Sunday, August 21, 2016

Prinze George - Higher Education -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Aug 20 2016

Higher Education - There is some irony in the band name, but I am not really in the mood to find it. These three guys are from College Park, MD and I am seeing them for the first time. They start off with the usual skapunk sound with far more ska than punk. After a few songs they switch off between bass and guitar and things liven up considerably. There is more heft and creativity in the guitar and more dynamics in the song. I would advise them to keep the 21st century hippie on bass, where he is quite good and his brother on guitar, who has a lot more to offer in fleshing out a song. Good warm up set to a very large and very young crowd.
Prinze George - From Brooklyn, but with a couple of local born and breds, comes another trio that is far from power and instead offers intelligent pop music. There are vocals, drums, and one guy to handle various keyboards and guitars as needed. I was expecting a bouncy Saturday night pop rock fest, but instead got more subtle shadings of electropop. Even the vocals showed a delicacy that commanded more attention than someone just belting out lines to dance to. The crowd was quite happy with this sound and many were fans already. But tonight, Prinze George probably converted a few more and left me more impressed than not.

Photo Grab of the Night: Just a little billboard foreshadowing where I hope to be this Thursday.

Friday, August 19, 2016

AJ Smith - Bailen - Grace Fuisz -- Jammin Java - Aug 18 2016

Grace Fuisz - This evening's entertainment starts out with the basic solo singer songwriter on vocals and guitar. It is electric, however, so that is a slight twist and the added oomph in the sound is helpful as the playing is pretty much worked around basic chords, delivered quickly. Her voice is more the star with a decent range and tone. The songs are good and a couple stand out from the pack, so all in all, it is a pretty respectable set and a good way to start off the show.

Bailen - And now the full band portion of the evening begins with a family band from New York. We have a rhythm section manned by twins with their sister on acoustic guitar and vocals. They also add harmony and occasional lead vocals, which are quite amazing. Sure the family connection may help with years of experience, but they are quite a force when together. Somehow their parents let them down in sibling quantity, so they had to recruit an unrelated keyboardist who adds some subtlety to their music. And their music is not as quiet as I first thought it may be as they take their pop forms with a touch of Americana and really push it forward into a strong folk rock sound. This musical thrust pushes the vocals even higher and they prove they are up to the task as they really cut loose. But pull back they do, especially on a solo bass song and vocals (well they lied, there is a bit of harmonica, too). The crowd really got into the set more and more as it unfolded and I can see this band doing quite well with a wide variety of supporting artists. And with good stage patter, personality, and humor, they should continue to win a lot of support along the way.
AJ Smith - Also from New York comes singer songwriter AJ Smith with a band that has the same approach as the last band instrumentally with three voices, although the harmonies are more subtle here. Not a bad thing as Smith has a set of pipes that will rattle the framework. He also has a nice fingerstyle at work on his guitar, which he showed off solo for the first half of his opening cut before the band sped on to build the sound. The songs are attractive with a strong accessibility but enough to chew on if you want to delve into them. The crowd trends young and is quite appreciative and enthusiastic and I see nothing to fault there. Again with a positive personality, good songs, exceptional skills, this is the formula for a fine night out in the clubs.

Facebook Grab of the night: Richard Thompson posted this of his good pal, Pentangle's Danny Thompson getting an honorary doctorate from the University of the West of England. Danny's comment... 'well it took me 60 years but I saved thirty thousand tuition.'

Monday, August 15, 2016


OK, I admit it. This heat has got me down and hiding out at home more than I would like. Hopefully I can venture out more in the next couple of weeks. Here are some possible destinations.

No Small Children are at the Bossa this Wednesday, the 17th. So who is? Check out the video and see.

Sneaks come to the Black Cat, quietly through the backdoor (well they all do) this Friday, August 19th. But you can try out Big Sam's Funky Nation at the Hamilton that same night. Hopefully he doesn't bring his entire funky nation.

Prinze George awaits a royal reception at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel this Saturday. OK minions, be there. Anti-monarchists are welcome to take in Vanessa Silberman that same night.

Seal soulfully takes stage at the Warner Theatre on Wednesday the 24th.

Jared & the Mill hit the Jammin Java On Sunday, August 28th. Hopefully he won't bring the whole... yeah, yeah.

Hockey Dad will not take a Bent Knee for anyone. See the former at the DC9 and the latter at the Black Cat. Both shows happen on Monday, August 29th.

Finally Pigpen Theatre will bring sty to you at the Jammin Java on Tuesday August 30th.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

X -- State Theatre - Aug 12 2016

by John Miller

X - Under the Big Black Sun was my partner; it was appreciated. Driving cross country on an ill advised trip, this along with a 80's pop compilation (purchased somewhere in Arizona) kept me distracted. On regular rotation until stolen, it was then purchased again, stolen again, and purchased once more last year, though I did so digitally. The spaces, the pauses, and writing; with each loop, something new revealed itself. Throughout the evening X would do much the same; Exene let us know early on that they would be adding a fifth member so they could try something different. Bonebrake hopped between both the drums and xylophone. It never felt like a necessity but with each trip, a compliment. Zoom, much to the delight of the very large crowd, brought out his saxophone on a few occasions. I was surprised with the response the instrument received, never figured the aging audience would be so excited for a woodwind. Though the loudest response came from Los Angeles; the call and response was the loudest I have heard sense I began writing here. And though John and Exene seemed to be less experimental; both sounded excellent. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the evening was the ease with which both Bonbrake and Zoom played. Zoom especially. Often I would find him staring out into the crowd, occasionally peaking down between significant changes as his hand would run the neck of the guitar. It was all so easy. Bonbrake on the other hand was relentless during The Hungry Wolf; everyone stepped aside as he pounded the toms.
Much to my delight, X actually ran through much of Under the Big Black Sun. I would be remiss to say that I was hoping/praying X would play Come Back to Me. The song, one of my favorites, is an amazing piece of writing, especially the third verse. “Florida souvenirs” and “the space in your steps” are these super specific details that Exene recalls of her late sister, yet are, in their own way, relatable despite their inherent specificity. About half way through, X played it. They added a fifth member and Bonebrake relinquished control of the drums to play the xylophone. An inspired choice as the instrument added to the dream-like quality of the song. Exene could have sung about the way her sister sounded as she walked across their house, but it was the literal spaces that she knew so well, the absence of sound, the nothingness. And that emptiness gets me every time. It reminds me of the way my father's shoes sounded against the wooden floors or the way he would pick up his keys and twirl them into his hand. Small, auditory, details, like fingerprints. Amazing. My only complaints from tonight are the unrelenting heat of The State Theatre and their continual feedback issues, which seem to be an issue with each show I see here.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Go Go's - Best Coast - Kaya Stewart -- Warner Theatre - Aug 5 2016

Kaya Stewart - Hmmm... blonde pigtails, skimpy outfit, energetic moves, an appropriate look for someone whose latest single is 'Sleepover'... I seem to recall that these are the types of acts that I have been managing to avoid all my life. Ergo, comparisons are invalid. But I think you get the picture. Drums, bass and backing vocals, guitar, and plenty of lush backing tracks, especially on the more ballad like numbers. It is fine for what it is. The crowd is getting warmed up.

Best Coast - This is the first time I am seeing this talented duo, augmented by three additional musicians. Clearly the best coast is the west coast as they exude well crafted California pop music, yet with a lot of energy and even some droning rock moments. Singer/Guitarist Bethany Cosantino has also worked on some fascinating musical projects on this coast, so there is plenty of skill and thought underneath this extremely catchy music. There are clearly many Best Coast fans here with the audience excitedly reacting to various songs. Although this is made for a moderate sized club, they have 2-3 guitars going at all times and the intimacy is able to reach into the balcony or the back rows of the floor. Strong set with nothing out of place, aside from the drummer's towel, and I would be happy to see Best Coast again any time.
The Go Go's - While my brother is in punk heaven, otherwise known as the Rebellion Festival in Blackpool, England with seven classic LA punk bands to choose from, among just about every working UK punk band; I get to see the original drummer for the Germs. But of course Belinda Carlisle went on along with her mates to form one of the more important bands in rock history. I have to credit the Go Go's success for allowing me in my writing to not even bother with needing to mention that 'this band has a female drummer' or 'two women of the four members', for now the success of the Go Go's as an all female band is fully entrenched into rock history and the present environment. Along with their predecessors such as Fanny and Girlschool, and the Runaways to their peers: the Raincoats, Slits, and Ama-Dots, they have established grrrrl power forever. So it is nice to see a fitting well organized farewell tour.

Tonight it is the four members we all know, lacking only their bassist who was engaging in recent legal battles now settled. They are in good spirits, look good, sound great, and take over the large stage, even if they have teeny amps that could fit in a station wagon (well aside from the standard Ampeg bass amp). The vocals are still so powerful and unique with Carlisle's strong tones taking the lead and 2-3 voices behind her offering up that signature Go-Go's harmony. Gina Schock, of course, has the beat and they bang out their many recognizable songs. They slow it down for a couple, but also liven it up by going back to their punk days from 1978-80 with a couple of cuts that feature just a bit more guitar energy and gutsy lyrics... 'before producers got a hold of them' quips Gina. If you are like me and have somehow missed them over the past 38 years, you have a few more weeks and the good news is that they can still deliver the goods.

