Saturday, November 1, 2014


I have not even come close to reaching the saturation point of popsike bands who take that 1960s pop and psychedelic styles and deliver the 21st century goods with clean, crisp, and occasionally powerful music. The Allah Las have fine garage pop vocals with spacey harmonies, jangly guitars, and rat-a-tat drumming. They mix it up a bit with some California country styled songs as well as a few modern touches, but they could vary it even further--especially with fourteen songs. But this LA band on only their second album, has done a fine job of adding their easy going style to the popsike formula and have come up with something I'll be playing further.

Songs to try first:

Had it All - Great hooks, strong jangle, and strong vocals.

Follow You Down - Nice chunky guitar with a more modern slacker songwriting touch.

Worship the Sun - All sun worship songs are good.

Made in Belgium indeed. Is everything coming out of Belgium so vibrant and exciting these days? It certainly is on the football pitch and always has been in the chocolate shoppes, but now the music scene seems to be exploding as well. Everything that comes to me is at least interesting and more often genuinely exciting. Aranis is easily on the exciting side of the scale, but not in ways that so many of the other bands are. Here, we have a progressive form of classical, folk, and rock music that invokes Magma and other original progressive bands. There is a lot here and something for just about any music lover who really likes music in all its forms.

Songs to try first:

Skip XXI - A great entry into this magical world of dextrous musical forms.

Tolles Pferd - Pianos at sprinters' pace.

Kablamo - A strong playful mood with great flute, piano, and strings and just a great title.

This local band has a six song EP out, which offers something more than the usual indie rock fare. I hear a sort of twisted King Crimson at times (Basement Town) as these guys try to stretch out vocally and musically a bit from the comforts of pop rock. Yet there are some quirky catchy pop moments as well and some interesting keyboard work throughout. As with anyone in this town, I want to see what they do on stage some time--could be very interesting.

Prolific musician, author, and activist Tim Bragg is back with another fine collection of fourteen songs. His style is almost lack of style, but in a positive way of playing feel good rock music that is not trying too hard to fit into any latest or retro trend. Instead, it is straightforward rock music, light at times, driving at others. The vocals are thoughtfully delivered and the guitar tones change from jangly to slightly fuzzy to clean or whatever the emotional tone is desired.

Songs to try first:

Some Answers - Just a simple song that has effective guitar work underneath.

Life Ain't So - Bragg channels old fashioned pop rock moves and still manages to make it seem so fresh.

Been Before - A tougher blues rock song with some harmonica and fine vocals, too.

I enjoyed this Nashville band's live set a few weeks back and was anxious to hear how they translated to recorded works, as their hard driving rock music is a natural for a live stage. And it is refreshing to hear that this is a fine record with a slightly different approach to their brand of hard driving pop rock music. There is a little less garage punk edge on the recording, although the toughness of the songs are still there. Instead, the focus is more on the vocals than the guitar with double tracked harmonies and such that won't sound the same on stage. The guitars still sound crisp and cutting with a nice bite to them when needed. This is a fun band that can fit into a lot of rock fans' listening habits.

This is all just voice and electric guitar. The electric guitar has a lovely striking tone and his voice is easy going as these songs amble along a crooked little path in a sunny glade. This is nearly outsider music, with enough skill and melody to keep it firmly musical. I would rather listen to outsider music than the latest quality indie rock-Americana band that sounds like far too many other bands. Give this one a shot and see what you think.

Songs to try first:

I'm a Mess - Playful folk rock song with nicely plucked clean electric guitar and easy going vocals.

Call - He makes odd and quirky seem smooth and normal.

St. James Infirmary - Breezy, bluesy, but still with his unique approach.

This six song ep provides a lot more than I expected. Yes, there are quirky catchy pop moves in here, but there is almost a spacey progressive tone in some of these songs. Chicago's J Fernandez has brought out some personalized textures to these songs that dance around the melodies in nimble ways, giving room for the vocals to occupy a more inner space in the proceedings. I would write more but I get more confused as I try to decode the formulas here. There are only six songs. Give them a spin and see what direction you head toward. Retro-future pop, indeed.


Good rootsy blues rock is plentiful and has been plentiful for my entire lifetime and then some. Handsome Jack does not break any new ground as few are able to do with this style anymore, but has some fine characteristics in his music that make this worth a listen. First off, his voice has a restrained approach that creates drama because he pulls back with great clarity as opposed to forcing himself forward in a more cliched manner. The music is crisp and plays around with paces and styles from early rock moves to deepwater blues sounds. These ten songs move along nicely and create a full pattern of an album that is more successful than most of this type.

Songs to try first:

Echoes - No, not the Pink Floyd classic, but a gritty blues rocker that sets the tone for the album.

Leave it all Behind - A slower one to change the pace and tone effectively placed in the middle of the album.

You and Me - Undulating currents of rhythm set the stage for this song.

Spirited garage punk works most of the time if the spirit is truly present and Hundred Visions quickly shows that it is. They have many of the requisite components, snarling vocals, assertive fuzzy guitars, and a pounding rhythm section. The bigger step is having good hooks and/or something unique to bring into the sound. The hooks are here more often than not and they really employ a panoply of sounds and tempos to keep everything fresh with each song bringing something new to the plate. Yes, this style works for me, but Hundred Visions has even a little bit extra to climb higher on my personal play list.

