All posts filed under: Music

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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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BOOK REVIEW: DANIEL MAKAGON, “Underground: The Subterranean Culture Of D.I.Y. Punk Shows”

This is, to a great extent, one of those books I wish was around when I was playing in a band – certainly, when I was 18 and in my first band.  We could have used a guidebook, which is how I view this fine piece of writing by Daniel Makagon, associate professor in the College of Communicaton at DePaul University.  It is not filled with witty recountings of life on the road; no amusing anecdotes about women, drugs or which promoter fucked which band over.  It’s all of it,  but done in a very direct, matter-of-fact manner (little wonder since Makagon is an academic) and I applaud it.  Sometimes, it’s all well and good to read road tales, but if you’re going to go out as a performer, especially in these tiny, makeshift scenes, you really should have a map and a knowledge of the proverbial bear traps out there, as not everyone is altruistic and money becomes the central point of everything.  Yes, it’s vital to have these networks – the “American Underground” …

ALBUM REVIEW: Mark Kraus, ‘The Story of Everything’

Okay, honesty time. I love music probably more than anything else in the entire world, and it’s no secret that my tunage of choice is typically that which is a half-century old. Many of the artists I write about here on Popdose are not that, but I see them as being rare exceptions to my preference. Mark Kraus, however, is probably the best stepping stone between the two; his raw, stripped-down, no-frills brand of music is refreshing in the way your favorite old record is. It doesn’t pretend, because it doesn’t have to. It’s appropriate, then, that the first single from his new album The Story of Everything is entitled “Put an Old Record On.” See, Mark and I have something in common already! The song itself is the jewel in the crown of this album. Emotive, beautiful, and haunting, its melody is augmented with simple strings and poignant percussion. Frankly, the same could be said about the rest of the album. The bounciest it gets is the title track, with its finger-picked backbeat and “You …

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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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DVD REVIEW: THE STRAY CATS, “Live At Rockpalast 1983/Loreley Open Air & 1981 Cologne”

The Stray Cats were born of the punk era, but with their obvious skills, it was evident from their love of pure rock & roll that  rockabilly would be their driving force. Guitarist/vocalist Brian Setzer, Lee “Rocker” Drucker on standup bass and Jim “Slim Jim Phanton” McDonald took their revivalist style to England from their native Long Island and slowly re-set the world on fire. Thirty-plus years after their initial launch and success, this 2-DVD set reminds you what a great combo the Cats were. Live at Rockpalast brings together footage from two German shows, the first from Cologne in 1981 and the second at the Loreley in 1983. The look and sound of both performances are terrific – it’s a great statement of a band’s beginning and then explosion on the international stage in a short, two-year span. The 1981 show is a band flushed with the drive and excitement to buck against everything happening at the time while the 1983 show shows the band during the frenzy of their now-international success. These are …

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POPDOSE VIDEO PREMIERE: SOFIA TALVIK, “Lullaby”

Popdose is proud to premiere the new video from Sweden’s Sofia Talvik; this is the second single taken from her acclaimed recent album, Big Sky Country (which we debuted in February).  “Lullaby” is a beautiful and warm piece and the imagery fits the dreamy nature of the song.  Let yourself be lulled by the angelic vocals of Sofia Talvik and enjoy… Here is “Lullaby”: Photo by Jonas Westin http://sofiatalvik.com/

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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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What’s THAT Supposed to Mean?: Live, “Lakini’s Juice”

He shared an evening with the sun, took the water from the toilet and yelled out “Let me ride!” What’s THAT supposed to mean? Welcome to a new recurring series that will ask that question of all sorts of songs, particularly those that aspire to artistic heights, whether they reach them or not. Few bands walked that line between sublime and ridiculous as well as Live, the quartet of thoughtful young guys led by the ball of anger and spirituality named Ed Kowalczyk. Their full-fledged debut, Mental Jewelry, combined early-90s alt-rock energy with a spiritual vibe drawing influence from Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti. They had a funkier rhythm section than most bands, making Pain Lies on the Riverside and Operation Spirit worth repeated listens to figure out what the heck Kowalczyk was wailing about. Their follow-up was a smash. Throwing Copper is a terrific album with memorable singles — Selling the Drama, I Alone, Lightning Crashes — and some solid deep cuts. In those halcyon days of listeners buying full albums, they sold more than …

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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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POPDOSE PREMIERE: Grey Lands, “Another Lie”

This Hamilton, Ontario-based three-piece makes their introductory bow with “Another Lie”, the first available track from their upcoming debut album.  If it sounds a bit familiar, it’s alright – they wear their influences on their collective sleeve:  Dinosaur Jr., Pavement, etc.  A strong, melodic piece with the right amount of warmth and catchiness to make you want to hear more.  Which is a good way to whet the appetite for the listening audience. Dig on this Popdose Premiere from Grey Lands: http://www.greylandsmusic.com/

POPDOSE PREMIERE: The Shakey Tables, “I Like Your Shoes”

Stalwarts on the NYC music circuit, the Shakey Tables have been touted as something of a hybrid between the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Supremes. (Not a bad comparison, really.) Their unique, energetic brand of fun, upbeat rock/pop is a welcome respite at a time when most musicians seem to take themselves way too seriously; these guys are here to have a great time and play some good tunes. Sprinkling in some rhythm, their debut album A Shakey Table Situation presents a perfect encapsulation of their collective personality and even a decent representation of what their live show might sound like. Here, in its Popdose premiere, check out their fun-filled video for “I Like Your Shoes,” a ’70s-funk injected non-stop party. Also check out the single on SoundCloud for double the streaming pleasure!

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POPDOSE PREMIERE: Amy Lynn & The Gun Show, “Closer”

While I’m no fan of Nine Inch Nails, this is pretty damned interesting as its equally damned good.  Amy Lynn & The Gun Show, a New York-based seven-piece R&B/soul outfit have the balls AND the brass to take NIN’s classic “Closer” and give it an R&B treatment/feel.  This version I can sink my teeth into.  Amy Lynn’s throaty vocals give a highly charged power to an already tense lyric and when she belts out the deadly line, “I want to fuck you like an animal”, she sounds like she means it.  The beefiness of the sax is just that – big and beefy and it works.  It takes this song into a wholly different stratosphere. So here, with the Popdose Premiere is Amy Lynn & The Gun Show.  Can you dig it?  

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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 …