Thursday, May 31, 2012

White Widow - "A Psychological Thriller" CD Review / Show at Public Assembly on July 17th

White Widow - 'A Psychological Thriller' CD Review / Show at Public Assembly on July 17thWhite Widow (aka Carla Patullo) is releasing her fourth disc, A Psychological Thriller, on June 5th 2012. The new disc is culled from Patullo’s growing interest in psychological thriller films and tells the dream-like story of a fictional character in ten songs that seamlessly blend together into one half-hour long soundtrack.

A Psychological Thriller and its concept spiked the interest of Brooklyn artists Jamie Dwyer and Justin Ulloa (Electric Wonder Creative), who produced an original animated short film under the same title. Inspired by White Widow's music, the film is a fantastical and delusional portrayal of an unraveling love affair, set to the full album. White Widow will be performing the soundtrack live at Public Assembly on July 17th (Advance tickets are $10)

A couple of years ago, the Wall Street Journal described Patullo’s music as "angst-drenched indie rock that ranges from bombastic to intimate, occasionally within the same song". This is much better description of White Widow’s music than I came up with as I was going to make a comparison to a ‘gothic Tori Amos’ crossed with Stevie Nicks. Like Amos, Patullo’s music is emotive – the difference is that Patullo’s songs don’t just rely on raw vocals (like a number of Amos’ songs) to hit the listener’s emotions but are rather multi-layered, lush “full band” pieces.

There is enough variation between the songs to keep the music fresh and listener engaged - songs range from the rawly emotive “Serial Love Affair” to the soaring Salvationist “Something About Paradise” to the 80’s rock number “Trophy Girl”. There are also two instrumental interludes on the disc which help build the overall mood of the disc and this is complemented by the addition of cello, strings, piano and keys to the standard rock instrumentation.

This is a moody, relentless and powerful disc that holds up well to repeated listens.

White Widow

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Grand Magus - "Iron Will" CD Review (Metal Blade)

Grand Magus - 'Iron Will' CD Review (Metal Blade)Metal Blade is re-issuing Swedish “traditional metal” band Grand Magus’ 2008 CD Iron Will (originally out on Rise Above) on June 5th. This is my first exposure to Grand Magus so I can’t compare the music on this record to any of the band’s other discs. I’ve read though that Grand Magus started out as “doom” but this disc predominately sounds like Ian Gillan fronting early Iron Maiden.

Grand Magus is a power-trio that was formed by vocalist Janne "JB" Christoffersson and bassist Fox Skinner. After his tenure in Spiritual Beggars, Christoffersson’s vocals are immediately recognizable but his stellar guitar playing comes as a pleasant surprise. I guess it is hard to get noticed as a guitar player when you are playing alongside Michael Arnott. Iron Will was the band’s fourth disc and the lineup this time out includes newcomer Sebastian "Seb" Sippola on drums. For most of the last decade, Christoffersson split his time between Spiritual Beggars and Grand Magus but decided to focus on Grand Magus exclusively after the release of 2010’s Hammer of the North.

While Spiritual Beggars is more groove-based stoner rock, Grand Magus emphasizes driving guitar riffs and melodic leads overtop of a galloping rhythm section. There isn’t a lot of ‘excess’ (guitar heroics, vocal histrionics) on this disc as the songwriting emphasizes the powerful guitar riffs and Christoffersson’s bluesy vocals. The lyrics mostly seem to be focused on pagan/sword-in-stone imagery (the problem with digital promos is one can never be completely certain of the lyrics) which drive to fist pumping, sing-along choruses.

The songs on the first half of the disc are all epic ‘tradition metal’ tracks – in the middle of these songs is a short (under a minute) rumbling bass track (“Hovding”) which serves as an intro. to the grinding riffs and anthemic choruses of “Iron Will”. Starting with “Silver into Steel”, the tone of the disc becomes a bit darker. This track starts with strings playing overtop of a brooding undertone and the track hits full-steam when its grinding Sabbath-ish riffs kick in. The guitars seem to have been “turned up to 11” for “The Shadow Knows”, which brings in more of a thrash/punk sound that is comparable to the sound of Iron Maiden’s first disc. “Self Deceiver” is full-out epic doom number that features down-tuned riffs, a heavy bass line and pounding drums. The band then takes a step back from the darkness with the Alice in Chains sounding “Good and Evil” and the disc ends with the morose “I Am the North”. (Note: this last track runs 5 minutes, not the nine minutes listed. There is a ‘hidden’ minute-long guitar riff at the end of the song.)

Grand Magus' new album, The Hunt, is due out on June 5th on Nuclear Blast.

Grand Magus

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hallelujah The Hills - "No One Knows What Happens Next" CD Review

Hallelujah The Hills - 'No One Knows What Happens Next' CD ReviewMore and more bands seem to be turning to Kickstarter to fund the recording of a new disc – Hallelujah the Hills launched a successful Kickstarter campaign in late 2010 to fund the band’s third disc, No One Knows What Happens Next, which came out last month.

My memory may be faulty on this but I vaguely remember seeing Hallelujah the Hills perform live a number of years ago and came away thinking that their music fell into a similar style to the Annuals and Arcade Fire. Regardless of impressions and assumptions, the music on this new ten-track (40 min) disc is predominately lo-fi Pavement-style “slacker rock”. Most of the songs are mid-tempo indie-rock numbers that are powered by Ryan Walsh’s world-weary vocals backed by minimalist and subtle instrumentation. The more ‘exuberant’ tracks on the disc leave the strongest impression as these are “bright” numbers that punch up the tempo of the songs with horns, strings and big shout-along choruses. On either side of this musical spectrum, the band is fairly eclectic – Walsh’s vocals seems to find new energy while waiting for the end on “Hello, My Destroyer” and the most upbeat number on the disc, “Nightingale Lighting”, collapses into a cacophony of feedback, operatic vocals and other sound effects.

