Thursday, October 18, 2012


Due to the nature of Blogs, Social Interaction, and My Personal Whim - I'm moving away from this relatively unnoticed traditional Blog to Tumblr, which has more potential, and I think a better way to do what I want to do:

This blog will remain as an archive until it's not here anymore.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

New/Recent Releases - Caustic, Blaqk Audio, The xx

The Man Who Couldn't Stop
Label: Metropolis
Released: 10/9 2012
Genre: Industrial, Power Noise

For this release Caustic went out, took every element used in Industrial, and related, genres for the past thirty years, poured it all into a blender, and hit puree. What he did after that is create a near masterpiece of musical diversity, without losing the plot.

It's a fantastic album, from start to end, but never repeats itself. Normally that much diversity is a recipe for disaster. But he's contained each bit, turned various elements into songs, not trying to make it all fit into every song. While the album is really a collection of singles, nothing much links them together beyond the title, it seems to not matter. You could hit random on the player and come up with a different track order for every listen and it'd still sound like a great album. He also doesn't get caught up in himself or his ideas, he just lets it flow out. Awesome music here, definitely add this to your collection.

Blaqk Audio
Bright Black Heaven
Label: Supberball Music
Released: 9/11 2012
Genre: Synthpop

When I first heard this in the music store overhead I thought I was listening to some previously unheard Depeche Mode or similar 1980s synthpop. I wasn't, but this is a very well crafted piece of music. Every inch of it is a nearly perfectly produced replication of 80s synthpop ideas and sounds that you'd be hard pressed to guess it was a new group with a new release.

And it's not a couple guys from the 80s "revisiting their roots while trying something new" which happens. No, the duo here takes the ideas, the composition, and creates a wholly new 'old sounding' album. It's excellent to listen to, not overly-layered, and catchy. Truly superb music has been put onto this album, another definite add to your collection this week.

The xx
Label: Young Turks
Released: 9/11 2012
Genre: Downtempo, Rock, Pop

And the final album from this week, The xx are a group, and I'm not sure I should apply the term 'indy-rock' based off this release, out of London. This album is extremely stripped down and minimal. All the pieces are subdued, even the singing, to the point of light ambient work. All the rock elements are here - drums, guitar, bass, vocals, with some MPC and keyboards in places.

But the composition of it does not elicit Rock Music. Downtempo beats, simple layers, and a removal of complex interactions make for a very mellow album. It's very good, but also puts me to sleep. If you need something to chill to and don't want yet another "new agey" sounding album full of harps and sequenced sounds, pick this up. The xx have figured out how to make mellow rock without making a folk-rock rip-off sound. Coexist, at least, has mastered utilizing audio space smartly in the same way Future Sound Of London have, and that's not a compliment I can give out often.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - Howlin' Wolf (part 2 of 2)

Howlin' Wolf
Howlin' Wolf / Moanin' In The Moonlight
Label: MCA Records (Chess Records)
Released: 1986 (Compilation) 1962 (Howlin' Wolf)
Genre: Blues

The second half of this double album re-release. Howlin' Wolf, also known as the Rocking Chair Album, collects the singles released from 1959 to 1962. The 50s were slow in regards to the number of blues releases, due to the general decline of blues in favor of rock in general. This marked the beginning of a period of resurgence in old folk blues. With that followed behind other forms of blues, including a rise in Chicago Blues.

This album has gotten itself placed on several lists of 'greatest albums of all time' as well. Coming from a much shorter period of time that his previous album the songs share a more consistent theme and styling. Howlin' Wolf is probably the best example of Chicago Blues from the sixties that there is. Leaving behind the genres early start from the previous decade, it's fully evolved here.

Definitely an album worth tracking down, either in a collection like this one or on its own, and adding to your collection. I would claim no blues collection is truly complete without these twelve songs in it somewhere.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Back Catalog - Beats Antique, Rough Guide to China

Beats Antique
Tribal Derivations
Label: CIA (Copeland International Arts)
Released: 2007
Genre: Downtempo, Electroncia

Heavily influenced by various Arabian rhythms and beats, with a healthy dose of downtempo styling, and electronica overlaid across the whole thing. Beats Antique sounds like it might be some form of updated 'traditional' music. In a sense it is, but only so far as its influences go back to "old world" rhythms, without actually borrowing from any specific tradition or songs.

Two guys playing music, and a belly dancer (which doesn't do much to the CD listener except provide cover art). Beats Antique is likely best done live. While I love the CD, I can't help but feel the live show is so much more. Still, I like the downtempo beats, mixed with uptempo elements to keep it moving along. I really like how it fits into the background of whatever I'm doing, it doesn't disappear (as so many downtempo/ambient works do), nor does it intrude (the lack of vocals helps greatly). It sits in that perfect middle ground of filling the room without taking over or being easily ignored.

The Rough Guide To The Music Of China
(Bonus CD) Introducing Hanggai
Label: World Music Network
Released: 2012
Genre: Traditional Chinese, Pop, Rock, Modern

With these Rough Guides most of the time you know pretty much what you're going to get. The compilation itself it usually full of traditional, or slightly modernized, music of the region being outlined. Sometimes what you get are a collection of bands local to the region, but not always playing music traditionally from that area. Like with China - while it contains a large portion of music traditional to various parts of China, which is large with a lot of variation to go over. It also contains so very modern bands that simply happen to be from China. Which is cool, because it's nice to hear other countries takes on something as 'simple' as Rock Music.

The Bonus CD is a re-issue of Hanggai's first international (and possibly debut) release. Hanggai incorporate both Mongolian and Chinese traditions. The singing is almost completely (or maybe completely) in Mongolian, along with some songs using Mongolian Throat Singing, and Chinese musics. When I first started listening I had to check because for a moment I thought I was listening to Irish Celtic music. It's that strangely similar. And it's very good. They have since put out some other titles on a different label that I'll be tracking down.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New Releases - Diana Krall, Nelly Furtado, Pneuma compilation

Diana Krall
Glad Rag Doll
Label: Verve Records
Released: 10/2 2012
Genre: Jazz

I've known of Diana Krall for a long time now, one of those artists that pops up every now and then and I think "wow, I love her voice, I should get some albums." But jazz of any style rarely makes it into my collection, which is something I can't explain since I love the genre. But, here it is, finally I picked up this album.

