All posts filed under: CD Reviews

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Album Review: Darlingside, “Birds Say”

This Massachusetts-based quartet has something different to offer and a very refined sound that makes this new album, Birds Say, a joy to experience from end to end.  Touches of classical music, traditional folk and skillful song structures are the order of the day. “The Ancestor” opens the collection in a very delicate and choral manner that I haven’t encountered in a long time; very warm melody and a group vocal.  “White Horses” is quiet, brushed along by banjo runs played softly and majestic piano and stunning harmonies a la CSN & Y make this an early high point; “Go Back” is another dynamic vocal exercise with some nice uptempo guitar strumming and is as catchy as all get out and the album’s title track, “Birds Say” has some very fine acoustic picking. “The God Of Loss,” with its mournful violin, is another standout and sung in a group manner instead of harmonies; “Do You Ever Live?” has a Turtles-like vocal delivery and although it’s musically minimal, it has a quasi-psychedelic feel and “She’s All …

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Album Review: HUGElarge, “HUGElarge”

The last time I heard two men play with the intensity of a full-bore “band” was Mike Watt and George Hurley doing the music of my (and their) late, beloved Minutemen – until now.  Robert Malta (guitar and vocals) and Matt Norelli (drums) are the “two man power trio” that comprise HUGElarge and they erupt with this debut album of familiar and well-loved covers from the ’60’s and ’70’s.  Even the album art has a coolness that fits alongside the music contained within. Since this album is filled with highlights, the one that grabbed me most is “Who’ll Be The Next In Line”, a most favored Kinks song to me – stripped down to the bare bones and balls – brief and slammed out with gusto; The Standells’ “Sometimes Good Guys Dont Wear White” has a nice feel and a bitchin’ slide guitar solo; The Charlatans’ (by way of Buffie Sainte-Marie) “Codeine” gets a heavy, bluesy treatment and has a lot of emotion in the delivery and Johnny Thunders’ “Born To Lose” has a 100-m.p.h. …

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Album Review: Eszter Balint, “Airless Midnight”

You might recognize Eszter Balint‘s name from the television series Louie, in which she played (during an end-of-the-season arc) the neighbor/love interest to Louis C.K.  But here, the Hungarian-born actress shows her true talent and skill as a singer, songwriter and violinist.  Airless Midnight is her second solo album – her first in a decade (!) and her third overall.  Here, she’s joined by such talents as Dave Schramm and Marc Ribot, and this album is, indeed, a revelation. Opening with “The Mother,” the slow-syrupy almost-jazz groove takes you into a dreamlike state, but picks up the pace and gets you moving; you can hear her violin punctuate verses and links to add an eerie atmosphere.  Her voice is warm, rich and embracing and sets the table for the duration of the album.  Harmonies on this album are supplied by Sam Phillips (!) and are sweet and balanced.  “Let’s Tonight It” is an uptempo rock-stomper with some tastefully dirty guitar; “Departure Song” has a country-folk feel with banjos and “Calls At 3 a.m.” is an acoustic …

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Album Review: Grace Potter, “Midnight”

There are bound to be some very strong and differentiating opinions on this new solo album from Grace Potter – best known for fronting jam-band favorites Grace Potter & The Nocturnals.  I found her by way of my closest friend, whose opinion I trust completely.  She hipped me to them with their self-titled 2010 album and for someone who never paid much attention to the new generation of jam bands, this record stood out and made me a fan. On Midnight, her official second solo album, it’s nowhere near what one would expect as this album is 100% hi-gloss, danceable, radio-friendly pop.  Whether or not that alienates long-time fans who are scratching their heads, thinking Grace Potter has become a glamour-pop-diva, is immaterial.  Taken at face value, this is quality modern pop with all the right touches.  Melodies, hooks and take-your-breath-away vocals.  Keeping in mind, Ms. Potter has a drop-dead powerhouse voice and here, she just cuts and rips right through these songs with an absolute intensity and abandon. The rollercoaster ride begins with the …

