Thursday, December 31, 2015


There was truth in advertising when I read that Joel Ansett’s sound was folk-pop-rhythm&blues. There are clearly equal parts of these styles at work. It is an interesting collection of songs, as some songs lean heavily to each style, while others combine the styles in various percentages. At times, it engages the mathematical side of my brain more than I would like. Fortunately, Ansett’s warmth in his vocals keeps reminding you of the song and what he is musically saying. He has that seemingly easy going vibe that the more pop side of folk artist Al Stewart provided. Some songs are significantly better than others, mostly due to my taste, but other times the quality difference was noted. Joel Ansett is from my old home town of Denver and I hope he can make it out this way some time.

Songs to start with first:

Covered Up - The R&B side wins out in this song with the soulful vocal transcending it beyond the usual.

Give Our Hearts some Weight - Fine folk outing here, perfect in a coffeehouse or on a larger stage.

New York - Sumptuous vocals and delicate dreamy backing make this a highly attractive song.

A band like this reminds me of why I am just not as big a fan of British shoegaze music as some of my friends. This band is from Toronto and they certainly have enough of their own vision in here and are not trying to merely ride the long running wave. But the music just flows like lava from a shield volcano, slow, steady and the full tally of the effort comes much later on. In my case, too late to really get involved with. But if you are a fan, there are some nice variants in a few of the songs, so have a listen.

Songs to start with first:

1992 - Good chord progression sets the tone for the melodic vocal line to sink in.

Drown - A lighter deeper more melancholic type experience here.

Swooner - A few twists in this long closing cut.

Four classics given an updated electronica and distorted guitar touch. There is some acoustic guitar and piano, but most importantly a classic female voice that has the melody in full flight. Hey, it is Christmas music that has the right amount of classicism and recognition in the rendition to make it work for me. And oh that voice… that makes me want to check out this band further.

And come celebrate Leap Day with them when they are at the DC9 on February 29th.

Here’s a rich slab of funky rhythm & blues that has me wanting to dig deep into my Pam Grier and Carol Speed DVD collection. This music will take you back, even with some modern touches and not quite the edginess of those days. The rhythms vary enough and the songs are distinct and attractive. This is a fun record and I just need more of this in my life and it would not hurt most listeners to increase their fix of funk.

Songs to start with first:

Some Ol Dolls - Dim the lights, curl up in a velvety booth and enjoy the low-key funky R&B moves.

Church Burning Down - Driving funk rock, this will get you roused and moving.

Don’t Let Go - Quiet easy going folkish sounds invade the album to nice effect.

Five new songs comprise this EP from a North Carolina outfit (with local connections through singer Peter Vance) featuring a former member of the Clockwork Kids and Color Exchange. There is a strong spirit of dream pop embedded in a gutsy indie rock sound. They achieve a big sound as the production is strong as the guitars ring out steadily. It is the lead vocals that resonate profoundly, as the singer pulls and pushes his words with a dramatic flair with no shortage of grace. This is smart music, well produced, and with lots of heart. I fondly recommend it and am curious as to how it will turn out live.

And if you want to join me in that quest, you can catch the band live this Saturday, January 2nd when they play the Rock’n’Roll Hotel.

This is no two-faced album, although there are two sides of the sound with lots of explorations in between, as Matt Kivel writes lovely pop rock folk songs and occasionally infuses some jarring and exciting rock moves within. The result is somewhat between Tim Buckley and Chris Isaak with traces of Jason Pierce. Those are gigantic names for me and Kivel may not be quite at that level, but this album shows it is not too far a stretch to think that he could be. He is certainly doing some exciting things with his folk based style by adding drone like qualities to the longer songs and bursts of fascinating electric moments that sound quite otherworldly. His voice also transcends this world steadily as it is a reliable flowing melodic and emotional component throughout. Fine, fine fine.

Songs to start with first:

Janus - Incredible atmosphere with a subtle droning approach to this lush folk song.

Violets -  Flowing electric pop rock song with subtle yet exciting instrumental touches behind the lovely vocals.

Prime Meridian - Brief moments of King Crimson channeling in a Jason Pierce like soulful folk song.


This is quite an exciting collaboration that makes a lot of sense. Lucas is more the veteran creative songsmith and Klose the younger, though well beyond rookie status, singer songwriter. They both understand the trippier original aspects to song structures with Lucas’ resume bordering on unbelievable as he has worked with Beefheart, Pete Hammill, and Bryan Ferry, to name but three out of the dozens of amazingly original talents. He and Klose keep to the core in these songs with just voices and acoustic guitars, aside from a saxophone once. It has the feel of some of those excellent fingerstyle guitarists of old collaborating at the common starting point of the blues and then venturing out into their own trips and excursions into other musical territory. I would follow each of these artists separately, so together, well… try it and see.

Songs to start with first:

Secret Wings - Deep beginning smooths out into a sharp little song.

Jewel Julia - Spritely guitar melodies and a fine vocal line make the magic seem so simple.

Overture - Somewhere between Roy Harper and Tim Buckley, this one sends me into orbit.


This is Money’s second album and the first I have heard. They have a comforting style that sounds like you’ve heard it before, maybe many times before with different bands. Yet, it is not exactly lush British rock, shoegaze, or indie. Maybe checking off choice E. All of the Above is the best answer here. The real trick here is the confidence the band has to stretch out songs, twist them around, go bold and then quiet, quickly or slowly depending on the required setting. This is smart music with a nod to flamboyant entertainment. Quite possibly the only problem I had, was that the songs were slowly toppling over each other where a few more jarring short fast moments in between could work wonders. But I still wish more bands would aim this big even if you take the Icarus risk.

Songs to start with first:

I’m Not Here - Vocals move around with great extremes and contrast, while the music steadies it all out.

You Look Like a Sad Painting on Both SIdes of the Sky - Moody folk rock ballad like a twisted Radiohead.

Night Came - An epic clocking in at 8:35 and there is plenty going on even as the pace is oh so steady.

I had wondered if Joanna Newsom may have enough down deep within to retain both her charm and creativity given her extensive popularity by now. Clearly it is all there as this album sounds familiar to the fans, but adventurous and exciting enough to keep everyone involved. Her voice can be a bit twee at times, but it is easy to get used to and follow her stories amid complex arrangements. She gets help from a variety of musicians and there are different combinations in each songs. I prefer the focus on Newsom’s harp and the piano playing. The overly electric moments are a bit too Steely Dan for me (that is an insult coming from me). Ultimately this succeeds with me and I see no problem with it being a welcome addition to the Joanna Newsom catalog for her many many fans.

Songs to start with first:

Anecdotes - I am apprehensive at the start of this opener, but the magic is fully woven within by it’s conclusion.

Leaving the City - If you think this is too twee, give up now, or follow the paths out of the city into the netherworlds of imaginative psyche-folk.

Waltz of the 101st Lightborne - Flute, accordion, electric moments, strange vocals and spritely sounds really ramp up the ionization in this atmosphere.

This 2005 release is getting a tenth anniversary re-release on Jagjaguar, which should interest Okkervil River fans plenty. Of course the original eleven songs are here along with eight more songs from the band’s follow-up EP. There are also eleven cover songs recorded in the same general time period which gives a full 30 songs in which to discover and rediscover what Okkervil River was doing a decade back. I liked it then and still do, hearing the full array of songs and styles all here in one place. The varied style from hard rock to indie rock to Americana to dream indie-rock (not quite dream pop) really keeps a listener on their toes from song to song. The EP has stronger and even more varied material and is for people who really want to hear more than the expected. The covers interest me less as they are mostly stark arrangements of country or folk cuts, although the rousing ‘Good Liquor Carry Me Down’ was fun. So this release will definitely have enough for the fans and has plenty of music for the ‘neutrals’, much of which may convert you.

