Courtney Marie Andrews- Old Flowers (2020)

Posted by KB on 8/24/2020 to Reviews In Brief
There are voices that are so striking and clean that they amicably force you to listen. Andrews has that voice which is quite similar to Jenny Lewis'. "Old Flowers" is a collection of songs that would be the consummate background for an afternoon of doing solo activities; gardening, chores, cooking or a hobby. It's contemplative and pensive and allows you to mentally drift off while you are actually comprehending her songs. The guitar, piano and percussion are intricately arranged to fit her delivery and message. The more stark songs are I think resonate strongest. "Old Flowers" can be considered slow, and even if you like it, there will be times when it just won't cut it. But there will be times that it will be what you reach for during some decompressing me-time.

Favorite Songs: Burlap String, Guilty, If I Told You, Together Or Alone, Old Flowers, How You Get Hurt

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Fire In the Radio- Moments (2020)

Posted by KB on 8/20/2020 to Reviews In Brief
Fire In the Radio's "Monuments" is a full, big guitar, booming drum rock album. Arena big. They are listed as a punk band but I wouldn't place them in that category. I would compare FITR to The Menzingers with a glaze of Psychedelic Furs. The drumming is straight out the 80's, every nook is filled with power chords and the delivery deserves a large stage for them to run rampant. Even on the first listen the songs sound familiar and its easy to get hooked on their chorus driven formula. This is my entry into Philly's FITR, "Monuments" being their third release, and I will be most definitely catching up the first two.

Favorite Songs: I Said, Ex-SF, Sing Sang Sung, Let's Get To the Start.


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Terror Reid- Hot Vodka (2020)

Posted by KB on 8/19/2020 to Reviews In Brief
When comes to rap I am quite particular. I latch onto a good cadence with rhyming that can be fun but makes sense. And the beat is crucial. Terror Reid (EDM's Getter rap persona), on "Hot Vodka" has that crucial beat. It's old school heavy with understandable elocution. Sure there are some of the less attractive topic areas gleamed but the boasting feels authentic- if that is a thing- and the more attractive topic areas are interestingly offered. "Hot Vodka" is infectious and uses everything from street beats to lounge music as foundations for their pounded out vocals. Non rap fans may steer clear but this is fine for those of us who aren't connoisseurs but like to dabble.

Favorite Songs: When It's All Gone, Krylon, Kill the Rich

hot vodka

Bad Moves- Untenable (2020)

Posted by KB on 8/12/2020 to Reviews In Brief
Bad Moves is a part of the new wave of punky indie pop rock that gloriously is infiltrating the alt scene. "Untenable" might be a self defamation slight to themselves but I will say that their songs are definitely tenable. While bass driven, their songs are a hook crammed rush that's both danc-eable and mosh-able, drenched with sweaty energy. They sing-chant about the life of being a twenty something with vocals that interchange and weave in and out of each other. You will sing along whether you know the lyrics or not. In the running for blast of the year.

Favorite Songs: Party With Kids Who Wanna Party, Working For Free, Fog Is a Funny Thing, Local Radio, Cape Henlopen


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BDRMM- Bedroom (2020)

Posted by KB on 8/11/2020 to Reviews In Brief
The band with a trick spelling of their self title album delivers subdued, dreamy alt-rock songs that are dynamic while being easy on the ear. You could play "Bedroom" in the forefront of a gathering or in the background for ambience. BDRMM uses a lot of echo and reverb that creates layers adding to their dream-pop, bordering shoe-gaze, aura. BDRMM's sound blends the cool of Ambulance with the ramp up of Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever. And they take their songs in both directions; some start easy and build into a catharsis while others will build to only drift softly back to Earth with some of the hushed tones lingering a little too long. Still a good solid debut release from these UK lads.

Favorite Songs: Gush, Happy, If...


