CDs – Feb

BUTTERSCOTT

Buttersville Records

The Somewhat Disappointing Contractually Obligated Followup™

30 tracks

Instead of talking about this latest offering from the inimitable trio comprising the 21st century Butterscott, why don’t I instead inform you that the tradition of humor, at least in early rock, is strong. From the Lieber and Stoller songs written for the Coasters to “Chantilly Lace” and “Stranded in the Jungle”… No, wait. Maybe I had better talk about the record in depth, something which is sure to suck all the fun out of it. Warning: Spoilers ahead! OK. So. This latest offering begins with a cover of “Little Bit O’ Soul,” but the band calls it “My Favorite Friend” and it has a Bay City Rollers-style chant. “Female Trouble” is an amazingly twisted foray into rap, and station identification jingles. “Frumpi Grumpi” sees the trio concocting yet another 60’s dance craze. “Do the Nothing” is a sardonic descent into early 80’s synth rock and trance music. “Glorioski” is a debased doo-wop song, replete with authentic strings. “Not a Bad Idea” is a ’20s-era hokum spectacular, crammed with hilarious jokes. (Why they repeat the song later on is a mystery for the ages. Maybe they lost track or something.) “Kangaroovy” is a prime example of bubblegum psychedelia. “Undercover Jesus” is actually a profound statement disguised as a blasphemous Philadelphia Soul pastiche.  “All My Fault” is an astute impersonation of an angry punk rocker. “The Technological Love Song” uses click tracks and vocorder to completely take the piss out of–well, techno(logy). “Sage Advice From the Islands” takes the lessons of “Get An Ugly Girl To Marry You” to a predictably risible extreme. “Star wars for X-MeSS” tears apart the franchise for good and all – because somebody had to do it. “The Dynamite Eating Goat” made me laugh out loud, but that’s just the kind of guy I am. This is followed by a cover of “Diamond Girl,” only they call it “Choc Van Shake.” “When the Dustbunnies Blew Away” is a song which the Peanut Butter Conspiracy should have covered. Just sayin’. “Dime a Dozen Daddy” skewers the ominous pretentions of goth – or is it spaghetti western soundtracks?  You decide! “Showtune” does a great deal to wash away the sour taste of the, duh, show tune genre out of one’s mouth. But it’s not as catchy as “In the Good Old Summertime” as sung by the Jurgis Rudkis Choir. (“There seems to be something hypnotic about this, with its endlessly recurring dominant. It has put a stupor upon every one who hears it, as well as upon the men who are playing it. No one can get away from it, or even think of getting away from it; it is three o’clock in the morning, and they have danced out all their joy, and danced out all their strength, and all the strength that unlimited drink can lend them – and still there is no one among them who has the power to think of stopping.”) (Note: According to Kenneth Anger, “Rosebud” was actually Marion Davies’ clitoris, which is the real reason why William Randolph Hearst was so miffed at Orson Welles.) The band then covers “Woman From Tokyo,” only they call it “New Song.” And they use it to explain “the purpose of new songs in rock ’n’ roll shows.” What a cynical bunch! There’s also a cover of “For No One” with vocals by my good friend Walter Sickert. No French horn, though – bummer. This is funnier than Beach Boys Party and Jan & Dean meet Batman, and almost on a par with The Who Sell Out and The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands. Like most good satire, it informs the future about the inane preoccupations of the past and present. I’ve spent worse hours. Well done, my good and faithful servants! (Francis DiMenno)