Quote of the Night: My brother is in Blackpool as I mentioned and as he was trying to hold position up front for the UK Subs set, a pushy spiky haired punkette repleat with studded leather gear including studded gloves, elbowed her way in asking him... "do you want a face full of spikes?" An appropriate retreat means he lives for two more days of great music. He is having a great time. Here are a couple of photos of the Descendants and Discharge.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

White Lung - Greys -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Aug 2 2016

Greys - A Toronto band starts off this east/west Canadian showcase and there is a big crowd awaiting. They were so polite as the band commented, even as the band cranked out some intense 80s styled hardcore that was modified into something a bit noisier with some room to breath. That ability made this more interesting than it might have been. Equipment struggles slowed a bit of the momentum, but there were some nice highlights when the guitarists worked out some unique noisy passages that were both intense and uniquely quirky without being overly arty. Effective and interesting.

White Lung - This is my first take on this popular Vancouver quartet. I have heard comparisons to Priests, which is certainly in the ballpark here. White Lung has a unique take on hardcore punk with the standard line-up of vocals, guitar, bass, and drums. What is fascinating is how the instruments operate such a separate sonic space, yet cohere so well. The bass line is a low rumble that starts at your feet and causes full body vibration. The drums are used to deliver fast body blows non-stop and rapid pace. The guitar has that compressed higher end fuzzy sound floating around your head as it churns out riffs and lines that propel the melody, again at pace with the right balance of flair and energy. And that leaves plenty of room for Mish Way to bore into our heads with her stirring vocal style. It is a bit like Pauline Murray of Penetration with a band that somehow has a sped up post-early Banshees sound. It is fast, only moderately furious, but intense and focused. White Lung is a reminder to the old and new and anyone in between whoever liked punk rock, that there is plenty of fresh ways to bring it.

Photo Grab of the Night: Speaking of old punk rock... Linda Ramone had a tribute event for her late husband Johnny and his band the Ramones on July 24th. They were able to get most of the cast of "Rock'n'Roll High School" there for their first ever reunion! I still remember the Dayton debut at a drive-in theater--great movie. Pictured is P.J. Soles, Dey Young, (Director) Allan Arkush, (Producer) Roger Corman (he is 90 years old!), Linda Ramone, and Clint Howard. Vincent Van Patten and Mary Woronov were also there. They all looked ready to pogo.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Kickback - Cold Fronts -- DC9 - Aug 1 2016

Cold Fronts - I am getting old as I forgot I had a show scheduled tonight until after 9:30, so apologies to Skyline Hotel for missing their set--they were covered by John Miller for this site in January.  And speaking of recent coverage, I caught this Philadelphia band only last March. I was not sure I recognized them and one of the reasons was that they were down to a more respectable two guitar count in front of their rhythm section for this show. And the lead singer even sheds his guitar once so he can sing among the crowd including a brief sit at my booth. They are rocking well again tonight and I detect that same in between rock style that is just a bit too tough for power pop and a bit too refined for garage rock. So this music is thoroughly modern rock with nods to all the great offshoot genres from the past. Songs are decent and a couple really snapped me to attention. The crowd dug them and they were having fun, so it all worked out quite well tonight.
The Kickback - I am happy to finally catch this Chicago quartet who said they have played DC about four times this past year. With a local soundman originally from Chicago and even myself living there a year, it is time for some serious midwest rock. They take the rocking start to this evening and ramp it up even further with some really ferocious moves. Yet, they pull back frequently to reveal some clever songcraft as well. Of course, when they announced that the second song was going to be about overuse of steroids in Professional Wrestling, I knew I was hooked (even though it sounded like it had nothing to do with that whatsoever). The stage patter was well above average as they showed a quirky sense of humor that even at its oddest, worked very well to keep you on edge to some of their more jagged moments in their songs. It all came together smartly and powerfully and the crowd was clearly in to it on this steamy Monday evening. If you can imagine a more refined Guided by Voices, I think you can conceive of what the Kickback come up with. But try them out yourself the next time they come to town. It may not be long.

Quote of the Night: From the Kickback's lead vocalist... "This song is about my parents getting divorced. It's also our most upbeat number, so if you dance to it, it's funny for everybody."

Monday, August 1, 2016


When I reviewed this band’s previous record, I liked their cottony sound but found their overall approach rather slippery. There are certainly similar elements of this in the opening cut as the voices drift off into the ether, yet there is a profound musical thrust underneath. They play with the popsike form stretching it out, pulling it back, reexamining the purpose of a song and come up with some interesting shimmering nuggets here. There are degrees of intensity where the vocals stay clean and focused while the music twists around, grabbing on and shaking out the song. It is a unique sound and one that has some immediacy, but with room to grow while fully appreciating what is going on here.

Songs to start with:

The Golden Lion - A popsike feel with some bold breaks.

Towers Sent Her to Sheets of Sound - Sheets of tricky psychedelic music.

Tungsten 4 the Refugee - A rocking cut to close out this interesting LP

From Phil-A-Dell-Fi-Aye, comes this six song EP. It has been a while since I heard these guys and still have not caught a show, but they play the kind of electronic music that I want to hear. Long time readers know how rare that sounds coming from me, but basically they have big bold melodic thrust a bit like Goblin. They cite Gary Numan and Jane’s Addiction as influences, which are accurate enough to give you an idea of where they are headed. The vocals have a good post punk intensity to them and go off in search of space as well. Thoughtful, energetic, and well put together. This was mixed by famed producer Scott Colburn. I may be the only music writer who actually saw Colburn’s early band ‘Killing Children’, twice even.

You should be careful with album titles, at least for old timers like me who are constantly trying to get Kansas’ song ’Point of No Return’ out of my head. I am not happy it is back. Fortunately, these songs are snappier power pop numbers, so Kansas is pushed to the back of the memory… for now. When Wyatt Blair’s songs work best, he has crunchy pop moves like 999, when not it is a bit more like Loverboy. Although there are fans in both camps, I prefer the edgier pop cuts that don’t quite hit the mainstream. This does not quite work on the whole for me, but it has ambition and its own unique voice.

Songs to start with:

Trouble - Ah, a shoegaze sort of epic that reminds me of Mono—the band, not the disease.

Cruel World - Kind of like you are having a reggae dream in this one.

No Surrender - This has that British ambulance sound in the guitar. I rather like that.

This veteran Austin band is back with 64 songs based on each hexagram of the I Ching. That is a whole lot of writing and it is not going to come at us a all at once as there are eleven songs on this first installment of the project. As heady as this all sounds, this is a fine pop album that starts off with power, but gets a lot quieter as it goes onward. Ambitious? Yes. Overreaching? Perhaps, but it is a gutsy project that would take too long to study to see exactly what depths of understanding these songs have with the I Ching. And it is fun listening while we await that verdict, well down the road.

Songs to start with:

The Book of Too Late Changes - Keith Moon lives at least in these beats behind (or in front) of a cool Who-like power pop cut.

Close to the Sun - A classic indie rock sound but a song as fresh as today.

Queen of Swords - A fine piece of pastoral pop, strings, piano, and a Ray Davies feeling here.

For once I got my geographical feel for a song completely incorrect. While on the right continent at least, I heard a distinct New Orleans flavor to the music of this Canadian husband and wife duo. I actually make a lot more mistakes like this since I am willing to admit and it will only get worse as world wide communications are as wildly open as they ever have been and the history of music in the 20th century and beyond offers anyone a host of styles to emulate, combine, and incorporate. Ultimately there is a lot of blues in here amidst rock beats, reggae lines, and other R&B moves and pace. it is performed quite well.

Songs to start with:

AK 47 - Kind of psychedelic funk R&B

Clumsy Lover - Vocal line anything but clumsy and the music cleverly snakes around it all.

It Won’t be Long - They can even make a snarly vocal easy going.`

This is pop music of the mannered variety. Very steady, very assured, with nary a note out of place. As such, it does not quite engage me as much as I would like. I can see this drawing in a solid segment of the modern pop world, but the drum machine beats and soft edged pop melodies do not grab me like I would like. The vocals are also low key, but of a nice quality that sometimes turns into something that will stir up the emotions a bit. They add a little shoegaze late in the game, but it is still on the light side in keeping with the floating ethereal qualities of their shorter pop songs.

Songs to start with:

Days Upon Days - Bright and sunny and it briskly reminds me it does not last days upon days.

Aging - A relaxing guitar based cut where you can kind of feel yourself aging.

Trouble - Ah, a shoegaze sort of epic that reminds me of Mono—again… the band, not the disease.


his well named band plays modern electro pop with a bite. The sound is bold and assertive so rockers can get into this more than others in this area. But you really won’t be rocking out, as this is assertive pop music that has a thoughtful base. It is strong in execution and can hold its own on stage with the rockers. You will want to have that head bopping with a smile posture through most of this. I put this firmly in the likable camp, but if you are a fan of the style, you will probably like this a lot.

And you can catch them live this Friday, August 5th at Tropicalia on U Street.

Songs to start with:

Stars - There is some bounce in the step and a highly attractive vocal line.

You’ve Got Me Flush - Strong rhythm and undulating guitar wrapped around the vocals.

Coast - Bigger vocals to match the music.

