Friday, August 15, 2014

Miniature Tigers - The Griswolds - Great Good Fine Okay -- U Street Music Hall - Aug 14 2014

Great Good Fine Okay - We start the night with a multiple choice question. And after listening to a full set of this Brooklyn quartet, I choose 'D' - Okay. They play an overly bright soulful pop with plenty of electronic pulsations in the beat. It's heavy with keyboards, with bass and drums banging away too, although the electric guitar made a welcome appearance later in the set. They were competent enough, but there was not enough there for me to connect with as they did not really hit any of my areas of interest. I am not sure they transcended the levels of their chosen approach either, but I think the potential is there. I do have one nagging question... can three falsetto voices harmonize? Tune into this band and let me know your answer.

The Griswolds - This band comes all the way from Sydney, Australia, which reminds me that I just heard that Radio Birdman is back doing some Australian shows. While I knew there was no way the Griswolds would connect with me the same way Birdman did, I at least found a decent band here. There still is a little too slick of a pop sound for my liking, but the hooks were supplemented by youthful energy with good guitar work mixing with keyboards which burst forward impressively. These guys are really young as the drummer just turned 21, and they seem to be working pretty hard to make a name for themselves. I think they won over some of the crowd and they had several of their own fans there a well. While I may not return for their next DC show, I suspect they may be headlining and doing just fine without me.
Miniature Tigers - And finally a band hits the stage that takes the components and momentum of the first two bands and puts it together in a satisfying combination. The keyboard and vocal pop moves are here, but there is even more heft in the sound and some real jangle in the guitar work. The pop hooks are warm and inviting and the fat bass playing stands out in a positive way. I also like the vocal harmonies as there is a bit more subtlety and variation here than previously. It is a slick sound, but with enough warmth to make a broad appeal for many music fans. And it was a good crowd tonight that took up more than half the space, although they all pushed forward to really enjoy the bands. Summer shows do bring out the youth with a healthy influx of energy to a show. Miniature Tigers was up to the task of delivering them the goods.

Quote of the Night: With the Premier League ready to get under way, here's a line from Football365's Mediawatch column where they point out the rather odd things that the mainstream British Press comes up with...

Biblical Proportions
Writes Steven Howard in The Sun: 'FOR 13 long years Chelsea and Frank Lampard have been inseparable. Like Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cain and Abel, Marks and Spencer, one didn't operate without the other.'

Except when one killed the other.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dana Buoy - Sun Cycle -- DC9 - Aug 12 2014

Sun Cycle - What I thought was going to be a nice little set of neo-psychedelic jams, slowly evolved into a more profound set of ethereal music. This local trio has some serious skills behind the jams, as well as some song structure that varies things up a bit over their 42 minute set. They remind me a lot of Motorpsycho in that regard, something that is not at all easy to do. The drum beats are interesting and have some jazziness and swing mixed into the rock forms. She can also sing while keeping a good beat, which is also impressive. The guitarist also sings while creating wave after wave of washed out psychedelic noise. The basslines occasionally stand out in magical ways, as it is fascinating to see how each instrument can subtly lead within the structure, focusing the listener's attention without stepping forward to do an obvious solo. This is a fairly new band that should be able to make a big name for themselves in our scene.
Dana Buoy - Although Dana Janssen may be primarily known as the drummer for Akron/Family, any fan will know that he has plenty of instrumental skills on guitar and more along with fine vocals that work their way into the great A/F music. Tonight, he focuses on guitar and vocals with a tight band behind him featuring a drummer and a bass player who also switches to keyboards. He has plenty of quirky rock songs with a touch of pop and loads of personality, that is of no surprise to me. One way he makes these songs so fun is the way he wraps his voice around the melody using a side range, while maintaining warmth. The guitar work also has some oddball moves that sound natural and almost expected. His band is solid and the set is crafted well to get heavier as it goes on as these guys can hit some thick high points along the way. Yet there are always twists and turns to keep things fresh and invigorating. His band mates all live in different parts of the country, so there is room for additional work in between Akron/Family projects. It is a pleasure that this project has yielded such positive results.

Quote of the Night - After a strong ovation from a heavy cut, the bass player chipped in... "They like to rock, Dana, they like to rock."

Monday, August 11, 2014

Twin Peaks - The Lemons - The Sea Life -- DC9 - Aug 10 2014

The Sea Life - A local twin-guitar quartet hits the stage to get things rolling tonight in a highly crowded DC9 with a young excitable bunch (and four of us that add nearly two and half centuries to the room). The band quickly emits frothy indie pop that the crowd can enjoy digesting. The one aspect that works for me is the one noodling guitar contrasting with the fuzzier one. It is a nice dynamic and the rhythmic section keeps things brisk and busy to fill out a likable and personal sound. There is briefly a touch of whimsy like the Akron/Family did so well and if they explored this further, they may be able to vary things more and add even more dynamics to their set. But this was quite fine as it was and the Sea Life got the night off to a hot start.

The Lemons - From Chicago this collective has to be the silliest band I have seen in decades. And that is a badge they would proudly wear as that pretty much is their point. Their child-like sense of fun is something you will not see too often at a rock club. This band makes the Dickies look like Wire or Jonathan Richman look like Morrisey. Their sound would go down well in between a Frankie and Annette beach movie marathon, although those films may be too highbrow. The jangly pop rock here is a pleasure to listen to and the band can certainly play it well enough. It is hard not to have a blast with this as they play a really short song "The Ice Cream Shop" and immediately say, "let's play it again!" and do so at least twice more. You may want to be careful not to eat too much ice cream with this band and get one of those freezer headaches, but if you relax and take in the sweet creamy flavors, the Lemons will be a wonderful treat for you.
Twin Peaks - Also from Chicago comes a much tougher quartet, although they have a lot of same sense of fun as the previous bands displayed tonight. The toughness is in the music starting with the drummer who pushes hard to keep the two guitars and bass alert to staying with the pace and volume. This is crafty rock music with a teaspoon of pop and a tablespoon of punk and lots of creative guitar solos and jangly chords. The songs are good with three different lead vocalists adding subtle shades to the powerful music. And indeed they were so hot, they were smoking... or at least their bass amp was and they had to switch a cabinet which slowed them down a tad, but not much. I sensed a casual Heartbreakers or a pop/punk Dead Boys vibe within the sound, but they had the youth and energy (oh, and lack of serious drug habits) to keep it all fresh and relevant to 2014. With Ice Age taking a bizarre left turn on their latest video, I may have a new favorite band that can take me back to the very early punk clubs of my memory, back when you had pop-rock-punk bands that were still finding the genre (or moving beyond). Good stuff and it went over well with a happy crowd tonight at the DC9.

Quote of the Night: We continue on with our musician on musician slams list...

9. Robert Smith on Morrissey
 “If Morrissey says not to eat meat, then I’ll eat meat — that’s how much I hate Morrissey.”

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Me and Karen - Black Hills - Honext Haloway - Chomp Chomp -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Aug 8 2014

Chomp Chomp - It is a guy and his laptop... First the positives: he did have a house light show going; the first cut had a really fun goofball sense of sugary pop to it that did invoke a smile; and the music was relatively competent all set. Still, it is watching a guy bob his head and shake his body to his laptop. I noted that a two handfuls of people were up bopping around a bit, but dozens more were clustered about in their own conversations, treating it as background music. While I rail about this if a folk (or even rock) act is going on, it is more understandable with music by computer. OK, enough of the ongoing editorial, it was fine for what it was, which was an effective warm-up in the early hours of a big night.

