Sunday, April 29, 2012

Retribution Gospel Choir - The District Lights - Maple -- Red Palace - Apr 28 2012

Maple - Normally I do not try to see a band three times within a few months let alone for the second time in two weeks (see previous review here), but it is nice to get involved with a band's sound as opposed to just enjoying a passing ship in the night. Oh, and it helps to have this band open for a brilliant headliner. But back to Maple. They have their signature two guitar and rhythm section look with added back-up vocals from all and a nice lapsteel set up for the lead guitarist to add some effective slide moves here and there. It is a really good sound that unfortunately did not fully come out tonight as the lead guitar was a bit too quiet. However, the rhythm guitar had a wonderful feral tone I had not heard before. And the slide moves really punched things up tonight. The rhythm section was cooking and their song selection was particularly gutsy with more tough garage rock and less indie stylings. That was an appropriate move as the headliner is a tougher version than their counterpart band, Low. A rainstorm and the early slot on the bill had only about 21-22 people here, but they were treated to a fine set by this fine local band. This steady gigging is doing Maple a favor and it also helps people like me get more comfortable with the fine songs they have in their arsenal. I probably won't have yet another Maple review in a couple of weeks, but you can count on me at another show some time this year.

The District Lights - I cannot find any evidence of seeing this band, although some things look familiar. After their 42 minute set, I think I have been negligent in missing this fine trio. They have an interesting look with a full time vocalist, a guitarist who plays a bit of acoustic and more electric and a violinist who takes a turn or two on keyboard. They also have a touch of computer generated sound, but it is rather light and infrequent. I did find a few songs where drums would have helped, but overall they succeeded with this approach. It was folk based mostly, but veered into psyche territory often, establishing an intriguing foundation for the singer to work atop. He strapped on an acoustic and the two guitars allowed even more intricate musical maneuvering. One jarring moment was when an acoustic guitar started a song with an exact riff from an Opeth song. Of course things went into different terrain when the others joined in, as these guys can take some common themes and present them in a unique and original matter. Oh, and it was more than satisfying tonight as the 50 people in the crowd can attest to.
Retribution Gospel Choir - Above is a photo of this Duluth, Minnesota band on the shores of Lake Superior. I chose this shot as I used to walk these shores long ago as Duluth was my place of birth. I have not been back in over 40 years, but I have Alan Sparhawk and this band (along with Low where he and the bass player here are also essential members) to keep Duluth in mind. Low is an excellent band with its intriguing slower intense songs and vocal work by Sparhawk and his wife who also plays drums. RGC gives Sparhawk another outlet with a more intense rock drummer to push things sonically and psychically into new territories. The drummer is excellent as he plays a basic starting kit but manages creative sounds as well as a strong backbone. That allows guitar and bass to ebb and flow in fascinating patterns that make me think of Dead Meadow and Woven Hand. Sparhawk's vocal work is powerful and spiritually intense in a similar manner to Woven Hand's David Eugene Edwards. The songs are varied from short clean numbers to freaky longer jams and they banged them out with only a couple of breaks. A spicy "Down by the River" is perfectly fitted for the occasion. I would recommend Low in a heartbeat, but they already draw a good crowd. More people should see and hear Low's alter ego, as they balance out the brilliance of Alan Sparhawk's fertile mind.
Quote of the Night: Alan Sparhawk talking a lot about his home town, Duluth... " is the state's center... the gateway to Canada... Does anyone want to hear about Duluth?" Yes, you have made me nostalgic for Lake Superior, agates, and the amazing Aerial Lift Bridge. I shall return some day.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Allo Darlin' - The Wave Pictures -- Black Cat - Apr 26 2012

The Wave Pictures - This British trio made its DC debut in fine fashion with a lovely 64 minute set of eclectic pop-rock. The opening number was a real eye opener with a galloping rhythm section laying it down for singer-guitarist to weave a western-psyche jangle into a song the Sadies would be proud of. They shifted gears to more rhythmic pop, then some pop-rock, using various levels of sound and pattern. This was quite eclectic, but held all together with a solid rhythm section and some really amazing guitar work. These liquid runs were not heavily distorted (some reverb at times) and were amazingly busy. Yet the notes all came together into great hooks in the same style of Bob Mould, Chris Spedding or Curt Kirkwood (Meat Puppets). It is this skill that really elevated the excitement of the live show. Often hearfelt pop music is something I can respect, but not really get into during an hour's worth of standing at a club. But this set had so much sound shifting and guitar skill out front and underneath, that every song commanded attention. The guys seemed quite likable and the backstage crowd eventually filled to near capacity and really enjoyed the set. It is great to see this English band come along on tour with their fellow countrymen and go from coast to coast (AND get an hour to play). Hopefully the buzz will grow.
Allo Darlin' - In just a bit over three years, this band is making quite a name for themselves (possibly the only band name which forces you into your inner British accent). A couple of the band are from Australia and the other two are from England. But they are based in London and working their way into the hearts and ears of thoughtful pop music fans everywhere. The sound is much steadier than that of the openers, although this is a very sympathetic bill. I really get a 10,000 Maniacs vibe, which is the usual case when there is a mid-range female voice leading intelligent pop-rock musicians through a series of smooth flowing songs. Nothing particularly trendy, but yet another band showing their skill in making pop music that does not go for throbbing hooks, but more subtle compositions. This is the sort of shift made famous from the early Beach Boys songs to later Brian Wilson compositions. This is not entirely in my wheelhouse, but when you are this good, it is easy to let go and enjoy. Even the solo vocal/ukulele encore sounded better than I would have thought coming into this set. But the band came on for a more rocking conclusion to this latest British invasion.

