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Reviews from

August 2009

An Examined Life
The Arrest

Aspects of Physics

Astronauts of Antiquity
The Backsliders*
Phil Barry*
Bear Then and Now

Be My Weapon
Big Star*

Black Feather*
Broken Promise Keeper
Buckfast Superbee

Cheap Trick

Cetan Clawson
Dejha Colantuono
The Conniption Fits

The Danks
Dappled Cities

Dark Room Notes

The Dead Weather
The Dear Hunter
The Delfields
Division Day*

The Elderberries
Eva Wrengaw
Greg Foresman

The Ginger Envelope*
Grappling Hook
The Grownup Noise
Ed Hale
Ben Cooley Hall
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince*
Kevin Hearn and Thinbuckle*
Hermit Thrushes
The Inner Banks
Into It. Over It.
Iron Maiden
Craig Jackson
Candye Kane

Kowtow Popof
Lee Harvey Osmond
Teena Marie
MC Maguire*
Dan Mangan*
Marshmallow Coast*
Ray Mason*
The Medders
The Melloncollies

Jeff Merchant*
Mott The Hoople

Music For Money
My Children

The Novaks

The Oranges Band
The Pinx
Portugal The Man
The Puddle Parade
Benjamin r
Rainy Day Saints

Rascal Flatts
Boh Runga

Rusted Root
Richard Sanderson & Mark Spybey
Sawgy Dawgy

Ember Schrag

Boris Skalsky*

Slow Claw
Amy Speace
Strong Bones
Sugarplum Fairies
10 Ft. Ganja Plant

Volcano The Bear/La STPO*
Rocky Tippit
Tygers of Pan Tang
The Ugly Truth

Rachelle van Zanten*
Violet Vector and the Lovely Lovelies
Monty Warren
Scott Warren

Watts Ensemble
The Waylons

Sissy Wish

Year One

*Top Picks

Additional Items Received




A life worth living
Is a life that isn't
Worth examining.

(Rating: 1)

The Arrest - 01 (CD, Princess, Pop)
The Arrest is the quartet consisting of Luke Albertson, Paul Budish, Seth Doran, and Mark Edwards. In recording this album, these four individuals tried to keep things simple...so that the overall sound could be presented as accurately as possible in a live setting. 01 presents ten tracks. The songs tend to sound something like a cross between Radiohead and twenty-first century David Bowie. Some of the cuts have a somewhat arena-like sound while others are more sparse and direct. Some of these ideas work better than others. Our favorite tracks include "One x One," "The Tightrope," and "001011." This might be one of those cases in which the live performance would push these songs to another level...? Good solid pop stuff. (Rating: 4++++)

Aspects of Physics - Marginalized Information Forms Three: Other (CD, Imputor?, Progressive/instrumental)
The third and final release of a CD trilogy presented by the folks in Aspects of Physics. Unfortunately we were not exposed to the previous two albums so we cannot compare and/or contrast between the three. The players on this CD are Jason Soares, Brent Asbury, JFRE Coad, Mathias Lorenz, Art Ulloa, Brandon Relf, and Rob Crow. Marginalized Information Forms Three: Other presents ten compositions, most of which are lengthy and spontaneous. These tracks combine elements from 1970s progressive rock with improvisational jazz and free-form electronics and hypnotic guitar riffs. All of the tracks are instrumentals. This is the kind of album that grows on you over time. We found that we had to spin this l'il sucker about half a dozen times before the music began to sink in. It's kinda like...modern mood music with jazzy undercurrents. Nice solid cuts include "Default Actions," "Level 3," "That Which Resists," and "Unwindings are Sound." Cool modern progressive stuff with a twist. (Rating: 5+)

Astronauts of Antiquity - Rocket Science For Dummies (CD, RevCon, Pop)
We must report right off the bat that this is a super, super, super slick and calculated album...so if that kinda thing turns you off, be forewarned. To be honest, in most cases artists fitting in such a category usually turn us off...but for some reason we actually kinda dig the ultra-produced sound of Astronauts of Antiquity. In spinning this, the first band that came to mind was The Bird and The Bee...because the basic sound and song formulas are very similar. And, considering the recent instant popularity of The Bird and The Bee, such a similarity isn't a bad thing at all. On the first spin Rocket Science For Dummies sounded really smooth and nice...but by the fourth or fifth spin we found ourselves surprisingly absorbed by many of these creative elevating tracks. Nice, smooth, danceable dreamy cuts include "Everywhere," "Rocket Science," "Emo Healing," and "Dance Until Dawn." Sounds like great springtime driving music to us... (Rating: 5)

The Backsliders - Thank You (Independently released CD, Pop/rock)
The folks in The Backsliders hit the target dead on with this release. If you like great, melodic, guitar-driven pop/rock played with no filler and no unnecessary ingredients, Thank You just may be the album you have been dreaming of. Instead of layering and overdubbing their music to death like everyone else, on this album these folks take the exact opposite approach...delivering their songs simply and straight-from-the-hip. The result? Ten solid straight shooters that ought to please even the most jaded music fan. These recordings capture the sound of a tight rock band playing live (even though these are studio recordings). The tracks have a nice raw, slightly unpolished sound that is extremely inviting. Interestingly...the band is offering this album totally free of charge (?!?) on their web site. But we're guessing/hoping that you will either want to make a donation or purchase a hard copy...because even though this can be had for free, it is definitely WORTH BUYING. On any other album, the inclusion of the cover tune "Keep A Knockin'" would drive us up the wall...but in this case, the band's rendition fits perfectly within the scope of the other cuts. Several modern classics here including "Maybellene Don't" (an incredible little tune that we can't get out of our heads), "Last Call," "Twisted," and "Damaged Goods." A wonderfully entertaining album from a wonderfully entertaining quartet. (Rating: 5+++)

Phil Barry - Between the Carolinas (Advance CD-R, Hey Burner!, Pop)
Hard to believe this is a self-released disc only available as a CD-R...?!? Though this is Phil Barry's debut album, he is no newcomer to the world of music. Barry was previously in the band Knee Deep Shag before accepting a position playing guitar for Rachael Yamagata. But our guess is that in the future Between the Carolinas will be what most listeners will remember as their introduction to Phil's music. Anyone who ever loved the music of pure pop artists like Teenage Fanclub, Alex Chilton, and The Pernice Brothers will almost certainly fall in love with this man's music the first time they hear it. His songs are soft and smooth and driven by the gentle strumming of an acoustic guitar. The gliding melodies are incredibly effective...and Barry is one of those guys with a voice so good it'll make you squirm. Several of Phil's songs have already been licensed for television shows...so our guess is that it won't be long before some savvy record label snaps this guy up. Killer cuts include "Crying Shame," "Between the Carolinas," "Never Gonna Be Your Man," and "Mercury." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)



A bear used to be
A sexy hairy chunky guy.
Now a bear is
Any generic obnoxious overweight sissy
With a beard.

(Rating: 1)

Be My Weapon - Be My Weapon (Independently released CD, Pop)
Swell fans listen up. Be My Weapon is duo/side project consisting of David Freel (of Swell) and Ron Burns (on drums). The ten tracks on this CD were "recorded in the snowy hills of Oregon and the endless sunshine of southern California." Freel's free-flowing songs feature cool subdued guitars and haunting vocals. These songs are not instantly accessible. Rather than being an album of songs that sound like hits, this self-titled collection of tunes is more reflective and less obvious. Interesting cuts include "Come Livid," "Bad Bad Bad," "Love is Just So Overrated," and "The Last Song." Nice moody stuff. (Rating: 4++++)

Big Star - #1 Record / Radio City (CD, Ardent / Fantasy / Concord, Pop)
Oh God...what could we possibly say here that hasn't already been said many times before...? Okay, so we have to admit that we burned out on these albums decades ago. After all, we started listening to Big Star way, way back when they first started playing and recording in the 1970s. And we also have to admit that part of the initial appeal for us was the fact that so many people didn't seem interested at the time (except for a few key reviewers around the country). Like so many of the most influential bands of the twenty-first century (The Ramones, T. Rex, et. al), when Big Star started the band had very few American fans. And yet, over time, their influence has been phenomenal. If only Chris Bell (like Pete Ham) could have known how much his music would mean to so manly people over time (!). Skip to 2009...and the fine folks at Concord opted to release a remastered CD containing the band's first two albums...complete with two bonus tracks. No, not new unearthed tracks (dammit!)...but two single mixes of the songs "In The Street" and "O My Soul." Perhaps because we haven't actually played these albums in many, many years...or perhaps because we were just in the mood for something familiar...we got chills hearing these songs again. The sound quality is exceptional, particularly when you consider how long ago these tracks were recorded. Anyone who ever loved this band will undoubtedly want to get their hands on this. For anyone who never experienced the music of Big Star...we strongly recommend that you check this one out. Killer timeless classic pop cuts here..."Feel," "The Ballad of El Goodo," "In The Street," "O My Soul," "Back of a Car" (one of our all-time favorite pop songs ever), "September Gurls"...man oh man... As you might already guess, this one is highly recommended... (Rating: 6)



Capture a bird and
Remove its

(Rating: 1)

Black Feather - Silhouette (CD, Other Electricities, Progressive pop)
This is an album with a different overall sound and approach. Black Feather is the solo project consisting of Harald Froland (who was the guitarist in the band Jaga Jazzist)...although several guest artists lend a helping hand here. Silhouette is a soothing, dreamy, ethereal spin. Some of Froland's thick, cerebral arrangements sound similar to what you might hear from twenty-first century shoegazer bands. But don't expect aimless drone music here. Instead, these highly melodic compositions recall classic artists like Pink Floyd and Lilys. These songs are not easy and catchy. They require many spins in order for the substance to begin to sink in. We initially had to listen to this CD ten or more times before coming to the conclusion that we absolutely loved it. Strange unconventional modern pop tracks include "The Cut," "Razor Blade," "Cool Cloud," and "Ardent Cloud." Killer vocals from start to finish. Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Broken Promise Keeper - Ice Cold Pop (Independently released CD-R, Pop)
Broken Promise Keeper is the one-man pop created by Rob Stuart who writes and records in Decatur, Georgia. The appropriately titled Ice Cold Pop is a pure pop album with no unnecessary filler. Rob writes super hummable upbeat pop tunes that could be appreciated by millions with the right backing and/or production. His tunes are basic classic pop and he uses traditional instruments to get his message across. Of course, in the world of pop music vocals are perhaps the most critical link. Mr. Stuart's voice is what first made our ears perk up when we heard this album. Not only does this guy write some great tunes, but he has a nice understated voice that really gives these tunes their necessary kick. This album has a nice, smooth, subtle home-recorded sound that makes it particularly pleasing. No super overly busy production here...only the necessary ingredients. Smooth feelgood cuts include "Directions," "Kristine," "Show Me," and "Goodbye." This should be particularly appealing to fans of The Beatles and The Shoes. (Rating: 4++++)

Buckfast Superbee - Turn of the Radio Age (CD, Walking, Pop/rock)
The guys in this San Diego, California-based band already have a solid fan base. Our guess is that Turn of the Radio Age will not only please the band's fans...but bring in legions more as well. Named after an English monk who worked with bees in the early twentieth century, Buckfast Superbee is a well-oiled machine. The guys in this band play hard rock that is rough enough around the edges to please the underground crowd yet melodic enough to satisfy more commercially-inclined listeners. This slick sounding album was recorded and produced by Pall Jenkins (Three Mile Pilot, Black Heart Procession) and mixed by Joe Marlett (Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age)...so you know it sounds good. Hard driving rockers include "The Heavy Persuader," "Gibraltar," "Automatic," and "Spirit of the Underachiever." (Rating: 4++++)

