It’s So Dirty You’ll Need to Wash Your Hands

T-Pain
rEVOLVEr
Sony Music
revolver.t-pain.net

T-Pain rEvolvEr cover

The font choices for T-Pain’s new disc “rEVOLVEr” lead one to believe the emphasis is on the word evolve. According to Wikipedia; “Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations.”  (If Wikipedia says it then it must be true; right?)

I think it is safe to say that to evolve is to grow – to develop. Musically that can be interpreted pretty broadly. The thing is – though – Mr. Pain hasn’t evolved so much as created another collection of catchy NC-17 rated songs rife with sexual conquests and countless pop culture references.

Listening to Mr. Pain’s disc is a guilty pleasure. I can crank it up and sing along, but I don’t think I’d want anyone to see me doing that.

I am clearly not the demographic he was aiming at when he cut this disc. The references are surely of a culture younger and hipper than mine. Odd thing – his way with twisting a melody around his hyperkinetic flow makes for compelling listening/dancing.

Mr. Pain has an uncanny talent for break-neck flow with easy rhymes and solid beats. There is an air of naughty-but-nice in his swagger as he shares stories – sometimes in graphic detail – about the things his bling will bring.

This is a great party disc. If you are a wallflower the lyrics are funny and smart. How does he flow so well with his tongue so firmly tucked into his cheek?

There is nothing new about the backing tracks. They veer into karaoke-quality from time to time, but he isn’t trying to set the world on fire – he is just trying to get lit.

Lily Allen’s contribution to “5:00” reminds us that the young songstress possesses a haunting alluring quality. Her voice is distinctive and textured perfectly. Her singing compliments and complements Mr. Pain.

You might want to wash your hands (thoroughly) after listening to “rEVOLVEr.” I did – the first six times I listened. Once the pop-shock wears off, you can feel free to walk around inside the lyrical ideas and really enjoy the disc.

Stand Out Tracks
It’s Not You (It’s Me)
5:00
Show Time (Pleasure Thang!)
Rock Bottom
Best Love Song

Hot Chelle Rae’s “Whatever”

Hot Chelle Rae
Whatever
RCA Records
www.hotchellerae.com

The world needs good pop music. Pop music – by default – becomes a harbinger for the current generation and the issues that shape them. The attitude of each generation – the fashions – the trial and tribulations – are ever present in the pop music of that generation.

If you really look into it – these things rarely vary much from generation to generation. One defining component is the music. This might explain why we remember certain songs that may not be great songs – but they are linked to a special moment or event in our lives.

Hot Chelle Rae – the currently emerging pop quartet dishing on all things pop and culture have released “Whatever” which is chock full of bouncy-pouncy pop songs that are so infectious even a fussy old curmudgeon can be seen breaking a smile.

Sure the stuff sounds processed and forced – there is something really enjoyable about the surrender to what they are doing.  They have an odd fixation for – shall we say non-Caucasian-urban cultural references which are actually endearingly hilarious because they are blindingly Caucasian.

The music is seamless. The harmonies are tight. The hooks are dance-friendly. They are at the top of their game- if not the top of their genre. With luck they will grow with their audience and mature into a serious musical enterprise.

If not – we might not even hear about them in a year – but for the moment – they have their finger on the pulse of every ingredient needed to create and market a pop masterpiece.

 

Stand Out Tracks

Tonight Tonight

Why Don’t You love Me

Downtown Girl

Gorillaz Has Something for Everyone

Gorillaz
The Singles Collection 2001-2011
Virgin
gorillaz.com

The millennium needed a musical hero. The 20th century didn’t exactly end on a high-note (pun intended). The millennium surely needed someone who could break down the artifice of pop music and navigate the evolving world of hip hop. (Rock and roll was/is hemorrhaging.) Whoever was charged with this task would risk having a short shelf life. The innovators usually suffer at the hands of the imitators. Gorillaz became that band.

A decade later the “fictional” group created by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett – is set to release an anthology chronicling their storied career. “The Singles Collection 2001-2011” is proof that rolling with the times – keeping the music organic and alive is one way to stay relevant and fresh.

The fifteen songs on this disc were so timeless when they were created they remain suspended in their own universe. Strangely they bridge musical eras with subtle nods to The Kinks (The melodic themes of “Feel Good Inc.” sounds vaguely familiar.) as effortlessly as they reflect some modern computer-driven aesthetic and the balanced chaos of modern club music.

The band we know as Gorillaz – a response to the banality of the music industry at the turn of the last century – has deconstructed the pop song and broke it down to its primitive core. The duo altered our expectations of new music making it accessible to a much wider audience than most new music artists.

Laced through all of these clarion electronic beats and lush strings there is a sense of humor that transcends the hip factor making this a collection for people who love music with less boundaries. There truly is something for just about everyone here.

Stand Out Tracks
Rock the House
Feel Good Inc.
On Melancholy Hill

Re-Imagine This

Smashing Pumpkins
Siamese Dream
Gish
www.smashingpumpkins.com

Smashing Pumpkins Gish Siamese dream

Oh, you better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout – that’s Billy Corgan’s job, and if he can’t squeeze the last dollar out of your wallet with his skinny, wan hand you can bet he is going to pout; all the way to the bank.

There is nothing worse than an inflated and fading rock star repackaging his music at holiday time in an effort to guilt the fans into parting with their hard earned money. What have the “Pumpkins” done for us lately? If you ask Corgan, they have saved your youth and repackaged it with some bogus extras.

The website that hawks this warmed over tripe has a “message” from Billy that reads like a manifesto for all that is pompous and pretentious in music today. Ironically he was this pretentious 20 years ago and things haven’t changed.

