Reviews by Joe Wawrzyniak
COMPONENTS - Continuum (https://thecomponents.bandcamp.com)
Nail down your furniture and bolt your windows shut, 'cause
it's time for some sriously stomp-ass straight-up no-bullshit
rock'n'roll rumbling. This two man band go straight for the
throat with their robust shouted vocals, incendiary guitar
riffs, fat throbbing basslines, and fierce piledriving drums.
The brisk tempos and meaty bulldozing beats never let up for
a minute. A totally kick-ass blast of pure sweaty'n'sinewy
noise and fury.
MCQUAID - If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous (www.sarahmcquaid.com)
Singer/songwriter Sarah McQuaid digs deep to unearth twelve
beatifully moody and melodic songs on her latest album. McQuaid's
lovely voice casts a captivating spell while her songwriting
possesses a strong sense of clarity and reflection. Moreover,
McQuaid's willingness to tackle the meaty issues of death
and mortality provides a bracing and affecting feeling of
quiet strength and honesty in the face of the inevitable.
The delicately harmonic arrangements serve as the deicious
icing on an already quite tasty cake. A supremely touching
and precious album.
- Ringthing (https://jaguwar.bandcamp.com)
Exquisitely well crafted pop-rock that's buffed and polished
to the point where it positively soars and sparkles. The radiant
vocals and dynamic arrangements convey a totally infectious
feeling of glee and vibrancy. The straightforward songwriting
gets right to the heart of the matter while the brisk tempos
and forward-ho charging beats never let up for a minute. Moreover,
this band really knows how to milk a severly funky-grinding
groove for all it's worth, with several songs going on for
upwards of six minutes, but never overstaying their welcome
thanks to strong meaty hooks and sharp unwavering playing.
BROTHER - New Pocket (https://INK.to/newpocket)
This Cleveland, Ohio band deliver twelve tracks worth of harmonic
and instrspective pop-rock with their second album. The peppy
vocals soar to the heavens with utmost ease and agility. The
complex arrangements offer a wealth of tasty hooks and surprising
mid-song shifts that ensure that things never become remotely
blah or predictable. The fluid guitars, smooth basslines,
and subdued, yet steady drums all add a sense of polish and
melodicism. The concise songwriting ably mines a touching
line in regret and reflectivity. An achingly delicate and
AND JINGYU - Find Me Find You: A Story (www.ToddandJingyu.com)
Todd and Jingyu are a husband and wife team who collaborated
together to produce a beautifully thoughtful and tuneful album
that addresses not only the highs and lows of romance, but
also the additional effort it takes to cross the cultural
gap between an American man and a Chinese woman. The couple
harmonize well on the vocals. The straightfroward songwriting
gets right to the touching heart of the matter with commendable
clarity and simplicity. The elegant piano-driven arrangements
hit the harmonic spot. However, it's the obvious affection
that Todd and Jingyu have for one another that in turn gives
this album it's big and uplifting heart. A fine and moving
BLACK RED - Resettlement (http://redblackredmusic.com)
Sounding like the wonky electronic score for some obscure
and forgotten sci-fi flick, this album projects an offbeat
vibe that's totally its own singular thing. Veteran musician
Enrico Fernando harnesses this peculiar sound as a means to
address the sad plight of refugees and immigrants in today's
troubled political cimate. The gradual tempos and heavy trudging
beats both further add to the overall oddball brooding mood.
But it's the way this album gives voice to those who are often
beglected and overlooked in our culture which in turn gives
the whole thing extra depth and poignancy.
KARP - Blue Flame (www.PeterKarp.com)
Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Peter Karp pours
on the lowdown funky'n'gritty blues rock something sweet on
his latest album. Karp's hoarse ragged voice fits this genre
perfectly: It's the weathered moan of a man who's been through
some shit, but still has the necessary strength and stamina
to keep on keeping on no matter what obstacles life throws
his way. Karp's smart and concise songwriting, fiercely resilent
and unsentimental point of view, mean guitar playing, and
knack for deep tasty grooves certainly don't hurt matters
in the least. A totally kick-ass album.
CLAIR AND THE PUSHBACKS - Push Back (https://wwwstephenclair.com)
Singer/songwriter Stephen Clair and his band deliver eight
sly story songs that register strongly thanks to Clair's
precisely detailed lyrics and amusing sense of dry deadpan
humor. The laid-back bluesy rock sound grounds said songs
in a perfectly gritty context, with lots of slithery guitar
riffs, rubbery basslines, and rock-solid rolling drum beats
on hand to keep things groovy and soulful from start to
finish. Clair's weathered voice adds extra credibility to
these wayward tales of everyday trials and tribulations.
An ideal album to sit back and chill to at the end of the
NAKED SUN - War with Shadows (www.wearethenakedsun.com)
Beautifully simple and tuneful folk-rock bliss done with utmost
craft and sincerity. The peppy vocals project a feeling of
infectious joy and verve. The bubbly arrangements offer a
rich array of catchy'n'jaunty hooks that are neratly filled
out by springy guitar riffs, smooth basslines, and steady
forward-ho drums. Moreover, there's a warmth evident throughout
that gives everything a certain irresistible extra sparkle.
A hugely enjoyable delight.
STEWART - Spring 16 (www.robertstewartmusic.com)
Seattle, Washington-based singer/songwriter Robert Stewart
keeps things both thoughtful and tuneful on his latest six
song pop-rock album release. Stewart's vibrant voice and pleasingly
reflective songwriting make for a strong and winning double
whammy. The arrangements provide a steady supply of catchy
hooks thanks to the ringing guitar riffs, smooth basslines,
and sturdy drum beats. Moreover, Stewart brings a pleasant
upbeat sensibility to the music that's impossible to either
dislike or resist. Nice stuff.
DALY AND THE PLANETS (www.mikedaly.com)
Representing pop-rock music at its most catchy, dynamic, and
engaging, this album makes for an extremely enjoyable listen.
Mike Daly's pleasant voice and thoughtful to-the-point songwriting
make for a strong and winning double whammy. The tuneful arragements
likewise hit the harmonic spot, with the steady forward-ho
drums, bouncy guitar riffs, and neatly percolating basslines
all coming through just as clear and pretty as a bell. Better
still, there's a lovely upbeat and positive sensibility evident
from start to finish which gives the music a teeming surplus
of charm and heart. An excellent album.
AND THE BALANCE - Making Monsters (www.tinaandthebalance.com)
This band from Staten Island describe their music as "cinematic
indie rock," which proves to be a pretty apt description
considering the strong sense of high drama and invigorating
go-for-it flair evident throughout. Lead singer Tina Kenny
Jones possesses one of those big throaty voices that can roar
and bellow like the best of 'em. The rest of the band ain't
too shabby as well, as confirmed by the fierce steamrolling
drums, catchy poppin' guitar riffs, and surdy basslines. Best
of all, there's an exciting and uplifting wealth of passion
and energy in every last radiant and harmonic note that never
falters or wavers for a minute. An excellent and impressive
CUSH - Morning (www.falloncush.com)
This Aussie folk-rock group sure know how to instantly put
a big beaming smile on somerone's face with their infectiously
joyous and vivacious music. The dynamic vocals soar to the
heavens and back with consummate ease and exuberance. The
equally energetic arragements likewise hit the stirring spot,
with ringing guitars, smooth basslines, sturdy drums, and
kickin' keyboards all delivering lots of tasty hooks and galvanizing
music. The concise songwriting serves as the yummy cherry
on an already delicious cake. An absolute delight.
HICKS - Ad Out (http://press.bandbuzz.com/dylanhicks)
Minneapolis-based singer/songwriter Dylan Hicks delivers eleven
songs worth of perfectly pleasant and relaxing soulful pop
on this utterly charming album. Blessed with a smooth soothing
voice, a clever way with words, and a laid-back, yet still
warm, touching, and reflective perspective on the human condition,
Hicks makes for a supremely amiable raconteur as well as a
talented musician who knows how to ably craft an engaging
story song. The tuneful melodies and spot-on sharp playing
rate as additional substantial assets. A total winner.
SPRING - The Natural Sweetness of Cream (www.stoneyspring.com)
Supremely warm and harmonic alt-country folk weirdness that
does its own singular thing with topmost skill and aplomb.
The melodies are quite rich and vibrant. Moreover, the arrangements
are likewise really tuneful and loaded with tasty hooks while
the quirky songwriting addresses offbeat subjects with a winning
sense of spaced-out joy. But it's the lively and exuberant
ranting and chanting Native American-style vocals that kick
this honey right over the oddball goalpost into some heretofore
uncharted sonic realm of pure trippy bliss. A gloriously strange
VEGAS - Soul Shattered Sister (www.jimvegasmusic.com)
Singer and guitarist Jim Vegas lays down eleven tracks of
tasty blues rock on his latest album. Vegas's smooth vocals
and fierce guitar playing make for a strong and impressive
double whammy. Moreover, the tuneful arrangements certainly
deliver on the sweet slow-grinding funk, with Luke Young's
brassy blurting saxophone a particular stand-out throughout.
Brad Connor's concise sogwriting cuts to the heart of the
matter with commendable directness. A very solid and satisfying
UBU - 20 Years ina Montana Missile Silo (www.ubuprojex.com)
This experimental avant-garde rock group certainly have been
around for quite a while. Fortunately, they show zero signs
of mellowing with age with their latest album, which delivers
plenty of gloriously beserko bite and raw go-for-it energy.