T MAX

Dove Records

Hole in My Shoe 

13 tracks

If music is medicine for the soul, then here is another superb effort from a man who has espoused this philosophy for his entire career. As editor/publisher of this long esteemed fanzine called The Noise, he has championed the glory and values of the local Boston music scene for almost 35 years. (Where would I/ we be without this venerable effort!)
As a sideline to this endeavor, Mr. Max would occasionally contribute with a musical project. Past groups like The Machines, TCD, Art Yard, The Borg, Max, Urban Caravan, and his work with Boston Rock Opera helped establish his talents for conceptual compositions. When he formed Dreamers Wanted in 2007, he hit a high note with his anthem “End War Now” that brought together dozens of local celebs to denounce war in all forms. This morphed into Sgt. Maxwell’s Peace Chorus, which toured for a couple of years, fitting in comfortably at benefits, marches, rallies, and anti-war gatherings. The past several years has seen him become a roving minstrel working local coffeehouses and regional farmer’s markets, turning his charm on the vendors, shoppers, passer-bys, and little children milling around.
This latest album mixes a few tunes from earlier projects (“Sometimes Smart Phone,” “Turn to a Song,” “I’m a Loser”) with his current burgeoning songbook. The aura of inventive production makes me giddy, with small joyous pop nuances creeping through every song. Kudos to his co-producer, Greg Dann, for contributing a plethora of instrumental and recording embellishments. They make a great team (sorta like Bowie & Visconti).
The intro tune, “Hole in My Shoe,” is portrayed as a scratchy ole record, sorta like a devil-may-care hike through Mayberry, replete with trombone and strings. “Be Kind” is a personal fave – with its Morphine-esque bongo-jazz groove, evolving coloration (very cool Jimmy Smith-esque organ solo), and humane theme (“You don’t need to be right/ Choose to be kind… it works every time/ You don’t need to be rich to be wealthy/ You don’t need to be sick to be unhealthy!”)  Back to back, “Fly” and “Danny Boy” glisten with the processed vocals of the spacious Max-choir. There are also a few humorous tracks: “Bless You” – with his gruff sermon voice and gospel “soul-misters” cooing in the background; “I Bark” – featuring horny dogs, of course; “Trip Around the Sun” – a quick rocket-blast of birthday wishes; and “Life is Cheap”,  which exhorts the positive spin of living-within-your means.] And then, there is the masterpiece, “Giles Corey” – a complex, Salem farmer’s tale of murder, retribution, accusations, witchcraft, pain and deliverance. (“More weight – more weight/ Press me down!”). An intricate, long-winding story worthy of Bob Dylan or Richard Thompson or Procol Harum, it’s length is majestic and moving. Absolutely riveting!
I have always appreciated T’s music and the way he ch-ch-changes and re-makes/re-models a crafty combo of Anglo-pop and alternative-Americana. He’s a fascinating “mensch” with music that’s thoughtful and inventive. He’s everything that’s right about being a performer – varied, accommodating, friendly, inclusive, and totally in the moment. All the songs are delivered with a high level of focus, craft, talent, and heart-on-sleeve, which just completes his overall compassion. T Max knows who he is and I’m grateful… just say yes – ride the dove!  (Harry C. Tuniese)

JAMES KEYES

To the Earth (Volume II, Hibernal)

4 tracks

Earth to Tom Waits fans: the illustrious James Keyes is back and darker than ever. This release marks Mr. Keyes’s halfway point as he records songs influenced by the four seasons. His plan is to release an EP on the solstices and equinoxes over the course of the year. James fronts what sounds to be a full band with standard rock ’n’ roll instrumentation: drums, and bass and guitar.  The music is Americana with an edge, that keeps your toe tapping and your ear tuned in to take in the next note.  Mr. Keyes’s voice is gruff but melodic, like a cross between Scott Weiland and Tom Waits. After hearing this, one could make a solid argument that he’s got one of the best voices in the local music scene. Thematically, the poetry in the lyrics create a dreamlike feeling of earthiness and warmth, like settling in by the fire after a celebration for the last harvest of the season, aware of the cold and difficult times that may lie ahead.  Game of Thrones fans out there, don’t listen to the Starks, listen to James Keyes. Winter is coming. (Kier Byrnes)

