Friday, May 1, 2015


Here are this month's releases sent to me and reviewed just for you. Hope you are as weary reading about them as I was writing about them (seriously, there is some excellent music here, so take a look and go listen to what strikes your fancy).

This has laid back and quirky qualities working simultaneously as these pop ditties unfold. If you like slacker music, I would advise you to give this a listen. If not and if laconic pop music frustrates you, then steer clear. I lean toward the latter. I found a few light hearted whimsical moments that connected, but this did not transport me away from the urban decay that I was looking for when I listened to it. To each his own, but always beware of dangerously accurate band names.

Songs to start with first:

Don’t Spook the Horses - The opener establishes the vibe. If you are spooked, leave the stable.

I’ll Go to Your Funeral - Strong contrasting guitars carefully played before a country song from the 4th dimension is born.

Bit by the Fang - Good psychedelic ever so slow fade-out. Yes, I like the fade out.

This is a fascinating album for metal fans who want something progressive or beyond. There are a lot of elements at work, most interesting is that what sounds like guitars and bass with strings is instead three cellos. They cover highs, low end, leads, rhythm, and have great dynamics as well The vocal work is rather standard and does not venture into deathly territories. But the instrumental passages can be quite adventurous working Curved Air terrain with a Kattatonia attitude. I wish the vocals (new to the band) were more progressive or sartorial or something, but I feel they will grow on me. The instrumental work will have me coming back many times. Metal needs more of this kind of imagination, and for that matter all genres can generally do with further injections of strings whenever possible. For now, check out this mighty Finland band on this record or on stage if you can (they were fabulous when I saw them a few days ago).

Songs to start with first:

Shadowmaker - The title cut has some atmospheric parts, some great crunching sounds, and some wildly inventive lead cello.

Reign of Fear - Killer strings—strings that kill or at least induce fear.

Till Death Do us Part - The first of two long closers is a great progressive instrumental.


I quickly hear the washboard percussion, which is perfect for the incredible pace of the banjo, guitar, bass, and violin. You really can’t play a washboard slowly, it just rips away, along with the rest of this fine band. The first few cuts are smoking with pace as they light up the stage with their brisk, on target Americana moves. They pull back some, which allows a more bluesy singing from their female banjo player. Then they go to a laid back porch style folk before ratcheting it up again. So it is a lot of back and forth with sincere style shifts and many changes of pace. That makes for a vibrant live experience, and in this case—live album. But whether they are flaunting bluegrass moves or engaging in flamenco styled guitar, there is one thing that is consistent and that is the sense of fun they bring into each song.

See for yourself at Gypsy Sally’s, when they open for the Hillbilly Gypsies on Friday, May 22nd.

This album is a tricky little devil. Maybe more of a big devil as there are a lot big bold sounds and style shifts to sort through. This is a very worldly album, with the rhythms being the starting point of their creativity. There are electronic sounds mixed with classic instrumentation from a variety of areas that are hard to pin down to a genre. The vocals are effective with strength or vulnerability as needed. At times I am not so sure about whether it all comes together, but when they nail it, it goes extremely well. Although this is a local DC band, they have been quite prominent or quite silent, as this is their first album in eleven years. Beauty Pill’s Chad Clark is a studio ace and that is proven here as the production and sumptuous, thoughtful arrangements are up there with the best of the busiest progressive bands. Obviously there is a lot here and I’ll figure it out eventually, but I am enjoying it well enough on first listen. I can see a rather large fan base for quality such as this.

You have tonight and tomorrow to catch this band at the Artisphere, so make your plans quickly.

Songs to start with first:

Afrikaner Barista - Mysterious wordly images come forth from these rhythms and wild sonic shifts.

Steven and Tiwonge - They pull back a bit with a lovely song and still some intriguing rhythms which are lively than they first appear.

Dog with Rabbit in Mouth Unharmed - Female vocals are easy to get lost in, especially as the musical melody wraps around you… unharmed.

While you may want to lump this local band into one of those good bar bands that you will gladly spend some time with on a weekend evening, you may want to check out their original songs a bit more closely. The eight songs on this album will give you good crisp thoughtful rockers that have a lot of fascinating guitar interplay, even more sonically than stylistically speaking (MC5 joke in that sentence). Most of these songs have just enough clever moves to stay away from the ruts or well traveled highways of straight up rock music. Yet it is all recognizable rock, just a little bit classic and a little bit indie and a few of the songs will make a fine first impression. Catch a live show, too, as they deliver the goods there as well.