Caprica - Original Soundtrack From the Sci Fi Channel Television Pilot Episode: Music Composed by Bear McCreary (CD, La-La Land, Soundtrack)
This is the soundtrack to the two-hour pilot movie Caprica that is available now on DVD (but won't be televised until early 2010 when it premieres on the SCI FI Channel). Caprica is the prequel to the popular Battlestar Galactica series, for which Bear McCreary also composed music. This soundtrack CD features eighteen symphonic creations with a decidedly classical sound and feel. The attention to detail here is staggering. McCreary and his associates meticulously recorded these tracks to add as much genuine realism to the film as possible...and the results are triumphant. These strange, moody, puzzling pieces feature some wonderfully warm strings...and the sound quality is light years beyond exceptional. It's no wonder that Bear is one of the most sought-after composers on the Hollywood circuit. He creates magnificent music that actually seems to come from the heart (no small feat in today's peculiar world). Top picks: "The Graystone Family," "Daniel Captures the Code," "Monotheism at the Athena Academy," and "Zoe Awakens." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Cheap Trick - The Latest (Independently released CD, Pop/rock)
We were huge, huge fans of Cheap Trick's first three albums. But we have to admit that the band lost us over the past few years as their more recent albums just didn't seem to hit the mark. Well never say never...because The Latest is the best Cheap Trick album we've heard in decades. Apparently there was a serious attempt to recreate some of the band's trademark power pop sound that pleased so many people...and in many ways they succeeded. Okay, sure...there's probably no way these guys will ever be able to top a pure pop masterpiece like Heaven Tonight. But hey, at least at this point they're trying to hit the mark. Lots of super catchy, upbeat, arena-pop here that should please the band's original fans. Almost every track here is a keeper, but our favorites include "When the Lights Are Out" (a virtually perfect hit single), "Miss Tomorrow," "These Days," "California Girl," and "Smile." Oh, and as an interesting side note...this album is being simultaneously released on vinyl as well as 8-track tape (yup, you read that right...). Interesting marketing ploy. The best news...is that these guys are finally back with a good solid album. (Rating: 5)

Chet - Chelsea Silver, Please Come Home (Advance CD-R, Absolutely Kosher, Soft pop)
Intriguing sparse, subtle music from a Canadian fellow who sounds as if his music is being crafted from another decade. Chet's songs are purposely subdued and simple...and he has an unusual voice that is particularly interesting. This, his fourth album, features eleven tracks that clock in at just over 40 minutes. We would have liked to have seen the actual complete release on this one rather than an advance CD-R. As such, this one definitely gets a thumbs up...but only a partial review because we received only part of the actual final product... (Not Rated)

Cetan Clawson - White Heat (Independently released CD, Rock)
In the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and even into the 1990s...it seemed as if guitar heroes were everywhere. And it seemed as if, for a very long time, people just couldn't get enough of egotistical lead guitarists. But for some strange reason (jumping into the twenty-first century) it now seems as if the guitar heroes are something of a dying breed. Oh sure, they're still around to some degree (and always will be)...but for some reason you just don't see and/or hear as many of 'em as you used to. Accordingly and as such, the music of Cetan Clawson caught our attention because this young fellow has most certainly assumed the role of guitar hero very early in his career. His music sounds something like a cross between The Nazz and Jimi Hendrix (much more the latter than the former). And yes, ladies and gentlemen...this guy sure as Hell can play his guitar. Sometimes the Hendrix similarities are just too obvious ("Short Fuse" is almost too blatant)...but for the most part Clawson seems to just be having a great time playing homage to his idols. Sure, he even misses a few notes here and there...but hey, you have to hand it to a guy this young who has the balls and ambition to even attempt to be a guitar hero in 2009. Smart punchy cuts include "Killing Floor," "Over the Top," and "Loving a Living Lie." Nice cool energy throughout all fifteen cuts. (Rating: 4++++)

Dejha Colantuono - Tea & Vodka (CD, Mad Meow Music, Pop)
For better or worse, this is probably one of those cool little albums that unfortunately falls through the cracks. So if you like getting in on the ground floor where cool new artists reside, read on. Dejha Colantuono has a really great voice. She got her start singing in several Seattle, Washington bands including 3-D S&M, The Pin-Ups, Rotten Apples, and Ragazza before embarking on a solo career. The polished mature sounds on Tea & Vodka may be the result of all Dejha's previous experience. Whatever the reason or cause, Ms. Colantuono has come up with a really impressive batch of tunes here. Her music sounds something like a modern version of the more normal side of PJ Harvey...but not really (?). Her music is most definitely accessible and could easily be appreciated by the masses if they had an opportunity to hear it. On some of the lighter tunes Dejha's voice reminds us ever-so-slightly of the vastly underrated British soul/pop vocalist Linda Lewis. Nothing but cool stuff here. Kickass cuts include "Beginning to End," "Feel You're Going Nowhere," and "Something With You." Nice, slick, well arranged tunes that hold up to many repeated spins... (Rating: 5+)

The Conniption Fits - A Heaping Helping of Perspective (Independently released CD, Pop/rock)
Hard-hitting guitar driven pop/rock with plenty of punchy attitude. The Conniption Fits is the trio consisting of Stevens Blanchard, Erik Von Geldern, and Seth Roya. A lot of folks will probably label these guys as a power pop band...but their music is actually much more depthy than that term might imply. Instead of simple, familiar chord progressions, the tunes on A Heaping Helping of Perspective are full of smart, intricate guitar riffs that add an extra jolt to the proceedings. The band resides in the unlikely city of Fairlee, Vermont...which kinda makes us wonder why we hear from so few bands from that state...? This is an impressively slick sounding album...particularly when you consider the fact that the band produced, engineered, and recorded it themselves. This short little half hour disc truly kicks out the jams. Particularly cool sounding cuts include "Now I Take My Leave," "The Game of Grace," and "Grit Your Teeth." Well done. (Rating: 5)

The Danks - Are You Afraid of The Danks? (CD, Collegen Rock, Pop)
Superb effervescent power pop played with real conviction. Canada's The Danks is the quartet consisting of Brohan Moore, Alec O'Hanley, Phil MacIsaac, and Andrew MacDonald. The band's sound is simple...guitar, bass, drums...but the melodies are what set these guys apart from their contemporaries. We've always been big fans of soaring heavenly melodies...and Are You Afraid of The Danks? is just chock full of 'em. Cool guitar riffs...great vocals...a perpetually groovy rhythm section...what more needs to be said...? By keeping things simple and direct, the guys in The Danks have managed to come up with a power pop album that truly delivers the goods. Crowd pleasing pop/rockers include "What We're Doing," "Automocar," "Shifty," and "Planet Beach." Plenty of great material here. (Rating: 5+)

Dappled Cities - Zounds (CD, Dangerbird, Progressive pop)
Interesting modern progressive pop that recalls some of the more progressive popular British pop artists from the 1980s like Simple Minds, David Bowie, and Thomas Dolby. Zounds has a really big slick sound. The guys in this band are apparently fond of using layers of keyboards and tons of effects...giving their songs a big arena-like sound. We went to the band's web site...and found a very impressive web site with tons of stuff...but very little in the way of biographical information. Many of the cuts on this album sound very British. The tunes are artsy yet accessible. Twelve cool credible tracks here with our favorite being "Don't Stop There." We would have liked to have seen the actual complete release on this one rather than an advance CD-R. As such, this one definitely gets a thumbs up...but only a partial review because we received only part of the actual final product... (Not Rated)

DarkBlueWorld - The Perilous Beauty of Madness (CD, Drip Audio / Fontana North, Progressive pop)
If you're looking for a quick, easy music fix, you probably won't have the patience required here. The folks in DarkBlueWorld aren't playing for the commercial market...those listeners who want easy, familiar sounding music that requires no thought. This band's sound centers around the uniquely and instantly identifiable vocals of Elizabeth Fischer who some folks may remember as the vocalist in the 1980s Canadian band Animal Slaves. The Perilous Beauty of Madness is a peculiar spin indeed. On this album, these folks come across sounding ever-so-slightly like a modern, more updated version of 1970s British art band Henry Cow (except with a much heavier blues/jazz influence). It is fortunate indeed that the band opted to include a foldout lyric sheet...because you will most certainly want to read along as you listen. Eleven progressive tracks here including "Demimonde," "On A Wire," "Nothing's Ever As It Seems," and "Somebody." A different sort of flavor worth taking the time to absorb... (Rating: 5)

Dark Room Notes - We Love You Dark Matter (CD, Gonzo, Pop)
The debut full-length release from Ireland's Dark Room Notes. We Love You Dark Matter is an instantly likable keyboard-driven pop album with cool moody songs that sound something like a cross between Mitch Easter and Howard Devoto...without ever sounding too much like either one. The album has a nice retro-1980s sound and feel which is a big plus in the band's favor considering the recent resurgence of 1980s-inspired bands. So many twenty-first century bands make music that is difficult to understand and/or digest. This is most certainly not the case here. The songs on this album are light enough to be easily enjoyed...while having just enough artistic integrity to make them interesting. Packaged in a beautiful tri-fold digipak sleeve that includes a super slick little lyric booklet...and released on the band's own Gonzo label. Cool cuts include "Each and Every One Of Us," "This Hot Heat," "Broken Nail," and "Treetops." Neat sounding stuff. (Rating: 5+)



Make your day by
Ruining someone else's

(Rating: 1)

The Dead Weather - Horehound (CD, Third Man, Rock)
The Dead Weather is the Nashville, Tennessee-based quartet consisting of Alison Mosshart, Dean Fertita, Jack Lawrence, and Jack White. Because this disc arrived in our trusty mailbox without any accompanying literature and/or press release, we visited the band's web site...only to find that there was very little biographical information there. So...all we can present and/or report is based upon what we're hearing. Horehound is a true rock and roll album. So many modern bands' music is cleaned up and polished to the point that it has no personality at all. The folks in this band seem driven to maintain an edge with their music. The playing is tight...but loose enough so that some of the ragged edges are still evident. And vocalist Alison Mosshart's voice has a nice, rough, slightly unrehearsed sound that is a perfect match for the band's raw bluesy rock (plus she has really great hair--honest). This eleven track album may be a bit too noisy for the conventional music fan. But our guess is that listeners into underground rock are gonna love this one. Top picks: "60 Feet Tall," "Treat Me Like Your Mother," and "Will There Be Enough Water?" Good rockin' stuff. (Rating: 5+)

The Dear Hunter - Act III: Life and Death (Independently released CD, Pop)
The third chapter/release of the rock opera presented by the band The Dear Hunter. Bandleader Casey Crescenzo and his fellow band members present some rather thick and complex tunes here. Act III: Life and Death seems obviously very heavily influenced by Freddie Mercury (Queen). Crescenzo's melodies have the same soaring, free-flowing qualities. Plus, like Mercury, his songs are heavily reliant on overdubs and big complex arrangements. But rather than being a straight away rock band, The Dear Hunter is actually a much more progressive endeavor. Sure, the songs are accessible and melodic...but the rhythms and arrangements are a far cry from what you hear from the average twenty-first century garage band. The packaging is really nice...the CD is housed in a cool digipak sleeve that includes several little individual "post cards" that include lyrics to each tune. Slick stuff. (Rating: 4++++)

The Delfields - Ogres (Independently released CD, Pop)
We really like the cover art on this one. Instead of providing tons of irrelevant details, this band presents their album simply and without fanfare. And that's just perfect because...it offers a clear indication of what the music on the disc sounds like. Ogres is a very short album lasting under half an hour. The folks in The Delfields write and record mid-tempo pensive pop tunes with an emphasis on lyrics and vocal melodies. The overall recorded sound harkens back to underground pop bands from the 1960s. The tunes are based around simply strummed guitars and the vocals have a lot of reverb. Neat reflective cuts include "A Slippery Slope," "Francine," "Ogres," and "Highlands." Recommended for fans of Outrageous Cherry. (Rating: 5)

Dignan - Cheaters & Thieves (Independently released CD, Pop)
The debut full-length release from McAllen, Texas-based five piece band Dignan. We were instantly drawn to the tunes on Cheaters & Thieves. These folks have an intriguing dreamy progressive sound that recalls a variety of artists including (but not limited to) Pink Floyd, Lilys, and Starflyer 59. But far from being a copycat band, Dignan is a group with their own sound and style. The interweaving guitars and keyboards are strangely hypnotic...and the restrained vocals are a perfect fit for the music. If you're in the market for predictable samey pop, you won't find it here. The tunes on this CD are smart and inventive...and stand up to many repeated spins. Only just under half an hour in length...but with this release these guys manage to hit the bull's eye with every track. Standout tracks include "A Fool," "What's Done Is Done," "You're My Witness," and "Whistler." Excellent heady stuff. Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Division Day - Visitation (CD, Dangerbird, Progressive pop/rock)
This band just keeps getting better and better. The guys in Division Day now have an appropriate home on the Dangerbird label. Visitation may just be their strongest release yet. This cool eleven track album features plenty of thick progressive pop/rock tunes with a heavy emphasis on vocal melodies and lyrics. These cool, flowing cuts feature plenty of lush keyboards and unconventional instrumentation. Some of these songs are very restrained and subdued...while others pack quite a punch. The band's vocalist has a really intriguing voice. Even though he's an emotional crooner, he never comes across sounding fake or contrived. And while Visitation has many elements that may appeal to the shoegazer crowd...the band's sound is anything but a monotonous drone. The more we spin this album...the better it sounds. Groovy cuts include "Reservoir," "Chalk Lines," "Surrender," and "Black Crow." Cool hypnotic stuff. Recommended. (Rating: 5++)



