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November 2008: More Shitty Mindless Reviews by

The Age of Rockets
Kyle Andrews

Backseat Dreamer
Boys and Girls

Knox Bronson
Cake On Cake*
Olivia D'Abo

The Dears
The Distant Seconds

Dog Years
Everything, Now!*
Expo '70
The Express

Eyeless In Gaza
The Colter Frazier Quartet*
Fripp & Eno*
Give and Eat

The Great Depression*
Lua Hadar with Twist
Roy Harper*
Hooray For Earth*
Hospital Bombers
Hospital Ships
Hotel Hotel
Luke Jackson
Jenny Doesn't Like It
Jesus and the Lamb

Edward Ka-Spel*

The Kindness Kind
Lorraine Leckie & Her Demons
Andrew Lipke*
The Little Ones

Make A Difference
The Mansfields

Jamie McLean

Modern Skirts
Whitey Morgan and the 78's

Luke Mulholland Band
no caps

No Fix
Northern Valentine
Nowhere, Man
The Olympic Symphonium

Penny Peoples
The Pineapple Thief
Project Grand Slam
Barry Schrader
Scream Hello
The Service Industry
Shut The...
Skipping Girl Vinegar*
Richard Stoltzman

Super XX Man*
Priya Thomas
Twenty-First Century Commandments

Up Down
Laura Warshauer
The Wolverton Brothers
Andy Yorke

Michael Zapruder*

*Top Picks

Additional Items Received


The Age of Rockets - Hannah (Independently released CD, Progressive pop)
Interesting modern technology-driven pop with a heavy emphasis on vocals. The Age of Rockets is Andrew Futral along with a host of different artists offering their support. Many of the tracks on Hannah bear a slight resemblance to some of the more restrained tunes we have heard by Copeland...except the emphasis on vocal layering is much more obvious. Futral incorporated a wild variety of instruments in the recording of this album. Players involved utilized synthesizers, piano, guitar, harmonium, trumpet, drums, cello, upright bass, violin, harp, bassoon, and more. Surprisingly, the songs did not end up sounding overproduced and unnecessarily busy. Instead, the opposite is true. These songs have a nice, spacious, open sound that allows the listener to concentrate on the vocal melodies. The album is divided into two five song sections with the middle track ("1001 Dirty Tricks to Kill Your King") being somewhat of a pivotal divider. Futral has created a startling, genuine album that is bound to sound great years from now... (Rating: 5)

Kyle Andrews - Real Blasty (CD, Elephant Lady, Pop)
We were instantly drawn to this CD, first because of the super colorful and inviting graphics...but later because of the smart and infectious tunes penned by Kyle Andrews. Real Blasty was created entirely on a laptop computer, but don't expect a small tinny sound. The songs on this album sound surprisingly full and polished...but the melodies and hooks are ultimately what make the songs cook. It took a couple of spins before we began to take notice of the fact that Andrews writes some really smart and cool lyrics. None of the samey, familiar dumb lines that so many artists are guilty of using in their tunes. Kyle is originally from Chicago but now lives in Nashville, Tennessee (smart move, that one, yessir yessir...). His songs are fresh, upbeat, and instantly memorable. There are so many infectious tracks here that it is difficult to pick favorites...but initial cuts that stand out include "Sushi," "Polar Bear," "Wavering Between the Real and the Abstract," and "Take It To Heart." Totally groovy sounding modern pop with a difference. (Rating: 5+)

Appaloosa - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Music by Jeff Beal (CD, Lakeshore, Soundtrack)
Composing the soundtrack to a Western in the twenty-first century is no easy task...but Jeff Beal makes it all sound natural and easy. The story to Appaloosa is a familiar one...a marshal and his deputy are on the hunt to bring a murderer to justice. This is not the first time Beal has worked with director Ed Harris...he also created the music for Harris' feature film directorial debut (Pollock). To create the tracks for this film, Beal and several musicians recorded the basic tracks using traditional instruments (guitar, banjo, bass, french horn, trombone, tuba, piano, etc.)...and then Beal added orchestration (violins, violas, basses) to give the songs a fuller and richer overall sound. The first twenty-three tracks are instrumentals...while the disc closes with two vocal tunes ("You'll Never Leave My Heart" by Ed Harris and "Ain't Nothin' Like a Friend" by Donald Rubinstein). This intricate recording effectively captures the idea of the old west...while simultaneously bringing the sound quality right up to the present. Beautifully executed cuts include "New City Marshal," "Bragg's Theme," "Finding Allie," and "Hitch Settles a Score." (Rating: 5)

Backseat Dreamer - Love Not Found EP (CD EP, Stickfigure, Electronic)
An interesting debut EP from Backseat Dreamer This band is the project created by Sean Neuse who was previously the drummer in the band Culture Prophet. Love Not Found is an all instrumental disc that contains eight tracks...all of which combined last just over 16 minutes. Neuse records music that is a combination of several styles including (but not limited to) ambient, experimental, drone, and modern classical. His compositions have an odd dreamy feel...and can either be listened to closely or used to create moods as background music. This disc is being released in advance of his upcoming full-length debut which should be out Spring 2009. Interestingly, these tracks were not listed on the inserts (?). Intriguing stuff...subtle and slightly surreal... (Rating: 4+++++)



Which is better,
Boys or girls?
Boys are bad.
Girls are bad, too.
Boys and girls are both

(Rating: 1)

Knox Bronson - Pop Down the Years (CD, Tangerine Sky Interactive, Pop)
Interesting hummable electronic pop. San Francisco, California's Knox Bronson makes music that sounds something like twenty-first century David Bowie creating his music with 1980s analog synthesizers...except the subject matter, overall, is much lighter. Bronson's voice is decidedly Bowie-esque...yet one can't help but feel that he is playing for a much younger audience. Some of the tracks have almost cartoonish-like qualities...while others are much more serious and introspective. Knox is obviously a very talented fellow with a great voice. If he can shake some of the extreme Bowie influence, our guess is that this guy will be able to come up with some even better material in the future. Cool modern electronic pop tracks include "Hey Little Earthgirl," "Old Man Cold Man," "Stay," and "Pop Down the Years." (Rating: 4+++)

Cake On Cake - Hymns I Remember (CD, Sleepy, Pop)
We've been waiting patiently for a new release from Sweden's Cake On Cake. Hymns I Remember was most certainly worth the wait. This band is the solo project created by Helena Sundin. This young lady blew our minds with her last album (I Guess I Was Daydreaming). Her new album was cut from the same general fabric yet is anything but a repeat of the past. In a world full of generic artists trying to outdo one another with dozens upon dozens of multiple tracks, Sundin's simple music comes across like a cool blast of fresh air. The overall sound of her music sounds something like a cross between Nico and Yoko Ono...with a healthy helping of childlike innocence thrown into the mix. So many people create sarcastic and negative music...that it all becomes somewhat of a generic washout. Creating simple, sincere, uplifting music seems to come naturally to Helena. She has a wonderfully smooth understated vocal style...and she never weighs her tunes down with too many instruments and overdubs. Simply put...Hymns is yet another outstanding collection that features some of the most subtle yet magical twinkly pop tunes we have heard this year. Fourteen inviting cuts here including "Sunday Girl," "Missing The Snow," "Classical Music Quiz," "Kokomo Love Song," and "Kate's Little Paws." Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Olivia D'Abo - Not TV (Independently released CD, Pop)
Because we aren't hooked into the world of cable television (thank God), this young lady's name did not register with us. But more informed folks out there in the universe will instantly know Olivia D'Abo as the character Karen Arnold on the television show The Wonder Years. For others her last name may be obviously familiar, seeing as how her father is Mike D'Abo, lead single in the band Manfred Mann. Considering the fact that she is the child of a celebrity and is also an actress, one would expect Olivia's music would...suck. But all honesty we say nay, nay, nay...this music by no means sucks at all. Not even slightly. In fact, Not TV is a beautifully written and well-recorded body of work. D'Abo writes smart, serious. reflective soft pop tunes that are accessible and yet not overtly commercial sounding. She has a super smooth warm and inviting voice that really makes her tunes kick. This young lady proves that not everyone can be pigeonholed just because of their own individual circumstances. Not TV is a total success, featuring cool tunes like "Undertow," "Ne'er Do Well," "Addicted," and "Catastrophe." (Rating: 5)