Songs to start with first:

For Real - Jarring electric guitar, hearty vocals and some smart arrangement choices add up to full to the brim song.

Missing Children - Spacey song of the EP sounds like a double dose of otherworldly.

Another Fine Radio Song - Gutsy intense rocker… great to see they have it in them.

This is the third album from an interesting post punk band that has more than a nod of influence to UK punk and post punk. The New Model Army comes to mind with the deep lead vocals atop a strong but clever rock sound. I also hear an Iceage like sound with less abandon and a bit more space between instruments. The guitars are a bit more psychedelic here and the songs are well formed with enough melodic and sonic shifts to make sure the post in post punk is still there. When the guitars are not overly atmospheric, their bite reminds me of the Wipers. So basically, there are a lot of great rock sounds in here supporting some very enjoyable songs. I am hooked.

Songs to start with first:

The Devil in His Youth - The opener should pull you in. If not, you probably never would have found my blog.

Pontiac 87 - A bouncy pop song with Chris Bailey or Iceage like vocals and strong rock guitar moves.

Clandestine Time - An almost serene rock song in between the noisy bits.


This band instantly grabbed me with its Syd Barrett style done in a more modern Jacco Gardner approach. There is also are jagged guitar bursts such as in Gang of Four and XTC that carve a unique musical space for this band. It is not often I discuss great popsike atmosphere with a gutsy post punk approach. Somehow they put it all together for an always interesting album. And when the songs are clever and playful, they really nail it. This is a fascinating little album that will uncover more levels with each listen, I would imagine. Masterpiece? Why not.

Songs to start with first:

Anthony Ivy - Whimsical and biting all in one short popsike song? Yes!

I Used to Be Darker - Lots of Gang of Four like space in this punchy pop song.

Literary Arts - Acoustic guitar and reverb vocals create a strong popsike atmosphere for this feel good song.


We have a full album from a new DC band, who sound more than ready for the stages that they have started playing on in recent months. They have a crisp indie rock that has the hooks but does not quite go the power pop route. Instead, they alter the volume of the guitars, add some acoustic guitars when needed and keep things fresh as the band keeps rocking. The vocals are solid and are confident enough to be bold and out front. They are working a familiar territory, but doing it well and they occasionally pull off a mild surprise, which is a good start for a new band. Hopefully a live review will follow in the early days of 2016. Stay tuned.

Songs to start with first:

Blissful Idiot - Snappy song with a great bassline and flowing parts from the rest. Catchy with just the right amount of toughness.

Drown - Good pace and melody.

Phosphorescence - I like the jagged acoustic guitar twist before more electric sounds—great sonic surprises here.

This somehow seems like a slick, timeless brand of pop music that I can not quite pin down. There is everything from a Dean Martin or Vicki Carr ballad on some long lost variety show mixed with modern post-Radiohead sounds. This record is not for everyone, but if you lived as long as I have, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the way Storrow injects so much charm in his music with such timeless devotion to different eras of popular music. This is a lot more unique than meets the eye if you listen to it as a single task.

Songs to start with first:

A True Christian - The big bold sound is quickly achieved and contrasts well with the more easy going pop vocals.

It’s You They Want - Quieter music, still rich with imagery and big, big vocals for a pop explosion.

Song of the Self-Reliant - Song of the 1960s crooner having a happy little David Lynchian dream.

It is hard for me not to enjoy wildly fuzzy guitars playing assertive psychedelic rock music. Some do it better than others and Strange Faces is on their way, but not quite at arrival point just yet. These sound more like raw outtakes to a Black Angels session, with moments of excellent pop hooks within, but not too steady and assured. They certainly may get there and if they are practicing too much stonerism, then perhaps some sober songwriting would be good right after. It is one thing to explore psychedelic terrain, but it sometimes works to write about it while sober and alert, with a good memory of what transpired. And if I am wrong, do the opposite, just keep at it.

Songs to start with first:

I Saw Your Face - I like the clean guitar leads slicing through the fuzz and reverb vocals.

Still Lit - This dirty garage pop cut hits the mark.

Why - Not a Byrds cover, but a good song with a nice melodic twist at the end.


Sometimes I hope beyond hope that an electronica pop band will not only engage me, but create some music that will resonate for a long time. It is not quite as hard as I make out in my head, but execution is a tricky business. Unknown Mortal Orchestra hits a lot of the right buttons for me. They start with varied vocals, interesting guitar parts, and a strong rhythm section. There is plenty of electronics to carry or work off the melody making this a tasty gumbo approach. Yet after the creative flourish is broadly approached, the band pulls it in with an organized approach that is very smart while not losing the  fun exploratory feel. They move through genre boundaries but keep their character better than most, hitting rhythm and blues and pop territory most frequently.

Songs to start with first:

Multi Love - Multi layers of pop magic at work in this title track. Instantly creative and accessible.

Ur Life One Night - An oddly modernized rhythm and blues that works in a unique way.

Extreme Wealth and Casualty Cruelty - Aside from the great title, this is a flowing song that is hard to clasify.


More Americana here, although I like the term Harlan Wells uses: Canadiana. It began with a highly cliched song, good, but I thought I may be in for ‘just another Americana album’, something I get a lot of these days. Fortunately Wells and his band snapped off some energized cuts that balanced a lot of instruments well and was lively and playful. The vocals do not do as much for me as they are breathy and too one dimensional. There is enough expression there so as not to be a serious drag on the proceedings, but overall there are just a few things that keep this from being an album I can recommend. If you like the genre, dig in, you will find at least a few standout songs.

Songs to start with first:

Adriana - A bouncy melody and some finely woven instrumentation with a delicate pattern (even the accordion is subtle).

Goodbye Rosie - Good rock moves and a slightly different instrumental mix.

Come on June - One more good tune.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Yes, we are still here, but with holidays, limited club schedules, guest list snafus, we haven't been to the clubs in a while. That will change in the new year and here are but a few of the temptations.

Folk-Lords comes to the Union Arts on Wednesday, January 6th. This is a cool artists space in an abandoned factory, so give it some support.

Anthony Pirog and Boat Burning combine for a great night out on Thursday, January 7th at the DC9. Support these local talents who have worldly skills (and fanbases).

Devils Walk as Saints walk into the Velvet Lounge on Friday the 8th.

If you missed Ezra Furman last year, you can catch him early in 2016 at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on February 9th (I'm jumping the gun here).

Bully for you, quite literally when they come to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel and open for Metz on Monday, January 11th.

