds highly drug-influenced. That isn't always super cool...but in this case...it IS. Wild blurry psychedelic rockers like "People Fall Down" and "Wizard of the Upper Snake River" are not only weird as hell...they're also mighty satisfying in the best kinda way. Caustic Resin is a band that influences other bands to create. Dreamy, wild stuff. Far out. Far out...and KILLER. (Rating: 5+)

doubleDrive - Blue in the Face (CD, Roadrunner, Rock)
doubleDrive is one of the best hard rock bands to come out of Atlanta. Their thick and heavy sound is counterbalanced by excellent melodies and intelligent arrangements. The quartet consists of Donnie Hamby (vocals), Troy McLawhorn (guitar), Mike Froedge (drums), and Josh Sattler (bass). doubleDrive tunes are propulsive and vibrant. Froedge and Sattler provide a solid foundation for Lawhorn's intriguing guitar lines. Hamby's macho vocals blend perfectly with the instruments to create a powerful force that has both progressive and metallic nuances. The album kicks off with the mental wave of "11:59" which is a perfect blend of pop and heavy metal arena rock. "Imprint" is likely to be the most popular cut with its more accessible overall sound. For our money, the seventh track (curiously titled "Track Number 7") is the real winner. This cut features big thick guitar riffs and wonderful vocal harmonies that glide through the mix. These guys have the potential to hit it big. They are aggressive and rock really hard...yet their music will still appeal to fans of classic rock and roll. (Rating: 5)

The Eyesores - Bent at the Waist (CD, Handsome, Offbeat pop)
A band that definitely doesn't sound like all the rest. There aren't that many bands on the planet whose songs are written around the sound of accordion...but there are even less with a sound as virtually undefinable as the folks in The Eyesores. The tunes on Bent at the Waist have a loose...almost drunken quality...while still retaining the basic identifiable elements of pop music. At times the melodies seem to slip off the side of the road...only to swerve back dead center with no advance notice. This band's music incorporates everything from pop to country to circus to gypsy to experimental...utilizing bass, drums, guitars, violin, upright bass, and keyboards. This isn't easy music because it sounds foreign in many ways. Songs like "Bent at the Waist," "Thousand Yard Stare," "Ice is for Adults," and "Chupacabra" are peculiar and slightly obtuse...yet strangely appealing. With a bit more focus...these folks will be major contenders in the years ahead. Excellent cover art (!). (Rating: 4+++)

Fanny - First Time in a Long Time (Four CD Box Set, Rhino Handmade/Reprise, Pop)
Finally. After decades without even a single CD reissue of Fanny material...Rhino grabs the bull by the horns and releases EVERYTHING that the band recorded for Reprise. What a RELIEF. Fanny never deserved the attention they so obviously deserved. Although they were one of the most pivotal and incredible all girl bands...for the most part they were ignored. The basic concept of the band was, at the time, truly original. Four girls who could write, play, and sing like all get out. At least during the course of the first three Fanny albums, there were no gimmicks...no weird outfits...no outrageous hair...nothing other than four ladies who just happened to be extraordinarily talented. They had a couple of minor hits...but the band finally broke up without much fanfare. What we cannot figure out is why these ladies are rarely mentioned when the subject of "women in rock music" comes up. (People always seem to mention Suzi Quatro and The Runaways...but neglect to mention Fanny??? C'mon!) Sheesh...they were one of the very FIRST and very BEST female bands EVER. In any event...First Time in a Long Time finally unleashes everything that the band recorded for the Reprise label. It's a standing testament to these girls' credibility. This set includes everything from Fanny, Charity Ball, Fanny Hill (our favorite), and Mother's Pride...plus throws in a multitude of other exotic tidbits to thrill and delight the diehard fan. (We are particularly thrilled over the demo version of "Long Road Home" recorded in London...it is totally KILLER!!!) Also included is a wonderfully informative booklet with revealing interviews with all four members. What is most unfortunate about this release is that it carries a hefty price tag. At $80, this wonderful box set isn't likely to make its way into many households...and that is somewhat of a tragedy...because at this point in time, these girls deserve some MAJOR credit. Perhaps someone will come along and release a "best of" disc...making it possible that Fanny could finally become a household word. But probably not. Some of the best bands seem doomed to permanent obscurity. Fanny was one of the best. For those who are willing to chuck out the money, this set offers a fantastic look back at one of the tightest girl groups EVER. (Rating: 5+++)

