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September 2007 Mystical Stupid Reviews by

Air God
GG Allin
Always Give Up Hope

Aroah*
Barcelona

Martyn Bates
Bear Claw
Bevel

Suzy Bogguss
The Bourne Ultimatum

Bob Burns and the Breakups
Carta
Cesspool
Champion Kickboxer
Chiodos

Christus & The Cosmonaughts
Clare & The Reasons*
Kellie Coffey
Jim Connolly

Rob Crow*
Cupcake Love

Deer Tick
The Derailers

Dirty Projectors
Dream Frequences (Various artists compilation)

Drowning Pool
Eskimo Joe

Everything, Now!*
Fauxliage

Los Femurs
Ryan Ferguson
Fire Engines
Georgie James

The Glass
Global Duck and Cover

The Grip Weeds*
Ham1

High Water Marks
Join the Army
Kago
Killers

Killick
Nyles Lannon
*
Little Name
Loop 2.4.3

Love
Lene Lovich
The Mabuses*
The Main Drag
Manual*
Mass Shivers
Michael Vick

Mio Myo
Mt. St. Helens
Music, Disappointment, and Guilt

Nada Surf
New Idea Society
Newspapers

Noir
Nucultures
The Perishers
Pit Bull and Baby Fights
Plastic Tuba
Fionn Regan
Josh Roseman

Sailor
Sebadoh
*
The Seldon Plan
Shelf Life

Silver Seas*
Small Arms Dealer

Mindy Smith*
Snitchin'
Spacey

Tegan and Sara
Terra Diablo
These Modern Socks*
Time of Orchids
Tiny Magnets and Lead Paint

Travis Tritt
Turbonegro
Ungdomskulen*
The Velocet
Rick Wakeman
Natalie Walker
Warm Moist Turds

Who-Tech Joke
Ann Wilson
Wisely*
John Wolfington*
Yellow Swans

Young Marble Giants*

*Top Picks

Additional Items Received

RATING SYSTEM:
= UNBELIEVABLY INCREDIBLE
= EXCELLENT
= VERY GOOD
= GOOD
= FAIR
= SHITTY

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

AIR GOD

God is like
Air.
Unnecessary and
Invisible.

(Rating: 1)

GG Allin - Hated: GG Allin & The Murder Junkies (DVD, MVD Visual, Documentary)
This film is important for three main reasons. First because it was Todd Phillips' first full-length film (created as a senior project while he was a student at New York University). Secondly because, for many folks (including us), this film introduced us to the silly and bizarre nightmare of underground icon GG Allin (until the film came out he was mostly a word-of-mouth phenomenon). Third, and perhaps most importantly, because this film documents some of the intensity of what was happening in the undercurrents of rock music in the United States in the late 1980s (much of what Allin was doing in his concerts would never, ever be allowed in the oh-so-boring new conservativism of the twenty-first century). There are quite a few tapes and DVDs of GG scattered around the planet...but if you want a good, solid introduction, Hated is probably the best starting point. Instead of merely presenting shock rock in concert, Phillips effectively reveals GG's personality and perspective in his own words and from some of his fans and bandmates. As such, Hated tends to give a rather balanced overall perspective on GG's life and career. The three segments that will undoubtedly make people cringe are (1) the "spoken word performance" during which GG cuts his chest up with a torn up aluminum can and then repeatedly bashes it into his head (this is really difficult to watch) and (2) his brief appearance at New York University during which he crams a banana into his butt, and (3) a concert excerpt in which GG shits in front of the stage and then smears it all over his naked body and flings it at the audience. Like it or hate it, this is some intense stuff. Additional audio is included that features Phillips' perspective on making the film and Merle Allin (GG's brother/guitarist) and Dino Sex also offer their memories of the events. Also included is a brief interview with GG's mother and a slide show of all the entries that were submitted as cover art for this DVD (some of which is rather bizarre and obtuse). Hated is a wild ride...and a vivid reminder of what the world used to be like before the new wave of pseudo-religious goodie-two-shoes freaks slapped the reigns on this kind of unacceptable behavior... (Rating: 5)

ALWAYS GIVE UP HOPE

When things look really, really bad,
Always give up hope.
When horrifying events occur in your life,
Toss your will to live aside.
When you are at the bottom of your rope,
Let go of the rope.
When there is nothing left to live for,
Give up and die.

(Rating: 1)

Aroah - El Dia Despues (CD, Acuarela, Soft pop)
The third full-length release from Spain's Aroah...a captivating young lady whose real name is Irene R. Tremblay. The first thing that we noticed about this album is that...unlike previous releases...every song is sung in Spanish (rather than having some tracks sung in English as in the past). This is a short album clocking in at just over 27 minutes. But in that brief time period, Irene once again proves that she is a major force to be reckoned with. From a musical standpoint, El Dia Despues just may be Tremblay's most accessible collection of songs up to this point. The cuts on this album are calm, reflective, personal, and melodic. Irene's voice has always sounded amazing...but she seems to sound more and more focused with each and every release. We couldn't care less about the lack of songs sung in English this time around. Actually and in fact, we prefer hearing everything in Spanish. Such a lovely language...and when the words are sung with so much genuine sincerity, you certainly don't need to know what the lyrics mean (!). Thoroughly unpretentious and substantial, El Dia Despues is yet another resounding success from this magnetic young artist. Top picks include "Amarillo," "Pastoral," "Cancion Para Follar," "La Maleta," and "Nada." Beautiful stuff, highly recommended... (Rating: 5+++)