To make matter more egregious there is a standard re-release and a “deluxe edition.” Do we really need a serving of cast-offs and basement demos to enrich our musical landscapes? The price for the new “deluxe edition” is double the price of the re-release.

“Gish” includes (and I quote) Original Album Remastered With Reimagined Cover Art -15 Previously Unreleased or Alternative Versions of Gish Era Songs – Previously Unreleased, Full Length DVD From The Metro 1990 – 6 Postcards Featuring Never-Before-Seen Band Photos – 24-page Booklet Featuring Complete Lyrics, Liner Notes by David Wild, and Track-by-Track Annotations by Billy Corgan.

Re-imagined Cover Art?” Now the die hard fans will be forced to buy it to complete their set. Good looking out for your peeps, Corgan.

“Gish-era” songs? Ah, the songs that weren’t good enough to actually go on “Gish.”  A Metro show that is old enough to drink and postcards?

“Siamese Dream” features basically the same things only more of them and a (slightly) more recent Metro show. Wow for only $30.00. This is my lucky day. (There is even a substantial price difference when ordering the digital download. The “deluxe edition” is $5.00 more per download.)

Call me crazy – but Corgan would do better by his fans to get off of his high horse and cut a new album. Make something relevant and fresh. Taking these songs – that sound pathetically dated anyway – and trying to prepackage them is a travesty.

This Christmas forget Corgan and his greedy ways. True Pumpkin fans already have “Gish” and “Siamese Dream.”  There will be a lot of competition for your holiday dollar. Don’t give it to a petulant sycophant unless you really want that re-imagined covert art and a new postcard collection.

Chiwawa: A Good Story with an Indifferent Sound

Chiwawa
Element
Satellite Records Canada
http://www.chiwawa.ca

Chiwawa Element CoverSometimes you just want to relax and enjoy a disc. You read a lot about the group – you get the back-story and you want to root for them. In an ideal world you put on the disc and the music is solid and you realize that the good feelings you preconceived for the band will be rewarded.

Then there are times that the music just falls flat and you feel hoodwinked. You cringe your way through the review (no one really enjoys writing a bad review – no true music lover does anyway).

Chiwawa is that rare band that doesn’t commit to either one. Their story is a beautiful, modern day Indie film that may have been written by Diablo Cody. Two impossibly beautiful people marrying for citizenship only to blossom into true love. I’d buy that for a dollar.

“Element” is their latest release and it is just another one-dimensional electro-pop collection rife with repetitious beats and forced rhymes. The troubling element is that it isn’t terrible and it isn’t great. It is just a predictable computer generated dozen cuts designed to get your rump shaking and that is about it.

Krassy Halatchev and Laurie Gordon complement each other very well. You can hear the seamless collaboration on these electronic offerings.  You just find yourself wishing the stakes were higher.

“Another Moment” is the exception.  The quixotic blend of sounds – the haunting melody – the sweetness of Gordon’s vocals show what the duo could do if they were so inclined.

They have an impressive discography and their downloads are priced to be fan friendly. They are obviously doing something that is connecting. I just can’t figure out a way to put my finger on it.

Stand Out Track
Another Moment

Robert Schwartzman’s “Double Capricorn”

Robert Schwartzman
Double Capricorn
Self-released
Robertschwartzman.com

robert Schwartzman Double Capricorn coverIt seemed – at first – that Robert Schwartzman had fallen into a deep sleep and had woken up in 1982 in a recording studio.  His quirky-alt-80s sound is endearing if not a bit kitschy. The electro-bump of “Out of My Mind” kicks off “Double Capricorn” sounding a bit like a Human League on happy pills.

“Double Capricorn” is a collection of songs in which the instruments are played (almost) entirely by Schwartzman himself. The interesting thing – he actually pulls it off. The recording is tight and the arrangements – while a bit dated – are no worse for the wear.

It would be a little more compelling in Schwartzman had backed off of the affectations and let the music find its way over to its own invention. The songs seem to be written with the tongue firmly in cheek – a left-handed-homage to music designed to make you homesick for music that you missed the first time around.

Robert Palmer, John Lennon, The Pet Shop Boys, and the Beatles are among the filters Schwartzman employs on his way to being hipper-than-thou. His take on early 80s Elton John is spot on. He created a record the 20-something hipsters can call their own while being enjoyed by the 40-somethings who actually remember this music the first time around.

There are a lot reasons to buy this disc. Not the least of these reasons is all profits from the sale of this album are being donated to the Tibetan Healing Fund. Let “Double Capricorn” heal you at the same time.

Stand Out Tracks
I Know Why
Funny Money
All My Life

The Windsor Player: The Ultimate Supergroup

The Windsor Player
Eponymous
Self-Released
www.thewindsorplayer.com

The Windsor PlayerThis is meat and potatoes. This is dependable and delicious and every bit as American as the Super Bowl. The Windsor Player – the latest alt-supergroup created by Troy Stewart – has released an eponymous disc that is bigger than all of its components yet intimate and relevant.

From the melancholy strings of “Release” which kicks off this powerful collection – to the rolling melody and seamless instrumentals and playful faux-rap of “Just a Song” there is not a weak moment on this disc.

Sadly I am not nearly hip enough to know who Stewart is except that he is the touring guitarist for Snow Patrol. The names of the players and the bands that he has assembled reads like a who’s who of bands that linger on the fringes of mainstream – just safety within the reach of the hipsters, but not the radio station program directors.

I think – in this case – my ignorance fed my bliss because I had no preconceived notion of what I was getting into. What I was – and continue to – get into is a whip smart and impeccably recoded and produced collection of songs.

