All posts filed under: Reviews

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SINGLE REVIEW: VAS, “Can’t Stay Dead”

A few months ago, Popdose introduced you to a new band from Memphis, Elder.  Since that time, they’ve changed their name to VAS and have begun recording their debut lp.  While the first songs we premiered were in the upbeat, rock vein, this new single is a quiet, introspective piece that features stark piano and some lovely background vocals to match the passionate delivery of singer Andrew Elder.  Haunting and quite beautiful, here now is VAS…: Can’t Stay Dead by VAS https://www.facebook.com/thebandelder/?pnref=lhc

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ALBUM REVIEW: AU PAIR, “One Armed Candy Bear”

Quite a formidable pairing (hmmmm…) – Django Haskins of The Old Ceremony and Gary Louris of The Jayhawks team up on a knockout project now known as Au Pair (“oh, pair” – see?) and this is, indeed, a winner.  Classic, hooky pop done in a low-fi manner but damn, if it doesn’t sound grand and lush. Case and point as you jump right into the opening track, “In Every Window” – catchy, killer harmonies (the tightness of the two vocals sound startlingly like Townshend and Entwistle, who had some of the greatest harmonies ever) and a deadly McGuinn-styled solo; the ethereal, atmospheric “One-Eyed Crier” would put Roger Waters to shame – warm, other-worldly and subdued-ly psychedelic in a very subtle way and the album’s title cut, “One Armed Candy Bear” has a classic rock & roll acoustic boogie feel while being assaulted with a fuzzy guitar weaving in and out. “Night Falls Early” is a slow, sweet track with touches of Syd Barrett in some places and Chris Bell in others but the harmonies give …

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ALBUM REVIEW: BRETT HARRIS, “Up In The Air”

Confessedly, I’ve been a fan of Brett Harris’ since I first saw him perform at the Big Star Third concert in Central Park, New York in 2013, never mind the fact that I had the chance to also enjoy his keyboard and guitar skills when he was the 5th touring member of The (beloved) dB’s in 2012.  Aside from his deliveries on those classic Big Star songs, he is an incredible singer/songwriter, which I quickly discovered, quite joyfully, through his 2014 E.P. release, Mr. Sunshine.  So you can imagine how much I anticipated something new from the North Carolina resident and I am more than happy with the sounds that emanate from his latest offering, Up In The Air. Ten new songs, placed in “album” formation when you look at the CD’s back cover – divided 5 and 5 and all stellar.  From the moment the Revolver-esque riff and harmonies kick in on “End Of The Rope”, it’s just chills of delight and melody – completely singalong and ripe with subtle keyboard touches; “Don’t Look Back” …

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E.P. REVIEW: VAUDEVILEINS, “Transmission”

Five years on as a band, this group from Chicago now take on an ambitious project – a five-song E.P. and a ten-track album in the span of five months.  So far, half of their mission is accomplished, with the release of the Transmission E.P. Crunchy guitars, energetic tempos, crisp harmonies – a “can’t miss” and from the opening track, “Chasing Time”, this band is on a roll.  They know how to construct the perfect pop song with drive (listen to those backing harmonies!); “Faded” has the same kind of driving riffage but then takes twists on the verses by slowing down to build the dynamism of the song, building up loudly on the chorus and “Snow” turns it all around with clean, chiming and sweet guitars and harmonies carrying this standout piece.  “SOB” picks up the pace again with some heavier sounding (shades of “classic ’70’s”, especially with the wah-wah infused flailing – and keeps it interesting by virtue of it being an instrumental; “Transmission” has flavors of Sugar (think Beaster) and again, takes …

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ALBUM REVIEW: JIMKATA, “In Motion”

Very much in that new vein and crop of ’80’s-influenced synth-pop comes the third release from Ithaca, New York’s Jimkata, a trio who know that part of the key to success for that particular sound is the skill and art in writing a memorable pop song.  And this album has plenty.  From the moment the album begins with the aptly-titled “Wild Ride”, you know you’re in for something good.  Not quite wild, per se, but catchy and memorable, which is what counts. “Build Me Up” has a bubbly sweetness about it, which dispels the notion that electronic-based music is cold and mechanical; if anything, there is a very obvious warmth and sense of purpose in the lyrics.  “Ride The Wave” has a crisp guitar riff that directs the song, with neatly taut drums and builds an intensity to the “orchestrated” chorus, which has a “spacey” feel; “In The Moment” switches directions and gets funky with a groove and straight dance beat (quite good) and subsequently, “Innocence” also has that get-down vibe (not too distant from …