Quote of the Night: From the Wave Pictures guitarist... "We really like this place. Everything but the pool table, as there is a hard roll to it. Ok, if you are casual players, but we are very competitive at pool, so save your coins for other things. I am sure there are better pool tables in Washington. But everything else is great. 10 out of 10!... except for the pool table. Sorry, I should not have mentioned the pool table because I really like this place..."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wishbone Ash -- Ram's Head Tavern - Apr 25 2012

Wishbone Ash - There is nothing more terrifying for me than starting a review of a progressive or straight rock band from the early 1970s. Prog fans will dissect every word for possible error, unlike readers from most any other genre. Thankfully, they are nice people who respect you well enough if you admit what little you know about Steve Hackett for instance. At least with Wishbone Ash, I know their first three studio albums well, grew up on "Live Dates", and am a big fan of their third album "Argus". This is my first time seeing them in their form down to one original member, Andy Powell on vocals and guitar (still playing that Flying Vee). Although there are some negatives that I will not bother to get into that has resulted in a Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash still active in the UK, Powell's Wishbone Ash has kept it going with lots of touring and a recent album which they sampled tonight. I felt the newer songs were fine, but not too dazzling and not quite as good as the new songs I heard from Uriah Heep for instance. But they played plenty of older cuts and displayed all the sharp guitar work and double leads that the band is known for. The older stuff sounded quite good, although Mart Turner's vocals are missed (provided he can even hit those notes these days). Powell still sings well and still trades and mirrors excellent leads with Finnish guitar ace, Muddy Manninen. The drummer also has a nice touch with the cymbals especially and keeps things moving forward. But those double leads are the succulent treats, especially on "Phoenix". I don't know the band's full history very well, but I am guessing they have been closing with this monster for most shows in the last forty plus years. Two hours later, their older fan base was still jumping and screaming enough that I was wondering if some cardio monitoring would not be welcome. Although a bit scary and amusing, this sure beats the hands in he pockets attitude of the cool cynical hip crowds. And with fans like this and a healthy strong sound, Wishbone Ash will come, again.
Set List: The King Will Come - Warrior - Can't Go it Alone - Open Road - Lady Jay - Sometime World - Warm Tears? (new album cut) - Faith Hope & Love - The Pilgrim - Reason to Believe - Invisible Thread - Jailbait - Phoenix - Encores: I don't know (Living Proof?) - Blowin' Free

Quote of the Night: from Andy Powell... "We love this town... are we playing Pittsburgh? (boos) They don't call it Pitts... burgh for nothing."

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Round About - The Reserves -- Velvet Lounge - Apr 21 2012

The Reserves - I saw this band about a month ago at the Black Cat (reviewed here) and they did another solid job tonight. It was nice to see two things tonight at the Velvet Lounge. First, this band went on at 9:28pm. Second, they only booked two bands, so not only was there a decent start time, but they had plenty of time to play and get off and on the stage. The Reserves took advantage of this by offering a full 53 minutes of their original singer/songwriter, Americana, light bar rock. The keyboards provided some unique atmosphere and the player had some pretty good skill on display in addition to his smart interpretative moves. The guitarist/vocalist did remind me a bit of the National as mentioned last month, but also had a bit of a Richard Buckner tone that was clearer in this cozier environment. This was mannered rock music, but very fitting in a club on a rainy Saturday night. The only thing I would want to see in the future is a bit more variety in pace or tone in a couple of the songs to shake up the set a little. But you cannot argue with the overall quality here.
Round About - This the first time I have been able to take in this area band, although I did enjoy hearing their new record which I reviewed here. This was their CD release party and although the rain kept the walk-in crowd to a minimum, the 20-25 people here had a great time tonight. Instead of keyboards as the unique instrument, it was acoustic guitar here adding to the G-B-D (my code for the core rock instrumentation). The acoustic guitar kept the rhythm going allowing plenty of high quality lead guitar work. And since they played for excess of 80 minutes, it certainly helped to have a great guitarist in the band. But the songs are also strong enough to stand out from the pack of indie rock bands. There are certainly a couple of gems on the record, and the band brought them to life nicely here tonight. This is all pretty smart material here and man-for-man, the band has the chops to keep a good long set going. Again, this is fine bar music for a Saturday night. With the two bands tonight, you will not get anything near what the Bad Brains delivered in their prime (but that also goes for 99% of the bands you will see at this and similar sized clubs). But, this is 2012 and you will get quality original music delivered in a fun and even exciting manner from these types of shows. If you want to see the big acts, fine, just save some money and budget some time for shows like this. I think all of the couple of dozen people tonight would join with me in this sentiment.

Quote of the Night: "You guys are doing a pretty good job at sounding like 50 people, but..."

As long as 15-20 people make it to the Velvet Lounge and are having a good time, it will indeed feel like a packed house.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bad Brains - GZA - Lionize -- Howard Theatre - Apr 20 2012

Lionize - This is my first show in the reopened Howard Theatre which first greeted patrons in 1910. They did a magnificent job as it looks a bit like a combination of the Strathmore and the Fillmore. It is sold out tonight, but people are slowly wandering in as this Silver Spring quartet gets things underway as the curtain rises. I was not expecting much, but these guys actually did quite well. The rhythm section did what was expected while the guitarist singer sounded a bit like Leslie West in the vocal area, but kept the guitar work more simple and riff oriented. He played a mix of rock, blues, and maybe a touch of R&B. The real gem was the keyboard work which had the Leslie organ sound and a bit of electric piano. He had great skill and had several interpretive moments that provided an eerie backdrop or a punchy counterpoint. A good enough beginning warmly received.

GZA - Next up is the founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, who presents a rap set. There is a DJ who does not do a whole lot other than keep the preset sounds flowing. There is also a guy in the back who does not do much until GZA goes in the crowd and he follows as a bodyguard. The sound is muddled at first and there is a cavernous effect in this big hall that they will need to deal with over time. I don't pick up a lot of the dialogue here, but he maintains a brisk pace with plenty to say. He works the Bad Brains into a rap and some other fresh topics here and there. This was fine, but there was not enough musical variety for me. I agree with GZA's assessment... "this is practice for us".
Bad Brains - I pay to come to bury the Bad Brains, not to praise them. Sadly, no irony here. I could have gone to five shows tonight with three of them comped. But I bought my ticket to see the band that may have played the best show I have ever seen some 30 years ago, not with any expectations of that but a fascination as to whether they had anything left. A few years back, they played a disappointing show at the 9:30 Club where the band was hot, but HR was in la-la land and just smiled during the fast songs without singing (This time he mumbled half of the lyrics). My brother nailed it then by wondering if he was channeling Mr. Rogers with his inane chatter of learning lessons from songs with a beatific smile. I could not tell if there was any inane chatter tonight, as he was utterly incomprehensible all evening and quite dour in spirit. Daryl went to the mic a few times to rally the crowd, but mostly just smiled in the background at the trainwreck that was happening. Gary and Earl just did their jobs. HR, like fellow brainspace cohabitant Roky Erickson, had a guitar on for much of the set. Unlike Roky, he couldn't play anything worthwhile and it was not audible. HR looked like he wanted to keep Gary from playing some of the heavier songs and eventually the axemen left HR and Earl to do some HR tune. HR was aware enough to ask the soundman to turn his guitar on, but thankfully for us they didn't. Gary and Daryl rescued things by coming on early and starting another tune before the whole thing fell apart and they said their good nights. No encores, curtain down. Unlike the last show, even the three instrumental players did not have quite the bite they used to have. They are still solid pros, but they I suspect they know that even if they can fool enough of the crowd, it is hard to be serious and motivated to do much more than the basics. Could be the last? Should be the last, but there is a second show here the next night... at least it's scheduled.