The Few - The Few (CD, PSB, Rock/pop)
Clear, honest, unpretentious music. The Few call Los Angeles their home...but had the right idea by traveling to Athens to record their first album with Andy Lemaster (who has recorded some of the band's favorite albums). This trio seems to be doing everything right. The CD cover art has a nice personal feel and contains no photos of the band. And instead of a press release, these folks created a short one-page cartoon briefly explaining how their first album came to be. The Few is Jack Burnside (vocals, guitar), Jamie Swick (bass), and Pauline Mu (drums, vocals). The trio writes and records thoughtful, melodic guitar pop with intelligent lyrics. What appeals to us most about this music is the direct and uncluttered nature of the recordings. The Few write bright, moving tunes. As a result, they don't need unnecessary studio gloss and busy arrangements to cloud the picture. This band is off to a wonderful start. Tunes like "Blue Eyes," "Worth," and "Let Me Down" are pure and necessary. (Rating: 4+++)

Friends of Dean Martinez - On the Shore (Double CD, Narnack, Progressive/instrumental/eclectic)
The most adventurous release yet from Friends of Dean Martinez. This progressive instrumental group of artists began in 1994, originally called Friends of Dean Martin. Since that time the band has released several albums on several different labels...and virtually all have met with critical acclaim. With the release of On the Shore...the band bites off an even bigger chunk than normal. This whopping double CD set is brimming with the cerebral progressive instrumentals that the band is known for. Beginning with the almost grunge-like "Overload," the band sets the scene for some mighty and mind expanding entertainment of the highest caliber. The group's sweeping and slightly trippy music has never sounded better. Echo drenched guitars and heady keyboards make tunes like "Through the Whine," "Tennessee Waltz," "Time's Not Your Friend," and "Cahuenga" reverberate in the mind of the listener. The band's music is like a modern type of mood music. Spinning On the Shore is similar to taking a mental trip through the desert and beyond. If you don't like the hassles of flying, this music will give you the opportunity to do so within the confines of your very own cozy home. Wonderfully refreshing and inventive, this album is another direct hit for the band. (Rating: 5+++)

Gingersol - The Train Wreck Is Behind You (CD, Rubric, Pop)
This is a reissue of the very well received...and originally independently released...album by Gingersol. Rubric picked a real winner this time. The Train Wreck Is Behind You is an ultimately satisfying album. When Gingersol began in 1995, it was basically the one man project created by Steve Tagliere. In 1999 Seth Rothschild joined, making the band a duo. Both write excellent tunes...and their voices blend together like magic. The tunes on this album are mid-tempo pop with magnetic melodies and chock full of addictive hooks. With songs this good...these guys are sure to be a major favorite among fans of underground pop. Fifteen great tunes here. Our choice picks are "Who Cares," "King Sized Doubt," "You Fall Off," and "Amnesia." Excellent stuff that resounds in the mind. (Rating: 5+)

Grand National - Kingsize (CD EP, Atom Smash, Pop)
Smart, thick, melodic, hooky pop. Buffalo, NY's Grand National seem poised and ready to strike for the big time. Rather than playing indie pop, these guys are making music aimed at the masses. That could be either a major criticism or a nifty compliment. In the case of Grand National it is the latter. The band's charged up pop has mass appeal but that is only because the songs are so damn catchy and upbeat. The band's big glossy sound is provided courtesy of mega-producer Dave Trumfio (who has worked with mind expanding bands like Wilco and The Anniversary). We can hear traces of The Nazz and Material Issue in this band's music. It is difficult to judge a group based on a mere five songs...but we'd say these folks are off to a excellent start... (Rating: 4+++)

