The Growlers | A Review of The Beach Goth Demos

The Growlers are a part of the California coastline garage band  movement that’s made many people pleased with its dreamy imagery and matched with a distinctly 60s throwback style.  Their latest offering is a sample of demos called Beach Goth, which just so happens to be the style of music the band prefers to be referred to as. Some of their songs are often sung in a way that would make most people think of the ramblings of a beach-going drunkard who’s had far too much sun. This album was made as a kind of preview of what’s to be expected on the band’s next album, Hung At Heart, due out early next year. So most of what we hear on these demo tracks is just what you might expect from a demo; it’s short, rough and in some instances particularly memorable.

Sit On A Slug, features a lot of organ at its heart and very faint background percussion, this sets the tone for this track and it makes it one that stands out as one of the demo’s best. It’s No Use is one of those demo tracks that reminds you of what the kernel of a great song really is; well executed, memorable and just begging to be fleshed out. One Million Lovers is sung with a distinctly laidback feel that The Growlers seem to be achieving with ease throughout this demo album. The rough gain that permeates this particular song provides a sense that the band is almost playing under water or that you as the listener are hearing the band perform a few apartments over from your own.  It is a common effect of low tech recording sessions but in the case of The Growlers it works very well with the band’s overall style. In fact, Beach Goth is reminiscent of another demo which was rereleased by Lou Barlow earlier this year and both of them were released on cassette tape. So dust that Walkman off and get listening.     

The Growlers have certain charm to their style of music that seems almost unintentional, which makes it all the more charming.   


Joshua James | From the Top of Willamette Mountain Review

Joshua James is a folk singer based out of Nebraska and he has released a new album called From the Top of Willamette Mountain. His music is often paced at a gradual speed and exudes an intense emotional tone.  The first track off of his latest album is called Mystic and is carried by a very strong lyric which is a kind of preamble to the song’s chorus; ‘But I sold you for a cigarette’.  The engaging impact of this line really comes from Mystic’s first few lines which describe, very vividly, an ideal and of a woman with qualities and characteristics that would set any Nebraska boys heart aflame. This ideal description though, is met with a rather callus eventuality which was in essence, the same as selling that ideal person, for something as plane and common as a simple cigarette. The chorus then opens up to a very visual lyrical arena, where death is a dark cave you have confined yourself in and requires that you feast upon your own soul while maniacs scream hallelujah.  And with that unexaggerated piece of introduction to Joshua James’s new album you get the sense that this guy just might be a romantic. But that is now the only reason why you might like or dislike this singer. The track Surrender has a bit of a James Blunt vibe to it, set to a clanging piano progression with a handy portion of synth filling out the songs backdrop in a delicate manner that reminds you of a 60s pop number.

Joshua James might be a bit of a dramatic lyricist but a great man once said that there is no cynicism or sarcasm in the lyrics of a musician; it’s just hard to remember if he was joking or not when he wrote that.  The fact of the matter is that, what James has made with From the Top of Willamette Mountain has something very likable about it.    


Clinic | Free Reign A Review

Clinic is a band from Liverpool England that has a new album that came out November 13th. The question every well versed music listener asks themselves before they are offered a new album is why? Why would I want to dedicate any amount of my time to a band I have not heard of, care about or have any vestige of interest?  If you have any interest in bands such as the formative Tommy James and the Shondells, the band that gave us Crimson and Clover, you might feel a draw to Clinic’s new album.  Their latest album Free Reign is laced with psychedelic rhythms that drone on like a well-timed whiskey high.  Some of the tracks even bring to mind The Doors. This is most likely by design, however the effort put forth by the band is a reward in itself, demonstrating an underlining appreciation for the classics while not falling prey to the unwanted title of copycat or mere imitator. There are a few tracks that lack any real memorable moments on Free Reign but the good definitely outweighs any bad on this compelling new album from Clinic.  

But let’s all be honest, this past fall has not been a hotbed of musical invocation or even anything relatively listenable.  Maybe independent artists are just pushing off releasing their albums until the New Year so they can put some finishing touches on them during the Christmas break. Here’s to hoping.


Band of Horses | A Review of Mirage Rock

Band of Horses have released their fourth studio album called Mirage Rock and the content makes a listener wonder: what has this band become? Initially, Band of Horses had a musical style that leaned more towards driven pop rock that exuded an almost ethereal presence in the lyrical content and it’s execution by lead singer Ben Bridwell. It was distinctly dreary in tone and song lyrics often would linger upon dark topics such as a funeral or the secret connection between cigarettes and wedding bands. These lyrics though, were given a certain gravity in the airy and often high pitched way in which they were sung.  The songs in the previous albums of Band of Horses were good but carried with them the mark of an angry youth still struggling with the realities of adulthood.  This is not the case with Mirage Rock.