Set List: Attitude - Right Brigade - Sailin' On - The Regulator - Reggae cut - FVK? - I+I Survive - At the Movies - Re-Ignition - Pay to Cum - HR solo bit - I+I Survive? (I can't read my notes, either they played this twice or I have one of the titles garbled--trust me, this really does not matter).

ADDITIONAL NOTE: In the comments section, there is some reference to the previous DC show by the Bad Brains and my review is linked here.

Quote of the Night: From a guy near me... "Greatest band ever, man, greatest band ever!!!!!"

Friday, April 20, 2012

Capital Ghost - Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun - Maple - Constant Alarm -- Velvet Lounge - Apr19 2012

Constant Alarm - Second time around for me and although it seems like a mere couple of months since the last show, it was actually last June. June? The fact that I remember them as well as I do is a compliment to them as many names and faces and sounds blur together regularly with all the new music that passes between my ears. Their sound is loose jangly pop-garage rock styled that moves around a bit depending on the song. It is guitar, bass, drums with a female vocalist and plenty of male vocal counterparts from the bass player. The sound was not terribly sharp early on with low vocals and a muddy feel, but the soundman eventually got it sorted out. Their songs were a tad naive at times, but with both pop-garage, that is not an insult. The guitarist cranked out some nice riffs more often than not. I learned the bass player's name was Marshall just as I was trying to think of a way the guitarist looked like he should play for the Marshall Tucker Band (yet plays more like he could be in the Fluid or the Screaming Trees thankfully). They are finishing up a record and it sounds like they are working hard on it with proper studio work and mastering, so I look forward to hearing this. June looks like the probably release date. Stay tuned, as this little band should be on your radar. The crowd dug them tonight and completely outvoted me with their feet as to the band's closing number, "Twist and Shout". I am afraid that seeing and hearing eight different versions of that during a long ponderously edited Beatles movie I saw at a midnight showing has wrecked that song for me forever. But I liked the rest of the set just fine. They have got more shows upcoming so check them out and join the fun.

Maple - Second time around for this local band as well and this time it was just last month I reviewed their set. You can click on that link to see what I said then as not much has changed in a month. But things solidified further for me as will likely happen the more I see a band. They exude a lot of confidence which makes sense when I chat with them and find they have been together longer than I thought (about 5 years with a couple of them playing together over a decade). They confidently handle the vocals and play off each other in creative ways while never losing their grasp of the song. Their rock sound is one of the more balanced I have heard where trying to push them into indie or classic subcategories seems misleading. These guys rock out in an agreeable way that should appeal to most every rock music fan. The club was about half-full and was still having a great time on this Thursday night during this set.
Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun - This was the marquee attraction tonight and they wisely went on third as it is a weeknight and four bands is an ambitious challenge here, even when they start on time (relatively speaking--9:15 is pretty good here). A few people did leave, but there was still a nice sized crowd for this Atlanta quartet. They have a modern sound complete with one or two guitars, bass, keyboards, electronics, drums, and electronic percussion. They move around smoothly on their various instruments and do not pause much which is the mark of a band that knows what they are doing. They have a little of the Joy Formidable thing working, although not quite at that level of intensity. But the catchy pop moves come through amidst gutsy drumming, strong guitar and bass work with modern electronic touches that do not dominate. There are certainly some shoegaze elements in the sound, but it also hearkens back to really gutsy punk/new wave/pop hybrid bands as well. Plenty of beats and throbs have the crowd moving. This band can be ferocious while delivering perky pop hooks, a tricky combination that they manage easily. Fun times were clearly had by all. They say they tour a lot and their name is easy to remember, so keep their name in memory and join me at their next DC stopover.

Capital Ghost - This local trio worked hard to set up and get started only 12 minutes after the last set, but the 11:46 time was a bit late for many and only about 12-15 stuck around. That still is better than I see some nights here and the band played to them as if the room was full. And everything was copacetic as the crowd was quite responsive to the fine songs these guys churned out. Churning is the key operative word as the guitarist had a Bob Mould way of grinding out chords as the rhythm section kept a solid bottom underneath. The guitarist handled the vocals and the songs did have a common ground with Husker Du/Sugar/Dinosaur Jr and many others that rocked hard in the 80s. They do not have the complexity of those bands, but there is far more than barre chord rock going on. I was not so sure at first, but about half way through, they just kept grinding away and they won me over. Quite a night and proof again, that you can get some really good bands at the Velvet Lounge for a tiny cover charge.

Quote of the Night: The Atlanta band's singer looking up at the soundman before they started...
"How long do you want us to play for?"
"Alright, you got it."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Redline Graffiti - Jeff Beam - Is and of the -- Velvet Lounge - Apr 16 2012

Is and of the - This was a solo variation of this band tonight with Drew on electronics and guitar. His 35 minute set had all the usual tricks that you get with a guy behind a Mac. It helped a lot to see and hear some guitar work, although it was mostly used to establish some quick and basic loops. These was fairly modern electronic sounds and I would have liked some more retro or something more inventive. I will credit him for having drumbeats that were far superior to the dull patterns I usually hear. There were also some moments later in the set that had some nice contrasting melodic patterns that were interesting. He had some sonic dropouts which were about as pleasant as hiccups. But, all in all, not too bad a set, although I would like to hear the full band next time. I am guessing a few more live musicians in the mix will be an even better live experience. Clearly there is some core talent here.

