Music Review

Video of the Week: Beach Slang - "Atom Bomb"

Hugely addictive power pop-punk rock from Philly trio Beach Slang. Hell, even the video is an homage to the original DIY aesthetic of early punk rock. The above-video "Atom Bomb" has a real '70s style and vibe thanks to director Jason Lester's 8mm cinematic flair. Beach Slang’s new album A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings will be released on September 23rd on Polyvinyl Records. They’re also on the road the rest of this year. If you're a fan of The Replacements, The Clash, Rancid, Green Day, this is well worth the effort. And please check out this stunning ballad -- "Too Late To Die Young" -- from their 2015 debut full-length, The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us.

Song of the Week: San Saba County - "Pretty Sure"

So I got an email early last week asking me to preview a new album. Nothing new as I get hundreds of requests daily from PR flacks asking for the same thing. However, this was a heartfelt message from the lead singer John Saba, Jr. of the Austin-based quartet San Saba County. He wrote that "Pretty Sure" was "one of [his] personal favorites from the album" 5th. Damn, he was right on target. This is one catchy tune, like Green Day filtered through a roots-rock prism. Smart lyrics, chugging rhythm, tight playing; a winner through and through. Looking forward to spending more time with the album. I'm pretty sure it'll be worth the effort.

Ten Miles Wide - "Fuck That Shit, I Was Right!"

'...Johndus's response to being told that Masturbational is spelt with an O."

It seems so often these days that all I want to do is burn things to the ground... This is not the confession of a pyromaniac but rather the resignation of a former believer who is convinced that, in so many aspects of life, it'd better if we just started over. However, occasionally something will come along that breathes life into my ever-dwindling hope. Bernie certainly did that for me in the realm of politics, Banksy has long since revitalized my belief in the possibilities of the visual arts, and, in the world of rock, I recently discovered a local secret here in Seattle which, if there's anything right with the music scene, won't remain a secret for much longer. 

In a time where rock seems to be sliding on to the popularity back-burner I am happy to report that the scene remains alive and well in Seattle, and at the core of this local rock scene resides the super group Ten Miles Wide. Ten Miles Wide has inspired me. After suffering through eight musically, bleak years of hipster drudge in NYC rock venues where true talent so often takes a back seat to hype, it’s refreshing to hear sincere, non-ironic music played for audiences who are there to listen rather than be seen.

Ten Miles Wide seems like a natural progression of the Grunge movement, as if it had continued to grow and change over the last two decades, morphing into a new sound rooted in familiar soil. Raw and sincere but also accessible, their most recent album, The Gross (released July 16th to packed house of over five hundred eager fans), is catchy without being guilty of pandering. While possessing the power of a primal rage it is also clean and composed. To quote a lyric from Woodhead, my favorite local band back in NYC, "You don’t know the difference between a symphony or a song"… Ten Miles Wide does, crafting compositions with multiple moving parts and engaging time signature changes that challenge the ear, avoiding the redundancy that so frequently plagues our pop stations. Read more »

Vinyl of the Week: Les McCann & Eddie Harris - Swiss Movement

Les McCann & Eddie Harris - Swiss Movement (Atlantic, 1969)

I don't profess to have the deepest critical knowledge of jazz, especially with managing editor Steve Holtje being our resident expert, but I definitely have a deep appreciation. Regardless, Swiss Movement by Les McCann and Eddie Harris remains of one of my favorite live jazz albums. I just picked up a super-clean used copy of it at one of my favorite vinyl shops in Akron, Ohio. Read more »

Song of the Week: The Cactus Blossoms - "Stoplight Kisses"

Sure, Minneapolis-based brothers Jack Torrey and Page Bunkum's vocals and Americana roots-rock tunes remind one of The Everly Brothers and/or Louvin Brothers, but their band The Cactus Blossoms still swings with a timeless vibe and carries that retro torch forward in a very convincing manner. Moreover, they opened for country legend Dwight Yoakam on Sunday night for Lincoln Center's Out of Doors Americanafest Weekend and the crowd was blown away. This infectious single -- "Stoplight Kisses" -- is from their excellent new album, You’re Dreaming, and was produced by the equally beguiling roots-rocker J.D. McPherson. Buy it on vinyl; support the arts, people.

Vinyl of the Week: Summer Albums, Part 2

My summer has been filled with deep loss. My younger brother David succumbed to major injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident on June 1st. Along with the comfort and love from my family and friends, music was a necessary daily elixir. Many nights I would listen to vinyl in my mother's home, albums I'd left there years ago, or a handful of new/used pieces I picked up at one of my favorite Akron, OH vinyl shops.The ritual of cleaning each piece, placing it on the turntable, dropping the needle, studying the album art, reading the liner notes... it was a much-needed distraction. Here are three new pieces that have aided me in my latest life's journey. Read more »

Sandy Pearlman R.I.P.

On Monday, July 26, famed rock producer, manager, and lyricist Sandy Pearlman died at the age of 72. His Wikipedia page says he "was the recipient of 17 gold and platinum records." He managed that despite not actually producing many bands, or even albums -- but he left a big imprint on every one he worked on.

Born in Rockaway (Queens), NY in 1943, he got a college degree at the State University of New York at Stony Brook on Long Island in 1966.

