Jersey Beat Music Fanzine



American Anthems, Vol. 2

It’s been four years since Jersey City’s Milwaukees took a quantum leap forward with “American Anthems, Vol. 1” but you can tell the time has been well spent. There’s not a single snare hit or vocal inflection out of place on this immaculately conceived and executed collection of modern American rock, which actually manages to live up to its lofty title. Many singer/songwriters do their best work in their teens and twenties, but Dylan Clark only seems to get better as he matures; as the Milwaukees enter a second decade as a band, the current lineup provides the finest ensemble of players he’s ever worked with, and they deliver pleasures both small and large throughout the 10-song album. Clark’s songwriting invokes the anthemic passion of Tom Petty while capturing the precision and dry wit of Elvis Costello, while Pat Fusco’s explosive snare hits pack the wallop of Max Weinberg’s drums in the E Street Band. But the Milwaukees remain an American original, with each track building from an intriguing verse to a climactic chorus in which Clark’s reedy falsetto is allowed to soar. From the scintillating opening rocker “The Way You Wanted It” to dreamy, evocative power ballads like “Kill Devil Hills” to anthemic set-closers like “Victoria,” the Milwaukees impress on track after track here. Kudos to guitarist Jeff Norstedt for the sinuous Keith Richards-like riffs on "Summer's Gone," and passionate backup vocals. “American Anthems Vol. 2” was produced by long-time Milwaukees collaborator Wayne Dorrell at the Pigeon Club in Hoboken. - Jim Testa

Summer Of Indifference
Don Giovanni Records

The title is an inside joke, as Jeff Schroeck, Miranda Taylor, and J Nixon recall when they were top dogs in the most popular bands of a NJ pop-punk scene that really no longer exists. As Black Wine struggles through both indifference and its own search of an identity (not an easy thing with three co-equal songwriters and lead singers,) their sophomore album really should have been called This Band Could Be Your Life. Throughout you'll hear shards of that generation of punk and indie bands, from Dinosaur Jr. riffage to Minutmen bass throbs to Bikini Kill vocal freakouts. Throw in some aggro Black Flag post-hardcore aggression, some Hootenanny-era 'Mats, and you'll begin to get an idea of Black Wine's eclectic assault on modern "indie." Jeff's minor key melodies and focused strumming on tracks like "Iceball" and "Through The Foam" recall some of his Ergs tunes, while J Nixon's "Favorites" takes the nod for the album's fiercest rager. But as she did on Black Wine's debut album, drummer Miranda Taylor wins MVP honors with "Maycrowning," the catchiest and most memorable track here. The trio's intense gigging schedule this summer indicates that they're not at all indifferent about the future of this band, and one suspects that by their third album, all of these disparate parts will begin to fuse together into an awesome whole. - Jim Testa


Cutting straight to the stirring chase with the rousing opening song “Love is the Villain,” this Jersey Shore group rock it up somethin’ sweet with a winning surplus of raw energy, sturdy musicianship, and positively infectious go-for enthusiasm. The robust vocals holler with tremendous aplomb over a dynamic sonic onslaught of rippin’ guitars, poppin’ basslines, and constantly pushin’ ahead steamroller drums. The songs work a hot, lively, and tasty groove with always enjoyable and often exciting results, with the deliciously lowdown bluesy “I Think It’s Love” rating as a definite smokin’ highlight. The snappy tempos and bumpin’ beats rarely let up for a minute. A totally kick-ass album. - Joe Wawrzyniak

Stuyvesant- Fret Sounds (

Wow! On Stuyvesant’s new album, Fret Sounds I’m hearin lots and lots of punky, open-ended, stylistic new wavy melodies, and chunks and chunks of alterative guitars. Mmm-mm-mmm…the band just rocks my socks off on each and every tune!
I just got back from vacation and man; it feels great getting back to the music after recharging my batteries, and sippin’ a Bloody Mary or two, or three.
Featuring guitarists Ralph Malanga and Sean Adams, drummer Pete Martinez, and bass player Brian Musikoff, drop humor, a cool sense of wisdom, above all, passion into these ten songs.

