Sunday, October 2, 2016


This is pop punk that is assertive enough to not be overly poppy to all but the hardened element of the scene. Or so it sounds to me. The pop component was always there in the early days of punk, but the volume and tempo was ratcheted up as is the case here. The female vocals are just tough enough while maintaining an attractive grasp of the melody and just enough range. There are some fine songs here, but a few more casual entries as well. It is more about the overall approach, which when it connects more often than not, it s a good one.

You can see the live set at the Black Cat on October 11th.

Songs to start with:

Keep on Keepin’ on - The opener takes me back to the poppier punk sounds of Penetration and other alliterative analogies.

Sleepwalking - Nice melodic hook smoothly delivered with driving rock backing.

Sour Candy - Sounds like ’Teenage Kicks’ by the Undertones, which is a good thing.

This is a lovely folk outing with delicate but firm female vocals on top of well played acoustic guitar. There are some subtle tones and shapes beyond the core, which is always a plus. But the voice, guitar, and songwriting are all top notch and easily carry the listener through to the end—at least for folk fans. You sense Americana, but it is a more universal than that, but it definitely feels more homegrown than UK based. This was a pleasure that I will be repeating often.

Songs to start with:

In a Vision or in None - The opening cut connects deep in its own quiet way.

Tones and Shapes - The tones are welcoming and the shapes are smooth and comforting.

Full Moon Pilgrim - The male and female harmonies are exquisite and the guitar line is mesmerizing.

This local band showed a great handle on garage based rock’n’roll when I witnessed them on stage. But now onward to the studio and see what they come up with. Unsurprisingly, they still have all the great rock moves that seem to pull from many generations of rock music. They have a way with a hook, which makes it all easy to work off of. And the full band shows off some fine moves with guitars carrying the way. The vocals are also well done with sharp catchy harmonies at all the right moments. I would say this is thoughtful music, but there is more a sense of fun about it all that really defines it more accurately. Cut loose with the Chess Club Romeos and let them hook you in.

Songs to start with:

We’re Not Shittin’ - The opener is catchy with attractively sneering vocals and establishes the rock mentality (with purpose as the title foretells).

Desperate Favors - There are interesting bass and guitar contrasts and some nice organ work. Oh and a great chorus.

Tumbleweeds - Spirited romp with a bouncy rhythm.

Deep, dark and quiet. That covers a few excellent crooning performers in recent years such as Richard Buckner, John Grant, or Mark Lanegan.  But unlike some of those artists, this is not quite as unrelentingly dark, as there is quite a bit of optimism in some of the songs. And there is also a lush full band rock sound that becomes increasing important as the songs slowly unfold on this album. In fact this nearly becomes a shoegaze album about half way through, but never quite there either. Ultimately it has plenty of interesting themes and musical combinations to make for a fun listening experience.

Songs to start with:

Riding on Your Love - Rich sound, full voice, a lovely cut.

Borderland State - A rich sound that has a shoegaze feeling combined with jangly folk (that doesn’t happen often).

Finding Roxanne - Fine British styled pop in the manner of less heavy songs of Jesus & Marychain.

Fresh indeed, as this psychedelic outfit glows with a freshness during the finer spots on this album. They can drone or have rhythms that take you to Africa merged with post punk guitars. The introspective moments help define the sharper harder songs and create a vibrant expansive musical world. There are some songs that go off in directions that I would rather have been reined in (Three-Way Mirror) but the band gets full marks for deviating from the safe formulas that even psychedelic music has.

Songs to start with:

Olinda - The opener has such a slow build, it perplexes you for several minutes wondering which way this band will go. Ultimately, it satisfies.

Mass Graves_Dance Caves - Vocals creep into the mix as do jagged guitars and bubbly rhythms.

Eat Me in St. Louis - I just wanted to type this title, but this is the quiet song that offsets the bold.

