Category Archives: New Releases

PAUL REVERE & THE RAIDERS – The Spirit of ‘67

Album: The Spirit of '67

Artist: Paul Revere & the Raiders

Label: Now Sounds/ Cherry Red

Release Date: February 03, 2017


The Upshot: Still hungry through and through!


With my penchant for 60’s pop you’d think I’d know more about these guys than I do but I don’t. I do know that they released a few records in the year of 1966, this being one of them  (fooled ya’ with that title). You’ve seen these guys, the goofy get ups and all, but their music was no joke, they could really play and write. Back in those 1960’s they were in high demand, touring their asses off and on tv five days a week on the ABC show Where The Action Is. This particular edition includes the 11 original songs in a mono version plus those same songs in a stereo version and they tack on 3 bonus cuts.

There’s some excellent cuts on there (three tops tens) including ace pop tunes like “In My Community,” “Louise” and the baroque “Hungry” (also don’t miss the dirtier “Our Candidate”). Following a Beatles lead (I’m assuming) they get a little out there and psychedelic on cuts “Undecided Man” and “1001 Arabian Nights” (I prefer their pop/rock tunes).  Also, in case you forgot, some contributors to this record include producer Terry Melcher plus Hal Blaine, Bruce Johnson and Van Dyke Parks to name a few. After this record 3/5 of the classic lineup would split leaving only Mark Lindsay and Paul Revere to carry on with new members.

Though the band would go on to make at least one more excellent record (1967’s Revolution) Spirit of ’67 marked, for some, the real creative end of the band. Don’t miss the excellent liner notes by Ugly Things publisher Mike Stax which also includes some rare photos.

DOWNLOAD:  “In My Community,” “Louis,” “Hungry,” “Our Candidate”



Album: Foxhole

Artist: Proper Ornaments

Label: Slumberland

Release Date: January 27, 2017


The Upshot: Promising UK band ditches its winning psych pop formula for a plodding, pallid sound.


For this UK band’s sake, you have to hope there exists a happy place somewhere between the “whirlwind of chair-breaking, knife-drawing chaos” that occasioned its promising debut and its desultory sophomore retreat into, well, this Foxhole in 2017.

#Wooden Head#, released in 2014, was the work of James Hoare (Ultimate Painting, Veronica Falls) and Max Oscarnold (Toy, Pink Flames). It wasn’t a perfect debut, but it wore its influences proudly and loudly. But, according to the band’s own PR, the steep mental and physical cost caused this calculated retreat that strips back the band’s sound and, unfortunately, anything resembling its mojo.

Gone is the fuzzy guitar crunch reminiscent of The Jesus and Mary Chain, the Woods-friendly psych pop, and the big power pop hooks. Gone, too, is the notion of a two- or three-minute rock song, replaced by somber, dragging tempos that overstay their welcome in almost every instance. Built on strummed guitar and a few Lennon-like piano chords, the sad-sack love-lost ballad “Memories” has all the personality of a sloth, and its nearly six minutes only enhances that simile. Instead of wisely shifting gears for some contrast, though, Proper Ornaments doubles down on the same lethargic tempo on the next track, “Just a Dream.”

“1969” then goes to the plodding tempo-well a third straight time—this time with heavily reverbed vocals—to turn its titular hot year into an off-putting ice-block. That then leads into an even more stilted number—”The Frozen Stare”—which at least offers an apropos handle. Throw in a pallid imitation of Elliot Smith’s angst with “Jeremy’s Song,” and the LP’s few highlights—the thrumming “Cremated (Blown Away)” and “Bridge By A Tunnel,” the only track with a memorable chorus— can’t rescue Proper Ornaments from the ugly truth: there’s a bomb already in this Foxhole.

DOWNLOAD: Their debut.


Album: Ljudkamrater 12” EP

Artist: Centralstödet / The Myrrors

Label: Sky Lantern Records / Cardinal Fuzz

Release Date: February 17, 2017


The Upshot: As with all well-rendered psychedelic music, the journey is probably the most important part of the experience.