Songs to start with first:

She’s Too Cool for Me - Nice combination of jangly rhythm guitar and clean lead with good melodic shifts.

Lies - Well it’s not the Saints ‘Lies’, but it goes from its Bank Generation verses to cool bits with wildly fuzzy guitar.

Never in Danger - Hmmm… take the Stooges Gimme Danger and have REM rewrite it an record it? Cool song.


This veteran Tucson band is known for their brand of Southwestern Americana rock music. Yet there is a more universal vibe inherent in much of this album. Sure, the spicy flavors of the southwest are present, but both the instrumentation and the melodies move the music into broader territory. I believe the cover art is quite accurate in conveying the mood and spirit of the album, showing also a sense of time that is not easy to pin down. No matter where you place this album comparatively to the rest of your music collection, if you are like me, you will be reaching for it for many relistening occasions to try to work out its mysteries or just to sit back and drift away to the melodies.

Songs to start with first:

Falling from the Sky - The opening cut has wonderful lush keyboards and mellotron like sounds behind a strong warm song.

Bullets and Rocks - The vocal harmonies create a subtle mystery in this engaging song.

Cumbria Donde - If you want the deep southwestern sound, here it is with some electronic coloring in the mix.

This six song EP offers thick dreamy shoe gaze music. There really is not a whole lot to distinguish it from its predecessors, unless you are an expert in the field. I am not, although I enjoy a lot of it. This is perfectly fine music, but it could be one song or 18 songs, it all just flows over me with those washed out guitars, deep bass, ringing drums, and dreamy vocals. The one exception is ‘At All’ which has some real pop hooks and backing vocals that are more reminiscent of power pop. So this is something for the genre fans, but there are hints of some broadened horizons that could pull in the rest of us.

This North Carolina band impressed me with a DC appearance a couple years back as ‘the Clockwork Kids’, so I looked forward to their new album. The ‘Kids’ have grown up and changed their sound around a bit, but they still feature some quality musicians and fine lead vocals carrying some thoughtful songs. There are more keyboards here in addition to all the rock standard instruments, which add a new texture to their sound. Gently coaxing the drama out of their songs, seem to be where they make the most of their abilities and separate themselves from the pack. I think they are more than half successful songwise, based on first listen of this album, but they are off to a good start under their new name.

Songs to start with first:

Tongues - Starting off, we have a strong song that showcases all their instrumental abilities along with great vocals.

Beacons - A bit more quiet here, but this is a nice pullback that draws attention in the same manner of shouting.

Century - A fine sense of mystery and building drama in this arrangement.

The very name, Crystal Jacqueline, conjures up light psychedelic imagery and that is a fair starting point here. The female vocals have a relaxed clarity to them as they navigate the dreamscape paths the songs take. Sure there is a touch of the ‘Kiss in the Dreamhouse’ Siouxsie and the Banshees here, but the vocals are purer and not as intense. There is an interesting weaving of thick and thin sounds along the path of this album. The mood moves through a relaxing middle portion to a riveting send off with the title cut and closer pushing up to new heights. This path is clearly up to a distant peak, through the clouds and a chilly atmosphere. This English artist is a great successor to the likes of Vashti Bunyan, Mary-Anne, Mandy Morton, and many more.

Songs to start with first:

Siren - The opener creates a powerful and inviting atmosphere that you won’t want to stop here.

In My Chair - The sharp electric guitar and driving rhythm section allow the vocals to push through foggy path.

Again… Dragonfly - The closer has tremendous soaring vocals and strong dramatic accompaniment.

Six mostly snappy songs are on tap with this Australian pop rock outfit. Bright singing, acoustic and electric guitars bopping around the beat, and a punchy rhythm section help create these likable songs. The guitar leads are a bit twisted, just enough so you don’t get too much saccharine in your diet. They also pull it back into a pop folk mode on ‘Delete’ and ‘So We Know’, so you get some variety here. Although I liked the heaviest (yet smooth) rocker ‘Feels Like 37’ the best of this small sample. I would enjoy this band live, I think it is safe to say. However I am debating whether to forgive them for the superfluous apostrophe, not that’s not it… it’s just plain wrong (not that I can cast the first stone, or the hundredth stone).

