CD Reviews

ANAIS MITCHELL 
Wilderland
Young Man in America  
11 tracks
Lightning strikes again! Following the success of her phenomenal 2010 folk-opera, Hadestown, Anais Mitchell has captured more magic in a bottle [err, rather CD] with a new collection of masterful thematic songs that shadows our country’s current predicaments.  Young Man in America is her continuing search for the center of home, goals, vocation, pleasure, love, loss, and spiritual faith in family and community. When I heard these tunes debuted a few months ago at Club Passim, it was like planting seeds. As the songs have bloomed through repeated listens, I sit stunned at the insight and artistic potential of this young lady.
From the thrust of the opening track, “Wilderland,” with its scraping violin and percussion, and intimations of “mother shelter,” “father shepherd,” amidst “cities that are a wilderland with children wandering in the wood,” we are left with little doubt of the evident morality pursued. This is followed by the powerful titular track, which is a restless search for not-enough (“hungry as a prairie dog”) with imagery that comes pouring out in a desperate plea for emotional understanding (“another wayward son waiting for oblivion”).  Onwards to the devastatingly gorgeous, “Dyin’ Day,” with its Biblical allegory of Abraham (“be it ill or be it good?”), or the mournful “Shepherd” with its metaphorical paradigm of obsessive labor versus human birth, and with each subsequent empowering song, this is art-folk of maximum impact.
And if I didn’t mention the return superb production of Todd Sickafoose (also Ani DiFranco’s bassist), I would be most remiss. Each musician and unique instrument unfolds perfectly into the crafted mood and concept of the material. Supremely rewarding and positively recommended!    (Harry C. Tuniese)

 

 

MELLOW BRAVO
Mad Oak Records
Mellow Bravo
11 tracks
If you hate fun and you hate rock ’n’ roll and you hate when people combine the two of those things, then Mellow Bravo will not be your thing.  But if you’re right in the head, then this band’s brand of joyous hard rock should find its way into your collection.  Mellow Bravo clearly loves its classic rock, but delivers it with the type of dirt and ferocity that would scare the folks over at ’ZLX.  Singer Keith Pierce has a booming voice, throaty yet melodious.  Jess Collins adds color and sheen with her vocals and keys, respectively, and the guitars sound absolutely huge.  Actually, the whole record, as produced by Benny Grotto, sounds gigantic, but it never comes across as overly slick or loses any of its edge.  Not all the slower numbers work, but that’s probably just nitpicking.                (Kevin Finn)

 

 

STEVE GILLIGAN
Jacob’s Well
14 tracks
Jacob’s Well shows another, unexpected side to Steve Gilligan, a card-carrying rock ‘n’ roller who’s main group gig is with the Stompers; a band who can trace it’s influences back to Chuck Berry and Louisiana Baptist revival meetings. And although Sal Baglio and other band mates guest appear on his first solo project, most of the music is folk/pop/Americana-based except for the sole selection where Steve remembers his rocking roots: “What’s a Little Rock ’n’ Roll Between Friends.” The guitar arrangements throughout the CD are really good and are showcased specifically in a nice love song “Much For Nothin’ .” Steve plays many instruments on this including mandolin and I really like his picking on “Niki’s Blue Waltz.” Bluesy ballads “”My Love For You” and “Before The Fall” are real cool and really let his Irish tenor shine.You can hear the influences of Dylan on the opening cut “Wakin’ Up Blues” and the Beatles on “Fall In Love.” Both fit nicely into this sweet and soulful enterprise. Not a bad song on the CD; check it out.              (A.J. Wachtel)

 

 