In addition to the six members of HtH, local musicians Noell Dorsey, Katie Von Schleicher and Leah Hennessy add backing vocals to two of the disc’s stronger track, “Get Me in a Room” and “The Game Changed Me”. Marissa Nadler and Faces on Film also guest on the disc but they appear on some of the more melancholy numbers so their contributions aren’t as distinctive.

No One Knows What Happens Next
is pretty evenly balanced between the late night introspective tracks and those that stand up well in the daylight so it will be interesting to see if HtH settles on one style and where they go from here.

Hallelujah the Hills

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sleep - "Dopesmoker" CD Review (Southern Lord)

Sleep - 'Dopesmoker' CD Review (Southern Lord)You have to “love” the major labels – in the frenzy to sign the next Nirvana, many bands were signed to labels that had no idea what the band was about or how to market the band to a mass-market audience. The sad thing is that many solid ‘underground’ bands wouldn’t have appealed to a mass-market (think Pearl Jam) audience in the first place. Recently reflecting on the band’s flirtation with Atlantic Records, J. Robbins from Jawbox said “As far as my experience goes and understanding the major label music business, it's a machine for creating massive pop culture phenomena. So, if you want to be Prince or Madonna, if you want to be the biggest f*cking thing in creation and be a household word...if you want to be Lady Gaga, that is absolutely the world to step into."

The Meat Puppets had become more-or-less socially acceptable by the time they signed to London Records but I can’t imagine who signed the Butthole Surfers to Capital or Sleep to London Records. The Butthole Surfers got onto “modern rock” radio with “Pepper” but there was no way that Sleep was ever going to get onto the radio or MTV with an hour-long epic to “drop[ping] out of life with a bong in hand” (“Dopesmoker”).

The new Southern Lord release of Dopesmoker contains the epic-length title track and a live version of “Holy Mountain” that was recorded in 1994 at the I-Beam in San Francisco. Dopesmoker has been out of print for years so it is almost irrelevant to compare this new version to the previous 2003 pressing (Tee Pee Records) but…this new version was mastered from the original studio tapes by From Ashes Rise guitarist Brad Boatright and has more sonic depth than the previous issue (or any of quasi-legit/bootleg issues).

Sleep had toured for Holy Mountain (1993) with Cathedral and Hawkwind and Dopesmoker stretches the sound of Holy Mountain to incorporate best of these two bands. The title track, “Dopesmoker”, is old-school sludgy doom metal in the spirit of Black Sabbath (and Cathedral) with epic, lumbering guitar riffs that brings out the listeners’ visceral emotions as Sleep takes the listener further and further into their stoner-rock aural landscape. To steal a phrase from a past Southern Lord festival, Dopesmoker emphasizes the power of the riff – the guitar riffs are almost organic as they grind and crash, one after another – with no sign of stopping, while Al Cisneros’ vocals are delivered in an almost cathartic chant. The 11 minute live take of “Holy Mountain” has more of a ‘traditional’ song structure than “Dopesmoker” but this extended live version shows how the band was rapidly moving further into the sludgy Sabbath ‘void’. This live recording sounds like it was taped from the audience but it is a great representation of Sleep in all their primitive glory.

Sleep 2012 U.S. Tour Dates:
6/02/2012 The Ritz – Tampa, FL
6/03/2012 Neumos – Seattle, WA
6/04/2012 Neumos – Seattle, WA
6/05/2012 Fox Theater – Oakland, CA


Anvil - Live Photos from Maryland Death Fest, Baltimore, MD 5-26-12

In one sense, Anvil reminds me of doom-metal pioneers Trouble. Both bands have been around since the 70's, a significant number of well-know musicians cite them as influences but the 'average' music fan hasn't heard of either group. Below, Lars Ulrich does a nice job of describing Anvil's arrival on the metal scene in the early 80's.

After coming close to fading into obscurity, Anvil rocketed back into the public eye with the documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008). The band has been playing a number of high-profile festival shows over the last few years which, most recently, include a set at Maryland Death Fest 2012.

Anvil - Maryland Death Fest, Sonar, Baltimore, MD 5-26-12

Anvil - Maryland Death Fest, Sonar, Baltimore, MD 5-26-12

Anvil - Maryland Death Fest, Sonar, Baltimore, MD 5-26-12

Anvil - Maryland Death Fest, Sonar, Baltimore, MD 5-26-12

Anvil - Maryland Death Fest, Sonar, Baltimore, MD 5-26-12

Anvil signed to The End Records in late 2010 and the label released Juggernaut of Justice (their 14th studio album) about a year ago. As a lot of Anvil's records have gone out of print over the years, The End Records has recently re-released four of Anvil's long out-of-print discs: Plugged In Permanent, Speed of Sound, Absolutely No Alternative and Plenty of Power (all originally released late 90's/early '00 on the German label, Massacre Records).


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Paul McCartney - "RAM" Special Edition CD Review

STREAM: Paul McCartney - "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" (from RAM)

Paul McCartney - 'RAM' Special Edition CD Review
When reviewing deluxe reissues, I generally don’t attempt to review the original album as, most often, there is little to add to the hundreds of reviews that have already been written. That being said, I don’t think I had heard Paul McCartney’s second solo LP RAM (originally released in 1971) before and was taken aback by how well this disc stacks up against today’s indie-pop music. It seems such a contradiction in terms to mention Sir Paul and “indie-pop” in the same sentence but…there are definitely elements on this disc (layered production, orchestral elements) that are heard on modern releases from bands like Arcade Fire and Of Montreal.

To provide some background on the original recording of RAM, Paul composed the songs (with input from Linda) while on an extended holiday on McCartney’s farm on the Mull of Kintyre, Scotland. A number of the videos on the bonus DVD were filmed on the McCartney’s farm during this period. RAM was recorded in New York and Los Angeles and the McCartneys’ backing band was recruited via open auditions. The RAM sessions were prolific and a number of the songs not included on the original 12-track disc ended up as b-sides and on later Wings’ releases.

