Album: Third

Artist: Cait Brennan

Label: Omnivore

Release Date: April 21, 2017

The Upshot: Soulful power pop and glammy soul, spawned from Ardent Studios.


Judging from her latest album, Cait Brennan must have one hell of a record collection.

Third takes the best of bands like Squeeze, Cheap Trick, Big Star, The Beach Boys and Harry Nilsson and then layers on the confidence and delivery of Freddy Mercury for a collection of songs that transcends genres. There’s the expansive love song “At the End of the World” that paints every inch of the room with sound, a straight up tongue-in-cheek rocker like “He Knows Too Much,” strong Prince vibes from the funk-spiked, falsetto slow jam “Caitiebots Don’t Cry” and a nod to glam bands like T. Rex and early ’70s Bowie on the song “Benedict Cumberbatch.”

Brennan and her collaborator Fernando Perdomo don’t hold anything back and as a result turn in a nearly flawless LP.

Recorded at the famed Ardent Studios in Memphis, home court of Big Star, listening to Third you can’t help but get a sense that this is the type of album that could have the staying power of those Alex Chilton-led recordings. There is a timelessness here that is just not found in most records coming out today.

DOWNLOAD: “He Knows Too Much,” “At the End of the World” and “Benedict Cumberbatch”


MANAGER – Manager LP

Album: Manager LP

Artist: Manager

Label: Texacobra

Release Date: April 21, 2017

The Upshot: Anthemic power pop with a ‘90s alt-rock vibe, simultaneously soulful and cathartic, and one of the year’s best releases so far.


Prior to relocating to Brooklyn, the three guys/one gal of Manager came together as habitués of a Columbus, Ohio, recording studio, where guitarist Jon Chinn was co-owner. The personalities clicked, and two years later their self-titled full-length fully underscores this via a confident, agile musical meshing. Manager (which was mastered by Bob Weston, an obvious Trade Mark Of Quality) is stuffed to the gills with swaggering power chords, four-to-the-floor beats, Chinn’s yearning upper register, and buoyant harmony vocals that consistently add up to “anthemic,” and you’d be hard-pressed to draw up a live setlist for the band that omitted even one of the nine tracks here.

Opener “Off to the Races” is a natural, possessing all the above elements and practically daring the listener not to sing along. The actual song “Manager” provides a midtempo changeup that’s still richly melodic, boasting lithe background guitar spirals and an uncommon rhythmic urgency. And “You Haven’t the Guts” provides still more fretboard complexity, one guitar serving up tremolo’d riffs while the other spits out delightfully arpeggiated leads. I could go on, but you get the point—call it power pop with a ‘90s alt-rock vibe, simultaneously soulful and cathartic. One of the year’s best surprises thus far.

Consumer Note: As you might surmise from the photo here, Manager and Texacobra Records have gone the extra mile with the beautiful translucent orange colored wax, and there’s a thick cardboard tip-on sleeve as well. Dare I say… another TMOQ? The vinyl comes with a download card, so why are you dilly-dallying? You can hear a few tunes at their website or their Bandcamp page if you need any additional nudging…

DOWNLOAD: “Off To The Races,” “Electrical Camp,” “Welcome Wagon”


Album: Man Bites Dog

Artist: Cinema Cinema

Label: Dullest/Labelship

Release Date: April 28, 2017 /

The Upshot: Every track vibrates with the energy of too many cups of coffee, leading to a series of bash-and-crash hits uncoiling like a pissed-off cobra.


Some bands have a special talent for turning temper tantrums into music. Brooklyn duo Cinema Cinema have it down, with nearly every song being a controlled explosion of vitriol powered by drummer Paul Claro’s relentless kit thwack and guitarist Ev Gold’s unsmiling screech.