I am afraid that this record works a light bubbly pop angle that I doubt will ever resonate for me. It never has in the past, even in my youth (although my youth predates this sound, so…). It sounds fine for what it is and there are even some good guitar jabs, and nice electronic textures. ‘Over & Over’ shows the potential, but most songs have pop tones that just do not connect here. If you like this sort of sound, it may work for you. I always try to keep an open ear, but there is an old brain to deal with after that.

What starts off as fine, if not highly derivative psychedelic music, quickly goes psychedelic in many splintering directions. What starts as outtakes from Pink Floyd’s ‘Meddle’ (or many others) squeezed through a bit of Tangerine Dream’s “Alpha Centauri’ quickly blends into the 1980s and beyond with takes at post punk, synth pop, goth, and almost an Opeth like confluence of genres. There are bleating brass moments, violins and all with deep vocals. Ultimately this is that certain kind of psyche LP that relaxes you, but has all kinds of edges to keep you on your toes.

Songs to start with:

More Than a Matter of Instinct - The Floydian opening morphs into something more personal and just as good.

Of Woe-Migratory Birds - The second cut gets more rhythmic and electro-post punk psyche.

Dowser - And some odd sax on the third cut. There are three more long cuts after these three.

Anyone who works and tours with Michael Chapman and Mike Cooper is someone that I want to pay attention to. Gunn takes a more electric approach, which those classic two British guitarists occasionally did, and works it with a rhythm section. They provide only the steadiest of backings to let the guitars flow and vocals carefully work you through the melodic trek. From the first note to the last, this is an artist locked into a vision that successfully comes forth in a relaxed, yet active style. It hits all the right buttons on this end, like a Kurt Vile, with maybe a bit more easy going structures.

Songs to start with:

Ancient Jules - Such flow in the guitar work here.

Nature Driver - He takes you on a tour of nature as there is something far away and isolated in this song.

Park Bench Smile - Magical guitar line starts this song and the vocals and crisp drumming match the magic.

The opening cut is short audacious experimental looping of vocal treatments and a bit of instrumentation. It is an effective wake up call for the delicate songs that follow. There are stark piano melodies in charge of directing most of the songs, although some interesting guitars take charge of others. Orchestral backing subtly fades in and out at interesting points along the journey to fill out the sound thoroughly. This never sounds particularly quiet, even as there are open spaces. The quiet strength of Henson’s vocals have a lot to do with that as he has a lush and very full voice that effectively stretches the emotional content of the melody. The emotions are almost too naked at times, but that in itself is audacious as looped vocal arrangements, so this singer songwriter album has a lot to offer.

Songs to start with:

Alright - Piano led song with subtle orchestration and a flexible vocal smoothly working the scales.

The Pugilist - Guitar led song that not only reminds me of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘The Boxer’ in title, but in spirit, too.

Comfortable Love - More of a bold rocker, but with quiet heartfelt moments that tie it to the rest of the album.


I had heard names like Vashti Bunyan and Karen Dalton being tossed around when discussing Lisa/Liza. And since these aren’t names you casually toss around, I was wary. Yet it did not take long before Lisa/Liza’s brand of ‘simple’ folk consisting of voice and acoustic guitar was fully in that unique universe of Bunyan and Dalton. I would add Anne Briggs to the mix, as there is something fully classical about this, even as the ethereal moments transcend into psyche-folk territory. This is the lighter side of psyche-folk as the arrangements stay stark and simple. Probably the only thing that did not work for me was the lengthy somewhat meandering approach that was present in some of these long songs. This is only a seven song LP. But I still find the overall approach quite moving and this easily fits into my massive folk and offshoot folk collection.

Songs to start with:

Century Woods - The opener will hook you if you will be hooked at all. The hook sank deep in me.

Wander - Such a quiet opening and mannered approach.

Deserts of Youth - The title cut is a quiet fadeout of sorts.

