February 2013 Archives

Hollis Brown well-crafted country rock

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The debut from Hollis Brown is ``Ride On The Train'' and it's on Alive Natural Sound Records. These guys play well-crafted country rock, homogenized and fairly bitchen and fully as dangerous as whistling in the backyard. Thus again, talent wins out over snarky critic half-witticisms and if you floated into your favorite dive bar thinking impure thoughts, you might stay for a few extra beers just to enjoy the tunes.

Osaka Popstar's pogo pop

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JohnCafieo-Marichan.jpgOsaka Popstar has a new single "Super Hero" and it's on Misfits Records. It's pogo powered pop which sounds like these people fell asleep for 20 years in a row listening to "What Do I Get?" by the Buzzcocks. There's only two short songs - so it's over before you get tired of it, but you won't; and gotta love that Josh Howard cover art. 

The second song is about Cap'n Crunch, why ask why?

Midnight Spin brings back big rock

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No soulful ballads on the debut from Midnight Spin, and that would be "Don't Let Me Sleep" and it's on - wow - self-released Midnight Spin. Big guitar riffs, big voice, big beats - big deal. They used to call this arena rock - I'm getting Journey flashbacks. It's all perfectly produced, competent if uninspired, yet these guy will doubtlessly cause their girlfriends to salivate. The rest of us? Not so sure, and Journey was always a bum trip for me.

Cerebral country rock from Apache Relay

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Apache Relay's latest is "American Nomad" and it's on Nomadic Recordings and it's from 2011 - hey, my horse threw a shoe - just got this one, and if we haven't listened then it's just like new. They guys play baroque art rock, maybe like a Decemberists Lite but more like another Avett Brothers-flavored band of cerebral country rock. They have their own vibe most of it having to do with way cool frontman Michael Ford Jr., who has an open mind - a reb from Tennessee, who has recorded a song by that Boss Yankee, ``State Trooper. These guys are definitely worth a listen.

Wake Owl worth a hoot

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Wake Owl has a swell new EP, `Wild Country'' on Vagrant Records - Colyn Cameron is the bird brain behind it all and it's all slo mo and cerebral as the world continues to go Avett in a hand basket. There's worse places to go and worse guides to show you the way. And hey, sad violin players - things are looking up - every band now wants you or someone like you in their band. Also, love the astute observation in the first song, the title tune: ``All we know we don't know the way.'' Don't be a stubborn male knucklehead, ask directions.

Churchwood rocks the blues, 2

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Churchwood's second album title is `'2'' a model of simplicity all the way from Texas on Saustex Records. The label website has some funny lines that may be worth stealing later such as these guys ``are saving the blues from the blahs,'' all the way from Austin, ``a city rightly accused to being `The Boring White Blues Capitol of the World.''' Wow, that's funny and this definitely ain't your boring blues society blues - it's grungy, growly and gruff, out of focus, rough around the edges - maybe this used to be blues - drunkard's blues, maybe. These guys would've made a great triple bill with Top Jimmy & the Rhythm Pigs and the Gun Club - both unfortunately making bad career moves by dying. And Churchwood has enough guitar action to cause Robert Cray to spontaneously combust should he approach within a 13-block radius. 21st century blues, so they say - they rock, I say...

Rest, Manifest, and Crow

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The new Graveyard album is "Lights Out" and it's on the truth in advertising Nuclear Blast label. It's in you face hard rock, too often so strident that the typical graveyard inhabitants might go the zombie route just to get away from all this noise. Some Rolling Stone geezer called them "a nimbler Black Sabbath;" whatever - do we really miss Black Sabbath all that much? These guys are Swedish hard rockers with their own brand of beer, but it's just fist in the air, head in the ass metal malarkey.

The best albums of 2012

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Read Locey's complete column as printed in Time Out Feb. 15.
1. The Lumineers, "The Lumineers" (Dualtone). Believe all the hype you've heard as to the Lumineers and that "Ho Hey" song isn't even the best cut on the album - I like "Classy Girls" and "Dead Sea."

