Wednesday, October 1, 2014


The fine Belgian record label Hypertension has released record number three of their five planned albums featuring two artists on one 12" record album. The first two releases were quite exciting and this delivers yet another two interesting bands that carve out significant creative space in the musical universe.

Drums are for Parades engages in trippy dark psychedelic ambiance to coin a genre. Just when you settle in, they twist the tones around to put you on the edge of your seat. Thoughtful music for the dark krautrock fans of old and new. Highly interesting and engaging, this.

Sardonis is more in the nu-metal camp. They play thick instrumentals and the first cut has a dancing folk melodic quality that reminds me of Black Sabbath meeting Circulus. I love classic melodies and Sardonis delivers them with real panache. They may need some variety as they go beyond these four songs, but this is exciting material and they likely can grow from this.

This is one tasty album. And for me, that usually means there is intelligence afoot in the songwriting with crisp mid-tempo rock arrangements. There is a lot of that here with some songs veering toward pop, but most having either a rootsy base or more ethereal rock moves. The vocals are steady with a pullback on emotions rather than an in your face thrust. The drums, bass, and guitar playing is all nimble and well done. There are even a few songs where the fuzz guitar achieves some of thickest fuzz sound I have heard, perhaps more disarming within the context of these clever songs. This is a high quality album that has me bouncing along throughout the 11 songs.

I will be out of town, but you should head over to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Sunday, October 12th to see what these guys can do on stage.

Songs to try first:

Kings and Queens - A sharp little rock song with a cliff walking ending.

We Come from the Same Place - The busy playing is so smooth, that it flows like thick chords.

Bright Eyes - I am not sure which I like more, the call and response vocals or the fuzz lead guitar.

This Japanese band seems more psycho than psychedelic, but there is a method in their madness. Vocals pull back or scream out. Guitars slash away like chainsaws at post-punk party. The rhythm section pulsates once and then hits that Big Black overdrive next. There are quieter psychedelic moments such as in the nearly ten minute "Mukaeni Ikenai", but this is mostly a heavy affair. But there is intrigue around every corner as this band adds some extra spice to familiar ingredients. At times, it gets a little too noodling, but there is enough inner strength to keep it flowing. This is definitely a band I'll be listening to again and again.

Songs to try first:

Psychedelic Misemono Goya (reprise) - This grinder is way cool.

Slider - A lot of sliding, slashing, confrontational tones merging together into a great song.

Maki-Modoshi - Spaceman 3 gone funk? Believe it!

The Nerves are not as known as they should be, as they were an excellent LA pop-punk band. Even if you don't know them, you may know one of their songs, "Hanging on the Telephone" which was covered by Blondie. Collins was the drummer, but has played guitar, sang, written, and pretty much done it all in his solo career or with his band, the Beat. Extremely catchy music has been the connector between it all no matter what genre leaning is going on, and nothing has changed here. These 12 songs are likely to be even more hook oriented than many a modern pop album you could pull up, so give this a listen.

Songs to try first:

Feel the Noise - The title cut features rip roaring guitars with the expected pop hooks.

Baby I Want You - Gutsy vocals here to remind you that pop music can be tough and vibrant.

Don't Know How to Treat a Lady - This brings back the 60s from the Beau Brummels to the Byrds, all with a rocking drive.

There are many bands cropping up that bridge the '60s Punk' style with the '70s Punk' attack. In fact, from the Ramones onward, there was often a look back to 1960s pop and garage psyche-rock. Ex Hex captures all of this with an emphasis on pop songs played with Ramones pace. There are several shades of light and heavy shifting throughout these 12 songs, but the hooks and spirit are there in every one of them. I hear some of that charming Shonen Knife feeling here as well. The guitar work is crisp, the rhythms steady, and the vocals expressive. Add those catchy melodies and it is terribly difficult to avoid having fun listening to this music.

Catch this band this Sunday night at the Black Cat!

Songs to try first:

You Fell Apart - Real drive in this with fun lyrics.

How You Got that Girl - On the lighter side, which showcases their great pop style.

New Kid - Killer guitar runs lift this pop gem up.

