Friday, November 1, 2013


If I forgot your record, please remind me. I have a system--everybody has a system. Systems break down. I also review albums for Folkworld and even buy albums for my own consumption, old school as that is. So anyway, stay in touch as there is a lot going on in my head at any given time. That said, I think most of the submissions are covered here and there are some gems and lots of interesting records this month, so peruse, please...

After wincing at the painful pun in the title, I settle in to listen to this four-song EP from Belgium. Although many easy listening types would be wincing at this heavy post metal dirge, I find it welcome to my ears. The band has a melodic structure through much of it that matches Birthday Party sharpness to Melvinsesque forms. There is a looser, more raw and fuzzy tone to this music, as opposed to those bands. They are able to compose a complete song and execute it under three minutes, or take it to long droning lengths. That is the kind of variety I like in breaking this up for longer and repeated listenings. There is a lot going on in Belgium that is worth a listen and if you like droning alt metal, I would recommend driving this one around the block.. or rather letting it drive you.

Punk rock from Italy in 2013? Why not, as Raw Power was one of the better hardcore punk bands back in the late 1980s. This EP goes a little further back and forward as the grinding chords and twisted vocals remind me more Swell Maps meets the Weirdos. AustraliA uses throbbing piano as the core rhythm in "I Can't Go On" with murky guitar chords as the jarring element. The twisted vocals are surprisingly melodic and this song is quite catchy in an odd pop punk style. I appreciate their eclectic style, which is nearly essential for anyone wanting to establish a presence in the broader punk rock world of the 21st Century. Yet, "Xyz" has a wonderful head bobbing sharp pop-punk melody pushing the Buzzcocks through a Butthole Surfers blender.
Boardwalk has a great take on old pop music. While they clearly bring back fond memories of the Lee Hazelwood style, they incorporate lush shoe gaze sounds with electronic jabs of modernity. The old and new marry well in these songs with tricky little guitar lines and chords dancing around while the vocals float along. Variety while often important is not a criterion I can apply to this album, although the band does a good job of differentiating between the songs with subtle arrangements shifts and melodic differences that ensure you don't feel like you are listening to one album of ambiance. These are nice songs with a lot to focus on. If you are not a fan of the style, you probably won't be converted, but if you enjoy anything like this, I believe Boardwalk may become one of your favorites.
Songs to try out first:

I'm Not Myself - There is a playfulness in this lush pop opener that also goes a bit Lynchian (David, not Jane).

Crying - The opening guitar lines had me expecting Nancy Sinatra or Lesley Gore to walk in the room.

High Water - This cut has some well written passages that subtly work a lot into the mix.

I have seen two good shows by this interesting twin guitar Virgina based quartet. Often when I enjoy a rocking performance by a singer-songwriter, indie rock styled band, I am disappointed by their recordings as it ends up softer and more middle of the road. Thankfully, this is not the case on this six-song EP. "Into Your Arms" opens up with heavy riffing guitars that combine with the rhythm section to take the Bo Diddley style into a more modern treatment. They move into more classic and indie rock territory with jangly rhythm guitars, crisp leads and nimble bass atop the drums. The vocals are smooth and welcoming. That this sounds good is no surprise as it is a Don Zientara production from Inner Ear Studio. These guys offer some personality within comfortable rock forms and should be investigated by local rock fans.
This is good, strong indie rock offered up by this local trio. It is not precious indie rock, but full throated rock music that spans a couple generations. This is another fine recording from the Inner Ear Studios, which may have something to do with it sounding like late eighties hardcore properly advanced into the 21st century. There is that shared sense of emotion in the vocal work, but it is not overdone like happens too often. The guitars are not afraid to push forward hard and loud, while the rhythm section is interesting with solid drum work and a few prominent bass lines. There is nothing terribly original here (as is the case in most releases), but there is simply high quality rock music that works its way into your system with ease, style, and just the right amount of force. It is worth a listen and then several relistens.

Songs to try out first:

This City Will Burn - The title cut establishes the sound and hooks you in early.

Keys - Old style big rock sound with a charming indie style.

Us Against - Another song that could be from many eras, just a pleasure to listen to.

Normally I do not review singles, but when you issue one that is 9 1/2 minutes long, that's an EP for me, so it is worth the time. And I don't say no to Philadelphia's Disco Machine Gun, who have far too long been flying under the radar as one of the most creative and entertaining alt metal acts. They make music for progressive fans who just cannot seem to find anyone heavy enough that understands creative music and thoughtful arrangements. Listen to the violins trade off with the guitar solos here, this is just not a sound that I can compare to too many bands. Yet the overall effect should have Opeth and Kylesa fans drooling all over this. Come on metal fans that want more, I know you are out there. Get aboard here, before it is too late. And even if it is, there is a profoundly good quality of work these guys are leaving to us.
Thomas Medard of the Belgian band Dan San has released this intriguing solo record under his chosen name of 'the Feather'. He chose the name well for this music is like a feather floating in the proverbial gentle breeze. This is flowing rock music with a pastoral folk feeling and even some electronics merged in organically. The music varies a bit, but it works a terrain in between baroque pop and the prog-psyche-folk of Fit & Limo. The vocals are lovely and even have that far away enchantment of COB at times. Think Brian Wilson and George Martin style complexity when the words 'pop music' are used for music such as this. The production is not quite that complex, but it is more than what you usually hear these days. It is even more amazing when Medard plays everything on this record. This is in the same area as Jacco Gardner and even Syd Barrett at times, although not as whimsical as either of those. Along with the Jacco Gardner album, this is one of the best of the year.
Songs to try out first:

The Songs we Sing at Sunset - Hopefully the opener will set the mood for the album. This succeeds.