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E.P. REVIEW: THE DUTCHESS AND THE FOX, “Every Night”

The first thing that makes you sit up and take notice of the opening track to The Dutchess And The Fox’s debut E.P., the title track, “Every Night” is singer Andrea Diaz’ breathy and tingling vocals, along with the haunting piano of Joe McGinty (sometime keyboardist for The Psychedelic Furs and regular at Joe’s Pub).  Every Night has five songs of a deep, dark, cinematic nature.  This is serious, refined music and powerful. Aside from the dramatic texture of “Every Night”, the melody is simple and heartbreakingly beautiful.  “Half Face Man” is a bit more uptempo with a raunchy sax carrying the undertone with very subtle percussion to keep the song taut and free from becoming kitsch-y; “St. Vitus” has a sweet, gentle texture with a nice touch of what sounds like oboes and vibes to elevate the melody.  “Blue River” is a perfect title that paints the track like a running stream of strings and keyboards in a waltz-like dreamy state and “Vice and Virtue” is as close to modern Gershwin as I can …

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SINGLE REVIEW: NEZROK, “Beach People”

Can it get any better than this one track by Chris Korzen, who performs under the alias of Nezrok?  Well, yes – an album’s worth in this vein would, indeed, be a joy to listen to.  I’ll tell you later who some of the luminaries are who help make this three-minute power-pop masterpiece an instant classic.  But first, the facts… You can’t want or ask for better than this – and I have to admit, I almost let this one slip through the cracks – damn glad that I didn’t.  Catchy, slightly melancholic, wonderfully clever and obtuse lyrics and the vocals…  Sweet harmonies all around, wrapped in some deft guitar playing and tight, taut drumming.  Would it be fair to say that there’s maybe a pinch of my beloved Big Star in the influence?  Fuck yes. But here’s the obvious – aiding and abetting Mr. Korzen are the one and only Van Duren on vocals, Chris Bolger from R. Stevie Moore’s band on guitars and bass and the always-incredible Dennis Diken of The Smithereens on …

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E.P. REVIEW: STEREO OFF, “The Long Hot Winter”

Quite a dynamic mix of influences and sounds on this second effort from New York’s Stereo Off.  The Long Hot Winter is five songs of diversity, melody and some of the best production standards I’ve heard in years.  The balance and mix of everything is just right – guitars, drums, a throbbing bass, crisp vocals and bubbly synthesizers make a heady stew and gets you in its grasp immediately.  It has that vintage sound but the quality is in the now. Starting with “Hotel Mirror”, my first impression is an updated take on what The Human League were doing back in 1982; subsequently, “Automated” made me think of the better tracks by the League’s counterparts, Heaven 17 – audioscapes with funky guitars and multi-layered vocals.  Do I wax nostalgic?  Indeed I do, and enjoying every musical morsel this young band offers.  “Supercooler” spins it in a different direction; heavy on the drums and faster on the tempo in a mixture of Wire/Gang Of Four styles (albeit less abrasive) and “Redesign” rolls it all together, especially …

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POPDOSE EXCLUSIVE SINGLE PREMIERE: MORGAN ST. JEAN, “Drown”

This new single is an eye-opener from Morgan St. Jean, who is currently enrolled in the Popular Music Program at the University of Southern California and studying under the likes of Patrice Rushen!  Ms. St. Jean’s sound is a well-tempered mix of pop structure mixed with some very deftly-placed theatrical flourishes; the song “Drown” is, indeed, quite a dramatic piece in a 3-minute, very radio friendly track.  The sound; the production is of high quality and her voice can induce chills in the best possible way; it’s sultry and achy and you can feel the emotion coming across very clearly. We’re also including the video to her last single and video, “Addicted” as a bonus, so you can enjoy even more. Check it out and stay tuned as Morgan St. Jean continues to release two more stand-alone tracks in the coming early months of 2016! http://morganstjean.com/index.html

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ALBUM REVIEW: MODOC, “Automatic + Voluntary”

