Billy F Gibbons- The Big Bad Blues (2018)

Posted by KB on 10/16/2018 to Reviews
Though the title is trite, it's hard not like this blues romp from one of the ZZ's. It's heavy, traditional and fun. There is an unforgiving honesty in Gibbons' delivery. He's not trying to create a new blues/rock but instead embracing what he's been doing for over 40 years and saying take it or leave it. Personally, I'll take it since every song is party and none of them overstay their welcome with bloated solos. They instead leave you imagining how they could be extended. He blends KC, Chicago, Memphis styles to prove his chops and throws in a little calypso-like, 50s doo wop for good measure. "The Big Bad Blues" is big, it's bad and it's definitely blues. Good ol' smoky bar blues.

Favorite Songs: Just drop the needle anywhere.

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Muncie Girls- Fixed Ideals (2018)

Posted by KB on 10/10/2018 to Reviews
Some the best indie pop bands are drifting our way from the UK, including the power-punk-pop Muncie Girls. The Muncie Girls are another solid female (Lande Hekt) fronted band with a big power chord sound. Don't let their poppiness fool you on "Fixed Ideals", it only masks that they rock about being angry over getting F'd over, scared about their present situation and desperate about what is to come. Oh, then they throw in Laugh Again to show they do wish for happiness for some. 13 songs and while they don't blaze new paths they don't feel trite. Its great to hear a no strings attached, straightforward rock album in this age of EDM and rap. So I hope this UK breeze keeps blowing bands like this our direction.

Favorite Songs: Jeremy, Picture of Health, Bubble Bath, Fig Tree, In Between Bands, Laugh Again

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Sauna Youth- Deaths (2018)

Posted by KB on 10/5/2018 to Reviews
Snotty, attitudinal, raucous, thrashing punk is evidently alive and well in London. Sauna Youth call to mind the Buzzcocks and Wire primarily on SY's power strumming, minor chord changes, minimalist riffs and barking vocals with a splash of avant garde artiness and flailing guitar solos. There is a little repetitiveness, possibly by design, but not enough to label this a mono-stylistic effort. SY implore you to listen to their gripes, personal issues and abasements and it's hard not to abide.

Favorite Songs: Distracted, Unreal City, No Personal Space, Leisure Time

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Devil Makes Three- Chains Are Broken (2018)

Posted by KB on 10/2/2018
Devil Makes Three are a hillbilly alt-country-folk-rock band that sing about living on the edge of the straight and narrow and the abyss of hell. Or at least they think about it a lot. This follow up to "Redemption & Ruin" isn't as obvious about this tightrope but you can hear it in their smooth twangy tunes on calling someone out or making a bad decision. DMT excels when they are grittier and falling toward the aforementioned abyss trying to justified something maybe not so justifiable. "Chains Are Broken" is three quarters a great varied American roots album that has a couple of songs, that are well constructed, but get lost in MOR sentiment.

Favorite Songs: Chains Are Broken, Need To Lose, Deep Down, Pray For Rain

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Beechwood- Inside the Flesh Hotel (2018)

Posted by KB on 9/17/2018 to Reviews
"Inside the Flesh Hotel" is that album that when songs come on while on shuffle you think why don't I listen to this more, but you never do. The breathy, layered vocals and poppier Velvet Underground melodies pique the interest of the hipster in you, but after 3 songs you're appetite has been sated. It might be the echo mix where the guitar bleeds all over the well crafted and varied songs making all but the high note piano flourishes indistinguishable. It's not that endearing lo-fi sound which charms a listener and it's not slickly produced which might bring out the individual instruments. Anyhow, this is just an album that you are glad you have but you just won't have a yen to scramble put it on.