The band ably crafts a steady succession of deliciously drawn-out
deep-digging grooves that dip and dovetail in all sorts of
lowdown funky ways. The grungy guitars, burning basslines,
and relentless jackhammer drums cough and spit with utmost
fury and vitality while lead singer David Thomas shouts and
hollers over the roiling racket with equal vigor and abandon.
A nice slice of something quirky and creative.
IN A BLENDER - Happy Enough (www.lifeinablender.net)
Life in a Blender are one of those pop-rock groups you can
depend on to deliver exceptionally bright and captivating
well-crafted music. Fortunately, this band continues their
delightful winning streak with their most recent album. The
peppy vocals project an utterly engaging blend of joy and
verve while the dynamic and harmonic arrangements keep things
lively and stirring from start to finish. The witty songwriting
serves as the delicious icing on an already quite tasty cake.
To sum up, fans of this group and their infectiously bouncy
music should be more than happy enough with this album.
FISH - Belle of the West (www.samanthafish.com)
Blues singer/songwriter/guitarist Samantha Fish knocks it
out of the ballpark with this bang-up album. Blessed with
a strong sultry'n'soulful throaty voice, a mean'n'lean way
with playing a guitar, and an admirably concise just-put-it-to-me-straight
style of songwriting, Fish pours on the angst and despair
with a winning mix of verve and vulnerability. Better still,
the slithering gradual tempos and sinewy, yet subdued beats
both ensure that the music contained herein possesses plenty
of grit and punch. For a swingin' good right-on bluesy time,
this honey certainly hits the spot and then some.
CLYDES - So the Story Goes (http://theclydesmusic.com)
Speaking of bands with consistently solid track records, one
can certainly add The Clydes to that illustrious list. This
group keeps things quite soothing and gently melodic on their
latest album, which coasts along in an utterly engaging breezy'n'easy
sort of way. The peppy vocals soar over a snappy array of
jubilant guitar riffs, smooth basslines, and constant forward-ho
drums. The songwriting spells everything out with admirable
clarity and thoughtfulness. A damn fine album.
SUCCESSFUL FAILURES - Ichor of Nettle (www.thesuccessfulfailures.com)
Representing rootsy rock'n'roll Americana at its most disarmingly
robust, modest, and harmonic, this album makes for a very
worthwhile and rewarding listen. The vibrant vocals do the
rousing trick. Ditto the tuneful and energetic arrangements,
which are nicely filled out by springy'n'zingy guitar riffs,
sturdy basslines, and relentless steamrolling drums. The intelligent
songwriting provides plent of savory substance to go along
with the punchy music: Whether covering the harrowing plight
of a desperate illegal immigrant in the poignant "The
Ballad of Julio Cuellar," or the giving Texas hero "Sam
Houston" his exciting do, the songs relate compelling
stories that are firmly grounded in bittersweet reality. An
ANGELO - Neurotica (http://paangelo.bandcamp.com)
This Flemington, New Jersey band gleefully spit out some delectably
dirty-ass grungy-as-fuck rock'n'roll racket on their latest
album. The gritty guitars cut a fierce swath through the burning
basslines and remorselessly trudging clip-clop drums. The
snarly vocals sneer the terse lyrics with topmost bitter aplomb.
Wonderfully rough and ragged, with a winning dearth of pretense
perfectly merged with a spot-on snotty attitude, this baby
overall sizes up as great greasy slab of pure grimy spew.
HENDRYX & GARY LUCAS - The World of Captain Beefheart
Singer Nona Hendrix and guitarist Gary Lucas play appropriate
tribute to the outre legacy of idiosyncratic singer/songwriter
Don Van Vliet (a.k.a. Captain Beefheart) by not prettying
up his funky-groovy blues-infused music with any catchy hooks
or elaborate slick arrangements. Instead the pair keep things
very basic and intimate, yet still punchy and tuneful, with
Hendryx's big throaty soulful vocals perfectly matched by
Lucas's searingly intense guitar playing. This album serves
as both a terrific ode to Beefheart as well as an ideal introduction
to Beefheart's music for newbies
BROWN - Witchy Feelin' (www.savoybrown.com)
This amazingly longstanding British blues rock group proves
that they still got plenty of bite'n'bark left in them with
this blistering serving of straight-up no-bullshit bluesy
rock. The music sounds every bit as lowdown gritty as it out
to be, with fierce shredding guitar licks, churning basslines,
and forward-ho steamrolling drums all laying down a steady
succession of chunky thudding beats and constant slithering
tempos. Kim Simmonds's perfectly weathered voice and concise
songwriting make for a strong and impressive double whammy.
This honey gets right to the heart of the matter with laudable
clarity and breataking precision. Terrific stuff.
BAYOU RAMBLERS - Kalenda (www.lostbayouramblers.com)
This band serves up a tasty platter of infectiously vibrant
and tangy Louisiana Cajun gumbo rock that positively explodes
with tremendous joy and verve. The snappy tempos and chunky
driving beats steamroll ahead at an exciting headlong rate.
The vocals are every bit as fiery and passionate as they ought
to be. The arrangements are likewise quite tuneful and spirited,
with accordians, fiddles, and acoustic guitars blended together
with electronic instrumentation with often rousing and always
enjoyable results. Best of all, this group bring a sense of
pure heart and vitality to their music that's impossible to
either resist or dislike. A sheer delight.
NICELY - Sleep Safari (www.tapeterecords.com)
Supremely spacey and soothing electronic psych-rock album
that puts the listener at immediate ease thanks to its pleasantly
low-key meditative quality. Nicely's soft voice and sturdy
grasp of gently harmonic melodies merge together to craft
a delicate sound that's both ethereal and comforting in equal
measure. The gradual tempos and kicked-back beats further
enhance the overall relaxing mood. A solid and satisfying
slice of the subdued.
CAFFEINE - Sadie Saturday Nite (http://www.jeancaffeine.com)
Singer/songwriter Jean Caffeine commerates her status as a
longstanding punk rock fringe culture fixture on this terrifically
anecdotal and autobiographical album. Caffeine's plain-spoken,
yet eloquent songwriting cuts right to the heart of the matter
with touching and absorbing directness as it encapulates everything
from high school being a drag to the first time Caffeine saw
Patti Smith performing on "Saturday Night Live"
to the breakup of The Sex Pistols. Moreover, Caffeine belts
these compelling songs out in a lovely throaty voice and has
a sturdy grasp of simple, but still catchy melodies. Best
of all, this album serves as an arresting and illuminating
sonic chronology of the many different permutations of punk
rock throughout the decades. A total winner.
NUM NUM AND THE SPIRIT SQUAD -Phoney Beatlemania (https://soundcloud.com/bnumnum)
This psych rock band from New Hope, Pennsylvania have been
around for almost two full decades, but fortunately still
have plenty of juice left in them as they prove on their enjoyably
vibrant and tuneful latest album. The robust vocals spit out
the barbed lyrics which savagely critique the more negative
aspects of show business with considerable bite and vigor.
Moreover, the arrangements keep things lively and thrilling
from start to finish, with grinding guitar riffs, churning
basslines, and big meaty steamrolling drum beats all ringing
loud and clear throughout. To top things off, there's a sense
of fierce resilience and incendiary passion permeating every
last hard-pounding note that possesses a certain ragged glory
which in turn makes this album one to savor.
GRIPS WEEDS - Force of Nature Live in NYC (www.gripweeds.com)
This rock concert documentary finds the Grip Weeds in supremely
groovy and spirited form. The band performs their trademark
highly catchy and dynamic retro 60's psychedelic rock with
utmost infectious passion and stirring aplomb. Since this
is a live show, the music contained herein has a throbbing
pulse and raw go-for-it energy that's quite exciting to behold.
Nicely filmed, without too many edits or needlessly flashy
camerawork, this honey overall delivers 90 minutes of pure
Beautifully lush and languid, this album conjures a supremely
dreamy atmosphere's that's both captivating and intoxicating
in equal measure. Arrica Rose's breathy vocals cast a sweet
soothing spell while her sharp songwriting manages to find
a strong underlying sense of affecting and unbreakable hope
and optimism amid all the sad and despairing hardships to
be endured while coping with life itself. The gently harmonic
arrangements expertly craft a steady series of achingly delicate
melodies. A lovely album.
ARRICA ROSE & THE ...'s - Low as the Moon (http://www.arricarose.com)
X. HEYMAN - Incognito (www.richardxheyman.com)
Richard X. Heyman rates highly as one of those vintage old
school rock'n'roll dudes with an amazing aptitude for deftly
merging catchy melodies and dynamic arrangements with smart
and insightful lyrics. Heyman's latest album offers proof
positive that he sure hasn't lost his touch as he delivers
loads of meaty hooks and kickin' riffs along with thoughtful
observations on the current troubled state of the world. While
Hexman's smooth voice and sharp songwriting are quite impressive,
it's his indomitable fighting spirit and positive outlook
on facing life's steady succession of hardships head on that
in turn makes this album so inspiring and uplifting.