2. Zeus, "Busting Visions" (Arts & Crafts). As to Zeus, why not start at the top because if you dance with the gods, they'll lead you to paradise. This Zeus is a mind-bending Toronto guitar band that has moments of Phish, Queen and the Beatles as well as other stuff - they're really good - you can invent your own new adjectives.

3. The Bopcats, "25 Years Of Rock 'n' Roll" (Eller Sound). The Bopcats are an old school bar band sort of like the Morells or the Bottle Rockets that might make you drink more beer than you need and dance funny - Buddy Holly would've loved them.

4. John Mayer, "Born And Raised" (Columbia). I finally listened to a John Mayer album after all these years - big wow - he's a singer/songwriter on top of his game. "Queen of California" and "Something Like Olivia" are just two good ones from an album with no weak cuts.

5. Jack White, "Blunderbuss" (Columbia). Jack White knows what he's doing - he rocks hard and even covers "I'm Shakin'" by the Blasters, so extra points for that.

6. Todd Snider, "Acoustic Hymns & Stoner Fables" (Aimless Records). Funny songs about serious stuff and the answer to the unasked question: What if John Prine was a long haired hippie playing songs for those that smoked their lunch?

7. JD McPherson, "Signs & Signifiers" (Rounder). Old school r&b blues belter with soul to spare and how 'bout that great gruff been-there-done-that voice?

8. Titus Andronicus, "Local Business" (XL Recordings). The band - a textbook definition of trippy indie rock - will take you on a trip to the garage and beyond. Made a point to see 'em at Coachella last year; and before that, loved their Civil War-themed album.

9. The Shrouded Strangers, "Lost Forever" (Izniz Recordings). Moody, murky and bluesy stoner pop by this tight trio out of the redneck Richmond , mixing some early Stones and plenty of beer.

10. Spiritualized, "Huh?" (Fat Possum). The latest mind-bending exploration of guitar god Jason Spaceman who never fails to live up to his name. Listening to this may jeopardize your expected results on that drug test at work.

11. Lord Huron, "Lonesome Dreams" (IAMSOUND). Frontman Ben Schneider says it best when he calls his band "a slow motion roller coaster ride." Works for me as to this E Ticket dream pop band.

12. Divine Fits, "A Thing Called Divine Fits" (Merge). Small 's' supergroup made up of guys from a bunch of bands you've never heard of hit it out of the park with their nervous pop debut.

13. Cold Specks, "I Predict A Graceful Expulsion" (Broken Hertz/Mute). Al Spx is the pseudonym of a Canadian singer based in London belting out some so-called "doom soul." She's got it.

14. Fun, "Some Nights" (Fueled By Ramen). Intricate harmonies will make you a fan, just as it did the Grammy voters - sorta reminds me of Panic at the Disco.

15. Bob Mould, "Silver Age" (Merge). More propulsive rock as we have come to expect from the former Husker-Dude and Sugar frontman. As righteous as it is rough around the edges.

16. Trail Of Dead, "Lost Songs" (Superball Music). Sounds like BritPop - it's not - it's one of the greatest band from Texas that's as good as Phish (but way different) going where no jam band has gone before. I drove all the way to Hell-A on a work night just to buy a band shirt - the band was even better.

17. Yellow Ostrich, "Strange Land" (Barsuk). This band is a showcase for the vocal gymnastics of one Alex Shaaf - betcha the first tune, "Elephant King" makes you a Yellow Ostrich fan.

18. Shovels and Rope, "O' Be Joyful" (Dualtone). Low budget, guy and a gal Southern folk rock with happening harmonies. It's worth it just for the photo on the back cover of the album.

19. Big Walker , "Root Walking" (Big Walker). Old black blues dude who is reminiscent of John Lee Hooker and those other legends doing that down and dirty blues thing.

20. Gretchen Peters, "Hello Cruel World" (Scarlet Letter). Peters sings sad girl serenades with real religious fervor - she's as good as Adele with a smaller bank account.

21. Phillip Phillips, "The World From The Side Of The Moon" (Interscope). He was an "American Idol" winner in 2012 and after about 30 seconds of this one - it's clear why. Phillips has that perfect world-weary rock voice which totally works on these bluesy rockers.

22. Freelance Whales, "Diluvia" (Mom & Pop). Intricate vocals going off everywhere on these baroque pop tunes makes this one a winner.

