Tuesday, June 30, 2015

PREVIEWS of COMING ATTRACTIONS: Early July 2015

A little quiet start due to the holiday, so after the fireworks, join me in the clubs for the real fireworks.

Over 1,000 people have read my interview with Damon Tutunjian of the Swirlies. You can do that too, but more imporantly I highly advise you join me at the Black Cat on Monday July 6th for a celebration of their 25th year of existence.


Mates of State hits the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Wednesday, July 8th.


Mail the Horse will in no way mail it in when they appear at Acre 121 on Friday, July 10th.


Moon King reigns over the night sky from the DC9 stage on Saturday, July 11th.


The amazingly underrated Stiff Little Fingers will be at the Black Cat on Saturday, July 11th. Here's a classic that I just heard as musical backing for a travel show on hotels in Ireland(!!).


Mourn is something I've been doing a lot of lately, so now I can see the band Mourn at the DC9 on Monday July 13th.


Also at the DC9 comes Eskimeaux, which will have me longing for an igloo as it will likely be quite warm on Tuesday July 14th when they play.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Adolescents - Weirdos - History Repeated -- Black Cat - Jun 28 2015

History Repeated - History was repeated rather quickly for those attending tonight's show who also took in Mission of Burma the night before where this fine local band also opened the festivities. I missed the Burma show so I cannot compare, but having seen this John Stabb led quartet many a time, it is still more repeated history for me. And it is memorable history at that for these guys always put on an entertaining set. It's jagged rock mixing classic punk and post-punk with plenty of flair and personality. They had it going on tonight even though it was a crowd more fit for the downstairs room when the set began. The crowd improved enough to justify the bigger room and I will never understand a late coming audience on a Sunday. But for those that were here, they are sufficiently warmed and ready for the LA invasion.
Weirdos - Well, the 35+ year wait to see this legendary LA punk band was worth it. The Denny brothers along with veteran Zander Schloss and a younger drummer are here with all those great songs from Dangerhouse and Bomp singles and beyond. They still managed to bring that crazed edge to their thick classic and speedy punk rock sound. They are a bit like the darker crazier alter ego of the Dickies. The crowd really got off on this music and they kept getting louder and more involved as the set went on with these veterans just banging out song after song with very little down time. The sound is really thick and melodic with great snarly vocals that are a lot more fun than the testerone vocal style employed by many hardcore bands that followed. There are still a number of Dangerhouse bands from LA who I have never had the chance to see, and some that will be impossible to see, but these guys were top of the list and they delivered on all the hopes I had for this show.
The Adolescents - If this set was a little anti-climatic, it was only for me due to having seen this excellent band three times previously and also the disappointment that this was the first time someone named Agnew was not one of the guitarists. But Tony and Steve were there with their excellent vocal work and bass playing and the new recruits delivered the great melodies of one of the most fun bands from the LA scene. Rarely are backing vocals employed as well as this (Naked Raygun comes to mind where they are as integral in the songs). They played a rousing set tonight that kept the crowd going the whole time with a mix of songs from all eras of their band, of course neglecting very little from their essential first album. Tony still has that odd 'third-person' style with his banter and stage presence, perhaps partly due to fronting a band called the Adolescents in his fifties. But he still has the voice and sense of humor to keep things moving and the band was on the mark tonight. So ultimately, I had a lot of fun. This is one excellent tour showcasing the essential early LA scene and how it still works today.

Facebook grab of the night: A while back, I reposted this 'review' that the Damned's Captain Sensible had posted. I want to show it again as it really speaks to younger music fans of how difficult it was to gain acceptance for the great music that came out of the punk rock scene. Yes, many critics unlike this one 'got it', but radio did not and many music fans turned up their noses without even trying to understand the brilliance of this sound and why it was such a healthy injection into the music world in the late 1970s. And as Captain Sensible reminded people, the Damned are still here, the magazine that published this is long gone.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Carl Palmer Band -- Ram's Head On Stage - Jun 25 2015

Carl Palmer Band - It is normally tricky for a drummer to take out his former band's material on the road, as it often results in the writers and voices and main instruments being replaced. Yet Carl Palmer was the P of ELP and as ELP fans know was an integral part of that band's formula. Now for the past few years Carl Palmer has taken the ELP material out on the road with the more expected version of a power trio: guitar, bass, and drums. I am finally happy to see how these newer full instrumental ELP interpretations and as a bonus, I will get to see one of the best rock drummers of all time show off his skills.
It is quick to see how fun this format is tonight as both the young guitarist and bassist show off plenty of chops in their playing and their creative use of sounds to 'synthesize up' their parts. They alternated interpreting the vocal lines on their instruments on the few songs that had them, while avoiding the Greg Lake solo acoustic numbers. As for Carl Palmer, he had all of his amazing skills on display. He is such a hard hitter with a level of quickness that just isn't seen often. In his drum solo during 'Fanfare for the Common Man' he showed amazing skills with his cymbal work, coaxing many tones and rhythms with flashy moves. His kit is not of the Terry Bozzio/Neal Peart school, but he can create a lot of melody out of it. And his playing partners stay with him the whole night with lots of progressive and metal moves of their own. The bass player looks like he is playing a six string bass and also adds the stick to a few songs. The guitarist is seated with a slight injury but has amazing speed and touch. The ELP songs sound great and they focus on the classical cuts that ELP did so you would not have to know anything about them, but would really dig them if you enjoyed classical music and metal. But the crowd tonight knew the material and were fully into this excellent set.

Quote of the Night: Carl Palmer came up to a downstage mic in between songs and song couplets to introduce them or tell stories--"it's kind of nice to get up, you can rearrange your shorts", but it was his intro to a nice surprise, which was quite memorable "When we were discussing ideas for songs to do, I brought up 'Mars, the Bringer of War',Holst, yes right. But I lost that argument... our first (laughter). And we ended up doing '21st Century Schizoid Man' the King Crimson song, no our band doesn't do it. So now we bring you 'Mars'... oh, and then yeah, we'll do 21st Century Schizoid Man."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Olli Hirvonen - Christian Winther Soul House -- Embassy of Finland - Jun 23 2015

This was part of the Nordic Jazz Festival featuring jazz artists from the musically rich countries of Scandanavia. Much thanks to Embassy of Finland for hosting such a lovely event in their beautiful building. Embassy events are the best. Partake whenever you can, as there are a lot of events open to the public.

