Monday, September 1, 2014


It is hard enough for me to get a handle on electronica, but I only have five songs here to learn what Alma Construct is about. They are mostly instrumental (until the final song) and are more interested in landscapes and thoughtful moods than in pop music or dance beats. They vary the thickness of their sound and do a nice job of fading in and out the various synthesizer washes to bring some drama to their music. If you like this sort of thing, it seems they do it well as there is some thoughtful moves here to work with. This band is actually a 19 year old man, so there is nothing if not significant upside.

Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson seems to be on another wave of prolific writing and creativity. Following 2012's epic follow-up 'Thick as a Brick 2', he has continued with a theme oriented song cycle. He has brought back the fictional Gerald Bostock to 'write the lyrics' which cover the rather large cradle to the grave theme of humanity working across these fifteen songs. The music matches the breadth of these themes as not only will fans make many connections to previous Jethro Tull sounds, there are other classical and world elements embedded in the arrangements. There are the heavy moments in 'The Turnpike Inn' and the folkier elements of 'Puer Ferox Adventus'. Is this his best since 'Roots to Branches' (which I felt was brilliant)? It is hard to say as there have been a string of fine albums in between. Suffice it to say, that long-time Jethro Tull fans have little reason to be disappointed with the choices Ian Anderson is making in his songwriting and the execution of these fine albums in the 21st Century.

Come back tomorrow for my interview with Ian Anderson and then get your tickets for his Lincoln Theatre performance on November 6th.

Songs to try first:

Doggerland - Strong opener sets the tone for a panoply of sounds that you expect from a wide open Ian Anderson album.

Puer Ferox Adventus - Lovely seven minute song that weaves a classic folk rock tapestry.

Tripudium ad Bellum - Instrumental piece that reminds me of distant Tull and even a bit of Pentangle.

This is an intriguing combination of electronica, shoe gaze rock, dream pop, and maybe even a touch of post punk rock. Rather than a mess a conflicting tastes, Bear in Heaven manages this combination with a delicate touch and brings out the best of these styles. The ultimate effect is a dreamy environment with lighter pop moves and some post punk flashes in the beats or guitar. The vocals blend in but have enough force to take a lead role in most of the songs. It is all agreeable to the ear and is quite charming in the end.

Songs to try first:

Autumn - Opening cut successfully marries many styles and focuses int a unified theme for this band.

If I Were to Lie - Dreamy, but with a bite.

Memory Heart - Great vibe created by use of space and contrast.


I suppose if you put shoe gaze music into a taffy pulling machine and set it to power pop, you may get something like 'Bummer Summer'. Flashlights have a thick fuzzy, shoegazey sound that they somehow stretch into catchy pop rockers that appeal to album listeners and certainly those that head to the clubs. OK, a simpler description is modern garage with punk-pop-rock style and plenty of energy. There is good heart in the vocals, although she knows how to pull back a bit for emphasis, which is a smart touch. Some songs work better than others, but the variety is nice and the gems stay with me, so I look forward to seeing this band live.

And I will be doing that when Flashlights and the very fine Paws open for Total Slacker at the DC9 on Monday, September 8th.

Songs to try first:

All Cats are Beautiful - They had me at the title, but the fuzzy shoe gaze pop was good, too.

Bottle Kids - Great Swell Maps rocking melody atop nimble drums and cool vocals carrying it along.

Islands - A nice quiet break amongst the rockers, with piano and vocals leading into a more contemplative mid tempo rock ballad of sorts.

Straight blues is tough these days. It is all pretty good, but the form is rather rigid, so you better be at the top of the game or you are just one of many. So why not twist it around a bit and raise a few eyebrows? That is what Greek musician Paul Karapiperis has done with these seven sinful songs. Purists may want to condemn him to Hell for this sacrilege, but I was thrilled with the way he could add wildly psychedelic passages to standard blues runs and make it all sound so natural. The opener "Welcome Boy" is a wild journey through earth and space clocking in at nearly seven minutes. There are a lot of subtle shifts here and there with even some Spanish flair shown in some of the guitar moves. This a grounded psychedelic album with exciting twists and turns that should have any psychedelic music fan very interested.


Instantly I am reminded of the 3 O'Clock, or more accurately the name they first went under: Salvation Army (one guess as to why they changed it to The 3 O'Clock). The reasons are simple, not only do they capture that same spirited sense of popsike, but also the vocals are quite similar, only a tad lower on the register. The other key is the quick pace of these songs. The bass lines are fast with light but nimble drumming to match it. The guitars dance around letting the vocals create the dreamier psyche atmosphere. This style of music may be getting over played these days, but I don't think it has reached saturation point. With bright bands that tend to their craft like Philadelphia's Literature, there is still plenty of room for more pop music with that 1960s happy psychedelic vibe.

Literature plays at GWU this Sunday, September 7th.

Songs to try first:

The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything - Snappy cut gets things started with both feet running.

Court Date - Breezy style, still with plenty of pace.

Dance Shoes - Smooth harmonies over the top of underwater guitar moves. Fascinating sounds.

Some times it is more impressive when I moderately enjoy a band in a genre where I am a tough sell than it is for a band to do well in my comfort zones. Love Links has a light electro-pop approach that I would easily dismiss no paper. Fortunately, Love Links has an approach and style that pulled me in and kept me with them for these ten short songs. The female vocals are soft and effective with light melodies punctuating the vocals, while metronomic rhythms drive it along with an intriguing contrast. I also like the jabbing fuzzy electric guitar which stands out in the space created here. This is a fun little album that hopefully will surprise many more.