According to the online “Paul McCartney Sessionography”, twenty-three tracks were recorded:

The "RAM" Sessions (Late January - Late February 1970)

Released as a Single in Advance of RAM but Not Included on the Original LP
Another Day (RAM bonus track)
Oh Woman, Oh Why (RAM bonus track)

Original Issue of RAM
Too Many People
3 Legs
Ram On
Dear Boy
Uncle Albert-Admiral Halsey
Smile Away
Heart of the Country
Monkberry Moon Delight
Eat at Home
Long Haired Lady
RAM On (Reprise)
The Back Seat Of My Car

RAM Bonus Tracks
A Love for You
Sunshine, Sometime (also on Rupert the Bear soundtrack)
Hey Diddle
Rode All Night

Unreleased Tracks from the RAM Sessions
Dear Friend
Little Lamb Dragonfly
Get On The Right Thing
Now Hear This Song Of Mine
When The Wind Is Blowing

Paul McCartney - Vocals, guitar, bass, piano, keyboards
Linda McCartney - Vocals, keyboards
Dave Spinoza - Guitars
Hugh McCracken - Guitars
Denny Seiwell - Drums, percussion

The remaining two bonus tracks – “Great Cock and Seagull Race” and “Little Woman Love” – were respectively recorded at the Wild Life sessions in 1971 and “The First Singles Session” in Spring 1972.

My review copy came with bonus DVD from the Deluxe Edition (and this set includes 2 extra CDs - the remastered Mono edition of RAM and the Thrillington CD along with a 112 page book). The playing time on the DVD runs about 25 minutes. While I would have like more material, the likely reality is that the footage used is all that exists from this time period as Macca didn’t tour until 1972 with Wings.

The features on the bonus DVD are:

1 – Ramming – The Story of the Album: This is a current-day audio interview with Macca (backed by studio shots of the recording session which are presumably were shot by Linda) where he reflects on working with Linda in the studio, hiring the band and he also talks about the impetus behind some of the songs. (Note: Macca states that “Dear Boy” was directed at Linda’s x-husband – not, contrary to popular belief, John Lennon)

2 – “Heart of the Country” & “3 Legs”: Both of these are promo videos which combine video footage of the McCartney family at home (and at play) in Scotland with the studio versions of these songs.

3 – “Hey Diddle”: This is an “impromptu” acoustic live performance of Paul and Linda sitting outside of their farmhouse singing this song, backed by Paul’s acoustic guitar.

4 – “Eat at Home” On Tour: This is an early promo video that combines live footage (from Wings 1972 tour) interspersed with tour bus and ‘day in the life’ footage of the band

Paul McCartney

Friday, May 25, 2012

Francis Bowie - "Francis Bowie" CD EP Review

Francis Bowie - 'Francis Bowie' CD EP ReviewI’m innately suspicious of white singers with dreadlocks (though Perry Farrell was weird enough to pull it off) as most seem to be either pop tossers or trustafarians. Given these 'biases', Dutch painter/sculptor Francis Bowie’s new self-titled EP came as a pleasant surprise. The four tracks on this new EP (14 minutes) sounds like some of the more intelligent (pre-MTV) new wave/synth-pop that came out of the UK in the early 80’s.

Bowie proclaims himself the founder of the Intelligent Pop Music genre of music and stated that “IPM is an attempt to put some quality, dignity and honor back into popular music.” While that is a fairly lofty goal - this isn’t the autotune nonsense that seems to be all over the radio. Bowie (predominately) sings with a rich baritone that is reminiscent of Peter Murphy and his music ranges between Deep-era Peter Murphy and Bronski Beat. The music is very accessible and catchy but there is a dark edge to all of the songs.

Most of the song lyrics are about love – and Bowie explores both the good and the bad. “Endlessly” has a mellow beat that is powered by low-key “new wave” synthesizers which leaves Bowie’s vocals to ably drive the song. “Wasted Time” follows in the same vein but adds strings and horns to the instrumentation. Bowie picks up the pace for the techno-dance number "Sunny Day" and this number shows the versatility of Bowie's vocals as he sings in almost a falsetto. Shifting styles yet again, the last number, "Silly and Crazy", is a gutter-glam industrial number.

While this new EP doesn't break any new ground, Bowie does an excellent job of mining a variety of sounds from the original post-punk era and his chameleon-like ability to jump between different aspects of the genre with ease may put him on par with the other Bowie given time.

Francis Bowie

Steve Vai Releases "The Story of Light" on 8/14; Show at Best Buy Theater on 9/11

Steve Vai Releases 'The Story of Light' on 8/14; Show at Best Buy Theater on 9/11
Virtuoso guitarist and visionary composer Steve Vai will release The Story of Light, a new solo album of original material, on August 14. The title comes out on Favored Nations Entertainment, the label Vai founded in 1999. The sprawling and expressive 12-song set continues a conceptual and cosmic narrative arc that began with the artist's most recent studio release, 2005's acclaimed Real Illusions: Reflections.

Although The Story of Light is largely instrumental, the album does feature guest vocalists including singer-songwriter Aimee Mann-dueting with Vai on "No More Amsterdam," which she also co-wrote. Beverly McClellan, a season one finalist on The Voice, appears on "John the Revelator," a track inspired by a vintage recording of blues singer Blind Willie Johnson, whose acid-soaked vocals are in the mix as well. Other highlights include the title track (which opens the album), "Gravity Storm," "The Moon and I," and "Velorum."

Throughout, three-time Grammy-winner Vai's lead guitar is as lyrically resonant as it is technically masterful, his licks and solos bending sounds and in listeners' minds in equal measure. The Story of Light follows the journey of a man driven mad by grief, intertwining tragedy, revelation, enlightenment, and redemption.

"I'm always pursuing knowledge, I'm a seeker of spiritual equilibrium-and music is a big part of that," says Vai. "I've been obsessed with these kinds of ideas for years." Looking ahead, Vai envisions a third set of songs that will unravel the mysteries and reveal truths that swirl through both The Story of Light and Real Illusions: Reflections. The completed trilogy, intended to be cinematic-even operatic-in scope, will include lyrics and narration.