Ljudkamrater whatever the hell that means, is just the kiss to the brain that I’ve needed as I face the awful reality of a Trump presidency with a lung full of Beijing’s toxic air. If anything, though this record is probably best listened to with a lungful of Baba Kush. Heavy and fluid the album begins with three tracks by Sweden’s Centralstödet. On the track “IE” a sinister laid back groove provides the perfect undercoat for some seriously trippy guitar. Distorted, flanged and looped the song is an ominously unsettling affair that blows away everything in its path as it reached a rousing conclusion.

“Yttre Hybridina” shimmers with its heavy combination of tremolo and distortion. Here the band let things build until a full-on gale is raging inside your ears.

On the flip side Tucson’s Myrrors, offer up two tracks the first “Rayuela” hits a sweet spot for this reviewer with its warmer production and robust drumming including some beautifully wrought ride symbol action. Here the track’s cyclical nature reveals its hidden treasures over the course of multiple turns. I especially love how the violin weaves in and out on this track. Hypnotic, deep and compelling “Rayuela” is a number you hope never stops. It’s that cool.

The second track, “Night Flower Codex” has elements of Spiritualized/Moon Duo/Pink Floyd with its narcotic oscillations and languorous cadence. This is a great song to drop out of life with for a while. As with all well rendered psychedelic music the journey is probably the most important part of the experience and the reason why I keep coming back to a band’s music. I believe it’s all about having time to contemplate the bigger cycles of life before being dumped somewhere uncharted. On this record both bands shine as they offer up unique takes on psych music that enthrall as much as they entertain.

(Consumer note: As of this review all vinyl copies are sold out. According to Limited black/cream colored vinyl in matte reverse board sleeve. Edition of 150 copies. Side B ends in a locked groove.)

DOWNLOAD: “IE” “Rayuela” “Night Flower Codex”


Album: Up and Coming

Artist: John Abercrombie Quartet

Label: ECM

Release Date: January 13, 2017


The Upshot: Joyful, soulful, inventive—should we go on?


Guitarist John Abercrombie has long been one of the States’ most prolific jazz musicians – including leader dates, bands and sideperson gigs, he’s probably notched over 100 albums on his musical bedpost. Up and Coming is the second LP with his latest quartet, which includes drummer Joey Baron (no stranger to prolifigacy himself), bassist Drew Gress and pianist Marc Copland.

Though he first made his name as a fusion guitarist (cf. his debut album Timeless and his work with Mahavishnu Orchestra drummer Billy Cobham’s solo band), Abercrombie is a far more imaginative and diverse musician than that. Though he long ago dropped the effects pedals, his playing traverses eras – you can find elements of bebop, swing, free jazz, Third Stream and cool jazz in his work, all of it filtered through his own expertly melodic and restlessly inventive imagination. Up and Coming is a fine example of his aesthetic: the soulful sonority of “Tears,” the playful whimsy of “Flipside,” the glistening serenity of “Joy,” the swinging action of “Silver Circle.” Abercrombie – always a very pianistic guitarist – and Copland practically leak melodies from their fingertips, while Baron and Gress make the rhythms move in order to keep the pair constantly on their toes.

The way the group interweaves its strengths on its take on Miles Davis’ “Nardis” shows the pure pleasure that comes from listening to experts who love their jobs doing them well. (Ed. note: Speaking of listening to experts, check out Prof. Toland’s Abercrombie interview, “Painting Outside the Lines,” from a couple of months ago.)

DOWNLOAD: “Nardis,” “Silver Circle,” “Tears”


TOBIN SPROUT – The Universe and Me

Album: The Universe and Me

Artist: Tobin Sprout

Label: Burger

Release Date: February 03, 2017

tobin 1-27

The Upshot: more evidence that, as time goes by, Guided By Voices’ other songwriter may be aging more gracefully.


During his tenure in Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout emerged as the considered, deliberate yin to Robert Pollard’s hyper-prolific, shotgun-attack yang. Spread judiciously over the band’s most iconic albums, Sprout’s best songs (“Mincer Ray,” “It’s Like Soul Man”) served as a kind of melancholic leavening even when they rocked your face off.