The Dears - Missiles (CD, Dangerbird, Progressive)
We have been increasingly impressed with Dangerbird over the past few months...mainly because the label is home to one of our top favorite bands (Darker My Love). As a result, whenever we see that familiar little Dangerbird logo...our ears tend to perk up. The Dears is yet another surprise from a label that seems to defy categorization in terms of the type of artists they connect with. The folks in this band create a modern sort of soft pop that relies on technology while being mainly driven by vocal melodies. The accompanying booklet is particularly interesting...it has the look and feel of an instruction booklet for an electronic device yet it is actually a lyric booklet. The folks in The Dears are ultimately creating pure soft pop with smart lyrics and interesting melody lines. Calm reflective cuts include "Dream Job," "Lights Off," "Demons," and "Meltdown In A Major." (Rating: 4+++++)

The Distant Seconds - Spectral Evidence (Independently released CD, Pop)
Interesting simple underground pop played without frills and unnecessary overdubs. The folks in Austin, Texas-based Distant Seconds write and record pensive underground pop that is occasionally reminiscent of Lou Barlow (Sebadoh, etc, etc.). The songs on Spectral Evidence are presented simply, for the most part using only the basics...drums, bass, guitar, occasional keyboards, and a single vocal. The stripped down approach works in the band's favor, as the material is strong enough to stand on its own. These are pop songs, but they are not obvious pop with coy choruses and lots of repeated phrases. We found that the more we play this album...the better the songs sound. Eleven intelligent tracks here including "Throb In Unison," "Half A Believer," "Your Politics," and "Bridget Bishop." Neat stuff. (Rating: 5)

Dog Years - Frankenstein Songs (Independently released CD-R, Pop)
Independently released CD-Rs are a dime a dozen these days...and most of the time the discs aren't worth the plastic they're burned on. But in the case of the band Dog Years nothing could be further from the truth. Frankenstein Songs is a truly credible and entertaining collection of smart, intelligent, catchy guitar pop tunes with a difference. There's a lot to take in on the band's second full-length release. The disc features no less than 20 tunes...and there isn't a bad track in the bunch. The band's songs are deceptively simple...delivered without unnecessary overdubs and instrumentation. Some of the melody lines bear a slight resemblance to tunes by Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, The Minus Five). Dog Years is Simon Fee (vocals, guitar), Ben Riddick (guitar, vocals), Jayne Pearson (drums), and Paul Burns (bass). It is no small feat delivering an hour's worth of credible pop tunes...particularly when you are doing it entirely on your own. Cool cuts abound here but our particular favorites include "Bellyaches," "Nothing To No One," "Under the Weather," "Remain a Butterfly," and "Hey, Little Bird." Exceptionally inviting free flowing pop. (Rating: 5+)

Everything, Now! - Spatially Severed (CD, MFT, Progressive pop/rock)
When we first slammed this l'il sucker into our CD player our first reaction was...what happened...? Our guess is that folks who heard previous releases from Everything, Now! are likely to have the same initial knee-jerk reaction. Earlier releases from this band were so crazy and out-of-control that it was something like a bizarre assault on the senses. On Spatially Severed the band has obviously toned things down a bit. In most cases when a band takes a milder approach to music, the results are disastrous. In this case...the change actually works in the band's favor. The reason why...is that the somewhat more conventional approach to music makes it easier to understand and appreciate the songs themselves. This band hasn't sold out as they have effectively managed and manipulated their sound to make it more appealing to a wider group of listeners. There's a lot to digest here as the band tosses of sixteen new tunes. The music is in the same general territory as, say, The Flaming Lips...but these folks are by no means a band copying the sound of others. The less busy overall sound makes it obvious that these folks could...if they choose to do so...become rather popular little darlings of the underground kingdom. Can't help but love the song titles: "The Hairy Ears of Soul Captain Serpentine," "Alice of Dixie Cup," "Lifting Waits," "Save A Life With Diet Chocolate Sprite," "In Heaven Smoking Trees." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Expo '70 - Black Ohms (CD, Beta-lactam Ring, Experimental)
"Thank you Expo '70, O Lord, for the drones you are about to receive." Hyuk hyuk hyuk...those folks at Beta-lactam Ring sure have a focused sense of humor in their press releases. (!) Expo '70 is Justin Wright...another experimental noise artist whose music plays at several levels beneath conventional radar systems. If you are into droning electronic music...Black Ohms is probably one of the most consistent drones. Fans of commercial and/or musical releases will have absolutely no interest in this album...and that is sad, because they are probably the ones who need it the most. This six-track album is definitely a mood setter. The compositions are built around a simple repeating note or phrase while subtle trippy electronics float around in the background...creating an experience that is something is something like going on a trip to the ocean floor. Cool atmospheric cuts include "Lysergic Sunrise," "Emerald Fanged Dancer" (our favorite), and "Midnight Stalking." Oddly restrained mind-bending stuff... (Rating: 5+)

The Express: The Ernie Davis Story - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Music by Mark Isham (CD, Lakeshore, Soundtrack)
Not being big fans of spectator sports, we approached this disc with some serious reservations. But much to our surprise, the soundtrack to The Express: The Ernie Davis Story can be enjoyed on many different levels regardless of whether or not you are a sports fanatic. This is not surprising, of course...because this music was written by Mark Isham...who has proven himself time and time again in the world of soundtrack recording (he has composed music for the films Crash, Bobby, The Black Dahlia, A River Runs Through It, and many more). Isham has come a long way since the 1980s when he was primarily an electronic artist. This CD is divided into seventeen tracks. These compositions are, for the most part, moody and soothing...thoughtful and cerebral. Assisting Isham with orchestrations were Conrad Pope, Nan Schwartz, and Clifford J. Tasner. These tracks have a nice, big sound without ever coming across like overproduced masterpieces. Effective decidedly non-sports-like tracks include "Prologue," "Jackie Robinson," "Don't Lose Yourselves," and "The Express." (Rating: 5)

Eyeless In Gaza - Summer Salt & Subway Sun (Double CD Box Set, Beta-lactam Ring, Experimental)
Eyeless In Gaza is Martyn Bates (voice, instruments) and Pete Becker (instruments, voice). Summer Salt & Subway Sun presents a wealth of odd music...packed inside in a typically elaborate Beta-lactam Ring package. The discs are housed in a colorful glossy box...with each having its own thick cardboard sleeve inside...plus a thick glossy yellow lyric booklet. (Note that the first 400 copies include "a numbered insert and bonus album entitled Wildcat Fights.) Eyeless In Gaza songs have a strangely distant quality and yet much of the music is remarkably accessible. Bates and Becker seem to enjoy treading in and out of accessible territory while often allowing the ship to go off track into all kinds of unchartered areas. Some of these songs seem to have a slight Middle Eastern influence...while others sound more exotic in nature. Minor chords are integral to the overall sound. The vocals are smooth and restrained...sometimes seeming to serve as somewhat of a narrative to the music. There's a lot to take in here...a total of 21 tracks. Our initial favorites are "Whitening Rays," "Before Beginning," "All New," and "Song-Like in the Dead Night." Soft, moody, intricate, and provocative. (Rating: 4+++++)