A year later, still in the Stony Brook area, he recruited a band so he could have a series of science-fiction poems he'd written (the Imaginos saga, about a group secretly controlling world history) set to music and performed. He named the band Soft White Underbelly after Winston Churchill's epithet for Italy, but changed its name to Oaxaca after Soft White Underbelly got a negative review at a big concert. After another name change, to the Stalk-Forrest Group, the band recorded two albums for Elektra, but only one single was released, and that only as a promo. Read more »

Song of the Week: Eli Paperboy Reed - "Cut Ya Down"

The raw, visceral garage gospel of the dynamic and soulful Eli Paperboy Reed is on full display on his latest single, "Cut Ya Down," from his latest album, My Way Home (Yep Roc). If you can't find sanctity in these grooves then you ain't breathin'! Can I get a witness?

Vinyl of the Week: Three New Pieces of Summer Vinyl!

So this summer I've fallen back in love with vinyl, thanks in part to CC editor Steve Holtje giving me a satchel of essential albums this past winter, thus forcing me to buy a new turntable. It seems like only yesterday when vinyl ruled my world -- when Tower Records was part of my weekly Saturday routine, when vinyl was both King and Queen, and when analog music was so much easier on the ears and a much more enjoyable listening experience. (And one had to actually participate in said experience by flipping the album over after one side was finished playing.) Now I get to replace most of the vinyl I sold or gave away with either 180 gram, remastered versions or pristine used copies found in thrift shops or on the numerous Facebook vinyl user groups I've recently joined. Please indulge me as I "wax" poetic about three new items I recently added to my collection:

Robert Kidney - Jagleg (Exit Stencil)

This record was a long time coming, but well worth the wait; a solo outing by the brilliant band leader Robert Kidney of the equally brilliant NE Ohio juggernaut blues outfit 15-60-75 aka The Numbers Band, now in their 46th year of playing and recording. This glorious effort was recorded live with only two edits by Tony Maimone at Studio G in Brooklyn. It's like you're sitting in the same room with Robert and his acoustic guitar, ingesting his anguished angle on life. Raw and visceral, emotional and deeply satisfying, this is an album only a man who has lived the blues could produce. If you loved the American Recordings by Johnny Cash, then you must purchase this gem as well. Read more »

Joe Walsh's Best Serious Songs

I recently posted a Joe Walsh song on my Facebook wall and the reaction was mixed. One commenter wrote, "Walsh always struck me as the real-life Spicoli, and that was about as seriously as I could take him." This is a common misconception about Walsh.

Walsh has had a music career of over five decades.  There are many, many people who know of him mostly as a member of the Eagles (since 1975) who had a hit in 1978 with a funny song, "Life's Been Good." Yet Walsh was a music biz veteran of eleven years’ standing when Hotel California was released in 1976; he would not have been recruited into the Eagles if he had not already established himself as such a distinctive guitarist that he could instantly give them the rock cred they so desired. Already on his resume were the killer riffs of "Rocky Mountain Way," "Turn to Stone," "Walk Away," and "Funk #49." The latter two came with the James Gang, an Ohio band that gathered an international following after so impressing the Who while opening for them in Pittsburgh that they were invited to open for the Who for a whole tour. Read more »

Video of the Week: Anna Rose - "Start A War"

One of my favorite NYC-based singer/songwriters is up to more master strokes with the release of this thoughtful and moody ballad.-- "Start A War" -- from her six song EP Strays in the Cut (Noble Steed Music). I could not help but think of the Wilson sisters from Heart as being some sort of sideways inspiration. Well played, Ms. Anna Rose, well played.

Song of the Week: Kandace Springs - "Soul Eyes"

Why did I not find this sooner? Kandace Springs is a force of nature. From Nashville, with so much soul and jazz and piano chops in tow, she's a "can't miss" talent. This amazing, evocative single -- "Soul Eyes" -- is from her Capitol debut to be released on Bluenote on July 1st.

May Classical Review Roundup

Hélene Grimaud
Water: Berio: Wasserklavier: Sawhney: Water: Transitions 1-7; Takemitsu: Rain Tree Sketch No. 2; Fauré: Barcarolle No. 5; Ravel: Jeux d'eau; Albéniz: Almeria; Liszt: Les Jeux d'eaux a la Villa d'Este; Janáček: In the Mist: No. 1; Debussy: La Cathedrale engloutie
(Deutsche Grammophon)
 
Classical purists be warned: almost half the tracks here are not the solo piano recital you might expect from the billing. Instead, Grimaud had composer Nitin Sawhney create electronic bridging miniatures (ranging from 0:56 to 1:41) fitted between the solo piano tracks. This works wonderfully well, changing this album from a traditional presentation into a moody soundscape (though the purist crowd was quick to take offense, witness the extremely snarky review on classicstoday.com). Of course, Grimaud is her usual scintillating self on the solo piano pieces. 

Memorial Music

Memorial Day started spontaneously and independently in several towns and cities in 1866 as a way of honoring soldiers who died in the Civil War by placing flowers on their graves -- thus the holiday's old name, Decoration Day.

At first there was not a specific date, but observation was made more uniform starting in 1868; May 30 was chosen, supposedly because it was not the anniversary of a specific battle and because by then flowers would be in bloom throughout the country.  Read more »

Song of the Week: Breanna Barbara - "Sailin' Sailin'"

"Sailin' Sailin'" is our perfect perfect song of the week from the NYC-based singer-songwriter Breanna Barbara and pulled from her forthcoming album Mirage Dreams (No Roads Records). Her blissed-out blues conjure up the stripped down mojo of PJ Harvey and early Delta blues. It was produced and recorded by Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff) at The Bomb Shelter in East Nashville.

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