Monthly Archives: July 2014

EASTLINK — Eastlink

Album: Eastlink

Artist: Eastlink

Label: In The Red

Release Date: May 13, 2014

Eastlink 5-13


Not necessarily equated with Australia’s Eastlink freeway, the five-man Eastlink is still a rock ‘n’ roll pileup of epic proportions. It’s also Melbourne mainstay Al Montfort’s seventh or eighth band; you might recognize his surreally offhand rant, bored on the surface but maniacal underneath, from the UV Race. He’s the only non-guitarist in the band. The four other members are also well-connected in Melbourne’s garage punk scene; Zephyr Pavey is in Total Control with Montfort. Ben Hepworth plays in Repairs. Lee Parker is in Tears, Lakes and Spitehouse. Johann Rashid plays guitar for Home Travel, Promised Land, and directed The UV Race movie Autonomy and Deliberation.

They play together with the looseness of guys who make music all the time, but maybe not with each other, audibly trying things out in the margins of Eastlink’s monumentally reiterative sound.

Indeed, Eastlink is not about moderation on the new Eastlink album (In The Red). Four guitarists flail and drone away, turning block simple riffs into shimmering monuments of volume and tone. The album’s centerpiece “Dinnerchat,” rolls on doggedly for seven and a half minutes, bridging the difference between Neu! and the Stooges “Dirt,” a transcendent mess that churns towards far horizons. Neither punk nor drone, but some unrecognizable amalgam of both, it crawls into your ear like a buzzing bee and dwells there, threatening to sting, but mostly humming.

You also notice right away, the sheer volume of guitar sound, the way that multiple people, playing the same thing, as loud as they can, can turn a four or five-note riff into a prism-shattered rainbow of splintered light. “What a Billy Day,” which opens, is made out of a blindingly simple riff, founded in punk but psychedelic in execution, as overtones and feedback warp the sound into unexpected shapes. It is endless, bull-headed, bludgeoning, but also hard to grasp because of the way a white hot sheen of distortion glares off its elemental surfaces.

“Overtime,” at the beginning of the second side, is the album’s closest thing to a banger, faster and more emphatic, with the kind of cadence that shakes the floor as everyone in the band bounces up in time, slamming on the same notes at the same time. There’s a saxophone in there somewhere, too. It’s just loud enough not to be a hallucination. “Scat” backs the tempo down to the mesmeric. It starts with the simplest kind of drum solo, just the kick drum thud, thud, thudding the fours. The guitars swing from note to note with pendulum heaviness, and a voice, dreamy, indistinct, wreathed in smoke and ambiguity intones lines about futility. You listen to it, and you are trapped in jello.

You could read Eastlink as too much, too many guitars played by guys in too many bands, too many riffs repeated too many times, but that would just be cheating yourself. Sometimes too much transcends itself and becomes elementally simple, loud as it goes and exactly the right amount.

DOWNLOAD: “Dinnerchat,” “Scat”

CATIE CURTIS — Flying Dream

Album: Flying Dream

Artist: Catie Curtis

Label: Catie Curtis Records

Release Date: February 25, 2014

Catie Curtis 2-25


Unfailingly bucolic and ethereal to a degree, Catie Curtis’ latest seems to drift by in a gilded haze that brings an element of truth to its title and ensures the music remains light and effervescent throughout. It’s hard to tell who she’s been listening to lately, although her percolating cover of the Hal David-Burt Bacharach standard “This Girl’s In Love With You” — its gender altered accordingly — does offer some hint of how its approach might have evolved. Whatever the influence, these songs come across as exceedingly inviting, all mellow and gentle and easy to abide. Even when she isn’t touting a celebratory sound, she’s pondering the positive — the thoughtful and subdued “When I’m Right” and the light but affirmative “The Queen” offering a hint of her philosophical bent.

For the most part though, Curtis seems content to simply seduce and thereby put the listener at ease, forestalling any hint of dark premonition and ensuring that all their dreams, whether flying through the night or grounded during the day, remain as pleasant as possible.

 DOWNLOAD: “This Girl’s In Love With You,” “The Queen,” “When I’m Right”


Album: Split the Tip 7"

Artist: Brendan Kelly/Sam Russo

Label: Red Scare

Release Date: May 13, 2014

kelly russo


This four-song split 7” by British folk punk Sam Russo and The Lawrence Arms’ frontman Brendan Kelly is frustrating only in its length. The two songs each contributes are fantastic slices of acoustic folk rock, brimming with “fuck it, let’s do it in one take” punk rock ethos.