Honest Haloway - We continue with a local trio in this night of local acts. The guitarist switches to keyboards some while working electronics and synth with guitars that are treated heavily so that it is all smooth and consistent with their overall sound. That sound reminds me of the thicker side of New Order with decent pulsating pop moves and even better vocals here. Good rhythms, decent melodies, this is a likable band that I would be happy to see on a variety of bills. The crowd had built into a decent Friday night mass, raring to go, and Honest Haloway got them involved and excited. Always a pleasure when you get the vibe deep into a bill.

Black Hills - I don't have any record of seeing this band, but I have heard of them so it is high time to check out what these four guys can do. They have dual keyboards with guitar and drums. The ending impression I had with this band was how versatile they were with this set up. They pushed forward a unique focus on different instruments and sounds in the many varieties of songs they had. The vocals were smooth and classy and held it all together within their personality. At times it was rather light dream pop, while other times the guitar and drums galloped along pushing it into heavier rock territory. There were some songs that were utterly majestic in the same way a Dead Can Dance song can be transcendent. They don't quite hit that level of heaven (few do), but at least a couple songs had me saying 'wow'. More of that, please as I rather like soaring beyond the confines of the earth. Even the lesser cuts showed a class band at work, so this is a reminder of how much work I have to do to keep up with the local scene--and proof to everyone to catch these local showcases in between seeing your favorite touring bands.
Me and Karen - This is only the third show from this new duo, but their first as a trio as they have recruited a live drummer. The 'Me' is the guitarist from the band Oh So Peligroso, so it is no surprise to hear that it is his old drummer providing the fresh and invigorating beats that only (good) live drummers can give. There are plenty of electronics at work although often two guitars are employed, which is great for those of us that like a heavier sound. In fact, it got so heavy that there times I was reminded more of a blistering progressive band like Goblin more than that of an electronic pop rock band that may be their more convenient label. They have excellent vocals that help carve a distinct shape to their songs and mix up a lot of sounds to make it all come together. The crowd was still enjoying the music and were quite forgiving of the technical mishaps that slowed a few songs down. I am very forgiving as with just two of them in front of the drums, they were working hard to play a lot of instruments live while working the backing electronics. This was a fun set, quite raw with a band in its infancy, but tonight proved the materials are there them to succeed.

Quote of the Night: And we are down to our last ten in our continuing series of the nastiest musician on musician insults, courtesy of Tom Hawking...

10. Ian Brown on Bono
“He’s such a fake, isn’t he? When he did Live Aid, which made them a worldwide group … he looked out and [saw] that black girl in the middle of all them people, and she’s from Hackney or something, and he was like, ‘Here’s a great shot for me around the world to show I’m Mr Africa.’ It’s like colonialist times with a big white hat.”

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Rose Buds - Jesse Marchant -- DC9 - Aug 6 2014

Jesse Marchant - I was expecting a fine singer songwriter set based on his upcoming album, and Mr. Marchant indeed delivered all of that tonight. It was a tad ragged early, but smoothed out well enough to the point you get relax and absorb yourself in his songs. I think one voice, one guitar generally works better on record but due to a highly attentive crowd and some subtle variant sounds that Marchant employed, the live set worked well. He switched routinely from electric guitar to acoustic, from finger picking to plectrum, and added a bit of kick drum and harmonica for a few of the songs. There were even some rock moments along with some cuts more psyche folk in direction. Jesse Marchant is a strong presence in the folk-rock crossover scene.
The Rose Buds - This North Carolina duo returns for the tenth time (they may have been rounding) to a very full DC9 tonight. The male female duo who handle lead vocals, guitar and keyboards are joined by a rhythm section and second guitar who create a variety of textures and tones for these fine pop rock songs to work their magic. They hint at shoegaze, but also can slow it down to intimate singer songwriter folk rock as well. I though the brisk throbbing rockers were the most fascinating as they reminded me quite a bit of the Feelies. They also have a Walkabouts feeling with a little less roots. The male vocals dominated and his voice with its warm range that hovers between Colin Meloy and Bob Theil takes the songs to an even higher level. Strong set tonight, small wonder they brought out so many people on a Wednesday night.

Quote of the Night - And one more from the list of musician on musician insults (and in honor of their forthcoming DC appearance)...

11. Richey Edwards on Slowdive
“We hate Slowdive more than we hate Hitler.”

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Boris - The Atlas Moth - Sub Rosa -- 9:30 Club - Aug 2 2014

Sub Rosa - This band looks like they have potential. There are three women on guitar, two violins, with all on vocals. Add a rhythm section and the sound potential looks fascinating. At the end of 29 minutes, the potential is still there, but not enough happened in between. It was doom laden the whole way with quiet chanting bits leading to louder bits with just the three rock instruments for a bit, then all five grinding away. The violins did add some great sound to the drone, but it just was not enough. There were enough people here that enjoy this premise and don't ask for anything more. I did enjoy the atmosphere for a time, but I can never fully get into bands that work for a sound, but have so little within.

The Atlas Moth - This Chicago quintet was just here at the DC9 in March, but seem quite happy to return on this tour and spread their music to an even bigger crowd tonight. They were a little slippery to get into early in the set, but by the end they finished with an intriguing blend of sounds that ranged from death metal to Kattatonia like prog-metal to droning songs and even something akin to experimental music working its way in. There were two or three guitars going most of the time with one guitarist switching to synthesizer and keyboards a few times, which really added some interesting twists. There were two or three songs which clearly displayed careful thought in the writing and arranging and showed off the bands skill at shaping atmosphere into a focused structure that was highly personal and inviting. This was a pleasure.
Boris - I have lost count of the times I have seen this fantastic Japanese trio. I did not take any notes as I just let their 80-minute set work its magic. Some of it is familiar with much of their wonderful new album on display as well. They ran the gamut from drone to fast metal, to psyche metal, with even a lighter pop song. I find it interesting, but not at all surprising that I see so many area musicians at a Boris show when they come to DC. They remain an absolutely brilliant live band that I will continue to make the effort to see every time they are nearby.

Quote of the Night - Another 'classic musician on musician insult' from Tom Hawking's list...

12. Mark “E” Everett on The Beatles
“John Lennon sings about peace because he’s a woman-beater. Hippies are so full of shit.”

Friday, August 1, 2014

Golden Looks - Teen Mom -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Jul 31 2014

Teen Mom - It is been a while since I've seen this local trio. They were always a little slippery for me to grab onto, although their sets always impressed. Tonight, some of those same challenges were there. I thought they started a little slow, especially with a laid back style between songs that made Jimmy Buffet look like a punk rocker. But then as the music flowed, their unique take on power pop music took over and created some real magic. They have some absolutely brilliant songs with at least one that could have been a radio hit if the era was right. Although I like the pacier cuts, they pull back well and offer some interesting variations, which require a bit more focus than most band's songs need. They had a nice long 47 minute set tonight that was well received and allowed a full showing of their song varieties. So this is still a band that perplexes me, but I am always happy to listen to, because the successful songs are so much better than most of what I hear.
Golden Looks - Fresh off of their album release, Golden Looks hits the stage to a small, but very enthusiastic crowd that was here for the music. They are fairly new around here, but not really as they come from bands, some of which, I have seen long ago. Also a trio, I can't tell whether they are playing with two guitars or if one if them is a six-string bass. The sound is fine with always enough bass, and they do switch instruments around with traditional basses. The drummer is doing double duty tonight, and this is his first show with this band. He is a real powerhouse, so he can probably drum for about anybody in town and help them sound good. The axe players are up to the task as they crank out some fine crisp, pacey, chirping pop-punk tunes. They both sing and have a female and male voice to work with. They harmonize a bit and probably should explore that further as they continue to write songs. They have a fresh, fun set of personalities, so it is hard not to enjoy their set, as the audience did.

Quote of the Night: Yet another 'classic' musician on musician insult. We're getting deep in the list, but still another dozen to come...

13. Rick James on Prince
“A little short ego-ed fucker who I had a feeling didn’t like people of his own race and wanted to be white and taller.”

