Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Ladies and Gentlemen, how do...

These seven gems are seven snappy songs on this extended EP. Imagine the Black Angels trying their hand at power pop and you roughly have the sound achieved here. These are sharp little pop nuggets that may soar off into space, but only take a few quick orbits before coming back to ground. There is as much B-52s as there is Simply Saucer, which gives them a slightly unique position between the worlds of popsike and power pop genres. I love the harmonies on ‘White Light’, while it does not sacrifice on guitar sounds that vary from spacey to sharp and precise all on top of a punch up of a rhythm section base. I love the drive these songs have while the vocal delivery sends them to great heights. It takes a bit of audacity to call your songs gems, but Aircraft did not understate the precious nature of these songs. I look forward to their live show and future releases.

This band occupies the space between dream pop and Americana. It is not overly dreamy, but it is deep and contemplative particularly in the deep, resonant female vocals that command attention from the outset. This is one of many albums recently where I need at least a few songs to come into the rhythm of the band and in this case, it did not take terribly long and was worth the time. By album’s end, this was an enchanting experience that I hope to repeat again soon. And their Velvet Lounge show was quite the exclamation point on this album.

Songs to start with first:

Dreamcatcher - Good twang in the guitar, subtle strings, and a deep mysterious vibe in general.

The Last Living Trial - Classic melody with a fine combination of striking and flowing instruments behind the excellent vocals.

Rolling Tides - Long and flowing more than droning, but the hypnotic effect is similar—this one’s a real favorite of mine.

Of all the sadly out of print music, I really don’t understand why Robbie Basho’s full catalog is not out for the masses to discover and rediscover. And he’s not just a one-off oddity, as his releases number in the teens (depending on how official you want to be), starting off on John Fahey’s Takoma Records. Thanks to Grass-Tops Recordings, a treasured part of my vinyl collection is now being reissued (and my Basho vinyl ALL sold quickly). This is one of his final releases and has a balance of his traditional and esoteric moves with a leaning to the western Americana roots as the title implies. Although not quite my favorite Basho album on the whole (I would put this in about the middle), there are brilliant songs and even the Basho albums of less interest than this, blow away most of their peers. Robbie Basho was a very special artist that was able to form a stirring voice (through vocals, guitar, and piano even) that is almost impossible to replicate, yet is easily accessible and understood. Buy this and everything else you can get your hands on. Next, go after ‘Zarthus’, one of the finest albums ever and finally reissued in 2014.

Songs to start with first:

Redwood Ramble - The instrumental opener shows off his flashy playing and creative dance moves on the fretboard.

Crashing Thunder - His unique voice adds even more layers of intensity on top of the guitar as he starts his venture west.

Rainbow Thunder - One of my favorite Basho songs with a mystical water theme. This is magic.

If you want to have lush electronica in 2015, then why not do what Willis Earl Beal does, and front it with some modern soul vocals? The answer is that there are not that many people with a modern imagination and vision who have the classic voice to pull this off. This is akin to some of the excursions that Scott Walker takes, but it is much more grounded and accessible, ala some of the intriguing moves David Bowie made over the years. And it succeeds today, anytime anywhere.

Songs to start with first:

Under You - Mysterious opener slowly builds a quiet platform for his careful vocals with haunting female vocal backing.

Like a Box - Interesting vocal patterns once again, gripping song.

Lust - Whistles, humming, singing, like a walk down a rainy dark alley where it all somehow feels safe.

This is an interesting but not terribly consistent pop-psyche effort from Chicago. The odd thing to me is that it seems to invoke different degrees of throwback sounds and modern touches. A couple of songs could easily have been found on a Pebbles compilation, while most others clearly sound more recent. The jangling guitar is steady throughout and the rhythm is a fraction slower than most, which makes this a little slippery at times. It is ultimately pretty interesting to digest and there is enough intrigue to invite future listening.

Songs to start with first:

Be What You Are - Yes, it is a throwback 60s popsike sound, but it has enough heft and heart to make it succeed, even among the cynical.

Sniper - Balancing jangle rock of old with jangle rock of new.

Some Other Time - This is a surprisingly odd little Scott Walker meets Daniel Johnston type song. Yeah, that makes no sense to me either.

