CD Reviews

Tiny Radars
I’m Saving Myself for Shepherdess
9 tracks

Anyone who hasn’t followed Hilken Mancini’s post-Fuzzy work has made a grave mistake.  This second record from Shepherdess finds Mancini on top of her game, leading the band through a set of songs that are in debt as much to riot grrl punk as they are to the power pop that she is known for.  The music has a ferocity to it, but never at the expense of a good hook, and while Mancini lets her guitar hero side show, the songs never meander aimlessly.  The other band members, Emily Arkin (baritone guitar and violin) and Allison Murray (drums) excel as well, proving nimble enough to turn on a dime while also focused enough to keep the proceedings grounded.  The production is excellent throughout, fully capturing the spirit of their live shows, except for the actual live track that closes the album, which sounds dull and far away.   (Kevin Finn)


Open E Entertainment
From Detroit… to the Delta 
12 tracks

James swears that “Detroit blues is greasier than Chicago blues” and his latest project is a testament to this fact. First, with an all-star cast of musicians; every song is a gem in its own right. The group consists of  James on superb Sonny Boy Williamson I-inspired harp and very solid vocals. David Hull, the bassist and backing vocalist, also very ably produces this product. Guitarist extraordinaire George McCann on sizzling six-string and Seth Pappas on driving drums are razor-sharp on every cut. When the group suddenly stops in an arrangement, the momentum stalls and it’s the perfect music foil to transfer the listener’s focus back on to front man James alone. This allows him to always have control of the song, it works well, and it’s a great foundation for a great cd. I really dig “Intoxicated” with it’s hook, and Willie Dixon’s Delta inspired “Same Thing.” “Little Johnny” is a great tune with Johnny Winter on Firebird Slide guitar and Aerosmith’s Joey Kramer on drums. Listen at the end of the song when Aerosmith’s guitarist Brad Whitford joins in. Just killer. Joey also pounds on the John Lee Hooker classic “Motor City Is Burning,” for real Detroit bluze. “I Don’t Want To Have a Heart,” co-written with local vet Bruce Marshall, is another good song. I really like “Delta Storm,” with the Uptown Horns. Their presence always takes the sound to a better level. Ask The Stones. Another standout is Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?” sung by rapper DMC. His delivery and just his appearance is way cool and it’s done “Detroit” all the way. “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” another “Delta inspired” blues tune, is tightly and powerfully done, showcasing the band’s many talents. The jazzy/soulful version of Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road Jack” is very interesting and Montgomery’s opening harp and vocals are really cool. “River’s Edge,” written by McCann and “Changing of the Guard” composed by Hull, are both enjoyable blues/rock that again allow the stars to strut their stuff. Finally, Cotton comes and shows everyone his own interpretation of Sonny Boy’s style with the Lightning Hopkins classic “Black Cadillac.” This is not just another harp CD.  Great music. Great performances. Great guest-stars. Play this CD loud.         (A.J. Wachtel)


Sool Recordings
Control Is in Your Command:
The Best of the Weisstronauts 1999-2012

27 tracks

There are twelve songs actually, on the vinyl release—plus a mind-roasting 15 bonus tracks on the CD release. Y’know, judging from the first track, “Get It Together,” this band might strike the uninitiated as purveyors of the type of allegedly “hip” music” listened to the squares in the film version of The Graduate. But these instrumentals actually span the 14-year run of this collective of musicians gathered together to pay homage to exhausted styles past—from heavy duty funk (“Fibonacci”) to bubblegum pop (“Fruity”) to seedy pop psychedelia (the previously unreleased “Handball”). The aptly named “Psychedelic Whiplash” affectionately sends up both Blue Cheer and crazed 1960s LA radio DJ raps (e.g., “The Diamond Mine”). Make no mistake:  this best-of collection is nothing if not eclectic. We also get a Byrdsy-Liverpudlian amalgam of folk-blues-pop (“Hoopin’”) side by side with  twangy Johnny Cash style country (“Hot Dog City”). The sparkling and aptly named “Perky” appears here in a brighter 2011 remix. As for the CD bonus tracks, the standouts include “Tommy the Smelter” and its interpolated “Gimme Shelter” riff; the spectacularly jaunty “Last Train to Shartlesville”; the sheer verve of the previously unreleased cover of “Hot Smoke and Sassafras,” and the glad-making “Thrifty 2,” sounding like a picture perfect portrait of 1966, alongside of the cover of “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” with its nitrous oxide punch at the finale. All in all, it has been a fun ride, kids. Let’s keep up the good work.         (Francis DiMenno)