Her voice is made of silk, it's just smooth and soft, without losing any power at all. A great lounge style voice and some soft (though not easy listening soft) and lighter jazz. The album also punctuates itself with some torch-and-twang in the middle. A definite country feel to break up the jazz tunes. It works well, you can tell she had a lot of fun making the album. And her voice, did I mention her voice? Just amazing.
Nelly Furtado
The Spirit Indestructible
Label: Interscope Records
Released: 9/18 2012
Genre: Pop

While I only own Nelly's debut album, she's another artist that falls on and off my radar as I listen around. In this day and age her brand of softer, less dance-floor, influenced pop music gets drowned in the more boisterous artists. Another artist with an amazingly smooth voice, though in a different way that Diana.

This album bounces back and forth between a kind of smart-pop style and a slightly more bouncy radio-pop style (though never thankfully gets near the EDM-influenced dance-pop ala Lady Gaga). I ended up with the Deluxe version of the album, which adds six extra songs. Five tracks not on the normal release, and one remix of one of those tracks. Here's where the review gets weird.

The first 12 tracks (the standard release) for a great, tight, sensible album of smart pop music with just the right amount of bounce and serious, love songs. The 6 bonus tracks by themselves are good songs, and I'm never one to turn down more music. But as a whole, all 18 tracks  together create an overly long album that drags out, I started to not like the back third after a few listens all the way through. If you're a big Nelly fan, get the deluxe release, the bonus tracks are excellent and worth it. If you're a passing fan, or just getting into her and aren't sure, get the standard release and keep it short and sweet.

Label: none (
Released: 9/30 2012
Genre: Ambient, Industrial, EDM

This compilation was put together to raise funds for Lung Cancer research (hence the name). 22 songs of exclusive donated material by the bands for the release. That means if you follow any of the bands on here as a "hard core" fan, you'll probably pick this up. Beyond the good that it does for research into the disease.

The music itself, is almost all completely in a 'dark' ambient range. A lot of the bands on the release are known for a harsh industrial/EBM style, and some are known for other genres than what predominates this, but all are well versed in the electronica/EDM zone of music. The result is that everything fits, unlike a lot of fundraiser compilations which musically come across as haphazard as the bands they got to donate a song.

Getting 22 donated songs is hard enough, getting all of them to fit well together, and the creators managed to get the album to flow well too, is another matter. So, just from a perspective of adding some good music to your collection, and being able to play the album all the way through, this is a pretty solid compilation.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - Howlin' Wolf (part 1 of 2)

Howlin' Wolf
Moanin' In The Moonlight / Howlin' Wolf
Label: MCA Records (Chess Records)
Released: 1986 (Compilation) 1959 (Moanin' In The Moonlight)
Genre: Blues

I picked up a compilation with two complete Howlin' Wolf albums on it, so I think I'll take them one at a time for two weeks. The albums are Howlin' Wolf and Moanin' In The Moonlight. Moanin' was released first, but comes second on the album. We'll start there.

This is touted as Howlin' Wolf's first studio album, it's really a collection of singles released as far back as 1951. A good solid dose of Chicago Blues. It's also regularly cited as the album that contains the first use of a distorted power chord on guitar - in the song How Many More Years. Which is as Rock N' Roll as the blues gets before switching genres.

The songs are tracked more or less by their original chronology, at least as far as I can tell. The album is powerful enough, and good enough that even a reissue of it in 1987 managed to win an album of the year award. If you want to get into Chicago Blues, you do need to include Howlin' Wolf in your collection, and this album (or more to the point this whole collection) is a good one to add.

Next week I'll look at the other half of this release, the second Howlin' Wolf album.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Backcatalog - Dig Jelly, Sero.Overdose

Dig Jelly
For Your Inner Angry Child
Label: SourceOne Records
Released: 2003
Genre: Hard Rock

Dig Jelly is the other project for three of the five members of Lolita Dark, which I reviewed a few weeks ago, plus a couple other guys. This is their first album put out, some time ago. Done before it became almost cliche to have a female led hard rock band, to boot.

This is equal parts hard rock, punk rock, and pop rock all mixed into a blender and served with a side of DIY Ethic. I like it a lot. I can't actually pin point what about it I like though, I just like it. I put the album on and it catches me from the start and just keeps going in a nice little groove. This is the kind of unpretentious rock that so many bands aim for and miss completely.

Definitely a band worth checking out. More of their stuff will come in the future, I've got their current discography sitting in my stack of music.

No Time For Silence
Label: Alfa-Matrix
Released:  2005
Genre: EBM, Synth-Pop

A bunch of German guys making kick-ass EBM with weird haircuts and all black clothes. This is a formula really. But it works, and Sero.Overdose works well. Everything about this reminds me of all the industrial/EBM I was listening to in the mid 1990s. Given it's a decade out of time from that period I like that it hasn't really lost that feeling.

If I just sit back and listen without knowing when it was released, I probably would have guessed the late 90s. If you like the synth-pop end of the EBM ride you'll like these guys. Well produced, well done, doesn't get stuck in itself or try to make The Beatz take over the record. Good old fashioned dance floor rhythms.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

New Releases 9/25 - Deadmau5, Steve Harris, Murder By Death

> Album Title Goes Here <
Label: Mousetrap Records / Ultra Records (US distro)
Released: 9/25 2012
Genre: House

The last Deadmau5 album I got did not impress me, but it was also mostly remixes. This is all brand new material and he seems to be pretty big in the EDM scene - and not producing dubstep, which seems to be some kind of feat these days. So... what do I think about this?