Holy Holy is indeed all of that as the rhythm section from David Bowie's 'The Man Who Sold the World', along with special guests not named David Bowie, come to recreate that album and other Spiders from Mars related material at the Birchmere, January 14th. Holy Glamrock!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Jesse Marchant - Heather Woods Broderick -- DC9 - Dec 17 2015

Heather Woods Broderick - Ms. Broderick is by herself with an echoplex styled electric guitar and her cool resolute voice. Her fingerstyle of strum and bass line makes a big and mysterious background for her slightly haunting vocals. She is somewhere between Marissa Nadler and Mandy Morton, but she adds some roots to a few of the songs, so she is working her own neck of the woods here. Broderick also switches off to a piano for some nice variety. Speaking of which, the Jesse Marchant band comes up to add some keys, drums, bass, and backing vocals for a few songs and Mr. Marchant himself lays down a nice bit of electric guitar on the closing cut. It is great to see this kind of variety and camaraderie with the touring acts (She will join Marchant for his set, too) and it is a magical little set by the time it has concluded. This is the kind of live show that is quite exciting and even a fine contrast to her smoother and steadier album, which I can also recommend.
Jesse Marchant - It was a year ago I first experienced the excellent live show from Montreal's Jesse Marchant and his band. I predicted bigger and better things for him when others would get around to discovering him.... I am still waiting. The good news is that the moderate audience is rapt, attentive and fully appreciative of the qualities in the songs and the presentation. NPR is here, I am here, and there are a lot of people that have figured it out, too. Everything I hear tonight makes me want to just add a few exclamation points to my previous rave review. I try to pin him down to Jackson Browne trying to be Tim Buckley or John Martyn, although mostly he reminds me of an obscurity called Beau the way he can take a good folk song and ratchet it up to full rock. He has the points in between covered and it simply boils down to the warmth and accessibility of his songs as well as his personal vision. The songs are quite enveloping and a set of about 70 minutes worth of his songs is barely enough or perhaps just right. Shows are slowing down as the holidays approach and this was a perfect one to take in as it will stay with me for some time.

Photo Grab of the Night: While I think the blues is a lot more complicated in its history and authorship, the Robert Johnson mystique certainly is an interesting and important part of that. This was just discovered as possibly the third photo of the blues legend, according to at least one facial recognition expert.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Des Ark - Pygmy Lush - The City and I -- Comet Ping Pong - Dec 16 2015

by John Miller

The City and I - So things were looking pretty sparse tonight; strange considering the RSVPs for this show are absurd for the venue. Unfortunately I cannot find much info on The City and I, who begin this evening. Initially I was expecting a much more laid back set. The opening riff suggested slacker, or possibly garage but as soon as the drums kicked in, The City and I committed to something much more aggressive. The way those things are being pounded: wow. There are elements of Helmet here, the vocals and guitar, even some Pantera and it kind of reminds me a little of Bleach; that fast, dirty, distory, don't know if they really give a fuck attitude. I enjoyed the set but I can't say much for the crowd. Quite quiet, not much applause; I don't know if they simply don't like them or don't care. I would guess the latter. It's almost tense, as if an argument is about to break out between the disaffected and performers.
photo: Cobra Wu

Pygmy Lush - Another surprise as Pygmy Lush begins; I was expecting one thing and it just got really heavy, really quick. Good rhythmic distortion, and again with the loud drums (though not as loud as The City and I). It's good. They open with a long, constant beating; the vocals arrive as expected but all hell breaks loose; I guess the best way to describe it is a strong emphasis. I had to pull myself away from the phone to see what was happening up there. Raw. And it just kept getting louder. Midway through, I feel as if Pygmy Lush has found whatever they were looking for as my pants steadily begin to move with the bass. The disaffected are back on board. The phones go up and the response is far less timid. Folks are excited. The songs are short; much shorter than I expected. The opening piece led me to believe there might be some extended stoner compositions, but they move much quicker. Perhaps that is because of the emphasis on the music as opposed to the lyrics. This kind of reminds me of earlier Cave In but more frantic, if that's possible. It's a lot less Cookie Monster and more Bert & Ernie; it can be all over but focused at once. And eventually things slow down, well at least vocally. It's not as rambunctious. There's still stress but perhaps a medicated stress. My pant legs are still moving though, so they haven’t slowed down that much, it certainly isn’t any less quiet. I just realized how that must read; let me stress that while this is certainly an exciting show, Pygmy Lush doesn't move me that way, just the fabric of my pant legs with the vibration of the fuzz. After some quick promotional work for DIG Records & Vintage, they return even more stressed. A great set all the way around. 

Des Ark - I somehow made it to the back of Comet Ping Pong, or front, I don't know: I am half way in between the side of the stage and the backroom. Halfway backstage, straddling the line of insider and over eager fan. Suffice it to say it is a much better way to experience the show. Des Ark closes the show tonight. Supporting their new album, Everything Dies, it's quite the change of pace. If I could continue the whole Sesame Street metaphor, it's a mix of Snuffy and Two-Headed Monster. Obviously naming a collection of songs 'Everything Dies' is a bit bleak but occasional shifts in tone hint at different personalities. The soft can lead into rolls and crashes on a moment’s notice. The tempo races forward then slows back down: The herky motion of learning manual. I believe a Theremin accents the compositions though I can't quite tell. Honestly, considering my vantage point I really don't have an excuse but I have found myself even further backstage than before. As far as participation goes, the crowd loves it. Des Ark can certainly work the crowd and the back and forth is nice; touching on everything from tater tots, to Sensodyne. There are even some tense moments as someone asks, rather tells them to get on with it. Ultimately it's a nice come down from the previous acts; calm us all down after the explosion that happened earlier. The soft drums, slow picking, and vocals are all like a nice glass of milk before bed. Don't get too comfortable though as, like I mentioned earlier, they can change at a moment's notice. Manic.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


2015 comes to a close with the usual whimper of shows as people hunker down or travel out to their holiday delights. Still, here are a few samples for your viewing and listening consideration.

Des Ark throws anchor at the Comet Ping Pong tomorrow night, that is Wednesday the 16th.

Heather Woods Broderick heads over to the DC9 on Thursday 17th. You'll see me there.

Sports runs on over to the Songbyrd, which is a club I need to experience some time. Will Sunday, Dec 27th be the time? Come see Sports and see.

Live at the Fillmore plays the Hamilton (not the Fillmore, yes this is confusing) on Monday January 28th. So go to the Hamilton in DC and not to Silver Spring and expect plenty of Allman Brothers songs.

And here's a DC holiday greeting as Christmas time theater always goes better with the Bad Brains.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Drew Gibson - Devon Sproule -- Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club - Dec 13 2015

Devon Sproule - Ms. Devon Sproule hails from Canada, but has long been a Virginia native and offers up a rather universal folk style that works well in any corner of the world. She begins with a deep atmospheric piece before heading off into more familiar song stories like that of a Cheryl Wheeler or a host of other fine folk artists. She closes dramatically without her acoustic guitar and just sings us off after a great set of personal songs. Everything is well balanced here between fine vocals, solid guitar work, and interesting and engaging songs. This is everything you want in folk music.
 photo: Brian Loebig

Drew Gibson - Well, you may want one more thing in folk music, such as one additional set from an excellent songwriter with a band in tow. No drums here, but Drew's regular bassist and steel guitarist are around to add tasty color to Drew's exquisite guitar work, singing, and superb original songs. Drew has been a constant in this scene and has played around the country as well and I always look forward to his sets. He varies the approach from solo to different band combinations enough to keep things fresh, and even reintroduced some originals that have been unplayed at his previous shows. Ms. Sproule joined him for a couple of songs at the end, which made for a fun finish tonight at this lovely venue. It was a bit large for this occasion, but the performers and crowd kept it comfortable and the sound was excellent. This was a fine night out as the quality shows start lightening up during the holiday season.

