SILVER CIRCLES REVIEWS May 10


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ANAIS MITCHELL
Righteous Babe Records
Hadestown

20-song CD

For many years now,
Vermont native Anais Mitchell has trekked the acoustic trail throughout
New England and beyond, hoping to win new fans to her well-written,
heartfelt (though quirky) tunes… think classic-boho Rickie Lee Jones
meets neo-folk whiz Joanna Newsom. I have seen her several times and
always felt she was a budding talent ready to burst. Three years ago
she was signed to Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe label, released
The Brightness,
and the nurturing began.

Well fans, her new
album is just out and it is a masterpiece—the full bloom of all her
ambitions and intentions. It retells the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice
and their tragic duel with the Underworld. Set in a post-apocalyptic
world that mixes in elements from Depression-era America, it offers
a thought-provoking look at corporate-controlled society, the breakdown
of communities, and the vulnerability and endurance of the human spirit.
(Think Bertold Brecht/ Kurt Weill’s

Threepenny Opera.
) Bringing
in top-notch performers to play the major roles enriches the production—i.e.
Anais plays Eurydice, Justin Vernon [Bon Iver] is Orpheus, Greg Brown
is Hades, Ani DiFranco is Persephone, Ben Knox Miller [the Low Anthem]
is Hermes, and Petra/Rachel/Tanya Haden are the Fates. The musical interplay
of folk/ jazz/ theatrical textures is masterful and intelligent. The
lyrics are literate, poignant, and challenging. I was stunned by my
first listening. Several go-rounds later, after following the libretto,
my accolades have only increased. So far, I have purchased four copies
to give to friends. This is the highest recommendation I can give. Bravissimo! (Harry C. Tuniese)

THREE DAY
THRESHOLD
Straight
Out of the Barrel

11-song CD

What can I say about
Three Day Threshold? They’re great with a country rock sound that’s
fully matured like a great whiskey. That clever connection leads into
the ideas behind this album… whiskey drinking and the good feeling
that generally come from its consumption. We know about the hangovers
and bad stuff, so we’ll focus on the good. A lot of this music just
feels good, all the while ranging from country rock to psychobilly rave
to down-home twanging blues. It’s like hearing good song after good
song from a
Smokey and
the Bandit
flick. Great for
driving. It tends to clean out the mental carburetor, if you catch my
wave. Having enjoyed a nice bourbon or three myself at various points
in time, I heartily recommend throwing this in while a few glasses go
down. Deep rich vocals and high crisp guitar notes tend to flavor this
brew with a mellow smoky resonance. (Mike Loce)

WALTER SICKERT
& THE ARMY OF BROKEN TOYS

28 Seeds:
The Last Radio Show

35-track CD

“A cosmopolitan and
eccentric who favoured ordinary people and urban scenes as his subjects.”
That’s a description of the original Walter Sickert, and it fits well
the man who currently bears that name. How best to describe what he and
his band are essaying? Postmodern vaudeville? Hardly even close. Symphonic
roots rock? Also not quite accurate. And his latest album further staggers
description. Not simply because it’s a full-fledged radio play with
music. And certainly not because the story-line is particularly novel—other
artists have taken a dystopian apocalypse as their theme; see, in particular,
Terry Gilliams’ film
12
Monkeys
, and, especially, Antonin
Artaud’s radio play “There Is No More Firmament”: “
On a busy street crowds of people
witness the sky seeming to fall from the heavens, with light and darkness
alternately becoming their environment.”

No: This album is a keeper because, even considered apart from their context,
the songs are not only idiosyncratically gorgeous but often brilliantly
splendid. I point to deeply affecting laments like “M Is for Martyr,”
“Porcelain Heads” and the sad-to-antic “Gone In a Flash.” And
to emotionally wrenching numbers such as “Glass Guillotine” and
“Wintermission.” And, best of all (never has a xylophone been used
to better effect), to the invigorating and frantically descriptive classic
“The Sky Is Falling.” To investigate further, I’d strongly recommend
you visit: armyoftoys.bandcamp.com
(Francis DiMenno)