Freeman is actually Aaron Freeman, who more people know as Gene Ween. With the Ween band in either hibernation or deep freeze storage, depending who you talk to, it is great to see Gene Ween active again under his real name. These songs are sometimes folky, sometimes rocky, with loads of the expected twists, turns, and even a few roller coaster dips here and there. It is a fun ride, with crazed lyrical twists to keep attention high. Even if he was humming, there are enough pop hooks and cool musical twists to keep the attention there as well. So basically this is a creative album with no loose spots or throwaway moments.

And be sure to come to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel show this Thursday night

Songs to try first:

Covert Discretion - The opening cut starts out delicately and ends with fury. Consider yourself awake.

I Couldn't Play my Guitar Like a Man - subtitle (for a while) as now he clearly can.

El Shaddai - Great Eastern moves always work with me.

Good pop moves are at work here in the writing and execution of these ten songs from this London collective. I hear elements from the Beatles to power pop to dream pop and much more in these arrangements that layer in sounds that alternately give room for the vocals and then thicken up the atmosphere to a more intense flow. There are a lot of exciting contrasts at work with smooth slightly understated female vocals pulling it together. Pop fans and rock fans that enjoy contrasting moves within an album should give this album a listen. There is a lot to like on it.

Songs to try first:

Tame - A touch of the whimsical Beatles pop early in this cut.

Keep Wondering - More assertive guitars add a stronger rock element, yet the vocals retain a light airy feel.

Don't You Wanna be Mine - Gutsy popsike number with some heavy sounds alternating between spritely passages.

More modern pop music for you on this album, which may be getting a bit excessive for me this month. Fortunately, Lia Ices has plenty of personality evident in her vocals and there are a variety of strong instruments percolating throughout these songs to keep me listening. This is not a style I would otherwise gravitate toward, but the sense of mystery and focus is more compelling than most of this ilk.

And try this out live at the 9:30 Club on Monday, October 20th.

Songs to try first:

Thousand Eyes - laid back journey by stream while looking at the clouds with two of those thousand eyes.

Love Ices - punchy percussion, tricky vocal effects and a nice melody add up to an intriguing song.

How We Are - Great intro passage and a nice build to this rhythmic song.

Pretty much only hardcore folkies who know their history will know how much of a compliment I am paying Itasca when I compare them to Joan Mills & Mike Raven. Yes, the female voice and acoustic guitar combo has been done often, but Itasca captures that deep woods psyche vibe that Mills & Raven cooked up so well in the early 1970s. There are moments where it gets as mystical as Book of AM and others that are a bit closer to straight folk. But nothing is terribly light here, there are layers of dreams slowing opening up in these eleven songs. This is one of the finer folk albums of the year.

Songs to try first:

Alleyway - The second cut establishes the Mills/Raven style that grabs attention.

The Hermit's View - Add a haunting flute with the haunting vocals and it's all the more powerful.

Nature's Gift - There is just a wee bit more tension with the restraint shown in the pace.

I can get pretty cynical about newer versions of punk rock these days. But when bands do it right, it still is a blast to listen to along side the classics that I still turn to. And all the better when I get to hear a great voice from the past in front of a new band that can deliver the goods. Dayton's Ed Pittman formed one of the finest midwest punk bands Toxic Reasons some 35 years ago. His new band, the New Regrets has much of the same intensity with that classic midwest straight ahead rock style that is rooted in hard rock of old, but played with punk rock pace and fury. It is especially great to hear that Ed still has the fire both in the lyrics and his voice to rouse the dead. So kick in to top gear with these five songs and reconnect to your own fire within.

Normally I run cold on electronica pop music, but Populous manages to integrate some ambient sounds and outsider bits that make this a lot more interesting than I would have guessed. There are still some songs that follow basic electropop patterns and fail to move me much at all, but with various guests and some creative touches, there may be something here that works as well for you as it does for me… and likely better. 'Vu' featuring Clap Clap and 'Quad Boogie' featuring Digi G'Alessio are a couple of cuts that work for me.