LISA MANNING
Listen to My Words   
21 tracks
Lisa Manning is a bard-like woman-child performer and exponent of the Waldorf School, whose educational philosophy lends itself to developing free, morally responsible and integrated individuals with thinking that includes imagination and a creative as well as analytic component.  We are invited to listen to her poetic reflections in the new CD Listen to My Words.   Through her lyrics Lisa expresses a deeper level of feelings and existence for us to consider, and reaches into the essence of the human spirit with an approach that  is a point of departure from the norm. She speaks of painful feelings of aloneness, the need for validation, the paradoxes and ambiguities inherent in our social schematic, the ebb and flow of life, our desire to be heard, our abuse of the planet and a power greater than us all.  In “War,” a father is killed in battle, and his now-fatherless son can only cry as he receives the flag in his honor while his childhood dies.   “I Want to Fly” is a dramatic statement about  attaining freedom from our own personal bondage so as to become what we are meant to be.   In “Scream,” screaming is to exist and to come to know that life is now and not a dress rehearsal.  “Someday I’ll Jump Over the Moon,” holds  the fantasy that a super accomplishment will make everyone happy with me.  Also notable are “They Say It’s Lonely at the Top” and “Don’t You Hear Me Calling,” which would evoke identification from most of us.  Simple but catchy tunes from harmonica and guitar are delivered as a backdrop to a sparse yet direct and clever word juxtaposition.  Her style serves to get across a point of view about complex subjects in this “pieces of a life” CD.   Refreshing to hear from a performer who dares to stand up and be counted in an individualistic manner and somewhat reminiscent of cabaret-type singers in nightspots such as Cafe des Artistes in New York City in the ’60s.             (Anne Brown)

 

 

AD BOC AND PAUL CERQUA  
Crimson Spiral Songs
Beginners Only Songs 
12 tracks
Titling a collection of early work “Beginners Only Songs” is an odd strategy on the face of it, even if the  band for which the songs were originally intended actually went by that name. On the one hand, the title begs your indulgence for admittedly early efforts and implies that we must not judge them too harshly. On the other hand, it presumes that an artist has assumed such a stature that his early works are to be considered of interest. Well, the good news is that even though the artist’s ultimate stature is arguably still a matter of dispute, some of these songs are far from mere beginner fumblings. “The Act” features those Sus4 chords so beloved by the Who; “I Don’t Have to Fight” interpolates a rousing march rhythm as an irresistable hook. Also of interest is the staggered pomp of “We and the Gov’t”; the lovely, wispy, repetitive “When It Strikes,” and the epic chundering meander of “Does It Matter.” The songwriters’ instincts are sharp, and even though the songs are not immortal classics, they are indisputably good; many are even memorable. The songs remind me, in the best possible way, of the ethereal but vital work of LA psyche-pop band the Three O’Clock, back when they were known as the Salvation Army.       (Francis DiMenno)

 

 

VARIOUS ARTISTS
Riverview Studios
Everyone Is Irish

11 tracks
Comanchero opens this Celtic-meets-Americana compilation with an upbeat bluegrass-tinged jig, while Three Day Threshold follow with a hard-edged rebel song fulla screeching fiddle and raunchy blues guitar. David Delaney & Friends perform a very traditional “set” of fiddle-driven instrumentals. The first—a reel, if I’m not mistaken— just begs to be step-danced to. The second tune in the medley, “Silver Spear,” is particularly breathtaking. The band picks up the pace as the fiddle blossoms into mellifluous bursts of bird-like warbling. Then comes Ryan Fitzsimmons with the jauntily nostalgic country song “The Galway Girl,” which sounds like a Tom Petty bootleg.

The most intoxicating track on this compilation is also the simplest: Lydia Thornton’s a cappella rendition of “She Moved Through the Fair” is sung in the highly ornamented Sean-nós style with her wispy vibrato-filled voice. Its bareness and haunting beauty make it a tough act to follow. However, T Max is up to the challenge with a tongue-in-cheek tale of an out-of-control sausage-maker. The catchy sing-a-long chorus and jangling electric guitar interludes are nice, but it’s his gravelly voice and the subtle overdubs that really make this track shine. Patrick Coman & the Lo-Fi Angels continue with a slow sentimental lament, complete with spot-on guy/girl vocal harmonies and sweetly pining fiddle.
I’m not wild about “Danny Boy,” as it’s such a staple of Irish music that it has become painful cliché and this rendition, while ably played, doesn’t do anything innovative enough to change my mind. Same goes for “Whiskey In the Jar” later on. But I really dig the Whiskey Boys’ “Roisin the Beau.” It’s a simply-adorned acoustic track with some wonderful drone-heavy fiddle work. The lead vocals are plain as can be, but tell a great story and tell it well. Part drinking song, part requiem, this song doesn’t get old over it’s epic length. Greg Klyma’s eponymous closer has an Adam Sandler-type feel to it. Funny, but for a closer, it kinda fizzles.          (Will Barry)