It's house music. Even when he manages to slide in some fuzzy bass and wobbles it (to give it that dubstep asthetic) it's house music. Because fuzzy wobbly *wubwubwub* is not dubstep, this sticks firmly to 4/4 dance beat timing. Which means, overall, I can't call it bad. Because there are very few house and rave-style dance albums I don't like. Something about them is all so very catchy.

But there are parts that drive me a little mad. Especially when I sit down to Listen to this. There are several 7 and 8 minute tracks, and less than half hover around 4 minutes - which tends to lose me. I'm definitely of the 3-4 minute/40 minute album preferences. My punk roots showing, I imagine. After 7 minutes (much less 8) of repetitive beats, with few drops, change ups or breaks, my eyes roll into the back of my head. It's like EDM DJs still just want to fill up the entire CD - and at nearly 1 hour and 20 minutes this album uses every last centimeter with music.

But! if you just put it on and don't Listen so much as let it wash through the room, it's not bad. Catchy, bouncy, and I find myself stopping every now and then to bop along for a few minutes before tuning it back out and into background music. It almost makes you miss the 90s.

Steve Harris
British Lion
Released: 9/25 2012
Genre: Hard Rock, Metal

I am a big Iron Maiden fan, have been for a few decades now (even through the Blaze years). When I heard Steve Harris was putting out a solo album I had to read the news twice. Steve hasn't, since founding Iron Maiden, done anything of note outside the band. Anything at all. I'm not even sure he put in a guest appearance on his daughters debut album. He's been the backbone, and primary writing force behind Maiden from Day 1.

So, what's this then? It's kind of generic Hard Rock. He gathered together a bunch of mates, went into the studio, and put down some pretty good rock music. Thing is, it still sound a little bit like he's writing for Iron Maiden. And this group (while full of seasoned and talented musicians) is not Iron Maiden. So, it comes off like a knock-off group, which is a little ironic.

It's not bad, I mean this is pretty good rock music. But it is weighted down by the name behind it. If you have no idea who Steve Harris is, then you'll probably like this for the British Metal sound alone - if you like that kind of thing. The solo effort just failed to grab me in any significant way. I'll probably revisit this in the future someday and come to like it a lot though.

Murder By Death
Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon
Label: Tentshow Records / Bloodshot Records
Released: 9/25 2012
Genre: Rock, Country

After that bout of mediocrity we move onto a band I just discovered. Their first album (reviewed recently) did not impress me much. I was expecting more generic indierock kind of music.

Holy shit was I wrong. This is a kind of subtle, slow, country-styled, rock that really gets into the skin. Equal parts Johnny Cash, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, and Richard Thompson - while being None Of Them hums deep down inside. They have found the kind of dark-americana that resonates.

Seriously, this album is dark, light, slow, fast, deep, and rumbles through the songs like a train in the middle of the night.

OK, enough with the metaphors. It's good music. Really good music. Country and Rock rhythms trade places across the album, nothing truly innovative is done, but what they do is just put together so well it doesn't need to cover new ground. I really really recommend this to, well, everyone. This is the winner for Buy That! this week.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - Bib Mama Thornton (Hound Dog - The Peacock Recordings)

"Big Mama" Thornton
Hound Dog - The Peacock Recordings
Label: MCA Records (originally on Peacock Records)
Released: 1992
Genre: Blues, Jump Blues, R&B

This is a collection of songs recordings between 1952 and 1957 on Peacock Records. Willie Mae Thornton spent most of the 1950s touring, rather than recording. I don't know exactly how extensive her recordings were during this period, but I believe this compilation is the bulk of her material on that label. Most of these recordings are made under the direction of Johnny Otis, another big name in the blues of the 50s. Most of the hits from this era are on the R&B charts as Blues itself was in sever decline as Rock 'N' Roll was on the rise, and explains the larger number of Jump Blues with a swing-rock rhythm rather that straight blues heard in the 1940s.

We start off with the 1952 recording of Hound Dog, this is the first time this song is recorded and immediately went to #1 in the R&B charts in 1953 upon release. It would also be the source of a lot of her woes with the music business, as she lost a lawsuit over who wrote the song and should be awarded royalties from the many covers. Ironically the now more famous version by Elvis was the b-side to his Don't Be Cruel single in 1956 - not an a-side, and did not hit #1 immediately.

Most of the songs are from her early 1952 session with the label, which produced the bulk of her singles that were released from 1953 to 1955. She had shorter sessions in 1953, '54, '55 and one final session in 1958 before leaving Peacock (she did continue to record for other labels). Most of the songs had also been unavailable in the U.S. on albums since their original run as singles. Which makes this a good collection for Blues fans, and doubly so for Big Mama fans not keen on finding all the original 45s.

Her voice is deep, throaty, and very blues. Even on her more rock-style songs she keeps the blues feel. She isn't always big and loud, as demonstrated on Walking Blues and The Big Change. From different sessions it shows her ability to move back and forth, she didn't stick to one style during any given period and moved freely through R&B and Blues.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Backcatalog - Sirsy, Rough Guide To Undiscovered World

Label: Funzalo
Released: 2010
Genre: Rock, Pop Rock

I picked this up on a whim from a tent sale at the local record shop - mostly because I liked the swirls on the cover art (yes, I'll buy albums based on cover art). I had no idea what I was getting into, though the band photo on the back - one guy, one girl & the colors (black, white, red) probably should have tipped me off to some kind of Red Stripes knock off.

Thankfully, not really. As far as pop-rock goes it's not bad, it's also not great. Just some generic, well produced, decently executed, radio friendly rock songs. If I had to draw some comparisons I might toss out 4 Non Blondes or Breeders, or the hundreds of mid-90s post-grunge bands whose names I never remember.

