Saturday, May 31, 2014


There is something wonderfully old fashioned about this music, even as it bounces around between different styles. There is a latino crooning vibe in some songs, worldly folk in others, and some up tempo songs that either sound like the seventies or modern with a a slight nod to the past. Overall, the vocals stay steady and take control of the pace, while the band creates a dreamy atmosphere that is inviting and leaves me with a relaxed, settled feeling, leaning just enough on the edge of my seat in anticipation of the next musical move. Rodrigo Amarante has done well here, creating an album that leaves a physical impression with the listener while letting mental imagery move about on a comfortable journey. Each song has character and stands alone, but the latter half of the album does build into a strong emotional conclusion with "Tardei". Give this album a full listen.

Songs to try first:

Nad Em Vao - Dreamy atmospheric crooning that sounds like Sinatra or Brel cloned for the modern world.

Irene - Delicate folk song with nuanced vocal work.

I'm Ready - This is my soundtrack for a pleasant stroll through an Italian village.

We certainly can't accuse this band of creating an obtuse album title. And with a title this broad, it allows plenty or room for exploration. This spacey, delicate overall sound does invite a certain wide geographic swath of landscape imagery. This is a 'band' project of sorts from Damon McMahon, a New Yorker who moved to China and back, so the wide and varied geography certainly has contextual basis here. The overall sound is laid back droning light rock with psyche folk flavoring that is a bit on the modern side, but there are also traces of Pearls Before Swine. There's even some lo-fi heavy garage rock in "I Can't Dig It", so he will keep you guessing. But most of the time it is trance inducing treks across desert landscapes. It does not always work for me, but there is great vision and moments of great success. Truly, an album to explore and decide for yourself, this.

Songs to try first:

Lonely Richard - Droning guitar, but with a light touch creating an intriguing atmosphere.

Rocket Flare - The guitar jangle is nice, vocals good, and overall a solid arrangement.

Everybody is Crazy - It's true, they are… and this lives up to the album title.

Green Eyes - The laid back vocals are even more dreary and evocative here atop a droning piano pattern.

This is a split LP, the first of five from Belgian record label, Hypertension Records. I know this is going to be great for me because not only have I enjoyed the many Begian releases I have reviewed in years past, but this series is going to include one of my Denver, Colorado favorites, Munly J. Munly, on one of the five planned releases. So let's dive right in with record number one:

Amenra - This Belgian band plays a profoundly mannered dreamy psychedelic rock with a touch that as great as their sound. They keep their pace down and manage to control the drama of their musical passages far better than most. This never gets dull and the careful vocal work is a big part of that as well. What a lovely brand of psychedelia this is. I want to hear much more.

VVovnds - Wounds, indeed. These songs may make you bleed from any open wounds you point toward the speakers. This is manic hardcore with an extra level of noisy guitar in the midst. It's like Iceage covering Discharge or the Varukers. Actually it is way crazier than that, but I'm not up on my hardcore acts anymore. Suffice it to say, this is completely another side of the coin when you flip this record, portending that this series will be diverse and quite exciting.

It has been a pleasure reviewing Brittany Jean music for a few years now for a couple of reasons. FIrst, I can continually count on music that will connect easily, while managing to combine a comfortable sound with plenty of heart and fire within. But its the second reason that is exciting as like many great musicians, Brittany Jean sounds a little bit more advanced and varied as she moves forward with her songwriting and recording. There are fresh variations and arrangements here, yet the core sound is as welcome and familiar as what I heard in her first release. Most of the songs here have that folk, folk rock style that focus on her fine voice and thoughtful hooks comfortably brought out in balanced arrangements. However, a song like "Aberdeen" jumps out with its sad accordion drone working up a unique atmosphere unlike the other four songs here, yet clearly part of the same spirit. Brittany Jean is one of the best area singer songwriter/musicians that you can count on for interesting records and fine live performances. If you have not experienced her music by now, it's not too late to start.