Love & Violence
10 tracks

Former Dirt Merchants founder Mike Malone emerges with his latest release under the moniker Orb Mellon.  This collection of tunes features solo home project recordings from two different periods of time and digs deep into the whiskey drenched delta blues/juke joint wave. The varying qualities of these recordings make this album sound instantly and simultaneously like a recently unearthed blues fossil and a modern edgy classic. Love & Violence has a healthy blend of soulful, intimate, fragile, and bombastic, as good albums should, without trying to sound all “faddy,” as if vintage were something you could simply buy at Guitar Center with a discount coupon.  All the songs on this sound honest and from the heart, with the charm coming from differing degrees of sonic fidelity. Sometimes the only way to achieve that is with a home recording. This is a record worth having in the collection.          (Joel Simches)


Killing Days 
11 tracks

Recorded at Proofbox Studios with multi-instrumentalist/producer Steve Mayone, the lads from American Thread have got a great, well-rounded sound. Like a cross between the Pogues, Billy Bragg and Steve Earle, they waste no time to blast out some high octane Americana infused with healthy portions of country blues and barroom rock. Guitarist/singer Brendan Ahern and drummer Geoff Downing pair nicely, and fill out their sound with Michael Taggert on lead guitar and Gary Taggart on bass. American Thread is the kind of band I can easily picture playing at Bull McCabes or Toad, strumming their working class anthems over acoustic guitars and tall glasses of Irish whiskey. Like the best folk songs, each tune tells a story. “Fisherman’s Lullaby” is one of my favorites, depicting the tough times of today’s fisherman.  “Parade” is another fun folk song; it has a ring of Bruce Springsteen doing a Bob Dylan cover.  The organ on “Lost and Found” is a nice touch and allows that song to stand out a bit more instrumentally. “39 Days” somehow reminds me of an acoustic Bob Mould tune.  If this is the kind of stuff you dig, check out American Thread.      (Kier Byrnes)


Second Story Records
Bird Mancini Lounge  
12 tracks

This music is a mix of the usual eclectic roots rock sound of Bird Mancini and the Bossa Nova. Both Ruby and Billy Carl sing great.  Ruby wrote the opening, “If You Wanna Get To Know Me,” and Billy wrote all the rest.  Their Bossa Nova songs that could have been covered by Brasil 66 or Astrud Gilberto include: “You Don’t Know What I’m Saying,” the instrumental “What Gets Me This Way,” with the great groove, “Midway Green Café,” “Jet Setting In Morocco,” “Patagonia,” and the closing cut, “Running To You (Coda).” Less danceable but just as lounge-ish are “The Listener,” “Somedays,” and “Pond Life,” a song co-written by Mr. Curt  that could be on an Adventure Set set list. Instruments included on this CD that I am unfamiliar with their specific sounds are: axatse, china cymbal, and a rain stick. This is rock solid, enjoyable, and certainly not just elevator music. Pour yourself a martini and listen.                 (A.J. Wachtel)


TVP Records
Volume 1  
14 tracks

I love the modern electro-soul sound.  There are many categories for this type of funky jazzy hip hoppy compilation, but “electro-soul” really resonates for me.  It sounds 21st century, looking at it from the 22nd century.  The artists in question on this hipolific mix are really at the mercy of New Hampshire Seacoast producer Scott “Sir Buck” Ruffner—and are performing as THE sound of TVP Records.  Hailing from the (and inhaling the) Portsmouth vibe and sea air, Sir Buck and his compassionate cohorts have welded together a nasty and smooth mix of flash and brash, spunk and funk, mix, licks, and some chicks.  Before I venture further into questionable beat poetry rhyme schemes, let me say that this CD is a great party soundtrack to keep rolling… though I haven’t been to a great party in many moons.  Tasty bits of guitar work, positive-energy lyrics and seamless integration in the many artists’ sounds in the tracks lead my ear to a pleasing sense of completion and flow throughout the work.      (Mike Loce)


Let the Right Ones In
19 tracks

When they reminisce about good Hip Hop this album will be amongst the ranks.