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Album Review: The Bottle Rockets, “South Broadway Athletic Club”

If you know the music of The Bottle Rockets, you know the winning formula that makes their records so good – Brian Henneman’s gang of guitar slingers play straight-ahead, no bullshit rock & roll with a pop sensibility and a pure American feel (not in a predictable or precious way).  Add to the combination of fine songwriting and playing the masterful production of the legendary/brilliant Eric “Roscoe” Ambel (The Del Lords, The Yayhoos, Roscoe’s Gang, etc.) and it’s the kind of album you get friendly with real fast. And so is the case with the latest in The Bottle Rockets’ canon, South Broadway Athletic Club – 11 fine slices of fresh guitar-driven rock.  Launching you along for the ride with the first track, “Monday (Everytime I Turn Around)”, the structure and melody grab you and strap you in – chiming guitars (do I hear a Ric 360-12?), sweet acoustic breaks, crisp drums, economically tasteful guitar solos – this has “radio friendly” written all over it and damn it, it should be coming out of every …

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ALBUM REVIEW: SARAH MCQUAID, “Walking Into White”

There is something I find immediately and charming about Sarah McQuaid’s voice upon first listen to her newest release, Walking Into White – it’s soothing and embracing and doesn’t sound like what can consider atypical of folk-style performers.  Although she’s U.K.-based, Ms. McQuaid hails from Chicago (!  Aha!), but her style of acoustic playing reminds me of Nick Drake’s way along with the near-huskiness of her voice (yes, yes, I know Nick Drake gets name-checked a lot and so what?  He was brilliant.  Period.).  Nonetheless, her style is very lush and expansive and makes this album something to sink my teeth into. From the opening of the stark/bleak “Low Winter Sun” to the powerhouse of “Where The Wind Decides To Blow”, this is top of the mark song execution.  Her masterful playing on “I Am Grateful For What I Have” (which has shades of Townshend’s acoustic picking style in there) is exquisite and chill inducing.  There is a thread that pulls these songs together, via soundscapes that appear at the end of each track; from …

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE BELLFURIES, “Workingman’s Bellfuries”

Passionate, rootsy rock & roll come right out at you immediately from Austin’s The Bellfuries.  This band, who’s been around for a while, have upped their game with this latest album, the cleverly titled Workingman’s Bellfuries.  A mix of that classic Texas twang, the Sun sound and rhythms that swing has to be good, right?  Right.  Let’s make that clear now.  Simply mix a little Elvis, Marty Robbins, Roy Orbison and a smattering of Buck Owens, Big Sandy and Los Lobos for good measure and that pretty much personifies The Bellfuries’ sound.  Add to that a production quality that brings you right into the late ’50’s/early ’60’s, which sounds natural and pure and it’s a “can’t miss”.  Dig? About the songs, it’s simple:  “Loving Arms” kicks off the album with a good old-fashioned swing that you, indeed, can’t resist tapping your toes to; “Bad Seed Sown” sounds like something Elvis would have recorded and “Why Do You Haunt Me?” is my favorite and the album’s standout with its Tex-Mex feel.  “Make The Mystery No More” …

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ALBUM REVIEW: BIRD, “Figments Of Our Imagination”

Janie Price is the mind, voice and cello (!) behind Bird.  A London-based singer-songwriter, she now graces us with her third album, Figments Of Our Imagination.  Most alluringly about this CD is that Ms. Price plays all the instruments on the album, which was produced by Chris Kimsey (who you may know from his being behind the board for the Stones – yes, those Stones). Ten original songs; all of which have an interesting array of textures, colors and melodies.  On my initial listen, I felt a sense of (a recurring theme) early ’80’s influences – the groove; the electronic timbre – but it all works deliciously. Starting with “Girl Can’t Decide”, which is a mellow yet funky track, you can’t help but be enveloped by Janie Price’s voice and the pure pop structure – a fine beginning.  “Thrill Me” has a Berlin-like feel (think “The Metro”); dark, buoyant keyboard touches and brisk pace; “The Dare” has a brightness, offset by the tension that builds until the chorus, which lifts the song and “Stereotype” is …