Christian Winther Soul House - Christian Winther is a saxophonist who comes to us from Denmark via New Orleans, where he has lived for the last 18 years. He is joined by an area trio, Allyn Johnson on piano, Billy Williams Jr. on drums, and Romeir Mendez on bass. The saxophone is clear and controlled with subtle speed and precision that invokes a comfortable feel throughout. The piano provides a lot of exciting flourish as Johnoson adds a lot to the sound. The bass holds it together with highly creative drumming adding even more thrust to the sound. Winther can play the standards, but his own songs fit well into any set featuring traditional material--at least from my perspective (keeping in mind rock and folk are my areas of expertise). The performance went over extremely well in the full room as Winther and these fine local musicians bonded very well indeed.




Olli Hirvonen Trio - Hirvonen is on home ground, hailing from Finland, but travelling the world with his unique guitar talents. Tonight he has New Yorker Ethan O'Reilly on bass and a drummer named Marc whose last name I did not catch. The first cut was a jazz cover song and it was decent enough, but when they went into Hirvonen's original material, the band really started cooking and the genres began blending. The guitar sounds were smooth and a bit spacey, almost keyboard like as Hirvonen soloed before the band joined in, with a near rock and roll intensity. There was a playful progressive style and ambient mood setting woven into these songs quite seamlessly with the skill of this trio. There was that progressive jazz noodling that can be excessive, but with all of the variety and the spirited playing, that never was a problem tonight. The guitar is one my least favorite instruments when I do spend some time with jazz, but it worked tonight with the variety of sounds and liquid playing in these engaging songs.

Video share: I have an extensive collection of music from Finland and their neighboring countries as there is a great musical history there. I urge you to explore. Here's but a taste from an album I really enjoy.



Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Porcelain - Cat Martino -- DC9 - Jun 22 2015

Cat Martino - Solo female vocals and electronics is the challenge here in the opening set. It is a challenge at least to convince me that I should watch backing tracks live on stage. Vocals are a big help and initially Cat Martino does a great job with loops and showing depths of mood. There was a little disconnect for me between her quiet and her loud as her quiet parts were nearly inaudible. Musically, she left enough space for the vocals to work although there seemed to be a problem at one point where the backing seemed lacking. She pulled out an electric guitar that helped one song, but ultimately this was a disjointed set. There is some talent here, it is just a question of pulling it all together.
Porcelain Raft - Mauro Remiddi has a long career in music with bands in his native Italy and beyond. But now in New York, he's going it alone which is a risky sell for someone like me. I enjoyed his recent album well enough, so I was hopeful. And hope was rewarded as his rich singing voice and smart melodic backing was quite riveting. And it got even better when he strapped on his guitar for several songs as he varied his playing from creative rocking to deep ambient moods. His vocals began to soar into heights unheard since the days of MIJ (a crazed cult record if ever there was one). Well, he wasn't too crazed as he kept it all in an accessible place even as he explored beyond the boundaries of most electropoppers. He exhibited great personality with the crowd who were really enjoying his set. If you like Caribou as I do, you should really give Porcelain Raft a listen.

Quote of the Night: from Cat Martino in the middle of her set, which is foreshadowing as to why I have only a little time left in the live music world and perhaps the world in general... "I got a text message that distracted me."

Monday, June 22, 2015

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard -- U Street Music Hall - Jun 21 2015

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard - This Australian outfit has enough albums out to make you think they have been around for 20 years based on the release rates of most bands these days, but in fact they are merely one of the most prolific bands out there. There records are steeped in their brand of psychedelia and are quite interesting, but it is this live performance where it all comes together in a masterful display of classic psychedelic rock. There is a 13th Floor Elevators vibe with loads of guitar a distorted harmonica and a steady throbbing rhythm section. The songs may not be quite as catchy, but the overall effect is nearly as mesmerizing. They play a mix of short songs and long jams with enough shifting around in arrangements to keep things quite fresh throughout. The club was half full but everyone was up front and as stoked as any crowd I have seen in some time. They even did a solo voice/guitar encore saying they usually don't do encores, but such was the crowd's roar. So clearly this band is connecting and as their unique name gets out there and the word of mouth continues to spread, these guys could and should really get big... at least as big as Black Angels and other fine bands in this arena. Great sound tonight, too, U Street.
photo: 9:30 Club tweet

Quote of the Night: From my favorite Irish football player Roy Keane's autobiography discussing the possible signing of the (aptly named) Robbie Savage.

'I rang Mark Hughes. Robbie wasn't in the Blackburn team and I asked Mark if we could try to arrange a (transfer) deal. Sparky said: 'Yeah, yeah, he's lost his way here but he could still do a job for you.'' Keane explains.

'Robbie's legs were going a bit but I thought he might come up to us, with his long hair, and give us a lift - the way Yorkie (Dwight Yorke) had, a big personality in the dressing room. 'Sparky gave me permission to give him a call. So I got Robbie's mobile number and rang him. It went to his voicemail: 'Hi, it's Robbie - whazzup!' like the Budweiser ad. I never called him back. I thought: 'I can't be f**king signing that.'"

Friday, June 19, 2015

Viet Cong - Girl Band -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Jun 18 2015

Girl Band - This is some really twisted music that will wrap you up like a boa constrictor and possibly do some damage. It is the slow kind as the band has thick and throbbing backing with desperate wailing vocals on top. It is as if members of Screamers and Mars are covering Crass songs. Perhaps more than a little Throbbing Gristle influence as well? One good thing is the variety of vocal style as the desperation style would get a little, well desperate if done over the course of 45 minutes. Musically this can wear you down, but they mix it up well enough to allow some oxygen in while you are wrapped up in this intensity. These Irish lads did very well in front of a very big crowd here tonight.
photo: Rock'n'Roll Hotel twitter account

Viet Cong - And the crowd continued to grow in size and excitement as this Canadian quartet hit the stage. Thankfully the soundman got it together after one song to allow me to focus on the music rather than the problems (touring soundmen tend to struggle in this club). Even then, it took several songs to try to figure out exactly what the band was making work so well. And I am not sure I ever quite got the answer, which is a big positive as they kept me alert throughout their set. One song reminded me of New Model Army, while another was as if Gang of Four were crossed with Savage Republic. And just when I focused on songs, they went off on PiL meets Swans style throbbing droner. When this band really nailed it, they were as good as anybody. When they were less so, they were still a powerful presence. Great night of creative music, tonight, and it was great to see so many people were here to dig in.