But that really wouldn't be fair, because it's not very 1990s rock at all. It's solidly 2000s indie rock in feel and styling. I kind of like it in that 'put it on in the back ground, or in a big playlist' kind of way. It's good enough that someone whose really into this style, or just this band, will likely love this album. Nothing made me want to turn it off (which is a win, honestly). The band hasn't been around too long, hopefully there will be more down the road I can run across and see how they're progressed.

The Rough Guide To Undiscovered World
Label: World Music Network
Released: 2012
Genre: Folk, various 'world'

Sometimes the Rough Guides that try and travel the globe, or even just one continent, are hit or miss. This one manages to be done better, or at least put together better. The songs seem to fit nicely, not in a pattern, or genre, or styling, but a song compliments the one that came before it. Making the whole album nice to listen to.

The one thing it does miss is the Americas, almost entirely. A few songs - ones from the west coast of Africa - pull in some Latin elements, but that's it. Which is kind of funny that a compilation called "undiscovered world" omits the "new world". The fifteen tracks we do have are definitely good, and from countries that don't get a lot of global exposure.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New Releases 9/18 - P!nk, Lolita Dark

The Truth About Love
Label: RCA Records
Released: 9/18 2012
Genre: Pop

I've always liked P!nk a little bit, a sort of periferal follower. I don't often buy her music. Having caught the leading single Blow Me (One Last Kiss) I decided it was about time I changed that. This album is intelligent pop music, mixed with enough old school R&B to really stand up and stand out.

Not settling for the standard pop-pap of just clever hooks and dance beats, this album takes on a wide range of pop styling. From ballads, to savvy pop-love songs. She bubbles and bounces and yells and serenades us through just about every kind of love song. And tosses in a few just-for-fun bits as well.

Really, an all around excellent pop album. Smart, sassy, catchy, and ultimately the kind of thing that you just don't normally get in the genre anymore. Go add this one to your collection.

Lolita Dark
Tokyo Status
Label: SourceOne Records
Released: 6/30 2012
Genre: Rock, Hard Rock

I just discovered this band on their recent shows in Denver. On the front I got a standard female-lead L.A. rock band vibe. But as both primary singers are Japanese they skip through that mine-field of mediocrity and come out standing distant from the crowd. Most of the music is sung in their native language. They also skip over the J-pop rhythms and come across as solid rock singers. Which is a fantastic change from a number of American bands with Japanese singers that fail to get any Rock into the vocals, and come across like a J-pop singer with rock rhythms and getting drowned in reverb. Not so here.

Good loud rock music, good strong vocals leading it. The only thing lacking is maybe a little polish. The album is rough about the edges, though not so much to come across as bad. I think they just need to tighten up the songs a little to catapult from "Damn, that's good" to "Holy shit, buy this now." A little more Joan Jett and a little less L.A. Rocker.

If you need some rock that's a little different, get this album. You won't regret it.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday Monring Blues - Champion Jack Dupree (One Last Time)

Champion Jack Dupree
One Last Time
Label: Bullseye Blues
Released: 1993
Genre: Blues, Boogie

This is the last full album of completely original material released by Champion Jack Dupree before he died in 1992. It was recorded during the same sessions as his album Forever And Ever (1992). He had three days of studio time and finished that album in one. Ultimately Jack Dupree had recorded three albums for Bullseye Blues in the two years he was with them. This after thirty-five years of no new output.

One Last Time is a great piece of old-time piano blues and boogie, with heavy doses of New Orleans Jazz in the mix, a common trait in his music. It's slow, light, and unlike a lot of the blues being put out at the time. This is very old school blues and a fitting final album. Ten songs of superb blues piano.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Backcatalog - Dr. Octagon, Murder By Death, ETC!ETC!/Diplo/Brillz

Dr. Octagon
Dr. Octagonecologyst
Label: Dreamworks / Bulk Records
Released: 1996
Genre: Hip-Hop

Kool Kieth, DJ Q-Bert, and Dan The Automater were the two driving forces behind this album. It appeared quietly, went largely unnoticed by the mainstream, and almost faded into nothing. It was also hard to find for a while, I had to get by with a bootleg for years. Commercial lack of success didn't hamper its effect. Kool Kieth (as Dr. Octagon) set the stage for a whole new style of hip-hop.

It's influence rippled out for years, changing the face of the genre behind the scenes. Instrumentally it's low key, laid back beats, and subtly used scratches, are now classic hip-hop beats. Lyrically the freestyle of the rhyming and cadence of the flows is amazing, also a little mellow. Nothing on the album comes out as 'hard' or even 'heavy' - low key and even. Definitely an album I'm glad has been made into another print run and more easily found today. If you like hip-hop at any level you need to pick this up and give it a listen.

Murder By Death
Like The Exorcist, But More Breakdancing
Label: Eyeball Records
Released: 2002
Genre: Rock, Folk Rock

On a bit of a whim I contributed to Murder By Death's latest album, with that came a copy of their first album. Which is nice, since I'd heard of, but never heard, the group I like to start at the beginning when easily possible. Not entirely sure what to expect, I knew it was rock but not what flavor of rock.

Listening to this, I find it pleasant, but not great. It's a good rock album, bordering on folk rock, it sits well in the background. Nothing really stick out for me, it's just indie-rock music. Which isn't a bad thing, as I'm not really into 'alt' or 'indie' rock as a whole - or not enough to really pick out sounds and bands. It goes well in a big playlist. I'm looking forward to seeing what their new release is like to see how they've grown.

ETC!ETC! / Brillz / Diplo
Label: Jeffree's
Released: August 2012
Genre: Electro

I picked this up rather randomly. Three DJs and Producers put together this three track single taking the theme from Ferris Bueller's Day Off (or Oh Yeah by Yello) and mixing it down as to be almost lost. You get the idea, and then it just veers off into generic electro-house with hip-hop vocals. Interesting, but not so much you need to go out and find it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New Releases 9/11 - 8mm, Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra, ZZ Top

Late due to weekend of anime convention (which is also why there was no Sunday Morning Blues this week, it will return next Sunday).