It is good to see Jeremy Joseph still making music even after he left the area to pursue further education in South Carolina. Not only is he still writing songs, he has also assembled a new Daddy Lion band to bring some life to them. The band has fine touch and the songs have some fine edgy guitar to complement the flowing melodies that remind me a bit of the songs of Grant Hart through way of Sebadoh. In other words, fine indie rock with classic pop melodies. There are only three songs here, so I hope there is more parts to this calendar. Whether you remember the DC shows from years back or not, I recommend you give Daddy Lion a few moments of your listening time.

San Diego's The Donkeys ride more than one wave on this album, but their journey is a steady popsike climb to heights worthy of the trek. Their best skill is the way they combine genres and diverse sounds into intriguing packages all while slowly and smoothly moving along their musical trail. The vocals always keep their dreamy identity intact as the instruments dance about or lock in depending on their mood. Each of these songs commanded my attention in a way that surprised me as they are smooth and some could even work as background music. Somehow the Donkeys work up an intensity through their subtlety, not an easy task. So credit to them for making warm and familiar sounds work together in unique ways.

Songs to try first:

The Manx - A lovely posike instrumental with a riff reminding me of the Frantics.

Ride the Black Wave - Dreamy sounds, crazed synthesizer, sharp drum bursts, and smooth vocals make for a rare and winning combination here.

Shines - Almost a tiki bar guitar worked into a quirky pop song, less dreamy here, but no less interesting.


More quality modern day punk rock with a post rock edge on display with the latest album by this Memphis band. They combine a classic revved up English or LA punk with some post punk sounds deep within, darkening the proceedings significantly. They are reminiscent of Iceage in that regard, in fact, I wonder if a subgenre isn't being created here. This has significant post-punk, psychedelic, krautrock styled sounds deeply within driving songs. The faster songs work better here and this is a pleasurable album for aging punk rockers as well as youthful energetic creative types.

Songs to try first:

Shattered Circle - The opener is the most straight ahead punk rocker with a speedy, but tougher Eddie and the Hot Rods feel.

Flickering Eyes - Rolling drums and guitars that pull back into intense rhythm with spacey breaks.

Sid Visions - Great title starts off psyche droning, but rolls out a fine punk rhythm as it fully forms.


This is an Arkansas band that has been around a little over a year. They take the expected pop punk roads that we have all traveled, yet present a few surprises. The first is a death metal backing vocal that sounds wildly out of place next to the nice clean lead vocals, but is actually rather fun. It was so harsh and unexpected, I had to look around that I did not have another audio running in another window. I trusted myself not, so I had to play these again and heard the vocals just as I hear first hear them in the first two songs of this four-song EP. Overall, the music is fine if not a bit too predictable, but the guitars roar along nicely with just enough intricacy to make it a pleasant listen. They would likely be worth a look if they come to a town near you.

Here is a DC area singer songwriter that i have not heard up until now--it still happens a lot, as there is so much going on in this area. Dan Fisk has released seven songs here with a classic style that encompasses folk moves in a comfortable full band rock setting. There is some heartland Americana in the mix as well, which is not too surprising these days. I thought it was a bit too straight and narrow early on, although the brass moves were nice. Thankfully, he has a few gems here such as the folkier 'Disappear' which I will be playing a few more times this week. 'Talk to Me' also had nice contrasting acoustic and electric guitar parts with brass accompaniment as well. At the end of the day, this is a nice set of songs that offer up some classic rock moves that still work today.

And you can see Dan Fisk at his record release show this Thursday, June 5th at the Jammin Java.

This album screams Americana with each of these twelve songs. Well not exactly screams, as Ian Foster has great touch when pulling back to a quiet folk number or forging ahead with a full band rocker. Ian Foster is from St. Johns in Newfoundland and there is a great folk scene in that part of Canada, with roots that go back to England and Scotland and other parts of Europe. Yet, like Iain Matthews, he understands the roots in North American music and weaves that heritage into his songs quite seamlessly, if not even using that as the heart of the song. His voice is excellent and the arrangements are varied and smart throughout this album. I think even lesser folk fans would find plenty to enjoy here. I did, but but this does speak in a language I am quite familiar with.

Songs to try first:

How the Weather Rolls In - This song has a rolling quality to it that makes for a strong connection.