FOR SILVER - The Way We Burn (http://threeforsilver.com)
Super tasty swamp rock gumbo served up thick and brooding
with a side order of strange and a heavy seasoning of twangy
harmony. The raspy lead singer gets terrific support from
a gal with a lovely angelic voice. The busy and tuneful arrangements
throw in everything from madly swirling strings to thumping
drums to buzzing basslines that hover in the air like angry
bumblebees. Better still, there's a gloriously idiosyncratic
sensibility at work that blends a dark apocalyptic vision
with an equally askew perspective that sees the world through
the eyes of a merry demented prophet. A splendidly singular
BILLY - Let 'Em Fall (joebilly.bandcamp.com)
Clifton, New Jersey-based singer/songwriter Joe Billy tears
into life's endless supply of bullshit frustrations and aggravations
with deliciously bitter and snarky sarcastic ferocity on his
latest album. Billy's savage sense of biting humor and say
it like you see it upfront honesty are the perfect gut-busting
corrective to annoying candy-ass politically correct nonsense
and society's equally irritating preconceived notions on stuff
like getting older and celebrating Columbus Day without a
guilty conscience. It also helps that Billy plays a mean acoustic
guitar and shouts his vocals with tremendous go-for-the-throat
brio. But it's Billy's viciously hilarious cynical perspective
and fiercely defiant "fuck you!" attitude that make
this album such an absolute brutal hoot.
FRASCO AND THE U.N. - Songs from the Road (www.andyfrasco.com)
Andy Frasco and his band are in sensationally spirited form
on this dynamic and exciting live concert blues rock album.
Frasco's vibrant and exuberant vocals are ably supported by
a spot-on proficient group of musicians who all play their
merry hearts out. Better still, Frasco and everybody else
featured herein are clearly having the time of their lives;
it's this sense of pure go-for-it hearty fun that ensures
that this album overall makes the grade as one hell of an
immensely rousing and enjoyable blast.
JENNINGS - The World Was on My Side (http://robjenningsmusic.squarespace.com)
New Jersey singer/songwriter Rob Jennings delivers fiften
songs worth of infectiously bouncy and upbeat pop-rock on
his latest album. Jennings's smooth ethereal voice and straightforward
songwriting make for a strong and impressive double whammy.
Better yet, Jennings possesses a refreshingly hopeful and
optimistic perspective that's a pure uplifting joy to behold.
The tuneful arrangements and super catchy sparkling melodies
serve as the yummy icing on an already quite delicious sonic
Tearing and shredding with utmost cacophonous abandon, this
fierce shriek of raw punk rock vitality might not be pretty,
but it's nonetheless quite thrilling and enjoyable in its
own gloriously grungy way just the same. The open up and scream
vocals holler over a blistering array of savage chopping guitars,
buzzsaw bass, and full speed ahead steamrolling drums that
flatten everything in their relentless path. Executed with
tremendous urgency and intensity, this honey stands tall as
a highly satisfying slab of primal sonic energy.
CINEMA - Man Bites Dog (www.cinemacinemaband.com)
TELESCOPES - As Light Return (www.tapeterecords.com)
Fiercely moody'n'broody in the best possible gloom-doom way,
this group plumbs the depths of despair and human darkness
with often striking results. The sullen vocals moan and groan
with utmost dismay. Meanwhile, the savage hacksaw guitars,
burning basslines, and grimly steady clip-clop drums drudge
up a thick and atonal distorted sound that positively reeks
of pure decay and anguish. By no means a fun album, but overall
a very potent and startling one.
65's - Wolves and Men (https://the65s.bandcamp.com)
This EP release spits up a five song serving of raw and
rattling rock. The raspy vocals grumble with considerable
growly gusto. The grinding guitars, churning basslines,
and constant pushing ahead drums create a sound that's quite
gritty and punchy. Moreover, the terse and to the point
songwriting astutely nails a strong sense of working class
angst and resignation. A mighty howl of everyday anger and
WAYNE OLIVIERI - Electric Mind (https://wayneosongs.com)
New Jersey-based singer/songwriter Wayne Olivieri embarks
on a delightfully lively and forthright tour of the basic
human experience on his debut full-length album. Olivieri
tackles the many ups and downs of both life in general and
human relationships in particular with a winning blend of
humor, energy, and honesty that basks in the good times and
rolls with the bad ones in a disarmingly candid and straightforward
manner. Whether he's dealing with the fact that he's broke
again or asking God to forgive him for his transgressions,
Olivieri keeps on keepin' on no matter what hardships life
throws his way with an unshakeable spirit that's moving and
inspiring in comparable measure. It also helps that the music
contained herein is practically exploding with vitality and
catchiness. A total treat.
BOSTWICK - Two Tone (store.cdbaby.com/cd/andrewbostwick2)
Singer/songwriter Andrew Bostwick makes a lovely and touching
debut with this perfectly tuneful album that addresses the
ups and downs of human relationships with admirable clarity
and honesty. Bostwick's pleasant reedy voice and thoughtful
songwriting make for a strong and impressive double whammy.
Moreover, Bostwick sure knows how to craft catchy and harmonic
melodies that have a certain quiet way of getting into and
staying in your head. But it's the sweet sensitivity Bostwick
displays throughout that in turn gives this album an extra
substantial poignancy and resonance.
- Shark Funeral Songbook (www.NachtRecords.com)
Marvelously brooding instrumental album that vividly evokes
a potently gloomy'n'doomy midnight-in-the-graveyard nightmarish
vibe from the very first ominous opening note. Low rumbling
bass, sinister guitar riffs, forlorn saxophones, remorseless
clip-clop drum beats, and hellish unintelligible vocal moans
and groans swirl around and hover in the air like some kind
of foreboding sonic storm cloud that's scarily on the verge
of unleashing a deadly and destructive downpour rife with
dread, danger, and despair at any given moment. Both eerie
and entrancing in equal measure, this album casts a mighty
strong and unsettling spell on the listener.
SAID - Estranged (http://lisasaid.com)
Singer/songwriter Lisa Said confronts the bittersweet ups
and downs of life and romance with unwavering forthrightness
on this delightfully (and brutally) honest four song EP release.
Said's husky voice and sharp songwriting make for a strong
and winning double act. The rattling arrangements add a wonderfully
raw rough'n'ready sonic kick: The cutting guitar riffs, rumbling
basslines, and unrelenting forward-ho steamrolling drums lay
down a steady succession of brisk tempos and driving chunky
beats. A refreshingly frank and unsentimental treat.
NEIL HOLYOAK - Second Son (http://www.neilholyoak.com)
Singer/songwriter Neil Holyoak sure knows how to slip in on
someone slow and easy: With his reedy, but soothing voice,
a sturdy grasp of delicately harmonic lyrics, and deceptively
simple'n'straightforward songwriting that speaks volumes about
the many facets of the human condition in disarmingly plain-spoken
language, Holyoak makes an immediate beeline for the heart
that hits the bull's eye with extremely touching results.
The way Holyoak confronts hardships and heartbreak head on
without ever blinking or flinching gives this album its considerable
poignancy and resonance. A lovely and moving little gem.
GREAT GRANDPA - Plastic Cough (https://greatgrandpa.bandcamp.com)
Alternately rattling and whispering straight out of Seattle,
Washington, this band impresses with their extraordinary ability
to switch between gloriously grungy noise and more delicately
harmonic pop with consummate skill and ease. The music contained
herein registers as sometimes soothing, often thrilling, and
always enjoyable as it boldly explores various inspired and
exciting sonic peaks and valleys. A hugely on the money album.
THE CURS -The Big Four (http://www.curs.bandcamp.com)
This Brooklyn, New York band sure know how to rock out with
topmost go-for-the-throat brio and passion. This four song
EP release certainly delivers the gritty goods, with grinding
hacksaw guitar riffs, churning basslines, and relentless steamrolling
drums all laying serious waste to everything in their savage
path. The shouted vocals likewise zero in right for the kill.
A real ferocious blast.
RADIO HEARTS - Daytime Man (https://radiohearts.bandcamp.com)
This group hits it out of the ballpark with this nicely snotty'n'snarly
five song EP serving of pure punk spew. The lively vocals
holler over a spirited steady succession of springyn'zingy
guitars, gutty basslines, and forward-ho charging drums. The
snappy tempos and bouncy beats never let up for a second.
An immensely enjoyable explosion of righteous racket.
THE HERNIES - If You Can't Think, Then You Cannot Be
Afraid of the Consequences (http://soundcloud.com/thehernies)
This Athens, Georgia band sure know how to get down and boogie
with delightfully groovy aplomb. The dynamic arrangements
come through with a stirring surplus of invigorating crunch
and punch: The deep digging guitar riffs, heavy throbbing
basslines, and remorseless clip-clop drums ensure that the
chunky beats and slithery constant tempos are in deliciously
abundant supply. The smooth vocals and concise songwriting
are likewise up to speed. An on the money solid and satisfying
This rock group from Buckinghamshire, England deliver five
exquisitely well crafted and melodic songs on their highly
impressive instrumental debut EP release. The way the songs
go through intricate and surprising peaks and valleys, with
tempos that start out gradually before kicking into exhilerating
sonic overdrive and huge surging beats that roll along with
utmost fluid momentum, makes for an absolute pleasure to hear
and behold. The stately pianos, sturdy drums, and crisp guitars
remain on a steady and stirring course from start to finish.
A fine work of delicate beauty.