Photo grab of the Night: As both artists are serious friends of animals, here's one for all of us.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Rocket from the Tombs - Boat Burning -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Dec 7 2015

Boat Burning - The show starts on time for a change, ergo the patrons are quite slow to file in. But this local band has 4-5 guitars, bass, and drums along with some keys to fill the empty spaces. This is always a fine set, one I have seen many times now, although the quiet opening made it a little less compelling than usual with the opening cuts. However about half way through, the beats became interesting and the sound and energy improved where I became more absorbed in their methodical droning sheets of melodic guitar noise. And it is always better to start slow and finish strong, which is exactly what they did tonight, giving the incoming crowd a good sonic vibe to prepare for the next band. Whether they line up with 4 guitars, 20 guitars, or 70 guitars (yes they did that a while back), you should definitely put Boat Burning on your short list of bands to check out.
photo: Davis White 
Rocket from the Tombs - I was looking forward for this one for a long time... beware of expectations. After eschewing travel plans to distant cities to go to catch this essential band in their ultra-short mini-tours, they finally included DC this time around. While I was still a little too young in 1974 and isolated in southern Ohio while Cleveland spawned this amazing pre-punk band that ultimately connected the Stooges and the Ramones et al as much as anyone did; I was fully engaged there in the late 70s for the bands that spawned from the original five members: Pere Ubu, Dead Boys, and Mirrors. Although Rocket lasted for less than a year, they have now been back, off and on, for over a decade.

Original members Craig Bell and David Thomas are here with two 'newer' guitarists and Pere Ubu drummer Steve Mehlman. The lead guitarist is quite good, although somehow the energy does not seem to be quite there, and I am really missing the Cheetah Chrome-Richard Lloyd duelling guitar battles (let alone original guitarist Peter Laughner who died in 1977). The band is solid and plays the strong heavy psyche-rock style of their time with speed bursts that foreshadowed punk rock. They have old and new originals with garage covers such as their opener 'Shape of Things to Come', a 1968 cut from the movie 'Wild in the Streets', which really creeped me out as 'my' Dayton band, Toxic Reasons used to cover it and also featured a large and larger than life lead singer.

And speaking of singers, a rather frail David Thomas stood for a bit, until doing the rest of the set seated, getting up only to berate the drummer and threaten to leave early. His odd voice is still there and works well enough, unlike the rest of his odd personality. Yeah, it's rock'n'roll and Cleveland punk rock was a nasty ferocious little scene that really was as big and important as any in the mid-to-late seventies. Between, this band, their descendant bands, Electric Eels, and the Styrenes, we can only be glad there weren't (m)any guns at the shows, as I am not sure who would have survived.

Weird and dangerous as this was, and knowing that the danger can really bring excitement to a show, somehow the power and energy was a bit lacking and I just did not feel a real Rocket from the Tombs vibe that I believe I would have gotten on their first comeback tour. I am still glad I caught them and would do it all over again as this music is brilliant and essential.

Quotes of the Night: Quite a few oddities from Mr. Thomas, but I'll relate his comments regarding his one guitarist breaking strings on two occasions...

"You broke a string? That's coming out of your salary."
DT: (paraphrasing) I need to fill time and talk (while guitarist gets a third guitar after second broken string). You see what it would be like without me in the band? Well I am just going to sit here. Where are the drums....  (standing) "Mehlman, you asshole!"

SM: "If you just looked around, you realize it wasn't me....  OK, it's me"

DT: "What, you broke another string again!"

For funnier quotes from the wacky Cleveland scene, see my review of the Styrenes from the Velvet Lounge in 2010.

Car Seat Headrest - NE HI -- DC9 - Dec 7 2015

by John Miller

NE HI - It's rambunctious for a Monday night. NE HI, on tour supporting their relatively new album Drag, made the long trek from Chicago. Any audience like this makes the journey worth it, makes it feel like something’s being done right. They dance to the upbeat college rock, always responding at the appropriate moments. There is definitely some early Elvis Costello influence as well and that's something worth noting. That particular influence doesn't appear as often as one might expect considering how highly regarded he is. Vocally, the lead, has a striking resemblance to Costello; the way he phrases and stresses particular words within the songs. Musically there are aspects of Steve Shelley as well: The slower drums, not doing anymore than asked for, perfect for the style. The comparisons to Sonic Youth end there though. The guitars are certainly more traditional; chorus, bright, playing off one another, allowing both the lead and rhythm to do their appropriate jobs. The same can be said for the bass; he does his job and does it well. It's nothing revelatory but it doesn't need to be for it to be good.
Car Seat Headrest - This is a homecoming of sorts for Car Seat Headrest. Hailing from Leesburg, this is their first DC show for the Seattle based band. And by the time NE HI wraps up their set, folks are still making their way up the stairs. And by the time the show begins, it’s sold out. This disaffected draw, the quiet verses, eventually explodes into a vision of future doom. But as Car Seat Headrest continues, that initial prophecy is turned on its head, another failed prediction of the end of the world. What follows is a Quick pop punk interlude, then yet another change of pace; college rock. It's all over the place but not in a bad way. For those that are wholly unfamiliar with them, it's like Cliff's Notes and it's a great introduction. Frankly, more bands should follow the practice. It's quiet in between songs, the crowd is anticipating, eager to hang on every word. Car Seat Headrest are reminiscent of Titus Andronicus; long, earnest anthems that are easy to sing a long too. Lyrics that are relatable but not trite, straddling that line between DIY and full on radio rock. It will be interesting to see where all of this takes Will Toledo (the lead of Car Seat Headrest) as this type of music can only get better with time.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Martin Barre - The Get Right Band -- Jammin Java - Dec 6 2015

The Get Right Band - This Asheville trio covered a lot of bases as I heard clear progressive passages in a slight jazzy mode, blues rock, and funk. And that was all within the first two songs. Later, some reggae mixed in as well. The guitarist handled most of the vocal duties with more of an Americana feel, although the bassist had a lead and the drummer added some harmonies. Some times a mix of ingredients results in a delicious gumbo, but this time, I was a bit more puzzled. As the set went on, I really appreciated their playing and some of their creativity, but I started separating what I liked from what I did not. Ultimately, the instrumental passages stood out with the progressive and funky style working best. I hope they focus on that style and work hard on the writing along with the vocal melodic lines. If so, this could be a great band. As it is, their style still can be quite popular in the right setting and they did well tonight in front of a packed house. They even closed with Led Zeppelin's 'Kashmir' which was fun, although not quite as good as the last time I saw Martin Barre in one of his final tours with Jethro Tull and for some reason Tull decided to cover it (with a violin no less). So I thank them for this connection, even if it was fully serendipitous.
Martin Barre - It was a pleasant surprise to see Martin Barre hit these shores for a tour. After 43 years in Jethro Tull, he has been going solo or working with bands in the UK for his own recordings and light(er) touring schedule. But he brought his full band with him tonight with drums, bass, and guitar/vocals adding to his excellent lead guitar work. He knows how important he was to Jethro Tull and how well known he was for those years, so his setlist was well dotted with  nine Ian Anderson songs among the twenty he played. He opened with a great 'To Cry You a Song' which Barre always loved, but Ian Anderson did not want to do as he struggled to get the feeling for most songs from 'Benefit'. He also did 'Sweet Dream' and 'Song for Jeffrey' (a Tull song first done by Mick Abrahams in that brief period before Barre was even in the band), which were great surprises. There were also barely recognizable versions of 'Fat Man' and 'New Day Yesterday' from the great 'Stand Up' lp as they were bluesier and twisted around--the 'dirty version' of 'New Day Yesterday' as Barre explained, clearly meaning dirty blues as it turned out.