On the band’s fourth LP Man Bites Dog, “Taxi Driver” and “Bomb Plot” rip through the air like a three-year-old’s reaction to being denied candy in the grocery store. “Exotic Blood” and “Mask of the Red Death” double that latter song’s length and shifting dynamics without letting up in intensity. “Digital Clockwork Orange” and the massive “Shiner Number Five” add saxist Matt Darriau and spacey vibes, growing out of the duo’s work with the hornman in improvisational act CCMD.

Every track vibrates with the energy of too many cups of coffee on top of too much time spent reading message board commentary, leading to a series of bash-and-crash hits uncoiling like a pissed-off cobra. Produced by Martin Bisi, who knows just what to do with postpunk rage-a-holics, Man Bites Dog snaps, snarls and sizzles.

DOWNLOAD: “Mask of the Red Death,” “Exotic Blood,” “Shiner Number Five”



PAUL BUTTERFIELD – Live New York 1970 LP

Album: Live New York 1970 LP

Artist: Paul Butterfield

Label: RockBeat

Release Date: April 07, 2017

The Upshot: Intimate live-in-studio performance finds the Butterfield Blues Band in full, high-fidelity flight (and pressed on vinyl).


A blues vocalist and harmonica player extraordinaire, Paul Butterfield is most fondly remembered for his time leading the Butterfield Blues Band, an exemplar of the successful hybridization of electric jazz and blues; not insignificantly, the result of that hybrid sounded and felt a lot like rock (of the more adventurous variety).

For reasons one suspects having to do with licensing, RockBeat credits this 2LP set to Paul Butterfield; blues fans will be delighted to know that it’s in fact the 1970 lineup of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, with one David Sanborn on alto saxophone. While the lineup doesn’t scale the lofty heights of the mid-sixties East-West, as a more purely blues outing, Live in New York 1970 is simply superb.

Recorded in front of a small audience at Phil Ramone’s A&R Studios and originally broadcast on WPLJ, the set finds the band taking on extended workouts of blues gems like Albert King’s “Born Under a Bad Sign.”

The recording comes courtesy of – of all things – the Singer Sewing Machine Company. A series of radio broadcasts had featured Procol Harum and the Allman Brothers Band, but when funding ran out, Singer stepped in to provide the cash needed to continue. Oddly enough, each Singer retail store had a record department, and when an artist was featured on the radio program, the store did a cross-promotion and discounted that act’s latest record.

Just to avoid confusion, the group’s then-current album, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band Live, produced by a young whippersnapper called Todd Rundgren – is not the same as this set. But because the performance dates from around the same time, the set list is similar. But this 2LP set features more than nine minutes of “Play On,” complete with Rodney Hicks’ tasty electric bass solo. The horn section is absolutely on fire throughout, and Butterfield is in fine voice.

Also unique to this performance is “Love March.” While the first minute or so features Butterfield introducing the band, once everybody tightens up, the song features a dual lead vocal from Butterfield and sax/flute player Gene Dinwiddie. The latter’s laid-back and soulful turn is a thing of beauty, especially in the way it contrasts with the mostly uptempo vibe of the other songs in the set.

There have been some dodgy live releases of late from RockBeat – a Commander Cody title (Live from Ebbetts Fields, Denver Colorado Aug. 11 1973) and a Flamin’ Groovies set (Live 1971 San Francisco) that can best be classified as legit bootlegs; the audio quality on both is poor at best. Not so with the high-fidelity source for this Butterfield set. Highly recommended to fans of powerful, soulful Chicago blues.


Twin Peaks 5/11/17, Atlanta

The Chicago indie rockers helped kick off the Shaky Knees Festival in fine style at Terminal West – the main SKF events are this weekend.


It’s Shaky Knees Music Fest weekend in Atlanta, and I caught one of my favorite bands playing a warm up show Thursday night at Terminal West.

