Sunday, May 1, 2016


This one has too much of that smooth comforting electro pop sound at the heart of it all. There is some grinding electric guitar, but it is a bit too far upstage for me. Instead, the monotonous beats and the mannered vocals steer it onto a road I would rather not follow. There will be plenty of other people following Aloha as the vocals have a certain attraction to them and the melodies are there and should catch enough pop fans who want to engage in some relaxed dancing or drifting.

Although Jaye Bartell has deep voice that sounds rather dark at the outset, like a combination of Leonard Cohen and Bill Callahan, the underlying music brightens things up in a surprising manner. He manages to avoid excessive darkness, as sometimes you hear that same droll childlike innocence that was in many a Syd Barrett song. Like Syd Barrett, you may just have to be in a certain mood for this as the monotony in vocal tone will be either hypnotic or frustrating, depending on your mood. As for me, I enjoyed the original approach to a familiar form and it hit me in a good spot. Any acoustic folk fan should at least give this one careful listen, as it will likely turn in to many more.

A live show may be quite interesting and you can try it out at the Rock’n’Roll Hotel on June 23rd.

Songs to start with first:

Laundry Line - delicate song with those haunting vocals.

Into Quiet - Nice backing vocals and a mix of off kilter rhythm and dreamy sounds.

The Calling - If you are still with him late into the LP, the longest song will reward you.


Grass-Tops Recordings have done us another fine service here. But I am an easy mark, as they do it every time they reissue anything by Robbie Basho. This obviously is a live recording and although there are the expected sonic limitations, it is still worth the experience for Basho fans as this show features many long extended raga songs that showcase Basho’s guitar by itself, working its usual magic (aside from the occasional haunting vocal). Folkstudio was in Rome and was likely the center of fine folk activity in Italy, if it ties in with the label Folkstudio and the band Folkstudio A, which it likely does. So I appreciate seeing the worldwide connection of key folk artists as they expanded from the 1960s through the 1980s and added so much psychedelic sounds and other progressive forms to the music. Basho had the music that inspired oh so many people. Here is further proof.

There has been plenty of bands blasting out power pop tunes with punk attitude over recent decades, but there always will be room for more. And it makes sense for older bands to do something else and let younger bands take that distinctive young attitude and run with it for a while. Bleached has it down from the strong steady drums, driving bass, vocals that are both cute and tough, and raging guitars. The guitar work is a bit more distinct than usual particularly in breaks or in subtle backing washed out moments. They play with textures, while never losing the beat and clarity in their melodies. So all in all, this LA trio has enough to bring in the old timers along with the energized young crowd.

Songs to start with first:

Trying to Lose Myself Again - Powerhouse beat and cool guitar bridges.

Wasted on You - A finely balanced song of the simple and the complex natures this band plays with.

Desolate Town - I like the downer vibe here, which helps brighten up the remaining cuts.

This is a straight-up singer songwriter effort from St. Louis that hits a country and western button or two before settling into its easy going Americana folk style. There is quality here, but it is a bit too relaxed for me to sense any original thrust beyond the author’s personal outlook in the songs. Quiet is good, but this is the sort of record that just won’t have me coming back to it. But there is a strong fanbase for this type of music, just not here.

Songs to start with first:

No Words - Easy going, amble down the road sensation here.

Mountain - Another easy stroll, perhaps with a little elevation this time.

Kingdom Come - A touch of rock in this cut.

From the musically fertile grounds of Northampton, comes this fine psychedelic folk LP. Nothing freaky or too twisted here, just a lot of reliance on Indian instruments to assist the acoustic guitar led meditative drones. There are some deep and distant vocals that do not detract from the overall ambiance the instruments establish—especially on the B side. While not nearly as bold as some of the recent Robbie Basho LPs that have been rebirthed, this offers something in that direction like Ben Chasney might try if in the mood. It may be closer to In Gowan Ring and unfortunately it shares some of the cliched lyrics that remind me of those releases. Still, the music is evocative enough and stays pleasant and warm throughout, making for a fine relaxing listening experience… provided you are a psyche-folk fan of this style. But that’s me after all.

This is a two man band that when they don’t delve too much into electronica (during second song) or gimmicky sound bites, comes up with some highly mystifying songs. The vocals are dreamy and the mysterious nature of most of these songs stem from their connection with sufism. There is a tranquil quality to the music that has just enough edge and attention to vocals that will keep you alert, even as you relax. This is a beautiful record that warrants several careful listens, although it will work its way into you right at the outset.

Songs to start with first:

Invisible Cities - The opener hits you with rhythm, sharp and soft mysterious vocal contrasts. Inviting to say the least.