Barcelona - Absolutes (CD, NBD Music, Pop)
The debut album from Seattle, Washington's Barcelona. The seeds of this band began to germinate when singer/songwriter Brian Fennell recorded his solo album Safety Songs. Shortly after releasing that album Fennell formed a band for a short tour and the results were so good that he decided to focus his efforts on the band rather than his solo career. Thus, Barcelona was born. Absolutes features three tracks that originally appeared on Safety Songs ("Numb," "Response," "Colors") plus seven new compositions. This band has a big, slick, epic sound that is centered around Brian's soaring vocals. Vocal melodies are the key drivers in these tunes. Absolutes is a strong album featuring a wealth of cool potential hits. That said, this is not a perfect album. Sometimes the vocals seem a bit forced (Fennell is at his best when he relaxes and doesn't push too hard). The sound quality is, at times, so slick and glossy that it sometimes makes the band sound generic (which we would bet is not the case when they are actually playing live). But even with these two minor issues, we can't help but be impressed and affected by this album. Lovely modern pop cuts include "Falling Out of Trees," "It's About Time," and "First Floor People." You can expect to hear a lot about this band in the very near future... (Rating: 5)

Martyn Bates - Migraine Inducers Dissonance/Antagonistic Music (Double CD, Beta-lactum Ring, Experimental/progressive/modern classical)
This whopping double CD covers a lot of territory. So...if you're looking for easily digestible catchy songs, you will probably get lost rather quickly in the thickets of this release. Migraine Inducers Dissonance/Antagonistic Music is an updated reissue of a cassette-only release (remember those?) that Martyn Bates put out way back in 1979 before he began his solo career and before he began playing in the band Eyeless in Gaza. This is a very odd album intended for a very specific audience. Packaged in a beautiful cardboard foldout sleeve with a booklet detailing some specifics about the music, this hefty package features compositions that go all over the place and back. The tracks on this album are experimental noise pieces in which anything can and does happen. As such, the music might best be described as modern classical. Rather confusing and perplexing at times, this package is bound to simultaneously baffle and entertain... (Rating: 4+++++)

Bear Claw - Slow Speed, Deep Owls (CD, Sickroom, Rock)
The first thing that most folks will probably notice about Bear Claw is the absence of a guitarist. The band consists of Rich Fessler (bass, vocals), Rob Raspolich (bass), and Scott Picco (drums, vocals). The second thing that most folks will probably notice about Bear Claw...is that there is no loss to the overall sound because no guitars are present. The curiously titled Slow Speed, Deep Owls features loud, obtuse rock that is reminiscent of some of the harsher, more adventurous underground bands from the 1990s. The band's second full-length release seems to have more depth and substance than their debut (Find the Sun)...which may be because the band is now more comfortable with their approach to making music. Although the tunes on this album are definitely raw and hard, the band never resorts to mere mindless thrashing in order to blow listeners away with volume. Intriguing tracks include "Short But Sweet," "Distant Apology," "By Popular Demand," and "Fragile End." Intriguing stuff, delivered with guts. (Rating: 5)

Bevel - Phoenician Terrane (CD, Contraphonic, Progressive)
Before we begin here...we're going to warn you that we are probably not going to be able to adequately describe this music and what it actually sounds like. While the instruments involved aren't that unusual (guitars, violins, bass, flute, clarinet, saxophone, vibraphone, drums, electronics)...the way the pieces are put together is decidedly odd and foreign. Bevel is a solo project created by Chicago's Via Nuon who was previously in the bands Drunk and Manishevitz. Phoenician Terrane is a collection of soft, moody, pensive, and peculiar pieces that don't follow traditional formulas and patterns. Unlike many new artists who try extremely hard to sound unique and different, however, Nuon seems to just be following his own individual internal drive. Some of these segments come across sounding like a small string quartet...other pieces are more abstract...while occasionally the music sounds almost normal. We really like Nuon's voice. Instead of sounding perfect, his voice seems somewhat fragile and at times slightly unpracticed and uncertain. This is one of those cases where you're going to have to hear the music in order to draw your own conclusions. We find some of these tracks puzzling...while others are beautiful and strangely perplexing. Interesting stuff. (Rating: 5)

Suzy Bogguss - Sweet Danger (CD, Loyal Dutchess, Soft pop)
We really admire Suzy Bogguss. Not just because she makes good music...but because she has the courage to chart her own career path rather than follow the same old safe roads others have tread upon before her. Because of Suzy's mammoth success in country music in the 1990s, her safest and simplest career choice would be to simply continue churning out the same kind of material year after year after year...all of which would fit safely within the strict confines of modern country pop. This isn't the first time Suzy has strayed from the path. She had previously recorded albums with Ray Benson and Chet Atkins that probably surprised some of her fans. Sweet Danger is even more of a departure in terms of style. Bogguss co-produced this album with jazz/pop keyboardist Jason Miles who has worked with a variety of artists including Miles Davis. This CD features twelve impressive jazzy pop songs that sound smooth and ultimately inspired. Suzy was a natural at country music...but our feeling is that her voice may be even better suited for this style of material. Her vocals are superb and absolutely absorbing throughout every track here. She even manages to breathe new life into the tired old Chicago tune "If You Leave Me Now" (light years better than the original!). Few country artists are willing to take risks. By stepping outside of the boundaries, Suzy Bogguss has managed to expose her fans to an exciting new side of her personality... (Rating: 5+)

The Bourne Ultimatum - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Music by John Powell (CD, Decca, Soundtrack)
In the world of soundtrack recordings, this is the kind of release we naturally prefer...compositions that stand on their own and you don't even have to be the least bit familiar with the film in order to appreciate them. Nine out of the ten tracks on the soundtrack of The Bourne Ultimatum were composed, produced, arranged, and programmed by John Powell (the only non-Powell cut is the final track which was written and performed by Moby). Powell is a master of technology, as is demonstrated in these moody, dark, powerful orchestral tracks. The objective here was probably to create music that created a mood of suspense and accentuated the thrills occurring in the motion picture. As such, not yet having seen the film, we can only guess that this music adds some real extra zest to the tension in the film. But, as stated before, this music stands squarely on its own as pure entertainment. Powell enlisted a huge array of players for this project...so many that we couldn't possibly mention them all here. Various instruments involved include violins, violas, cellos, basses, piano, organ, bassoon, various horns and trombones, tubas, ethnic woodwinds, and various percussion. This soundtrack album has a huge, slick, big sound that sounds best turned up really loud. The sound is so crisp that you actually get the feeling that a symphony is playing live in your living room. Intense stuff that packs a mighty big punch. (Rating: 5+)