It isn’t enough that Stewart – and his army of co-conspirators – have blended their own unique perspectives into each bar – each measure of music – they had the good sense to get out of the way and let the song rule the day. I promise this is a disc that will serve as background when you are working/partying. It will also work as a clinic in songwriting and arranging.

As we begin the head-long careen into the holiday shopping season, every writer is putting together their “best of list” in hopes of boosting the holiday sales and having one more shot at influencing their readers.

The Windsor Player is my favorite release of the year. End of list.

Stand Out Tracks
Release
Empty Well
Just a Song

Russian Circles on Their Own Planet

Russian Circles
Empros
Sargent House
russiancircles.tumblr.com

Russian Circles Empros

I totally get the concept of acquired tastes. When I was in high school while my friends were getting buzzed on Miller High Life and puffing on Kools I was drinking Cutty Sark and smoking Lucky Strikes. I couldn’t see what they were excited about and they thought I was on my own planet.

Russian Circles seem to be on a planet of their own making – only I felt like a visitor there – and not a very welcome one. Theirs is a planet of droning shapeless music designed – I think – to enhance a good trip – although not a road trip.

Thinking in terms familiar to the average music listener – Russian Circles can be defined as a metal-jam-goth band. They seem to be the type of group that cringes at the every notion of labels – but for our purposes the labels at least create an accessible expectation of the music.

Metal-Jam-Goth isn’t necessarily a negative term – it is just my interpretation of these long sprawling musical journeys that reflect the most common elements of Metal, Jam, and Goth music.

Many Americans don’t like Middle Eastern or Asian music because they are unaccustomed to it. It doesn’t fit well into their (dare I say?) virgin ears. The time signatures are different – the scales are different. It can be jarring to the uninitiated.

Russian Circles – while wholly American – have blended the genres to the point that they don’t settle well for me. The result veers toward melodramatic horror film soundtrack.

I am hard pressed to create a negative review because Russian Circles surely have a clear idea of what they want to do musically.  Empros is just not something I am interested in listening to on a regular basis.

They are committed to that they do and for that you might give Empros a listen. You may find their odd darkness fused with a few strands of hope is just what the doctor ordered – especially if you are planning any trips any time soon.

Stand Out Track
Schiphol (the first3:40)

Electric Touch’s “Don’t Stop”

Electric Touch
Don’t Stop
Island Records
www.electrictouch.com
Suppose millennial pop star Pink made a song so catchy and commercial a health club decided to use it as their… wait. That has happened already. Clearly the soft-pop quintet Electric Touch was paying very close attention. You might say they were heavily influenced by that driving dancer-cize-style of pop music.

“Don’t Stop” is an EP of clean and crisp pop music. Nothing challenging – nothing deep, just fun, aggressive, predictable pop that nearly blurs into one 13-minute long song.

The title track resonates with a “spin-off-the-pounds” vibe. This is the song I expect to hear ringing out in every gym/health club pushing the bar and raising the adrenaline – not challenging the mind.

Magnetic” sounds like an outtake from the aforementioned Pink. It is fun and painless – but it is likely not something that will be around a year from now. This is not to say that all music must have along shelf life – but the best music typically does. Beatles anyone?

Dominos” saves this EP from being completely bereft of substance. It is very close – but not completely.

If you are going to the gym – or power walking – or you want to feel like you are might be working out later – “Don’t Stop” (even the title suggest forward motion) is a good little quartet of pop nuggets.

If you prefer your music to be original – passionate – compelling – you might want to a pass on this one. I will say – though – the song “Don’t Stop” contains my favorite lyrical line of the year, “Life is strange, but love is stranger.”
Stand Out Track
Dominos

http://ElectricTouch.com
http://twitter.com/ElectricTouch
http://Myspace.com/ElectricTouch

Little Red is a Must-Have

Little Red
Get a Life
Liberation Records (AUS)
True Panther Sounds (US)
www.littleredmusic.com

Little Red Midnight Remember

Good pop music is like a cool ripe juicy mango on a hot summer day. You sink your teeth in and pull away chunks and the sweet juices flow down your neck and you kind of look silly –but you don’t care because you are really enjoying the experience on every level. You really feel good.

Little Red is the best mango I’ve dug my teeth into in some time. The Australian quintet offers delicious, juicy melody lines over buoyant arrangements that are filled with sweet surprises.

Little Red might feel – at times – like they are weighed down by the influence of pop bands that have come before them – specifically when it comes to lyrical ideas, but the result is fresh and wholly their own. The songs on “Get a Life” offer a penumbra of 80s radio-pop without sounding like a tribute disc.

Rock It” with the thumping base and hi-hat intro almost sounds like a cogent riff on Jukebox the Ghost, again Little Red will tease you with musical ideas that seem like they might have come before – but really haven’t.

In My Bed” showcases the quintet’s ability so soar vocally. Their harmonies are tight and the arrangement keeps them relevant – but not overbearing.

I Can’t Wait” is another beauty. It just feels good to listen to. It is smoky with a shade of melancholy even if the message is more hopeful than the arrangement will allow.

Little Red – the band – has created a sweet treat for your ears. Dig in and let the juices flow. Who cares how you look – if you feel good.

Stand Out Tracks
Rock It
In My Bed
I Can’t Wait
February

Tracklisting

1. Get A Life
2. Slow Motion
3. Rock It
4. Little Bit Of Something
5. All Mine
6. In My Bed
7. I Can’t Wait
8. February
9. Chelsworth
10. Follow You There

Little Red online:

www.littleredmusic.com
www.truepanther.com
truepanther.com/store/releases/midnight-remember

No Thanks Lyonnais!