What If - Here's the COB harmonies merged into a song that would be a psyche folk classic, were it only psyche-folk in style. As it is, it's a classic song.

Around - At nearly six minutes, it is still not long enough. It creates a world I want to live in for a long time.

Imagine Kate Bush making a record with arrangements from early Nico, yet with modern electronics. That hardly describes this creative outing, but it puts you in the right direction, a direction few of us travel too often. This is bold and striking music, but comes forward with intimacy and controlled dynamic shifts. When you can bring real warmth to experimental music and keep in a context that a simple pop music fan can pick up on, then you are doing something very right. There is a a whole lot of warmth underneath this Nordic cool that this Oslo born singer works into her songs. They tell me that her live shows are compelling and with music this imaginative, it is hard to know how it will change for the better or even to stay at this level. But I aim to find out when she comes to town.

And she does that this Tuesday, Nov 5th at the DC9. See you there.

Songs to try out first:

Innocence is Kinky - It's also a bit spooky, the way Jenny Hval sings it with a throbbing beat, various drones, and jarring guitar among a lot of open space for these intriguing vocals.

Renee Falconetti in Orleans - I simply love the title… google it, if you don't get it.

Amphibious Androgynous - This has epic qualities with ringing acoustic guitars, dreamy drones, and wailing backing vocals behind her strong lead work.

It is hard to be extremely original within a rock music setting any more, but there are still plenty of ways to combine forms and styles in interesting ways. King Khan has done that here with his take on garage rock by using unique arrangements and subtle cultural melting pots of sound. He is from Montreal, although he spent much of his youth on a Mohawk reservation. I am not sure what music motivated him early on, but eventually he found a way to assemble a great band and come up with exciting arrangements for his uptempo pop-rock songs. There is a lot more than rock going on here to, as lounge music, purer pop, funk, and other worldly moves pop up from song to song. This has the spirit of Fitz and the Tantrums, but is more unpredictable. And more often than not, the unpredictable nature of his musical choice is a successful path. Jaded music lovers who tire at quantity of even good bands stacking up on their listening pile, should make some room for King Khan & the Shrines.

They play tonight, Nov 1st, at the Black Cat.

Songs to try out first:

Born to Die - Right away, you know you are in for something special with Eastern modal patterns and brass integrated into a catchy garage rocker.

Thorn in Her Pride - More great brass and fine vocal work.

Darkness - A vocal that is eerily similar to that of Aphrodite's Child, which is hard to do. Nice style shift.

When punk rock broke, there was a flurry of seven inch singles, seven inch eps at 33 1/3, 12" singles at 45rpm, as well as conventional long players. What this meant, was you would often play records at the wrong speed. Once in a while they sounded kind of cool, but most of the time, you would have this reflex action of looking down toward your turntable speed switch. I had that when this EP started even though I was listening to an MP3 and my turntable had been switched off for months. So this is my long way of saying that these Chipmunks styled vocals are quite intentional. They vary them a bit, but a couple songs are downright distracting due to this. The music is full-on electronica and dance oriented, although not at an overly throbbing pace. The songs have abrupt endings and frankly this does not sound very good at all to me. Even though this is not my area, I am not sure this record represents Odesza terribly well.
Snappy synth pop works for me when the hooks are strong and the vocals are good. Piano Club pretty much covers these key points. Even better, they vary the songs so you get places where they push the envelope with a little more noise and other times they emit pristine electronic pop music. I would recommend seeing them live at a club near you, but you will have to one of my Belgian readers to take that advice.

Songs to try out first:

Me and Myself - Snappy pop tune that takes me back to the 80s with a more modern electronic production working.

On the Wagon - This one is particularly bouncy with nice counterpoint guitars and keyboards.

A Long Time Ago - This has a more industrial pop style with almost a dub sound at times. Interesting deep vocals, too.

