Beulah "The Coast Is Never Clear"-Velocette Records -
"I heard he wrote you a song but so what...The house that Beulah built was constructed on a rock solid foundation of Lennon/McCartney, Brian Wilson and Phil Spector. Throw in a dash of XTC and horn arrangements like Stretford and you have one of the best albums that you never heard from 2001 (OK, we are a little behind on our reviews here at EAR CANDY!) When I say the band is reminiscent of Revolver-era Beatles or Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys, it’s not a put down. Unlike Oasis, Beulah doesn't come close to blatant copyright infringement in their songs. They simply evoke the feeling of that time frame in rock 'n roll, when a great melody could take you a long way.
In addition to some of the catchiest, melodic songs I've heard in awhile, you've got some damn clever lyrics. "A Good Man Is Easy To Kill" have such off-the wall wordings as, "When they drilled holes in your skull and screwed that hallo to your head...did you think you could fly?" Then you have the lyrics of "Popular Mechanics For Lovers" with its, "Just because he loves you too...he would never take a bullet for you." Speaking of which, "Popular Mechanics For Lovers" is worth the fucking price of the CD alone! It’s a textbook study of what makes THE quintessential, brilliantly effervescent pop song.
For some reason this album reminds me of those ‘summer’ sounding albums of my youth. You know, the type of songs that you would hear at the local pool or beach. These songs are kinda like summer itself, you never want it to end. Maybe it’s the arrangement, maybe it’s the themes. But it works!
Do yourself a favor and GET THIS ALBUM NOW!
Stan Ridgeway "Holiday In Dirt"-New West Records -
Holiday in Dirt is a collection of Stan Ridgeway studio outatkes, b-sides and songs written for various movie soundtracks. One would think that such an odds and ends collection would be an uneven collection of second rates songs that most b-side collections are. However, the songs on "Holiday in Dirt" sound as if they belong together. Furthermore, the b-sides and outakes here are better than most a-sides offered by artists these days.
Stan Ridgeway is a truly unique songwriter. His songs deal with themes of alienation, lost dreams, and paranoia set against a backdrop of old-west Americana. They contain seedy characters and bizarre situations straight out of a Mickey Spillane detective novel. Ridegeway’s sardonic sung/spoken vocal style only adds to the effect. Stan Ridgeway is the musical equivalent of the bartender you talk to after several hours of heavy drinking; he offers you a smile, pithy wisdom, and grim yet darkly humorous stories.
There isn’t a bad track on this CD. Highlights include "Beloved Movie Star" is the story of an old, washed-up, movie star in denial over her has-been status. In "Operator Help me" the song’s protagonist desperately attempts to convince a telephone operator to take their plea for help seriously. "Brand New Special and Unique" is an experimental electronic ode to vacuous consumerism.
The high point of "Holiday in Dirt" is the song "Garage Band ‘69". "Garage Band ‘69" perfectly captures the euphoria and the naive enthusiasm of forming your first band (with the classic line "I call it a song, because I say it is."). Anyone who has formed a band will identify with this song.
"Holiday in Dirt" is great CD. Grab a quart of beer and give this one a try. You won’t be disappointed.
To go to New West Records web site click here
Jon Dee Graham "Hooray For the Moon"-New West Records-
As a dyed-in-the-wool music freak I am always awaiting the New Year. The ending of the old year and starting of a new one not only makes me reflect on the musical highlights of the past year but also serves as a kind of cleansing agent to get my musical palate ready for the great things sure to come. In my humble opinion, this new CD by Graham serves as the first "great" album I've heard so far.
Those into Tom Waits will no doubt enjoy Graham's gruff delivery and there are other minor evidences of Waits as well, from Graham's tormented cover of Waits' Way Down In The Hole (more harrowing than Waits' own version - to these ears) to some subtle sonic tricks from producer Don Smith that, at points, add some of the same spacey weirdness found on Waits' last few albums. But this isn't just Graham's dime-store version of Waits, though. This is Graham's vision, and a vision carried off well. The very premise, shown in the title, is that Graham has decided to revel in life's darker moments instead of becoming depressed or bitter. Thus, Graham's brutally honest songs of love shattered and dreams dying carry a rowdy roots rock power that belie their stories of misery and pain, showing that staying the course and charging full-bore at life's problems can ultimately save you just as Graham's full-out volume-up-to-ten mix of Black Crowes/Bottle Rockets/Georgia Satellites-country-rock saves any music fan bored of the drivel heard on today's corporate-controlled radio.