ROLAND PEARSALL

Sell Your Soul

11 tracks

It is always impressive when a person creates an entire album playing all the instruments and performing all the singing parts by themselves. I think the first time I heard someone do that was when the newly married Paul McCartney came out with McCartney during the breakup of The Beatles. Doing an album alone is a brave thing to do because it exposes the strengths and weaknesses of the musician. Paul snagged a number one hit with “Maybe I’m Amazed” but the critics went after him for creating an album with what amounted to an abundance of unfinished ideas. Roland has a lot of strengths. His music bespeaks influences from the ’60s that range from the Dave Clark Five and early Beatles, to The Moody Blues, The Zombies, Three Dog Night and Jim Morrison. He also has a flair for writing lyrics. The title song, “Sell Your Soul” has a lot of energy and he has a good voice. The song is an insightful critique about life with our young hero trying to figure out a career and outmaneuver the sharks. “You Won’t Be Seen” has a catchy tune, some interesting harpsichord work and complex background vocals. “Riding On” has a kind of call and response style of singing, scorched throughout with a frenetic electric lead guitar. “In the Night” has a melodramatic intro, with an eerie Halloween feel and a spooky organ. “The pernicious acts of the murderers/ Have caused affliction and despair/ Innumerable amounts of suffering/ It is all too much to bear.” It would be a great background song for a grisly scene from Twin Peaks or some other crime drama. Toward the end his voice surges into what sounds like he’s channeling Jim Morrison of The Doors. “Fog Country” opening bars reminds me of the Three Dog Night song “Mama Told Me Not to Come,” and then it goes ominous and foreboding. “Radiant Vessel” has a catchy chorus. “Next to You” features a driving electric guitar. “Aerosol Can” is one of the best songs of the collection. It is clever and kooky, with imaginative lyrics. It reminds me of the B52’s “Rock Lobster.” This album feels like it’s the first stage of a rocket that blasted off but it needs a bit more rocket fuel, as if it reached its burn out velocity prematurely. I would like to see a little more fuel, maybe the input of another creative mind that could help with the melodies. Roland has a lot of good ideas regarding production, lyrics and musicianship. I would like to see Roland team with a Lennon to bolster his McCartney.  (Kimmy Sophia Brown)

THRONE OF SATURN

Throne of Saturn

4 tracks

Throne of Saturn is a Providence based hard rock and psyche metal band. They recall such classic stoner bands as Trouble, Candlemass, and Pentagram, with a little Venom thrown in for good measure. With songs like “Sludge Lord” and “Cemetery of Spent Hours,” you know you are not getting the latest pop hits, but that’s okay with me. This a flawless EP, now it’s time to make a perfect full album. No pressure! (Eric Baylies)

AFTER THE BLACKOUT

After the Blackout

5 tracks

Sometimes I get a CD that I simply don’t need to listen to all the way through. From the opening note I know exactly what I’m going to get for the rest of the record. After the Blackout’s new, self-titled album falls squarely into this category.

Don’t worry. In this case it’s a compliment.

Consider when you drop a new AC/DC or Weezer album onto your player. Or, more directly related to After the Blackout’s style, think Blink-182. You’re sure as hell going to listen to the entire record over and over again (like I have). But… if you set aside the joy of listening to fantastic music from a band you love, you may be able to admit to yourself that you already know exactly what’s coming next. That’s one of the things that’s so endearing about bands like this. You know that you can count on them to deliver exactly what you want over and over again; all while staying within a fairly well-defined lane.

After the Blackout (ATB) drive in the pop-punk lane—and they do it really really well. They use the mold cast by Blink-182 and SUM-41 while leaving out the humor and fart jokes that can at times make their forefathers’ music intolerable. ATB remain pretty serious-minded as they deliver a “snotty-vocal-ed” rumination on love, loss, and life’s never-ending stream of little injustices. Along the way, they honor the memory of early and mid-eighties metal with lots of nods to the guitar shredding of the likes of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.

Here’s to the benefits of sameness!  (George Dow)