My favorite Vermont duo are back with yet another psychedelic exploration into guitarland. The last time I saw their live show, it was fun, but too much in the vein of a Neil Young psychedelic rock experience. Here, they are much more delicate, integrating eastern modal moves with west coast rock stylings. They even have a Fit & Limo vibe at times, which is something I always want more of. They are always worth a listen and I think this shows a maturity in exploring unchartered lands, where experience helps.

Songs to start with:

Love Lemma Herb Slang - Trippy opener goes an unexpected, but no surprising direction.

No S- The trippiness is even crazier here especially as the song fades off to parts unknown.

I’m Still in Love with You Love > Void - Closing with an eleven minute freaky song is the way they should close an LP.

by Kyle Schmitt
Alone Together Forever coheres remarkably well given the diverse ground covered by My New Mixtape This release is the project of Jarrett Nicolay (Virginia Coalition), whose lyrical content veers from droll to melancholic, often within the same song. Singing over a chiming, danceable instrumental backing, Nicolay claims, “I want to learn to have fun / just like everyone”, and promises he’s “gonna make a keen observation / if I remember how to even have a conversation.” More celestial concerns are addressed on “Otherside Tide”, which begins with a stream-of-consciousness debate over whether God is a jerk, or just got married and has another family that needs him more than we do. Nicolay can tell a compelling story over acoustic guitar or a dance beat. The fuzzy, upbeat pop of “Selfie Stick” transitions smoothly into the low-stakes conversation of “Small Talk”, in which Nicolay and Dan Miller shoot the bull about their football team’s agonies. Regardless of song style, Alone Together Forever benefits significantly from the backing vocals of Olivia Mancini and Brittany Jean Valint. Their harmonies on songs such as “Talk the Walk” invoke the New Pornographers at their singalong best. On this immensely likable album, My New Mixtape maintains a melodic resilience no matter what musical and personal terrain Nicolay chooses to explore.

Songs to start with:

Sunburn Suburb Someday - Synths dominate this radio friendly tale about missing a friend. 

And You and I - Terrific duet with Mancini that serves as a post-mortem for a relationship, concluding that, “What we left was so much bigger than us.”

Eight Ball - Nicolay endures a visit to the dentist by musing about the places he really belongs, including a starship bound for Alderaan, the middle of a magic 8-ball, and a rock band that really/nearly made it.

Nothing cosmetic with this sound, just great in your face post punk. Lots of attitude in the vocals and overall thrust, with wild basslines, jagged guitars, bubbling sounds, a forward thinking drumming. They remind me quite a bit of Simply Saucer who successfully merged punk rock with space rock back in the heyday. Oddly enough, even decades later, it is not done terribly often, but Nots manage it well, with a slightly more post punk approach. So it is full of attitude and musicality and offers a great workout of a listening experience. I am sure this is a serious kick in the face live.

You can see them live at Comet Ping Pong on October 7th.

Songs to start with:

Blank Reflection - The opener sets the table with snarl and in your face pace.

New Structures - Great song brimming with power and mystery.

Fluorescent Sunset - A moodier more Banshees styled rocker.

This first song sounds like Grinderman covering the Velvet Underground with Hawkwind’s Dik Mik in charge of the synthesizer and electronics. That is impressive. The rest of the time it is the usual Oneida styled noisy feedback experimental psychedelic noodling that is a mix of abrasion and exploration. As much as I appreciate the attempts they make, they rarely connect with me as other more song oriented bands. But there are moments and the first song is a gem.


There is a touch of pub rock in this punk band, but it certainly will take you back to the 1970s. But they also work with earlier rock forms and some ska punk pace. As with all of these rapid fire bands, not every song is a classic, but if it keeps you revved up for a better one, then the band is doing ok. I am somewhat of a hard sell after living through the classic punk age, but these guys are pretty decent. I would like to see the live show, where I bet it is elevated even further.

Songs to start with:

Jibba Jab - This song is a solid homage to early rock’n’roll and has a nice arrangement.