Out of the gate there is a sense of euphoric nostalgic transcendence.  As soon as the beats drop, it is apparent that this LP blends many different types of styles and influences from rock, ADM, and ’90s trip hop.

Moe and his cast of characters are droppin’ more knowledge than glitter on the Bean with very conscious and reflective lyrics.  His mixed cast include several Boston musical luminaries such as Dua Boakye from BAD Rabbits, Reks, and Julia Easterlin.   The first track, “Gothham feat. Easterlin,” is beautious out the gate. “Annie Mulz” is a super sonic gritty party anthem. Track 10, “Pressure,” is grimy and raw.  Just about every joint on this album seduces you on the low like a not so silent assassin with all its heavenly and heavy beats. This album truly has mass appeal, which I feel will be appreciated by hip hop heads.      (Lara Jardullo)


Ruido Guide Records
8 tracks

The mandolin pickin’ is good—nothing truly virtuosic—the songs are okay—nothing top out of sight brilliant—the singing is of variable quality—some of the melodies are sprightly—notably “Gone Yer Gone,” the Dylanesque “Rocket to the Soul,” and, notably, “Just Like You,” where Mr. Ryan’s voice is heard to best effect. I love anthemic mountain music—from Bill Monroe to the Anglin Brothers to Jim Eanes. I love it with a passion bordering on the fanatic. These songs don’t move me in any of the same ways. At best, they only tickle my fancy and whet my appetite for some of the real thing, which, in and of itself, is no mean feat.     (Francis DiMenno)


Maiden America
11 tracks

This is an outstanding album from an outstanding band. It’s all the more impressive that this is their debut release and not the work of a band 10 years in and five albums deep. Stylistically, they are as ambiguous as they are adventurous, touching on country, blues, and prog-influenced groove-heavy jams, with the occasional dash of avant-garde jazz licks and metal riffing. Broadly defined, I’d call ‘em art-rock. Their upbeat and whimsical style with its chunky fuzzed-out guitar leads, bouncing basslines, and lighthearted organ/synth is really compelling. They’re like Blur, without the British accents. They’ve got a knack for writing catchy tunes full of quirky modulations, sudden style shifts, and outstanding musicianship—especially with the layers of interwoven lead guitar lines and the dense harmonies of the backing vocals, yet, their unorthodox approach and technical badassery are never overpowering enough to alienate even the most casual of listeners.       (Will Barry)


Midriff Records
10 tracks

The self-titled opening salvo from Z*L is a musical flavor I don’t taste too often, a blend of surf/psych rock tinged with some heavy reverb and a few cool effects. We’re definitely off to a good start, and I get the feeling that this trio has a lot more in store. Mournful ballads like “Mermaid Knife” contrast sharply with the fuzzy, shred-filled “Steev Millar,” and “A Town Called Romeo” gives the full-frontal assault to the ears that you hear more than once in this album, and the intensity makes me wonder what a live show with Z*L is like.

The vocals of Isabel Reilly (bass) and Ian Adams (guitar) are mournful and heavy, but it’s the kind of darkness that just wants to impart a story, rather than drag the listener down into a depression they never wanted. Ian’s a familiar face as a solo artist, and has transitioned to this band seamlessly. The bass and guitar steal the show,with shredding solos that flood the air. The drum work of Jack “Knife” Guilderson is effective and on point, and maintains a strong presence with his bandmates. All in all, an impressive debut for a band that’s worth keeping your eyes on.                             (Max Bowen)


