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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Tunsi - Inner-Cept

No matter how you find Tunsi's music, you have to admit he's the real deal. A step beyond indie, he's a true do-it-yourself artist. His newest album Inner-Ceptis a display of his unique hip-hop style built from the ground up, totally solo. Tunsi writes and produces everything himself. It's his sixth disc and he's paid his dues and definitely earned some skills. At first you might be distracted by the raw, homemade sound, but give it a chance. Let your ears adjust to the grit and you'll get a dose of hip-hop chops.
It doesn't take long to see Tunsi's got rhymes galore. He raps...MORE

Friday, May 21, 2010

Smash Corps - Premeditated

Smash Corps slam out of the gate on Premeditated, no holds barred, no prisoners taken. Their style of modern murderous metal with a dash of punk attitude assaults and charms equally. The Chicago-based quintet is aggressive and booming without forgetting the tasty blues-metal riffs and rhythmic mischief that draws even careful listeners in. They manage to keep this level of quality and power through almost all the album. Like the cover art, the lyrics are harsh, offensive, funny, and obscene. Lead vocalist Tim Smith roars about money, failure, success, drugs, alcohol, sex, and violence in a half-rap singing style reminiscent of old Biohazard. He rhymes like Run-DMC and screams like...MORE

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Blld - Materia Prima

Progressive rock aces Blld play with so much intensity on Materia Prima you might need an intermission to collect your wits. It's like experimental rock concentrate, hours of artistry boiled down to just 20 minutes of potent fusion syrup. This album is not easy listening. In fact, this style might call for a new label along the lines of “tough listening.” That's not a put-down at all, it's a way of saying Materia Prima is decidedly not smooth background music. Layers of atmospheric sounds, off-kilter grooves, and bizarre melodies intertwine like a long-unattended garden growing out of control. It challenges the listener and pushes buttons and boundaries.

Blld is a duo project from experienced progressive rockers Markus Reuter and 05ric, aka Ric Byer. Both musicians have been out there making exciting new sounds for some time, and have teamed...More

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ramzi - Color

Four years ago Ramzi left his workaday life in California and settled in NYC to try his luck as a singer-songwriter. Fueled by dreams of a life less ordinary (“living life from the heart,” as he puts it in the song “Breaking Free”) he sewed his heart on his sleeve and went to work. The fruit of that love and labor is his debut album Color. It's a decent first effort despite some drippy clichés and uninspired filler. All 12 tracks are listenable and a couple are pretty darn good.

As a songwriter Ramzi has a story-teller's sensibility. In “Breaking Free” he recounts...More

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Jack Gaffney - Nothing To Be Afraid Of

Jack Gaffney is a young singer/songwriter from Boulder, Colorado. His new independently-released album is called Nothing To Be Afraid Of. It's five original songs are mediocre mainstream fare, ably produced. Sound like thousands of other unsigned recording artists working hard in the music business? Sure, but Jack is different. How? Well, did I say he was young? I meant very young, only 12 actually.

Like Neil Diamond before puberty and cigarettes, Gaffney belts out his own rock and roll love songs with a clean soprano voice. He's a good singer and obviously a very talented, hard-working young guy. Any 12-year-old who writes, records, and...More

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Voices Of The Archetypes - Deena Chappell Smith

Voices Of The Archetypes is a smart, eclectic blast of psychedelic folk music. You could call it a concept album, the concept being the quirky subconscious of charismatic singer/songwriter Deena Chappell Smith. It's loaded with stories told in clever poetry and a wonderful palette of sounds. With all its bounciness and humor you might think you're listening to music written for children. I could see a child being mesmerized by Smith's lovable songs but this is definitely a full-fledged, grown-up endeavor. It's sort of like adult music for the kid in all of us. Hey, it worked for...MORE

Monday, March 22, 2010

Jenny Whiteley - Forgive Or Forget

How would you answer the question “What kind of music do you like?” Maybe a list of favorites, or a single genre label that mostly describes your taste? One common answer is “I like anything but country.” Jenny Whiteley's recent release Forgive Or Forget is a great retort to that unfortunate declaration. She sings ten of her own beautiful folk and country songs without a snag. The album features clever, catchy, and inviting tunes and Whiteley delivers her heartfelt vocals with subtle prowess.

Simple melodies can be the easiest to sing, but the hardest to sing well. It's up to the vocalist to make a simple song interesting with the right presentation. Folk melodies have acres of wiggle room for interpretation. Whiteley brings her songs to life with...More

Saturday, March 6, 2010

David MacKenzie And Josh Johnston - Notes Home

Partners in jazz David MacKenzie (violin) and Josh Johnston (piano) recently released a second studio album called Notes Home. It's a flavorful mix of vintage and contemporary sounds. The classic swing music of Stephan Grappelli (a jazz violinist like David MacKenzie can't avoid this comparison anyway) is their jumping off point, but they mix in elements of blues, Latin, contemporary jazz, pop, and classical styles, and the result is music with real depth.