Hitch - Monolith (CD, Divot, Hard rock)
Smart, skewed, loud, hard, melodic rock. Belgium's Hitch have a sound and style all their own as is evidenced by this, their debut American release. Hitch tunes deliver a mighty punch...but this trio never regresses into making noise for the pure sake of making noise. These guys are too smart for that. The band consists of Mich Decruyenaere (vocals, guitar), Paul Lamont (bass), and Olivier Wychuyse (drums, vocals). Listening to Monolith, it is difficult to believe that only three men are creating this wall of sound. The band's playing is forceful and focused...and extraordinarily tight. Hitch tunes are varied and intense enough to please fans of punk, heavy metal, alternative rock, and pop. Mindbreaking tunes such as "Cause and Effect," "Tongues," and "Building vs. Structures" make this album a standout in the world of hard rock. Tough, killer material. (Rating: 5)

Guitar Wolf - UFO Romantics (CD, Narnack, Rock)
By the time they get to their fourth or fifth album, most bands become generic putty and lose their initial spark...but this isn't always the case. Though they've been around since 1993...and this is their eighth full-length album...Japan's Guitar Wolf still possess a raw urgency that is refreshing and real. These three gentlemen play with reckless abandon...managing to combine wonderfully sloppy playing with intense focus and style. We find it very interesting that decades ago Japanese bands seemed to be merely imitating American bands...while nowadays many of them have surpassed the very bands they were originally trying to emulate (!). UFO Romantics is rough, loud, crazed, and manic. The band thrashes out thirteen little ditties that ought to please even the most jaded punk fans. Our favorites are "Fire Ball Red," "Taxi Driver," "Nagasaki Jet," and "Alcohol Ace." Cool, tough, and absolutely CRAZY. (Rating: 5+)

Happy Ashtray - Big Apple (CD, Kitchen Sink, Pop)
Subtle melodic underground pop. John Swamy is Happy Ashtray. Big Apple is a great album featuring Swamy's unique and intelligent slant on life. The tunes are clean from unnecessary clutter and feature wonderfully sincere melodies. Swamy's deep vocals are extraordinarily effective. While the compositions on this album possess slightly familiar qualities...we are hard pressed to come up with any obvious influences. The only person whose music is somewhat similar is longtime recording guru R. Stevie Moore...but Swamy's tunes are much more accessible. Wonderfully fulfilling songs like "4 Times Daily," "From the Inside" (our favorite), "Twinkle," and "Where Are You?" showcase a fresh new artist with an uncanny knack for writing timeless pop tunes. Recommended. Excellent. (Rating: 5)

Eric Idle - Eric Idle Presents The Rutland Isles (CD, iMusic / Artist Direct / BMG, Comedy/documentary)
Chipper British comedian Eric Idle returns with a brilliant album. Idle has been a mainstay of comedy around the world since his early days as a member of Monty Python's Flying Circus. The quick-paced humor of The Rutland Isles is reminiscent of Lily Tomlin's Modern Humor or even National Lampoon's Radio Dinner...while retaining many comedic elements listeners will remember from Monty Python. The basic premise is that Eric is a tour guide (Nigel Spasm) taking listeners on a tour of the legendary (and fictional) Rutland Isles. The challenging wordplay throughout the album is fantastic and sure to churn many a chuckle. Our favorite nuggets are "Mugger's Day," a hilarious commercial entitled "Pre-Chewed Food," the "Gay Animal Song," and "Fishing for Compliments." One of the best comedy albums we have heard in years, The Rutland Isles cements Idle's position as one of the reigning kings of absurdist comedy. (Rating: 5++)