Someone once said there's nothing better for curing a broken heart than cranking a guitar of to ten and screaming your lungs out. Not only has Graham realized this (albeit in a more tuneful, melodic way) but now you can too. A great album.
To go to New West Records web site click here
The Buzzcocks "www.buzzcocks.com (aka the internet album)"-www.buzzcocks.com release -
The new Buzzcocks live album is basically a “fan’s only“ collection of live tracks dating from 1993 to 2000. It definitely has that 'bootleg' feel from the 'unofficial' looking cover to the varying sound quality on the tracks. But, maybe they were trying for that 'fan club issue only' feel. Imaginatively titled, "www.buzzcocks.com (a.k.a. the internet album)", this live set suffers from the inevitable comparison to the bands 1996 live album, "French". What the 1996 live album had going for it was that it followed the spectacular Trade Test Transmission release, so of course the songs from that album have prominence. In comparison, the "internet album" follows the releases of two Buzzcocks studio albums, "All Set" and "Modern". My disappointment comes from the lackluster representation from "All Set", which in my humble opinion was a much stronger album than "Modern". There are only 2 "All Set" tracks represented, while "Modern" gets 6!!! Sure, the Buzzcocks kick ass on the "Ass Set" songs and even make the "Modern" songs sound interesting live. And there are classics presented, such as "Operator's Manual", "Harmony In My Head", "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" and "What Do I Get? Why are there some tracks repeated from the last live album?! Cuts that made BOTH live albums are “Unthinkable” and “Harmony In My Head”. Surely, they have enough tracks in their back catalogue not to repeat on live albums that are just a few years apart?
I've listed the shortcomings of this album, but in the final analysis, the new Buzzcocks live album beats the hell outta 99% of the live albums I’ ve heard lately (Especially that 'only good as a Frisbee' Oasis live CD!). As far as most live albums go, this is no mere going-thru-the-motions fodder. It will surely satisfy your Buzzcocks craving until the next studio album! No matter what you say, at the end of the day the Buzzcocks still CAN play.
Silent Force "Infatuator"-InsideOut Music -
I LIKE this band. It's a Rock/Metal blend nicely done. DC Cooper fits well with this style. His vocals are much better suited here. The drum track here will rattle your stomach. Awesome machine gun double bass drums filled the air and I left my seat. (that's a good sign) DC Cooper shows off his vocal range here and there is some good harmony work. You can tell there was time spent on this. These are all talented musicians. I felt good after listening to the first track. It's uplifting. Any Rock/Metal fan will enjoy this and you'll probably like DC Cooper better. Track #6 "All Guns Blazing" opens with a smash to the face that I'll have to admit actually scared me. I like that in music. This is a VERY exciting song. This has to be a good band to see live. I hope they tour with that setup. I'd actually go see this one. I'm a musician 23 years now and I know what I'm listening to. Track #9 "The Blade" had a vocal track that bothered me but I need to point out the incredible keyboard and guitar work here. I also like the fact that it comes with a MPG movie on the CD. You can see the band live. I like that and wish more bands would start doing it. BUY IT!.
Garfields Birthday "Chrome Jungle"-Pink Hedgehog -
This is the equivalent of Garfields Birthday ANTHOLOGY. A collection of early demos, live tracks, alternate versions and assorted oddities spanning the history (so far) of Garfields Birthday. With three full-length CD's under their belts, Garfields Birthday has amassed enough out-takes to make a very interesting collection. I find it quite humorous that this collection blows away the 'official' releases of most bands. There are little audio movie clips, which introduce several of the songs, which reminds me of the great group Megacity 4 that did the same thing on their albums. This little addition gives the album a strange sense of continuity, considering all the tracks were recorded at different times over the years.
The album contains perfect little power-pop jewels-in-the-rough; some unplugged acoustic songs and a few covers. Garfields Birthday delivers a polished version of "Everything Flows" by Teenage Fanclub- and, unlike the original, its great to actually HEAR the words on a Teenage Fanclub song! The cover of Simon & Garfunkel "The Boxer" is a perfect fit with Garfields Birthday's dual harmony with one falsetto vocals! (However, my dream GB cover song would be the Simon & Garfunkel tune, "Hazy Shade of Winter"!)
The band 'lets their guard down' as it were, and a casual, entertaining, free-flow album results. A great compliment to the band's repertoire and it shows the development of the band.