FROM MOUNTAINS (http://frommountains.bandcamp.com/releases)
NORMAL LIVING - Signals (www.thenormalliving.com)
This seven member New Jersey band sure know how to craft spot-on
peppy and catchy straight-up rock'n'roll that radiates sheer
joy and vitality from every last radiant note. The robust
vocals project a winning blend of strength and vigor. The
harmonic arrangemets boast everything from meaty guitar riffs
to rousing horn lines to mighty rolling drums. Whether it's
the fist-pumping anthem "American Summer" or the
tremendous headlong rush of "Into the Night," there's
plenty to relish on this hugely enjoyable album.
BONE - Blister Steel (www.RoselitBone.com)
Beautifully evoking a sad'n'somber mood of bittersweet
regret and deep-seated anguish, this dark and despairing,
yet still haunting and poignant country-flavored album hovers
in the air like an ominous storm cloud that's threatening
to open up and pour down from the heavens at a moment's
notice. The plaintive vocals and grim lyrics capture a strong
feeling of pure gloom'n'doom. The spare, yet melodic arrangements
further enhance the overall starkly brooding atmosphere.
By no means a pleasant or comforting album, but an extremely
moving and powerful one just the same.
TROST - Agistri (Living Music Duplication)
Effortlessly radiating a certain exquisitely soothing kind
of otherworldly space age vibe, singer/songwriter Heather
Trost embarks on a relaxed and idiosyncratic, yet still joyous
and captivating exotic sonic excursion on this album. Best
known for her work with A Hawk And A Handsaw, Trust's sultry
chanted vocals and quirky melodies possess an odd and unearthly
as well as supple and gorgeous quality which manages to be
quite distinctive and original. Artfully combining 1960's
psychedelic pop-rock with flavorsome dashes of soul and samba
tunes, Trost's music has a singular beauty to it that's truly
something to behold.
Gloriously scrappy rumbling of straight-up rough'n'tumble
rock'n'roll done with plenty of winningly brash New York City
attitude. Kim Rancourt's distinctly harsh Big Apple accent
and blunt say-it-like-you-see-it perspective both gleefully
spit in the face of good taste and decorum. Moreover, Rancourt
astutely pegs a positively infectious feeling of pure raucous
fun, with scruffy caterwauling arrangements and a raw rattling
sound merging together to create a delightfully grungy bundle
of rickety noise. A real trashy blast.
KIM RANCOURT - Plum Plum (Clown Heroes Records)
Rolling down from the remote prairies with a soulful, lively,
and overall captivating high lonesome coutry-rock sound, this
alternately jaunty and melancholy album paints a vivid sonic
portrait of a troubled landscape in which the human spirit
is continually pushed to the breaking point, but somehow manages
to remain strong and persevere through any hardships thrown
in its path heading towards some kind of redemption and salvation.
The robust vocals and dynamic arrangements deliver plenty
of kick up the dirt stirring thrills. Moreover, the sharp
songwriting nails a powerful feeling of despair along with
residual traces of hope and resilience with bracing acuity.
A damn solid and exciting album.
CESSNA'S AUTO CLUB - Cipher (http://scacunincorporated.com)
GILLEN JR. - What She Said (fredgillenjr.com)
Singer/songwriter Fred Gillen Jr. rates highly as one of those
musicians you can always depend on to produce music that's
intelligent and provocative in equal measure in its admirably
candid and direct addressing of the many different facets
of the human condition and the key troubling issues of contemporary
American existence. Whether he's confronting the harsh reality
of Donald Trump's anti-immigrant stance in the touching "Prayer
for America," or the sad uncertainties for a better tomorrow
in "Future Americans," Gillen Jr. displays an honesty
and basic fundemental human decency that's both affecting
and inspiring. The gently folksy melodies and delicately harmonic
arrangements along with the raspy easiness of Gillen Jr.'s
voice add additional feeling of comforting warmth and compassion.
A lovely album.
RETROLINERS - Mods & Rockers (www.retroliners.com)
Yeah, baby! Ya wanna draw the shades, turn up the lights,
and swing the night away until the wee hours of tomorrow morning?
You do. Well, here's the perfectly groovy retro 1960's funk-fueled
R&B-flavored rock instrumental album for that particular
occasion. Chill out to that hip'n'heavenly Hammond B-3 organ.
Dig deep into those tasty guitar licks. Get totally lost in
a nonstop array of fat throbbing basslines. And keep that
repeat button on because this is a platter that's well worth
spinning a dozen or so times.
- Forever or Never (www.laketheband.com)
Beautifully mellow and meditative shimmering pop that ably
explores a touching vein in bittersweet reflectivity. The
soothing vocals and delicately dulcet melodies give this
album a lovely ethereal sound that's every bit as pleasant
and relaxing as a gentle spring breeze. The peppy tempos
and steady beats keep things bubbling along at a nice kicked-back
clip. A most beguiling little beaut.
- Euphoria Love (www.BrenyamaMusic.com)
This Highland Park, New Jersey band gleefully combine groovy
60's garage rock and more crunchy'n'punchy current power pop
with A-plus exciting results. The peppy vocals project a winning
surplus of pure joy and go-for-it verve that's impossible
to either dislike or resist. The catchy arrangements are nicely
filled out by kickin' guitars, smooth basslines, and dynamic
keyboards. The simple and straightforward songwriting further
adds to the overall infectiously fun'n'frothy uncomplicated
charm. Best of all, the lively and harmonic music effortlessly
conjures up a swinging Saturday night sock hop party atmosphere.
A real zippy blast.
BOURATOGLOU - Idle Intuition (www.maxbouratoglou.com)
Singer/songwriter Max Bouratoglou makes an impressive and
engaging feature length album debut with this utterly delightful
pop-rock treat. For starters, Bouratoglou possesses a remarkable
knack for crafting extremely catchy and sunny melodies. Secondly,
his reassuring voice and smart songwriting make for a strong
double whammy. It also helps that the crisp arrangements are
rife with snazzy hooks and the playing has plenty of snap
to spare. In addition, Bouratoglou brings a real depth and
maturity to the substantial lyrics, with the anti-bully song
"Clay" rating as an especially striking stand-out.
An excellent album.
TOLMAN - Compass & Map (www.russtolmanmusic.com)
This 20 song compilation covers the thirty-plus year career
of singer, songwriter, and guitarist Russ Tolman, who starting
in 1986 has recorded and released seven solo albums. Blessed
with a winningly dry voice, a sturdy knack for compelling
story songs, a pleasingly deadpan sense of humor, and a fluid
guitar playing style, Tolman takes the listener on an often
affecting, sometimes amusing, and overall enjoyable sonic
exploration of the assorted ups and downs of life, love (the
wonderfully rueful "Blame It on the Girl" rates
as a definite highlight here), show business, and relationships.
Better still, Tolman specializes in tasty meat and potatoes
rootsy rock that gets right down to jaunty business with infectious
verve and a laudable dearth of pretense. A nice introduction
to a fine musical artist.
THE FLYWHEELS - I'm for the Flowers (http://www.facebook.com/TheFlywheelsLP)
Hoppin' and boppin' along with infectiously bouncy and giddy
aplomb, this extremely catchy and dynamic retro 60's-style
psychedelic pop-rock album proves to be quite an invigorating
blast to hear. The lively vocals soar straight to the sumptuous
sonic stratosphere while the mesmerizing guitar riffs, smooth
basslines, and sturdy drums deliver a plethora of wonderfully
radiant hooks. Better still, this album possesses a sunny
upbeat quality that's both charming and uplifting in equal
measure. A total treat.
THE FRONT END - Growing Pains (www.therainmakersmediagroup.com)
This four song EP delivers a perfectly crunchy'n'punchy serving
of straight-up rousing rock'n'roll. The hoarse ragged vocals
scream and holler with tonsil-tearing brio. The meaty guitar
riffs provide plenty of pop and snack, the fluid basslines
hold everything together, and the hard pounding drums lay
down a mighty stomping beat. Tasty stuff.
RAG 'N' BONE MAN - Human (www.ragnbonemanmusic.com)
Pulsating with a remarkably funky and exciting blend of soul,
R&B, blues, hip-hop, and jazz, Rag 'N' Bone Man's debut
album throbs and beats with a livewire electricity that's
positively galvanizing to hear. This guy's strong booming
voice and thoughtful songwriting make for a potent double
whammy. Better yet, a certain deeply felt sense of passion
and humanity can be savored in every last gloriously vibrant
note contained herein. A right-on kick-ass winner.
THE SHATTERED HOPES - I Made the Mess (www.TheShatteredHopes.com)
This group sure know how to combine amusing, yet idiosyncratic
lyrics and energetic rockin' music into a highly charming
and engaging whole. The jaunty melodies, exuberant adenoidal
vocals, spirited playing, and wickedly funny songwriting keep
things bubbling along throughout, with such gut-busting tunes
as "I'm Doing It My Way," "Amway Man,"
and "You Can't Make Me Do Anything" providing a
wealth of belly laughs. Everything from politics to religion
gets joyfully skewered in a manner that's quirky and appealing
instead of snarky and condescending. Crazy rhythms indeed.
FLAMINGODS - Majesty (http://flamingods.com)
This spot-on groovy group specialize in creating an eclectic
and arresting sound with both Eastern and African infuences
heavily evident throughout. The pleasant vocals effortlessly
soar over a terrifically harmonic array of flutes, congas,
strings, guitars, and synthesizers that swirl and whirl with
utmost grace and agility. The music itself casts a comforting
spell as it dips and dovetails into exotic areas that are
like the sonic equivalent to strolling on a tropical beach
on a fine summer day. The gradual tempos and subdued, yet
steady beats further add to the overall laid-back appeal.