Just five songs to sample here and although it is a tough brand of earnest punk rock, there are some indie moves here and some emo in rather long songs. It is effective enough, although not something beyond what I feel I have heard enough of in my life. If you are not oversaturated on this, then check these guys out. The best cut for my money is ‘Ownership’. That has some guitar heft and some nice style shifts here. I have to conclude that this Cambridge outfit is a lot better than others playing this style with their creative shifts they employ.

I have enjoyed Gringo Star’s live performances here in DC for many a year. They manage to capture their spirit and energy here on this record with ten songs of snappy popsike. Don’t think light, though, as these guys have some sharp rock moves and a variety of arrangements, both playful like a Fairground or in a deeply orchestral mode. I love their variety, yet the nasally vocal style keeps this unified and attractive. Gringo Star are still one of those extremely likable bands.

Songs to start with:

Still Alive - A robust drum beat and more sporadic instrumentation gives this a special edge.

Knee Deep - A nice Black Angels vibe with this droning psyche meditative piece.

It’s You - This is almost South American psyche, or perhaps psyche from the ninth continent.

This has a bit of that rural Karen Dalton feeling, but lacks the magic. It veers toward a laconic and laid-back sound with unique female vocals. Different, but not terribly interesting to these ears. And a laid back style coupled with a steel guitar is death for me. I thought the six and half minute ‘Burn Pile’ was lasting about twenty minutes. The vocals are not smooth either, which could be dramatic if the music did anything. I hear this is called weirdo country. That is about right, but it had me wanting to run to a sequin country act at the Opry. Nah, this is better than that, but I think this is destined for a very limited audience, and one I don’t want to hang with.

When you review a lot of records, it is good to mix it up between edgy primitive music and smoother beautiful styles. At least that works for me. Once in a long while you get elements of both. Heliotropes leans a bit more toward beauty, especially with the lush inviting vocals. But they have a deep intense rawer undercurrent as well. When they combine these successfully, they can really shine.

Songs to start with:

Normandy - I’m not sure if it was the guitar line or the female harmony vocals that grabbed me first, but I’m grabbed.

Over There that Way - Spacey beginning with great acoustic guitar sound and warm mysterious vocals.

Dardanelles Pts 1+2 - A fine set of songs that emphasize different band components within a unified theme.

This the strange dream that you just can’t quite shake. It is quite pleasant but it seems quit illogical unless you can figure out some of the internal logic at work. Heroes of Toolik is like this with it’s mix of laid back lounge style featuring plenty of trombone with quirky pop moves and out and out psychedelic passages. If it were not so light and fun, it would be downright eerie. In fact, it is even eerier because of that if I stay on this too long. Strange, strange band, yet they are so agreeable to the ear. This is one you should try out for yourself. You may have a different take entirely. But I plan on spinning this many more times.

Songs to start with:

Perfect - A perfect mishmash of styles blended and shaken into a smooth mix.

8 Miles - A droning light psychedelic surprise.

Say Virginia - A bouncy jazz pop thing of sorts.

There are some intriguing worldly rock songs with pop hooks and creative instrumentation all at work here. They do go for the pop jugular on a few songs, while others stretch out a bit into steady rockers with a pop approach. This is nice and one of those records that I can respect right away and suspect that I will like at more after 4-5 listens. I am liking pop music more as I age especially when there is some thought behind it.

Songs to start with:

City is Swollen - Inventive instrumentation elevates a fine song.

The Lens - Good melodic rock that you can even dance to… a bonus.

Dreamchaser - Nice acoustic guitar and electric guitar combination in this catchy cut.

Dirty nasty blues rock is usually good fun. LLC plays it well and varies speeds, intensities, and sonics to keep it fun and lively. If you grew up on Skynyrd and the many, many knockoffs, this will fit right in, but still sounds like they have heard some bands on SubPop. I’ve heard a few records but have not caught the live show, which would likely be a real kick.

Songs to start with:

Circus - The snarling edge makes this one a cut above.

G Bob - If you like down home porch stomping music, this will do nicely.

Chevrolet - The drum solo with no need for ‘more cowbell’ is a nice bit.

There is some nice spacey pop music on this album, that doesn’t quite hit the full popsike vibe unfortunately. There is just too much of a laconic pace and slacker vocal style for me. I want to be excited by the music I listen to and any sense of a band sitting on a lounge chair just does not do it for me. You can go slow or quiet and be as powerful and exciting as the Bad Brains, so it is not about pace. It is an attitude, but I need to get off the soap box and say that Magic Trick has a few songs where they can conjure up some magic. I would like to hear a lot more of that next time around.

Songs to start with:

More - The opener establishes a laconic style with an underlying toughness amidst some intriguing open space.

I Held the Ring - An atmospheric ramble along a crisp beat.

First Thought - Strong guitar solo and the long concluding passage.

Irish poptronica exists and here is the evidence. Róisín Murphy has been around electronica in bands and duos for some time. Her solo work shows plenty of things going on with sharp and versatile vocals being the main reason to listen. The elecronica is not bad either with a lot of space and odd undulating rhythms and patterns to keep it edgy, even while being smooth to the ear. Her fashion sense from the live show is something missing here, alas, which I think would make this music even that much more fun. But the sounds, electronic and otherwise (such as piano) offer a lot more than the average electronic band and work into smart melodies and subtle but pulsating rhythms. There is great touch in the execution here and this is a memorable album.

Songs to start with:

Pretty Gardens - Quirky moments and big gothic sounds all vie for time in this interesting cut.

Lip Service - Like a Brazilian pop song.

Whatever - Great edgy but intimate vocals and ethereal melody.

This local outfit has a firm hand aboard the wheel of the mainstream rock/punk rock hybrid ship. It is a beast to tame, but they manage it well—certainly better than I at keeping my metaphors on theme. I really like their tough intense sound. It never falls into the emo trap and although they sound like they could survive in an arena, they keep the music fast paced and ferocious enough for the clubs. Sometimes I like the usual ballads, although they don’t work quite as well here, even when the execution is good. Still, it is always good to pull back from pace and power at times during an album. And overall they come through well on this album, with more than a hint of what you will get from a live outing.

Songs to start with:

Losing Control - The opener sets the tone, establishes the sound and offers a great catchy melody.

No Damn Good - Actually, quite good.

Exception to the Rule - Well, no exceptions to the fine guitar work here.

Pylon was the Athens, Georgia band that befriended and influenced that other Athens, Georgia band that just a few more people heard of. Pylon was born out of the punk scene, but stayed on its artier side. The good thing for both sides is that the guitars had plenty of bite and the vocals were quite intense. So they were an easy band to like and still are as these live recordings show. In fact, they sound a lot more like Siouxsie and the Banshees crossed with the Bags than REM or Vic Chesnutt. 20 songs in all, this is a fine collection of their music. The recordings are a bit on the raw unpolished side of the ledger, but that just makes the vocals more guttural and intense. The guitar lines are intricate and alternate between snake charming runs and a proto-REM style that we all know quite well. There is that extra post punk edge there as well and at times the rhythm section even sounds a bit like Joy Division. This is the final show from their first run recorded in its entirety from 1983. File this one under “still powerful and still influential.”

Ah, now here’s an old school hard psyche rock band that could have been opening for Blue Cheer back in the day. So we have ferocious guitar riffs and fills, pummeling rhythm section, and throaty hard edged vocals. Add plenty of wah-wha pedal and you are there in the sun drenched California hills amidst the acidheads watching this SoCal band. With both these songs and the live recording, there is not of variety here. You can leave the room or house depending how loud you play this, and come back later and not feel like you missed any song in between. That can be a compliment or a problem, depending on what you are looking for. But if you want Grand Funk meets Blue Cheer meets Mountain, then give this a listen.

Rosebud… well, perhaps a more happier memory of youth here, as Snowglobe brings back the brighter side of the 1960s. There is some rock amidst the pop, but not much in the psychedelic department, which kind of cuts against the grain of what is happening these days. The vocals are male with some female flourish and the instrumentation is strong, even as they vary the arrangements quite a bit. This is bright and sunny from beginning to end and I detected no corn as the bounce in this band’s step is sincere and effective. Well done.

Songs to start with:

Easy - This sounds like some old pop classic from an American Kinks like band.

Walking with Her - The second song continues the breezy late sixties style that almost made you think flower power could work.

She’s Dying - Slower story and some fine orchestrated backing. Delicate but powerful

by Kyle Schmitt
Ash Reiter’s dreamy vocals highlight this California band’s psychedelic sound. The four-piece group’s pleasant backing complements her musings, such as, “All that you touch, you change / all that you change, it changes you.” Reiter sounds her most playful in “Eye on You”, a poppy song in which confesses attraction for someone she’s pretty sure feels the same way. The Sugar Candy Mountain rhythm section of Will Halsey (drums) and Peter Maffei (bass) sets a sturdy foundation for each song, enabling the adventurous synth and guitar work on tracks like “Being” and “Atlas”. They sound tightest on “Tired”, winding themselves around the tune as Reiter calls out the dreams that “rob me while I sleep”. Despite the occasional rough night, Sugar Candy Mountain keeps a positive, laid-back vibe rolling throughout this record.

Songs to Start With First

666 - Likely the most serene recital of the number of the beast in recording history.

Being - Halsey’s buoyant drums lend bounce as he and Reiter ask sweetly, “Have you ever seen the light?”

Eye on You - An early-60s sound reminiscent of Blondie at their most clever and personal.