The Story of Light is currently available for online pre-sale orders. This special pre-sale selection of bundled packages is offered exclusively through Steve Vai's website where complete details on the products and ordering information are available. Each package includes an instant download of a track from the new album personally selected by Vai, "Gravity Storm."

The Story of Light is Vai's 16th solo effort, and the follow up to 2009's live effort, Where The Wild Things Are. In support of its release, Vai will begin a tour of North America on August 15th in Fort Lauderdale Florida, accompanied by his band-who are also featured on the new album: Dave Weiner (guitar), Jeremy Colson (drums), Philip Bynoe (bass), and Deborah Hensen (harp, vocals, keyboards).

Steve Vai 2012 North American Tour Dates

8/15 -- Ft. Lauderdale FL | Revolution
8/16 -- St. Petersburg FL | Palladium Theatre
8/17 -- Lake Buena Vista FL | House of Blues
8/18 -- Jacksonville FL | Florida Theatre
8/20 -- Charlotte NC | The Fillmore
8/21 -- Nashville TN | Marathon Musicworks
8/22 -- Asheville NC | Orange Peel
8/23 -- Atlanta GA | Centerstage
8/24 -- N. Myrtle Beach SC | House of Blues
8/25 -- Durham NC | Carolina Theatre
8/26 -- Richmond VA | The National
8/28 -- Washington DC | The Howard Theatre
8/29 -- Stroudsberg PA | Sherman Theatre
8/30 -- Glenside PA | Keswick Theatre
8/31 -- Westbury NY |Theatre at Westbury
9/2 -- Lancaster PA | Chameleon Club
9/4 -- Ridgefield CT | The Ridgefield Playhouse
9/5 -- Wilmington DE | The Grand Opera House
9/6 -- Greensburg PA | Palace Theater
9/7 -- New Brunswick NJ | State Theatre
9/8 -- Morristown NJ | Mayo Performing Arts Center
9/9 -- Albany NY | The Egg
9/11 -- New York NY | Best Buy Theater (Note: Ticket info/prices not yet posted)
9/13 -- Boston MA | Wilbur Theatre
9/14 -- Northampton MA | Calvin Theatre
9/15 -- Concord NH | Capitol Center
9/16 -- Lebanon NH | Lebanon Opera House
9/17 -- Quebec QC CAN | Capitole Du Quebec
9/18 -- Montreal QC CAN | Metropolis
9/20 -- Toronto ON CAN | Sony Centre
9/21 -- Royal Oak MI | Royal Oak Music Hall
9/22 -- Buffalo NY | University of Buffalo Center for the Arts
9/24 -- Cleveland OH | House of Blues
9/26 -- Minneapolis MN | The Brick
9/27 -- Milwaukee WI | Pabst Theater
9/28 -- Chicago IL | House of Blues
9/29 -- St. Louis MO |The Pageant
9/30 -- Salina KS | The Stiefel Theatre
10/1 -- Denver CO | The Ogden Theatre
10/3 -- Boise ID | Knitting Factory
10/4 -- Seattle WA | The Moore Theatre
10/5 -- Vancouver BC | Commodore Ballroom
10/6 -- Portland OR | Roseland Theater
10/7 -- Napa CA | Uptown Theatre
10/9 -- San Francisco CA | Regency Ballroom
10/10 -- Sacramento CA | Ace of Spades
10/11 -- Anaheim CA | City National Grove of Anaheim
10/12 -- Los Angeles CA | Club Nokia
10/13 -- Agoura Hills CA | Canyon Club

Steve Vai

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Athens, GA's White Violet (Nate Nelson) Post "Lays Around Lazy" As Free Download (from forthcoming disc Hiding, Mingling)

DOWNLOAD: White Violet - "Lays Around Lazy"

White Violet is four young men from Athens, GA. Their names are Vaughan Lamb, Brad Elliott, Josh McCauley and Nate Nelson. Their debut album for Normaltown Records is named Hiding, Mingling (out 8/14/12).

The Athens, GA-based band is the brainchild of Nate Nelson, who's known for both his production work, as a touring musician (he's played with Maria Taylor and Nik Freitas, among others), and for his solo albums (the first of which was released when he was only 16). Everything on Hiding, Mingling originated as "Nate Nelson" songs but it didn’t end that way. White Violet is less a traditional band than an idea: a practical construct within which each composition has its edges erased, its bluntness buffered and its ghosts more elegantly shrouded. The new album was also produced by Andy LeMaster (of Now It's Overhead).

(Nate playing with Andy LeMaster and Maria Taylor @ The Earl in Atlanta)

When I look around/It seemed clearer before…” – “White Wash”

That one lyric from the lead track could sum up the whole experience of Hiding, Mingling. Even the album’s title betrays the pushmi-pullyu nature of these songs. There’s bliss in their claustrophobia, sweetness to their defensive sneer and a commonality to their singularity. This is night music - the sound of one heart beating.

White Violet Tour Dates
6/12 - High Watt, Nashville, TN
6/13 - Bottle Tree, Birmingham, AL
6/21 - 40 Watt Club, Athens, GA
6/23 - 40 Watt Club, Athens, GA

White Violet

The Hangmen - "East of Western" CD Review (Acetate Records)

PLAY: The Hangmen - "Homesick Blues" (from East of Western)

The Hangmen - 'East of Western' CD Review (Acetate Records)
I had completely forgotten about the 80’s cowpunk/gutter-rock band The Hangmen until the band’s latest disc, East of Western (Acetate Records), hit my mailbox. I remember the band as being a solid outfit but their “Jeffrey Lee Pierce meets X” sound was a clear case of ‘wrong time/wrong place’ during hair metal’s heyday on the Sunset Strip.