Band of Horses seems to be taking more cues from Neil Young as opposed to Death Cab For Cutie with Mirage Rock. Some of tracks that populate this new album have an almost country vibe to them, but not in the bad, “I wear a ten gallon hat!” kind of way, which you can really hear on the track Everything's Gonna Be Undone.  This track summons the spirit of Neil Young in the best way possible, with its breezy guitar portions to the simple cautionary idea put forward in the lyrics that eventually everything ends, so relax.  No, this album has a more lighthearted feel in its sense of misery and wonder. Like a well-timed joke during a friend’s hardship, Mirage Rock has all the heart of a sombre intimate exchange while leaving all those touched with a smile on their face. 

Team Genius Release Show At Union Hall

The always fun Team Genius are having a release show at Union Hall in Brooklyn, Saturday September 29th. This band, if you have not heard their music, specializes in catchy pop songs played with the gusto of a thousand burning suns. The show is in honour of all three of their EPs, Whiskey Songs, Loud Songs and Pop Songs, being released on October 2nd. If you are in Brooklyn tonight then you should take in Team Genius' show, if not here is a preview of some of their work from one of their EPs Pop Songs or get all of their music here


Dum Dum Girls | End of Daze EP Review

The California based band Dum Dum Girls have been putting out music since 2008 and have managed to release two full length LPs to some critical acclaim. The style and character of Dum Dum Girls is really a combination of rattling atmospheric rock and pop drone, think of The Jesus and Mary Chain with a dash Simple Minds, all sung by a female lead.  Recently, the band has released an EP called End of Daze which carries the distinct character of a band that’s hitting its stride. At only five tracks the EP rattles off with a steady pacing, the lyrics are filled with dreary imagery suitable for the impending October rains.

The End of Daze EP does not miss a beat with any of its tracks, as if what they have produced is some kind of Dum Dum Girls concentrate. This is an EP not to be missed by music fans anywhere.  


Aimee Mann | Charmer A Review

Aimee Mann is best known for her voice, which is instantly recognizable by anyone who has been listening to music for the past two decades. Her songs have appeared in many films and television series on account of their emotional lyrics and catchy hooks.  With her latest album titled Charmer, Mann delivers on past promises of sorrow as she almost always does in her albums.  Crooning alongside her for one song on the album is The Shins frontman James Mercer. The pairing does indeed produce excellent harmonies in their shared track Living a Lie, which makes one wonder why the last The Shins album was so underwhelming.   Perhaps Mercer needs a Mann like force in his musical life to inject some much needed melancholy because, as always, Mann’s songs are bursting with stories of misfortune.  

It might be an odd thing to point out but, Mann seems to have a bit of a thing for dogs, or at least songs that have canine imagery. Back in 2002 with her Lost in Space album she had Pavlvo’s Bell, a song about being trained to need something (in this case drugs) and the title itself refers to the famous Pavlov’s Bell experiment conducted with dogs and of course a bell. Now, with Mann’s latest album we have the track Labrador which is less about carrying out acts compulsively and more about being a good little pet and an emotional footstool.  Oddly, both songs are among the strongest on their respective albums.  No Aimee Mann album would be complete without a truly depressing track that somehow manages to make you feel better about your own life and for that look no further than Barfly

Aimee Mann isn’t getting any better at making music and that’s not necessarily a bad thing to say. She isn’t getting any better because she doesn’t need to, Mann has been at the top of her game for years and she doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down.  


Neil Halstead | A Review of Palindrome Hunches

Neil Halstead is a British musician who is of the folk persuasion and is set to release a new album this September. His music is laced with calmly sung acoustic melodies often accompanied by piano interludes and the occasional violin.  All of these elements frame Halstead’s work as contemporary folk music.  Folk music is at its heart about telling cautionary tales and doing so in a style that is approachable. It invites you to join in and in a very real way, it’s expected that folk songs are to be passed along during get-togethers and times of fellowship.  Bob Dylan began his career as a folk musician, singing ancestral songs, only to make his own additions to the musical tome of folk. These songs became rallying points for a generation, to sing so that their themes and sentiments of warning could be passed on. Yes, times they were a-changin, but the more time passes the fewer things seem to actually change.  That being said, Neil Halstead does not seem to take very much from Dylan, he has his own voice and it is quite soft and inviting.

The songs that populate Palindrome Hunches are sometimes about love and loss but if the title song to this album is any indication Palindrome Hunches is about finding serenity in forgiveness. This serene sentiment can be heard in the way the piano genially plays in the background accompanied by Halstead’s lyrical bursts ranging from talk of a Toyota to the devil himself.  The overwhelming theme that continues to come back during this brief song is that you must forgive wonderings about unrealized daydreams and move on. (Or perhaps the song’s about nothing that is always a possibility.) However, if the theme of this album can be gleamed from the track Palindrome Hunches, then it is definitely about something and it definitely is worth listening to.  

