CD Reviews

HIGHWAY GHOSTS
Beyond All Help

12 tracks

The album features plenty of great guest musicians, including Jim Gambino, Jimmy Ryan, Noel Coakley, David Delaney, and Sonny Jim Clifford, each bringing a different instrument to the mix. Track five, “Please Don’t Run Away,” features the audience at the Lizard Lounge from the band’s show last March singing the chorus. The music has a mature sound, a testament to the artists behind it, and while some of the songs have a mournful tune, they blend energetic, upbeat twangs of the guitar with the more mellow lyrics. In a way, it reflects our own lives–a mix of the good the bad, the happy and sad. It doesn’t mean you’re going to read about your own life in the liner notes, but you might recognize a few beats. (Max Bowen)

 

THE WEISSTRONAUTS
Sool Recordings
19 Something 9

11 songs

In an all-instrumental tour de force, here are various whimsical modernist reinterpretations of pop genres which essentially range from 1949 to 1999 (hence the title). The 1969 entry “Timmy the Smelter” coyly quotes “Gimme Sheter” (get it?). The 1949 entry “Frank’s Fedora” could have been lifted from a Bob Wills set rehearsal. Such musical eclecticism is impressive, and enjoyable, too, for the die-hard pop aficionado (or wanna-be). Some might complain that such good-natured tomfoolery is merely some sort of fancy musical parlor trick, a collection of daffy and self-indulgent contrivances. Lighten up. To do this you got to know how. Anyway, given that nowadays, so much pop music merely recapitulates a very limited range of experience, one should perhaps welcome this openhearted salute to bygone genres—e.g., the Eno-esque tomfoolery of “Germ Theory” eerily encapsulates the avant-garde instincts of 1979 just as surely as “Pete’s Straw Hat” affectionately mocks the blandness of the 1959 hit parade. The concept is a nifty idea and a bit of a sneaky trick at the same time—as an opportunity for the Weisstronauts to both indulge their undeniable penchant for retro-mania while at the same time purporting to edify us in the bargain. The concept certainly works on both levels—particularly on the nascent classic “A Dandy’s Moth Collection.” If this be retro, they seem to be saying, let us make the most of it. And they do. (Francis DiMenno)

LIZ FRAME & THE KICKERS
Sh*tkicker Records
Sooner

10 tracks

This album is a well crafted, country type folk wafting pure smokestack chimney wintertime comfortable cozy collection of songs. With a vocally harmonizing nucleus of Liz on acoustic rhythm guitar, Lynne Taylor on upright bass, and Kristine Malpica on percussion, the trio builds the songs’ elegant arrangements with some damn fine session players. It’s a mellow mélange (but not too sleepy) that moves you emotionally (but not too much) and lets you reflect on the life stories buried within (but not too deeply). Labels like Americana and acoustic rock have been used, but I don’t feel they do this music justice. This is the sound of some kind of security… so if you like your electric twang along with your phosphor bronzes’ buzz, vocal harmonies sounding well south of where we are, and a knack for mature song-craft, you’ll dig this most definitely.    (Mike Loce)

GUMBO DIABOLO
Gumbo Music
The Gods We Were Before

11 songs

There are a few irresistibly appealing songs here, with rhythms characteristic of various North and South American folk forms, which overall make for a refreshing world music stew of life-affirming numbers. The opening Zydeco track, “Spirits of Louisian’,” is outstanding. Other key tracks include the accordion-infused “Hard Sell,” the lively, scatting “Do the Math,” and the cover of the Brazilian Forro standard “O Fole Roncou.” The remainder of the album is filled with ballads and colorfully augmented freestyle jams. (Francis DiMenno)

