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TODD RUNDGREN/EMIL NIKOLAISEN/HANS-PETER LINDSTRØM – Runddans

Album: Runddans

Artist: TODD RUNDGREN/EMIL NIKOLAISEN/HANS-PETER LINDSTRØM

Label: Smalltown Supersound

Release Date: April 07, 2015

Todd

www.smalltownsupersound.com

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Emil Nikolaisen comes from Norwegian shoegaze/psych band Sereena-Maneesh. Hans-Peter Lindstrøm is one of the same country’s best-known DJs/electronica producers. Todd Rundgren is Todd Rundgren. After remixing one of Lindstrøm’s tracks, Rundgren joined the duo in Oslo to produce Runddans, a 40-minute multi-part suite combining space disco, glitchy electronica and Rundgren’s patented soul/pop. Sections float between atmospheric textures like “Liquid Joy From the Womb of Infinity” and dramatic groovers like “Waves of Heavy Red (Disko-Nektar)” to heart-on-sleeve confections like “Put Your Arms Around Me.” Melody tends to take a backseat to sonics here, though it’s still in the car, and the deliberate bumps and cracks in the narrative may irritate those not already on board with electronica’s tendency to casually fuck things up.

But the layered production suggests what Rundgren touchstones like Initiation and A Wizard, a True Star might have sounded like as produced by the Orb. Fans of Rundgren’s more song-oriented LPs may balk at Runddans, but fans of experimental electronics will grok the vibe.

DOWNLOAD: “Waves of Heavy Red (Disko-Nektar),” “Liquid Joy From the Womb of Infinity,” “Put Your Arms Around Me”

LONDON SOULS – Here Come the Girls

Album: Here Come the Girls

Artist: London Souls

Label: FEEL Records

Release Date: April 07, 2015

London Souls 4-7

www.FeelMusicGroup.com

BY JOHN B. MOORE

If you’ve been wondering whose been snatching up all of those old blues and classic soul albums at vinyl shops throughout New York, it’s probably the guys that make up The London Souls. Their sophomore effort, Here Come the Girls, is dripping in blues riffs and velvet vocals.

Boasting what is now becoming a routine drummer/guitarist line up, Chris St. Hilaire (drums) and Tash Neal (singer/guitar) took several years between releasing this effort and their debut and the time was clearly well spent on the road. Though it should be noted the record was delayed a bit after Neal was injured in a bad hit-and-run accident.

 There is a more cohesive vibe with this collection of songs. The album kicks off with somewhat of a red herring a little different than their normal sound, “When I’m With You” (a song that sounds like a brilliant Alex Chilton B-Side), but the bulk of the album owes much more to a dirtier blues sound with some Hendrix-style psychedelic guitars mixed in for good measure. But just when you think the band has settled on a formula, they move into a left field track, like the beautifully subdued “Isabel.”

With a classic sound that seems unaffiliated with any band that came up after Zeppelin called it quits, Here Come the Girls could have just as easily come out three or four decades ago.

DOWNLOAD: “When I’m With You,” “Crimson Revival” and “Isabel”

 

 

THE MONOCHROME SET – Spaces Everywhere

Album: Spaces Everywhere

Artist: Monochrome Set

Label: Tapete

Release Date: March 17, 2015

Mono Set 3-17

www.tapeterecords.com

BY TIM HINELY

The Monochrome Set are one of those bands that I always wanted to hear more of their records. I have a few, sure, and the stuff I owned I really liked with their mix of melodicism, wry humor and ….whatever else that makes the band the Monochrome Set (the records weren’t the easiest to find in our country back then, either). For this record is band is still led by erstwhile leader bid along with two other originals, Lester Square (total rock and roll name) and Andy Warren along with a new drummer, Steve Brummel.

The band sounds as timeless as ever with a batch of 10 classic tunes. Lots of organ, some banjos and I think I even heard a flute as well. “Iceman” starts things off with this cool guitar hook (think Duane Eddy) and the line “Excuse me are you one of us?”which slips right into the melodic, lovely “Fantasy Creatures” with fluid guitar and understated organ. “Avenue” sounds like some lost power pop classic from the late 70’s. Other song titles include “Oh, You’re Such a Star” and “When I Get to Hollywood” so is there a theme here? Perhaps. Bid and his crew are real pros, totally confident. Not a bad cut on here, 10 for 10. It’s only February but I’ve got at least one record that’s gonna make my top 10 of 2015.

DOWNLOAD: “Fantasy Creatures,” “Avenue,” “When I Get to Hollywood”

 

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion / We Are Hex 5/19/15, Denver

Dates: May 19, 2015

Location: Bluebird Theatre, Denver CO

JSBX

BY BEN CURNETT

There are only a few people in this world you should ever refer to as “cats.” And if you’ve correctly identified a person as someone who could properly handle that moniker, half of getting this “cat” usage semantically correct still depends on you, the source. Do you even possess the provenance to declare someone a cat?