With singer/guitarist Bryan Small as the only holdover from the band’s original lineup, the Hangmen’s new ten-track disc (32 minutes) soldiers on in the spirit of later-period Dream Syndicate and Social Distortion. Not so coincidently, the Hangmen have toured with Social D and Mike Ness produced the band’s 2007 disc, In the City. In addition to Small, the current lineup of includes x-Supersuckers Ron Heathman (Guitar, Vocals), Angelique Congleton (Bass, Vocals) and Dino Guerrero (Drums). Guest star Jordan Shapiro (who has played with The Supersuckers) adds wispy trails of pedal-steel adornment to the garage rocker “Graverobbers”

Writing in a style similar to Mike Ness, Small’s songs are semi-confessional road tales about hard luck and hard living, lost loves, self-destruction and redemption. Small’s sneering vocals continue to be as distinctive and immediately recognizable as Johnny Thunders and the music ranges from slow-burning ballads to b*lls-out gutter punk. The music is as distinctive as Small’s vocals as both the hooks and anthemic choruses are memorable. All of this is complemented by Heathman’s stellar slide guitar work. On East of Western, Small sneers his way through boldly hard-rocking romantic pleas (“I’m Your Man”), Western-tinged barn-burners (“Railroad Man”) and insomniac tales of junkie self-destruction and ultimate redemption (“Drink Smoke”). With its big, fat and leering monster riff, “Big Red Rooster” is a fitting homage to the late Lux Interior of the Cramps, who Small lovingly describes as a “teenage bastard of the chosen one.” Adding to the mix of Hangman originals, the band blazes through a red-hot cover of the Modern Lovers' "She Cracked"

Producer Doug Boehm does an excellent job of capturing the grittiness of the band’s sound on East of Western and this was something that was missing from the band’s late 80’s debut disc. (Just so I’m not confusing anyone – East of Western is the band’s sixth disc but…I missed the middle four so I can’t comment on how they compare.)

The Hangmen

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Nehedar - "High Tide" CD Review

Nehedar - 'High Tide' CD ReviewNehedar’s Bio: Nehedar is the project of NYC based singer-songwriter Emilia Cataldo. Emilia has been writing and performing since 2001 and has been compared to Tracy Bonham, Emma Pollock and Aimee Mann.

While spanning indie-rock, folk, jazz and pop genres, the music of Nehedar has continued to deliver her blend of deeply personal yet quirky lyrics, beautiful vocal harmonies, a variety of instrumentation, and momentary departures from strict chord progressions that set her music apart. She has recorded her music at the Little Pioneer Cider House in Brooklyn, NY with producer Craig Levy since 2007. Nehedar released her 5th cd in March 2012 and is currently working on new material and videos.

I can relate to John Cusack’s film “High Fidelity” on multiple levels – while I’m taking a scene from the movie out of context, I need the “side one track one” of an artist that I’m not familiar with to grab and hold my attention. I gave Nehedar’s latest CD, High Tide, as spin and absolutely hated this first track “The Interrogation”. To my ears, it sounded like warmed over Bananarama or Belinda Carlisle – dated 80’s synthesizers with waif-like vocals bemoaning “there is so much confusion, so much f*cking noise”. Needless to say, I didn’t get beyond track one.

After looking at this disc in my review pile over the last few weeks, I was feeling guilty and gave the full disc a spin. Aside for the disaster of track one, the rest of the disc was an enjoyable listen as the music predominately falls into an upbeat (Americana) singer/songwriter groove. In listening to Cataldo’s clear vocals drive the direction of the remaining thirteen songs on the disc (as opposed to the instrumentation), my immediate points of comparison are Nanci Griffth (though not as twangy) or Michelle Shocked.

Cataldo keeps things interesting as the Nanci Griffth/Shawn Colvin only holds for part of the album before she stretches the boundaries into upbeat indie-rock (“Take It Apart” and “The Song No One Hears”) and blues/soul (“Dig Deep” and “Baby, I’m Falling”). Cataldo’s most distinguishing asset is her strong and natural vocals which shine on the ethereal “Intro” and the plaintive and minimalist “Ocean”. The disc goes out on a charmingly goofy note with “Countdown the Days” which is a darkly jolly number that could serve as a drinking song to “countdown the days until your dead”.

Anyone who has spent an evening or two at places like Joe’s Pub is sure to enjoy Nehedar’s new disc.


At The Moment - "Monte Carlo" CD EP Review

At The Moment - 'Monte Carlo' CD EP Review
Veteran musician Daniel Stampfel has been playing in bands on NYC circuit for quite a number of years but has finally released his first solo disc. Stampfel previously fronted The Inevitable Breakups, a power-pop quartet, whose debut album, No Wonder You’re So Beautiful, was produced by Richard Lloyd. One reviewer called Stampfel the “the reincarnation of Buddy Holly” and New York Press described the band as follows: “With a sound and infectious vocal harmonies reminiscent of The Raspberries, Weezer, The Cars, and Cheap Trick, they manage to combine those artists’ musical qualities to full effect with some kick-ass results.

With the (inevitable) breakup of The Inevitable Breakups in 2007, Stampfel kept a low profile for the next few years. “I stopped playing for about three years. I got wrapped up in relationships and real life,” says Stampfel. “I would write here and there, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do; what style, what ideas. But I knew I wanted to do something different.” Without a band for the first time in years, Stampfel didn’t have a set group to give him the yay or nay on his songs — and he didn’t have a set idea of how those songs needed to sound. The time was right for the songwriter to break out; to truly explore what he could do.

The three tracks on At the Moment’s debut EP show Stampfel moving in a direction similar to Matthew Sweet – 60’s/Byrdsian-inspired jangle pop. This is the sort of music that would have come out of Mitch Easter’s studios twenty years ago but, fast-forwarding to the present, Stampfel worked on his new disc with Longwave/Hurricane Bells mainman Steve Schiltz. Armed with a handful of songs he’d demoed at home, Stampfel hit the studio, “not knowing what to expect,” he remembers. Stampfel remembers "Steve suggested we record the songs live to capture the feeling of the original demos. We recruited Benjamin Cartel (Kaiser Cartel, The Benjamin Cartel) to play drums, Steve played bass and I played acoustic guitar. Steve and I shared overdub duties to complete the recording."