LISA MANNING THE SINGING POET
Chicken Lamour

15 tracks

Lisa Manning follows the beat of her own drum using a classical guitar, intriguing lyrics, and a unique child-like vocal approach. She’s frail, strange, and eccentric, yet confident in a way that’s not easy to understand. Her songs could be soundtracks for puppet shows. And, although her sound lends itself to a child’s ear, the content can be very adult oriented. “Don’t You Know Who I Am” has a lovely, sad melody about loneliness. “Drummerman” sheds light on a poor drummer, who sells his drums and is left to beat on a can, having also lost his family in a fire. “Dr. Oh Maestro” has some low-fi spacey sound effects to go with a hypochondriac who sees little green men and has a long list of ailments she shares with her doctor. “Lawn Love” has an undercurrent of environmental concern, describing a neighbor who goes overboard grooming his lawn with bug sprays and glowing green applications. The peculiar glow of his lawn attracts Martians who kidnap him and enslave him to do their lawns. “Plea of a Fly” is a warped little tune from the viewpoint of an ugly fly that enjoys excrement but wants you to know its life expectancy is only one day. In “Nightioner” Lisa goes a cappella with just the sound of shoes walking along a street. The sparseness of the track amplifies the loneliness of the street walker. The feeling of one separate uncommon individual is a repetitive thread in this CD. Thought provoking to say the least. Bizarrely entertaining if you let yourself be taken in. (T Max)

ERIC BETTENCOURT
Secret Songs For Secret People

10 tracks

Bettencourt really hits the nail on the head with this upbeat collection of new-age folk tunes. The album has a jaunty vibe, with the forward chug of the rhythm section and the happy-go-lucky pluckings of Bettencourt’s acoustic guitar. On the one hand, it’s very poppy, yet still greatly indebted to old-school Americana with the layers of pedal-steel, chicken-pickin’ guitar riffs, and plush female harmoniesooh-ing and ah-ing in the background. Of course, what really grabs my attention is this guy’s gravelly, slightly androgynous voice. Rod Stewart comes to mind. It’s rugged, but at the same time, undeniably tender. A sadder-but-wiser voice; one that betrays the easy-going nature of the music. The lyrics, too, have a touch of brooding sentiment and bittersweetness to them, giving this album some emotional depth. Secret Songs is the sound of still waters: calm and sweet on the surface, but with an air of mystery down below. Sorry Bettencourt, I guess the secret’s out. (Will Barry)

AD BOC
Pop Supraliminal

15 tracks

Okay, the intro track reminded of some bad Beatles addendum from the inner groove. Then by the second tune I started liking this. My first impression is that it wants to be some sort of rock opera-type collection. That classic sound, like some Tommy moments, you know? There is kind of a dominant, but nasal and wimpy, but still good, vocal presence. (That’s ultimately a compliment.) I think the thing that I ultimately respect about the album is that it’s a one-man show. I’ve done a bit of this myself and I have friends who have as well. It takes a certain type to pull it off: some folks think they’re succeeding with the one-person creative production gig, but the percentage is in favor of the maleficents. Those who can do it know it, and that’s what I like so much about Ad Boc: his insistence to get the idea as a whole is so effective that you find yourself digging musical stylistic tendencies you wouldn’t have imagined. (Mike Loce)

KURT VON STETTEN
Static Motor Recordings
Cyclops

12 tracks

This is an awesome collection of quirky, sophisticated ultrapop. Kurt Von Stetten uses instrumentation and arrangements that are as surreal as the songs themselves. Sonically, it sounds like Guided By Voices and Daniel Johnston having a game of Twister with the Lilys and Freezepop. Von Stetten plays all the instruments and the production is immaculate yet lo-fi and trippy, all at the same time. Each song gets weirder and more layered as the album progresses. The subject matter covers pretty much everything from becoming a writer, being in a war zone and fighting a cyclops, to finding out that your dad is just a big pussy, and berating hipsters. With a little more forethought about the sequencing of these songs, Cyclops could even be a concept album or a rock opera. Cyclops is an aural feast not to be overlooked. This is probably the coolest thing I’ve heard in the last several months! This is destined to be your new favorite album. (Joel Simches)

