Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Without further adieu...

I saw this duo quite a few years ago in a club long since closed and repurposed. I found the band quite good at having some real bite with their electronic pop music. With these ten songs, it seems there is a softer approach then I recall. That is often the case going from live show to recordings, although not as much as it used to be. Although I miss some of the more intense moments, they still have an overall sound that is strong enough and plenty of hooks in their songs. This is all quite danceable but good enough to listen to on its own as well. Although I would prefer a bit more guitar like that in ‘Heartbeat’ which also has a creative drumbeat. Thankfully there are enough creative drums as well. I don’t know that there are considerable strong songs that you should start on as the whole album breezes by steadily enough. In the pop world, AM & Shawn Lee still have their great touch at work.

This seven-song psyche-fest starts off with a great little ambient opening before showing a more straight forward west coast psyche style, slightly westernized with the guitars and vocals, but with a good mix of hard rock and spacey moves worked in as well. It all works quite well with a a surprise around every corner all the way to the twisted cover of ‘The Rose’ to close it out. This trio should be a real hoot and a holler live, I would think. There is just that little extra push at all the key dramatic moments.


Although from Brisbane, Australia, Kat Cooper has also spent a bit of time in Canada and LA prior to concocting this universal pop album. It all sounds quite big, bright, and classic not rooting down to any particular place or time. There are songs that veer toward heavy pop-rock in the manner of Joy Formidable and other sharp pop songs that have great synthesizer parts such as ‘Ghosts’. The variety is helpful and even a bit more would be desirable. But each song is strong and of high quality so it is hard to find much fault with anything here.

Songs to start with first:

Heaviest of Weights - The opening cut has a strong Joy Formidable feel which works for me.

Forward - Smooth and steady in the deliver of this fine pop tune.

Novocaine - Another big, big song.

Popsike is getting quite popular. Thankfully, Django Django is not jumping on a bandwagon but carving their own space somewhat in between the heavier psyche bands like Black Angels and the poppier ones like Temples. The vocal harmonies and overall tone is outstanding here, while the musical backing is modern, but fully reminiscent of classic psychedelic pop bands of the 1960s. This is a very warm and embracing sound that shows great ability and understanding of this music. Small wonder this band is making a big name for itself. These harmonies will be staying with me long after this record stops.

 Join me to see Django Django and the Beat Connection live and in person at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, July 29th.

Songs to start with first:

Giant - The opener is the longest cut, which had me thinking how rare that is, but it conveys the mood of the album quite well, so why not?

Shake and Tremble - There’s a bit of Secret Agent Man in here, so you know it’s catchy.

Reflections - Great rock moves in a pop setting that also balance old vibes and new sounds.

One of the sharper bands around DC in recent years has been Exit Vehicles, proven by this fine new album. They manage edgy guitars over smooth bass lines, punchy drums and vocals that somehow bridge the soft tones with the harsher sounds. No easy feat this, but these guys manage it quite well over most of these ten songs. They faded a little with the hooks at times, but always had precision and energy to keep things moving along. This is strong and accessible, so give it a listen and you will likely be back for more.

And you can see their excellent live show with the amazing Tone at the Rock’n’Roll Hotel this Friday night, July 3rd.

Songs to start with first:

Face Behind - A bit of post punk pop guitar with a great hook and fine vocal line.

Circular - Surprising twists in the songwriting turns a good song into something quite compelling by the time it concludes.

Millenial - Gutsy little finishing number to round out a fine album.


Well not quit everything is a mess as this Alberta band has a lot of things tight and to the point in their assertive punk music with those classic Canadian hooks. When this works, it works very well indeed. There are times where the vocals get a bit monotonous and the music is no better. But when they nail a hook and retain their power, they have a great sound. That happens often enough to make me happy I had a full listen (and then some).

Songs to start with first:

Bad Trip - Revved up pop to punk with fuzzy guitars and plenty of drive.

Shotgun - Has a classic punk hook here and some great sonics to make it their own.

Surf’s Up - Instrumental psycho surf punk is much fun, especially the way this sounds.

This Washington DC hip hop collective has put together a fine album here, strong in sound with lots of variety that I always look for in this genre. There is plenty of rap atop sharp rhythms, but with female backing vocals and occasional lead male vocals in a soul vein, there is a lot here. There are some strong rock moves here as well and the producer deserves kudos for putting all this together with great balance and clarity. And any genre with tasty guitar runs like on many of these songs will always succeed with me. This was a pleasure to listen to and makes me with I had been able to catch a live show previously—hopefully I will get my chance again. I don’t need to break out the individual songs, it’s all good.