CHARLIE FARREN

Retrospective
Live at The Regent Theatre

18-song CD &
DVD

Charlie Farren: In
my opinion, a wonderful Boston icon. His sweet, smooth vocals have graced
us lo these many years in many forms: as singer for Balloon, The Joe
Perry Project, FarrenHeit, and as a solo singer/songwriter. Charlie’s
voice is truly one of my favorites here in Boston—and I’m not alone
with that sentiment. As a treat to his fans, Charlie’s released a
CD of a show he did at The Regent Theatre, accompanied by a DVD. Appropriately
titled
Retrospective, the CD features popular tracks from all his
aforementioned acts, featuring a plethora musicians from those bands
and a few guest performers, including members of Beatlejuice and Candy
O’Terry from Boston’s Magic 106.7 who duos with Charlie on a track.
I’m usually not a fan of live CDs, but this is produced/mixed superbly
with just the right amount of audience response. Plus Charlie’s vocals
are just as perfect as they would be on a recording. It’s all great,
but my personal faves are all the FarrenHeit hits as they were one of
my very favorite Boston bands. (Debbie Catalano)

THE LONGWALLS
Static Motor Records
Dark Academy

6-song CD

This is a slightly
darker slice of Americana from the Longwalls. This 6-song CD has
the rootsy drawl of its critically acclaimed predecessor, but seems
to be a little sadder and wiser. The writing is more mature and
the wordplay is a clever mesh of pop hooks turned on the ear of a lover
who has lost, had a family and grown old reflecting on life’s sad
mistakes.

This
record has all the earmarks of a future classic and gets better with
every listen. If you haven’t checked out the Longwalls, this
CD will make you a fan. I couldn’t recommend this band more
highly. (Joel Simches)

THE DOLLS EYES/
BADBLOOD & THE CRUELTY/
THE McGUNKS


6.6.6
CD Split
Volume 1

18-song CD

So here comes a split
CD, six songs from three different bands, given to us from the depths
of hell by the devil himself to destroy all that is heavenly in life,
or maybe it’s just a few local punk bands, so hard to tell the difference.

The
Dolls Eyes hatch the first batch and “Tell Me” is just a bunch of
great garage/ punk energy splattering out of the speakers. “Irish
Catholic Blues” is great, too. All the tunes are rockin’ good tunes,
I was just disappointed that “Holy Ghost” was not in fact “Hall
& Oates” as I first heard it.

Next
is Bad Blood and the Cruelty whio bring the punk energy but the vocals
and recording are a little murky. But I will say, like butter this band
shows promise.

Last
but least is the McGunks, only kidding, this band is probably the most
underrated punk band in Boston. So it’s no surprise to me that they
sound like I’m stepping on a landmine, holding a hand grenade with
a stick of dynamite clenched in my teeth. I’m blown away! Especially
dig “Ugly American Dream” and “This One Is For The Booze,” but
most of this CD is dug muchly. Check out all these cats playing
live, daddy-o, it’s a gas!
(Slimedog)

MISS TESS

Darling,
Oh Darling
13-song CD

What a fantastic pleasure
it was to listen to Miss Tess’ 13-track CD,
Darling,
Oh Darling
. The word “retro”
is used a lot in her other reviews and descriptions and I can see why
her style is encompassed in that one word but her music is truly multi-dimensional.
I would say she manages to capture the essence of the class and depth
of “ago” with a fresh spirit of the here and now. This is Miss Tess’
fifth release but since this is my introduction to her, I don’t have
a frame of reference as far as any music evolution but I can say that
she possesses a rare ability of traipsing into different genres while
sounding completely cohesive and consistent. Throughout the CD we catch
glimpses of jazz, folk, twangy roots, singer/songwriter, standards (a
la the 1940s), and dare I say in one tune, ragtime. All around it’s
a beautiful piece of work. Thoughtful, affecting, layered with wonderful
instrumentation that includes upright bass, pedal steel, tuba, sax,
clarinets, flute, guitar, etc.; and all led by Miss Tess’ lovely vocals.
(Debbie Catalano)

NATHAN LEIGH

Keroscene Records
Glitch

7-song EP

A project that began
in the fall of 2009,
Glitch is the result of a month’s worth of researching
“randomness in audio and the musicality of non-musical sources for
several theatrical productions,” while being heavily influenced by
the work of Iman Moradi. Through the use of digital media and
unusual sounds, Leigh has managed to create an imaginative and straightforward
album; one of electronic remixes and unpredictability. (Julia
R. DeStefano)

