Sunday, June 30, 2013


This DC area band is primarily the work of songwriter Ryan Walker, who assembled a fine cast of musicians here to bring forward elements of pop, rock, folk, with some forays into country, progressive, and psychedelic modes. There are enough variations that I ended up getting deeper into the songs that were in genres I was most comfortable with --psychedlic, progressive, and the heavier songs. If the songs were stronger, the lighter folkier ones would have worked as well, but I think the Beanstalk Library is at its best, when they just cut loose and let everybody play. And when they do have a song that works, it has a great pop hook that the band is able to emphasize with strong playing. This is a well produced record that can appeal to a large fan base, but it reminds me a bit more of why I like this band live.

Songs to try out first:

Feeling My Way in the Dark - This has a classic power pop feeling to it with good guitar crunch offsetting warm vocal melody.

Mushroom Clouds - Pleasant rocker morphs into a psychedelic/progressive jam complete with organ solo.

Over - The closer is a tidy straight forward pop rocker, more of which they should be doing.


Poptronica of sorts is what I would try to call this. I am always a little bit of the toe in the water type when it comes to examine modern pop music and electronica. I like the music more often than not, but do not know it well enough to put a lot of historical perspective into a review. So, I will just sit back and say that this music warmed me throughout the course of the eleven songs. This New Zealand duo reminded me some of Purity Ring, particularly with the lush vocal hooks. I particularly enjoyed the electronic as it was orchestral in nature, but moved in subtle waves of sound rather than shocking bursts. This is smart music that touches more than it shows off. Some day I may listen to enough of this style, to be positive that this is among the finest offerings you could want. But for now, I will simply keep listening.

Songs to try out first:

Children - Lush layers of smooth inviting music roll over shorelines.

Offering - The vocal work really shines on this offering, with great closing woven patterns.

Faceless Child - The vocal here is absolutely transcendent.

One of DC's most authentic and interesting roots-folk-blues singer/guitarists has just released this fine album. He mixes instrumental finger style songs with gutsy roots numbers that display both an amazing amount of talent, but also dexterity in styles. He also adds in some banjo, which only furthers his versatility. Rarely do you see it come together so well, without heading back to the classic English scene where finger stylists embraced blues, traditional folk, and even some amazing Eastern moves. Although Jonny Grave may not be Davy Graham, he is certainly one of the best in DC if not anywhere in what he brings to acoustic music. There really is not much more to say. If you like finger style guitarists, you should listen to see exactly where he fits into your listening scheme of live and be sure to take in a live show some time, where he proves it all again right before your eyes and ears.

And as shown above catch him at Hill Country on July 4th at 9:30pm with no cover fee.

Songs to try out first:

The Hammer - The opener drops the hammer down and sets the tone.

L'Enfant Promenade - Instrumental guitar shows his superior finger style technique.

Afraid of the Dark - This is reminiscent of Robbie Basho in spirit with maybe even more technique if possible.


This DC duo is a sneaky favorite of mine. They feature a pretty basic formula of spooky gothic guitar, chilly synthesizers, and post-Sioiuxsie lead vocals. This record features four new cuts and a couple of remixes. I always enjoy them live and the first record had a nice intensity to it, even as it laid out an icy landscape. If anything, this second record demonstrates further maturity in their songwriting. They use dynamics and tension even better this time around within a broader atmosphere of sound. Although only four new songs long, the momentum builds in the manner of a band like Mono, although the vocals create something entirely unique here. I normally like this type of band, but I am liking what these two achieve a lot more than I would have guessed. I look forward to their next show.


From the Slumberland label comes this jangly west coast rock with a touch of psychedelic--sounds like a cocktail served frequently at a club near you. Yet this band manages to push things musically to keep you more on the edge of your seat than many of these 'lean back and drift away' bands. They do manage some quiet moments, but when the guitars nimbly arc their way through these simple pop melodies, things are breezy fun with just enough room for contemplation. Perhaps the vocals invoke the thoughtfulness, even with pop melodies at the core, they have a soft reflective tone throughout this entire album. They have been louder in the past from what I have read, but it is nice to see them try to make pop music interesting with slower, but very busy guitar work. I am interested in the live experience with this band.

