All posts filed under: Popdose

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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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First Listen: Renee & Friends – Gather Round featuring Lisa Loeb

Renee & Friends is just that. Renee Stahl and a bunch of her friends writing and recording songs with producer Rich Jacques for her new album Simpatico.  Her circle of friends on this album include Lisa Loeb, Maya Rudolph, Glen Phillips of Toad The Wet Sprocket, Colin Hay, Caspar Babypants, Molly Shannon and Jeremy Toback – her partner in crime from Renee & Jeremy. Simpatico will be released August 28th. First listen: ‘Gather Round’ featuring Lisa Loeb is the lead track off of Simpatico.  All tracks on the album are originals, except Renee & Maya Rudolph covering ‘Starfish and Coffee’ by Prince, which you can stream via SoundCloud. And Molly Shannon’s song “Happiness” is from the musical “You’re a good man, Charlie Brown.” You can pre-order the album straight from their website: reneeandfriends.com

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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” …

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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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Trans TV: The Big Debate About “I Am Cait” and “I Am Jazz”

As POPDOSE’s resident non-gender conforming correspondent, I thought it was high time to weigh in on this fabulous summer of Trans television: I Am Cait (E!) and I Am Jazz (TLC). What started off as a traditional television review (this is POPDOSE after all) turned into a more personal exploration leading to the question, Should Caitlyn Jenner be THE voice of the transgender Community? TV in and “on” Transition TV has come a long way since men in dresses were the punchline (M*A*S*H, Bosom Buddies) or Trans characters were relegated to that of serial killers or murder victims. Let’s not even talk about soap operas where female actresses are revealed as trans! in a shocking plot twist. I hear CBS’s Big Brother has a trans contestant this season, but that’s just a stunt. Let’s talk about people who are actually doing something positive. This summer, we’re being treated to two reality shows about budding icons in Trans culture. They have a lot in common; redundant titles (technically Jazz claimed the “I Am…” bit first), trans topics (“coming out” and “day in the life stories”) and captivating leads …

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ALBUM REVIEW: THE KICKBACK, “Sorry All Over The Place”

Following what seems to be an upsurge in the Chicago area with new bands of different musical directions and a revitalized music scene of all colors, The Kickback are part of that number.  This quartet, who’ve already released singles and E.P.’s are about to set sail with this, their maiden voyage of an album, Sorry All Over The Place.  Well-crafted, intelligent pop-rock with a clean, crisp sound, this album is instantly pleasing by virtue of the writing and singer/main songwriter Billy Yost’s vocals. Starting with a wry number called “Sting’s Teacher Years” (high marks for the wit and references), it instantly gets its pop hooks into you, taking you into familiar (re:  radio friendly) territory, with its near-’80’s sound; the spaciousness and atmosphere of “When I Die” gives the track a modern psychedelic slant and “Headhunter” again revisits that ’80’s “new wave” vibe – think XTC-like quirkiness (the Go2 period).  “Scorched Earth Brouhaha” reminds me in places of The Posies or Teenage Fanclub with that start/stop, quiet/harmonies structure and repetitive riffs; “Little Teach” has a …

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Popdose Vinyl Giveaway: Diary of A Teenage Girl Soundtrack

The fine folks at Rhino Records are set to release the original soundtrack for the film Diary of A Teenage Girl, set in 1976 San Francisco, starring Kristen Wiig and Alexander Skarsgard. The record will be released, Friday August 7th (same day s as the movie which is getting great reviews) and Popdose is proud to offer a poster  & vinyl giveaway for the wonderful collection of songs from HEART, Nico, The Stooges, and Television. Plus, an original track from Nate Heller ft. Amber Coffman from Dirty Projectors. Track list: Dreamsong (feat. Amber Coffman) – Nate Heller Looking For The Magic – Dwight Twilley Band Dreamboat Annie – Heart Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams – Nico Next Plane To London – Rose Garden Precious Star – T. Rex Crying Laughing Loving Lying (2006 Remastered Version) – Labi Siffre It It’s Good To You (It’s Good For You) – Barbara & The Browns Roll Away The Stone – MOTT The HOOPLE Down On The Street – The Stooges A Fool In Love – Frankie Miller See No Evil – Television …

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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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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/

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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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10 Essential September New Releases for Kids of the Eighties

For jaded hipster Millennials and their streaming services, September 2015 will be just another month of the year, a time to wander aimlessly through millions of songs and hundreds of commercials. For record collectors, especially whose who grew up in the 1980’s or love 80’s music, September 2015 just might be the greatest month in world history. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many blockbuster releases hitting the shelves, if it weren’t for Gerry Galipault’s comprehensive and addictive new release calendars on Pause and Play, I would be completely lost. Let’s tear open his calendars and dive on in: September 2 Against Me! • The Libertines • Public Image Limited Against Me! • 23 Live Sex Acts Since coming out as transgender in the pages of Rolling Stone, Laura Jane Grace has risen from being unfairly tagged as a “major label sell out” to the much-deserved status as a national icon. Best of all, Grace is finally being recognized as one of the era’s top songwriters and performers. With an Emmy nomination under her …

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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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FILM REVIEW: “The Wolfpack”

When you first hear the synopsis behind The Wolfpack, you almost impulsively think it’s a real life horror story:  for fourteen years, a family of six boys and a girl were locked away in an apartment, located in the projects of the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  The Angulo brothers:  Mukunda, Narayana, Govinda, Bhagavan, Krisna (Glenn), and Jagadesh (Eddie), and their sister Visnu—learned about the outer world by watching movies. They had been homeschooled by their mother, Susanne, and kept in a four-bedroom apartment.  Their father, Oscar, forbade the kids and their mother from leaving the apartment – save for a rare and guarded “trip” outside because he had the only key – which immediately spells signs of abuse of one form or another. When 15-year-old Mukunda decided in January 2010 to go outdoors and actually see his neighborhood – against the father’s strict rule – things change.  The Angulo boys begin exploring Manhattan by actually re-enacting scenes from some of their favorite movies (of which their collection was sizeable, as it was all they …

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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 …