The end result was a trio of winsome songs, each with perfectly crafted hooks and ringing guitars.

At The Moment

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

MonstrO to Support Danzig on the Way to Bonnaroo

MonstrO to Support Danzig on the Way to Bonnaroo
Atlanta, Georgia’s MonstrO will be rolling into Bonnaroo in a few weeks with a handful of impressive warm up dates under their belts. The four-piece will be headlining the fabled Whisky in Los Angeles this Friday before opening for Danzig starting May 26 and making their way eastward to wind up in Manchester, Tennessee for the Bonaroo Music Festival on Thursday, June 7. MonstrO has previously toured with Kyuss Lives! and recently wrapped up a national tour with Clutch and HellYeah.

MonstrO’s debut self-titled album (which hit streets on September 6, 2011 via Vagrant Records) already has fans raving with Outburn Magazine stating, "...this quartet has put out a solid debut album of pure musical honesty and integrity that combines the fearless exploration of Led Zeppelin, the sludgy drone of Alice in Chains, the genre defying art rock of Jane's Addiction, and the rumble of Metallica."

MonstrO is: Juan Montoya (guitar), Kyle Sanders (bass), Bevan Davies (drums) and Charlie Suarez (vocals/guitar).

MonstrO on tour:
05/25 – West Hollywood, CA @ The Whisky (headline)
05/26 – Irvine, CA @ Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre *
05/27 – San Francisco, CA The Warfield *
05/31 – Kansas City, MO @ Uptown Theatre *
06/01 – Indianapolis, IN @ Egyptian Room at Old National Centre *
06/02 – Detroit, MI @ The Fillmore *
06/04 – Silver Spring, MD @ The Fillmore *
06/05 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE *
06/07 – Manchester, TN @ Bonnaroo Music Festival
* - supporting Danzig


Despite Exile - "Re-Evolve" CD EP Review

Despite Exile - 'Re-Evolve' CD EP Review (Djent/Metalcore)
In an interview with Metal Shock Finland, Italian metalcore crew Despite Exile described their songwriting process as “every song must be like a train that hits you in the face”. The band’s new EP, “Re-Evolve”, holds true to this promise and the disc’s three tracks (12 minutes) is a solid slab of prog-influenced Djent/Metalcore that can hold its own against established bands like Whitechapel and Meshuggah (both of whom the band cites as influences).

Despite Exile has been together for four years and the band released their self-produced debut EP “Scarlet Reverie” last year. “Re-Evolve”, the band’s sophomore disc, continues in the same view as its predecessor. This time out, the band has added Djent into their sound along with tighter production, which brings out the balance between the band’s brutal riffs and blast beats, their melodies and vocalist Jei Durisotti’s rabid death metal growls.

The disc starts with “Oscillate” (which is streaming at and this track sets the tone for the disc with melodic guitar leads layered on top of driving groove-based riffs and a rumbling bass. “Perfection Neutralized” continues in this vein but the guitar work is a bit more slashing and aggressive than its predecessor and this song also adds gang vocals on the almost-melodic chorus. The band changes paces and slows down a bit on the final track, “Mechanical”, which contains some soaring epic guitar leads and a mid-song breakdown that is sure to get the pit going.

This new EP is evidently a ‘teaser’ for the band’s first full-length which is in-progress and the band expects to be in pre-production soon.

Despite Exile

Monday, May 21, 2012

Crocodiles - "Endless Flowers" CD Review (Frenchkiss Records)

Crocodiles -
You have to love a band like San Diego’s Crocodiles for being able to channel their obvious influences (Jesus & Mary Chain / Echo & the Bunnymen / Spacemen 3) into creating a sound that mines this genre without sounding derivative. San Diego’s Crocodiles are releasing their third disc, Endless Flowers, on June 5th on Frenchkiss Records which is a ten-track (42 minute) slab of psychedelic, fuzzed-out garage rock. Note: for vinyl junkies, there is a limited edition LP pressing on red/white marble vinyl available through Souterrain Transmissions' Web Store.

Recorded in Berlin last summer, Endless Flowers is the first album to feature Crocodiles' full five-piece line up, which has evolved from their 2008 genesis as the core duo of singer/guitarist Brandon Welchez and guitarist Charles Rowell to include keyboardist Robin Eisenberg, bassist Marco Gonzalez, and drummer Anna Schulte. Endless Flowers follows in the footsteps of the band's two previous releases (2010's Sleep Forever and 2009's debut Summer of Hate), while adding a refined cohesion and unmistakable sunniness to their glorious noise- and echo-drenched pop.

Tracks range from the title-track opener which sounds like it could have been an Echo & the Bunnymen hit to the post-punk wall of noise of “Sunday (Psychic Conversation #9)” to the Byrdsian psychedelia of “No Black Clouds for Dee Dee”. “Hung Up on a Flower” is 6+ minute track that starts with John Lennon style piano (think “Imagine”) before going into a mellow psychedelic shoegazer number and the track ends with two minutes of grinding guitars and vocal sound loops. There is even a track of pure psychedelic bliss where front-man Brandon Welchez sounds as though he is about to float off into space (“You Are Forgiven”).

A number of tracks from Endless Flowers could be indie-rock singles (along the same lines of JAMC’s “Just Like Honey”) and the standouts are “My Surfing Lucifer” and “Dark Alleys”. In comparing the new disc to its predecessors, Welchez said “I think those two albums, while I love them, were somewhat monochrome. This one is in full color”.