TWO VIEW REVIEW

HUMMINGBIRD SYNDICATE

Actuality Records

Pop Tracks

12 tracks

There’s a couple of things to really like on this enjoyable easy listening release. The pop/ rock music is mostly influenced by folk and country; the jingly jangle guitars come from The Byrds and the delivery and messages strongly suggest Dylan. The lovely lush four part harmonies everywhere hint at Americana. The stellar and diverse members include Jon Macey (Fox Pass, Macey’s Parade), the man who wrote all the music, on lead vocals and guitars, Lynn Shipley on lead vocals, Chris Maclachlan (Human Sexual Response) electric and upright bass, Lenny Shea (The Stompers) pounding, Dan Coughlin (Children Of Paradise) on guitar and auto harp, Tom Hostage (Macy’s Parade) playing guitar, Steve Gilligan (The Stompers) on mandolin and mandola, Marnie Hall on electric violin, Marc Sussman on piano with Jennifer Lewis Bennett and Mary Jaye Simms on backing vocals. And I really dig how the lead vocals are shared between Jon and Lynn. This changes the whole message and performance and balance of the band; and makes their whole vintage power pop persona both more interesting and with a softer side. Their cool hum- along with songs sung by Lynn are: “Romance,” “(You Don’t Know) Much About Me,  and “Time For The Show,” Jon takes the lead on “After Stephen Foster,” “Sometimes It Just Gets This Way,” “Another Wait And See Night,” “Haley,” “Aeroplane Baby,” the glam “Guitar Star,” and the closer “Clever And Astute.” This CD won’t leave my player for a while. I like this music a lot!    (A.J.Wachtel)

HUMMINGBIRD SYNDICATE

Actuality Records

Pop Tricks

12 tracks

This is an amazingly slick collection of radio-friendly pop. I didn’t know that Jon Macey had this kind of unmitigated sweetness in him. Part of this surprising turn of events may be due to the collaborative influence of his songwriting partner Lynn Shipley. Melodicism, finely honed orchestration, and stellar arrangements all abound, particularly on the first three tracks. True to the title, there is an undoubted pop vibe which is expressed through various influences; i.e., the traditional sad ballad (“Vista”); gentle ’70s-era singer-songwriter compositions (“Another Wait and See Night”); bright California jangle pop (“Time For the Show”); elegiac Eagles-style soft rock (“Aeroplane Baby”), and even rollicking rockabilly-inflected new-wave (“Guitar Star”). For the most part, these are not songs which make you stand up and wave your arms around. They are more like – I hesitate to use the term “aural wallpaper” – so instead, let’s call these efforts decidedly mellow sitting-and-listening music. (Francis DiMenno)

THE GREY CURTAIN 

Shadow of a Man

10 tracks

The Grey Curtain is an unusual band, falling mostly into the rock/rock opera genre. It’s not every day that one hears rock opera, or for that matter, a band possessing the fortitude and flair for the dramatic that is essential to performing one successfully. Hailing from Worcester, MA, The Grey Curtain is fronted by Dennis Leighton on lead vocals. His voice is deep, dark, emotive, and resonates powerfully with emotional intensity. All of which is necessary to the genre in which he performs.

Jim Miller provides backing vocals which meld perfectly with Dennis’s voice and he delivers deftly played sounds on the keyboard, which also provide a perfect fit for the atmospheric realm of this CD – intense, with an implied sense of urgency and resounding feeling. Dan Whiteknact’s impressive electric and acoustic guitar work delivers piercingly sharp raw rock where appropriate along with alternately lilting and weeping tears made of metal strings, all with precision timing, knowing when each is called for, and where. Musical savoir faire, if you will.

But wait, there’s more. There is Robert Miller laying down a dense, vibratory bass, which lends a formidable foundation and presence that solidifies the depth upon which this music is built. In addition to his excellent bass playing skills, he too, lends some backup vocals to the mix, making the sound that much more full bodied. Last, but by no means, least, is Sean Daudelin on drums. Again, the thing here, is that along with the skills that are up to the considerable task at hand, there is, as with the other members of this band, this remarkable measure of great timing and impeccable synchronicity at work. Their influences can be heard throughout. Shadows of Type O Negative being prominent, as well as hints of Pearl Jam.

These musicians work so well together that it’s difficult to believe that this is their debut album, as their talents seem to mesh together so effortlessly and so well. I must say that for me, a rock opera, or any operatic endeavor in which a story is being told, is always a heavy undertaking and this one is no exception in that respect. One of epic proportions. “Shadow of a Man” is a dark tale, telling the story of “Nathan Noth,” a world weary and cynical alcoholic, and the events leading up to the last days of his life. It’s a bleak story, which echoes the darker days of Pink Floyd’s musical stories. Nathan has clearly looked unflinchingly, into the abyss and it has definitely in turn, looked as deeply into him. His soul permanently seared by its gaze.

