Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Leftovers - Stop Drop Rock N Roll - 2005


Delivering hot-wired pop-punk with sharp melodic hooks and enough energy to power a fleet of 18-wheelers, the Leftovers hail from Portland, ME, and consist of Kurt Baker on bass and lead vocals, Andrew Rice on guitar and backing vocals, and Adam Woronoff on drums. Formed in 2002, the Leftovers made their recording debut in 2003 with an EP titled Mitton Street Special. A year later, the band released their first full album, Stop Drop Rock N Roll. Cheapskate Records joined forces with the band for their second long-player, 2006's Party Tonight, while Rally Records issued a three-song 7" the same year, Steppin' on My Heart. The band toured both the United States and the United Kingdom in 2006, earning rave reviews from the likes of Ben Weasel and Larry Livermore, and in early 2007 the band went into Smart Studios in Madison, WI, to begin work on album number three. On the Move was subsequently released that June.-AMG



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Friday, May 29, 2009

The Vinyl Kings - A Little Trip - 2002


The members of the Vinyl Kings have individually produced, written songs for, played on recordings by, or toured with such artists as Sting, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Neil Young, Shawn Colvin, Shania Twain, Paul Brandt, Jimmy Buffett, Steve Winwood, Dan Fogelberg, Glenn Frey, J.D. Souther, Kim Carnes, Peter Frampton, Bobby Womack, Steve Earle, Bob Seger, Vince Gill, John Fogerty, Mark Knopfler, Faith Hill, Tina Turner, Martina McBride, James Ingram, Leann Rimes, Michael McDonald, Trisha Yearwood, Rosanne Cash, Wynonna Judd, Brooks & Dunn, Alabama, Bad Company, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Steppenwolf, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Kathy Mattea, Lyle Lovett and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. In early 2001 the Vinyl Kings decided to try some thing new: To record a CD of their original songs that would draw upon one of their greatest influences, The Beatles. One could say that their CD "A Little Trip" is a concept record. But the band would say that it is more of a homage to not only the Beatles, but to a time in musical history that changed their lives forever. -CD Baby



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Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Channels - The Channels - 2006


From the get-go, the Beach Boys echoes are priceless, endearing and so succulently mouth-watering, that those echoes alone can instantly hook you. But with influences drawn also from Jonathan Richman, Pavement and Fountains of Wayne, this nuance-rich, soaring yet crunchy dream pop is totally transfixing, entirely absorbing and invades the heart like a virus you'd welcome with open arms. Those little twinkles of early sixties pop and garage rock mixed together with today's indie quality makes The Channels one of our new favorite bands. How an album can be simultaneously adorable and profound is the question of the day- and The Channels are here to answer it. -CD Baby



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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Jay Bennett/Edward Burch - The Palace at 4 A.M. (Part 1) - 2002


The Chicago-based duo of Jay Bennett and Edward Burch compile an admirable but ultimately unspectacular set of songs on their 2002 release The Palace at 4 A.M.. These 15 earthy pop ballads will interest Wilco fans in particular, who may sit straining to hear any of the reasons Bennett left the group, trying to decide whether it was worth it. One thing that is undeniably clear is the multi-instrumentalist's exceptional abilities in the producer's chair; his richly textured arrangements shimmer and pulse with a life of their own. It is evident in the mellotron hums and tubular bell chimes that Bennett had his hand in much (possibly most) of the arrangements on Summerteeth, and his absence may bode ill for future Wilco releases. The Palace at 4 A.M. unfortunately suffers from a couple of flaws, not least of which are the only average singing voices of Bennett and his collaborator, Edward Burch. While there is nothing technically wrong with the way they sing, the melodies are for the most part breathy and monotone, no match at all for the musical fireworks going on behind them. Another problem with this seven-year songwriting team is the fact that they seem to have a very similar musical vision; while this may lend itself to refreshing amiability in the studio, it makes for a rather sparkless finished product. Points deserving attention include a pair of Woody Guthrie-penned songs that never made it to the Mermaid Avenue albums, a version of "My Darlin'" which also appeared on Summerteeth in a fairly different form, and the atypically upbeat "Talk to Me," which stands out among some of the darker material on the disc. Much like Jeff Tweedy's Chelsea Walls soundtrack, The Palace at 4 A.M. may interest curious fans and pop aficionados, but the album probably won't make it into most people's heavy rotation.-AMG