SHADWELL

Clarity
12-song CD

Shadwell is ultra radio-friendly
commercial pop rock. I mean—this has “sales” and radio play written
all over it. But are they too friendly? I so often in reviews speak
of a song being catchy and radio-ready and now here’s a band with
an entire CD’s worth of those exact songs—but I don’t feel satisfied.
I feel slightly bored. They’re very talented. They know how to write
great songs, have superb melodies, gracefully powerful vocals… and
the production is absolutely outstanding (Ducky Carlisle/Ice Station
Zebra). So here I am a positive person and someone who despite 20-plus
years in the music biz really isn’t jaded, but as much as I crave
well-written, catchy tunes, I also crave originality and I don’t think
Shadwell is that original. They have every element they should have
and I can see them selling tons of CDs and packing venues with happy,
screamy fans—but they lack that element that makes a band memorable
beyond the three minutes of a song. I guess there is such a thing as
too friendly—albeit, terrific. (Debbie Catalano)

ANOMOPOLY

Anomopoly
12-song CD

This is a band that
would have fit in a lot easier in the mid-’90s days when “women
in rock” were en vogue on the radio. The band reminds me of the Sundays
or the Cranberries but with a slightly darker edge, particularly with
regard to Toni Jo’s lead vocals. It’s a generally engaging effort,
highlighted by the somewhat dub-like feel of “Keep It On,” the syncopation
of “Angel Hair” and the energy blast of “Muriatic.” Wisely,
the latter two songs appear on the album’s back half, deftly maintaining
the listener’s attention at a point in many albums when it starts
to dissipate. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, Anomopoly might
not continue on as a group, which is too bad, because there is definitely
some potential here.
(Kevin Finn)

ANIMATRONIQUE

Stasis
8-song CD

A combination of acoustic
and electronic sounds, Animatronique is the musical expression of guitarist
Chuck Anastasiou that is “steeped in the tradition of ‘American
Primative’ guitar music popularized by John Fahey and augmented with
various electronic textures, samples, and instrumentation.”
Compositions range from the introspective “Everyone Is Wrong” and
“Make Love Purr” to the atmospheric and haunting “Aloysius,”
a dramatic piece that is suspenseful, best suited for inclusion in a
thriller or a drama movie. “Bloomer” is somber, evoking feelings
of loneliness, as is “Greener Grass” while “Little You, Little
Me” would be ideal for use in a love scene. An independently
released collection of post-rock instrumentals, Stasis is intriguing,
an enjoyable first effort.
(Julia R. DeStefano)

SAM CALEF

From the
Sea


11-song CD

From the first plaintive
acoustic guitar chords of the first track I heard on this album (the
title track, “From the Sea”), I knew I loved Sam Calef. His voice
is delightfully husky and unique. In fact, his soulful vocals and guitar
playing remind me of Bon Iver, one of my favorite artists. Calef is
kind of up and down though—some songs, like “Black Shoes,” are
bittersweet and moving; other songs like “Resistance” are more superficial,
musically and lyrically, and remind me of Ozzy Osbourne (which is a
bad thing). That said, the songs of Calef’s that are good are so superb
that they make up for the ones that are kind of silly.
(Emsterly)

BIG EAST

Naked Ear Records
Condita

12-song CD

They’re a little
rough around the edges and I dig that. Young, hungry, with a cool urgent
vibe. Blending blues, soul, rock with an indie rock energy, Big East’s
Condita
presents very good tunes. There are some inconsistencies in the production
and/or recording, but considering this was part of New England Institute
of Art’s Naked Ear Studios (where students engineer and produce),
I would say they captured the essence of the band. So, good job to the
Naked Ear crew as well as to the band. I love a band that makes the
effort to be creative and I just get a sense from these guys that they
truly care. Is the entire CD exceptional? Not really but that’s okay.
This is where it begins so I say keep up the great work. The tunes that
I really liked and that stood out were “Like Daisy Does,” “I’m
Yer Dude” (cool indie rock), “Pretty In It” (kind of twangy pop),
“Kid Predictable,” and “Slow Train,” which with its soulful,
gospel (musically, not lyrically) feel closes
Condita perfectly.
(Debbie Catalano)

CLARA BERRY

Wave
10-song CD

Greetings, Zortar here,
alien from a galaxy far away, where you can only get to with the right
mixture of angel dust and chemical inhalants. I am once again inhabiting
the macabre, moronic, malevolent, Airedale mol-esting, middling, magenta
mess of human flesh known in your pitiful world as Slimedog.