Lyonnais
Transitive Properties of Youth
Self released
www.myspace.com/teamlyonnais

LyonnaisThere is an iconic – often recited (sometimes even correctly) scene in the 1987classic “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.” Steve Martin tells John Candy, “Here’s a good idea – have a POINT. It makes it SO much more interesting for the listener!”

That is exactly what went though my mind as I listened to the blathering known as “Transitive Properties of Youth” by Lyonnais who just might be the last band in American to have a myspace page.

There is precious little on this release that doesn’t have me running for the stop button (or a knitting needle for my ears.)  It is the most inconsequential music I have ever had the misfortune of listening to. It has less musical value than a Cadbury Easter egg and about the same nutritional value.

On their myspace page they claim to be psychedelic. Even the most psychedelic band I have ever heard had a point – they had something to say – even if they were spacey and nebulous with the way they said it.

This is just droning – poorly produced tripe that I had to endure for hour after hour as I listened on a variety of days to assure myself it wasn’t my mood that was making me have such a negative reaction to the music.  Then I realized they were the reason that my mood always went sour after listening to them for more than three songs. (Thing is – you can’t really tell when one song ends and the next one begins.)

Being a music writer is usually the greatest job a guy can have. It is typically a pleasure – until you meet Lyonnais and “Transitive Properties of Youth” at which point it becomes more tedious than being an accountant.

Stand Out Tracks
Whatever the last track is be cause that means we are done listening to this.

The Way Sound Leaves a Room

Sarah Jaffe
The Way Sound Leaves a Room
Kirtland Records
sarahjaffe.com

sarah jaffee the way sound leaves a room cover Sarah Jaffe’s The Way Sound Leaves a Room features some heartfelt singing and some strong songwriting, but it just isn’t consistent enough to be a compelling choice when seeking music to work with or just chill out with. Her sense of irony seems to almost weigh down her energy and the sense of play that resulted in songs like “A Sucker for Your Marketing.”

In fairness – after the fifth or sixth listen – it did kind of grow on me. It may have been familiarity – it may have been the uniqueness of Jaffe’s voice. It may have been the slightly less than traditional arrangements (“All the Time”). The trouble with that is most people aren’t patient and want to fall in love with their music before they are distracted by the next new thing.

“Clementine” – a lovely piano ballad – is worth the time. This song will surely put Jaffe on the musical map. No longer encumbered by the necessity to buy an album – this is one download that will surely define Jaffe and help her to develop the following she deserves

While she shows some serious musical intelligence (and diversity) on this release – some different sounds and different arrangement paradigms, she rests carefully – almost gingerly – in world of country-tinged indie-folk music. Even in the most sparsely populated songs – she finds a way to fill the sound with textures and colors.

“Louder Than Ever” is the rare song that reflects itself with uncanny precision. The mood set by the instrumentation reflects the whispy vocals which support the ethereal lyrics. The song seems the perfect opportunity for Jaffe to break into the mainstream – which tends to be afraid of anything new or valuable.

If you have the time to fall in love with some sweet music – give “The Way Sound Leaves a Room” a chance. If you need instant gratification – Bruno Mars will surely have something more to your liking out any day now.

Stand Out Tracks
“Clementine”
“Louder Than Ever”
“Shut It Down”

Whales: Not a Big Deal

Whales
Whales
Self-Released
whalesmusic.bandcamp.com

I just can’t seem to figure out the talented quartet of musicians known collectively as Whales. Nor can I figure what on God’s musical landscape they are trying to do. Individually they are extremely talented – but when you put them into the studio – they seem to cancel each other out. The listener is the one that suffers here.

The music ranges from progressive darkly textured jazz to jaw-popping-yawn-inducing-navel-gazer. They claim navel gazing as a genre – I am seeing that more and more these days – but just because there is a lot of a genre does that qualify it to be good or necessary. (One genre we could do without is/was boy bands.)

Having said that – Whales and their recent eponymous release has some interesting moments – but they just aren’t strung together with any cogent line that makes me compelled to listen to the rest of the disc. (I – of course – did and I did more than once.)

It is frustrating to hear the hints of what could happen if this group was performing music that is intrinsically interesting or relevant. If they were schlock purveyors, they would be easy to write off and move on, but they clearly work diligently and have created something that is musical and interesting – just not compelling. There are too many things competing for space in my ear – so you’ve got to be compelling.

I would not recommend running out and buying this music part and parcel. Try one song at a time – if you are into navel-gazing or “noise pop.” If you like your music a little more traditional – this isn’t the disc for you.

Standout Tracks
Insomniac
Vampires

This Dog Has Teeth

Pitbull
Planet Pit
Mr. 305 Records
www.pitbullmusic.com

Pitbull (given name Armando Christian Pérez) has his pulse on the music industry and is poised to enjoy longer shelf life than most urban artists who are coming up today. One reason is his blend of bravado and humility. His musicality – tight and shiny like Shakira’a outfit on the cover of “Rabiosa” is perfectly complemented by his wide ranging (often mischievous) sense of humor.

His sexual prowess comes off as aggressive – but never misogynistic. His use of humor makes him accessible to a growing number of urban music lovers who have had enough of the macho posturing that has been so prevalent in hip hop music.

The opening track “Castle in the Sand” plays with the formula of a powerfully talented woman singer’s voice soaring over some ambient sound – relaxing – setting the mood – then he kicks down the door with his rat-a-tat flow filled with clever rhymes to stand all times. (It blows my mind. I feel so fine. Oops.)

The incongruity he introduces on this “Castle in the Sand” (He thanks his mother for “making him a man” before cutting loose with an expletive filled threat.) is just one of the threads in the tapestry that is “Planet Pit.”