Dreams are a waste
Of time and

(Rating: 1)

The Elderberries - Ignorance & Bliss (French import CD, Discograph, Pop/rock)
The folks in The Elderberries have a very thick, polished, accessible sound. So much so that we have to admit that on the first few spins we didn't really care for Ignorance & Bliss. This wasn't as much a reaction to the songs as it was that this album has so many overdubs that it is difficult to absorb the actual songs. We're glad we took the time to get to know these songs however...because we eventually found that there is a lot to like about this band. After becoming familiar with the music we finally decided that if you must listen to arena-based pop/rock...this is probably about as good as it gets. These folks present their in-your-face tunes with plenty of positive energy...and the songs have a surprising amount of staying power. Add to all of this the fact that the vocals are always right on target...and you have a pretty cool band that just happens to have the potential to appeal to millions of listeners. Catchy cuts include "Au Bikini," "The Choice," "Impostor," and "Sick of Silence." (Rating: 4++++)

Eva Wrengaw - oooI:IooI:IooI:oIIo:oIoI:oII" (Italian import CD-R, Progressive)
This album easily wins the prize of ALL TIME for "most difficult album title to type in the entire history of mankind" (try it and see for yourself). This CD-R was shipped to us from Italy with no accompanying literature or press release. The only thing we know about the band Eva Wrengaw are the names of the band members: Umberto Chiodi, Marco Degli Esposti, Nicola Govoni, Paolo Pagnoni, and Roberto Taddia. These folks write and record moody, complex progressive music that is difficult to describe and/or compare to other artists. This album consists of four lengthy cuts that have a combined length of just over half an hour. Some of this music is reminiscent of European progressive bands from the 1970s. Intriguing stuff, eclectic and strange... (Rating: 4+++)

Greg Foresman - Kodiak (Independently released CD, Pop)
At this point in time, Greg Foresman is best known as the lead guitarist for Martina McBride when she tours. But like so many musicians that play for pay, Foresman is also a singer/songwriter in his own right. Kodiak is Foresman's fourth full-length release. Not surprisingly, guitars are the most integral instrument on this album. Greg writes some cool accessible pop tunes that sound remarkably radio-friendly. We are particularly impressed with the sound of "In Your Light," "Suicide Bomber," and "Big Sky Country." We have to admit that we were disappointed by the overt similarity of "Goin' To The Country" to Neil Young's "Are You Ready For The Country?" Probably done tongue-in-cheek, but Young's name was not even mentioned on the sleeve (?) which seemed a bit odd. Still a good album with some killer tracks... (Rating: 4+++)

The Ginger Envelope - Invitation Air (CD-R, One Percent Press, Pop)
We missed out on this band's debut album...so Invitation Air serves as an introduction for us. The guys in The Ginger Envelope recorded this album on an analog sixteen track recorder in a studio built in a friend's basement in Athens, Georgia. More than any other artist or band, the tracks on this album remind us very much of babysue favorite Brothers and Sisters. These guys play subtle, melodic, organic pop tunes that are ultimately smooth and breezy...and the pedal steel guitar adds just the right amount audio plushness. No big fuzzy guitar sounds...no cutesy technological tricks...no thick walls of overdubs...virtually nothing to get in the way of the songs themselves. The band is driven by the songwriting talents of a young fellow named Patrick Carey. Carey has a great loose, understated vocal style that is perfectly suited for his style of music. All of the songs here are originals with the exception of a cover of Loudin Wainwright III's "Swimming Song." Cool free-flowing folky pop tunes with subtle threads of bluegrass include "Turn Into Tempests," "Roddy," "Moon Rover," and "Invitation Air." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

The Ginger Envelope at JJ's Bohemia, Chattanooga, TN (Live Performance)
We were pleased as Hell to learn that this cool little band was coming through Chattanooga...plus it gave us a chance to check out what is--without a doubt--the coolest rock club in Chattanooga, TN (JJ's Bohemia). After hearing/reviewing the latest album from The Ginger Envelope (see review above), we were curious to see how the band's recorded sound would translate in a live setting...particularly since many of their tunes are extremely soft and subtle. There was, unfortunately, a very long lag time between the time the opening band stopped and when guys in The Ginger Envelope began...so this was probably not a big plus on this particular evening. But when the band finally began to play, it made it all worthwhile. All of the players in this band are professionals...good, solid musicians who really have their chops together. In a live setting, this band packs more of a punch than we would have predicted from their last batch of recordings. The drummer plays hard...and the pedal steel guitar player was incredibly dynamic from start to finish. Vocalist Patrick Carey is one of those fellows who has a voice that is so unique that he can't be mistaken for anyone else. That could be a big plus or a big minus for this band depending on your point of view. In our opinion, the peculiar vocals add just the right twist to separate the band from the rest of the pack. Watching this band play...we began to come up with a pretty good way of summing up their music. The Ginger Envelope sounds something like early Neil Young with Justin Strauss from Milk 'N' Cookies on lead vocals...all gelled up into a unique little twenty-first century underground Americana band. During this show, the guys played a mixture of tunes from their first and second albums--which really made us wish we had been familiar with the first album prior to seeing this show. The audience reaction was mixed. At first folks weren't paying too much attention. Three or four songs later it seemed as if the band had everyone at the club within their grasp...but by the end of the set it seemed as if much of the audience had splintered away. We're not sure if this was because of the lateness of the show or because people were not familiar with the tunes...(?). In any event, we left feeling totally satisfied...and even more impressed with The Ginger Envelope than we were before the show. This is a band that--above all else--has truly great songs. This band's music will most surely stand the test of time. Wonderfully genuine music played with pure brilliance. Check out their recorded work...and see the band if they play anywhere near you. These guys are most certainly worth the time and the money... (Rating: 5++)

Grappling Hook - And Those Who Would Keep Us Safe (Independently released LP + CD-R, Rock)
Talk about a limited edition release (!). And Those Who Would Keep Us Safe is initially being released as a vinyl LP (with CD-R included for easy reference)...and there are only 253 copies being pressed. (You read that right...not 250 or 300...the exact number is 253.) So anyone with even a possible interest should grab a copy fast. Hopefully this release will either cause this album to be picked up by a label or inspire the band to reissue this on CD...because Safe is one kickass album full of intricate and complex hard rock. The album is short...these seven songs spin by in just over half an hour. But during that time these folks constantly keep your attention by playing with real conviction...and the music has balls. Really nifty cover art by Brendan Monroe completes the package. Our favorite cuts include "I Judge You Not O Juggernaut," "Broken and Stolen," and "For All The People." On at least a few occasions, these tunes remind us a bit of the 1970s British progressive band Gentle Giant. Cool stuff. (Rating: 5+)

The Grownup Noise - The Grownup Noise (Independently released CD, Pop)
This album hit our post office box at an interesting point in time because this band has a sound that is remarkably similar to one of our favorite new British bands, Hiding In Public. Like Hiding In Public, the folks in The Grownup Noise sound something like a more commercially inclined version of the underground band The Solipsistics (the vocals are particular similar). This self-titled album is all about vocal melodies and lyrics. The instruments used all serve to support the main melodies in the tunes. Subtle, smart, and slightly pensive...this thirteen track album is clean, pure, and sincere. Nice understated photos of a typewriter adorn the digipak sleeve (and lyrics are included). Top picks: "Make Believe," "Messy Apartment," "The Oldest Running Feature," and "Give Me Time." Cool stuff...! (Rating: 5+)

Ed Hale - Ballad on Third Avenue (CD, Dying Van Gogh, Pop)
We had to spin this disc several times before coming to some conclusions about the music. Not because the songs sound all that different...but because it wasn't immediately obvious from which universe Ed Hale was coming from. After letting his music soak in, we were reminded of several different artists who Hale reminds us of at one time or another. We can hear some traces of Harry Nilsson in his music as well as some of the softer elements of the band Johnny Society. But on other occasions some of the melodies remind us very much of John Vanderslice. Ultimately, we determined that Hale isn't really trying to sound like or copy anyone. The songs on Ballad on Third Avenue are basic, smooth pop tunes with smart arrangements and intelligent lyrics. We particularly like the fact that Ed has a cool restrained voice that is particularly appealing. We definitely found that the more familiar these tunes became the more impressed we were. Eleven smart reflective cuts here including "Scene in San Francisco," "Hello My Dove," "It Feels Too Good," and "Never Let Me Go Again." Cool stuff. (Rating: 5+)

Ben Cooley Hall - Owning Up To A Life (CD, Caunounicus, Pop)
Nice, smart, simple, straightforward melodic pop with exceptional melodies. Ben Cooley Hall is a one man band who writes and records music in the same general vein as modern pop artists like The Miniature Tigers (although more subdued and a bit less obvious). The tunes are happy and upbeat...but never overtly positive or sugary. Hall is not a newcomer to the world of music...he began by playing violin in grade school. In the 1990s he joined the Bozeman, Montana band Birdbody Hank before going solo. Owning Up To A Life is a nice smooth spin...a surprisingly personal and reflective sounding batch of tunes presented by a man who obviously knows what he's doing. Some of the melodies on this album are absolutely lovely and real ("You'll Come to Care" rates right up there with some of Jonathan Richman's best songs). Smart, sincere tracks include "Sunny Day," "Gingle Ale," and "Untrue." A very nice album from start to finish. (Rating: 5+)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Score Composed by Nicholas Hooper (CD, New Line Records, Soundtrack)
It's always cause for celebration when a new Harry Potter movie comes out. If this film is anything like the last few, it'll be an incredible mind-blower. The music in the Potter films is a critical part of why they work so well. So it comes as no surprise that this soundtrack composed by Nicholas Hooper is a resounding success. Hooper manages to conjure up all the sounds and ideas that are inherent in Harry Potter films here. These darkly-orchestrated tracks range from upbeat to moody to slightly surreal and spooky. There's a lot to take in...over an hour's worth of music. The soundtrack for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (the sixth film in the series) has that really huge digital sound that will sound absolutely killer in theaters. If you're a Harry Potter fan, chances are you're already planning on seeing this film and getting the soundtrack. If you haven't yet jumped aboard, now is as good a time as any. Twenty-eight classic tracks here including "In Noctem," "Into the Pensieve," "The Slug Party," and "The Drink of Despair." Recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Kevin Hearn and Thinbuckle - Havana Winter (CD, Celery Music, Pop)
Canada's Kevin Hearn is best known as the multi-instrumentalist in the commercially successful band Barenaked Ladies. We're going to admit right off the bat that we aren't big fans of that band. Actually, to be more precise and honest...we really hate Barenaked Ladies. But you know...hating someone (or their music) just because they're in a band you don't like doesn't make sense. So we slapped Havana Winter into our trusty player with open minds. We're glad we did...because without the annoying songs and trivial annoyances of his other band, Mr. Hearn writes and records some damn fine music. This is Kevin's fifth full-length release...and it's chock full of nice, smooth, hummable keyboard driven pop tunes. And man, what a voice this guy has. Talk about smoooooooth. This is a short album clocking in at just over half an hour. But these seven tracks are super satisfying and polished to perfection. We particularly love the cool sounds we hear in "Luna" and "H.I.T.S." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Hermit Thrushes (Live performance at JJ's Bohemia, Chattanooga, TN, July 21, 2009)
We were already impressed with this band's latest CD (Slight Fountain) so we made a point of spinning the disc into the ground two weeks before this show. But even though we approached the club being totally familiar with the songs, we weren't prepared for the intense psychological assault of Hermit Thrushes live. Wow. Like wow, wow, wow, wow...wow. We knew these guys had great songs and a unique sound...but we had no idea they would play with this kind of crazed intensity. Whereas the band's recorded sound is rather restrained and has lots of soft moments, in concert these guys play really, really loud and jump around like spastic insects on speed. Readers should take note that these guys were playing third on the bill at a small club on a Tuesday night. But instead of giving it a half-assed effort, these four gentlemen played as if they were playing for thousands. During several segments of the show, the guitarists were jumping/leaping and smashing their feet into the stage with all their weight...so much so that we wondered if the stage would hold up to such abuse (?!?). Interestingly, the sound of the musicians hitting the stage became part of the overall sound during several tunes. You would expect such an artsy band to be somewhat cold and unfriendly...but instead the exact opposite was true. Lead vocalist/bandleader Yianni was very chatty and friendly with the small crowd that had gathered. Even though there were only probably 30 or 40 people in the club, his creative interaction with the audience helped make this particular show work. Musically we still feel that this band sounds something like a cross between Rob Crow and Captain Beefheart...although the crazy rhythmic changes make it very difficult to compare the music to other artists. While this band definitely makes you want to move...you find yourself confused and bewildered by the changing/shifting time signatures. It's almost like the guys are toying with the audience...challenging them to see who can keep up with the frantic psychotic intensity. The drummer was really unusual and intriguing...he reminded us of a young kid bashing away at his kit not really caring whether or not each beat was precise or not. The bass player seemed to be the main man keeping things from splintering into space fragments...while both guitarists spewed peculiar and, at times, atonal jagged riffs at the audience. In concert this band was something like viewing controlled chaos. They were super tight and focused and played incredibly hard...yet there was plenty of spontaneity and freeform improvisation. If Hermit Thrushes play anywhere near you, do yourself a favor and run...don't walk...to see this ultra-inventive and unique little band from Philadelphia. The only thing that would've made this particular show better would have been more bright lights on the band because--instead of standing around like your average twenty-first century brain dead shoegazers--these guys were really interesting to watch. We loved the band's recorded sound. But after seeing them live...they have become an instant top favorite here in babysueland. A killer concert that won't soon be forgotten. (Rating: 5++++)