Now 61, Sprout still has the voice of a 22-year-old, a perfect complement for the lo-fi sound he arguably invented with Pollard and has, in varying degrees, trafficked in since. Though it’s more rough-edged and rudimentary than most Sprout solo outings, the intimacy of the rough-hewed production on The Universe and Me pulls you close while also leaving you to wonder what some of these Beatles-esque melodies would sound like with a George Martin (or even a Phil Spector) producing them.

The first single and lead-off track on Sprout’s sixth record under his own name — “Future Boy Today/Man of Tomorrow” — is a power pop beauty held over from the GBV days, and perfectly suitable to bridge the divide of years via churning guitar fuzz, red-lined drums and a vintage Sprout sing-along chorus.  But it’s also a bit of an outlier; the other rockers here — “A Walk Across the Human Bridge,” “Just One Kid (Takes On The World)” — are the LP’s least impressive moments.

That’s in part because they sound almost rote next to Sprout’s balladry, which can swell your heart to the bursting point. Filled with images of treasure chests, swirling parades and the like, The Universe and Me reads like a gentle but honest letter to Sprout’s young self, touching on topics like comic books, finding your purpose in life, and growing old — fertile territory for an organic nostalgia that often makes Sprout’s songs feel timeless.

Take the quartet of tunes at the center of the 14-song album. “When I Was a Boy” opens with on an old stand-up recorded so dimly it’s just this side of prepared piano, until a mellotron lifts the melody into the light as the best McCartney/Lennon compositions did. The fuzzy guitar of “Cowboy Curtains” follows for two minutes, but this time it’s Sprout’s cross-woven harmonies that really make the chorus elegiac. “Heavenly Bones” strips the guitar crunch away for piano and a simple drumbeat while Sprout recalls a parade as it “swirled and slipped away/we stood beside ourselves, carried this dream world to the ground,” and by the time the mid-tempo jangle pop of “Heart of Wax” rolls around, Sprout’s won you over again.

The album could do with a little pruning, and without Pollard’s manic voice as a foil the lo-fi production can wear a listener down some by the end. (By contrast, 1997’s Moonflower Plastic sounds like an ELO album.) But The Universe and Me offers more evidence that, as time goes by, Guided By Voices’ other songwriter may be aging more gracefully.

DOWNLOAD: “When I Was a Boy,” “Cowboy Curtains,” “Future Boy Today/Man of Tomorrow” — John Schacht


Album: Evidence

Artist: Jonathan Mudd

Label: Major Label Interest

Release Date: February 03, 2017


The Upshot: Continuing evidence of the songwriter’s uncommonly confident mastery of the pop form.


DC’s Jonathan Mudd hit the bull’s-eye in 2010 with sophomore platter Truth Lies, piling up power pop nugget after nugget, the musician clearly signaling that the time he’d spent in the band trenches (The Shake, Land of Giants, Jo Jo Ex-Mariner) had taught him a thing or ten about songcraft. That he’d also worked as a music critic allowed him both an objectivity towards his own material and a potentially deeper emotional attachment to classic forms than your average journeyman rocker. (In that regard, North Carolinians may additionally recognize his name from his frequent byline in Triangle publications back in the day.)

As yours truly put it in a review, “Bottom line: Truth Lies both holds its own against the classic power pop archetypes while delightfully advancing the game for the contemporary scene. It’ll make you a believer all over again in the magic, and it just might free you, too.”

On one level, then, Mudd’s new album, Evidence doesn’t depart from his signature sound. Power pop still reigns supreme on cuts like opener “Sore Heart Days,” a Tom Petty-styled number boasting an instantly memorable twinned piano/guitar riff and a punchy chorus you’ll be singing along with before the first spin is done. A couple of tracks later, “Maybe We Can Save Each Other’s Lives” puts a notable Eighties/New Wave twist on things, what with the bouncy melody and beat and a winning we’ll-make-it-if-we-stick-together-baby lyric motif. And “The Wedge” is straight-up power chord worship, fist-pumping stuff from the sinewy opening riff to the anthemic, soloing climax; the title becomes a cheeky metaphor for the narrator’s romantic prowess, at one point likening himself to an icebreaker steaming through the Arctic’s frigid waters  (“I’m coming through,” he boasts, in equal parts taunt and come-on).