Key tracks on Palindrome Hunches are, Digging Shelters, Wittgenstein’s Arm, Spin The Bottle and Palindrome Hunches


The Fresh & Onlys | A Review of Long Slow Dance

A quartet from California called The Fresh & Onlys are set to release their fourth album called Long Slow Dance. The band’s previous work has been more within the realm of low-fi psychedelic rock and although there are musical elements that hold fast to that style, this new album has a more refined sound.  Less background distortion and more smooth tones populate this new album, though the band still has a throwback style which calls to mind great acts such as Joy Division, New Order and sometimes even The Ramones.

 You can also tell that they have a real sense of how to write tight pop songs, loaded with compelling lyrical hooks and driven background percussion and synth.  One of the tracks, Presence of Mind has a breezy guitar portion and an occasional dose of synth percussion. Dream Girls takes on the idea of idealized women, how they ruin lives and have the run of the world while remaining completely intangible. The entire track has a hazy lighthearted pop song quality to it which is just very well done and is more reminiscent of the previous work.   The title track, Long Slow Dance, has vocal elements similar to what James Mercer from The Shins leans towards, however because it’s matched with a musical style that has very little in common with the now passé mid-00s brand of indie music, it allows the track to take on a stylistic identity of its own.     

Every once and a while a band releases an album that has a quality to it that makes it utterly listenable. Each track on Long Slow Dance has enough stylistic pull to allow individual songs to shine but result in a complete work that stands out among other recent albums. The Fresh & Onlys may have created one of the better albums to have come out so far this year with Long Slow Dance.  


Holograms | A Review of Their Self-Titled Album

The Holograms are a post punk band from Stockholm and have released a new album filled with hard hitting rhythms and dripping with energy. Punk music came about in the U.K. during a time of economic troubles and obvious case differences in society, not unlike now.  So it makes sense that a return to this satisfyingly angry style of music would happen. What else will fight off the corporately created likes of One Direction. The fate of all ruffians does not lie entirely on the shoulders of the Holograms, but they are a nice addition to the fight.

A punk band with an electronic flare isn’t a new thing but there is something compelling about this Swedish band’s take on the genre. Laced with driven guitar riffs and tightly woven lyrics the Holograms have, with this self-titled album turned out something that is rather memorable mostly due to the strong choruses that pop up throughout the album. Orpheo has a killer chorus which is essentially a one word anthem; it just seems to burst out of the speakers with a life of its own.  Then there is the track Stress, it has an electronic backed with a bit of surfer rock vibe, when the lead singer hits the chorus of this track leans on the word Stress like a champ, which might sound like a small thing but the devils in the details as they say, and this band has managed to work the punk genre very well.

The self-titled album of the Holograms is loaded with great songs that harken back to songs like London Calling and God Save The Queen. But the album does leave the listener wondering why the lead singer in a Swedish band sounds like he has an English accent?       


The Henry Clay People | Twenty-Five For the Rest of Our Lives A Review

Loud but far from obnoxious the Los Angeles based The Henry Clay People are among the proud and rightfully pissy latest iteration of rock music with their new album Twenty-Five For the Rest of Our Lives. The album might start off with a mic test but there is nothing scientific about the music that follows. Similar to The Thermals in style, the energetic sound of The Henry Clay People is rooted in what made rock music so unapologetically willful, boyish and enjoyable.

Being in the prime of life and not having much to worry about has always been a popular theme for musicians and that sentiment is properly expressed on this album’s title track. In the way that Japanther made last year a little bit more tolerable with their enthusiastic album Beats, Limes and Rice, The Henry Clay People’s latest brings some much needed life to 2012’s indie rock scene. They seem to relish in the  realization that the bands they grew up with have become less than ideal in their eyes, as it’s put in the track Everybandweeverloved, most great bands are either selling out or breaking up. A fact that is often overlooked by most music fans due to apathy or nostalgia, but they forgot the ones which became rich and stopped giving a shit about the music they produce or maybe that was covered in the selling out part. The track Hide starts off with a touch of synth that leads into a full blown critique of the state of society and its current woes.

The members of The Henry Clay People may be nostalgic but are far from apathetic. They have taken it upon themselves with their latest album Twenty-Five For the Rest of Our Lives to remind even the most cynical music listeners what  it is about being young and pissed off that can be such a pure joy. 


Suburban Dirts | Taking a Look At Their Self-Titled Album

Suburban Dirts are an up and coming band from the U.K. who have a flare for creating bluesy dylanesque music.  Their Self-Titled album has been available for a few months now but they have yet to gain much of a fan base and that’s a shame. Suburban Dirts have a very well developed sound and they have a way of making each track on their new album resonate with real passion and emotion.   

