Thursday, January 31, 2013

RECORD REVIEWS - January 2013


This area garage rock outfit hits most of the right notes on this album. The sound is a little lo-fi, even for garage style rock, but it sounds more edgy than contrived. They remind me of Chicago's Plastic Crimewave Sound with a bit of the Monomen in there somewhere, albeit with some odd complexity. The rawness of the sound is similar to that of the Flesheaters and the few bands that have a good feel for the visceral rawness of amplified blues rock. This one may take a couple of listens if you are not predisposed to this type of sound, but the rewards are there. I particularly like the droning songs, as they create a twisted world where the drone absorbs my thoughts for a long, long time (something welcome these days). Most of the other records I am listing to are cleaner than this, but if we think back when we were really young, it wasn't terribly fun being too clean, was it?

Songs to try out first:

Nassau - This nearly nine minute jam has powerful moments and great tempo control. Garage Mogwai with a bit of vocals?

Scupper - Another long one that almost goes in a Flipper direction songwriting style at least (since no one ever quite sounds like Flipper).

Thunder Studies - There is a certain dreariness and sadness in life that some artists can capture. it happens here without sounding like Joy Division.


Their very name conjures up psychedelic thoughts, or perhaps shoe gaze. In this music, the gaze is straight forward, as there is a core of guitar and voice leading thoughtful songs amidst a light psychedelic landscape aiding the delivery. The vocal style here reminds me of a bouncier Prydwyn, but with that same depth of feeling evident. The real success is their ability to create lush and sumptuous music whose warmth is both embracing and stimulating. They create a smooth flowing atmosphere that allows light instrumental touches to shape the character of each song. My only complaint is that this is  a six song EP and I wanted to stay with this music longer. So listen to it all, and see if you will be relistening as much as I will be. I look forward to good things here, as they are on the right track.

The Echo Wall is celebrating the release of this CD and new CDs of Bellflur and Exit Clov this Friday, February 1st at the Strathmore Mansion.

How do you merge anthemic punk with Springsteen styled rock music? Street Dogs is close but they lean more toward punk. The Levellers tend more toward the mainstream, but are also in the neighborhood. Hot Water Music seems to walk this particular tight rope as well as anyone. There is even a little jangle in the guitar while they roar away like that of classic Australian punk bands which is always welcome to my ears. The vocals are tough but tuneful, while the band is strong throughout. If you like thoughtful, energetic music, this band will fill your needs. And what makes this record jump out a little, is the steady build that exists as you play through all of the songs. When that happens, it is usually a sign that a band has command of their sound. And their recent live show put a bold exclamation point on that thought. This band is a powerhouse and does bring a smile to my face.
Songs to try out first:

Mainline - The opening cut is a ferocious rocker with a good classic vibe, but with punk rock intensity and pace.

Drag my Body - A little jangle and bass flourishes along with the pummeling chorus.

The Traps - Probably the catchiest melody here with the most subdued vocal work, but with loads of pace and jangle.


Portland, Maine's Lisa/Liza has impressed me in the past with her homespun brand of delicate psychedelic folk music and it is more of the same for this new five-song EP. It is pretty much voice and acoustic guitar with lots of echo and some back-up vocal work extends the echo into deep dark canyons of space. It is all effective music with Lisa/Liza in full control. I might have wished for a  bit more variety as it all feels like an extended atmospheric piece as opposed to five songs, but with only five songs, it works better than if it were a full album. As she continues her songwriting, I hope she plays around with her form a bit more. But for now, it is lovely material and I am still hopeful for a nice little east coast tour down our way some time soon.


Baltimore's Adam Trice is 'Red Sammy' who writes the songs, sings and plays guitar. Lately his live shows have featured the fine dobro playing of John Decker, who I will assume is playing here. There is a steady rhythm section as well, but you almost would not know it with the dreamy long horizon on a slow journey feeling that these players produced. It is blues and folk and great care is given to the musical brushwork this band indulges in. It works its magic quite nicely in all thirteen tracks. Actually, there is music only eight of them as there are six poems (one set to music) by Steve Matanle that are featured here. They are mostly barroom stories and are short and easily slip onto the barstools set up between these songs. Trice is well known in Baltimore and regularly plays many stages around here. His work is getting better and better, or perhaps it is me who is more comfortable in his world. Whatever the case, he is worth getting out to when he comes to town and this record will a do a great job holding you over until then.
Red Sammy is having an album release show at the Windup Space in Baltimore on Sunday, February 17th.

Songs to try out first:

Broken Light - Laconic vibe from acoustic guitar and slide work on the dobro allow the quiet vocals to strike a dramatic chord.

Friends - A nice head nodding bluesy number with clean guitar picking.

Monstertruck - Acoustic rock beat with that rolling down the highway motion here, more like a convertible than a monster truck (but the lyric makes sense of it all).

This accomplished band has a lock on that early 1970s rock sound that often started in lengthy and multiple barroom sets and often made it to the arena tours around the country and both college and mainstream FM radio play. The vocal work is quite accomplished with a sound combining the genetics of maybe Paul Rodgers and Kevin Cronin.  The entire band is tight and rocking with strong guitar work throughout and some nice acoustic moves amidst the more prevalent heavier material. There is plenty of energy and just enough variation in the arrangements, particularly in the addition of brass on various songs. A few trend toward a ska beat, but only lightly in that direction. The lyrics could be a bit tighter, but if you are looking for straight ahead rock, this band delivers (over two full records even, as this is a classic double LP).

Songs to try out first:

Yukon Gold - This one had both an extra power-pop bounce and some nice brass that resulted in maybe the catchiest tune on the album.

Everybody Knows - I like the alternating vocals and the guitars really rock this one out.

Yesterday's Wagers - A slower cut that shows their versatility.

This singer-songwriter manages to combine some interesting sounds here in this album, livening up songs that could work as straight folk.. Yes, that is often the goal, but her folk/indie rock moves also manage to deftly incorporate some jazzy tropicalia elements without losing the plot. There are jazzy lounge elements in several songs, most notably in "Follow Close". She uses a substantial vocal range, often with quick octave jumps before settling back down in the scale. A few of the songs move in a light hearted easy going manner, but I preferred the stronger more mysterious cuts which create a unique atmosphere that I want to spend more time in. Intriguing music here that is well worth fitting into your musical palette.

Sammy Witness will be at the Velvet Lounge on Monday, February 11th.

Songs to try out first:

Brazilian Pepper Tree - The music matches the title and lyrics here, as it is a snappy, fragrant pop update on tropicalia.

Follow Close - There is a good lounge jazz folk vibe working here that is tricky to pull off.

I Love my Enemies - This has a deeper folk feel, yet the airy keyboard work creates some very personal space.

Tiger Lily - This has the most sense of mystery and wonder in the album and its evocative guitar and keyboards envelope the steadier vocal and rhythm section.

And for good measure, here is the latest video from Daddy Lion aka Jeremy Joseph, a fine DC musician spending a bit more time out of the area in recent years.

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