Dash "Sonic Boom"-Label -
Sure, Dash (formerly Dash Rip Rock) is easily one of rock's finest live acts. That's not even debatable. But, their legendary live status has often overshadowed a simple fact - Bill Davis writes some of the catchiest, melodic songs in rock today, bar none. And Bill delivers in spades on SONIC BOOM. Its been 4 years since we've had a new Dash Rip Rock album (1998's Paydirt album); the longest break the band has ever had in their recording career. And...the wait has been well worth it! There is simply not a throwaway track on this album. SONIC BOOM rolls everything that makes Dash tick into one concise album. Its taken 8 records (and 7 record labels) to make the, dare I say, THE classic Dash album.
Whereas the 1995 GET YOU SOME OF ME album had been Dash's strongest album, SONIC BOOM ups the ante in several ways. Sure, you've got the standard Dash humor and cleverness; the classic 'meant to be drunk to-gotta be heard live' tracks; the oft-overlooked beauty of Bill's melodic and sentimental songs. But, into the 'sonic' mix of things, Dash has added: sitar, Cajun music, two-step country, a waltz and a cool Beatles cover! Sure, you've got the classic old Dash sound that we've all come to love on "Plane Song" & "High Speed Chase". Sure to be killer live songs, these show that they haven't lost it when it comes to straightforward rock songs. I would love to be a fly on the wall when these songs were being written (and I would LOVE to get my hands on a bootleg of early takes of Dash songs!). From the country-tinged "Eventually Evangeline"; to the Byrds-like guitar of "Deep in the South"; to the sleepy, '50s flavored slide guitar of "Dream Together"- Dash seems to have a bottomless pit of catchy, melodic songs. All I can say is' WOW' about the acoustic guitar work on "Silver Moonlit Rail"! Country-flavored, two-step as only Dash can do it. Just because Dash does a few country-sounding songs, doesn't mean they can't ROCK. And they do just that on "Snows In Mississippi". It is one of the hardest sounding rock songs that Dash has recorded, complete with compressed drums and wicked, double lead breaks. "Guru" starts out with a sitar intro, and soon becomes hard rockin' classic Dash. Showing their Louisiana roots, "Opelousas Sostain" is a sing along Cajun song, complete with accordion and a whistle instead of guitar lead! Dash ends the album with a cover of "I Don't Want To Spoil the Party". Yes, the Beatles song turned into a two-step fast break country song. One of the hidden talents of Dash has been their endless repertoire of cover songs. This is perfect evidence that Dash can take a cover song and make it their own.
If the above mentioned songs weren't enough to deliver a great album, there are three tracks which merit special attention. "Please Don't Hold My Hand" was a bonus, acoustic 'throwaway' track on PAYDIRT. Now, the track is given a full treatment and instrumentation. This song alone shows the strong points of Dash-the song was beautiful in its simplistic elegance in its original form and it still shines in its new form. "We'll Waltz Again" is experimentation that works. A waltz on a DRR record? A few years ago, you might have scoffed at the idea. But, its one of my faves on the record and one of the most beautiful melodies yet from Bill. Finally, there is "Monkeys". Sure, the lyrics are kinda juvenile (about an acid trip at the zoo), but the song is soooo damn funny! And I find myself humming this song all day, especially the 'funky-monkey' chorus!
In the poker game of rock 'n roll, Dash has a winning hand with SONIC BOOM!
The Unrequited Loves "Self Titled"-Facefirst Records-
Someone once said that everything that is old becomes new again. The Unrequited loves prove the truth adage by combining 1980’s college radio pop and roots rock. Imagine a cross between REM and The Beat Farmers and you have an idea of what the Unrequited Loves sound like. Standout tracks include “These are the Unrequited Loves” and “Our Love is so Wrong”. These two songs work the best because they are the most energetic and stray the furthest from the Unrequited Loves formula. “Chewing Gum” is the catchiest song of the Unrequited Loves pop offerings.
Fifteen years ago the Unrequited Loves would have been signed to a major label and been touring with the likes of Db’s or Long Ryders. But alas, time waits for no band. Overall, The Unrequited loves offer nothing you haven’t heard before but play well enough to put a new gloss on old pop formulas.
To go to the Facefirst web site click here
Paula Kelly "Nothing/Everything"-Stop, Pop and Roll-
Everything Lisa Loeb ever thought she was going to be is contained on this CD. The girly-pop, the cutesy vocals and all of the 60's (Beach Boys and Bacharach) vocal touches that suggest some perfect pop along with sweet melodies and some snarling guitars to boot, is all here for your enjoyment. If Dionne Warwicke or Petula Clark came along today they would be singing and playing these very same songs. It makes it that much cooler that Kelley manages to write her own stuff, and quite well to boot. I am very impressed with this. Great pop!