This six song EP has a pretty healthy array of sounds in these songs. They feature spritely electronics and keyboards with subtle winds and brass beyond the rhythm section and light guitar. The female vocals are equidistant between ethereal and lounge to sound just airy enough while warmly enveloping the listener. There are some rhythmic exercises and variations of pop music to make this an engaging affair and far richer than most EPs of this size.

Sunday, July 31, 2016


Funny, how I don't discuss outdoor shows during these previews. Nothing funny about outdoors and DC summers coming together.

Kick back with the Kickback at the DC9, Monday, August the 1st.

White Lung sounds a whole lot healthier than Black Lung, so find out how White Lung fills the air at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Tuesday, August 2nd.

Will See Through Dresses be wearing... oh never mind. Just go seem them at the DC9 this Thursday, the 4th.
#120 See Through Dresses: You Get Sick Again from Love Drunk on Vimeo.

A couple of fine shows blocks apart this Friday, August 5th: Try Everymen at the Velvet Lounge or Future Generations at Tropicalia. It is your choice.

Dorothy... I can't even write that without hearing Auntie Em's voice... is playing the 9:30 Club on Saturday the 6th.

Everything Everything brings everything they got to the U Street Music Hall on Monday, August 8th.

Drive Like Jehu is back and at the Black Cat on Wednesday, August 10th. Do I go now or wait for the Las Vegas set? I do have Juliette Lewis at the U Street Music Hall to make my choice even tougher.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Swans - Okkyung Lee -- 9:30 Club - Jul 28 2016

Okkyung Lee - Like many Swans tours in the past, we open with something simple and direct, yet unique and somewhat experimental. Ms. Lee is a cellist with a fine musical grounding who has the vision to explore noise concepts with greater care than most. While others may butcher an instrument to create noise, Ms. Lee explores contrasting textures with a fine touch that requires both a solid understanding of the instrument and a creative direction. The audience definitely got into this as the attention and response was strong. You can see why she collaborates with many interesting musicians as she is also capable of holding a large crowd on a big stage all by herself.
Swans - In recent years, the UK has provided some fascinating dramatic police television series from remote locales. 'Vera' was the first of these as they explore the crimes across the barren terrain of northern England. 'Hinterland' is doing the same in Aberystwyth, Wales, while 'Shetland' (along with the novels of Peter May) take you deep into isolated small island living where there is darkness around distant corners and the sense of dread permeates the air of a rugged existence in a strangely beautifully cold environment. Swans could be the soundtrack to many of these scenes and stories as they carefully unveil their sonic majesty over the expansive evening they create. With unsettling events going on everywhere at all times, they remind you of all the darkness lurking far and near. Yet there is such delicately roaring power within their music to remind you of the journey through it all. They may be urban, but their music understands broad landscapes. Their extraordinary vision and execution continues to make them one of the most important bands in existence.

And thankfully, this 'retirement' tour is not quite a full retirement, although they may not work on this scale of touring ever again. Michael Gira will continue in some way and has mentioned that Swans may be back with different musicians, in different projects. Even tonight, there was a subtle effective shift as Thor Harris is off with Amanda Palmer and his position is taken up by Paul Wallfisch who plays more keyboards and less percussion, although since keyboards are a percussive instrument, he manages to add some fascinating sonics, while often playing in a percussive fashion. But it is still the three guitars cutting into fascinating rhythms and drones with Gira's vocals stretching things out even further that come together to overwhelm you. It sounds majestic tonight and I am thankful to be here.

Additional news - And speaking of retirement, I will use this semi-retirement tour to make the first written admission of what I have been telling people for many months now. I will be retiring this blog some time in the next 3 months. I will write up more later, but I am getting old, physically challenged, and even mentally overwhelmed at times. It is scary to think about not having this terrific work to do that I have enjoyed so much, but comes the time.... More later and I only hope that I get a few more shows as good as this one before I go.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Super Furry Animals - Chris Forsyth & the Solar Motel Band-- 9:30 Club - Jul 23 2016

by John Miller

Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band - This band are supporting headliners Super Furry Animals this evening and for a couple of other shows in the northeast. A four piece hailing from the City of Brotherly Love, they have just released their third effort, Rarity of Experience. Much like Thursday's Holy Fuck show, their compositions are largely absent of vocals. Leaning on some serious 70s rock, this is far more traditional than Thursday’s show but there is still some ample room for plenty of experimentation. One might think jam band, but I hear something far more concrete. Even though their compositions tend to last well over five minutes, every riff, note, and fill has a purpose. There isn't noise for noise's sake, noodling, or extensive use of delay. No filler, just solid songs.

Super Furry Animals - Super Furry Animals have been somewhat silent for almost a decade. The last album. Dark Days/Light Years, was released all the way back in 2009. This newly reunited Welsh outfit, has been out just playing shows and not really supporting anything particular. I know David has had some issues seeing some reunited acts that fail to deliver; thankfully I have yet to run into anything truly deplorable (Ed-I think a majority end up with successful new life, thankfully). Though they didn't walk on stage to it, an extra long version of the theme to Hawaii Five-O played just before the theatrics began. A note; if you want to get a crowd pumped, play Hawaii Five-O before doing anything.  Clad in white jumpsuits, the five members come out to thumping bass and a frantic video backing piece that shakes with each image. There are helmets and signs too; one simply says "Ape Shit". The audience complies. Super Furry run through some of their more popular songs to begin with. It's a fun set. The psych-pop begins easy enough but each song grows, expands, and bursts. Stopping half way into "Hello Sunshine" just to have a chat, Rhys goes for a bit before holding up another sign; "Louder". The audience complies. Super Furry Animals even had some time for some newer pieces. Inspired by the Welsh National Soccer team qualifying for the Euro this year, Bing Bong their newest piece, is a fun sing a long that could easily fit aside anything from the earlier catalog. But perhaps the biggest response came from The Man Don't Give A Fuck; the audience  quickly joins in a hearty sing-along with more fucks than one could possibly count.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Trixie Whitley - Indigo Street -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Jul 22 2016

Indigo Street - Indigo Street is a woman, not a band, but she has a strong band locked in behind her. She brings the lead vocals and electric guitar, while the band provides 12-string acoustic guitar, stand-up bass, and drums. It is an intriguing combination as she provides the intensity in the music, while the band adds subtle intricate backing. It is a fabulous sound that takes its cue from the the old European psyche folk scene with progressive elements, rock moments, even a touch of jazz. I hear elements of a smoother Elyse Weinberg along with someone like Mariza Koch and the band, Emma Myldenberger. Considering this is their second show together, it is amazingly accomplished. But these are fine experienced musicians that know how to create a unique atmosphere. The songs are strong and there is nothing not to like here, especially for an old psyche-folker like me.
photo: Rock'n'Roll Hotel
Trixie Whitley - If the opening band was edgy, Trixie Whitley and her band are even edgier. She sings and plays guitar most, but not all of the time. She is backed with drums, electric bass, and keyboards. Although there is a singer songwriter approach, it veers more towards rock than folk. The vocals are intense and expressive and create the edginess, but the keyboards counter that with a spooky backing that you don't think about often, but feel every step of the way. Her songs are strong and her personality is fun especially as she embraces a rather small crowd tonight. But that made for an even better show as I rarely see a Friday night crowd enraptured by the music and staying so quietly focused. And there was much to focus on as Whitley changed the arrangements from sparse solo outings to full band outings that varied in volume and depth. When you see a relatively small show filled with serious fans, you know there will be bigger shows in the future as the music gets discovered.

Video grab of the Night: Speaking of spooky...

Friday, July 22, 2016

Caustic Casanova - The Ravenna Arsenal - Horseburner - Matter of Planets - Borracho -- The Pinch - Jul 21 2016

Borracho - 5 bands? The real review will be of my back at the end of the night and tomorrow morning. But if the middle batch is as good as the bookends, it will be worth it. We start with a Power with a capital P trio that has always done a great job around town. They have such a tough sound, but don't let it overshadow their fine songs that could probably work in more than a few offshoot genres, as long as it still rocks. I had not been to the Pinch in a while and the sound seemed to be a bit better tonight with better equipment. The vocals are still a bit buried, but the clarity of the instrumentation is solid. Their drummer is off for South America soon and is the second DC area musician to head to that continent that I know of. Hope he has a blast and hope the remaining duo continue to offer great music to this area. This was a fine final set for me that I really enjoyed.

Matter of Planets - From Columbus, Ohio, a former home town of mine and also home of Lo-Pan, a really fine band I have seen on this very stage, comes this powerful quartet. They can easily work on any metal stage with Lo-Pan or all of the bands tonight, but they quickly set course for the stars. They have two guitars soaring, but keep it tough along the way. They create some nice shifts in course to keep the journey interesting, which is important as this is a fully instrumental set. Good solos and rhythmic shifts kept things interesting as well. Ultimately, this band proved to have a different sound from the rest, but still connected well with the others as they could match the strength of the metal offered up tonight.

Horseburner - I am not sure what a horseburner is, but I also don't think I want to know. But for the band behind the name, we have a West Virginia quartet that knows how to kick up some serious sludge metal. They have enough shifts in tone and pace to not stay too much in drone trappings. In fact, they added more than one double lead moment, as well as some post Metallica metal offerings. This may be a bit too much genre (or sub genre perhaps) jumping for some, but bring it on. It works ok for me and did for the modest crowd out on this hot night.

