DAMN TALL BUILDINGS
I do surely enough have a bona-fide weakness for well-executed traditional mountain music and other such archaic tunes, call it by whatever silly marketing label like Guerilla Roots you like. The instrumental accompaniment on the opener, “Roll[in’] in My Sweet Baby’s Arms” are like a well-oiled machine, and the vocals ain’t too shabby either. Recorded live, no less! Max Capristan’s original “Buried” is a breathless chunk of feel-good nouveaux-hokum, and banjoist Jordan Alleman plays like he’s on fire. “[Ain’t] Nobody’s Business [What I Do]” is another fiery number from the good-timey old weird American songbook. “Angeline the Baker,” traditional, but traces its roots back to Uncle Eck Dunford and Stephen Foster, and features robust vocals by Sasha Dubyk and outstanding Irish-style fiddling by Montana Ballotta. “Honey I’m Coming Home” another Capistran-penned number, is a superbly upbeat song of romantic entanglement. Perhaps best of all is the final sterling Capistran original, an exciting picaresque number called “The Ballad of Nigel Williams.” (I’d surely admire to hear their cover of a similarly lively tune like Uncle Dave Macon’s “Railroadin’ and Gamblin’.”) If you have a liking for the likes of Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks, or any of their long line of more authentic predecessors, you’ll probably eat this right up. Highly recommended. (Francis DiMenno)
Broadband are a young Boston psyche-alternative band. “Boomerang” is one of the catchiest songs I’ve heard in a while. Is this the second coming of Galaxie 500? I don’t know, but if you are a fan of that band or the Velvet Underground, this could be your new favorite band. The song “Violet” is so sad, I almost couldn’t finish my dessert. Sometimes I don’t have much hope for the musical future, but sometimes the kids are alright. These kids are great! (Eric Baylies)
You’re Not Gone
About a year ago, I waxed enthusiastically about this new techno-pop duo from Portland, Maine. Their fusion of analogue/digital technique hit the right chord with me. But, upon listening to their debut album from 2013, I was shocked to hear a different approach – a chamber rock group. Okay, I get it – bands evolve and move on.
So now, finally we have their current sound and it is a stunning reflection of their growth. Tyler Devos (guitar/ vocals) and Patia Maule (synths/ vocals/ programming/ percussion) have chosen to continue their collaborative efforts in melodic ways around a fascinating collection of analog synthesizers. Tyler’s vocals are still most gentle and insightful, astonishingly wed to their electronica in soothing experimental ways. With his poetic musical imagery, we see endlessly interesting themes of darkness and light elaborated upon in the brilliant newness of creation. His guitar playing is subtle, filled with filigree lines and occasional energetic outbursts, and a perfect counterpoint to the gorgeous harmonies, keyboard washes, and colorations from the sublime talents of Patia. Though drum programming will always be considered a bit static, her sense of composition lifts every song into pop bliss. Beautiful cascading lines, lush chords, and swelling vocals are compelling and inventive. Many of the songs give me chills – “A Week or So,” “City,” “Back to Me,” “Your Kid Sister,” “Statues,” “Seashells,” or “Year of Transition” – are filled with both atmospheric hues and dynamic deliberation. Hopefully, as this album catches on, we’ll be able to see this superb duo venture into our locale more often. An excellent re-introduction to two young impressive talents – unforgettable and highly recommended! (Harry C. Tuniese)
This is a best-of package from former Atlantics guitarist and co-founder Tom Hauck, selected from his prolific recent output. The best numbers include the surprisingly funky number “Trippin’,” the frenetic “Lonelyhearts,” sounding for all the world like a long-lost early 80s classic; the catchy, percolating “Leap of Faith”; the galumphing, scorching “I Get Up,” and the somewhat cheerfully mordant “Everybody’s Gotta Go.” The two most outstanding tunes are the tuff-punk proto-Sab number “Better day” and the rampaging “Cool Running,” which comes across as a lost Nuggets-era masterpiece. The somewhat undistinguished “Flash” seems an odd choice for an album opener; the otherwise dynamic “Shooting Star” sounds very muddy in this mix; “She’s Bad” has a servicable but undistinguished riff, and “Midnight at the Drive-Thru Window” is merely gratuitously silly. Still, this a solid collection. (Francis DiMenno)
Peach Ring wanna destroy you! I think, I’m not sure, but anyway, this Boston trio makes a joyous noise. They say the GoGO’s started as a punk band opening for Black Flag and were once dangerous. I never got to hear that version of the GoGo’s but I imagine that if they were on the edge once, that they could have sounded like Peach Ring. Somewhere between early Blondie (think X Offender), Avengers, Ween and Screamers, with a touch of Melvins thrown in, is a magical land where Peach Ring lives, musically speaking. Take me there, magical Boston bad ass ladies of rock! (Eric Baylies)
This is Stoner Prog
86 stoner prog tracks that fit into one hour and 20 minute CD? That’s less than one minute, 40 seconds per song. Doesn’t sound very stoner or very prog to me. What you get over the course of this disc is what sound like snippets or sketches of tracks. It’s almost like listening to a sound effects record or maybe like trying to listen to a series of loops as though they were supposed to constitute a cohesive album.