And they make their way from their continent to ours to play the DC9, on Tuesday, June 9th.

Several years back, I read about this mysterious band that had only one rare 7” record to their name, when the seven songs they recorded where discovered in an attic and were to be rereleased and would show them to be the missing link between Detroit proto-punk of the Stooges and MC5 and the late seventies punk rock. Yeah right, I thought, until I heard the songs in all their jaw dropping glory. Rarely does the reality exceed the hype, even when the hype is this huge. The three brothers from Detroit were truly on to something different for their time in their town or anywhere. Actually, it made perfect sense coming out of the brilliant Detroit and Ann Arbor scenes. Fast forward to today and we have the one guitarist/vocalist/writing brother dead and the rhythm section playing in a Vermont gospel/reggae band. The acclaim has finally come in and there is an excellent documentary film worth seeing that can tell the story better than I. So the rhythm section did some tribute shows before recruiting a new guitarist to begin again. And the results are in. Like the Stooges’ new albums, expectations should be kept down and there is no reason to expect anything near as brilliant as the early material. And like the Stooges, this does pale to the original songs, but not as much as the Stooges. There are ten nice little rockers here, with a few of them fitting in quite well to what they did so long ago. I truly look forward to their visit to DC.

Songs to start with first:

At the Station - An intriguing guitar sound working underneath a tough vocal melody and punchy rhythm.

You are What you are - This has that great clipped vocal style they employed early on.

Resurrection - Good lyrics and a gutsy song that just feels good down deep.


Pickathon is a pretty good looking festival in Oregon. Both the state and the festival offer a pretty diverse array of bands. These two are from Nashville and fit the punk label generally enough, but with two differing styles.

First the hideously named Diarrhea Planet offers up decent anthemic punk rock with roaring bass, plenty of cymbals and strong vocals atop the furious barre chords. Thankfully, they mix it up a bit such as in ‘Kids’ with some dynamics. Otherwise it is all pretty assertive and melodic enough with some moments of crazed soloing over wild pace. For the kids, or perhaps the kid in most adults.

Next, Those Darlins’ have more of a Buzzcocks crunch in the guitar work and that same sort of punk and pop balance featuring strong melodies and clear vocal work. They even show off roots with a very nice cover of the Vibrators’ ‘Sweetheart’. The music rocks just hard enough and balances the pop moves well to pull in many types of rock fans, but especially those of us that were there for the Vibrators and Buzzcocks back when their first records came out.

You can see Those Darlin’s this Friday night, May 8th, at the DC9.


This is gentle folk from Eric Owyong playing everything aside from a bit of guitar and steel guitar. He is also aided with some superb lead and harmony vocals from Ali K. The songs are nice, but they work on a more prosaic feet on the ground level than I particularly enjoy. I am speaking musically as much as I am lyrically. I thought that over 14 songs, there was some evidence that they can get there, so I hope they stay with this approach and keep honing their craft. There still is plenty of fine material for fans that like this more straight up approach.

Songs to start with first:

By the Water - There is a bit of anthemic rock in this folk rock song featuring quiet and loud moments.

Cross the Oceans - Fine walking pace with full vocal harmonies and atmospheric guitar twang.

Trust - This is closer to the deeper heartfelt folk that searches mystical borders even if they never cross.


I believe this record convinced me to stop reviewing electronica records. Not because it was so awful, as they create some respectable atmosphere here that is a bit above an ambient feeling. It is more trance than dance, I suppose, but the problem is that I really don’t know how to describe this anymore. It is like fans of this music trying to delineate between hardcore bands like Siege and DRI. There are differences, but it is all noise to most of them. To be fair to my reviewing abilities, I have found enough electronica based artists that move me when I sense that they have created something that is moving, physically and mentally. This is simply nice background music for me. So, if you like moody, atmospheric electronica with careful female vocals give this long player a spin, but read someone else’s review first.