The opening guitar attack of Modoc’s new album, Automatic + Voluntary, wakes you up like a splash of ice cold water – sounding like Mission Of Burma, then spinning into a perfectly executed glam-styled chorus.  So that bodes well for the sophomore effort for this band who originally hail from Muncie, Indiana but have since relocated to Nashville.    Catchy, taut, driving and powerful – there’s very little room to catch your breath; this is all a very good thing.  What’s more is that this full-bodied aural assault is coming from a three-piece, but they make it sound fuller and fatter.  Chops, well-crafted songs and harmonies are certainly the order of the day here. As I said, the first warning shots come straight from “Black Eyed Lover”, which is an inspired choice for the album opener; “Kids On The Run” starts off with a descending guitar figure which sounds oddly like The Beau Brummels’ “They’ll Make You Cry” but then picks up intensity and throttle and “Always The Same”, while a slightly slower tempo is tense …

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ALBUM REVIEW: BRIAN CULLMAN, “The Opposite Of Time”

The first – and most striking thing – upon first listen to Brian Cullman’s The Opposite Of Time is how much he reminds me of Lloyd Cole (one of my musical heroes) – both vocally and in his lyrical style.  So right there, he won me over.  And the comparison is, by no means, a bad thing.  For someone described as a “rock music Zelig” (now THAT’s a reference!), it would be safe to say he has, indeed, been something of a chameleon.  He’s been a music journalist, producer, performer with his debut album, All Fires The Fire and friend to such luminaries as Iggy, Robert Quine, Nick Drake and the (recently-late) Giorgio Gomelsky.  And now on this, his sophomore effort, Cullman paints some dynamic musical portraits, both lyrically and structurally. There is a lot of delicious diversity on here; for example, “Time If There Is Time” immediately gave me shivers as it’s a perfect melding of both Chilton and Bell – think “Thirteen” or “You And Your Sister” with gorgeous acoustic guitars and subtle, …

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ALBUM REVIEW: ANDY METZ, “Delusions”

Sparse, clean and yet filled with color and feel, Delusions, the new album from Seattle native (and current Chicago resident) Andy Metz covers the musical canvas quite brightly.  Considering this is Metz’ first new album in seven years, it shows he hasn’t lost his knack for writing a melody and offering up interesting lyrics. His dry, workman-like voice has a touch of humor – certainly on the darker or at least more tongue-in-cheek – and works perfectly on a song like “Evil” (“…oh, I’m evil and I hope you run away…”), with a simple singalong tune carried by keyboards; “Take My Heart” has fine harmonies, crisp acoustic guitar figures and the melody suits the lyrical content (“…take my heart/take my soul/for the last time/’cause I ain’t given them out no more…”) and “Guns” is one of the more “tense” and tight numbers – certainly a poignant piece at this particular moment in time – and the delivery is a clever mix of singing and rapping the verses.  “Santa Fe” is melancholic and gentle; “I Might …

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POPDOSE VIDEO PREMIERE: BOB MOULD, “Voices In My Head”

My immediate thought was “this sounds like something off File Under:  Easy Listening” (the second Sugar album) – and there’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s Bob Mould – it’s new, and I can pretty much say there’s very little he can do that I won’t like or enjoy.  Most importantly, it’s Bob doing what he does best and that means that some things are right in the world. Taken as the first track off his new album, Patch The Sky (due from Merge Records on March 25th), it’s a strong, emotive and guitar-laden track which mixes Mould’s mastery of acoustic with crunchy guitars and of course, melody.  And as always, he has the blinding rhythm section of Jason Narducy on bass and Jon Wurster on drums to keep it kicking hard, even when the reins are slightly pulled back. Give a listen – watch – enjoy and get ready for Bob Mould’s next masterpiece.  Look for Bob Mould on tour this spring… http://bobmould.com/

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ALBUM REVIEW: SULTANS OF STRING, “Subcontinental Drift”

Now this is really something – since forming eight years ago, Sultans of String’s music has hit #1 on national radio charts in their native Canada, and have received multiple awards and accolades, including two JUNO nominations, 1st place in the ISC (out of 15,000 entries) and two Canadian Folk Music Awards while head honcho Chris McKhool was awarded a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his work in creating community through music. Over the years, this group has shared stages and recording studios with renowned guests like Paddy Moloney and The Chieftains, David Bromberg, Alex Cuba, and Ken Whiteley with other  collaborations yet to be announced. On their new release, Subcontinental Drift, Sultans of String serve up a blend of ragas, reels and rumbas. Fiery violin dances with rumba-flamenco guitar, atop unstoppable grooves laid down by bass and percussion and some very powerfully moving vocals. Acoustic textures with electronic embellishments, which create deep layers of sound. Throughout this album, they are quite ably aided by featured guest sitar master Anwar Khurshid (whose music appeared in …