“Come N Go” is a rhythmic romp about sex. There is nothing subtle in this song at all. Pitbull – like his canine namesake – sinks his teeth in and doesn’t let go – not until he can make them “Come N Go.” Some of the double entrendres and puns seem to have been penned by 14-year old boys trying to get away with mischief. The difference is – Pitbull hits it with his unique style of rolling the words out like they have a life of their own.

“Give Me Everything” is looking to be the hit – a radio friendly dance track that owes more than a little to the Black Eyed Peas. The difference is – though – he seems to imbue these cuts with so breathless energy that translates to the dance floor like I haven’t heard in a long time.

If you are looking for the perfect disc to introduce urban music into your lexicon – this could be the one. The combination of talent and skill – supported by the business savvy and the sense of humor make this a dog that won’t lay on the porch – but will rock the house.

Stand Out tracks
Castle Made of Sand
Shake Senora
Where Do We Go

Tour Dates:


View Pitbull tour dates from Eventful

Tidy Metal-lite Offering – More Slick Less Spontaneous

Adelitis Way
Home School Valedictorian
www.adelitaswaymusic.net
Virgin Records

Adelitis Way is poised to take metal-lite to a place it rarely goes; mainstream radio. Their release “Home School Valedictorian” is a tidy and slick release of eleven metal-pop songs that crackle with an incongruous mix of rock and roll rebellion and corporate satisfaction. This is a very safe release for any record company.

Adelitis Way will make Virgin’s shareholders as giddy as the teen-age girls who will surely buy the posters and wallpaper their bedrooms. They are pretty enough to have their own TV show – while being solid enough musicians to cut a record that is equal parts quality and commercial.

Rick DeJesus broods aggressively whether in front of the microphone or the camera. He delivers exactly what is expected of him. He brings powerhouse vocals which he doles out generously – but with some reservation. He knows there are more albums in store and he wants to save some pyrotechnics for later.

Trevor Stafford might the most versatile young drummer on record in a long time. His ability to direct and alter the rhythm section is one of the elements that keeps the quartet’s metal vibe front and center. Stafford knows his way around a kit and is not afraid to use every bit of hardware he has.

True to their radio-friendly-metal-lite sound, Derek Johnston’s bass playing gets no love at all. There are moments when his work comes through, but he is mostly non-existent on this disc. I don’t blame Johnston, this is the way of the walk for a lot of modern music. Bass players typically are underserved. Without them – there is precious little going on under the guitar attack of a modern rock band – but they rarely get mixed well enough to give them the respect they deserve.

Robert Zakaryan – might be the guitar player’s name on “Home School Valedictorian.” (The website says one thing- the FaceBook page says something else.) Whoever is playing the guitar is doing a fine job. There is nothing here that promises greatness – but he surely has all of the right rock and roll licks and fills and crunch. His work – like DeJesus voice – clearly defines Adelitis Way for better or for worse.

(According to their web site Adelitis Way became a quintet by adding guitarist Keith Wallen after recording the record. This review doesn’t reflect Wallen or any contribution he may have to the band down the road.)

Stand Out Tracks
Sick
Good Enough
I Wanna Be

Twin Atlantic Offers Rock and Roll American-Style

Twin Atlantic
Free
Red Bull Records
free.twinatlantic.com


Probably one of the most American sounding rock and roll albums of 2011 was written and recorded by a Glaswegian quartet who rock just as clean and hard as you please. The term American-sounding is based on the idea of putting four guys in the garage with their instruments and a case of PBR – let that germinate through the spring and see what the summer brings; powerful guitars, easy hooks, earnest vocals.

What these four young blokes do deliver is a multi-dimensional pastiche of pure sweetly realized sound hand-crafted with an eye for hard pop sensibility. There is a lot going on each song, but none of it is wasted or excessive. Everything fits – some elements more snug than others – but it is all there and it is all good.

Most of what’s going on informs of a variety of influences, but remains entirely their own. Their personality comes through on each note – their bravado that manifests itself in well-deserved confidence. The by-product of that confidence – is flawless play and bounding creativity.


Twin Atlantic creates a slick accessible rock and roll music that hooks old rockers like me with the jingly guitars – the tight harmonies, and the ironic lyrics. They also keep the youth audience front and center with their power and their drive. They swagger and sneer through “Free” which is an anthem that needs to be heard by all rockers; young and old.

Sam McTrusty (real name according to their website) possesses a voice alternates from power to passion to pushover like turning a switch.

Stand Out Tracks

Apocalyptic Renegade

Yes I’m Drunk

Free

Crash Land

 

Funeral Party Resuscitates Rock and Roll

Funeral Party
The Golden Age of Nowhere
RCA Records
www.funeralpartymusic.com

Sometimes putting to many spices into the pot can kill the chili. That is what separates chefs from cooks. The same can be said for music. Trying too much can result in falling flat on your face. Then there is Funeral Party and their debut release “The Golden Age of Nowhere” on RCA Records.

This west coast power trio redefines the genre by pouring the power out in flooding waves that sweep the listener up in a musical tsunami. They also have an uncanny knack for adding enough textures to make it interesting – but not confusing.

“The Golden Age of Nowhere” offers eleven tracks of solid music played flawlessly and with visceral passion. They display versatility throughout. Whether it is a mid-tempo nugget like “Relics to Ruins” or an up-tempo jumper like “Giant Song” they imbue every song with their unique brand of bridled energy.
One of the most refreshing elements of “The Golden Age of Nowhere” is the variety of sounds that these three talented musicians offer. Everything comes with a hard edge, but each song has its own personality. This keeps it more compelling with each listen.

Chad Elliott’s vocals are pure and honest the likes of which I haven’t heard in a while in a rock and roll band. He isn’t pretending or posing. He is just rocking his face off. James Torres has a way with the guitar that just slices through everything – but complements it rather than stealing focus.