Photo Grab of the Night: This was a discovered in Argentina via Google Earth. If any crop circles, etc. are the result of aliens, hopefully they are behind this one.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Richard Thompson - Robert Ellis -- Birchmere - Jun 16 2015

Robert Ellis - We begin with an odd personality from Houston, Texas. He's got a big hollow body guitar and a microphone and does quite well with both. His guitar style is impressive--everything is picked but with his lighting left hand, It is picked quite assertively and fortunately the race between hands stays pretty much a draw the whole night. Song-wise, I thought he started slow and that was also true of his stage patter although ultimately his odd humor worked its way through and the last couple of songs were particularly strong. Although he is a fine singer songwriter that can hold his own, I wonder if a light rhythm section may add an interesting layer to his music sending it even higher than the sum of its parts.
Richard Thompson - This is about the fifth time I have seen Richard Thompson over the last 25 years or so. I have also listened to nearly all of his music as a solo artist, collaborator, and of course with Fairport Convention. Just as the albums over the last half century are extremely varied, his live show is always just a little bit different each time around. That is due more to his backing musicians, or lack thereof, than his steady high quality vocal and guitar delivery. This time around he is electric with drums and electric bass backing his electric and acoustic guitars. Ergo, the searing guitar solos are more a part of this set, not that they are ever truly lacking even in his acoustic solo shows. He performs a couple of acoustic numbers without the band, including a song from his latest album and the classic '1952 Vincent Black Lightning'. He even keeps the acoustic strapped on as the band returns before handing it to his guitar tech who stays on stage to add a second guitar to 'Guitar Heroes' because as he says, "it's so complex it makes Rite of Spring look like Sugar Sugar." This songs is a long cut featuring a great original rocker talking about all of Thompson's influences that include a solo in the style of that guitarist following the verse about them. It is a perfect reminder about what I believe makes Thompson so great. Even if you find a guitarist better (although not many), or a songwriter more amazing, or a singer more powerful, I am not sure you can find anyone who's composite score in all three categories could be any better than Richard Thompson's. And even at 66 years old, he still is not showing any signs of holding back in any of those categories. So I see no reason not to continue to grab his albums or see this superb live performance.

And you get one more chance in DC tonight at the Birchmere as he will play another great set to a very full club.

Quote of the Night (well, at least after the one listed above): Robert Ellis after a fan's shout-out.
"You did alright, son."
"Well thank you... ....Dad."

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Iceage - Witch Coast -- DC9 - Jun 15 2015

Witch Coast - I was lukewarm to this local trio the last time I saw them, which certainly had nothing to do with them apologizing to the crowd for being the substitute act for Australia's Low Life who could not get the Visas together to make this gig in the Land of the Free. No apologies necessary, for although we missed out on a fine band from a long ways away, we got a nice set from a much improved outfit. The set was twice as long this time around clocking in at 33 minutes plus, which allowed us to see the range of dark Savage Republic like songs to more catchier positive major key numbers. They still rely on too much reverb in the vocals which I commented on last time and a woman from Baltimore I was chatting with mentioned this time (while joining me in enjoying their overall sound). It is always nice to see improvement. With a steady drum, a thrusting bass, and fine guitar sounds shaping decent songs, this band is worth continued listening.

Iceage - These Danish teens connected very quickly with a world audience with the release of their debut album and world tour in 2013. They are back with an exciting sophomore album and an even larger near capacity crowd tonight. I was impressed with the album, but it is even more amazing live from this band who is now all of age to have a drink in this country. They have taken their masterful fusion of punk and post-punk and expanded it into even more diverse rock territories while somehow increasing the underlying tension and power. The bass throbs away in post punk glory while the drummer has a lot of creative breaks that fit perfectly in the varied structures of their songs. I am not sure how the guitarist can coax such fascinating sounds that contrast the quiet and loud ranges with such dexterous playing. His moves remind me of something you would hear in Love. However, the vocals are more from Love's buddies the Doors with that Morrison like presence and moodiness. Elias Bender R√łnnenfelt has great command of the stage as a front man and although offers a scary churning style that never quite explodes, I think their next stage of growth could be in offering some change ups in his tone. Hardly a criticism, but more of a guess, as this band could dumb it down and still generate an intense pit like they did tonight. Thankfully, they are incredibly smart and are clearly one of the more original heavy bands worth following.

Coincidence of the Night: I was amused to see that the person I was chatting with had an exact copy of my Decomposition Book that I use for taking notes. I did not know they were so popular and I am glad I am not alone using pen and paper in this hi-tech age. Thanks to Taliesin for taking a break from his cardboard tunnel games to pose with my well worn notebook.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Preview of Coming Attractions - Late June 2015

It's heating up in and out of the clubs as there is plenty going on. Here is only a small sampling of what is attracting me and what me be of interest to you...

We've lost John Renbourn and Bert Jansch in recent years, so it is all the more reason to catch Richard Thompson while you can. He is incredibly prolific and could hold my attention for a 24-hour marathon. You get two shots to see him at the Birchmere, tomorrow and Wednesday this week only!


Pattern is Movement moves on in to the Black Cat on Wednesday, June 17th.


Viet Cong takes aim at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Thursday, June 18th.


Miami Horror brings the scares to the U Street Music Hall on Friday, June 19th.


King Gizzard and the Lizard brings two indigestible main courses to the U Street Music Hall on Sunday, June 21st.


Porcelain Raft floats on over to the DC9 on Monday, June 22nd.


Jeremy Loops circles into Annapolis at Ram's Head on Tuesday, June 23rd.


Damnwells stir up the crowd at the Howard Theatre on Friday, June 26th.


And head back to the Howard on Monday June 29th for Doomsquad.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Courtney Barnett - Chastity Belt - Darren Hanlon -- 9:30 Club - Jun 13 2015

by Kyle Schmitt

Darren Hanlon - This affable Aussie kicked off the evening with a fine solo acoustic set. His songs present fully considered scenarios and musings, which often take a circuitous route to fruition. One tune’s introduction featured fond remembrances of a fistfight that occurred in his hometown one Christmas Eve, then segued into a lament over the lack of good Mexican food down under. Hanlon’s songs rise or fall on the strength of his wordplay. His love of a memorable turn of phrase leads to lyrics that vacillate between clever and questionable, as demonstrated by two tracks he performed off his 2002 LP Hello Stranger, “Punk’s Not Dead” (she’s “just gone to bed”) and “Don’t Cheat the Future” (as “you’re just cheating yourself”). At his best, Hanlon gives sagacious advice on religion (warning us not to “underestimate the fitness of a determined Jehovah’s witness”) and aging, proclaiming that, while hair turns gray and skin turns to leather, “the best thing about growing old is we all do it together.”