This ranges from power pop delivered by a pop gun into more forms of inorganic combinations than I can possibly figure out. The first cut sounds like equal measures of sugary pop, punk, and hip hop all tossed together to see what happens. If you really want to test your creative limits, give this a listen, as there are familiar sounds put together in such ways you have not quite heard before. There is just too much here for me to digest and make sense out of. It’s like taking the Bonzo Dog Band and Skafish songs and running them through a meat grinder to sample the oozings. Full credit for going out there. You may want to pull back a bit to let some of us in, or just keep stretching the barriers until people catch up.

Songs to start with first:

Restless Year - Is the sound of hip hop, punk, and sugary pop music coming together in equal proportions?

Ordinary Life - ‘I’m sick of this record already’ is the first line, I can’t say that, although I have some puzzled looks here and there, but less here.

Can I Sleep in Your Brain - Cool garage pop tune, a little on the standard side for this album, which is ok by me.

If you don’t recognize these names, you may have heard of the two bands they were pivotal members of—Cocteau Twins and Ride, respectively. Unfortunately as is often in the case of these collaborations you end up comparing the new material to the older works of each band. And when it is not a reformation of either band, the expected new direction takes a while to get used to. This work is decent enough, but takes a much safer mainstream route than what I would have hoped for. There are some lush interiors of these songs and they are certainly attractive enough for fans of the lighter side of British pop music fused with ambient guitar wash.

Songs to start with first:

Dice - Mainstream rock appeal with some of the lush textures subtly placed within.

Amnesia - Interesting acoustic guitar work within a structure that still pulls in the dreamy background you expect.

Sometime - A smooth operator of a song.

Normally anything I discuss with a name this Welsh is some classic psychedelic folk record born out of Meic Stevens and Pererin. But here we have a thoroughly modern pop album with electronics, ambiance, and scrumptious female vocals. It is a little better than most as it attracted enough attention for me to stay with, especially when the vocals clicked.

Songs to start with first:

Chwyldro - Somewhat dark backing with spritely beat and great inviting vocals.

Caon Peiriant - Spacey beginning leads into a catchy enough song with just enough mysterious distance.

Fratolish Hiang Perpeshki - Sounds like a Boiled in Lead title, but is much more of a throbbing dance cut with cool vocals.


Sparsely arranged folk is tricky music to tackle. It is easy enough to create, but challenging to make it creative, unique, and compelling. I am not sure the Henrys fully catch all the key points, but there are some strong and unique moments among these 14 songs. When they focus on vocals and guitar, the vocals are not interesting enough to pull me into their world. But when the rhythm section is doing some funky things and the guitar work jabs away creatively, things are much better.

Songs to start with first:

A Thousand Corners - A fine arrangement of strongly plucked acoustic guitar and light percussion, almost Pentangle like.

Was Is - A bit jazzier and rhythm section is front and center.

When the Far Shore Disappears - Strange moody song where the vocals work with the distant musical atmosphere.

This is an amalgamation of power pop, quirky indie rock, and even a bit of hip hop or R&B at times. The vocals have a strong personality to them—kind of warm, kind of challenging. Musically, it is a mixed bag as they don’t always lock into a comfort zone and get a bit too noodling at times. But there are germs of ideas that show creativity and can connect with a lot of modern rock fans.

Songs to start with first:

Young Adult Fiction - Fresh vibrant opener has the pace and energy to resonate.

N.E.S.W. - A bit of hip hop within this fine rocker.

Neighbor Girl - Their longest and most ambitious song succeeds with a touch of epic quality within the pop moves.

Stay with this album as it just may creep up on you. Karcic is from my old stomping ground of Ohio and is presently a member of Scrawl. His solo album is filled with snippets and short songs mostly that start off a little oddly until they ultimately head off into some fascinating pathways. It is a mixed bag for sure with some odd little fragments that would make Robert Pollard continue working. But for the most part, Karcic has a style that moves from modern rock to psychedelic in unique ways. I was not sure he could win me over when I started listening, but I am fully on board at album’s end.

Songs to start with first:

Pledge - The start was fair, but the finish added an air of mystery and expectation, which I don’t hear too often in songs.

Open Up the Window - Things star getting psychedelic.

Roundy Round - Things continue to get psychedelic in this surprisingly long song.