I’m not sure if I’m that guy, so let that be my disclaimer. Please consider the source when I say that these three cats in the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion put on a show that should not be missed.

Touring in support of their newest (and among their best-ever) record Freedom Tower 2015 Dance Party, JSBX brings everything they have to the performance at Denver’s Bluebird Theatre. It’s a S-H-O-W in all caps, with Jon Spencer presiding as carnival barker, MC, chief entertainer, and all around head get-down honcho for the evening.

What you will witness at this particular JSBX show is a live music version of a Tarantino movie, with other badasses of stage and screen thrown in just because that’s really the only way you can capture the band’s stage presence. If Jon Spencer Blues Explosion was a movie character, it would be some mixture of Omar Little, Travis Bickle, and Sonny Corleone.

Openers were Third Man Records recording artists We Are Hex, who were noisy, sleazy, and would have totally held their own were it not for the giant entertainment spectacle to come. Heavy drums backed up some schizo-infused lyrics from singer Jilly (they only use their first names), screamed out in a way that creeps me out in kind of the same way abandoned doll heads do. Droning feedback guitar and bass plastered the whole set together into a genre I’m calling Grease-Trap-Performance-Doom. Good stuff.

When JSBX took the stage, two things became immediately apparent: first, Jon Spencer is not a man who is afraid to put the vocals first. The mic was a good 3 to 4 volumes louder than the drums and guitars and theremin put together. That’s not easy to do considering the whole mix was loud as fuck and crystal clear. The JSBX soundman is a god.

Second, the phrase “Blues Explosion” works like the word “smurf” or the rap-adled “know-what-I’m-sayin’.” It just fits everywhere it should fit, its definition filled entirely by context.

For the next two hours, JSBX entertained the ladies and gentlemen of Denver like few others could. The music was loud, tight, direct, and punctuated by all kinds of space above and below the squealing guitars of Jon and Judah Bauer and the Charlie-Watts-meets-Lenny-Ferraro beats from Russell Simins.

Opening with the second track from the new record, “Wax Dummy” the band set the bar way on up there and kept going higher. Russell Simins screamed in on a fantastic cover of the Dead Boys’ “What Love Is,” and Jon ended/began every tune with some semblance of the words, “Blues explosion! Thank you! Ladies and gentlemen!”

The greatest thing about this fantastic show was all of the spectacular American music I could hear in everything the band played. Call it influence, call it chops, call it theft, the mix brought together the spirits of James Brown, Elvis, The Stooges, Chuck D, Run DMC, junkie-era Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the Cramps.

That’s a level of cool achieved by only the coolest of cats.

 

 

THE BALLROOM THIEVES – A Wolf in the Doorway

Album: A Wolf in the Doorway

Artist: Ballroom Thieves

Label: Blue Corn Music

Release Date: April 21, 2015

Ballaroom Thieves 4-21

www.bluecornmusic.com

BY JOHN B. MOORE

While the recently banjo-less Mumford & Sons may just be three albums into their career, there are still plenty of bands out there, acoustic guitars gripped tightly, more than willing to take over some of that folk/roots/bluegrass spotlight. The Ballroom Thieves, a three piece from Boston, is probably one of the strongest contenders out there to syphon off some of Mumford’s fans.

Their debut, A Wolf in the Doorway, starts off as just like the average neo-folk album, like so many others in the past couple of years, but midway in, with the raucous “Oars to the Sea,” the band unleashes a wholly originally take on the genre. The song starts off with a haunting acoustic strum that’s joined by calm vocals that evolve quickly into an angry howl by Martin Earley, met with the squeal of Blues riffs – a beautiful melding of disparate emotions.

From that point on, the album hits a new plane that the group manages to keep up to the end. Conversely, “Bury Me Smiling,” far from rowdy, puts the spotlight on cellist Calin Peters, begging the question why her vocals are not more prominent throughout the album.

Despite a slow start, A Wolf in the Doorway, is an impressive introduction for band that could have been written off as just another bluegrass/folk bandwagoneer. Thankfully they have the songs to prove they are so much more.

 DOWNLOAD: “Oars to the Sea” and “Bury Me Smiling”

 

WHITE BIRCH – The Weight of Spring

Album: The Weight of Spring

Artist: White Birch

Label: Glitterhouse

Release Date: March 31, 2015

White Birch 3-25

www.glitterhouse.com  (via Forced Exposure)

 BY JONATHAN LEVITT

The White Birch has just released their latest record The Weight of Spring and it’s definitely not a record for those afraid of a little introspection. With moments informed by the Tindersticks mixed with David Sylvian and a smidgen of Antony and the Johnsons, the band has turned in a very fragile and poignant record. What reveals itself upon first listen is a lot of thought has gone into the arrangements. This album takes its time to unfold, but as it does, it enters your soul, stirring all sorts of emotions that you had shut away. In fact the spring here may be the renewal of ones ability to feel again in a world that seems increasingly distant.