The Colter Frazier Quartet - The Colter Frazier Quartet (CD, pfMENTUM, Jazz)
The Colter Frazier Quartet is Rob Wallace (drums, percussion), Miles Jay (bass), Nick Coventry (viola, violin), and Colter Frazier (tenor sax). This self-titled album is surprisingly original and unique. Although these four fellows play what could probably best be described as modern jazz, their music is much more listenable than such a tag would normally suggest. While there is a lot of free improvisation going on, the overall sound is reminiscent of some of the great classic jazz artists from the 1950s and 1960s...except more fluid and, naturally, more polished and updated. The band members reside in Santa Barbara, California...so perhaps the fact that they have not been part of a "scene" in a big city explains their more unconventional and unique approach. The playing is tight and unpredictable...and yet strangely calming and provocative. After hearing this album, we can't help but feel that these guys will be asked to do some heavy duty soundtrack recording in the very near future. Truly cool fluid cuts include "Lloyd's Prayer," "August Ballad," "Lunch With Osby," and "Focus." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Fripp & Eno - No Pussyfooting (Double CD, DMGM Live / Enoshop, Electronic/instrumental), Evening Star (CD, DMGM Live / Enoshop, Electronic/instrumental)
Two iconic albums receive deluxe reissue treatment here, complete with 24 bit remastering by Simon Heyworth and Robert Fripp. When originally released in 1973, No Pussyfooting received a very strange reception around the world. Roxy Music fans were already very familiar with young transvestite synthesizer/electronics brain Brian Eno...but they weren't prepared for this peculiar audio endeavor. Our own reaction at the time...was total curiosity. We actually weren't all that thrilled that we had spent money for what (at the time) seemed like a peculiar mindless drone. But for some reason we held onto the album because it was so, well, different from other vinyl discs. And then slowly, over time, we came to really love and appreciate the music. Little did everyone know at the time that No Pussyfooting would have a huge and dramatic effect on music worldwide...almost single-handedly spurring an entirely new genre of music (which Eno later labeled as "ambient"). This 2008 reissue of the album is certainly the king of them all. Not only is the sound quality superior...but different versions of the tracks are also included. For folks who haven't already heard it, here's an interesting story about Pussyfooting. When British DJ John Peel played the album (via a reel-to-reel tape) on his radio show in 1973, he inadvertently played the album backwards. Few folks had any idea, because the music already sounds something like music played backwards. Probably as a result of this humorous mishap, on this reissue backwards versions of both sides of the album are included. And, as one would expect, they sound remarkably similar to the regular versions. But even more intriguing is the inclusion of a half-speed version of "The Heavenly Music Corporation" which is, in our opinion, actually superior to the original. This new slowed-down version is much calmer and more restrained...and sounds much more ambient releases that were soon to come on the horizon. Evening Star, Fripp & Eno's second collaborative effort, was never received as well as their debut. And that is a shame, because Star is, in many ways, just as absorbing and rewarding. True, the first four tracks are more musical than many would have predicted...but the lengthy closing composition ("An Index of Metals") is truly astounding. Anyone who ever loved these albums will want to get hold of these deluxe reissues. And for anyone who never heard them in the first place, these are definitely the versions you will want to get hold of. Highly recommended. (Rating: 6+)



You have to give
In order to receive.
You have to eat
In order to defecate.

(Rating: 1)

The Great Depression - Forever Altered (CD, Fire, Progressive pop)
Hmmm...this band has a really appropriate name now given the world's current economic decline (!?!). Perhaps the situation will have the effect of boosting their underground career status. Based in Copenhagen, Denmark, the American folks in The Great Depression have really outdone themselves this time around. Two of the band's previous releases were covered in these pages in the past...but Forever Altered is the first Top Pick. The album is full of lush, thick arrangements and subtle, moody melodies. An incredible amount of time and energy obviously went into the creation of this album. According to the press release, band members Todd Casper and Thomas Cranley originally formed the band in 1999 "as a vehicle for psychic exploration and subversion." While that statement may initially sound a bit pretentious...after hearing this album it certainly makes sense. Unlike a lot of shallow modern progressive pop, the tunes on this album have real depth and staying power. After spinning this l'il sucker about a dozen times...the nuances of the music are still just beginning to sink in. Wonderfully luscious cuts include "Forever Altered," "Stolen" (this one would've been a huge hit in the 1980s), "Throw Me The Ropes," and "They're Making Us Look Green." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Lua Hadar with Twist - Lua Hadar with Twist (Independently released CD, Female vocalist/world jazz)
Lua Hadar is a lady with a rather unusual presence and voice. While spinning this CD, the first person who came to mind was the undeniably strange Mrs. Miller...an older lady who used to appear on the Merv Griffin Show in the 1960s. Miller had a bizarre warble like no other human being on the planet and was never properly recognized for her talent. Hadar is more accessible to be certain...but she has that same strange loose warble that does, at times, recall the ghost of Mrs. Miller. In terms of musical styles, the songs on this album go all over the place and back. On the inside notes, the music is described as "world jazz"...which just might be the best simple way to categorize this music. Lua surrounds herself with some truly quality players. Joining her on this album are Jason Martineau (piano), Andrew Higgins (bass), Jim Zimmerman (drums), Patricio Angulo (Latin percussion), Tony Malfatti (reeds), and Dave Miotke (accordion). Hadar's unusual voice will no doubt scare off some listeners. But they will indeed be missing out, because Lua offers some great tracks on this instantly accessible and truly exotic album. Groovy cuts include "Floating Where I Have Never Been," "All I Want," and "No Borders." (Rating: 5)

Roy Harper - Counter Culture (Double CD, Science Friction, Pop/folk/rock)
Even though he is one of the world's greatest and most consistently unique singer/songwriter/guitar players of the past few decades...Roy Harper still remains somewhat of a cult figure in the United States. Sad but true, to the casual music fan he still remains just "some guy whose name appears in a Pink Floyd song." As any of Roy's longtime fans will attest, there is more to the man's career than that...much, much more. Part of the problem for Roy has probably been the fact that most of his albums have only seen sporadic release here in the States...with many being available only as imports. This will hopefully be changing over the next few years as Harper's Science Friction label has entered into a distribution deal with the fine folks at Koch...so his discs will now probably be a bit easier for the average listener to grasp in his or her paws. For the uninitiated, Counter Culture is an excellent overview of this eclectic man's career up to this point in time. These two CDs present a total of 25 tracks...beginning with material from the 1960s and and ending with a selection from The Green Man (from the year 2000). Plenty of classics are presented here ("I Hate the White Man," "Forget Me Not," "Hallucinating Light," "When An Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease," "One of Those Days in England") along with a wealth of less obvious cuts. If Harper's career passed you by, you owe it to yourself to discover what so many folks have known for so long. Roy Harper is a true genius in the world of music. Recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Hooray For Earth - Hooray For Earth (CD, Dopamine, Pop)
Reissue of the 2006 album from Hooray For Earth. Apparently the band had some serious issues and problems that arose during the recording of this album (which took about two years to complete). Listening to these upbeat pop tunes, you would never guess there were so many pitfalls and obstacles...because the music is instantly hummable and likable. Although this band has only really started to roll as of the past couple of years, the seeds were actually born many years earlier when Chris Principe and Noel Heroux began playing together in a high school band. Things changed and evolved...and today Hooray For Earth now also includes drummer Seth Kasper and keyboardist/guitarist Gary Benacquista. The folks in this band play dense, busy pop music that with precise, fine-tuned melodies and cool reflective vocals. They apparently had years of demos to choose from...so that may explain why this album is do damn consistent. Out of all twelve of these tunes there isn't a single clunker in the bunch. The vocals are excellent throughout...and never sound forced. Cool hypnotic pop tracks include "Want Want Want," "How Are You Here," "So Happy," and "Something Strong." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Hospital Bombers - Footnotes (CD, Saved By Radio, Progressive)
This album features one of the simplest...and most perplexing...covers we have ever seen. There's not too much to it really...just some words printed in a large font all over the front. But the problem is that there are several different sentences printed in several different colors. It's a weird effect...and you can't help but want to try and decipher all the text...although we finally decided it just required too much effort (!?!). Thankfully, the music on Footnotes doesn't requite nearly as much energy or concentration. Hospital Bombers is a young quartet based in Amsterdam, Holland and their overall sound is light and friendly. Listening to these upbeat guitar pop tracks, we couldn't help but be reminded of The Violent Femmes (these folks' sense of humor is particularly similar at times). By keeping their sound simple and not cluttering it up with unnecessary overdubs, the folks in this band have managed to successfully get their point across without sounding like every other band on the planet. This album was originally released in Holland on the Excelsior label in 2007 and is only now seeing a North American release via the fine folks at Saved By Radio. Cool upbeat tunes that you can't help but like. Uplifting cuts include "Neighborhood," "The Devil's Music," "Punk's Not Dead," and "Fromuphere." (Rating: 5)

Hospital Ships - Oh, Ramona (CD, Graveface, Progressive pop)
Hospital Ships is the one-man band created by Lawrence, Kansas musician Jordan Geiger who was involved in the bands Minus Story and Shearwater. Geiger doesn't try to hide his main influence...the name of his band was taken from a song by The Flaming Lips. Jordan's love of The Lips is obvious in his music. His songs contain the same kind of intelligent free-flowing melodies found in many of their albums...and much of the time his vocals are eerily similar. A great deal of time and energy went into the creation of this album...it represents the culmination of over two and a half year's worth of work. The arrangements are intelligent and intricate...and Geiger comes up with some truly exceptional melodies. We can't help but think that Jordan's best work is yet to come as he begins to formulate his own sound and style in the years ahead. Cool sounding stuff. (Rating: 4++++)