 

CARAVAN OF THIEVES
UFO Music
The Fun House 
15 tracks
Talk about a thrill ride…  There are so many things going on with this band, it’s hard to begin.  Caravan of Thieves is part Gypsy, part vaudeville, part bluegrass, and part circus sideshow. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks Tim Burton should be calling this band to do his next film with Johnny Depp.  The latest release from Caravan of Thieves offers a buffet of everything a great album should have: clever lyrics, panoramic arrangements, and every conceivable mood and texture you could hope for.  Lovers of literature, eclecticism, melody, wit, and wisdom should have this album in their collection. Unlike a few bands of this genre, Caravan of Thieves seems to accept all types of followers.  Young, old, normal, freak, cynic, and fool have an equal opportunity to be entertained by this multi-faceted group of gifted tunemeisters and sonic storytellers.  It is impossible not to love this.  Wow!          (Joel Simches)

 

DAN CLOUTIER
Blind Willie’s Lighthouse   
13 tracks
It is through fitting homage to one of his greatest influences, 1920s gospel-blues legend, Blind Willie Johnson, that Dan Cloutier’s apparent love of New England is chronicled.  Powerful imagery of oceans and crashing waves combine with heartwarming anecdotes of love and one’s unshakable faith.  Perhaps the most fitting example of this lies in “The Climber,” which references Boston, Maine, and New Hampshire in an effort to further illustrate a determined Cloutier’s quest to make it through the pearly gates of Heaven.  Among the talented group of musicians to accompany Cloutier are Kim Jennings (piano, Wurlitzer, keyboards, lead harmony vocals), Eric Anderson (drums, bass), and Dennis Pearne (bass).  Jennings’ voice is angelic perfection, especially notable within “Trouble in the Promised Land” and “Kinnerett.”  Her piano contribution to “Bangor at 5:00 am” provides the haunting song, set within the Maine coast, with an air of mystery.  One could envision Cloutier crooning these inspiring songs on a beach or perhaps by a blazing campfire.  One thing is for certain: he is a born, gifted storyteller following a path that is most certainly meant for him.         (Julia R. DeStefano)

 

THE CRANKS
Downside Up
9 tracks
Woo-hoo, The Cranks are go! In my short time with the Noise, I’ve become jaded having to review all types of lousy music, that it’s a cause for celebration on those rare occasions when I’m actually impressed! Seriously, I’m having difficulty typing out a review while the CD is playing because this music just won’t sink in the background enough for me to concentrate. Anyway, the Cranks are a gifted trio of high-school, age kids playing spirited college rock (remember when they called it college rock?). Their influences include Kings of Leon (more Youth and Young Manhood-era KofL, not that later “Sex on Fire” pablum), Weezer, and Pixies. In addition, I’m reminded at times of Earwig-era Blake Babies with a twist of Screaming Females. Their youthful enthusiasm is contagious, the lyrics are well-written, and while they can certainly play, they’re not overly flashy and technical—their music’s got heart, and I can do nothing but support that. Best tracks are “Voice Inside,” “Good Guys,” “Here I Go,” and “Seven.” I look forward to how they progress!              (Tony Mellor)

 

