Thursday, February 26, 2015


I'll post the reviews a couple days early this month as I'm out of town for a bit. A ton of music has come in and it is tougher and tougher to keep up (remember, I also review for Folkworld), but it's fun to get a lot of diverse music and there are some gems as always.

When an ambient band establishes as strength in sound as Anamai does, it works well with me throughout a full album length. The musical patterns are there, particularly in the vocals, which although they do not vary much, they add a distinction to the sound which is a great focal point. They remind me quite a bit of an excellent Brooklyn band, Silver Summit, if you stretched their music out like taffy.

This is a familiar ryde along the psychedelic shoe gaze highway. It is a fine album that trends more toward lush than daring, although there is some variety among the songs. Maybe not enough to excite me as much as the average shoe gazer, but enough to enjoy the music. I will keep spinning and see what more it brings to the table after a few listens.

Songs to try first:

The Going Up was Worth the Coming Down - Quality psyche-folk, especially in the acoustic guitar.

Santaria Pts 1&2 - A fine droning guitar allows the drums to be more expressive along with the vocals.

This five song EP is accurately named. It is a mix of pop music and contemplative music all encased in a dreamy production. While I sometimes may slight this style of music as it does not often work with me in general, when a band nails it, it gets high marks. And Bouquet has written lovely flowing songs that I would be happy to hear many times over or sandwiched in a hits radio station in a David Lynch film. This is a successful record and a band I would be happy to see some time in DC.

This might be the second most famous Arcade Fire ‘Butler’, but often I prefer the lesser known members of the star bands anyway (e.g.… S.Carey from Bon Iver’s band, Skip Spence from J.Airplane/Moby Grape). I think I would enjoy this more than if the other Arcade Fire members did albums, as it is quite playful and fun. He mixes styles almost too much for cohesion’s sake, but while the garage pop sitting next to the thoughtful ballads doesn’t always add up, they do show steady quality. Ultimately, this is a gutsy little feel good pop record that has more innocence than you would ever expect from someone in Arcade Fire. It’s only eight songs, so it goes by a bit quickly, but it is a fine showcase of songs.

Songs to try first:

Take My Side - The opener shows off a sturdy garage rock with pop flair and bold confidence.

Finish What I Started - A laid back Bill Fay type song, well sung, and arranged carefully.

What I Want - Part Richard Hell, part Leonard Graves Phillips (Dickies) in vocal style and song approach.

Try to grab on to this DC duo while you can. It may tough as they appear pretty slippery on this long player. Just when you enjoy one song and have their style down, they do a juke and a shimmy and are off in another direction. Since it is all playful, smart, and fun, it works very well. When you have humor and thoughtful sonic approaches working, that is your identity more than something genre specific. They kind of have a Dead Milkmen meets Couch Flambeau approach working, as best as I can describe. It is spirited and rocks with pop hooks bouncing around in most songs, so it is well worth your time and exploration.

Songs to try first:

Marine Biologist - Strange almost glam-progressive rock song with unique vocals and sounds abounding.

Voodoo Dollhouse - Really fun garage pop rocker that can work in any of the past six decades.

Meathook Fanclub - Metal meets electronica with quirky humor still intact somehow.

Although the quirkiness and gentle approach to pop music may be something we all hear regularly enough, Champs takes it to a thicker more powerful place. Power is a tricky word as things are subtle, but there is such strength and conviction in every note and hook working its way into the listener’s body and psyche. There are even some psyche folk moves in some songs. This one may not be for everybody, but they hit a lot of my buttons and did so with a sense of class and grace that I don’t see often enough.

Songs to try first:

Desire - Strange harmonies evolve into soaring majestic pop.

Running - A smooth sing song melody should stay with you for some time.

Forever Be Upstanding at the Door - A great psyche folk song worthy of the masters.

This band combines a fine array of sounds into their brand of pop music. The hooks are there with the vocal delivery is more rich and expressive than most. The guitars, bass, and drums can rock with the best of them and show plenty of strength and conviction throughout the 12 songs here. But everything is so bright and sunny on the high end, that a sense of balance remains. There is nothing spectacular here, just smart and hearty and extremely listenable tunes.

