Saturday, August 1, 2015


I am listening to Jerry Vale as I create this post. I like Vale better than Sinatra, so keep that in mind as you read these reviews.

This record is psychedelic all the way with elements of old and new, light and heavy, with songs and instrumental jams. It is a little on the lighter dreamier side, occasionally heading to psyche-folk more than popsike. But it is the atmospheric approach that dominates the proceedings. Works for me.

Songs to start with first:

This is the Time - It is the time to see if bands can still do cool psyche folk and the answer is yes.

Mother of Light - This band shows they know how to lay down an instrumental dreamy psyche vibe that has some heart.

Desolation - The heavy beginning wakes you up for the more delicate moments to follow, before… you guessed it.

By Kyle Schmitt

These two Florida-based darkwave bands bring their brooding sensibilities to this eight-track split cassette. Burnt Hair’s offerings are bleak and uncompromising, but beauty reveals itself in strange places within these songs. An inspired synth line accompanies a vocal recalling “your smile, reflected back at me” in “Stems”, while “Tired Fingers Slip” provokes the strange sensation of bopping your head to a dirge. The echoed chanting on “Filament” creates an unsettling atmosphere, however, and “Left to Chance” is downright punishing, as Burnt Hair unleashes a synth buzzsaw that eviscerates the overlapping vocals and relentless single drumbeat. Comparatively, Ars Phoenix sounds upbeat and poppy on their four tracks. Danceable drums temper singer Jon Glover’s gloomier tendencies in “Desiccation” (“They’re not crying for you / and they never will”) and “Beckett’s Row”, in which he warns that, “You’re as doomed as the rest of us.” The band’s standout track is “Minister Edwards”, which features a ringing guitar lick and bass grove reminiscent of Echo & the Bunnymen. Glover deliberates over whether he and his betrothed are just sinners or lovers, as the light finally gains the courage to confront the darkness.

Ars Phoenix plays The Pinch in DC (along with Sansyou and The Holy Circle) on Sunday, August 2.

This is a fun little record with some bold ideas. They start off with a decent enough popsike sound, a bit on the lighter side, but quickly morph into a deeper psychedelic folk vibe. They manage some modern touches, but draw heavily on the 1970s such as the UK’s Chimera or the audacious Book of AM album.

Songs to start with first:

Pes Na Areia na Terra do Sol - They capture the femvox psyche folk sound just right here.

Lake - Double harmony female vocals in psychefolk is double the fun.

Tomorrow’s Children - Psyche folk meets lush popsike in the middle of the song and we are all happy to meet.

Dang these electronica bands, they are as hard to get rid of as bed bugs, or bedrockk in this case. This is an eight song EP, although the overall length is longer than 80% of punk rock albums. One good thing about punk rock versus electronica is that punk rock knows when the repetition is getting tiresome. These songs veer away from other things I sometimes like in electronica. There are pulsating rhythms that feel like they make my heartbeat irregular. There is a focus on beats and atmosphere over melody. And although there are vocals that have a soulful core, they are often treated too heavily and are just too airy and less substantial. But if you like to dance to soultronica, then have a go.

Here’s an album title that gets you pointed in the right direction. It’s not pure blues, but demon infested full band blues rock like you may have heard in the early 1970s when you were listening to Moxy, Foghat, or Steamhammer. But a careful listen shows a bit more going on than what you might first suspect. Yes, this Western Australian band understands classic rock roots, but they have a desire to push outward a bit with subtle psychedelic feeling and some shifty songwriting moves to keep the approach surprisingly fresh. Intelligent hard rock fans rejoice, this album is one you won’t have to dumb down for.

Songs to start with first:

You Ain’t No Friend of Mine - Catchy groove on this hard rock number.

Hoonsville - Trippy jam with oddball vocal meanderings, quite fun and unexpected.

Killjoy - Sounds like a psychedelic Sabbath cover, which has me in heaven.


As most followers of 1960s hard psychedelic rock know, the Pacific northwest bands were the ones that most embodied the term ’60s punk’ carving the pathways to classic 1970s punk. For the NW bands were tough, rugged, singing about wild subjects with an intensity not quite matched elsewhere, by but a few. No hippies up there, just strong minded and talented musicians who knew the value of primitive rock and roll. Tom Dyer and his band the New Pagan Gods have a good grasp on this material, bringing their own personalities into these cuts and reminding listeners of how tough and universal this music is. This is a fine rock album, gritty, with good songs and even a funky version of ‘Louie Louie’ that made that overplayed cut worth hearing again.

Songs to start with first:

The Witch - Any Sonics cover (or original) will step to the front of the line of my playlist.