If Nick Lowe heard Twin Peaks he’d called them bashers – and he’d mean it as a compliment, as do I.  Tough, fast, brash, energetic hard-rocking indie-rock at its best.  This young band has been at it several years – and their hard work is evident from the moment they take the stage whether it’s a big festival stage or a club with confidence, chops, and fun, and ain’t that what its all about?   They call Chicago home but they can’t get back there too often – seems like they are constantly on the road.  Three LPs under their belt – and a new live double-record ‘Urbs in Horto.

Twin Peaks the band is Cadien Lake James (lead vocals, guitar) Clay Frankel (vocals, guitars),  Jack Dolan (bass, vocals) Colin Croom on keys, and Connor Brodner who I think is one of the finest, most fun to watch drummers out there.  He straps in, says I’m driving, and boom – the roller coaster ride is on.  Check ‘em out –

Slowdive 5/11/17, Atlanta

The hills – or, more accurately, the halls of Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse – are alive with the sound of shoegaze… Slowdive wrapped up their US tour with a lead-in to the annual Shaky Knees Festival, and did so in fine style.


Super-psych-shoegaze giants Slowdive, on the last US show on their 2017 tour, arrived at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta’s Little 5 Points area, and the capacity crowd brought the love.

Slowdive formed in Reading, Berkshire in 1989, made some records and some noise, broke up for years – reformed in 2014 and came back bigger and maybe better than ever.   The band is Rachel Goswell on vocals and guitar, Simon Scott on drums, Neil Halstead on vocals and guitar, Nick Chaplin on bass and Christian Savill on guitar.   The new LP is Slowdive – which, incidentally, can be scored as a gorgeous clear vinyl edition if you know where to shop – so check it out and get more tour dates at the band’s website –


I suspect this audience would have been happy just hearing the music – but the band’s impressive light show was quite a spectacle unto itself.  Hope you can get some of that from the photos.  (Higher-rez versions of these images are going up at shortly so check ‘em out. )







PRIMATE FIASCO – Massachusetts Winter Self-released

Album: Massachusetts Winter

Artist: Primate Fiasco

Label: Self-released

Release Date: April 28, 2017

The Upshot: Massachusetts garage-cum-polka rockers who get down with tha funk.


Funk-soul—with accordion and sousaphone, no less—blowout par excellence, and despite the name of the band, there’s no monkeying around with this Northeast outfit. You want roots? Let’s dig deep, then blast off with opening track “Astronauts,” a swinging anthem that will make any Prince/The Time fans stand up and take notice, and which takes the aforementioned instruments to the max, ultimately concluding, “If everybody gets what everyone wants/ And everybody gets to be astronauts/ Space would be crowded and we couldn’t call it ‘space” anymore.” Methinks His Purpleness would approve.

He might momentarily scratch his head over the improv dreams that this tuba, accordion, drums, and, er, banjo quartet display, but there’s no doubt he’d salute such sonic sojourns as the hectic garage-rockin’ “Because Summer” (they throw in some sinewy lead guitar for good measure here) and singalong-worthy anthem “Little Arrow,” which finds the ensemble cruising happily through the polkasphere. For a Massachusetts band, Primate Fiasco certainly seems to get the Minnesota connection.

Dance, everyone.

DOWNLOAD: “Little Arrow,” “Astronauts,” “Steam Funk”


Album: In The End

Artist: Nothington

Label: Red Scare

Release Date: February 10, 2017

The Upshot: Bay Area punks continue to carry the torch!


A little over a decade since forming from the ashes of Tsunami Bomb, San Francisco’s Nothington continue to add to the Bay Area’s reputation as being a breeding ground for great punk rock.

Led by Jay Nothington’s gruff vocals, the band churns out gritty, but catchy pop punk in the vein of everyone from Social Distortion to Leatherface. It’s easy to sound like a carbon copy in a genre like punk rock – with a somewhat obvious formula of loud drums, and fast, distorted power chords – but Jay and his bandmates go out of their way to put their distinctive stamp on the music. They don’t shy away from hooks, but manage to still keep an eye on their classic street punk influences.