The set was very bluesy and tough and kind of went along similar lines to Carl Palmer's interpretations of ELP songs with his band, including guitarist and a heavier sound. Yet tonight's vocalist did a nice job with the Anderson songs as well as the others and could even trade some nice leads with Barre and did a double lead when needed. The bassist was excellent and somehow managed subtlety with highly active runs. The drummer was top notch as well, so this was one of those sets that was great for the fans and that any rock fan who enjoys technique would dig. Martin Barre was a pleasure to listen to between songs (he talks, yet sings not a note) and he displayed that quirky British humor that no doubt helped in getting along with Ian Anderson's quirky sense of humor all those decades.

And in addition to some original songs, he offered up some fine classic blues covers and a well personlized 'Eleanor Rigby' (Barre's a Beatle more than a Stone, which I would have guessed incorrectly), along with a surprising Porcupine Tree cover ('Blackest Eyes') as Barre explained he's long been a Steve Wilson fan, even before Wilson started remixing the Tull catalog. So this was an adventurous set for me and for much of the crowd, who was quite appreciative of the skill and sense of enjoyment for everyone on stage to all ends of the club.

Facebook Photo Grab of the Day - Metro may be beleaguered these days, but this would make my trip more a pleasure.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

All Them Witches - New Madrid -- Black Cat - Dec 2 2015

This is the second time DC ROCK LIVE has offered two perspectives on one show, the last being a Buzzcocks performance at the Black Cat with myself and Kyle Schmitt offering our views. Oddly enough John Miller was also at that show, but not part of the team then. Kyle was not here tonight, so John gets first word on the bands with myself, David Hintz, also offering up my thoughts. 

New Madrid - (John Miller) Have New Madrid started? Is this just a sound check? Judging by the strained faces it’s probably a long intro. The drums kick in and it is quite the abrupt change, the delay gone, feedback gone. A mood swing would be the appropriate parallel. New Madrid is poppier, bouncer than expected, leaning on the rhythm guitar and drums. Though the solos are more reminiscent of the earlier intro; they sneak their way into the rhythm, appearing for a brief moment, before slipping away. And as they progress, a little of their Georgian roots slip through; twang here and there. To be honest, they owe a significant debt to early Kings of Leon; it took a moment to click but this has Aha Shake Heartbreak written all over it.

For as much energy as they have during the performance, they are absent between songs. While there is something to be said for brevity, the random mumbling aside, doesn't help anyone's cause. And the crowd responds in kind; short bursts of applause if any, not knowing if their effort is worth it. New Madrid may be so lost in this performance; the approval of their peers is nothing but an afterthought.
That brevity does not apply to compositions though; they are long, bordering on drawn out. The codas in particular, involve a fair amount of noodling and delay before moving on. The necessity of these eulogies is debatable though, and it might benefit New Madrid from exorcising them completely.

(David Hintz) This is my second time with Athens GA’s New Madrid and it was welcome to see them back in DC. Their songwriting is distinct and with just enough character to bring out my keen interest. They could settle for garage pop psyche style, but they add a pacey Feelies sort of guitar interplay that brightens up their approach. The music breaths and flows well. When they jam off in the distance of their song, they sound like a happy Hawkwind (although I am straining the imagination with that concept). While they did little of interest between songs as John mentioned, the overall flow kept me involved from start to finish.
All Them Witches - (John Miller) Despite the general distaste for post grunge, there are some notable performers from the era. All Them Witches is reminiscent of a couple of those acts; the more refined soft, loud aesthetic that dominated. The soft parts are good, sweep picking, the slow draw, fuzzy bass, a slight southern accent. But as the songs move to chorus; it gets a little too commercial, polished, and friendly. The vocals strain and it's the early aught's all over again.

There is no real mystery here. Unlike New Madrid before them, it is clear where All Them Witches are going and how they will be arriving. The itinerary is unwavering, no unscheduled stops at any tourist traps, they are going straight through.

The drummer though is working with what he has and not letting any uniformity hold him back. Half the time it looks like a Grand Mal back there, swinging wildly between the tom, snare, and cymbals. And occasionally that slowness returns and it's really good, that speed though just doesn't work. It's like the best parts of Hum mixed with the worst of Godsmack. The crowd seems to be enjoying it though and that's all that really matters. I'm afraid I don't get it though; to me it's all so painfully obvious. It's those damn power chords and pedestrian rhythm when things speed up. When they aren’t looking back and leaning so heavily on their influences, All Them Witches sound great. David though may have a different, more positive outlook. One with knowledgeable context that doesn't lean on limited experience.

(David Hintz) Yes, both different and positive. I took the 1990s off, so I won’t argue against your points, but it seems as I learn more of that era, that I am glad I spent that time digging deeper into the 1964-1980 musical scenes. I loved the big and bold nature of this band. There are loads of dynamics, some predictable, others not so much and their songs take on the character of a J.D. Blackfoot styled over the top theme to the more subtle approach of a Bill Callahan, were he to go much, much heavier. They remind me a lot of an alternate universe Callahan, but they also have a Scandinavian edgy progressive style in there as well. I thought I was listening to the sons of Flasket Brinner at one point. I listen to a lot of psychedelic bands of old and new and I appreciate their approach and left tonight’s show quite satisfied, even temporarily forgetting my nagging question of whether they have misappropriated Ira Levin’s ‘all OF them witches’ line from Rosemary’s Baby, or they just shortened it, or it has nothing to do with it. Fortunately with just a bit of research, I see there is already a band with the name ‘All of Them Witches’ so I can sleep more comfortably now (and the fine music I heard tonight will aid that even further).
News of Note: Folkworld #58 came out in November. For over 100 album reviews done by yours truly and tons of other reviews and features by some of Europe's biggest folk fans and finest writers, have a look (either in German or English).

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


This is a five song EP which had more than enough music to put this band squarely within the confines of classic rock in style, but with just enough style in the playing to place them in this century, cognizant of more than just early 1970s music. But this is straight ahead rock with gutsy vocals and loud guitars, sometimes soloing away with piercing precision. Interesting, but not quite enough to arouse me to further interest. But I’ll keep an ear to the ground for further growth.

This Cincinnati collective features the songs and vocal stylings of Nelson Slater. Being that he was a long time friend of Lou Reed beginning in the pre-Velvet years, a Velvet Underground comparison is nearly inevitable. Especially with the crazed guitar work here. It is not exactly the same as it also reminds me of the Birthday Party and a few other crazed rock excursions. The key is that there are often wild lead guitar runs working as the rhythm guitar amidst more normal rock instruments and playful keyboard and synth bits. It is wild stuff and the songs almost seem more British in nature as I detect a style similar to that of Howard Devoto and Magazine. All in all, it is a great jolt of rock music from someone who was a small part of an extremely important formative scene.

Funny, there used to be a time when a lot of what came in was lo-fi garage punk with a nod to the sixties. But I have not heard something quite like the Brainstems in a while, well like them maybe, but not a band that gets it just right. These guys are a blast. The guitars are 60s, 70s, and lo-fi modern all in one,while the rhythm section sounds like they are from a crisp 60s garage rocker session and the vocals have a distant punk and art-punk attitude. In fact, art-punk is probably the best way to describe this as they remind me a lot of one of my favorites from the early punk days, MX-80 Sound, who never quite got the recognition they deserved. It may not be as original now, but the Brainstems are working a great terrain that people should be exploring a lot more.