Walk Don’t Run - One of the more recognizable cuts is always good for another spin around the block.

Just Like Me - Great cut by a somewhat neglected band Paul Revere & the Raiders (due to name and outfits, but a baddass band).

Popsike is moderately hot right now and I welcome the sound as an antidote to the plethora of Americana bands in recent years. EZTV has a bit of their roots showing, but theirs is an ethereal approach to pop music for the most part. And when this band clicks, they have the songs that will stay with you and make you feel good. They get a little less interesting as the full album passes by, but the gems are worth mining. They have a lighter approach than some of their brethren so they may have to work a little harder to pull in the masses. They just may be up to the task.

Songs to start with first:

Pretty Torn - Maybe the catchiest popsike number on this album.

Hard to Believe - Maybe the catchiest song here for me in a less pop like manner.

Dust in the Sky - A bit of jangle in the mix on this cut.

This SF band has only been around for about seven years, but based on their title and sound you will be forgiven if you think they are going back to the attic for tracks from 1960s. Yet these sounds have a fresh feeling and the band’s approach is not a mere homage of the Chocolate Watchband or the 13th Floor Elevators. When they nail a melody or have some clever twists and turns this is highly compelling music. It is not this way for every song, but since they are compiling tracks from various places over the years, each ‘leftover’ won’t have the same degree of freshness. But dig in just the same, you will gain some serious tasty pleasures in these fine songs.

Songs to start with first:

Tongue in Cheek - The opening cut has an even more distant Black Angels guitar sound with a highly agreeable melody.

Don’t Look Down - This is ferocious psychedelic music, fast but manageable, almost careening out of control but holding together.

Stranger in my House - Great song, pure and simple.


I enjoyed the old television show with Richard Boone by this name, so I hoped the band would bring equal pleasure. They mostly do so and have some of the same wild west Americana meets the somewhat new city of San Francisco that the show featured. There are hearty Americana based rockers mixed in with folkier cuts and even some slightly experimental instrumental interludes. And the songs are linked into the story of an historical Antarctic expedition, which makes for an interesting full album journey. This is a solid album, not much innovation, but well executed.

Songs to start with first:

True Believers - Fierce guitar and drums, but a warm song with fine vocals and acoustic guitar moments.

Madhouse Promenade - Catchy rocker not unlike Slim Cessna’s Auto Club.

The Rescue Party - Lighter cut, with deep feelings expressed well.

This is one of those lush electronic pop albums that I never know what to say about. There is quality within and I like that it doesn’t try so hard to jam dance beats down my throat. There is some atmosphere that is contemplative along with the beats. Also, the mixture of instrumental music and vocal led songs are preferable to  the instrumentalsas I can drift off more in my own direction.

This music does make you think apocalypse—at the mystical imaginative side of what may be beyond. While I have enjoyed her live sets previously, this album strikes me as less interesting. There is a lush quality with slightly less edgy Kate Bush moves working atop drums and electronics. It is certainly more challenging than most electronic albums and the lyrics and singing will draw your attention. The songs all kind of weave together, so I can’t differentiate at first listen. I may have  to spend more time with this, as the creativity is enough to not give up too soon.

Check out the live show on September 9th at the DC9, but you may want to get a ticket as I know a lot of people will be there.


Lovely vocals are the key to the success of this record. There is not quite the heft in the music that I prefer with an over reliance on electronics, but at least this is some electronica that enhances the focal point or a record. Too often it is all about electronica, but there are fully engaging songs here with delicate melodies and emotionally moving passages. There is also a touch of variety, although it is subtle and you have to engage yourself to feel the tonal shifts and little flourishes that liven or thicken these songs. This is an original work and has enough heart to interest many a listener.

Songs to start with first:

Good Friend - Super catchy opener keeps the electronica in check with excellent vocals and melody.

The Switch - Smoother rhythm works better with the lead and backing vocals.

Out of the Clouds - The vibe goes from the 30s to the 60s to the present all with clarity and vision.

From the gospel openings to the Americana meets reggae rhythms, it is not terribly easy to pin down Jeremy Loops. And that is a refreshing commentary for any new music I get to hear—especially if there is an Americana foundation which is fair to say is at the heart of the music here. Yet there is reggae, hip hop and other mixes of the old and new here. It all comes together with clever songwriting and arrangements.

Songs to start with first:

Sinner - Great gospel chorale opening—I don’t get sounds like this too often here.

Down South - A chipper rhythm and upbeat melody make for a winner of a pop cut.

Mission - There’s real bounce in this poppy number with some subtle twang and whistling.