Judas Priest "Demolition"-Atlantic -
As a Judas Priest fan since 1974, it's hard for me to write this review. From the first song you notice something is missing. Gone is the spark, the fire, the speed, and the dueling guitars. It's a shame this band has veered from what they do best. I've read reviews both good and bad on this, but there are some trademarks missing here. The CD moves along at a sluggish rate and it's littered with techno type industrial noises we're not used to hearing in Judas Priest music. I can give it this though, Tim Owens is sounding GREAT on vocals and is seems more like part of the band. "Hell is Home" has a Louisiana marsh boogie swamp sound to it, which is most unusual. The track, "Close to You" should satisfy your 80's rock ballad needs. The song, "Devil Digger" has really cool riffs. "Bloodsuccers" starts out slow but then REALLY kicks ass. This is no doubt my favorite cut and could be worth the price of the CD. Finally, "Feed on me" has an amazing guitar lead, but the techno industrial sounds in the middle of the song kind of killed it for me. I've spoken to several hardcore Judas Priest fans and read the message boards. This CD is considered "Ok". Nothing more. Not recommended.
Ad Frank "Mr. Fancypants"-Stop, Pop and Roll-
As a music reviewer, I am constantly running into strange musical hybrids and genre experiments of all kinds but rarely do I encounter an album which incorporates as many musical idioms as this.
While the broad genre could be considered "pop" in the same way Brain Wilson and the Wondermints are considered "pop", this eclectic CD cannot be narrowed down further, as it incoporates many idioms from the light sensations of twee pop to the bombastic drums and guitar of power pop. The production work itself (done by three different producers) is surprisingly cohesive despite the genre-hopping and recall the sonic explorations of the Eno-produced Bowie albums of the latter '70's with some post-hop drum loops thrown in on occasion. Frank's voice also recalls Bowie, each of them affecting a tremulous baritone at times to put their songs across. The lyrics come across as tortured poems ripped from Frank's heart even as the music whisks you away on a journey that can leave you tapping your feet or listening intensely for a gentle wash of instruments to cleanse your soul. Very poppy, eclectic and, yes, wonderful.
The Evils "Liberty"-Skull & Bones Label-
After listening to mostly piece of shit records for the past few months or so, I finally have something that is actually wroth listening to. This is the first full-length CD by Atlanta's very own punk-metal all-stars, the Evils. The music is tough, the lyrics tough and the voice is an all-out assault on the senses. Lead vocalist Jet Terror growls like a junkyard dog who's probably had a fair share of abuse in his day, by belting out his no-nonsense rock 'n roll attitude to the ire of the nu generation. Jet, drummer Mark Stopper, bassist Johnny Rival and lead guitarist "Evil Jim" Wright plow head-on through twelve hard, fast and heavy-hitting rock tunes, starting off with the CD's title track and then my personal favorite, the psychobilly-ish "Motorcycle (Motorpsycho)".
About nearly halfway through the disc, you will find two songs that I think fit together perfectly: "Rebel Rock 'N Roll" and "Rockers", in which Terror shouts out with absolute pride and passion, "We're on all the stations/we wanna rock the nation/we're rockers!"-like the superhero on top of the mountain. I found two more hitworthy favorites like "Darkside" ("I like to hang around/on the seedy side of town") as well as "No Rest For the Wicked", which is usually the first song played at live performances. These are only a few of my personal favorites but the fact it, as a whole, this disc is terrific. Please, when the Evils come into your town, be sure to see the live show. Trust me, I think you'll like it a whole lot better than Stand or Limp Bizkit! Or whatever the hell it is you worthless brats are into.
Fragile X "Plan B"-Bone Break Records -
It is rare to find a new band in the hard rock genre that grabs your attention. It is even harder to find a whole album of new hard rock that is entertaining! FRAGILE X succeeds on both counts on their debut CD, PLAN B. Sure, you can hear influences of Motorhead, Led Zeppelin, old AC/DC, Kiss and Thin Lizzy. But, FRAGILE X is no mere retro-hard rock genre band. They show that 'new blood' is sometimes needed to give hard rock that sometimes needed 'kick-in-the-ass' to make it vital again. It's somewhat ironic that these 'new' hard rocker's put out an album which leaves the recent new CD efforts by the established 'workhorses' of hard rock in the dust. Although only a trio, FRAGILE X has the sound of a full, five-piece hard rock band on the 10 tracks of their album. Four of the tracks were recorded and mixed by Robby Heisner of Van Gogh fame. But, they sound nothing like Van Gogh!
This album does just what a rock 'n roll album should: makes you wanna see the band live!
