Friday, January 2, 2015

RECORD REVIEWS - December 2014

There is deep psychedelic resonance throughout this music started from the distorted vocals and continuing through the jangled guitars and twisting noisy leads. Yet the band pulls the volume back at times, to focus on deep dark psychedelic moods as if traipsing through a surrealistic dream. They mix up the backing well, although the vocals stay a bit too distortedly consistent. This is a pleasant little record that keeps things odd and slippery enough unlike some of the heavier psyche masters working the clubs. If you like psychedelic music, you will want to give this a listen and you may just go for it in a big way. If not, it is still cool and worth your time.

Songs to try first:

Night of Pan - Trippier sounds on this one with a nightmarish quality throughout.

Ayahuasca Blues - OK, if there’s a sitar in a song, it will usually make my top three.

All of Your Love - Trippy finish with quiet beginning and shockingly bouncy rhythms.

Raw crude punk… the very description either makes you run away for cover or come closer to see how sleazy and ferocious this music is. If you approach, you will be rewarded with something that reminds me of the Flesheaters covering Icons of Filth.This band manages to add psychedelia to garage punk moves and unify it an a unique manner. They are tuneful throughout even as they throb and careen around with intensity and verve. This was a blast and I would go well out of my to catch them live if at all possible.

Songs to try first:

Old Lake - Vocals add psychedelic sheen to crazed and damaged punk attack.

Pollen - Rollicking riff is more crazy psyche with punk attitude. Killer.

Young Carnival Waste - Great title, wild guitar moves, desperate vocals, rollicking rhythm, strange shifts, all this and more.

The Canopies brand of pop music is sometimes a bit too much on the produced side for me. But letting it work its way into me for ten songs ultimately had its benefits (another reminder of the benefits of the album format). The assured style they have in the vocals and strength in the arrangements eventually pays dividends as the quality and tunefulness take hold. They are far from my favorite band, but their strength in the pop arena is clear. I am happy to have listened and hope they can move into more of a Zombies style a they progress with their songwriting. But for now, they should draw a lot of pop fans who want some guts in their pop music.

Songs to try first:

The Plunderers and the Pillagers - Has that big production opening and a snappy song to follow.

Enter Pure Exit Pure - Fine sonic textures and nifty beat underscore a fine vocal line.

Sparkle and Hum - Smooth rhythms and jagged guitar with fine beats at the end.

While I did not follow Cracker as closely as I did Camper van Beethoven, I have now come to accept both bands as part of my listening pleasure these days. This two record set from Cracker and an upcoming tour where both bands will be playing (as opposed to separate tours as each band in the last 2 years or so). Like most two record sets, it gets a little long. In this particular case, the quality is pretty steady throughout, but the second disk emits much more of the California country and western feel. Not the worst brand of country for me, but something that does not hold me as much as the more general pop-rock of the first disc. The songwriting has some great lyrical moments and strong musical journeys, so there is going to be something here to enjoy. I look forward to the live show as well, although I just hope they keep the steel guitar a little more buried in the mix.

Songs to try first:

Torches and Pitchforks - Great Guthriesque folk number to start of this eclectic double album.

Beautiful - Great pop rocker that adds garages from many different decades into its core.

I’m Sorry Baby - This is the best from the Bakersfield side as its heart is as evident as the music is strong.

Four songs starting with ’S’ grace this EP. The style is dreamy electropop with fine female vocals. When the song connects like in ‘Social Halo’, they are on to something pretty decent. There is even some nice guitar in ‘Solar Panels’ As a whole, it only half stands out, but there is only fours songs to try, so it is hard to say how much more Emmy the Great can deliver. If you like dreamier brands of pop music, you should give this a spin or two. There is some potential here.

Six fine post modern punk rock blasts go down for me like a smooth Chai tea. Ex-Cult delivers everything an old punker would want with a fresh sound amidst the comforting roar. There is pace and thick powerful guitars along with a snotty English accented vocal line, but there are fine noisy breaks as well. These guys have a whirlwind of sounds that comes together even as the guitar breaks careen off into noise land. Think Iceage covering the first Saints album and that will give you a taste of this very fine EP. Listen, buy, relisten often.

