Stroppies- Look Alive! [EP] (2020)

Posted by KB on 6/29/2020 to Reviews In Brief
DIY college dorm indie rock with a strong 60's substructure. Think Velvet Underground meets The Go-Betweens, which make sense since The Stroppies are from the land down under. "Look Alive!" has jangle, farfisa organ, double beat drums, tremolo guitars and droning vocals where pitch is a secondary priority. That framework is the engine for songs that have 'we'll-get-there-eventually' starts and quick stops. Those who are a fan of the era where artists were really stretching boundaries and allowed to take artistic chances (1967-1973) will get heart of this release and the band. If you are more on the glossier side of music this probably won't earn space on your play list.

Favorite Songs: Burning Bright, Look Alive

look alive

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Hazel English- Wake Up! (2020)

Posted by KB on 6/18/2020 to Reviews In Brief
Hazel English is another songwriter in this current renaissance of solid women artists (of course IMHO). Her laid back, layered vocal, upbeat dream pop waft through your speakers as if her songs were implanted there. English channels female 60s pop without losing her own integrity. There is even a nuanced Amy Winehouse vibe that can be heard if you listen close enough. It is hard be down in the mouth listening to "Wake Up!". As English is an optimist and even her 'possible' negativity is forgiving. She believes in people and in herself. "Wake Up!" is best when digested in it's entirety- preferably with candles.

Favorite Songs: Shaking, Wake Up!, Off My Mind, Combat

wake up

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The Magnetic Fields- Quickies (2020)

Posted by KB on 6/9/2020
It has to be said that The Magnetic Fields are not everyone's cup of joe. Stephin Merritt's baritone, the ukulele being a primary instrument and songs that are more stage than any pop or rock. Merritt is a modern day Cole Porter with his creative melodies and intelligent wit. Unlike most pop songs a listener can't easily guess the lyrics. There is no questioning his songwriting ability and that he has way too many ideas flopping around inside his brain. "Quickies" theme is just as the title suggests; short songs (ranging from :17 to 2:35) with topics that are snippets of passing thoughts. Taking all that into account, "Quickies" is good with moments of brilliance but it doesn't reach the heights of "69 Love Songs" or "50 Song Memoir". It's a little subdued, not in subject matter but musically. "Quickies" will please fans of TMF but to those new to them I would start with previously mentioned releases (both are tomes).

Favorite Songs: The Day the Politicians Died, My Stupid Boyfriend, (I Want Join A) Biker Gang, Let's Get Drunk Again (And Get Divorced), Best Cup of Coffee in Tennessee


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Muncie Girls and Black Mountain (2020)

Posted by KB on 6/5/2020 to Reviews In Brief
b-side the point

Muncie Girls released a 6 song EP of B-sides that would rival most true releases this year. Every song would could have earned a place on their excellent 2018 "Fixed Ideals". If you are unaware of this English troupe get to know their punky goodness on "B-Sides" that proves this band should be around for a long time.Muncie Girls Bandcamp.

Black Mountain put out two excellent songs that demonstrate this band is continually evolving. Echoes has a dance element to it with electronic flourishes and Flux is Gothic, middle eastern tinged metal. No joke. Black Mountain Bandcamp.

Shopping- All or Nothing (2020)

Posted by KB on 6/4/2020
If "All or Nothing" came out during the beginning of the MtV era it would have been the trending release of the mid-80s. Electronic, funky, fast with a sparse, robotic heavy beat. The clubs would rush to be the first to play it and new wavers would scour the music shops for the longbox CD. Shopping is emphatic in their delivery. They are the loudest voice in the room so you're forced to heed them. They are sweaty. Think early B-52s with early Cure and Devo. To the younger set Shopping will be alternative and too those of us of age it is retro-alternative.

Favorite Songs: Initiative, Expert Advice, Body Clock, Trust In Us

all or nothing

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BOAT- Tread Lightly (2020)

Posted by KB on 6/3/2020 to Reviews In Brief
BOAT has the sound of 90's college radio. Jangly, simple, catchy- music you bob your head to and sway with. They don't try to do what they can't do, but they don't sound limited. Besides some vocal layering there are no gimmicks. They just play them as they write them. "Tread Lightly" has songs that range from pop, to edgy rock, to low-fi indie. Leaning mostly toward indie. BOAT's simplicity is their allure. It's easy to connect with and understand. "Tread Lightly" may not blow your mind but you will find yourself inconspicuously into it.