This is about as straightforward a style of pop music as I've heard in a while. There are modern electronic touches, old style guitar solos and female vocals that are warm with just the right amount of power. I was all set to be a little negative with this release as I did not see how they could do anything beyond the basic structure of the first song. But then. lo and behold the magic worked in very confusing ways as this is just way too straight for me. But then I recall my guilty passion for songs like Giorgio Moroder's 'Call Me' and it made sense. This band hits all my pop buttons that are buried deep into some of early musical experiences. Just don't tell my friends how much I really like this music.

Songs to try first:

Inferno - This hook yanked me in with the uncontrollable force that is pop music

Part of Me - Dramatic vocal work makes this song move along to the crisp rhythm.

Tell Me How it Feels - This rocks to the point I feel I am hearing Richie Blackmore playing with Blondie.

This five song EP is a decent enough document of Mutual Benefit's creative flair int he world of pop music. I would prefer something a little longer as their subtlety creates a slow build in my mind where it takes a lengthy listen to fully appreciate what they do. I did enjoy the more overt psychedelic touch they employed on 'Backwards Fireworks'. That is the the Mutual Benefit which interests me most. They offer a light but serious approach to pop music and are worth exploring if this is your beat.

Check out their live show at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Thursday, September 11th.

Although singer/songwriter Ben Riddle is Australian, the band is southern California all the way and it shows. Although both the USA and Australia have similarities with the more spacious western lands, so it is a fine musical marriage. They manage to find the common ground of expansive rural folk that is rooted to the historical roots of music more than one place. they waver between country and folk, and of course I prefer the folkier cuts. Nothing is particularly weak here, so this should be an album for all fans of those genres as well as those on a lookout for solid singer songwriters.

Songs to try first:

Hold Me - A memorable melody and arrangement stays with me well after this one ends.

The Sea - Lovely melody with harmonies and cool banjo/accordion arrangement with guitar and the rest.

This is Happening - Brisk drum work with a light touch reminds me that yes, this is fine folk rock and not too country for me.

DC band Soja has some smooth reggae working here in these thirteen songs. There are several guest stars to help shape some variant sounds which helps keep things fresh. But the core sounds are good and there is a soulful approach here that merges in classic should and R&B moves in a radio friendly blend (as we said back in the day). That may be a bit off-putting at times but the quality is there and the heart seems genuine enough. They succeed at getting you on the dance floor and may keep you on the toes with the shifts in vocals and style.

Songs to try first:

Your Song - featuring Damian Jr., Gong Marley with great vocal interplay.

Once Upon a Time - pop sensibility within reggae moves and dancehall horns.

She Still Loves Me - this one is on the pure side of reggae and the vibe is a welcome fulcrum.

I saw Brian Trahan a while back with his band Farewell Republic. He alerted me to a new project he has undertaken with a set of fine musicians under the name Sun Nectar. This a seven song album with songs long enough and worked out thoughtfully enough, that it deserves the title of album. Initially, I thought that this would be a standard electro-pop record, but the complexities of the songs and talents of the musicians explode out quite quickly in an understated manner. 'This Monster' is an amazing song and could almost be math rock with some theoretical fuzzy math theorems at the core. The strings there and in other spots are striking. 'Shepherd, Shepherd' is also a highly effective song that reminds me of Fuchsia meeting the Decemberists. As exciting as the music is, there is a relaxed quality thanks to the easy going vocals and overall atmosphere. This is a sharp, intelligent record that does not lack emotion as it challenges listeners trying to fit it in to expected patterns. Pop music always will work at primitive levels, it is nice to see it work at advanced levels as well.


Shoegazey psychedelic rock that at times reminds me of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and other times kicks it up a notch into Wooden Shjips territory. I like the space in the guitar sound and the metronomic rhythms rally pull me into what they are doing. They lack a little of the edge that may put this near my favorite album pile, but I wouldn't mind giving this a few more spins. This is a fine little record that may not overwhelm, but is able to sustain a comfortable atmosphere that should appeal to many a listener.

Songs to try first:

Slacker - I like the easy going pace and the vocals do rather live up or down to the song's title.

Frances in Space - Has a Hawkwind/Krautrock hypnotic rhythm allowing the guitarist to cut loose.

Unknowns - Relaxed psyche-rock in that BRMC manner.

This local release is a good fix for anyone's metal habit. I never get too far away from heavy loud riffage, although I would likely get bored if I tried to live a life of metal. But there are plenty of newer acts putting welcome additional spins on the genre as well as those that want to recapture the magic of early Black Sabbath. There is a little bit of both here. Just when these songs establish a catchy riff, the man behind this record (Luis Castellanos) tosses in something unexpected and creative. It does not get too overwhelming for the purists, but offers more for those of us that feel like we've 'heard it all'.

Songs to try first:

Lethal Elite - Thick metal with a nice Opethy break.

Drone War - Crunchy Sabbath riffs with a few tricky shifts.

Awake - Thoughtful shifts between quiet and loud with loads of dynamics

I was quite excited when I was approached with this album from Belgium's Will Z. He sent it as I was a fan of the amazing 1978 album Book of AM done by Gong's Daevid Allen and some communal musicians living on an island off of Spain. Will Z. worked with two of these musicians here. Sometimes projects like this sound better than the results, as maybe a fan of the music gets the people together but the core of the new work isn't as strong as the concept. Fortunately, here Will Z. has some lovely songs that are fully in the spirit of the Book of AM album and moves from psyche-meditative to what even becomes fairly catchy folk rock. There are some nice arrangements with different sounds, but plenty of space as well as this music works perfectly between Book of AM and Fit & Limo. There are more misses than hits with modern artists trying capture that magic psychedelic folk feeling from the sixties and seventies. This is a big hit and should have any fan of the genre giving full attention.

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