Friday, January 30, 2015


Got a lot going on, so let's get some reviews posted before the weekend starts, to give you some ideas of future listening... Oh, and for those that care to get even more of me (provided I figure out how I will use it), I am now on Twitter at

And before we get started, I wanted to alert everyone to a cause I'll be writing about further for the next couple of days (and maybe more depending how it goes). But basically, if my fellow DC readers think this photo below is good development for DC, then they should do nothing. If like me, whether they have a direct interest as friends of mine do or just whether they are troubled by the full impact on their community, I hope they will investigate further at: Stop the Pop!


This latest release from the fine Cuneiform label features a fascinating guitarist who somehow manages to walk a terrain between edgy guitar music and flowing dreamy ambient soundscapes. There are ten songs which show distinction and separation, but should be listened to as a whole to let the full flowing effect settle in. I particularly enjoyed Nimbus which showed up in the middle of the album and pulled everything together and included some ethereal backing vocals along with some Magma-esque progressive moves. This is a strong album for anyone who is interested in the more experimental side of music, but it will also pull in a lot of rock fans who would like to try some new waters but don’t want to go too far in the deep end.


LA’s Jordan Corso is the main guy behind this and he assembled some interesting musicians for this record, including some Modern Lovers. And there is some Jonathan Richman style here in these bouncy pop ditties. There is a lot of variety in the arrangements with the core spirit contained in the vocals being the steadier connector between the songs. Like the Modern Lovers, you may not like every song, but there are the gems you will return to along with songs that you are pleased exist in the universe, even if you don’t want to return to them as often. But for me, I quite enjoy this.

Songs to try first:

Gloom - The opener shows the quirky style in a smooth setting with the somewhat upbeat style despite the title and shoe gaze subtleties.

Asteroid - Some fascinating stylistic and sonic shifts in this song that are pretty amazing even in their seeming simplicity.

Infection - Strong rock sound with slacker vocal style still is a fine combination when it clicks like this.

This is deep distant folk music with that Leonard Cohen styled spoken sung lyrics. Fortunately there is some haunting female backing reminding me of some Pearls Before Swine songs that did that style so well. Delicate acoustic guitars are punctuated with the pings of glockenspiels, but it is the vocals that you follow in your journey through these songs. It is a slow and measured journey. I am highly interested in psychedelic folk music and I look for real magic that ensues from songs such as these. I think we are bit short of magic here, but that still leaves many lovely songs, that work better in small doses than as a whole.

Songs to try first:

Boomerang - The mood is established early with the stark musical setting, and vocal offsets.

Lay it Down - The female lead vocal goes an even more haunting direction atop guitar and piano.

Dying to Get By - The extra jolting guitar at the outset and stronger singing gives this album a pleasant burst.

Deep bluesy folk, although not terribly traditionally sounding is the boilerplate for this album. The key is the delicate and somewhat spacey electric guitar, picked in a folk manner but sounding a bit more otherworldly. He mixes tones and styles well, which makes for some riveting music. At times, the vocals let me down as he does not smooth out his tones to match his music. With greater care there, this could be a powerful and consistent album. But there are still some strong tunes to explore.

Songs to try first:

Sometimes - The opening cut establishes the mood that will prevail throughout and pulled me in.

Burning Seas - Guitar sound had me drifting off comfortably.

Snake Man - What does a Snake Man sound like? Like this.


This is another fine album from one of DC’s better singer-songwriters. Drew Gibson has been touring some over the years, which is great as the rest of the country should take to his excellent timeless music. He has stuck close to his family for these songs as he has explored his past and present thoughtfully and poetically in the stories contained in the lyrics. Musically, he is as warm as ever with such a pleasant manner of hooking you in with varied guitar styles and his embracing voice. His acoustic guitar and vocal work are always a treat just by themselves, but this album like his last adds plenty of full band arrangements to different degrees to keep things fresh throughout. This makes for a lovely listen late at night with the lights low, but should be listened to many times over in any environment you find yourself in. You will gain much with the experience.

Join me for the live set at the Iota this Friday, February 6th. He's always good live.

Songs to try first:

Bettie-Jane - What a fabulous opener with a great folk rock song and modern snappy syncopated rhythm.