— TWO VIEW REVIEW —

JON MACEY
Actuality Records
Intention

15 tracks

And now for something a bit different from new wave vet Jon Macey who earned his local stripes with Tom Dickie & the Desires and FoxPass. This beautifully packaged and sounding release was recorded mostly live at Woolly Mammoth by David Minehan and contains 15 songs of “philosophical folk rock minus the rock.” Strong vocals with two lush female backing voices showcase songs full of memorable lyrics and hooks. In this sense, if the Beatles were a new wave acoustic band this might be similar to what their CDs would sound like. And there’s a bit of Dylan in here too. Jon plays the harp and songs like “”As The Twig Is Bent,” “Fourth Time’s A Charm,” and “This Is Just A Song” could be in Bob’s setlist. And like Dylan, when Jon sings it sounds like he’s singing just for you with the message directed to you alone. This is where his experience and talent make the difference. In general, Jon’s current guitar style is strumming chords and adding a lead riff to the strumming. Think of the Stone’s “Wild Horses” and you can see what I mean. “Look Both Ways” is a perfect example of his method of guitar-playing. Sometimes his songwriting is so good it sounds familiar without it being boring and redundant. This is a master-craftsman at work. For example, “Criminal At Heart” could be a Boyce/Hart hit from the ’60s for the Zombies or the Animals. Good new stuff from a local songwriting master. Check it out. (A.J. Wachtel)

JON MACEY
Actuality Records
Intention

15 songs

This is a collection of low-key tunes, the best of which are memory songs in the mode of Bob Dylan and Tom Petty. Mr. Macey has happily chosen a mode of presentation which best suits his vocal gifts. Notable tracks include the lovely, poignant “Pine Island, 1956”; the quietly introspective “Paris Street,” full of autobiographical resonances which evoke Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks”; the magisterial “Look Both Ways,” and the evincing “Rosebud Creek 6/25.” (Francis DiMenno)

GUT BUCKET
Shattering Your Faith

5 tracks

Shove a live panther and a chainsaw into a trash compactor and you might come close to capturing Gut Bucket’s sound. Most bands would probably find such a comparison extremely insulting, but something tells me a band like this—one that thrives on such visceral reactions to their music—will take it as high praise. Now I’m not completely up to snuff on the various metal subgenres, but my guess is they fall somewhere between thrash and grindcore. They’re loud and aggressive, fulla blast-beats and death-growls without a single melody to be found. Pure piss and vinegar. This EP shouldn’t come with a warning label, it should come with riot gear. (Will Barry)

TWINK
Twink Tones
Itsy Bits & Bubbles

12 tracks

This is the sixth album from Twink, also known as Mike Langlie. Langlie cleverly meshes toy pianos with primitive samplers and beatboxes to make an oddball mix of fun trippy electronica. The result is a quirky and fun collection of playful tunes, sounding like a trip through a vintage synth museum on ecstasy, replete with fluffy bunnies, unicorns and magical bumblebees. No, really, this is the music I hear after a night of tripping, and lying in bed with stuffed animals. Personally I could do without the toy piano/video game cover of “Axel F” from Beverly Hills Cop, because the rest of this album is brilliant enough without going for such an obvious bit of pandering. The concept of this band and this album is silly and fun, without the irony or cynical “hip” factor. This is a sonic amusement park for young and old alike. This CD will definitely put you in your happy place. Go there now! (Joel Simches)

ROB POTYLO
Curve of the Earth

Something Happened at Horse Lake
12 tracks

How Do You Feel In June?
14 tracks

Rob Potylo & The Lonely Planets
11 tracks

If given the choice between listening to these three albums again or undergoing a root canal without anesthesia while being kicked in the balls by a giant man in steel-toed boots who is simultaneously insulting my mother, I would probably choose to listen to these three albums again. But I would definitely have to mull the decision over for a while. I mean, it’s not like I even want kids.