Gently defying the predictability of the jangle-pop punk/alterative genre, this quartet from Jersey has more than enough original ideas about guitar texture, melody, vocal styling’s, and drumming (this rhythm section sounds like they’re on a mission from God), to lift Fret Sounds well above the ranks of genredom. What I like most is that they do not lack the mystery that a lot of bands seem to miss. You’ll what to explore every song from start to finish, and than wonder what the next song will be about.- An endless summer is in store for anyone who picks up Fret Sounds!-Phil Rainone

If we were back in the day when vinyl records were king (8-tracks & cassettes were just wee toddlers), you would listen to side-one of Fret Sounds- cool nick on The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album- you would than use the little handle to pick up the tone arm off the record, stop the record player, take the record off the turntable, flip it over, put it back on the record player, start the record player, put the tone arm back on the first song, and playing it from start to finish.- Phew!! Yes, back then, and even now it may sound like a lot of work to play a record, but man, Fret Sounds is worth all the time and effort!

“In an era when inspiration for pop-punk upstarts dates only as far back as Good Charlotte’s latest album, what a treat when you find someone a little older and wiser. Thankfully and rewardingly, the Garden State-based Stuyvesant is both.”- From their press kit. I couldn’t agree more! - Phil Rainone

Waking Lights - LP

Following on the heels of Waking Lights' well-received 2010 debut EP “The Rabbit Hole” (also originally released on vinyl,) “Waking Lights” finds the group moving in a new direction towards a bigger, more dynamic, more electric sound. Tall, lanky, tattooed Matt Maroulakos still fronts the band, but his reedy, impassioned vocals on the new album often come soaked in electric distortion. Gone are the rustic, orchestral strains of cello and violin and acoustic guitar, replaced by overdriven electric guitars, rousing gang vocals, tinkling piano, soulful organ fills, and Dana Lamarca’s clattering drums.

Matt Maroulakos once said that playing in Waking Lights feels more like a family than a traditional band, and you can hear that in the complex, tightly-woven arrangements on the new record. The funky, percussive “Everybody Wants You” kicks things off with a sound that might be described as rustic disco; Tom Maroulakos’ keyboards and fuzz-box guitars drive the melody, while Nicole Scorsone’s soaring violin joins in on the chorus, not standing alone but as part of an orchestral wash of sound.

Sounding like he’s singing through a distorted AM radio or a busted speaker, Maroulakos’ vocal leads the way on the merry, skittish “Our Time Will Come,” with percolating guitars, and an almost Feelies-esque use of percussion instruments to drive the rhythm. “The Adventures of Cocaine Lil and Dopey Slim” continues the old-timey radio meme; the story-driven, country-flavored tune sounds like its wafting over the AM airwaves on some late summer night.

“Untitled (In A Minor)” is another of those Waking Lights tracks that combines a funky danceable beat to its signature rough-hewn, ragged instrumentation; country-industrial, maybe? “Get yourself together, get yourself together” implores the singalong chorus, followed by Matt Maroulakos’ throaty and fevered verses.

But the big revelation on “Waking Lights” comes on the final song, “The Sounds,” which – like Steel Train’s “Bullet” earlier this year – goes whole hog for an epic E Street Band arena-rock anthem effect, complete with stirring whoa-oh gang vocals and a host of unabashed Springsteen tropes – Roy Bittan-esque piano, tinkling glockenspiel, the subtle strains of Scorsone’s violin mixed under the verses, and a finish that’s guaranteed to have fans singing along waving fists and lighters in the air.

It’s the sort of song a band writes when they know they won’t be playing small rooms much long and need a closer that’ll reach to the rafters in bigger rooms. Look out, America. Waking Lights is coming your way. Local fans would be well advised to catch this exciting, passionate, and talented quintet in the intimate confines of Maxwell’s while you still can. - Jim Testa

Tidal Tales

Composed of veterans of several heavy post-punk bands like Further Seems Forever, ActionReaction, and Element 101, Old Wives fully embrace the blues on their new album Tidal Tales.

Fronted by singer/guitarist Jason Gleason and ably abetted by keyboardist Bella Gleason, Old Wives mix classic rock bombast (opener “Revolting French” has a lot of U2 in it) with intimate instrumentation like acoustic banjo and church organ. The band stretches out on a few soul jams like the horn-driven “Rip Van Winkle” and the funky “Whale,” which showcases some nice Rhodes organ grooves from Bella. A scorching jazz sax helps fuel “Alto Cinco,” one of the most powerful blues wailers on the album. On “Whiskey Song,” it’s just Jason and a barely strummed acoustic guitar, a lonely blues that sounds like it was recorded live in a hotel room in Natchez while Robert Johnson, a bottle of bourbon, and the Devil watch on appreciatively. - Jim Testa


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