HR has had some shaky performances with the Bad Brains in recent years, but you can still count him to bring his reggae vocal stylings to a fine band. And the Scotch Bonnets are that as they merge reggae into some fine pop tunes and come with a pleasing hybrid. These five songs will let you drift away to the melody and steady vocal rhythms, while maintaining enough heft to keep you coming back for additional listening.

I have always enjoyed this area trio in the clubs as they have a good grasp of blues based rock music. They stretch out the guitar sounds and use tasty bass lines and steady drumbeats to keep the sound grounded in the late sixties psyche-tinged blues scene. This is a fine representation of their sound, even if this kind of music is always better live. But the production of the vocals and overall vibe they concoct here, will have you coming back for more. There is just something smooth and pleasant about this music, even as they fire it up a bit. They seem to be adding some Dead Meadow to their Groundhogs/Black Keys approach. By all means check ‘em out live, but pick one of these up on your way out the door.

Songs to try first:

False Hope - Great psyche vibe with an almost Dead Meadow like baseline Great guitar pyrotechnics, too.

The Gypsy - A fine song and a great sonic atmosphere where the band is locked in.

Late Night Bus Pass - Slow and steady on this one, until one final blast.


Here are seven more folk songs from one of Maine’s finest singer songwriters. They all start with ‘The’ or ‘I’ so you can expect a lot of first person story telling. They are delivered with her breathy voice that articulates her point with a slight quiver, giving this an edgy sort of dreaminess. There is the barest of acoustic guitars in backing, although the playing is firm yet delicate and creates a fine atmosphere for these songs. The stark feeling is quite rich in detail, which is not as easy as just leaving space between notes. Lisa/Liza has a fine ability to create enough complexity in a simple setting to keep you riveted. If you like cult classics like Kay McCarthy or Mary-Anne, you should enjoy this.

I am not sure I get a full sense of what this band looks like after hearing this. There are a lot of varying elements like 60s style punk rock, psychedelic jamming, pop rock, heavy post punk, and various other bits and pieces. The sound is quite vibrant and bouncy so it is a fun listen. And over 12 songs there is a lot to digest. It may not all come together for me in the cohesion department, but it is still a worthwhile listen.

Songs to try first:

Drop Outs - Sounds like a Temples song recorded in the garage.

Lowtalkin - Fierce song really pushes the bands’ limits to great success.

Tastes Like Medicine - Power Pop with double capital P’s if not all caps.

Initially, I felt I was in for a predictable electronica pop ride filled with familiar sounds that would either sit nicely in the background or turn out to be entirely forgettable. But Plasmodium’s nine songs worked their magic on me in ways that took me back to the early electronic music I enjoyed with the additional pleasure of executing fresh invigorating arrangements. This is a remastering of a 2004 album with members from GWAR and Sparklehorse on here, so there is some real talent at work. Sonically, there is electric guitar, drums, and plenty of electronics and keyboards working off of these in intriguing ways. The vocals work wonders as they are somewhere between Ian Curtis and Gyn Cameron (my late friend of Dementia Precox). There are even some horns that work there way in late into this album. All nine songs have a lot to offer, but they play through better together than separately. OK, maybe I could do without the second to last song with the drive-through window confusion. Otherwise, this was a pleasure to listen to something that pulled me out of my comfort zone and into an intriguing and occasionally challenging musical world.

Country folk is at the heart of this or rather at the skin and bone of this fine musical body. MaryLeigh Roohan has a firm almost Sandy Denny quality in her voice that works on soft and heavy levels. And that is good as the band can push the rock or pull back to lighter sounds as the song requires. The ten songs are carefully tracked to allow a great variety of music that coheres into an album featuring fine songwriting and great vocals throughout. I like the folkier items, but the rockers work very well and show far more than average chops in the playing and arrangements. There is a dreaminess in the backing even a the vocals seem firmly rooted and are delivered directly with honest emotions. This album is a keeper and makes me sorry I missed her Jammin Java show.

Songs to try first:

Coward - The opener has some great guitar work accompanying a smooth and interesting song.

My Surrender - Superb backing creates a quiet but decisive tone for this truly fine song.

Get Me Home - Although I love the folkier cuts, rockers like this really jump out at you and are a great part of the album.

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