Inf - The Go Round (CD, Beats Broke, Instrumental/hip hop)
Band names just keep getting weirder, don't they...? Inf (short for the word "infinite") is actually the solo project created by Dutch producer Bas te Braak. Longtime babysue readers may be surprised that we are reviewing a hip hop release...because we normally hate this style of music. What caught our attention in this case, however, was the fact that this is an instrumental album (actually this is not entirely true because there are some vocal snippets that pop in and out of these tracks). So...without those annoying urban hip hop lyrics trashing things up...we found that we can actually enjoy some of the elements of hip hop music. Either that...or we're just impressed with the way te Braak makes music (?!?). In any event, this eighteen track album presents some nice, slick, adventurous music that should appeal to a wide range of listeners. Top picks: "The Choir," "Driving Force," "City Delights," "The Closing." (Rating: 4+++++)

The Inner Banks - Songs From Disko Bay (CD, Dag!, Pop)
The Inner Banks is the duo consisting of Caroline Schutz and David Gould...plus various other folks lending their talents and/or support. Some folks may remember Caroline as the chief driving force in the band Folksongs For The Afterlife. David was previously the leader and banjo player in the Brooklyn, New York-based band The Bootleg Remedy. Songs From Disko Bay sounds something like a more subdued, dreamy version of The Bird and The Bee. To be honest the overall sound is not all that similar (much softer and more restrained)...but this is just an easy frame of reference. The duo uses some interesting atmospheric sounds that bleed in and out of the tracks that give the album a slightly surreal sound at times. Schutz has an incredible voice which is obviously the focal point here. Only 34 minutes of music...but when the tunes sound this cool, who cares? Top picks: "Lemon Tree," "Come Back," "Blame." (Rating: 5)

Into It. Over It. - 52 Weeks (CD, No Sleep, Pop/rock)
Into It. Over It. is the one man band consisting of Evan Weiss. The appropriately titled 52 Weeks is just that--fifty-two tracks, each of which was recorded in one weeks' time over the course of a year. The result...is a large collection of tunes smattered across two CDs. Because of the amount of music presented here, we unfortunately did not have enough time to adequately absorb it all. The tunes go all over the place...from soft folky pop to hard abrasive underground rock. A few friends helped on on some tracks but these cuts are, for the most part, one man recordings. There are some really cool jewels here that remind us a bit of a cross between Guided By Voices and Sebadoh. Interesting stuff. (Not Rated)

Iron Maiden - Flight 666: The Film (Double DVD set, Universal, Rock)
To quote from the back cover of this DVD set, "Flight 666 documents the first leg of Maiden's legendary Somewhere Back In Time World Tour which took them 50,000 miles round the planet playing 23 concerts on five continents in just 45 days." Okay, that pretty much sums up the main meat of what this set is all about...tromping around the globe with the guys in Iron Maiden on a mammoth tour. Before we get into this, we want to state right off the bat that we have never cared for this band's music and, up until now, haven't been exposed to much of their stuff. Sure, we've heard a song here and there and seen a few videos...but none of it made much of an impression. So you may now be thinking that those holier-than-thou babysue assholes are going to trash Iron Maiden. If so, you would be dead wrong. This rockumentary is so good...that for the first time in our lives we really appreciate this band and what they're all about. A lot of the credit here goes to producers/writers/directors Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn...longtime fans of the band who were invited to join and film them while on tour. These guys manage to pack an incredible amount of material into an hour and forty minutes. And as the film progresses, it seems to grow in intensity. One of the first things here that impressed us is that lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson actually flies the band's own private jet all over the world during the tour. How cool is that...?!? Throughout the film Dickinson and his bandmates come across like intelligent and articulate guys who are totally professional and into what they do. So while in some cases there are hints of This Is Spinal Tap drifting into the equation...you realize early on that these guys are not pot-bellied old farts shoveling out the shit. They work really hard at what they do and are extremely concerned about putting on a great show for their fans. As the band flies all over the world putting on mammoth concerts, the directors slowly introduce one band member after another (as well as some members of the crew). They do such a good job with this that by the end of the film you actually feel as you actually know something valid about each member of the band. Another plus for the band is that they purposely went to some places they had never been and that most big artists usually pass over (like Costa Rica). By doing so, they managed to really energize fans who were truly hungry for a big rock and roll show. And for anyone who finds that the live snippet footage of the shows leaves them hungry for more...there's an extra DVD of the band performing entire songs live (with a different track filmed in each of 16 different cities). What is particularly interesting is the makeup of the audience. Instead of a bunch of diehard old farts from the 1980s, the majority of the band's fans are very, very young. We've seen tons of documentaries/rockumentaries over the years (who hasn't?)...but in all honesty, this has to be one of the best. Instead of being a bunch of boring film crammed together into a thoughtless collage, this film was prepared with loving attention to detail...and it does a wonderful job of making you feel as if you are actually tagging along with the band. So...even though we still won't be downloading any of the band's material onto our MP3 player (we probably won't ever be that keen on heavy metal arena rock)...whenever we see the name Iron Maiden in the future...we will feel nothing but R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Thoroughly entertaining. Recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Craig Jackson - Damn The Roses (Independently released CD, Pop)
The fifth full-length release from Nashville, Tennessee's Craig Jackson. Jackson plays smooth guitar-based melodic pop in the same general vein as artists like Jackson Browne and Tom Petty. So okay...we know such a comparison has some of you out there barfing up chunky nuggets...but y'know, early in their careers both of those guys came up with some nice listenable tunes. And that's exactly what Craig Jackson is providing for his fans...nice listenable music that doesn't require a lot of thinking and effort. These country-tinged soft Americana-based pop tunes go down nice and easy. The main focal point are Craig's cool understated vocals...but there are all kinds of nifty soothing guitars chiming around in the background. Songs are the meat of this album...and all ten pretty much hit the target. This guy has a sound that could easily appeal to millions upon millions of listeners. The overall vibe here reminds us of Dumptruck's For The Country album. Nice reflective cuts include "Our Last Time," "The Crying Game" (a particularly effective track), and "Don't Mean Nothin." (Rating: 5)

Jeepster - What If All The Rebels Died? (CD, Distile, Pop)
For folks (like us) who might initially be concerned that this band is just another group of guys trying desperately...but failing miserably...to revive the unique sound of the late, great Marc Bolan...worry not. Fortunately the only thing this band seems to have in common with T. Rex is the name of the band (although the press released that accompanied this CD did mention the band as an influence). Jeepster is the trio consisting of Justin Goings and Kyle Marcelli (both formerly of the band O!, The Joy) and Jonah Wells. The songs on the appropriately-titled What If All The Rebels Died? sound something like a cross between Starflyer 59, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and The Lassie Foundation (more the former two than the latter). This album is chock full of neat guitar sounds...and that's probably what initially impressed us. But as we listened more closely we became just as impressed with the songs themselves. These guys are doing just about everything right. Cool tracks include "A Day in the Dark," "Write the End First," and "What If All the Rebels Died?" Cool stuff, great driving music... (Rating: 5+)

Candye Kane - Superhero (CD, Delta Groove Music, Pop)
The ninth studio release from Candye Kane. Despite the fact that she has made numerous appearances on many well-known television shows (Maury Povich, CNN Showbiz Today, MTV News, and many more), at least at this point in time Kane remains mainly an underground phenomenon. And that seems curious to us because...her image and sound seem to have so much mass appeal (?!). On Superhero Candye gives her fans what they have come to expect. Upbeat blues-influenced pop tunes that allow her to show off her vocal strengths. What has always impressed us about this woman...and what still impresses us the most...is how much presence she has. Instead of being a lightweight carbon copycat, Kane is the real thing. She's sassy and real...and she's got a real meaty voice that really works magic. Fifteen cool cuts here including "Superhero," "I'm a Bad, Bad Girl," "Picture of You," and "I'm Gonna Be Just Fine." (Rating: 5)



When the baby kicks
Kick it back

(Rating: 1)

Kowtow Popof - Exalted Headband (CD, Wampus, Pop)
Kowtow Popof is a one-man band based in Washington, D.C. Unlike most other one-man bands currently treading around the United States, this fellow is neither a popster nor an all-out experimental electronic artist. The man who calls himself Kowtow Popof seems intent on writing and recording cool, intelligent, heady instrumentals with a difference. Trying to sum up the sound of these songs in a few words is difficult because the influences are rather extensive. But make no mistake, this is not world music. Instead, these songs simply go all over the place in terms of style and sound. Some have a more organic classic sound while others incorporate more technology into the mix. Whatever this guy does, however...he does it good. It's no wonder he already has so many underground fans and critics singing his praises. Sixteen satisfying cuts here including "Swimming Downhill," "Run to Daylight," "Chronos," and "Floaters." Great heady progressive stuff. The attention to detail here is remarkable... (Rating: 5+)

Lee Harvey Osmond - A Quiet Evil (CD, Latent Recordings, Acid folk)
The debut full-length release from Lee Harvey Osmond. The band features former members of the bands Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Cowboy Junkies, and Skydiggers. Described as "acid folk" in the press release that accompanied the CD, this band's music sounds something like Leonard Cohen with more of a western twist. The songs are subtle and have slightly spooky qualities threaded throughout. It's kinda like hearing folk songs from the old west updated with traces of modern technology to baffle the listener. These guys display a great deal of restraint on these recordings. On many of the songs you get the impression that the band is going to suddenly start blasting out at top volume. But instead, they hold the reigns tight only giving possible impressions of things yet to come. Great artwork provided by A Man Called Wrycraft. Ten moody cuts here including "The Love of One," "Queen Bee," and "Angels in the Wilderness." (Rating: 4++++)

Teena Marie - Congo Square (CD, Stax, Soul/pop)
Super slick technology driven commercial pop. A descriptive term like that should either draw you in...or drive you away like a bat outta hell...and that's exactly why we spelled this out right up front. Teena Marie is a very accessible female pop artist who is making music that will appeal to large numbers of music fans. There is no artistic stuff going on...no creative content...no adventurous musical passages...just super slick calculated modern soul pop with a big studio sound. Now some of you out there might think that this is leading up to a major rip of this young lady's music. But actually...taken for what it is...we found ourselves drawn to several of the songs on Congo Square. Teena's music seems to take some of the essential elements from 1970s soul music...and then updates them with a twenty-first century sound. So okay...underground music snobs are going to hate this one like Hell. But our guess is that Teena Marie won't care...because when you're making millions of people happy, who gives a shit what underground snobs think...? Sixteen classic pop cuts here including "The Pressure," "Marry Me," "Congo Square," and "Soldier." Some truly nifty cuts here. The folks at Stax still know how to pick 'em. (Rating: 4++++)