The biggest crime that these albums (all of which were recorded and released in 2011) commit is that they waste some truly wonderful musicianship and production. Potylo must be one heck of a nice guy to convince such a talented and versatile crew to join him on such listless endeavors. Substitute Potylo for someone who can actually sing and write a lyric that isn’t fraught with smug attempts at humor, and I’d be hailing these as among the best Americana-tinged albums I’ve heard in a while.

With his lower-register vocals, it’s clear that Potylo wants to channel his inner Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. While, like Potylo, neither of those singers displays a ton of range, they both mine what they do have for maximum character and emotion. Potylo’s staccato, strained vocals, delivered in approximately the same pace and phrasing across all 37 songs, simply serve to make him sound like a constipated frog.

I suppose that I perhaps should have reviewed each of these albums separately, but it really did feel like I was just listening to one very long song with the exception of The Lonely Planets having a little more pep and electric guitar. This is definitely an example of favoring quantity over quality.    (Kevin Finn)

SATIN KITTENS
Ace of Hearts
Satin Kittens

3 tracks

This duo’s sound is garage/punk with a bit of hypnotic/electronic influences. Helping out in the backing tracks are Mission of Burma’s Clint Conley, and vet Ed Valauskas. The three songs include two covers that are done better then the originals. “Rid Of Me,” a PJ Harvey tune, has a lot to like: I love when they shout the lyrics together in a pissed off tone and the razor sharp guitars. PJ tries to be sultry: the Satin Kittens try to explode. And I love the guitar chord finish that’s cut off right before the feedback—a nasty ending to a nasty song. Then there’s “Fidelity,” from one of New York pianist and singer Regina Spektor’s releases. Her version is the tamer version. I love when they sing, “It breaks my-ha-ha-ha-ha-heart” as the song turns ska. If Regina were pissed-off her version might contain some of the passion evident in these vocals. The best cut is the only original, “Winter” and composer Dianna Maneksha’s vocals contain a sweet sadness to them that really showcases her talents. The clean sound jumping out of the speakers courtesy of Rick Harte’s superb mix helps a lot, too. It’s a group to watch. (A.J. Wachtel)

NICHOLAS BURGESS
Claw Solutions
Wizard Planet

12 songs

The opening cut evokes Marc Bolan with a lo-fi attitude and a similar twisted ethos. Other tracks on the album bear a similarly woozy and weedy Brit pop-psyche emphasis, full of low-key hooks (“Minnesota Ice Man”) and jangly high-tech discords (“Hey Okay Hey Yeah Yeah”). “Mister Mayhew” is a fragile introspective low-resolution ballad; “Wallpaper” is an oddly compelling minimalistic nihilist screed; “Hunny Bunny” is a relentless drone with crunchy guitars. This is a surprisingly fully-realized solo project with more than a few subtle and appealing songs of lasting merit. (Francis DiMenno)

OLD SOUL
Old Soul

9 tracks

At the behest of T Max, I am reviewing a new group from Maine, who seemingly want more notoriety in these urban environs. I liked it immediately: great vocals, arrangements, compositions—all the fabulous attributes of many new-acoustic acts. Nothing too dippy or drippy, in fact some of the tunes are much more adventurous than expected. Songs like “Blackbird Calling,” “Thick As Thieves,” “Red & Gold,” or “Caught a Train” contain modern elements (horns, electric guitars, keys, percussion) and take the tunes far beyond the rustic approach their name may imply. I also really appreciate the nice production. The main members are Mike O’Hehir, Danielle Savage, and Brendan Shea. Personally, I am eagerly awaiting their first appearance in Boston. New or old, their soul sounds true! (Harry C. Tuniese)