Thursday, July 31, 2014

RECORD REVIEWS - JULY 2014

ALVVAYS "ALVVAYS"

It is always hard to knock such a pleasant pop rock album as this, so I won't… with explanation. The female vocals succeed as they dance around the melodies with conviction and innocence. The music is steady, dreamy in spots and firmly in a rock mode in others. It just does not quite have that grab you and never let go feeling to it, but rather sits comfortably aside. That may keep it from getting frequent relistens from me, but should still garner enough fans of this style that will happily come back for more and more. I am interested enough to keep my ears open for them either on tour or for future records.

Songs to try first:

Adult Diversion - The opening cut has a highly agreeable hook to dig into.

Party Police - Delicately plucked guitar intro moves into bright pop rocker.

Red Planet - Dreamy fade-out song with more of an electronica vibe.

BROTHER DEGE "SCORCHED EARTH POLICY"

Brother Dege has that sort of Denver sound which I am quite fond of--rustic rural dark and twisted Americana, with hefty rock moves within. These are mostly originals but there are two wild covers of Black Sabbath and Husker Du's 'Powerline', which are quite recognizable despite the strong instrumental changes. It is a grab bag of an album, with nine songs and ten additional demos and field recordings. Actually, the demos interested me more with better songs and singing and a fine psyche-folk vibe. The finished cuts have strong instrumental work, but the singing is a bit more erratic. But you will get all kinds of interesting music here to form your own opinion. Brother Dege has some rather intense visions and they occasionally work their magic in musical form.

Songs to try first:

Tower of Babel - With a banjo that sounds like a sitar and DEE style vocals, this one works well.

Supernaut - Yes, this is the Black Sabbath song done on banjo and acoustic guitar.

Jones for War - Listed as a demo, this sounds more complete than many of the other cuts.

EDJ "EDJ"

There is a rather nice style to this odd little pop record. The vocals stand away from the music, which mixes a light touch with odd melodic twists where everything is a wee bit off kilter, but not so that you would notice if you sat back and let the music flow. There is electronic pop present in many songs although it has that same straddling style of odd and comforting. Normally, this style is a challenge for me, but there was something oddly moving here. I am glad I heard these eleven songs carving out an oddly shaped corner in this world. And EDJ is Eric D. Johnson of the band Fruit Bats.

Songs to try first:

Odd Love - Odd indeed, as this has an edgy dreamy quality as it meanders down a familiar path with more jagged moves within.

Minor Miracles - The synth works some intriguing patterns around the piano, vocals, and drums.

Mostly Just Like Fantasies - Nice percussion including the rarely used steel drum.

FRENCH ADMIRALS "CLOSER THAN BROTHERS"

This new local band features some of the fine players from North of Canada. There are seven songs here on this short LP/long EP which gives just enough room for them to try out a few different ideas. There is brisk hook laden power pop followed by contemplative post-punk indie rock. They move around their style a bit, but never sound too radically different, which is a good way to explore interesting sonic terrain while retaining your personality. I particularly enjoyed the snappy Wire like guitars in "We Will Create our Own Reality", although the vocals are much more American (nothing too terribly French here). Although I need to note the serene sounds of the closer as it slightly clashes with ambient particles is a fine way to finish this interesting set of songs.

Sadly, I am booked, but you should head out to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel this Saturday night, August 2nd. It should be a fun night, as record release shows usually are.

GOLDEN LOOKS "GOLDEN LOOKS"


The opening cut of this local band's new album hits you in the face with some really oddball pop moves. It is a wake-up call, but you can quickly settle back and here and enjoy a wide variety of pop styles and pace. There is a little something for everyone. It won me over about half way through as there was enough evidence here to show me that this band worked out some interesting arrangements that challenged the norm and payed off with something that retained pop charm, while being edgy and personal. This is not easy to do in pop music. And although this is a new band, their musical roots are steeped in experience, which is none too surprising, given the quality here.

QUICKLY! Go see them tonight, Thursday, July 31st at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel.

Songs to try first:

Use Your Words - A crafty little pop tune here.

Rooftop - A quieter pop song that has a little indie folk within and lovely vocals out front.

Cosmopolitan - I can't tell if i love the smoothly flowing bass, the jagged guitar, or the crisp snare shots. OK, the vocals also work. Great tune.

HAPPYNESS "WEIRD LITTLE BIRTHDAY"

Is this slacker pop music? I think these kinds of bands have been around a while and I could try to name names, but this really is not an area of interest for me (OK, the press release says 'like Pavement meets Sparklehorse and Yo La Tengo' and that probably is pretty accurate as I have never delved much into those three bands, although I tried on two of them). I did enjoy the short little blast of garage rock that they called "Refrigerate Her". Plenty of people will take to this UK band. I am with those that like the oddball rockers more than the quirky folk or light indie styled songs.

Songs to try first:

Refrigerate Her - Really cool rocker clocking in at 1:18. Maybe another 20 minutes of this, and we'd have a winning album.

Anything I do is Alright - OK, here's where they stretch out their rock moves into something really cool.

Monkey in the City - The closer is low-key, but has a vibe that if you like it, you may like all 13 cuts.

KIVEL, MATT "DAYS OF BEING WILD"

Matt Kivel takes a laid back approach in delivering these songs. Clearly, there is method and thought behind this choice as this sort of delicate music with just the right amount of edge requires a specific vision. He has combined indie rock with dream pop in a way that subverts enough of the cliches of each to make this more listenable than I thought would have been possible. You may need to listen to all fourteen songs for the full effect to work. Otherwise it may sound a little slight and uncertain. But taken as a whole, he has crafted a soft and likable world for his songs and carefully placed instrumental interludes.

Songs to try first:

Underwater - An interesting merger of dream pop and indie rock.

Insignificance - Nice crunch in the guitar offsets the soft vocals and carries the tune along.

You and I Only - This is the catchiest song retaining the overall breezy style of the album.

JESSE MARCHANT "JESSE MARCHANT"


The singer songwriter genre is a tricky one. The defining traits seem to have more to do with the artist presenting his songs with more personal involvement than that of a band. The key for success is pretty much the same as any band, but the stakes seem higher. Not that Jesse Marchant has to worry about any of this. it does not take long into this album, before most listeners will realize they are listening to a major talent. He has the warmth of Josh Ritter with both the vocals and the songwriting, but he adds even more excitement with Tim Buckley style shifts such as on Buckley's classic 'Goodbye and Hell'o' (He's not up to 'Starsailor' yet, but give him time). Fans of Bill Callahan should also take to this, although the sound is different, the powerful atmosphere is quite similar. Suffice it to say, that Jesse Marchant is a strong voice in songwriting as well as a talent in the presentation of his songs.

I am sooo looking forward to Jesse Marchant's visit to the DC9, this Wednesday, August 6th

Songs to try first:

Words Underlined - The opener shows Marchant's ability to take control of a song with his strong vocal abilities.

In the Sand - Gutsy rock workout with unique structures and an amazing shift late on.

Snow Chicago - Dreamy organ behind acoustic guitars create the appropriate atmosphere.

ME AND KAREN "PINK GUILT"


We have a four song electronica EP from a local duo. While I can be a tough sell on electronic pop music, these two delivered great sounds and songs that fit comfortably in my world. They did it with attractive soaring female vocals on top of thick sounds that have both power in the synthesizers along with guitar parts that work the heavy side as well as the dreamy. It is not too surprising that there is fine guitar work here as the 'Me' in the title is Michael from one of my old favorites, Oh So Peligroso. This is a fun listen and the live set looks to have great potential as well.

Join me in seeing Me and Karen live an on stage at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel for a fun Friday night, August 8th.