THE BIRTHDAY SUICIDE  
Two Others Music
Palm Trees and Dead Leaves
9 tracks
Gregg Padula’s lyrical folk project is not yet all that it can be, but it’s getting there, as it’s an improvement over his uneven debut from a few years back.  His gravelly voice still struggles when pushed, but he’s learned to more effectively milk earnest feelings out of it.  The songwriting, while occasionally displaying too much of a song-to-song sameness, has gotten sharper, most noticeably on the opening title track, a pretty number that reminds me of The Goo Goo Dolls’ acoustic hits, only smarter and not pandering to soccer moms.  Padula would probably prefer to be compared to Dylan, but I swear I mean that as a compliment.  The instrumentation has been fleshed out.  At times, like with the rocking drumbeat in “Last Winter”, it works to great effect, but the guitar pyro of Danny Brady, while technically proficient, sounds out of place.  Padula’s still a work in progress, but it’s worth sticking around to see where he ends up.          (Kevin Finn)

 

ABBIE BARRETT & THE LAST DATE
The Triples: Volume 1
3 tracks
The most diversified artist to come along in a long time, Abbie Barrett may embody elements of Sarah RabDAU and Self-Employed Assassins, the Dresden Dolls, and even Alanis Morissette, but she is, essentially, in a class all her own.  If her debut, Dying Day, was our introduction to her capabilities, The Triples: Volume 1 represents her musical evolution, all while solidifying her place – fitting, as the album’s opening track is appropriately titled “Here to Stay.”  Best described as a track straddling the realms of pop and punk, the adage is clear: one can do anything.  What follows is “On the Range,” a noticeable shift from the opener and through a twangy country feel, it serves as further proof of just what Barrett and the Last Date can cover.  Volume 1 closes with the romantic and soft “Draw Me In,” an exquisite track that showcases the sensuality of her voice.  Refreshingly unpredictable, Barrett remains a bright light among others of her genre, and The Triples: Volume 1is every indication of this.       (Julia R. DeStefano)

 

FUTURE CARNIVORES
Future Carnivores

10 tracks
Listening to this album makes me feel like I’m floating care-free in tranquil amniotic waters. I can’t get enough—from the trance-inducing tribal rhythms to the warm melodic plunkings of the bass to the layers upon layers of textural guitars, tinkling like a porch full of wind-chimes. Then, of course, there’s the zen synth chanting long electronic oms. Now, if all this electro-bliss doesn’t getcha, the guy/girl vocal harmonies sure as hell will. The guy’s vocal style has a palpable Bowie influence from the nasally baritone crooning to the the airy falsetto. It’s just enough to cultivate the soulful art-rock vibes these guys are dishing out without becoming parody. Altogether, this band weaves a complex soundscape that’s uplifting, amorous, and brimming with joie-de-vivre.             (Will Barry)

 

ERIC OTT
Letter Box

8 tracks
Ott’s music manages the difficult task of being both beautiful and a little bit depressing.  While it’s steeped in the acoustic guitar / singer-songwriter realm, Ott’s experience playing in full bands shows, as the music has a much fuller feel than most in this genre.  Ott’s deep, full voice commands attention, recalling James Taylor if James Taylor actually had a pair, and cellist Kristen Miller is a marvel, equally adept at soothing the listeners as she is at sending shivers up their spines.  The songwriting is solid throughout, reaching its highest point with “Coattails,” which comes off as a quieter version of the drug rush in the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin.”  This may be a debut, but it sounds like it came from an established veteran.    (Kevin Finn)

 

LOVE OF LIFE
…And Time Again

12 tracks
The best songs here are very self-assured heavy rock from local scene veteran Scott Gagnon. You feel almost obliged to like these latter-day comeback efforts just for old times’ sake, and, to be sure, a track like “Sleeping Dogs” is little more than an off-kilter bit of simplistic garage rock. However, the opening salvo, “The Controller,” is a classic track in the tradition of Mission of Burma, Uzi, and too many other avant-noise bands to mention, though early Love also comes to mind. Lively, dense, and compelling songs predominate throughout. “Everybody’s Right” is a strenous, brazen, cojoined guitar and bass attack with lively percussion, and although the vocal verges betimes on braying pronunciato, the song itself is too strong to ignore. The closing track, “The Aftermath” is a welcome surprise–oddly reminiscent of the Cowboys International song of the same name.  Though lyrics are rudimentary and direct, the best songs here are quite remarkable.      (Francis DiMenno)

