Thursday, May 30, 2013


This is a five song EP that is as deep in the woods as most of us will never be. It is foot stomping bluegrass folk with even a gypsy feel now and then due mostly with the fiddling. There is a bit of Pogues attitude here with music that is just a bit crazier than that of the the Black Twig Pickers. I was not sure what to make of this as it opened, but by the end of the fifth song, I was out of my chair, bopping around the room to the uptempo riffs. They are from Ypsilanti, Michigan (far more fun to say than to visit), home of Eastern Michigan University, but you can see shadows of this band at the porch of the most broken down farmhouse 100 miles from where you live.

See if you can stand the craziness of this band at the Velvet Lounge this Monday, June 3rd.

In just two appearances I have managed to catch in the clubs, this local powerhouse trio has managed to capture that early 1970s hard rock that I grew up with and push it forward enough to keep it fresh and invigorating. So I looked forward to their first effort on vinyl and was rewarded with this five song EP. There is just one drummer, one guitarist, and one bassist who handles all lead vocals. The riffs are supreme, quick, and with great feeling. The rhythm section lays down the thick slab of a foundation and somehow the vocals have a smart, slightly detached feel about them. They vary their style just enough from song to song to freshen up the approach with injections of R&B moves and even a modern indie rock touch. But it always comes back to the riffs over the beat. When they lock in, they do this music as well as anybody since the mighty Groundhogs or Steamhammer. They do fall just a fraction short of capturing the full power of their live set consistently through these five cuts, but there are times when it is all there. This is a great start to the recording process and will make a fine introduction to this fresh retro hard rocking trio.

Destroy This Place appears to have the ability to make punk rock music relevant to 2013 and beyond. It is not an easy task. They are not pure punk, whatever that may be, nor are they post-hardocre, post punk, garage blues slop, nu metal, or hard rock. I hear more of  a New Model Army Sound with brighter vocals and a bit of SoCal punk spirit guiding the way.  The guitars have ringing tones, although there is plenty of muscle as well. Not even the wah-wah and psychedelic freak-out at album's end changes the overall flavor much, but shows off just enough diversity to keep things fresh. Of course being from Detroit, means they have some of the most exciting roots for this sort of music without even leaving town. Their songs reach out and grab you, but instead of throwing you to the ground, they groove with you with a few sublime hooks and loads of power. This augurs well for a live show and they will give all of us a chance to find that out very soon.

Destroy This Place comes to the DC9 on Thursday June 27th.

Songs to try out first:

Tight Sleeves - That wee bit extra crunch in the guitar work  puts me on the edge of my seat, which is would good punk rock should do (if not get you to stand and jump).

Defeated - Nearly has that Husker Du "New Day Rising" move toward pop with feet still planted in the most hardcore muck.

Graves - A mobil and flashy powerhouse.

This 'new' local band (formerly known as the Resistance) comes out of the gate with this two song EP featuring their songs "Devon's Song" and "Don't Wake Me". The first is a song about a story that we have heard before and we will hear again and need to keep on hearing every time this sort of tragedy occurs. The band does a nice job within the indie rock/shoegaze format of building the drama through the guitars and vocals. The second cut has subtler dynamic shifts, yet the clarity of purpose is there and they take command of the sound and pull out some real feeling in their playing. This is just a taste, but between that and their live set that I have seen recently, I recommend keeping this band on your radar for when next they play around town.

This is fierce and simple music, actually not so simple, but focused, direct with distinct if not distorted instrumentation and voice. It falls into that guitar and voice camp with some drums and noise added when desired. It comes out of Chrome stylings, works through the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and tosses in some crazed Jon Spencer blues moves at times. Weird and wicked, not for the squeamish, this is the bloody car wreck that you keep looking at. There is some blood, but it is the twisted metal and gnarled expressions that creates the real intrigue. This is will get your blood pressure up as you listen and you may just blow off the whole interpretation thing as you would in one of David Lynch's more complex movies. You'll keep watching and listening, but it may be a challenge to get up the courage to re-listen. But I will be playing this again and again.

Songs to try out first:

Johann's Fabric - The opening cut has a crazed percussion, shrieking guitar, and intense vocal work out.