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ALBUM REVIEW: EVA CASSIDY, “Nightbird”

Some performers have a way with re-imagining and interpreting a song; some know how to give a great song a greater canvas; some can take a mediocre song and make it worth its weight in gold.  Such were the skills and talents of Eva Cassidy, who died 20 years ago after a brief battle with melanoma.  Recorded in January of 1996, she would be gone just a mere ten months later.  She’d released only two albums’ worth of recorded music in her lifetime, but her posthumous Songbird album topped the British charts in early 2000. This “new” album, Nightbird, is a 2 CD containing Ms. Cassidy’s entire performance at Blues Alley jazz club in her native Washington D.C. on January 3rd, 1996 – exactly 20 years ago.  31 tracks, including 8 previously unreleased songs.   And the range of songs, eras and feel is something very special.  Two songs into this album, her rendition of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” is the first to really strike me; subdued, sparse with clean sounding guitars and her voice …

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ALBUM REVIEW: JAVIER ESCOVEDO, “Kicked Out Of Eden”

Kicked Out of Eden is only the second solo release by Javier Escovedo, who most people know as one of the founding members of The Zeros, The True Believers and one of the pioneers of the ‘70’s West Coast punk movement. Javier is one of the storied Escovedo family, including older brothers Pete and Coke Escovedo (Santana, Malo), niece Sheila E. (Prince) and of course, brother Alejandro Escovedo (The Nuns, Rank & File, Buick McKane). This new album is pop mixed with twang and rock’n’roll that remains true to Javier’s love of ‘60’s garage and ‘70’s punk. From the moment the riff to “Downtown” hits you between the eyes and kicks in with the drums and boogie-woogie piano, you’re reminded immediately why there’s such a thing as “rock & roll” – not to be confused with all its permutations.  Catchy and ballsy, it sets you off on the ride; “It Ain’t Easy” continues down the path with punchy and crisp/heavy guitars and “Beaujolais”, while slowing it down just a bit is heavier and filled with …

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ALBUM REVIEW: OLD MAN CANYON, “Delirium”

Old Man Canyon is really the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter Jett Pace; this is the Vancouver-based outfit’s second release and debut full-length album and on first listen, I’m immediately brought back to those days in the very early ’80’s, when I would listen to the local college radio station and those eerily-attractive keyboards would draw you in to certain tracks and artists.  A vintage sound that’s been improved upon with modern production so that it walks a better balance. Thus, “Learn To Forget” opens the album with a good amount of melody and texture that grabs me; The heavily flanged guitar on “Tomorrow Man” is a very nice touch and there’s a great deal of Lennon-esque phrasing in the vocals, but again, adding those ’80’s synth flourishes give the atmosphere on the track a lot more meat and “In My Head” makes me think of Simple Minds during their Sparkle In The Rain period.  “Back To The Start” is easily radio-friendly and could be singled out – very poppy and catchy; “I Don’t Wanna Go Out” …

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E.P. REVIEW: MATT COSTA, “Neon Brain”

A warm, rich sound that immediately gives you a good vibe from the opening notes.  Thus, the first cut from Matt Costa’s recent Neon Brain E.P., “Easy Feeling” does just that.  Milky, liquid guitars and soft vocals have a neo-psychedelicness about it (thinking of the slower Rain Parade tracks I’ve loved over the years) and a strong classic-pop (think ’66/’67) sensibility. Case and point, “Balboa Park” could easily have come blasting out of transistor radios at the tail end of the Summer Of Love, with its melody; “Echo In The Sea” has a certain Bookends quality with its finger picked electric guitar and exploding into a Hollies-like chorus (aside from some near-angelic harmonies towards the latter half of the track).  The title cut, “Neon Brain” is an acoustic-driven piece with (what sounds like synthesized) string arrangements, harmonies and a Donovan feel (although there were moments that recall Syd Barrett at his best); “Traveling Through Space” takes a different direction – while it has the classic pop sense, it’s far more experimental and modern sounding, but …