 

STEVE CARAWAY
Indienink
Hurricane Season

13 tracks
Released in 2008, this CD still sounds current. It easily has me singing along. The songwriting is excellent (both musically and lyrically) and the clean production scores the CD high in sell-ability. This is pop rock at it’s best—what you’d expect get if Elvis Costello and Bruce Springsteen joined forces with the remaining members of the Beatles. Steve has the ability to rock out, as on the title track, and then he can pull it back and show a sensitive side with “Something New” and “Keeping Secrets.” “Before You Run Away” leans toward Elvis Costello with a classic intro and nice melody movement into the chorus. “When I Change My Mind” has some surprising, yet natural, chord changes, sparsely used Beatle hand claps, and good 12-string melodies spawned from the early British invasion. “Gone Gone Gone” employs a distinctive Beatle flavor with Ringo’s “Tomorrow Never Knows” drum beat and McCartney’s “Rain” bass hammer-ons. Overall Steve has a knack for throwing good chords and melodies together with easy-to-follow-along lyrics that are sung with masculine fervor and tight harmonies.                          (T Max)

 

VERTICAL TWIN  
75 or Less Records
Geezer Wheelie
6 tracks
I’ve never heard a 75 or Less record that I haven’t found strangely appealing. Fate has dealt me three compact discs from three different bands on this label, including this one, and just like its label brethren, Geezer Wheelie is big dumb party-hard rock with grungy stoner-riffic riffs, juvenile beer-soaked lyrics and bargain-basement Building 19 production—I don’t hate it! The fact is, as I write this, I’ve been painlessly (and soberly!) listening to this Vertical Twin EP on shuffle and on repeat. I’d probably even white-boy dance to this if I wasn’t so busy typing. Just ignore that CD cover.            (Tony Mellor)

 

LEWIS AND GARRELS 
On the Way Home 
12 tracks
I think we can all agree that an album is like a novel, with the guys behind the mics and instruments telling the story. In the case of Lewis and Garrels’ album, On the Way Home, the tales they have to tell will be familiar to fans of the genre, but all are well worth a listen. The folk/rock creations of this duo blend mellow, easy-listening tunes, down-home blues and some classic rock sounds. Andrew Lewis (vocals/guitar) is a presence onstage, and has a deep, commanding voice that fills the room with no effort. Paired with the lighter vocals and exemplary guitar work of Jake Garrels, these two combine countless years of experience to create an assortment of music that never fails to put me at ease. It’s like they’ve already seen the end of the journey, and they’re here to help us find our path and give a little guidance along the way. A particular favorite of mine is “I Remember,”which from my perspective, reflects on past actions, both the big and the small, something we’ve all pondered after a few beers or a lonely night at home. On “Bagful of Blues,” Jake shows his chops as a blues-man, giving us a mournful tune about that certain someone and the heartache that comes with them. The music is simple and straightforward: no overdubbing, no effects, no quirky instrumentation tricks. And really, that’s all we need.     (Max Bowen)

 

BUBBLES IN THE THINK TANK
presents The Petite 7 Inch Record
6 tracks (on vinyl)
“Bubbles…” is a weekly show on WMFO, with hostesses Belinda and January Fairy. The record is purple, plays at 33-1/3 RPM, and comes with a download link that includes extra tracks. 300 were made, more than half are already gone, and I’m not surprised. It’s a microcosm of one big family tree of sorts, connecting all the acts (and many others, as well as fans) with long, deep roots stretching back a good thirty years plus. Most everyone involved knows or has worked with any number of others along a given branch at some point, regardless of home base. Who knew that those proverbial six degrees separated Ray Mason from Birdsongs of the Mesozoic? Or the Spampinato Brothers from singing TV sock puppets? And on it goes. The scenario deserves an extensive article of its own, but if you had to narrow it all down to one commonality in this case, it would be the simple, underlying sweetness here, so warm you can feel it. By not shooting for epic or whimsy, they somehow ended up with epic whimsy. Oh, and every song is about records. And, it rocks. The liner notes guy says it best: “Just listen. You can actually hear the fun that the artists are having.” Well, that’s just for starters.      (Joe Coughlin)