Chastity Belt - The individual notches of Chastity Belt complement each other well throughout their mid-tempo rock songs. Guitarist Lydia Lund stands out due to her high-register playing in the verses. Annie Truscott’s bass-playing provides an added dimension to “On the Floor”, while Gretchen Grimm’s stick work (switching between a tom-heavy arrangement and a breezier ride-cymbal beat) propels “IDC”. That song features singer Julia Shapiro’s best moment, as she answers the question “Is it cool not to care?” by shrugging “I don’t really care.” Although Shapiro channels her frustrations into lyrics like “I’m never satisfied” and “I never expect much from anyone”, she gives the impression that negative people and experiences don’t wear on her much anymore. When she dismisses a former acquaintance as “just another man tryin’ to teach me something”, it’s clear she’s left the offending cad far behind. Chastity Belt also gets credit for Shapiro and Truscott playing the set in their socks, as well as posting one of the best band profile pics on all of Facebook (as seen on the link above).
                                                   photo from 9:30 Club
Courtney Barnett - The innately likable Barnett was tremendous in her headline role. Her three-piece band switches seamlessly from lightly accompanying her meandering inner dialogues to co-navigating her surprisingly heavy breakdowns. Barnett displayed significant instrumental chops on the bluesy “An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)” as well as her purest pop shot, “Dead Fox”. Her songwriting narrates tales of Christmas medical emergencies in “Avant Gardener” and the “Depreston” experience of “getting older and dying, but also looking for a new house in a shitty suburb.” Despite projecting an image of collected cool, Barnett warns listeners repeatedly against placing too much hope on her shoulders. “Pedestrian at Best” explicitly details the perils of putting her on a pedestal, while “Kim’s Caravan” actively seeks to deflect such emotional investment (“I am just a reflection of what you really want to see / so take what you want from me”). The sold-out crowd remained adoring throughout her set, however, an easy feat when cheering a performer whose least awkward stage rap involves asking “Is everyone ok? You guys ok?” An incredibly strong performance that ranks with the best 9:30 shows in recent memory.

Esoterica - Hanlon reminisced about a past 9:30 performance supporting Billy Bragg. He said the club provided him a complementary meal, noting that, after five years of getting drinks on the house at other venues, free food really sticks out in your memory … He also likened the girls dancing on the venue’s side-stage balcony to stalwart Muppets critics Statler and Waldorf, a comparison some musician was bound to make eventually … Between songs, Barnett exposed the differences between American and Australian English. She mistranslated the 40 degrees Celsius temperature in her home country as being equivalent to 150 million degrees Fahrenheit here in the states. Later, she estimated the cost of an onstage item at “two dollars fifty”.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

K. Flay - Panic is Perfect -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Jun 12 2015

Panic is Perfect - This San Francisco quintet has a fine grasp of bouncy pop music. It is fun without being too precious. And even better, the live setting gives the rhythm section a chance to really fire and rock out enough to pull in a heavier crowd. Still, it is the bright sounding keyboards spiking out the melodies with crunching guitar and the occasional synth move that drive the songs home. They have a full time lead vocalist that keeps the crowd engaged, while they all move well and pull the crowd into their world as the set moves on. Good fun, all in all, with a perfect opening for this young Friday night crowd. I think many of them will be back for future headlining sets.
K. Flay - There is quite a lot of blending of style here in the music of Kristine Flaherty. She may be known as a 'rapper' but has a lot of musical forms working here. To start, she has an eerie singing voice that is highly effective at creating a chilling atmosphere. And behind her is a powerful drummer and a guitarist who create a strong post punk environment that perfectly set up the quiet vocals with strong music that does not distract or overpower at all. This is smart post hip hop music that helps keep things fresh in 2015 for us old timers, but clearly works even better with the young crowd tonight who are having a great time.

Cartoon Grab of the Night: Since this was such a literate crew of musicians, here's one for the literary crowd...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

DMA's -- DC9 - Jun 9 2015

DMA's - I left the Paul Weller show before encores to try and catch some of this band's set. Since they came all the way from Australia to share their music with this country for the first time, I felt I should make the effort, even if it ended up being their final five songs. There was a decent crowd here who were digging these youngsters' fine hard hitting rock songs. They had three guitars cooking with the rhythm section along with a dedicated vocalist who had enough power to retain his clarity on top of this strong music. Yet they pulled it back with some of the band taking a break leaving acoustic guitar, vocals and just a touch of electric guitar coming in late in one of the two songs. Hopefully these guys will have a good tour and I can come back again and see the full show as they have the songwriting and the chops to make for a great live set.

Paul Weller - Hannah Cohen -- 9:30 Club - Jun 9 2015

Hannah Cohen - Sultry lounge vocals are the draw here, although you don't want to overlook the drummer and keyboardist backing up Ms. Cohen. The drummer has a great combination of power and restraint of pace that adds to the drama of the vocal work. The keyboards are lush and assists in the creation of the quiet restrained power of this music. The trio was confident and in full control of this big stage and large crowd. I suppose there is a minimalist post-Radiohead approach here, thoroughly modern yet classic. I quite appreciated and it appeared a lot of the crowd did as well. It was easy to drift away into this musical world and I am doing that a lot of the time these days. So Hannah Cohen and I had a meeting of the minds, as they say in Contract Law.
Paul Weller - I am a bit surprised that it has taken me until 2015 to see Paul Weller (although I saw his former Jam bandmate Bruce Foxton several years back with Stiff Little Fingers). I had all the early Jam albums, but never caught that great band. I stopped paying attention even with Weller's fine solo work after his stint in the Style Council had me listening elsewhere. Tonight he covered a lot of ground from his long career with a leaning toward his recent albums and even a 'B' side of a UK single ('The Old Original'). He was assisted with two drummers which surprised me a bit, although one was standing and adding lighter but distinct percussion moves in addition to the occasional kit drumming. There were keyboards, bass, and another guitarist, yet the most interesting sonic element was that every band member added backing vocals. All of this massive sound came together with surprising clarity while retaining its power. The songs varied nicely with Weller jumping on piano for four songs, two of which had a welcome bouncy style that reminded me more of Squeeze or Ian Dury (my blog cohort Kyle thought it was a bit McCartneyesque which seems even more accurate). From 'White Sky' to 'Whirlpool' this set rocked harder than I expected and the band was fully in the groove thanks to the fine rhythmic foundation here. Kyle tells me he did the Jam classic 'Town Called Malice' which I had to miss as I wanted to catch a few songs from an Australian band at the DC9. But Paul Weller made me happy I chose to come here tonight for almost the full show.

