Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday music is a tough sell for me. The cheese flows freely like mulled wine this time of year. Not today, though. John Gilliat's seasonal album Winter Strings is a wonderful alternative to the uber-commercial mediocrity that fills the airwaves every December. Even more than that, his exceptional guitar playing and warmhearted renditions of classic Christmas songs would be welcome all year round...MORE

Monday, December 6, 2010

Goodbye Picasso - The Book Of Aylene

Country music has a way of sounding sad and fun at the same time. Goodbye Picasso recently relocated from Nashville to Brooklyn and they brought that country mix of moods with them. Their full-length debut The Book Of Aylene blends styles as well as moods: folk music, country, rock, blues, classical, and a bit of rock opera commingle in a well-seasoned, alt-country stew...MORE

Friday, November 26, 2010

Alexander McCabe - Quiz

Saxophonist Alexander McCabe's new release Quiz is a breath of fresh air. It's not a new sound, but McCabe and his group play intense post-bop with a welcome focus on expression and creativity. Jazz, in all its complex splendor, can be cold and impenetrable. All the superb, wooden-sounding jazz technicians on the scene blend together into a forgettable fog. McCabe and his quartet know the name of the game is spirit and artfulness. There's plenty of shredding, too...MORE

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Claude Hay - Deep Fried Satisfied

Claude Hay tears it up on his new release Deep Fried Satisfied as a one-man band, writer, producer, arranger, and engineer. Armed with a double-necked oddity, a bass guitar and six string in one, drums, tabla, sitar, and biting vocals, he concocts a blues sound that's raw, energetic, and totally unique. 
Hay mixes the Deep South with Southeast Asia and fries it to a spicy crisp, soul-crunchy comfort food...MORE

Monday, November 8, 2010

If you want a satisfying taste of vocal jazz standards, there's already a plethora of recordings out there. If you want a fresh dose however, Trisha O'Brien out of Cleveland has whipped up another good one titled Out Of A Dream. She's a very proficient singer with a soft croon and sincere phrasing, and with a terrific group of musicians backing her up the result is...MORE

Monday, November 1, 2010

John Nemeth - Name The Day!

Sometimes a retro act is just what the doctor ordered. If you're in the mood for that soulful R&B sound of yesteryear, instead of putting on Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, or Wilson Pickett, try John Németh's recent release Name The Day. It's a fully vintage experience: from the driving rhythm section to the blistering brass, it's a lively set of new tunes in a time-tested style...MORE 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Handful Of Stars - Adam Schroeder

Baritone saxophonist Adam Schroeder makes a terrific debut as a band leader with A Handful Of Stars. He's recorded extensively already but this is his first project as musical captain. On it, Schroeder, guitarist Graham Dechter, bassist John Clayton, and Drummer Jeff Hamilton let fly some awesome straight-ahead jazz. Their style is steeped in musical history. It's classic and familiar, but still fresh. This band really swings...MORE

Monday, October 4, 2010

Shin Kawasaki

I'm totally bowled over by Shin Kawasaki's new self-titled disc. It's the most fun, intelligent, and eclectic album I've heard in oh-so-long. Kawasaki's electro-fusion experiments grabbed me from the get-go and held on until the very last tune ended. You can cut a rug to it or absorb every clever detail through a good pair of headphones, either way it'll groove you. There're soulful vocal performances, jazz improvisations, gritty guitar, and bubbly synthesizers all blended in a genre stew. It's off the wall and mixed to a T...MORE 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dwight Twilley - Green Blimp

I didn't know Dwight Twilley at all before I heard Green Blimp, although I had heard a couple of his songs and never knew who wrote them. After I checked out this latest album, set for release on October 5, I hopped online and listened to some of the older tunes Twilley is already known for, starting with the top ten single “I'm On Fire” from 1975. This was great because I got to listen to the newest recording without any preconceived notions about what Twilley sounds like, and then I was able to put it in context with the rest of his career. You know what I found? I really dug it from both angles. That's a boon for this new album because...MORE

Friday, September 10, 2010

Panic Room - Satellite

Panic Room is a fearsome quintet of highly skilled musicians, cutting loose on melodic pop and rock songs. These talented pros explore the musical cosmos on this year's release Satellite. Led by singer and lyricist Anne-Marie Helder, Panic Room blissfully draws on a galaxy of influences including U2, Dream Theater, David Bowie, and even just a little Pat Benatar. This band may not be loved by all, but they certainly won't be ignored...MORE

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Nic Stevens - Willow Run EP

I found it hard to write about singer-songwriter Nic Stevens' Willow Run EP. His music isn't bad; in fact I think a lot of people are going to enjoy it. It was hard for me to form an opinion because his sound is so middle of the road and generic I wasn't sure what to say about it. Stevens is a solid singer with a plain, clear voice and a nice falsetto. This five-song EP runs just over twenty minutes and provides a snapshot of the artist, a harmless, heartfelt, soul-searching young dude with some stuff on his mind and a few chords under his belt...MORE