Russo, who deserves to move beyond his cult following in the U.S. offers two more beautifully direct numbers (“Small Town Shoes” and “Crayfish Tales”), much in the same vein as his 2013 debut Storm. While Kelly, known for much louder fare in his day gig as well as the side project, The Falcon, unplugs for his two tracks, apparently recorded live (“Frangelico Houston” and “Pigs”). “Pigs” is a reworking of the Lawrence Arms song “These Pigs Seem to Be Getting the Best of Me.”

Give these guys a full length to really open up on next go round.    

 DOWNLOAD: All four songs, you cheap bastard!

DEAD FINGERS – Big Black Dog

Album: Big Black Dog

Artist: Dead Fingers

Label: Communicating Vessels

Release Date: July 15, 2014

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Previously a duo with an acclaimed 2012 album under their belt (Dead Fingers, issued by Big Legal Mess/Fat Possum), husband-and-wife team Taylor Hollingsworth (of Conor Oberst’s band) and Kate Taylor (sister of Azure Ray’s Maria) are now a trio x 2, having added a child to their household and hooked up with a drummer for touring purposes (no doubt he can help with the babysitting too). The band name, though, is a misnomer; these fingers are definitely alive with the sound of music.

In one sense, it’s a familiar sound, as the Birmingham, Ala., band has been accurately compared to Americana torchbearers the Civil Wars and the Lumineers, along with She & Him and even John Prine with Iris DeMent. Twangy shuffles with a healthy helping of harmony vocals are the order of the day. Yet in tunes like the atmospheric, almost psychedelic title track (think My Morning Jacket), the rolling and good-timey “Free Tonight” and the southern gothic country & western “Holy Water” (listen for the “Rawhide”-flavored whip cracks) one quickly discerns a broad array of musical influences that inform the group. Echoes of everything from cosmic cowboy Byrds to early ‘60s girl-group pop—when Kate takes the lead, Taylor’s harmonies are so simpatico the two sound like Brill Building refugees—to classic Fairport Convention British folkrock are heard in these 11 delightful tracks.

Slipping in and out of musical personae as if trying on differently-textured and –hued sweaters, Taylor and Kate grab your attention with their inherent tunefulness. Then they hold it by never veering into clichéd turf, instead maintaining a remarkable fluidity and diversity.

DOWNLOAD: “Big Black Dog,” “Holy Water,” “Still Haven’t Been Satisfied”

Dead Fingers just kicked off a U.S. tour—dates are HERE.

SALLY SELTMANN – Hey Daydreamer

Album: Hey Daydreamer

Artist: Sally Seltmann

Label: Arts & Crafts

Release Date: March 04, 2014

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A native of Australia, now relocated to Los Angeles, Sally Seltmann could be considered something of an enigma. Originally known as New Buffalo, she’s put out four albums to date, but only the two most recent bear her real name. However, that’s the least of her contradictions; though she affects a petite presence and a voice that soars with an iridescent sound, her songs are anchored in a rich tapestry of horns, strings and keyboards, lending them a symphonic feel.

Bearing a certain similarity to Feist – with whom she wrote co-wrote the 2007 chart contender “1234” – Seltmann still sounds remarkably unaffected, even despite the obvious yin and yang in her style. There’s an unfettered joy in her delivery, a near giddiness that brings with it an immediate accessibility.  That’s especially evident in songs such as “Billy,” “The Small Hotel” and “Catch of the Day,” but even the more pensive pieces like “Dear Mr. Heartless,” “Needle in the Hay” and “Seed of Doubt” keep that close connection, minor chords aside. This is music that’s both epic and nuanced, a seemingly conflicting notion that Seltmann is skilled enough to use to her advantage. In so doing, she turns Hey Daydreamer into nothing less than a truly magnificent triumph.

DOWNLOAD: “Billy,” “Catch of the Day,” “Needle in the Hay”


Album: Corolla Ponies in the snow.