“The Fall” has managed to capture the late day fading sunlight with the leaves drifting down and smoke from fireplaces beginning to fill the air. And as the last moths of the season dance a ring round the ol’ porch light, you for a brief moment come face to face with your own mortality.

“Solid Dirt”: This is one of the tracks that immediately grabbed me as a reminiscence of days gone by. “Once I was just a boy” utters the singer Ola Fløttum as he recalls that famous passage from Corinthians: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

The band have created a virtual tour of some of the major and minor moments of our lives allowing the listener to understand certain situations with the much needed perspective that only time and certain season can bring. That said there is a determined hope in this song recognizing that time can heal and that spring heals the emotional wounds we endure as we go round and round in this life.

“Lamentation” starts off with a piano and drone in the background, cast over a very cool drum beat. Fløttum sings, “Through the hanging trees I could only see the light..as it left” “Through the wilting trees I could only see the dark… as it came”. The song takes the listener to not only the heart of the album but also the first stirrings of the new spring as it breaks winter’s steely grip.

“The Weight of Spring” is its own rumination on the state of love sung by the two singers of the band. “ When spring was bold as hearts turned cold” “ I close my eyes to the sound of spring” “Now We’ll Never change” — and as the woman sings it you can hear a wavering in her voice that ended up making me all verklempt.

“Spring” closes the album with what is probably the most positive track on the album. It’s an instrumental that expresses hope and informs us that spring has firmly taken hold and that life moves on.

The Weight of Spring is a stunning album that is so well honed and emotionally resonant that it’s hard to shake when you come to the end of it. It’s about remembering instead of forgetting, so we can be stronger the next time the emotions hit us, because you know they will.

DOWNLOAD:  “Spring,” “Solid Dirt”

SHOPPING — Consumer Complaints

Album: Consumer Complaints

Artist: Shopping

Label: Fatcat

Release Date: May 26, 2015

Shopping

http://www.fatcat-usa.com/

By JENNIFER KELLY

“Buy something want something/want something need something/need something want something,” Shopping’s “Theme” inscribes a taut circle of consumer anticipation, satisfaction and disappointment in strident stabs of guitar and yelps of female agitation. It’s 1977 all over again, and also 2013 when this album originally appeared on drummer Andrew Milk’s own Milk Records. But it’s also right now, when the hollowed out shell of wide-screen TVs and big-assed SUVs has come crashing down on the heads of a scrabbling middle class. It’s time, why not, for Shopping’s angsty, jittery rallying cries, which bounds in random, off-kilter hops and stops across a denuded landscape of post-punk minimalism.

Shopping’s sound is defined by rumbling, half-cocked basslines that run belligerently into irregular slashes of guitar, by thumping four-on-four drums and trebling, trilling Slits-ish girl vocals. Songs are stretched as tight as drumheads over these spare elements, so that even the white space between notes seemed weighted with anxiety and tension. And yet, sure, there’s a sense of fun, too, of ESG’s out-of-balance dance party, churning on in bursts of shorted-out electricity from a rigged street pole near an abandoned lot. You may get a whiff of Fire Engines, too, long, rickety “We Say You Pay,” which seems like it’s going to be an instrumental until the three principals start gleefully trading, “Blah blah blah blah blahs” and “Shut ups” over the racket.

Shopping shares a bass player, Billy Easter, with Wetdog, and you could easily mix the two up on random play. They have the same heedless, irregular momentum, the same giddy deconstruction of pop into its component pieces. Shopping has the harder, more definite edge, with sharp, jagged melodic bits rattling around like quarters in a tip jar. The three piece — that’s Milk, Easter and Rachel Aggs on guitar — takes a defiant, less fanciful stand, though they go a bit dreamy on “For Your Money” (sung by Milk for a bit of a change-up) and nearly dubby on “Hard As Nails.”

I’m guessing that Shopping is referencing Alison Moyet of Yazoo in “Moyet’s Voice,” and while you could hardly pick a more dissimilar sounding artist, Moyet did struggle mightily to take charge of her music. Let’s hope it’s easier for Shopping, here and now, to be who they are and to follow the singular, stop-start groove wherever it goes.

DOWNLOAD: “In Other Words” “We Say You Pay”

CHERUBS – 2 Ynfynyty

Album: 2 Ynfynyty

Artist: Cherubs

Label: Brutal Panda

Release Date: March 17, 2015

Cherubs 3-17

brutalpandarecords.com

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Of all the ‘90s bands reconstituting themselves for new albums and/or retirement fund tours, Austin’s Cherubs is one of the most unexpected. Sure enough, though, the ATX noise rock legend quietly came back together (the only thing the trio ever did quietly) for 2 Ynfynyty, its third LP and first since 1994’s Heroin Man.