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On May 24, 2009 Bennett died unexpectedly in his sleep. Details of his death have yet to be revealed. At the time of his death, Bennett lived in Urbana, Illinois, where he spent most of his time writing songs and recording in his private studio, Pieholden Suites. Rate this posting:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Long Ryders - State of Our Union - 1985


The Long Ryders kicked off their major label debut, State of Our Union, with one of their most anthemic and most explicitly political songs, "Looking for Lewis and Clark," and that tune set the tone for the rest of the album -- State of Our Union found the Long Ryders reaching for a larger audience at the same time that they were using their music to say a great deal more than they had in the past. Musically, plenty of roadwork had tightened the band's interplay to an even finer point than on Native Sons (Sid Griffin and Stephen McCarthy were both in superb voice, and their guitar work meshed perfectly), and Will Birch's production gave the songs a poppier sheen that still allowed the band's roots-conscious sound to shine through. Lyrically, State of Our Union took a long look at Reagan-era America as the gulf between the rich and the poor began to divide the nation, with "You Can't Ride the Boxcars Anymore," "Two Kinds of Love," and "Good Times Tomorrow, Hard Times Today" all exploring issues of economic injustice, and even the less obvious political songs often having a progressive subtext ("WDIA," a tribute to the great Memphis R&B radio station, deals with how the love of music brought together black and white listeners in the 1960s). 10-5-60 and Native Sons had already made it clear that the Long Ryders knew how to make great rock & roll, but State of Our Union suggested they had a lot else on their minds, and they were able to air their concerns while playing music that could move the masses...assuming that the masses ever heard them. - AMG



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Monday, May 25, 2009

Fastball - All the Pain Money Can Buy - 1998


When compared to their previous album (the 1996 debut Make Your Mama Proud), Fastball's All the Pain Money Can Buy shows that the group was steadily improving and honing its AAA/roots rock sound. The biggest difference between All the Pain Money Can Buy and their debut is that by spicing up their songs with horns and classic synthesizer sounds, Fastball created an album with greater musical variety. Produced by Julian Raymond and the band, the disc recalls the sound and approach of classic '70s rock, with the group stressing feel over precision. That doesn't stop the band from updating its vintage rock with '90s technology and sounds, however, as proven by the presence of a beatbox in the album's opener, "The Way." One of the best tracks, the laid-back and groovy "Which Way to the Top?," is a duet between Fastball's Miles Zuniga and female solo artist Poe. The horn section featured on the upbeat "G.O.D. (Good Old Days)" recalls early-period Chicago, while the band tackles the singer/songwriter genre of days past on "Out of My Head" with a mellow organ sound and introspective lyrics. If you like your classic rock with a little more grit and experimentation, Fastball are wholeheartedly recommended. -AMG



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Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Marigolds - Wild - 2001


Hitting the stage for the first time at one of Perth, Australia’s best known venues in 1985, it was not long until The Marigolds began to draw attention to themselves with their endlessly diverse range of song craft and musical styles. The Marigolds output represent good tunes, wide open pop, a bit of garage, and a smattering of country overlapping sixties flower-pop. Just like their namesake, they bloom and then they die. “Wild” contains almost all their recordings on one CD. -Zip Records