Bob Burns and the Breakups - Terminal Breakdown (CD, Gearhead, Punk rock)
Is this 1980...or 2007? After hearing Bob Burns and the Breakups...you may not be certain. This Wisconsin band plays plays loud punk music the relies heavily on some of California's notorious late 1970s/early 1980s thrash/punk bands. Terminal Breakdown is a short album lasting just under 30 minutes. But in that length of time, Bryce (drums), Bob (guitar, vocals), and Zac (bass, vocals) prove that they are a credible force to be reckoned with. Thirteen short, nasty tracks here including "Rip It Up," "Under Your Skin," "Some Feeling," and "Silent Treatment." (Rating: 4+++)

Carta - The Glass Bottom Boat (CD, Resonant, Progressive)
Soothing, dreamy, articulate, professionally recorded music for thought. This is the debut album from Carta, a band that features a revolving cast of San Francisco musicians. The album is now available thanks to the always intriguing British Resonant label. The Glass Bottom Boat is mainly an instrumental album, but the title track does feature vocals by Sarah Bell. The songs on this album are subtle, thoughtful, progressive compositions with a slight classical influence. In addition to Bell, for this album the band consists of Kyle Monday, Jason Perez, Raymond Welter, Sonny Culbertson, Alexander Kort, Jared Matt Greenberg, Sacha Galvagna, and Eli Crews. The Glass Bottom Boat is an album that may not immediately grab your attention. These soft, absorbing tracks only fully soak in after several spins. Substantial and thoroughly rewarding, this is a beautiful album that will surely stand the test of time. Classy cuts include "Kavan," "Larva," "If Not For You Then Not For Me," "The Glass Bottom Boat," and "Perdido." Very nice cerebral thought provoking stuff... (Rating: 5+)

Cesspool - I Can't Wait (CD, Awesome, Progressive pop/rock)
Wildly imaginative and totally entertaining, the folks in Ann Arbor, Michigan's Cesspool have created a truly obscure little underground album with a real strange mixture of punch. Goofy, funny, nervous, odd, and complex, the songs on I Can't Wait are obviously too far out for the general public. But our guess is that the folks in this band (Dave Koenig, Jared Saltiel, Alex Matchneer, Bill "Third Arm" Bagwell, Abe Morrison, Rosie Morrison, and Kevin Winder) don't really give a damn about making songs to please the general public. The opening track ("Clindex") easily sets the mood here...featuring what is probably the longest sung repeat string of the word "really" that has ever been recorded. Some of these tracks seem reminiscent of some of the more obscure, avant garde, progressive underground British bands from the 1970s (some of these pieces occasionally recall Henry Cow). The band members are apparently keen on Brainiac, The Dismemberment Plan, and Shudder To Think...and we can hear traces of these bands' sounds in this album as well. At times Cesspool's more poppy side is even slightly reminiscent of 10CC (?!?). I Can't Wait is a really odd, complicated swirl of ideas that will probably leave most folks confused and baffled. And that is probably exactly what this band intended. This album is divided into four "sides" each of which consists of five songs each. Twenty crazed recordings from some really nutty folks. There is so much creativity going on here that it is, at times, totally overwhelming. Truly offbeat...and more often than not...rather goddamn neat. (Rating: 5)

Champion Kickboxer - Perforations (CD, 54 40 or Fight!, Progressive pop)
This is a reissue of an album that was originally released in 2006 on Britain's Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation label...with two bonus tracks added for extra confusion and/or pleasure ("Supertram" and "Like Him + Her + Her + Me"). The first thing that struck us about Perforations was that...some of the overdubbed vocals reminded us very much of Gentle Giant odd overdubs (one of our favorite British progressive bands from way back). The four fellows in Champion Kickboxer write and record music that is definitely an acquired taste. True to the claim of the press release that accompanied this CD, the band's songwriting has as much in common with bands like XTC and The Kinks as it does with more current artists like Super Furry Animals and Field Mice (we can also hear the occasional odd ring of Robert Smith in the vocals). Folks looking for easy, catchy pop may be a bit confused by the odd, angular, unpredictable elements in these tunes. By folding in unusual, unexpected ingredients into their progressive pop...these guys have managed to come up with an album that is both pleasing and challenging. Intriguing cuts include "Get On Up," "Perforations," "Frog and Mouse," "Thinking," and "Exhaustion Rules." (Rating: 5+)

Chiodos - Bone Palace Ballet (CD, Equal Vision, Rock/pop)
The fellows in Chiodos play an odd array of styles that bounce back and forth from ballads to epic pop to death metal. One song might find the band sounding as soft as feather pillows...while moments later they are thrashing away with furious intensity. The band's music sounds something like a cross between Queen, The Cure, and Dashboard Confessional. Whether it is for better or worse, these guys are playing for a very young audience. The music is too chaotic and nervous for most older listeners. We can't help but be impressed by the fact that they aren't afraid to show their soft side from time to time. These guys have apparently become big crowd pleasers in a very short amount of time (they are headlining on the 2007 Vans Warped Tour). Bone Palace Ballet is a mind-boggling, hard-swirling collection of complex modern rock tunes that are melodic, harsh, and intense. Our rating is not centered around our own personal taste...but is rather based upon the fact that these guys are super focused and very good at what they do. Did we mention that the cover art by Paul Romano is...totally fantastic...??? (Rating: 5)