DC Cooper "DC Cooper"-InsideOut Music -
I can sum this one up REAL quick. 80's Hair Band. I'm really torn on how to rate this CD. If you like the 80's Rock/Metal sound, (and I do) this needs a high ranking review. If you look at what's happening today, it's 20 years behind the times. You can hear the talent here, but at first I thought I was listening to Winger or Kingdom Come. I'd like to hear this band with some newer metal riffs. Cooper has a GREAT voice and it is said he was a runner up in replacing Rob Halford of Judas Priest. The fellow is quite well known in musical circles. He's got a strong, clear, well trained voice very fitting for the style.
Now, about the songs. "Dream" is a Great song, but sounds like a million other 80's bands. Next is "Easy Living". WHY did they do a cover, and WHY is it Track 2? Aren't those supposed to be last song on the BSide? "The Angel Comes" has a nice keyboard intro, the drums are are heavy, and the guitar sounds fine. The chorus put me right back 20 years and I felt stoned again. The track "Until the End" was too slow for my tastes but you may like it. Finally, "Within Yourself" opens with an AWESOME drum part that impressed the HELL outta me! I can't help but feel this guy is holding back on the other songs. This tune is pretty cool. The guitarist's talent shows in this song, and there is a tightness with the drummer I don't hear elsewhere on this CD.
This would have been a sure fire hit 20 YEARS AGO! Get outta the 80's fella's. If you like the 80's Rock/Metal Ballad type stuff buy this CD. You'll LOVE it. If not, don't bother. This is for the 35-50 yr. age group.
Gaia Consort "Caia Cirlces"-Indie Release (1999)
Gaia Consort "secretvoices"-Indie Release (2001)-
Gaia Consort "secretvoices"-Indie Release (2001)-
I'm reviewing both Gaia Consort CD's because they are thematically similar and they also show artistic growth of an artist. As a “pagan rock” band, Gaia Consort transcends the expected boundaries of the genre. The music grabs you first and the lyrics tantalize, yet don’t overwhelm you.
GAIA CIRCLES represents a group that is still finding itself musically. There are too many songs that don’t stand out. However, there are three tracks worth mention. "Just Because" is a driving tune, which has some outstanding lyrics, such as, 'I don't need a savior to keep me from tumbling'. The standout track on this CD is "Move to the Country". It's tongue-in-cheek humor set to a catchy melody. I would describe it as a pagan, desert-island song! Finally, "Sweet Emptiness" has an eeiry, chant-like quality. I would love to hear this song deep in the woods at sunrise! These three tracks make the CD well worth finding.
SECRET VOICES finds the band hitting its stride both musically and lyrically. Gaia Consort also adds more texture to this album with varied instrumentation, driving percussion, Santana-like lead fills on some tracks and organ on some tracks used to great effect. The lyrics are also a little more poignant and the melodies are catchier overall. "Blood" is a very primeval song with a cool instrumental break in the middle. The lyrics of "Every Sacred Thing" are outstanding - 'Big Money makes the decisions, big money owns all the gods and I can't help but laugh at the puzzled expression when I saw I won't give to the cause.' "Cry Freedom" continues with excellent commentary in the lyrics. Gaia Consort delves into experimentation with "300 Channels of Static". A piano intro turns into a subtle take on radio jingles…very interesting. "Secret of the Rain" has some great organ work, which gives it a '60s soul feel. Definitely a song for anybody who has daydreamed during a rainstorm. Lyrics include, 'Every body's mostly water, feel the tide in you.' "All the Light in the World/Ages Ago, Now and Again" is actually two songs, another experimental piece with the interplay of repeated phrases and singing. From the rain to the sunshine, this is a song about optimism! Part two follows the same concept with acoustic guitar added and then drums building. Eventually incorporating the singing from the first half. One of the strongest songs is "Beltane Fires", a really cool Beltaine description with a cool chant. Complete with organ and flute. "Secret Voices" sums up the album, for anyone who's heard the calling of a path, yet didn't know what exactly it was!
Gaia Consort stated the intent of the album in the CD booklet: "I hope to some extent, that the music in SECRET VOICES helps to wake that part of you that is ready to engage, to listen to the 'secret' voices that surround us and start to answer the question, 'What do they say to you?'" They have succeeded on all accounts. SECRET VOICES touches you on both a spiritual and musical level.
French Kicks "Young Lawyer"-Star Time Records -
Though I can’t put my finger on why, the French Kicks remind me of Pulp, Supergrass or even Blur (meant as a compliment). Their songs start off simply enough but then veer into odd, artsy tangents without sounding pretentious or forced. The French Kicks are on to something great.