As debut albums go, this one is a fine effort although it works a rather familiar territory of folk based singer songwriter material. But if the songs command at least a little attention and you have either a fine voice or excellent guitar style, you have a chance of standing out. I think Navarro is closest on songs with an expressive voice that could use a little more flexibility. The guitar style and arrangements are pretty good for first time out. It’s more of a full band effort than a guitar showcase album. The piano takes center stage at times with little change in the overall tone. Navarro hails from Boston so hopefully we can catch some of this in a DC area club some time soon.

Songs to start with first:

Alright - Deft touch on the acoustic guitar with a few different textures before piano and voice bring it up further.

One More Time - Good electric moves and some creative songwriting twists and turns.

Pardon My Eyes - Title cut has spirited melody and thoughtful tone throughout.

I like the title of this album. Speaking from experience, southern Ohio could be called North Kentucky based on many a neighborhood. And the club scene in Cincinnati was on both sides of the Ohio river. That said, this album is simply way too country for my tastes. The relaxed pace coupled with steel guitar rarely works for me. Pinnell sings about darker subjects than what most country fans look for, so perhaps the outlaw fans will gravitate to this. He has an expressive voice, I just wish there was more musically for me.

Throw together the B-52s and the Rezillos with a dash of Devo and you could easily get something like this. There is great male and female interaction like those first two bands specialized in and the same sense of fun in most songs. One of the worst things that happened to punk rock was the fragmenting of scenes within scenes narrowed an already too small field. Fun bands were separated from the serious sort and those like PLRLS that had a little of both were even further doomed, unless they could rise above it all. Today is a new day and this Baltimore band pronounced ‘plurals’ should pull in a smart audience that wants to have fun. And the best of these songs could turn a few heads from the more inattentive masses.

Songs to start with first:

Sicker Better - The opening cut will get you in the mood for more—snappy fun will do that.

Look at the Nerds - Crazy back-up vocal chants, soaring lead vocals, angular guitar moves, wild, simply wild.

I am the Lions - This reminds me of classic late 70s fun punk, when the sound and scene was still more wide open.

This local band is a fine continuation of the Emo-esque based harDCore of the 1980s infused with a significant dose of melodic rock. The seven songs on this long EP/short album all are bright and sparkle with strong playing throughout. ’Enough’ is a ferocious rocker with a thick guitar sound and driving bass and drumming where it takes some significant pipes to get the vocals out front. But it holds together well, as do the rest of the six songs with fine production throughout. I could use just a bit more variety in the song structures although they satisfied me well enough in the final cut ‘Derail’ with its quiet and loud contrasts. This music should attract a lot of lovers of the melodic and the heavy.

Well, fresh off some time spent with John Cooper Clarke, I get my first poetry record to review. As should be obvious from the name, our poet is a classic Scotsman whose who references the Jacobite rebellion in his title and brings Scotland into each poem with his strong accent. Otherwise, these are personal stories that are quite universal, covering urban life and classic outsider issues. There is quite a lot of music in the background with some wild guitar such as in ‘Gay Paean to Thierry’ or cool guitar and percussion in ‘Someone’s Yearning’. “Tape Your Head’ could almost be a Nick Cave half spoken/half sung song, but it has its own dark style. There is not the pace and manic intelligence of John Cooper Clarke, but there is some of the humor as in ‘Good God’ and the music is fascinating. I found this thoroughly enjoyable, although I am not sure how many times I will gravitate toward it in future. But if he comes my way in the club scene or in a library, I’m there.

This local release is a decent hip hop album with pretty intelligent lyrics within the rhythms. There are excellent backing sounds and vocals that are tasty and create a mysterious atmosphere through many of the songs. I particularly liked the lyrics in ‘Social Insecurity’ as they hit home with me and should connect with a lot of people. There are many themes and the music keeps things interesting. Good hip hop albums are nice change ups for much of my listening and this one connected.

Check out the live show at the U Street Music Hall on Saturday, August 29th.

Songs to start with first:

M.O.M. - The opener has a fine rap and backing, but the ghostly female vocals weaving in and out really makes this work.

Becomes a Ghost - The ghostly themes continue and the mysterious sounds shrink to the shadows behind the meaty rap.

Human Farm - Cool slacker folk song is quite the change of pace, but it works.

Some times I get tired of listening to new blues bands, for they may be fine players but I don’t hear much I have not heard before. I think this fine Greek outfit gets it right. These seven songs don’t scream the blues at you, but quietly and forcefully make it clear where their roots are entrenched. The vocals are gruff and are true to the blues, while the guitar work is quite clever and tasty throughout. The rhythm section keeps it steady with an almost edgy medium slow pace. ‘Jesse James’ had the vibe working that took you back to the mysterious wild west of old. That may be my favorite, but all seven songs here are worth a listen, for blues purists or rockers like me who like a good dose of smart thoughtful blues to take me to old and interesting places.

