All posts filed under: Music

richardbucknerthehill

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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CONCERT REVIEW: U2, Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON, July 6, 2015

For a group that once loudly and proudly proclaimed that they were reapplying for the job of best band in the world, U2 have faced their share of humbling challenges in recent months: a widely panned deal with Apple that confused and angered iTunes users, a new album released to decidedly mixed reviews (sorry, Rolling Stone!), a bicycle accident that required major surgery and hampered the album’s launch, and a tour that got off to a rather unsteady start. In some ways, the backlash against Songs of Innocence‘s release has been so strong to now merit its own backlash—and may have helped to turn into unlikely underdogs a band that can claim to have sold more than 98 percent of all tickets to 68 arena dates through the end of 2015. While U2’s power as a live draw seems largely undiminished, they went through great pains in the lead-up to the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour to emphasize that they had no intention of settling comfortably into a rock middle age of filling arenas to play crowd-pleasing-but-rote greatest-hits sets that would include …

If these people are old, what does that make us?

How dare Debbie Harry and Bruce Springsteen get old?

I usually don’t get worked up about aging celebrities, mainly because I’ve managed to convince myself that their age is somehow unrelated to mine — this way, no matter how old they get in real life, in my brain they stay the same age they were when I discovered them. This helpful strategy keeps me from thinking about how when I first bought, say, a Bruce Springsteen album, he was a good 15 years younger than I am right now, which would throw off the entire space-time continuum. Of course as a Springsteen fan I’ve been particularly spoiled, since he somehow continues to power through his AARP years with the energy level (and waistline) of a 30-year-old, allowing us middle-aged huffer-puffers to fist-pump through his concerts as if we, too, have managed to curb the aging process. So what if we have to spend the next day with our feet up and a wet towel draped across our foreheads? For that moment we’re 19 again and all is well with the world, and also with …

Shelby Lynne “Miss You Sissy”
Bruno Mars “Locked Out of Heaven”
Leon Russell “A Song For You”

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” …

EP REVIEW: Matthew Morgan, ‘Empathy for Inanimate Objects’

There’s something significant about a poignant, significant troubadour who leaves his heart on the table and bares his soul without reserve. The kind of voice and talent that’s hardly born, let alone heralded, these days. Chicago’s Matthew Morgan, a fellow native Midwesterner (and Ohioan), channels his visceral storytelling abilities and penchant for crafting heart-rending, soul-soaked melodies into his new six-song EP, Empathy for Inanimate Objects. Beginning with the easy-flowing, soft-spoken, melancholy “Songs Like These,” Morgan’s vocals hearken back to influences like Neil Young and Nick Drake, yet sounds right in the vein of modern bards like the Decemberists’ Colin Meloy. His cover of Sam & Dave’s hit “Hold On, I’m Coming” is in second position and gets a backwoods makeover that, while indistinguishable from the original arrangement, contains a sense of urgency and danger, which makes it a stellar reimagining. The melodiously unpretentious “SticksNStones” tells of longing set against a slight backbeat, while “Lost at Sea” juxtaposes the same theme against weeping strings and a bit more desperation (“I need you to believe in me / for …

POPDOSE PREMIERE: Bad Mary, “Sucks to Be You”

Punk is dead? Not so, says NYC’s Bad Mary, a high-voltage punk-rock outfit ready to rock your face off. Perhaps what’s even more punk than the band’s sound is its makeup: at its core are Amanda Mac and Mike Staub, two lovebirds who met at Hofstra University. Joining them is their professor and Amanda’s dad. (Fun fact, the band has seven academic degrees among them.) Yep, this quartet is a mixed bag for sure, but whatever they’re doing, they’re doing it oh so right. Conjuring Blondie and the Sex Pistols, Bad Mary infuses a bit of early-Green Day style punk into their music, rendering it totally listenable and accessible, whether you’re a pop nerd, screamo fan, or somewhere in between. After spending the last year cutting their chops in the live scene, the band’s latest output, We Could Have Saved the World, finds them with renewed energy and a drive to create punk unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. “Expect a little more energy and speed on this one,” says Mac. “We’re doing what we do best.” Check …

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E.P. REVIEW: The New Switcheroo, “Heartless Sky”

The New Switcheroo are yet another new band from a very vibrant and diverse Chicago music scene; their sound is a combination of roots rock, folk and chamber pop with stunning harmonies and chillingly gorgeous arrangements.  And with Heartless Sky, their debut EP, they showcase their skills convincingly. The production is “natural” and warm, which adds to the finesse of the performances. “Lightning” is stark; acoustic guitar, violin, piano and a mix of quiet lead vocal elevated by on-the-one harmonies; “Pixelated NM” has a slow-rhythm country feel with some rich “fiddle” figures weaved throughout.  “I Remember Clifford” is a story-song that builds as it progresses; “NMR” has a old-time feel with banjo, jangly piano and stridently uptempo rhythm and what sounds like stand up bass and “Waltz Of The Galaxy” is a dramatic closer that fills in all colors, with piano, harmonica, violin and powerhouse vocals. If The New Switcheroo deliver a full length album along the same lines as this fine debut EP, then they’ve definitely won themselves a new fan and someone who’ll …