Johnny Society - Life Behind the 21st Century Wall (CD, Messenger, Pop/rock)
Johnny Society continues to be one of the best kept secrets in the world...although the band's name is slowly becoming more well known in larger musical circles. Life Behind the 21st Century Wall is possibly the band's most accessible release yet. While still retaining the basic elements from the band's first three albums...the album resonates with more polish and distinct precision. Main songwriter Kenny Siegel's vocals sound as fantastic as ever (his voice still reminds us of Roy Wood). Siegel has the uncanny ability to write classic tunes that have as much in common with 1960s pop as they have in common with twenty-first century rock. The band also features Brian Geltner (drums, backing vocals), Gwen Snyder (bass, backing vocals, piano), and Brion Snyder (clavinet, piano, backing vocals). Possibly due to the fact that all band members play multiple instruments, these compositions feature thick and sometimes intense arrangements. But rather than sounding overproduced...these cuts seem to have been cultivated using just the right amount of studio imagination and polish. Just as with the band's prior albums, there isn't a bad apple in the bunch...but standout tracks include "Trust," "Dirty Water" (this one is really exceptional), "Anyway," "Love," and "Everybody Sing Along." Destined to be one of the best releases of 2003. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. (Rating: 6)

Eleni Mandell - Country for True Lovers (CD, Zedtone, Country/folk/pop)
It would be difficult to say that Country for True Lovers is Eleni Mandell's best album...because everything she has yet to record has been spectacular. So...rather than say this is her best...we can safely declare that this is our all-time favorite up until now. For this collection of tunes, Mandell varies slightly from her normal course...writing and recording cool, smooth country-flavored pop tunes that go down as easy as blackberry pie on a Sunday afternoon. Possibly her most accessible album yet, Country for True Lovers focuses on Mandell's uncanny ability to write classic melodies...and to deliver them with ultimately hypnotic class and style. This young lady is as captivating playing alone with a guitar as she is fronting a full band. Every tune here is a keeper, but particular standout cuts include "Another Lonely Heart," "Tell Me Twice," "Don't Touch Me," and "Blue Ribbon Eyes." As usual, her voice is REMARKABLE. We've said it before and we'll say it again. Eleni Mandell is one of the most gifted singer/songwriters of our time. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. (Rating: 6)

Michael - The Day After My Confidence (Independently released CD, Pop/rock)
Slow and steady...wins the race...? Begun in 1993, Athens' Michael (a band, not an individual...) released their first album (You Must Be This Tall) years later in 1999. Afterwards, the band had a few stops and starts before finally recording this, the follow-up. The band originally began recording this album in their home studio...but later opted to record at Sony/Tree Studios in Nashville. The extra time and extra steps seem to have been worth the effort, as The Day After My Confidence features a big, thick sound and some spellbinding music. The first thing that struck us about this album was the guitar work. Complex, thick, heady guitars weave in and out of the mix...combining with uncommon rhythms and wonderful throbbing bass lines to create a sound that is strangely calming and beautiful. The vocals are smooth and low in the mix...allowing the instruments to take a front seat in many cases. These four gentlemen have a knack for combining music that bites with cerebral, calming elements. The result? Nine hypnotic tunes that grab you by the balls and won't let go. Songs like "Still Life," "Rear Window," "Finish Line," and "Letter to Self" are exceptional and ultimately extraordinarily satisfying. Intelligent and intense. Recommended. (Rating: 5)

Momus - Oskar Tennis Champion (CD, Darla, Pop)
Underground recording artist Momus goes all over the place...with his music and with the place that he calls home. Originally born in Scotland, Momus eventually made his way to the United States...only to become disenchanted with the country. He currently calls Tokyo his home, which is where Oskar Tennis Champion was recorded. Momus' entire career seems to evolve around doing things his own unique way. His music doesn't follow the path of others, nor do his career moves. While this album is almost certain to please Momus fans...it isn't likely to make its way into the Billboard charts anytime soon. Momus tunes are experimental pop laced with tricky electronics and melodies that are strangely haunting. These compositions are peculiar and subtle. They slowly invade the subconscious of the listener only after they have been spun several times. Listeners are likely to spend countless hours attempting to determine the meaning of lyrics in tunes like "Scottish Lips" and "Electrosexual Sewing Machine." Slightly spooky and ultimately tempting, this music is unlike anything else out there. (Rating: 4+++)