Quote of the Night: Weller, apologizing for several water breaks... "I've got a dry mouth, from jet lag possibly"    ...or perhaps it has something to do with 40 years of smoking. No matter, the songs came quickly and really built into a fine set.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Wire - Julian Lynch -- Black Cat - Jun 6 2015

Julian Lynch - Heady textural guitar music is the formula here from this solo performer. I liked how he slowly built his sound to the point where it was not clear where the set began. But the guitar bursts and following vocals made it clear that song were evolving from the soundscape. Ultimately it was more about the overall tone and textures of the music more than the song, although he had separation and slightly altered moods. A decent tune-up for a Wire set.
Wire - The legendary band returns yet again, as they continue to work hard with excellent new albums and steady touring thereafter. We are blessed to have them around as such a hard working bunch. The three original members remain and Matthew Simms has now been around long enough to flex even more guitar muscle into the unit known as Wire. He works up magical guitar parts around Colin Newman's guitar in creating new forms furthering their signature, yet varying styles formed on their brilliant first three albums. Their set pulls from there along with much recent material, which still sounds fresh and brilliant as the creative spark has not passed by this band, as it does so many as they age. They really worked up a droning style that increased steadily through the set, although Wire's songwriting always has much more clarity and feeling than that of many drone bands. The DC fanbase was here as always and was revved up throughout. They were even treated to a three song encore beginning with the sub-minute song from Pink Flag, 'Brazil'. There are always a few surprises with Wire, but the dependable sound and brilliance in their songs will get what you come here for. They will stop doing this on their terms and I am happy to see that their final day has not happened yet. And this was one of the precious few bands I was willing to see after learning what I write about below.
Obit of the Night: It is with great sadness I announce that the woman who posed for this classic album cover has died. She was one of my closest friends, which almost sounds pale in describing the deep and complicated relationship we had. She worked for me and with me and got me through many challenging times over the last quarter of a century. She was so private, I still dare not write her name and very few who knew her, connected her with her former life as a model. There is a large hole in me right now that I will eventually refill with the memories; and some carefully chosen music...

Friday, June 5, 2015

Bells and Hunters - Hank & Cupcakes - Uptown Boys Choir -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - June 4 2015

Uptown Boys Choir - This is a strong little quintet featuring the songs of bassist/lead vocalist Kevin de Souza. I also see Black Checker's Tony Porreco on lead guitar with a female vocalist/acoustic guitarist, a guy on keyboards, and of course a drummer. The range of instruments helps with their powerful sound and all of the band seem to be a pretty sharp group of players. They have some Americana in their along with strong rock moves that they can pull back into a more acoustic quieter feeling when they choose. There is a lot of potential here and their better songs really cooked.
Hank & Cupcakes - Hailing from Brooklyn via Israel is this intriguing pop/rock duo featuring bass/synthesizer and backing vocals with a female lead singer on drums. The key is both the synthesizer in the backing and the bass sounds that work in unique ways. This is far from NoMeansno (yes, I'm old) or Lightning Bolt (yes, I keep up) and their funk or nu-metal moves. Instead, this duo has pop moves with a bit of blues in the vocals and an overall energy that pushes things into some fairly intense rock that stays catchy. The vocals come close to Penetration's Pauline Murray at times with that melodic clarity and power. The band is colorful (in dress and sound) and although I didn't quite see the point of watching them in 3D glasses, they had a great quirky humor and stage presence. This is the first date on a four month tour so they were fresh and energized. But I bet most every city on the tour will be treated to a very fun filled show.

Bells and Hunters - When I see a local band a few times in short succession, I appreciate a break from them as I will get some new songs and maybe some other features that will be fresh and welcome to my ears. I had plenty of that here as this fine local band has even become sharper and more on the mark than ever. I am not sure they ever quite had the power and confidence I saw last night, especially in some of the early songs, which were well executed with the drummer pushing things along and the lead guitarist cutting loose. Everyone else locked into the groove and it all worked as you hope it does when you go out for live rock and roll. And a new song had a sixties garage feeling worked into it which I quite liked and kept the set moving along well. I knew I would enjoy the bands tonight, but all three offered something unique and special and Bells and Hunter capped off a great night of music.

Facebook Grab of the Night: more music humor...

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Hutch & Kathy - Baby Bry Bry -- Black Cat - Jun 3 2015

Baby Bry Bry - Oh dear, a one man band featuring bass and vocals? Apparently this gentleman is in a band (Apologists) who I wish I could see in total, if I was going to see a set of bass playing (and I even like bass solos). Fortunately, he switched to electric guitar after one song and only had the bass back one more time. He even had a drum machine a few times, so ultimately this was a fine opening set in the smaller Black Cat room. Vocally, he was good and his guitar work had an old time rock'n'roll feeling, but not too overtly so. Yeah, I would still like a full band, but this was decent enough to get this show started.
Hutch & Kathy - A Portland male/female duo better known as members in the Thermals are here tonight on guitar and drums respectively. The vocals are extremely good with the male singer taking more of the lead. He is excellent and the harmonies are carefully thought out and executed with Tallis like precision. This is pop music as you might expect from Portland, sprite and clear with just enough extra thrust to keep it fluid and interesting throughout. I am sure the band is good, although I haven't heard them, but you can't do worse than just seeing this fine duo.

Quote of the Night: From the opener... "Got any Raymond Carver fans in the house? (faint woo) Yeh, that's that famous Raymond Carver enthusiasm."

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Record Reviews - May 2015

Dig in, chew thoroughly, digest, then you're on your own.

THE ACORN “THE ACORN”
Not even the more folkier acoustic guitars can pull me into the soultronica world of The Acorn. That should not stop fans of this genre as the band manages careful arrangements of layered electronics and synthesizers with drumbeats and acoustic guitars. The vocals move between a soulful style and a more straightforward pop attractiveness. I appreciated the variety of the rock moments and quiet acoustic guitar on “in Silence” and that song is one I could go back to.

CARTOON WEAPONS “LAST RITES of a LIVING LEGEND”
This one is for the quirky indie rock crowd. Most songs have sharp edges to them with rhythmic bursts and tight vocal work. Generally this type of music is well past it’s ‘sell by’ date for me, but this band adds just enough potent rock and sharp songwriting to make it mostly work for me. They have just enough panache in the better songs to make you wonder how they dreamed up some of these transitions. I hope they continue exploratory sounds and daring songwriting, as they could be something quite exciting.

Songs to start with first:

WTLFO - The opener begins with what seems fairly typical indie rock, but then explodes into something a bit heavier.

Crawlspace - Acoustic beginning is a nice touch and they tone it down a bit, which is a nice contrast.

Any Robot but You - Almost a Funkadelic beginning and a sharp raucous song by the end (almost nine minutes, even).

COMPLICATED “COMPLICATED”
I rather enjoy a good drone band and Complicated fits the bill with these eleven songs. Each is titled with one of the eleven letters in the word ‘complicated’ with the second ‘c’ being the fully worded title cut for some reason. It matters not, for even with some human voice in here, it is a series of droning passages that vary from 34 seconds to 10:39. There are quieter contemplative passages and stronger edgier drones. There is not any of the full throbbing drone, say of the Swans, so don’t look for that sort of mind numbing power. Instead, this investigates a few other areas of sonic steadiness. Variations are there between songs in rather sharp ways and within songs in subtle shifts. I like this style and I appreciate something a little different than turning the amps up to 11 where people think they can write like the Swans. You will know whether you want to try something like this on or not.