Artist: Jefferson Hart & Ghosts of the Old North State

Label: Bombay

Release Date: July 08, 2014

Jeff Hart Ponies CD


Adapting his ensemble name from 2012’s sterling Ghosts of the Old North State, Jefferson Hart apparently drew inspiration for his new record from a brief but moving YouTube clip titled “Corolla Wild Horses on the beach in the snow — Outer Banks [North Carolina].” Which, when you think about it, isn’t all that obscure, given Hart’s track record; the 2012 album, in particular, was a striking slice of heartland Americana given a distinctive Tarheel spin. As that one was essentially a compilation of material spanning two decades, though, Corolla Ponies in the Snow comes across as necessarily more focused in the sense that it’s rendered by a working, contemporary ensemble. (Go HERE to read a review of the Ghosts… album.)

Abetted by a rock-solid rhythm section (bassist Symen Blumenfeld and drummer John Flowers) and an inventive lead guitarist (Brian Yamamoto), Hart serves up a strum-and-twang fest the likes of which you won’t likely hear this year unless Steve Earle and John Fogerty finally decide to go into the studio together. The group eases into the frame in deceptively low-key fashion via pedal steel-powered country rocker “Marigold” and the luminous, my-back-pages confessional title track. Pretty soon, though, we’re rolling—rollin’ on the river, in fact, with swampy choogler “Deep Water Girl,” which is quickly followed by the unabashed power pop of “I Feel Good About Us,” boasting a succinct-but-sublime electric 12-string break to die for. Any Byrds fans out there?

With the dynamics rich and varied, the band slipping easily between down-tempo and up- as the mood dictates, Hart expertly maneuvers through the emotional vicissitudes of his material. One moment he’s wryly humorous as he examines his situation (the T. Rex-like “I Ain’t Henpecked”); the next, he’s determined to “know the difference between living and love” as he regroups and tries to learn from his mistakes (the uptempo jangler “This Year Things Are Gonna Be Different”). And in “Swinging On A Scar,” even as the guitar sonics are moving into Kinksian raveup territory, the lyrics are turning decidedly dark and stormy. What’s more, each successive spin of the album brings out its subtleties and nuances, with the ensuing familiarity never threatening to yield to weariness.

Throughout, there’s a twinned world weariness and looking-forward optimism informing the 13 songs: knowledge accrued, knowledge secured, and knowledge conveyed.

Somebody here’s had a long journey. Lucky for us, he made the passage intact, and now we’re the beneficiaries of that knowledge.

DOWNLOAD: “This Year Things Are Gonna Be Different,” “I Feel Good About Us,” “Deep Water Girl”


CORB LUND – Counterfeit Blues

Album: Counterfeit Blues

Artist: Corb Lund

Label: New West

Release Date: July 01, 2014

Corb Lund


Corb Lund, the former Canadian punk rocker turned roots country singer, is back with his eighth record and has settled into a comfortable, stripped down grove with a little lap steel thrown in for good measure.

On his latest, he’s boasting a rockabilly vibe here and there, (most prominent on the song “Big Butch Bass Bull Fiddle”), and that’s probably a result of Lund and team taking up temporary residency in Sun Studios to make this one. It was recorded live off the floor, a style cribbed from Sun vets like Elvis and Johnny Cash, which gives Counterfeit Blues a more immediate feel. Over the dozen songs here, the record does skirt the line between authenticity and mimicry of the old country records, but once you start to doubt Lund’s sincerity, a song like “(Gonna) Shine Up My Boots” or “Truck got Stuck” comes on and you can’t help but realize that he just really digs the classics and is paying homage to them.

The CD also comes with a DVD of the documentary “Memphis Sun,” which follows the band from their home turf in Alberta to Memphis to record the album.

With a name like Corb Lund, he was destined to either play football for the University of Texas or rock a cowboy hat and strum a guitar; thankfully he choose the latter.

 DOWNLOAD: “Counterfeit Blues,” “(Gonna) Shine Up My Boots” and “Truck Got Stuck”



DIRTY LUNGS – Dirty Lungs

Album: Dirty Lungs

Artist: Dirty Lungs

Label: Communicating Vessels

Release Date: July 15, 2014

Dirty Lungs 7-15


Nestled among the usual bio/press sheet info-bytes for Birmingham, Ala., combo Dirty Lungs is the expected RIYL (pronounced “rile” as in “this shit will rile you right up if you like…”) shorthand designation, with Black Lips, Allah-Las, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Temples and Thee Oh Sees being listed. While that’s fair enough, and no doubt might hook a rock novice or two, it actually does the quartet a modest disservice; these cats are, sonically speaking, wise beyond their years, hearkening back to a brighter, more innocent era during which psych and folk and hard rock and pop all commingled in one glorious, hashish-scented scene, boundary-less.