Favorite Songs: Amy, Bigot In My Bedroom, Sucker, Ram

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Matthew Logan Vasquez- Texas Murder Ballads (2018)

Posted by KB on 9/5/2018 to Reviews
MLV's chugging rock is full of dust and sweat. He tells his stories of lost love and betrayal through mid tempo burners, straight out rockers and slightly bluesy funk riffs. His songs are big and have whirlwhind effect where you feel as if you are in a desert setting at the beginning of a sand storm. Dramatic, yes but it fits MLV's dramatic delivery . If you listen to and like this one I suggest going back one year to his " Does What He Wants" release.

Favorite Songs: No weak songs on this EP

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Nude Party- Nude Party (2018)

Posted by KB on 7/20/2018 to Reviews
It appears that we in the midst of a retro renaissance and the Nude Party are right in the thick of it. Nude Party meander throughout the 60's musical alt-culture. At once sounding like the Velvet Underground, but with tighter musicians, to rough strewn garage jam to psychedelia freak outs to Dylanesque stream of conscious rockabilly. There is even some country rock sing-a-long chuggers. All with funky, minimalist farfisa organ riffs, slight echo chamber and twist (or watusi) worthy grooves. Even their name screams 60s (think Hair). Totally fun, but not listen to once fun. Keep this one nearby for the remainder of the summer. Easily one of the best "sunny day, hanging out on the patio while throwing back a few" releases in quite some time.

Favorite Songs: Chevrolet Van, Live Like Me, Gringo Che, Water On Mars, Feels Alright

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Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever- Hope Downs (2018)

Posted by KB on 7/18/2018 to Reviews
Technically this is their first LP, after releasing 2 EPs, but in my opinion it's essentially their third release. Actually, "Hope Downs" could be their first, second or third release. Little separates the three from each other. The up tempo 80's beat, reverb jangly guitars, fast spoken lyrics about daily life in Australia, chorus hooks supported by roaming riffs in airy songs that increase in energy culminating in rousing guitar solos. Is it a problem? Not really because RBCF are quite good within this formula. The drawback is that you feel like you you've heard this one before. Nothing juts out as a wow moment. But upon multiple listens of this RBCF incarnation their formula still grows on you. If this is your first foray in RBCF, go back and get the other two, if you have the other two just get this one. Remember they are interchangeable.

Favorite Songs: Talking Straight, Mainland, Bellarine, Exclusive Grave

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Pinegrove- Cardinal (2016)

Posted by KB on 7/5/2018 to Reviews
A couple of years ago "Cardinal" came out and basically landed on every best of list. It was in my consideration too but fell just short. Having just purchased the vinyl, I revisited the album and found it's wistful, back porch delivery endearing and refreshing. It slides in and out of alt-country, Americana, alt-folk with moments of rock. The songs build around their simple hooks and faraway drums with banjo hints. Evan Stephens Hall (main architect) sings his songs as if they were music standards with a loose-who-cares-if-I-crack confidence. Though from 2016 it is worth your effort to find. Best listened and dusk thinking about old and new friends.

Favorite Songs: Old Friends, Aphasia, Waveform, Size of the Moon, New Friends

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Ruen Brothers- All My Shades of Blues (2018)

Posted by KB on 7/2/2018 to Reviews
It's 1969 and you got your favorite AM station blaring and you're listening to the latest hit by the Ruen Brothers, that duo filling the K-Tel compilations every year.... If it was 1969 this wouldn't be too out there except the Ruen's weren't born yet. "All My Shades of Blues" is the best AM pop rock released in 2018, maybe in the 21st century. The songs are big, poppy, dramatic, melodic, catchy and so deliciously retro. The lyrics and the arrangements are perfectly simple, and you just wait for the Roy Orbison high notes to crackle and fail- but they never do. The Ruens utilize every late 60's and early 70's summer pop hook trick without it feeling retreaded. This is a hard release not to like, if not love. Get this. Play it. Sing along.