Jeff Beam - Here is a musician from 'the other Portland'--that of Maine. Although not as large a musical scene as that in Oregon, I do recall hearing an interesting psyche-folk musical duo from up that way some years ago (name is lost forever). And Beam offers yet another interesting take on psychedelic folk in this 34 minute set. His voice has a 'loner-stoner' quality to it, but he is in far more control than that of a stoner. Musically, there is more heft as well since he is playing electric guitar and has some keyboards and electronic textures working to various degrees depending on the song. I am hearing a Hush Arbors approach, but there is more odd 'real person/outsider' folk in the manner of such obscure artists as Denis or Nicodemus. Trad folk fans may run away from this, but this music is so welcome to the many psyche-folk fans that have grown over the years. What is especially refreshing, is that the Banhart-Newsome model of free folk is NOT evident anywhere in this set. Instead, it is the more outsider variety that is far more attractive to adventurous listeners. There is some real exploration going on here, far beyond finding your inner hippie. Very nice material here, as I can eat this for breakfast, lunch, and supper, seven days a week.
Redline Graffiti - This local four-piece is raw as hell, which is perfectly fitting for this eclectic, diverse evening of entertainment. They start with a wonderful and baffling experimental prog instrumental by weaving in synthesizer, guitar, bass and drums. This makes way for more solid pop-rock songs (Modest Mouse meets Sebadoh?) that eventually yield to some more tunes with R&B flavor and a few with soul vocals. They have plenty of rhythm, guitar chops, and a fearless approach to doing what they feel like including a couple covers, which actually were not as good as the original material for me. They were not always in sync, but the individual parts were fine. When they connected as a band, they could really come up with the goods. Keep your eye on this outfit--if they keep working on the creative song writing and arranging and do the usual gigging, the only direction is up. And kudos to their friends/fans who came early and stayed for all three sets. Sadly, I find this is worth commenting on, but it was an essential part of a fun filled Monday night.

Quote of the Night: Someone in crowd after Jeff Beam's set... "Artie Shaw! Artie Shaw!"

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lost in the Trees - Poor Moon -- Black Cat - Apr 14 2012

Poor Moon - From the first notes, this band could be spiritual brothers of the headliner, even if being from Seattle makes them about as distant from them as possible still being in the continental USA. But there are of course many unique individual differences as the 41 minute set moves forward. This is smooth music, especially in the vocal harmonies with intriguing psychedelic touches emanating from the steady dose of folk rock. Although there is a modern feel, they often invoke the isolated sixties vibe that Ferdinando/Howell did in their music (as Ithaca, Agincourt, etc.). I think no more than two of my readers would likely know of who I am talking about, so I will add the link along with my favorite song of theirs, "When I Awoke", although there are other songs that are more indicative of the sound tonight. Basically, there are more songs that invoke the freedom of the sixties and the swinging London and SF scene than even the more cliched 60s songs are capable. And I really feel that tonight. But that is a longer discussion for an essay some time. Poor Moon basically put together older and newer patterns into a lovely set and are a band I would gladly pay to see again.
Lost in the Trees - I have enjoyed this band a couple of times and was not surprised that they sold out the backstage at the Black Cat. I was a bit surprised and disappointed that the Black Cat did not move the show upstairs. In fact, they had the Backstage bar open for the first time in the hundred times I have been there. Fine and well, but that forced the merch on to a table taking away valuable space. There was also a film before the show and things started a bit late--not too late by even my standards (first band at 9:20). But it affected the soundmen as they were struggling getting set up, perhaps with a less than proper soundcheck. So after a 40 minute delay where I was left with feeling crowded along with my usual pains and the addition of a bloody foot from the day before (my sock was bloodied up ala Curt Schilling, although I did not receive quite the same accolades for that, as his sock is in the baseball Hall of Fame. Maybe Cleveland's... Nah). Anyway, this fine band finally got it's chance and the sound was not particularly good with only the violin and vocals cutting above a murky stew. Things sharpened up well enough later on as the drums along with alternating tuba and bass provided the backing to intriguing strings, guitar and more. This is a fine band that has nearly the creativity in their songs as that of the Decemberists, Iron & Wine, or Munly (a big favorite of mine). They keep things positive for the most part and are well worth a look if you have not explored their music yet. Unfortunately, the crowd and my physical issues had me leaving early tonight which is good as I did not want to see if they did their usual go into the crowd and sing an un-mic'ed song from the middle of the crowd. That also would have worked better upstairs, rather than having everyone elbow each other to make way.

Quote of the Night: From the opener... "I don't think I've ever sweat this much on tour, so if you get bored with the music, you can pay attention to my sheen. It gives you something else to root for."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Thee Lolitas - Nervous Curtains - Pilesar -- Velvet Lounge -

Pilesar - This is a one man composer/musician accompanied by a guitarist. Pilesar handles all vocals, keyboards, electronics, stand-up drumming, and has a guitar-synth item that I have not seen before (note, he tells me it is a modified guitar hero console demonstrated here). The first number has a surprisingly scrappy sound that is quite accessible even though this seems on the experimental side. The second cut is a new epic featuring lots of sound shifting and instrumental variety. I am impressed by his drumming which I thought was going to be a simple tribal thump add-on to the songs, but instead is a key component to the music. There are lots of other great songs devoid of the cliches that turn me off on supposed 'experimental music'. The guitar work is good and has a spacey psychedelic sound throughout. They continued their 40 minutes around the ethereal world (well they played 38) with a cool chant/punk thing that sounded as if Quintessence was channeling Swell Maps or MX-80 Sound. This was both fun and creative, unique but familiar, a real treat to start out the evening.
Nervous Curtains - From Dallas, comes this interesting three-piece. They feature drums, vocals and keyboards and the proverbial guy behind the curtain who had all kinds of unseen keyboards and electronic equipment. It was a bit of a shame that some of the people who would have been here were likely at the Imperial China show a few blocks away. I would have been there, except that this was a rare chance to see this unique band. So a bakers dozen dug in and absorbed this fascinating half-hour set. The general scope of the sound is sort of a combination of Trent Reznor and Van der Graaf Generator (maybe a trace of Gary Numan). The drums are solid and the keys and electronics come up with a mixture of scrumptious melodic passages and assertive textural blasts. The songs are focused and manage to build intrigue. I often wonder why more bands do not attempt their own Van der Graaf type model, but there is probably a simple reason for that. It is not easy. But the Nervous Curtains offer their personal approach to this style and come up with a vibrant set of songs that will stay with me for some time. This was their first time here and hopefully it will not be their last.