Hotel Hotel - The Sad Sea (CD, Silber, Progressive)
This band has an interesting story very early in their career. After releasing their first album (allheroesareforeverbold), the band's drummer disappeared at an airport and has not been heard from since. Because he was the driving force in the band, the other members felt somewhat lost initially...before running into a fellow in a bar who was searching for a lost ship called the Marie Celeste. Thus, the idea for The Sad Sea was born. If the idea was to create atmospheric pieces to conjure up ideas of the seas and the skies above, then the guys in Hotel Hotel have succeeded magnificently. The album is divided into eight sections. The music might be described as ambient drone or even modern classical. There is no percussion...only the ethereal and slightly surreal tones ebbing and flowing in and out of the speakers. Beautiful, intricate compositions include "From Harbour," "Mary Celeste," "The Dirac Sea (High Tide)," and "The Captain Goes Down With the Ship (Drowning)." Beautiful stuff, highly stylized. Housed inside a really cool and classy cardboard sleeve... (Rating: 5++)



There is no problem
So big
That it cannot be

(Rating: 1)

Luke Jackson - ...And Then Some (CD, Popsicle Recordings, Pop)
Luke Jackson obviously spent a great deal of time and energy creating this record. Although Jackson is from London, England, he traveled to Sweden to record ...And Then Some with producer Magnus Borjeson (formerly of the bands Beagle and Favorita). The two musicians were united by a love of pop music which is obvious when listening to these tunes. This ten-track album features soaring, glistening pop that is at times slightly reminiscent of Scott McCaughey (The Young Fresh Fellows, Minus 5). The songs are slick and feature plenty of overdubs and layered vocals. This album was recorded entirely on analog equipment which may explain the nice warm sound. What we find interesting about Luke Jackson's music is that it is both commercially accessible and artistically credible. Cool pop cuts include "Come Tomorrow," "Trouble," "Half a World Away," and "1970's Kids TV Show Theme." (Rating: 5)



Jenny doesn't like it
But she doesn't say anything.
Jenny doesn't like her friends
But she still hangs around with them anyway.
Jenny doesn't like her life
And yet she doesn't
Do a damn thing
About it.

(Rating: 1)



Jesus had a little lamb,
He chained it to his truck.
He dragged it for one hundred miles
And then said,
"That's enough."

(Rating: 1)

Edward Ka-Spel - Dream Logik Part Two (CD, Beta-lactam Ring, Experimental)
Edward Ka-Spel (of The Legendary Pink Dots) returns with yet another solo excursion. While more musical in a traditional sense than many of the releases we've heard on the Beta-lactam Ring label, the tracks on Dream Logik Part Two are by no means commercial (i.e., you can be certain that you will not be seeing Ka-Spel making an appearance on Oprah or Ellen anytime soon). The best word to describe the music on this album might be...otherworldly. There are all kinds of spacey sounds threaded throughout these tracks...twinkly bleeps and mechanical bursts...ambient electronics and sweeping effects. Listening to this, we get the feeling that we are asleep and dreaming...and while someone is whispering in our ear, a group of nearby martians are experimenting on their interplanetary instruments. Truly odd material to say the least...and yet somehow strangely inviting and approachable. In addition to the wildly creative compositions, this album also features what just might be the best artwork of the year...provided by the extraordinary Jesse Peper (this guy's work is amazing). Dream Logik Part Two proves once again that Ka-Spel is one of the most credible underground recording artists around. Amazing stuff. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)



Kicks just keep getting
Harder to find
So you might as well stop
Looking for them.

(Rating: 1)

The Kindness Kind - The Kindness Kind (Independently released CD, Pop)
Seattle, Washington's The Kindness Kind was formed by Charles Larson and Nicholas Danielson (of the band Dolour) along with vocalist Alessandra Rose. This band's sound can be summed up simply. The seven tracks on this disc sound something like a slightly jazzy version of Stereolab mixed with Bjork. The songs are not direct and obvious, as these folks let their instincts take them all over the place...particularly with regard to arrangements. Produced by Lucas Carlyle, this self-titled disc presents a band playing music with a slightly different flavor. Neat slightly odd cuts include "Beautiful Souls," "Suckerpunch, " and "On and Off Again." Interesting, a bit off the beaten path... (Rating: 4++++)

Lorraine Leckie & Her Demons - Four Cold Angels (CD, Ratlegs, Folk/country/pop)
The third full-length release from Ontario, Canada's Lorraine Leckie. Leckie wrote or co-wrote all of the tunes on this album with the exception of the closing track ("Dirty Old Town" which was written by Ewan MacColl). Lorraine's music might best be described as organic folk/pop with bluesy/country/bar band elements creeping in at the seams. She has a nice, loose vocal style that is extremely friendly and inviting. Her band really delivers the goods. Hugh Pool (guitars, harmonica, mandolin, percussion), George Jackson (bass), and Paul Triff (drums, percussion) add just the right amount of professional punch to these recordings. In an age of throwaway pop...the tunes on Four Cold Angels come across sounding surprisingly real and heartfelt. Our initial favorites are "Getaway Car," "Language of the Night," "Nobody's Girl," and "Misfits." Pleasantly pleasing music. (Rating: 5)

Andrew Lipke - Motherpearl and Dynamite (CD, Mad Dragon, Progressive pop)
This is an important release for two reasons. First, because it is yet another substantial and essential release from Philadelphia's Andrew Lipke...an intriguing and richly talented man whose importance and influence in the world of music can only grow with each and every passing year. And second because...it is yet another top notch release from the student run Mad Dragon label which is housed at Drexel University. It should be noted that this is the same label that released The Swimmers' Fighting Trees...which is easily one of the best pop albums released in 2008. (It is also the first student-run label to be distributed nationally by Ryko.) Motherpearl and Dynamite is a fantastic collection of nine modern progressive folk/pop tunes. Some of Lipke's tunes remind us of Roy Harper, although we can't help but wonder if Harper was already on our minds this week because publicist extraordinaire Howard Wuelfing had also submitted a double disc compilation of Roy's material earlier in the month (?). Some of the tracks also bear a slight resemblance to the debut album from School of Fish. In any event, Lipke's material is wonderfully substantial and it resonates with the pure intent of a man who is making music for all the right reasons. Although Lipke is already well known around Philadelphia, at this point in time his success has not yet translated to a national or international level. But you can bet your buttons that it's only a matter of time before this man becomes firmly established all around the world...because his music is absolutely credible and essential. Cool, mentally riveting cuts include "On My Way," "Sweet Changin Heart," "Flesh and Bone" (this one is particularly reminiscent of Harper), and "Only A Minute." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

The Little Ones - Morning Tide (CD, Chop Shop, Pop)
We were instantly impressed with the smooth, classy, cerebral pop of The Little Ones. True, the band's immediately warm and friendly pop may be too upbeat and accessible for the average underground music snob...but here in babysueland these songs hit a strong mental chord right off the bat. The folks in this band have found an appropriate home on the impressive Chop Shop label...resting side-by-side with other credible modern progressive pop bands. These folks had the good common sense to leave photos of themselves off the cover...concentrating instead on offering some really cool colorful artwork created by Klaas Haapiniemi. The songs on Morning Tide are super hummable...layered with tons of instruments and vocals that add nice warmth to the overall sound. The Little Ones are Lee LaDouceur, Ian Moreno, Brian William Reyes, and Edward Nolan Reyes. The tracks on this album sometimes recall some of the more adventurous college radio pop from the late 1990s...but the sound is decidedly more current and modern. Top notch vocals and soaring melodies make Tide a thoroughly rewarding spin. Our favorite cuts include "Morning Tide," "All Your Modern Boxes," "Waltz," and "Farm Song." (Rating: 5)



You can try to make a difference
But in the big scheme of things
The difference you make
Will be negligible.