Favorite Songs: (to all the) Sweaty People, Zombie State of Mind, Metabolism

tread lightly

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Pack A.D.- It Was Fun While It Lasted (2020)

Posted by KB on 5/18/2020 to Reviews In Brief
"It Was Fun While It Lasted" is a break up album. The duo, Maya Miller and Becky Black, have decided to go on indefinite hiatus which is presaged by the album's title. If IWFWIL happens to be truly their last then they did it right. Their grungy, garage rock is pretty powerful evoking Royal Blood, Little Hurricanes and vintage Black Keys with prominent, booming drums and echoed power chords. Their songs have chorus hooks that take them to a new level instantly drawing you back in if you by chance were losing interest. It is an uneven release being strongest on the thumpers with a couple of mid-tempo skippers. In any case, nothing on IWFWIL feels like they have lost a step or faith in creating with each other, which leads me to believe that this may not be their permanent swansong.

Favorite Songs: Reprogram, It's Okay, Soul Warden, No Good

it was good while it lasted

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EOB- Earth (2020)

Posted by KB on 5/14/2020 to Reviews In Brief
EOB (Ed O'Brien from Radiohead) creates an ecclectic, esoteric mix on "Earth" his recent solo effort. It's part dance funk, part nuanced ambient and part late night folk which can make for a challenging listen in one sitting. As you get into one vibe it then veers 180 in the other direction. The bass beat funkier tracks work best for me, though the closer, Cloak of the Night, is a nice, delicate ending. The other acoustic songs border on self-indulgent pretentiousness. The arrangements are loosely intricate being just precise enough without becoming overly complex. "Earth" is good to pick and choose from depending on your mood and Shangri-La may be one of the best songs of the year. IMHO.

Favorite Songs: Shangri-La, Brasil, Bankster, Olympik


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X- Alphabetland (2020)

Posted by KB on 5/12/2020 to Reviews In Brief
X was a band I appreciated and respected for their raw energy and for being the trailblazers on the LA punk scene, but they never quite resonated with me. With that said, "Alphabetland" is a pretty raucous ride. Not once do they act their age and this sounds like they really wanted to record it. It's genuine and would fit in comfortably with their set back in their day. The punk is present, the guitars wail, the drums push the tempo to the limit and the vocals are emphatic. X sounds like a grizzled band ready to get back into the grind and have a few laughs while at it. Is it a perfect album? No, but it does demonstrate that punk can, and in this case, ripen on vine just fine.

Favorite Songs: Water & Wine, Strange Life, Star Chambered


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Car Seat Headrest- Making a Door Less Open (2020)

Posted by KB on 5/11/2020 to Reviews In Brief
Will Toldeo, and the gang are not resting still. "Making a Door Less Open" is almost an oxymoron as CSH have most definitely opened a few new doors sonically evolving their sound by adding electronic elements and layered arrangements over their trademark minimalist hooks. What I believe makes MADLO a success is that once you are comfortably immersed in a song all of sudden it becomes a different animal. For example, Deadlines (Hostiles) starts stripped down then kicks in power chords for the chorus. CSH has always been unpredictable in structure and pacing and that is present here with different vocals in different channels, trumpet flourishes, deliberate cheesy organ, multi-tempo percussion ... etc. There are a couple of artsy toss offs (Hymn (Remix) and Famous) but they don't really detract from the rest of album. Lyrically not much changes from past efforts. Will still sings about personal observation on life, family and relationships but a little more guarded as the title alludes to. CSH has ventured from the Teens of Denial/Style successfully and has proven they aren't a one time hype group- skipping the last release as it was a re-do. To fully enjoy the brilliance of MADLO embrace and walk through CSH's new open doors.