Between The Devil And Two Black Hearts
Label: self-released (
Released: 9/13 2012
Genre: Rock, Country

This was a Kickstarter I contributed to without knowing much abut the band. Later I realized half of 8mm was Sean Beavan (of Nine Inch Nails fame) and started to expect something very electronic, or trip-hop.

It is not. It is country rhythms and rock beats and very not electronic music. It is also absolutely fantastic. Easily making it into the top five albums of 2012 for me. I put this on and then it got stuck playing for the entire day. It had me mesmerized. The eight tracks of the standard album are a massively tight collection of tracks that never lose their thread.

This is one seriously amazing collection of music. Sean and Juliette trade vocals back and forth seamlessly, without falling into the rut of sounding like a duet. On some songs it's two contrasting voices, on others one starts and the other finishes (The Weight Of You - easily my favorite song does this) in a way that brings forth two sides of the same story - or two people who have the same experiences.

Just go get this album.

Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra
Theatre Is Evil
Label: 8ft. Records
Released: 9/11 2012
Genre: Punk, Rock

I have been a Dresden Dolls fan, and subsequently an Amanda Palmer fan, for a long time. This is the first album I really followed (and Amanda shares everything) and another Kickstarter (it got famous at that) I contributed to. Amanda has never been afraid to explore musically. The problem is I've never been the biggest fan of Amanda's singing voice - it fit the Dresden Dolls nicely, but her solo work never grabbed me.

On this album something different happens. Her best work to date, and the first time (I think) working with a full, consistent, backing band. Unlike a lot of her previous music which feels like she threw herself at the idea without polishing it, this is completely different.

She pulled out a serious 1980s pop/rock sensibility and many tracks feel like they belong back in 1988. Her voice is more consistent than it's ever been, and stronger. The band feels cohesive, giving some solid consistency to the album. Her best work to date, beyond and doubt, and a damn good album at that. This is good music and worth checking out.

ZZ Top
La Futura
Label: American Records
Released: 9/11 2011
Genre: Blues Rock

ZZ Top haven't released an album since the excellent Mescalaro back in 2003.  Where Mescalaro felt like ZZ Top recapturing their 70s sound - all rumbly guitars and rough blues edges - this feels like it's from the same studio recordings. Nine years with no new releases, and this doesn't quite make the impression it should for that period of time without a studio album.

Which makes it a good album, but also makes it sound like they felt like they needed to put out some new music and just didn't have it in them to go further with the music. I do like this, and I love ZZ Top's signature sound - and that it hasn't changed much over the decades.

If you're a ZZ Top fan you will definitely like this album, there's no bad tracks on here. But there's also nothing that really stands out either. At ten songs it comes in around forty minutes - the perfect rock album length in my opinion, so it doesn't over stay its welcome either. If you're just a casual fan though, I recommend the previous album over this one.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Backcatalog - M.I.A., New Years Day, Swagberg

Label: Interscope
Released: 2007
Genre: Hip-Hop

The song is M.I.A. making fun of (well, I hope so) all the music videos about girls, featuring girls dancing en masse and in synch. Here, it's all about the boys. The single includes the album version, the A Capella version, and the Instrumental version. Stripping the music and the vocals respectively - not creatively, just stripped, like they tracked the songs without the other component.

The enhanced portion of the single comes with the video, plus the making of video (part 1), photos, and remix parts encouraging fans to make their own bad-ass remix of the song. The song is mediocre, and the remix parts included are not studio/master quality. This is definitely fan-service to cleverly include the fans in the 'process'. It's interesting, but unless you're a huge M.I.A. fan, it's a single you don't need to track down (there's nothing interesting here).

New Years Day
My Dear
Label: TVT Recrods
Released: 2007
Genre: Pop-Punk, Hard Rock

The initial release from New Years Day... and it's horrible. When I first put it on I had to make sure I didn't accidentally start an Avril Lavigne album somehow. It's not just derivative, it's downright an attempt to copy her sound almost wholesale. The worst part is it's Avril Lavigne from 2004, by the time this hit the streets it sank into a sea of Avril/Evanescence copy cats.

I can't help but wonder if this was their 'sound' or if there was a directive that had come down the line to alter their style to fit a certain marketing mold. Doesn't matter. Technically, the music is pretty good, but it's so derivative that it loses itself to another sound. You forget who you're listening to.

Luckily, I had the good fortune to pick up their most recent EP, which is on a new label, and they had a sound that is their own. While I can't recommend this album, I suggest finding their EP from 2001 "The Mechanical Heart" instead. Hopefully that's the future direction of the band.

Pony Swag
Label: self-released (
Released: 2012
Genre: Hip-Hop

Hip-Hop, bordering on hardcore rap, about My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. I'm not sure there's anything that can properly explain this if you aren't a fan of the show. If you are a fan of the show you will absolutely love this.

Musically, Swagberg has excellent flow, control, and rhymes well. A credit to the genre.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New Releases 9/4 - Bob Mould, Ego Likeness

Ego Likeness
Treacherous Thing
Label: Self-Released (
Released: 9/4 2012
Genre: Darkwave

The new single from Ego Likeness, from the upcoming album "Know Thine Enemy" due out - sometime in the future. A date hasn't been released yet. The single comes with a single-edit of the title track and six other remixes. A good solid song that shows promise for the next album being maybe a little dark. The song itself is pretty catchy, solid stuff for a club.

The remixes go from OK to solid club-remixes of the track. Good for hardcore fans and DJs (as these things are). Otherwise, no one gets overly creative with the mixes, no real deconstruction goes on. But the songs are still good, especially if you toss one or two of your favorites into a big play list.

Bob Mould
Silver Age
Label: Merge Records
Released: 9/4 2012
Genre: Hard Rock, Punk

As an former member of Hüsker Dü you expect certain things - like an album that's going to rock out. Luckily, Bob Mould has been delivering that for a couple decades now and hasn't stopped here either.