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E.P. REVIEW: RUEN BROTHERS, “Point Dume”

This four song E.P. is a very strong introduction to England’s Ruen Brothers, Rupert and Henry Stanshall.  Shades of Scott Walker, Roy Orbison and spaghetti-western twang permeate these songs with no sense of contrivance; rather, these are well-crafted songs with a classic feel in a modern setting.  Dramatic, sometimes over-the-top but not irritating – and filled with melody and catchiness. Of the four songs, “Motor City” kicks hardest with a mid-’60’s kind of grooviness; heavily bass driven and crisp guitars along with bold arrangements.  “Vendetta” has a Box Tops kind of feel (!) with punch; “Summer Sun” screams Gene Pitney in a powerful, now sense with a tremendous chorus and “White Lies” has a lot of texture and is (arguably) the most radio friendly of the tracks. All in all, a very solid, coherent premiere from this duo.  Also interesting, as they’re British, but sound very American, which I can appreciate.  Good start for the Ruen Brothers. RECOMMENDED Point Dume is available now http://www.ruenbrothers.com/

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ALBUM REVIEW: WRAY, “Hypatia”

Let’s get this straight right off the bat – this is very, very good.  Shimmering guitars and melodies; hooks and a clean, crisp sound.  This young trio from Birmingham, Alabama (no, not Birmingham, England, funnily enough!) who call themselves Wray, have taken the more melodic side of the old British “shoegazer” ethos and made it much enjoyable and palatable on Hypatia, their debut album.  Keep in mind, this is a sound I’m very fond of by nature (as I was in my teens going into the mid-’80’s), so it makes it even more pleasurable that this record brings back good memories and the joy that a young band is exploring this style for themselves. With the opening track, “Below”, I can sense the haze of the heavily chorused Jaguar, strumming through the broad chords that fill this piece – which sets the table for “Giant”.  This particular number comes right from the Seventeen Seconds handbook – murky, enigmatic but instead of minor chords and a dark vibe, this is much more strident and buoyant – …

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POPDOSE SINGLE PREMIERE: THE BISHOP’S DAREDEVIL STUNT CLUB, “The Woman Who Got Old”

Outstanding track from this Chicago power-pop that is a damned good sign of things to come.  Offered up as a free track on their Bandcamp page, this is a taster for their upcoming new album, the cleverly-titled Don’t Buy This Album (to be released one track at a time for free!). Hooks, melody and harmonies galore, this is a great way to end 2015, as it’s being touted as a “New Year’s song”, which I’ll take any time. Below is the link to the song, the band’s website and a video from a few years ago to give you a greater introduction to this very fine band.  I’m looking forward to what comes next… http://bishopband.com/ https://thebishop.bandcamp.com/track/the-woman-who-got-old

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2015: ANOTHER FINE YEAR!

So it’s the time of the season, when I get into that reflective mood and begin working my way backwards over the year’s music, books, movies, etc.  And 2015 was equally as rich as 2014 was, so I thought I’d share some of what I feel are the highest of nearly-innumerable high points over these last twelve months.  I acquired quite a lot of music – some purchased, some sent for review; I saw as many shows as my schedule would allow and read as much as my free time would give – which, of course, also means that my own new album is slower in coming along than I’d hoped (actually, it’s just stalled at the station for the time being), but it’s worth it.  And this year-end review is to help turn some of you on to these good/great/amazing things, in case you hadn’t heard about them previously.  So let us begin: TOP 3 ALBUMS FOR 2015:  these were the three albums that I listened to most often, after their respective releases.  There …

ALBUM REVIEW: THE HOUNDS OF WINTER, “Band In A Box”

Usually, I really have a hard time with Christmas songs, mainly because a) I can’t digest Christmas for the obvious reasons and b) the songs are always the same God awful aural drek that makes me want to lock myself in the house until the season is over and I don’t have to listen to these horrible songs anymore. But for once, I’m willing to make an exception with this special release from New Jersey’s The Hounds Of Winter.  Their Band In A Box is a compendium of Christmas-themed songs that have both heart and humor.  And they’ve made this available through their ReverbNation page (see link below) – check out their version of The Three Wise Men’s “Thanks For Christmas” (and that was another pseudonym for the glorious XTC). This album has a lot of spirit and isn’t that what this time of year is all about?  Happy holidays to all! Band In A Box can be heard on the ReverbNation page below