Together since 2006, Dirty Lungs essay multiple styles with the confidence of lifelong musical partners. From the blazing, Stooges-worthy opener “I Suck In Bed” and the gnarly, Nuggets-y, fuzzed-out psychotic reaction that is “Dead in the Graveyard” to shimmering surf dreampop instrumental “It’s All Melted” and twangy folkrocker “Untitled,” each track here is its own unique self, brimming with melody, abounding with rhythmic urgency and, in general, displaying a easy-going chutzpah one rarely encounters these days.

And then there’s the unfortunately titled but gloriously rendered “Don’t Fucking Remind Me,” a strummy/echoey slice of Kiln House-era Fleetwood Mac that looks yearningly towards the West Coast, with all the promise and optimism that a child of the Summer Of Love might muster. As the bandmembers raise their voices in perfect harmony and the guitar amps accordingly swell in volume one can’t help but be swept up in a feeling of pure, unbridled joy.

If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair—and take the Dirty Lungs album with you for the ride. Maybe pair it with some discs from the RIYL list mentioned above, in fact…

DOWNLOAD: “Don’t Fucking Remind Me,” “Dead In the Graveyard,” “Untitled”

MOTHER HIPS – Chronicle Man

Album: Chronicle Man

Artist: Mother Hips

Label: self-released

Release Date: July 15, 2014

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Northern California’s Mother Hips seem to be garnering more attention in retrospect that they do with their regular releases. For example, a recent four disc compilation, Days of Sun and Grass, was intended to introduce the masses to their backstory, despite the fact that even after eight albums, the Hips boast only a cult following at best.

Regardless. Chronicle Man provides another primer for the uninitiated, and the mix of vague psychedelia and a ‘60s sensibility should offer enough ready references to bring them on board. Moby Grape, the Beau Brummels and Buffalo Springfield provide the most ready references, but the seamless harmonies, insistent grooves and over all sense of rock reliability also assure instant engagement. All eleven songs were rescued from the vaults courtesy of archivist and super fan David Dolger Schwartz, and with minimal exceptions, any one of them would fit neatly on one of their current LPs. Moreover, songs such as “Desert Song,” “Rich Little Girl” and “You Can’t Win” bolster the accessibility factor courtesy of a sweeping sound that practically begs instant engagement. These “Other Hips,” as Schwartz refers to these rarities, were clearly worth reviving, making the aptly dubbed Chronicle Man not only an ideal introduction for the novice, but an essential acquisition for ongoing enthusiasts as well.

DOWNLOAD: “Desert Song,” “Rich Little Girl,” “You Can’t Win”


Album: Aviation

Artist: Semi Precious Weapons

Label: Redzone

Release Date: April 22, 2014

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Given the band’s outrageously explosive stage performances and its stint opening for (and being blessed by) superstar Lady Gaga, it’s past time Semi Precious Weapons hit the pop stratosphere. Thus, Aviation is the Big Move, an attempt to capitalize on the forward momentum generated in the past few years.

Unfortunately, that move includes dropping most of the personality that gained the band attention in the first place. Gone are the big-ass glam rock guitar chords and leader Justin Tranter’s brazen vocal theatrics; in their place are atmospheric electropop arrangements and a pouty singing persona resting firmly in emo territory. Indeed, the preponderance of electronics seems to preclude the presence of a band at all – all you need is some programming, a few guitar licks and Tranter’s newfound heart-on-sleeve moan and you’ve got an album. The Gaga influence on the production is obvious, even if her more over-the-top tendencies – i.e. the factors that probably led to the bond betwixt her and the band in the first place – apparently had little impact whatsoever. Too bad; would-be anthems like “Hands Up” (“Hands up, motherfucker!” – seriously?), “Scream to the Sky” and the downright muddled “Cherries On Ice” could use her ribcage-rattling dancefloor chutzpah instead of the anemic Katy Perry-style dance-pop in use here. Though given the attempt at club thump that is the perfectly generic “Drink,” even that wouldn’t have been salvation.

A few melodies stick to the ribs – cf. “Aviation High” and “Look to the Stars.” But a lack of memorable tunes and the leaching of personality from a band that once overflowed with it pretty much murders any hope of chart stardom.

DOWNLOAD: “Aviation High,” “Look into the Stars”