RUIN/RENEWAL
Ruin/Renewal

7 tracks

Who could have imagined that trading musical concepts while on the property of a fuel company warehouse in the industrial zone of Newburyport, Massachusetts would prove so profitable? For guitarist Josh Pritchard (Peals), and drummer Brett Bashaw along with the recruited bassist, Joshua Homer, the union has proved fortuitous. The first of a three part series released on June 7th, Ruin/Renewal’s self-titled debut is intense but not overtly so, calling to mind Theory of a Deadman’s first effort, complete with the husky, emotive vocals of “No Blues” and “To Save a Helpless Man.” The disc’s commanding melodies pull listeners in without ever being headache inducing or unpleasant. (Julia R. DeStefano)

MICHAEL OLIVER & THE SACRED BAND
Yin & Yanxiety

13 tracks

Cruising down I-90 on a hot summer’s day with indie pop blaring on the radio was the status quo of the early ’90s. Michael Oliver & the Sacred Band resurrects that summery vibe with Yin & Yanxiety, an album that in itself is a testament to what makes indie pop a timeless backdrop for the road. Oliver tips his cap off to Michael Stipe, vocally speaking, and treks forth with ballads that feature cleanly amped Telecasters. Cyclical strumming is crucial to Oliver’s honky tonk pop, the type that is beholden to Guster, or that is clutch in the Minders “Hooray for Tuesday.”

“Stranger From Another Planet” mellifluously rings out a remarkable chorus, one that pays homage to R.E.M’s “Man on the Moon.” Oliver still manages to infuse his own originality into his work, cleverly sampling a bit of the Top Guns theme song to introduce “Love While it Lasted.” Yin & Yanxiety manifests a credence to the open road, no matter how many Massholes cut you off, or if traffic is at a standstill—worst-case scenario. (Justin Korn)

THUNDER BROTHERS
Just How Right

1 track

From the moment “Just How Right” begins, I can tell it’s going to be a very unique experience. From the quasi experimental overtones, heavy vocals and steady instrumentals, Thunder Brothers are not content with the everyday comforts of your average public, oh no. Rather they push the bounds of ease, challenging their listeners to digest the rave-like feel they bring. Throughout this three and a half-minute track, my emotions are all over the board, from entranced, to mystified, and around the bend to impressed, one thing remaining certain. Throughout, I feel a bit like I’ve been through some wonderfully eclectic time warp-and there is no forgetting “Just How Right.” (Angela Mastrogiacomo)

THE BRIAN MAES BAND
Briola Records
Collaterial Damage

13 tracks

This music is soulful and funky power pop done by some of the best local musicians around including guitarist Kook Lawry, bassist Tim Archibald, ”Tunes” Atunes on sax, Old Tony DiPietro on drums, and the extraordinary vocals of MaryBeth Maes. Brian’s resume on keys includes stints with Peter Wolf, RTZ with members of Boston, and Ernie & the Automatics. His latest release continues in the same top-notch vein. This CD oozes with coolness and it’s hard to decide whether it’s the strong vocals, the slick R&B with driving horns, the menacing and memorable guitar tones, or the tight playing of the rhythm section that is the driving force behind the band. Brian’s soulful renditions may be well suited for ballads but at times the group sounds best when they play like a tight unit from New Orleans. Listen to their first single, “The Sudden Stop,” a tribute to Clarence Clemons or “It’s A Real Life,” “Sunshine Sally,” “Hallowed Ground,” or “Skin In the Game” and it sounds like you are in the French Quarter. “Get Out” is power pop with great vocals by MaryBeth. The last melody, “Swan Song,” gives everyone in the band a chance to strut their stuff and you can’t help love the loose performance by this tight group.   (A.J. Wachtel)