Silver age is an excellent bit of classic Bob Mould music. If you're just discovering him you'll like this album a lot. If you're a long time fan all the familiar elements are here, maybe a little more crunchy, a little more punk-rock than some of his older albums. But not too much so. It's good music and I recommend it for anyone whose a fan of rock music to pick it up and give a listen.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - Robert Cray Band

Robert Cray Band
Nothin But Love
Label: Provogue
Released: 8/28 2012
Genre: Blues

Robert Cray and his band have been making blues since the 1980s. Nothin' But Love is a slow blues record for the most part. A four piece band, it's no frills and nothing particularly striking. But it is solid music. A good kind of classic blues album that sinks you down a little.

Not particularly suited to background music by itself, as it does make you want to stop and listen. Thrown into a mix with other blues and it will keeps things mellow and melodic amongst a number of other modern blues albums. The album was recorded in a 'live room' - all the musicians together in the same space as opposed to each part recorded in a booth separately. This gives the music here a warmer mix, and a more vibrant feel.

It's a blues album, with nothing particularly outstanding, but still good.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Backcatalog - DarkDriveClinic, Midnight Oil

Noise In My Head
Label: Metropolis Records
Released: 2011
Genre: Darkwave, Gothic Rock

Duo of Rebecca Coseboom (ex-Halou, half of Stripmall Architecture - both 'dream-pop' bands) and John Fryer (most famous as a member of Love & Rockets) make up this project. It's much darker than Rebecca's normal output, and about right for John.

A slow, melodic, darkwave album, saved only from trip-hop by heavy gothic-rock elements. Their only output so far, and they're just now embarking on a tour, but it's good stuff. Somewhere between Delerium and Birthday Massacre, and I'm reminded heavily of Sky Cries Mary in the composition. Without being derivative of any of those, but it comfortably occupies a similar sound-space. If you like the electronic side of gothic music, especially with female vocals, this is definitely an album to go seek out.

Midnight Oil
Red Sails In The Sunset
Label: Columbia
Released: 1984
Genre: Alt-Rock, New Wave

Right before their mega-hit release 'Diesel And Dust' came this album. Which really sounds like a band that's found its sound but isn't comfortable in it's own skin just yet. Everything here sounds exactly like you expect Midnight Oil to sound (assuming your biggest interaction with them are the hits), polished and ready to go.

It just doesn't seem very exciting. To a casual fan of the group (as I am), there's nothing here that really jumps out at me. Sure, there's nothing that I immediately want to skip, but there's no tracks I want to skip to either. It's just kind of ho-hum. Especially in the review mirror almost thirty years later. It didn't age well, honestly. Good if you're a fan of the group - a must have at that point. I really should pick up more from the band and get deeper into them to draw a better conclusion.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New Releases 8/28 - Flobots, Pandora Celtica, Shine

The Circle In The Square
Label: Shanachie
Released: 8/28 2012
Genre: Hip Hop, Punk, Rap Rock

Flobots eschew traditional hip hop beats for punk, reggae, and rock rhythms. The lyrics are pure MC, with the exception of some chorus lines at least. And they make it work so much better than many acts that mix rapping and rock guitar.

The album is very politically and socially charged. The opening half is an unrelenting attack on the political condition, and what's been done about it, and socially conscious lyrics don't stop coming. In fact, there's very little else to this album beyond that. They manage to do it a little more tastefully than others, bringing up as much positive energy as negative insights. It's not just how bad things have gotten, it's how good we can make them. Which is a nice change, and brings the hip-hop back full circle to the socially aware lyrics that have been mostly missing for a long time now.

The one really non-political track, The Rose And The Thistle, is by far the best cut on the album. It's standard love song, without sounding creepy or stalkerish, with a chorus line that is superbly sung. While this is an album full of catchy lyrics, anthem shout outs and head bopping rhythms, it's that track that manages to ground it, pull it together and make it pop a little louder.

Pandora Celtica
Faerie Revel
Label: Self-Released (
Released: August 2012
Genre: A Cappella, Folk

Their fifth full length album, and they've come a long way. The production quality here is excellent. But the most striking part is that the group is growing in style, flair, and ability. The harmony here is the best I've heard them at on a recording.

The album is a combination of original songs and some rather good covers - Merle Travis' 16 Tons and Bob Dylan's Scarlet Town. Thus adding to my standing argument Bob Dylan is best done by other artists. The most unique song is either genius or proof they actually hate music (I'm still trying to decide) - an amazingly harmonic mash up of The Proclaimer's I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) and Chumbawumba's Tubthumping. An amazing trick, that, and very interesting to parse the lyrics together like that. Pretty much worth the price of entry for that alone, but there are 14 tracks total and none feel like a miss.

Broken Hours
Label: Self-Released (
Released: 6/21 2012
Genre: Synth-Pop, Electro

I'm not even honestly sure how I found this group, but it was hanging around my download folder waiting for me to notice it. Finally putting it on, I found a decent (not good, but decent), collection of harmless synth-pop. It occupies an emotional neutral zone.

The music is pretty simple, the lyrics not overly adventurous. But overall, it doesn't falter either. One of those albums that falls into the large middle ground of 'not bad'. The group formed in 2006, and have been performing since, but this is their first really effort at a release. It hints at some promising stuff in the future, as they're a technically competent duo with some good ideas. What they lack is a little bit of uniqueness, a punch that catapults them into something bigger, and more recognizable.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - Girls With Guitars

Samantha Fish / Cassie Taylor / Dani Wilde
Girls With Guitars
Label: Ruf Records
Released: 2011
Genre: Blues, Electric Blues

Ran across this while digging through the local record shops blues section looking for something interesting. Three female blues guitarist (well, one bassist), toss in a drummer and see if it smokes.