All 13 songs are original compositions and not one is a dud. Whether straight from the Gypsy jazz playbook like “Cap Mortola,” or alluding to the songs of Robert Schumann like “Through The Night,” each tune...More

Why Make Clocks - These Things Are Ours

Why Make Clocks is the plugged – in folk-rock brainchild of singer/songwriter Dan Hutchinson. The 2009 release These Things Are Ours is the third full – length album from this Des Moines – based artist. The first release was in 1998 and, for better or for worse; the band’s sound is rooted in the rock music of the 90s. The influence of 1990s mainstays REM, Gin Blossoms, and Sonic Youth is easy to hear.
All ten tracks share a disaffected tone, but they range from despairing to up-tempo dissatisfaction. My favorite song “Circles” moves at a pretty good clip and is arranged with the most variety of all the tunes. The opener “Self Impressions” is a slow, melancholy song with...More

Bernie - The Legend Of The Mythical Man-Month...

Bernie Durfee records under just his first name, Bernie. After listening to his brand new, first – ever release The Legend of the Mythical Man-month and More Tales from the Confines of the Corporate Cubicle, with its quirky humor and clumsy charm, the name seems to fit just perfectly.

Bernie is a one–man band who writes and performs all the music on this fifty – minute, unhip mishmash of classic rock, quirky jam band clutter, dub bass lines, and punk rock rambling. I kind of liked it. There’s lots of guitar soloing, some of it pretty nice and some mediocre. Bernie’s lead guitar is...More

I Love Rich - Season Of The Rich

When listening to Season of the Rich, the latest release from Chicago rockers I Love Rich, one thing about the band is obvious: I Love Rich loves Kiss. A lot. In fact I would guess they started as a tribute band and evolved gradually into an original outfit, possibly without noticing. They sound a lot like Kiss.
This style of rock is about celebrating the old “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll,” having fun and playing loud. It’s about raw instinct and unapologetic brashness, and not thinking too much. Maybe the only fair way to judge this album is...More

Mike Rinta - Eponymous

Mike Rinta’s resume as a sideman is as impressive as it is varied: he’s backed up jazz legends Herbie Hancock and Arturo Sandoval, but he’s also shared a stage with Jerry Garcia, Santana, and, just recently, Sly and the Family Stone on an international tour. Rinta’s solo debut Eponymous makes it easy to see why such stellar and diverse artists seek him out. He plays with lyrical charm and mixes styles seamlessly. The 12 original compositions on Eponymous are tasteful and fun, extroverted yet thoughtful takes on traditional jazz, blues, hard bop, and R&B.

Traditional New Orleans jazz is a big influence for Rinta. The music doesn’t sound old fashioned, though, just...More

Dave Keller - Play For Love

Bluesman Dave Keller makes his home in Montpelier, Vermont, a town not known as a soulful blues mecca. His new album Play For Love may be enjoyable, but Montpelier’s reputation isn’t changing anytime soon.

Keller plays a mild, bluesy R & B that’s pleasant but not too exciting or moving. His band backs him up with

A Life Of Science - The Apneist

Theodore Roosevelt famously promoted a “life of effort.” So which eminent figure championed a “life of science?” Bill Nye? Thomas Dolby? Regardless of who said it, I think they would all be proud of Phoenix – based indie rockers A Life of Science for their new multimedia project TheApneist.

In a mysterious laboratory, the freshman quartet has created...More

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Flying Machines show they can certainly rock on their self-titled debut album. It’s a classic kind of rock (the influence of legendary artists is obvious) but these guys aren’t throwbacks or copycats. As others have already observed, Queen is the most noticeable inspiration for these New York songsters, but Flying Machines aren’t clones. The similarities seem to come from a heartfelt camaraderie with Doctor Brian May’s venerable band. They’re sort of picking up where their idols left off, blazing their own...More

With a name like Hear Hums, the musical brainchild of young Floridian Mitchell Myers could be minimalist ambient drones. It isn’t. The music grooves, rocks, entices, surprises, quips, and howls. I listened to four tracks from Hear Hums’ self-released debut album Notions Shift at Tryptamine Bay and I wanted to hear more. Myers’ tunes are chock full of interesting sounds, lyrics, and real instrumental skill...More

On her forthcoming EP, Pittsburgh native Melinda Grey sings bluesy rock with a whiff of country and pop. Her previous release titled The Melinda EP, from 2007, leaned more toward pop music. She attempts a rougher, more down-home sound this time around. Her new style is part Etta James, part Aerosmith, and part Britney Spears. It's a solid performance by a talented and well-trained singer (she attended Berklee College of Music in Boston) but she was at her best singing upbeat country and pop. Even if I ignore her teen-idol style PR photos, I just can't buy her as...More

45th Parallel - Take 2

It's called Take 2, but it's the first release from Washington-based hard rock trio 45th Parallel. At first I was struck by how similar their sound is to overplayed mainstream 1990's radio staples like Staind and Creed. Any song on Take 2 could be slipped, unnoticed, onto a mix CD of late 90's uber-commercial hard rock bands, but they might...MORE