CROSSS “CROSSS”
If you listen to those Nuggets and Pebbles compilations of 1960s psychedelic rock (and of course you should), you get a variety of styles that is quickly apparent. There are a few heavyweights that seem to anticipate Black Sabbath and Toronto's Crosss seems to be working an only slightly more modern territory than bands like the Litter. This is pounding psyche-rock with darting vocals that offset the music nicely. The clashing sonics are locked into this realm with the particularly brazen approach this band has in its core. And after eight songs, like the Stooges on Fun House, they end up with a freaky finisher that works a slow dark industrial noise terrain. Unlike the Stooges, this one runs for thirty minutes! A good way to go out and with eight songs to go back and listen to again after a long break.

Songs to start with first:

The Doughnut in Granny's Greenhouse.terlocutor - The opener establishes the sound, what a sound.

Golden Hearth - More divergence in this song between dirge and high end psychedelics.

My Body - They pull back a bit into more vocal focus during the last few songs (but they are still heavy)

ED SCHRADER”S MUSIC BEAT “PARTY JAIL”
This is the first recorded music I have heard from this Maryland duo after a couple of highly exciting live sets I caught in recent years. I was surprised by the complexity in these songs, but fear not fans of their live show, the crazed punk approach is still here as well. While so many young energized bands these days turn to speed and hormonal fury in their punk rock music, it takes a few savvy types to create something that was truly indicative of the first wave of punk rock music where anything went. This record has the spirit of the early days where you did not know what to expect, other than some bold band getting up there and creating an entertaining racket. Here, it is all bass, percussion, and vocals in a variety of tempos and intensities. All that is missing is the hilarious stage patter, but you should still be listening to this and catching the live show whenever possible.


If you are not already planning to see Mono, the DMA's, or Paul Weller on Tuesday June 9th, head to the Black Cat and you can experience this music on stage, at its best.

Songs to start with first:

Pantomime Jack - Both the complex slower bass driven style and manic punk percussion and vocal style are here.

Clock Weather - Bouncy ditty with speedy bass line, light percussion, and deep vocal work.

Pilot - Fine vocal work at two intensity levels and a strong undercurrent.

JACCO GARDNER “HYPNOPHOBIA”
I am a big fan of this Netherlands artist. Jacco Gardner has a marvelous control of the pop elements of classic psychedellic rock music. His songs just drift away on a near tranquil sea, sharing their brightness along the journey. Harmonies are exquisite and the mix of guitars and keyboard create a strong pallet of emotions. I am not sure I like this album significantly more than the last classic I reviewed, but it’s close enough that this one will also be going on my permanent playlist. Still, Jacco Gardner remains the best popsike act out there in the world today. There are some imitators to the newer blood in this field, but Gardner is still at or near the top.

Songs to start with first:

Another You - The opening cut picks up right where his previous album left off with that warm popsike style.

Find Yourself - One of many psyche-folk songs that verge only slightly away from the popper songs.

Hypnophobia - Keyboard beginning almost defines the title as the rest of the psychedelics kick in.

GROUNDERS “GROUNDERS”
Grounders grind out the spacey pop nuggets with plenty of electronic beats for added heft. They combine just enough interesting elements to overshadow the electronic sounds that I normally find a bit too predictable. Ultimately, the quality of their hooks and their creative components working those hooks forward are what lasts in the memory. This is attractive music with just enough bite for those of us that need that extra kick. This Toronto band is only coming as far south as Philadelphia on their spring tour, but it appears they will be down in DC in the fall and there should be an appreciative audience here for their sound and songs.

Songs to start with first:

Pull it Over Me - Nice spacey beginning, yet it is a pop song the whole way.

Blood Street and Pressure - Normally, I am not much for punchy drum machine cuts, but this one is cute and retains an edge.

Face Blind - Fascinating rhythmic shifts and gutsy guitar, too.

JOANNA GRUESOME “PEANUT BUTTER”
There is something intriguing about Joanna Gruesome’s odd punk rock sound. It has a classic ring to it, but it also features some ringing guitar that could be more from indie rock. The vocals also go from the occasional snarl to a sweeter harmonic style employed more frequently. Ultimately the pop moves bobble above the surface more times than not resulting in several pleasant songs that have some guts and pace to them.

Songs to start with first:

Last Year - Aggressive song morphs into something more contemplative, quite a mix for one song.

Honestly Do yr Worst - Contemplative rocker has a tough crunchy bit in the middle.

I Don’t Wanna Relax - And you won’t with this assertive white noise opening, although things settle into a catchy rocker.

ICEAGE “PLOWING INTO THE FIELD OF LOVE”
This sophomore release by Danish band Iceage (whose members are just about old enough to be sophomores) is one that I looked forward to. How to follow up the brilliant debut which perfectly merged punk rock with post-punk and delivered a highly charged body blow that I think I still feel from that first listen. Here, the songs are stretched out more with a variety of backing instrumentation and textures within. The vocals are still in that breathy Nick Cave style. But with a few slower cuts, I think they could do with some more clarity in the vocals. But that is my only real complaint, well aside from not liking the song choice and video first released. Otherwise, the music is daring and powerful with even more mystery and post-punk power. I miss the burners somewhat, but the added drama and surprises here more than make up for that. This is still an exciting band and I look forward to their continual growth.


Come see their intensity live and up close at the DC9 on Monday, June 15th

Songs to start with first:

On my Fingers - The opener shows the exploratory nature of the album.

Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled - Passionate and exciting as this one bobs and weaves and delivers.

Forever - Trumpet? I don’t think they are using the kitchen sink, but there is fascinating clarity in this thick sound.

CHILINA KENNEDY “WHAT YOU FIND IN A BOTTLE”
We have a fine singer song writer album that leans more heavily to folk with even a bit of lounge torch singing, along with some tasty country and western moves. This combination is common enough, but Chilina Kennedy has the skills to work them into intelligent songs. The arrangements are consistently enhancing the lyrics with fine keyboard work among the usual instrumentation. There are more contemplative songs than not and there are some powerfully sharp worded songs as well as fun toe tapping light rockers. I like a lot of these records and this one nearly comes up into a very high category for me. And also of interest, she is presently on Broadway playing Carole King! So it is exciting times for Chilina Kennedy.

Songs to start with first:

That’s How it Goes - Fine folk song, a bit of country sweetness, but a deeper air to it all.

This Year - Lilting melody sharpened up with a sing song chorus that is light in the air and a pleasure.

Now It’s Up to You - Powerhouse closer, but listen to the first 12 songs and it will have even greater impact.