 

LAST BUILDERS OF EMPIRE
Without Remorse 
5 tracks
Between the band’s name, Last Builders of Empire, and the title of their debut, Without Remorse, one would expect unbearably heavy, angsty rock and even perhaps industrial metal.  To this reviewer’s pleasant surprise, Dan Mandino (guitar and synth), Rich Reed (drums, bells, percussion), Pat Horrigan (bass), and Jesse Chamberlain (guitar), have developed an innovative post-rock instrumental sound, even if titles such as “The Withered Are Serene” are more than slightly misleading to listeners.  On the whole, Last Builders of Empire’s compositions are dark, melodic, and haunting, best suited for inclusion in the realm of both television and film.           (Julia R. DeStefano)

 

J T LOCKWOOD
A Chance for Change
9 tracks
This is an interesting CD that mixes acoustic and electric instruments resulting in songs with folk, pop, reggae, and Americana influences; and great vocals and harmonies all over the place.Recorded and mixed in Maine, I like the opening song “The Best of Me” with its pop feel and calypso cadences and it’s more electronic re-mix at the very end. “Run” is an acoustic ballad with a pop feel, and “As I Am” is an acoustic/power pop tune. I like the sequencing of “Away” an Americana/folkie ballad and the next one “I Think”; an electric American/pop ballad too; with good harmonies everywhere. I also dig the uptempo guitar intro in “Down” and just really enjoy the optimism in the delivery and arrangements of the music in the whole package. Worth a lot of listens; you’ll find something else you like each time you play this.       (A.J.Wachtel)

 

PROTEAN COLLECTIVE
Exposed
3 tracks
One of the best parts of listening to the progressive hard rock/metal of Protean Collective is that what you get on the CDs and downloads is a mirror image of their live shows. It was true with Once Mechanical and Divided, and remains the same with their newest work, the three-song EP Exposed. I had the chance to listen to the album, and a few hours later, caught their EP release show and honestly couldn’t tell the difference between the live set and the recordings. This EP packs in all the eardrum-busting electricity of the live shows, and gets a ton of mileage out of three tracks. “Quiet in Wartime” is anything but, slamming the senses within the first 30 seconds and never letting up, perfectly encompassing the sound of Protean Collective. The band, comprised of Graham Bacher (lead vocals, guitar), Steph Goyer (guitar, vocals), Dan Ehramjian (bass) and Matt Zappa (drums), maintains their signature style of technical precision and intense, powerful tones that jar bones and brainpans. Bacher’s vocals punch through on each verse, melding and flowing with the music. Zappa’s a master on the drums, firing off the percussionist’s version of a machine gun artillery salvo. Goyer and Erhamjian’s prowess on the guitar and bass, respectively, complete the equation, creating a unique style that is both fast-paced, melodic and best played at the highest volume possible.       (Max Bowen)

 

AMY BLACK
One/Time
12 tracks
This woman is an impressive singer and her voice sounds very authentic in a few different styles; and all present on this CD. Whether communicating folk ballads, like opener “Run Johnny” or “Molly,” or a bluesy song like “One Time,” or  an Americana Loretta Lynn cover “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man),” or a C&W weeper “Words Fail You”; Black’s vocals are emotional and very believable on every cut. I think “Stay” and “I Can’t Play This Game” are the most radio-friendly and commercial compositions, but in my opinion I liked most of the tunes on this CD and after my first listen I want to go check her performance out live and onstage. A good collection and solid selection of songs.     (A.J. Wachtel)

 