The Suburban Dirts have a penchant for leaning stylistically, on one of the greats, namely Bob Dylan.  What makes a song or a band dylanesque? Well, the simple answer to that is it must be reminiscent of the music of Bob Dylan, a man made famous for his brand of music which became the sound track of a nation is revolt. These songs were about social discontent, political disillusionment and a subtle silver lining of hopefulness.  A lead singer with a slightly raspy voice is also a must. The album starts off with the track Tacho Breakdown Blues (Part Two) that features a classic blues guitar riff which has a reoccurring lyrical theme about Dostoyevsky that comes back by the end of the album.  Suburban Dirts have a definite streak of discontent, as can be heard in the lyrics for Lost In Transcription where lead singer John Wheatley  sings of an observation regarding a repeating of history in reference to Afghan War and hint at how its seems an awful lot like the Vietnam  War of Dylan’s era.  It’s fitting that the Suburban Dirts have taken this style, with this folksy vide laced with harmonica interludes, and infuse it with a few points of contention about the current state of society. 

Suburban Dirts are not about to start the impending revolution, they also have a number of lighthearted songs such as Ada and I Ain't Cut Out For Working 9 To 5. Ada is a song about a girl and I Ain’t Cut Out For Working 9 To 5 is self-explanatory from the title. Then there is the track The World It Turned  which features a Ukulele, it’s similar in style to Eddie Vedder’s 2011 attempt at making the music of a tiny guitar rock and roll with Ukulele Songs.   Stripped down to just vocals and a simple ukulele progression The World It Turned is a prime example of what talented musicians can do with a very simple musical premise.

All nostalgia aside, Suburban Dirts manage to bring together an album which is full of memorable moments and well executed songs that will no doubt find their way into the musical libraries of an awaiting public. 


Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes | A Review of Here

It’s overwhelming sometimes, the sheer volume of stylistic influences that people draw on these days. The availability and amount of music that people have access to and as a result can be influenced by is astounding.  If you are interested in one genre from an era gone by all you need to do is go to iTunes (or wherever it is you get your music from) and fill your music library to your heart’s content.  The genesis of any album that is released by musicians could be as a result of listening to The Beatles, Johnny Cash, The Cure, The Sex Pistols even Yani. If that is what you need to draw on to make music that you can stand singing then that is what needs to be done. This blending of past and present musical influences has always been around in one way or another, though it seems more pronounced now given the current climate involving pop music and its style recycler (insert Lady Gaga comparison to Madonna here).  Next year Boybands will be back with a vengeance.

The upside of this phenomenon is a large selection of smaller current bands with varying styles, such as the psychedelic folk band Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes who have just released their second album titled Here.  Edward Sharpe was the name of a character created by the lead singer Alex Ebert while writing a book about a messiah who was sent to earth to save the human race only to be sidetracked from his mission by more important things such as the pursuit of love and female companionship.  The band gained a large fan base from the song Home and have a reputation for creating a unique atmosphere during live performances.    Their latest album Here has a style that boarders on psychedelic gospel music. The music is entrenched with religious elements but somehow manages to avoid falling into the artistic death spiral associated with god-awful Christian music.  

The question that a lot of people are asking is whether or not Here has a track that can stand alongside of the very popular song Home?  Well, let’s look at the elements of Home which made that song so attractive. It told a very lighthearted story  that focused on what it really means to call someplace or in this case someone home. It was a charming idea for a song and the lyrics meld very well with the vocal duet performed by Ebert and Jade Castrinos all set to alternative folk style the band seems to exude in an effortless manner. These familiar elements made Home what it was and resonate with such a large audience.  It touched on the omnipresent search for a sense of belonging and love that most people spend their lives looking for but so often are found wanting.  

The answer as to whether or not Here has a song similar to that of Home, is a big no. That doesn’t mean that Here is not a good album though. There are a number of good tracks on this album. Man on Fire has a classic rock style with great background harmonies, is similar to a style heard on Micah P Hinson And The Pioneer Saboteurs but without the dark tone.  Dear Believer features some high quality crooning topped by a strong chorus filled horns which always makes an impact in a song if executed properly.   

Here ends up being a strong follow-up to the band’s debut album and will no doubt find a home among fans and just might strike a chord with people looking for an album with a roots rock vibe, without having to dust off a piece of vinyl.       