Christus & The Cosmonaughts - From Atop This Hill (CD, Beta-lactum Ring, Progressive)
Intricately arranged modern progressive pop with a spiritual feel. The band Christus & The Cosmonaughts is driven by the talents of Scot Salida, a man who has an intuitive sense with modern technology. This, the band's second full-length release, is an intriguing excursion into the possibilities of modern electronics merging with smart melodic pop. Some of the tracks are rather straightforward and somewhat accessible...while other compositions spin like explorations into space travel. In many ways, From Atop This Hill is reminiscent of some of the better British progressive bands from the 1970s (particularly Steve Hillage at times)...but the sound quality is far superior. Scot has a great understated vocal style that really makes these tunes click. Mentally absorbing and surprisingly resilient, This Hill is an odd, smooth ride that gets better with repeated spins. Nifty cuts include "The Painfree God," "Surviving the Fanatics," and "Modulating Between Faith and Knowledge." (Rating: 5)

Clare & The Reasons - The Movie (CD, Frog Stand, Pop)
Clare & The Reasons is a group of folks taking a different approach to music...more specifically, the old approach to music...way, way back before modern rock bands even hit the planet. The songs on The Movie have a sound and style that will instantly recall music from the 1940s and 1950s when male and female vocalists were all the rage. In addition to lead vocalist Claire Muldaur, the band on this album consists of Alan Hampton, Oliver Manchon, Greg Ritchie, Jenni Muldaur, Beth Meyers, Cristopher Hoffman, Bob Hart, Sufjan Stevens, Van Dyke Parks, and Gregoire Maret. If the list of musicians doesn't blow you away, the songs on this album most definitely will. This CD features eleven tracks of meticulously arranged classy pop. Muldaur (daughter of Geoff Muldaur) has a super smooth, effective voice that provides the perfect central focus in these songs. Creating this album was obviously a labor of love for the folks involved. Cool absorbing tracks include ""Pluto," "Nothing/Nowhere," "Under the Water," "Cook For You," "Sugar In My Hair," and "Science Fiction Man." Excellent from start to finish, recommended... (Rating: 5++)

Kellie Coffey - Walk On (Independently released CD, Country/pop)
The second full-length release from Kellie Coffey. This young Oklahoma native had a meteoric rise to fame with her first album When You Lie Next To Me which eventually led to her being named 2003's Top New Female Artist by the Academy of Country Music. Coffey's career may have been hampered somewhat by her choice of artists to tour with...she made the unimpressive decision to open for both Kenny Chesney (vomit) and George Strait (double vomit). Considering the fact that her own music far surpasses either of these tired old male country superstars, you would think that Ms. Coffey would either tour on her own or hook up with more credible artists. Oh well...you can't blame a new artist for wanting to hook up with superstars, even if they don't have any talent. But back to the matter at hand, Coffey's new album. Walk On is a super slick, super hummable, upbeat collection of nifty tunes...all of which sound like hit singles to us. Thanks to producer Wayne Kirkpatrick the songs have a nice big fat sound that is most appealing. But Kellie's vocals are what really make her music so refreshing and real. Nifty toe-tappers include "Walk On," "Everything She Never Wanted," "Bandwagon," and "There You Go Again." (Rating: 5)

Jim Connolly - Jim Connolly and the Gove County String Quartet (CD, pfMENTUM, Jazz), Time Stops to Visit: Jim Connolly and the Gove County Philharmonic (CD, pfMENTUM, Jazz)
These two CDs feature contrabass player Jim Connolly playing with the Gove County String Quartet and the Gove County Philharmonic. The String Quartet features Sally Barr (violin), Laura Hackstein (violin), and Kirsten Monke (viola). Interestingly, the tracks for the first CD were recorded in June 2005 and May 2006 and were recorded, mixed, and mastered by Jeff Kaiser (whose recordings we were already familiar with). We were expecting experimental music or modern classical on this release...but were instead surprised at how classic/classical and traditional these pieces are. We have always loved string quartets. These folks are a good example of why quartets are so aesthetically pleasing. Everyone was obviously on the same wavelength during these recordings (made at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara, California)...and the sound quality is excellent throughout. The second CD features the Gove County Philharmonic...which consists of Sally Barr (violin), Kirsten Monke (viola), Ron McCarley (clarinet), Jeff Kaiser (trumpet), Jim Bement (accordian), and Bruce Bigenho (piano). As you might guess from the instruments used, the music on this second CD is more fanciful and playful. Some of these compositions remind us of Frank Zappa's later classical pieces. Packaged in what appears to be a simple homemade cardboard sleeve, this album is deceptively complex...ranging from quirky and odd to moody and subdued. We particularly like the fact that these tracks were recorded "direct to DAT in Jim Connolly's living room." Both of these discs are superb in terms of both quality and musicianship. Recommended. (Rating: 5+)

Rob Crow - Up (CD single, Temporary Residence Ltd., Pop)
Many critics around the world (including us) have universally heaped major praise upon Living Well, Rob Crow's most recent solo album. But despite all the positive reviews, it has not, up to this point, been a huge success in terms of sales. But thanks to the fine folks at Temporary Residence, Ltd....that situation may change over time. This is not the first but the second CD single released from Living Well (the first was I Hate You Rob Crow). This single features Up, one of the strongest tracks from the album that continues to sound fantastic despite the fact that we have heard it hundreds of times now. But the main reason Crow's fans (and Pinback fans) will want pick this single up is because it contains three previously unreleased tracks ("Three Hundred and Three," "Forced Letter," "Three Hundred and Two") plus an Up video. "Forced Letter" alone is worth the price of this CD. We sure hope Rob's solo career takes a sharp turn upwards. He remains one of the most brilliant and consistently intriguing singer/songwriters around. (Rating: 5+++)

CUPCAKE LOVE

Vomit in a
Cupcake pan and
Place it in the oven.
Feed the cupcakes
To your friends to
Show 'em that
You love 'em.