The Ravenna Arsenal - I learned from the hard working photographer behind Roxplosion that one of this Ohio band's guitarists is a luthier who has built the guitars they were using tonight and has a very small line of guitars he has crafted. While not an expert in gear, I can safely say they delivered the crunch, power, and tone that a fine metal band requires. They often had some grungy gooey slow parts in their overall sound, but there were some fascinating high tones fighting to come through the muck that offered a ghostly melody to the mix. This is another strangely likable band in what is turning out to be a successful evening with nary a note out of place.
Caustic Casanova - I just saw this trio, long one of my favorites, less than two months ago, so nothing changed too much from that review. A bit of tinkering with the set list as we began with the opening riffs courtesy of Mr. Nugent (he won't notice, he's busy this week) that work into one of their newer metallic crunching songs with the usual artistry within (something Ted could not touch with a ten foot bow). They keep the sonics coming with all the creative flourish that you come to expect and the crowd is enjoying it all. They unify all the elements previously heard tonight and add a few spices of their own to what is now a long but fulfilling night. Another cut reminded me of Budgie jamming with Led Zeppelin until some how a Rush song emerged. There is plenty of psychedelic intensity as well, as this trio knows how to play with all forms of metal and beyond to concoct something unique. And they continue to work hard and tour frequently. And next week they are off for TEN WEEKS. So if they come your way, do check them out. You will not be sorry.

Cartoon Grab of the Night: I dedicate this On the Fastrack cartoon to Mugger, Gibby Haynes, and Duff McKagan, and accountants everywhere.

Holy Fuck - Doomsquad -- DC9 - Jul 21 2016

by John Miller

Doomsquad - It's getting late. Doomsquad, supporting their latest effort, Total Time, are in the 28th minute of what appears to be a 30 minute delay. Shit happens, I get it. There are lots of moving parts, so perhaps the delay was inevitable. It's interesting, the drums, rather percussion is spot on. In addition to the traditional, there looks to be some triggers activating a pre-recorded beat and there is definitely something else but it has gotten so crowded, the mystery instrument, remains just that, a mystery. The keyboards (of which I count three) keep this progressive techno grounded. With the amount of rhythmic gymnastics happening, they provide an exceptional base. If I get lost, I'll just listen for the keys. Considering Doomsquad began as a joke; a riff on the classic family outfits of the sixties and seventies, they did a good job of subverting those tropes on their collective heads. Far from saccharine, they are aggressive and at points almost confrontational. Very impressive.

Holy Fuck - Let's count how many times I can write fuck or a derivative of fuck. DC9 has some pretty amazing food and some pretty amazing booths. Super comfortable. Generally I'll take a seat before a show, slide as far as I can to the left, and rest against the wall. An older gentleman sat down across from me tonight with the drummer from Holy Fuck. While I didn't add much of anything to the conversation, I was able to confirm the suggestion of local mainstays Tone as someone Holy Fuck should get into. Moral of the story; talk to strangers

Holy Fuck has an interesting approach to their brand of electronic music; they use non-traditional instruments to approximate the sound of modern electronic music. That's not to say they don't use electronic instruments, Holy Fuck aren't using the typical tools. Though I don't see any laser guns yet, it’s early, so there is still hope. Holy Fuck is much more traditional than I could have imagined. There is a constant thumping base and looping keyboard patterns that are unmistakably dance; Fuck isn't exactly clean either. There’s film of dirt that envelops their compositions. I imagine a lot of that has to do with the fuzz coming off the bass. Lots and lots of fuzz, low ends, distortion, effect games with the keyboards. Vocally there isn't much to speak of; any additions from the band are usually in the form of atmospheric noise. The drums are on point all night; through it all they are crisp and varied. Matt keeps it interesting with his choice of time signatures. It reminds me of Battles. I almost feel as if there is too much noise. It can be overbearing at times and take away from the cleaner, quieter moments. And too be honest the quiet moments aren't even that quiet. This isn't manic, swinging violently from volume to volume, it’s excessive. And with a name like Holy Fuck, who can blame them?

Total fuck count: 9

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Amanda + Jack Palmer - Thor & Friends -- 9:30 Club - Jul 16 2016

Thor & Friends - Thor is Thor Harris and not the Norse God (nor the old Max's KC performer). If you are like me, you know him from his run with the Swans, who you can see at this same club in about ten days. But before he gears up with the guitar power of the Swans, he has consciously put together a guitar, bass, and drumless outfit to open up tonight (and also back up some of Amanda Palmer's songs). He has a synth player mostly handling the bottom sounds and a viola handling the drone. That leaves himself and two other vibes players to move around to various xylophones. Thor adds a bit of clarinet as well to this intriguing sound. Amanda Palmer even grabs a pair of mallets and joins in. The band began with rhythmic droning pieces, but work in more melodic works. There was quite a bit of complexity here and the band handles it well as a serene ambiance prevailed. Yet it is a setting that kept you quite alert and mentally active with all that was coming out of this band. The Swans unplugged? Not really, but this was an imaginative spin on that concept. Ultimately this was a fine set that would be even more successful in a smaller room.

Noah Britton - In an uncredited appearance, the writer of one of the songs on the new Jack + Amanda Palmer LP made an appearance here to do a couple of songs. Britton's comdey troupe, Aspergers are Us, is appearing at the Kennedy Center tonight. Britton played a deep voiced folk cut that was quite original and then a singalong that showed decent finger style guitar and a nice melody. Sometimes these little interludes are a distraction, but not tonight. This was a fun surprise that went over well.
Jack and Amanda Palmer - I have not seen Amanda Palmer since the Dresden dolls were here many years ago and I was looking forward to something different tonight. She played hostess the whole way through by introducing and playing with Thor early on. She explained the evening and took questions from the audience reminding me of a funny personable Carol Burnett show opening. When her set began, she played a few tunes with Thor & Friends to start things off. Although the crowd was stoked, the tone was set early on with maybe a bit too much repartee with the audience as the first song was stopped four times. It was hard to find too much fault as the set was loose and fun. Then Amanda's Dad comes out with acoustic guitar as they sang duets from their latest album where they chose cover songs from the last 50 years to play together. The voices worked well as Jack seemed like an old folkie and Amanda has a profoundly excellent voice. Still, I would have rather heard more songs and less talking where my brain was led to debate what I was hearing...

"Love is not about perfection, it is fucked up. We are all fucked up, right?" Well no, that sort of generalization for billions of people is as meaningless as saying that it is all about perfection.

paraphrasing... 'This is a Phil Ochs song from 1964 and sadly is still going on today'. Agreed, but again awfully general, since if you talked to anyone who was there, things are radically different. If you expect major problems and bad attitudes to become extinct, well good luck. It is like expecting to win a 'war on drugs' or expecting sin to be eradicated. But hey, a Phil Ochs song is welcome and will be for centuries to come.

I know I am getting picky here, because the atmosphere was fun, but the songs can speak to the big issues better than the performer most times. And yes these are troubling times, but any sort of reading of history should remind you of why people have always been using creative means to get through it all. So long may Amanda Palmer continue with the creative songs she writes and the covers she interprets so well.

Quote of the Night: From Noah Britton in the middle of his successful sing along...
"That's it, make Minor Threat proud."

Thursday, July 14, 2016


The heat is in. If I can brave the walk to the clubs, these are some of the shows I will be attending:

Amanda Palmer with Thor & Friends will be at the 9:30 Club this Saturday night, July 16th. The last time I saw Amanda at the Club was when she played for the first Obama inauguration. What a radical choice we had for that election. Can't get any more radical than that.

Doomsquad opens for Holy Expletive (I use expletives like a sailor, but I just hate them in band names) at the DC9 on Thursday, July 21st.

Trixie Whitley joins us at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Friday the 22nd.

Super Furry Animals bring their super furry fun across the ocean to play for us at the 9:30 Club on Saturday, July 23rd.

The Defibulators will keep your heart pumping at Gypsy Sally's on Tuesday, July 26th.

The mighty Swans will be playing their last show on Thursday the 28th at the 9:30 Club. Let's call it their... oh, go watch Rocky & Bullwinkle if you don't know what comes next.