This is a surprisingly straight up pop record album. It should not be surprising, but when I don't hear much electronica, things that are overly dreamy, or any of the other modern touches, it is a bit unusual these days. Actually, there are some dreamy tones, but it still sounds almost dated in a good way. I am reminded of early 1970s which wasn't always good for pop music, but had its moments. This is not as dense as Abba, but it has some of the vocal qualities that takes me back there. It is not consistently exciting to me, but is surprisingly original and well thought out. Pop fans should definitely take a listen.

Songs to try first:

Dream the Dare - I am daring to dream this is Abba reborn.

Twins - Dancing melody with sharper vocals splitting into the mix.

Only Lonely Lovers - Breezy vocals over thicker sounds with a real feel-good vibe throughout.

I like just about every Toronto band I listen to and here is yet another whose third album is good enough to make me want to hunt down the earlier efforts and see what I missed. There are certainly some rural heartland elements at the cores of these songs, but there is a strong rock experience in most of them with huge sounds and vibrant melodic jabs working off the strong drumming. I have heard variations of this sound before, perhaps no more so than in the Decemberists when they were really rocking. I have no problem with the similarities when the music works as well as this. I would really enjoy a live show, so hopefully that is next.

Be sure to put down November 11th on your calendar as the night to see this band live at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel.

Songs to try first:

Our Love - The opener is both epic and intimate with an exciting arrangement.

Terrified - Tension created with quiet acoustic guitars battling loud electric guitars.

Not Love or Death - Strong rocker with thunderous drums.

Unlike Pure Bathing Culture, Slow Magic is clearly working in the modern electronic pop domain. The dreamy vocals are woven in between the many pulsating beats and melodies. Unfortunately, this music disarms me more than creates any magic. If your pop sensibilities run counter to mine (and in many cases, they surely will), you may want to try out this album as it has an interesting mix of sharp tones and soft textures. I like the attempts at contrast, but was still not left with enough of a change for me to fully embrace. I did rather enjoy the live effort a few weeks back.

I saw a video interview interview of Mike Patton who broke from his train of thought and said 'god, Wolfmother, what decade are we in?'. If you are someone like that who does not want to revisit the days of hard rock with younger 21st century bands, then you may not want to visit this album. But for anyone who likes that style, this fine local band dishes up some gutsy rock songs. They have the right amount of strength in guitars and the rhythm section to keep it invigorating. The vocals are good and some of the tunes stand out as well crafted songs. The recording is no frills, straight ahead with everything clear enough to get a taste of what they can do live, which is where this music plays out best. Check this DC area band out some time, hard rockers,

Songs to try first:

Don't Wanna Let It - Heavy with a good tune at he core.

Feelin' Around - Tuneful cut with some keyboards and punchy rhythms.

Poison Ida - There is some good wah-wah, but I just like the title with its hint at a certain great band.


We have eight songs here on this short LP, which offers plenty of gutsy songs from this Toronto quartet to grab on to and figure out what Teenanger is about. Their second song is called 'Sky Saxon'--now honestly, do you need to know anything more? Of course it is garage rock at its finest--complete with a wide as the world sneer in the vocals and even an extra post-punk attack in the instrumentation that has a bit more snarl than mere fuzz. There is a more deeper darker tone that fits better in to a post-punk world, so Teenanger has affected an interesting hybrid here. I think thoughtful rock fans will find something quite interesting here. I did.

This California trio has a great command of that state's tradition of marrying power pop and punk rock. Sure the hooks are here with great driving guitar and potent rhythm section, but the vocals also carry this forward with class. Just four songs here, but that was more than enough to get me hopping around and shaking my head to these lovely songs. They have that perfect balance of accessibility and edginess that I really hope to hear when I want to have fun and rock out (without turning off my brain). Ted Leo fans, check this out.

Even lo-fi punk can go a variety of ways. This Memphis outfit has a twisted psychedelic approach at times with arty guitars fed through harsh blender pre-amps. Twisted vocal work and oddball melodies complete the picture, as much as it can be. It is as if Chrome added members from Man or Astroman and Pere Ubu and let them cut loose with their signature sounds. In other words, an interesting album we have here. Not for everyone, nor should it be as that is what makes it fun. I recommend listening to all of it as this style sounds well enough early on, but the full effect is a winning formula that may have you hopping about the room by the time it finishes.

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