It's some pretty solid blues, from faster rock beats to slow blues rhythms. The album opens and closes with cover songs - Rollings Stones' Bitch and Paul Pena's Jet Airliner (made famous by the Steve Miller Band). That might be it's weak point. While the covers are solid covers, they're aren't totally new, relying on female vocals to give them a unique kick. Opening and closing like that makes it feel a bit contrived, like this is a promotion and not a group.

The middle though, with original penned tracks, feels like they should have come up with a single group name. It's a good collection of smokey blues tunes. The album doesn't have many rough edges though, it feels a little too slickly produced, more like a modern rock album than a blues one.

Still, if you need more guitar (and you do) and you like a female blues singer, this is a pretty good album to add to a collection.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Backcatalog - Overkill, Ramzi Aburedwan

Ramzi Aburedwan
Reflections Of Palestine
Label: Riverboat Records / World Music Network
Released: 2012
Genre: Traditional Palestinian

The same Ramzi Abu Redwan photographed as a bot throwing a rock at an Israeli tank in 1987, the image sparked an uprising. His grandfather was displaced in 1948 from his home to a refugee camp. Ramzi started to play when he was in his teens, and has switched tactics from hurtling rocks to promoting peace.

The music here starts out with a track whose title translate as Exile (Rahil). So there's obviously some of the youth left in the music - even if it doesn't sound angry. It sounds almost sad at times. The rest of the album is laced with traditional sounds, sound you might find coming out of a jazz bar, and the thing that very musicians can do: a kind of universal sound that's rooted nowhere. It's an excellent instrumental album.

Honestly, as I listen to this, and as I learned the artists story, it reaffirmed what I've always felt about music - it transcends other emotions to help heal, cleanse, focus, and bring us towards a batter emotional state. It certainly helped Ramzi, and we now have a light, melodic, though not quite ambient, body of work to share. Worth picking up.

The Killing Kind
Label: Steamhammer (originally on Concrete Records)
Released: 1996
Genre: Thrash Metal

Not quite moving to the opposite side of the spectrum, not entirely, but this is definitely harsher. At the height of their mid 90s style, which does deviate away from pure thrash metal into almost melodic medal at times, some even put it under groove-metal (a genre title I thoroughly ignore).

Compared to the previous album (W.F.O.) it's almost a return to form. The guitars crunch faster, and the drums pound harder. But it still slows down compared to some of the very early stuff. Blitz even attempts a kind of soft-melody style of singing, which his voice is absolutely not suited for. Still, compared to a lot of the stuff they put out in the 1990s, this is amongst the best of it. If you have to pick one post-Horrorscope album I recommend this one (well, at least I pick this one until we get to the mid-2000s where Overkill returns to full thrash-form).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New Releases 8/21 - The Darkness

The Darkness
Hot Cakes
Label: Wind-Up Records
Released: 8/21
Genre: Glam Rock, Hard Rock

The Darkness broke up in 2006 when Justin Hawkins left the band, after only 6 years. They reformed in 2011 with all the original members. This album is pure glam rock. It could have been written and recorded in the late 1970s, that's how authentically Glam this is. The only thing marking it as recent is the production quality, which is definitely modern (though they are not participating in the loudness wars).

From the opening track (which is fantastically rock'n'roll) all the to the end there's nothing but very silly, but very seriously done, cuts. Aside from their fantastic execution of the sound, the songs aren't very stand out. The best track here is a cover of Radiohead's Street Spirit (Fade Out). Which is a fantastically awesome cover that sounds like it came off an Iron Maiden album from the mid-80s.

While nothing here is going to win a Grammy as a single, the whole album feels right. Nothing dips below in quality, even if nothing rises above I like that fact. It's also a short album, 11 songs coming in at 40 minutes, making all of them solid pop-rock length, good for big stadium anthems and radio play alike - they don't get stuck in their own playing.

Definitely an album worth adding if you like glam-rock.

West 4th New Music Collective
Label: none (
Released: August 2012
Genre: Modern Classical

This isn't actually a new release - it's not even available to the public. But, I wanted to hi-light the music collective. I participated in a Kickstarter to get this concert off the ground, a download of the concert recording was a bonus. From their website: West 4th promotes the work of emerging composers and performers in New York City.

So, if you're in, or around, NYC, you can attend their concerts. I'm not, I'm all the way out here in November so I've limited ability to support them. The music from the Cellophilia concert ranged from outright amazing to the kind of screeching only a stringed instrument can create (that I hate a little bit). It's definitely a group willing to experiment with sound, composition, and songs. Which I do like a lot. They have several concerts coming up at the end of September and beginning of October.

So, hopefully, with enough encouragement, we'll see more public recordings from this group that anyone get their hands on. Either way, if you're so inclined check out their website and see what they're all about.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - Willie Dixon (I Am The Blues)

Willie Dixon
I Am The Blues
Label: Columbia Legacy
Released: 1970 (this edition: 1993)
Genre: Blues, Chicago Blues

Willi Dixon is easily in the top five of the most important early Chicago Blues artists. Widely influential and one of Chess Records stable of hit writers.

I Am The Blues was originally put out in 1970, and is unique in that it's an album of cover tunes, all originally written by Willie in the first place. Willie was one of Chess Records song writers as well as a performer, and every track on this album was performed by another artist before hand. Muddy Waters, Willie Mabon, Howlin' Wolf, and Otis Rush (his song from this was released on Cobra Records) all performed these songs before Willie did.

Putting this in a very rare set of albums where the writer is performers covers of his own tunes. To be sure, these are much more in Willie's style than just strait imitations. Critical response was originally lukewarm on it as well. The album was eventually inducted into the hall of fame. It's been popular enough for Columbia Records to keep it in print for decades.