A glorious celebration of musical diversity.
A TREE GROWS (www.rufftone.com)
This Brooklyn-based band artfully concoct a marvelously mellow
and melodic fusion of jazz, soul, and electronica that's both
soothing and soulful in equal measure. The tenor saxophone
fluidly flies over a rock-solid bedrock foundation of sturdy
drums, a twinkling glockenspiel, and zoned to the groovy bone
keyboards. Better still, there's a supple smoothness to this
music which in turn gives the richly textured soundscapes
featured herein an extra tasty flavor. This is the sort of
right-on tuneful and captivating music that conjures up vivid
images of smoky nightclubs and casual nocturnal walks underneath
a starry sky complete with a sparkling full moon. An exquisitely
hypnotic and harmonic delight.
CHANDLER TRAVIS PHILHARMONIC - Waving Kissyhead, Vol 2
& 1 (www.chandlertravis.com)
For those who dig straight-up no-nonsense ramshackle Dixeland-flavored
rock'n'roll done on a massive sprawling and spirited scale
with utmost go-for-it panache and a refreshing paucity of
pretense, this album will sure hit the rollicking spot something
sweet. The songs swing and sway like so many particles of
sonic dust caught up in a swirling tornado of joyous noise
complete with urgently blurting horns, robust vocals, hypnotic
keyboards, offbeat lyrics, and catchy guitar riffs. The overall
upbeat atmosphere and quirky humor evident throughout ensure
that this honey makes for delightful listening from start
JAKE LEVINE - In Country Sleep (www.jakelevinemusic.com)
Livingston, New Jersey-based singer/songwriter Jake Lervine
delivers eight songs full of gentle country rock-flavored
melodicism that also offers many perfectly moving moments
of low-key introspection along with some straight-up stirring
vitality for the sake of tasty variety. Deftly blending a
delicate and moody, but still occasionally hard-rocking sound
with an admirable keep-your-chin-up resilient sensibility,
Levine tackles life's endless supply of hardships with a strength
and honesty that's both touching and inspiring in equal measure.
Levine's expressive voice conveys a wealth of emotion while
his songwriting cuts to the heart of the matter with bracing
acuity and concision. A fine and affecting album.
MATT NORTH - Above Ground Fools (https://mattnorth.net)
Singer/songwriter Matt North delivers ten songs of wonderfully
rootsy country-rock Americana on his excellent debut album.
North's dynamite vocals and sharp songwriting that puts a
welcome emphasis on carefully observed little details make
for a formidable double whammy. Moreover, North's keep your
chin up sense of resilence concerning life's endless stream
of hardships proves to be both moving and inspiring in equal
measure. North scores extra points for sprinklng in some stinging
social commentary here and there, with "Conkrite and
Cosell" in particular standing out as a poignant critique
of the current poor state of the media. The lively arrangements
keep things exciting and energetic as well: The simmering
organs, funky digging guitar riffs, smooth basslines, and
sturdy drums lay down a steady succession of snappy tempos
and forward-ho charging beats. A terrific album.
THE JIGSAW SEEN - For the Discriminating Completist (www.thejigsawseen.com_)
Offering up an assortment of inspired covers -- their raw
garage rock version of "The Best is Yet to Come"
rates as a wonderfully ragged doozy -- and previously hard
to find alternate versions of this band's most popular songs,
this 12-song compilation serves up plenty of tasty tunes for
the listener to happily chew on and digest. The vocals are
robust and clear as crystal smooth, the arrangements full
of catchy hooks (gotta love the fantastic sitar riff that
cuts its hypnotic way through "We Women"), the songwriting
sharp and concise, and the playing spot-on proficient throughout.
A total treat.
ANDREW JOSLYN - Awake at the Bottom of the Ocean (www.andrewjoslynmusic.com)
Turn down the lights, light up a fine Cuban cigar, and pour
yourself a nice tall glass of delicious wine, because it's
time to kick back and get swanky. Joslyn's supremely mellow
and hypnotic soundscapes conjure up vivid images of of a smoky
jazz cabaret on a lazy Saturday afternoon. The smooth vocals
and soothing melodies are sheer easygoing sonic bliss while
the concise songwriting gets right to the point with prasieworthy
clarity and immediacy. Soak it up and prepare to be elevated
to a higher musical plain.
THE SHOW PONIES - How It Goes Down (www.theshowponies.com)
This five piece Americana band deliver the rollicking country-rock
goods on their excellent and exciting sophomore album. Facing
the harsh reality of President Donald Trump's bleak apocalyptic
new world order with an unflagging and uplifting sense of
optimism at a time when that very thing is in exceedingly
rare supply, this group refuses to give up on hope without
putting up some kind of fight. The spot-on incisive lyrics
tackle such gutsy subjects as never being able to go back
to the way things used to be (the heart-wrenching "Kalamazoo"),
standing up to bullying men ("Shoulda Showed Him"),
and the doomsday holocaust that might just the around the
corner (the chilling "How It All Goes Down") with
bracing acuity and forthrightness. Powerful stuff.
EVAN TOTH - Everything is Fine (www.evantoth.com)
Paterson, New Jersey-based singer/songwriter Evan Toth comes
through with ten songs worth of spot-on sprightly and melodic
rock'n'roll that cuts to the chase with bracing vigor and
directness. Toth's vibrant vocals and concise songwriting
make for a formidable double whammy. The lively and tuneful
arragements keep things hopping throughout, with especially
tasty and galvanizing use of bouncy piano, urgent forward-ho
drums, and springy'n'zingy guitars. Best of all, the songs
practically explode with pure joyous and infectious life.
An absolute delight.
BRIAN CULLMAN - New Year's Eve (www.briancullman.com)
Pouring on the soulful swank like nobody's business, thia
album should be enjoyed while either smoking a fine Cuban
cigar or sipping a long cool martini. The zoned to the bone
organ, fluid guitar riffs, smooth basslines, sturdy drums,
and simmering keyboards craft a sound that's both comforting
and hypnotic in equal measure. Moreover, Brian Cullman's dulcet
pipes wrap around a tune like a stylish pair of velvet gloves
while his songwriting keeps thing simple and straightforward.
An on the money enjoyable album.
SOLES OF PASSION - Bump Me Up (www.solesofpassion.com)
Proggressive country duo Steven Wolfe and Myla Snow grab the
bull by the horns and wrestle it to the ground with a winning
blend of hynoptic electronic tunefulness and say-it-like-you-see-it
directness on their excellent debut album. Snow's captivating
voice and Wolfe's toughminded songwriting make for a potent
double whammy. (Wolfe plays a mean guitar, too.) But what
gives this album its extra snap and bite is the remarkable
way these two address both the unavoidable hardships of basic
human existence and the bitter socioeconomic realities of
the average working class American with unflinching grit and
frankness, yet still manage to keep their chins up and persevere
no matter what. Inspiring stuff.
ONE WAY RIDE - Put Me On (www.therainmakermediagroup.com)
Hey, buddy? Yeah, you, pal. Ya wanna hear some super fun stomp-ass
straight-up rock'n'roll done with plenty of go-for-broke energy
and a winning dearth of high-falutin' pretense? Well, then
I have just the album for you. What makes it worth a listen,
you ask? Well, for starters there are lots of tasty diggin'
guitar licks. After that, the churning basslines provide a
strong gutty undertow. And the drum beats? Yeah, those are
every bit as big'n'bold as they ought to be. The vocals are
pretty lively, too. The songwriting cuts to the chase as well.
And as for the basic sound? It's pure bluesy rock all the
way. And that's all I gotta say on this one.
TIM HOULIHAN - Another Orion (www.tomhoulihan.com)
Radiating a sweetly homespun country-folk charm right from
the first gently harmonic note, Minneapolis-based singer/songwriter
Tim Houlihan scores himself an utterly engaging winner with
his latest album by keeping things simple and unpretentious.
It also helps that Houlihan possesses a warm comforting voice
and sturdy knack for crafting melodic story songs that offer
a nice mix of sharp insight and uplifting humanity. Better
still, Houlihan can rock out with topmost rip-snorting brio
if the feeling to do so hits him, as the rousing and anthemic
"What's Gonna to Happen to Me" firmly confirms.
A fine and touching album.
DAVID HALLEY - A Month of Somedays (www.davidhalleymusic.com)
Singer/songwriter David Halley explores the pros and cons
of the always precarious human condition with a deliciously
delicate mix of thoughtfulness and tunefulness on his lovely
and moving latest album. Halley's voice -- worn and spent,
but still there and plugging away through it all no matter
what -- alone speaks vivid volumes about a life that's had
more than its fair share of ups and downs; it's the battered,
yet resilient voice of a man who refuses to quit regardless
of whatever hardships he might have to endure while in the
process of simply existing. The gently harmonic arragements
perfectly compliment Halley's weathered vocals and eloquently
plain-spoken songwriting. A wonderfully poignant jewel.