ASIA MEI    
No Box Music
Introverse  
10 tracks
It’s always a lot of fun to get to review an album like this that defies labels and category. Asia Mei covers a broad range of styles and moods.  Fans of Kate Bush, Muse, Fiona Apple and Regina Spektor will enjoy her sense of melody, introspective lyrics and bombastic sense of style and arrangement. Every song sounds pretty epic and loving performed by some gifted musicians.  The only area that this album falls short is in its attempt to accomplish too much.  There are great melodies, but not enough of them to latch onto.  Mei seems to have a lot to say in some songs and tries to cram a lot of words into each of them, forsaking any kind of recognizable hook, or something that someone could easily sing along with. This seems to be a common problem with singer/songwriters of this ilk. Sometimes less is more. If songwriting can be expressed as some kind of musical journey, it helps to be able to remember the sites along the way.     (Joel Simches)

 

FOOD WILL WIN THE WAR
A False Sense of Warmth
11 tracks
I’m pretty damned decent at judging a CD by its packaging, but this threw me off. It’s a beautiful package—brings to mind those post-rock CDs that labels like Thrill Jockey and Quarterstick/Touch and Go were putting out some years ago. Couple that with the claim that no fewer than twelve people are on this recording, and I was expecting perhaps a Tortoise clone. Not even close. The music is very acoustic guitar-based, unmistakably American(a), festooned with what the liner notes say “violin,” but stylistically sounds more like “fiddle” to me, grounded with a lead voice that at times sounds like Calvin Johnson fronting a jamless early ’90s studio Phish, and all wrapped up in an over-smooth production somewhat reminiscent of R.E.M.’s Reveal. Besides the many vocalists heard, never at any point in this album does it sound like there are more than five people playing at the same time. I could see this band sharing a bill with OldJack, and if a show like that ever happened, I’d make sure I wasn’t in the neighborhood.    (Tony Mellor)

 

WALTER NOONS
Real Records
Hurricane Songs  
10 tracks
This collection assembles a bunch of low-key compositions in a bluesy mode, with an added boogie tune, an uptempo rock number, some 1920s-era hokum, and other Americana. Nothing earth-shaking here. Just anodyne instrumentals and unremarkable deadpan vocals with lyrics about nothing truly notable. “Have Pity on the Poor” is a sub-Dylan “Rainy Day Woman”-style boogie where the joke—if there is one—is supposed to consist of a cleverly sardonic commentary on contemporary affairs, though it falls considerably short of even that modest goal. Flattened, depressing affect simply isn’t doing it for me these days. Sorry.       (Francis DiMenno)

 

THE GREAT WHISKEY REBELLION
On The Whiskey Train
8 tracks
If the Dropkick Murphy’s were really born in Dublin and not Dorchester they would sound like this. Without bagpipes and angry punk vocals this group’s Americana/traditional Irish pub sound is very different and very authentic. Most of the tracks here are instrumental with vocals appearing on a few scattered spots, but the focus is on the great fiddle playing. All of the music is uptempo and dance-able but catering more towards the jig then the break-dance. My favorite cuts are the traditional “Cooley’s Reel” and an original “Mr. Whiskey” because they are very lively and very interesting. I met this Worcester-area band loading out onto Lansdown Street after a gig and they gave me their CD when I introduced myself; you find good music in the most unexpected ways.       (A.J. Wachtel)

 

CRYOSTASIUM II
2 tracks
Track two sounds quite a bit like a querulous oscilloscope stomped down by a monochord drone. Track one is even, er, better.  32 years ago we were treated to “Radio 4,” an odd final track on the Metal Box PiL album. Now we have what very nearly amounts to an LP-length version—industrial fuzz and blurry death metal backed by howling Lucifer and recorded on a Tascam analog 8-track—so nice to know The Evil One hasn’t gone digital just yet—I guess that would mean He is truly Evil. Um, not to be unsupportive, but unless you’re looking for music to climb out of a K-hole by, I’m wondering—what’s the point? I presume the answer is “Because I can!” Solid. Don’t forget to write. (Francis DiMenno)