There is some nice rolling piano, harmonies, varied guitar styles and sounds, but the music just moves around a few Americana variations in rather non-compelling ways. It begins with a Grateful Dead style, although it is not quite that lazy (a Deadhead I am not). There are some nice folkier cuts with some good guitar later on and an odd almost pop song even later (‘Anybody Else’). It is decent music, but it just didn’t separate itself from the pack with a cutting edge that would have had me sit up and take notice. I would recommend his prior band, Megafaun first and if you really like that, this may be worth a foray.


If you start off right at the opening passages you may be lulled into thinking you would be getting a quality and slightly updated old school rock album. It does not take long to dispel this notion and by the second song, it is not clear where exactly you can pinpoint Heart of Glass’s version of rock music. There are so many fascinating moments of heightened drama in these widely varied arrangements, that you just can not pin this music down. It is like a modern post punk Haizea, for those of you who know that brilliant Spanish psyche-folk band. Even the chilling vocals have great expression and mystery within. Oh, and there is just one more mind blowing fact about this Australian band. They recorded this album at home while they were finishing high school. That just is not right, but we recipients of this lightening bolt of an album will accept it just the same as absolutely bizarre as this is. And only 75 Facebook likes? This should be soaring into the thousands if enough people listen to this marvel.

Songs to start with first:

Break the Screen - Good enough rocker, but when they cut to bass solo, partly with drums, I dropped what I was doing to fully engage.

White Lies - From post punk to adventurous glam rock to subtle psychedlia? God knows what they are doing, but it’s pretty great.

Social Frustrations - OK, this is song four and another complete mystery is opened on how they created such an odd gem. Just listen to them all.

It always seems like progressive music comes from bands far away. We have only on occasion had a local band that fit the bill for inclusion with the classic prog bands of old and new, but it has been a while since Little Bigheart and the Wildebeest displayed their chops. Now out of the ashes of several fine local bands comes this strong instrumental collective. Like good progressive music, there are many variants and leanings within the varied songs. Often, there are psychedelic moves, but there are interesting rhythmic shifts and plenty of fascinating synthesizer tones that keep the music mobil and fresh. I also like the flute and what is either a pinched trumpet or a kazoo. This band will keep you guessing, all the while pummeling you into submission with their driving energetic melodies. There are funky bass lines, pastoral passages, and outright heaviness. Not for the meek, but so easy to rock out with while keeping your brain moving. This is a fun release. Kudos to these guys for getting this together.

J.A.G. - The opener hits you with mysterious sounds atop a killer bassline and rollicking drums. Then the melodies set your imagination soaring.

Bienvenidos - Screaming space guitar is way, way out.

Vaulted - If I am vaulted, I think I am more in orbit than preparing for a landing.

This album is a bit of a challenge. The musical inventiveness is quite profound somehow combining indie rock with Eastern European psyche-folk (as they are from Victoria, British Colombia). There is space between violins, guitars, and an interesting rhythm section. The vocals are the issue that keeps me from elevating this to one of the finer records I have heard recently. There are many that would say that the intense phrasing is the best part of this record, so the choice is yours. Perhaps it is an acquired taste, but it is a record worth spending some time with as there is inventive quality each step of the way through these ten songs. You might get a different review from me if I had the time to give this five or ten uninterrupted listens or maybe not.

Songs to start with first:

Joe with the Jam - Fine psychedelic rock oddity with lots of fascinating undulating patters emerging.

Death’s Ship - 2/3 edgy, 1/3 playful and it somehow comes together.

Crystal Blip - A little more relaxed and fun.

This could be a simple synth-pop band, but fortunately the musicians put their heads together and create some nice variety within the simple catchy format. It may be as much as a few bars of introduction music before blending in more familiar sounds. Or it is a significantly slower or faster beat. Or perhaps it is the addition and subtraction of items or densities in the arrangements. What you have throughout are catchy well written and performed pop songs that hearken back to the Beach Boys and take you through 80s synth bands up through today. They do it well.

You can catch the live set at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel this month, Thursday, September 24th.

Songs to start with first:

Maximize Results - After an synth-instrumental intro, this cut adds intense vocals and rhythm to stir things up whilst still in a poppy format.

Everybody - I like the walking rhythm and big opening sound that takes me to a happy place.

Paradise - Cool lounge guitar and beat to open up this interesting little song.

The real craftsmanship here, is the way this band brings forward the classic Neu! styled krautrock format into some nice long driving jams.  This is mostly instrumental, but there is plenty of creative noodling that keeps these repetitive riffs flowing in a compelling fashion. There is a certain worldliness to this where fans of Goat seem like the natural fanbase for this music. I am hooked. This is music to trip by, even when you are as sober as I am, perhaps especially when you are as sober as I am.