(Rating: 1)

The Mansfields - Cramp Your Style (CD, Gearhead, Pop/rock)
These guys give away their influences immediately with their name as well as the title of their album. The members of The Mansfields have trashy qualities that would make Jayne Mansfield proud...while their music seems fueled by familiar elements from The Cramps' extensive catalog. Rather than playing shockabilly, however, these guys play straightforward garage rock with finesse and style. And their songs are surprisingly credible and inviting. Some of the tunes have an almost bubblegummy quality that is particularly impressive. Interestingly, the band is neither from California nor New York...opting instead to reside in the unlikely city of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The band's 1960s and 1970s influences are strong...and yet their sound is slick and current enough to stand alongside any credible twenty-first century group. Simple rip-roaring rockers include "Shake Some Action," "Roxy," "Just Because," and "If We Ever Part." Cool and hummable...instantly likable stuff. (Rating: 5)

Manual - Confluence (CD, Darla, Electronic/atmospheric/instrumental)
The third in a series of ambient releases from Jonas Munk (the man who is Manual). The folks at Darla have probably come up with the best way of describing this music...comparing it to the ebb and flow of the ocean or the way clouds form and change as they drift by in the sky. Confluence consists of eight tracks...all of which are extremely soft and subdued. When listening to this album at very low volume the music is extremely calm and soothing...hardly even noticeable because of the sparse sound. But if you turn the volume up about half way...things seem a bit more peculiar. Played at loud volume, Confluence may give you the impression you are on some distant planet. Not a planet where bizarre aliens are waging war upon each other...but a place where there is no air, no water, and no life. Interestingly, the album works at whatever volume you choose to play it. Mr. Munk always comes up with heady cool stuff...and this is yet another mind-bending album that is sure to appeal to fans of ambient and electronic drone. The Manual catalog at Darla continues to grow...as this is his sixth release on the label... (Rating: 5+)

Mascott - Art Project (CD-R, Red Panda, Soft pop)
We just love pure fluff pop...and the lead track on this album is about as good as pure fluff pop gets. The chorus of the tune "Live Again" consists of nothing but "La-la-la-la-la-la" sung over and over again. And the amazing part is that...it works. Mascott is the current project being driven by the songwriting skills of Kendall Jane Meade who some folks may remember as a member of the 1990s band Juicy. Art Project is a luscious and inviting dose of smart soft pop...delivered with sincere energy and determination. Not only is Meade an excellent songwriter, but she has a voice that is so smooth and inviting that you can't help but fall in love with her subdued easygoing pop. If you are searching for ultra-weird challenging art pop, you won't find it here. But if you are in the mood for some soothing super hummable soft pop that will sound good for years to come...Art Project will most certainly fill the bill. Killer keepers include "Live Again," "4th of July," "Opposite," and "Wildwood Flower." (Rating: 5+)

Jamie McLean - American Heartache (Independently released CD, Pop/rock)
Newcomer Jamie McLean has connections to a lot of well-known artists...but we won't hold that against him at this point in time. McLean plays a sort of bluesy guitar-oriented pop/rock that should be instantly appealing to the majority of listeners in the United States. Instead of creating loud abrasive noise, Jamie plays simple hummable hard pop music that sounds instantly familiar. He's got a cool gravely voice and his guitar playing is appropriately slick and determined. McLean's tunes have the sound and energy of a great bar band...but the sound is much bigger and slicker. Our guess is that girls and guys across the country will immediately embrace this music. Cool hummable cuts include "Can You Hear Me Now," "Up Down," "Simple Minded," and "Cold Wind." (Rating: 4++++)

Mcrackins - Eggzit (CD, Cheapskate, Pop/rock)
Vancouver, Canada's Mcrackins are back...with another absorbing and ultimately catchy batch of upbeat pop rock tunes. Many folks probably remember the band's 1995 debut album What Came First that was released on the Shredder label. Since that time, these guys have proven themselves to be much, much more than a mere gimmick band. What probably stands out most about Mcrackins is their image. For those unfamiliar with the band, visually they look like a cross between clowns, mimes, and Devo. Their tunes are basic buzzsaw guitar pop in the same general vein as bands like The Ramones and The Buzzcocks. The guys in Mcrackins were very prolific in the 1990s, churning out an incredible amount of music. The early twenty-first century saw the band pull back from recording a bit...before returning with a vengeance in 2007 with a split EP with Jokers. Eggzit is yet another fun, upbeat release as the band tosses off no less than ten tracks during the course of this short 23-minute disc. Ultra-catchy cuts include "He Said She Said," "Junk in the Trunk," "Mom Always Liked You Best," and "I'll Never Grow Up." The band's sense of humor remains completely intact...and Bil, Fil, and Spot still play with the same spirited dedication that they did when they began. Long live Mcrackins...! (Rating: 5+)

Modern Skirts - All Of Us In Our Night (Independently released CD, Pop)
Devoted fans of this Athens, Georgia band will no doubt welcome this album with open arms. The folks in Modern Skirts have been together for about five years and made a real impression on many listeners with their debut album Catalogue of Generous Men. Since then, the band has been touring and hooking up with various folks around the globe. All Of Us In Our Night is a pure pop album full of simple, direct, hummable tunes. All of the songs are quite good...but the tune "Soft Pedals" easily stands out as one of the best pop songs of 2008. We were also impressed with the melodies in "Chanel," "Radio Breaks," and "Mrs." Folks into name dropping may be interested to know that David Lowery produced five tracks and Mike Mills produced one track. More good solid pop from a band that delivers. (Rating: 5)

Momu - Momentum (CD, Looq, Electronic/pop)
Interesting modern progressive break electronics. Momu is the San Francisco-based duo of JD Moyer (best known as Jondi in Jondi & Spesh) and break DJ Mark Musselman. Momentum presents some tracks that are surprisingly listener friendly...while managing to interject plenty of experimentation into the mix. Most listeners will probably find the cuts featuring vocalist Alysoun Quinby to be the most immediately accessible. She's got a smooth, sultry voice that melds perfectly with the duo's precise state-of-the-art electronics. While spinning this disc, we found that the louder we turned it up...the better it sounded. These guys create super thick cuts with some truly groovy bass sounds. We like the tracks with vocals...but we are even more intrigued by some of the more inventive experimental compositions. Cool progressive techno cuts include "Window," "Goin' Off Tonight," "Just Listen," It's Your Sound," and "X500." Cool absorbing stuff... (Rating: 5)

Momus - Joemus (CD, Darla, Electronic/pop)
The appropriately-titled Joemus is is a collaboration between Momus and Joe Howe (Gay Against You, Gremlin). The two musicians did most of their writing and recording over the internet before getting together in Berlin, Germany to finish ironing out the final details of the recordings. Joemus is a slightly kooky album that is virtually unpredictable. One track may find the band playing blippy-bloopy hummable electronic pop ("Birocracy")...but seconds later you may feel that you are listening to a modern lounge artist ("Widow Twanky"). Other cuts may give you the impression that the music is entirely experimental and crazy. The duo covers a lot of ground with these 15 tracks...so much so that the average listener is likely to be taken off guard or lost somewhere along the way. And that may be exactly the desired reaction from these two extraordinarily clever guys. Bizarre modern electronic pop cuts include "The Next Time," "Strewf!", "Goodiepal," "Fade to White," and "The Vaudevillian." Odd stuff, sometimes with a strange nervous twist... (Rating: 5)

Whitey Morgan and the 78's - Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels (CD, Small Stone, Country/pop)
When we popped this little sucker into our player we were expecting to hear modern alt-country. But Whitey Morgan and the 78's sure took us by surprise...because their music has the sound and style of early country artists from the 1950s and 1960s. And what a voice Morgan has (FYI, his real name is Eric Allen). This guy has a deep country voice that is immediately effective and real. The press released that accompanied this disc claims that Morgan "...channels the spirit of Waylon, Merle and Willie." Our initial reaction was that this was just another inflated claim (which is customary in the world of press releases)...but in this instance, the claim is absolutely true. These guys play nice, subdued country pop without frills and without the extra gloss that makes so many twenty-first country artists sound generic and phoney. Country fans around the world will no doubt delight to tunes like "Hold Her When She Cries," "Back To Back," "Another Round," and "Prove It All To You." Solid country pop with real balls. (Rating: 5)

Luke Mulholland Band - Further (Independently released CD, Rock/pop)
If your reaction to this album is anything like ours, you will find it difficult to believe that Luke Mulholland is only 19 years old (!?!). As if that weren't already enough of a shock, this is also his fourth (yup, you read that right) full-length album. Considering the fact that he began playing professionally when he was 13, Luke probably already considers all the fame and attention to be second nature. He plays guitar like one of the masters to be certain...but even more surprising is his voice. This young fellow has a deep masculine voice that sounds like a thirty-something rocker. He's focused, he's on fire...and Mulholland seems to be in it for the long haul. He has already opened up for major celebrities like Jeff Healey, Mountain, and James Cotton...in addition to headlining his own major concerts. Further is a slick collection of blues-based rockers that are sometimes slightly reminiscent of Alvin Lee (Ten Years After). Eight focused cuts here including "Go," "My Angel," "Caught Up in a Dream," and "Drowning." (Rating: 4++++)


no caps

in the future
all letters will be lower case
for fifteen

(Rating: 1)



If it is broken
Don't fix it.