Songs to try first:

Astros - Great opener with a wide range between heavenly vocals and down to earth guitar chords.

Early Alone - Lovely quivering vocal with more gutsy guitars.

Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame Induction Song - Yeah, the song is almost as good as the title.

Although from Milwaukee, this band draws plenty of inspiration from the biggest delta in this country. They have extreme roots at every turn, although the songs show a bit of that New Orleans style hybrid of blues, rock, jazz, and folk. I particularly like the nasal and expressive vocals. The band has some swing to it in many of the arrangements which keeps the album fresh and lively. There are some exceptional songs here that are worth exploring. And they are quite a kick in the pants when they come to town. Put them on your calendar and maybe consider a date with this album, too.

Songs to try first:

Chains of Me - The opener establishes the depths of the Louisiana sound this band can concoct.

On a Saturday Night - A real rocker that is worthy of Saturday night.

Home with You - Love the snappy melody, even as they take striking breaks.

Not without its charm, this record sticks to an electronic pop format with compelling lead vocals. The vocals were the best part as the music had a rather numbing effect on me rather quickly. “I Should Have Read” had better music with spritely piano passages, but for the most part, I would only recommend this to electro-pop fans, and there are a sustainable number of those in the universe.


I like this band. They do interesting things. Expect the unexpected and all that. Familiar, yet odd. The female vocals have a beauty with a bit of an edge at times. The guitars go soft or hard at the blink of an eye. The songs have a languid quality, but show off enough intensity to remind one of their presence. Although based in London, they sound good enough to warrant a tour on this side of the Atlantic. Everything just has that certain sheen on it here and it is hard to explain further. Maybe a few more listens, maybe not, but I will be listening.

Songs to try first:

Intrinsic Grey - The opener scared me at first with a overplayed neu folky beginning, but then it got nice and noisy.

Idiot Button - Great dreamy backing with jabbing guitars and loopy attractive vocals.

Waste of Sunshine - Wonderfully dreary tone in music with great spacey vocal.

This eight song record (long EP, short LP) is an intense but steady ride. There is an earnest punk feeling at times, but the music is far darker in a Savage Republic vein. There is plenty of percussion, some jagged guitar runs, rumbling bass, all the components of a solid post hardcore effort. It is a bit hit/miss as song structures could be more interesting, but the energy levels are excellent and the sonic blast is fun. Try ‘I Passed the Bar’ for something particularly interesting from this Cincinnati band.

This four song ep offers a taste of a nice little pop outfit from the United Kingdom. The title track is quirky pop that is smooth enough for mass consumption. I preferred ‘Haunter’ with its folky guitar line and airy pop vocals. There’s some stronger electric guitar and popsike vibes as well (very much UK these days). These are all fairly subtle moves as the overall dreamy pop feeling particularly in the vocals keeps it all together. This sounds like an interesting band that could do well if they can continue to write well and keep the variety lively.

In only six songs on this EP, Hope Griffin makes a successful presentation of her skills as a singer songwriter. The songs are fine, but the warm intensity behind them is present in the instrumentation and the singing. The basic root might be blues, but the roots spread wide and deep. Take a listen to ’Subtle Riddles’ with the trade off lead vocals and strong melody and see if you are imaging hearing one of your favorite singer songwriters, That is just what Asheville, North Carolina’s Hope Griffin may become. Here’s hoping for a live show some time this year, as well.

While I was afraid this album was going to sound like every other light minded indie rock album I have heard, I am glad I stayed with it. It is akin to reading a mannered literary novel as a break from the hardboiled crime fiction I normally tear into. It is good to balance things out and In Tall Buildings has done that here, at least for me. They do it with quality and the care of their delivery. They have a sense of drama, but it is so subtle, it is easy to miss. If you want smart, yet accessible, take a careful listen here. Perhaps you will be as pleasantly surprised as I was, or maybe you were a lot sharper from the get go.

Songs to try first:

Bawl Cry Wall - The opener sets the tone and the quality level for the album.

Exiled - A lovely song with just enough in the sound of the guitar and the push from the rhythm section to elevate it.