Thee Lolitas - I just saw them a couple weeks ago and you can read all about that here. Nothing has changed although they did not do an Electric Eels cover tonight. I was wondering if they could incorporate something else like maybe a Nervous Gender cover? Although that was a synth band, they had great punk songs, so it may have worked. But instead it was their fine classic punk and hardcore sound with vocals that remind me of a cross between Chris D and Paul Z, the singers of Fleasheaters and Zero Boys respectively. This is always a welcome set and it won't be the last time I write about them.

Quote of the Day: More media fun courtesy of (note Roberto Martinez is head coach/manager of my favorite little team, Wigan)...

Intro by Alan Nixon in The Daily Mirror: 'Wigan are reeling at the appointment of referee Phil Dowd for their clash with Manchester United tonight.'

Quotes from Roberto Martinez: "Phil Dowd is one of the most experienced in the game. He will be able to control the game."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Caveman - Night Moves -- Red Palace - Apr 9 2012

Night Moves - Thankfully I did not sing a certain Bob Seeger song in my head at any time during this set, nor did this four-piece band for that matter. Instead they offered up heavily stylized vocals in the Matt Bellamy (Muse) manner along with Cure-like guitar work and a rhythm section from... I don't know, Magazine perhaps? I am hearing post-Radiohead Brit-rock with pop and psyche elements taking shape depending on the song. The crowd was slow to attend tonight starting at around 25 and building to 40 by set's end. They used a computer, often for drum beats even though they had a decent drummer. And the beats seemed to be merely a glorified click track, well not so glorified. They seemed to be experiencing some equipment troubles, but not knowing their sound, it did not seem to bad to me. It did work well when they had a bit of pace and sparkle, but a few times the music just kind of sat there. They then wanted to finish up (sounding like the equipment problem was getting to them) when the sound man reminded them they had 15 minutes. They went on to do 3 more songs to moderate applause. A little raw and naive tonight and hopefully some steady touring will sharpen things up.
Caveman - This five piece lines up with keyboards, rhythm section, guitar and a lead vocalist who alternates between a floor tom and guitar. The double drumming creates the expected kick in the music and really offsets the psychedelic swirl of the rest of the music. The keys and guitar are so spacey and locked in, that it is hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. As the band plays on, this effect creates a grand atmosphere that is quite mesmerizing, which is a difficult task for a band, especially without the use of a lot of electronics. And that ability is what often separates the special bands from the perfectly likable 'rest of the pack'. Caveman's sound reminds me of some of the spacier krautrock bands along with Tuxedomoon with trace elements of Ride, Caribou, and other modern alternative popsters. The Red Palace room is full now and the set is going over very well. The sound was so good, that you could see the crowd become more responsive as the 50 minutes went on. I did hear a few strong individual songs within the overall soundscape, so it is not merely a psychedelic jam event here (not that I don't enjoy those a lot). But it speaks to a capable band that could easily work on a bill with Caribou or Animal Collective or a variety of acts that have successfully pushed some classic sounds in a modern direction.  But for now, they are covering the USA in the small clubs and I advise catching them soon, as bigger clubs should be just around the corner.

Quote of the Night: From the Night Moves bass player... "I just had my first experience (eating) Spam downstairs. And now I can't stop burping."

Monday, April 9, 2012

Screaming Females - Laura Stevenson and the Cans -- Black Cat - Apr 8 2012

Laura Stevenson and the Cans - After one song, the crowd goes nuts. I rarely see a crowd at the small stage this stoked for an opener. Releasing tension from a day of family dinners? Or rather, is this yet another band that will make feel stupid for not knowing about them already (Hello Richard Buckner)? After a few songs, I am feeling stupid as they exude more confidence and quality than any unknown band should have. In reading their bio, I do not feel so bad as they have not been on the scene for an overly long time. And we all know some of the compositions of Laura Stevenson's grandfather (Little Drummer Boy!), while her grandmother was a singer for Benny Goodman. No big band sound here, and although some of these tunes are as catchy as a Christmas standard, these arrangements are amazing. Stevenson could easily perform these solo with acoustic guitar and her fine voice, but thankfully the Cans add loads of rock and an accordion for added distinction. I often talk of dynamics, but they are rarely this extreme and successful. Tempos, volumes, numbers of instruments varied often and at any time within or between songs. One song was mostly quiet and ethereal until the band blasted in a couple of noisy extreme passages in a folk-shoegaze hybrid. Things were mostly a classic rock style with much more heart and creativity than the words 'classic rock' normally bring to mind. That one crazy fan near me turned out to be Stevenson's mother, but she had a whole lot of people in this nearly full room joining her in their adulation.
Screaming Females - This is the third time for me seeing this power trio. The first time was only last June, so they are quite the road warriors. And that is the essential strategy for gaining fans and admirers as this band truly needs to be seen live to get the full appreciation. The songs and records are quite good, but the ferocity live is up several notches. And I never cease to be amazed at Marissa Paternoster's ability to smoothly go from rhythm guitar to lead. When you are that good, it is all seamless and ultimately one in the same. She also has to carry the vocal weight and it is easy to forget how well she sings, when you are focusing on her amazing shredding. Do not forget the rhythm section as those two guys are far more than any hired Chuck Berry back-up band. The drums push the songs forward and the bass has plenty of muscle. Paternoster's feral screams were great and offset the controlled singing more than I recall from past shows. The songs from the brand new album sound very good and if that was not enough, they played a newer unrecorded song as well. The crowd ate it up and I think this may be the last time we see them in a room this small. But next show is already booked for St. Stephens this June. I may not make every DC show, but this is not a band that I am getting tired of seeing (as so often happens with the heavy touring bands). I imagine most people at this show will be back and hopefully they will have each told ten friends. This is growing,
Obituary of Note... One of my favorite authors died recently. Harry Crews wrote some of the more gnarled intense southern novels around. And that genre has more than its fair share of extreme characters. I recommend "A Feast of Snakes" and "Body", but they are all excellent aside from the last 2-3. And with a look like he had, he belonged in front of a microphone.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Satori Trova - Brave Noise - Earth Alien Hybrid -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Apr 7 2012

Earth Alien Hybrid - I have seen this duo once before and enjoyed their unique approach. Tonight was as fun and maybe a little bit more so than last time. They have one guy on electronics and keys with another on electronic drums. The drumming is excellent and offers exponential benefits to any electronica act that would employ a drum machine, no matter how complex the programmed beats. The synth washes, pulses, and keyboard moves also provide a nice musical palette for the vocalists to riff on. The electronics guy has a sardonic doomish voice, while the drummer has a more street smart snappy approach. They have plenty of dark humor within their songs/rants and they do not take any breaks. I would like to hear more vocal interplay as the drummer eventually just takes over vocal duties including a move downstage while his beats are looped. Very solid set and one of the better presentations of electronic music, at least for me who wants some sort of flair or traditional rock moves to pull me in. I did feel it was getting a little long at the 32 minute mark, but they were finished in 37. Check these guys out some time, as I think most modern listeners, at the very least, will easily enjoy their concoctions.