MC Maguire - Trash of Civilizations (CD, Innova Recordings, Progressive/improvisation)
This is an interesting album that doesn't sound like all the rest. The press release that accompanied this CD described the music as "ethno/prog-alt rock/jazz electronica"...and that is probably the best descriptive word string for this music. The disc is divided into two segments. "The Spawn of Abe," the first track, is over 28 minutes long and features only three players: Max Christie on clarinet, Mark Rogers on oboe, and MC Maguire on CPU. "Narcissus auf Bali," the second track, is even longer...clocking in at almost 40 minutes...and features the playing skills of Trevor Tureski (vibraphone), Ryan Scott (marimba), and (again) Maguire on CPU. Both of these pieces feature plenty of spontaneous improvisation...sorta like a cross between modern classical and modern jazz. All kinds of trippy sounds and voices bleed in and out of the mix...making for some rather strange and unpredictable listening. The second track is a truly wild ride indeed. Definitely an audio collage kind of experience here. Not recommended for folks needing and/or wanting simple hits to dance to. Mighty strange stuff...esoteric and strangely...hypnotic. We love it. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Dan Mangan - Nice, Nice, Very Nice (CD, File Under Music, Pop)
It's been a while since Dan Mangan's fans have heard a new album from him. Postcards and Daydreaming, his last album, was well received and sparked all kinds of praise and interest from a variety of impressive sources. Three and a half years later...and Dan returns with the oddly-titled Nice, Nice, Very Nice. This album is difficult to sum up in a few words. The best overall comparison we can come up with...is to say that Mangan's songs sometimes sound something like early John Vanderslice mixed with some of Leonard Cohen's later recordings...but not really. Don't think this guy is a copycat artist because he doesn't seem to be trying to imitate anyone in particular. His music has a somewhat classic, timeless quality that is interesting and solidly entertaining. The songs feature mainly traditional instruments and the vocal melodies wander all over the place. But while this isn't instantly catchy pop...Dan's music is by no means difficult to absorb. Twelve solid tracks here including "Road Regrets," Robots," "Fair Verona" (a particularly beautiful track), and "Set the Sails." Oh and by the way...this guy has an incredible voice. Recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Marmoset - Tea Tornado (CD, Joyful Noise Recordings, Pop)
Although we're not really sure exactly why, for some reason this band pushes our clunky little buttons exactly the way we like 'em pushed. Unbelievably, the band has now been in existence for about 14 years. But from the sound of the songs on Tea Tornado it sounds as if Jorma Whittaker and Dave Jablonski have by no means burned out or given up the ship. In fact, these songs sound about as strong and vibrant as any recordings we hear from bands just getting started on their journeys. The strange, sparse, simple songs on this album sound something like a modern updated take on Donovan's sound from the 1960s (the vocals are strangely reminiscent at times)...but the hippy dippy elements are virtually nonexistent. At times the band can also sound a bit like The Television Personalities. Part of what this band's music work is the fact that they use only the essential elements to record their songs. You won't hear fifty layers of overdubs here...only the basic ingredients necessary for good pop music. Fourteen strange pop cuts here including "Written Today," "Come With Me," "Musing," and "I Love My Things." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Marshmallow Coast - Phreak Phantasy (CD, Happy Happy Birthday To Me, Progressive pop)
The folks in Marshmallow Coast had temporarily changed the band name to M Coast...but have now returned to using their original moniker. The band is the project created by Andy Gonzales in the mid-1990s. Although we can't claim to have heard every single one of the band's releases, our initial reaction is that Phreak Phantasy is the most accessible album yet by this unusual underground band. This time around Gonzales seems to keep things a bit more simple and straightforward...and the approach seems to work in the band's favor. This is a short album...nine songs zip by in just over half an hour. The nice upbeat sounds and simple beats are pleasantly pleasing from start to finish. Top picks: "Nasty Dream," "Please Don't," and "Lonely Days." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Ray Mason - Like Bugs Chewing On Paper (CD, Captivating Music, Pop)
Ray Mason is easily one of the most prolific singer/songwriters we have come across over the past couple of decades. And unlike other artists who either give up or change their approach hoping for greater success, Mason just keeps on doing what he started doing many years ago which is...simply writing and recording good, simple, genuine pop music. Ray will soon be approaching 60 (!?!)...so at this point he certainly is an inspiration to folks who may have the mistaken impression that the only folks who can make great music are kiddie boosters. Like Bugs Chewing On Paper sounds as inspired and real as anything we've heard thus far from Mason. And Hell, we have to make the comparison...again...that his voice and overall style are very reminiscent of Martin Mull (who, in our opinion, should've stuck with music instead of becoming a second-rate actor). This CD features eleven cuts that all hit the target dead center. Our initial favorites include "Lunch Box," "Like Bugs Chewing On Paper," "The Beam," and "When Everything Worked." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

The Medders - The Medders (Independently released CD, Pop)
The debut full-length release from The Medders who are now based in Nashville, Tennessee. These guys write and record what might best be described as...just plain ol' good music. You won't hear any grating scratching going on here...no clever studio tricks crashing through the speakers...and no thick walls of digital overdubs used to make up for a lack of good songs. Nope, none of the usual tricks here...because when you have good songs, you don't need tricks and gimmicks to try to deceive the public. True, these tunes are a bit more laidback than what the casual listener probably wants...but in a world where everyone is trying way too hard and turning things up way too loud, in this case the subtle approach works. Nice simple arrangements allow you to concentrate on the vocal melodies and lyrics...both of which are superb throughout. Ten neat cuts here including "Gunslinger," "Win Win," "Funeral Rose," and "Terminus." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

The Melloncollies - Goodbye Cruel World (CD, Somme Music, Pop)
Pure pop that draws heavily from some of the classic pop artists from the 1980s and 1990s. The Melloncollies aren't trying to be ultra weird or ultra hip. Instead, the folks in this band just seem intent on offering ultra-hummable easily digestible pop from start to finish. Goodbye Cruel World spins like a non-stop string of radio hits. The songs are all polished to perfection and the vocals are way up front in the mix. This band is driven by the songwriting skills of vocalist/guitarist Simon Erani and also includes Peter Claro (guitars), Darro Sandler (drums), Paul Briscoe (bass), and Rick Treese (keyboards). This album is kinda like a step back in time in a way...but in another way, these songs sound rather timeless. Twelve tracks here including "Misery," "Let It Rain," "Money Money Money," and "Maybe Someday." (Rating: 4++++)

Mellowdrone - Angry Bear (Independently released CD, Progressive pop)
A lot of cool folks into underground music supported this band early on...and no doubt many folks will remember the band's debut album entitled Box. When that album was released this band seemed to be on a sure path to instant success. But things happen (as they always do) and the band's career kinda got derailed. Eventually they were freed from their contract with Columbia (thank God)...and opted to make the smart decision to release their music themselves. Snap forward to 2009...and we have Angry Bear...a wonderfully refreshing album that finds the band still sounding absolutely great. This album may have been recorded without the assistance and/or questionable guidance of a corporate monster...but you'd never know it from the sound quality. Bear is a rich, thick sounding CD featuring twelve impeccably arranged tracks. This band's smart tunes are pushed to the next level through the clever use of modern technology. The tunes are complex and feature layers upon layers of instruments and vocals. Every track here is a keeper...but our initial favorites include "Wherever You May Go," "Alone = In Your Face," "Lady In Her Underwear," and "DMT." Smart cool stuff... (Rating: 5+)

Jeff Merchant - City Makes No Sound (Independently released CD, Pop)
A rather remarkable album from a rather remarkable young musician. Los Angeles, California's Jeff Merchant makes music that sounds nothing like what you might expect from a Los Angeles-based artist. City Makes No Sound offers a lot to take in. Over the course of approximately an hour, Merchant presents fifteen tracks. His songs are smooth and pensive...free-flowing and hypnotic...substantial and thought-provoking. And man oh man, what a voice. Jeff has a super smooth voice and he never pushes himself beyond what each individual track calls for. From the sound quality of this disc you would never know this is an independently released CD. The sound quality is super smooth and resilient. Lots of folks were involved in the recording of this album. It features no less than 23 (!?!) guest vocalists and/or musicians. But rather than being a messy overproduction (which can easily happen when you involve so many people), these songs come across sounding surprisingly open and clean. You can expect to hear a lot about Jeff Merchant in the coming years. Wonderfully reflective tunes include "Seeing Waterfalls," "Where's Phillip," "Eggshell," and "The End Song." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Mott The Hoople - Hoopling - Best Of Live (CD, Angel Air, Rock/pop)
There have been several live Mott The Hoople albums surfacing recently...but if you want the most immediate bang for your bucks then Hoopling - Best Of Live is probably the best place to start. The tracks on this album were culled from live performances during the bands best period...the years 1971 to 1974. Folks who never heard or saw the band play may be surprised at what serious rockers these guys were in their prime. Twelve cool raw cuts here and most of the essential cuts are included: "Walkin' With a Mountain," "One of the Boys," "Sucker" (probably our all-time favorite Mott tune), "All the Way From Memphis," and, of course, "All the Young Dudes." Includes a cool 16 page booklet full of photos and plenty of info long-time fans will get a kick out of. More essential Mott stuff from the resourceful folks at Angel Air... (Rating: 5+)

Music For Money - Music For Money (CD, Erektik, Progressive/experimental)
Sometimes looks can be deceiving. At other times names can be deceiving. In this case, the latter is true. While you might initially think a band called Music For Money would create sellout crap, the exact opposite is true (i.e., this disc actually contains music that is obviously not made for money). Music For Money is the quartet consisting of Myriam Boucher, Pierre-Luc LeCours, Jeremie Jones, and Dominique Lague. These folks record interesting progressive compositions that recall some of the more artsy British bands from the 1970s...mixed with some of the more artsy soundtrack recordings of the past few decades. Suffice to say, this self-titled album is not a predictable simple listen. The songs are complex, adventurous, and rely heavily on cool technological tricks. It's hard to sum this one up in a few words. But we can say that the more we spin this one the better it sounds. Nine fine reflective cuts including "Redemption," "Plaisir," "Hymne a la Fuite," and "Novembre." Wonderfully cool and unusual stuff... (Rating: 5+)



My children.
My children.
My stupid fucking

(Rating: 1)

The Novaks - Things Fall Apart (CD, Sonic, Hard pop)
Hard rocking pop. Things Fall Apart is, for the most part, a pop album...but the songs are driven by nice loud thick guitars. So instead of mid-tempo wimpy pop, these folks deliver melodic pop that has a nice kick to it. Another thing that separates this band apart from the others are the vocals. Instead of perfect vocals over-practiced to death...the vocals on this album have a nice, raw, spontaneous sound that is most appealing. Nice thick guitars...loose vocals...what more could you ask for...? How about a rhythm section that keeps things simple and straightforward. Add that into the equation...and you have a really cool rock band with some truly genuine ballpower. The more you spin Things Fall Apart...the more you are likely to get into the music. Cool rockers include "Why Wonder?", "Billy The Kid," "Worm in the Apple," and "Things Fall Apart." Good stuff...! (Rating: 5)



Give your child's soul
To the Devil.