This local band takes a shoe gaze approach to electronic music and has created five songs heavy on atmosphere, that lean a little dark and contemplative. "Bummer Shakes" really works well in a Banshees meets Cocteau Twins cocktail that has me refraining from, typing so I can take it all in. "Goldleaf" was also lovely, although the rest have abruptness issues or are nice backing sort of sounds. Still, there are some fine things working here, so it would be a pleasure to take in a full set in a club or to listen further for follow-up.
Kurt Vile joins former bandmate Robert Robinson for this three-song ep which is lovely psychedelic-folk stroll through the woods. At least it starts out that way, but by the end of the third cut, these two have dug deeper into the inner space of the mind or the outer space of the solar system. You decide. Either way, this is a fine example of why it is always worth spending time on Kurt Vile projects. I am also going to keep Sore Eros in my listening sphere as well.
Thick and creative metal fans, step this way. Supervoid has the riffs and power to fill that deep craving that never is quite fully filled, despite the many quality bands in this field. The music is solid, but what is often either a fail or a cliche are the vocals for upcoming sludge/death metal bands. Thankfully this band rises well above that as these quality vocals vary from tough death metal style to something that seems a cross between Kyuss and Pearl Jam. So not quite as extreme as Opeth, but it does have that welcome contrast. There is plenty of thought in the arrangements and the album has smooth and smart transitions. The songs are tuneful and memorable. This is a fine achievement and a band that should develop a strong fan base if they can hook up on enough quality metal billings.
Songs to try out first:

Coat of Luminous - Lots of genre shifts within two minutes and the transitions are smooth and powerful.

Wake of the Smoke Jumper - Good hard sound to spooky psyche sound shifts always work with me, at least when done this well.

The Bear - At just under 8 1/2 minutes, the closer covers quite a range of styles, yet flows majestically.

Long one of my favorite DC area live acts, this is the first Teen Mom record I have listened to. It is only a four song ep, but clocks in just under 20 minutes, so it is a good way to explore their sound. The first cut establishes a dreamy psychedelic pop vibe with some sharp guitar chords and some lightly funky bass moves toward the end. The next three songs follow with a similar popsike vibe. They are smoothly flowing tunes with gentle pop hooks that maintain the atmosphere while evoking motion. By the time of the chunky, fuzzy guitar chords to ride out on, you can try to pull yourself out of that relaxed position in your mind or lounge chair. Give this EP a taste test and be are to catch Teen Mom live. They put on a great set and are usually part of a good bill.
Listening to five ripping barroom rockers with a good vocal touch is a fine way to spend 20 minutes. This local trio grinds out the goods and breathes enough life into the hard rock genre, to warrant a listen. They may lapse into Black Oak Arkansas land musically, which is not a bad thing, but thankfully elevate matters with more stylish and less domineering vocals. This EP is an appetizer for the main course, which is the live on stage show for music such as this. And after seeing the set recently, it is one to check out some time soon.

This shoe gaze pop is served dry as the desert, which makes sense as they are from Tel Aviv, Israel. Shoe gaze is not really fair to the subtlety of their sound and the fine songs they write. It wavers between dreamy and drone and the guitar magic almost sounds like Wire more than that of Jesus and Marychain. They sound a bit like Sonic Youth at their subtle best with vocals closer to some lost British post punk dream pop rocker. The songs vary in that some grab me and stay all over me with every note, while others are merely nice moody pieces suitable for the background of other tasks. So at their worst, Vaadat Carigim is a pleasant band that is listenable, while at their best, they have great songs with a lovely sound.
Songs to try out first:

Odisea - The contrast between the tasty crunch of the electric guitars and the clear tones of the acoustic guitars work some magic.

Kezef Al Hamayim - What a pop hook here, sounds so familiar, yet very personal and unique.

Ein Nehama Ladoachim - A good example of how to make a classic rock melody sound modern and interesting.

This active local band is back with their third LP and the power pop is popping once again. This is hefty, hard rocking power pop with fully propulsive instrumentation. The pop is located mostly in the vocals as these guys still remind me a lot of the Undertones with their infectious hooks (and strong guitars). At times, it may get a bit overwhelming if you are not a fan of this style, but they do it so well, that the best songs translate well with rock music fans of different genres. This is a fine band that is worth going out of your way for.

And you can do just that at their ALBUM RELEASE SHOW at Jammin Java, Monday-Dec 2nd.

Songs to try out first:

You Set the World on Fire - A powerful song with a powerful hook will jump out and grab you right out of the box.

Nikki's Plan - The vocals are very Feargal Sharkey-like as this shows off their personality as well as any song does.

Rings Around the Sun - Not so much power pop, as grandiose pop, big in sound, big in spirit.


This is folk music that has that psychedelic sensibility not with flailing sitars or reverb, but more of a sense of space in the vocals and the staggered timing in the guitar notes. There is some distant violin and piano punctuation that creates intriguing atmospheres and tensions, but the lead male vocals and female harmonies lead the way in these six songs. They remind me a bit of the Mills/Raven albums, but this foursome has their own sound takes its cue from classic English, European and American folk from the late sixties to late seventies. There may be some traces of Hunter Muskett and Mac Murrough in here, too, although this is more American than that (although I don't hear a lot of San Antonio, Texas here). The band members all have some unique skills of timing and emotional resonance they bring to the arrangements, which set them apart from simpler players. This is memorable music and far better than for a lot of what has passed as nufolk or wyrdfolk in recent years. They can be the third band in to my dream billing of Espers and Faun Fables.

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