Bravenoise - Second time around for me here as well as fresh after reviewing their recent album (here). I am getting used to their sound by now, but frankly it does not take too long as they have a very likable dance oriented rhythmic rock that lends itself well to a live stage on a weekend night. The three players seem sharper than ever. They are locked in nicely working off the strong drumming. Bass playing is playful and gives the set the most worldly feel. Guitar work is crisp and alternates between pop rock support and stronger rock or rhythmic maneuvers. They use a guest vocalist a couple of times who gives a smooth rap that fits the music nicely. They also had Satori Trova's keyboardist come up for several songs which offered some additional tones which enhanced things. "A Night of Pleasure" which was one of my favorites off of the album sounded excellent tonight. It is nice to recognize songs from bands I have only listened to a few times, which certainly speaks to the quality and accessibility of their original songs. I think the 50-60 people tonight will attest to the quality they heard here. Hopefully I will be reporting even larger numbers in future.
Satori Trova - I have enjoyed this band a number of times in the past and in communicating with them, they asked if I had any thoughts on comparable bands with their sound. Although, I frequently put together comparables to the sounds of other bands and imaginary genetic hybrids, I had not done so for Satori Trova. That did not surprise me as the band's sound which is an interesting mix of rock and world beats and melodies with a lounge jazz feel is a tricky one for me to find in my collection (or anywhere). Frankly, it is to a band's credit if I struggle with finding comparables. But I dug down deep to try to think of something in my music collection that would work. For some reason I focused on a couple of female singers named Lena Granhagen and Louise Forestier. Something cosmic may have going on when they later told me their singer's name was Liora. Well aside from the 'L' vocalists, there was nothing in common on the Lena Granhagen album. But Louise Forestier had a great combination of folk, rock and lounge stylings that indeed reminded me a lot of this band. So there are sounds out there like this, but the key of course is whether they successfully draw in listeners. And Satori Trova does all of that. They shift around on instruments to go double guitar, guitar and sax, and other combinations where there may be a different area of focus. Vocal work is strong and rhythms and keyboards pull it all together. They have been around about a year now and the heavy gigging is paying big dividends. They are starting to record more and it was a shrewd move not to immediately rush into that. It will be interesting to see what they come up with now that the single is in and the EP is nearly in.

Quote of the Night: From Bravenoise... "This is a song about war and people dying... you can dance to it, just don't listen to the lyrics."

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Cursive - Cymbals Eat Guitars - Conduits -- Black Cat - Apr 6 2012

Conduits - From the heartland of Omaha, Nebraska comes this indie rock Americana band. Well, not exactly. In fact, not at all. There is a variety of sounds, but the things that come to my mind are dreampop, drone rock, psyche, and shoe gaze. The latter elements are ever so light and are handled like powerful, delicate seasonings. The immediate focus is on the Jenna Morrison's vocals which balance icy cool and hearfelt emotions with a leaning to the former. Imagine Natalie Merchant putting together a band with members of Ride, the Swirlies, and Teardrop Explodes and it may sound something like this. The dynamics are subtle and instead there is a smooth ride for much of the set. There is some sonic muscle that builds but not with the expected explosive payoff. It is mostly haunting hypnotic grooves with good balance among guitars, rhythm section and keys. That is mostly good, although it works better for a 32 minute set than the upcoming day where they will be headlining and playing for over an hour. And that day may not be too far away as the music fans at this heavily attended show, was getting into this band, who they likely had not heard at all before tonight. I enjoyed this set for maintaining accessibility with creative flourish and strong vocals.

Cymbals Eat Guitars - Somehow I know this band, but really don't know much about them. Perhaps it is due to having a name that is pretty much unforgettable after you hear it. Whatever the case, this NY quartet with one guitar and keyboards creates the type of music I expect from them. And then they, of course, they twist and turn into various unexpected directions. Here are the extreme dynamic shifts which I discussed above. They have great pop moves, but the jarring volume increases are taken from shoegaze, but with their own rock approach. There are some really heavy swirling psyche effects at times, while other songs have a nice twisted pop melody. This one is tough to describe, but it is strangely intoxicating. They said they had two songs left and then played what seemed like three songs. Instead that turned out to be one massive psyche-prog masterpiece. I need to find out where they recorded that one. Then they closed out their 46 minute set with a far simpler number that left the crowd mostly pleased with perhaps a few puzzled looks here an there.
Cursive - Also from the home of Warren Buffett (a nice little city where I spent a week once), comes a five-piece band featuring keys, guitars, rhythm section and occasional trumpet. The sound was surprisingly off early on with thin guitars and overpowering drums and distracting lead vocals. By about the third song, the balance of the universe was restored and the music was getting more interesting. Pulsing rhythms had me enjoying this more in my subconscious than my initial note taking had indicated. I was feeling a tad skeptical at times and it may have been the strained vocal work in some songs. The more relaxed vocals were far richer and evocative and let me feel the music dancing away from any sort of cliched melody. Not far, but enough to give this band an interesting flavor. I can see why they have some popularity as there is something catchy, but by avoiding cliches, they can pull in a lot music heads looking for things on the unique side of the mundane. This is a tricky band that may take a few more listens for me, but that is more often a positive than not.

Quote of the Night: from Cymbals Eat Guitars after that great long psyche monster... "You guys like Hawkwind?   Oh yeah."