(Rating: 1)

Deer Tick - War Elephant (CD, Feow!, Pop/folk)
The first track on this album ("Ashamed") really turned us off. Another Bob Dylan copycat...? Sheesh...we never even liked Dylan in the first place, much less people who imitate him. But first impressions aren't always accurate however...and fortunately we skipped to the next track at which point we immediately realized how pitifully WRONG we were about Deer Tick. John McCauley (the man who is Deer Tick) writes and records some genuinely cool tunes. The songs on War Elephant are simple and direct...drawing heavily from folk and early country and western music. At only twenty-one years of age, McCauley's songs are surprisingly reflective and mature. He has a slightly raw sounding voice that is uniquely suited for the style of music he writes. Although we were initially turned off...after spinning War Elephant several times...we are now most certainly turned on. There are some truly great songs here. This uniquely satisfying album features fourteen nifty tracks including "Art isn't Real (City of Sin)," "Long Time," "These Old Shoes," "Sink or Swim," and "What Kind of Fool Am I?" (Rating: 5+)

The Derailers - Under the Influence of Buck: Thirteen Buck Owens Hits! (CD, Palo Duro, Country/pop)
Country music from the past is light years more inspired and entertaining than most of the super polished crap that passes for country in the twenty-first century. There was a certain simple innocence in the older artists that is sadly missing in the current pack of generic carbon copy showbiz entertainers that now roam the planet. The guys in The Derailers apparently share this appreciation of the past...as this, their latest album, features their take on thirteen songs written by the legendary Buck Owens. Thankfully, these five guys have maintained the original idea and sound of Buck's tunes. While the songs definitely have a modern, slick sound quality...the playing and singing are simple and direct...and sound just as inspired as when Mr. Owens himself sang these catchy toe-tappers. It is particularly appropriate that The Derailers should record this album, as it was Buck Owens' music that originally inspired the group. Under the Influence of Buck is an album that should please fans of old country music as well as fans of the newer sound. Heartfelt tracks include "Foolin' Around," "My Heart Skips a Beat," "Before You Go," and "Down on the Corner of Love." (Rating: 5+)

Dirty Projectors - Rise Above (CD, Dead Oceans, Progressive art pop)
Dirty Projectors is a truly odd little recording project. The band is driven by the odd inspirations of David Longstreth...a man who seems driven to take extraordinarily unconventional approaches to music. Every Dirty Projectors release that we have heard up to this point has left us confused and at least slightly intrigued. This album is a bit different than previous releases. Instead of presenting new songs, the album features Longstreth's interpretation of Black Flag's Damaged album from 1981. Instead of trying to recreate the album note for note (or even lyric for lyric for that matter), David took the extremely unusual approach of purposely not listening to the album before recording this CD...opting instead to try and recall as much of it as he could from memory alone. The end result...is an album that (not surprisingly) bears very little resemblance to Black Flag (!). Rise Above is a very odd spin...sounding very much unlike any other modern band or artist in particular. Although we still can't quite decide what to make of Dirty Projectors one thing is certain. Whenever one of the band's releases pops up in the stacks here in our office suite, we always make sure to cover it. Confusing, strange, puzzling, and occasionally hypnotic... (Not Rated)

Dream Frequencies - Volume #1 (CD, Antenna, Various artists compilation)
We rarely review various artists compilations because of the confusion and complexities involved in doing so. But when we received this extremely limited edition CD (only 500 copies are available) from Britain's esoteric Antenna label...well, we just had to make an exception. This collection of tracks was compiled by Stephen Laurie of The Telescopes and features a wild array of drone/noise/experimental artists. In addition to a track from The Telescopes, this disc includes compositions by Vibracathedral Orchestra, Birds of Delay, The Development of Shape, Dreams of Tall Buildings, Moon, The Library Tapes, Sculptress, The Dust Collectors, Bologna Pony, Jazzfinger, Number None, ...Unexplained Transmissions, Astral Social Club, and Bridget Hayden. This is a bizarre collection of tracks from some very obscure artists...that will most likely only appeal to a very limited audience. Some of these tracks are extraordinarily cerebral and hypnotic. It is difficult to rate a disc like this because of the scope of sounds and the number of artists involved...so let's just say that this is a rather heady and unique spin for those up to the challenge. (Not Rated)

Drowning Pool - Full Circle (CD, Wind Up, Rock)
The guys in Texas-based Drowning Pool play music that is an almost perfect cross between hard rock and death metal. Full Circle, the band's third album, is the first featuring new lead vocalist Ryan McCombs. The band's original lead vocalist (Davie Williams) passed away in 2002 from a rare heart disease. The core of the band remains the same: C.J. Pierce (guitars, vocals), Stevie Benton (bass, vocals), and Mike Luce (drums, vocals). Full Circle packs a mighty punch. The songs are loud, driving, intense compositions that seem to be propelled by the band's desire to survive despite their unfortunate loss. McCombs' vocals more than fit the bill. He's a real screamer and yet you can still understand the words he's shouting. These guys play the kind of arena rock that drives kids wild. Our guess is that this may very well end up being this band's most successful album yet. Hard rockers include "Shame," "Reason I'm Alive," "Stitches," and "Rebel Yell." Good meaty stuff. (Rating: 4++++)

Eskimo Joe - Black Fingernails Red Wine (Limited Edition CD & DVD combo, Rykodisc, Progressive pop)
This album took a while to sink in...but we're glad we took some extra time to digest this Australian band's music because Black Fingernails Red Wine contains some excellent songs. Eskimo Joe is different from most bands we hear from Australia because rather than playing underground guitar rock...they play super slick epic arena pop. The band consists of three fellows...Kav, Jol Quartermain, and Stu Macleod. But if you're expecting the sparse, open sound of a trio, think again. These fellows record lush tunes that feature tons of overdubs and state-of-the-art electronics. The songs are, for the most part, extremely accessible and commercial. The initial pressing is a limited edition package in a beautiful tri-fold digipak sleeve that includes a bonus DVD with four videos. The CD contains plenty of smooth, progressive tracks...including "Comfort You," "New York," "This Is Pressure," and "How Does It Feel." Nice sounding stuff. (Rating: 4++++)