(Rating: 1)

Northern Valentine - The Distance Brings Us Closer (CD, Silber, Drone/atmospheric)
Northern Valentine is the husband and wife duo consisting of Robert Brown and Amy Brown. Unlike most other husband and wife duos, however, these folks do not create cutesy pop music. The Distance Brings Us Closer presents five tracks of atmospheric drone. Recorded live in the studio with no post-production or overdubs, this is definitely an album that will create a mood. Joining the Browns on these recordings were Jeffrey Bumiller (Doctor Scientist, Lunch With Beardo), Marc Carazo, and Ben Fleury-Steiner (Light of Shipwreck). Even though traditional instruments like guitars and basses were used in these recordings, you won't hear any traditional or obviously familiar sounds. Everything has been heavily treated and/or drenched in effects to the point of becoming hypnotic noise. The folks at Silber seem to be one of the main sources in the United States for this style of music and, as such, seem to unearth some of the best of the best. Intriguing stuff, rather heady and elusive... (Rating: 5+)



There is a place
We all go when we die.
There is a place
Where there is no crime and no hate.
There is a place in the sky where
We will all live in harmony.
That place is

(Rating: 1)

The Olympic Symphonium - More In Sorrow Than In Anger (CD, Forward Music Group, Progressive pop)
The fellows in The Olympic Symphonium haven't been around that long (they released their debut full-length release in 2007)...but from the sounds on More In Sorrow Than In Anger you would think these guys have been playing together for many years. This album presents what might best be described as progressive organic pop. The tunes are, for the most part, rather mellow and subdued...and the arrangements feature classic instruments with a noticeable absence of modern electronics getting in the way of the melodies. The gents in this band do not write easy, catchy pop. These tracks are subtle and moody and take several spins before they even begin to sink in. The playing is inspired and restrained...and the vocals have a wonderfully unrehearsed sound that is particularly inviting. Ten strangely inviting tracks here including "Intentions Alone," "Side By Side," "Dead Man's Inn," and "Oh Dear." Some of the tunes on this album recall the overall sound and mood of Dumptruck's 1980's masterpiece For The Country. The cover art is stunning. The front features a businessman in a city park with an elephant on his back...while the back presents a robot carrying a monkey (?!?). More In Sorrow Than In Anger is a beautifully executed album that resounds with honesty and genuine sincerity. Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Pee-Pee - Castile Jackine Is Vooded at Broonus Mousin: Volume 1 (CD, Helmet Room, Progressive pop)
No, even though it may seem like it...we did not make up the band and album names here. Pee-Pee is a real band based in Denver, Colorado and Castile Jackine Is Vooded at Broonus Mousin: Volume 1 is the band's first full-length release. Some of the songs on this album...are absolutely incredible. After a few spins, we found that we were totally blown away by "Jaroline," "Love Needs a Quivering, Restless, Aching Fire to Lay its Head On," and, particularly, "I Hope My New House Feels Welcoming For You." We have to admit that this album is a mixed bag. As much as we are head-over-heels in love with some of these songs...there are other tracks that just seem to meander without making much of a point ("Freakout Jam" is a good example of this). We can't help but think that if Doo Crowder can fine tune his skills and leave out the filler...he will end up making some of the most profound pop albums ever over the course of the next few years. It takes a bit of effort...but Castile Jackine is ultimately more than worth it. (Rating: 4+++)



Pennies don't matter none
And neither does

(Rating: 1)

The Pineapple Thief - Tightly Unwound (CD, K Scope, Progressive pop/rock)
The Pineapple Thief began as the one-man band created by Bruce Soord. After his first couple of records ignited interest in his music, he eventually opted to add other band members into the project so that he could play live for his fans. Now with several albums to his credit, Soord and The Pineapple Thief seem poised for even greater success with the release of Tightly Unwound. The songs on this album sound something like a more accessible twenty-first century take on the sound of The Smashing Pumpkins...except the songs are more direct and, for the most part, smoother. Our favorite songs on this album are the more subtle ones that allow you to concentrate on Bruce's lyrics..."My Debt To You" and "And So Say All Of You" are particularly poignant. These folks have a tightly woven sound that should be particularly appealing to college kiddies. Neat sounding progressive pop. (Rating: 4++++)

Powderfinger - Dream Days at the Hotel Existence (CD, Universal Music Australia, Progressive pop/rock)
This is big time professional studio stuff...so if that's not your cup of tea then you probably won't dig Dream Days at the Hotel Existence. But if you're the kind of person who doesn't mind spending a bit of time scratching beneath the surface...there are some real treasures to be found here. The guys in Powderfinger already have a built in audience...so it isn't surprising that they were able to enlist superstar producer Rob Schnapf to work with them on this album. The result...is mixed, but mostly positive. The band proves without a doubt that they can write some great tunes here...but the overly busy production does sometimes get in the way. When the multiple layers of instruments subside, it becomes obvious that the guys in Powderfinger have a real, genuine, human side...and some of their melodies are absolutely killer. When the band rocks out and things get too busy...the songs tend to blur into that generic twenty-first century arena rock category that is all too familiar to music snobs. So while this is not a perfect album...there are still plenty of great moments to enjoy. Eleven tracks here including "Head Up In The Clouds," "I Don't Remember," "Wishing On The Same Moon," and "Long Way To Go." (Rating: 4+++)

Project Grand Slam - Play (CD, Cakewalk, Jazz)
Smooth fluid jazz from New York's Project Grand Slam. The band is the quartet consisting of Robert Miller (bass), Haim Cotton (keyboards), Ron Thaler (drums), and Gilad Ronen (saxophone). While these names may not be familiar, you have no doubt already heard these folks play. They have been involved in recordings with some major players including Bruce Hornsby, Bela Fleck, Sarah McLachlan, Alicia Keys, Taj Mahal, and Herbie Hancock...and that's just the beginning. Play is the debut album from these four musicians. It features one cover ("The Captain of Her Heart" featuring vocalist Judie Tzuke) and ten original compositions. All four of these players have already received worldwide acclaim on their own. Now their combined efforts will no doubt put them in a class all their own. Neat groove-oriented tracks include "Studio One," "Riding the Berks," "Shades of Memories," and "Doin' the Worm." (Rating: 5)

Barry Schrader - Monkey King (CD, Innova Recordings, Electronic)
Hmmm...this is a very unusual album to say the least. Barry Schrader is a decidedly unconventional recording artist seemingly unconcerned with things like commercial appeal and popularity. Monkey King is divided into two segments. The first is entitled "Wu Xing - Cycle of Destruction." This piece explores the five ancient Chinese elements: metal, wood, earth, water, and fire. But don't expect to hear the type of Chinese music you hear in your typical Asian restaurant. This lengthy piece which lasts almost twenty minutes is a modern excursion into the world of atmospheric electronics. It's a strangely odd and hypnotic trip to be certain...and if you turn it up really loud you might just begin to hallucinate. The second segment of this album (entitled "Monkey King") centers around a fictional character in the 1550 book Journey to the West by Wu Cheng-en. Divided into four pieces, this 37 minute creation is a pure work of audio art. "Monkey King" is more musical than the first track...but there are plenty of unexpected surprises in the music. The track is sometimes very restrained and ambient...while at other times bursts of startling sound seem to attack the unsuspecting listener. Wildly inventive and unconventional, this album will appeal to folks who are drawn to truly strange instrumentals. Chock full of imagination and creativity. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Scream Hello - Everything Is Always Still Happening (CD, Red Leader, Progressive/rock)
Hard driving pop/rock with cool loud guitars and surprising melodic sensibilities. Scream Hello is James Caverly (vocals, guitar), Dan Kluxen (guitar), Adam Manus (drums), and Chris Connallon (bass). The tunes on this album range from hard rock to progressive pop. When they are playing their more accessible tunes, these guys' sound is sometimes slightly reminiscent of Built To Spill. When they really let things rip, their music bears a stronger resemblance to Husker Du. The intelligently-titled Everything Is Always Still Happening is full of plenty of twists and turns to keep the listener on their guard. While it seems that Caverly is mainly writing songs for a younger audience, on this album he proves that he could just as easily create totally accessible pop if he chose to do so. Few bands can tread on the fine line that separates rock from pop...but these guys do so with finesse and style. Groovy cuts include "Thirty-Five Plums," "Business Ethics," "The Kicker," and "Vinegar and Baking Soda." Unconventional smart stuff. (Rating: 5)