Favorite Songs: Walk Like a Man, All My Shades of Blue, Finer Things, Motor City, Aces

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Kyle Craft- Full Circle Nightmare (2018)

Posted by KB on 6/28/2018 to Reviews
When the term singer-songwriter is used the first thoughts that come to mind are that of brooding, introspective with a little self indulgence (this is not an absolute). Craft has the self indulgence but employs drama, energy and a big glam sound along with smart lyrics and songs that would feel right in a smokey piano bar, club or Broadway. It doesn't mean that Craft doesn't rock it just demonstrate how versatile his songs are. His full sound could be pared down and his ballads could be crescendo-ed without losing their validity due to his emphatic vocals that make his songs feel important or urgent. "Full Circle Nightmare" defies easy categorization which is why it is such an interesting listen.

Favorite Songs: Belmont (One Trick Pony), Fake Magic Angel, Fever Dream Girl, Full Circle Nightmare

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Remember Sports- Slow Buzz (2018)

Posted by KB on 6/11/2018 to Reviews
This Philly based four piece bang out muddy college rock bordering on punk about breakups, being disheartened and loss but in an oddly uplifting way. Their songs are energetic with boatload of ear-worm hooks. You know where the song is going and you are so glad that it actually got there. Remember Sports doesn't roam far from earlier LPs, and who would care since they do DIY lo-fi so well. "Slow Buzz", like all their releases, is easy to listen to over and over again which brings about the only negative. It forces you to neglect the rest of your collection.

Favorite Songs: Up From Below, Nothing's Coming Out, No Going Back, Dripping, You Can Have Alonetime When You're Dead

Find It: Remember Sports- Slow Buzz

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Las Rosas- Shadows By Your Side (2018)

Posted by KB on 6/7/2018 to Reviews
Las Rosas is an indie trio from Brooklyn whose output is 60s-ish era garage rock. If you told me you found them on an old Rhino compilation disc, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised. Their songs are raggedly melodic with twists and turns and energetic build ups. There is nothing tricky here but the beauty of good retro-rock is having hooks that feel familiar but don't sound re-hashed. It's easy to hear how Las Rosas might get into solid jamming live giving their songs a whole new identity. I hear Diamond Rugs, Fidlar and Palma Violets blended throughout SBYS. It's nice to hear another straight forward unrefined rock band putting out catchy, fun to listen to rock music.

Favorite Songs: The Ghost, Tax Man, Christa, Dinner For One, Flood This House

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Connections- Foreign Affairs (2018)

Posted by KB on 6/5/2018 to Reviews
This Columbus, Ohio messy, lo-fi garage pop rock outfit has released an album that gets catchier every listen. Which means I'm listening to it more. What a delightful paradox. Picture The Go Betweens with epic Dino Jr solos speckled though out playing in your basement for just you and your friends. What a delightful vision.

Favorite Songs: Isle Insane, Low Low Low, Good Cop, Short Line, Downtown, Purely Physical

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Music Festival Musings: Attending to See or Be Seen

Posted by KB on 6/4/2018 to Opinions & Thoughts
Recently I attended Boston Calling music festival. I normally don't go out of my way to go to music festivals but Boston Calling this year had 13 bands that I wanted to see and who were not going to be in my area live on their own. So, even knowing that I wouldn't see true full sets, I ponied up at went for 2 of the 3 days. Boston Calling was very organized, the spectators well behaved, excellent food and beverage options at reasonable pricing. All the acts started as scheduled and ended with enough time to venture to other acts (most of the time). It was exhausting (in a good way) and I'm glad I went and I will do it again.That said there were some observations I had about the festival scene. We've all seen the photos and videos of the major festivals and I am including that with my personal experience.

Old Crow Medicine Show- Volunteer (2018)

Posted by KB on 5/18/2018 to Reviews
These boys write and record down home, shit-kickin', back woods Appalachian music that rocks, twangs and doesn't sound hokey- but remains traditional. "Volunteer" is the back yard barbecue hootenanny album of the year. Its a sing-along, happy blast. Hard not to kick it up and have a smile while this one is rolling. It stumbles just a bit at the end, but that first side. Glad that Old Crow won't be remembered as the group that gave Darius Rucker his biggest hit. Get the spoons out and play along.