(Rating: 1)

Olekranon - Recycle Human Lung (Limited edition CD-R, Progressive/glitch/drone)
This is a hard album to review and/or rate...but we felt compelled to do so, particularly considering the fact that this is a limited edition CD-R (only 100 copies were created). Olekranon tunes could probably best be summed up as experimental drone/glitch. Certainly not intended for a mass audience, these seven tracks are an acquired taste...and definitely on the artsy side. We're going to leave this one without a rating. But we would recommend this one to folks into experimental, trippy, underground electronic stuff. Some of the drony segments sound really good loud... (Not Rated)

The Oranges Band - Are Invisible (Advance CD, Pop)
An instantly likable album from an instantly likable band. This nine track CD features some cool, riveting underground guitar pop/rock with plenty of twists in the music. The band is driven by the songwriting skills of Roman Kuebler...a fellow with an interesting voice and a real flair for writing substantial melodies. Initial standout tracks include "I Wouldn't Worry About It" and "When Your Mask Is Your Revealing Feature." We would have liked to have seen the actual complete release on this one rather than an advance CD-R. As such, this one definitely gets a thumbs up...but only a partial review because we received only part of the actual final product... (Not Rated)

The Pinx - Look What You Made Me Do (Independently released CD, Rock)
Hard hitting raw rock from Atlanta's The Pinx. These guys have apparently come a long way in a very short amount of time. (As we understand it, the band has only been in existence for about a year.) Look What You Made Me Do is a rather direct album...presenting this power rock trio simply and without unnecessary polish and/or overdubs. The emphasis seems to be on the songs and--in particular--the playing...which, by the way, is excellent from start to finish. So many bands use technology to make up for the fact that they aren't really that proficient on their instruments. That is definitely not the case here. The band consists of Jim O'Kane (drums), Joe T. Giddings (guitar, bass, vocals), and Adam McIntyre (guitar, bass, screaming). All three players are rather intense and incredible. If you like really good guitar riffs and a band that doesn't rely on gimmicks...well then, The Pinx just may be your new favorite band. Kickass cuts include "The Desert," "Turn It On," "Killing Me," and "The Prophecy." (Rating: 5+)

Portugal The Man - The Satanic Satanist (CD, Equal Vision, Pop)
The fourth full-length release from Portland, Oregon's Portugal The Man. The first thing that most people will note about this album (and that includes us)...is the artwork. Man oh man, whoever created the incredible foldout cardboard sleeve for this album deserves an award. There are all these cool psychedelic images bleeding all over the place and each flap is die-cut so that each flap folds over the other...hell, you'll just have to see it to believe it. So coooooool. The music inside isn't nearly as strange as the cover might indicate. Instead, The Satanic Satanist is a surprisingly accessible album full of modern radio-friendly (and download friendly) pop. This is a super polished release with tons and tons of overdubs. In some cases it seems as if some of these songs might have come across better with simple arrangements, but on other tracks the complex approach works perfectly. Thirty-five minutes of music, eleven tracks. Our favorite cuts include "People Say," "Lovers In Love," "The Woods," and "Let You Down." Good solid stuff. (Rating: 4++++)

The Puddle Parade - Origami (CD, Morctapes, Pop)
Great band name here. To be honest, we're not sure if this release would've caught our attention if it weren't for the fact that it was released by the tiny-yet-influential Belgian label Morc. But because we've heard interesting stuff from this label in the past, we paid particular attention to what might otherwise have come across as an obtuse home-recorded and produced project. The packaging on this one is a bit misleading. The CD (not a CD-R) is packaged in a thin cardboard sleeve with a paper strip containing artwork and info taped (?) around the sleeve. So if you're one of those folks who has to have fancy digipak sleeves, you may be confused. But enough about labels and sleeves...onto the music. The Puddle Parade is the solo project created by Germany's Ellen Evers. Her music reminds us in many ways of Sweden's Cake On Cake mainly because the music is extremely sparse and subtle. Actually the music on this disc makes Cake On Cake sound very complex and produced. Evers leaves her songs extremely stark and naked...adding very few layers and/or textures in the recording process. Her world is simple yet peculiar...and her approach is a far cry from the average generic twenty-first century pop musician. Strangely calming cuts include "Lullabye," "I Have a New Friend," and "All You Are." Interesting... (Rating: 5)

Benjamin r - The Other Side of Nowhere (Independently released CD, Pop)
Imagine a talented singer/songwriter/producer with a voice that sounds something like Emitt Rhodes and whose songs sound slightly similar to Ric Ocasek...and you might begin to have an idea of what Benjamin r (note that he does not capitalize the "r") sounds like. Although Benjamin has worked with many well-known artists (including Puddle of Mudd, Jewel, and Eagle Eye Cherry), not surprisingly he seems more focused on making his own music rather than producing others. The Other Side of Nowhere ought to help get the word out to the world about this guy's music...because he's super talented and his songs are surprisingly catchy and accessible. And not in a bad, crappy, sellable way either. Although just about every track on this album sounds radio-friendly, these songs are solid and good. Nice slick mid-tempo pop/rockers include "Quit," "History," "Time Is Running Out," and "Letters." (Rating: 4+++++)

Rainy Day Saints - Reflected (CD, Get Hip, Pop)
The third full-length release from Cleveland, Ohio's Rainy Day Saints. Reflected is a mighty big mixed bag of treats. On this album, these guys present eighteen songs that range from straightforward pop to semi-psychedelia to progressive and even folky pop. The band is somewhat chameleon-like. At times they sound like Squeeze...at other times they sound like The Move or even The Beatles...while at other times the music reminds us of pure popsters like The Shoes. So many pop bands have one style or sound and drive it into the ground over the course of an album. This is definitely not the case here. There's a lot to take in...even an interesting cover of Kraftwerk's "The Hall of Mirrors" (?!). It is surprising--given the varied sounds here--that this album comes across sounding so cohesive. Plenty of cool guitars and nifty vocals. Our favorite cuts include "This Isn't Real," "Sally Go Round," "Underwater Again," "Holding On," and "Between Tomorrow and Time." Fun stuff. (Rating: 5)

Rascal Flatts (Bloated artificial generic crap pop for the masses)
Who could anyone...anyone...like this pathetic bullshit...? (Rating: 1)

Boh Runga - Right Here (CD, CRS, Pop)
Slick, melodic, professional pop. We're as sure as power punch that such a descriptive term will turn lots of underground fans off. So if lots of professional polish turns you off, then you might as well skip to the next review. But if, however, you can listen to and consume music on a variety of different levels...you may very well find that there's a lot to like in the music of Boh Runga. Sure, her songs do sound a lot like many other artists. But this young lady has a voice that is unmistakably cool and absorbing. And if you listen to her tunes several times, you may very well find yourself humming them in your sleep. At times Boh's voice reminds us of Kate Bush very early in her career. At other times...she just comes across like a very focused cool performer who has something interesting to say. Eleven tracks here...and they're all keepers. Top picks: "Starfish Sleeping," "Airwave," and "This Old Heart." Really nice sounding stuff. (Rating: 5)

Rusted Root - Stereo Rodeo (CD, Adrenaline, Pop/rock)
Formed in the early 1990s, the folks in Rusted Root show no signs of burning out or letting up. Even though the band has toured themselves silly and released several popular albums, their sound is still as fresh and vital sounding as when they released their debut album (Cruel Son) in 1992. There's no doubt Stereo Rodeo will please the band's fans...as well as anyone else fortunate enough to be turned onto the album. This CD has a nice, thick, polished sound and yet it doesn't have that canned sound that ruins so many twenty-first century releases. The main focal point of this band's music are Michael Glabicki's vocals. The guy has a nice, masculine, slightly rough voice that works perfectly for the style of music he writes. These bluesy, catchy pop/rock tunes are based upon solid rhythms...and the band obviously spent plenty of time getting the arrangements just right. The only cut that confuses us is "Suspicious Minds." Not that the cover version isn't good...but we just would have preferred to have heard another of the band's originals in its place. Eleven cool tracks here including "Dance In The Middle," "Bad Son," "Driving Two," and "Garbage Man." Nice solid stuff. (Rating: 5)

Richard Sanderson and Mark Spybey - The Setland L.P. (CD-R / Download, Lens, Progressive/experimental)
Some astute readers out there may be saying, "Hey...I thought you guys didn't review CD-Rs...!" While that may be true when there are actually real, legitimate copies to be consumed (we just hate advance CD-Rs)...things are a bit different in this particular case. You see, The Setland L.P. is actually only being offered as a download...yet the record company had the foresight/insight to send out CD-Rs to snotty little reviewers like us who refuse to review downloads. Okay, so enough about policy issues already (?!). This release collects material recorded by Richard Sanderson and Mark Spybey years before each of their respective careers really took off. Anyone familiar with these artists probably knows to expect the unexpected. And that's just what you get here. This album contains five lengthy experimental tracks with limited commercial appeal...although some of this music is more accessible than you might think. Lots of found sounds and/or progressive collage instrumentation. There may...or may not be...a second release featuring more unreleased tracks. Weird cuts include "Watch," "Power Cut," and "Cans." (Rating: 4++++)



Beat your leaf.
Beat your grief.
Beat your greeter.
Beat your heater.
Beat your sawgy
Little dawgy.

(Rating: 1)

Ember Schrag - A Cruel, Cruel Woman (CD, Lone Prairie, Folky pop)
The debut album from Ember Schrag. A Cruel, Cruel Woman features nice, smooth, organic folk/pop tunes that shed a spotlight on Schrag's inviting vocals. All ten tracks are originals...and Ember comes up with some real winners here. Her songs are smooth and mostly subdued. Unlike many modern artists who try way too hard to sound unique or different, Schrag seems content to just let the music flow from her veins. In a world full of throwaway artists, this young lady comes across sounding like the real thing. Cool inspired cuts include "Cupid's Bloom," "Dark Lion Lover," "Sad, Sad Song," and "Cruel Woman Blues." Comes packaged in a nice foldout cardboard sleeve and includes a lyric sheet. (Rating: 5)

Share - Slumping In Your Murals (CD, Forward Music Group, Progressive pop)
Really incredible stuff. This is the fourth album from New Brunswick, Canada's Share...and it serves as our introduction to the band's music. After spinning this l'il sucker a few times, we initially felt like the songs sounded a bit like mid-period Lilys. But then we began to hear other elements in the tunes that reminded us of The Hang Ups...and even Pink Floyd at times. To try and sum up the overall sound... The guys in Share play highly melodic unpredictable progressive pop with smart chord progressions and inventive arrangements. The songs are somewhat artsy...but after you hear them a few times they tend to stick in your head like super glue. A lot of time and positive energy was obviously spent recording these tracks. They have just the right amount of polish...and just enough overdubs to give the tunes a nice thick sound without coming across sounding overproduced. To sum things up...we are totally blown away by this one. Superbly executed tracks include "Date and Time," "Horse and Rider," "Awake at Dawn," and "Lights Overhead." Beautiful stuff. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)



Sit down for what
You believe in.

(Rating: 1)

Boris Skalsky - First Songs (Independently released CD-R, Soft pop)
Although this disc is entitled First Songs, these are not the first songs presented by Boris Skalsky. Boris was previously in the bands Phaser and Dead Heart Boom, the latter of which made quite a dent in certain underground cliques of fans. Skalsky recently made the decision to go solo and strip down his sound. The result is First Songs...an album of sparse folky/pop tunes that recall early material from such classic artists as Bob Dylan and Donovan. Boris recorded these songs on the first take and only added overdubs sparingly. As a result, the eight songs on this EP have a cool spontaneous sound and feel that is sadly missing in much twenty-first century pop. We liked Dead Heart Bloom...but we like Skalsky's new subtle approach much more. Beautifully rewarding cuts include "Bright Eyes Gone," "A Love To Remember," "It's a Truth," and "Why Do I Feel." True, real, genuinely rewarding stuff. The vocals are killer. Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Slaraffenland - We're On Your Side (Advance CD-R, Progressive pop/rock)
There's already a strong buzz on the streets of the United States about this band. Denmark's Slaraffenland write and record music that is strangely unpredictable yet accessible and melodic. We're On Your Side will no doubt fan the existing flames even more. This ten track album features intelligent progressive pop with a difference. And the band's layered vocals really hit the mark this time around. This album will be simultaneously released on CD and vinyl in September 2009. We would have liked to have seen the actual complete release on this one rather than an advance CD-R. As such, this one definitely gets a thumbs up...but only a partial review because we received only part of the actual final product... (Not Rated)

Slow Claw - Grandfather Clocks (Independently released CD, Pop/rock)
Recorded in the unlikely city of Charleston, South Carolina, Grandfather Clocks presents some damn fine guitar-driven pop/rock tunes. Our favorite track is the opener. "Miss Lady Lately" is one of those jarring, hard-hitting guitar rock tunes that you just have to hear over and over and over again. Killer loud guitars combine with cool yelpy vocals to create a totally cool vibe. The guys in Slow Claw really have a hit on their hands with this one. The rest of the album never quite matches the high of the first track...but that doesn't mean there aren't some more killer gems here. The majority of the remainder of the album is much more subdued, moody, and soft. Other particular standout tracks include "Hamilton Hotel," "Everybody," and "Live Fire Exercise." (Rating: 4++++)