To say the band picks up where it left off isn’t quite accurate, as 2 Ynfynyty is as much evolution as continuation. Somewhere along the way guitarist/yeller Kevin Whitley (who formerly thumped the skins for fellow travelers Ed Hall), bassist Owen McMahon and drummer Brent Prager rediscovered the joys of rock melody. “Party Ice” and “So Jellified” boast catchy hooks underneath the scree, while “Monkey Chow Mein” and “Cumulo Nimbus” sound almost lush in their psychedelic ambience.

But this interest in tunefulness doesn’t mean the band has gotten weak – far from it, as the screeching “Crashing the Ride” and the pounding “We Buy Gold” noisily prove. It’s not unusual for bands that trade on abrasion to mellow out as its members mature. Fortunately, Cherubs hasn’t mellowed its approach on 2 Ynfynyty so much as refined it.
DOWNLOAD: “Party Ice,” “Cumulo Nimbus,” “We Buy Gold”

 

 

LEO BUD WELCH – I Don’t Prefer No Blues

Album: I Don't Prefer No Blues

Artist: Leo Bud Welch

Label: Big Legal Mess

Release Date: March 24, 2015

Leo Welch 3-23

www.biglegalmessrecords.com

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

With the passing of RL Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and T-Model Ford (not to mention the apparent retirement of Robert Belfour), it seemed that the distinctive North Mississippi Hill Country Blues tradition had passed along with them. Leo Bud Welch is here to dispel that notion with his second album I Don’t Prefer No Blues. (The title refers to the reaction of his preacher when Welch explained he was moving from the gospel of his first album Sabougla Voices to blues.)

Like his predecessors, the 82-year-old Bruce native plays from the gut, keeping the riffs simple and the feeling true. Maintaining a more relaxed pace than the manic Burnside and a less sinister vibe than the menacing Kimbrough, Welch still prefers raw to refined. He grinds through the autobiographical “So Many Turnrows,” blusters the unapologetic “Too Much Wine,” spits out the sneering “I Don’t Know Her Name,” rocks the wailing “Girl in the Holler” and the insistent “Pray On.” In Welch’s hands, even hoary blues standards breath in new life – his takes on Roy Brown’s “Cadillac Baby,” St. Louis Jimmy’s “Goin’ Down Slow” and even the Rolling Stones’ “Sweet Black Angel” crackle with fire and soul. It’s not just the North Mississippi sound that’s in good hands with Welch – it’s the blues in general.

DOWNLOAD: “I Don’t Know Her Name,” “Girl in the Holler,” “Pray On”

 

DRIVIN’ N’ CRYIN’ – Best of Songs

Album: Best Of Songs

Artist: Drivin' N' Cryin'

Label: Plowboy

Release Date: May 12, 2015

DNC 5-12

www.plowboyrecords.com

BY JOHN B. MOORE

 Used records stores are crammed every weekend with vinyl nerds scouring the shops for releases from bands that should have been huge, but never really made it past cult favorite status. Almost three decades after their debut, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, which flirted with major labels early on, have sadly and inexplicably never really shaken that band-on-the-verge of making it big status. Thankfully for those of us who have always been devotees of the Atlanta underdogs, they have lately taken a “fuck it, this one’s for the fans” attitude.

 The Ramones meets Johnny Cash band came out with a series of four themed EPs starting in 2012 after a too long hiatus. Best of Songs is a collection of 10 of the… well, best songs from that series. And yes, obviously the term “best” is subjective, but the band, Plowboy Records and whoever else was responsible for the picks did a pretty admirable job of whittling down a solid 32 songs to the 10 that make up this latest vinyl-only set.

 While each EP focused on a different aspect of the band’s music (punk, southern rock, country, psych/garage), Best of Songs is a fully realized DnC album, harkening back to Scarred But Smarter or Whisper Tames the Lion, where the band’s sound and influences changed from track to track. The record kicks off with “Hot Wheels,” easily one of the band’s strongest songs since the late 1980s, off of Songs About Cars, Space and Ramones and the record closes with the three-minute surf rock instrumental “Space Eyes,” off that same album. In between is a little bit of everything that makes the band great – a humble of influences not limited to any one genre.

 While it’s not yet been made clear if Best of Songs is the band’s swan song or just the end of a chapter in the middle of the book, in a recent interview the band’s singer Kevn Kinney said “I’m a Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ fan, and I make these records to give myself something to listen to, in the same way that people who make moonshine make it because they like to drink it.” Here’s hoping the still will keep running for a few more years.

       DOWNLOAD: “Hot Wheels,” “Dirty,” and “REM”