I Need a Job - Thankfully not from the movie ‘Sid + Nancy’, but more in the Undertones style.

I’m a Little Devil - Great pace and melody. This one digs into your bones.

Now here is some pop music that goes funky into older R&B territory, yet with loads of hooks and pop beats. The vocals are attractive and don’t hold back when they want to push forward to add to the intensity of the music. And it gets intense lyrically as well. Don’t lose yourself on the dance floor too much and avoid listening to the biting lyrics in the cut ‘Washington DC’ to see what these Ottawans think of at least some of the temporary lodgers in our fair city. This has all the right elements balanced into a sharp EP that should attract a whole lot of fans.

Songs to start with:

Don’t Believe in Love - Just six songs here, but the opener has all you need to know if you want to continue. I did.

The venerable Champagne-Urbana band is back, although I am not sure they ever exactly went away. They had a nice bit of success a few decades back and now offer a full length recording of new material for the first time in 12 years. Even if you think you have heard all the assertive post-grunge indie rock to last you a life time, you might what to give this a spin. They have a way with guitar sounds and tricky melodies that give this a rather unique feel. And this is another fine record in their canon.

Songs to start with:

Cancer - Smoking guitars and quietly penetrating vocals will stick to you like…

Freedom Rock - This title was a band name who gave an assembly for us in 7th Grade. Unlike that band, this song rocks.

More from the Psychedelic Furs/Teardrop Explodes school of British post punk music is the what happens in these nine single word songs. There is a slight vocal tremor that reminds me of my old friend Gyn Cameron of Dementia Precox. There is an intensity throughout with lots of style shifts, although they are subtle (at least as can be with this music). It goes back to the day when music was called industrial, although much of that (as this) is filled with pop hooks and attractive elements. You may have remembered this band under their former name, Viet Cong. Even if you do, there are surprises around every corner here and I recommend giving this album at least one chance. If you are like me, you will be back for more.

And you can test this all out live at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Sunday, October 16th.

Songs to start with:

Anxiety - The opener sets the table with strong music and a vocal line that will have you sitting up and taking notice.

Zodiac - Here’s the Dementia Precox song they never played.

Memory - An 11 1/2 minute journey through interesting song structures and sonic bridges.

Dreamy dance music is at the heart of “Strange Diary”. It is just bouncy enough with rich vocal work to perk up my ears more than usual. Unfortunately, it does not vary the formula enough for me to keep attentive. There is a difference between listening (and dancing) to this in the U Street Music Hall than in my living room. So if you want a night out, or bring it to your living room, this may do the trick.


A close listening reveals some serious well worked out thoughts making their way into the writing and arranging of these songs. The band can slide from electropop to folk to chill rock with smooth efficiency. The vocals are capable of giving you chills and hold it all together. This takes forms of music I am only lightly comfortable with and merges it into forms that connect, oh so effectively. Strong record here, and one that I can recommend for just about anybody, particularly if you like the Decemberists, Radiohead, or Ultravox.

Songs to start with:

Flogging a Dead Horse - Electronic pop opener is edgier in the manner of Tuxedomoon of long ago.

That Doubt Returns - More folky, but with some really intriguing arrangement twists in backing vocals and rhythm.

A Prayer from our Leaders - A quiet kind of epic at work here.

This just may be yet another Americana based rock band, were it not for that special flair that you get from New Orleans musicians. After a steady opener, the band starts cooking up the usual gumbo with a whole lot of ingredients that a savvy chef or bandleader manages to combine into a fulfilling creation. There is jazz, blues, rock, rockabilly, and maybe even a bit more in here. The lead vocals have a bit of twang, but also a clarity that is not anywhere near cliché. A couple songs, you have to even strain to pick up the accent. Basically, this like Dr. John with cleaner vocal work, but enough of the magic in the music to attract a wide array of fans.