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Shondes - Troll Tax - Fell Types -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Apr 5 2012

Fell Types - Smallish crowd on hand for this local trios first notes. I immediately close my eyes as this sounds quite familiar. And when I did, the voice of Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon connected with what I was hearing. Musically, it was thick and rocking not unlike Sonic Youth, although the guitar work was a bit less than Ranaldo/Moore. That is hardly a complaint considering the lofty status of those two especially on the creativity scale. When the guitarist took over lead vocals, his mid-range voice reminded me of the Rezillos for some odd reason, but musically they were more thick rock/post punk in style. The more uptempo cuts worked best for me as they were able to create some exciting music where it sounded like more than three people (and I did not detect loops or recordings). Slower material more predictable and at times in want of more control and transition. Still, there is some fine raw material here and it was easy to get into the 30 minutes of noisy rock they provided.

Troll Tax - The crowd has swelled from 30 something to 50 and maybe 60 at times. And speaking of the Rezillos... Side Note:  It never ceases to amaze me how bands will remind me of older bands that I don't think of for years at a time. I never even owned a Rezillos record, although I often played them on the college radio station I worked at since 1979-80. But back to Troll Tax... These five players had that early raw danceable punk sound that the Rezillos and some early UK and LA bands did quite well. In fact the soundman working tonight also picked up on that asking me if we have gone back to 1975-80 or thereabouts. The band was fun even when things seemed kind of disconnected and did not gel into a full band sound. The spirit was always willing and that early sense of punk rock that was about just cutting loose and letting the music and dance moves fly was something the audience keyed in on. The energy was there and the crowd stayed with it. The band was funny with a dark side and is worth checking out some time if you want to just want to cut loose.
The Shondes - I recall seeing the Klezmatics, a radical klezmer based band, in Denver years back. A very straight-laced guy at work told me he had seen me at the show. He and his wife were klezmer fans, but were not quite expected the crazed rock and jazz crossover music the Klezmatics did, but they liked it. The Shondes are not going to fool quite as many klezmer fans into going to their shows, but they do take their Jewish klezmer roots quite seriously from what appears. What comes out is far closer to great pop-punk songs than anything traditional, but tradition is a part of their core. They have the added bonus of a violin joining in with guitar/bass/drums/vocals which gives them their unique flavor. The other key was that unlike moments in the first two sets, the band is locked in and really nail a unified sound. The bass player's lead vocals are quite stunning and easily yank a listener in from any complacency they may have. It was funny to hear them apologizing for the 2-3 sad/downer songs they played as they vowed that they always try to put an upbeat one immediately afterward, so they asked us to bear with them. Yes, such a sacrifice for us to make. the 45 minutes roared by and the crowd was doing some real enthusiastic dancing and were having a great time. We all need fun shows like we had tonight, especially me as those that know me certainly know of my love of doom and gloom art. The Shondes are back to New York for a brief Passover break, but will be doing more extensive touring supporting their recent album (reviewed here). I think this is the type of band like the Screaming Females where extensive roadwork will lead to steadily rising fan base.

Quote of the Night: from the guitarist of Fell Types... " I was passing out flyers after the Wild Flag show at the 9:30 Club. There were a lot of people in their 40s and 50s giving me odd looks as they were out for their one show that year/month and they are not here tonight. But one person said, 'wow the Shondes are playing--surprising that it is that close to Passover', so at least one person here knows what they are about."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Beanstalk Library - Color Bars - Archivists -- Black Cat - Apr 4 2012

Archivists - I have enjoyed this band the many times I have seen them and it has been a while, so it is time for me to catch up with their sound. And I needed to catch up as I believe they have reached new heights. This local four-piece features two guitars and rhythm with both guitars on vocals, one of whom takes all but one lead vocal. The songs have always been good in an indie rock sort of way, but have truly elevated their sound into something exciting. The key is the difference of sound in the two guitars. The lead guitar has a nasty garage bite to it and the rhythm has a solid rock tone with just a bit of fuzz. The bass player is inventive and the drummer has quick hands keeping things smooth, yet powerful. A few of the songs sounded like Gray Matter covering the more rocking songs on the latest Wire album. They varied styles a bit within the 35 minutes they played and things remained fresh and interesting throughout. I hope a lot more people around here 'discover' this band as they have plenty to offer rock fans of all types. the 35-40 people coming into the club tonight certainly found that out or if like me, they had seen them before, have found even more reasons to come back again next time around.

Color Bars - This New York duo features a drummer who handles some prerecorded bits and a vocalist who moves from several songs on bass to a few on keyboards with a bit of acoustic guitar as well. The pop seemed a bit precocious at first, but the second song had some dazzling pop shifts that were fun. Things settled back a bit thereafter with a falsetto voice and various recorded sounds leading the melodies forward. The drumming was not terribly exciting which does not help in two-person bands. There is some intelligence here and although the room got a bit smaller, this connected with some of the audience. Still, not terribly transcendent for me.
Beanstalk Library - I have seen this local four (or five or six) part band before, but was anxious to see what they had going tonight in the headline slot. The club filled to more than 50 people with a lot of people that were going in and out at various times. I want to highlight that as the chatty people left the room to chat and the remaining crowd was quietly into the music (until songs' ends when they showed plenty of appreciation). "You guys are too quiet" the singer once said while they were taking extra time for tuning. No, YOU guys are too quiet. Have the drummer or keyboardist make some noise or additional stage patter if you are taking too much time between songs. The audience was waiting for more music. And with that long around the bend story, the reason they were waiting is because they were very much into what this band was doing. There are equal parts hard rock, classic rock, indie rock, Americana, with a touch of folk or country sneaking in. It is pretty much guitars, keyboards and rhythm section, but the violinist from the Last Monarchs adds her touch to about half of the songs. A guitarist from Middle Distance Runner also jumps in for a few songs (the band is adding a lead guitarist starting next show). There are some experimental touches that genuinely surprise me (which of course I like). The bass playing is really cool, but was too fuzzy initially although the soundman seemed to correct that. He wrote what I felt was the best song of the night, a new one which will be released shortly as their new single prior to their full album release later this summer. I would advise keeping tabs on this as this band can really deliver a heartfelt rock song when they nail it. They pushed the envelope by playing for 65 minutes tonight, but they have both the material and the style to bring it off. The crowd stayed with it the whole way (and was even larger by set's end). A fun night out for me after a rare three nights off.

Quote of the night:  From the Color Bars... "Who wants to hear a good old fashioned American tune about time travel?"