Kimo Kauhola’s bass is thumping and driving and carrying the whole thing when allowed. If there is a weakness on this disc – it is that Kauhola gets buried from time to time. The work on “Finale” makes it clear that he has the chops

One element of success in any live art form is bringing in the audience. Funeral Party has their share of anthems with audience participation built right into them. This summer at stadiums around the world – they are likely to look out and see seas of fans pumping their fists and singing along.

On a side note – their website is equally creative. It suits them.

Standout Tracks

Postcards of Persuasion

Giant Song

Relics to Ruin

New Band Evokes Old Band with Interesting Results

Geronimo
Fuzzy Dreams
Self-released
facebook.com/thegeronimoband

Rock and Roll mythology bears a great amount of epic sagas ranging from fishing out of hotel windows to just about everything in Keith Moon’s life. One of the more romantic stories is the American Indian vibe that surrounds Jim Morrison.

To believe the 1991 Oliver Stone biopic – there was a car accident involving some American Indians and one of their souls jumped into the body of a young Jim Morrison and that is part of what made him the American Poet and the wild and free spirit we all know and (some) love.

Geronimo – the 21st century rock and roll incarnation – seems to have been the recipient of Jim Morrison dying and his soul jumping into their collective body. The hard rocking trio creates music that seems to have picked up right where the Doors left off – minus the soaring vocals and Robby Kreiger’s guitar.

“Fill Me Up” completely – and eerily captures the surreal sweeping soundscapes of later Doors’ albums. By the time you get to “Battery Acid Mustache” you are almost convinced the band has reunited for one last session.

“Deep Warmth” ends in a musical elegy that sounds like it was pulled from out-takes of the Doors’ recording of “The End.” With each chord change and sound vibration, you will keep hearing Morrison’s melodramatic voice call for his mother.

Despite this – or because of this – “Fuzzy Dreams” (even the name rings of the famous quartet) is a solid rocking album. Maybe because it is more honest than the countless reunion acts. Maybe because they are playing with power instead of an endorsement deal. Maybe because their heart is in the right place.

Geronimo’s “Fuzzy Dreams” is a free download at thegeronimoband.bandcamp.com. Check it out.

Stand Out Tracks

Fill Me Up
Battery Acid Mustache
Judgment Day

Understated – Not Underrated – GHOSTHOUSE Grooves

GHOSTHOUSE
Fashionably Late
Self-released
www.facebook.com/GhosthouseChicago


From the city that is home to the biggest and the boldest of everything comes an understated funk duo named Ghosthouse that has the necessary chops, the warmth of delivery, and the cheesy synthesizers to invoke funk pioneers – yet there is a youthful exuberance that (usually) works for them.

Once again – though – I would have hoped their youthful vigor would have resulted in an LP.  Recording four songs for release just never feels as satisfying as getting a full length that the listeners can sit for a spell and wrap their ears around.

It is even more exasperating when the music is as tight and righteous as Chicago’s own Ghosthouse. There is nothing new here – a lot of synthesizers and affected vocals – but the combination of Jimmy Con and Chuck New and their varied musical influences combine to make some pretty interesting music – then you only get four songs.

Song titles (titles in general) are safe from the copyright laws. If I wanted to go out and cut an album and call it Let it Be. I would be able to with no problem. I would never go anywhere because radio station programmers are lazy. They see the title and they go with the version they are familiar with.

Ghosthouse has a cut called “Private Dancer” and it has nothing to do with Tina Turner or her iconic song of the same name. This disc is fairly wrapped up with the Monkee’s 1960s classic “Stepping Stone.”

And just that soon it is over. You have to hit play again – or find something with a longer playing time and a similar beat. When your music is this soulful and sweet – and you are making the kind of music you want to make – why settle for four songs?

Stand Out Tracks

“Steppin’ Stone”

 

Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You: No Kidding!

Does it Offend You, Yeah?
Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You
The End Records
Released: 3/15/2011
www.doesitoffendyou.com


Sometimes we try to hard to be too much only to fall on our faces having accomplished nothing. Sometimes we are so caught up in our self-image that we realize we have no idea who we are.

Does it Offend You, Yeah? recently released their sophmore album, Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You, which is a collection of out-of-focus aural experiments that mostly don’t work. They bill themselves as a dance band, but I defy any human to do something that resembles dance while listening to “John Hurt” the second cut on this cacophonic collection.

The production values are non-existent throughout the album. Some of the songs have so much fuzzy static competing with out of control lazar beams sounds – you almost wonder if the band knows about musical tones and keys and time signatures.

There are sparse moments of musicality, but it seems that every time DIOYY has a musical idea, they find a way to talk themselves right out of if.  That or they beat it into the ground with such inane repetition transforming it from a likeable club mix to a futuristic supermarket muzak track.

In their defense, the band will attempt the occasional sonic variation, but again they aren’t focusing it or giving it purpose, leaving the listener scratching their dissatisfied head.

There is a song on the disc called “Wrestler,” which opens with a very angry man on a very funny (ironic) diatribe. You will expect a lot more – you will be sadly left wanting. The song just drops into tedium with the occasional f-bomb!

Listenable Tracks
Yeah
Pull Out My Insides

Tracklisting:

1. We Are The Dead
2. John Hurt
3. Pull Out My Insides
4. Yeah
5. The Monkeys Are Coming
6. Wrong Time Wrong Planet
7. Wrestler
8. Wondering
9. The Knife
10. Broken Arms

 

Pick it Up: The Drive-By Truckers’ Go-GO Boots

Drive-By Truckers
Go-Go Boots
ATO Records
www.drivebytruckers.com


Right to the point; The Drive-By Truckers’  Go-Go Boots might be the best record I have heard this year. This album is awkwardly graceful and stripped down sexy at the same time. Here you will find barebones arrangements that deliver new layers of sonic sweetness with every listen.