Helmut Katzenflugen, neighbor and ”biographer” of the band’s time in Berlin, described his impressions of the new disc as: “Immediately I was struck by the songs. No two were alike, though all were held together by strong hooks and strange layers of floating atmosphere….Charles’ guitar playing alternated between lost-in- space weightlessness and jagged brush-strokes of aural violence. He seemed to strike the perfect balance between his intellectual and more primal tendencies. Marco and Anna cut a strong figure as the rhythm section. Her love of Klaus Dinger (“Mein Klaus”, she called him) was evident in the motorik march of “Dark Alleys,” while her affinity for Robert Wyatt and Tommy Ramone, two of her other drum idols, was showcased elsewhere. Marco’s prowess on the bass was demonstrated in the fluidly melodic runs of some of the album’s poppier moments and the thuggish minimalism of some of its more experimental ones. Robin, the group’s secret weapon, held the album together with her mastery of the organ, contributing moments of Modern Lovers-esque sublimity on one song then swathes of dreamy murk the next. In many places on the record she sang harmony with Brandon, the group’s singer and occasional rhythm guitarist. While her voice provided an ethereal relief from the distortion, his varied from a trashcan croon to pure adolescent snot. I was sold on the album immediately – it satisfied my pop desire while retaining an oddball down-to-Earth grit.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Doc Marshalls Release New LP on May 29th / Show at Mercury Lounge on June 10th

DOWNLOAD: The Doc Marshalls - "Here They Come"

The Doc Marshalls Release New LP on May 29th / Show at Mercury Lounge on June 10th
The Doc Marshalls’ front man, Nick Beaudoing, has arrived in Nashville armed with an album that still reeks of Brooklyn, his former home. Whereas previous releases evoked a humid musical landscape along the Texas-Louisiana border, the Doc Marshalls’ new album, Look Out, Compadre, sheds the honky-tonk and Cajun two-steps in favor of crooked, shimmering folk reminiscent of Bonnie Prince Billy and A.A. Bondy.

This hard left turn comes on the heels of years of preaching roots music in indie rock venues, where country flavors are seldom heard. Look Out, Compadre is a surprising and welcome departure, demonstrating that even hardcore country boys are unable to keep the city at bay forever.

Eager to capture the moment of a signature sound in flux, the band enlisted engineer Alex Lipsen at Headgear Studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (Phosphorescent, Nada Surf) with the goal of recording in an atmosphere where instruments like the fiddle and pedal steel would be treated as outsiders. Session musicians such as guitarist Josh Kaufman (Dawn Landes, Rocketship Park) further sharpen the edges of songs whose lyrics spin tales of last stands, exploding houses, and the calm that forgiveness brings.

A versatile repertoire has taken the Doc Marshalls from indie rock clubs in NYC, to rural Texas dancehalls, Europe, and countless festival stages in between. Their busy touring schedule has afforded them the opportunity to open for the likes of Bobby Bare Jr., Carrie Rodriguez, the Bottle Rockets, and even reggae legend Burning Spear.

The Doc Marshalls are playing a record release show at Mercury Lounge on June 10th. This is a late show - opener Benyaro (indie acoustic soul and roots power duo) is going on at 9PM and The Doc Marshalls are going on at 10PM. Advance tickets are $10 and the show is 21+.

The Doc Marshalls

In Cages - Self-Titled CD EP Review (Modern Rock)

DOWNLOAD: In Cages - "Dirty Water" (Requires email)

In Cages (Band) - Self-Titled CD EP Review (Modern Rock)
In Cages is a new quartet based out of Hillsdale, NJ and the band’s self-titled debut EP (which drops June 23rd) is a solid slab of 90’s post-grunge “modern rock”. The four tracks (13 minutes) on this disc are melodic, guitar-driven numbers that bear more than a passing resemblance to bands like Fuel and Hinder crossed with the melodic hooks of the Foo Fighters. On the disc’s leadoff track, “Dirty Water”, Lionnel Mascarenhas’ vocal style even sounds a bit like Grohl’s.

In Cages breaks from the current crop of “modern rock” bands (…or goes back to Nirvana’s Unplugged album) by including cellist Filomena Jack in the lineup. Her contribution is noticeable and welcome on three of the disc’s four songs. The remaining song, “London”, is a grunge song that is driven by a dirty bass and drum beat.

For anyone who likes what they hear, vocalist/bassist Lionnel Mascarenhas released a solo disc in 2007, Wonderland”, which is available as a free download through Lionnel’s website.

In Cages are playing some local shows over the next few weeks:

Saturday, June 23 - L4 Black Door, 41 Murray Street (between Church & West Broadway), NYC
Friday, July 27 - Clash Bar, 39 Harding Avenue, Clifton, NJ

In Cages

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Future of What Release "I Wait For You" from Forthcoming EP / Release Party at Cameo Gallery on June 21st

Future of What Release 'I Wait For You' from Forthcoming EP / Release Party at Cameo Gallery on June 21st
Brooklyn, NY's Future Of What will release their debut EP "Moonstruck" on June 26th, 2012 and the band is throwing an EP release party at Cameo Gallery in Brooklyn on June 21st.

The four-piece band - Blair (Gimma), Sam Axelrod, Max Kotelchuck, Seth Waldstein - is a new project from Blair, whose debut album, Die Young, was released by Autumn Tone Records in 2010. Blair also wrote the songs on "Moonstruck" over the course of 2011 and, home from tour, found she wanted to play in a collaborative band setting. Quickly, one came together: Waldstein had been playing drums with her since 2010; she met Axelrod, who'd played in Chicago band The Narrator, through mutual friends; and he knew Kotelchuck through his sister. The newly dubbed Future Of What further fleshed out and arranged Blair's songs, and began rehearsing in January 2012. After playing their first show in February (opening for a sold out Mirah), the band recorded and mixed "Moonstruck" with Daniel Schlett (Here We Go Magic, Friends, DIIV) at Strange Weather studio in Brooklyn, NY over four days in March.