Amy Speace - The Killer In Me (CD, Wildflower, Pop)
The second full-length release from New York's Amy Speace. The Killer In Me was mainly influenced by Amy's feelings of frustration after her ten year marriage ended. It's strange how bad situations can sometimes bring out the best songs inside a person's soul. This twelve song album finds Amy sounding mighty fine and real. Instead of blowing out generic pop nuggets, she bares her soul and allows her listeners to get to know her as a person. And that is probably what makes this album come across sounding so warm and genuine. Produced by James Mastro (of The Bongos), Killer has a nice thick polished sound and yet never comes across sounding phony or overproduced. Speace's lyrics and vocals are the centerpiece of these songs...and she does an excellent job of keeping things interesting from start to finish. Nice mid-tempo smooth pop cuts include "Dog Days," "Blue Horizon," "Would I Lie," and "Piece By Piece." (Rating: 5)



PCP builds strong

(Rating: 1)

Sugarplum Fairies - Chinese Leftovers (CD, Starfish, Pop)
The recent success of The Bird and The Bee may very well have set the stage for the future success of Los Angeles, California's Sugarplum Fairies (Bird and The Bee bass player Gus Seyffert even plays on this album). While the two bands have a sound that is somewhat similar, there are some obvious differences as well. Whereas The Bird and The Bee songs are obviously commercial, Sugarplum Fairies tunes are less obvious and a bit more moody (sometimes sounding a bit like Ivy). Nevertheless, since we last heard from this band they have managed to accomplish a lot. Various hefty sources have begun covering their music and a song was even featured on the television show Grey's Anatomy. Chinese Leftovers finds Silvia Ryder and Ben Bohm (the two main individuals in the band) in fine form. The songs are, once again, strong and resilient...and the nice slick sound suits the band well. This eleven song album is bound to connect with the band's fans as well as bring in legions more. Cool, smooth tracks include "A Story, " "Head or Tail," "Mercy," and "Polaroid." Good stuff. (Rating: 5)

10 Ft. Ganja Plant - Bush Rock (CD, ROIR, Reggae)
Reggae music saw a major resurgence in the latter half of the twentieth century. Bob Marley and other similar artists cleaned up the music just enough to suit the ears of Americans...and a new era of reggae music was born. For many years reggae fans seemed to be everywhere and then...just like with Hare Krishnas...they seemed to virtually disappear into thin air, never to be seen again. Okay, that's far too extreme because there are plenty of reggae bands and fans still around...and you do still see the occasional guy in dreadlocks hanging around on the streets dressed in appropriate attire. Fortunately for the world of reggae and for people in general, the folks in 10 Ft. Ganja Plant are still proudly carrying the torch...and from the sounds they create, you would never know reggae has become somewhat scarce here in these United States. On Bush Rock the band includes members of John Brown's Body and also features vocals by Kyle McDonald of Slightly Stoopid. The eleven cool tracks on this album will most certainly start your head nodding and make you want to grab hold of some mellow reefer. Yah mon...diss dah REEL TING. Top picks: "Machete Strike," "Bush Rock," "The Cyclops." (Rating: 5)

Troum - Eald-Ge-Streon (Double CD, Beta-lactam Ring, Progressive)
Yet another "difficult to review" release from the world's most obtuse music label...Beta-lactam Ring. For folks unfamiliar with this label, the folks involved release peculiar and obscure music by completely peculiar and obscure artists. Hardly ever do the releases have any commercial appeal at all. Over the past couple of decades, the word "drone" has managed to pop up more and more in the world of music. So many artists are said to have "drone-like qualities" in their music...shoegazer bands are described as "drone pop"...and drone is used to describe any number of artists whose music has strangely distant hypnotic qualities. But despite this, there are very few true drone artists on the planet...artists whose music is purely drone with no added filler. This is most definitely the category in which the guys in Troum are treading. The band is the German duo consisting of Stefan Knappe and Martin Gitschel...and their music practically defines the word drone. There are no guitars causing the music to tread into pop or rock territory...no easily discernible melodies that might cause it to be described as progressive...and no vocals to latch onto. Nothing but pure landscape drones of epic proportion here. The higher the volume...the more intense the drones become. The album consists of seven lengthy segments, each of which has its own atmospheric qualities. Our favorite is probably the fifth track because of its odd church-like ambient sounds...very soothing and strangely spooky. Listeners/buyers should be aware of the fact that the first 500 copies of this release include a second bonus disc that contains a single track...but it's a long one (33:30). The bonus disc makes the early pressings worth seeking out. In the world of drone, these guys are creating some of the best stuff around. Eald-Ge-Streon most definitely exists in a world of its own. Recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Volcano The Bear / La STPO - The Shy Volcanic Society At The Bear And Bird Parade (CD, Beta-lactam Ring, Progressive)
With so many CD releases it is easy to sum up the sounds in a few sentences. But when the band is Volcano The Bear...we were prepared in advance to spin the album several times before coming to any concrete conclusions. To make matters more time consuming, this particular is a split release that also includes tracks by the band La STPO (full name La Societe des Timides a la parade des Oiseaux--an act we were previously unfamiliar with). So...let's take this one step at a time. The first five tracks here are by Volcano The Bear. If you've never heard this band before, we unfortunately are not going to be able to give a very comforting easy overall description. The band creates music that is non-traditional to say the least. These five tracks are more like experimental sound pieces. Not total noise excursions...but music that is most certainly unpredictable and nonstandard. Sort of eerie and sparse...as well as distant and strange. Okay, now that you are probably totally confused by VTB...next comes La STPO for the final four tracks. We figured that any band sharing space on a CD with VTB would have to be "out there"...and we were right. The band is much more focused on vocals than VTB...but the vocals are so abstract and far out that most folks wouldn't even consider this singing (at least not in the traditional sense). La STPO vocals are more like Indians chanting and grunting to tribal beats. At some points the band is rather restrained...while at other times things get rather tense and nervous. This is a wildly experimental CD so conventional music fans should be forewarned. If you don't like music on the edge, you will probably hate this. Folks on a quest for the curious and bizarre...wild find this highly enlightening and strange... (Rating: 5++)

Rocky Tippit - Young & Pretty (CD, Red Boot Music, Pop)
This guy is the real thing. No schmaltzy image here...no hiding behind technology...no cute song titles...no ultra-hip references in the lyrics... Nope, none of that crap. Rocky Tippit plays old school pop/rock without all the trappings. Young & Pretty presents twelve cool tracks that combine elements from rock, pop, blues, and country. These recordings are simple and stripped down...which works perfectly because it allows you to concentrate on Tippit's ultimately authentic voice. Our guess is that this music could easily appeal to a wide range of listeners. There are elements of 1950s rock, 1960s pop, 1970s rock, 1980s radio pop, and 1990s hard rock in Rocky's music. And hell, you've gotta love that cool, slinky, loose sounding guitar...way, way cool. All the tracks kick...but our initial favorites include "Burn," "Raw," "Never," and "White Cadillac." Groovy shit...! (Rating: 5+)

Tygers of Pan Tang - Animal Instinct X 2 (CD + DVD, Angel Air, Rock)
Derivative, cliched, egotistical, predictable...and a whole HELL of a lot of fun (!). The guys in Tygers of Pan Tang got their start in the late 1970s...and they're still playing the kind of raw, rocking music that sparked their career. Anyone who ever loved 1970s icons like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin will undoubtedly find a lot to love here. Animal Instinct CD features eleven hard rocking tracks plus five bonus cuts. These guys play simple, straight-from-the-hip bluesy rock that sounds something like a young Robert Plant fronting the previously-mentioned Deep Purple. Plenty of vocal wailing and crafty lead guitars here...all fueled by a rhythm section that's bound to blow minds. Just as impressive as the audio CD is the DVD of the band in concert. The majority of the disc was recorded live from Berlin Studios...but there's also plenty of bonus footage as well. These guys are treading in familiar territory that fans of classic rock will absolutely love. Kickass rockers include "Cry Sweet Freedom," "Devils Find a Fool," "Cruisin," and "Dark Rider." This, the 300th release from Angel Air...is a direct HIT. (Rating: 5+)

The Ugly Truth - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Music Composed by Aaron Zigman (CD, Lakeshore, Soundtrack)
The new film The Ugly Truth ought to be a hit with all the showbiz types out there...because it deals with two showbiz types falling in love and experiencing the problems that result. The two main characters are played by Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler. The man who composed the music for the film is Aaron Zigman...a man you may not recognize by name, but whose music you have undoubtedly heard before. Zigman has produced and arranged lots of superstar artists such as Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Chicago, Carly Simon, the Pointer Sisters, and Huey Lewis...and that's just the beginning. In 2002 Aaron started recording music for films. If the soundtrack to The Ugly Truth is an indication, this is where this man's real talents may lie. This 35-track CD features impeccably arranged instrumentals that will no doubt fit in seamlessly with storyline of this movie. Nice smooth flowing compositions include "Flick the Bean," "Tease," "Right This Way," and "Your Replacement." (Rating: 5)

Rachelle van Zanten - Where Your Garden Grows (CD, RVZ, Pop)
We just can't seem to get our fill of Canadian music these days...probably because there now seems to be an overabundance of incredibly talented musicians in Canada (many of whom put American artists and/or bands to shame). Rachelle van Zanten plays a somewhat roots-inspired, bluesy style of pop that most listeners probably associate with male recording artists. She also plays slide guitar...something most ladies usually do not attempt. Produced by Jody Baker, van Zanten's sophomore album is chock full of substantial tunes. Rachelle has a wonderfully understated vocal style. Instead of pushing herself, she seems to just sing and let her instincts tell her what to do. Where Your Garden Grows features ten cool reflective tracks including "Showerhead," "Windmill Hill," "Your Name" (our favorite...features a really beautiful melody), and "Changing In Time." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Violet Vector and the Lovely Lovelies - EP II (CD EP, Color Wheel, Progressive pop)
Because of the volume of material we receive lately, we rarely review EPs...and we only do so when a band has created something special. Obviously Violet Vector and the Lovely Lovelies have done just that or you wouldn't be reading this. This five-piece band is based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina...and they have a sound that seems heavily influenced by 1960s pop psychedelia. What initially makes this band stand out...is that we rarely hear psychedelic pop bands with a female vocalist. Not sure why this is so...? In any event, these folks write hummable upbeat pop music that features some really cool retrospective arrangements. And the odd vocals are just great...they remind us a bit of the vastly underrecognized group The G.T.O.'s. Only sixteen and a half minutes of music here...but all the tunes are keepers. Our initial favorites are "Grass is Glowing" and "Technicolor Electric." Groovy and hip (!). (Rating: 5+)

Monty Warren - Trailer Park Angel (CD, Doublenaught, Pop/rock)
If you're getting sick to death of one pretentious artist after another (most of who have a hidden agenda, i.e., a desire for wealth and/or success)...Monty Warren may very well be a blast of fresh air. Trailer Park Angel is an album that focuses first and foremost on songs. And there are plenty of good songs here. Warren writes straight-from-the-hip guitar-based pop/rock tunes that are simple and straightforward. And instead of burying his songs underneath too many layers of crap, he keeps his arrangements rather sparse and simple. In a way, some of these tracks sound like some of The Kinks' material from the 1970s (even the vocals are somewhat similar at times). Plenty of smooth hummable cuts here including "Lonely Girl," "Trailer Park Angel," "Shoot To Kill," and "Kill A Love." Cool and inviting stuff... (Rating: 5)

Scott Warren - Quick Fix Bandage (Independently released CD, Pop)
You would never know from the cover art that Quick Fix Bandage is a cool little album full of inviting cool free-flowing pop tunes. This CD features very simple artwork and virtually no information that would give you a clue as to what to expect from the music inside. Scott Warren is probably better known as a member of the band Signal Hill Transmission. This, his debut full-length solo album, features super catchy smooth, accessible mid-tempo pop. Warren writes excellent songs...and then layers them with just the right amount of cushy arrangements and backing vocals to give them a nice full sound. The result...is an album that rings true from start to finish. The only thing that confuses us is the inclusion of a cover tune "Sister Golden Hair." It's not a bad cover...but considering Warren's own tunes are so much better, we can't imagine why he would have wanted to include this...? In any event, this album features killer material that is bound to please just about any fan of super smooth catchy pop. Top picks: "Before You Say Goodbye," "Along For the Ride," "Speed of Sound," and "Both of Us Know." (Rating: 5)