Another in the appropriately named album titles list. This is about as modern pop as you get in 2015 with some beats that sound real thankfully, electronica, and a mixture of vocals, part detached, others quite emotional. There is a ghostly ethereal quality to all of it. That works well enough when I am in the mood.

You can see what it is like live and in person at the U Street Music Hall, when they play on Saturday, May 23rd.

Songs to start with first:

Need - This has a strong foundation and interesting vocal work.

You Say You Love Me - Bouncy new wavish dance music, not normally my thing, but they do this well.

Patience - I rather enjoy this lighter approach with quivering vocals and waterfall piano runs.

If you like stylish introspective music that still rocks a bit, have listen to these ten songs. The female vocals are delicate with lovely tone and enough emotional range to raise and lower the song’s drama just enough. The instruments are arranged like the textural difference in a fine main course with crunchy bits and smooth silky textures.

Songs to start with first:

Burning Through the Night - The opening cut establishes a mysterious basking for the wispy, yet assertive vocals.

Rear View Mirror Baby - Dovetail female vocals with male harmonies sneaking atop crystal guitar moves and a rumble of other backing—quite the aural imagery.

Only Wanna Be - Exquisite vocals and daring piano beyond the cymbal wash.

The simple strategy to winning tic tac toe is to grab the middle square and hope for the best (and enjoy the Paul Lynde joke along the way). Nothing is so simple for getting into Scotland’s Iglomat, even if their single is named after this simple game. With this song and the nine others, they offer up a number of oblique angles in their instrumental passages with plenty of guitar and vocal jabs, sometimes coming at startling moments. It is great drama, enhanced by their ability to create such lovely passages as well as jarring or odd moments. Even if you are not a fan of post rock or the more experimental ways of achieving melody and structure, give this a listen and you will likely find some fascinating songs.

Songs to start with first:

My God it’s Full of Stars - Very fine song, but the 2001 reference is welcome and appropriate.

The Kelpies - Like Goblin smoothed out, vibrant and dreamy all at once.

Tic Tac Toe - Strong guitar, strong synthesizer, and a strong sense of melodic balance.

This seven song record showcases the interesting power pop style of this up and coming Brooklyn outfit. I particularly enjoy the quiver in the female vocal work of Lane Moore, which is some sort of combination of Chrissy Hynde and Feargal Sharkey. Her songs also remind of the way a favorite of min, Lovelikefire, integrated shoe gaze sounds while focusing on delivering heartfelt hooks. Ultimately there are many pleasant elements to these songs that are fully in balance. Listening to this music is a pleasure due to the smarts and skills of the people behind it, who have the spark of creativity and put it to use in a comfortable format. I hope to see them live some time as well. But for now, join me in listening and relistening to all seven songs, you will be glad you did.

Guitar oriented indie rock will be with us for a long time to come it appears, as it can encompass a number of post modern rock styles, I suppose. The trick here or anywhere is how to stand out. Labasheeda just about does enough here with these twelve songs—at least most of them. A few slip back away from the memory rather quickly, but there are some gutsy numbers that harken back to punk rock days with a variety of styles that include sludge, art punk, grrrrl power, and more. There are even slide guitar moves that sound unique in the context of the styles elsewhere in the song, and even more oddly, a violin that snakes around the near Kim Gordon vocal work. Good stuff.

Songs to start with first:

Spiral Song - Fine opener with hefty guitar lines, slick vocals and some guts to the rhythm.

Wasteland - Has a bit of Ari Up spunk with the sludgy guitar riffs—brings back the memories.

Tightrope - Great guitar parts, distinct and powerful in unison.

This is a bright little gem. In just five songs, they convinced me they are a band I want to follow as they progress through life (actually I only needed two). They are from Australia, so it may be a challenge seeing them, but hopefully they will keep writing and releasing records like this. They work the folk and folk-rock range in a universal manner, not being too rooted, but shooting outward with big bold strokes worked around the quieter traditional sounds. The female vocals are exquisite, the guitars are delicate and the arrangements are full and thoughtful. This is excellent.

And what do you know, but they are opening for the Vaccines at the 9:30 Club on Thursday, June 7th. Sounds like an absolute winner.