And I will not have long to wait as they play the Comet Ping Pong this Friday, July 5th.

Songs to try out first:

Hello - Delicate crunch in the guitar with nice detached harmonies.

Bad Design - Right from the opening notes, this sounds like a lost 1967 pop nugget classic, but some careful modern sounds buried within make it perfect for today.

Shadow of Your Step - On the dreamy side of pop, but with that jangle still clearing the way on this closer.


This is breathy mood electronica. Although it comfortably fits in with many others in this genre, I enjoyed the light post-punk styled baselines driving the depth home. There were echoey guitars and breathy vocals as well as a solid beat. What really makes this work is the variety from nearly straight post-pop rockers to lush instrumental pop and different points in between. They have carefully decided on a different variety of instruments and sounds for nearly each of these eleven songs. Yet they are cohesive and squarely fit together as a complete album, where there are many highlights, depending on what your favorite genres and styles are.

See Mood Rings live at the DC9, Tuesday July 9th

Songs to try out first:

Pathos y Lagrimas - Excellent guitar and bass parts working even more extreme parts of the sonic spectrum, considering the lush surroundings.

Minor Slaloms - Nicely named tune that has a brisk downhill motion with lots of traditional pop rock moves.

Charles Mansion - it was my favorite song as soon as i saw the title. There is even saxophone.

If you lost track of DC's The Mercies, they are now known as Other Factors and have been working out of Brooklyn for the past year or thereabouts. They have always been a band to watch and now with this album, they have pushed there sound even further beyond the bounds of post punk. Musically, you can detect Gang of Four, Mission of Burma, and stylistic snippets of other great post punk bands, but there is also a lot of progressive rock history and power pop energy in here as well. Dozens of bands come to mind when I listen to them, which instead of showing them to be a derivative band, actually tells me that they are talented enough to encompass a wide array of sounds and styles into a coherent vision of their own. I have always been challenged at who they remind me of vocally, until this record finally connected with a twisted psychedelic band known as Forest (not an easy vocal style to emulate). But you need not dig out your rock history books--anyone who enjoys jagged edge guitar, intense vocals, and a powerful rock rhythm section will easily take to this band and this album.

Songs to try out first:

Needlenose - Slamming snares and feedbacks welcome you into their off kilter rock world.

Look Alive - Dirty abrasive guitar, wailing vocals, funky rhythm… you best be looking' alive.

The Perils of Ownership - Harmonies and some of the music remind me of Wishbone Ash, if they woke up from a bad dream.

Warm pop music with electronics, guitars, and drums in just the right proportions for those less-techno savvy listeners. This has strength surrounding the hooks and "Gold" has much more depth than you expect in this sort of music. If electronica-Americana could be a hybrid, this is pretty close. These four songs have a strikingly balanced taste for those of us rockers who enjoyed old school electronics outfit as well as industrial groups. Yet they easily fit in today's electronica scene and will succeed with their songwriting and excellent delivery.


I would call these seven songs an EP since they come up a bit shy of 30 minutes, but a long EP or short LP matters little these days, especially with self publishing. I have enjoyed this local band's blistering hook based rock on the live stages around town for some time now. They have a classic rock approach with soaring vocal work and loud heavy sounds throughout. In my inner circle of friends, when we hear classic styled rock music, we want our bands to stay above the REO Speedwagon line, otherwise they are dismissed. Vinyl Side danced a little with this line on the record much more than their live show (common malady when it comes to studio work) but only early on. By the time of "Drown" they had established plenty of interesting heavy moves with vocals that invoke more of the Undertones' Feargal Sharkey than they do of Kevin Cronin. So if you enjoy melodic rock music that pushes forward better than most and does not fall into sappiness, then Vinyl Side's record is worth a listen… and certainly catch them live if you can.

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