KING GIZZARD and the LIZARD WIZARD “QUARTERS”
There are four songs, each ten minutes and ten seconds long (thus, quarters of a 40:40 album). That usually spells electronic music or psychedelic music to me. The latter applies here, as I suspected as I have heard decent work from this band before. It is a bit too laid back here for me, as they have adopted an almost Grateful Dead approach without the rootsy country influences. Dead fans would probably add that there are not the complexities either, which may be true. It’s just that things are a bit too rosy and comfortable even with some of the nice jams here. Try the last cut, ‘Lonely Steel Sheet Flyer’ which is a bit spacier and more fun than the other cuts. They still would be a blast live where this material would pull you in to even deeper moods.

LITTLE CHILDREN “TRAVELING THROUGH DARKNESS”
Just a four song EP here from this Swedish outfit, although that is time enough for this band to show off it’s smart pop moves. They have a vocal manner that shows care in the sense of a Fleet Foxes (sans harmonies) or Band of Horses. There is no Americana here, as the music is straightforward pop that rocks out a tad and has bouncy keyboard parts and a bit of washed out backing. The drum beats keep things alive with room for the guitars and keys to sparkle. Not bad at all.

LITTLE RED LUNG “BEWARE”
This Los Angeles band builds this album song by song as if a new member were walking on stage after each song and adding a layer to the sound. After a few songs, they then have it well established with the amazing female vocal work leading the way to a blissful pop concoction that never loses its way. And they vary it up with just enough change in the intensity, to keep things fresh. But with their command of the textures underneath and the vocals above, they have a fine handle on their sound. So lean back and drift away to this fine album.

Songs to start with first:

Beware - They open with the title cut, with soft misty waves of sound and the vocals delicately floating above it all.

Porcupine Sheet - The second song builds on the soft layers with more assertive pop rock moves.

Our Ghost - A nod toward the Smoke Fairies with the harmonies even more ethereal.

THE MAMA RAGS “HECTIC ELECTRIC”
This four song ep has an interesting melding of garage rock, classic rock, and even a few pop moves. I hear enough here that is extremely interesting as they seem to have a creative stance. I would like to see it play out of over more songs to know exactly where they fit into my world. But with these varying guitar textures and style shifts, this could be an excellent band. And the Budgie guitar moments in the title track are all too infrequently heard in rock music these days. Give me more of those and more of this band, please.

MARIBOU STATE “RITUALS”
Pop electronica can sound so washed out. If performed with more instrumentation, there is a cottony hammering which takes me into a happy submission. Even better, when there are warm vocals and flowing steady hooks, you can find some smart modern pop music that can be as intriguing as any math rock/progressive jazz outfit. London’s Maribou State does that often enough here to make for some subtle and powerful listening. There is a touch within the instrumentation and a grace with the vocals that work well together to keep the songs woven together in attractive patterns. This is smart stuff, not too far from Radiohead in results. This was a nice surprise as I was not sure something that sounds so simple would turn out to be layered with much complexity.

Songs to start with first:

Pattern - It has a nice… ok, I’ll say it, pattern.

Reconfiguration - A lilting vocal pattern with a touch of soul atop the wash of melodic sound.

Easy Way Out - My choice for the single, although I won’t argue against 4-5 others.

MOTOPONY “WELCOME YOU”
After my brain stopped playing tricks on me by thinking this was Motorpsycho, I finally accepted the snappy pop music of this Seattle area band. And even better, like Motorpsycho, there a lot of elements at work at Motopony’s brand of music. I hear plenty of classic British pop moves reminiscent of the Kinks and the Beatles, but there are some striking rock elements at work as well. And the vocals are extremely flexible with a quiet warmth and blaring intensity that would be histrionic if they didn’t fit the song so well. I often talk about smart pop music, this is both smart and broad based pulling in some challenging elements and making them work. It ranks well with some of the classic bands of the past and will no doubt be the seed of a strong fanbase for this quality band.

Songs to start with first:

Daylights Gone - Such strength and assured playing in this pop rocker.

Changing - The vocals wrap around you like a warm embrace.

Gypsy Woman - Another brilliant hook, vocal performance, and some great progressive rock moves.

NEGATIVE SCANNER “NEGATIVE SCANNER”
A bit of gothic post punk instrumentation with vocal work that will take you back to the days of early Siouxsie Sioux and Alice Bag. This is the tougher side of the Banshees, where there still is enough intricacy in the guitar to stand apart from the muddled masses. At times it gets a bit too throbbing for me, but mostly this stakes out an interesting terrain, which I am happy to explore. They ultimately succeed by bringing in a variety of sounds from the early punk days into something that although highly reminiscent of the past, still has a fresh appeal. And best of all, it’s head bobbing fun.

Songs to start with first:

Criticism - Nice spazzy solo bursts from their signature sound.

CPD - No, not a division of HUD where I used to work (acronyms!), but a gutsy rocker with pace and melody.

Saturday Night Sunday Morning - A bit of garage surf guitar into the mix on this fun cut.

PINS “WILD NIGHTS”
This band combines a bit of garage punk with a post punk pop sound. But just when I thought this might be a good record, but a bit monotonous, they mix it various sixties psyche rock sounds and even toss in some quieter moments before finishing off with a bit of a pop ballad. Wild nights, indeed, Pins have some fine songs here in this album and it held my interest with the variety they offer.

Songs to start with first:

Baby Bhangs - Great pace to the opener will wake you up and prepare you for their sound.

Dazed by You - Fantastic sounds dart around to form a wildly hooky melody in this firm but poppy number.

If Only - A startling jangly rhythm guitar and reverbbed lead guitar lay the groundwork for this old fashioned gem.

PORCELAIN RAFT “HALF AWAKE”
This five song ep will give you a thick sound to drift away with. The vocals are chilly dream pop with warmth coming out in some songs more than others. The music goes more of a steady rock direction with electronic thickening agents filling out the sound. It’s fairly heady material for something that is catchy. I would not necessarily dance to it, but it gets my imagination swaying in its chilly breeze. This is well done.

And you can experience it live at the U Street Music Hall on June 22nd.

PRINZHORN DANCE SCHOOL “HOME ECONOMICS”
This six song EP reminds me a lot of Gang of Four meeting the Pixies in a ration of 90/10 perhaps. It is not overly heavy but filled with lots of space between throbbing bass, light percussion and those jagged Jon King like guitar stabs. Male and female vocals give off a dreamier feeling than Go4 usually did, so it’s unique enough… and frankly there’s enough room for more attempts at Jon King, as his style is always fascinating, even when his songs were less so.