If you don't make it to the Swans, by all means head over to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel to see Quilt and Big Thief. My theoretical clone will be there.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Steve Gunn - Spacin -- Black Cat - Jul 10 2016

by John Miller

Spacin - Spacin meander on stage about ten after eight. The crowd follows, slowly making their way into the Back Room. It's quiet but to be honest, I expected as much. Spacin have to compete with uncharacteristically nice weather. Beer in hand, Jason Killinger introduces his four piece as they stumble into their first piece. It's decidedly lo-fi fuzz that begins quietly enough before morphing into a four minute riff. Hailing from Philadelphia, Spacin is supporting their latest, 'Total Freedom', and if it's anything like this set, it is probably well worth the listen. Jason keeps it light, asking for a bottle opener during an impromptu intermission. The drums thud while the bass follows along. Jason fiddles with his beverage. For such a laid back set there is a lot of shredding tonight. The lead guitarist is doing a killer job of keeping things exciting. Structurally the songs are interesting; big hooks followed by sludge, that find their way back to the hooks. Really solid. The room has filled out nicely as the back half of the set begins. Things slow down and take on a more psychedelic bent, before the three piece drum set begins. And seemingly out of nowhere another endless hook. Great set.
 photo: Geoff Tischman

Steve Gunn - Formally of Kurt Vile's backing band, The Violaters, Brooklyn based Steve Gunn is supporting his latest album Eyes on the Lines (his seventh release since 2013). I don't know if it is because I have read so many reviews of David's but I feel like I have seen Kurt Vile multiple times. So I am excited to see what Steve Gunn is all about. I wasn't expecting so much twang; the first piece has a lot of slide guitar that plays well with Steve's voice. It's a nice complement before the two guitarists battle it out. With the reviews read about his most recent release, I expected something a lot slower. I kept seeing words like contemplative, journey, direction and expected a slow trek out west; taking in each landscape with a cool, measured thought. The bass is good; not quite mid range, not quite low end, not exactly emphasizing every bump in the road but rather letting the shocks do their job. At times the guitars move at a blistering pace, shredding in between Steve and the drums. And considering how measured he is, I am surprised how loud they get. The earlier reviews also misled me as well. Kurt Vile's sets reminded David of early Pink Floyd and Velvet Underground. That’s not to say they were wrong, I just assumed Gunn might follow suit.  His pieces are much more up tempo. As if he were on a mission; racing through the south. While it isn't quite a madcap race to the end, it is certainly at least 10 to 15 miles above the speed limit; like an old pickup rumbling down dirt country road.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Split Seconds - Wild Love - More AM than FM -- Black Cat - Jul 7 2016

More AM than FM -- I last saw this Maryland trio 3 1/2 years ago and they offer the same powerful punk sound, but have even a bit more skill and confidence now. Instead of radio bands, I think 'More Agrro-Music than Finesse Music' is appropriate here. The throaty guitar licks on top of a strong rhythm section lays the table with classic punk rock meets blues rock sounds. The guitarist's voice can stay with it all with a ferocious edge that keeps everyone on their toes. The tunecraft is decent and again, it is the confidence to push the music to the edge that has these ladies at the top of their game. What is not to like about a band like this?

Wild Love - This local outfit has an Irish singer, noticeable more in the stage patter than his lead vocals or the musical style. They also feature a big strong sound, but unlike the first band, there is more a move to shoegaze, post-Radiohead rock, and older big rock sounds. I find it works best for me when they cut loose a little bit and inject some fun into their songs. The more introspective ones drift away from me some. But there is enough spirit and energy to make for a decent set. They cut a fine presence in the scene and should work well on many a bill around town.

The Split Seconds - This local twin guitar quartet is celebrating their album release with this show tonight. There is a sizable crowd here to join in on the fun, and the band delivers them everything they expected and then some. They describe themselves as classic pop punk band, which is exactly as they were for me. I kept trying to find the band that they have grown out of and came up with Generation X, which I see they indeed list as an influence. That seemed closest as the vocals had that melodic energy of early Gen X songs. But they add some bombs away abandon from even heavier later day punk bands, while never losing sight of good melodies. They even add some classic moves like instrumental surf songs and reggae-meets-punk rock combination cuts. And they are yet another band to cover 'Kick Out the Jams' with a guest vocalist even. Although I have seen the MC5 play this, I never get tired of the many cover versions that come my way. Although there were some heavy hitter national bands to consider tonight, I am glad I went with the locals as they had the energy and sense of fun that makes for a great summer night.

Cartoon grab of the Night:

Sunday, July 3, 2016

We Were Promised Jetpacks - Prism Tats -- Jammin Java - Jul 2 2016

Prism Tats - We begin the holiday weekend festivities amid a big crowd with an LA trio that I am guessing many have not heard of. I hadn't, so it started a little slow for me, but their sound was very curious. They combined smooth pop melodic moves with a wide vocal range and some vocal/synth effects on top of a grinding and simple rhythm section. The guitarist invokes some alternate pop moves or joins in with a menacing attack. Yet the vocals never attack. It is like Kirk Brandon playing with Hawkwind's rhythm section, covering some Nerves songs. This really gets quite good by set's end and I sense the crowd is experiencing it like I am, taking a bit to get used to the style and really enjoying what these guys come up with. It is always a pleasure hearing such familiar and catchy sounds integrated in unique ways.
We Were Promised Jetpacks - This Scottish band has a strong fanbase here due no doubt to all the classic reasons, writing really good songs, releasing albums regularly, and touring hard. The room is stoked even after a bit too long a delay (for me anyway) and the crowd is excited with every song and just about every move. The band does its usual subtle shifting around between pop, rock, postpunk, and shoegaze with a firm hand at the wheel to keep everything sounding rather majestic. These guys have that knack for making big sounds sound intimate, with dynamic shifts from loud to quiet that seem completely within nature. This is about the third maybe fourth time I have seen them, which is about the time I feel I have had enough of a band. But their fresh approach and strong songwriting has not tired me the slightest and I will quite possibly see them again on their next visit across the Atlantic.

Quote of the Night: Actually, a week ago or more, rather stating the obvious:

James Williamson - "Everybody's dead except for Iggy and I, so it would be sort of ludicrous... with only one Stooge in the band"

Thursday, June 30, 2016


When Martin Bramah left the Fall after the great ‘Live at the Witch Trials’, he formed this excellent post punk band. The direction is given extra pizzazz with a cheesy psyche organ that perfectly merges the 60s with the 80s. The guitars are fierce and the rhythm section is high in the mix, so it has all the great post punk sounds that you expect. The songs are generally quite good as well and there are some demos amidst the better known songs. These songs are rarities and singles and such, but come together to form a great album.

Songs to start with:

The Flood - The opener has that modern audacious garage feeling.

Work - One of John Peel’s favorites and that is all you need to know.

Conscience - Slower, moodier, but lots of twisted counter guitar moves.

This is the new material and although not as steady as “Awefull”, the highlights on this are well worth a listen. This takes a turn to the more slacker oddball music, which was hinted at in the solo album more than the Blue Orchids material. There are a lot of interesting moments here, it only requires an appreciation of a more laid back approach. If you have that, there are creative songs to be heard. If not, well, be sure to check out ‘Feather from the Sun’. That is a major highlight.

Songs to start with:

A Feather from the Sun - Such exciting contrasts of guitar parts, keyboards, laconic vocals… a highly original song.

Jam Today - And still jamming decades later.

Road to Perilous - Poetic beginning to an odd little dittie.

If Syd Barrett could have organized his thoughts better for his solo career, his great songs could have had this sort of treatment. Blue Orchids front man Martin Bramah released this in 2008 and this is reissued in conjunction with the Blue Orchids releases reviewed above. It was a pretty obscure limited release to begin with, but is well worth the time and trouble to put it out in the world again. It has that outsider folk feeling that is a fraction in the know (nod and a wink). That is always worth at least one listen for those of us that think we’ve just about heard everything.

Songs to start with:

Coming Forth by Day - Charming cut where the Bramah style starts making sense.

It’ll Be Night Soon - Nice electric guitar line added on to the moderately quirky folk.

Strangely Lucid - Like a folk Doors song.

Here is some lo-fi psychedelic music that should interest most psychedelic fans, especially those around DC. The artist was in a DC band called Death Chants back before my blog began and I never caught them. When band members scattered, Rafi stayed active and now has this album out on Woodsist (Label of the band Woods). He may be in Philadelphia now, which has some fine psychedelic sounds around town. This one fits right in as it is trippy from first not to last, with chants, drones, and a really low key psychedelic vibe prevalent through eight long songs. There is not much discernible difference in the songs, well there is always something, but the goal is to create an atmosphere that unfolds itself in an Escherian manner. I still prefer more song oriented psychedelic music (and there is a touch of this later on), but I always leave plenty of room for good mood pieces and this one deserves some further cosmic exploration.
This is definitely my type of modern pop-rock. Moody vocals and thick sounds work hand in hand to deliver straight forward melodies that kept me glued to this channel. Not quite chillwave, but cool and composed throughout, this delivers a good balanced sound for cross genre interests. It is mannered with the artists in control of the pace and sound. There is plenty to like here, maybe not a lot to love and get roused up off your couch, but it was highly effective to these ears.

Songs to start with:

Shades in Shade - Maybe the thickest sound underneath the chill vocals.

St. Nick - Lovely guitar and percussion shake-up with more lovely vocal work.

Lay Low - Good fade-out with old school guitar solo amidst the relaxing tones.

The music here is decent. The vocals offer an effective thoughtful pop approach. I could easily dismiss this as an average effort, but this Edmonton band manages to connect the music with the lyrics as well as you could want. If you don’t pay attention, you will find pleasant music going in one ear and out the other. But they have a way of making you listen and their subtle but dramatic sounds are a big part of that. I likely would not have spent time with this if I just heard a few seconds or heard it described, but it was well worth my time and will be again soon. Tricky, but inviting.

Songs to start with:

Grim - A rich opener, replete with grim music and cautiously optimistic music. Quite a mood here.

Sober - A classy song where the guitars communicate as well as the vocals.

The Only Time I Choose - Dreamy, but down to earth some how.

So a musician exiles himself to a remote cabin to write an album. Yes, Bon Iver has been mentioned several times in conjunction of this latest LP by M. Craft, but there are of course differences. I thought Bon Iver was ok, but overhyped. Hopefully this M. Craft album will steadily find its audience, but it could grow quite large based on what I am hearing. There is a delicacy to the songs, yet a good searching vibe going on that allows the music to flow out. Even on songs that are fleshed out more with a chorus of backing vocals, sharper guitar tones, drums, and piano, everything is so mannered and comfortably paced. Although this may turn off the rock heavy crowd, if you are willing to sit back and drift in the pool, M. Craft will provide the soundtrack.