Moodroom - Hung Up On Breathing (CD, Fowl, Rock/pop)
Combining 1990s alternative rock sounds with synthesizers and vocals reminiscent of 1980s new wave, Washington, D.C.'s Moodroom promotes a dense and thick sound while retaining a definite melodic sense. Something like an industrial rock version of Missing Persons. The lead track ("Loving") is the best cut and sounds like a possible single. This band has some good songs...but the album overall seems uneven. Moodroom should appeal to fans of Garbage and No Doubt. (Rating: 3++)

Pilot to Gunner - Games at High Speeds (CD, Arena Rock Recording Co., Rock/pop)
Pilot to Gunner's sound is reminiscent of the first couple of XTC albums (before XTC softened their sound). The band's loud, angular, jagged, loud rock is based around genuinely pleasing melodies. At times, we can also hear traces of early Gang of Four in the band's music...particularly in the guitar sounds. Pilot to Gunner play with an intensity that pushes their tunes to another level. The band has already garnered the positive attention of a great many writers around the globe...and for good reason. Games at High Speeds is a wild roller coaster ride through the world of modern hard pop. The band's tunes are smart, inventive, and full of strange hooks. By mixing slightly discordant sounds with driving melodies, these guys have come up with an overall sound that is intoxicating and inventive. Our top picks are "Every Minute is a Movie," "Zero Return," and "Band Finale." (Rating: 5)

Re:Collaboration - Transcollaboration (CD, Uncle Buzz, Ambient/atmospheric)
This is the five-year transatlantic collaboration between David Cooper Orton and James H. Sidlo. Orton plays and/or handles e-bowed and electric guitars, loops, software manipulation, and drum pattern programming while Sidlo plays and/or handles guitars, standard and fretless bass, loops, and atmospherics. As you might guess from the instruments and programs used, this is an experimental project consisting mostly of electronic manipulation and sound effects. As such, the two players are treading territory originally chartered by Brian Eno and Robert Fripp...in that the stringed instruments are manipulated in unusual ways. The first half of this disc flows along in with a meditative sort of flow. In the second half, the duo introduces rhythms. For our money, the tracks without percussion work best. Prime cuts: "Thing2," "Thing3," "Thing4," "Time To Spare," "Never Enough Part One." (Rating: 4++)

6 Minute Mile - The Race for Second (CD, Sonic Boom Recordings, Pop/rock)
Hard pop that recalls XTC's Drums and Wires. Seattle's 6 Minute Mile provides impressive material on their debut album. The band treads on that fine line that divides power pop from hard rock. Their music is based upon interesting chord changes and meaty power chords...but the vocal melodies are what make the band's music so appealing. 6 Minute Mile consists of Jason Hughes (guitar, vocals), Chuck Connell (bass, vocals), and Jeff Roeser (drums). Lead guitars are (thankfully) noticeably absent from the band's sound...allowing them to concentrate on their intent song structures. The band's overall aim is to rock hard while providing plenty of memorable melodic hooks. Cool rockers include "Not So Strong," "Fire on the Moon," "Pilot," and "Bleeding." (Rating: 4++++)

Silent Kids - Tomorrow Waits (CD, Two Sheds Music, Pop)
Atlanta, Georgia has some goods bands...but it takes a bit of searching to find them. Indie popsters Silent Kids are a genuine find. Their music doesn't fit in with what one normally associates with Atlanta. In fact, the quartet's music has a great deal more in common with Athens bands (there is a great cultural difference between the two cities...Athens = GOOD...Atlanta = BAD...). Tomorrow Waits is a fine and fulfilling album featuring lo-fi pop compositions that the band recorded in their own analog 8-track studio. This album was originally an independent disc released 2002. Interest in the album prompted the provocative Two Sheds label to reissue the album. Eleven cool cuts here including "Drift Into the Summer," "Oh I," "Perfect Office Street" (our favorite), and "I Knew That We Would End Up Here." Nice melodies and a cool groove thoughout. (Rating: 4+++)