The Walkmen | Taking a Look At Heaven

The Walkmen have been making music for over a decade now, so you can’t really say they are newcomers to the indie music scene. In fact, their style of alternative rock is somewhat of a musical staple in many circles. If you haven’t heard of The Walkmen though, they mostly hail from New York and have a relaxed punk-rock style that some have compared to The Cure.  As for Heaven, the band’s latest album, it sounds a lot more like Roy Orbison than The Cure in tone and content.
If you think back to when The Walkmen were just becoming popular and being featured on The OC (god, when was the last time you heard that show’s name dropped) with songs like The Rat, their sound was much harder and had a pronounced punk style. They are not those irritated boys anymore and really haven’t been for a few albums now.  What we are getting with the seventh studio album is matured style that reflects where the band has been with plenty of punk guitar riffs, but also where the band is going, in the way they have incorporated an almost roots rock style.  For an album titled Heaven there are a number of songs about heartbreak and longing, but the reason for such an elevated title may have more of an earthly rationale. The title track Heaven is by far the album’s best. It stands out as due to its unarguable charm, the lyrics tell the simple story of love and the unbearable thought of losing it, all set to a driven drum rhythm and topped off with a strong chorus that is best described as a stylistic mix of Bruce Springsteen and Billy Idol.  The Walkmen’s style of music has become a subtle one, once heard it will creep into the back of your mind, waiting to play on its own when you least expect it. In other words, you may find yourself humming a song off of Heaven a few days after you listened to it, which is almost always a sign of a successful album.


Best Coast | A Review of The Only Place

Best Coast is the product of a duo who has decided to profess a deep love for their home State of California with a new album The Only Place. Yes as the album cover/band name might lead you to believe the Best Coast have no problem telling the word that the other sunshine state is the best in the union. Actually, the sentiment surrounding California doesn’t last past the first track on the album, The Only Place. However, The Only Place does set a playful tone to start the album off, touting the medical benefits of living near sea and sunshine.  This may infuriate some people who spend a good eight months out of the year under a perpetual sky of grey clouds, filled with sharp spitting rain. But we all know that you need both sunshine and rain in order to grow, don’t we.

The band came out with their first full length album back in 2010 called Crazy for You and featured a song that has touched the lives of many would-be living room musicians playing Rocksmith with the track When I’m With You.  This first album featured more of a distortion heavy garage rock sound which stands quite different from most of the tracks on The Only Place. The new album has great pop hooks and is accompanied at times by an almost country musical flare, though it is at its heart an indie rock album. The lead singer Bethany Cosentino’s voice, as with most very song, is the main attraction on this album. Falling somewhere between Neko Case (New Pornographers) and Tegan/Sara Quin (Tegan and Sara), Cosentino lets loose with a series of short lived ballads and well assembled light rock melodies.  

The album has a number of highlights other than the opening track such as Why I Cry, My life, Better Girl and Up All Night.  The style stays fairly consistent throughout the album, maintaining a tone that will attracted most fans of Best Coast.  


Moonface | With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery A Review

Moonface has released its third album recently called Heartbreaking Bravery. Moonface is one of the many projects of Spencer Krug former co-frontman of the now dissolved Montreal indie rock band Wolf Parade.  The last Moonface album which was a purely solo effort, Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped was released last year and was filled with Krug’s signature voice and (you guessed it) organ music. The album was not the strongest work released by Krug to date, as each track was quite long and noticeably experimental.  Fast Peter is the only true standout track on Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped and highlighted what makes Krug a likable song writer.     

With the new album, Moonface is accompanied by the Finnish band Siinai who are best known for their instrumental post-rock.  What came about is something quite different from the last Moonface album, an album filled with emotional anthems with lyrics grounded in a sense of anguish and yes heartbreak like the album’s title would imply.  The track Yesterday's Fire has a dominant drum rhythm throughout with the background filled with an ever-present series of notes played on keyboard which creates a desirable drone affect.  Shitty City starts off with an extended instrumental portion of fast paced synth riff which leads into a brief but poignant set of lyrics conveying regret for not leaving a place sooner; the song may be short but it leaves an impression. There are two standout tracks on this album, Headed for the Door and Teary Eyes And Bloody Lips. They were rightfully released before the Heartbreak Bravery came out in its entirety because they are the two songs that highlight when this collaboration between Krug and Siinai really shines. Both songs are subtle in their execution of the more emphatic moments that come as the song plays through, the way that the cymbal splashes out along with the keyboard when the line “I headed for the door” is sung a number of times at the end, and those little keyboard interludes throughout Teary Eyes And Bloody Lips. It’s these small touches that make them great songs and the best of the album.

Heartbreak Bravery is by far the best Moonface album to date, however, the album projects a sense of unmet scope as though it was trying for some kind of grand emotional anthem. Instead it is much more of a subtle album filled with roughly defined tales of heartbreak and unfinished business.   