Songs to start with:

Blood Moon - Spacey foray toward the blood moon, yet a quiet, delicate journey.

Chemical Trails - Another careful, quality song.

Love is the Devil - If you like a bigger, bolder arrangement, this one has plenty to offer.

Local dubsters are back with another 18 song album. With maturity comes some positives, and maybe a bit of a negative too. The arrangements are more involved with a variety of rock meets reggae moves done at various intensities and volumes and plenty of pop hooks scattered throughout. I enjoy the brass and occasional carnival organ sound, both of which expand the atmosphere considerably. Lyrically and melodically it is a little bit geared to youth, which has left me by some time ago. So I am not sure whether a more refined approach would work or whether they should just continue direct their energy as they are doing. Probably best to stick with what they know and if they can still bring it on stage as they have in the past, all appears to be well in the ZDub camp.

Songs to start with:

Find a Way - Good pop tune, sung with warmth and very balanced between smart and accessible.

You Know I’m With You - The rock guitars sound wonderful here.

Never Land - Punchy cut that balances heart and heft.

It is always a treat to have these veteran DC punk rockers play their brand of punk infused power pop music, whether on one of their many regular releases or live in the clubs. Now with a lead guitarist, Steve Hansgen, well entrenched after a period of changes, they are firing on all cylinders as this album proves. And they still have that little bit of extra hard rocking guitar sound added to their power (to the third power) pop. I hope no one reading this blog is hearing the name ‘Dot Dash’ for the first time (the Wire song doesn’t count), but if you are, climb aboard, while these guys still have this amazing drive and clarity.

They play around town regularly but have a good show coming to the Black Cat on Thursday, July 14th.

Songs to start with:

Dumb Entertainment - Catchy enough opener, but with a sharp creative break shows the special nature of Dot Dash.

10,000 Days - Crunching guitars, big drums, melodic bass line, and still room for pop oriented vocals.

Summer Lights - Try this one if you think these guys have only a couple of different speeds—the old fashioned rock vibe is unique here.

This is not the first Kyle Fosburgh acoustic guitar record I have heard, so I expected and received something excellent. Between his fine solo albums, he also works to reissue and unearth Robbie Basho material, so he is a serious minded musician that has great taste with unique historic talents. Fosburgh has a post-Basho feel, but is more delicate in the way of a Pierre Bensusan. There are seven lovely songs here, all with fine finger style guitar work and with vocals that are carefully worked into the song, some times sparingly, but effective in their quiet clarity. I always like a good finger style folk guitarist, but Kyle Fosburgh is one that is near the top of my list, at least here in the USA.

This seven song EP has that classic post modern indie rock vibe… crisp guitar bits, a bass line that roams a couple of octaves, snare popping drums, and ironic vocals. Oh, and a pop sensibility is at the heart, although the music acts like it does not want to admit it. I find this all rather cute, but hard to fully embrace in 2016. It is still a fun listen and it blasts by pretty quickly. A cut like ‘The Fall’ is something I want more of. On the right bill, this could be a lot of fun live.

My expectations were for something psychedelic based on band name and album title. Instead, we have oddball bubbly pop music. As this goes on a ways, there is a more murky mysterious element that brings in ancient sounds from the 1960s pop and lounge scenes that make this sound other worldly and intriguing. This album is proof of the concept of finishing what you start. After three or four cuts, I was ready to move on. But staying with it, I found the songs got longer, better, and there was more of an understanding of their approach. This is not for everyone, but if you wanted to challenge the pop side of your musical brain, here is a good test.

Songs to start with:

Luminosity - Haunting vocal and guitar with dubby bassline and rimshots. Oddly interesting.

Murder in the Garden - A fine vocal and a musical mystery of sorts - my personal favorite.

Nightmares - One of the more pleasant nightmares I have experienced, but quite quirky and dreamy.

This is the kind of smart album I like. There is such care in the execution with songs that are smart and penetrating. The emotions are unveiled through careful musical and vocal construction and not pushed at you like more obvious musicians. So you have something accessible where your brain stays on (but not overworked). There are musicians from Neko Case and Death Cab for Cutie here, so it is a strong cast engaging in popcraft at work. Give this a spin.

And you can see Laura Gibson at the Black Cat on Saturday, July 9th.

Songs to start with:

The Cause - Her assured vocal style is established and there is some crazy music going on in the background.

Empire Builder - Maybe it is the title, but the music also reminds me of a Paul Simon type epic story.

Caldera, Oregon - Great phrasing and contrasting sounds. Delicate and ethereal.

I am hearing Big Black meets Chrome meets Death Metal. But this is no young hip college band, but a South Korean collective that manages to work in traditional songs into some of the wildest and intense arrangements that are likely to come out of your speakers for some time. There are many longs songs and while heavy and startling at times, they engage in spacey drones as well. They are not the first Asian band to embrace the krautrock sounds of Ash Ra Tempel or Amon Düül, but they take it up a notch or two. And they cover all the forms that work for me in psychedelic music, drones, folk moves, hard guitar moments, and loads of creative flourish that all come together in one unique atmosphere. Monster LP, here, dive in and float skyward.

Songs to start with:

Wardrobe - Nothing like a ferocious opener to wake you from your slumber.

Echo of Creation - Another fierce rocker keeps the momentum

The Mountain - This is the climb to spiritual enlightenment.

I had to make sure I was listening to a new record when I first put this on, as the organ sound and other musical moves took me back to the soul music scene from the late sixties. Durand Jones is from Bloomington, Indiana and has clearly made an effort to bring classic soul music into the present. There are others, but not as many as there were then and it is good to hear this lovely sound. He has the expressive voice and also the band that can thicken up the mix or allow more space depending on the mood they are after. And they play around with beats and forms just enough, but the lead vocals are assured and keep the soul at the heart, so to say.

Songs to start with:

Smile - Great combination of old time soul and reggae moves.

Groovy Babe - Funky guitar, big rock sound and a great title.

Now I’m Gone - There is an interesting bounce in this beat.

Fela Kuti is certainly known as an African legend, as his Nigerian afrobeat set a course for many musicians around the world. One of them was his son Femi who has now been active for 30 years (where has the time gone). I am less familiar with his music, but since he first played in his father’s band, I am sure many of the core traits will be there. He clearly has a fiery lyrical approach and a high energized beat to support the vocal lines. The guitars and brass are bright and quick to the note. You have to look hard to find anything not to like here. So if not to your taste, it could easily hit you in the right mood; and I like a good blast of this style of music from time to time.

You can see Femi Kuti live at the 9:30 Club on Friday, July 29th.

Songs to start with:

Nothing to Show for it - Lively opener, which is the way that openers should go.

No Work No Job No Money - Spritely rhythm, lots of space for the strong vocals, interesting sounds.

Wy Our Money -  A snappy funky number that will get everybody moving.

They must be slow roasting Grandma, as this music takes its time unfolding its flavor. This is moody electronic music, although there are both pop vocals and some hybrid rap moments as well. ‘Sax in the City’ is a bit noisier in spots and with some decent drumming hits some rock buttons while doing some interesting electronic things, too. There is just enough creativity to keep me listening. It is not really my style, nor am I exactly sure whose style it might be (which is cool), but it ultimately pulled me just far enough into its enchanted world.

If you like gritty lo-fi rock band blues, you may want to hang out in this lonesome shack. Be forewarned, this is raw. It is not gnarly fast paced furious blues. It is steady riff oriented chunky blues with atmospheric vocals. It is a bit like a steady slower punk rock band playing the blues, raw and feral without flash. If this sounds exciting, well it might be, but it was not for me. There are some good songs, but too many other times it is just blues riffing until they decide to stop. It is refreshing to go primitive at times and this may fit the bill for a foray back in time, but it just was not fresh enough and vibrant enough to sustain going forward with.

Songs to start with:

Lonesome Shack - Good atmosphere created here with the riff and vocal line.

Dirty Traveller - Well titled traveling song.

Blood - A little bit beyond the usual guitar riff song here offers a needed change-up, although it comes late.

Pop music is not often this creative. One wonders if ‘pop’ is the right word. It describes the feeling of association for the listener, but you just wonder if the popularity will follow. Clearly, smart music lovers will enjoy the sly simplicity of this music that is sharp as a tack, but it may not be able to quite catch the masses. Too bad, as there are great feelings to be had in these somewhat varied, but all slightly quirky songs.

Songs to start with:

I Know a Man - Kind of a Ray Davies title and a tad of the songwriting style, too.

The Retreat - Delightful pop song with some rocking moves as well as some surprise shifts.

The Telepath Returns - Has a laid back American pop style.

The mileage between Bologna and Los Angeles is vast and filled with many cultural influences that this trio can cull from as they claim both cities as home. The core line-up is keyboards/female vocals, stand-up bass, and drums, but there are other instrumentalists adding touches that include brass and some guitar. But that is the clinical side of the sound—the real key is the air of mystery that they provide in both the drama of their songs as well as the intriguing blend of styles. There is rock, a touch of lounge jazz, some goth folk moves, and I am not sure what else. This is original, yet very comfortable as long as you don’t waste too much time trying to analyze it. And thus, I will just sit back, or rather lean forward, and listen again to this fine album—a very nice surprise.