Per
usual I’ve been assigned an audio artifact made to irk me. Today it
is music by a charming, talented young lady named Clara Berry, who I’m
sure is one of Chuck’s daughters. But, Ha! I will not take the bite!
Though this is solo singer-songwriter stuff accompanied by piano only
and recalls to me everyone from Carole King to Kate Bush to Tori Amos,
well, I almost like it. Maybe a little hard to take over 10 songs, but
for me it would be perfect quiet weekend morning’s music while nursing
a hangover (not that I would ever abide unlike Slimedog who seems to
live on the vile liquid, indeed)! So good job for making a crusty old
android like myself enjoy.
(Slimedog)


JASON PAULINO

Imperfections…
11-song CD

Ah, yes, Mrs. Slimedog
here, voted Top Writer and most knowledgeable music critic once again.
Granted, it was by the new government in Iraq but I’ll take my victories,
just like my hero Texas George, anyway I can. No sense looking a gift
house in the south.

Today
I’m reviewing a simply dreamy hunk of a man named Jason Paulino. The
way he looks at me through the window on his CD cover with his smoldering
eyes just sets my heart a-flutter and causes Slimedog to stammer and
blush with shame. Slimedog says he sings like the guy in Journey and
the music sounds like that band or Foreigner, Toto etc. I’m not familiar
with those punk bands and he think this is dreadful but I think it’s
great to la la to. I’m going to soar around the room clutching the
CD in my hands while singing along. This is almost as good as Andre
Boccelli, Hooray!
(Mrs. Slimedog)

TEN FOOT POLECATS


Hillgrass Bluebilly Records
I Get Blamed
for Everything I Do

13-song CD

Ten Foot Polecats refer
to themselves as a punk blues band, and while it kind of bugs me that
everything that even slightly veers off the mainstream path seems to
get tagged with the punk label these days, I do see what they are getting
at. The band’s mix of rockabilly and outlaw country taps into
the same rebellious vein as many punk bands. At thirteen songs,
the disc seems a little long, and there are a few instances in which
the band sounds like it’s playing dress up. Overall, though,
this is a strong effort with much of the credit going to guitarist Jim
Chilson, who is quite simply a force. His guitar has a fitting down-in-the-sewers
grittiness to it, and he plays with both technical chops and relentless
energy. This type of music will never pack arenas, but it sounds
better in a bar anyway. (Kevin Finn)

RED DOOR EXCHANGE

August

10-song CD

This
album has left me confused. Red Door Exchange’s music is a weird mixture
of so many different styles. I think for a moment that it sounds like
the Beatles, then I hear some heavy metal, and then I’m reminded of
psychedelic bands like the Petals, and then, oh wait, it’s indie rock.
I think. I think the ability to blend so many styles is a feat, and
these guys do it well, but the result is that I’m not sucked into
any of the songs—they are so erratic and varied that it’s almost
hard to listen to. One of the exceptions is the track “Nosferatu,”
which sticks to the same catchy, swinging guitar chord. Likewise, the
other exception is “Archways,” which interestingly is the only song
on the album not written by Jesse Lee, which makes me think that if
these guys picked one genre and stuck to it, they’d really have something.
(Emsterly)

JEFF ROOT
Root Cellar
Records
Genre Circus

13-song CD

“Finnegan’s Wake,”
the first track on this latest offering by Jeff Root, is a wonderfully
radio-worthy recasting of pop history: with note-perfect mimicry, Root
sends up the Irish music fad while at the same time heckling the Beatles as
a gang of surly Yobs. What’s odd (or perhaps not so odd) about this
record is that, after thoroughly taking the piss out of the Fab Four,
Mr. Root then seems to be hell-bent on resurrecting some of the most
casual toss-offs of drunk-period “lost weekend” Lennon and some of
the mushiest bathos of early ’70s solo McCartney. Why? Could it be
that Mr. Root is madly in love? How else to explain tuneful but lyrically
sentimental songs like “Spanky, Darla and Alfalfa.” Or nuevo-wavo
knock-offs like “In Tough Times”? Or the dire uptown boogie of “Making
Out With Zsa Zsa”? Or the beautiful but slightly saccharine “Out
of Nothing”? Or the fearfully insipid (but maddeningly catchy) jingle
“Eloise”? There are, however, some perfectly fine songs here that
surmount and transcend this regrettable trend towards mush and/or tawdriness:
“God Bless This Love” is almost as melodically lovely as Lennon’s
“Love Is Real.” “March of the Supermen” is a memorably tuneful
little ditty. “Downbeat Patterns” is a tidy and ingeniously self-descriptive
genre deconstruction. And “The Iconic Moronic” is a subtle composition
full of appealing instrumental and melodic nuance. So at least I can
report that Mr. Root’s clever songs almost (but not quite) outweigh
his (hopefully temporary) ill-omened descent into the bathos-sphere.
(Francis DiMenno)