Songs to start with first:

Keep it together - They prove how to combine eras and keep it together.

Simple Joys - Twin guitar lines combine for a great melody.

Untold Heights - Ferocious rocker still just arty enough to remind you it is them.

The Black Ships follow the gutsy British pop rock sound far more than the psyche rock ’Black’ American bands as in Mountain, Angels, Lips, etc. The guitars are strong and the throaty bass sound is a bit of a giveaway to the Anglo style especially as it ascends up the fretboard. The vocals are romantic and longing, like many bands from 1980 onward. The songs are catchy, although they get a little too comfortable in their one groove for the most part. It is a fine sound, but one we have heard before. Ergo, a few surprises would aid things considerably—hopefully that will come in time as confidence grows.

Songs to start with first:

Dead Empires - Can’t go wrong with a title like that and this opening cut lays out a lush but gutsy sound.

Sea of Cortez - Another strong driving rock song with warm and inviting vocals.

Kapitulation - The closer has a more mysterious beginning that I wish they would explore further next time before going too comfortable.

This is the sort of album that is easy on the ear with soft arrangements including some folk based melodies with subtle electronic washed out sounds adding atmosphere. There is plenty of room for the easy going, yet striking voice of Heather Woods Broderick. She is new to the scene as a solo artist but has backed Sharon von Etten and worked with Efterklang previously. Both of those artists are clues to the direction of this fine album. It is mannered, yet breathes at a slow and steady pace as the atmosphere puts you at ease and allows for deep thought with the pleasure of warm music enveloping the near environment. Although I often speak of enjoying the variety within an album, a fully composed dreamy atmosphere can work with little variance if it is done as well as this.

And you can see her live at the DC9 on Thursday, December 17th. I will be there.

Songs to start with first:

Up in the Pine - A strong opening, as her quietly dramatic voice will invite you in to stay a while.

Mama Shelter - You feel warm and sheltered in the environs of this song.

A Call for Distance - A nearly seven minute excursion floating into the Heather Woods Broderick atmosphere.

This collection comes from original 78rpm 10” records. These discs have been quite in vogue for collectors in recent years, although most collections focus on the early blues artists. This is a fine collection of early recordings of songs dated to and mostly relevant to the Civil War. It is a good array of 20 songs that start in Appalachia and head to the deep south. I am not exactly a fan of this era of early music, preferring much earlier and ancient musics. But this was an interesting compilation worth hearing at least once. And I really enjoyed Henry C. Gilliland and AC (Eck) Robertson’s crazy version of ‘Turkey in the Straw’, one of my favorites from my early early days on this planet. Ultimately this collection reminds me that no matter how much the present problems dominate the day, we are better off than we were.

The two daughters of Tom Chapin and nieces of Harry are by now well established singer songwriters of their own. The harmonies are unsurprisingly exquisite and the overall quality is strong throughout. What is amazing is the variety of songs present. The twangy southern California country songs interest me the least, but the pop nuggets, moody rockers and psyche-folk-rock moments are quite a surprise and quite excellent. This is a lot more challenging than I expected, but it is so very interesting and many songs are quite memorable. If their audience gives them a long enough leash, they should be quite pleased with the exciting songs the Chapin sisters come up with here. I AM impressed.

Songs to start with first:

Autumn - The opener is surprisingly sumptuous, rich with vocal imagery and a lilting melody.

Chasing the Rain - Sounds like a lost 1968 folk rock track that should not have been lost.

World is All - This song may balance their styles and thus is one to listen to if you are not sure which direction you would like to travel with this duo.

It was over 50 years ago that the Kinks’ Dave Davies punched holes in a small amp and with some extra rigging, truly embraced a fuzzy unknown. And rock’n’roll lovers everywhere wanted to know all about the fuzz. Correatown is embracing fuzz more of a metaphor as there is more a clean pop sound, bright and assertive. The female vocals are cool, but not icy as even with the careful control evident, the emotion comes through. The band is brisk with clean, assured pop structures. There are a few songs that do not quite reach the heights of the successful cuts, but this is a worthwhile listen.

Songs to start with first:

Small Hours - The spooky intro jolted me to attention and the vocals still were able to startle in this quiet slice of drama.

True North - A brighter pop song with a lovely melody brought to life through crystalline vocals.

All Horizon - Scrumptious piano and snare drum really liven this pop cut.

The bubble pop in front of a metronome on speed made me quite wary of continuing with the album. But it quickly changed course into a pop soul vocal style in front of electronica music that had more interesting sonic shifts. It still does not hit me in the right spots, but it is pretty effective and would make a successful set at the U Street Music Hall, I would think. So those of you with appropriate dance moves, have a listen because these old bones are not going to be able to describe the movements that this music can induce.

This 5-song EP features crisp and clean rock music from this fine local band. The guitars lean toward strong blues rock, while the vocals take a more Americana approach. The opening rocking songs were good, although even more fun live. I particularly thought the studio really showcased a ballad they have entitled ‘Call Me a Doctor” (Ok, you’re a doctor, rimshot!), where they reach great heights. Even with five songs you get a taste of what this band can do on stage and with good songwriting here as well, they have studio songs that should hold up to many relistening sessions.

I wondered if this was not some lost album by Free. The vocals are very Paul Rodgers-like with that mid-range blues rock precision singing. They are backed by a gutsy rock band that knows all the moves. They push harder like Free instead of languishing in the easy going pace of Bad Company. There is great wah-wah moves, fine backing vocals to the always on point lead singing. The songs are creative enough as well and that makes this a very good listening experience as opposed to some nice throwback nostalgic moment. Even the ballads sound fresh and worked well. I will go back to this record and would like to see these guys… especially since I can’t see Free.

Songs to start with first:

Looking for my Peace - Just enough pace and extra power with the drumming to put you on the front of your seat.

Accents - This has a wide array of classic rock sounds and shifts and it all comes together in an excellent song.

When I See the Light - Wah-wah and vocals, stellar rock moves with a dash of funk.

There is an edgy, narrow walk between classic rock and power pop going on here. Too often there is that rock ballad style that takes me back to REO Speedwagon, where there is some good guitar work, but the overall style and sound just seems too pretty and disconnected. The vocals are different, but this takes me back to the days of Eddie Money and Rex. Those were not the best of times, nor were they the worst of times, but they do represent just one of the reasons punk rock happened.

Songs to start with first:

Give it Up - Decent power popper here.

Blue Thing - Decent rocker here.

Fall to Bits - This song has a very agreeable melody and is tough enough as well. The hit single.

They are calling this a double EP, which I hope refers to a vinyl offing as electronically it is 12 songs which are of album length. No matter the form, these songs all fit together in a brand of sleazy garage grunge rock, kind of that loose punk way of southern punk bands and raunchy Pacific Nothwesterners. It is almost smart enough to be brilliant dumb rock, as you see a method to their madness. The vocals stay weird and warbly, while the band drifts between loose riffing and tight patterns. Yet these guys are from LA and unlike many bands I see from there, do NOT have a strong link to the great musical history there. Well, maybe a tad of the Gun Club, but it is closer to Sacramento’s Tales of Terror. They slow it down to dirty blues or loud loner folk and play around a bit to keep this quite interesting, and ultimately sounding like two EPs.

Songs to start with first:

Virginia Law - After a couple of ragged rockers, this tight little number still had desperate vocals, but they worked with a strong band effort.