Songs to start with:

Below a Fire - The opener is an intriguing song both in nature and it trying to figure out this band’s direction (that is a compliment).

Jai Singh - The mystery continues with a lovely song, a low center of gravity, and brass.

Shemkel - This reminds me of a John Cale-Nico collaboration, but less scary.

I smiled before I heard a note as I just knew that Paws brand of hook oriented punk-pop-rock would likely make me happy. This Glaswegian band has an earnest energy that they keep in check and sincere, while not afraid of rocking out with plenty of fire. There are hints of Husker Du, Guided by Voices, and Naked Raygun in here, but Paws sound like themselves—a band following a long line of catchy hard rocking bands that can rattle off the songs and excite an audience. Yes, I am happy.

Songs to start with:

No Grace - Strong opener with loads of power, but great touch in emitting a hearty melody.

N A - This one cooks with plenty of heart.

Salt Lake - They gnarled up the amps for this sound. Twisted and wonderful.

I have seen Quilt live a couple of times and have enjoyed the experience quite a bit. They are a favorite here in DC and it is nice to hear a new album by this fine Americana tinged indie rock band. They may invoke thoughts of genres long played out, but one fair listen and you can hear the particular magic that they can produce. The guitars and rhythm section have that integrated sophistication that makes so much sense, whether it be a carefully planned song or an extended jam. They do a little bit of everything that you expect on this record and it is quite the pleasure.

And they head back to the Rock’n’Roll Hotel on Thursday July 28th. I would be there in a flash were it not for the chance to catch Swans on their last tour (keep reading). But you won’t go wrong here.

Songs to start with:

Passerby - The opener features those wonderful ringing guitars, cool female vocals, and steady rhythm—as expected and desired.

Searching For - Great hooks and guitar interplay.

Eliot St. - A lovely popsike cut that floats you back to the 1960s.

This band takes me back to the days where punk rock and new wave coexisted with bands straddling both genres. These guys go quirky, but with a laconic attitude punctuated by guitar bursts. The vocals are an acquired taste and frankly have not aged as well, at least in my mind. Vocally, it is a bit in the direction of David Byrne/James Chance without the overdriven intensity. The uneven rhythms and dynamics tend to throw my mind and body off unlike when I was young and music needed jolts like this. But there is plenty of creativity here if you are looking for something different. What is really funny is that when I finished this album, i looked up the details of the release and found out that these are recordings from 1977-78! I was going to give this seminal Toronto band credit for  following a nearly overgrown path that just is not taken any more. But it seems maybe the path is overgrown since the days where the Scenics were trail blazing.

Ah, those wonderful days of punk rock with self starting female bands with players that had somewhere between 0 and 50% experience with an instrument, but still started highly interesting and creative bands. The Raincoats and Slits worked wonders by creating rhythmic blasts of intensity wandering strange untaken musical paths. The sound continued into post punk with intriguing space between staccato guitar runs and full bass lines like Gang of Four and even the B-52s. So if you like any or all of that, you should be listening to Shopping. They seem to have a carved out a nice little niche in the musical world of the 21st century.

And Shopping comes to the Comet Ping Pong on August 9th if you want to catch them live.

Songs to start with:

Straight Lines - Love the almost Thomas Mapfumo guitar lines.

Say it Once - Tempo and melodic shifts, synthesizer effects, really cool things combine in this song.

Sinking Feeling - Actually, this takes me out of my sinking feeling.

I had to make sure I had band, album, and song correct when I saw Spain, Carolina, and Tennessee come up for the first song on the playlist. And of course, the band is from Los Angeles and have been around for some time, although this is the first album I have sampled. And they do sound more Californian than any of the other locales mentioned above and I believe most people would pick California in a multiple choice test between the four. This ‘band’ is primarily the work of Josh Haden, son of jazz player Charlie Haden and brother of Petra Haden (who I favorably reviewed last month). He has a laid back approach, but it is smart with plenty going on, which is kind of the tradition of the fine folk-rock artist with that western style. The vocals will melt butter slowly and are the highlight of the many fine sounds that deliver these slow thoughtful songs.

Songs to start with:

Tennessee - The opener sets the tone and is a lovely song.

The Depression - Not too depressing, but emotional.

Lorelei - A fine subtle jangle in the electric guitar and soaring vocals.

I read Echo and the Bunnymen when I first read about the band. I hear Echo and the Bunnymen on this first lisen as well as a lot more. There definitely is that post punk, goth, shoegaze, stylistic rock approach that will take you back to the 1980s. When they succeed for me, they are able to combine a droning style with a powerful rock undercurrent, but still more toward the British scene of the 1980s than, say the Swans. Some songs are likable, but forgettable, but they occasionally nail it and are well worth paying attention to. And sign me up for a live show, because that is where this will really work best. The band is from Italy, so we will see how far around the globe they can carry their sound.

Songs to start with:

M9 - The grinding guitars are both droning and driving, atlhough the drums a bass keep things mobile and fresh.

Psychedelic Furs - I just like naming a song after a band, odd but atmospheric.

Dedu’n - Strong opening, powerful cut. Please, more like this.


This pop music is light and airy, in fact it is downright breathy in the vocals. I struggled to wrap around the music with its light melodies, overly loud bass lines and simple beats. The vocals often can pull it together, but in this case while they had a reasonable amount of expression within, they just seemed a bit too basic and by the numbers for me. Everything is fairly routine here and I really don’t see anything I have not seen a hundred times before, many done much better.

Well, this it, their swan song. All humor aside (what humor?), Michael Gira and cohorts are calling it quits a second time after this LP and an extensive world tour. And this likely will be it, at least for the Swans, as I am sure there will be some fascinating offshoot projects. But this second run culminates with another fine offering. Just nine songs, a few of epic proportion, yet a long Swans song still can manage to suspend time and keep me entranced in their romantic drone far better than any normal rock band. They know how to drone with subtle layers and movements that allows the listener to think, but very slowly and carefully. If anything, this album is not as ferociously guitar on top of guitar domination and has more subtle moments. The title track goes just under 29 minutes and has some moments of guitar domination along with a host of other tones and sounds. And then they appropriately close with the lighter ‘Finally Peace’ as there finally is. I normally recommend songs but it never makes sense with the Swans—just dive in at the beginning and listen to it all as the Swans create their musical world as profoundly as anyone.

And by all means, catch them live in DC for the final time at the 9:30 Club on Thursday, July 28th.

Initially this is one of those quiet albums that has enough quality that is hard to dislike, but you wonder how much you really like it. And like many of these types of albums, if you keep listening, it will carefully work its way into your system. There certainly is some background with this debut album as it comes from Big Star drummer Jody Stephens and his musical partner, Luther Russell. And the music here is a good follow up on the Big Star sound, although it is a little more relaxed and easy going with plenty of Byrds moves within. Big Star fans will definitely want to check this out—supposedly they recorded this in Memphis with some of Chris Bell’s guitars. So there is no trying to hide from the past, and that is as refreshing as these songs.

Songs to start with:

I’m For Love - I thought I was listening to a Byrds outtake when the harmonies kicked in.

Thrown - An nice shift in rhythm still retains the quiet ringing guitar for a great change up.

The Heart - A more acoustic take closes out the album in a lovely manner.

The Black Meadow is a place of mystery located in the Yorkshire moors. A University Professor that collected folklore from that area went missing is the focal point of this release. Chris Lambert curated the artists here who contributed songs to help tell the tale of this mysterious locale (in addition to his book). It is a fine collection of psychedelic folk and goth tinged songs from several bands I know little of. I note that Mellow Candle’s Alison O’Donnell is on one track, which is a pleasure to see. This is a well done compilation, sort of a more modern Wicker Man soundtrack. It is not quite of that quality (few psyche-folk records are), but surprisingly not terribly far behind. There is just a more modern feeling that permeates some of these songs, which may or may not go over with each listener (Eastgreen’s rap moves don’t fit). But the sense of mystery and journey is present here and this a great pleasure to listen to.

The minute I heard the name, I loved this band. The minute I heard their live set, I loved this band. Now after hearing a few albums, I still love this band. They have always had a great touch with a balance between powerpop, punk, post punk, and just classic pop rock. But the real kicker is that this album also has overpowering breaks and sonic blasts that are nearly cinematic in their power and reach. This is an excellent record, whether you are already a fan of this Scottish ban or whether this is the first you have heard of them. I recommend it highly and also recommend the live show.

And don’t delay. They play the Jammin Java this Saturday, July 2nd.

Songs to start with:

Peaks and Troughs - A rather tender vocal line with all the ripping power pop hooks this band is capable of.

I Keep it Composed - There are absolutely majestic passages here.

Bright Minds - …think alike and this band must be quite bright as they all lock in and bring life to a fine song.

There is a great use of space in the arrangements of these sometimes droning pop songs. It reminds me of John Cale working with Nico, although there is much more optimism and brightness in the music of Ziemba. She has a voice that can go deep into thought or more out front in bright expression. She can turn it on as well, vocally and musically as it is not all sunshine, but a more balanced world.

Songs to start with:

Phantom See - Mysterious use of space, creating an intriguing room of quiet sound.

El Paso - A steadier pop song with careful touches of music and voice.

Tiger Woman - Here’s the fire and the darker bits of life.