M. Ward | First Impressions of A Wasteland Companion

M. Ward stands apart from many folk indie music acts. The lead vocalist Matt Ward has made a name for himself over the past decade or so, contributing to projects like She & Him and the supergroup Monsters of Folk. Ward might not be a household name but there is no doubt that you have heard at least one song from him in the background of a TV show, movie or even more likely a coffee shop. Recently, M. Ward released its latest album A Wasteland Companion. This is Ward’s eighth album with the last one being 2009’s Hold Time, which came out to very positive reviews and was considered by some to be one of the best albums of that year.
A Wasteland Companion is slightly more upbeat than Hold Time while still holding true to the musical style which made M. Ward the well liked folk act that it is. Ward illustrates his ability to perform his charming and well-crafted lyrics in his signature haunting vocal style throughout the album. The lyrics in the track Sweetheart (which features Zooey Deschanel) has a character and cadence that only come from a truly playful and positive creative place.  Clean Slate features a simple acoustic guitar along with a banjo picking progression; the song’s lyrics are straightforward while still managing to leave a lasting impression.  The entire album plays out like a warm summer’s day, full of familiar sounds and an overwhelming sense that in simple things we can find the greatest comfort.  
There is no doubt that this album and its music will find a home in the hearts and minds of fans of Ward, but it may also find some traction with others who have found themselves more and more drawn to this sort of music. Fans of Fleet Foxes last album Helplessness Blues may be drawn to A Wasteland Companion as they both come from a similar stylistic place. With Ward’s penchant for working collaboratively, would it be completely out of the question to hope for a Fleet Foxes/M. Ward project to appear out of the musical ether? Putting aside any wishful thinking, we know one thing for certain, that A Wasteland Companion offers just what you have come to expect from this artist, breezy acoustic guitar progressions which match the voice of Ward so well you could hardly envision him singing accompanied by any other instrument.  


Lower Dens – Nootropics A Review

Lower Dens are a new wave synth band that call Baltimore Maryland home. It is hard to call something new wave anymore given that the genre has been around for over twenty years and all it is hardly new at this point. Perhaps it’s better to call bands with qualities similar to the great new wave originals Joy Division or The Cure by some other genre moniker, something like: The Children of The Wave or just Nue Wave (or maybe something less awful than those suggestions). The lead singer of Lower Dens is Texas native Jana Hunter, her voice is really the centerpiece of their latest album Nootropics. She has this earthy alto voice that sounds dark and burdened, exuding the qualities and characteristics that suggest an unfulfilled desire to be set free.  The melodies that line each of the tracks of Nootropics have this nice droning feel to them matched with compelling synth riffs. You get the sense that the power which is released in tracks like Brains and Candy rests in the tight rhythmic buildup. What this does is it takes the listener on a dimly lit musical journey, leading to a subtly impactful apex. Simply put the result is good, very good, which for those who have been paying attention to the new music being released so far this year is far too rare of a thing.

Lower Dens may be a relatively new band having only come into being in 2009 but they have managed to make something of value with Nootropics. The best examples of Lower Dens talents can be found in the tracks Brains, Candy and Nova Anthem all of which are must listens for anyone looking to extend their musical libraries. 


Sentridoh | Taking a Look At Weed Forestin’

Sentridoh was a side project of the bassist for Dinosaur Jr. Lou Barlow way back in 1990 and the album Weed Forestin’ has now been rereleased in several different formats including a version in all its original cassette glory. What has been rereleased is not the original version of Weed Forestin’, it has been remastered, although it is hard to think of this album as something that has been smoothed out. The ultra low-fi sound that encapsulates the style of this album is often duplicated and mimicked by current bands who try so desperately to make their digitally produced music have the characteristics of something that has come from an analog medium.  It’s hard to blame imitators for wanting their music to sound like that of Barlow’s, the background hisses and pops like that of an original Billie Holiday album. The charm of Weed Forestin’ is in the imperfections in the songs, an off note here and there and spoken word portion that starts as a poetic exploration of love and needs, only to end abruptly in brief self-deprecating jag.  Knowing that this album released over two decades ago only puts into perspective the impact this low-fi style of indie folk has had on the culture at large.

The track Subtle Holy Gift is filled with this breezy guitar matched with simple drum rhythm, its playful nature sets the tone for the whole album. The falsetto sung throughout the track tells the listener that this music is not to be taken, oh so seriously. It is supposed to be fun, and it is. Then there is Whitey Peach which could be best described as an honest acoustic love ballad for all those “horny young apes” out there. The thing which is attractive about this album is just how short and sweet almost all of the tracks are with only one song on the whole album cracking the three minute mark. It is as if the whole album is more or less a sample of things to come, of ideas and riffs for songs that would go on to be written by Barlow in a more articulated manner.   

It may be that what really allures people to music found on Weed Forestin’ is that it charms the listener into believing that if they had the proper inspiration they too could make an album to similar effect as Weed Forestin’. This is not true.  The idea that every aspiring musician has a great album or even a good song in them, is just not realistic, most people lack the ability to articulate whatever it is within them that might be worth sharing to others.  That being said, Lou Barlow seems to have created something in Weed Forestin’ which has managed to survive the twenty some years that it has existed and still remain an engaging listening experience.  


Freddie Nunez | A Review of Runaway

Freddie Nunez a musician from Moreno Valley, California and with his latest release, Runaway he now has three self-released albums under his belt. The latest was put out this past January and is filled with mellow gold. His style is very friendly to those who associate their music listening time with a good time to relax. Runaway is filled with tracks that provide a great escape for the listener and do so with a distinctive and accessible manner.   