MELTED TOYS "MELTED TOYS"
I was not so sure of this record at first. The vocals were dreamy with space and echo throughout, but the music was a bit of a mishmash between dream pop and indie rock in ways that did not always work. By album's end, it began to make a little more sense, at least in the songs that had a strong melody and some fascinating rhythms and counterpoint melodies. I am quite sure this is not at the top of my playlist, but it is worth further consideration and hints at a whiff of an intriguing live show where the contrasts may be played up in a more fascinating manner.

Songs to try first:

Horizons - This has a strong rhythmic pulsation undercutting the melody. A well honed edge.

Always - Dreamy vibe flows with just the right amount of strength.

Observations - Nice pop tune that rocks enough, too.

PEOPLE GET READY "PHYSIQUES"
Get ready indeed, as these ten songs bounce around the style room with the pace of a superball. It is all pop music for sure, but the guitars zig and zag in various patterns as lush textures sit beside sharply honed rock edges. Male and female vocals alternate or combine, percussion bounces around, and songs keep exploring different terrains and textures. It is all a bit much at times for me, but it is fun when something connects, which happened a few times. Heady pop music fans should check this out as this audacious band is calling out to you. Yes, you.

And why not head out to the DC9 this Friday August 1st to see this band live and in person?

Songs to try first:

Rainbow - Strange contrasts of cute airy vocals and buzz saw guitar runs.

Crueller - Dreamy vocals with jagged guitars and noisy counterpunches.

Sooooooooon - Punchy rhythms create yet another style shift for the band.

THE PROPER ORNAMENTS "WOODEN HEAD"
It's the 1960s all over again, for many bands that want to explore some of the familiar genres of that time. In this case it is pop music with the dreamy psychedelic overtones that the Zombies among others so successfully employed. The harmonies employed here remind me of that along with various psyche-folk bands of that era, such as the Folklords. This is all pretty good, but it gets a little 'samey' as it goes on. A bit more work on the details of the songs and variance of pace and volume may help. The vocal work is steady and occasionally hits heights worth going back to. They are on the right track and there are some lovely songs among the 14 on the is album.

Songs to try first:

Ruby - The acoustic guitar takes this into the psyche-folk realms and they do well there.

Now I Understand - A snappy beat punctuates the pop hooks and the brisk music and lush harmonies work very well together.

Always There - Guitar work conjures up that familiar desert landscape while the vocals stay lush and airy.

SKYGREEN LEOPARDS "FAMILY CRIMES"
If you don't like the proliferation of popsike bands coming on to the scene, then you may not want to spend time with this album. But for the rest of us who continue to welcome bands that combine the 1960s elements of catchy pop music with the psychedelic happenings of the time, then we say bring it on! Skygreen Leopards have all the right moves with stoned and dreamy vocals washing their way over lighter guitars, steady rhythms, and organ jabs. There are some serious Roger McGuinn guitar tones in many of the songs, which is always welcome to my ears. I am not sure the tunes are quite up to 'Temples standards', but they are warm and comforting. And they certainly will be on my replay stack for some time to come.

Songs to try first:

Love is a Shadow - Nice use of acoustic guitar and haunting farfisa organ set the tone for a great pop tune.

WWIII Style - Jabbing guitars and snares punctuate this smooth pop rocker with a lilting chorus.

Reno Wedding - Great garage guitar sounds as this rocks out a bit more than most of the cuts.

SEA WOLF "SONG SPELLS NO. 1: CEDARSMOKE"
Alex Brown Church is the man behind Sea Wolf. His music here is an intriguing blend of folk moves with dream pop and electronica ambiance. The vocals are highly personal with the right amount of anguish and introspection to not bludgeon the listener. The acoustic guitar work is striking with most of the sounds cottony and enveloping. Generally, I look to be transported out of my mood and into the artist's songs with deeper folk music and I was successfully pulled in early and often here. The other aspect which worked so well as the increased intensity and shift into pop rock as the album went on. This slow and steady build was that of a fine screenplay that fully satisfies in the end. This is smart music for peoples of all intelligence.

Songs to try first:

Rams Head - Fine combination of dream pop atmosphere with a deep personal folk tune.

Bavarian Porcelain - Flat out great song.

Visions - A somewhat epic closer that this album smartly built toward.

STARDEATH AND WHITE DWARVES "WASTOID"
This band that is not afraid to occasionally go heavy while shooting for catchy psychedelic pop songs. And better still, this band knows how to play with textures, volumes, and tempos while staying within a personal style. I almost wish for a bit more heaviness as they do it so well, but I can't fault them as their dreamy textures work well with the offsetting rhythms and sounds they cook up so as not to sound too settled. There are guest bands working with them on some songs, most notably the Flaming Lips (with Wayne Coyne producing, not much of a surprise), although there is not a clear discernible difference in those songs. This is a good modern psychedelic record that will definitely get more spins here.

Songs to try first:

The Chrome Children - The opener is an attractive cut with a powerfully throbbing backing.

Hate Me Tomorrow - Thick sludgy psyche with airy portions working alongside. Fascinating concoction.

Screaming - The Flaming Lips guest and help create a punchy, yet dreamy atmosphere.

JOE VALLINA "ON TV"
This six song EP will have you back in your time machine to some time around 1975 when music on the radio rocked in a pleasant, agreeable way. There are strong chords, clear melodies, clean expressive vocals, atop a sturdy rhythm section. It is a bit too mainstream for me most times, but the wailing lead guitar that even operates beneath the vocals at times, is what makes this interesting at times. Joe Vallina is local and he can likely 'bring it' in the clubs, although I have not tested that theory yet. Definitely for the fans of 1970s rock'n'roll.

WHITE FENCE "FOR THE RECENTLY FOUND INNOCENT"
Thankfully it was not a Freudian slip when I accidentally typed 'Shite Fence' as I started this review. Instead, White Fence works the modern psychedelic terrain with confidence and just enough good songs and songs to stand out from the crowd. And I knew all of this already, as this is not the first record of Tim Presley's I have heard under the moniker White Fence. He knows this style well and continues to prove it on his fifth White Fence album. The west coast guitar work is key with the Byrdsian/Love moves. HIs vocals are decent enough and the band rocks in a languid but efficient style. The really good songs will click with you instantly and all fourteen play through quite well. This isn't as monumental as Lover, but few bands hit those heights anyway. There is enough here for me to continually dig in while awaiting the next.

Songs to try first:

Sandra When the Earth Dies  - Has a Ray Davies gone wyrdpsyche vibe to it.

Wolf Gets Red Faced - Jangly guitar works off of intriguing leads, tapping percussion, and smooth vocals. Yum.

Fear - Not the John Cale song (or the 'fade to awful' LA band), but a lighter, jangled out psyche rocker that is quite moving.

WOMAN'S HOUR "CONVERSATIONS"
This is a rather pleasant pop band, that may be just a wee bit too blandly pleasant for my liking. The female vocals are nice and the music never threatens with anything more than competent delivery of textures for the melodic and dreamy vocal work. Although I use the word pleasant, clearly the vocals dig deep and evoke some thoughtful imagery. It all plays well, but does not really move me to listen much more. But if you like cool, yet emotive English music, this may well find a way into your collection.

YONATAN GAT "IBERIAN PASSAGE"
Normally I have pretty good idea of what I am going to write about a record half way through the first song. Sure, things change as I listen to it all, but the genre is often easy to spot. Here, Yonatan Gat has me mystified pretty well through all of the six songs. First off, it is recorded live and raw. It has the quality of a high end bootleg and thankfully there is enough quality to pick out most of the busy work this band is engaged in. It is mostly instrumental with thunderous percussion, keyboards, and guitars playing some sort of world jazz-rock with ethnic folk roots. In fact, he does cite jazz influences as well as rock and wanders between middle eastern and western styles. Fascinating and well worth exploring further.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Preview of Upcoming Attractions - Early August, 2014

Summer will likely heat up in August as there is only one direction for the thermometer to go from where it is today. Here are some of the acts providing further fire to the month of August.