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ALBUM REVIEW: STEPHEN KALINICH & JON TIVEN, “Each Soul Has A Voice”

Stephen Kalinich and Jon Tiven have a career and and a list of credits as impressive as one can imagine. Amongst the luminaries, this would include The Beach Boys, Alex Chilton, and so on. Kalinich, wrote lyrics for many of the stronger tracks in The Beach Boys’ catalogue; Tiven has been a music journalist, guitarist, producer and writer and both show no signs of slowing down.  In 2012, they released the masterful 2-CD set, Shortcuts to Infinity/Symptomology, which was a monumental achievement.  While this new album, Each Soul Has A Voice, is a 14 track offering, it is once again, a collection of songs with heart and mind. Some of the guest players include Tiven’s wife Sally on bass and Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars (son of Jim, brother of Luther) on drums, Queen’s Brian May, Stax mainstay Steve “Colonel” Cropper, and extra drum appearances by Steve Ferrone and Anton Fig.  Quite an outstanding cast. The beauty and interesting element in listening to Each Soul Has a Voice  is the quality of the …

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ALBUM REVIEW: MALPAS, “Rain, River, Sea”

From the beginning of “Under Her Sails”, there is something immediately soothing about Malpas’ sound, found here on their debut full-length album, Rain, River, Sea.  Essentially a duo, Malpas is the brainchild of producer/engineer Andy Savours and songwriter Ali Forbes.  Atmospheric, melody, rhythm – a strongly danceable sense – it all adds up to an interesting and fine combination. The beauty of “Under Her Sails” notwithstanding, “Where The River Runs” builds in layers and hits a groove when you least expect it, then shifts directions in a manner that works; “Sea Decide” is awash (!) with a warm vintage synth wave into gentle harmony-laden vocals and acoustic guitar and “Promise” is both delicate and slightly haunting in a lovely, simple way.  “The Green Light” is a tight, tense, deliberately understated groove with taut rhythm and again, delicious harmonies; “Charlemagne” has a soundtrack-like dynamic to it, with warm acoustic guitar and subdued vocals and “Here Comes The Rain” is laden with strings and mandolin, giving it a classic English folk feel. A very strong, embracing debut; …

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Review: Big Lazy – “Don’t Cross Myrtle”

Stephen Ulrich and his jazz/rock noir band Big Lazy will take up residency at the renowned Brooklyn joint Barbes starting in a couple short days and there seems like no better reason to take a second glance at the 2014 gem of a record that slipped below our radar here at Popdose, that comeback kid LP, the group’s first outing since 2006, Don’t Cross Myrtle. All you really need to know about Myrtle is that it’s the trio’s best record to date and that’s saying a goddamn lot. But better sounding than “Skinless, Boneless?” More killer than “Tel Aviv Taxi?” Hu-f**in-zzah. The entire thing, like the group’s whole twisted back catalog, is a story of intersections: the intersection of rockabilly and icy-smooth menthol smoke, the intersection of surf music and David Lynch films, that of jazz and beatnik composition, that of big-sky country possibilities and film-noir endings. It’s all in there for the picking. Dive right in. Album-opener “Minor Problem,” with its vaguely Afro-Cuban grooves and lurching upright bass, is menacing, the evil twin to …

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ALBUM REVIEW: Continental Drifters, “Drifted: In The Beginning & Beyond”