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Popdose Premiere: Last Days of April, “Oh Well”

Don’t let the Swedish passports fool you, Sea of Clouds by Last Days of April, out last week on Tapete Records, is not your typical Robyn or Max Martin confection. Imagine a slow simmering skillet of indie rock-fueled deep country Americana, seasoned by Tom Petty, sad Beck, Fountains of Wayne, My Morning Jacket, the Ravonettes and David Lynch. Clouds is the band’s 9th album across a prolific 20 years. Led by singer Karl Larsson, Last Days of April decamped to Atlantis Studios in Stockholm and recorded the entire album to analog tape in two and a half days. The result is a cohesive and magnificent listen. Take a peek inside the studio for the POPDOSE world premiere of album highlight, ‘Oh Well’: While ‘Oh Well’ is a quieter affair, there is plenty of thunder to be heard elsewhere, most notably the guitar solo that crescendos ‘The Thunder & The Storm’: Get Sea of Clouds on CD and vinyl or on iTunes and Amazon MP3. For the newly enlisted fans of the band, this summer also marks the 10th anniversary of Larsson’s hit ‘Off a Cliff’, presented …

EP REVIEW: Tetra, ‘Meter’

In today’s technologically inclined society, it’s no shocker that electronica is probably the hottest rising genre infiltrating all other styles of music. From pop to funk to folk, dribs and drabs of computer-generated beats, synths, and drones are seamlessly integrated, so much so that sometimes it’s hard to realize they’re even there. One artist who’s truly carving out her own niche within the realm is Los Angeles-based self-proclaimed “electropop queen” Tetra. What makes her unique is that, yes, she fully takes advantage of everything digital production has to offer and does it skillfully. But the current (see what I did there?) running under her music is truly authentic, giving her songs a universal appeal and a level of listenability that’s hard to come by for some of her peers. Her new seven-song EP, Meter (the title of which we can only hope is a play on tetrameter), embraces the future, while remaining wholly in the present. Its first single, “Bad Things,” even leans towards jazz, Tetra’s silky smooth vocal complementing the slightest hint of auto-tune and …

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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 …

ALBUM REVIEW: Shannen Nicole, ‘Captive’

Talent – real, raw talent – can’t be taught; it’s in your blood, uncontrollably flowing throughout your life, work, and, as Shannen Nicole demonstrates, school. For this high school senior from Oregon, her need to encapsulate the people and experiences that only a 17-year-old could accurately portray led to her stunning debut album, Captive (out July 7). Conjuring songstresses like Adele, Nora Jones, and even a touch of Amy Winehouse, Nicole molds her songs into lush, complex melodies, even if producer Michael Finn pared down the album’s instrumentation to only piano, drums, and strings. More than enough to give Nicole’s voice room to groove. Opening popper “Clueless” quickly gives way to the mysterious “Damsel,” while “Once Upon a Lie” ventures into the realm of ’90s pop with a touch of modern folk, truly speaking to Nicole’s versatility. “Lonely Hearts” channels a hybrid of Natalie Imbruglia and Ellie Goulding, complemented with a thumping upright bass backbeat; first single “She Knows It” vacillates between soulful and anthemic; and closer 2 AM finishes the collection with a gorgeous, simple ballad …

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BREAKING NEWS: CHRIS SQUIRE DIES AT 67

From Dw. Dunphy and Rob Ross: Via a tweet from Yes/Asia/Buggles keyboardist Geoff Downes, reports say that Chris Squire, the legendary bass guitar player for prog-rock giants YES, has died at the age of 67.  It had been announced in May that Squire was undergoing treatment for leukemia.  He had been living with his family in Phoenix, Arizona. There is so much commentary about who is and is not Yes, meaning the vast arsenal of players who have been with the band all these years. The one constant was Chris Squire, bass player. His style is regularly regarded as “dirty” or “meaty.” For a band that is often regarded as arty – too arty sometimes – or pretty and orchestral, Squire was the dinosaur that kept the rock firmly in play in their progressive rock. To hear that he has passed today is profoundly sad. It is like removing one of the heads from Mount Rushmore, a feat his bass playing alone could have accomplished. If you need further convincing, I advise you to consult …

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SINGLE REVIEW: Jenn Vix, “I Don’t Trust You”

Another melodic eye-opener from Rhode Island’s (somewhat prolific) Jenn Vix.  This singer-songwriter knows how to write a melody and use electronic instruments to make it sound warm, human, emotional and passionate.  On this seemingly personal new track, “I Don’t Trust You”, she makes her feelings known and gets the message across so that you can’t help but take the intended feelings to heart and mind. Aside from her compositional gifts, she’s once again, aided and abetted by legendary drummer Andy Anderson (who anchored The Cure’s kit for several years in the very early ’80’s).  And again, the beauty of Jenn Vix’s work is that although the songs are framed with an electronic foundation, “human” drums and guitars cut across to emphasize the sheer power and to heighten the melody. Listen – download – BUY.  Jenn Vix is one artist you will want to investigate, embrace and return to, over and over again. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED “I Don’t Trust You” is available now https://www.facebook.com/jennvixmusic?_rdr=p