Dove Records
Thinkin’ Up a Dream 
8 tracks

Re: Opening number “Clickity Clack.” Whew. Who knew the world was at long last ready for a Mungo Jerry revival? Though, actually, it sounds more like “Mirror of Love” by the Kinks, croaked in a dyspeptic Bob Dylan caw, or maybe a slowed down trippy version of the Wilson/McGuinness collaboration “Ding Dang.” Next, we get more of the swoony guitar mode—in fact the treated guitar sound on this recording is the unique selling proposition—on “Fade Away, Fading In.” We then get a slab of Jonathan Richman style eerie-but-touching goofiness on “My Friends’ Pets.” And “Thinkin’ Up a Dream” is hokum jazz revival ala “That Cat is High” and such. “(Let’s Go Down to) Dogtown” recalls the novelty stylings of a certain unnamed local Irish-heritage rock band, and the chantey “Dundabeck” continues in a similar vein (though, for the record, the rogue sausage-maker’s name was actually Donderbeck.) “Train Sleep” is twangy skiffle hokum, a mildly amusing novelty number. The most compelling song here is the shortest: “Fading In”: a dazed and fitting coda to the proceedings. This release is shot full of songs in a genre—call it groovy Americana—which was and is a rich vein tapped by the Holy Modal Rounders, Dylan, Phil Ochs, Dave van Ronk, Beefheart, et al., long before its putative revival in the 1990s. I long ago predicted the whole Americana craze—a hillbilly aesthetic which was the inevitable counter-response to the black-leather-jacket garage hoodlum. But we forget that at one time the hobo was also at the cutting edge of hipsterdom. Even Richard M. Nixon referenced the far-away lonesome train whistle in the night during his maudlin acceptance speech to the 1968 Republican National Convention. So now I’m going on record to predict a movement called the Hobo Revival. Will this be the opening salvo? Only time will tell.      (Francis DiMenno)


The Winchester LP
12 tracks

These songs are mostly fast screamers with attitude, sorta like Slayer meets the Butthole Surfers meets the Ramones. Industrial rock, punk and metal are the main influences here and songs like “What Now,” “Reckless,” “The Boys,” my favorite “Tell Me,” “Juvenile,” and “We Don’t Know” assault your eardrums from start to finish. All the songs are written by growling vocalist Joe Barron and guitarist Andrew Dedousis, who sets his amp at vol. 11 from beginning to end. Drummer Andy Mac and bassist Frank Ashe ably keep all the mayhem together and even a slower, quieter stomp like “Winchester” is just as menacing. This is manic music sure to help make you hard of hearing. Fast and furious and not for the fainthearted, I like it like this.  (A.J. Wachtel)


Clip Records
11 tracks

Max Garcia Conover’s first full-length album is aptly named. One song in, and I want to disconnect the phone and let the music be the only thing on my mind. His fingerpick style is quick, sure, and delivers a great folk sound that sucks the stress out of your soul and replaces it with a relaxed tranquility. The album opens with “Teem,” a chill instrumental piece that showcases Conover’s skill with the strings, and damn does he have skills. Whether a slow strum or a fast, surgical tone, he’s on point each time. His vocals are light, but no less effective in connecting with the audience, like a casual conversation that lasts for hours. Based out of Maine and recognized as Best New Act by the Portland Music Awards last year, Conover shows us that the title wasn’t won for nothing. His music takes you into the forests and fields of his home state, or to a quiet café for an acoustic show. Either way, where this music goes, you want to follow.      (Max Bowen)


No Regrets
10 tracks

Americana music that gets foot-tappin’ at times, Juliet is raunchy in “Narcissus,” my favorite song, and wails a weeper in the ballad “Song For You.” She goes Nashville in the country/ soul “Learn to Love Again” and the country pop/ rock “Last Kiss.” I love “Unkindest Cut,” sorta like Pure Prairie League meets Lucinda Williams. I can also hear the Neil Young influence in “Wishing Well” and Emmylou Harris in “Failed Highway.” Produced by Ducky Carlisle and Michael Dinallo, I would imagine they perform on this project also. Most of the songs are written or co-written by Juliet and the music jumps out of the speakers. For both your dancing and listening pleasure check out the jangling guitars and versatile vocals the next chance you get.    (A.J. Wachtel)


Shake Your Bones
10 tracks

The Skeleton Beats prove that you don’t have to be very original to be a good band as long as you possess a true rock and roll spirit as well as a keen knowledge of where your strengths lie.  The band plays the kind of music that used to find a home at the Abbey.   The songs are fast, loud, and in debt to the holy trinity of punk, garage and rockabilly.  Most importantly, these guys and gal bring the fun, an element that seems all too lacking from a lot of the music that lands in my inbox these days.   Being able to write ear candy like “Bad for You” doesn’t hurt either.   That number hasn’t left my brain for days, and I’m clearly a better person for it. Thanks, Skeleton Beats!     (Kevin Finn)