Favorite Songs: Can't Cool Me Down, Deadlines (Hostile), Hollywood, Martin, There Must Be More Than Blood

Making a Door Less Open

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Brendan Benson- Dear Life (2020)

Posted by KB on 5/6/2020 to Reviews In Brief
It's been 7 years since Benson's last outing and it was worth the wait. Benson has re-invented his sound by adding modern electronic elements (Good To Be Alive, I Can If You Want Me To) and slight country bro-vibe (Half A Boy (Half A Man)) to songs that can easily be identified as his by their structure and arrangement. Like the interchange between instruments in the forefront and/or those that drive the melody. It's also apparent the influence Jack White has had with his tempo changes and hard edged accents. He has stepped away from his folk nuances but his pop chops are still prevalent. "Dear Life" is an apropos title as he sings about his life and contradictory feelings and inadequacies as a partner and father. Personally I welcome his new direction and arguably put "Dear Life" on par with "Lopalco".

Favorite Songs: Richest Man, Baby's Eyes, Freak Out, I Quit.

dear life

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Hala- Red Herring (2020)

Posted by KB on 5/5/2020 to Reviews In Brief
Hala (22 year old Ian Ruhala) is pleasant, like a 70 degree, sunny day. His songs have an easy gait to them and frame his voice perfectly. "Red Herring" is keyboard forward and not edgy with zero here to offend. It's geared to a young, glass half full, coffee house audience. Not that us more weathered folk won't find enjoyment from his breeziness, but it will feel a little 'lite'. Ruhala performed each instrument on the record, including guitar, piano, bass, drums, baritone ukulele, xylophone, vibraphone, and all vocals, creating a fairly dense sound. The guy has talent and with a dash of angst (or something similar) could put out that killer Ben Folds Five album. Airier of course.

Favorite Songs: Red Herring, Turn Out Right, Why Do You Want Anything To Do With Me, Lies

red herring

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Deeper- (Auto-Pain) (2020)

Posted by KB on 4/28/2020 to Reviews In Brief
You wake up 40 years ago and turn on your local college radio station and Deeper's song Esoteric is blaring. Your first thought would be, "hey a new Cure song was just released", not realizing that Esoteric came out in 2020 not 1980. Deeper possesses a minimalist, 80s, metallic sound that encompasses early Cure, New Order, Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen and a plethora of new wave MTV bands. Simple, metronome bass lines, layer effect guitars, rat-a-tat drums and vocals spit out rather than sung. It's a total hipster party where the only one's at this party deserve to be there and they know it. Side one (or first half for those not vinyl savvy) is strongest but Auto-Pain doesn't wane by much. Tease out hair, put on your favorite black outfit and get nostalgic.

Favorite Songs: Esoteric, Willing, 4U, V.M.C.

auto pain

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Kvelertak- Splid (2020)

Posted by on 4/24/2020 to Reviews In Brief
If you're not a metal listener you can probably skip this. I am a selective metal fan. I like the power, prowess and musicianship of a well greased metal band. Where I draw my proverbial line is in the vocals- no over the top screeching or low, Drain-O growling. Norway's Kvelertak has some of both but luckily it isn't pervasive, depending how you delicate your ears are. "Splid" has some tremendous energy and tight guitar crunching. The songs wind through different movements leaning it toward progressive at times, but when they outright rip it is true head banging bliss. This is a pure music only listen, because who the hell knows what they are singing about, even with their brief blurbs about each song on the cover. Basically if you like metal you will be all in with horns in the air. Not a metal fan then stay away. Those of us more discerning will find more enjoyment than pain.

Favorite Songs: Rogaland, Crack of Doom, Uglas Hegemoni, Tevling


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Pearl Jam- Gigaton (2020)

Posted by KB on 4/23/2020 to Reviews In Brief
There is no denying the enormity of Pearl Jam. Blasting on the scene in the midst of the early grunge era and surviving since with a huge fan base and, for the most part, a solid discography (not to mention their vast live concert recordings). While not being prolific of late, I personally don't mind waiting seven years if the output equals the best parts of "Gigaton". This time around has Vedder doing the majority of writing and it is clear what is weighing on his mind - the climate justifiably. And the blame goes to everyone, including himself. Pearl Jam hasn't drifted too far from their true sound but they have kept it vital with nuanced modernization (Dance of the Clairvoyants). This has allowed them to maintain their rabid fan base while enticing younger audiences. The first four tracks burst out of the gate, and most red-blooded rock fans will be hooked. Especially when Gossard is allowed to blaze away. They are at their best with less production, so there are songs that lose some of the energy the opening tracks- but all their albums seem to have a couple of toss offs. "Gigaton" should be welcomed by rock and we need to enjoy Pearl Jam while they are still capable of strong releases.