Vincent Henry Valentine - Fine musical slow build to follow the fine lyrics.

Hallow Flood of Wounds - Even as this rocks out some, it flows with mannered conviction.

Quirky vocals over sharp cutting guitar passages and punchy rhythms. There are days when I may get a little impatient with easy going music like this, but today is not one of them. Instead, the lilting melodies, steady simple rhythms, and playful vocal work all has an innocent charm that steadies out this odd brand of pop music. Give it a spin, it could really give you a lift.

Songs to try first:

Sticky Slithers - Good opener even if the main riff reminds me of Wishbone Ash’s ‘Blowin Free’

Moons in my Mirror - Sharp pop rocker that oddly worked, I know not how.

In Love - Perhaps if Syd Barrett had brightened up and tightened up…


The last Howlin Rain album I heard was their live LP which was rocking and pretty intense throughout, while showing off Ethan Miller’s fine songwriting. Well, if you enjoy the song writing, that is pretty much all of what you will get on this spare, stark album. It is not unlike the pullback in the last Nick Cave record compared to his previous two. There is some intriguing sound that works its way into the basic piano and/or acoustic guitar backing on much of this that adds some needed texture. The songs seem a bit toward the Nick Drake side of privacy, so they should hold your interest, especially if you are already a big fan. If not, I would start elsewhere and work your way toward this record. There is a lot to digest, even if it did not fully satisfy me on first listen as much as I had hoped. I will give it future listens and records like this sometimes work there way in over some amount of time.

Songs to try first:

Coliseum - Folk moves with vocals that twist away from the guitar until the female backing pulls it in.

The New Age - Heartier singing in this one takes it out into rocky terrain.

Wild Bush - A rhythm section and cheesy keyboard make this one the most fun cut on the album.

JMSN “Blue”
Christian Berishaj is JMSN and is from Detroit and has ‘associated’ with Kendrick Lamar. Those three clues give you a little idea of what you may expect. The Kendrick Lamar clue invokes quality production imagery and thoughtful arrangements. The Detroit clue is directed toward their rich R&B and soul sounds from Motown and beyond. The third clue is that when a ‘one-man band’ chooses a nom-de-plume to release his work, you can bet there is a modern electronica feeling to some extent. So put all of that together and you have 14 songs of JMSN. There are some excellent sounds and vocal work here. Fans of the genre should dig in and enjoy. I am a tougher sell and I have trouble getting beyond some of the cliches like ‘My Way’ and ‘I’m addicted to your love and I just can’t get enough’,

Give this a shot live on Friday the 13th at the U Street Music Hall. Should be a good crowd on hand.

Songs to try first:

Street Sweeper - Bubbly rhythm and smooth vocals with interesting sonic arrangement.

Waves - Gutsy vocal performance. Some real spark here.

Delay - A bit more energy in this song with what sounds like a mellotron, of all things!

When I was younger and spent some time in an actual sauna, I found it interesting, but the exhaustive feeling along with relaxation and borderline uncomfortable heat had me wondering whether I really was enjoying this or not. And now the musical sauna, which starts out with an organ chord for ten minutes as various sounds weave in and out. I thought it may be an instrumental until half way through and vocals snuck into the mix. The drone is nice and the Frippian philosophy beyond guitar is present here and in other cuts. There are 12 songs in all, but it is one long extended dream that sometimes sounds as if it was intended to be a subliminal backing track for Pink Floyd. That is if you take out the noisy bursts of songs like ‘Boat’. That is an arty number that I would have enjoyed in 1978 and it is not too bad now. But it does not quite have the variety of vocal strength or style to fully involve me. But I am happy to have tuned in and sweated it out.


This eight song LP is on the short side in length, but not in content. Jack Name adds a mannered electronica to a classic psychedelic approach and comes up with a decent little album here. There are even some soft and easy pop elements in here along with a light Wooden Shjips jamming approach as well. I won’t try to break out which songs were better as all eight flow by in a steady manner in about a half an hour. And from the song titles, the theme of weird moons is also sustained throughout. This is a good listen and a pleasant stroll through psychedelic realms where you still feel your feet on the ground.

 And the live show could be very interesting. Check it out at the 9:30 Club on February 23rd.