I am one for whom stories told through music, work best when seen performed on stage. Any time that I have attended musicals of any type, and then listen to the music at home, it never seems to translate quite the same as the live show experience. Since I have not attended a performance by The Grey Curtain’s Shadow of a Man, I can only guess that the same would remain true. It could only be even more powerful. I’m not going to lie, something this epically heavy is not something that I am going to be reaching for often, given the very nature of the story it conveys. I am not one who typically gravitates toward rock opera, but all of the tracks are amazing, and for what it is, it is flawless.   (R.J.  Ouellette)

JAMES DISCOVERS

Numbers 

4 tracks

The musical entity called James Discovers is guitarist, vocalist, drummer, songwriter Mario Epstein along with bassist Andy Huges and from the ascending lines of the seven minute twenty-five second “Born Desire” you get a glimpse of The Twilinng meets the Mothers of Invention that makes up the fabric of this song.  “Flew into Boston/ held my breath with Krazy Glue” while guitars from another dimension blare over the perpetuating strum. It appears to be insanity derived from lost love, a wish to be “born again to be with you,” frosted with semi-controlled madness, truly freeform and lots of fun. Recorded at New Alliance by Jonathan Taft and mastered at New Alliance East by Nick Zampiello, they must have had lots of fun trying to figure out the mood of the mania they helped put to media.  The 4:29 of “Theme” could be the signature tune of the James Discovers artistry, searching, uncovering, seeking, finding… all part of “discovery,” get it?  The sounds bounce against the wall with a lovely guitar strum engaging the listener as the music goes from guitar strumming to sonic assault. “I discovered why numbers exist” incorporates the album title and the group name. Quantifying the madness we call it.  “Adderall” is almost five minutes (4:53) of Captain Beefheart playing Lou Reed playing Red Krayloa at the wrong speed.  The singer asks you to get stoned with him.  ON “Adderall?”  A description from Drug.com noting:” Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine) is used to treat narcolepsy and ADHD. Includes side effects, interactions and indications.”   So that’s where they come up with these riffs – in the middle of the night.  The guitars go in circular motion as this descends into a love song for the sleep medication.  On a very good EP with many exciting moments, the closer is my fave, “The Boats” with the artist “Living in a plastic bubble”  This one’s at 7:24, one second shy of the opening track, and shades of The Doors Weird Scenes Inside the Goldmine double LP “best of the underground songs by Jim and the boys” which featured song lengths of 11: 35 (“The End”), 11:00 (“When The Music’s Over,” 7:49 (“L.A. Woman”) and 7:14 (“Riders on the Storm,” 36:49 plus an additional 49 seconds for four tunes, James Discover’s EP clocks in at about 21:20… with their own Abbey Road (the album) styled mesmerizing guitar riff on “The Boats,” which take the psychedelia right to the end.  Really beautiful… holding out and extending into empty space.    Find it on Bandcamp or pick up a hard copy at their gigs. Worth supporting. (Joe Viglione)

JON McAULIFFE

Old School Moderne

14-tracks

Jon McAuliffe has been around the block a time or two and you don’t need to read his bio to know it. Though if you do you’ll learn that he has been banging out music since 1964 and has worked with the like of Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris. Instead, you will hear the age and miles in the music Jon plays.

A short listen to Jon’s voice exposes his grizzled throat which fairly drips with years of dusty, smoky barrooms. Those strained and weary vocals are one of his most endearing qualities. It’s the voice of a man committed to croaking out tunes until he can no more.

On the musical side, Jon cranks out 14 tracks on this album. They run the gamut from acoustic blues, to folk and on to barroom ballardy. His best moments are the bluesiest ones—when he twists and slides the guitar notes like an old master. Less successful are the piano and keyboard ballads which are well-written enough but delivered in an uninspired and fairly generic manner.   (George Dow)

FACADE

I Was Awake

11 tracks

Intense without being an assault on the ears, the second release from rock five-piece I Was Awake keeps the pulse pounding with beautifully arranged rock sounds. This is a polished, tight, and incredibly professional album, with amazing vocals and instrumentation. Drums, bass, and guitar flow together, managing to shred and sound smooth at the same time. Chris Harvey’s vocals are a wonder to hear, rising above the music without overwhelming it, riding along and within the music.