Brendan Benson "Lapalco"-Star Time Records -
Although I am a longtime fan of power pop, it doesn't take a self-professed fanatic like me to recognize that this CD is one of the most tuneful slices of guitar pop to come out since the Strokes graced us with their presence last year. This CD has tuneful melodies galore and doesn't sacrifice any rock power at all in getting its' well-crafted songs across. The music is a mix between Matthew Sweet and the Strokes (especially "Good To Me") with a touch of Ramones added in. While some might find the lyrics simplistic, great pop has always been about distilling complex feelings of pain and love into the simplest of statements, while constructing melodies catchy enough and music crunchy enough to almost render the lyrics needless. This album manages to do just that. The lyrics are there for your enjoyment, but the music is so crack-like addictive that you'll most likely find yourself dancing and singing along before you even know what you're singing. Like fellow auteur Jason Falkner (who guests on and co-writes five songs here), Benson has chosen to do just about everything himself. While most artists who choose to do this end up with albums that sound indulgent and claustrophobic, this album (produced by Benson) sounds airy, open and light. A perfect driving album, and if you decide you can't get enough of this kind of brilliant pop, search out his last, the equally good One Mississippi. You won't be sorry.
To go Brendan's official digital street team click here
To go to Star Time Records web site click here
The Walkmen "Self Titled"-Star Time Records -
I know that invoking the name of the Nation's Biggest Band, The Strokes (Am I allowed to use a little sarcasm? Thank you!), will be enough to make the average music hound retch, but when an album (actually an EP) comes out that's roughly the same vintage and roughly the same sound, I have to make the comparison. While The Walkmen do not have the same Europeanish Ramones sound of the Strokes, the vocals are very similar as is the pacing of the lyrics. I would never call this a copy because these bands are obviously just thinking along the same lines. Thus, anyone who is going ga-ga over the Strokes right now is sure to love this four-song EP.
To go to Star Time Records web site click here
The Reindeer Section "Y'all Get Scared Now, Ya Hear!"-Pias America -
When most people utter the words "pop music" they are thinking of the broad definition. They are thinking of "pop" as "popular" and are thinking about acts such as N'SYNC and Britney Spears and all of the the other hacks that reside firmly in the top ten thanks to corporate "major label" sponsorship and money-slid-under-the-table dealings involving superior video placement on Empty-V/spins at your local corporate-corrupted radio stations and marketing schemes that play to the lowest common denominator. When true music fans talk about pop we are usually (when we're not slagging the aforementioned psuedo-music) speaking about the genre of pop that includes power pop and twee pop under its' umbrella.
The Reindeer Section firmly falls under the heading of "twee pop". For those who don't recognize the term, think of some of the softer Beach Boys/Brian Wilson songs such as "In My Room" (without the multitracked harmonies) and you'll get the idea. Usually twee pop is lo-fi, played very soft, and lyrically at least falls under the "emo" banner. This disc follows suit. Some of the heroes of the twee pop sub-genre include Belle and Sebastian, some of whom actually play on this disc. In fact, this actually may be a twee pop collective effort as members of Astrid and Arab Strap are on this disc as well.
While this album wouldn't be considered driving or partying music, this is nicely orchestrated pop that would be best listened to after a romantic breakup of some kind or when general melancholy sets in. Just be careful when operating heavy machinery because drowsiness has been known to occur when melodies as feather-flutter-gentle and sweet as this happen to float across the old earholes.
Sigur Ros "Svefn-g-englar"-Fat Cat Records -
Iceland’s Sigux Ros mix beautiful orchestration with shoegazing ambiance to breathtaking effect. Usually this sort of thing puts me to sleep. However Sigux Ros compositions (calling them “songs” seems too crude) have a certain majesty which is quite appealing. The whispered, pixie-like vocals, which pop up occasionally only add to the effect (though I’m not very clear on what is being said as my Icelandic is a bit rusty). Sigur Ros is much further from rock and roll than I usually venture. However, the journey was definitely worth it.
Karen Jacobsen "As I Am"-Indie Label -
Usually when I hear a girl's voice and some piano playing, I immediately think of Tori Amos. Nopw, while I think of Amos as a credible songwriter and talented songstress, I really don't like the music she turns out. It seems overwrought, overdone, and quite over-the-top Almost like she's trying to out-do Kate Bush or something. Thank god Jacobsen and her new EP (six songs total) don't remind me of that Amos girl at all. More like a mid-70's Elton John singing ballads without the band (just her and the piano here) or maybe the softer side of Ben Folds, melody-wise. In other words, heartfelt songs well writrtena dnwell sung with a lot of emotion and soul invested. Vocally, I would compare her to Sarah McLachlan, and in her lyrics you can hear that kind of honesty as well. I don't usually like girl singers. I love this album. Enough said.