THE WEISSTRONAUTS
Sool Recordings
In
Memphis 2
4 tracks

This follow-up to their In Memphis EP just goes to show that if you aspire to be a musical mixmaster long enough, you finally begin to assume a crucial sense of command—not only of a given genre but also of its many side categories. The briefly halting dynamic of “Hot Box,” for instance, is vintage Stax/Volt R&B, but in its whimsical, truncated resolution it also partakes of white-boy homage. “Tabasco Fiasco” is essentially an acid garage riff inimitably teased out to sound like something Jethro Bodine might have grooved to at a Beverly Hillbillies wrap party. Innovative retro may seem like a baffling contradiction in terms, but more than one innovative artist has twisted an archaic form to suit his fancy. The jaunty shuffle of “Carolina Woman” is both a travesty and homage to countless jazzy rockabilly practitioners of yore. You could go back to the 1920s, to Lonnie Johnson and Eddie Lang, and not find a more cheerfully insouciant example of unpretentious artistry.   (Francis DiMenno)

MISKATONIC
Life of the Party

12 tracks

Miskatonic returns with their long awaited second full length and follow-up to their brilliant EP (the 2009 release Favorite Records EP). Like it’s predecessor, Life of the Party combines energetic, intense indie rock with flashes of synth pop and sci-fi sonic chocobliss. This album takes their unique sound to a completely new level, making the transition from group to band, with infectious melodies, intricate lush arrangements and stunning production values. Oh, and the songs are great, too! Mistkatonic has completely defined themselves with a sound and sensibility that’s uniquely their own. For those who enjoyed their last EP, fret not, for it is included with the nine new songs! Life of the Party is nothing less than a pop masterpiece. I can’t stop listening to this. It is so good it makes my epididymis twitch!    (Joel Simches)

MATT ROMERO
The Modern

15 tracks

I’m not quite sure what to make of this album. It’s some kind of indie-rock, that’s for sure. The kind that’s thick with synth-claps, space-age sound effects, and the syrupy veneer of electro-pop, but still rife with punk-rock’s appreciation for gritty electric guitars and its contempt for studio perfection. There’s some funky acoustic guitar riffage thrown in the mix, as well. Call this indie omelet whatever you want. It’s harmless fun. The recording itself is a bit flat for my taste. Those drums could use some more muscle. That bass, too, could use some more girth. But hey, it is what it is: lo-fi music that’s just beggin’ to be danced to. I can hardly fault the songwriting for being superficial filler either. I mean, this is pop music, right? (Will Barry)

SINNET
Midwest Manners

7 tracks

The first thing I notice when I listen to Midwest Manners is the mellow, almost laid back mood of the music. Album opener “Paper Chandeliers” displays this calm, relaxed vibe and delivers a catchy, danceable, and overall accessible tune. In general, every song is rather accessible and the production is fairly clean. I am specifically noting the clean sound of the album because according to Sinnet’s Bandcamp page, this release was “recorded with two microphones and a laptop in various bedrooms and practice spaces around town, without the use of any new fangled pitch correction or beat detection. Just the facts, just the fax.” The small scale production here naturally has an impact on the sound of the music and in this case, the band is able to produce a feeling of warmth and closeness with the listener in just about every track. This just goes to show how far musicians can go today with limited recording resources. Of course, the band’s clear talent as musicians and songwriters doesn’t hurt either; they have a knack for writing songs with strong hooks for sure. At heart, Midwest Manners is an all around mainstream pop album and I can see their music having mass appeal. At times the record is a bit too structured, conventional, and simply too “nice,” at least for my tastes, which admittedly are often outside of the mainstream. With that being said, I think that is exactly what a lot of listeners will find comfort in, the familiar. One of the last tracks is a cover of the Ronette’s magnum opus, “Be My Baby.” This song is a favorite of mine, so when I see it listed here, I am curious to see what neat touches Sinnet will bring to the table in their version. Fortunately, I am not disappointed and their cover certainly has merit, creating an interesting contrast to the original. Unlike Phil Spector’s heavy, almost overwhelming, wall of sound production style, the band, in typical Sinnet fashion, keeps things simple and pushes the vocals upfront and not buried behind the production, also unlike the Ronettes’s/Spector’s version. With Midwest Manners Sinnet creates a consistent, comfortable sound for themselves that is sure to please many listeners around the Boston area and beyond. (Chris DeCarlo)