23. Two Gallants, "The Bloom & The Blight" (Ato). It's a folk rock duo out of the Bay Area that make it happen with swell vocals and tight melodies.

23. Django Django, "Django Django" (Ribbon Music). These guys were the Next Big Thing BritPop band for 2012.

24. River City Extension, "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger" (XOXO Records). Yet another great band out of New Jersey - all eight of them doing jam band friendly country rock.

25. Perfume Genius, "Put Your Back B 2 It" (Matador). This is the alias of one Mike Hadreas, a solo arrtist out of Seattle. He can sing and his songs will live in your head for daze - what else is there?

Honorable Mention and definitely worth a listen (or three): 

Alabama Shakes
Avett Brothers
Black Twig Pickers
JC Brooks & Uptown Sound
Gary Clark Jr.
Crystal Fighters
Dandy Warhols
Dr. Dog
the Dunwells

Ed. Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
Eve 6
Kinky Friedman
Gaslight Anthem
Good Old War
Ellie Goulding
Green Day (both of them)
Ha Ha Tonka
Milo Greene
Jim Hanft

John Hiatt
Missy Higgins
the Hives
the Japandroids
Jeff The Brotherhood
King Tuff
Mark Lanegan Band
Little Big Town
Low Cut Connie
Corb Lund
Maroon 5
Rhett Miller
Milo Greene
The New Number 2

AC Newman
Of Monsters And Men
the Pines
the Raveonettes
Redd Kross

Reverend Payton's Big Damn Band
Xavier Rudd
Scars On 45
the Shins
Sonny & the Sunsets
Tame Impala
Teenage Bottle Rocket
Tom Tom Club
We Are Serenades
Paul Weller
the XX
Young Rebel Set

Intrude on Tegan and Sara, take something from Cashbox

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Longtime heroines to the LGBT folks, the Canadian Quin sisters, Tegan and Sara have a new one, "Heartthrob," which is their seventh album, just out on Warner Brothers. No long funky folkies - or even lite rockers as they were a few months back at the Bowl in Santa Barbara - they now sound like those other ten zillion disco pop dance divas. They'll probably make millions - I used to like them better before as these are fairly interchangeable and far from terrific. You need to check out "Creeping Out Sara," some drunken foolishness from NOFX about a chance awkward misunderstanding at the Warped Tour.

Ow and odd, and old

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Laibach, definitely not to be confused with laid back, is anything but that - rather an edgy Slovenian industrial/techno rock band that will take you outside your comfort zone. They've been at this since 1980 and have more than 25 albums - this latest one is "An Introduction to Laibach" and it's on Mute Records

Even their name is controversial. Laibach was the Nazi name given to the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, during WWII and there's also the group's uniforms and totalitarian imagery - are they kidding? Probably, but then again...The band's interpretation of "Ballad of a Thin Man" is positively creepy and also, pretty cool. "Across the Universe" sounds like an ethereal church choir while another Lennon-McCartney biggie, "Get Back," sounds like it's being shrilly recited by SS iguana lizards goose stepping around the trailer park. Once again, laid back not.

Reggae legend Barrington Levy has enough songs for an anthology (or two) - this one is "Sweet Reggae Music," and it's on VP Records, 40 songs on a pair of CDs covering his prolific career from 1979 thru 1984. It's easy to dismiss this as the basic reggae stuff - one song, one beat, one week - well, yeah - except that it's 40 songs. Jamaican dudes do tend to find that groove, get way comfortable and stay awhile, focusing on women and the pernicious weed. Pleasant enough.

Ink battles in broad strokes

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The Broadheds debut is self-titled and it's an advance from dear old Dangerbird Records due out on April 9. It's four guys from Hell-A playing ska/punk rock - quickly, too - there's 13 songs in about 30 minutes. 

The raggedy rockers, "Nothing I Care About" and "Was There Really Any Chance?" should put them in solid with the party people and the reggae tunes will resonate with those that smoked their lunches. And "I'm A Wreck" could be a Rhett Miller song, once upon a time, the saddest man with wrists yet unslit. 

A solid debut from a fun band.