I’ve had the chance to see this band live more than once, and the stage show vs. the studio album sound just the same. This isn’t a case of a band sounding one way after hours of producing and another live: I Was Awake brings the same intensity, shredding precision, slamming drum sounds, and amazing vocals to both. If you pick up this album, you’re getting a solid taste of what their live shows sound like.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that this music really moves me. I listen to “Killers, Thieves, Deceivers,” and I get so pumped and ready to face the day, slamming the steering wheel while I’m on the road to work. I find myself headbanging along with songs like “The Messenger,” tensing for the chorus and unleashing when it hits. It’s the kind of album that you can run through again and again, and many more times! (Max Bowen)

TED SOLOVICOS

Mixed Emotions of the 21st Century

19 tracks

Back in the 1980sTed Solovicos rocked out in the band Smuggler. Jump forward to the new millennium and the artist formerly known as Grateful Ted performed in a duo called Britannica, nailing down British rock, the Moody Blues being a favorite, among many others.   Which brings us to this disc overflowing with original compositions – resplendent in a cover that looks like artist Hieronymus Bosch streamlining Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band succinct pop tunes “No Tomorrows” and “Together” – with its naughty backing vocals lifted from John Lennon’s “Girl,” harken back to the days of Denny Laine’s Moody Blues, the U.K. Kaleidoscope with Eddy Pumer (not to be confused with the American Kaleidoscope) and so many more.  “Sorrow” is not the famous David Bowie cover of Rick Derringer’s The McCoys’ 45, it’s subdued anger at the world condition, the war in Iraq/ Afghanistan and other atrocities.  Solovicos packs the compact disc with a plethora of ideas ranging from happiness to tragedy, an introspective diary of his own personal experiences along with perspectives on the present past and future.  “Love Dreams,” track seven, follows in the vein of the exquisite “No Tomorrows” and “Together,” light pop songs which show this artist at his best.  “I Got My Mind On You” adds some Spanish influence, the theme of love and fun going back – stylistically – to The Tokens/ Jay & the Americans.   “Why” combines the heavy keyboards with Ted’s authoritative acoustic guitar and intriguing vocal work.    Nineteen songs released at one time with so much music in the jungle of the wild frontier of the internet is obviously a musical statement  that takes more than one sitting to absorb.  21st Century (with its three bonus tracks from the 20th Century, additional material a hallmark of Solovicos’ releases) is a diary put to tape – “Give Me Another Night” with its exploding electric guitars indicative of each element that comprises this collection of thoughts that are most personal.  Mastered by Butterscott bassist and former Smuggler pal Joel Simches, it is well-crafted stuff from a veteran of the New England music scene.  A cover of The Kinks “20th Century Man” would have been the frosting on the cake… maybe for the next disc.  (Joe Viglione)

JOE BLACK

Blackenstein

9 tracks

Screaming guitars. Driving drums. Powerful vocals. What’s not to like on this powerful new metal release? Nasty, growling licks are the foundation on these ballads and heavy rockers like “Give Me Your Love,” Black Oak Arkansas’ “Uncle Elijah,” “Over You,” “Shake A Leg” and the title instrumental track and last cut “Blackenstein.” The ballads “I Care About You,” with Charlie Farren singing lead and Cindy Daley on background vocals, “Monster”and the opener “Love Lives On Forever” are sharp and blistering as well. There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle: Joe Black (bass, backing vocals), David Pontbriand (drums, keys), Ken Kalayjian (mandolin), Jeff Baker (lead vocals), Johnny Press (Velocity), Jody Frawley, and Aart Knyff on guitars, and.Simon Adamsson (drums). Joe gives all three guitar players on the record space to shine with just him and Simon doing a quick piece in between each part instrumentally in the songs a la Steve Vai. On the tracks, part one is Johnny, part two is Jodee and part three is Aart except for the growling “Shake A Leg” where Frawley plays all the strings. This is very cool. And that’s Tim Bradshaw from the John Mayer/ David Grey bands on all the keyboards. Oh man, my ears are bleeding. And I mean this in a good way. Crank it up!   (A.J. Wachtel)