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Sports Team- Deep Down Happy (2020)

Posted by KB on 8/10/2020 to Reviews In Brief
"Deep Down Happy" is a tight, energetic, Brit-pop-punk outfit that almost sounds like a feral David Bowie meets Tim Curry, edgier Blur and a crunchier Buzzcocks were sauteed together. The delivery is sassy but inviting with hooks that make it dance-able and keep it out of being considered pure punk attitude. Their songs are well structured and lyrically snotty with wink-wink. Sports Team isn't a bar band. They sound like they need to be, and want to be seen. I would envision them in a small rock club with cool vibe and lots of spotlights and big amp stacks. "Deep Down Happy" is simply a good, noisy, a tad impudent and downright fun.

Favorite Songs: Camel Crew, The Races, Going Soft, Here's the Thing

deep down happy

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Gum Country- Somewhere (2020)

Posted by KB on 8/9/2020 to Reviews In Brief
Trippy, indie rock that would have nestled nicely in the college radio format of years gone by. To some of us it is retro, requiring a quick look up to ensure that it is truly a new release. The dead give away is that the production is much better than similar bands back in late 80s and 90s. The duo Gum Country employs laid back, echo-layered vocals, electro high-trebled drums, amplified distorted guitars and just enough synths for quirkiness. Think of an edgier version of the Cocteau Twins. Their songs are simple but they do expand and become something different by the end, as in There's A Crumb that goes from a monotone melody to a full out pop jam. "Somewhere" is one of those albums that become a go to and you don't realize you are placing that responsibility on it.

Favorite Songs: Somewhere, There's A Crumb, Pills, Brain Song, Whoa Oh


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Public Practice- Gentle Grip (2020)

Posted by KB on 7/30/2020 to Reviews In Brief
If Blondie went full "Rhapsody" mode and minus the rap but doubling down on post punk and enlisting Joe Jackson as their arranger, they would become Public Practice's "Gentle Grip". Public Practice is very NYC with prominent, heavy bass, clean lines and razor sharp beats. They would fit nicely as the background act at an art show because they have a black turtleneck pretentiousness about their sound. Almost brooding. Almost condescending. PP dares you 'not to get it'. For a listener who does get it, it is a specific situational listen. Not an everyday spin but an album to play when you feel like making a point or quenching a mood. It's hard to pinpoint, but that's probably because you just don't get it.

Favorite Songs: Disposable, Compromised, Leave Me Alone

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If Blondie went full "Rhapsody" mode and minus the rap but doubling down on post punk and enlisting Joe Jackson as their arranger, they would become Public Practice's "Gentle Grip". Public Practice is very NYC with prominent, heavy bass, clean

Country Westerns- Country Westerns (2020)

Posted by KB on 7/30/2020 to Reviews In Brief
Whether deliberate or accidental the Country Westerns' moniker is false advertising. They are neither country or western in music style but I will give that they do have a slight gravelly twang in the same vein as Lucero, Drive By Truckers or Two Cow Garage. From the opening full chord strum you know you are in for a no frills, front and centered, Americana rock experience. They get to the point and don't dilly dally around with their longest tune clocking in at under 4 minutes. CW's sound is rough but polished with perfection not the goal. The raspy vocals toe the line of pitchy at times and the solos aren't stupendous but they make it work. If the session felt good them, then it is a final cut. I love it when a band throws in a cover and they chose a Stephen Merritt (Magnetic Fields) song for a tad of artiness. For no BS rock give Country Westerns a listen.

Favorite Songs: Anytime, Guest Checks, It's On Me, TV Light, Two Characters in Search of a Country Song

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Corb Lund- Agricultural Tragic (2020)

Posted by KB on 7/29/2020 to Reviews In Brief
2020, so far, has had a pretty good crop of country (real not pop) releases. Canadian Corb Lund adds to that list with his album "Agricultural Tragic". One could easily confuse this album to bro-country until they hear and feel his earnestness about who he is; a guy who has a deep love for whiskey, simple living, horses and anyone else who loves horses. Lund straddles the fine line between bad hokiness and good hokiness but I think he lands on the good side due to his straightforward, with a smirk, delivery. You believe him because he means what he sings. It also doesn't hurt that he has a whip tight cowboy band backing him, that can also bring a little rocking honky-tonk. Put on your stetson, hop on your pony (if you have one) and ride the range with Corb.