Get ready for People Get Ready, who start off the month with a bang at the DC9 on Friday, August 1st.


Lots of action in DC on Wednesday, August 6th. I may be at Gypsy Sally's for Dawn Drapes or perhaps I will take in Jesse Marchant at the DC9 or Hooray for Earth at the Black Cat. Decisions, decisions.



Tiny Ruins will fill the stage of the DC9 on Thursday, August 7th.


No coffee and cherry pie available at the Twin Peaks show at the DC9 on Sunday, August 10th, just plenty of music (and DC9s fine menu).


Akron/Family's Dana Buoy is also hitting the DC9 on Tuesday, August 12th. And for the record, the bands are the ones contacting me to cover these shows, not the DC9, although the staff there treat me very well, so I am happy to spend time in that club.


And maybe I'll try a club I haven't tried in a long time, by heading to the Blues Alley on Wednesday, August 13th to see Lisa Lim.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Saint Rich - Rusty Maples -- DC9 - Jul 27 2014

Rusty Maples - I have not seen a Las Vegas band, since I hung around there in the punk community some thirty years back. Thankfully, Rusty Maples is several cuts above that of Subterfuge in both quality and style. What I thought might be a good indie rock band turned into a great little group of rockers with fine songs and a high end style. I really focused on the rhythm section as they created a fast and rollicking environment for the lead guitarist to run around in with busy and unique patterns. The singer had a powerful voice and added acoustic guitar to steady things a bit. But not too much, as this band had a sense of danger even as the overall tone of their songs was comforting. Yet they were loud and intense as everything came together. They definitely went over well with the small Sunday night crowd tonight. This was their first time out east and if they stick to their guns, they will be back many times more with even bigger crowds who know their name.
Saint Rich - Spirit was a fabulous band that is rather forgotten about these days, although many have read about the recent lawsuit regarding Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven'. Perhaps it is the lead guitarist's height and somewhat big hairstyle that reminds me of Randy California. But also, this band does a lot of the things a second generation Spirit might do today. Randy California was a great guitarist and the guitar work here is innovative and excellent. Both bands had a rootsy style with an understanding of exploratory pop and rock styles as well. Clearly Saint Rich is a smart bunch that can handle pop songs with a post punk approach that is more intellectual than musically showy. This was a great introduction to this music that keeps the intellectual side working, while rocking out. This was a quite a showcase of upcoming talent tonight, for those that made it out on a steamy Sunday evening.

Quote of the Night, or rather another installment on the best/worst musician on musician insults...

14. Noel Gallagher on Jack White
“He looks like Zorro on doughnuts.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires - Wanted Man -- DC9 - Jul 21 2014

Wanted Man - This local trio had a guest guitarist tonight, a certain Anthony Pirog who is quite brilliant and prolific in just about anything he does. Being that one member of Wanted Man also has the name Pirog, it all makes perfect sense. And what would have been a fun crazy psycho-blues rock show with just three, became even louder and wilder with four. The rhythm section pummeled away with both guitarists blazing away with thick rhythms and dueling solos. Somehow the hearty vocals made it through the forest of fuzzed out barre chords. This was well delivered rock and roll music pushed beyond the barriers that the large crowd totally dug tonight. A solid opening set, perfectly leading into the headliners.
Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires - This quickly rising quartet takes the opening band's sound and pushes it even further into the stratosphere with even more punk pace, crazy guitar moves, and wilder vocal work. Yet they have hearty songs, many of which would sound just fine unplugged. But I'm happier that they are electric tonight with loads of energy as they join the crowd on the floor in addition to working off of each other on stage. They have ballads, although some move into blistering rock before you have a chance to catch your breath. They pile on the songs Ramones style before taking a short break to engage in a bit of stage patter. The 42 minute set was dense, action packed, and just right for waking up every body part of mine. They are touring just their second record, so I don't see this Alabama band's energy slipping away anytime soon. And that is a good thing, as I need bands like this to keep my energy up. You don't stay complacent with the Glory Fires, it just isn't done.

Quote of the Night... More classic musician on musician insults and barbs, as the series continues with...

15. Elvis Costello on Morrissey
“Morrissey writes wonderful song titles, but sadly he often forgets to write the song.”

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Phox - Trails & Ways -- The Hamilton - Jul 19 2014

Trails & Ways - First up tonight is a twin guitar quartet with rhythm section that we have seen many times before. One difference is that all members sing, with two female voices and three different lead vocalists. That variety keeps things fresh, as the music is quite often the usual sort of light indie rock fare that does not stand out too much for me, with so many bands doing this sort of thing. There were some nice lead guitar jabs that cut into the rhythm in more creative ways, which helped quite a bit. And a couple of songs seemed quite moving on first listen. So, all in all, this is a good opening act that hopefully will use this touring experience to sharpen up some areas, go loose and crazy in others, and keep working on new songs that really sing to a crowd.

Phox - My how things can change in such a short time. It was not long ago when I discovered this band in an opening slot at the Black Cat. They impressed me a lot that night and I made sure to see them again when they were an opener at the Hamilton less than a year back. They quickly established this headlining show for a large tour in support of their first album, which surprised me a little in that I was not sure audiences would discover them this quickly. And of course as this sort of lead-in implies, it was not a problem tonight as the show was sold-out with an excited diverse crowd. As I have written three times already, this band has a strong focal point with the sultry vocals and great style of Monica Martin. But it does not take an expert listener too long to realize that the full band has strong players that understand nuance and subtlety much better than most bands. they smoothly work from guitars to keyboards with a trumpet and banjo to spice things up some. If anything, they seem to have even more moments of musical intensity as they are stretching out their range from their brand of great lounge pop music into stronger rock moves with thicker sounds. They have some new material including a killer pop ballad that I look forward to hearing again, hopefully soon. If it just took hard touring, a lot of bands would succeed. But the high school friends from Baraboo, Wisconsin that have formed Phox have tons of talent and style and work together to make it succeed at a high level. What's next, Lisner Auditorium or the Lincoln Theatre? We shall see.

Quote of the Night: from Ms. Martin... "I probably sound like a broken record, but thank you all for coming tonight..." Take the word probably out, as she was gushing that about every other song. Fortunately, her quirky patter is part of the fun as you (and probably her as well) are never quite sure of what she will come up with next.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Previews of Coming Attractions - Late July 2014

Here's some audio-video highlights of upcoming shows, many of which I plan to attend. Enjoy the clubs, everyone. Hope to see you at some of these shows.

Horse Thief gallops into the Jammin Java on Friday, July 18th when they open for Paper Kites.


My favorite Wisconsin band Phox is hitting it big and headlining the Hamilton on Saturday, July 19th.


Lee Bains III brings his trebled ferocious rock sounds to the DC9 on Monday, July 21st.



Clientele schedules a meeting at the Black Cat on Tuesday, July 22nd. Come early to see local greats, Dot Dash.


Red Wanting Blue wants to see you at the Hamilton on Wednesday, July 23rd.


Hmmm....It's Thursday, July 24th. Do I see Flume at the 9:30 Club? Or maybe the Fresh & Onlies at the DC9? If not those, then perhaps Hospitality at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel. Decisions, decisions.




One thing I know, is that I will be at the Kooks when they hit the 9:30 Club on Sunday, July 27th.