BOURGEOIS

Valued Customer

4 tracks

Boston’s Bourgeois are a rock ’n’ roll minimalist  trio. Their Bandcamp site describes them as somber, yet sanguine. I would say that is a pretty apt description. They are a lo fi powerhouse somewhat akin to the more experimental Beck albums or Ween. The song “Candy Cigarettes” sort of takes the feel of Motley Crues “Shout at the Devil” and turns it into a Velvet Underground song. This is an eclectic young band that is really on to something, and I hope they continue for a long time to come. This is a great band and if they cleaned up their recordings a little bit they could make a ton of money, but, ya know, who wants money? (Eric Baylies)

MATT EVERETT

75 or Less Records

White Sugar

8 tracks

Matt Everett is a Rhode Island artist, who performs vocals, guitar, synth, strings, and more on these eight tracks. He is accompanied by Stu Powers, on drums and Greg Motta, covering drums and percussion. This is essentially pop music with elements of modern disco. But, can you dance to it? It may very well inspire you to dance to it, but to my ears, these tracks play more like pleasant background music. That’s just the vibe that I get from it. The music feels as if it is striving at times, to reach something akin to the slick, smooth style which Davie Bowie performed so strikingly well when he was in dance music mode, most notably so, on track 7, “The Greatest Thing.” I loved it when David Bowie did it, but if I am right about what I am hearing and those are the heights that Matt Everett is aspiring to reach, then by comparison, this music has a long way to go. Is it bad music? Not at all. Is it DANCE music? I’m not feeling that. As I’ve said, this would work best for me as background music played while chilling in the comfort of your living room, or while cruising in your car.

Track 5, “Cheap Plastic Shovel,” seemed interestingly out of place amidst the rest of these tracks, and I mean this in the best possible way. There are some heartfelt, genuinely moving lyrics in this song. It had a story to tell. One that I wanted to hear. I would have liked to hear more like this one. Out of all eight tracks, this one really caught my attention, making me stop and listen and really hear. Track 6, “Quickening,” rated as a winner for me as well. It’s smooth, quality music, easy on the ears, it falls nicely into its own sort of groove, a pinch of trance, a dash of ambient sound, and there you have it. So, my take on White Sugar? I wasn’t blown away by it, but all in all,  pretty sweet. Check it out.  (R.J. Ouellette)

HAIRSPRAY QUEEN

Cassette

5 tracks

Hairspray Queen is a young band out of Providence. This was recorded at Converse Tracks in Boston and sounds super tight and super duper pro. Yeah, but how about the songs, you ask? I’m glad you asked. They pummel your ears at a million miles an hour without losing a sense of melody behind the distortion. They sound like a cleaned up Melvins or darker and heavier than the more well known grunge gulag gangs from 25 years ago. I’ve seen a lot of newer bands jump on this bandwagon and try to ride the coat tails of long gone ghosts. Hairspray Queen ride the bandwagon off a cliff, set the coat tails on fire, and bring the ghosts back to life so that they may snuff them out again. This is a great album that makes a statement, and that statement is “fuck you!” (Eric Baylies)

URANIUM DAUGHTERS

Oz

4 tracks

The bands I love most to review are those that inspire me to rediscover bands that I already love. Uranium Daughters drips with comparisons to bands that I love, both new and old.

The four-song Oz starts with jangly guitars that will remind you of some of The Byrds classics or, of more recent vintage, anything by Quilt. The garage-rocky Light Beams features a riff that sounds straight out of The Hives’ Hate to Say I Told You So. The garage rock expands to include light punk a la The Go-Gos and the Bangles, Before the four-song set finishes you will also hear snatches of Tennessee’s Those Darlins.

It’s bands like Uranium Daughters that always catch my ear. I don’t want to hear bands that sound like copycat reboots of other bands I like but I always want to hear a band that takes the best of their influences and mashes them into something completely new.