Red or blue pill? Take the first

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The ten zillionth album from Neil Young and Crazy Horse is "Psychedelic Pill" and it's on Reprise. This is  jam band garage music that quickly becomes irritating as this one goes nowhere fast. 

Young's quivering voice is more annoying than usual and the band allows everyone a chance to solo plenty, all to little avail on this hippie happy happening that is overkill, overdone and over-hyped. 

Want psychedelic? Then check out "Are You Experienced" by Jimi or "Stonedhenge" by Ten Years After. Supply your own pill. I think I'll cut my hair.

Tunes can be dated

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What year is it again? I finally listened to my first album download as I am a CD guy - the same one that just bought a new VCR (Anyone know where to get cheap VHS tapes?) I do my album reviews when I'm driving or gardening, not trapped sitting here. 

In any case, the second Tame Impala is "Lonerism" and it's on Modular Records. This is a Down Under stoner pop band fronted by Kevin Parker whose reach frequently exceeds his grasp. A few of these are tolerable jangly guitar rockers but "Apocalypse Dreams" is noodling nonsense that goes on way too long but goes nowhere fast. "Why Won't They Talk To Me?" is a typical TI tune - it's OK and you keep hoping for it to take off but it never does - just a fairly interesting thrashy, trashy garage band. 

But just in time, the long jam band-friendly tunes on the second half save this one - "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards," "Lying" and  especially "Elephant" live up to the hype. If I were still grading philosophy papers, the appropriate applicable cliche would be "competent if uninspired" or "on the right track"  or "they have their moments." Evidently some people are hearing something I'm not as this album got all sorts of awards including Australia's best album of 2012. 

Movies with Indians and VCMG

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"Somewhere Else" is the latest from Indians, just out on 4AD. It's a very small tribe, and this Scandanavian version of the last of the Mohicans is one dude, Soren Lokke Juul, a Dane, making his ethereal debut. This could've been pretty boy Brit TechnoPop from MTV in the '80s (when they actually had music) but the geography is all wrong but the vocals are all just right as on "Melt," which is good enough to have been a great Elton John song. Others are even better - perfect examples of beautiful music, exquisitely realized such as "Reality Sublime" and "Melt" both baroque and bitchen, symphonic and surreal, and of course, he has a perfect voice with a better English accent than we have. This one is going to be near the top of somebody's list sometime - the album jacket says "2012" but the label website says this one is coming out on 28 January 13. In any case, this is perfect for 2 a.m. hoping-to-get-lucky soundtrack, this Juul is truly a Great Dane.

Top 220 or, a Tale of Two Rob Thomas'

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The latest from Robert "Top" Thomas is "The Town Crier" and it's on Wild Roots Records and the first on my best of 2013 list. This is a knock-out, kick-ass blues album by a wailing frontman with that perfect gruff blues voice and some shredding guitar solos, reminiscent of all those great old legends such as Muddy Waters, Hound Dog Taylor, Robert Johnson and like that. The first five seconds of the first song, "Mississippi Quickie" has that beat that your feet will dig right off according to one who knew, John Lee Hooker, who once noted that, "Back in 1932, I invented the boogie." No bad cuts and "Lazy Little Daisy" and "Bad Seed" (also a creepy movie) are good ones and "Daddy's Gone" is the best one from Rufus Thomas' talented son.

Eels have it

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"Wonderful, Glorious" on Vagrant is the newest from Eels, once upon a time, the saddest man with wrists yet unslit. For proof, check out "Permanent Broken Heart," but that was then and this is now...or is it? 

Once so sad, he had to rally just to die, Eels is clearly a survivor who takes it all in and does not blink as the world remains a great place if you ignore everything going on around you. Eels takes careful notes and translates his findings into that world weary voice and deadpan lyrics with lines from "New Alphabet" such as "You know what? I'm in a good mood today/Well I'm so happy it's not yesterday..." Quirky songs, off beat music - a weirdo at work - a winner.
Rockin' Roll Call
Bill Locey reviews music for the Ventura County Star, when he isn't reenacting the history of this great nation or teaching it to incarcerated youth.
He is the tall guy lurking in the back of all the local rock shows.
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