Songs to start with:

The Creole Nightingale Sings - This has that great undulating creole spice that really sticks.

Ma Jolie - Snaky electric guitar, slide moves, along with bouncing bass and cool keyboards. Funky.

I Hope - A slow soulful number, not usually one I gravitate to, but they do it so well.

Interesting album name as Lizzy Rose’s music seems pretty sincere at first glance. Certainly vocally it does, although there is a bit of whimsy mixed into some of the songs, which makes for something playful but with meaning. The meaning seems pretty playful at times and it is hard not to if you feel like you are hearing circus music played behind the vocals. But other times, it is more direct and clear. There is plenty of variety here, but all is seasoned well and spiced up to pack a wallop in its own quiet way.

Songs to start with:

Crocodile Tears - Great starter, although I was hoping the band was also named Crocodile Tears.

Best I’ve Had - A good pop song with heart-felt vocals.

Walk the Walk (You’re a Whore) - A bit more rock, 60s style popsike, and a killer melody. Brilliant!

What more can you say about Ravi Shankar? He is simply the master sitarist, at least the most famous sitarist of all time thanks to the Beatles and the many more artists who discovered the instrument and marveled at his playing. Invited to most of the festivals, Shankar gave Indian music great exposure in the west, where it still resonates off those droning companion strings today. Although his daughter keeps the Shankar name relevant today with her outstanding music, we still get the benefit of further releases from her father. The title states exactly what this is and specifically it is four long drones with one clocking in at 53 minutes!

This is a slippery record. It sounds quite dark and intriguing, but there are bright spots that balance it in a quiet way. There are also alternating experimental moves and very soft safe melodic lines. This works well on this solo album from the San Fermin man.

Songs to start with:

Aliens - Beginning with a dark minimalism, it ends with lots of creative guitar jabs.

Don’t Choke - Spirited baking vocals offset the dark tones, although a good pop meoldy is clear.

Keeping You Awake - A balanced light and dark song that is moving.

OK, they hooked me with the droning psychedelic core sound, romantic vocals, light glockenspiel accent, AND a mellotron. You really can’t screw that formula up if you can write songs. And this Canadian band from way, way up in North Bay can write the songs. And with that cold rugged terrain surrounding a beautiful lake, they have plenty of inspiration. And there is a lot of beauty in the music. A few songs almost go too pop-mainstream, but mostly they balance melody with a lovely style that rocks lightly and emits an atmosphere that can pull in psyche fans as well as mainstream music lovers. As I like the delicate psyche folkers, these guys mostly work for me.

Songs to start with:

Song of the End - Actually, it is the beginning and they start with a superbly arranged moderately paced psyche rocker.

Black Rain - Folk elements and a haunting atmosphere, stil catchy enough for radio.

Moor Spirits - Charming psyche folk cut reminiscent of Dulcimer, the band, not the instrument.

After first listen, I am not sure I enjoy this record as much as his previous LP. It is a fine record as there is great skill and style on display on these eight long tracks. Part of my hesitation is due to this record being a bit more universal and less British folk influenced. The horizons are broadened here with a host of influences. But by album’s end, I am believing in this enough to think that many further listens will have it standing out as another fine album in what will eventually be an outstanding Ryley Walker catalog. He is not as bold as ‘the Tims’, Buckley, Rose, and Hardin, but manages to incorporate some of the command of the moment that these guys were so good at. You wanted to soak up every sung note, with the space in between filled with anticipation. Walker has some of that going on and is still one of the more interesting writer performers at work today.

And mark the date, Wednesday, October 26th, as Ryley Walker will pack the DC9 for what will likely be an excellent show.

Songs to start with:

A Funny Thing She Said - Sounds a bit like Nick Drake, if Drake had more confidence.

Sullen Mind - Instrumental weaving is rarely this good and the vocal passages hold up to it as well.

Age Old Tale - At over eight minutes, this song is relaxed with enough going on to command the atmosphere.

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