Murderer of One - Twisted ballad with lots of rocking moments.

Alice - Really cool slow number with careful vocals that almost could work for Slim Cessna’s Auto Club.

This is new duo from experienced Belfast musicians who have started off with a bang on their debut four-song EP. It’s a muffled bang, as they opt for many subtle sounds weaving around together to form a strong dependable unit. The vocals are relaxed, slightly stoner, but with enough strength  to stand tall amongst the spacey but focused and linear music. This is creative enough, even in four songs, that I would be happy to hear more. Good things await, but I will know for sure with songs 5 through 16.

This local outfit delivers a  mix of sharp synth pop and experimental synth music that has plenty of bite in the music with sometimes daffy vocals that give the music even more breadth. The humor and odd vocal moves keep everything fresh and lively throughout 22 songs. I don’t find the humor or pop moves click with me each and every time, but it is to their credit that they kept me interested and smiling on occasion as this style of electro-pop often has me looking for something else to do. Electronica fans who like spacey synthesizer runs, odd vocals, humorous lyrics, and enough hooks, then give these folks a listen.

Songs to start with first:

Madonna was Once Just Like You - Yes, it is amusing and has a bouncy pop melody and oddball quirks.

Mr. Mom - Fine use of overlapping vocals and a funny little song.

Major Dad - Do they know they were redoing the Germs ‘Forming’ here? I am good with that.

Local DC’er some time back from the great Prog band, Little Bigheart, has now established himself in Massachusetts and has cooked up some strong Americana based folk rock with a full band adding the violins, banjos, and whatnot to the guitar and vocals. Although most songs have classic song themes that work well vocally, I am particularly impressed on the instrumental songs and passages, such as ‘Farewell, See Ya’ which have a great musical conversation going on. This band would have a very happy audience on the stage of Gypsy Sally’s or at Hill Country BBQ.

Here is a way to take roots oriented music and not go overly Americana with it. Instead, Gun Outfit focuses on textures and clever rock guitar interplay kept at a slower pace to add to the atmosphere. There are male and female vocals that take leads and harmonize if an effective manner to add varying strong tones to the songs. This band is surprisingly original as I carefully listen to these twelve songs. It is subtle, but they somehow manage to make the familiar unique, mysterious, and exciting to work your way through.

I am booked, but if you want to hear this excellent music live, head to the Cafe St-Ex on Monday, December 7th.

Songs to start with first:

Gotta Wanna - Mysterious male and female vocals work their magic over what I thought was going to be a roots song, but it soared instead.

Pass on Through - ‘to the other side’, well no, just take an easy journey with this light traveling song.

Worldly Way - Whoa, this is really psychedelic and flows with magnificence and mystery.

This is a powerful symphonic-electronic approach that conjures up Dead Can Dance and other lush dramatic ancient/modern hybrid bands. But few do it this well as the music is so steady and dramatic with care in the subtle backing vocals and ethereal sounds coupled with steady rhythm and striking guitar or keyboard notes. This is 4AD music with a bit more guitar bite.

Songs to start with first:

Discovery - The opening cut is quite the discovery as it shows its incredible slow building power.

Come Wander with Me - An eleven minute epic that had me there with each and every measure.

Evocation - Strong thick sludgy guitar backing sounds positively magisterial, especially with great vocals soaring above.

Here is a treat for electronic pop fans. This Finnish band has dug deep into the archives for a long two record set of songs never released. They are sparse, but fully produced and feature the extraordinary vocals of Sweden’s Johanna KalĂ©n. At first I thought this would be just some more electronica, but then the simple, clean melodies started weaving their magic and the vocals and some arrangements brought in classic Scandinavian folk touches to really connect on a cool deep level. Check out ‘Min Lill Eld’ for some real magic. On the pop level, check out the warm counter melody working off the cool and steady structure of ‘Wind in the Willows’. Now this is electronica for all of us.

As the name of band foreshadows, this is cute power pop. There is plenty of drive behind the pop hooks and the delicate vocal work, so it certainly qualifies as power pop. Ultimately this is just a bit too cute for me. I like cute, but something just does not quite click for me to put this high up in a genre I like. I think if you are more a fan of classic pop radio, but enjoy the power pop movement, you should give this a listen as it might hit your sweetspot.

Songs to start with first:

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow - The opener has the signature rock drive and pop vocal line that you will be getting throughout.

Justine - Lots of contrasting guitar sounds atop a driving bass line.

Stabs at Happiness - A bit of a change up with a light indie sound and sharp percussion.

I was hoping for some variation of popsike from this Canadian collective. Instead it drifted away from psyche into a flatter rock-pop hybrid like the lesser songs of latter era Blue Oyster Cult (I was singing ‘Debbie Denise’ to the opening cut for all of you Cultists in the know). It continued for a bit until they ramped it up some. Then, a fine little rock band emerged with some psyche and psychtronica moves that did not overwhelm but colored their tunes nicely. It is a varied affair here, but there is heart in what they do and occasionally the fruits of their labors are quite refreshing.

Songs to start with first:

Slacker - Ironically this pacey psyche rocker is the least likeliest song to be played by slackers.

Zzyzx - This song’s name alone is worth having on your playlist, but it rocks, too.

Escape Artist - Easy going rocker, maybe this is more slacker rock than ‘Slacker’ was.

Lisa gives us five songs, which showcase her warm writing skills and feel-good full Americana band backing. It leans more heavily toward country when it slows down in ‘Somebody Someday’, but the pacier cuts were decent. No doubt her youth in Tennessee is a big influence, but she lives in DC now and recorded this with Don Zientara. The sound was excellent, but this started better than it ended for me. If you like it slower and more melancholy-country with tasty rock touches, you may like the last couple cuts best. It is hard to judge in five songs, but Lisa Said has the talent. We will await and see how it is further unveiled.

Mammatus offers us a mammoth album, a true double LP ala Topographic Ocean with four ‘sides’ of music and four ‘songs’. Actual the title cut is in two parts. Everything is instrumental, dense at times and then unfolding over time. There is progressive psychedelia with some math rock stylings. Atmosphere and drive both have their time and space to take control. It is very krautrock in nature and reminds me a lot of locals Kohoutek or a more out there, less song oriented Hawkwind, particularly when the guitars start roaring in ‘The Elkhorn’. But the real roar is saved for the closer, ‘Ornia’, which has the power and majesty of something by Mono. The only thing with this band is they don’t quite have the dynamics of the bands I have mentioned, but have a steadier level of playing even as they work from soft to loud passages and back again. I enjoyed this quite a bit and they will draw good numbers of fans who enjoy going off on heavier sonic journeys.

There are things going on in this electronic album that seem at odds with each other. There are smooth melodies fighting jarring beats and identities of various styles swimming through the mix into fore or aft. I can not quite figure out how much I like it, but I appreciate that Maribou State does not fall into the same comfortable groove of many of their contemporaries. I wish the vocals would be a bit more clarified in some of the songs, as the two spots by guest vocalist Holly Walker stand out well ahead of the rest. This is an interesting approach in a field I do not want to spend a whole lot of time with, but is a good reminder that electronica can still move in unique directions.

Songs to start with first:

Home - The opener asks more questions than it answers… soul, electronica, soultronica?

Steal - Holly Walker’s dazzliing guest vocal work is a major prize.

Midas - The second Holly Walker vocal is not quite as mesmerizing, but she is the major talent elevating this album.