 

QUETZALCOATLUS
Beats + Noise
14 tracks
This ambient electronica is rife with industrial beats, slithering atonal synth-basslines, with a kaleidoscopic array of instrumental textures and sound effects—including everything from church bells to the screeching of the Green Line train. These pieces often include quirky thought-provoking use of spoken-word sampling. Foreboding at one point, tender the next, this album always keeps you guessing. Just to give you an idea of what’s going on here, one track meshes trip-hop beats with children’s voices singing snippets of “Old McDonald Had a Farm.” Part of me shutters to think what kind of depraved, possibly psychotic individual would create such grotesque collages of sound. Another part of me wants to buy that guy a drink. What does a guy like this drink anyway? Absinthe would be my guess.     (Will Barry)

 

THE FEW 
Headstock
11 tracks
This band works on so many levels.  They have a groove, but they’re not simply a funk band.  They jam out, but they’re not wasted on bad beer and brown acid. They play blues, but more in a classic rock way.  They have a female singer, but they also have a male singer.  They make their own guitars.  In a scene where classic rock is usually about as popular as puppy rape, the Few have managed to put a fresh and funky spin on the tired moniker.  If you like the James Gang, Led Zeppelin, Grand Funk, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, Jefferson Airplane, Government Mule, It’s A Beautiful Day, and Aretha Franklin, you will probably love this band.  If you hate all the music I just mentioned, you’d probably come away from this album wondering how you can still like a band this much. This new album seems to have found not only a balance of all these influences, but also a sound that defines them as their own thing.    (Joel Simches)

 

OTTO KINZEL 
We Are All Doomed: The Zodiac Killer  
11 tracks
Okay, hands up, who’s ever wanted to hear the complete story of the Zodiac Killer set to a blistering metal sound? That many? Good, I’ve found the right crowd. Otto Kinzel’s album is a first for me, and that’s saying something. Each song tackles a different chapter of the Zodiac Killer’s story, from the “Two Dead on Lake Herman Road” to “October 13th” to “I Am NOT Paul Avery.” If you’ve seen any of the movies or are just a fan of the macabre, this one’s going to appeal to you. The music here is a mix, from shredding guitars and growled-out vocals that would leave the throat of a lesser singer bloody and raw, to more melodic instrumentals that give us a break between slayings. Otto’s done his homework in preparation for this album, showing that he’s taking this as a serious project, rather than choosing a dark subject for pure shock value. In “I Want To Report a Murder,” he even includes lines where the killer calls the police to report the murders. Instrumentally, this album’s a good mix, with Otto providing guitar, bass, keyboard and some slick programming work. There’s plenty of guests as well, such as Jeremiah Thomas on the piano for “The Wait,” and Marc Brennan doing drum work on several songs. All in all, this is a very creative product that is more like a novel than a collection of songs. Each one’s a different chapter, and given to us in a different way. Go ahead, give it a read.             (Max Bowen)

 

ANNALISE EMERICK  
Starry-Eyed
7 tracks
It’s a frustrating thing. There are so many nice female voices going around, making records, playing shows, but so few of these voices are used in anything interesting or remotely individualistic—like this CD by Annalise Emerick. There is no question that she has a natural-sounding, unaffected (no melisma or annoying vocal acrobatics), and likable singing voice, but the rest of the music is extremely dull. There are certain voices that can transcend whatever backing (or lack thereof) due to sheer character and lyrical power (think those post-’70s Leonard Cohen albums with the Muzak backing); unfortunately, Annalise doesn’t have either of these qualities. Her voice is nice, but it’s not interesting enough to render the polite folky trappings and under-stimulating lyrics moot. Basically, this CD bores the hell out of me because the music is so cookie-cutter, so dime-a-dozen, that it goes through my noggin like a sieve, leaving no residue behind. Plus, the cover of “Stand By Me” is completely forgettable and pointless, same with the interpolation of “Auld Lang Syne” in track 6.             (Tony Mellor)

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