With that said, I surprising number of these tracks are interesting and hint at greater potential. Apparently, as least as far as Bombastic Labs are concerned, the term stoner prog can be applied to, well, just about anything. The tracks are largely instrumental and tend to fall somewhere between Black Sabbath-ish stoner riffing, The Cure circa 1980 when they favored one psychedelic excursions, and amateur laptop ambient electronic music.
There’s also plenty of nonsense on this record. Case in point, The Schizo Hum’s Lesson #2: Polish Foods. A pitch-shifted conversation about Polish fast food and fart-joke humor. Or Demonweed’s 30-second meditation on satanic voices over a sloppy bass line.
The tracks with vocals tend towards the nonsensical—background whispering or unintelligible grunts and groans.
While this album absolutely does not stand on its own two legs many of the underlying tracks hint at some interesting and inventive music. (George Dow)
DAN BLAKESLEE & THE CALABASH CLUB
Lightning Plug Records
The Alley Walker
This is a pretty level-headed collection of modern-day original Americana. Opener “Jimmy and June” has a decided old-school country flair, what with its purling pedal steel and its chiming and piercing guitar. “Ready for the Cinema” is a loping C&W styled ballad similar in lyric theme to “Act Naturally”. Dan Blakeslee’s roughshod vocals suit the material well, though he is capable of tricky theatrics, as on the ominous “Lone Star” and the spooky and mysterious number “Sirens and the Oxbow.” The majestic mid-tempo tune “A Golden Turn” is enriched by Mike Effenberger’s tastefully applied organ accompaniment and Blakeslee’s heartfelt vocals. “The Bandit” is a finely wrought and highly restrained , almost fragile, acoustic number which is surpassingly beautiful. It’s back to anthemic country tunesmithing on “It Ain’t No Shame in Wastin’ Time,” and the concluding, title track rounds out the proceedings with another spooky song about a mysterious and possibly supernatural eminence grise. A solid collection. (Francis DiMenno)
TWIN FOXES – DARKLANDS
Twin Foxes – Darklands Spilt
This is a 4-song split CD between Twin Foxes and Darklands, two bands from Providence. Twin Foxes start this off with “Own Eyes” and the first song practically attacks your ears. Can a band seem like a throwback and timeless at the same time? Yes. Can they be both cutting edge and weirdly commercial at the same time? Uh huh. Can I keep answering my own questions before you get a chance? Yup. Twin Foxes are almost a grunge throwback but something much more , much better, actually. While I have seen Twin Foxes a few times, I didn’t know what to expect with Darklands. Darklands mine similar territory but with a different drill, if that makes any sense. No? Okay, moving on, Darklands are sort of a grunge band with a shiny twist, with hints of Weezer or At The Drive In. You might say, well, those are some varied influences. I might say can the balloon juice, just listen! This is a cool split cd from two awesome bands. Its a little short, but a great introduction to some of the cornerstones of the future of Rhode Island rock ’n’ roll. (Eric Baylies)
Music to the Words I Write
Mike Gacek plays a breezy, summery sounding brand of folk rock with a hint of country and a stunning soulful voice that sounds like a deeper, more baritone Huey Lewis.
During the course of this 10-track album i find myself nostalgic for the late-seventies/early-’80s F.M. radio of my youth when it was not uncommon to hear Huey Lewis, Hall & Oates, and Bob Seager all in a single block of programming.