On "Moonstruck", Future Of What takes listeners on a 14-minute trip that begins late one night in the city and ends the following night in heaven. Blair's airy, intimate vocals float over keyboard-driven melodies, from the kick drum heartbeat of the wistful opener "Back To The City", to the forlorn, evocative pop of "I Wait For You", to the moody synths and bass lines of "White Light", and the aching, dreamlike pulse of "Party In Heaven." It's an impressive introduction to the young band, indicating a definitive charm and prowess that promises only good things from Future Of What, who are currently working on their debut LP.

"Moonstruck" EP track listing:
Back To The City
I Wait For You
White Light
Party In Heaven

Future of What

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tu Fawning - "A Monument" CD Review (City Slang) / Show at Glasslands on August 3rd

Tu Fawning - 'A Monument' CD Review (City Slang) / Show at Glasslands on August 3rd
Portland, OR’s Tu Fawning released their sophomore album, A Monument, today on City Slang. This album marks the first release written and recorded collaboratively as a four-piece. This time out, band leaders Corrina Repp and Joe Haege are joined by Liza Reitz (piano, organ, violin, percussion, vocals) and Toussaint Perrault (synth, trumpet, percussion, vocals).

The nine tracks on this new disc are layered and musically dense and show the band heading down a dark path similar to some of the early 80’s post-punk, gothic bands (Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Birthday Party). While there are some moments of shoe-gazer and indie-rock brightness, most of the tracks are brooding numbers, driven by Repp’s ethereal vocals, hypnotic rhythms, layered syths and chanted choruses. All of the songs are perfect for headphone listening as the band builds up each song organically until it reaches epic proportions.

The disc starts out with “Anchors”, which is a shimmery, reverb-heavy number which features Repp’s emotive vocals backed with a “4AD” style chorus. From there, the band goes into “Blood Stains”, which is a slinky, slow-burning R&B number that would fit perfectly on a David Lynch soundtrack. Moving styles tangentially, “Wager” features Joe Haege on lead vocals and this song captures the best moments of the early 90’s shoegazer bands. Continuing to change directions, the disc goes out with the 7+ minute number “Bones”, which combines a long percussive intro (think White Rabbits) with Repp’s smoky, soulful vocals. The band described a listener’s journey through their new disc as “Lush and romantic at one stop on the journey, followed by sinister bombast at the next destination".

With the lyrics, Repp set out to put a true sense of tenderness front and center in the album; frequently writing lyrics while listening to mixes through headphones in the dark. While working on the words over a concentrated period of time, a common thread began running between them. Each track explores different permutations of what a monument is: the idea of something revered something that represents something else, something pure. In their mix of the sincere and mildly unconventional, the songs explore the connection between the good and bad, the light and dark, the sensuality and earnestness in being alive.

For this new disc, Joe Haege said that the band set out to “capture a feeling that someone listening to it couldn’t easily pin down the era it’s from“. To my ears, Tu Fawning more than achieved their goal and they said it best in an interview with FemaleFirst – “The hiss and crackle of vintage 78 rpm folk records swims alongside sparkling new wave synthesizers, R&B horn blasts interrupt gothic funeral marches, choirs of angels accompanied by demonic guitar distortion.

Tu Fawning US Tour Dates
06-08 Portland - Holocene
06-20 San Francisco - Brick and Mortar
06-21 Los Angeles - The Bootleg Room
06-23 San Diego - Soda Bar
06-24 Santa Cruz, Ca -Crepe Place
07-26 Minneapolis, Mn -7th Street Entry*
07-27 Madison, Wi -U. Of Wisconsin*
07-28 Chicago, Il -Schubas*
07-31 Montreal, Qc - Divan Orange*
08-1 Boston, Ma - Great Scott*

08-2 New York, NY - Mercury Lounge*
Note: This is an early show; Tickets are $10 and AU opens the show with a 6:30PM set time

08-03 Brooklyn, NY - Glasslands*
(No show info posted yet)
08-04 Philadelphia, Pa - Johnny Brenda’s*
* Shows with AU

Tu Fawning

The Buddies Release Video for "All the Beer is Gone", Directed by Ryan and Eric Henriquez

The Buddies Release Video for 'All the Beer is Gone', Directed by Ryan and Eric Henriquez

Last year, the video's co-director Ryan Henriquez was directing a web series on the making of Deer Tick's last album Divine Providence in Providence, RI. Ryan spent several days with the band and the album's two producers, Adam Landry and Justin Collins, both of whom were interviewed for the series. During a break from recording, Justin Collins played Ryan the demo for "All The Beer Is Gone" by The Buddies, a band in which Justin sings and plays guitar, comprised of members from Chicago and Justin's hometown of Nashville. Ryan's mind was instantly blown by the demo. Over the course of the next several months, Ryan played it for literally anyone who would listen. When the Buddies' album F*** the Buddies was released later that year, Justin sent Ryan the album and talks began immediately about the creative direction for a video for "All The Beer Is Gone."

In an interview last year with Chicago blog DO312, vocalist Coley Kennedy described the band's sound as "Garbage-rock!” (As Justin once referred to our sound). The Mouse and I love old rockabilly music. We are also really into bands like The Smiths, Echo and The Bunny Men, and Jesus & Mary Chain (as is Pete). I think the front-porch/alt-folk/’60s/grunge-ier sounds The Buddies make are the result of Justin, Scott and Kim. The six of us all place a lot of importance on a really strong melody. We all share adoration for bands such as The Clash, The Faces, The Replacements, The Pogues, and The Stones. Throw all of our influences in a trash can, shake it up and dump it out … voila! The Buddies!"

In early 2012, the band members flew from their respective cities to NYC to film the video over a weekend at a loft in Greenpoint. The video was directed by brothers Eric and Ryan Henriquez and produced by Ryan's Perry Rome Productions. The video marks the Henriquez brothers' first collaboration since co-directing a live video of "Baltimore Blues, No. 1" by Deer Tick's John McCauley & Ian O'Neil. The video was shot by Bill Antonucci and edited by Miku Happonen, both of whom had collaborated with the Henriquez brothers on several music-related video projects over the past few years.

The Buddies