And maybe Glasgow's Honeyblood at the DC9 will be a good way to end out the month on Wednesday, July 30th.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Owls - Hop Along -- Black Cat - Jul 13 2014

Hop Along - This powerful band really snuck up on me tonight. They began with just vocalist/guitarist Frances Quinlan playing one song. She showcased rock oriented folk strum on he electric guitar while moving around her vocal range with a strange outsider intensity. She would make a quite arresting busker, no doubt. But then another guitarist showed up with a rhythm section in hand, and they proceeded to fire off some of the more explosive rock music that the backstage has seen in some time. They began with a Guided by Voices sensibility although the songs were fuller and a bit deeper in the vocals. Thankfully, Quinlan had the power to stay on top of this fierce music in a manner that also reminded me of Jesse Sykes. She even snuck in a smart little vocal loop to harmonize with. The songs got tighter as the set went on which was rather interesting as well. But I am spending too much time thinking about this music, it is best to let it kick you in the face and roll with it. Oh, and the large crowd totally dug this set, unsurprisingly. This not the first show for this Philadelphia based band (even if it was my first) and I hope to see them back soon.
Owls - This quartet is from Chicago, and although I probably had that in my subliminal memory, I don't recall purposefully thinking of the Chicago band Tortoise who they reminded me of. But you can also throw in some Slint, Sebadoh, and basically any creative indie band that has the talent and imagination to concoct catchy math rock tunes that weave rhythm patterns and guitar parts in more complex ways than most of the indie bands. Honestly, this music does not reach me as well today as it would have 15 years ago. That is more to do with me than the band, as they seem quite good at this sound and some of the songs have great spooky hooks to them. The vocals were too much in the strained seriousness range for me, but they were better than the stage patter. Still, when I focused on sinewy guitars cutting into chopping bass and drum patterns, there were intriguing moments to experience.

Quote of the Night - And still another quote from Tom Hawking's 'harshest musician on musician insults' list...

16. Alan McGee on Coldplay
“Coldplay are the dictionary definition of corporate rock. The singer is about as weird as Phil Collins. They are career rock personified. EMI should’ve signed Otis The Aadvark instead. At least he only sucks his thumb rather than corporate cock.”

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Wild Beasts - Mutual Benefit -- 9:30 Club - Jul 12 2014

Mutual Benefit - This band is pretty much the songs, vocals, guitar, and keys of Jordan Lee supplemented by three helpful musicians offering drums, keys, guitar, and some quality backing vocals. Their approach is wrapped in subtlety throughout their set with a rather fragile warmth ever present, even as there is a cool pop music style at work. They get quite dreamy at times and it is a little surprising that this style results in some shorter songs. But there are some fine long running contrasting cuts that stretches the band out a bit. This variety helps, although I wouldn't mind some more sonic variety as well (oddly enough the drummer provides some by going from kit to bongos). But they have their approach and it works well over the course of the full set. This is an 'album band' even if you like their songs. The approach worked better on me when taken as a whole. They are a band to keep an eye on as they could easily grow into something big.
Wild Beasts - One of the more ironically named bands I have seen in a while, as there is nothing at all bestial about this UK quartet, nor is their music anywhere near wild by nature and design. There is hefty vibrant pop music here with a touch of distant soul as the vocal work is the powerful presence in most of these songs. The drummer remains the same, but the other three switch off between guitars, keyboards, and a bass, but the bass is not used much in many of the cuts. The keyboards provide the foundation and the guitars work off of the drums to keep a brisk walking pace going. The older cut they identified was a bit punchier and there is some variety between the songs, although the lush agreeable pop music style they have concocted is quite steady and mannered. This is not a style of pop music that I gravitate toward, but with vocals this good, I am happy to see bands like this click with larger audiences (and any group into foosball is ok with me). These guys do it right and the crowd was well rewarded tonight.

Quote of the Night, or rather another Musician on Musician insult as the series continues (check past + future posts for the full set):

17. Noel Gallagher on Kaiser Chiefs
“They play dress-up and sit on top of an apex of meaninglessness. They don’t mean anything to anybody apart from their fucking ugly girlfriends.”

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Viet Cong - TV Ghost -- DC9 - Jul 9 2014

TV Ghost - It is nice to see this Lafayette Indiana quartet back in DC as they offer a familiar yet original sound into the post-mod psyche musical universe. They have a steady mesemerizing rhythm section working non-stop that allows the gutiars to weave psychedelic patterns from spacey waves to sharper bursts of power and melody. The vocals are interesting as they shift from various Robert Smith and Ian Curtis moves, moving along various waves of intensity. He even sounded like the singer from an obscure Spanish band Pan & Regaliz at one point. They handled the stage lights going out for a few songs without missing a note, and frankly that just added to the overall sense of edgy mystery that they manage to concoct. It was another fine set from a band who always has a big welcome back sign from me.
Viet Cong - This band is new on the scene and hails from the fine distant evirons of Calgary. The drummer and bassist/vocalist are from the band Women, who tragically lost their guitarist whose guitarist sadly died in his sleep. They are now with two guitarists and have a powerful sound that works well fresh off of TV Ghost's set. They start with that same intense brand of psychedelia but explore even crazier variants of this theme. They combine the jagged and smooth tones of the guitar in far more extreme ways than other bands would dare attempt. And somehow it all works. At times the songs go power pop, yet there are strong post-punk moves slashing and attacking as well. And then, just when I am getting somewhat comfortable, they throw out an oddball prog-math song that sounds like XTC covering Chrome. But to top that all off they go into a long jamming psyche song that sounds like Wooden Shjips on meth. Crazy fun, here, this band will wake you up and get your blood moving. It may be better for them if they learn to harness this into something more focused, but frankly, I hope they don't. I like the challenge they bring to their audience, who seemed to enjoy this every bit as much as I.

Quote of the Night... Let's head back to the list of musician on musician insults, today from a guy who is coming to town next week...

18. Nick Cave on Red Hot Chili Peppers
“I’m forever near a stereo saying, ‘What the fuck is this garbage?’ And the answer is always the Red Hot Chili Peppers.”

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Marissa Nadler - Janel & Anthony -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - July 8 2014

Janel & Anthony - I'm still on the sick side of life, but am healthy enough to partake in this excellent double bill tonight. First up are long time locals who are international successes in their own right. If you have not seen them before, you should rectify that some time, as they continued their string of never delivering anything short of a great set, at least to these ears. Their music is mostly instrumental, making the two cuts that Janel sings on all the more striking with her heavenly tones. Musically, her cello and his guitar always cook up exciting sounds that go from lush to striking with thoughtful and dramatic transitions. There is some powerful music headed toward the drone rock terrain, yet has playful underpinnings. It was great to see two acts tonight who are this talented as it allowed for a 47 minute set that was vibrant the whole way through. The crowd contained plenty of fans, so everything clicked (even if the thunderstorm and early start caused some late arrivals--even me for the first few minutes).
Marissa Nadler - I am a long time fan of Marissa Nadler's music. Her songs are brilliant enough on their own, but she has a real bonus for us tonight. Janel & Anthony are on the full tour, so she has recruited Janel to add cello, backing vocals, and a bit of keyboards for her full set. This added sound matches the further expansive nature of Nadler's songwriting over the years. She has really found her muse with dense thoughtful songs that run the emotional gamut, while sounding so fresh and intriguing. Add the extra Janel touch and this set was quite magical. The modest crowd were as enthusiastic as metalheads, while being quite respectful during the quiet moments. Marissa Nadler continues to grow into one of the more important folk based singer songwriters in this or any country.

Photo grab of the Night: I think Germany still scored a few more goals during the show tonight...

Monday, July 7, 2014

Previews of Coming Attractions - Early July 2014

Between the holidays and a nasty summer cold, my calendar has thinned out a bit, but it is picking up soon. Here are some of the events I will be attending. Do give it some consideration for an evening of fun in the metropolis of your dreams.

Marissa Nadler plays the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Tuesday, July 8th. Her sets are incredibly moving and a fair number of people have figured that out now. Come early as Janel & Anthony open.


or check out Dub Thompson at the backstage of the Black Cat on Tuesday, July 8th.