Cemento Records
How to Tell the Phonies From the Phakes
10 tracks

This is a pretty slick piece of power pop. While the songs are bright and zippy with some brilliant harmonies, their sound harkens back to ’70s and ’80s proto-indie-pop bands like the the Raspberries, the Buzzcocks, and the Knack, with bits of Peter Case and Marshall Crenshaw, and the attitude of the Smithereens, and the Replacements, except without all the cheesy gated reverb on the drums.  The production is tight and punchy, but the songs initially are kind of hit and miss.  The first four songs are desperately in search of good hook to tie together all the little bits.  Perry Leenhout’ s voice, while really good, seems to lack the swagger that some of these songs need and there isn’t much emotional dynamic, until the album hits its stride with “Hallucination Mania” and “Radio Wave Goodbye.” The broader psychedelic approach to those tracks seems to suit his laid-back melodic tones. While there are so many great ideas, they tend to outstay their welcome, often within the same song. I am sure this band kicks it pretty well live. I would like to see that.                      (Joel Simches)


8 tracks

This is powerful old-school guitar driven music with heavy Hendrix/ Clapton/ B.B. influences. It is nothing new but always enjoyable and rocking. This “limited edition collection of unauthorized live recordings” is just the music you’d expect from a transplanted Brit who landed in Boston. A mix of originals and covers, Conrad Warre admirably wields his axe while Brad Smith on keys and Patrick Sanders on drums accompany him through cool tunes like “Look-Ka Py Py,” “Ain’t Nobody’s Business,””Funky Miracle,” and “Watermelon Man.” Solid vocals surrounded by a tight band, and check out the tones he gets out of his guitar; this cat can play.     (A.J. Wachtel)


10 tracks

Right off the bat, Caixa’s sound collages conjure something Kubrick might have used in 2001: A Space Odyssey with their eerie, drone-heavy tone. The music is chock-full of amorphous textures, electronic outer-spaciness, and lush cymbal splashing that slow-simmer to a seething boil with track 4, “P.I.G.,” a bawdy funk piece tinged with acid-jazz and thick with gritty guitar and keyboard-mashing cluster-chords. It is definitely a stand-out tune. The album overall has a touch of the Far East with its trance-inducing beats, psyched-out effects-drenched guitar lines, long synthesizer oms, and gamelan-like vibraphone pitter-patter. Ominous and hypnotic, Caixa’s drone-heavy sonic explorations bring me to a goddamn theta state. Nirvana, here I come.                  (Will Barry)


8 tracks

The first track on this album is entitled “The Fun Is Done,” which, in case the sound of babies screaming wasn’t enough, pretty much lets you know what you’re in for. These tracks aren’t really songs as much as they are soundscapes that would fit in well in a horror movie or a dark video game like BioShock. In fact, I found myself wondering what the intended purpose of this music was. It’s intelligently put together and effectively spooky, but it doesn’t seem like something you would just sit down and listen to on its own. It also, I learned, isn’t something you want to listen to right before you go to bed, as you will most likely have very creepy dreams about being murdered on the beach at night.  (Kevin Finn)


Auxetic Records
Songs Without Words  
10 tracks

I would say that this is music for big venues.  Theaters.  Arenas.  Concert halls with reverb.  The idea of a group with this sound playing at a small dive is just an ass-chapper.

This is instrumental rock music.  Grand.  Big. Lush at times.  Anthemic.  Thematic.  Wide.

The “introduction and farewell” is quite a piece of music… a romp in seven from the Yanni trick book to a phase-in of Alan Parsons Project with Vince Guaraldi bashing on piano.  The primary songwriter is piano man Todd Marston, who no doubt has had a fun time honing his crew. I hope it’s lucrative.  I still hear that old Frank Zappa quote about the futility of performing instrumental music, and the importance of having a voice plopped onto it.  Here, the music IS the voice.  Rock on guys.  Hope to see and hear you live some day, and in a bigger arena than a small dive.    (Mike Loce)


Color Me
7 tracks

On their first proper EP, Color Me, Hayley Jane & the Primates concoct a crazy mix of gothic Americana, folk, jazz, and rock. It’s incredibly difficult to put a finger on how to categorize the results. I suppose the key is that the mix is freaking fantastic.

From the dark, murder-ballad stomp of “Saving Kind,” to the playful swing of “Worrisome Thing,” and on through the near-country twang of “Everybody Runs,” there’s never a moment that Hayley and her band don’t bounce from one genre to another.