Sunday, April 1, 2012


BRAVENOISE "Everything Was and Everything Will Be"

Instantly, a modern rhythmic rock sound takes hold. The vocals carry a nice pop melody, yet there is a world music vibe weaving its way in and out at various points. Modernist and urban at it's core, yet open and worldly in spirit.  Reggae, soul, rhythm & blues, indie rock all are a part of this recipe. There is a danger of having too much here, but the band avoids the potential calamities with its control of their sound. They achieve quality results by letting either voice, lead guitar or the beat to take a distinct lead when needed and then taking a backseat while something else leads. This balances things out and does not allow an uncomplimentary mess to result. This sort of album takes a few spins for me as it is not in my wheel house, but it does work its magic over time for me and I think braver modern day listeners may pick up on this all the more quickly.

Hear this material live and pick up a CD at their show with Satori Trova this Saturday, April 7th at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel. I'm looking forward to this one.

Songs to try out first:

Set Up, Set Down - Some hot guitar and even a rap in here.

A Night of Pleasure - Cool melody, rocking guitar with R&B melody holding it together.

Come Onto Me - Sumptuous thick rock sound on here.

ROUND ABOUT "Hanging by a Thread"

This is good straight forward indie rock. That hardly narrows it down, but thankfully there are many personal touches that are original enough to allow them to stand out from the crowd. The first thing I notice is the interplay between acoustic guitar and electric guitar. Not only that, but the acoustic guitar playing shows a deft touch more advanced than most. There are some shifts into gutsier rock or into a bit more of a hard country vibe, but the two guitar work and the vocal style steadies it all out and keeps their sonic personality at the fore. As with most bands, the song quality varies over the eleven songs, but the highlights are spread out nicely so it is easy to pay attention to all the songs and hear a complete album. And it will be worth further relistens to see how it plays over time. Hopefully, a live review will be forthcoming.

And the CD release show is at the Velvet Lounge on Saturday, April 21st. I'll be there. Join me.

Songs to try out first:

I'll Be Gone - Cool melody combining old pop feeling with more timeless rock moves. Dreamy vocals add a touch of worldliness as well.

Hanging by a Thread - As is often the case, title cuts do have the hooks.

The Letter - Snappy rhythm akin to a 16HP song along with flexing rock guitars.

CATHY RICHARDSON "Delusions of Grandeur"

This album is a few years old, but I thought I would give it a review in addition to the several listens thus far, as I had the pleasure of briefly getting acquainted with this fine artist. Although the album features many high quality songs that blend the Americana sounds of folk, blues and rock together, there are some other fascinating elements. Right off the top, Richardson begins with some mystical soaring vocal work before heading into a nice song cycle showcasing subtle variations in style mentioned previously. The songs tell a dramatic story that is even further fleshed out by a booklet with prose and lyrics both. The packaging is some of the finest I have seen since the reissue of the Trees Community (a huge cult favorite). But back to the music and lyrics which are the essential components here. Sharp language and story telling and powerful sounds stand out from the many more comfortable sounds in this genre. The guts underneath never quite allows the listener to settle in to a comfort zone, which always interests me by keeping my attention high through the entirety of an album. I look forward to future projects in between her tours as lead vocalist for Jefferson Starship. She has both the vocal strength and vision to create engaging songs.

Songs to try out first:

A Fool's Regret - Gripping vocal work pulls you in and jazzy moves take you on a surprisingly near random journey. This are fascinating contrasts in this song.

Things are Different - Folk beginning builds into a full production featuring a wide vocal range carrying a nice melody.

Two Questions - Superb vocal workout that really showcases Richardson's powerful pipes and concludes the song cycle.

Adrian Krygowski "Hope for Us" ep

Six songs here from local singer-songwriter Adrian Krygowski. I have seen him on stage previously in rather humble and simple presentations and was pleased with how full and rich the sounds are on this CD. Since there are only six of them, try them all. It is a fine listen. I particularly enjoyed the snappy "Simpleton" with alternating male and female vocal lines along with harmonies on the chorus (of course). It has far more rock than folk and there are the expected Americana and even country touches, but those are light enough. Even when the acoustic instruments are in the foreground or the country touches stronger, there is an inner rock drive at work. Krygowski just goes pretty much straight ahead with pace and/or intensity, whatever the song calls for. Good music and pleasant surprise in the production department. I am feeling some growth here.

You can hear this and more live at the Dunes on Friday, April 20th. See you there.

Lilt "Onward"

Here is something I often do not get a chance to review for DC Rock Live, a local Irish folk duo. If I am wearing my Folkworld hat and digging into my pile of CDs, I might expect something like this. But it is refreshing to hear such crisp modern performances on mostly traditional Irish reels, jigs, and folk songs. The two musicians known as Lilt play flute offset by a stringed instrument such as cittern, banjo or mandolin. They have guest fiddles and a bodhran which add more flash when desired. The production is clean and the playing is sharp and with enough pace to make it interesting enough for those that learned their Irish music from the Pogues and not their father's favorite crooner braying away at "Danny Boy". If you enjoy De Dannan, Planxty and the many bands that do this sort of thing, you'll easily enjoy this as well. The key that makes this stand out for me is that little bit  of extra sharpness in the way they hit their notes and pace they maintain. And they play around the DC area often enough, that a live show seems like it would be well worth the effort. You can certainly expect to read about it here when next I get them on my calendar.

Songs to try out first:

Actually, this album plays through nicely and you can easily find your own favorites. I like "Gallagher's Frolics" with its heavy flute and light strum. "The Thorn Tree" also featured some great picking.

The Shondes "Searchlights"

This Brooklyn based four-piece has released a gutsy little album that offers pop hooks with a nice in-your-face attitude. Pleasant and congenial, but these songs come with plenty of gusto. Hearty vocals are on top of the usual rock sounds with the added spice of a violin weaving its way into the melodies. The melodies are there with a nice sense of attack while they retain pop familiarity. It is not power pop as the vocal thrust gives it more power than that of the guitar. Although all the instruments work together as well. This has heart and is fun and carries a larger whallop as each song enters your conscience. The live set should be exciting as well. I can easily see this band could easily connect with a wide variety of fans. Hopefully some touring and exposure will continue to help their cause.

But see for yourself at their show this Thursday, April 5th at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel.

Songs to try out first:

"Ocean to Ocean" - Superb backing vocals with lots of subtle shifts and offsets from the instruments create an evocative environment for this driving song.

"Searchlights" - Great violin work and a memorable song.

"Are You Ready" -  If you are not ready, this song will snap you to attention and will not let up until it is over.