THE STRETCHERS
The Stretchers

13 tracks

This reviewer, an artist herself, is all for freedom of speech in the craft. She well-understands the desire to be innovative and to, at the same time, draw upon influences. She respects the tried and true punk scene but knows that there is a way to cleverly convey anarchy and dissatisfaction with the “system” without being so blatantly disrespectful in the process. I hope these guys aren’t like this in real life. The repetitive subject matter of women, sex, drugs, and fighting has, over time, gotten old, and the lines: “Give me the dough or I’ll break your arm,” (“The Extortion Twist”) and “I can’t control my body; I want to punch your face” (“Whiskey & Blow”) make this trio appear more like little boys on the grade school playground than accomplished musicians. The references to women as sex toys (“Creature Double Feature”) and one resembling a Cyclops (“My Baby’s a Cyclops”) does not earn the Stretchers any points, either. Perhaps the song that aggravates this reviewer the most and further proves her argument, is entitled “Grateful They’re Dead” which is a laundry list of reasons why the band is glad the Grateful Dead are no longer alive: “I’m grateful; I’m grateful; I’m grateful they’re dead… I wish the Dead had stayed dead and never existed at all.” Although energy is there, the harsh airing of grievances is just too much. However, this could work if approached in a thoughtful, creative manner. (Julia R. DeStefano)

JUSTIN LEVINSON & THE VALCOURS
This Side of Me, This Side of You

10 racks

This Side of Me, This Side of You chronicles the disintegration of Levinson’s marriage to fellow Vermont singer-songwriter, Myra Flynn.

With that fact in mind, the incongruity to this record is striking. Levinson’s lyrics overflow with acerbic bitterness and utter resignation while the melodies are delivered in the form of Ben Folds-esque piano ballads that could double as show tunes. If one didn’t know the back story, the album might sound like a one-man off-Broadway piano bar show.

The tracks that shine are the ones that find Levinson stepping out of his piano-man comfort zone. Songs like “You Became a Ghost,” which rounds out the mix with guitars and “I’ll Be OK,” replete with its horn section are fully realized songs, whereas other tracks sound like little more than journal entries transcribed directly to piano-ballad.

The album’s standout is “Million Tears” which mashes the best of Levinson’s piano skills some fine guitar works and a melody lifted from John Lennon’s “(Just Like) Starting Over.” The result is a fine song that would make a great single. (George Dow)

DESTROY BABYLON
Music Add Records
Long Live the Vortex

10 songs

The helpful lyric sheet, printed in the form of a booklet which accompanies the CD version of this release, amply establishes the bands left-libertarian bona fides, but I feel obliged to observe that it’s fairly easy to self-righteously pander to your presumed audience with agitprop lyrics dripping with inflammatory rhetoric. The hard part is writing from the heart, and not the head. The music is mostly a tutelary romp through the various genre conventions of deracinated reggae—polyrhythms, horn sections, perambulatory bass, keening echo-slathered vocals and the like. Except for a foray into inspirational exotica on the excellent closing track, “Daze of Future Past,” nothing here strikes me as truly innovative, or even soul-searing, though admittedly the songs are always presented with panache and flair. (Francis DiMenno)

JERRY VELONA
Karunabird Records
Little Loaded

2 tracks

This teaser from Jerry Velona does exactly what it sets out to do: it makes me want to hear more. The first track is a cover of the Beatles’ “Little Child,” and while it stays true to that band’s melodic sensibilities, Velona adds enough of a gritty twang to put his own stamp on the song. The second track is the original “Locked Out and Loaded.” It has a similar feel to the cover, but feels a little more lived in. These two songs are a nice mix of rough and melodic. Hopefully, Velona has a few more of these up his sleeve. (Kevin Finn)