007
HUNDRED CLUB/DRAGO

Winter St
Records
Drago Vs.
007 Hundred Club

10-song CD

This high-energy post
punk rock will get your blood pumping. 007 Hundred Club combines
old-school punk sensibilities with modern heavy alt rock. This
is no-bullshit and no- pretense rock for hard rockers. Each track
sounds fresh and immediate, but with a little studio polish. Clearly
these guys know how to use the studio as a tool, and not as a necessary
evil as some punk bands seem to. This wasn’t recorded in a garage
fueled with beer. Drago, on the other hand, sounds like a parody
you’d see on Metalocalypse.not that that’s a bad thing. This
band writes hilariously ironic punk inflected heavy metal! I could
listen to this band all day! Drink beer and mosh! (Joel Simches)

JES PERRY

The Way That
I Feel


11-song CD

The music biz is hell.
Musicians are consumed with passion and drive—they want to be heard
and adored! They suffer through a million open-mic nights. If they’re
lucky, they get paying gigs, and hopefully, they cultivate a fan base,
which encourages them to make an album. They put in the hard work and
studio time to put together this artistic snapshot. Then someone like
me comes along and draws a mustache on the bloody picture…

Jes
Perry’s
The Way That
I Feel
is very professionally
done—the production, the packaging, the musicianship, the classically
trained voice—there is nothing amateur about this whatsoever. It’s
very slick, and it’s very harmless. Safe, like a commercial jingle
on AM radio. Has your gag-reflex been triggered yet?

I’m
sorry, but do we really need any more innocuous, generic adult-contemporary
material like this, with insidiously super-trite lyrics like “I’m
in love with you, baby” and words that should never be rhymed together
ever again, like alright and tonight? The curiously downtuned guitars
skews the mood some, but I’m still yawning. (Tony Mellor)


PICK UP FREUD
Headphones                    
14-song CD

Had some issues not
with the sound of this band, but the SOUND of the band, you know? The
production and recording is tight and crisp and well put together, but…
I felt like jumping into music teacher mode. What does that mean? “Singer,
you’re consistently sharp on every song! Listen to the instruments
and match your pitch! Better yet, take some singing lessons!” This
cacophonic-at-times mélange does more than a little grate on my ears.
However, the intention and work is true and present, and I don’t want
to bash too hard here. Just a jam-bandish/rap/funk/groove group with
no apparent musical direction. What hurts is that they sound like they
WANT to have direction, and that pains me. Not too much though. Just
play more together and listen to the collective sound of the band while
you’re playing, instead of just hearing how good your own individual
jamming is in the moment. That’s the best bad review I can give. Keep
playing.
(Mike Loce)

SOAK
Nova Records
Turning Tomorrow


12-song CD

I last listened to
this CD two days ago, and I can’t remember a goddamn thing about it,
good, bad or indifferent. Well, actually, I suppose I remember the indifference
pretty strongly. Frankly, I think that pretty much sums up all you need
to know about Soak, but I guess I need to make at least some effort
at approaching the suggested word count. Therefore, allow me to say
this; if bland and generic rock with a ’ZLX feel to it sounds like
it would be right up your alley, then please go buy this record. If
you only like to play records that make at least some impact on you,
then please go buy something else.
(Kevin Finn)


A RAVEN’S
SORROW

The Hail
Suicide Demos


5-song CD

Chrysalis
Demos

5-song
CD

This self-indulgent
piece of emo is so barely listenable that it will make you want to kill
yourself.

The
vocals are painfully shrieky and pitchy and the predictably clichéd
arrangements rarely stray from a two-section formula. This
demo is as lifeless as the corpses it glorifies. The only gratifying
aspect of this 5-song EP is that, like life itself, it eventually ends.
Unfortunately this doesn’t end soon enough and for most people, life
is long… as it should be. If you want to live a long, full life, do
yourself a favor and avoid putting yourself through this torturous listening
experience.

The
Chysalis EP doesn’t fare much better. And there are background
vocals that are as shrill and tuneless as the lead. And there
is piano. Even Leonard Pynth Garnell would think this is truly
awful! It would seem that the drummer had the good sense to bail as
he is now replaced with a drum machine. This CD made me lust after
Ann Coulter and want to drink Drano.   (Joel Simches)

If you’re sending a CD in to
the Noise make sure to use our new address.
And everyone else should
update our contact info too. Thanks.


T Max/ the Noise
24 Beverly Drive
Georgetown, MA 01833
978-352-8656
tmaxnoise@aol.com


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