This is outstanding pop music. It is catchy, but there are additional depths to the songs comparable to the best indie rock singer/songwriter material out there. They invoke spacey light shoe gaze tones at various times to great effect, yet it is the vocals that cut deepest. He has a chilling vibrato that he pushes just enough to create an edginess not found too often. The guitars delicately play passages to weave around the vocals with dancing percussion and a host of other complementary sounds. The result sounds so effortless, yet there is obvious skill in planning and execution each step of the way. This is mostly a great album that may have you thinking you have heard hundreds like it, but listen carefully and you won’t find many are anywhere near this good.

Songs to start with first:

Rivers - Flowing with this band’s unique combination of outstanding and careful individual parts.

All and Everyone - Each unique component in this is a standout and it comes together wonderfully.

Bend Towards the Light - Almost a folk song in feeling, but too much of their style present to take it to new places.

From Estonia comes this fun filled ethnic folk album. It never gets quite to the intensity and pace of gypsy punk, but it is spirited and will have you moving. The vocals have a lot of punch and the music is active and mobile. The instruments dance around each other well such as in ‘Zillja zelenen'ke (Green buds)’ with the usual accordion, guitar, bass, and drums and a wild whistle making everything even crazier. The combination of winds and string and a ‘airy’ keyboard is quite stirring and vibrant. There is also brass and other instrumentation that adds a lot of variety to the core sound. This is great toe tapping or energetic dancing fun that should move any fan of music, no matter what genre you prefer.

Well, then maybe Texas should try it some time. Based on this record, Texas never shouts either. There are eleven songs that all are likable and composed and frankly, just there. There is nary a whisper or a shout to distinguish them for me, so the album just slips away into a light Americana, singer songwriter, safe radio friendly album. There are some decent moments and some that veer a bit too country for my taste, but ultimately it does not resonate. Maybe if I was at a BBQ joint…

With a pop band like this—designed for intelligent adults, it is not always easy to grasp on to the concept on first listen. When this record began, I did not think it would be moving me at all. But staying with it allowed me bring down my guard and try to understand what was going on. The hooks were light and playful, but in a controlled environment that was more Victorian than hippiedom. If you have been around the block with pop and rock music for a few years or decades, you will likely enjoy or at least respect what is going on here. If you are new to the game, I would suggest trying something more beginning level first, for Twin Within will keep you brain working on this short album.

Songs to start with first:

Tunnel to the Reservoir - Enchanting Sixties style vocals, sltightly detached, carry this otherwise modern smart pop song.

Faraway Car Ride - Cue the strings and my ears perk up, especially with a rich vocal line to follow.

Night Danger - A bit of subtle heft in the instrumental area, but with more interesting vocals as I am coming to expect here.

So why am I reviewing an album from 1992? Well, as you may have noticed there are lot of remixed deluxe additions coming out these days, particularly of progressive bands with new 5.1 mixes. I have quietly gone wild over many of these as I always had a secret longing for quadrophonic sound when I was young. I have enjoyed many of the releases, but have gotten to the point where I need to be more selective going forward. And this album isn’t quite worthy of many future listening sessions for me. It has its moments where it sounds like latter day Pink Floyd and there are some stirring guitar and vocal passages that resonate. But there are those ham-fisted overwrought moments that brought down ‘The Wall’ for me, as I consider that album highly overrated. Of course, I am reviewing the MP3s and not any of the high fidelity versions, but this is the new mix, which apparently has a few artistic changes worked in along with the cleaner sound. It has a full rich feeling throughout, so if you liked this album at all, you may want to splurge for the newer version.

Good clean raunchy fun will always have a place in my listening world (much more than in my real world). This is a lot of fun, especially the loopy keyboard parts that seem to turn my head into a hyper speed metronome. The guitars are fuzzy and wild with loads of power and just the right pace. This brand of garage pop could only come after the late 1970s as it has that extra edge that early practitioners like the Buzzcocks and 999 had along with perhaps the 3 O’Clock at their heaviest.

Songs to start with first:

Make Me Wanna Die - The opening one has plenty of Ramones meets Dickies meets 999 sounds all powering forward.

Alone Tonight - Cute pop song with a heavy enough guitar for me, like a tougher Raspberries.

Don’t You Think I Know? - Two gnarly fuzzed out guitars are better than one, especially with melodic vocals.

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