Wild Beasts and Mutual Benefit hit the 9:30 Club on Saturday, July 12th.



You should definitely hit the clubs on Sunday, July 13th. I will be seeing the Owls at the Black Cat, but will be sorry to miss Nightmare and the Cat at the 9:30 Club and Nightmares on Wax at the U Street Music Hall (I guess I just want to avoid the nightmares that night).



Wednesday, July 2, 2014

RECORD REVIEWS - JUNE 2014

THE ASH "THE ASH"
Although I sometimes get some new metal or progressive metal to review, rarely to I get something that takes me back to the early 1970s. Vienna, Austria's The Ash has this sound down pat when metal was actually hard rock, often with progressive elements mixed with melodious writing. Generally those that like and play this music well take the route of being a cover or tribute band. It is nice to see a band tackling the style successfully with original material. Musically, these guys have all the chops down. The vocals are clean and powerful. The rhythm section sets a strong foundation for the guitars and gives them plenty of space to shred. The leads remind of the Randy Rhoads school of post Eddie Van Halen wizardry. There are some double leads and other interesting twists as well, including some serious Kashmir styled riffs. Hard to believe that this type of music is a real alternative over the mainstream at both the big label and indie levels. This album makes for fun listening in 2014.

Songs to try first:

Burn - Although this is a Deep Purple title, I was hearing a Scorpions sound even before they sang "Here I Am" multiple times!

Global Peace - This has an Ozzy feel and a great crunching guitar over a thicker, slower pace.

Try - Lots of interesting metal shifts in this song. Complex and highly engaging.

AVERS "EMPTY LIGHT"
This band reminds me a lot of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Thankfully, when I saw Avers play live, they didn't destroy my hearing. But they do blast away with plenty of shoe gaze styled guitars over heavy drums and keys. I actually prefer this record as the nuances come through more clearly. They are capable of coming up with fun pop melodies that easily slip into the popsike category. If they are not doing that, they tend to drift off into a moody slow jamming sort of song. The drumming is a great foundation here and the others know how to weave around the beat quite well.

Songs to try first:

White Horses - This has the subtleties I like in a warm popsike setting.

GirlswithHeadaches - Catchy melody with bursts of volume following the walking beat.

Mercy - I love the vocals on this one and pulling back with acoustic guitars was a masterstroke.

LEE BAINS III and the GLORY FIRES "DERECONSTRUCTED"
If you like your deep down heartland bluesy singer songwriters adding crazed punk rock and post punk guitar moves to their songs, then check out Lee Bains III and his band. This reminds me a bit of Shooter Jennings fleshing out his songs with a fierce rock band a few years. back. It is also for fans of Jon Spencer, Grinderman, and anyone who likes that distant spot on the horizon where a punk band can meet up with an Americana band and have a great time together. The songs are all pretty good here and Bains has a solid gutsy delivery on each of them. The hard drumming, throaty bass, and crazily fuzzed out shrieking electric guitars all come together to lift this well off the ground. There are some style shifts later in the album which keeps things interesting and just as lively. These guys will be a kick live, I don't see how it could not be an exciting evening with them on stage. So it is no surprise that Sup Pop picked them up as this record is worth several spins, as well.

Come see Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires at the DC9 on Monday, July 21st.

Songs to try first:

The Company Man - The opening cut screams out crazy guitar moves with a smoother but very tough vocal line.

Burnpiles Swimming Holes - Love the modified Bo Diddley beat with all the other expected components at work.

Flags - Great punk pace and power chords create another layer of fun in this album.

CLOUD BOAT "MODEL OF YOU"
This appropriately named band works in the dream pop environs. Yet they have strong dynamics that they carefully employ in unique ways such as the vocals rising in intensity as the music does so belatedly on a slightly different wave length. There are tricky things going on in these arrangements yet everything is silk to the touch. Not everything is as dynamic as I would like, but it all fits comfortably together in a unified style with enough variations between songs to maintain high interest throughout. I would enjoy this band live, as well, I think.

Songs to try first:

Hideaway - I was just wondering if this band might be too steady for me, when the dynamics of this powerful song kicked in.

Portraits of Eyes - This has an old school vocal style that I can't quite place as this powerfully spreads a warmth over me.

Aurelia - As welcome sounds of strong electric guitar weave in among the percussion, the vocals soar away.

MIKE COOPER "TROUT STEEL" + "PLACES I KNOW/MACHINE GUN CO"

I was excited to get the news that legendary UK guitarist Mike Cooper's early records were being re-released. And most readers will likely wonder about the 'legend' label, well perhaps cult figure is better although he is a legend among those in the know in the UK land of 1960s and 1970s guitarists. He has easily included with the Grahams, Jansches, Renbournes, Wizz Jones', etc., and like them he takes a classic British folk style and puts a serious personal twist into it.

Starting with 1971's 'Trout Steel', he brings in jazz moves made obvious with the bleating brass blasts in between his bluesy folk vocals atop his acoustic guitar and bass, such as in "That's How". Just when you think he may go into a more straight forward style he tosses out an eleven minute epic "I've Got Mine" which is psyche folk jazz if there is such a thing. And if not before, then he created it here. There is also a wyrd Americana folk style reminiscent of the Holy Modal Rounders, although it is a little more focused here. Wilco fans, check out the precedents for alt country and include some of these songs. But don't get too comfortable when you realize that the seven minute plus "Pharaoh's March" is clearly an homage to Sanders and not Xerxes.

1972's 'Places I Know' has more traditional material early on, although he can't help explore intriguing jazz locales in the latter cuts including the magnificent 15-minute 'So Glad'. This was ambitious music for its time, even as that was the goal of many musicians of that day. This holds up extremely well today. I recommend this music to people who find Beefheart a bit too coarse or Gram Parsons a bit too rooted. But if you like a combination of that along with someone who understands British folk and American blues, then Mike Cooper is a must-listen.

HESSIAN/PRIMITIVE MAN "THE ABYSS STARES BACK #2"
The second of this fine series features two bands    This is a series from Hypertension Records (www.hypertensionrecords.com) which is worth checking out as there are many exciting bands along with cool vinyl editions and bonuses for subscribers. As they say… "the record industry is dead, long live the underground!"

Hessian spends eleven minutes letting rip a ferocious blast of nu-metal with deathly overtones, yet with a post punk precision. This may be somewhere between Killing Joke and Gorgoroth. Furious drums, churning guitars and dark vocals just go and go and go. This transported me into their dark world, but offered an active journey filled with subtle overtones of hope.

Primitive Man is all of that. The vocals are primitive guttural sounds that may or may not be in an actual language, but stake out territory in the death metal world as the guitars, bass, and drums bang out a steady onslaught of noisy metal. This is a little too much in the straightforward death metal dirge world for my tastes, but there is a sonic atmosphere worked up that is successful for fans of the genre.


PAPERTWIN "VOX HUMANA"
Electropop is something that makes me uneasy when it comes time to putting down words of description or praise. It is all so easy to like, but I am not sure I pick up on all the transcendent bands out there in this large and growing field. Papertwin has come up with this six song ep that seems a bit more interesting than most, as the vocals as sonic shifts underneath offer a little more for me to grab onto. It is dreamy and laid back, but "Headlights" and "Whale" deliver some serpentine hooks that pulled me into their world. And that is generally what makes something worthy of more than one listen in my book. And if you like thi genre a lot, I would keep an ear to the ground for Booklyn's Papertwin.