Freddie Nunez seems to take some of his musical cues for this album from the early work of Seattle’s Band of Horses, in the way some of his songs echo a soulful and restrained presence like he has spent a life time patiently standing in the rain waiting for his bus to arrive.  Then there is the track Sun which has much more of a Radiohead feel to it as a result of the extended guitar and rhythm interludes accompanied by haunting simple vowel laced vocals. Let’s not compare Freddie Nunez music directly to Radiohead though since that would be an oversimplification and we wouldn’t want anyone’s head getting too big. Also, the album isn’t so derivative though that it lacks any of its own charm, the track Lion’s Den has a very subtle but satisfying hook in the way Freddie executes the chorus, “How they chase me out”.    

All and all Freddie Nunez latest album Runaway is well worth the $5 it costs to download it from his Bandcamp page. As well if you like Runaway there are other projects of his available for download at a “name your price” rate, which is always a plus.    


Lambchop | A Review of Mr. M

Lambchop is a band from Nashville, Tennessee and they released their eleventh album, Mr. M on February 21. The band’s brand of music is a very palatable kind of country; it’s not the pickup truck lovin’, hoedown inducing country music you may immediately think when you hear the genre talked about. Lambchop’s form of country music is the sort which has been growing more popular with a broader audience for a number of years now. Mr. M, Lambchop exudes more of a lounge music vibe with a country foundation backed by an orchestra that creates an atmosphere of particular power and style.  Artists such as Texas’s Micah P. Hinson and his Pioneer Saboteurs and Vancouver’s Dan Mangan fall into the same category Lambchop would. These artists are a part of a seemly ever growing invasion of ornate and subdued folk/country influenced music that is slowly finding a captive audience, with Lambchop being the most established out of those mentioned.   

There is something about the combination of the songs sung low and slow by lead singer Kurt Wagner (he does this in a fashion that would make The Duke proud), only then to accompany the soft timbre of his vocals with orchestral interludes throughout nearly all of the album. That’s what you get with Lambchop’s Mr. M a kind of subtle journey peppered with memorable instrumental portions.  

Mr. M is the product of many years of experience from a band that came together in the now distant 1990s, and it shows in the way each track is confidently executed.

Key tracks on Mr. M are; Gone Tomorrow, Buttons and Never My Love


The Band In Heaven | Looking at the Music Video for Sludgy Dreams

Florida based The Band In Heaven has released a new EP called HoZac. The band’s musical style is best known as Dream Pop, not because it somehow emanates a sweet berry smell that attracts adolescence but on account of how their music exists and resonates in brief imaginative manner.   The release of HoZac has been accompanied by a new music video by the band for the song Sludgy Dreams.  The music video for Sludgy Dreams is perhaps a reflection of the underlying artistic concept behind The Band In Heaven.  The video it filled with religious imagery matched with what looks like classic erotica these images are also accompanied by some handcrafted constructions. All of this creates a surreal stage for Sludgy Dream to be played out on, filled with ancient and unreal elements. The end result is a music video with a unique aesthetic appeal and a glimpse within the mind of those who created it.   

the band in Heaven - Sludgy Dreams from the band in Heaven on Vimeo.


Dr. Dog | Be The Void A Review

Dr. Dog has been around for a number of years now delivering some very impressive deeply psychedelic roots rock. It is the kind of music that finds its way into indie movie soundtracks and on road trip playlists of friends attempting to impress. You see, Dr. Dog is an acquired taste for most, but what really draws in hardliner fans must be the unrestrained heights that some of their anthems can reach. Dr. Dog’s latest album Be The Void is yet another quality collection of songs from the Pennsylvania based band. Some may be more inundated with another reboot rock band which is more well-known, called The Sheepdogs. The problem with any comparisons between these two bands is that they both relying heavily on the influence of a past for musical style, but you can tell it is a different wedge of the same wheel of well-aged cheese both bands nibble on. That being said, Be The Void is a diverse and likable album which has hints of contemporaries such as Fleet Foxes in their track Get Away and Vampire Weekend in Heavy Light.      

As with other bands before them Dr. Dog ascribes to the philosophy of sharing the lead vocals in order to create diverse musical sound from track to track. Two singers also have the practical benefit of not having all of the weight of performing on one set of vocal cords. The result of swapping lead singer duties is done to great effect by front men Leaman and McMicken. Both singers have such different voices; one has a very explosive gruff and gravelly feel to it, while the other is more piercing and boyish in tone. The result is very engaging for the listener.

Be The Void has a number of memorable songs that strike at the core of what this genre of music should head towards in the future. The only issue is that this album is not the band’s best work and at album number six fans of Dr. Dog might have to brace themselves for the unfortunate creative plateau that almost every band eventually faces. If you really want to hear Dr. Dog at their height listen to 2008’s Fate.   