Solace - 13 (CD, MeteorCity, Rock)
These guys have been at it for some time now. They began as Godspeed (on the Atlantic label) but later changed their name to Solace in 1997. The band's heavy duty belt-it-out approach is reminiscent of Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath. Make no mistake, however, these guys are not retroactive. Their music is relevant and very current. The band consists of Tommy Southard (guitar), Jason (vocals), Rob Hultz (bass), and John Proveaux (drums). While the tunes on 13 most accurately fit within the boundaries of stoner rock, the guys in Solace are actually much more aggressive than your average marijuana plodders. Many of the tunes on this album would be just as likely to please leather punksters as they would the pothead crowd. These guys' strengths lie in mindblowing guitars, a vocalist who rivals Ozzy Osbourne on speed, and a rhythm section that throbs and grinds like your Aunt Sue-Ellen on poppers. Their 1970s influences heavily intact, these guys continue in the grandest of traditions... Top picks: "King Alcohol," "Once Around the Sun (Deep Through Time)," "Forever My Queen," "With Time." (Rating: 4+++)

Sorry About Dresden - Let It Rest (CD, Saddle Creek, Pop/rock)
Sorry About Dresden seems to be a very well kept secret. Still toiling in relative obscurity, the band continues to chalk up points with reviewers and fans of the underground. Just as is the case with Lilys, the reason this band hasn't become more popular is probably because their music is over the heads of most folks. Sorry About Dresden tunes are complicated matters. They don't just start, plod along, and then end with a familiar thud. The band's music churns in twisted and unexpected ways. The guitars make unexpected turns, the rhythms change and mutate, and the vocals go all over the place. The melodic twists are enough to drive just about anyone off the road. If the dedicated listener can get past these obstacles...that individual will be rewarded royally. Although this music requires effort on the part of the listener, it is well worth the expenditure of energy. Folks will have a hell of a time trying to figure out who these folks sound like. Let It Rest presents a wealth of gems including "Beds and Lawns," "Frozen in Mid-Gesture," "Candid Camera," and "Relax, It's Tuesday." More great stuff from one of our favorite up-and-coming bands... (Rating: 5+)

SubArachnoid Space - Also Rising (CD, Strange Attractors, Space instrumental/progressive)
There's nothing as soothin' as a good ol' drug induced psychedelic drone now and then...and that's when SubArachnoid Space come in mighty handy. So...as we plunked Also Rising (the band's eighth album) into our trusty CD player and turned the volume way up handy dandy...we slid right on down into that hallucinogenic kinda place that we like to call our office...and got kinda goofy as all Hell. Sheesh, what kinda cowpoke can't enjoy a tasty tune like "The Harsh Facts of Life" anyway? The more we listened the more we began to drink...and the more we drank the better the music was soundin'. Sheeyut, by the time "Angel Food" hit our subconscious we began to think we was on the goddamn MOON pickin' at our panties and crawlin' underneath some purty blue GRANITE ROCKS. Strange how music does that to a feller now, ain't it? Of all them crazy damn psychedelic progressive rock bands out thar...SubArachnoid Space is easily one of our damn favorites. Why? Hell, ain't no WAY we can answer that. It's just 'cause...'cause we LIKES 'em, dammit tuh HELL! Hey now...whar's that damn REPLAY button at anyhow? Our balls is just ITCHIN' for MORE. (Rating: 5)

The Tossers - Purgatory (CD, Thick, Celtic punk)
Who would've thought years ago when The Pogues hit the scene that they would inspire hundreds and hundreds of bands. Even more importantly, who would've thought they would have created an entirely new genre..."celtic punk"...? Like it, hate it, leave it, or not...the genre is alive and well and The Tossers are right at the head of the pack. Actually and in fact, this band's music seems more steeped in tradition than your average celtic punk band. That is to say, the songs on Purgatory are more celtic than punk...and that's just fine with us. This is the band's fourth album...jammed up with sixteen credible compositions. The band's attitude and energy are infectious... and hey, the tunes ain't bad neither (!). We are particularly impressed with the lead vocalist...this guy's GOOD. Tracks include "With the North Wind," "Nantucket Girls Song," "The Squall," and "Time to Go." (Rating: 4+++)