There are some bands that everyone should know, be aware of, embrace and revere.  The Continental Drifters are one of those bands.  The subtle elegance and grace that embodies their music – as pure American sounding as one could wish (even their name sounds just right) – makes me happier than happy that Omnivore Recordings has seen fit to release this wonderful double compilation, Drifted:  In The Beginning & Beyond.  A 2-CD set with some fine liner notes by Scott Schinder and recollections by the various members of the band AND 33 songs that take you for a ride of melody, harmony and musicianship that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere nearly as deft and skilled. You probably know their name by virtue of some of the members’ previous outfits:  Peter Holsapple, the master songwriter/guitarist of The dB’s; Vicki Peterson, the guitar powerhouse of The Bangles; Susan Cowsill, who many of us watched as we were all children when she was with her family band, The Cowsills.  But the Continental Drifters are so much …

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REVIEW: HC-B – “Rough”

It takes a great record to remind me how awkward it can be — yes yes, like dancing to architecture — to write about really good instrumental rock music. For the moment, the band putting me in said position is HC-B, the record is the group’s latest Hidden Shoal release, Rough, and both are terrific, sometimes bordering on breathtaking. There are plenty of tropics and meridians that can bring you to Catania, Sicily, the band’s birthplace and home since forming in 1999, that heady peak of post-rock, and they are surely writ large all around the band’s sound. They flirt with the glassiness of Slint and The For Carnation, the epic crescendos of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the mannerisms and tempo of Do Make Say Think, the dreamy sway of early Mogwai. It’s evident these guys have done their cribbing and their homework. There’s love in these notes. But the music, above all else, is studied but somehow not derivative. Go figure. The song-suite “Deux,” a single of sorts if there is one on the five-track disc, starts almost menacingly calm and brooding, very post-punk, …

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ALBUM REVIEW: EZTV, “Calling Out”

I used these words upon seeing EZTV during their opening slot for The Dream Syndicate a few months ago:  “I have seen the future of power pop and it’s EZTV”.  I immediately drew comparisons with The Flamin’ Groovies, Marshall Crenshaw and Big Star – and I was right.  This Brooklyn-based trio has a richness of scope; they glide from the more uptempo power-pop to the wonderfully Chris Bell-influenced textured dreamy-style naturally and with ease. So it comes to pass that they have delivered on what I thought a recorded document would sound like by them – Calling Out, their debut album, has a dozen pieces of power pop gold, going from one end of the spectrum to the other.  Crisp, clean production, ethereal vocals, melody and structure at every turn – this is a grand slam.  The first cut is an indication of great things to come; “Bury Your Heart” with its acoustic guitar intertwined with a wonderfully chorus-ed/phased guitar and some slightly off-kilter riffs thrown in is a perfect beginning – catchy, memorable and …

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Review: Melvins – “The Bulls & The Bees”/”Electroretard” (Re-issue)

So, here it is: the new Melvins record is actually a duo of Melvins records that already was. It’s interesting to see what the juxtaposition of the two documents, released herein by Ipecac, tells us about the group’s trajectory and “career” pangs. And, oh yeah, of course, full disclosure: it’s worth hearing it if you haven’t, like you needed that to be said. The Bulls & The Bees, released first about three years ago as a Scion giveaway download of all things, is a fine slice of A Senile Animal-era quartet fun. (I’ll leave it to you to debate whether you want to call these B-sides. I’m 50/50 most the time.) There’s well-timed Codey/Crover percussive thrust, fuzzy bass plumbage, and more than enough front-man fanaticism from Buzzo. Plain as day: songs like “War on Wisdom” rock, “National Hamster” grooves, and “A Really Long Wait,” though maybe intended as a semi-goof, is as somber, operatic and downright tragic as the group has ever sounded. (Is that goddamn cello? Downright effective stuff.) Verdict: for the most part, it will kick you in …

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ALBUM REVIEW: Burnside & Hooker, “All The Way To The Devil”