Saint Jack was an excellent, yet pretty much forgotten Peter Bogdanovich movie with Ben Gazzara. I doubt the title cut touches on those cinematic themes, but there are some bold musical moves here. The band is from one of my favorite cities, Edinburgh, and was formed by former Fire Engines member Davy Henderson back in 1991. This tenth record is their first in over a decade and sounds like they never skipped a beat. It is edgy with surprising tiny real world interludes in between the songs that shoot for gut with razor sharp hooks or songs that unfold through slanting passages. Some of these 14 songs are a bit too fragmented and not quite complete enough for my liking, but the overall approach is bold and surprisingly unique in this day and age.

Songs to start with first:

Curdled Fragments - The title hints at the odd little musical segments that work together in this lovely instrumental.

Can’t Scratch Out - Sexy vocals, punchy rhythm, stretched out guitars, and noisy bits all come together in this way cool song.

Firecrackers - Quirky and sharp and with a flowing groove throughout.

This ep features a former DC’er from the band New Canada who in now living in my former home state of Colorado. He has teamed up with a fellow musician to concoct this short burst of tunes inspired by the Konami RPG series, Suikoden. That apparently is a cult favorite game of theirs, and I’ll yield to them as computer, video, and console gaming have left me light years behind. Musically, it is fitting as there are lots of squawking samples and remixed songs from the game along with garage guitar runs that quietly do their thing just behind the melody. They both share the vocals which is a good choice as Justyn has the higher garage voice, while Colin croons the slick lounge passages. This really isn’t as ‘out there’ as it could be—it’s quirky, but quite melodic and almost channels some of those lost vanity recordings of the late sixties with great fuzz guitar work. Ultimately, this is a lot of fun—give it a listen at the title link.

One of Baltimore’s more active roots rockers, blues folkie, singer songwriter, or whatever you want to call him is back with another LP. Adam Trice has nine songs here with an assortment of players assisting who in a live setting assemble to a full band called Red Sammy. The style is well established by now. Deep breathy low-key vocals deliver a sort of modern blues set of lyrics atop a rootsy blues style that achieves murky atmosphere more than showcase licks. Not that Bruce Elliott’s solos fail to show some chops, but there is a full band skill in keeping the tone and pace at just the right level to add to the mystique. This is their finest collection of songs to date for my ears, led by fine songs like ‘King of the Road’ and ‘Lawnchair’. You should definitely catch a live show as well, as he plays Baltimore a lot and DC every now and then.

This fairly new band may not be as hot as fire, but they are doing a slow burn that could result in a towering inferno. Their live show has already impressed me on a couple of occasions and they are playing regularly, displaying lots of energy with intriguing worldly sounds and rhythms. Here is a but a taste of their sound refined in the studio, but retaining some of the memorable energy from their live show. There are also the varied beats that go from reggae to rock and several points in between. The vocals are intense, while the guitar adds a bit of mystery at times, heft at other times. It is but a taste of what they can do, but it is a fine start to their studio life.

This has a real Ex Hex feel to it, and that is a good thing the way Ex Hex is taking off in the punk/power pop world. There are female vocals that walk the fine line between cute and tough with all the melodic and rhythmic instruments behind the voice doing their best to add just a little bit extra pop to the sounds so it jumps out more than most power pop bands. There is enough character and style shifts in each of these ten songs to make it a thoughtful listen, in addition to the obvious fun and adrenaline inducing pace and attitude. There is always space for albums like this in my world.

Songs to start with first:

Vertigo - A snappy opening number is always a great way to welcome an album to your ears and this has attractive vocals, melody, and chirpy guitar chords.

Perfect Love - Fierce guitar sound with a bit of post-NY Dolls sleaze.

Evil Eye - Mysterious intro morphs into a tough little rocker.

Um… any band with Magma in their title could be doomed for a comparison to one of the more innovative progressive bands in the world. As such, Ummagma is not Magma, but of course that was not their intent. Still, I was hoping for more spacey psychedelics or profound progressive passages. What is presented is lush soundscape material with deep vocals that are bit too dark and dreamy to send this anywhere near new age. ‘Galactican’ had a low-key Dead Can Dance vibe that was quite lovely. This is a five song EP with three additional remixes of ‘Lama’ by various celebrated musicians such as Robin Guthrie. I am not a fan of remixes, especially if the first one is done to everyone’s satisfaction. The exercise in instant remixing these days is a tiresome trend I hope starts fading away by the time these words hit cyberspace. Back to the record at hand—this is an adequate start, but I hope for a lot more from this band to justify all I have been hearing about them.

Martha Wainwright and sister Lucy Wainwright Roche have the pedigree as you can tell by the names (and the mother of Martha is Kate McGarrigle so it is just as big for each step-sister).  There are no less than five lullabies in these 16 songs, as well as many more that work well ‘in the dark’. But rather than simply rocking you to sleep, the vibrato of the voice and the delicate spaciness in the arrangements may induce some magical dreams. They keep the music simple and stark with plenty of acoustic guitar working off the vocals. But there are so many subtle softening sounds throughout that help make this album special. The Wainwright Sisters have managed to capture the magic of British folk with the deep Appalachian and Americana heart of darkness style and come up with a balanced and composed hybrid that should appeal to fans of either. It certainly hit my sweetspot.

Songs to start with first:

Prarie Lullaby - The opening cut is as mysterious and warm as anything on the album. Wake up and go to sleep.

Long Lankin - A great traditional is not quite Steeleye Span here, but is wonderful with the layering of voices and subtle instrumentation as each verse passes.

Our Mother the Mountain - Sound like a classic English folk tune brought to life with heavenly voices, but no it is an early Townes van Zandt song. That is pretty great, too.

I accidentally typed ‘Shite Fang’ as this record began—and although they may have heard that one before, this was merely a happy accident… or was it? White Fang sounds like a band that many people would have yelled ‘shite’ at in the mid to late seventies as they have that second tier punk rock sound of the Drones or the Plastic Idols. But second tier punk rock bands back in the day were good and a lot of fun. These guys have some of those classic rock styled hooks worked into just enough punk aggression to raise the eyebrows, if not the roof. Even ‘Chunks’ was an early punk rock LP featuring multiple SST acts. These guys twist their songs around a bit with varying tempos, oddball style shifts, basically enough twists and turns to make for a good listen. But I’ll be back for some relistens for sure.

Songs to start with first:

Wrecked - Great punk moves, but suspiciously in another dimension.

Tear it Up - This rocks.

Chairman of the Bored - Silly fun and great pogoing music.

W-X “W-X”
After a few electronica excursions, the garage rock moves that I expect from Tim Presley arrive. Presley is better known for White Fence and he’s worked with Ty Segall and Cate le Bon, so you can expect some creativity here. It’s still a bit too electronica for my tastes, but it has a more twisted Chrome-like approach at times. If there was more of that, I could really get into this even further. As it is, he does conjure up psychedelic images and fools around with beats in such odd ways, it keeps it edgy and interesting. There are some duds as there is bound to be when you put out 20 songs. That can be a problem with solo albums as there often is no producer or group dynamic to vet things through (although that can be a disaster, too).

Songs to start with first:

Steer Clear - The third cut brings in a great garage rocker that is dipped, coated and stretched out into a creative electro psyche song.

Brazliian Worm Band - The sound of a carnival organ in the center of a busy machine shop.

Clean it Glen - A good driving song, that still has strong twists and turns—Chrome covers Hawkwind.