Personally, this is excellent blues is excellent. It's a classic sounding style, Wilie goes way back into sound and production to give us an early sounding Chicago Blues album from the 1950s with this one.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Backcatalog - David J, Jackyl, Overkill

Push Comes To Shove
Label: Geffen Records
Released: 1994
Genre: Hard Rock, Blues Rock

Jackyl are a band that probably could have been a great band, at least until they fired up that chainsaw. Taking after the styles of Southern Rock and Hard Rock tinged Blues (ala ZZ Top), Jackyl have a great blues heavy rock'n'roll sound. More evident on their first album than here (their second album). But that Chainsaw gimmick both shot them to the top of the rock-charts and radio-play, and probably killed their career of anyone taking them seriously as a music act ever again. Pop Music....

Push Comes To Shove is a solid piece of work, not as daring, loud, or bold as their opening salvo, but still - this is good music. Even with that silly mustache on Jesse James Dupree's face (actually, as weird as it is, it's a style that kind of works). If your only exposure to Jackyl is "the chainsaw song" from their debut album, and you like your blues a little heavier and louder - do yourself a favor and take another look at Jackyl, they really do have a solid southern-blues sound gone wonderfully metal.

Fuck You! And Then Some
Label: MefaForce Records
Released: 1996
Genre: Thrash Metal

This isn't an album, it's a collection of EPs put all into one nice little package, because the tracks on here are pretty hard to find individually, long out of print live EPs, some demos, and one heck of a cover. Ta

First up is a studio cover b-side, and five live tracks from, the "Fuck You" EP this takes its name from. The title track and cover song from the Subhumans, showing some solid punk roots in the thrash scene. And a bunch of live tracks from the tour for Taking Over, their second album. They have always had a solid live act, and this is a good recording too, not some badly done hack job with levels pushed too high.

Shoved in the middle are two more live tracks from 1990, one track from their fourth album and a Black Sabbath cover of Hole In The Sky. If anything their live act is even more polished. A good little additional bonus for this compilation release.

Next we get the very first Overkill EP, a collection of Demos. Four tracks that started it all. Two would be re-recorded for their debut album, one left over for their second album, and one left in the dust - personally I think they re-recorded the wrong track for their second album. The lost song, The Answer, is a massive slow number that foreshadows things put out much later.

From a collector's point of view - especially one that didn't get these when they were first put out in the early and mid-80s - this is a pretty sweet compilation to pick up.

David J
I'll Be Your Chauffeur (Promo Single)
Label: RCA Records
Released: 1990
Genre: Pop Rock, Soft Rock

After being part of the absolute start of the Gothic Rock and the Romance period in England's music scene, and then moving onto Love And Rockets - an innovating and excellent punk-pop-rock band David J put out a solo album in 1990. This was a 3-track promo released to radios for it.

Normally, I try and only review things that can be moderately easily obtained, even if only used. Since this contains only three album tracks from a still in print release, I thought I'd give some thoughts on it.

If I heard any of the top-40 soft rock crap on this without Knowing it was David J I'd slap the first person who said this was his work. It's a complete disappointment compared to his previous work. To be sure I went back and listened to the full album - and yeah, there's a reason it gets almost no play from my collection. It's really just generic soft-rock, not even innovative. I think he phoned that album in.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New Releases 8/14 - Dead Can Dance, Unwoman

Dead Can Dance
Label: PIAS America
Released: 8/14 2012
Genre: Ambient, Modern Classical

Dead Can Dance have been around a very long time making wonderfully ambient works taking from styles all over the world. Technically, they disbanded in 1998, briefly reformed in 2005, and haven't released an album of new music since 1996. This is their first work of completely new music in over fifteen years. And it holds up.

Ambient style works rarely need to keep up with anything, there's very little updating to be made in the genre, but a lot of execution refinement to work on. Dead Can Dance have always been masters of execution, and Anastasis is no exception. The music flows evenly, softly, and nearly peacefully through the air. It's interesting the booklet presents the lyrics of the songs in reverse order they play, reading them you get a picture of someone letting go of their past and embracing an more open future. Listened to, it's not the opposite, but it conveys a different kind of hope, someone looking out after a long life and seeing others embracing their own futures.

I have to say, the first run through the lyrics sounded a little out of place, the male vocals aren't quite as soft as the music, but not really hard either. A sort of murky middle quality that almost doesn't fit, a clear, unaltered, singing. After a few more listens it comes to fit the music rather nicely, standing out without over powering. A good album if you want to add to the ambient, or quieter side, of your collection.

The Fires I Started
Label: self-released (
Released: 8/16 2012
Genre: Modern Classical

I've only been a fan of Unwoman for a fews years now, finding her through an industrial act no less. I picked up her back-catalog and liked what I heard, even if I wasn't completely enthralled. Most of her music had a kind of unfinished, rough, quality to it. Not so here. This is an intense, powerful, and altogether more refined sound. It's not just production quality (which has gotten better with time), but the album seems to come from a deeper place.

The music here feels hard won, the content is wide ranging from uplifting to, not angry, but certainly not all roses. And it's a long piece of work, sixteen songs taking seventy minutes. Like a good movie, you don't feel the passage of time, it paces nicely, each song flowing into the next without needing a connecting theme. Several songs do stand out as above the cut, The Future, The Boot - invoking Orwell's 1984 without sounding contrived (and that's no small feat these days). A Poison Tree - which feels very spiritual, again without feeling forced about it.

I love this album, a lot. This will stay in the top rotation for a long time, and I highly recommend everyone go out and buy it right now (yes, she has hardcopy available through the Bandcamp site).

Bonus Track:
Amanda Palmer And The Grand Theft Orchestra
The Killing Type (digital single)
Label: self-released (
Genre: Rock, Punk
A surprise pre-release single from her upcoming album tossed out to Kickstarter backers, you can order the album. If you're a fan, even a small one, of a kind of rock that invokes all the good parts of 1980s radio-friendly music then you'll want to order this. This is not an extension of Dresden Dolls, or even of her solo work. This is something wholly different, it's old-school and so very new, it's where Rock should go next, half a step backwards in style.