This EP will keep you entertained for weeks to come.   (George Dow)

ILENE SPRINGER

Got to Be Brave  

14 tracks

You have to admire a singer-songwriter whose offerings are put forth with so much passion and conviction. “Invisible” is a lovely confessional song with excellent keyboards by Chris Gallivan. The inspirational title track has a hearteningly authentic Americana feel with excellent mandolin picking by Mike Delaney and swoony pedal steel by producer Joe Clapp. “Girl With the Wild Hair” is a flat out rocker and a certified crowd-pleaser. “Spectrum of Colors” is another heartfelt Americana piece with stellar violin by Jackie Damsky. Show-stopper “Fragile As I Am” is a lovely hymn with religious overtones and excellent backing vocals by John Schumacher. Overall, this is obviously a highly personal album which is a decided cut above the usual chanteuse-fronted project.  (Francis DiMenno)

ROPE TRICK

Red Tapes

3 tracks

Rope Trick is a duo from Providence with a drummer and a singing guitarist. There are only three songs on this release but it is close to a half hour long. These are not songs so much as they are epic journeys to the center of the mind. If Jandek fronted Cream but kind of forgot where he was it might sound something like this. This album is all you ever wanted, and more. (Eric Baylies)

LISA MANNING

My Heart’s Melody

17 tracks

These are spare art songs tinged with melancholy and regret. Some of them appear to be accompanied by (what I guess to be) a Chinese harmonica; a most novel instrument. “The Poet” displays Manning’s quavery voice and delicate guitar stylings. The title track is another soulful and evincing number, while “Nothing But Tears” has a decided Flamenco feel, and “All That We Own” is profound in its simplicity.  Unfortunately, there is such a phenomenon as Too Much of a Good Thing. Ultimately, Ms. Manning’s work doesn’t strike me as forceful enough; I find it too often to be pretentious and self-indulgent, though people more familiar with the tradition she performs in might violently disagree, and declare that all her music is utterly sublime.  (Francis DiMenno)

THE WINTER PROJECT

The Winter Project

5 tracks

When four guys come together and record what might be a one-off EP over the course of two days, no one could blame you for not having high expectations for the results. Well, I’m pleased to be the one to tell you that that The Winter Project beats those expectations by miles and then some.

They deliver five tracks of classic Boston indie rock. Think early Buffalo Tom (back when they knew how to rock). Think of some of the Heretix’s heavier tracks. Mix in some of the later Taang Records roster (after the label started stepping outside its punk and hardcore beginnings).

Man, this EP is exactly what Boston rock should sound like.   (George Dow)

BLUE MANIC

V 32

5 tracks

Blue Manic dive right into the four minute and 48 second riveting blues/rocker, “Stoned,” to open up the 5 song EP V-32.  Guitars sparkling, resplendent in raw energy – a harder edge on the recording than a couple of performances that this writer experienced. The band appears more earthy from the stage, and though “Stoned” might appear edgier on disc, it doesn’t mean that these guys don’t crank it up onstage.

The intro goes 51 seconds before the story unfolds with rhythm guitarist Max Grebe taking on the lead vocal chores and explaining it in no uncertain terms, Blue Manic exploring a variety of avenues as Corey Downs pounds away on the drums, aided and abetted by the bass of one Jared Greiff.   Mike Tate and Grebe are responsible for the dual guitar blasts with a toughness that is well balanced.  At the 3:25 mark “Stoned” becomes an almost different tune, guitars screaming in a frenzy as the group jams for 1:23 bringing this unique composition to its conclusion.  Impressive, and hard hitting it is followed by the sweet guitars in “You Got It Made,”  Downs’ drumming providing a good undertone to the other instruments.   “Too Late” is manic – perhaps an anthem emulating the group’s moniker.  “Porcupine” could be Black Sabbath gone alternative.  This ensemble reshapes alternative music into a blues/ rock blend of swirling emotional sounds. And “Black Dress” puts an exclamation point on that.  They may have Smashing Pumpkins attitude but it merges into what Cream, The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith took from their mentors, combining the formula to bring it into the new century.  Not to be confused with guitarist George Conduris’ band Apollo Blue, though a pairing of these two blue bands would be a good thing as they play with the same vigor and intensity. (Joe Viglione)


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CDs – Feb — 3 Comments

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