My Grey Horse | The Let Me Know (About the Waves) Video

The English band My Grey Horse is set to release The Marley Banks EP in mid-February of 2012.  As a taste of things to come the band has produced a music video featuring one of the EP’s songs, Let Me Know (About the Waves).  As with My Grey Horse’s last music video for the song Waste of Air, band member Peter Butler helmed the director’s chair. The opening sequence to the video is reminiscent of what you might see in a Wes Anderson film; it visually engages the viewer with its vibrant colours and scenic view while someone behaves in a slightly odd and entertaining manner.  It shouldn’t be any surprise that a music video set on a sunny beach would have an upbeat rhythm and an energetic chorus, which is exactly what you get with Let Me Know (About the Waves). The latest from My Grey Horse serves as a reminder that there are still some bands working hard to produce quality music accompanied by entertaining videos.   


The Big Pink | A Review of Future This

The Big Pink is an English band based out of East London. Their debut album, A Brief History of Love was met with critical praise when it was released back in 2009.  It’s hazy distortion riddled music were softened by the almost pop like tones that the more popular tracks off the album exuded. And with their follow up album, Future This, the band does not stray far from the path they cut with A Brief History of Love.   

The two main members that make up this band, Milo Cordell and Robbie Furze have an extensive musical background one in music production the other as an accomplished guitarist. With all this experience and the success of their first album behind them, the band has created a follow up with Future This that contains the same style as their debut. The problem is Future This lacks much of the heart and energy the band’s first album had in spades.

It might just be that after The Big Pink came out with A Brief History of Love music listeners became inundated with similar musical releases. Throughout 2010 there were a number of albums that came out by an almost innumerable and unmemorable indie acts. Perhaps as a result of this oversaturation of this big sound, which is at its core deeply poppy electro rock, we have collectively fallen out of love with this once considered innovative reimagining of a bygone musical style.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Future This. It hits all of the same musical heights as its predecessor. The lyrics even have a less dreary tone to them, this should make the album resonate more with its listeners as it is loaded with well-formed anthems.  

If this album was released in early 2010 it would have received a much warmer welcome from the listening community.  Future This only fails on account of it being released in 2012.    


Henry Wolfe | Linda Vista A Review

You all have one. It’s that go-to album that you never really listen to, but can always be left on in the background of your house or during the morning commute.  A pleasant ambiance that you know can be artificially attained just by playing it. Henry Wolfe’s album Linda Vista is one of those atmospheric albums that keeps a steady mood throughout and doesn’t really have a bad song on it. The California based solo act has a style similar to that of Kings of Convenience but with a southwestern bluesy flare.

Detractors of Wolfe’s musical style may consider some of the tracks little more than the dressed up elevator music to be played/sold at local Starbucks.  This may not be completely untrue in that Henry Wolfe’s music will no doubt be played in coffee houses and yes maybe even department stores that actually still have elevators with music being played in them.  However, there is always room in one’s musical library for a little bit of easy listening. It’s pleasant. It’s relaxing. It’s ornate and has well-crafted and well performed songs.  

Henry Wolf’s music may not be what you will be putting on your IPods workout playlist to get yourself keyed-up but it just might be the cure for road rage on your way into work.   


Girl in A Coma | Exits & All the Rest A Review

The San Antonio Texas trio, Girl in a Coma released their fourth album Exits & All the Rest back in November of 2011 to much critical praise but the band still has a minimal following.  The band’s style is fairly straightforward, they are an indie punk band, which is a lot like a mainstream pop punk band but they are not still whining about high school girls.  And within the different veins of punk music that exist that of Girl in A Coma is closest to that of The Smiths or if we are looking for a contemporary they would be closest to Magneta Lane.

If you need to put your finger on the one element that separates this indie punk band from others it’s Nina Diaz, that is to say, it’s her voice. Let’s face it there are a lot of people making garage punk (literally in their garages) and a lot of the instrumental portions of the this musical food are on par with what we are hearing on Exist & All the Rest.  But what they are often missing is a lead vocalist who can actually sing, and that is what you get with Diaz. Her singing style is similar to that of an early Gwen Stefani, in a few ways, such as the way it rounds those tonal corners from crisp and steady golden to a rich and rumble. But unlike Stefani, Diaz doesn’t suffer from a high pitched nasal whine.  

Exists & All the Rest starts off with the track Adjust which has a bit of a bluesy baseline to it but doesn’t properly demonstrate the band’s musical chops.  It’s with Smarts and Cemetery Baby where you can hear the reboot punk and that dreamy haze inducing tone that is so excellently executed by the band. Especially in the way the lead singer adds a sort of weight to the chorus of Smarts. It’s a great song, and should be used as a benchmark for other bands who wish to indulge in 80s inspired punk.

The album may have come out a bit too late in the year to make it onto any ‘best of 2011’ lists but it will no doubt live on in the musical libraries of those who listened to it.