Thursday, February 28, 2013

RECORD REVIEWS - February 2013

This local band has been putting on some fine live shows over the years around here. I think they made a great call in recording their sophomore album with Chris Stamey at his studio in North Carolina. Stamey was always under the radar as a player, but was a superstar with other musicians and he knows sound. The Riverbreaks have a great Americana pop/rock base to work with and that shines through on this album. There is a constant flash of instrumental thrust, but more of a focus on the song with just enough guitar, violin, or keyboards to augment the vocals and rhythms. I believe good things are happening for this band as they have the ability to pull in some of the main stream fans of Josh Ritter or Alejandro Escovedo with this sort of sound. Their writing is not consistently at that level, but they are getting there.

Songs to try out first:

Wild Fruit - The opening number is perfectly balanced between pop, rock, and Americana with shining instrumental sound.

Corn Blue Night - I sense the Chris Stamey influence here as the power-pop elements are brought out with a nice quietly gnarly guitar sound underneath the catchy vocals.

Paper Moon - Delicate acoustic guitar makes way for a lovely slower ballad before electric guitar takes over. This balances epic with personal through a deft touch.

Or check out their new video...


This local funk rock band has a fascinating approach to some genre combinations I do not hear often--at least the way they do it. They play funky beat oriented lounge jazz rock, and can take that concept into some bold extremes. There are frequent dual vocal parts for male and female. Imagine Ashford and Simpson working with the Contortions or Arto Lindsay going crazy Eddie Hazel style. This is daring gutsy music that dares to alienate different sides of the equation. I am not sure I would want to hear this every day, but it is a welcome kick in the pants much of the time. I hope they do not lose the jagged edges, for if they were to soften the blows, they would sound like too many other bands.  I definitely plan to catch them live again some time soon.

Songs to try out first:

YOWWYCH - You can decide pretty quickly in this opening cut of whether you will get into this. Once the guitarist started wailing away, I was hooked.

Fishes - Good mixture of funk and rock guitar with a strong vocal workout and vibrant pace.

Cooke - A powerful long number with a dramatic build, particularly with the vocals.

This hard touring band has put on many fine shows in DC over the years. They have tremendous energy which is not always easy to transfer to studio work. This five song ep (along with three remixes) mostly succeeds with the energy, as well as their dance oriented highly edged funk rock. "Lead!" is the one that reminds me of the No Wave meets hard UK post punk rock sound that gets you closer to convulsions than dance steps. "Age of Advice" is a nifty little pop song that pulls it back a bit yet, with a biting lyric and really great hooks, it is real surprise. The arrangements here are stunning and I hope to hear more of this on future albums. This is a nice little record and really impressed me in their song writing skills. I knew about their energy and sound, but the creative moves on a few of these songs can rival all the Animal Collectives out there.

** See Spirit Animal TONIGHT at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel opening for the wonderful Efterklang **

And they have a video for "Lead!", so try this out and see if you can avoid coming to the show...


If you are into electronica based pop music, this Brooklyn based band may just have an EP for you. The textures are rich and the vocal work is top notch and allows them to stand out in a crowded field. Personally, I like some songs a lot more than others, so it may be a matter of whether you want to dance or dig deeper into a song's structure. "Out There" was particularly memorable with a David Bowie vibe in their somewhere. "Rescue Me" also provided some fine vocal tradeoffs and a clever contrasting percussion and guitar bridge. The Giorgio Moroder/Kraftwerkian synth moves on "Disco Heart" were surprisingly good. This music is not in my area of expertise, but as more bands put as much quality into the playing and singing as they do the beats, I may get to know this genre better.

Hard alt metal attack is on the menu for this twelve song LP. They say they are a Belgian two-man noise generating army, which succinctly previews this controlled sonic assault. This is the work of an organized 'army' and there is no anarchic running amok in this regiment. These two have been doing it a while (although this is a return after a four year layoff) and it is no surprise to see that they have worked a bit with Steve Albini as they are clearly sonic cousins. There is an urgency to the vocals, yet they do not lose clarity and keep the song moving forward without losing intensity. The guitar noise and percussion also exhibits just enough control, although untrained ears may sense a reckless abandon. I have been hearing lots of great noisy rock coming out of Belgium in the past year, and this welcome return continues the pattern. And if these guys can deliver the goods live, perhaps a return trip to the Benelux area is something I need to consider. Keep the music coming!


This Richmond band put on a great live set this past month and they provided this, their most recent album to me along with some newer songs they are working on. The album captures much of what I heard live with piano and voice carrying the thrust of the song, and rock instrumentation merging in demonstratively or pulling back for atmosphere as the song dictates. There are strings as well and the sound is positively mystical at times. They really remind me of Spriguns mostly due to the Mandy Morton like vocals, although there is a bit more power here beyond the mysticism. The real success here is in their determined creation of a musical world that pulls the listener in and keeps them deeply involved throughout each flowing song. This is a band worth exploring further. And their newer songs from a working copy CDR sound good, with a touch more variety even due to the inclusion of brass and modern rhythmic touches.

Songs to try out first:

Turpentine - Dreamy psyche-folk with the spacey guitar and vocals enveloping the rich piano. Great dramatic tension in this one, nearly a theater piece in its own way.

Lorelei - A Germanic tale they describe as a love song for mermaids and pirates. There is a sense of antiquity here, at least before they head off toward rocking coastlines.

Mint - There is a lovely flow to this song. It opened the set the other night and perhaps haunts me still.

This is a Spanish/Czech Republic folk rock band that is starting to make a name for itself in continental Europe. They seem to embrace some of the fine progressive folk rock bands of the past. In particular, Spain had a lot of them like Granada and la Bullonera and many more from the Movieplay label. Yet there is more folk here in a few of the songs and they also are capable of blasting out some great rock moves as well. It is this diversity which makes this music successful. The instrumentals sometimes get a little predictable, but when they rev it up, pull it back, or add the lovely vocal work, they have something special.

Songs to try out first:

Riderland - Sadies styled folk rock with killer violin jam amidst the rock moves and heartfelt vocals.

Epic Tale - Nice spicy near jazz instrumental mix here, like Kebnekajsne from Sweden.

La Cima - The most searing rocker with power guitars and speedy strings all over the pummeling rhythm section.


Hometown Sounds said...

Great reviews, thanks for posting them! One small thing, it looks like Sensual Harrassment are from Brooklyn, not here. Cheers!

David Hintz said...

Thanks. That is what I get for rushing (and this is my second correction). And I should be more careful as there are more out of town bands that do send me material, aside from the waves of Belgian bands that have made the connection.