This short album has seven songs that work the modern rhythm and blues. There is electronica in the backing for the most part, although you can hear some real guitars and keyboards in there as well. The star are the vocals of Mikaela Kahn with her smooth delivery that can pull at the emotions without going too far over the top. The backing music showcases the vocals well with reasonable restraint but some fine harmonic touches. The songs may not completely bowl you over, the but the delivery is so composed, that it will make for a satisfying listen.

Honestly, this is the kind of modern electronica soul music that I occasionally see at the U Street Music Hall and end up wishing I had gone to another club instead. It is reasonable enough if you like the approach, but I prefer something with a bit more old school backing and more dynamic in vocal delivery. There are eight really long songs here to explore if this is your field of expertise.

Raucous power pop re-emerged during the punk scene and will endure for a long time. Kyle Sowash and his band do the tradition proud with plenty of moves reminiscent of Husker Du, Ted Leo, and Sebadoh. the hooks are decent and the guitar has an extra ferocious edge on some of the cuts. They slow a few down and play around with the pace just enough to delineate the songs as they come fast at ya. The only area I can see to work on is the vocals, which work best when there is some energy. Occasionally, they trail off a bit too lazily. Otherwise, these songs will have you boppin’ around, figuratively if not literally

Songs to start with first:

Lemons - Not too tart here, with a fine hook and plenty of power.

Driveway Moments - One of the most brisk songs of the 17 here, no time for slack.

King Chip of Fudge Mountain - Radio friendly reworked title of an earlier song on the LP. Use you imagination if you dare.

This seven song record features a steady and powerful sound that fits perfectly into that British neo psyche/shoegaze post punk world. The guitars are strong and spacey with a controlled beat and up front vocals that remind me of many of the classic singers from the 80s onward. It is all a pleasant listen, but the songs were about half and half, with the better half having me sit up and take notice with the others sliding into comfortably assertive background music. That is not bad and if you like this style of band, New Politicians has done enough here to dig into.

Edgy electronica is the entree special here. Their sound is immediate and has a certain strength to it, which is good as their name had me thinking of either a misprint acronym of local band, Office of Future Plans, or a typo on a Batman fight scene cartoon insert. There is nothing overly original here, although the icy female vocals certainly have enough personality to stand out. Musically, there is a decent thrust to the sound and pace, but ultimately it creates a strong atmosphere, akin to a thick city fog with features of buildings and street lamps working their way through the mist. There is even some sax to add to the urban mystery feeling here. This is a fine full length effort that will sate the thirst of electronica lovers.

By Kyle Schmitt

This split EP features 2013 live sets from Ty Segall and King Tuff, who take vastly different approaches to their performances. Segall exchanges his current molten-guitar attack for acoustic playing on his six tracks, all but one of which come from his 2013 album Sleeper. This approach allows the dynamics and groove to carry these tunes. “Queen Lullabye”  benefits from nice vocal interplay, and “The Keepers” even boasts a whistling solo.  “The Man Man” sounds almost reminiscent of a more lucid Syd Barrett; only “Girlfriend” (which preceded the other five tunes in its release) feels robbed of any urgency through the instrumental choices. While Segall’s songs convey the roiling emotions he endured in dealing with his adoptive father’s death, King Tuff stresses the importance of doing the Frankenstein and walking/rocking these streets in the middle of the night.  A purposeful “Anthem” segues into the even more anthemic “”Keep on Movin’”. Tuff’s soloing on this statement of purpose sounds exquisite, as does his guitar-work on “Stranger”, where his breezy rockabilly riff is accented by some on-point barking. More good times abound on “Dancing on You” and “She’s On Fire”, which rely on Tuff’s signature style of danceable guitar rock.

Songs to start with:

The Man Man - Echoing vocals announce this worthy psychedelia.

Crazy - Segall retains his intensity while crooning a song that sounds almost … sweet.

Keep on Movin’ - Prototypical King Tuff song that perfectly captures his weird charm.

Stranger - Tuff keeps on barkin’ to let you know how much he feels it.

Five electronica driven cuts here, none of which clocks in at over five minutes, which as good as they focus more on the song than the mood. Not that there is any lacking of ethereal synth backing, but between the lovely vocals and the jabbing melodies, the tunes carry the day here. This is a great way to take your electronica skills and work them around tasty vocals and in classic pop patterns, with just enough surprise to keep things interesting. This was just as fun live, if not more so, when she was recently in DC.