KRISTIN HERSH - Wyatt at the Coyote Palace (www.kristinhersh.com)
Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Kristin Hersh
digs deep into life's endless array of ups and downs to produce
an incredibly powerful double CD album that's loaded to the
gills with twenty-four songs worth of pure angst and raw naked
emotion. Hersh's hoarse raggedy voice projects a striking
combination of bruised strength and aching vulnerability that's
genuinely startling in its gritty starkness and refreshing
dearth of sappy sentiment. The harmonic arragements keep things
tuneful, dynamic, and compelling throughout. An excellent
and affecting album.
MIKE ZITO - Make Blues Not War (www.mikezito.com)
Singer, guitarist, and songwriter Mike Zito sure ain't kidding
when it comes to making the blues. Zito's impassioned vocals
and blistering guitar playing are red hot scorching to the
point were your stereo speakers might just be reduced to smoking
embers. The stomping beats and steady tempos slither along
with breathtaking forward-ho precision. The protracted jams
not only draw out every last ounce of pure angst, but also
tear into the tasty fat pulsating grooves in an admirably
savage and relentless manner. A fantastic album.
- We Did What We Could Do (http://tristatetheband.com)
This New Jersey band deliver five delightfully upbeat and
energetic songs of pure pop-rock bliss on this EP release.
The robust vocals project an utterly engaging sense of positive
vitality while the songwriting keeps things admirably simple
and to the point. The arrangements offer a steady succession
of catchy hooks and hoppin' vigor thanks to the hard-riffin'
guitars, smooth basslines, and dynamic drums that offer plenty
of huge rolling beats. A total treat.
HALO CALLED FRED - Lies, Damned Lies, and Songs (www.ahalocalledfred.com)
This always quirky and inventive band of New Brunswick boys
prove that they haven't lost a single iota of their gloriously
idiosyncratic identity or bold willingness to think way outside
the conventional pop-rock box with their latest album. The
group's trademark flair for offbeat lyrics and harmonic music
are both in tremendous abundance. Moreover, there's a strong
feeling of sheer gaiety and upbeat energy that's a true uplifting
joy to hear. The sonic equivalent of a big beaming smile,
this baby overall sizes as one to relish.
Supremely moody and elegant, this album will certainly prove
to be a pleasurable listen for those who like their music
extremely brooding and mournful. Bruce Wilson's deep raspy
voice conveys a potent sense of deepseated anguish and regret
while the songwriting gets to the heart of the matter with
bracing candor and directness. The songs alternate between
slow burning ballads of pure angst to more all-out hard-rocking
numbers , with the kick-ass barn burner "Sick in the
City" rating as a definite rousing highlight. It's the
way this album blends grit and heartbreak together into a
tough, yet still touching mix that in turns makes it so powerful
and difficult to shake long after you hear it.
- Hex City (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Conjuring up ten tracks worth of pure gummy'n'yummy voodoo
hoodoo bluesy roots rock, this band of Austin, Texas musical
maniacs lay down more than enough funky grooves and meaty
hooks to satisfy even the most jaded of rock'n'roll aficionados.
The vocals mumble and grumble the blithely bent lyrics with
utmost growly gusto. The arrangements stoke the flames with
a steady succession of gritty'n'grinding guitar riffs, churning
basslines, swaggering horns, and roll over deadly relentless
drums. Best of all, this group ain't afraid to fly their freak
flags high and shoot for the moon with a gleefully gonzo elan
that's a complete treat to behold. Great loopy stuff!
CLYDES - Comeback Charlie (Mint 400; www.theclydesmusic.com)
The Clydes return with five songs worth of right-on groovy
and melodic fun on their latest EP release. The arrangements
lay down a pleasantly tuneful sound complete with gnarly diggin'
guitar riffs, smooth basslines, and sturdy drums. The vocals
are quite robust and passionate while the songwriting remains
concise and reflective throughout. A nice little album.
RADIO - Country Girls Ain't Cheap (www.TrailerRadio.com)
Blending a downhome country-rock sound with a hip urban sensibility,
this Metro-Twang group from New York City (!) offer proof
positive that you can still be a fullblown hick even if you
ain't from the sticks. All kidding aside, the key reason this
band pulls off this remarkable feat of unlikely musical alchemy
is because they treat country music with respect and sincerity
while still being smart and honest enough to crack jokes about
their city slicker origins. Plus it certainly helps that such
witty ditties as the titular tune and "Jesus Loves You
(But I'm on the Fence)" are awful damn funny and engaging.
The arrangements are damn catchy and tuneful, too. And that
about covers that.
AMOR & JOHN CONVERTINO - The Western Suite and Siesta
Songwriters and musicians Naim Amor and John Convertino join
forces to collaborate on this marvelously moody and harmonic
instrumental album that conjures up vivid images of sprawling
desert vistas, wide open prairies, and long winding backroads
in the Southwest. Despite the complete lack of words and vocals,
this flavorsome country and western music nonetheless gives
the listener a strong sense of space and place somewhere in
the vast untamed and untouched American frontier where the
cactus still grow wild and tumbleweeds blow through the center
of rundown abandoned towns during dust storms. Moreover, the
music has a spare beauty and delicate grace to it that's simply
breathtaking to behold. A tremendous achievement.
BROTHERS - Counting Backwards (http://soundcloud.com/dimarcobrothers)
This New York band rings the bell with utmost aplomb and tunefulness
with this utterly engaging serving of sweet rootsy indie rock.
The hoarse vocals possess a certain endearingly ragged charm.
Moreover, the harmonic arrangements really hit the soothing
sonorous spot, with especially tasty use of accordian, mandolin,
and acoustic guitar. Better still, the music contained herein
has a lovely and lilting sense of pure warmth and laid-back
pleasentness that's a comforting joy to hear. An absolute
HAPPIES - Swing High (www.thehappies.com)
Artfully blending an incredibly catchy'n'groovy electronic
pop-rock sound with a bright and engaging introspective sensibility,
this band sure give listeners plenty to be happy about. The
smooth vocals effortlessly glide over a fluid and undulating
sonic sea of crisp guitar riffs, liquid basslines, and subdued,
yet persistent drums. The intelligent songwriting cuts to
the heart of the matter with commendable directness. The overall
pleasant vibe that radiates throughout serves as the tasty
cherry on an already delicious cake. A hugely enjoyable and
SIR CLOUDESLEY SHOVELL - Keep It Greasy! (www.facebook.com/theshovell)
Fuckin' a plus, man! Now this be the shit! We're talkin' a
seriously hot and sloppy serving of sheer caterwauling rock'n'roll
racket done with loads of raw enery and absolutely zero high-falutin'
pretense. The hoarse ragged vocals holler over a ferocious
sonic onslaught of gritty grinding hacksaw guitars, churning
basslines, and savage steamrolling drums. The snappy tempos
and chunky pounding beats storm ahead with fierce forward-ho
momentum. Play this one super loud!
WANDERERS - Slop (http://forthwanderers.bandcamp.com)
This Montclair, New Jersey-based band specialize in lively
and catchy pop-rock that gets right down to basics without
forgetting to provide substantial lyrics and an utterly
engaging sense of sparkling positivity to go along with
all that bouncy vitality. The peppy vocals project an irresistibly
sweet charm while the arrangements are nicely filled out
by kickin' guitar riffs, sturdy basslines, and subdued,
yet steady rolling drums. A praiseworthy item.
BULLET - Still Close Enough to Go Back (www.facebook.com/slow262)
Beautifully brooding, tinged with regret and melancholy, Wisconsin-based
singer/songwriter Sam DeBurgh's debut album packs quite a
powerful emotional punch thanks to its raw honesty and naked
vulnerability. DeBurgh's hoarse and trebly voice projects
a strong feeling of extreme sadness and underlying resilience
with startling directness. Moreover, his songwriting ably
mines a moving line in bittersweet reflection. The arrangements
are not only pretty tuneful, but also appropriately moody.
A fine and affecting album.
MCCARTHY - Go Fourth (http://TerryMcCarthymusic.com)
Offering up six songs worth of lovely and gently melodic sonic
bliss, singer/songwriter Terry McCarthy delivers a sweet and
soothing winner with his latest album. McCarthy's pleasant
voice and thoughtful songwriting make for a sturdy and engaging
double whammy. Moreover, the arragements keep things tuneful
and catchy throughout, with a steady succession of jaunty
guitar riffs along with plenty of tasty piano rolls and a
nice sprinkling of warm harmonica playing. Best of all, there's
a real strong sense of heart, sincerity, and compassion evident
throughout which gives this album an extra uplifting glow.
MONACCHIO - The Dust Up (www.reverbnation.com/keithmonacchio)
Trenton, New Jersey-based singer/songwriter Keith Monacchio
comes through with a pleasingly mellow and reflective little
beaut with his latest album. Monacchio's soulful and reassuring
voice casts a soothing spell while his thoughtful songwriting
mines a touching line in low-key introspection. The arrangements
keep things crisp and tuneful, with jaunty guitars and sturdy
drum rolls providing a winning array of steady tempos and
peppy beats. Better still, Monacchio has an engaging way of
enduring life's constant hardships with a sense of strength
and honesty that's affecting and admirable in equal measure.