Masonic "Never Stood a Chance"-Tight Spot Records- >
I assume this band is named Masonic because three members of this five-member band share the last name Mason. Interestingly, even though the lyrics to all the songs are written by one of the Masons, the lead vocals are sung by a girl who does not have the surname Mason. Musically, what you get is a mix between early Elvis Costello (complete with cheesy organ sounds) and mid-period Matthew Sweet with a lot of the sloppily slurred sonics Sweet is fond of using. While not really power pop like, say, Cheap Trick, the band puts a lot of energy into their music and the songs are quite melodic, enough so that I found myself remembering quite a few of their songs long after I had turned off the player. Decent stuff, and any fan of catchy indoe pop is sure to love this stuff.
Bedbug "Happiest of Hours"-Tight Spot Records-
After I put this CDE in the player I was immediately transported back in time to the early '90's. Nirvana had just started getting attention, there were no annoying boy bands save Boyz II Men and Britney Spears was still playing with her Barbies. Among my favorites of that time were a lot of the English pop/shoegazer bands like Happy Mondays, Stone Roses and that ilk. They played a kind of lo-fi pop before it was lo-fi. And even though I use the term lo-fi, it wasn't recorded badly and played off as cool like some pop is now, it just sounded different, without a lot of "big" production values that the hair metal bands were using. Now, as far as I know, Bedbug isn't from England and they sure as hell don't sound much like Happy Mondays or the Stone Roses, but they have a totally different sound compared to what's hot right now, just as those bands did. A little lo-fi, a little pop, catchy melodies, and no pretension. Think indie rock circa 87-92 but with a modern flair and plenty of pop. Good stuff indeed. This is one case where I have no problem letting the Bedbug bite.
To go to the Tight Spot Records' web site click here
Fivehead "Big Mistake Factory"-Tight Spot Records -
I gotta give this band points just for having a lot of balls. I bet there's tons of other bands that would be scared shitless of naming their album something as potentially damning as Big Mistake Factory. Most writers (although I would never, ever, ever do such a thing) would key in on that title and really work them over the coals. I can't do it. Although this is another band that does the indie pop/math rock thing like so many have done (mostly from late 80s to mid 90s) in the last ten years or so, I can't short shift them like that. Decent melodies, adequate production leaves me feeling that I haven't heard anything really special, but anyone into indie pop from that period will like them because they fit right in. Basically, adequate indie pop.
To go to the Tight Spot Records' web site click here
The Dave Rave Group "Valentino's Pirates"-M'Lou Music -
Is this THE long lost power-pop album? Well, if not, it is damn close. I've gotta say, I'm a sucker for those "lost albums". You know the ones that didn't come out for one reason or another and achieve mythic proportions. So, when I received a copy of the "Dave Rave Group: Valentino's Pirates" I was a little skeptical. He might not be the "Jesus of Cool" (that WAS Nick Lowe), but he is damn sure one of the "disciples of Cool"! I'm talking about Dave Rave, once called, "the Nick Lowe of Canada". Dave is the only North American artist in the history of the Soviet Union to have an LP released on the prestigious Melodiya Records label without having a record deal in his home country. Twelve years after it was recorded, it finally appears on CD for the first time!
Five songs into the album you know you are onto something special! Heartfelt acoustic songs ("Father Be Brave"), dreamy piano songs ("Good News"), catchy acoustic ditties ("Welcome to the Next Generation") and of course those majestic, power pop songs ("Do It All Over" and "Weight of the World")! The 6 bonus tracks are interesting as well. Mostly demos, they do show that even in their stark bareness, Dave's songs shine. There are also two radio bits, which gives a little history of the band. And what would the long lost Dave Rave album be without an unlisted track, a little two minute piano ditty?! Overall, VALENTINO'S PIRATES reminds me of the GOOD albums that Nick Lowe used to make! In another Nick Lowe comparison, Dave's "Weight of the World" is as instantly magnetic as "Cruel To Be Kind".
Although the album is over 12 years old, it doesn't feel like you are "stepping back". Maybe that's the sign of great pure-pop songs, they are timeless. Just like Dave's songs. So, I end this review with a question...WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO DAVE? WHY NO MORE ALBUMS IN ALL THESE YEARS? WE NEED HIM!