The Service Industry - Keep the Babies Warm (CD, Sauspop, Pop)
Sometimes cover art can tell you a lot about a band. The folks in The Service Industry present some startling images here. The front cover presents a whale and her babies swimming around in the sky above four smokestacks (apparently to Keep the Babies Warm, heh heh heh...)...while the back shows a large baby crawling in the grass with what appears to be a large turd inside the diaper, and the head of the child has been replaced by the head of a cow. Open the jewel case...and you are treated to what looks like a pound of ground beef on the floor with a large mouth pressed into to the beef along with two eyes starting out at you. The folks in this band appear to be taking a rather unconventional approach to music. Hell, they don't even look the least bit like musicians. But music is what matters, of course...and music is the real appeal of Keep the Babies Warm. These folks present some songs that have the sound and feel of modern laidback folk pop...while other tracks are a bit more aggressive and energetic. The melodies are cool and memorable...but even more impressive are the lyrics. The band members had the good sense to include the lyrics so you can read along. Smart inventive cuts include "Liquid Meat (Into a Form)," "Smithville," "My Resignation" (a great moody track), "All In One," and "Seaworld." Neat genuinely original sounding stuff...! (Rating: 5+)



Shut the hell up.
Shut the fuck up.
Shut the damn up.
Shut the bucket up.
Puck the fluckit cup.
Plup the shuckit flup.
Shut the flea-infested fairy dog in Arkansas

(Rating: 1)

Skeletons - Money (CD, Tomlab, Progressive)
Money is a decidedly peculiar album. The guys in Skeletons play music that represents a world where progressive pop meets modern jazz meets modern classical. Or you might even be inclined to label the music as impressionistic. Standard traditional song formulas are thrown out the window in favor or unpredictable segments which bleed into one another...forming strange audio concoctions that occasionally delve into experimental territory. The folks at the Tomlab label seem to continually unearth some of the stranger artists on the planet...and the folks in Skeletons most certainly create strange sounding stuff. This is one of those albums that will undoubtedly require dozens upon dozens of spins for the music to fully sink in. These guys make music that is demanding, challenging, and very creative. Odd cuts include "Fill My Pockets Full," "Dripper," "Unrelentinglessness," and "Eleven (It'll Rain!)." Weird stuff...whew...! (Rating: 5)

Skipping Girl Vinegar - Sift The Noise (CD, Popboomerang, Pop)
Talk about unique packaging. The debut CD from Melbourne, Australia's Skipping Girl Vinegar came in a printed cloth bag (complete with tie string). Inside the bag was an embossed tri-fold digipak sleeve designed to look like a library book...even including one of those familiar little check out cards. But it even goes further. Inside are not one but two miniature booklets. The first is a lyric booklet that includes what looks like words to the songs typed on an old-fashioned typewriter. The second is a book full of liner notes and band photos. Of course packaging alone is nothing more than a gimmick. But the music contained on the CD itself is most certainly not a gimmick...nor is it trashy pop-of-the-month slop. The folks in Skipping Girl Vinegar actually and in fact create surprisingly genuine and real classic pop that would sound good at any time or in any place. The band consists of the brother and sister team of Mark Lang and Sare Lang and their childhood friends Chris Helm and Amanthi Lynch. Sift The Noise is an absolute gem of an album. Though short (it only lasts just over 30 minutes), the album is chock full of timeless tunes that are delivered straight from the heart. Apparently the band was courted by plenty of big labels before making the wise decision to self-release the album on their own label in cooperation with the folks at Popboomerang. The lead track ("One Chance") has already been well-received in Australia. Now it seems as if it is only a matter of time before word spreads about this totally genuine and credible little album. Ten fantastic organic pop cuts here including "Fighting With Gravity" (our favorite), "River Road," "Here Come the Lies," and "The Passing." Beautiful stuff delivered with true style. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Slaraffenland - Sunshine (CD EP, Hometapes, Progressive pop)
The guys in Copenhagen's curiously-titled band Slaraffenland seem to be impressing a lot of people of late. This EP is bound to heat up the flames even more. These five guys (Bjorn Heeboil, Christian Taagehoj, Niklas Antonson, Jeppe Skjold, Mike Taagehoj) write and record decidedly uncommercial sounding underground pop that is surprisingly sparse and refined. This EP features three original tracks plus a cover of a Radiohead song ("Paranoid Android") and an odd cover of the ultra-schmaltzy A-Ha tune "Take On Me" (???!!). The Radiohead cover is appropriate and intriguing...but we honestly could have done without the A-Ha cover, even if it is light years better than the original. Much more interesting are the band's original songs. We were particularly impressed with "I'm A Machine" and "The Trick"...both of which sound very similar to some of the better American underground rock bands from the 1990s. Hard to judge much based on an EP...but these guys have initially sparked our interest... (Not Rated)

Richard Stoltzman - Phoenix In Flight (CD, Navona, Classical)
His name may not be instantly familiar to the casual music fan, but as Classical music buffs and folks who specifically love the clarinet know...Richard Stoltzman is a superstar. During the course of his lengthy career, he has played with an array of well-known artists including (but not limited to) Yo-Yo Ma, Gary Burton, Chick Corea, Judy Collins, Keith Jarrett, George Shearing, and Spyro Gyra. In addition, he is widely credited for making the clarinet more widely accepted as a solo instrument. He was also the first wind player to be awarded the Avery Fisher Prize. Recorded with the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra in Bratislava, Slovakia with conductor Kirk Trevor, Phoenix In Flight presents interpretations of compositions by four composers: Carl Maria Von Weber, Giovanni Bottesini, Claude Debussy, and Peter Ilyick Tchaikovsky. This album is the first to be released on the newly formed Navona Records label which is based in New England. In the coming years, Navona will be releasing orchestral, chamber, jazz, progressive, and experimental music. If this is any indication of things to come...our guess is that Navona releases will be quickly embraced by discriminating listeners around the world... (Rating: 5++)

Super XX Man - There'll Be Diamonds (CD, Tender Loving Empire, Progressive pop)
Yet another stellar release from Portland, Oregon's Tender Loving Empire label. Not only do the folks in this organization have the right idea about many different things including the world in general...but in terms of music, their taste is rather superb. Super XX Man (pronounced "super double X man") is the project created by Scott Garred who some folks may remember as a member of the criminally under recognized 1990s Austin, Texas-based pop band Silver Scooter. Garred now lives in Portland and is putting his energies into this project. Thankfully the things that originally drew us to the music of Silver Scooter remain intact. Garred writes smooth, thoughtful, intelligent, pensive pop tunes with extremely strong melodies...and he delivers them with a definite sense of purpose. And man, what a voice this guy has. Because he is rather restrained and subdued, his vocals might not make a big impression initially. But as you become accustomed to his sound, you eventually realize that this man has one of the best voices in the world of underground pop. There'll Be Diamonds is a wonderfully entertaining album...resounding with cool sounds, smart lyrics, and songs that will most surely stand the test of time. These songs are by no means modern throwaway pop. These compositions have true substance...and they are delivered with subtle integrity and honesty. Will Garred ever be widely recognized as one of the best songwriters on the planet...? There's no way to know, of course... But in purely artistic terms, Scott is already hugely successful. Every track here is a keeper, but our initial favorites are "Medication," "You Say," "Little Leaf," and "Cautious Like a Panther." Highly recommended. (Rating: 5++++)

Priya Thomas - Blood Heron (Independently released CD, Progressive pop)
Although she has been praised by lots of folks in Canada over the past decade, Priya Thomas has yet to translate that underground success to the United States. Blood Heron is a loose and rough collection of tunes...purposely left without the normal glossy excess that modern recording technologies allow. Ms. Thomas writes songs that sound something like a cross between the softer side of Patti Smith and the softer side (that one rarely hears) of Ill Ease. What we found most intriguing about this album are the lyrics. Much like a poet, Priya manages to present her thoughts and ideas in ways that are precise and just a bit obtuse. Heron presents a world where underground pop creeps over the surface and almost becomes accessible. Her vocals sound decidedly unrehearsed at times...as do many of the instruments on this album. Thomas plays most everything herself although different friends lend their support on various tracks. This is not an easy album to digest. It took many spins before Blood Heron sunk into our subconscious. Now that we've heard this...we are anxious to go back and pick up Priya's previous albums. Neat stuff, aimed at folks who don't need the schmaltzy and pretentious sound of a big professional studio... (Rating: 4++++)