TORRES - Pearls to Swine (http://www.adamtorres.tv)
Stemming from Austin, Texas, Adam Torres projects a strong
sense of anguish and regret with a wrenching delicacy that's
sure to touch even the most hardened of hearts. Torres's
trebly tenor voice and plainspoken songwriting lay it all
out there in an achingly open and vulnerable manner. The
fragile melodies and gently harmonic arragements add a further
feeling of a deeply hurt person who's just hanging in there
on the slightest of threads, with gradual tempos and subdued
beats trudging along like a gloomy funeral dirge. By no
means a fun album, but certainly a real haunting and poignant
RADIO - Desert Surf Films (www.motelradiomusic.com)
Chugging along at hypnotically gradual pace, this easy'n'breezy
six song EP release makes for a perfectly soothing listen.
The vocals are hoarse, yet still pleasant and reassuring.
Moreover, the arrangements keep things tuneful and mellow
throughout, with a steady succession of smooth basslines,
ringing guitars, and sturdy, yet subdued drums. The thoughtful
songwriting serves as the tasty cherry on an already pretty
sweet cake. Nice stuff.
Delivering five supremely catchy songs worth of sparkling
power pop, this EP brings plenty amount of pure infectious
joy, bounce, and incredibly immense surging brio to the party
that's sure to put a big beaming smile on your face. The vocals
are smooth and dynamic, the hard-riffing guitars provide a
wealth of meaty hooks, the burning basslines supply a gutty
undertow, and the mighty pounding drums ensure that the beats
are every bit as massive and unrelenting as they ought to
be. What's not to like and enjoy?
THE DARLINGS - Live Attack! (www.thedarlingsrocknroll.com)
This straight-up no-bullshit California rock group were
certainly cooking with high octane unleaded gas when they
performed this live gig: One can almost smell the sweat
and feel the electricity in the air as this quartet rip,
tear, and shred with a joyful go-for-the-throat abandon
that's quite exciting to hear. The raggedy-ass vocals holler
over a furious sonic onslaught of slicing guitars, cutting
basslines, and steamrolling drums. The speedy tempos and
constant driving beats never let up for a second. A real
bang-up thrilling album.
- Fairweather (www.dinowalrus.com)
If you're feeling under the weather and need a quick pick
me up by getting lost in some incredibly thick, hypnotic,
and captivating grooves, then you'll definitely hit the
mesmerizing mother lode with this on the money moody and
magnetic album. The arrangements sure keep things busy and
boppin': We've got funky wah-wah guitars, buzzing basslines,
steady forward-ho drums, and zoned to the bone keyboards
wafting and swirling about in these heady soundscapes of
sheer soothing sonic bliss. The smooth vocals likewise cast
a comforting spell while the concise songwriting gets right
to the point. A fabulously far-out delight.
KUHL BAND - The Stars Will Bring You Home (karynkuhl.bandcamp.com)
This EP release registers strongly with six marvelously moody
and melodic songs. Karyn Kuhl's sultry voice casts quite a
soothing and seductive spell. The tuneful and intricate arrangements
bop and weave with exquisite fluidity and dexterity, with
stinging guitar riffs, smooth basslines, and persistent drums
blending together to create a beautifully dense and dreamy
sound. A divinely enchanting little jewel.
ON GRASS (girlsongrass.bandcamp.com)
Delivering eleven flavorsome slices of perfectly catchy and
harmonic honytonk country, this album makes for an extremely
amiable and soothing listen. Singer Barbara Endes possess
quite a robust twangy voice and a solud knack for spot-on
say-it-to-me-straight songwriting. The tuneful arrangements
give the music an extra folksy appeal, with especially nice
use of ringing guitars and subdued, yet steady drums. Best
of all, the music has a timeless quality to it, even though
the subject matter does address timely and relevant modern
issues such as the way social media has severely curtailed
one's ability to make strong intimate connections with others
(the wonderfully pungent and scathing "Drowning in Ego").
An excellent album.
- The Black Heart of Rock'N'Roll (http://watts.bandcamp.com)
Shreading it up with deliciously dirty brio, this British
group come through with ten thrilling slabs of pure gritty
rock'n'roll racket on their latest album. The hoarse ragged
vocals scream and shout over a savage onslaught of grungy
grinding guitars, churning basslines, and hard-stomping drums.
Better still, the concise songwriting cuts right to the chase
without ever wasting a single word while the sound blends
lowdown scrappy blues and equally scruffy rock with often
exciting and energetic results. A seriously kick-ass album.
BACKSEAT ANGELS - Saturday Night Shakes (http://thebackseatangels.bandcamp.com/releases)
Representing rock'n'roll at its most gloriously basic and
bouncy, this album keeps things delightfully direct and animated
from start to finish. The peppy vocals project a feeling of
sheer joy and aplomb with infectious go-for-it energy and
enthusiasm. The ringing guitars, popping basslines, and chunky
rolling drums further inject an invigorating surplus of cheerful
unbridled vitality. Best of all, this band captures a certain
sweet sense of wide-eyed innocence and exuberance that's impossible
to either resist or dislike. An absolute treat.
TANG & THE CHOPS - Magic Tricks and the Rolling Stone
Rattling along with a galvanizing surplus of sheer bluesy
swagger, this debut album from an Asbury Park, New Jersey
group who specialize in "aggressive folk-rock Americana"
sure hits the stirring spot something sweet. The ragged vocals
cut loose with hoarse-throated gusto. Ed Tang's down to earth
perspective and straightforward songwriting make for a winning
double whammy. The strutting basslines, fierce diggin' guitar
riffs, and mighty rolling drum beats craft a sound that's
all tough-as-old-steak gristle. The refreshing dearth of needless
high-falutin' pretense and overall get-down rocking attitude
further cement this honey's status as a bonafide winner.
LUX & THE MYSTIC - All Are One (www.sophielux.com)
Projecting a gloriously groovy and otherworldly prog-rock
vibe, this album shakes and shimmers with an infectiously
exuberant aplomb that's a total rousing joy to hear. Gwynneth
Haynes' ripe soulful vocals soar to the heavens and back while
her sharp songwriting cuts right to the chase with admirable
clarity. But it's the insanely tuneful and dynamic arrangements
that deliver the most stirring and substantial sock it to
you kick: Moogs, synths, and organs lay down these divinely
funky rippling riffs, the drum beats are huge and unrelenting,
the bass supplies a gutty undertow, and the cutting guitars
slice a tasty swath throughout. Intoxicating stuff.
PRANK - Adult Teen (http://lisaprank.bandcap.com)
Delightfully vibrant and catchy as all get out, this lively
pop-punk album possesses a cheerful vitality and cheekiness
that's sure to put a huge smile on your face. Prank's peppy
vocals and spunky keep-your-chin persona deliver a double
whammy that's engaging and invigorating in equal measure.
Best of all, there's a spirited simplicity and straightforwardness
evident throughout that cuts through all the crap and gets
right to the heart of the matter with bracing unpretentious
clarity. A real blast.
Marvelously stirring and spirited four song EP serving of
all-out no-bullshit rock'n'roll. Juan's passionate singing
and concise songwriting keep needless pretense at bay in order
to put a welcome and refreshing emphasis on pure rousing fun
instead. The brisk tempos and forward-ho galloping beats never
let up for a minute. Hugely enjoyable stuff.
TALL JUAN - Taller Than Ever Tour Cassette (http://talljuan.com)
VS. THE COMBINE (http://broomvsthecombine.bandcamp.com)
- Anyone who complains that they don't do 50's-style straight-up
fun rockabilly racket like they used to needs to give this
honey a whirl. The arrangements certainly hit the stirring
tuneful spot something sweet: Fat rolling basslines, springy'n'zingy
guitar riffs, groovy horns, and bouncy piano. Sung and performed
with infectious go-for-it energy and enthusiasm, with a winning
dearth of pretense, but a teeming surplus of passion and vigor,
this baby rates as a total treat from start to finish.
CLIFF DIVER - Make It Count (http://www.facebook.com/cliffdivermusic)
Wafting along on a lovely and lulling wave of sweetly delicate
acoustic warmth, this four song EP release casts quite a soothing
and comforting spell. Blessed with both a pleasant voice and
a sturdy knack for thoughtful lyrics, Cliff Diver mines a
touching line in low-key introspection with beautifully harmonic
results. Better still, by keeping the music simple and direct,
Diver achieves a sonic intimacy and immediacy that's appealing
and affecting in equal measure. A precious little jewel.
If you've got a thing for no-bullshit, raw'n'ragged, straight-up
ass-shakin' rock'n'roll racket, then this fabulously gritty
slab of hard-stompin' rock noise will most certainly hit that
rough'n'ready primordial spot somethin' fierce. The vocals
yell and holler with utmost go-for-the-throat aplomb. The
rippin' guitar riffs, churning basslines, and mighty massive
steamrolling drums create a sound that's pure sinewy snarl
and spit. Okay, we're not talking profound work of art here,
but if it's sheer fun you're looking for, then this album
delivers that particular item in spades.
THE RIGHT HERE -Stick to the Plan (http://www.therighthere.com)
Shit yeah! Straight-up no-bullshit rock'n'roll rumble done
with a winning surplus of invigorating go-for-it energy and
positively zero needless pretense whatsoever. The dynamic
vocals scream and yell with gloriously hoarse raggedy-ass
aplomb. The mighty galloping drums, fiercely cutting guitar
riffs, and sturdy basslines provides a nonstop sonic onslaught
of tireless fast tempos and unrelenting barnstorming beats.
In other words, this album kicks ass and takes names like
nobody's goddamn business.