There must be something in the waters of Chicago, because the Windy City keeps spewing out these wonderful bands who have skill, style and sense – and Burnside & Hooker are no exception.  All The Way To The Devil, their second full-length release, is ripe with tasty guitar hooks, great and lush vocals and melody galore. Starting with the title track, which has some semi-accapella vocals, it segues into “The Graveyard”, which has some neat acoustic riffing but builds into a heavy rhythm and the interplay of Rachel Bonacquisti’s lead vocals and Diana Mayne’s secondary vocals is simply great.  “Someday (I’m Gonna Leave This Town)” is pure American – a combination of folk, bluegrass and odd jazz inflections – all with a mix of guitar, violas and a lot of energy; “Momma Said” sounds like Jet (!) and just rocks at about 100 m.p.h., which definitely throws you for a loop, but this band definitely doesn’t play cute or rootsy all the time and “Rivets” is a low-key but intense acoustic instrumental that makes you …

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ALBUM REVIEW: Insect Ark, “Portal/Well”

Atmospheric, dark, moody – but not in way it can’t be enjoyed.  There is melody within the walls built by Insect Ark, the project directed by multi-instrumentalist Dana Schechter.  This album, Portal/Well is their debut and it’s an interesting experience.  Heavy – both sonically and with its rhythms – these tracks have an icy quality that manage to not leave you cold while listening. The opening track, which is also the title cut, is drums and solid basslines with intense throb until about six minutes in when guitar chords crash; “The Collector” is a claustrophobic piece which is fed by what sounds like controlled guitar feedback and then weaves sustained guitar lines in and “Lowlands” is a combination – at least to me – of guitar shards and feedback drone.  “Octavia”, which clocks in at just over eight minutes sounds like the perfect soundtrack to a European horror film, with quivering, resonating guitar notes that sear in and out; “Taalith” is slow, mean and feels like electroshock therapy and “Parallel Twin” has a paranoia about …

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E.P. REVIEW: Luna Aura, “Super Nova”

Five new songs from Luna Aura, an electro-dream-pop artist, hailing from Phoenix, Arizona.  Light and pleasant, her voice is soothing yet strong and has the right texture to fit these songs. Immediately, with the opening track, “Like You”, there is a warmth that one doesn’t usually equate with the word “electronica” but the gentility necessary is there; “Gravity” is space-y, syrupy and out there and yet, it doesn’t irritate and “Dancing With Your Ghost”, which is the focus track, has a nice quality about it; reminiscent of early ’80’s synth pop – catchy and easily memorable.  The title track, “Super Nova” is far more contemporary with its rhythm and “Trigger” rounds out the collection with some nice atmospherics. And that’s a key element to this E.P. – atmosphere.  The soundscapes are used as just that – soundscapes that don’t distract from the songs themselves.  A very nice piece of summer music.  I predict we will definitely hear more from Luna Aura in the not-too-distant future. RECOMMENDED Super Nova will be released Friday, August 7th, 2015 …

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REVIEW: Richard Buckner – “The Hill” (Reissue)

Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology turned 100 a few days ago, and Merge Records marked the occasion by re-releasing the oft-overlooked indie-folk gem it inspired, Richard Buckner’s majestic homage, 2000’s The Hill, which puts more than a baker’s dozen of Masters’ pen-and-ink story-biographies to song. There are plenty of ways to get to Buckner’s Hill. And plenty of ways to dig your hands into the soil of it all. But, plain and simple, this Buckner record, in particular out of his lofty canon, is not a hill but a mountain, a singular accomplishment among many. Backed occasionally lushly but more often sparsely by Calexico core Joey Burns and John Convertino, Buckner strikes a semblance of quiet desperation as he breathes life into 18 of Masters’ pseudo-obituaries/confessions, making them more like living, breathing rough drafts then final nails in coffin lids. It’s exciting, even enthralling stuff to hear. Buckner has his hook in you from square one; and he knows it. The work-song spiritual “Ollie McGee” is downright devastating. Two songs later, “Julia Miller” will knock you …

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ALBUM REVIEW: Satellite Hearts, “Desire Forces The Flow”