Laura Palmer - The very name conjures up dreamy mystery and the song lives up to it.

We Are - Lovely flowing song. Allow me to drift a bit.

There is a strange combination of eras clashing in my head as I listen to these ten songs by a recently reformed LA band. The vocals are big and dramatic in that early 1970s fashion, yet the guitars have a slight jangle and strong indie rock vibe from more recent times. It is never firmly in one place just as there are Americana feelings, but it never settles in there too long. The melodic rock sensibility is there throughout and there is a lot to like. This band describes itself as “Classic Alternative Rock” and that is as good a three word description as you could get. It is nice to see The Adolescents’ Steve Soto playing bass here. This is a tricky record, but unique in spite of such classic forms—worth a listen.

Songs to start with first:

Rise in Love - Good chirpy guitar keeps this cut moving.

Someday (By&By) - An easy going flow and melody driven home by the rhythm section.

The Joy and the Wonder - Fine classic rock dynamics in play here.

This electronica album offers quite a mix. There are spritely pop tunes like the opening couple of numbers. The bright active sounds then stretch out into hypnotic drones on “Collective Insanity” which is more of where I want to be (listening to the drone, not joining the Insane). After that all bets are off as they change tone, pace, and density throughout the remaining songs until the finale, ‘Russian Gaze’ which seems to morph ‘Suspiria’ into the sound (always a good thing).

Songs to start with first:

Collective Insanity - Killer drone forms out of pop songs and swings the pendulum to the point of no return.

It’s the Nail that Counts Not the Rope - Thick, powerful, steady strong rock with distant vocals.

Farmer’s Almanac - A nice dreamy more relaxed oasis amidst the noise.

Debut LP here, from this west coast band—not an individual, although that would be a cool name. They have a lot of electronica, but they push it all forward in an assertive pop manner. It touches on popsike at times and has some interesting bold melodies when they nail a song. If graded on a curve for a debut album, this gets fairly high marks. There are some things to expand on, but they establish a personal approach and vary the songs enough to keep interest up.

And quick, head over the Black Cat, because they play tonight… May 1st.

Songs to start with first:

Whatever You Want - Bold electronic bursts make for an exciting opening that I will stay with.

Body Monsters - Smooth enticing pop, unlike the title.

Get Over Yourself - Fun popsike rocker.

This is a fine example of modern indie rock flair adding rootsy western music and even leaning to country on occasion. The variety is nice, but it is the calming easy going manner that manages to retain a sharp focus is what really makes this album click. The songs are mostly quite good and have a fine rhythm within.

Songs to start with first:

Cowgirl Clothes - The opener has a warm breezy style that will ease you into the album, while tapping your toe if you are like me.

Perseverance and Grace - Undulating rhythm and guitar lines serve to let the vocals float on top.

Hair Bite - Snappy rocker, always welcome in my world.

This ‘band’ is a project by Michael O’Shea and it is heavily electronic based. But I had no time to be wary of this format as he immediately struck hard with sharp edged electronics, gutsy beats, powerful drumming, and chilling, edgy vocals. This is closer to Chrome than the latest danceable electronica band. Yet there is something Savage Republic about it as well with its tight dark presence. The songs sound distinct and well thought out. And for all its darkness and original approach, it is catchy and you can dance to it, unless you need the cliched throbs of modern day dance music.

Songs to start with first:

What You Find - Bold electronics, Edgy vocals, and rhythmic bursts. This works.

Champagne - The lyrics have a more traditional power and the music is there to match it.

Broken Mirrors - Like a haunted house with a clean path leading to the light.

It can be a subtle choice for a folk or folk rock approach to either go languid or into highly engaging territory. It is usually down to the songwriting or arrangement creativity as to which path is followed. Kevin Morby has both of these approaches down well and when he slows it down, you are further compelled to listen to every work and each note. The moderately paced numbers are complete with sharp percussion and lots of great choruses and instrumentation going on behind the melody. I hear elements of Leonard Cohen, Jason Pierce, and a few loner folk artists from the late 60s in Morby’s music. The songs are highly effective at establishing mood and inviting keen interest from even moderately discerning listeners. And before I write myself further into a hole, just listen.

Songs to start with first:

Cut Me Down - You hear the ‘singing saw’ here amid the fine loner folk song.

I Have Been to the Mountain - Like a folkier Spiritualized.

Singing Saw - The longest song had me losing track of the time, always good on long cuts.