The Twin Atlas - Bring Along the Weather (CD, Tappersize, Pop)
A wonderfully entertaining home recorded project. The Twin Atlas is the duo of Sean Byrne and Luke Zaleski. Byrne and Zaleski were formerly in the bands Lenola, Mazarin, and Matt Pond PA. The pair made the right choice to venture out on their own. Bring Along the Weather is an exceptional album. These two fellows churn out one memorable tune after another...and their songs feature some absolutely striking vocal harmonies. Bryne writes dreamy, haunting melodies with effective lyrics. His material is light years beyond most of what is currently being released by major labels. His pop tunes have a slight folk influence...and are as smooth as silk on the ears. Our favorites on this album are "Sun Touches Down," "The Golden Seas," "Static to Crystal," and "Nylon FP." This is what home recorded pop ought to sound like. Beautiful stuff. (Rating: 5)

Chris Whitley - Hotel Vast Horizon (CD, Messenger, Pop/rock)
Guitarist Chris Whitley returns with yet another stunning album. Hotel Vast Horizon is somewhat of a departure from Whitley's last couple of studio albums. Focusing on acoustic instruments, Whitley strips his sound down to the bare essentials. While there's nothing like hearing this man play electric guitar...the change of pace is refreshing and focuses on the softer and more gentle side of Whitley's material. If you've never heard Chris before...his material lies somewhere in between J Mascis and Idaho (two of our favorites). But make no mistake...this man has his own sound and follows his own muse. His husky voice evokes moods and emotions in the same way that his guitar playing does. Backing Whitley on this album are Matthias Macht (drums) and Heiko Schramm (bass). In our opinion, Horizon is Whitley's strongest release yet...emphasizing the more human elements of the artist at work. Indispensable tunes include "New Lost World," "Assassin Song," and "Insurrection at Newtown." Ten straight shooters that all hit the bull's eye dead on. (Rating: 5+++)

Xiu Xiu - A Promise (CD, 5RC, Obtuse)
The more we hear Xiu Xiu...the more impressed we are. There are few bands with such an obtuse and awkward style that push as hard as these guys. They're fighting an uphill battle...but they seem to be winning (at least in terms of artistic success). There are plenty of strange bands on the planet...but few are as genuinely and unusually strange as this. What does this music sound like...? Imagine mixing the first Mercury Rev album with ten hits of acid...throw in a hint of early Daniel Johnston...and blend the mixture with a heavy dose of modern classical music a la John Cage... Then...and only then...will you have at least a slight idea of what this band sounds like. A Promise is easily one of the most unique albums we have heard in some time. Listeners will definitely not find themselves singing along and proclaiming, "Hey...that's catchy!" This music is meant for that small yet appreciative audience that wants to be challenged mentally and physically. There are few familiar elements to grasp onto. By pushing the limits of what constitutes an album...Xiu Xiu have succeeded in creating magical and surreal pieces that travel far beyond...beyond the sun...beyond the moon...beyond the sky... Cool stuff for folks who can handle it. Can you...Xiu Xiu...??? (Rating: 5+++)

Zwan - Mary Star of the Sea (CD & DVD set, Reprise, Rock/pop)
Zwan is Jimmy Chamberlin, Billy Corgan, Paz Lenchantin, David Pajo, and Matt Sweeney. As such, the band has an instant built-in fan base. For those who were disappointed with the last few Smashing Pumpkins albums (that includes us), Mary Star of the Sea finds Corgan once again standing in good form. The album features loud rockers and mid-tempo pop...as well as some softer moments. While Zwan never reaches the height of Smashing Pumpkins at their peak, the band does manage to entertain. Many of the louder numbers are reminiscent of Corgan's previous work. The poppier tracks seem to work best. The DVD contains throwaway footage (way too many cutesy shots of the band acting silly)...and is probably included mainly as an incentive for fans to buy the CD. This band would benefit from stronger songs and more sparse, open arrangements. This album may be an indication that better things are yet to come...? (Rating: 4++)

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