This Liverpool band has that loose rock’n’roll style that rocks too hard to be slacker, but is not quite as chipper as Guided By Voices, for example. They play around with guitar intensities, which helps keep the album rather fresh and allows it to finish better than it starts. When they rock it out a bit, they sound like Sebadoh (maybe that subconsciously explains their song ‘Barlow Terrace’ ). Ultimately it is a mixed bag, that works well when you are in the mood, or perhaps young enough. But they are young, this is their debut, and the highlights are worth hearing. It will probably be quite fun live as well.

Songs to start with first:

I’m Not Going Roses Again - Easy to rock back and forth with this rock melody and even handed pace.

Spokes - Smooth psychedelia with some wild guitar moves.

Fall in Luv - Another fine psyche scorcher to finish up with a smile.

This long running DC area band has always delivered quality indie rock with a dose of power pop. This album started a bit slowly for me, but whether it was taking the time to get into their style or simply that I liked some of the middle and later songs more, ultimately this album reminded me of what is really good about the Jet Age. They have fine songs with a band that knows how to pull back or push forward to make the melodies that much more attractive upon delivery. There is some fine guitar playing and sonic textures at hand as well. These guys still know how to get it done.

Songs to start with first:

It Cuts Both Ways - A lighter song actually sounds quite fresh here.

In Time All Want will Cease - Great contrasts of thick and sparse moments and fine vocal work.

I Can’t Breathe - but thankfully, he can still write songs and keep a good band together that knows how to fire.

This is live gospel music with all of the back and forth between singers and audience, but with unrelenting music every step of they. This is really rocking with a drummer pushing everything forward. The bluesy gospel lead and backing vocal style is intense and tuneful. Certainly this is enhanced listening to it on an early Sunday afternoon, but as it plays on, it reminds me that it is still far better in a live setting. This is a pretty good capture of a fine band and I would like to enjoy them more in a church or club some time.

This is lighter fare, but with plenty of substance. Briana Marela has a cute voice and uses it for intriguing pop songs as well as dreamier fare. There is nothing terribly fancy or wildly different going on. It is more a matter of controlling the environment and effectively setting moods and pace and feeling within each song. The adjustments are minor but clear and effective for holding attention by bringing in just enough variety.

And you can see what Brian Marela does live when she opens for the outstanding Jenny Hval at the DC9 on Wednesday, September 9th.

Songs to start with first:

Take Care of Me - Sparse instrumentation, but effective mood to set up the attractive and somewhat subtle pop vocal moves.

Dani - A dreamier song than the snappier pop songs that start off the record.

Everything is New - A steady song that is deep yet easily accessible.

As long term readers know, I have been a Marian McLaughlin fan since the early days of this blog. As a psychedelic folk and progressive folk fan, I gravitate quickly to highly original folk songwriters like Marian McLaughlin. But as an extensive collector of the genre, most do not have the originality and staying power to continually resonate with me as much as Marian has over the years. She has the ability to balance creative musical moves and song ideas with comfortable settings and extraordinary arrangements. Ethan Foote has collaborated with her on the arrangements for some time now and their partnership keeps getting better and better. There are so many memorable moves with complex string arrangements at one time, and then with lighter touches at others. At no time, does anything seem extraneous and the clarity of each song shines through. Every passage has me sitting at attention in anticipation of the next phrase or musical move. It is time for the world to share the discovery.

This record is out in early September and keep your eyes here for live show recommendations.

Songs to start with first (from Side One, but all ten are great):

Even Magic Falters - The opening cut has everything: delicate inventive guitar, string arrangements, and haunting vocals all working with a fascinating song structure.

Your Bower - More complexities unfold, yet it seems so light and airy.

Calm Canary of the Arctic Sea - A spritely reminder that this genre is not all dark and simple, but rich with intrigue and imagination.

This Leeds band has a nice attack style on garage guitars meeting electronica psychedelic rock. Something like that, at least. This is driving catchy melodic power with some fun electronic and synthesizer bursts among the usual array of rock instruments. Not unlike Hawkwind, but more in the nature of the Count Five and the Ramones at the core. Just five songs here, but the style is steady and the hooks are decent. I will need more to fully judge how much I would want to listen, but I have heard enough to know that a live show would be loud, gutsy, and fun.