Japanese Tea Shop - Fine straight-up folk song with voice and acoustic guitar.

Good Good Heart - Another lighter folk arrangement to start, but it builds into a well arranged cut that would have been made for radio, if radio mattered.

More high energy punk power pop in the Buzzcocks meets 999 realm. The songwriting does not seem quite up to those standards, high as they are, but there are moments of great pleasure here. When they don't go too long into their songs, their melodies are sharp, the playing is crisp and the vocals stay bright and strong. If you like the style, you will enjoy enough of this record. They would certainly put on a fun live show.

Songs to try first:

Yeah, Tonight - Great power pop rocker with dual lead vocal duels.

From Tallahassee to Gainesville - Slower ringing guitars carry this longer song to fruition.

For Her - Catchy melody and some roaring guitar battles.

Former DCer and current Bostonian Patrick Mulroy is back with four new songs under his moniker of Grain Thief. His sound is Americana folk rock with plenty of roots present but not overly dominating. He has that knack for folk story telling and he and his band mates cook up a smooth backing that has plenty of bite in guitar when desired. He has three fine originals, each with distinct character to them, and then finishes with a rousing version of "John the Revelator". This is a crowded field, but there is just enough here to stand out on record, as well as on stage. It is always a pleasure to stay connected with the music of Grain Thief.

It is hard for me to objectively analyze Guided by Voices as we are both from the Dayton, Ohio scene and both worked hard to put it on the map (or rather just create something fun for for us to do in town). I actually worked with the slightly less famous bands that these guys were seeing while they were forming their band. I knew of them, but didn't really hear them before moving on to Columbus, Chicago, DC, and Denver. But the Dayton scene was important and it was great to see these guys take off and run with it to become a major band, world-wide. It has been quite a ride with two full versions of this band, with the original version now working again in recent years. While I miss Doug Gillard from the second version of GBV, it is just as well as it allows him to pursue a great solo career. So the Dayton band is back and still grinding out these quick bursts of rock inspiration. It still works, although it falls into the classic trap where the band records everything that Pollard dreams up, and too often the good ideas warrant expansion, honing, and combining into more coherent songs. But they are still fun and this was a more thought through record than the recent Pollard solo effort, so I recommend it to the fans as well as anyone else who likes straight ahead, fun rock music with intelligent twists and turns from a veteran band that is still has plenty to offer.

Songs to try first:

Fast Crawl - A dark mysterious cut that works slightly different turf than what I expected.

All American Boy - GBV's version of a prog epic as it clocks in at 3:45!

Ticket to Hide - Heck, they are all catchy, but this one even a bit more so, with some acoustic guitars prior to the rock.

There is a lot to live up to in the title of this album, and although this may not dislodge the classics of this genre off of the shelf, it could well share some of that shelf space. It is a pleasure to listen to this thoughtful music where there are great soulful vocals atop crisp drumming and sharp instrumental prowess on bass, guitar, keys, etc. There are changes of pace and nice rock moves throughout and all of it goes down warm and smooth, yet with heart. This is no throwback album as there are subtle electronica moves working with synthesizer runs and modern rhythms. Yet a few of these songs fit in with a 1972 playlist as that would include plenty of Isaac Hayes guitar off of sharp brass blasts. I did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did. Curtis Harding is someone I would like to see live.

…and right on cue, Curtis Harding is in town at the DC9 on Thursday, June 12th.

Songs to try first:

Next Time - This song goes down as smooth as an ice cold Diet Coke (ok, the metaphors of the sober are not terribly vivid)

Cruel World - The closing cut has a beat like 'Blank Generation' but more relaxed yet still twisted guitars and cool vocal styling.

Surf - Good rock tones here, a bit of a nod to surf music, although a lot less tremolo.


Whether it is a thick powerful death metal mid-tempo dirge, or a snappy hardcore-metal crossover such as in the title cut, you can be assured that this Dutch band will deliver an intense wall of sound. I particularly am impressed with the way they work in some interesting elements such as the near Gregorian Chants in 'Asylums of the Forgotten', and still keep a steady connection between the songs. There are even some Swans-like percussion sounds deep in the mix. Overall, this is a strong album for the metal fan and also the more heavy experimental music fan. Not many may be harder than herder as they say, but few can match them with such interesting sonics as they roar away in the red zone.