Gin - Just when I catch them being a little pretentious with a spoken word intro, they add rhythmic noise over a high bass line and yank me in to their strange, strange world.

Soulless LIes - Good vocal line with odd piano run and additional instrumental layers as the song rolls on and on and on.

This is similar to the classic singer songwriter era with just enough of a modern indie rock feel worked into the style. Still, the soul and folk rock feeling owes quite a bit to the early works of Elton John, Jackson Browne, and Tim Buckley. There are some moments of bombastic 1980s guitar battling soaring vocals such as in "Long Goodbye" that may be a bit over the top, but this will still cut it with some. I prefer the more introspective moments with acoustic guitars and electric embellishment where Klose gives his range a workout. Make no mistake about it, this is classic mainstream music that would have climbed those radio charts quite easily many decades back (and still may). There is still an authenticity and strong talent at work that makes this a nice diversion from the twists and turns in the indie world. Jann Klose brings back those good memories of sharing mainstream rock and pop with childhood friends. His quality wins the day with this release, and if you need any proof of the confidence he has in his voice, just know that he covers a Tim Buckley song to close out the album. Anyone who can bring that off will win me over, and he did it.

Songs to try out first:

Still - Simply that great voice and acoustic guitar putting together that ever so difficult simple song.

Falling Tears - This balances heavy and light and he really cuts loose with his voice.

Song to the Siren - Great vocal work-out reminiscent of Tim Buckley, who of course wrote this masterpiece for his 'Starsailor' album.

This is lush pop music with some assertive tones and a brisk beat. The vocal manner reminds me a little bit of Ride, although it has those soft echoey tones that are a part of most synth pop bands. This rocks enough, too, and has some building at work in some of the songs, which really helps hold my interest. Other times, it simply sticks to a nice, but predictable synth-pop sound and beat. The strong vocal work keeps the quality high and lovers of this music should be very happy. Still, I would like to see more variety and sonic clashes at work. There are some nice highlights, as I mention below.

Songs to try out first:

No Stranger - Deep, smooth, beautiful vocals.

Breathless - Highly danceable with some good pop moves and some nice vocal adjustments.

Shook Loves - The haunting harmonies and overall melody keeps this moving smartly along.

One of Maine's finest folk singers is back with another EP, this time featuring six new original songs. I am happy to see that after slipping a bit into a comfort zone, Lisa/Liza has worked to expand the arrangements while maintaining her mysterious and elegant psychedelic folk base. If you are a fan of Marissa Nadler or Vashti Bunyan (if you go way back), you should give Lisa/Liza a listen. She captures distant evocative places with her vocals, while adding some creative touches on delicately placed acoustic guitar. There is some additional instrumentation here which fills out the sound and makes this some of her finest work to date. There is also added drama here where the songs darken and deepen as the EP proceeds. There is something hypnotizing about it all and it falls outside the lines in its own charming way. Fascinating for astral explorers of the wyrd folk world.

This starts off as Indie rock and quickly gets stretched out of bounds into psychedelic lands. The vocals start off simply enough before some nice harmonies set in, and then just as you get comfortable, he goes high in Pavlov Dog's territory. The music also settles for a quirky but comfortable pattern, yet they fearlessly move in and out of space with oddball moves that are edgy more in pattern than sound. There are Americana touches at times and even some reggae beats of a sort, although the vocal work never lets you settle into the comforts of a simple genre. I like the approach employed as they have a distinctive sound thanks to the vocals, yet each player seems to bring something of interest stylistically as the group seems to challenge itself to be a little bit more creative than their neighbor. They are from Maryland and I hope to see a live show some time as this would easily hold my interest over a full set and may be even continue to build into something quite exciting.