PHOX "PHOX"
Regular readers know how much I love this Baraboo band. They were off to a great start with me if only for their beginnings in Baraboo, Wisconsin, a cool place I visited when I was young, which was well before any of the band Phox was born. But even without that history, their two live shows fully captivated me with their comfortable sound and careful and intelligent approach to a unique brand of pop music. You could tell that their debut record would be excellent, as their live set managed to capture a delicacy in their sound that showed remarkable restraint as they built the drama with in the song. Monica Martin's vocals are of star quality as she takes that sultry lounge singer's voice and weaves into the creative pop melodies that this band devises. This is such comfortable music, but yet with so much subtle brilliance in the execution. All twelve songs play well together as the atmosphere is established throughout with clear divisions of songs and clarity in the execution. Strong debut and between the quality here and their hard touring of recent years, this band is ready to explode.

Come see for youself when Phox hits the Hamilton on Saturday, July 19th. I will be there, seeing them for the third time.

Songs to try first:

Calico Man - The opener is the shortest and most mysterious of the bunch, a great way to hook you into the album.

Slow Motion - A lot goes on sonically with lush atmosphere that includes open space, and thicker rock moments.

Laura - Great vocals atop a lounge piano, yet with spacey synth and string moves that build this into a rock song.

PS I LOVE YOU "FOR THOSE WHO STAY"
Jangly guitars, hard charging rhythm section, and desperate yet fetching vocals… Hmmm… sounds like a lot of music I listened to in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The songs are very catchy and this formula could easily slip into an oh too cozy and cute zone. Fortunately the band does not let this happen as the guitars can roar with the best metal heads and the band twists the thumbscrews of intensity at many startling points on this album. There are nice delicate passages as well, which tend to how gnarly these guitars sound in other songs. The vocals remind me of a sonic space somewhere between Pere Ubu and Devo and musically, this is not far off from the early works of either, modernized a bit. Like the early Cleveland scene, there is a lot of playful song writing merged into a decaying industrial town landscape in these songs. It is not quite the same thing as there is a touch of modern shoe gaze sneaking in at times, but it is awfully close and very welcome to these ears.

Songs to try first:

In My Mind - Why not open with the opener and see if that guitar break near the end wins you over as well.

Limestone Radio - Monster fuzzy guitar hook will lock you in with a stranglehold within seconds.

For Those Who Stay - Just when I think I figure this band out, they stretch out this song with tasty guitar jamming.

RADIO MOSCOW "MAGICAL DIRT"
I still can not get over how some of the musical forms that were so cliche when I was young are now so startling rare these days. I am thinking of progressive bands, which outside of Europe, you just don't hear much of anymore. Hard rock bands are slightly more common, but those that have that combination of soul and funk skillfully in their sound are still on the rare side these days. So thank-you Radio Moscow for coming up with all of these familiar songs and having the skill and vision to make it all sound so fresh and invigorating (even if your real fans don't use words like 'fresh' and 'invigorating'). This is rock music, learn to love it.

Songs to try first:

So Alone - Blasting rock with plenty of soul and funk moves. Bliss.

Death of a Queen - I am a sucker for double leads, but these babies scream out like few others.

Bridges - There is devilishly clever songwriting here and crazed rock moves, this is creative hard rock.

ROM "SODA CHRIST"
It did not take long for me to realize that I loved this DC band's style and sound. They play classic punk era power pop songs that do not sacrifice the power of the guitar, nor the pop vocal melody lines. Although I have a few songs picked out below each of these nine songs can stand alone as a worthy cut to listen to. But I enjoyed letting them build into a powerful display of great song writing craft being fleshed out as exciting and vibrant arrangements. Every song pops out at you quickly and earnestly and each sound is well crafted and purposed. These guys are fresh on the scene as ROM, but (wisely) changed their name, so you may have seen them as Dead Women. I recommend jumping on this 'redesigned' train quickly because you will enjoy the ride and it hopefully will be a long and fun filled journey.

Come check out the live show at the DC9 on August 5th.

Songs to try first:

Jerry Princess Taste - Great combination of quirky pop and driving power pop.

Belia - There is such a strong guitar sound here, yet the vocals are lovely in classic power pop form.

Old Bull Lee - A slightly slower moody style with a surprise guest female vocal spot.

THE SLAMBOVIAN CIRCUS OF DREAMS "A BOX OF EVERYTHING"
If you are like me and have not heard of this band (and if I heard this name once, I surely would have remembered such a picturesque name), then this greatest hits package is a great place to start. They remind me of California's Kaleidoscope in the exoticism department, but with songs and arrangements that are more comforting and fit into folk rock forms with ease. Circus is the appropriate word as there is so much playful music in the arrangements, yet the quality of the songs could also work in a stripped down folk environment. The production quality is a real plus here, especially considering this band's reputation for live shows. The sound is rich with the instruments filling the room while preserving clarity for each. There are three previously unreleased songs among eleven that hardened fans will already know and love. Hopefully they will make it down from their Hudson Valley haunts for a DC area show some time soon. I have some catching up to do.

A TROOP OF ECHOES "THE LONGEST YEAR ON RECORD"

This is an album of nine instrumental songs. The band has a loose psyche post rock meets jazz rock vibe to its overall sound. And if that sounds a bit confusing, sounds such as this are supposed to make you think at least a bit. There is some room for feeling, although this band does not move me as much as Mono or Mogwai, for example. Those bands are designed to be heavier and I missed that here. So if you want to explore a more easy going sonic terrain, join the Troop of Echoes for a twisted stroll through lesser trodden urban alleys.

TURN TO CRIME "CAN'T LOVE"

 
Just seven songs here , well six with an instrumental intro, but Turn to Crime gives off a good taste of what they are about. There are a few complex flavors that combine to form some sort of lo-fi garage pop jam sound with quirky beats, lightly twisted vocals, and musical jabs and parries that combine in strange and mostly welcome ways. I am quite interested in this band as it features the work of Derek Stanton, from the defunct yet excellent band, Awesome Color. It does not always come together for me, so I am left more with an interesting appetizer that hints at the good things that may come next. I am appreciative that this is daring and a few steps beyond his previous work. I will definitely stay at this table for as long as the dishes keep coming.

THE WEATHERVANES "LONG WAY DOWN"
 
The trouble with labels like 'alt country' (or anything with alternative in them) is that eventually they can become so entrenched that you may need a double 'alt' to start distinguishing bands. I am not exactly where I would put the WeatherVanes on this scale, but they have long been one of my favorites of the broader Americana genre as they always manage to keep close to the heartland, yet explore a wider array of sonic possibilities than most bands attempt. All the variety I have come to expect is on display in these thirteen songs. There are boozy honky tonk numbers, delicate folk songs, folk rockers, hearty Americana numbers, and scorching rockers surrounding a folk rock core. In other words, you should find something to like here if you are even the slightest bit open to rock music with the Americana style.

Songs to try first:

Mountain to River - The opener showcases the great combination of delicate folk music and searing rock moves that this band pulls off far better than most.

Long Way Down - The title cut is rather a classic style that could resonate with purists as well as more adventurous listeners.

Grace - This one goes down smooth with a clean rock style and wistful folk moves, quality sounds from end to end.

WILD BEASTS "PRESENT TENSE"
Normally electropop impresses me in subtle ways where I can enjoy it, but I don't tend to revisit it too frequently. I thought this band would slip into that crowded area for me, but thankfully the vocal work is outstanding and has me more transfixed than usual. There is more delicate music than intensity, but the musicians work their palette to coax out some intriguing sounds that lay a good foundation for the excellent vocals. It all comes together into a pleasurable album.

Wild Beasts will be in DC on Saturday, July 12th at the 9:30 Club.

Songs to try first:

Wanderlust - No surprise that this has a radio edit to take out a swear word, as it works some pop magic.

Nature Boy - I though the record would settle into something mild and acceptable, but this vocal work proves me wrong.

A Dogs Life - Apparently a dog's life is a lot dreamier and psychedelic than I had previously thought.