This is a debut four song 7" record with four bonus cuts available on a download card. The Mauls do to rock music just what their name implies, but not overly so. This is tough punk rock music that has a bit of the early style along with a touch of hardcore. They keep the intensity up through every song and offer a few extras in a couple of songs, whether it is ringing guitars or the snappy rhythms and cool song structure in 'Small' (my favorite). Clearly, they have a good handle on the genre and just enough creativity to add to their skill and enthusiasm. I still enjoy this music when bands move enough beyond cliches and bring out something worth listening to more than once. I hope to catch the Mauls in a club some time this year. But for now, I'll listen to this record again, while you seek it out (hint a real famous DC label makes it easy to find if you don't want to use my link to the Mauls website).

For those that want to lose themselves in the smooth land of dream rock, you may want to cuddle up to the Shadow of Heaven. It is more rock than pop, but of the smoothest possible variety, with damper pedaled piano and other echoey guitars and electronic sounds providing the backdrop for airy delicate vocals. I am not going to delineate between songs as all ten songs work together for a steady theme, although there are some subtle differences. The seven minute, heavily pained "Goodnight London" is quite good. It does work better on the whole as opposed to just sampling a song or two, but may not have quite the edge that some people may look for, although "Cold Water" has moments.

These guys manage to take garage punk attitude and deliver it with fun hooks and an energy and rock style that pulls from all great eras of scary teenage adrenaline. At their best they have an unholy alliance of the Saints and Radio Birdman type of sound. With the former's lyrical sneer and the latter's crazed guitar solos, they hit on something that is pretty exciting. Other times, they sink back into lesser cuts, aside from a few longer interesting experiments. They sound like they would be a real kick in the pants live and are a fun listen if you like today's punk.

Songs to try first:

No Time for the Blues - Rousing opener is a punk filled power pop blast that brings in sixties garage, too.

Queen Glom - An 8-minute catchy garage rocker? Proof it can be done.

Brother - Slower psyche rock jam thang that shows even another subtle shift.

It is great when power pop bands sound more like POWER pop bands. This band keeps cranking it out, whether they add punk moves or crunching classic rock guitar chords underneath the frothy, yet still tough melody lines sung with great style by ex-Vivian Girl, Katy Goodman. These ten songs all hit their mark, with style, confidence, and enthusiasm. This can easily work in the mainstream, but more selective snobbish fans would not likely give up on them even if this band was a major success. That is a tightrope that has gotten more manageable thanks to REM, Nirvana, and others. I am not sure La Sera is quite in that league, but music this catchy should keep them playing well attended shows. This is their third album since the first one in 2011, so they are staying quite busy, much to our benefit.

Songs to try first:

Losing to the Dark - Wham! An in your face power pop punk slammer hitting you square in the mouth and it tastes good.

Fall in Place - Catchy song with mysterious psyche post punk sounds running around like a sine wave, surrounding the melody.

All My Love is for You - Bouncy little song, severely toughened up with the guitars.

SPOONBOY (+ Colour Me Wednesday) 'SPLIT LP'
By Kyle Schmitt
DC-based singer/songwriter Spoonboy is completing a busy week with the digital release of three split records. His split LP with the West London-based Colour Me Wednesday features pleasant pop-rock and a well-honed lyrical delivery. The record's highlight is "The Dispossessed", in which Spoonboy sings, "I used to think that one day, I'd settle into some place / I used to think I'd find the will to be content," a sobering thought for many young adults who expected to be comfortable with their home, life, and job by this point in life. Also impressive is "Two Dollar Stereo", which kicks off like the Only Ones, and reveals a songwriter who lives for the catharsis provided by each chorus.

Check out Spoonboy's record release show at the DC9 on Friday, June 6th. It's an early show with opening acts starting at 6:30, so don't be late.