Favorite Songs: Child of the Mississippi, Dixie Avenue, Shout Mountain Music, Flicker & Shine

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Okkervil River- In the Rainbow Rain (2018)

Posted by KB on 5/2/2018 to Reviews
Was reading about Okkervil's new release and it stated that this is the most non-Okkervil sounding album they've made. Most of the time this gets me all a titter since I like it when established artists/bands try something new instead of rehashing what they've been doing. So I appreciate Will and the gang did just that. Put out a MOR, poppy, non-alt-folk-rock album. But that's where my doting ends. IMHO, I don't feel it works. It's muted, soft and indistinct. Okkervil has always been a warts and all band where the emotion supersedes perfection. ITRR has their warts burned off which, to me, loses their essence. To the point where I didn't even bother to listen in on the songs lyrics (which Sheff excels at and is a highlight of their albums). Glad they ventured, but I hope they inch their way back to "Black Sheep Boy" territory.

Favorite Songs: Pulled Up the Ribbon

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Car Seat Headrest- Twin Fantasy (2018)

Posted by KB on 4/27/2018 to Reviews
Car Seat's "Teens of Denial" was my favorite album of 2016. It was touching, intelligent, socially aware, musically dynamic- basically brilliant. "Twin Fantasy" doesn't reach the same pinnacle, though there are some glints of greatness within the sprawling, sometimes unfocused, re-engineering of a past CSH recording. This makes sense since TF was released 5 years prior to Denial. In those 5 years Will Toledo has shown tremendous growth as a songwriter. While he still utilizes spoken phrases they are now not as prevalent as in the past and they fit better within his songs which I felt made TF slog or sound preachy at times. His use of soft to loud and deliberate noise is also currently more fluid. This is not an awful release, there are songs and parts of his songs that show the path to where he ended up on Denial. It's just not first or the second I'll reach for when needing a CSH fix. I'm looking forward to the next true actual release of new material to see if CSH continues their positive evolution.

Favorite Songs: Bodys, Cute Thing, High to Death (up til 1:24 left in song)

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Ty Segall- Freedom's Goblin (2018)

Posted by KB on 4/18/2018 to Reviews
I'm coming late to the Ty Segall party having not been on board with his version of freak out rock until his last self titled release in 2017 and "Fuzz II". But this generation's Robert Pollard (don't believe me, just look up his discography) has just released his most accessible and melodic album to date- without losing his indie rock integrity. The songs on "Freedom's Goblin" vary from straight up rockers to blues to funk to ballads and nary a one sounds like another. Which is saying something since there are 19 tracks on FG. There is nothing formulaic about his writing. Each song sounds like they just spring up in his head and he spits them out in one take. They are properly loose but not meandering. Some songs crescendo, some do 180s and some stay the course. "Freedom's Goblin" is one of my favorites so far in 2018 and it could be the entrance ramp for a whole new set of ears.

Favorite Songs: Fanny Dog, Every 1's a Winner, Shoot You Up, She, My Lady's On Fire, And Goodnight

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Decemberists- I'll Be Your Girl (2018)

Posted by KB on 4/11/2018 to Reviews
The Decemberists are an ever evolving group. They began as intellectual story tellers making their albums basically novels. On "The King Is Dead" they opted to put out songs- not necessarily a cogent concept. It worked and has allowed them to continue their growth. "I'll Be Your Girl" is their most pop (dare I say dance?) album with more electronics and beats but they retain the Decemberist's intelligence (last time you heard the word 'petard' in a song was..), creative song structure and interesting instrumentation that is expected. Rarely do bands mutate, while maintaining a signature sound and continue to be excellent, and arguably better. Currently one of the best releases of the year and the vinyl is stellar.

Favorite Songs: Once in My Life, Starwatcher, Everything Is Awful, We All Die Young

Find It: The Decemberists- I'll Be Your Girl

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