Blues rock will never die, it will just twist and morph and go with the flow of every gritty bar band that wants to get a little bit heavy. These guys take the toughness and song writing skills of a Steamhammer or Groundhogs and inject a bit of Skynyrd attitude and come up with the goods. Like those bands, the base is quite tried and true, but the execution and the thoughtful moves in the songs are what separates them from the average band. These guys can take their sound into more places than most and come out alive and with lots of followers watching their back.

Songs to start with first:

Tres Borrachos - The opening cut takes not prisoners and gets the ball rolling. Jump on or steer clear.

Elephant Stomp - Creative guitar sounds are normally not part of hard blues rock, but they work here.

All Damn Day - A bit of heavy metal funk? Why not.

Pure Pop Music for 21st Century Now People could be the working title of this album. I suppose we can debate the word pure as this is on the lush side of pop music, with delicate but focused instrumentation and quietly high flying vocals. The quality stands out far more than the originality, but that is a worthy goal for any 21st century band. Like most basic pop records, this one didn’t blow my mind, but it was nicely done and made for a happy listen.

Songs to start with first:

I See - Gentle undulating pop moves all over this opening song.

Rest and be Thankful - If this was spacier, this could be one of my favorites, the Folklords.

Dream Dream - Add a touch of jangle and some clever arrangements and you have a song that is a step up from the pack.

This one is somewhere in between wyrdfolk and a certain quirky singer songwriter style. The vocals may take some getting used to as they are Nick Drake quiet, but with odd dynamic twists and turns, singing a mix of strange and poetic set of lyrics. At times it is a bit too precious for me, but when he is not trying to hard, he can be quite effective. Little Wings, also known as Kyle Ward, gets bonus points for creativity in their execution, but it is still not quite enough for me to get too excited about, at least at this juncture. This could change.

Songs to start with first:

By Now - The opener has a great lilting style with delicate vocals singing more challenging lyrics. Mysterious mood.

Fat Chance - If you like this song, you will like this album.

Hollowed Log - No pedal steel and lovely vocal work.

I thought I made a vow to review less instrumental electronica music? Somehow this record slipped past my napping Quality Control Department and made it way into my Itunes. Poor poor me that has these sixteen songs. While they did not offer the hoped for surprise, they were perfectly decent soundtrack cuts that offered melodic backing music to whatever activity was at hand. There were some annoying throbbing moves here and there, but on the positive side there were some arty vocal touches that were a pleasant surprise. I would rather see an accompanying film with music like this, but there are a few nice things going on as it is.

This began as a mixture of west coast cowpoke rock and roll with stabs at a poppier indie rock. Usually I prefer the latter, but it is in this band’s character to go for that US desert blues rock fully westernized and laid back to the fullest. This band has enough skill to pull in even people like me for the ride, at least for a little while anyway. The guitars and keyboards had the right balance of crunch and playfulness respectively in the cuts that worked best for me. The vocals are what you would expect but pulled back even further into Americana. If this is your style, you should really listen to this band as their creative elements seem a cut above the many in this field.

 Come to Acre 121 on Friday, July 10th and see how this band cuts it on stage. My guess is that they will do just fine.

Songs to start with first:

Best I Can - If you liked the Flying Burrito Brothers, give this a listen.

Wasted Sex - Nasty sounding electric guitar and barrelhouse piano make for a great song.

Drink Your Health - Steady rocker with those laid back yet intense vocals aided with big harmonies and bigger guitars.

Sorry, but this band name has me singing their name in my Mike Heron voice from ‘Mercy I Cry City’. But back to this album; if you like polite pop music that is radio friendly, give this a listen. It may annoy some of you, while others will accept its warm embrace. I have heard too much of this to know where I fall, but these guys do this music well.

Songs to start with first:

Without You - Not the Nilsson cut, but it does take you back to that era.

Sandy - A fine pop song with saccharine vocals and plenty of drive.

Cool Water - One of their songs where an acoustic guitar takes the lead adding a spacey folk quality to their album.


This is not quite power pop, but an energetic pop music that takes a page or two from the late sixties when fuzz guitars were the rage. I love the guitar sound here as it seems so purely rooted in that style as opposed to having about nine pedals in play. When the vocals click and the song has a great hook, this is some of the most fun music around. It doesn’t always click, but there is always something that works in each song. This was a pleasure as one of those records that is a bit of a nostalgia trip, but sounds modern enough and makes you wonder why you don’t hear more of this.

Come see Michael Rault with Happyness at Tropicalia on Friday, July 17th.

Songs to start with first:

Hiding from a Heartbreak - Easy going pace with plenty of fuzz guitar.