Everything, Now! - Bible Universe (Independently released CD, Pop/rock)
We were mighty impressed with this band's last release (Police, Police!). The good news is that...Bible Universe leaves the same wonderfully lasting impression. The guys in Everything, Now! create odd, unpredictable modern pop that sounds something like a cross between The Flaming Lips and The Kinks. What we like best about this band is that...despite the fact that some of their songs are rather odd and goofy...melodies are the real driving force behind the music. So...while all the odd arrangements definitely add extra punch and flavor to the band's sound...if you stripped it all away to nothing but chords and vocals, these songs would still stand solidly on their own. Imagination runs wild on Bible Universe...sounds from the 1960s all the way through to the twenty-first century collide and combine to create a cool and heady sound that is instantly addictive. Clever cuts include "Denial," "Exile in Bible Universe [or How I Spent My Bummer Vacation]," "Freedom Sex With Bible Woman," "Take a Gawk at the Weird Side," and "The Birth of Ugly Magic." This album is an excellent example of what underground bands are capable of producing. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Fauxliage - Fauxliage (CD, Nettwerk, Progressive pop)
Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber return again...this time with a different name and a different sound. Fauxliage is probably the duo's most smooth and accessible release yet. This is the first time these fellows have collaborated with Leigh Nash (who is also the vocalist in Sixpence None the Richer). Whereas Delerium (Leeb and Fulber's other main project) delves into the darker side of modern electronic pop, the sounds of Fauxliage are--for the most part--light, simple, and accessible. It's hard to guess whether or not the idea here was to create something more mainstream...or whether that's just the way things came out when these three individuals got together to make music. Whatever the motivation was, a lot of folks are probably going to be mighty impressed with these modern dream pop compositions. The music is slick and sensual...and Nash's vocals merge almost perfectly with the arrangements. We hope that these folks don't hate us for saying this...but some of these tracks have an overall sound that is not unlike some of Madonna's better romps into electronica (and that's not meant as a cut because we really admire some of Madonna's work). This album has the possibility of thrusting all three of these folks' careers into the limelight. Who knows? This album might surprise everyone and be a huge commercial success. Despite the ultimate outcome, the album is already a success in terms of audio art. Great songs...great sounds...great vocals...who could ask for anything more? Warm groovy tracks include "All The World," "Let It Go," "Without You," and "All Alone." (Rating: 5)

Los Femurs - Modern Mexico (Independently released CD, Pop)
Coming across sounding something like a cross between The Feelies and The Violent Femmes, the guys in Los Femurs have an instantly likable sound ripe with energetic rhythms and catchy melodies. Modern Mexico features six new tunes plus six bonus tracks from their previously released Jack Cafferty v. Chuck Scarborough disc. Los Femurs is the Seattle, Washington-based duo consisting of Rob Femur and Colin Femur. Rob and Colin seem to adhere to the less-is-more pop philosophy. Rather than utilizing thick layers of unnecessary overdubs, the tracks on this CD are delivered with appropriately simple arrangements...allowing the listener to concentrate on the naturally effective melodies and vocals. After hearing too many twenty-first centuries overblown artists relying way too much on technology, Modern Mexico comes across as a sincere and refreshing blast of reality. Top picks: "Vitamins," "Crazy Girl," "Not Giving Up," "September 1st." (Rating: 4+++++)

Ryan Ferguson - Only Trying To Help (CD, Better Looking Records, Pop)
Some folks may remember Ryan Ferguson as a member of the 1990s San Diego, California band No Knife. The band finally broke up in 2003 and Ferguson launched his solo career with the Three, Four EP in 2005. After starting out with an acoustic based batch of tunes on that EP, Ferguson has now switched over to straightforward slick modern pop. Our guess is that Only Trying To Help will be immediately embraced by pop fans around the world. Ferguson played almost everything on the album himself, yet it sounds very much as if a full band is playing. These songs are accessible and rather catchy and yet they don't seem to follow obvious formulas. The vocals are particularly appealing on these tracks...with backing harmonies and ooo-ooo's possibly inspired by Brian Wilson (?). This album features eleven intelligent hard pop numbers including "Remission," "Kill My Confidence," "In the Sea," and "Must Be Friday Night." Impressive. (Rating: 5)

Fire Engines - Hungry Beat (CD, Acute, Pop/rock)
Although they somehow managed to escape our consciousness up to this point, this short-lived Scottish band from the 1980s was apparently one of the major players of their time. Fire Engines consisted of Russell Burn (drums), Graham Main (bass), Davy Henderson (guitar, vocals), and Murray Slade (guitar). This CD includes all of the band's recorded material...three singles and a mini-LP, all of which have been out-of-print since the early 1990s. The jagged pop tracks on Hungry Beat sound slightly reminiscent of Television and Richard Hell. The guitars are nervous and the vocals rather herky jerky in nature. Interestingly, the band has reformed and is slated to play a string of shows in late 2007. Odd, obtuse rockers include "Candyskin," "Everything's Roses," "Discord," "Hungry Beat," and "Sympathetic Anaesthetic." (Rating: 4+++++)

Georgie James - Places (Advance CD, Saddle Creek, Progressive pop)
Cool, punchy, upbeat, modern underground pop from John Davis and Laura Burhenn who, when they record music together, call themselves Georgie James. John and Laura write their songs together and then take turns handling lead vocals. Unlike most duos where one person's voice obviously outshines the other's, these folks' vocals are both equally focused and effective. Places features twelve tracks, all of which feature mentally absorbing melodies and thoughtful lyrics. Davis and Burhenn borrow ideas and sounds from the past...all the while presenting their tunes with all the flexibility that the twenty-first century allows. Their self-admitted influences include The Kinks, Richard and Linda Thompson, The Jam, and the Flamin' Groovies. We can hear traces of these artists (and more) on this album. What impresses us most here are the songs. These compositions are smart, thoughtful, and ultimately very catchy and substantial. Smooth feelgood cuts include "Look Me Up," "Cake Parade," "More Lights," "Cheap Champagne," and "Only Cause You're Young." (Rating: 5+)