The Trews have a classic rock sound. It works best when there are either some snappy roots underneath or when they integrate some post punk moves into the mix. This does not happen quite enough to my liking, but for someone looking for that seventies FM sound, the Trews offer up some moves that don't exist much outside of classic rock radio. This does has a certain charm at times, and these guys are quite skillful with their music. There are plenty of indie bands that will not sound this authentic, no matter how hard they try.

My guess is this works quite well live and you can find out at the DC9, on Sunday, June 15th.

Songs to try first:

Rise in the Wake - The opener is classic rock with just enough garage cool to make it interesting.

What's Fair is Fair - This one has classic moves with 80s sensibility and sound and it works well today.

New King - Short boogie rock, which you don't hear in this form much anymore.

There are lot of Radiohead influenced bands out there, and sometimes they are even good enough to sound like Radiohead. This Australian debut has lovely vocal work and melodies that take me back to some of the earlier Thom Yorke efforts. The band has a similar smart pop rock style where dreamy hooks work comfortably with sharp little guitar runs and percussive bursts. There is a bit of variety to keep things fresh on this 12-song album. And each song sounds pretty good as a stand alone, but contributes to the full strength of the album as a whole. These guys are relatively speaking rookies, but they are off to a good start and may want to travel the oceans and dish out some of their fine music to the many continents of the world.

Songs to try first:

Whimpering Child - If you like 'OK Computer' and who didn't?….

Heavy Lifting - More lilting than lifting, this fun little melody.

Six Months in a Cast - A lot more pleasant than six months in a cast (unless it is on Broadway).

This is a record to spend some time with. What starts out as fairly straight British styled pop rock slowly goes more experimental song by song before sliding back into perkier pop tunes, all of which results in one strangely fascinating album. I was thinking I was not liking this, until I realized I was smiling at the audacious moves and found that there is some method to their madness, which has resulted in a fun little head scratcher. 

Songs to try first:

Dusty Came Up for Air - 'He falls among the relics in his sleep' is nice imagery amidst the catchy rock hooks.

Jump Punks - If you could sit on an urban porch with a fiddle and guitar played through effect boxes, it may have this sort of down home sound.

Winter Boys Cutting the Rug - Dreamy David Lynch meets Scott Walker-esque odd pop.

I have enjoyed this band's brand of psychedelic folk in the past and am pleased to see they are pushing genre boundaries even further on this ten-song album. They still have that core feeling of mystery and exploration, but mix light touches with heavier moments and intricate patterns of song writing and arranging. So if you like bands like Spirogyra, Fresh Maggots, and Spriguns, you should be listening to this. The quivering lead vocals are reminiscent of those of Fuchsia, who were also a great light progressive band. This band has the creativity, individualistic, genre bending spark that makes them a must-hear in this decade. They are definitely one of my favorites and I hope many more add them to their list as well.

Songs to try first:

Nativity - The psyche folk is element is there at the core, but the progressive rock moves push the opening cut in fascinating new directions.

Feckless Fancy - Aside from the great title, I enjoy the tough rock push in a song that still retains its sensitivity.

Life is New Again - Delicate folk with acoustic guitar, light glockenspiel, and lovely vocal harmonies. Ahhhhhh....

This six-song EP starts off simply enough as a familiar brand of pop punk music which plenty of bands tried back in the day and many still do well enough with today. After a couple of songs they hit their stride as the music has enough of that buzz saw pop style that worked for the Ramones, Dickies, and Misfits. The vocals are smoother in a Nerves sort of way and the keyboards in "Half Bad" will send you into orbit. But if you like it a little heavier, "Conspirator" has a roaring guitar sound equal to a hardcore band--at least those that still want you to hear vocal melodies.


I suppose you could play this record comfortably between your singer songwriter LPs and your more modern indie pop rock records. He starts this album a bit slowly, but ultimately the quality song writing comes through. And there is a nice little pop style with touches of psyche and comfortable rock moves to bring it all together. This takes its time sinking in, but there are rewards to be had in this Slumberland release.

Songs to try first:

Pendulum - An easy going cut reminiscent of the post punk UK psyche style.

Around in a Maze - Lovely pop song with just enough of a psyche vibe to pull me in further

Puzzle - Add a few dashes of power pop to the formula and you come up with this nice little rocker.

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