MARTY NESTOR
Marty Nestor

10 tracks

Marty’s music is a bit like Arlo Guthrie meets John Hammond, Jr. All of his compositions are folk ballads and Americana and are very personal and introspective; “Everytime” with it’s cool pedal-steel and “The Long Road Home”are the most radio-friendly. His guitar playing is solid and his voice expressive and some of his music is stripped down to just an acoustic guitar and an organ while on other songs veteran pounder Rick Larrimore adds his formidable talents to the mix resulting in a louder and fuller sound. “In This Little Town” is an acoustic country and western blues tune and “Tell Me What You Want” with Jeff Root on piano really rocks. “Yuma” and “The Dream” are both straight-ahead folk. I really like their only cover, a version of “Down And Out” made famous by Clapton: this tune is done with slight swagger and confidence and is what you would expect from a first-rate barroom band. (A.J. Wachtel)

 

NEMES
Sugar Pop Records
Don’t Flush Me

12 tracks

This is the third release from this delightfully playful and ironic alternative/folk band from Wooooostah. Combining gritty guitars, tight harmonies and fiddle with a wry sense of wit and attitude, this collection of songs are reminiscent of a younger, hip version of the Dambuilders, with shades of Neutral Milk Hotel and the Decemberists. The band is edgy, inventive and tuneful. Each song offers something different, from a strummy, plucky acoustic ditty, to a balls out rocker, with an impeccable sense of musicianship and catchy lyrical hooks. This album is a fresh take on some classic folk, rock, and indie pop and a must have for any lover of clever, tightly honed pop songs. (Joel Simches)

VARIOUS ARTISTS
Choose My Music
The State of Music, Vol. I

14 tracks

The State of Music is the pet project of Dominick Pazko, music taste-maker from England. Dom’s plan is to promote, interview and release one song from an unsigned indie band from each of the America’s 50 states. The songs will be released via his The State of Music compilation albums which will be available via digital download and on limited release CDs. Proceeds from the project benefit Camden Calling, a British community group that provides the homeless with access to music and the arts. Dom has a knack for picking fantastic indie-pop bands while rounding out the mix with hip-hop, folk and a variety of other genres.

Three New England states are represented on Volume I. “Dancing on Your Tears” by Boston’s Hands & Knees is a jangly ’60s infused guitar rocker. The girl/guy vocals and surfy bass lines bring a bit of summer fun to the compilation. New Haven, Connecticut’s Ports of Spain contribute “Winter’s Teeth”—a plinky, reverb drenched, airy, indie-rock song, replete with washes of background vocals tribal drums. The musical proficiency and layers of high quality production apparent on this track mark Ports of Spain as a band to watch. And finally, Portland, Maine’s Lady Lamb the Beekeeper drops a lo-fi basement recording of “Regarding Ascending the Stairs.” Her blue-grass banjo rendition recalls a No Depression-like murder ballad. The cracks in her vocals and the sounds of her clothes dryer in the background lend an air of authenticity to the delivery.

If Volume I of The State of Music is any indication, a compilation series will follow. (George Dow)

OTTO KUNZEL
Bluntface Records
We Are All Doomed: The Zodiac Killer

11 tracks

Not surprisingly, given its subject matter, this concept album is mostly a rather disturbing romp, full of songs in which agitation alternates with deceptive calm. It presumes to recapitulate the mind of a serial murderer but it doesn’t sound so different to me than off-the-rack croaking yelpcore and heavy metal balladry with some fragile keyboards interspersed. We expect audacity; we are confronted by reductive genre conventions. From time to time a shambolic grandeur creeps in, as on the keyboard passage “The Wait,” but, otherwise, this is an ambitious project which falls short of its pretensions. Not a ludicrous travesty, but something far less than magnificent, except for the ominous Pere Ubu-like track “Oct. 13th” (Francis DiMenno)

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And everyone else should update our contact info too. Thanks.

T Max/ the Noise
PO Box 353
Gloucester, MA 01931
617-331-9637
tmaxnoise@aol.com

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