Just eight moderately long songs here, all in a stoned out, droned out, Americana style. There have been times in my life, where this would have worked magic. Nowadays is not one of those times, but there are some fine moments within. I particularly enjoyed the Spiritualized channeling going on in ‘The Happy Hours’. There are some decent instrumental shifts with double time drumming, cheesy organs, brass, and whatnot, but the reverbed vocals are a bit too steady for me. If you like Bill Callahan, you may like this or you may just want to stick with Bill Callahan. You decide.

This is electronica with bite and motion. From the brisk pace and crisp sounds in ’Staring Daggers’ to the mysteries of ‘Hello Human!’, Jason Mullinax has created an array of well thought out songs that have plenty of surprises in addition to great melodies. There are sixteen songs and aside from a few short blasts, there is much here to digest, perhaps too much in one sitting unless you are doing other things. But the quality through much of this will draw more attention than the average (mostly) instrumental electronica music album. It is nice to hear something in a genre that I am wary of work so well. But it is not too surprising as I enjoyed this local artist's work with Pilesar.

Just three songs, which is my rock bottom for me spending time on a review (depending on song length). Fortunately, there is nothing crying out for in depth analysis here. These are just fine melodic garage punk rippers. But do not underestimate them, as there are clever little sounds and songwriting shifts along the way that portends fine things ahead for this band. Glue Buzz is amazing in both its density and clarity as it sounds like punk psychedelic trip to the stars and back.

Once the quirky guitars started annoyingly pulsating at odd intervals, I knew I would not like the vocals. Sure enough, I could predict the short strained vocal manner that has been done way too much in indie rock. I will blame Maps & Atlases for all of this, mostly because I really got annoyed with their sound and slight popularity (plus they are not around any more to take exception). If I want indie rock, I’ll look for something more flowing. If I want percussive style guitar, I will go to Thomas Mapfumo. It is records like these that make me run to my Ramones and Radio Birdman records, post-haste!

This album veers into a big sound at different points on this album but continually pulls back into an even handed lush pop sound that works about as often as not. it is just a matter of how memorable the hook is and how interesting the vocal work is. The music is quite steady and not terribly exciting, but when the shapes and atmospheres come together, they create a moody environment that is more positive than most moody music. I found ‘Along’ rather odd in that the verses are almost carbons of Pink Floyd’s ‘Echoes’ although the finish was totally different, yet I could not shake the vibe. All in all, a fair effort that was a nice change up for much of what I listen to, but does not quite have enough yet to go into full rave mode.

You'll have to wait to hear the live show, but not too long as they hit the stage of the DC9 on Thursday, October 8th.

Songs to start with first:

Valley of Gardens - I like the opening intense build-up into a more normal song structure by the end.

Post Storm - Long moody piece is perfectly named as there is a quietness amidst nearby chaos here.

Infinity - A bit more of a rock song that may shake you up a bit late into the album.

I like this brand of moody pop rock music with the way the component parts work together. The guitar and bass are often playing at different times, jabbing away in between the steady drum beats. Everything is so soft, yet jarring and the slightly detached, yet warm female vocals seem to be viewing this intriguing mix while coming up with a way to work with it. They move around a bit and lock in at times depending on the song. There is even a surprising saxophone sendoff on the tenth and final song. This is not always brilliant, but it always held my attention and occasionally had me quite interested and excited.

Songs to start with first:

Christa - The opener grabbed me, even in a quiet way.

Move On - A smoother more straight forward pop song works well on this album, too.

Nights - Sliding guitar runs with twangy rhythm creates a nice alternate setting.

This is a pretty straightforward concept, similar to the Three Tenors. Take three virtuosos of the acoustic guitar and turn them loose on some long instrumental compositions. The one thing I wanted to hear was if three distinct guitarists playing together could have the clarity of a duo. But it appears that these three virtuosos go it alone on separate tracks. Basically, if you are a talented finger style guitarist, you already sound like two guitarists and when you play vibrant music, such as these players do, there is plenty going on. Thankfully, none of it is muddled, so instead of worrying about technicalities, it is easier to set back and let these guys work there fingers out with lightning moves and slower moves containing great expression. There are flamenco inspired bits along with a melodic folk approach that achieves quick and attractive long themes. It is all technically accomplished, but has a very direct approach that is not for the eclectic crowd. It is more for the many guitar aficionados.

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