YOU SCIENTIST - Stranger Heads Prevail (http://www.ThankYouScientist.net)
This pop-rock group from Riochelle, New Jersey totally hit
it out of the ballpark with their fabulously harmonic and
ambitious latest album by deftly blending a hard-crunching,
yet still gorgeous orchestral sweeping sound with spot-on
sharp playing and equally smart songwriting. The full-throated
supple vocals soar and roar with exquisite and exhilerating
go-for-it joy and vigor. The right'n'tight arrangements keep
things lively and exciting thanks to the fiercely riffing
guitar licks, brassy'n'bracing horns, smooth basslines, and
meaty pumping drums. The quick tempos and massive steamrolling
beats tear and shread with topmost galvanizing brio from start
to finish, with lots of dipping and dovetailing in surprising
and varied musical territories throughout. To put it bluntly,
this is one flat-out awesome and impressive album.
FREE PIZZA - Berlin, DE (http://freepizzarocks.bandcamp.com)
Artfully mixing an infectiously bouncy and happy sound with
mature and thoughtful subject matter, this album manages to
have the best of both worlds in the sense that the vibrant
music always remains fun to listen to while the lyrics provide
plenty to think about and be moved by. The lively vocals project
a winning blend of joy and optimism. Moreover, the adept and
animated playing never falters, with a steady supply of springy
guitar riffs, smooth basslines, and sturdy pushing ahead drums.
But it's the smart and reflective songwriting that ensures
that this album isn't merely a lot of strictly enjoyable fluff:
There's some definite substance to be gleaned and appreciated
from the relevant observations on the amazing basic human
ability to prevail and persevere no matter how hard life can
occasionally be. An excellent album.
- Carolina (www.spaintheband.com)
Delivering ten songs worth of exquisitely well-crafted country-flavored
slowcore melodicism, this album makes one hell of a strong
impression with its deft blend of ambitious epic sonic storytelling
and beautifully constructed arrangements. This album represents
nothing less than the absolute apotheosis of meticulously
designed, observed, and executed musical perfection done by
true masters who are totally on top of their game: One gets
a sense of entire lives lived and decades of remarkable events
chronicled with the greatest of care and expertise. Superb.
- A New Dimension to Modern Love (www.poppincourtmusic.com)
Hopping and bopping with a wonderfully joyous and vivacious
surplus of sheer sparkling cheer and vitality, this album
represents pop-rock at its shiny happy best. The vocals soar
right to the heavens and back with utmost giddy aplomb. The
arrangements likewise further galvanize the merry proceedings
with a steady succession of bouncy guitar riffs, smooth basslines,
sweet horns, and sturdy drums. Better still, this album has
a real sense of swanky polish to it that's comparable to an
exceptionally glossy photo of a beautiful sunset on a fine
spring day. Terrific stuff.
BILINSKI - The Great Escape (www.andybilinski.com)
Singer/songwriter Andy Bilinski ably mines a very affecting
and engaging line in bittersweet introspection on his latest
album. There's a winning blend of pleasant honesty and positivity
evident in this warm and harmonic music: Bilinski faces life's
endless supply of hardships, frustrations, and disappointments
with a keep-your-chin-up resilence and wry sense of humor
that puts everything in a properly balanced and unsentimental
perspective. Moreover, the arrangements are quite tuneful,
Bilinski's voice has a soothing raspy quality, and the playing
remains crisp and proficient throughout. A real fine and touching
MIDNIGHT TRACK - Don't Be Proud of Me (www.reverbnation.com/midnightttrack)
Oh yeah, baby. It's time to get the funk on and groove to
some tasty ska punk. The snarly vocals sneer and roar over
a fierce caterwauling onslaught of hard-rippin' guitars, churning
basslines, and forward-ho steamrolling drums. The snappy tempos
and meaty beats never let up for a second. Best of all, the
ten songs contained herein are quite short and brisk, with
not a single wasted note, to the point lyrics, and a galvanizing
surplus of pure sweaty energy. What's not to like?
CAST OF THOUSANDS - Alone in the Crowd (www.acastofthousands.com)
Nicely grooving with a spot-on catchy pop-rock sound, this
album casts quite a pleasingly dreamy and occasionally stirringh
spell. Beth Beer's soothing and sultry voice projects a reassuring
feeling of poise and confidance. The relaxed tempos and equally
subdued, yet still sturdy beats merge together to create an
utterly engaging easygoing rhythm. The tuneful arrangements
keep things in harmonic check as well, with some tasty ringing
guitar licks, smooth basslines, and bang-on mighty rolling
drums. The concise songwriting serves as the yummy icing on
an already very delicious cake. A totally on the money album.
OF CREATION - Livin Free (www.rootsofcreation.com)
Offering up eighteen songs worth of infectiously bubbly and
upbeat raggae-flavored tropical rock, this album might be
extremely long and sprawling, but its sturdy blend of bouncy
hooks, thoughtful lyrics, and overall positive and optimistic
attitude make it an absolute pleasure to listen to. It certainly
helps that lead singer Brett Wilson possesses a most pleasant
and soothing set of pipes. The gentle ebb and flow of the
gradual, yet constant tempos and casually bumpin' beats further
enhance the basic breezy'n'easy vibe. A real delight.
SWEET - Dilettante (www.tootsweetmusic.bandcamp.com)
Breezing along with utmost infectious jazzy'n'snazzy aplomb,
this album rates as an utter joy to listen to from start to
finish. Mary Spencer Knapp's robust voice and witty songwriting
make for a potent double whammy. (The fact that Knapp plays
a really mean accordian certainly doesn't hurt matters in
the least.) The music sounds like the sort of thing one might
hear in a smoky Parisian club on a laidback weekend night:
It's super hip and harmonic, but thankfully never smug and
done with more than enough skill, heart, humor, and pluck
to make this honey overall rate as a definite sparkling winner.
ZIMMER - Freddie's Extra Teeth (www.VonZimmer.com)
South Dakota-based singer/songwriter Von Zimmer hits it out
of the ballpark with ten songs worth of pure straight-up no-bullshit
rock'n'roll done with plenty of infectious go-for-it vigor
and a winning dearth of pretense. Zimmer's ragged holler of
a voice and sturdy knack for biting and incisive lyrics make
for a formidable double whammy. Better still, Zimmer isn't
afraid to rip into such worthy targets as self-appointed moral
watchdogs (the scathing "The End of the World"),
armchair ideologists (the equally lacerating "Where Were
You"), and women who fall for creeps and psychos (the
spot-on stinging "Epic Fail Blues"). It's the bold
and confrontational way Zimmer's songwriting tackles serious
issues head on which in turn gives this album an extra substantial
BROTHERS BAND (www.feudalebrothersband.com)
This group made up of three siblings from Matawan, New Jersey
kicks ass and takes names in a winningly dynamic and exciting
manner. Ripping and roaring through ten songs worth of pure
nitro-fueled rock'n'roll, these guys deliver a thrilling surplus
of passionate shouted vocals and tasty fat hooks. The arrangements
are quite tight and lively, with fierce hacksaw guitars, churning
basslines, and savage jackhammer drums creating a tremendous
surging sound that shakes and rattles with utmost hard-stomping
ferocity. In short, this is the sort of album you play super
loud while constantly pumping your fist in the air. Accolades
don't come much better than that.
OF LIGHTS - Break Open the Head (www.suitsoflight.com)
Jeez, this group sure are playing for keeps with this album.
If it's immaculately crafted, written, played, and produced
pop-rock taken to a brilliantly shining zenith that you're
looking for, then your search starts and ends here. The smooth
vocals vault to the heavens and beyond. The arrangements deliver
a steady succession of yummy hooks and startling mid-song
tempo changes that that pulled off with breathtaking skill
and precision. Plus singer and keyboardist Joe Darone ain't
no slouch in the songwriting department, with a downright
uncanny knack for blending haunting lyrics and catchy melodies
together in a sparkly sonic confection that's sheer nirvana
for music afionados. Simply superb.
STREET - Waiting for Martin (www.waterstreetofficialcom)
This group from Northwest hills of New Jersey offer a neat
and eclectic mix of jazz, folk, pop, rock, and even country
on their expertly crafted and hugely enjoyable debut album.
The arrangements keep things perfectly tuneful and captivating,
with especially sweet use of soulful saxophones and some gorgeous
mandolin playing. The vocals are likewise quite lush and lovely.
The thoughtful and succinct songwriting serves as the tasty
icing on an already supremely delicious cake. An excellent
and impressive album.
BOUCHARD - The Power of Music (www.joebouchard.com)
One of the founding members and the bassist for the classic
rock group Blue Oyster Cult, Joe Bouchard roars back with
his fourth solo album. The gorgeously melodic and intricate
arrangements provide a winning blend of sinewy rock muscle
and exceptional musical craftsmanship. Bouchard's smooth vocals
and concise songwriting are likewise on the money impressive.
Better still, Bouchard's obvious love for music comes through
just as loud and clear as his undeniable dexterity, thereby
giving this album plenty of heart to go along with all the
polish. A complete delight.
is an independently published music fanzine
covering punk, alternative, ska, techno and garage
music, focusing on New Jersey and the Tri-State
area. For the past 25 years, the Jersey Beat music
fanzine has been the authority on the latest upcoming
bands and a resource for all those interested in
rock and roll.