The Primates are adept at keeping up with the characters that Hayley embodies at each turn. One moment they could be playing in a dusty saloon, the next in a college-town bar. All the while, Hayley moves her vocals deftly from Erin McKeown to Kim Deal to Ani DiFranco.   (George Dow)


Prodigal Son Records
Tomorrow Never Knows  
11 tracks

Fluty-voiced pop with a new-wave edge; some groovy fun for fans of Benny Mardones, perhaps; all well and good. The songs are tuneful and catchy pop trifles and the lyrics are, unfortunately, the usual lightweight clichés. It would have been a delightful companion-piece to the likes of the Outlets back in 1985; nowadays it comes across as a head-scratching anachronism, and, ultimately, in its utter lack of originality, I’m sorry to say, this collection verges upon the profoundly annoying—like being slapped repeatedly in the face by a washrag soaked in warm milk.   (Francis DiMenno)


Proof of Love
9 tracks

Gracie is one of the best blues divas on the local scene today and this CD allows her to strut her stuff behind her fine band. The result, mixed and mastered by blues harp legend Rosy Rosenblatt (D.K.’s Full House) is a great example of why our local blues scene is one of the best around. Listen to: “Can’t Getta,” “Take You With Me,” “Even With The Rain,” and “Been All Over” (with Rosy’s great harp) to hear her country-blues sound at it’s best. The sweet and sad twang of “Take You With Me” should be heard on country radio stations everywhere. It’s always cool when blues royalty makes a cameo. Keyboardist extraordinaire Bruce Bears, from Duke Robillard’s band,  joins in here too. I also really like when the horns are employed in her music; their brassy additions always are short and sweet and greatly add to the total package. Whether torching an Americana ballad or pouring her heart out in a romp, the nice guitar work of Tom Carroll, the good bass of Geoff Murfitt, and solid pounding of Derek Bergman on drums mix well with Gracie’s great vocals for a real treat. Check it out.   (A.J. Wachtel)


Driving Records Music Group
Good Day For A Beggar
10 tracks

Good God, this is painful.  Is it so much to ask to tune one’s guitar before recording something people are going to actually hear? Obviously this guy has a great, soulful voice and the potential to record something that could move mountains and make angels weep, but there is a profound difference between DIY and just bad quality decisions.  I get it.  It sounds like the band wants to “capture the moment” and what happens happens—warts and all, but ignoring this fairly simple courtesy of being in tune and putting a little thought in making your album that you work hard to write and record look and sound like something that people other than your immediate friends and family would want to listen to and spend money seeing live, just seems disrespectful to any potential new listener.  It is truly brilliant stuff otherwise.    (Joel Simches)


Nothing Is Hidden
5 tracks

Nothing Is Hidden, a quirky indie-pop romp with elements of Big Star, Jellyfish, and Boston’s Bleu, features changing time signatures and musical twists à la Be-Bop Deluxe and They Might Be Giants. Verses, choruses, and bridges not only sound like they were plucked from different songs, but from different musical genres.

Fantastic production showcases strong, at times Jeff Buckley-esque vocals, evocative and intelligent lyrics, haunting harmonies, and almost subliminal incidental keys, guitars, and  percussion.  Nothing Is Hidden is an example of no-holds lyrical and instrumental barred risk-taking.   (Marc Friedman)


Love In Vain
3 tracks

Released late last summer, the Bridgebuilders offer this snippet of their world.  They are a band determined to shake up what people think about conceptually when hearing the tag “singer/songwriter” bandied about like an hooker at a crack party, or something. Sure there are good, solid songs, but they are arranged and performed with instruments and sensibilities of indie bands who aren’t afraid of making folk a lot less pretty and tidy around the edges.  While there is acoustic guitar and jazzy-groove drums, there is also distortion, tape echo, ripping solo sections, and string/fiddle arrangements with a nasty disposition.  In fact, the contrast between smooth and prickly could not be starker and that is the band’s biggest musical strength. It is nice and somewhat rare to hear “folk” music played with such genuine ferocity. It’s good to know people like that are out there!                      (Joel Simches)