Suckcess - Ultra catchy song with plenty of bite—easy to bounce around the room to.

Lost Something - The fine vocals make this the catchiest song on this album.

There are plenty of fine garage styled rock bands out there. But it is the bands with best pop hooks and/or creative twists that will sink deeper into the memory. The ‘and’ is in play with this Providence band as they have the hooks and great style adjustments along with some very clever songwriting moves. Yet you can sit back and not think about any of this and enjoy their sound and energy as they never lose sight of the simple joy of playing rock music. These guys have it down well and as long as they keep working up clever songs while retaining their spirit, they should do quite well.

Songs to start with first:

Bloody Opus - Something between the Saints and Dickies is a really good way to rock.

Hobbies - Cool song elevated further with a killer break past the half-way point.

Accidental - Sharp rocker that is super catchy.


This is fine lo-fi punk rock from one of the better places for all things rock, Detroit, Michigan. They are closest in sound to a Chicago band called the Mentally Ill with the bombastic rhythms, an abrasive buzz in the guitars (maybe a synth). Of course the manic vocals are out front with plenty of intensity and desperation. This is well done with just the right balance of creativity and ‘screw creativity, let’s rock’ attitude. It is not for everybody but if you are not sure if people still play decent punk rock music, give this one a listen and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Songs to start with first:

Fits You Fine - This takes me back to Detroit hardcore with more grungy punk infused.

Cleaner Love - Tub thumping drums drive this one home.

Sniper - Maybe the catchiest song for me.


I thought this album was going to be a fine little psychedelic throwback, but as the eleven songs came forth, there were many interesting twists and turns. This LA band is capable of sounding very classic-LA in both psychedelic and pop ways, but they weave in some east of the Atlantic moves as well and take things into different areas of pop music before rocking out a bit more at the end. It somehow all comes together and is a light little adventure, maybe sounding a bit more safe than it is, but they have such a relaxing effect. I am not sure of the staying power of this music, but it will be fascinating to listen to again.

Songs to start with first:

Time’s Still for No One Yet - Good garage pop opener with plenty of jangle and catchy vocals.

After Tonight - Swirling delicate pop move, not too retro, not too modern.

She Lives in my House - The 13th Floor Elevators’ sounding title yields a 13th Elevators’ sounding song and that is very good.

TURK TRESIZE “If it is to Be”

There is a lot of fine roots rock’n’roll here in these 15 songs. All the usual elements are here: gutsy rasps of vocals firing out, solid electric guitar thickness, rolling piano and thick organ sound, all atop the power of the rhythm section. The vocals are strong with fine female backing, with the lead sounding like a cross between Rob Tyner (MC5) and Bob Seger. This is definitely old school soulful rock music (you know that when they rhyme rock’n’roll with soul as in ‘Hail, Hail’). Don’t expect the unexpected and it may get a bit much at times, but if you want the real goods delivered with sweat and sincerity, give this album a listen.

Songs to start with first:

Just You - The second cut finds the groove and shows off the basic skills in the execution of this band.

101 - Fine songwriting covers a big range of emotions and sounds.

Too Much - Fine ballads still work on me and this one does, in part as there is more guts than usual.

The mysterious qualities in both the music and vocals give this delightfully accessible music a distinct edge that has this jaded listener surprisingly engaged. The overall feeling goes from old fashioned lounge music to modern poptronica. This was a nice surprise as normally I am a tough sell for music like this. But this duo’s command of old musical forms and sparkling playing and singing make for a great adventurous journey on this album.

Songs to start with first:

A Wheel Within a Wheel - Every vocal utterance is crystal clear as the music lurks along until you are fully enveloped.

Hold On - Shockingly loud beginning makes way for a snappy lounge pop ditty.

Liar Liar Quietly - A slow jazzy one, heck this is all good, don’t stop at three songs.

Here’s a lovely album that will take you back to the days of Joan Baez, Carole King, and Anne Briggs. The female vocals are perfectly attuned with the song and highly expressive in that understated manner. What really makes things even stronger is the similar understatement in the musical backing. This approach lifts the songs into a clear focus that commands attention. And the quality is such that this attention is held and rewarded throughout these eleven songs.

And you can see this all LIVE at the comfortable DC9 club on Friday, July 17th.

Songs to start with first:

Loyalty - The title cut is a fine example of the quality songwriting and seemingly easy going execution.

Shy Women - Fabulous mood created by the vocals and restrained playing, like a light Phox song.

Personal Eclipse - Just another excellent song.

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