Like when Fred Neil opened his album with 'Dolphins' so many decades before, Over the Ocean starts off with a deep and contemplative look at 'Herons'. It may be rooted in the Fred Neil style, but sounds more in the newer Bill Callahan/Richard Buckner interpretation. After that folkier beginning, you get everything from hard psychedelic rock to lo-fi spaced out, tripped out folk music thereafter. I hear approaches to the sort of Scandanavian psychedelia of an Algarnas Tradgard or International Harvester, although there is not quite the ethereal qualities of those epics. But there is a strong control of dynamics at work with deep folk and hard psychedelia. At times, there is also a Lou Reed 'Berlin' style dreariness which I rather like, although it can be a bit too down for some listeners. But there is good exploration at work here, sonically and emotionally, and these are the types of journeys I want to take when I put an album on. I am familiar with the sounds here, but I don't know what is around each corner as I take the turn into these dark alleyways. Even when the songs go on a bit much, this is a fresh approach to forms that I listen to frequently and this record will warrant further exploration.

Songs to try out first:

Herons - Quite simply, I am a big fan of Fred Neil, Bill Callahan, and Richard Buckner.

God in My Own Image - Just when you settle in, this blast of heavy guitar and screechy vocal awakens you before bathing you with psychedelic fade-out.

Obscene - This seven minute psychedelic beauty deftly weaves different styles together into something far from obscene.

Simply stated, this is soft and focused singer songwriter material. Yet there is a breezy nature even as Josh Rouse sings his heartfelt lyrics. Try as I might, I cannot get Josh Ritter out of my had as a comparison point. And although obviously the same first name is the reason, there is a similarity here if you add a touch of Kenny Rankin and Dan Fogelberg as well. It takes some skill and confidence to soften the tones when you arrange and sing your material and still create interesting songs that people want to explore with you. Josh Rouse has succeeded here far more than not with many songs that will be worth revisiting for careful listens. And if you just want to float away with the relaxed atmosphere, you can do that as well. Although you will enter deeper places in your thoughts, than you may have anticipated at the outset.

Songs to try out first:

Julie (Come Out of the Rain) - Great western flavor with the twang in the guitar and twists and turns of the steel guitar.

This Move's Too Long - Nice title, lyrics, and a good breezy style with delicate rock guitar.

The Ocean - Perhaps the most contemplative song on the album.


There is some irony in the title as it has been over six years from his debut album to this sophomore release. Apparently Jordan Jeffares had some record contract issues to move beyond and finally has regained at least some control in his future. He certainly controls the music as he layers his synthesizer parts, guitar, and vocals in intriguing woven pop fabrics. He has a firm grasp on balancing catchy dance pop hooks with intense and sometimes dark vocal patterns and percussion. There is always enough going on to require more concentration than that of most bands playing in this style. Yet, if you want to kick back and dance to it, each song allows plenty of leeway for that. But I will stick to appreciating the song craft and the balancing act he achieves here. The only thing that could improve things would be additional instrumental diversity. There is still just enough present to keep me happy. And this all works swimmingly, live, with a very solid band surrounding him.

See Snowden live at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Saturday, June 1st.

Songs to try out first:

No One in Control - The title cut opens the album and lasts over seven minutes proving that you can be edgy and off kilter with vocals in dream pop.

Hiss - Here is where they push the sound in other directions with a nice guitar crunch punctuating a great melodic vocal pattern and nice beat.

Don't Really Know Me - Anytime the reverb on the guitar is adjusted to sewer setting, I'm there.


Although this female trio leans far too deep in the country territory at times, more often it recalls a deep Appalachian rooted folk bluegrass combination that the Coen brothers helped remind people of some years back in "Oh Brother, Where Are't Though". This has that lost rural folk vibe where you imagine Alan Lomax taking old cowpaths to small out of the way hamlets featuring local musicians who make music for their own pleasure. These North Carolina ladies are able to bring out pleasure, both with their great sense of melody and also with delicate phrasing that employs more restraint than power. Add the fine dynamics throughout, and all the songs build a sturdy foundation. This is the kind of record to stay with for all thirteen songs, as the magic slowly unfolds over time. The atmosphere may seem simple, but there is great care here in its construction. This one surprised me and I am glad I let each of the songs pull me further into their world as the album progressed..

Songs to try out first:

Let Her Go - The vocal melody cuts deep, while the guitar work is nimble and evocative.

Little House - Simple, positive song with a nice Appalachian bluegrass sort of feeling.

They Got My Back - Nice guitar and banjo duet with distant organ fills, while the ladies harmonize in classic style.

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