Just a five song EP here, so I will make this quick. If you are like me and need a burst of melodic rock music infused with garage punk energy, then slap this baby on and take 15 minutes to go crazy, either in your head or physically. These guys infuse Green Day, Gray Matter, and the Hellacopters into a powerful burst of pleasure. I could say fury, but things are bright and almost power pop at time, were it not for the pace and guitar attack. Good ’Stuff’ indeed.

Horosho (Хорошо) means ‘good’ in Russian and this electronic band is all of that here on this three song EP. Although the electronic backing seems simple enough, the breaks create unique atmospheres that are surprisingly involved even though you can sense the space between the differing melodic lines. The female vocals are bright and make for a strong personal connection. This music can get over in a lot of places to quite a variety of music lovers.


This neo-psyche west coast outfit has really collected a strong fan base in recent years. They reveal some of their magic here on this, their third LP. They have a wide arsenal of songs and styles that they integrate into a cohesive effort where their personalities shine. It is fascinating to hear the many styles from the Velvet Underground to the Mekons or the Long Ryders to the Jam. At their worst, which is not often, they go a bit too slacker for my tastes, but even then they have gutsy blasts of distortion to not let you lose attention and settle too comfortably into your couch.

See this exciting band on Thursday, May 12th at the 9:30 Club. But get there early as this is the early show of a two separate showcase evening (featuring Titus Andronicus late).

Songs to start with first:

Dust - The opener has a relaxed drive and some noisy sonic bursts to break up your relaxation.

Human Performance - The title cut exemplifies the writing skills this band has in transcending the basic popsike scene.

Berlin Got Blurry - Catchy and managing to pull in references from many eras of great music.

This has that ‘almost British punk’ sound going for it. Back in the punk days, there were a lot of fringe bands that had the hooks, a bit of rock energy, but didn’t quite go too over the top. Pet Sun seem to embody that at times, although they push and pull at the formula to keep me guessing as each fully formed song moves by. Just as I think it might get a little too old hat for me, they throw in some surprises. It is that kind of spirit that kept me listening and keeps me coming back for more.

Songs to start with first:

Web of Man - A good structured rock song that harkens back to different eras.

Dark Planet - A moody slow song that does the change up style right.

It’s So Sweet - Good easy going garage rocker.

Now here’s an electronica band I can quickly and enjoyably get my head around. These guys have dramatic bursts of sound coupled with mysterious passages and roaring percussion. There are lead guitar runs and vocals, too, so there is something for everyone. Yet it is far from excessive as the parts are all crisp and on mark. There are soulful songs and crazy experimental rockers that either can soothe your mood or get you grabbing on to your chair. Although even some of the smoother soulful vocal outings have some gutsy backing.

Get your calendar out and mark down Sunday, May 29th when this band plays the 9:30 Club.

Songs to start with first:

The Roaming Hoard - Powerhouse rocker featuring everything but the kitchen sink. Wonderful.

Peace of What - Guest vocalist Jordan Brown sings ‘land of duck and cover’ - that takes me back.

A New Theory - Crisp crazy electro rock, kind of like when Ministry was trying to bridge electronica with metal, but this leaning to electronica.

This has kind of a lounge rock’n’roll style. Not quite lounge jazz, but not quite bar-band rock style either. There is a smooth control to the rock music and the vocals and melodies are rather fetching. There are some light keyboards and some sleazy sax (as an old friend of mine would say). There are even reggae and Americana moves in different songs, but the overall character does not change much. This does not dazzle me, but it is a thoughtful little record with some highly likable playing and singing.

Songs to start with first:

One Beautiful Life - Putting the longest song first is bold, but this is strong and establishes the sound.

Why Aren’t You Here - Rocking, with a touch of Western Americana.

Never Too Late - A good reaggae-esque beat with tasty lead guitar lines.

I rather liked this band the last time they had an album out and a tour through town. Now, I really like this band. The live show featured a more realized sound that the band had full control of. Their new album has many fresh songs that jump out at you in odd angles that unsurprisingly flowed together in the live setting. But at this juncture, this Montreal band has got it all together with a just fresh enough approach to psychedelic progressive sounds in the 21st century. I hope to be around for the next LP and tour as well.

Songs to start with first:

Fall - Crazy wild powerhouse of an opening. This is more of an ecliipse into chaos.

Resistance - After the urge to resist is pounded into me, the latter twist is lovely.

Careful - I still like a long droning Euro-synth song.