THE SANDWITCHES “OUR TOAST”

I am usually on the receiving end when someone accuses a folk band I like of being too twee. That does not bother me at all in the folk world, even as I enjoy the tougher more psychedelic brands of folk as well. Well, allow me to dish it out this time with this pop rock band. The opener ‘Sunny Side’ is just short of parody, perhaps not even. The rest of the music goes a bit darker with odd quirky bits and some odd Americana guitar twang as well. Ultimately this does not add up to me in any sort of linear equation. There are moments, maybe a couple minutes of the 50+, but the rest of this is just borecore. I think I’ll take the advice of their third song, ‘Sleeping Practice’.

SHARK TAPE “MARATHON”
There are a lot of garage bands out there, in spite of Dave Grohl believing that the now canceled American Idol could hurt that approach. I pretty much eat up anything I find from the garage and enjoy most of the flavors. Often, as with Shark Tank, there are more modern elements integrated these days. In this case, there is a bit of shoe gaze in the sound and some electronic thrust surrounding the powerful core instruments. They are on to some nice things here. A bit more time and experience and they could really go the next time around. For now, this is fun stuff.

Songs to start with first:

Bronco - This bronco starts off the record in full gallop. Careful or it may buck you in the end.

Never last - Well, it lasted with me with its sharp driving melody.

Black Panther - Sounds like the type of garage hit that was happening when Eldridge Cleaver was THE Black Panther.

SLOW DOWN MOLASSES “BURNT BLACK CARS”

This is a heavy side of shoegaze/indie rock that plays around a bit with forms and creates some deep shimmering songs that should resonate with a lot of rock fans. They play around with lighter pop to heavier rock structures, tighten it, space it out, but keep a cohesive sound. This UK band sounds from that island in each of these nine songs, no mistaking that (unless they were a US band trying hard to sound British). The songs don’t fully come together into a stunning album, but still a strong album with some lovely highlights. Well worth a listen if you like this style and not a bad entry point either, for newbies.

Songs to start with first:

Burnt Black Cars - Fine shoegazey feeling at times but powerful crunching guitars and a nice pace take this to new heights.

Resurrection Blues - A little slower, bluesier, but great atmosphere beyond the basics.

Don’t Forget the Youth - Steady rocker with heavy guitars, Jesus/Marychain vocals, and a catchy hook.

VAADAT CHARIGIM “SINKING AS A STONE”
If you enjoy the ten minute plus opener, ‘Neshel’, you should enjoy the other six songs. This Israeli band sings in Hebrew but plays in the best tradition of UK shoe gaze rock. This is very steady and shimmering, not unlike Ride, but with less power and dynamic shifts. Although some jolts of variety would be nice, I don’t mind it when the groove is working well enough and the band is locked in. All in all, this is a fine effort and the band are going to interest a lot of this genre’s fans. With just a bit more exploration, they can pull in even more progressive heavy rock followers.

VOWS “SOON ENOUGH LOVE”

I like popsike music quite a bit, but the ratios here are about 90/10, which is too poppy for my tastes. But if given a chance, Vows may just warm you if you share my formula. They brandish catchy songs and light vocals with some strength behind them to stay atop the wash of music. I would like to see them push a bit further next time and then I will be completely sold. I was happy to stay with all ten songs as the album got stronger as it went on.

Songs to start with first:

Day to Day - Good swirling intro merges into a light pop song with flitting vocal work.

The Snake - A bit on the second rate Beatles side of music… Badfinger? Klaatu?

Keeps Ridley - This has the right amount of psychedelics and it is still catchy.

RYLEY WALKER “PRIMROSE GREEN”
The world needs more people that try to rediscover the territory Tim Buckley explored 45 years ago. It is a world of brazen intensity taking a folk starting point, heading toward rock one moment, free jazz the next, all with vocal intensity. Walker does not have the 5 octave range, but he is free and expressive with his vocal lines. Underneath is a flowing series of instruments that have loads of charismatic shifts into psychedelic territories as well as the arid ground. There is a lot of buzz about Ryley Walker and based on this fine album, it is fully deserved and then some. I hope he can continue to write fine songs and maintain this exploratory vision of worlds that we just don’t get to see and hear as much as we should.

Come see the live show at the Rock’n’Roll Hotel on June 25th.

Songs to start with first (but just listen to them all):

Primrose Green - The opener establishes busy encircling instrumentation to ensure that everyone understands this is no ordinary folk or folk rock record.

Summer Dress - The second cut extends the record out further into Tim Buckley territory with stand up bass, jazzy singing, and jams.

Sweet Satisfaction - This 6 1/2 minute cut is wildly psychedelic and one of the coolest songs of the year.

YOUR 33 BLACK ANGELS “GLAMOUR”
This Brooklyn band has an interesting past meets present approach. They have plenty of their psychedelic garage elements here, but there is a spritely electronic attack working in as well. Sharp jabbing moments mix with cottony backdrops and when they add a solid melody, things really click. They don’t always nail it, but their creative push is worth exploring with some fine highlights along the way.

Songs to start with first:

Remote Viewing - Their classic psychedelic approach with some electronic trickery carefully woven into their sturdy fabric.

Glamour - The title cut is lovely psychedelia, even with some of that modern electronica feeling they have infused in this album.

Run to the Night - A little edgier on the motorik side of rhythmic psychedelia—catchy vocals, too.

YUKON BLONDE “MYSTIC SONS”
This is the kind of radio fare I turned away from very quickly in life. It is pretty pop music with just a hint of R&B, but not enough for fans of that genre to take notice. As annoyed as I was at the ooh-ooh backing vocals, it was far better than hearing the banal lyrics here. I guess I was never a 12-year old romantic at heart, or at least I can dream I expressed myself better. Normally I try to find an audience that may like a record that I don’t, but this is just too far afield for me. After listening to this, I found that this record got some good press, so please read that. There is always something for everyone.

VARIOUS ARTISTS “DON’T THINK I’VE FORGOTTEN - CAMBODIA’S LOST ROCK’N’ROLL”
Thanks to the incredible vocals of Chomm Nimol and her band Dengue Fever’s dedication to promoting Cambodian music within an LA psychedelic context, Cambodian music has been highlighted on the musical map in recent years. This compilation showcases some of the riches that are there to discover (as Dengue Fever has with trips to Cambodia). There is garage brilliance in Baksey Cham Krong to traditional singing from Cheam Chansovannary. I learned that Public Image was not the first band to incorporate Swan Lake into rock music, as Chhoun Malay does a brilliant job with it here. And Sinn Sisamouth surely is the Cambodian Serge Gainsbourg. This is a brilliant album which will transport you to a time that sounds familiar, but to a place few of us have ever visited. This will be on my permanent playlist as collections are rarely this interesting. And even better news, this is a soundtrack to a film hopefully playing at a theater near you (or your tablet).