Songs to try first:

Our Ritual - Fierce guitar and a cool song.

Thanks for Nothing - Great vocal melody and a good variety of sounds.

Embalmer's Apprentice - Bouncy beat, acoustic guitar, and noisy breaks. What is not to like?


Normally I don't get too excited about 'covers' albums or Eps, but this band made their six-song EP essential listening with a cover of the Wipers 'Mystery'. Between that and 'Gouge Away' by the Pixies, I was a happy listener. These guys rock in an easy going manner and manage to sound faithful to the original songs with enough personal spin to make it worth everyone's while. Add My Bloody Valentine, Colleen Green, Teenage Fanclub, and Beck, and you have a lovely little record, especially fun if you enjoy these things.

Could be the new drummer that is driving this local trio in a heavier direction from eclectic psychedelic folk to all over the place psychedelic folk-rock or it could be just the way they feel these days. Fear not, New Canada fans, they still have that strange outsider art approach that I have long written about and use acoustic guitars as well as electric to get the musical message across. The rhythms section is there to anchor it with the occasional baseline that adds as much trippiness to the proceedings as that of the fuzzbox. This is one of those bands that dances around edginess while seemingly offering comfort, which offers a pleasurable challenge for the listener. Yet, it is all easy to relax and enjoy if you want to go that route. I suggest you give it a try.

Songs to try first:

Gyroscope - Great grinding psychedelic backdrop for vocal gyrations.

I am Not Your Moon - Sort of the soundtrack to your dream at the carnival.

Lifeboat - Lilting melody with comfortable twists and a fine arrangement.

This is one of the oddest albums I've had in quite some time and one of the more exciting albums as well. They start off by reminding me a bit of Cigarbox Planetarium with instrumental keyboard and guitar works that cast evocative shadows about. But they go to far deeper and darker places in addition to the bright dreamy landscapes from CP. They even add some vocals, disturbing in their simple intense style. Each song hikes along a different landscape, yet it all barely stays together in a manner that invites creative initiative. Their song title 'Carnival' sums up the spirit here, with a sense of fun that has a thick dark scary undercurrent to it.

Songs to try first:

Death in Space - One of the spookiest instrumentals I have heard in a long time.

Do the Raid - A very twisted Christmas song, of sorts.

Steve - Nice rocker, although it sounds like something in your head if you awake at 3am.

This Belgian album is available at a special November 29th tribute concert at the Muziekodroom in Hasselt, Belgium. Although it is a sad occasion as it marks the one year anniversary of Kabul Golf Club member Florent Pevee's death from a traffic accident. The concert will be comprised of the bands on this record that have all covered Kabul Golf Club material. Filling out this LP are some of the brilliant post-hadcore attack songs of the Kabul Golf Club. The band was really hot and had great material and great style with a cutting edge energy that lifted their music up to great heights. The cover songs here are quite good and employ a few variant styles that each band brings to the material. It is intense, but in some cases more nuanced. I particularly enjoyed the range that the Sore Losers showed in their cover of 'Demon Days'. Kabul Golf Club was a great band and this is yet another fine (and limited) release by Hypertension Records--a label that should be on your radar.

I have been a fan of this Scottish band ever since I first heard their name. Then, when I actually attended a show, the real fandom began as their strong assertive power pop songs were wonderful. This band is so accessible, but there are some thoughtful songwriting moves in their material as well. With this new album, that is even more evident as these eleven songs all have outstanding individual personality, even as they feel like a united album. They have such smart shifts between shoe gaze, pop, rock, and post punk and it is all quite seamless thanks in part to the emotive vocals. This is definitely one of the classiest post-Radiohead rock bands working today.

And check out their great live set at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, November 19th.

Songs to try first:

Safety in Numbers - Not the Adverts song, but a smooth dish of their power pop music served with relish.

Peaks and Troughs - Monster rock songs may have hooks this good, but they are rarely this warm.

Disconnecting - A long spacey cut still with pop hooks and surprises, but a unique tone for this band.

As a major Stooges fan, I've followed the band's activities closely over the years. I heard that in recent times James Williamson pitched an idea to Iggy for them to rerecord the post-Raw Power Stooges songs that were incomplete and that had been released in various bootleg and authorized rough and unfinished versions. Instead the Stooges made a new album, which while much better than 'The Weirdness', still was not quite up to what new versions of 'Open Up and Bleed' and 'I Gotta Right' would have yielded.

So James Williamson took it upon himself to do this album with a series of guest vocalists. And of course, everyone of them invites comparisons to Iggy and the older recorded versions of these songs, which while raw, still have that feral brilliance of the Stooges. Some of that is evident here in the ferocious Williamson guitar which still has that needed nasty streak. The Stooges rhythm section does well and the arrangements are good. But this record still ends up frustrating me with lots of vocalists that either do cliched blues versions or their own punk or rock styling to the songs. Only a few of them work well enough to really get me excited (see below). But if you like James Williamson the guitarist, there is still plenty here to give a fair listen to.

Songs to try first:

'Til the End of the Night - Alison Mosshart gives it a lighter blues workout, which works here (along with some hot guitar leads).

Rubber Leg - Two versions. I like the Ron Young one better, but the JG Thirlwell one is fine. I think this song is just brilliant and raw enough to work with more than Iggy.

I'm Sick of You - Cool song where guitar work remains similar and Mario Cuomo doesn't mess up the singing.

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