Lyrically, the band has also shown some growth over the past few albums putting them light years ahead of many of Warped Tour upstarts who are still writing about high school crushes. Not every track is a soon-to-be classic, but there are enough great songs here to make this one of their most consistently solid records to date.

It’s been five years since Nothington last put out a proper studio album, but In The End shows the rust never settled in.

DOWNLOAD: “The Lies I Need,” “Burn After Reading” and “Things We Used to Say”


Go HERE to read John Moore’s 2013 interview with the band.

RED BARAAT – Bhangra Pirates

Album: Bhangra Pirates

Artist: Red Baraat

Label: Rhyme & Reason/Sini

Release Date: March 24, 2017

The Upshhot: A cross-cultural musical statement as well as an album of non-stop party vibes.


Dhol player/drummer Sunny Jain has an impressive resumé, including stints with everyone from Martha Wainwright and Peter Gabriel to Kenny Barron and Grupo Fantasma. Red Baraat, however, is his baby, a bhangra/jazz/rock explosion of horns and percussion. The ensemble’s fourth album, Bhangra Pirates, rarely lets up on its Punjabi groove, Jain and his fellow bangers keeping the rhythms percolating under the multiple horn players.

The blowers solo with jazzy abandon when they’re not riffing like a swing band from Pakistan, while Jain and company beat every surface of their instruments to keep the groove dominant. That makes “Horizon Line,” “Bhangale” and a dizzying cover of Daler Mehndi’s already delirious “Tunak Tunak Tun” good for both irresistible dancing and chin-scratching contemplation of the musicians’ obvious skills. Rock asserts itself on “Gaadi of Truth,” Jonathan Goldberger’s burning guitar solo and power chords adding a Western element without taking anything away from the Bhangra dominance, while the appropriately-titled “Layers” incorporates big band-like arrangements for interweaving horn lines. Best of all may be “Rang Barse,” which features soprano saxist Jonathon Haffner killing it over a hip-shaking rhythm that would make James Brown proud.

Whether you hear it as a cross-cultural musical statement or an album of non-stop party vibes, Bhangra Pirates deserves repeat spins.

DOWNLOAD: “Rang Barse,” “Bhangale,” “Gaadi of Truth”



MONO 5/8/17, Atlanta

Dates: May 8, 2017

Location: The Earl, Atlanta GA

Magical instrumental music from Tokyo descends, Godzilla-like, on The Earl…


MONO will make all your sonic dreams come true – and throw in some amazing nightmares for good measure.  They are four cats from Japan playing magical instrumental music.  The stacks of Marshall amps onstage tell me it is rock, but the finesse and skill of the band makes me want to say there’s a lot more to it than that.

From their Facebook page – “The Tokyo, Japan based 4 piece Instrumental Rock band MONO was originally formed in 1999. Their unique approach of blending orchestral arrangements and shoegaze guitar noise in their music has been held in extremely high regard; so much so, that the band’s musicianship can no longer be sustained by Rock music alone and was praised by British Musical Magazine NME as “This is music for the Gods”.

Lucky Gods, and lucky capacity crowd at The Earl on a Monday night – who were hanging on ever note and nuance, from the pin-drop quiet to the roaring thunderous crescendos.

The band is Takaakira ‘Taka’ Goto (guitar), Tamaki (bass, piano),Yoda (guitar) and Yasunori Takada (drums). They are on tour for the next month with what looks like a couple more weeks of US dates – Go!


(About these photos – I wasn’t trying to get artsy with them or anything.  It’s just that while the lighting at the club was perfect for the mood, not so much for this photographer.  I’ve got a camera that can suck light out of a deep space galaxy in the night sky, but it was tough going here.  Yet I love this venue for photography – if it was easy it wouldn’t be fun.   Larger hi-rez photos will be at and might be easier viewing there on a computer screen.  Everyone still has one of those, right?  – John Boydston)