I really was not sure that this was going to work well for me as the cute electronic pop sounds dominated early. Thankfully, I stayed with it as there was a more varied approach in the arrangements as things went on. Sure, electronics were a part of it, but there were some interesting guitars and real drums that worked in a variety of manners behind the light and lovely female vocals. There are some crafty songs here and most should strike a resonant chord within the ear of every pop music fan, even if this style is not exactly on your short playlist.

Songs to start with:

Sequence - The opener has enough of their style and push to get you interested.

This Time - Nice 1960s guitar buried with the modern lush sounds and a snappy beat and vocal line makes for a catchy song in any era.

Greed - A bit of a Banshees begin gives way to brass instruments working some magic deep in the background.

This is raw in the sense that it sounds like front porch musicians stomping out some honkeytonk rootsy folk and blues as best they can into their cassette recorder. Actually the recording is better than that, but the playing is direct and on the twisted side of life. If you are Stampfel & Weber/Holy Modal Rounders fans, you should take to this. Especially if you also like the torch blues singing in a female voice, as there are some fine moments for that, too. I was quite worried at the start of this record, that although I may respect it, I would not want to listen to it ever again. But by ‘side two’ the band pulled me into their world and I am sure I will go back for another visit to their dusty, hot, and arid front porch.

Songs to start with first:

Tombstone - A strong song that displays their style to their advantage

Killing Season - Fine songs with some good instrumental twists.

One is the Number - The most ferocious rocker on the album, always wins a nod from me.

Former Awesome Color axeman Derek Stanton continues to explore new ground in his interesting guise entitled Turn to Crime. It is raw in an entirely different way from his former band with an even lower fidelity approach and much more variety in structure with synthesizers, odd percussion, and twisted vocals. He even reminds me of Bowie at the outset going into a Berlin-esque synthesizer beat with darkly crooned vocals. There are some twisted psychedelic guitars on ‘Light’ which really jump out from the odder songs here. It is a mixed bag in terms of results, but it kept my mind working overtime as I listened to each song, which shows how inventive this is. I particularly enjoyed the eight minute ‘Feels Right’ with its Iggy-Bowie feeling featuring guitars, synthesizers, percussion, and droning vocals.

This Scottish old school psyche band has a steady approach to the style. As we have all heard many times before, these guitars jangle with fuzzy interludes. Yet the rhythm section has control of a slower tempo, which invokes a more atmospheric thoughtful presence into the music. The vocals understand this well enough and pull back just enough. Nice.

Songs to start with first:

Honey Hill - Quite like Iggy Pop’s ‘The Passenger’ stretched out a bit. Like real theft, always steal from the best.

Xylophobia - A fear of xylophones, as the joke goes (it’s actually wood)… fine dreamy psychedelic rock—entrancing.

Fistful of Dollars (Revisited) - Not Morricone, alas, but a bouncy walkabout through the old psychedelic west.

Chewy, yummy power pop is the silly way to describe this music. Sam Vicari reminds me of a lighter version of Redd Kross, but not much lighter. The guitar work is crisp and rocking. His voice is even slightly popper than that of Jeff MacDonald and it achieves a lot of the same warmth and comfort. There is a bit of a stripped down Cars style to some of the songs. He strips down the instrumentation at different points, which is just enough to take a standard formula and freshen it up a bit. He keeps things on the smooth side as this album is easily digested and for power pop fans, it is a dessert they will return to often.

Songs to start with first:

Little Stones - The opener sets the tone with punchy guitar, sweet voice, and irrepressible hooks.

All and Everyday - Just another great hook and vocal line.

Just Enough - Great voice and bass beginning before the full band blast to finish it off.

This is a four song EP that doesn’t need too long to establish itself as in an in your face lo-fi, down and dirty, blues rocker. The guitar almost breathes out its heavy riffs, while the bass rumbles, and the drums echo around the room. It’s an enjoyable racket that indeed, features plenty of ‘howlin’ on top of it all, It is not overly reckless, but has the feeling of an animal in a crouch exploding outward. I’ve heard this style before and I’m sure I’ll hear it again, but I prefer Yazan to many of the others I have heard along the way.

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