High in energy, melody and at times a Marc Bolan-like vocal, Philadelphia-based Satellite Hearts unleash their brand of rock & roll with their second effort, Desire Forces The Flow.  It’s as if you took The Sweet and revved them up to 100 miles per hour – that’s what the sound of Satellite Hearts reminds me of.  Radio-friendly and hook-laden pop/rock galore. The first two tracks, “Carry Them Bones” and “Smoke And Mirrors” come on hard and fast, dragging you behind in their wake, filled with riffs, stops and interesting little nuances; “Meet The Greens” has a wonderfully weird familiarity that I can’t quite place – some very clever harmonies, rhythms and a fuzz-drenched wipe-out solo.  “Whisper On The Breeze” is another curiosity, with its twisted Gershwin-esque piano beginning and building up to a tastefully textured ballad; “Peacock Blue” has a Posies-like quality about it – beefy drums, taut guitar and a fine structure and “In Twilight” ends the album in a satisfying manner with some whimsically reverbed guitar and an Alex Chilton-ness in the vocal. …

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ALBUM REVIEW: Built To Spill, “Untethered Moon”

From the first tub thumps of the drums into the guitar sludge on the opening track, you know you’re in for a good ride on this, the long-awaited new album from Boise’s “indie” vets, Built To Spill, led by their mainstay, Doug Martsch.   Crisp production, sonic guitar interplay and punchy vocals make this a satisfying listen through the ten tracks. The starter, “All Our Songs” has a rollicking gallop; a strident pace with a frenetic guitar strum that plays perfectly with the frenzied solo guitar figures that weave around the melody and the bassline – a rock & roll call to arms; “Living Zoo” is angular and tense but catchy, with a lot of twin guitar assault until the bouncy melody kicks in with the vocals and “On The Way” sounds like The Shins may have learned a thing or two from this band… (!)  “Never Be The Same” is radio-friendly pop with a slightly sinister edge; “Another Day” sounds like it would be a companion to something off Dinosaur Jr.’s Bug and “Horizon …

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ALBUM REVIEW: Kevin Sekhani, “Day Ain’t Done”

This is one fine piece of pure American music – a mixture of country, bluegrass, zydeco with some damned masterful playing and catchy songs.  Kevin Sekhani, a Lafayette, Louisiana native, who’s been a mainstay on the Austin scene for years, serves up a dozen high energy and melodic tunes that you just cannot resist/help smiling while listening.  Which is important – to have a full album lift your spirits is no mean achievement. Just from the opening cut, which is also the title track, you’re in for a fun ride; upbeat, hopeful and sung with a great deal of gusto; although “Wrong Direction” is built around minor chords, with a “darker sound”, it’s one of those standout tracks that grabs you and makes you listen to it over and over again and “Oilfield Tan” is a fiddle-driven honky-tonk stomper with beefy acoustic guitar.  “Jump Right Back” has a ‘5o’s rockabilly feel and a hell of a guitar solo; “The Higher I Get” is pure Louisiana country, complete with tasty accordion figures and “The Kiss” is …

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ALBUM REVIEW: Allison Moorer, “Down To Believing”

Good Lord, this is good.  One of my absolute favorite albums this year, Allison Moorer’s Down To Believing is a 13-track blast of passion, quality songwriting and skilled musical performances that leave you breathless and wanting more.  Ms. Moorer has a voice that makes you ache one minute, then turns you on the next.  You feel everything she says in her songs, 12 of which are co-writes (the thirteenth being a wonderful cover of Creedence’s “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?”).  Forget the usual hyperbole of Allison Moorer being Shelby Lynne’s sister (and I LOVE Shelby Lynne, make no mistake) and being Steve Earle’s wife (and I respect him immensely) – Allison Moorer is her own performer – one with power, heart and damn it, balls, once you give this album a listen. Kicking you awake from the first note, “Like It Used To Be” is just prime country-fried rock in big, bold letters with a gusto-filled delivery; “Thunderstorm/Hurricane” is dramatic and powerful, lush and intense; “I Lost My Crystal Ball” is pure gut emotion.  …

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ALBUM REVIEW: Herman’s Hermits, “The Best Of Herman’s Hermits – The 50th Anniversary Anthology”