Antimatter EP
6 tracks

Ohara’s driving industrial beats with their booming low-end and the darkly prismatic array of synth sounds make for an eerie dystopian backdrop that is both chilling and seductive. Her high-soaring silvery soprano, though, is what carries the tunes, cutting through the densely-packed steam-powered productions with its cathedral-sized echo, haunting vibrato, and sky-high range. The cherry on top of this EP, however, is the high-pitched wail of her violin that’s so wet with psychedelic effects, it must be tripping hard on brown acid. She may be classically trained, but her space-age fiddle warbling is so far from classical it’s not even in the same galaxy, let alone ballpark. More Hendrix than Haydn. Man, I could listen to this for hours. Probably will, too.       (Will Barry)


The Cotton Candy Demo
3 tracks

Given my love of Tijuana Sweetheart and Cult 45, I had pretty high hopes for Petty Morals, but unlike a good chunk of life, The Cotton Candy Demo is anything but full of disappointments.  Poppier than either of the previously mentioned bands, Petty Morals wants to send you to the dance floor, but they do it with the punk edge of Le Tigre and Spinnerette.  Taiphoon’s voice provides just the right mix of honey, soul and danger; LoWreck’s drums make things swing, and the guitar and synth of Chrissy V and Naz T Naz make things bounce.  All three songs are solid, but the closing “Radio Action” is the standout, sounding like a dangerous version of the Go-Go’s.  Hopefully, there’s a full-length in the near future.               (Kevin Finn)


Karunabird Records
Dream Girl 
5 tracks

Both takes of the title track, the second with vocals, are swoony and delirious smooth jazz, appealing if you’re an aficionado; tolerable even if you’re not. The New Orleans-styled “Wishful Intuition” (both takes, large and small band) is less successful, though the small band version is more intimate. The cover of “If You Stub Your Toe on the Moon” is pleasant enough—it’s a catchy song—but seems more a low-key exercise in nostalgia than a dynamic interpretation.      (Francis DiMenno)


Red Planet Records
Everything You Want and Need     
6 tracks

Mars sounds like what would happen if a group of your dad’s suburbanite businessmen friends collectively had a midlife crisis and decided to try to revisit the rock ’n’ roll past of their youth.  Nowhere is this more apparent than on “Mrs. Stinson,” which has the band coming across as a neutered New York Dolls and on “Looking for You” with lines about youth that come off sounding quite silly. These guys do at least have some chops, and when they find their sweet spot in the mellower numbers, you find yourself wishing they went in that direction more often, as they do seem to have the rare ability to distinguish being tasteful from being boring.            (Kevin Finn)


Heartbreak Is For Everyone 
4 tracks

This CD produced by Peter Hayes from the group Black Rebel Motorcycle Club really showcases Rachel’s beautiful and passionate vocals. The title and opening cut is a nice Americana ballad that gets a bit funky. “Satisfy” is a country-flavored pop/rock tune and “Broken” is softer and slower, and brings iconic singers like Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn to mind. I really dig her sultry, haunting sound and her soaring melodies. Just great. A bit of alt folk/ ’50s country & western, and unplugged pop, the ending cut, “You Might Be Surprised,” is killer. Rachel, Peter, and band mates Jesse and Dan Russell really shine on this and make me want to hear more music from this talented artist. Acoustic and very well done.                           (A.J. Wachtel)


Suburban Daydream
6 tracks

If you took Operation Ivy and stripped out the ska you would still be left with one mighty fine puck rock band. Proof of this fact can be found in the Radicals.

Their third release, Suburban Daydream, rolls through all of the touchstone effects canonized some 25 years ago on Operation Ivy’s debut, Hectic EP. Sloppy, back-and-forth dual vocals—check! Blue collar gang-choruses—check! Popping bass noodling—check! Quick-paced punk with a hardcore edge—check!

Some might worry that with so many similarities the results would be a derivative rehash of punk’s glory days. If three twenty-something blokes from north of Boston can so perfectly meld all that made late-’80s So-Cal punk so vital, I say bring it on!        (George Dow)


Midnight Mass 
5 tracks

The first (and title) track is your standard hillbilly-schlock-metalcore ala the Cramps and, as such, is not half bad. “Christine” is reminiscent of “Bodies” by the Sex Pistols; “Cindy Was a Terrorist” evokes the Pistols and the Ramones; only the crazed and utterly original “Bobby’s Shed” displays an incoherently creepy grandeur.       (Francis DiMenno)

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