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Kito Peters - High Road

Kito Peters' music springs from 60's rebellion, but it's modern enough for boomers and hipsters alike. His songs are mind-expanded folk rock epics in the vain of Leonard Cohen, Cat Stevens, and Bob Dylan, with all the usual modern folk themes. He sings plaintively about cultural and social change, love, and trampled hearts. Peters is a talented poet, whose vivid descriptions bring the intangible to life. There're stories in his songs, but he usually makes his point with striking imagery and metaphors. All this poetry glides atop...MORE

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Beware Fashionable Women - Beware Fashionable Women

If playing indie rock means making music you like regardless of how well it's received, then Beware Fashionable Women (or BFW) are surely indie rockers. They do what they like, even if a few musical quirks, like jump jazz guitar chords and extended vocal harmonies, set them apart from their pop-rock peers. So they're a bit unique, which is terrific, but all the inventiveness in the world won't save an album if the songs aren't awesome and the band doesn't rock. Are the songs on Beware Fashionable Women awesome? Do they rock?...MORE 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Spinn - She Was Heartache

The first thing I noticed about She Was Heartache, the debut recording by rock group Spinn, is the raw acoustic sound. That unprocessed, live sound is used for most of the thirty minute album. It's a refreshing approach and it suits the candid emotions in these nine, heart-on-the-sleeve songs. The solid performances by vocalists Cheryl Lynn Spinner, Stephanie Spinner, and Megan Battaglia also leaped out. Their sweet harmonies were usually in the spotlight and I would have liked to hear...MORE

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Arrival - Devin Rice and Erin Aas

Arrival is the aptly-named new recording from first-time collaborators Erin Aas and Devin Rice. The 15 tracks are brand new compositions and the music is New Age. It's all very fresh, but Aas and Rice aren't wet behind the ears. They've each been bustling in the music biz for some time, recording, performing, and composing. Both are finger-style guitar mavens and their acoustic axes are the heart of this wholly instrumental record...MORE

Friday, July 9, 2010

Shakura S'Aida - Brown Sugar

Shakura S'Aida is an adept and powerful Blues, Jazz, and R&B singer. Her best asset, though, might be her skill as a performer. The 12 tracks on her sophomore recording Brown Sugar sound spontaneous, enthusiastic, and unaffected. She's comfortable with all the broad stylistic ground she covers. The album isn't as risqué as the title would suggest. Two tracks, “Brown Sugar” and “Sweet Spot,” are chock full of suggestive lyrics, but the other ten songs tackle themes like heartache, spirituality, love, and...MORE

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Light You Make - Jessy Tomsko

The way we experience life, how we think and feel, is up to us. That's the pervasive theme of Jessy Tomsko's debut album The Light You Make.  The disc's ten appealing songs let us in on her philosophy and her gift for effortless warmth. From the cover art to her breezy, mellifluous singing voice, the presentation is welcoming and unguarded. 
Her style is so easy and her voice so sweet you might not notice how...MORE

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Various Artists - Thalamus III

A thalamus is a small structure deep in the brain that helps coordinate sensations and consciousness. If you want to make yours rattle and hum, listen to Thalamus III, a two-disc set of intense ambient music recorded live in 2005. The performance took place in St. Petersburg and the artists are pillars of the Russian Industrial music scene. It's dark and gritty noise music that draws you in and freaks you out at the same time. Expect trippy collages of musical and industrial sounds, not pulsing house music...MORE

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sora - Heartwood

I put on Heartwood, the most recent album by Canadian singer/songwriter Sora, for a friend of mine and he said “I feel like I'm in Lord Of The Rings.” With Sora's courtly style, Celtic influences, and operatic voice, she'd perfectly fit the soundtrack of a Fantasy epic. Relax and listen to these dreamy soundscapes and you may be transported to a dewy Irish briar, sprites and fairies fluttering about, or you might be bored out of your mind. Either way, don't put this disc on during a party unless you're trying to clear it out and get to bed...MORE

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dreyelands - Rooms Of Revelation

This just in: slammin' virtuoso metal band arrives from Budapest! If you've got a hankering for superior progressive metal, heavy on the chops, then Dreyelands is what you crave. This Hungarian quartet thunders high-energy meticulous rock with a touch of gothic flavor. Each member (and a session keyboard player) gets his chance to shine on the band's debut Rooms Of Revelation.

The first track on Rooms is a minute and a half of reverb-soaked footsteps and creaking doors called “Entering.” Ok, so it's not replacing The Wall as rock's greatest concept record. Just let the fact that all the song titles begin with a room number (“Room 1: Seek For Salvation,” “Room 2: Can't Hide Away,” etc.) give you a chuckle and forget the concept. Think of it as eight burnin' metal tunes with lyrics about personal stuff. Any classic Metallica album could fit that description...MORE