I have seen Matt and his local folkie approach a number of times over the years, but it has been a while and during that time he has assembled a band to infuse more rock into his songs. And he has a four-song EP to show off these results. I am quite happy with his direction as he still maintains his warm approach to songwriting and has a band to bring further life to the mix. There are catchy pop runs as well as more earthy introspective moments. The pace is moderate and even brisk on occasion, such as in ‘Very Little’.  This is a solid effort and a good direction for Matt Tarka to take his music.

See what it is like like, when Matt Tarka and band play the Iota on Monday, May 2nd. I will be there.

I am not sure what South Korea thinks of this immigrant Angol-band from what looks and sounds like the classic American garage, but I am guessing they dig it. This style of rock works as well in the far East as it does in the West if it is done well, and Used Cassettes have all that is needed to deliver the down and dirty goods. There a few attributes that make garage rock good such as confidence and swagger. This band appears full of confidence and has just the right amount of swagger to not go too over the top. They back it up with some smart songwriting and clever guitar arrangements. They are not all masterpieces, but all have qualities that will attract different types of fans within the broad genre. I sense that this garage is closer to Michigan than California, so that is a subtle bonus. There is some method to the madness in this band’s music, but indulging in the madness is far more fun than dissecting the methods. So join me and just have it.

Songs to start with first:

At Barcelona - Odd to have the longest cut at 6:41 starting off the album, but the shifts and drones do get things off with creative flourish.

Wasted - Short psyche punk garage rocker hits all the right notes and then some more for good measure.

Whip of the Master - I love the way the rhythm chugs along and crazy solos and desperate vocals work out their space.

This is the kind of post rock music I enjoy. It has a strong nod to the Krautrock scene, Cluster in particular from what I hear on this extremely long player. The atmosphere is smooth, but intense and mysterious. The percussion is strong and there are some vocals at various points, which of course offer a rather striking counterpart to the steady melodic instrumental shifts. There is not much else to say, except to put it on and let it flow.

I have been following this band for some time, although not as much in recent years. Of course, as fans know, this ‘band’ is pretty much Andy Cabic, his songs and singing, along with some fine accompanying musicians. They were not terribly freak folk even as they were lumped with other friendly bands in the scene. Instead they had a slightly spaced out Americana sound. That is here as well, but they start with more electronics at work as they even more otherworldly in sound, yet retaining a well rooted approach. Yet there is odd steel guitar meets reggae moves, which don’t work so well. Vetiver has always been just about there to my mind, but they have never fully swung me over to their vision. I like the creative flourish here in some of the songs, so I am still listening, but still not quite there. But if you are a fan, I see no reason not to indulge.

Check out Vetiver at the Hamilton, this Wednesday, May 4th. I’ll bet there.

Songs to start with first:

Stranger Still - The opener will wake you up to the new vistas they are exploring.

Confiding - A nice little song that balances old and new sounds.

Loose Ends - Maybe more cliched Californian jangle rock here, but I like it.

This is a full album of instrumental rock music. It is big and bold on occasion, but too often is just decent guitar based rock music where you are just waiting for the vocals to give it some direction. This just does not have the audacious exploratory excitement of Mogwai and other bands in this field. ‘Low Flying Planes’ is closest with its mix of punctuating moments and thick sludgy guitar sound. I warmed a bit more to this as it went on, but there still is not quite enough or a reason to go back to it. Fans of instrumental rock should have a listen.

After a strong opening, it turned out that there was a surprise around every corner of this album as this shifted from hard country rock to rock ballad to old time crooner to folk song, etc. There is even an indie rock feel in one song to remind you of the present day, which is helpful for this rest of this is a surreal dream with a powerful acoustic finish on pretty much all of Side B. This New Zealand artist has really connected with me here and I highly recommend giving this a thorough listen.

I highly advise heading to the Lincoln Theatre on May 21st.

Songs to start with first:

Hello Miss Lonesome - This song explodes with such a fast beat, that it is just not right to call this Country & Western.

I’m Lost Without You - Sounds like a dream of a 1962 ballad.

Strange - Twisted country folk song that is quite unique.


This local outfit (Fredericksburg, VA) has an earthy rock approach with plenty of folk moves, even as the drums push the pace a bit beyond a walking speed. There are some big vocal moments that sound more pop rock than folk rock, but they tend to straddle this line much of the way here. Ultimately this is a slick and together sound that follows in the Fleet Foxes era of pop music from the sonic heartland. The violin is particularly helpful in giving Wylder their edge and there are moments of creative spark that stand out from the pack. They should do well with this, although it is a crowded field.

Songs to start with first:

Swells - Good rootsy punch with violin fills.

Snake in the Grass - This is heartier folk rock, a bit more acoustic even.

Bitter - Song balanced their approach well and struck deep.

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