The album maintains a continuity wherein all the songs stay within a fairly narrow lane. Each differentiates itself mostly by varying degrees of electric or acoustic instrumentation, while never getting too fast or too slow to be the soundtrack to your summer cookout. (George Dow)
Halfsour is a Boston based indie rock band. What does that even mean anymore? Who knows? the important thing here is to hear the band for what they are worth, and they are worth a 2nd, and millionth listen. The lead vocals shift between male and female voices on different songs, making it a little harder to pin them down, soundwise. Jennifer Trynin and Hum? That’s a pretty good combination. Halfsour, you had me at the song “Ice Cream Dinner.” (Eric Baylies)
She Is Free
On the first few tracks, we have the sweetly singing Ms. Dobbins, her voice dripping with summery enthusiasm, good will, and optimism, all backed by a tastefully restrained folk-rock ensemble, and sounding like a nonchalant and somewhat sugary reincarnation of Joan Baez–even though she does essay a bluesy number on “Bring On the Fire,” and also performs a countryish bout, replete with pedal steel, of crying in one’s beer on “Beautiful.” There is also a sentimental piano-driven ballad “Cards on a Tuesday (Nana’s Song)”, and a wispy acoustic guitar showcase “Marry You”. The most ambitious song is the last one, “Puzzles,” in which Ms. Dobbins delivers an achingly beautiful lament accompanied by a restrained string section. Few of the songs wear out their welcome early, and, as a singer, Kate Dobbins comes across at a bare minimum as easy on the ears. (Francis DiMenno)
Guerilla Toss were once the kings and queens of the Boston house show underground scene. they belong to the world now, and I hope the world is kind to the pride of Boston. Is it possible that this band I’ve seen play to less than 20 people in a filthy cellar are ready to open arena and stadium tours? Yes, it is very possible, and I think its going to happen very soon. This has album is not quite a noise record, but more like the more out there songs of the Talking Heads and B52s, with some Devo, Laurie Anderson, Neu!, and Brian Eno thrown in. At this point, Guerilla Toss have been around long enough to be inspired by Guerilla Toss, if you know what I mean, and that is a pretty great musical influence. I suspect that there will be plenty of bands siting this band and an album as a major influence very soon. An excellent album from one of the best bands to come out of Boston in the past 20 thousand years. Oh, and as a bonus, it’s a concept album about LSD. Of course it is! (Eric Baylies)
I Heart Noise
A Fixed Point
Can ambient music be both ambient and frenetic? It feels like a contradiction in terms but when listening to this 4-track cassette I keep feeling both descriptions struggle around in my head.
Three of the four tracks; The Unknown Rabbit, In The Red, and In the Black all sound like soundtrack music for a post-apocalyptic, cyber-punk, sci-fi movie. Lots of skittering synth lines and affected female vocal crooning (think the original Star Trek theme song).
The standout track, Operation Interlude, dumps the neurotic glitchiness in favor of Kraftwork-like melody and a hook that sits somewhere between Missing Persons’ “Can You Hear Me” and John Williams’ Close Encounters of the Third Kind soundtrack. (George Dow)
Hook Slaya Recordings
“I Don’t Need It”
A heartfelt slab of jittery angst with busy drumming and killer vocals by songwriter Julia Perry, slickly produced and full of promise for some sort of mainstream success, once they build up an arsenal of similarly anodyne bombshells. (Francis DiMenno)
Bass And Drum
I guess I wasn’t paying attention when I first saw this album. I thought it was some kind of dance album. It is, if I meant slam dancing. This is bare bones stripped down and tight execution of punk rock, SST records style, reminding me a little of the incredible Dropdead and the Proletariat. Nick is from Concord, MA, and it looks like he plays all the instruments here, but everything is a little fuzzy. This is punk rock, but it can get a little weird sometimes, in the way that the Dead Kennedys or Minutemen could, and that’s just the way I like it! This is a great album and a nice surprise that I stumbled onto. I think he even sneaks a little guitar in there, but don’t tell anyone! (Eric Baylies)
If you are based in New England and would like your CD reviewed, send it to T Max/ The Noise, 40R Highland Ave #219, Salem, MA 01970