To go to the M'Lou Music web site click here
The Redeemers "She Rocks 'N' Rolls All Night & Day"-One Horse Records -
The Redeemers succeed on the same level that the first Romantics album did by evoking that early British invasion (pre-psychedelia) feel into their music. But they go further than the Romantics by also touching on garage-rock, '60s bubblegum and soul. Bobby Fuller Four, Booker T and the MG's, the Dave Clark Five and the Knickerboppers come to mind when it comes to the inevitable comparisons. I love the authentic soul-injected horn arrangements and the farfisa keyboard sounds. Kudos to the guitarist -his tasteful, yet not overbearing leads and rhythms really add substance to the songs. Three live tracks that show that the Redeemers are no mere retro-studio band...they can cut it live! My only complaint is that some of the songs sound like re-writes of oldies classics. The title track, "She Rocks 'N Rolls All Night & Day" is the strongest track on this 17 song CD.
If not wholly original, the Redeemers are quite enjoyable and more than capable. Plus, the Redeemers play with infectious abandon that perfectly capture that style of music from the '60s!
For information on the Redeemer's CD visit www.cdbaby.com/redeemers
For more info, e-mail the Redeemer's at firstname.lastname@example.org
Linda Smith "Emily's House"-Preference Recordings -
I both love and hate this album! Its definitely NOT mainstream and I think it is the anti-mainstream spirit of this CD that I find so appealing. This CD was recorded at the Millay Colony for the Arts in March 2001 (see our description below). The sound quality varies from track to track, giving it that 'homemade' sound. But, that's cool, cause sometimes those are the most interesting recordings! However, some of the muddled production on a few tracks are really distracting. Two of the songs are adaptations from poems, and I generally HATE poetry set to rock 'n roll- just too pretentious. The tracks where Linda writes her own lyrics are actually the best (and most interesting).
Enough of the criticism, now what I DO like. "Night" was a wild west, twangy guitar type of feel that turns into a spooky song. "Table by the Window" is Euro-tecno-pop with 'people watching' lyrics. I really dig the lyrics of "Solitary Pursuits"- it is a songs about someone who is NOT afraid to be alone and even celebrates the 'alone time'. I can relate to that! "Club Soda & Line" is an upbeat and cheery cheesy little instrumental that would fit perfectly in one of those old Beach movies! But, I like it! There are three tracks that are head and shoulders above the rest. Linda presents catchy pop with "Emily's House", a quirky little tune with a very '60s feel. "No 2 People" has great sound quality along with some cool, "relationship observation" lyrics. It has a very basic lineup of electric guitar, tambourine and harpsichord, which works to great effect! I could best sum up Linda Smith by comparing her to a Yoko-meets-Syd-Barrett type of groove! It can be strange and bizarre at times, but it is interesting! This is especially true on "Emily's Grave", a weird yet-appealing song.
Is it an avant-garde concept album? I don’t know about that, but there are some repeating themes. Sometimes it feels great to take a break from the mainstream and Linda Smith's CD is the perfect vehicle.
Note: What is the Millay Colony you ask? The Millay Colony provides a place for artists to create new work, free from the distractions of everyday life. The Millay Colony gives each artist a private studio and separate living quarters where they can exist for a month in "art's unbounded time" and in the privacy of the studio where artists are alone with their work in a setting designed to accommodate creativity. [Ed- It sounds like a cool idea, but what does it cost? It is probably only available to those who HAVE money (and that leaves out allot of musicians)!]
For more info, e-mail email@example.com
The Mind Candy "Blotted Out By the Sun"-Indie Release -
I made the mistake of reviewing this CD after I had listened to Linda Smith's CD. Both CD's were created in that 'do it yourself' home studio style. But while Linda Smith's doesn't quite sound like anybody else, the Mind Candy has the opposite problem. The Mind Candy is not a group per se so much as the brainchild of Stephen Schneider, whose influences include: Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Glenn Danzig and The Misfits. The problem is - The Mind Candy sounds like a band trying to over EMULATE these bands. There is no new ground broken. Sure, it has a professional sound and it has more-than competent musicianship. But the vocals sound too much like the Cure for my tastes. And I hate those faux-pained vocals of the Cure. And, the guitar solos go on too long, but there are some interesting moments. Surprisingly, the instrumentals are my favorites. "The Haunting" and "Black Dahlia" might be derivative, but they are still entertaining! Another surprise is the bonus track, "Saucerful 93'". It show the hidden talents of 'Mind Candy'. Stephen Schneider ought to start one of those Pink Floyd tribute bands because the song is that good!
Note: We only reviewed the internet version here (11 tracks). You can get this album totally free via the band's web site. That way you have nothing to lose. And should you really dig the tracks, you can order the full-length CD (14 tracks).