Thou shalt not vote.
Thou shalt not give to charities.
Thou shalt not go green.
Thou shalt not listen to (c)rap-hop.
Thou shalt not wear teeny tiny little glasses that make thou look like thou is a sissy.
Thou shalt not pierce thyself anywhere.
Thou shalt not help those less fortunate than thouself.
Thou shalt not do anything that all the other
Twenty-first century sheeple

(Rating: 1)



The economy is up.
The economy is down.
Things are looking up.
Things are looking down.
Gas prices are up.
Gas prices are down.
Intelligence is down.
Intelligence is down.
Intelligence is way, way

(Rating: 1)

Laura Warshauer - Laura Warshauer (CD EP, Island, Pop)
This disc is being marketed as an album but it is, in fact, a seven song EP. New Jersey's Laura Warshauer is creating impressively classy pop at a very young age. At only 24 her music and particularly her voice are deceptively mature. She has a sound and style that are immediately commercial and accessible. Our guess is that Laura will be immediately embraced by music fans around the world. Cool melodic tracks include "Sweet 17," "December Night," and "My Fault." We're not going to withhold offering a rating on Warshauer's music until we get a chance to hear more... (Not Rated)

The Wolverton Brothers - Old, Ugly, and Loud (CD, Ionik, Rock)
The folks at The Ionik Recordings Company don't release albums that often...but when they do we've learned to take notice. The Wolverton Brothers are something of an underground legend in their home base of Cincinnati, Ohio. The fellows in this band have been together for about two decades...and yet Old, Ugly, and Loud is only their sixth full-length album. The press release that accompanied this disc compared the band's sound to Sonic Youth and The Butthole Surfers...which gives a good general idea of where these guys are coming from. The title of this album is apparently a reference to the age of the band members...these fellows are obviously a bit older than most folks in twenty-first century rock bands. But they certainly don't play and sound like old farts. Loud presents ten tracks of adventurous underground guitar pop/rock. These tracks that don't follow standard formulas and plenty of spontaneous improvisation occurs. The vocals sound somewhat accidental and slightly unrehearsed...and the peculiar guitar playing is reminiscent of some of the more adventurous underground bands from the 1990s. Old, Ugly, and Loud is slightly peculiar...strangely moody and just a tad psychedelic. Interesting stuff. (Rating: 5)

Andy Yorke - Simple (CD, Chocolate Lab, Pop)
Simple is the debut album from Andy Yorke who was previously in the 1990s band Unbelievable Truth. After experiencing a good deal of success with that band, Yorke opted out in 2000 and moved to Russia with no intention of ever playing guitar again. But as fate would have it, events in his personal life made him feel compelled to venture once again into the world of music...and Simple was born. These soft, reflective, soul baring tunes are sometimes reminiscent of Alex Chilton...but the melodies are much less obvious. Although these tunes are in essence soft pop, the lyrics are much more personal and reflective than what one normally hears in the genre. Smooth and instantly likable, Andy has come up with an album that is certain to stand the test of time. Cool hummable cuts include "Simple," "Twist of the Knife," "One in a Million," and "Ode to a Friend." (Rating: 4+++++)

Michael Zapruder - Dragon Chinese Cocktail Horoscope (CD, SideCho, Pop)
Although he's still a relative unknown...we've been big fans of Michael Zapruder for several years now. We're pleased to announce that Zapruder's first release on the (appropriately chosen) SideCho label may just be his very BEST album yet. Yup, the strangely-titled Dragon Chinese Cocktail Horoscope is an absolute and precise DIRECT HIT. If you're not familiar with Michael, the folks at Team Clermont may sum it up best when say that his music "...blurs the line between classic songwriting and experimentation." Yup, that pretty much hits the nail on the head. Recorded at Tiny Telephone with mega-producer Scott Solter manning the controls, this album is absolutely magnetic and profound. Zapruder's voice has never sounded better...and the remarkably subtle electronics in the background add just the right amount of odd depth. In the world of underground music there are far too many artists who use technology and gimmicks to cover up the fact that their songs have little or no substance. Zapruder is an obvious exception to the rule. In this day and time, his music is real, genuine, and truly inspired. Every track here is a keeper...but particular standout cuts include "Happy New Year," "Ads For Feelings," "Bang On A Drum," and "Experimental Film." Highly recommended. (Rating: 5++++)

Additional Items Received:

21 Tandem Repeats - No junk mail please
Alaska In Winter - Holiday
Brent Amaker & The Rodeo - Howdy do
A. Armada - Anam cara
Audio Fiction - Audio Fiction
Jose Ayerve - The nuclear waste management club
Richard Barbieri - Stranger inside
Beware Fashionable Women - Beware Fashionable Women
Sandra Black - Sandra Black
Blend - Losing the game
Boggie - Seeing angers
Boo and Boo Too - No tempo
Boxmasters - Christmas cheer
JTodd Buckler - Let me know you got home OK
Nick Butcher - Bee removal
Catz 'n Dogz - Stars of zoo
Cobra Verde - Haven't slept all year
Command Radio - Take control
Cut Off Your Hands - You & I
Cyne - Pretty dark things
Danks - Samples
Deaths - Centralia
Dreamend - The long forgotten friend
Exile Radio - Exile Radio
FALS3 ICONS - Godcompl3x
Fall Horsie - Devil(e)durge
Wil Forbis - Acid logic: A decade of humorous writing on pop culture, trash cinema, and rebel music
Wil Forbes - Shadey's jukebox
Gossip Girl - Original music from gossip girl soundtrack
Nick Grey & The Random Orchestra - Spin vows under arch
Frances Gumm - Scorch the earth
Hallway Ballers - Hallway Ballers
Todd Hannigan & The Heavy 29's - Volume 2: coutside for the apocalypse
Head Resonance Company - Peter pixel project
Her Next Friend - Disaster casual
Jim Hitchcock - Grateful
Incus - Fire and bone
International Jetsetters - Heart is black
Michael James - To raise an army for love
Joel Plaskett Emergency - Ashtray rock
Randy Kaplan - Durango
Karissa - Shades of green
Kelly's Lot - The light
Knugu - Quadrilogy
Dan Kosub - Reservoir
Leopold and His Fiction - Ain't no surprise
Little Teeth - Child bearing man
Lords of Altamont - The altamont sin
Made In Iceland - Made In Iceland
Mean Sea Level - Mean Sea Level
Shawn Mullins - Live at the variety playhouse
PC Munoz - Grab bag
Gilbert Neal - Our deepest apathy
On Tracy Lane - Pretend the thing with charlie never happened
Orion Experience - Heartbreaker EP
Orphan Songs - Orphan Songs
Osmond Pussy - Don't want me no osmond pussy
Cecil Otter - Rebel yellow
Outtasite - Careful what you wish for...
Owl of Minerva - South central
Panics - Cruel guardsArliss Parker - Handsome like a lion
Ping Pong Playa - Original motion picture soundtrack
Popsters - Our bites bring you back
Pro & Reg - Life of a vagabond
Psychic TV/PTV3 - Mr. alien brain vs. the skinwalkers
Push-Pull - Hello soldiers!!!
Reddy Teddy - Loud and clear
Santiago Steps - Okay okay okay
Scarlet Blonde - Bedroom superstars
Second Day Red - Gallery of strangers
Edie Sedgwick - Things are getting sinister and sinisterer
Senses Fail - Life is not a waiting room
Slicnaton Noisefloor - EP
Somewhere At The Bottom of the River - Between vega and altair
So So Glos - Tourism/terrorism
Alyssa Suede - Black and white in color EP
Summer wardrobe - Cajun prairie fire
Superman Curl - Superman Curl
Tanks - Keep breaking down
TAT - Soho lights
This Is Benji... - Far too honest
Thompson Ward - Porch funk
Three Second Kiss - Long distance
Traces - Ping trace
Transportation - Daydreams
Truth - The streets want their music back
Two Cow Garage - Speaking in cursive
Various Artists - Irish Hip Hop Volume 1
Various Artists - Blue Skies Daisy Days
Le Vestibule - Vestibule transitoire
Western States Motel - Painted birds flying in the orange mirror sun
What We Do Is Secret - Original motion picture soundtrack
Oprah Winfrey - Shitty songs from the bowels of my worthless cunt
Winslow - Crazy kind of love
Winter Dance Party - Holiday greetings to you
The Yelling - The Yelling EP
Zealousy - Complications

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