Unmistakable - A song that starts out simply and builds great tension and even rock volume by its close.

This five song EP is a classy little appetizer from this fine teenage West Virginia singer songwriter. And this does have class, both in production and songwriting for starters. These are warm engaging melodies with polished instrumentation played with heart and arranged with a variety of approaches. It all unifies into roots based music that is good enough to broaden its appeal to non-roots music fans who like good hooks and energized pace. All five songs flow together well, but have you time for one, check out ‘Amiss’. Nothing amiss here from this recording and I already know his live show is solid.

When I was young and we traded records with friends to sample other artists that we could not afford to spend $3.99 to buy their record, it was a good way to get a full listening of some people you knew about or knew one song on the radio. There were a couple of artists that I borrowed and spent some time with, but then never went on to buy. I find many records like this these days, and like this one, they often fit in between that ‘Dan Fogelberg and Kenny Rankin’ category that I created so long ago. Keath Mead has many of the attributes of these older albums, although the style is fully modern indie rock singer songwriter based. The songs just don’t quite grab me like albums that would have fit the ‘Shawn Phillips to Bob Dylan’ category that I created (where I went on to buy). Not that this is bad, far from it (Try out ‘Change’ for a catchy cut), just that this a little less interesting for me to invest further time in. But if you like fine songs on the lighter side, arrangement wise, give this a try.

These guys blew me away at the DC9 a couple weeks back. But the album is merely good by comparison. It is a more subtle exercise in dreamy psyche pop and rock music with a couple of tracks that go for more than 23 minutes combined to finish off the album. It covers the variations that this band can produce from quiet to loud and frantic to passive, so it represents them well. I just wish it had that more unpredictable cutting edge of the live set. Still, this will be listened to again many times in this household, until next the band returns.

Songs to try first:

All Around the Locust - The song starts slow and simple but builds into an impressive array of guitar moves.

Forest Gum - Pixie-esque melody with trippy guitar and throbbing bass.

And She Smiles - Long dreamy drones work for me, but they are not for everyone.


Sometimes I forget how good the core music is from this band, when I spend time thinking of their overall light how and stage presentation. But of course, the sound, light, and fury all come together on stage into a strong live event. But the music is thick, strong, and daring all by itself even as you sit back in the couch. Don’t get too comfortable, as the jarring vocals and stabbing fuzzed out guitars are not designed to let you rest easy. Although some of the songs have a more contemplative sonic intensity, rather than the cuts that slash and burn. It is all melodic and moody, so it works quite well with a diverse audience, as long as they like intense music of some sort. Well, they better enjoy loud intensity in the tons with this lot.

Songs to try first:

Straight - Anything but… well, the vocal line is a rather normal melody, but everything rages all around it at strange angles.

Love High - Sounds like a warmer Big Black.

Now it’s Over - Like a Joy Division song at 45rpm.

This one kind of began like an LA glam-punk-metal hybrid on the light side, but there were a couple of sparkling moments along the way. Just not enough of them to warrant more relistening in this household. I go way back, but I didn’t have any fond memories of REO Speedwagon in high school, and little has changed by now. At their best, maybe Hanoi Rocks? If you like rock music loose and sleazy with a catchy pop component, give it a try.

I thought this was going to be a Robert Pollard solo album and it is, although they released it under the band name ‘Ricked Wicky’ which has an inside meaning tracing back to his youth. And after a listen, that makes perfect sense as this has a unique full band feeling to it, compared to the last solo LP. The songs are a bit longer and feel fully formed with beginnings, middles, and ends. There are still loose and fun moments with plenty of shifting around various rock styles. But it all pulls together with a full album feeling more than usual, at least based on my off and on listening to Pollard’s output. There is so much here to like with every style shift succeeding. This is a fine job from a guy who went to many of the shows I went to (and even promoted) in Dayton, Ohio way, way back in the day. And is that a mellotron I hear on ‘Rotten Blackboards’? That even takes me further back.

Songs to try first:

Death Metal Kid - Almost a death metal riff done indie rock style with extra chunk—different for sure.

Even Today and Tomorrow - A lovely acoustic guitar weaves around a fine vocal line. Lovely song.