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Friday, May 22, 2009

The Pipettes - We Are the Pipettes - 2006


Just when you thought they didn't make 'em like that anymore, Brighton's Pipettes emerge with this debut album to prove you wrong. With hooks and looks borrowed from the golden era of Phil Spector, the Pipettes, it seems, are on an admirable mission to re-establish the concept of the girl group, and there are, undoubtedly, some true gems on We Are the Pipettes: the 2006 mid-summer single "Pull Shapes" being one. With its stop-start rhythms, sparkling near-disco strings, and a lyric celebrating the bliss of dancing your cares away ("I just wanna move/I don't care what the song's about"), it gives the listener a pretty good picture of what this record is all about. "Your Kisses Are Wasted on Me" and "Dirty Mind" are also very well-executed, upbeat girl group pop songs. But the era of girl groups, of course, was just as notorious for its highly melodramatic ballads. On "A Winter's Sky," the Pipettes come close to perfecting this art as well. It stands out from the majority of the songs by being seemingly irony-free and sincere, rather downtempo, and filled with the sweet vocal harmonies bound to melt even the iciest of hearts. Not all the tracks are equally great, of course. The theme song "We Are the Pipettes" is just plain silly, and not in a good way. Although the album does drop a little in quality towards the end, there's not much filler on We Are the Pipettes; considering that this is a 14-song debut album, that's no small feat. One objection does, however, spring to mind -- why on earth did they not include "School Uniform"? -- arguably one of the most absurdly catchy and fun pop singles of the last few years. With their strictly classicist approach, the Pipettes have managed to bring the girl group concept into a new millennium. Inevitably, though, they have brought something of their own time period and personal outlook to the formula. Firstly, all-male backing musicians the Cassettes make them sound much more like a band than any of the classic girl groups, who were more often than not very studio-bound projects. Secondly, and for the better, their lyrics are in no way inextricably bound to clichéd boy/girl love themes. At times they subtly attempt social commentary, for example on the fine single "Judy," but more often they're humorously reversing the stereotypical boy/girl roles. If not particularly important, We Are the Pipettes is both witty and filled with ear-catching melodies. Recommended listening for any lover of classic, celebratory pop.-AMG



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Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Movies - Bullets Through The Barrier - 1978


What made The Movies special is their lack of speciality. They could go anywhere and talk to anyone. If they arrived at the BBC, they would talk the doorman's language, then the receptionist's, then the studio manager's, and then the Chief Executive's. They had the manner of every class of human being stored in some internal database. But for themselves, they were - in the words of one of their songs - 'No Class'. I followed them down a BBC hallway, and heard their accents, even their personalities, change according to whom they met on the way. This was not the behaviour of human beings, but of the mirror-men of Planet Tharg.
As for politics, their rejection of barriers, of class, and of gentlemen's clubs (viz 'Big Boys Band') might have endeared them to the far-Left, but it didn't, because the far-Left believed then that anyone in the Music Business must be deeply fascist. And the far-Right didn't like them because they rejected barriers, class, and gentlemen's clubs. And everyone in the middle was quite happy with Punk (whose words they couldn't hear) or Not Punk (whose words were blissfully untroubling). No wonder The Movies never made a bean!
But they had a devoted following, dotted across the globe. Dundee was a hotspot. And Bath, well I think that was the only time I came across an audience weirder than the band. Even in New York. And you know you've got somewhere when the audience mouths the words back at you. That's frightening. You really don't want to get it wrong when there's hundreds of people lurching in front mouthing words in time: if you get it wrong, they'll lose sync and start crashing about.
Thanks tyronetieclip!!

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Flaming Lips - Oh My Gawd!!!...The Flaming Lips - 1987


Starting with either a sample or a cool replication of a legendary one-off line in the Beatles' "Revolution No. 9" — "Take this, brother, may it serve you well!" — the Lips dive head-on into rock dreams on Oh My Gawd!!! Coyne's sudden resemblance vocally to Paul Westerberg is its own curiosity, but the Replacements never quite got so fried — drunk, yes, but not fried. The cover, one weird-ass collage of skullmonsters, random photographs of landscapes, dogs and things, and, on the back, somebody literally burning up serves to set the mood just as much as the rampaging fun of "Everything's Exploding." The same combination of this and that which made Hear It Is a fun listen takes precedence here — Coyne and company can strum along softly or crank everything up to ten and back as they please, and they do. Coyne's knack for utterly brilliant song titles also takes full life here — how else to explain such hilarities as "Maximum Dream for Evil Knievel" or the flatly phrased "Prescription: Love," a groovy mindbender and arty rave-up all at once. While the Lips here are still a rock band par excellence, evidence of the band's increasing ambition kicks in with the simultaneously mocking and celebratory Pink Floyd vibes of "One Million Billionth of a Millisecond on a Sunday Morning." All ten minutes of it should really be on Ummagumma — Richard English's drums are pure Nick Mason from the get-go — but darn if it doesn't sound equally great here, as Coyne idly wonders what to do with himself in the time allotted. Other songs throw in everything from Led Zeppelin drum stomps to Mountain/Deep Purple raspy rock bellowing and more besides — theoretically everything mid-'80s American indie rock wasn't, making the Lips that much more of a fun, unique trip. -AMG




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