The Glass - Couples Therapy (CD EP, Plant Music, Pop)
The Glass is the duo of Dominique Keegan and Glen Brady, both originally from Dublin. They began making music together as The Glass in 2003 and released several 12" vinyl releases...but this is their first proper CD release. Couples Therapy effectively combines elements of club/dance music with rock and pop. These tracks are infused with plenty of modern techno tricks. These trippy effects, combined with thick, fat guitars, make these tunes really kick. How many bands can you think of lately who create dance music that you actually want to hear outside of a club environment...? Keegan and Brady have traveled the world as a three piece band, as DJs, and as a Soundsystem and have managed to garner some impressive praise from some interesting folks. Based on what we're hearing on this EP, the attention and praise is obviously warranted. Groovy dance pop tunes include "Mad At You," "Fourteen Again," "Come Alive," and "Bytes." (Rating: 4+++++)

GLOBAL DUCK AND COVER

Global warming
Could destroy us all.
But just in case,
Duck and cover.

(Rating: 1)

The Grip Weeds - House of Vibes Revisited (CD, Ground Up, Pop/rock)
We were as pleased as punch to receive this in the mail because, although we had already become big fans of The Grip Weeds over the years, we never managed to get our greedy little paws on House of Vibes, the band's 1994 debut (named after the house the band lives and records in). Rather than being a mere remaster/reissue of the album, House of Vibes Revisited receives the deluxe treatment here. In addition to the twelve tunes on the original album, this CD also includes three bonus tracks (demos), four live acoustic tracks, and two live electric tunes (in addition to some short interview snippets as well as the ability to access additional material on the internet). The original twelve album tracks sound as if they may have been inspired and/or influenced by Redd Kross. Upbeat and highly melodic, these folks effectively captured the essence of a live band playing while still managing to incorporate plenty of smart and appropriate overdubs. Fans of the British Invasion will find a lot to love here. These songs have held up extremely well over time and will probably now be embraced by a much larger audience than when they were first released. Unlike many CDs that include trashy bonus material, the extras on this CD are appropriate and effective. The demo tracks ("Don't Belong," "Edge of Forever," "Walking in the Crowd") are particularly cool and magnetic. We were already fans of The Grip Weeds...but now we're even bigger fans. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Ham1 - The Captain's Table (CD, Orange Twin, Soft pop)
Ham1 is an Athens, Georgia band driven by the songwriting skills of Jim Willingham. On the first spin, The Captain's Table might not make a significant impression. But on the fifth or sixth spin, you will probably find yourself in love with the wonderfully subdued, loose pop tunes on this album. In an age when so many bands and artists are trying way, way, way too hard to be unique and different...the tunes on this album are a refreshing change of pace. Willingham's songs are, for the most part, laidback and personal. He has a great understated vocal style that is difficult to resist. Assisting Jim on these recordings are Eric Harris and Pete Erchick (formerly with the band Olivia Tremor Control), Jacob Morris, Chris Sugiuchi, and Liz Durrett. Precisely summing up the sound of this album is actually quite difficult...although the music most certainly fits within the general confines of underground guitar pop. To be a bit more precise and to the point...this band plays great music that is genuinely entertaining and real. Quality pop cuts include "Clown-Shoed Feet," "Saluki," "White Rat," "How Can You Watch T.V. With a Dead Person?" (great song title, that one...), and "The Captain's Table." (Rating: 5+)

High Water Marks - Polar (CD, Happy Happy Birthday To Me, Pop)
Nice, catchy, upbeat, melodic guitar pop. High Water Marks consists of Jim Lindsay, Hilarie Sidney, Per Ole Bratset, and Mike Snowden. Polar is a refreshing cool breeze that effectively captures thirteen keen little hummable songs. Many of these tunes seem to have been influenced by underground pop artists from the early to mid-1990s. Some tracks feature male vocals while on others multi-instrumentalist Hilarie sings lead (on these particular tracks the band sometimes sounds very much like babysue favorite Fuzzy...who are sadly no more). Polar is a straightforward album. There are no unnecessary elements cluttering these tunes. By presenting their songs simply using only the bare essentials, these folks have managed to record an album that emits really great vibes. Various elements from 1960s pop all the way to the present combine to create a pure feelgood sound based around fuzzy guitars, great melodies, and thoughtful lyrics. All the songs are rather nifty...but our own particular favorites include "Polar," "The Leaves," "Simple," "Dutch Tape," and "Etter Sirkel." (Rating: 5)

JOIN THE ARMY

Join the army
If you are confused.
Join the army
If you are lonely.
Join the army
If you cannot decide what to do with your life.
Join the army
If you have no other choice.

(Rating: 1)

Kago - Kago (Double CD, Seksound, Progressive)
This double CD package includes two albums that were previously only available as the CD-R albums Plimas and Kongerjonks. South Estonia's Kago is Lari Sommer, a poet, translator, and literary essayist who writes and records music in his home studio. The press release that accompanied these CDs describes Sommer's music as "Ariel Pink meets Nick Drake"...which is probably not too far off base. Some of the tracks on these CDs are like song fragments and song ideas rather than finished tracks, which actually adds to their appeal. Lari Sommer's music may not appeal to the masses...but there is something strangely appealing about his music that is difficult to describe. There's a lot to take in here...49 songs total. While not recommended for everyone, those seeking out truly odd fringe artists in music will definitely find something to love here. Puzzling tracks include "Pessimist Piibuga," "Harold ja Maude," "Kampel," "Kuumoon," "Aigut," and "Koljaada." Weird underground stuff... (Rating: 4+)

KILLERS

Fran killed Harold.
Harold killed Kate.
Kate killed Bobby and
Bobby killed Nate.