Mobility - An even keeled deep little rocker—so slight, yet strong.

This album is an interesting personal take on pop rock music. It does not always work for me, but I appreciate the unique approach they take. It is almost a blending of disconnected parts, but the quiet audacity of this band makes it work. I hope I have time to give this a few more spins as I think there is even more respect to be gained with subsequent listening. It takes guts to keep things at a deliberate pace with space enough in the music to hear the vocals clearly as well as the strange instrumental choices.

Songs to try first:

Talent Night at the Ashram - Easy going California-esque light and easy jangle rock.

Happy Carrot Health Food Store - A low key popsike going on in this fascinating cut.

Secret Plot - Some prog sounds mixed in with this bouncy pop oddity.


It is always a pleasure to hear a record from this veteran Baltimore bunch. They feature the usual folk-rock roots band instruments along with a brisk chirpy accordion (no surprise that a previous band from the two core members was called the Polkats). There songs are snappy with great little hooks and playful instrumentation. The lyrics offer some fun stories to chew on as well. This is simply classy roots music that can appeal to all ages along with music lovers who appreciate song craft. There are some jazzy moves, heartland folk moves, some world touches, lots of good stuff melding together into tasty songs. Try them out!

Songs to try first:

Away - The title cut is a sharp number that tells you plenty about the makings and the quality of this band.

Jones et al v Petrie - Great storytelling in this long and fulfilling song.

Despite the Current Mess - Superb flowing duels of piano and guitar with a story on top.

After a delightful psychedelic opening, the Twerps head into quirky pop range. There is some anxiety present in the range as they have a subtle post punk undercurrent, although the hooks are more playful than not. There are some nice variations between the songs with male and female vocal leads, different guitar textures, whimsy versus intensity…. This is a smart little band here that is well worth your attention if you want to keep up with clever pop moves. Great name, too.

Songs to try first:

Back to You - A finely honed edge on this catchy song.

Stranger - Great vocal work and one of the more infectious melodies here.

Simple Feelings - Great ringing guitar sound fades in to set up this moving pop rocker.


A guy came up to me and said I got some good news and some bad news about the new Vision Fortune album, ‘Country Music’. I said ‘what’s that, then?’ He says, the good news is that it is NOT country music. I says, ‘great, so what’s the bad news?’ It’s electronic music! OK, not ready for the Henny Youngman joke book, but it was ironic to find my second to last favorite genre entitled with my least favorite genre. I am fully capable of liking the best of either genres and unfortunately this is not close enough to rank up there. But it is not too bad either, as this duo experiments more than most, particularly with interesting drones and some intriguing sounds. The percussion drove me a little batty at times, but that may be part of the intent. If you like your music experimental, but still with decent patterns, you may want to check this album out. They try harder than most.

I recall enjoyed Helsinki’s Janne Westerlund’s previous album quite a bit, so it was great pleasure to receive this in the mail. And within one song, I knew I had another album that would make it to the top of my replay pile. Westerlund has a spiritual style that mixes folk, blues, and Scandinavian styles into a compelling blend that reminds me of Woven Hand. I can’t pay much more of a compliment than that, as I think David Eugene Edwards of Woven Hand (and 16HP) is one of the best songwriters out there. And there is definitely a link between simple arrangements with a droning style on some of the songs here. But there is a fairly broad mix of songs here with enough style variation in the tone of the song and arrangement to make for an engaging listen all the way through. Grab onto this one, psyche-folk fans.

Songs to try first:

It Takes a Strong Jesus to Carry Me Home - Powerful blues, folky, spiritual opener.

Stranger’s Row - Second cut retains the magic while showing off even more versatility in style.

Marshland - Epic title cut is a droning powerhouse that I know DEE of Woven Hand would enjoy.


Much of the time, this has simply too much of a sugary modern pop sound to it for me to digest. The electronics are all there behind vocals that sometimes deliver something fun, other times not so much. ‘Crawling Back to You’ and ‘Kelly I’m not a Creep’ have a Nuggets rock style that works better. This band does play around with form enough to show potential, but I am kind of scratching my head at present.

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