Favorite Songs: Old Men, I Think You Oughta Try Whiskey, Ranchin', Ridin', Romance (Two Outta Three Ain't Bad), 90 Seconds of Your Time, Oklahomans

agricultural tragic

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Bob Dylan- Rough and Rowdy Ways (2020)

Posted by KB on 7/28/2020 to Reviews In Brief
Dylan is always hard for me to be completely impartial. He is my favorite artist. He has created some of the most important recordings over the last 50+ years, and he has released a few head-scratchers throughout that time while taking on different personas. I always give him a little benefit of the doubt before dismissing or praising his albums leaning usually to the positive. I could go total Dylan-philisophical but that would take many, many paragraphs.

"Rough and Rowdy Boys" took a few listens for me to get it. I think it's Dylan coming to terms that this could be his last time he can get his point across about who he actually is- as 'autobiographical' as Dylan will allow. But careful attention will open a few nuggets about what he considers himself to ultimately be (I'll leave interpretations up to you). Spoiler- some insights are downright funny. His croak is articulate, the music bluesy Americana with a slight tinge of folk and the songs have girth in length. This 39th addition to his discography won't crack his top ten but it could be a worthy swansong. Newbies to Dylan will have a difficult time identifying with this, while oldsters will welcome it if they give it a chance.

Favorite Songs: My Own Version Of You, Goodbye Jimmy Reed, False Prophet

rough and rowdy ways

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Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever- Sideways To New Italy (2020)

Posted by KB on 7/27/2020 to Reviews In Brief
Some bands have a sound that fits around them like a warm blanket. RBCF is such a band. "Sideways To New Italy" is unremarkable, not that it isn't a pretty solid release, but rather it is an expected release. The Aussie lads stick to what works. Strummed interlaced guitars that drive songs to a (at times frenzied) crescendo with ethereal, layered vocals. RBCF are at their peak when they energetically fire out of the blocks. There are little surprises like the addition of more acoustic guitars and slower tempos (which didn't work for me on Sunglasses At the Wedding) but generally speaking, if you are a fan, you will be just fine with "Sideways". It is not their best output, but a nice warm blanket is never bad.

Favorite Songs: Falling Thunder, Cars In Space, Cameo, The Cool Change

sideways to new italy

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Hellbound Glory- Pure Scum (2020)

Posted by KB on 7/20/2020 to Reviews In Brief
Every now and then one needs a little shit-kickin', twangy saloon, beer slugging country. This year's entry is Hellbound Glory's "Pure Scum". Right from the first note you know you need to crack open a cold one and turn up the volume of whatever device you are listening to. "Pure Scum" has peddle steel, fiddle, two step click drums and a bunch of picking- and best of all- they are not a novelty like the pop-country crap uses them. They are bonafide and well utilized and effectively played. Lyrically HG would fit in well with the old hilly-billy outlaw classics of the mid 70's. Honest and just enough hoke to keep them fun. "Pure Scum" is your 2020 backyard BBQ, bon fire soundtrack.

Favorite Songs: Ragged but Alright, Wild Orchid, Dial 911, Hank Williams Lifestyle

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Flat Worms- Antarctica (2020)

Posted by KB on 7/10/2020 to Reviews In Brief
The Flat Worms are a quirky three piece band with big, lo-fi sound. Their delivery is simplistic and deliberate with just enough variance to give each song a unique life of its own. "Antarctica" is their most accessible release to date but it does not mean that they have sacrificed their creative, eccentric spark. If anything, they have honed their indie song writing chops- like Dinosaur Jr- to be more structured and focused utilizing their skills more efficiently. The sound is fuller this time around but still noise-riff driven with pounding drums, sung-spoken vocals and lyrics that are less than rosy about the condition of our society. File under indie, alt-rock with punk attitude.

Favorite Songs: Market Forces, Antarctica, Via, Condo Colony, Wet Concrete


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Stroppies- Look Alive! [EP] (2020)

Posted by KB on 6/29/2020 to Reviews In Brief
DIY college dorm indie rock with a strong 60's substructure. Think Velvet Underground meets The Go-Betweens, which make sense since The Stroppies are from the land down under. "Look Alive!" has jangle, farfisa organ, double beat drums, tremolo guitars and droning vocals where pitch is a secondary priority. That framework is the engine for songs that have 'we'll-get-there-eventually' starts and quick stops. Those who are a fan of the era where artists were really stretching boundaries and allowed to take artistic chances (1967-1973) will get heart of this release and the band. If you are more on the glossier side of music this probably won't earn space on your play list.