So Mudd’s not reinventing the wheel here. What he is doing is demonstrating an uncommonly confident mastery of the pop form, from the songs’ arrangements (dude has more hooks than a bait and tackle shop) to the glistening production that allows his guitars and Daniel Clarke’s keyboards ample space to stretch out and breathe while ensuring that the rhythm section (drummer Ricky Wise, bassist Patrick Thornton) is never relegated to background status. The album’s also a study in precision, sequencing-wise, Mudd instinctively knowing when to downshift—say, on the title track, a midtempo ballad, or on the acoustic guitar-powered “Trap the Moon”—and exploit the record’s dynamics for maximum tension and catharsis.

Ultimately, every song on Evidence is a keeper. Factor in all those gems from Truth Lies and you’ve got a guy steadily amassing a back catalog as impressive as it gets.

DOWNLOAD: “Sore Heart Days,” “17-35-69,” “The Wedge”

BRENT CASH – The New High

Album: The New High

Artist: Brent Cash

Label: Marina

Release Date: January 27, 2017

Brent 1-27

The Upshot: High-caliber pop as classy as it is catchy


The Carole King/Todd Rundgren/Emitt Rhodes wing of the pop music castle doesn’t host new artists often – it’s an iteration that’s long since ceased having any cool factor. Fortunately that hasn’t stopped Brent Cash. The Athens, GA, singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist presents his third album The New High without a shred of self-consciousness, reveling in its soft pop sounds. The sheer craftspersonship on display here is remarkable – with assistance only from some string players, Cash creates airy confections arranged around his piano and high keen, with careful thought given to how the melodies rise and fall. (Fans of long-gone one-shot June & the Exit Wounds, take note.)

“Every Inflection” and “Out For Blood” roll and soar the way pop songs used to, relying not on production gimmickry but on the tunes’ natural evolution over the course of 3-4 minutes. Ballads “Fade/Return” and “The Way You Were” flow like spring water in the sunshine, balancing melancholy and optimism with almost clinical precision. Though free of bombast of any kind, “Edge of Autumn” slyly implies that now would be a good time to raise your phone’s lighter app to the sky, while “The Wrong Thing” adds subtle country rock undercurrents. Finely crafted, frequently gorgeous and as consistent as steel-cut oats, The New High delivers high-caliber pop as classy as it is catchy.

DOWNLOAD: “Out For Blood,” “Fade/Return,” “The Wrong Thing”

OTIS TAYLOR – Fantasizing About Being Black

Album: Fantasizing About Being Black

Artist: Otis Taylor

Label: Trance Blues Festival

Release Date: February 17, 2017


The Upshot: An album making an impact on the soul that will be felt until the end of one’s days. 


One of the few contemporary blues artists who builds on tradition instead of refining it, Denver’s Otis Taylor has almost quietly amassed a monstrously powerful body of work over the course of two decades. His distinctive style of trance blues, as effective banged out on a flat-top as filtered through an amplifier, has redefined the country blues on which it’s based, and given Taylor a versatile platform on which to voice his concerns.

Fantasizing About Being Black, his fifteenth LP, marks something of a return to an earlier style after several concept and experimental albums – it’s most reminiscent of records like The Truth is Not Fiction and White African. Which means that, whether he’s bashing the pain against the head of a banjo (“Banjo Bam Bam”), the soundhole of an acoustic guitar (“Tripping On This”) or the strings of his no-doubt battered electric axe (“Jump Out of Line,” “Hand On Your Stomach,” “Walk On Water”), Taylor finds a simple rhythm, a classic riff and a menacing progression and drives the lot past repetition into mantra. Though he leavens the tunes with fiddle and trumpet here and there, the focus is almost purely on his voice and guitar, which is all Taylor has ever needed.