Watts Ensemble - Crime & Time (CD, Kill Shaman, Progressive)
This release seems to mark somewhat of a departure for the Kill Shaman label. Instead of pop and/or rock, the folks in Watts Ensemble deliver progressive instrumentals that are a far cry from generic modern day pop/rock bands. The ensemble was created by drummer Brian Watson who wanted to write music and direct a group of musicians even though he doesn't write and/or play music (other than drums, of course). Inspired by crime jazz and soundtrack music from the 1950s to the 1970s, Crime & Time is an interesting idea that crystallized well. The tracks on this album do, indeed, sound as if they could be used in a crime soundtrack. The nine compositions on this album are surprisingly complex and detailed and convey a wide range of emotions. This is a big, big, BIG ensemble consisting not only of the original seventeen (!) players...but an additional seven players as well. There's a lot going on here...but, surprisingly, things don't come across sounding overly busy or overproduced. Crime & Time is a different sort of album from a different place and time. Intriguing cuts include "Good Morning," "Funny Cigarettes," and "Fall." (Rating: 5)

The Waylons - Out of Love (CD EP, Pop)
One of the greatest and, as of yet, virtually unknown bands on the planet. The guys in The Waylons play music that is melodic, real, and incredibly unpretentious. Instead of playing pop tunes that fit into any specific genre, these guys just play straightforward soft pop that comes straight from the heart. The last album blew us away...and Out of Love has the exact same effect. Seven restrained yet effective smart tracks here. We would have liked to have seen the actual complete release on this one rather than an advance CD-R. As such, this one definitely gets a thumbs up...but only a partial review because we received only part of the actual final product... (Not Rated)

White - White (CD, Open Note, Progressive)
A word of warning. This is one of those releases that fits into the confusing and difficult category so...if you want simple, easy pop that is easy to digest...you might as well know that you probably won't be turned on by Beijing, China's White. The band is the duo consisting of Shenggy (Korg MS-20, samplers, tape manipulation, drums, percussion, vocals) and Shou Wang (guitar, organ, theremin, pedals, vocals). Shenggy and Wang are taking an obviously uncommercial approach to music. By avoiding predictable song formats, they manage to write and record strangely perplexing compositions that sound very little like other modern recording artists. Their music combines elements from pop and experimental music with stuff that sounds as if they could have been inspired by modern classical artists from the twenty-first century. Even after spinning this self-titled album a dozen times or more...we're still not quite sure what to make of it. But for some reason, we just keep coming back for more. Strange perplexing cuts include "Space Decay," "Conch Crunch," "Train Song," and "Traffic Report." Interesting music from the deep end of the pool. (Rating: 5+)

Sissy Wish - Beauties Never Die (CD, Afternoon, Pop)
Some of you out there may be thinking that a sissy wish is what goes through an urban homosexual's mind when he's sitting in the stall of a public lavatory. But that would be incorrect...because Sissy Wish is actually an intriguing young Norwegian lady whose real name is Siri Walberg. Beauties Never Die is Walberg's third album. It's a collection of super melodic slick pop ditties that was produced by Jorgen Traen. In more ways than one, Siri's music recalls the music of 1980s electro-popsters Missing Persons. Her voice is very reminiscent of Dale Bozzio...except minus that peculiar hiccup-y sound. What impresses us most about this album is the fact that the tunes get better the more familiar they become. Instead of throwaway pop, Walberg writes and records smart songs that--although accessible and commercial--have strangely inviting qualities that make them hold up over time. Nice smooth hummable cuts include "Float," "Beauties Never Die" (a really beautiful tune), and "Music on the Radio." Nice stuff. (Rating: 5+)

Year One - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Music by Theodore Shapiro (CD, Lakeshore, Soundtrack)
Okay, so we're going to admit right off the bat that we aren't big fans of caveman films. And we're even less interested and/or impressed with the questionable talents of actor Jack Black (who has never made us laugh...not even once). Thus, we probably aren't going to be interested in seeing this film. So let's just consider the music unto itself. The soundtrack for Year One was created/composed by Theodore Shapiro who has composed music for a wild variety of other films including (but not limited to) Marley & Me, Tropic Thunder, Fun With Dick and Jane, The Devil Wears Prada, and Blades of Glory. Big polished films require a big polished sound...and this is where Shapiro excels. Working with the members of the Hollywood Studio Symphony Orchestra, Shapiro has managed to come up with an intriguing collection of compositions for this film. And fortunately, this album is consistent because it does not include one or two "hit" songs messing with the continuity. As one might expect for a caveman soundtrack, there are some native percussion segments...but they are, for the most part, somewhat subtle and actually merge with the classical sound quite well. The tracks are, for the most part, short. Shapiro manages to cram in 24 tracks in the space of approximately 45 minutes (!). Cool slick symphonic pieces include "Hunters & Gatherers," "Yak Attack," "Welcome to Sodom," and "Zed to the Rescue." (Rating: 5)

YesMisterBloodVessel - Racing the Relapse (Independently released CD, Pop/rock)
A really cool and interesting independently released album. The first track on Racing the Relapse sounds very much like a stripped down rock tune that could've been recorded by Nine Inch Nails. But if you think the confusingly-titled YesMisterBloodVessel is just another Trent Reznor copycat/wannabe band...think again. Christian Peppas, the man behind the music, isn't content to be pigeonholed by creating one sound or style of music. As such, Racing the Relapse contains plenty of surprises. Some of the tracks are pop/rock...while others veer into moody experimental territory. Some of the songs are rather straightforward and accessible...while others are probably too obtuse for the casual listener. Relapse is a nice, free-flowing progressive album that gets better the more you spin it. What is interesting is that...with a bit of tweaking...we feel that Christian's music could easily appeal to a very wide audience. Cool underground cuts include "Victim," "Skeleton Czar," "Relativity," and "Happiness for a Day." (Rating: 5)


Additional Items Received:

A Beautiful Curse - As it should be
Alchemist - Chemical warfare
Verden Allen - My masochistic side
Anthem In - The cloudbusting EP
Arctic Sleep - Abysmal lullabies
Assy Fish-Bass - Bass in my ass
Atsiaktonkie - Four wolves prophecy
Jacob Augustine - Harmonia

Bad Veins - Bad Veins
Black Drumset - Black Drumset
Bonnington Truce - Bonnington Truce
Boy Without God - Your body is your soul
Boz - Karma knows...
Brokencyde - I'm not a fan but the kids like it!
Bronze Radio Return - Old time speaker
Criag Buhler - Skykomish
Buskin & Batteau - Red shoes and golden hearts

Cailyn/Dani - True lies and other fairy tales
Choo Choo La Rouge - Black clouds
Circle of Fate - Back to life
The City and Skyway - Everything looks worse in black and white
Color Turning - Good hands bad blood
Copilots - Escape through the trees
Estrella Cristina - This is life

Kim Divine - Square one
Jason Dove - Illegal activities

Brenda Earle - Songs for a new day
Early Hours - Falling elevators EP
Pauline Edwards - There comes a time
Eyes Set To Kill - The world outside

Fonnie Fauss - New songs for the old frontier volume 1
Dodd Ferrelle - Lonely parades
Dale Frane - 401K: Madness, greed and escape
Funny People - Original motion picture soundtrack

Gala - Tough love
Giving Tree Band - Great possessions
Alex Gomez - Love sex & drugs
Nicki Gonzalez - Moron love
Gospel Gossip - Dreamland
Grand Hallway - Promenade
Grass - Rogue waves
Groove Kings - Blood red

Hadley, Norman & Keeble - An evening of gold
Ben Cooley Hall - Owning up to a life
Trevor Hall - Trevor Hall
Hallelujah The Hills - Colonial drones (defective CD-R)
Don Harvey - A dance in red
Bill Hart - This is why
HB3 - The veldt
Fritz Helder and the Phantoms - Greatest hits
Hi-Nobles - Shake!
Heavy Hometown - Action figures
Fritz Helder and the Phantoms - Lagerfeld lady remixes 1
Hi-Nobles - Shake!
Honeydogs - Sunshine committee
Hunters, Run! - EP2

Imagine That - The Album
Iron Horse - A boy named blue: The bluegrass tribute to the Goo Goo Dolls
The Iveys - The Iveys

Jaded Son - Presents machinery of the stars
Jeffrey James & The Haul - Ride the wind carnival
Roy Jay - Lucky guy
JK Rockets - Songs from the cradle of rock 'n' roll
Jonesin - Hi, we're Jonesin

Kava Kava - Forwards
Kaleo Futuristo - The future is now!
Keith Harbour Wolves - Dead calm horizon
Kestrels - Primary colours
Kissing Cousins - Pillar of salt
Chris Knight - Trailer II
Greg Koons and the Misbegotten - Welcome to the nowhere motel

Steeuart Liebig/The Mentones - Angel city dust
Little Tybee - I wonder which house the fish will live in
Jennifer Logue - The pretty EP
Los Explosives - Los Explosives

Lara MacMillan - Miss Mercury
Donald Malloy - Spirituality
Adam Marsland - Go west
Ronda Matson - Truth be told
Megafaun - Gather, form, & fly
Menage a Twang - Menage a Twang
Kono Michi - 9 death haiku
Mike Middleton - Waxing gibbons
Mile Marker Zero - Mile Marker Zero
Misophone - I sit at open windows
Corbin Murdoch & The Nautical Miles - Wartime lovesong
Mystery of Two - Mystery of Two

Jeremy Nail & The Incidents - Jeremy Nail & The Incidents
National Rifle - Man full of trouble

John O'Mara - Five year missionas
Orchid of the Living - Orchid of the Living
OS Haxixins - OS Haxixins
Over The Hill - Looking for a spark

People - The chiche
David Perry - Hot Rod Pinups
Pet Ghost Project - Idiot brain / genius heart
Pill Hill Radio - Pill Hill Radio
Ana Popovic - Blind for love
Pride Parade - Dose
Pretty Faces - Another sound
Public Good - No. 1
Puffy Dead Stuff - Dead stuff smells great

Quixote - Quixote

Curt Ramm, Dan Moretti, Bill Cunliffe - Foundations
Ray Mann Three - Opa opa EP
Rebel Inc. - Rebel Inc.
Rent To Own - Spellbound
Requiem For Delinquency - Hobs end
RHINOCEroses - We is shore dedicated
John Robert - Meant to be

757s - Freeway surrender
76 Degrees West Band - 76 Degrees West Band
Lalo Schifrin - SkyRiders
Shakyfoot - Down on the rain
Rich Shea - Shelter valley blues
Sierra Alpha -Sierra Alpha EP
Silveroot - Big difference
Sipo - Year of the white rose
Skiggy Rapz - Bang to the boogie EP
David R. Smith - Somewhere between here and now
Sorely Trying Days - Survival mode
Amy Speace - The killer in me
Luke Stone - Somethin's gotta give
Super 400 - Sweet fist
Nathanuel Sutton - Starlite
Swamphouse - The fade EP

Aly Tadros - Things worth keeping
Carley Tanchon - Pendot
Textile Orchestra - For the boss
Tim Be Told - From the inside
Tin Star - Bettie Lane
TPF! - Es slassh tee
Twin Berlin - Twin single

Unit Breed - Always distance the lonely

Various Artists - Shark Batter introduces sounds from the scottish underground
Various Artists - Prids Tribute: Connect the dots (CD-R)
Chris Velan - Solidago
Mia Vermillion - Alone together with the blues

Kat Walker - Jazz skat gumbo
Sean Walsh and the National Reserve - Homesick
War Tapes - The continental divide
Wedding Soundtrack - Na na na ro
We'll Go Machete - We'll Go Machete
The Wind Whistles - Animals are people too
Wonderbugg - Transgraduate
Woodward - Woodward

X Sports the Splorch - Trotty trot trot

Yes Pleases - From whence it came
Michael Yonkers - With the blind shake
You Are Home - Phoneyhome


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©2009 LMNOP
©2009 dONW7