Favorite Songs: Burning Bright, Look Alive

look alive

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Hazel English- Wake Up! (2020)

Posted by KB on 6/18/2020 to Reviews In Brief
Hazel English is another songwriter in this current renaissance of solid women artists (of course IMHO). Her laid back, layered vocal, upbeat dream pop waft through your speakers as if her songs were implanted there. English channels female 60s pop without losing her own integrity. There is even a nuanced Amy Winehouse vibe that can be heard if you listen close enough. It is hard be down in the mouth listening to "Wake Up!". As English is an optimist and even her 'possible' negativity is forgiving. She believes in people and in herself. "Wake Up!" is best when digested in it's entirety- preferably with candles.

Favorite Songs: Shaking, Wake Up!, Off My Mind, Combat

wake up

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The Magnetic Fields- Quickies (2020)

Posted by KB on 6/9/2020
It has to be said that The Magnetic Fields are not everyone's cup of joe. Stephin Merritt's baritone, the ukulele being a primary instrument and songs that are more stage than any pop or rock. Merritt is a modern day Cole Porter with his creative melodies and intelligent wit. Unlike most pop songs a listener can't easily guess the lyrics. There is no questioning his songwriting ability and that he has way too many ideas flopping around inside his brain. "Quickies" theme is just as the title suggests; short songs (ranging from :17 to 2:35) with topics that are snippets of passing thoughts. Taking all that into account, "Quickies" is good with moments of brilliance but it doesn't reach the heights of "69 Love Songs" or "50 Song Memoir". It's a little subdued, not in subject matter but musically. "Quickies" will please fans of TMF but to those new to them I would start with previously mentioned releases (both are tomes).

Favorite Songs: The Day the Politicians Died, My Stupid Boyfriend, (I Want Join A) Biker Gang, Let's Get Drunk Again (And Get Divorced), Best Cup of Coffee in Tennessee


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Muncie Girls and Black Mountain (2020)

Posted by KB on 6/5/2020 to Reviews In Brief
b-side the point

Muncie Girls released a 6 song EP of B-sides that would rival most true releases this year. Every song would could have earned a place on their excellent 2018 "Fixed Ideals". If you are unaware of this English troupe get to know their punky goodness on "B-Sides" that proves this band should be around for a long time.Muncie Girls Bandcamp.

Black Mountain put out two excellent songs that demonstrate this band is continually evolving. Echoes has a dance element to it with electronic flourishes and Flux is Gothic, middle eastern tinged metal. No joke. Black Mountain Bandcamp.

Shopping- All or Nothing (2020)

Posted by KB on 6/4/2020
If "All or Nothing" came out during the beginning of the MtV era it would have been the trending release of the mid-80s. Electronic, funky, fast with a sparse, robotic heavy beat. The clubs would rush to be the first to play it and new wavers would scour the music shops for the longbox CD. Shopping is emphatic in their delivery. They are the loudest voice in the room so you're forced to heed them. They are sweaty. Think early B-52s with early Cure and Devo. To the younger set Shopping will be alternative and too those of us of age it is retro-alternative.

Favorite Songs: Initiative, Expert Advice, Body Clock, Trust In Us

all or nothing

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BOAT- Tread Lightly (2020)

Posted by KB on 6/3/2020 to Reviews In Brief
BOAT has the sound of 90's college radio. Jangly, simple, catchy- music you bob your head to and sway with. They don't try to do what they can't do, but they don't sound limited. Besides some vocal layering there are no gimmicks. They just play them as they write them. "Tread Lightly" has songs that range from pop, to edgy rock, to low-fi indie. Leaning mostly toward indie. BOAT's simplicity is their allure. It's easy to connect with and understand. "Tread Lightly" may not blow your mind but you will find yourself inconspicuously into it.

Favorite Songs: (to all the) Sweaty People, Zombie State of Mind, Metabolism

tread lightly

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