Favorite Songs: Superblood Wolfman, Dance of the Clairvoyants, Quick Exscape


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The Flytraps- Wild Card (2020)

Posted by KB on 4/21/2020 to Reviews In Brief
The Flytraps are thrashy, trashy, loud and abrasive. Oh and they don't care if it's not okay with you. "Wild Card" starts hard and ends hard and it drips with testosterone bravado about partying, sex and getting what they want. The ladies scream and screech, the bass throttles and the guitar solos tear through 12 songs in 29 minutes. This album doesn't blaze new trails but depending on your mood at listening "Wild Card" could be just what the doctor ordered or what the doctor would tell you to avoid. So plan your listening with care.

Favorite Songs: Wild Card, All Talk, I Wanna Be Your Girl

wild card

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Waxahatchee- St Cloud (2020)

Posted by KB on 4/20/2020 to Reviews In Brief
Appears "St Cloud" may be a polarizing release from Ms. Crutchfield. I've come across those who are still engaged with her powerfully subtle songs and vocal and those who disdain the less reliance on guitars in favor of keyboards. Personally, it took me a couple of listens to get it. "St Cloud" doesn't have grabbing rockers peppered through it and it has a smaller sound over all. If one can get by that then they will hear the Waxahatchee they know and love; strong, deliberate voice and catchy melodies in songs about relationships. Due to her past decade's pedigree Waxahatchee will get gold stars for doing her thing a little different but I'm not sure if she can continue down this road without possibly having fans lose interest. In any case, this is still a decent release from a good Alabaman songwriter.

Favorite Songs: Can't Do Much, Fire, Ruby Falls, The Eye

st cloud

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The Chats- High Risk Behavior (2020)

Posted by KB on 4/17/2020 to Reviews In Brief
Stupid, bratty, sophomoric 'tude punk can be a blast when it's done correctly. Correctly means that you don't take yourself too seriously and know that you aren't releasing the next deep, artistic game changer. The Chats fit the bill by thrashing out 14 songs in 28 minutes about getting piss drunk, chewing and screwing, VD, needing cheap pub food and just being unruly. Buzzcocks, Dead Kennedys, Undertones, Ramones, The Briefs (among others) are heard influences but with better guitar solos. The Chats' punk is quite riff rock heavy and vocally decipherable (big plus) with mosh pit ready energy. Exhausting. Not sure how many albums these Aussies have in them so I would jump on this one while it's fresh.

Favorite Songs: Stinker, The Clap, Dine N Dash, Billy Backwash's Day, Better Than You, Identity Theft

high risk behavior

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Jesse Daniel- Rollin' On (2020)

Posted by KB on 4/16/2020 to Reviews In Brief
There is country- the commercially produced simple minded fodder for the masses. Then there is country- authentic twang, with all the fix-uns like steel pedal guitar, fiddle and pickin' and grinnin'. "Rollin' On" is the latter. It could be the best shit-kickin' saloon outing you'll get all year (if we were currently allowed to go to shit-kickin' saloon). A perfect blend of Texas two step swing and the Bakersfield sound that would be fit for a night at the Opry or a country fair. Daniel has a natural, smooth delivery that feels genuine and his band is cracker jack good and can pick and pop with the best of them. We need more "Rollin' On", country sans solo cup, cut-off shorts, I'm a good ol' boy and tractors.

Favorite Songs: Rollin' On, Mayo and the Mustard, Sam, If You Ain't Happy Now (You Never Will Be)

rollin on

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The Wants- Container (2020)

Posted by KB on 4/14/2020 to Reviews In Brief
"Container", the debut by The Wants, is minimalist, city-hipster, post-punk that will have you looking for your black turtleneck. Popping drums drive their slick and simple riffs and sing-song vocals that would be best listened to in a darken, strobe lit room. When The Wants get rolling they sound as if one of the Petshop Boys got loose and spawned with Interpol and Cake. It's finger snapping, it's dance-able and intense. It's a familiar yet unique sound, but a sound that would have fit comfortably in the 80s, 90s or 00s. The short instrumentals interspersed do little but fill space but the rest is totally addictive. So go find that turtleneck and a strobe light and get down.

Favorite Songs: Container, The Motor, Ape Trap


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