One of my earliest and most loved musical recollections is “No Milk Today”; I still have my original M-G-M Records 45 with “There’s A Kind Of Hush” on the flipside.  Herman’s Hermits were the artists and 49 years after that song first entered my consciousness, I still listen to it with a feeling; an emotion and a loving appreciation. Which is how the folks at Bear Family Records approached this 50th anniversary gathering of Herman’s Hermits’ biggest hits and a generous sampling of their best (and yet lesser known) album tracks.  Even more amazing that getting 66 songs on this beautifully packaged two-disc set, compiled by the legendary Ron Furmanek, is the incredible remixing and re-mastering that breathes completely new life and gives a totally new power to most of these songs (originally produced by the late, great Mickie Most), eight of which have never before been heard in true stereo.  Throw in liner notes from the one-and-only Andrew Sandoval, with a forward by former lead singer Peter “Herman” Noone and you’re in for some …

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ALBUM REVIEW: Motobunny, s/t

A new band hailing from Phoenix and Los Angeles, but carrying the sound and the swagger that made the Motor City famous – that well known “garage”/dirty sound personified by The Stooges, MC5, etc.  And even though this sound has become almost too-overused in the last few years, this band adds a poppy-ness, catchiness and great production. Just from the opening track, “The Other Side”, it’s instantly stick-in-your-head, anthemic and has tight vocal harmonies; singers Christa Collins and Nicole Laurenne have great voices that blend perfectly together.  “Shake Me” has a balls-out rock feel that’s more in line with a heavier Black Crowes, with some cool and dirty sounding guitar work (and those harmonies shimmer); “Let’s Go Out” builds and has “radio friendly” written all over it with its swirling synth riff on the chorus and “Apocalypse Twist” is a hundred-mile-an-hour cyclone that smokes.  “You’re Killing Me” is another breakneck riff-fest with thunderous bass and “I Warned You” closes this collection with clever time changes and structural shifts – from quiet to building to reaching …

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ALBUM REVIEW: Ocean Carolina, “Maudlin Days”

It’s an interesting thing that a band – in the true sense of real instruments and structured songs, carefully crafted – is born of a writer who began his musical quest in the electronic dance music world.  Such is the case of Michael Simone, who is the driver behind Ocean Carolina, a wonderful collaborative from Brooklyn, New York, who’ve dropped a stellar piece in their new album, Maudlin Days. Right from the word “go”, this is an instant pop/Americana classic; the vocals are warm, the melodies strong and the players are completely on-the-one.  Starting with “All I Can Do”, with its subtle, yearning guitar slides and feel, it’s an indication of quality to come.  “Words” reminds me of late-period R.E.M. with its acoustic frame but has a straightforwardness which takes the track to a higher emotional level and “If It Burns Out Bright” is pure pop gold – there are almost too many influences I can detect that it’s pointless to try and dissect them all but this is certainly the album’s standout track. “Something” …

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ALBUM REVIEW: Ben Lee, “Love Is The Great Rebellion”

On Love Is The Great Rebellion, Australian native Ben Lee kicks in the next phase of his lengthy career by launching his debut with Warner Bros. Records.  A mixture of emotionally-focused songs – dealing with reflection, mistakes, correction and hope – these thirteen tracks holds together as a single unit beautifully; a concept of thoughts, broken down one by one. Opening with the groove of “Giving Up On Miracles” (the upbeatness of the tune is a perfect contradiction to the title!), there is a warmth and passion in Lee’s voice that immediately draws you in and embrace just this first track.  “Goodbye To Yesterday” is fast-paced, breezy and has a joyful abandon, while “Forgiveness” has “single” written all over it, with its strong melody and catchy chorus.  “Big Love” is an absolute standout and could easily be a hit – again, catchy and heartwarming; “Everybody Dies” has a Nilsson-esque quality about it – telling a story with wryness mixed with gentility and “Victory” is a big-sounding piece with its beefy horns (and again, Lee finds …