This seven song album has some really long songs, so you get a whale full of psychedelic music, and fine psychedelic music at that. From the opening chants and building drama to the driving rhythms, they mix it up well. They have a great feel for the material and the vocals pull back a bit to a mysterious and delicate feeling to these songs. As eerie as this can sound, there is surprising amount of warmth due to tempered vocals and some thoughtful guitar runs. I think there may be better records that I just don’t care for, but this is what many would consider a decent record that I will put up in the best of the month category. It is just a matter of style and feel that this band employs so brilliantly here.

Songs to try first:

All around the Locust - Great building tension like Kohoutek, but with trippy vocals like Sun City Girls.

Manners - Starts with a driving Wodden Shjips vibe, but vocals push and pull into fascinating sonic space.

And She Smiles - A good long smile in this 12 minute jam to close out this fine record.

I have seen this local band live many a time in the past few years and it is nice to get a new album from them. It is especially nice as some of the nuances of their pop songs come through so well with this fine production and mix. Nothing fancy, but just a clean presentation of an acoustic guitar where each string comes through with purpose and is offset by some fine electric guitar leads and fills. The rhythm section is balanced just right and the vocals show warmth in each of these eleven songs. Some songs are well constructed pop rocks songs, others are light rockers. There are enough well felt hooks in some of the songs to stand out as solid radio friendly singles (if there was such a thing anymore). Good job here from this solid band.

And take a look at the live show at the Velvet Lounge on Saturday, January 31st.

Songs to try first:

Chasing You - The opener establishes the fine sound components that work so well together in this snappy pop song.

Something’s Missing - A solid pop rocker.

Odds and Ends - REM like rocker with even gnarlier guitar sound.

    by Kyle Schmitt
Live in San Francisco retains the energy of Ty Segall’s blow-out garage rock live experience. While Segall’s September set in DC relied heavily on his 2014 album Manipulator, most of this material predates that record. There’s not much variation in these 10 tracks, but they do capture the fiery feel of his live show. “Wave Goodbye” and “I Bought My Eyes” conjure the image of a musician whose most personal moments come when bleeding out through his guitar solos. Very slight credit for bringing someone named Judy onstage after “Feel” to tell the following joke: “Why can’t you play poker in Africa? Cuz there’s too many cheetahs.” That corny interlude doesn’t compare with Segall successfully commanding the 9:30 audience to deliver a crowd surfer from the club’s first rows to the venue’s rear and back again. But perhaps you had to be there in both cases to appreciate the little victories between guitar histrionics.

Songs to try first:

Death – Guitars surge like waves, then crash in a squall of feedback.

Thank God for The Sinners – Vocals provide a sense of purpose and unity to complement the music’s urgency.

What’s Inside Your Heart –  Segall implores you to tell him what’s inside your heart so he can rip that love apart.

What a pleasant surprise it was to learn that my good friend Bob Moore’s cassette compilation from 1982 featuring some of the finest punk and hardcore acts from the USA. This is the first reissue and they did a fine job with the cover and the full booklet. And what a collection of bands. This was the first place you got to hear two fine DC acts, Void and Double O as well as he debuts of Die Kreuzen, Articles of Faith, and many more. A few barely established bands like Husker Du and Toxic Reasons were the known acts here. But it did not take long before many of these bands became legendary and some of the individuals did great things as well. It was great to hear all of this and the Rebel Truth and Personality Crisis songs sounded particularly excellent (although I had some vinyl issues on the latter cuts—as much as I like the size of the record and the booklet, I still struggle with the vinyl renaissance we are under, but that’s a topic for another time). This was great then and still holds up well for anyone who liked the bands of that era or want to hear the roots of many of the bands they like now. Check this one out at Radio Raheem Records, they already sold out of their first run. They are pressing more so grab a slice of history that even in 2015 you can still jump around the room to.

I am a hard grader on electronica, but this EP easily gets passing marks. The music is sequencer driven and heavily rhythmic with simple shifts allowing the vocal work to sell the melodies. It is a bit Moroder like with some good spacey effects. It is the vocals that really make it interesting with fine lead singing and some harmonic overlaps which show some careful thought. There are also some sonic shifts and varying emotional tones to keep this interesting throughout the six songs. If you are an electronica fan, you will want to go out of your way for a listen or more.

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