The southern sextet has created 14 songs (15 if you buy the vinyl) that are as smart as anything on the radio today. Then they had the sense to get out of the way and let the songs live on their own terms.

Perhaps it is the recording on analog gear – perhaps it is the soulful country attitude intrinsic to each of these players – something just illuminates these songs giving warmth and power.

I Do Believe” kicks off Go-Go Boots. This nice jangly little number features the DBT’s signature wall of sound, but here it is informed by a little 70’s pop. Onto the title track, where the wall of sound is still present, but there are textures added raising the bar and making the music a little more interesting.

Not that there is anything on this disc that isn’t interesting – and I think that is part of DBT’s brilliance. They take the dynamics of music to levels most bands don’t think of. They apply the sense of tension and release to the order of the songs on the disc. I have never experienced that development of texture while listening to an album before.

There is also the true beauty of a sextet from the south who embraces who they are without getting condescending or pandering to clichés.  They are clearly mining a different side of the southern experience. They work to be relevant – they don’t strain to be perfect.

This is easily one of my favorite discs to be released in the last couple of years. When you visit the website, you can buy it as a download – you can buy it as vinyl. Just buy it.

Stand Out Tracks

Dancin’ Ricky

Cartoon Gold

Pulaski

Joel “Hits” Audience With New Disc

Billy Joel
The Hits
Columbia/Legacy
www.billyjoel.com


This year marks the 40th anniversary of “Cold Spring Harbor.” Not a lot of pop/rock music lovers even know that it was that album by a very young Billy Joel that would pave the way for millions of records sold and countless sold-out shows and (more recently) hours of entertainment on TMZ.

“Cold Spring Harbor” (an incredible album by the way) was followed by “Piano Man’ and from there the doors flew up for a guy who once played on a Shangri La’s demo of “Leader of the Pack” and “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” as an unknown session guy in 1964. He was 15-years old. [Read more…]

Sullivan Loves You Back

Jazmine Sullivan
Love You Back
J Records
www.jazminesullivanmusic.com

On “Love You Back” – the latest from singer/songwriter Jazmine Sullivan – the too-young-to-feel-this-old songbird warbles a piece she co-wrote called “Famous.” A well blended orchestral pop nugget with one of the coolest guitar bits buried in the melancholy conclusion, the song fairly warns of what is to come for Philly native who stretches musical borders to their breaking point. [Read more…]

Doobie Doobie Don’t

Doobie Brothers
World Gone Crazy
HOR Records
www.doobiebros.com

Doobie Brothers

Growing up with the Doobs – there were certain promises delivered with each new release; the first was uncompromising rock and roll music laced with soulful sounds and peppered with some urban blues.

The second guarantee was there would be brushes with social statements (at least provocative thoughts)  whether that meant a gruff Michael MacDonald taking it to the streets or asking what a fool believes. The songs were powerful and clung to you like a secret you could share with anyone. [Read more…]

Sweethead Makes for Sourpuss

Sweethead
Sweethead
Strange Addiction/ The End Records
www.sweethead. net


What do you get when you combine four b-level rock musicians from four separate b-level bands? You get the laziest – most uninspired 13 songs that will drone in your ears until you disinfect them with something that resembles rock and roll.

Surely Troy Van Leeuwen (Queens of the Stone Age) is intended to be the anchor here. Instead we get disjointed – musical ideas that are half-baked and played without anything that resembles cogent thought or are enoyable music. [Read more…]

Reaching New Heights From the Heartland

Hawthorne Heights
“Midwesterners: The Hits”
Victory Records
www.hawthorneheights.com

Hawthorne Heights – the resilient Ohio “emo” quartet – is set to release (November 9, 2010) an ambitious compilation of hits, b-sides, and rarities.  This disc “Midwesterners: The Hits” serves as the perfect introduction to band that can bring lush powerful pop as easily as they can unleash the “emo.” [Read more…]

Stewart Swings with Soul

Rod Stewart
“Fly Me to the Moon:
The Great American Songbook:
Volume Five”
Arista Recrods
www.rodstewart.com

With great love for the music traditionally considered the American Songbook I waited with baited breath for this release. This is the swinging cocktail party of some of the greatest songs of the 20th Century as performed by one of pop music’s most unique chameleons, Rod Stewart. [Read more…]

Santah is coming to town

Santah
White Noise Bed
Self-released
santahmusic.com

They’re young. They’re passionate. They’re from downstate Illinois. What more can you ask from a quintet who plays live with strangely controlled energy – then finds a way to channel that energy into the recording studio.

They are Santah. [Read more…]

Kind of cool on Behind the Sun

Behind the Sun
Self-titled

Out Now

Perhaps the most confusing record I have played in years, “Behind the Sun” is a one-hour paradox of progressive metal and hard rock. There are moments of epic power balanced out by moments of lackluster cliche. Don’t even get me started with the lyrics. [Read more…]

Say YES to Willis

Daphne Willis
What to Say
Vanguard Records

Daphne Willis

Daphne Willis knows exactly who she is – now it is time for you to find out. By way of introduction; she is a smart and soulful songwriter. Her spunk and sass translate to relevant pop that resonates with confidence and passion for what she is doing.

“What to Say” Willis’ most recent release jumps off with Everybody Else a crackling bit of indoor fireworks that lets you know she is here and paying attention isn’t an option; it is an obligation.

Willis delivers pop with a heavy hand dipped into the pool we know as soul music resulting in multi-layered music worthy of someone far beyond her 23 years on this earth.