Like all of his best work, Fantasizing About Being Black makes an impact on the soul that will be felt until the end of one’s days.

DOWNLOAD: “Hand On Your Stomach,” “Walk On Water,” “Banjo Bam Bam”

TY SEGALL — Ty Segall

Album: Ty Segall

Artist: Ty Segall

Label: Drag City

Release Date: January 27, 2017

Ty Segall

The Upshot: There’s more soft focus psych pop, exuding warmth, sweetness and melody.


Ty Segall’s ninth full-length digs deeper into the raging guitar psych of his last few recordings— Emotional Mugger certainly, the Fuzz albums, and before that Slaughterhouse—but also probes a folky psychedelia shared by sometime collaborator Tim Presley. This new album shares a name, but not much of a vibe, with his 2007 debut album, whose minimalist one-man garage stomp is a far cry from these overdriven squalls and jangly ditties.

Segall reconvenes most of the Muggers here — Emmett Kelly, Mikal Cronin, Charles Moothart and Ben Boye— and, yes, that’s a lot of guitar players. In fact, if you had to pick one representative sound for this no-holds-barred album, it would be that of at least two guitars going at it on electrified solos, sort of aware of each other, but not exactly constrained. In track one, “Break a Guitar,” Segall confesses that he was made “in the red,” before inviting mayhem as he slips off for a cold one, “Come on take it, take my guitar, I’ll be, I’ll be at the bar.”  Chaos ensues, naturally.

And yet while Segall definitely brings the rock in tracks like “Break a Guitar,” “Freedom,” and “Thank You Mr. K,” there’s more variety here than in recent albums. The long “Warm Hands (Freedom Returned)” has its Beatles-esque LSD dreams, its spiraling solos, its riff-driven, metal-flirting midsection. Still 10 minutes is a long time, long enough to turn towards the mystical in the Krautishly expansive, in a jazzy cool interval lit by electric piano, which sounds, more than you’d expect, like the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm.”  And what can you make of the lackadaisically countrified “Talkin’,” the softest, twangiest Segall cut on record, which turns a gossiping girl’s chatter back on her in an extended I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I argument.

There’s more soft focus psych pop as the album continues, exuding warmth, sweetness and melody. “Orange Color Queen,” the single, jangles with acoustic gentleness and folky sincerity. Even when the drums kick in, it’s pillowy soft, sung in near-falsetto and eased across, not a squealing solo to be found. “Papers” swaggers more, but stays well out of the red zone. “Take Care (To Comb Your Hair)” both ingratiates and burns it all down, threading what was a quiet, comfortable melody over a building roar of guitar dissonance. Far from nailing down who he is or what he’s attempting in this second self-titled album, Ty Segall seems to be trying all different things. Good for him.

DOWNLOAD: “Break a Guitar,” “Orange Color Queen,” “Warm Hands (Freedom Returned)”

SON VOLT – Notes of Blue

Album: Notes of Blue

Artist: Son Volt

Label: Transmit Sound

Release Date: February 17, 2017

Son Volt

The Upshot: You can’t help but get the feeling, like many of their other efforts, that the band is recycling some of their music.


When Uncle Tupelo officially called it quits and splintered into two bands in the mid- ‘90s, it become apparent soon after who owned all of the country influences in the Jay Farrar/Jeff Tweedy split. While Tweedy went on a more standard indie rock path with Wilco, Farrar carried on down the alt-country road with his new endeavor Son Volt.

And eight records later, those influences are still front and center. But Farrar and co, also add in plenty of blues with their latest, Notes of Blue (from a more traditional blues take like “Cherokee St.” and “Sinking Down” to a modern garage/blues take on “Static”). The results are mixed. Lyrically, Farrer has always been ahead of many of his peers and that is still apparent on this latest album, with this collection of 10 thoughtful tunes. But you can’t help but get the feeling, like many of their other efforts, that the band is recycling some of their music.

The mix of blues, with their standard, folk and country is a nice addition, but may not be enough to win over folks who aren’t already Son Volt devotees.                                                

DOWNLOAD: “Static,” “Lost Souls” and “Threads and Steel”