On “What to Say” Willis has clearly been paying attention to her elders – but does nothing to impersonate or channel them. She is her own woman and the music is better for it.

Far Away is another chance for her to showcase her songwriting that – at times – alternates between the obligatory internal rhyme schemes often found in better hip hop songs and her signature style which is both charming and accessible.

All I Know continues to feature her unique hybrid songwriter style – while upping the ante with more intricate arrangements that support her clear and confident voice.

This ambitious release includes twelve songs – each songs flashes its own individual vibe – each very clearly and unabashedly he work of a youngster with the talent of her elders.

Stand Out Tracks
Everybody Else
Far Away
What to Say
Still Tryin’

Mutts Have Gone to the Dogs

The Mutts
The Tells of Parallels
Self-released
muttsmusic.com

There are moments when they sound like Frank Zappa’s back up band sans Zappa.

There are moments when they sound as confused as I am trying to figure out what – exactly is happening here. [Read more…]

Reel in this “Cast Off”

The Gentle Guest
Cast Off Your Human Form
Amble Down Records
www.myspace.com/thegentleguest


One of the more interesting elements weaving through the music of The Gentle Guest is there is a whiff of Delta and dose of Americana – but somehow some old fashion punk-rock sensibilities slipped into the Petri dish. [Read more…]

DOMO ARIGATO SHONEN KNIFE

Shonen Knife
Schubas Tavern – Chicago, IL
9/21/2010
(with special guests;Aleks and the Drummer and Santah)

Shonen Knife Schubas Chicago

Attending a show at Schuba’s is always a good time. The room is intimate enough to see the sweat run down the bass player’s arm- yet big enough to let even the worst dancer cut it up a bit.

The sound people are aware of the shifts and the dynamics in the room and adjust as needed making for a well balanced show and the staff is attentive and polite. I am always amazed the place isn’t packed every night.

At precisely 9 p.m. (you gotta love it when they start on time) Santah took the stage. The quintet that hails from Champagne is equal parts scruffy and frumpy, but these kids can rock. Their stripped down hipster vibe somehow allowed for lush harmonies and nicely nuanced little guitar fills that kept things interesting. Stan McConnell evokes a young Springsteen although he is more of a team player than a stand-out marquee guy.

Shonen Knife Schubas ChicagoPlaying with comfort and precision – they laid down a set that could have been a headliner anywhere else.  Santah belongs on stage. They look more at home than many bands twice their age. Catch them next time they swing through town.

Aleks the Drummer (aka Aleks Eva) was another story all together. I don’t think I have ever witnessed a more awkward and uncomfortable band on stage. The music was a lot of predictable techno played by two people with their keyboards set up one on either end of the stage. The drummer worked from the traditional place. Eva kind of gyrated around in her dollar-store-Puck costume.

She never really found the key to the songs the band played. She just kind of breathed out words and hoped they’d have the desired affect on the men in the audience. It did – the applause was polite – the music was not.

Then – like a rock and roll tsunami – Schonen Knife jumped on stage with glittery guitars and stuffed monkeys and I thought I might have stumbled into the wrong venue until they unleashed the power of their music.

The rock and roll angels bring the sexy thunder from the first and don’t stop through the entire set. Lest my review sound like a guy with three crushes, I have to point out that these women are such powerfully talented and focused musicians – what’s not to like.

They sing of unlikely punk topics such as banana chips, barbecue parties and Chinese dumplings, but this is no novelty act. Bassist Ritsuko Taneda works as hard at keeping the bass lines moving as she does at rocking the audience.

Emi Morimoto – relegated to the back of the stage behind the drum kit – brings her own brand of thunder to each song. She is not one to settle into a groove and let the song take her anywhere. She is in control and when she and Taneda lock it down guitarist Naoko Yamano is free to do her thing which is shredding that cute glittery guitar like her life depends on it.

Shonen Knife Schubas ChicagoThere is nothing deep of thought provoking about the show. It is just pure rock and roll; the way rock and roll was meant to be played. It is primitive and raw and fun and makes you want to get up and jump about.

At one point they launched into a cover of “Boys” by the Beatles (although not entirely the way it was written) and you knew this power popping trio had a solid foundation in their music.

They played for an hour without a break – other than to introduce songs and new album “Free Time” (which is the first album sung entirely in English). They debuted a brand new song “Move On” which they haven’t even recorded yet.

When all was said and done – three very revved up punk princesses cleared the stage, but only for a moment. They were brought back on for the strangest encore I have ever seen. As people began calling out the names of the songs they wanted to hear – the Yamano was a bit flummoxed.

She clearly wanted to play every song that was being requested. She did not want to disappoint anyone. Finally someone called out that they should play what they want to play and Yamano was clearly relieved.

“Sushi Bar” ended the night and the electricity on stage. It was quickly transferred to the back of the house where the band signed t-shirts and posters and other souvenirs for the line of men wanting to get close to the magic – if only for a minute.

Click on thumbnails to enlarge photos:

Knife to Slice Through America

Shonen Knife
Schubas Tavern
3159 N. Southport
Tuesday
September 21
9:00 p.m.

(with special guests
Aleks and the Drummer
Santah)
www.schubas.com

Shonen Knife is a trio of women from Osaka Japan making music that draws as much influence from The Clash as it does from the Archie’s. They are poppy and punky and every bit of energy they have pours through their music.

After nearly three decades of recording albums and playing live shows – the band has decided to do a few new things – things that they seem to have always wanted to do and now seems like the right time.

One of those things is release their latest CD “Free Time” in English making the happy-go-poppy dance music even that much more accessible. We decided we needed a way to better understand the band as well as introduce them to you in hopes of getting you into Schubas to see them play live. [Read more…]