(Rating: 1)

Killick - Bull**** (CD, Solponticello / Stickfigure, Experimental)
This is an odd little album that is most likely headed for complete and total obscurity in the years to come. That's not a bad thing, mind you...just an observation and/or educated guess. Bull**** (we didn't censor the word...the title actually contains four asterisks) is an experimental album on which Killick plays spontaneous compositions on his 38-string harp guitar named Big Red. These twelve tracks have much more in common with modern classical music than rock or pop. These peculiar accidental pieces are bizarre...some might even call them non-music...and yet they actually do conjure up strange images and set a mood. Most people either love this kinda stuff or hate it. You certainly can't tap your toesies and sing along with these songs around the campfire, that's for sure. We wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Killick ends up on the Blossoming Noise label at some point in the very near future. It is very difficult to rate something like this, so we'll just leave this one hanging in the air for the time being... (Not Rated)

Nyles Lannon - Pressure (CD, Badman, Soft pop)
We are big fans of both Film School and Nyles Lannon solo. After hearing Pressure, we have come to the conclusion that we prefer the latter to the former. This album features wonderfully subdued, moody, melodic pop music with a difference. There are all kinds of odd subtleties swimming around in the mix here. While Lannon's main focus seems to be melodies and lyrics, he obviously enjoys padding his tunes with all kinds of unexpected sounds and uses unorthodox arrangements. And yet, strangely, it all comes across sounding extremely smooth and soothing. Not surprisingly, The Beatles' White Album was apparently a major inspiration in recording these tracks. The tunes might best be described as classic pop delivered with the extra punch of twenty-first century technology. Nyles has a wonderful voice that really makes his tunes come across sounding ultimately sincere and inspired. Pressure is bound to be a major hit with pop fans around the planet. Cool catchy cuts include "Hesitation," "Did I Lose You," "The Well Groomed Man," and "Elephant Song." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Little Name - How to Swim and Live (CD, Sleepy, Pop)
Little Name is the one man band consisting of Lee Barker. This young British fellow writes and records music that sounds something like Daniel Treacy (of the Television Personalities) if he was a totally upbeat, happy, well-adjusted, accessible singer/songwriter. Treacy is by no means a happy, upbeat artist (although we love almost everything that he has ever done, of course...)...so Barker is creating his own unique niche by composing highly melodic upbeat pop that could very well be appreciated by millions. The fact that his vocals recall Treacy at times is simply an accidental bonus. Don't expect lo-fi pop just because Little Name is a one man band however. How to Swim and Live is a slick little album featuring intricate arrangements and lush vocals. Other bands that could have provided a slight influence here include The Smiths and The Divine Comedy. This cool little feelgood album is packaged in a beautiful digipak sleeve (complete with a lyric sheet) and features twelve cool pop tracks including "For the Attention of," "Tracy & I," "Nobody Loves You," and "You Tear My Love Apart." Well done. (Rating: 5)

Loop 2.4.3 - Batterie (CD, Music Starts From Silence, Progressive/abstract/modern classical/percussion)
Loop 2.4.3 is a difficult act to describe and categorize. The band's tunes are experimental percussion compositions...yet melodies are occasionally threaded and woven into the mix. The band is the duo consisting of Thomas Kozumplik (a fellow who is obviously creating music as an ultimate form of expression rather than a means to fame and wealth) and his associate Lorne Watson. The six lengthy tracks on this album were recorded live in a single one hour session which originally aired as a Sonarchy Broadcast in February 2007. Considering the odd, abstract nature of Loop 2.4.3's music...we are impressed with how much exposure the band has received and how many contacts they have obviously made. When you're recording peculiar stuff like this it can be very easy to operate in a vacuum. These fellows are obviously not isolated...but are instead involved with a variety of other artists and organizations. Strange, slightly tribal cuts include "Son of Odin," "Chickchi," "DBC," and "Walls of Waves." Unusually clever stuff...delivered with precision and style. (Rating: 5+)

LOVE

Love is hate.
Hate is love.
Love is hating,
Hating love.
Love is asking
To be hated.

(Rating: 1)

Lene Lovich - Live From New York at Studio 54 (DVD, MVD Visual, Pop/rock)
This DVD features Lene Lovich and her band (which includes Thomas Dolby) performing at Studio 54 in New York in 1981. Just as we suspected, this video is an odd view. The early 1980s was a weird time in the world of music...punk had punked out...but everyone still wanted to dress up funny and dance to live music. Thus, the widespread saturation of new wave spread like wildfire. Some of the original new wave bands have stood the test of time rather well (early Talking Heads and Let's Active are both good examples). Other artists like Lene...have kinda gotten lost and/or forgotten over the years. And that is unfortunate...because Ms. Lovich was a lady who was obviously far ahead of her time. That said...her music now sounds quite dated. Studio 54 was packed on this particular night with lots of young people dressed up in very silly looking clothing...but no one looked more silly and obtuse than Lene herself. Although by today's standards Lene's look and sound would be considered extremely tame, in the early 1980s she was a bizarre spectacle. When she's at her best during this concert, Lovich screeches like a bird and comes across as a haunting seductress. When she's at her worst...she comes off like some sort of displaced freaked out polka lady on acid. Some of these songs still sound strong ("Too Tender (To Touch)," "Angels," "Bird Song") while others now sound rather ridiculous ("Say When," "New Toy," "One in a Million"). We can honestly say that we never have the urge to spin Lovich's first two albums anymore (although there are some good songs on them)...but looking back, it is intriguing to consider how many young ladies she must have influenced. For a very brief point in time (before her involvement with P.E.T.A. that seemed to nail the coffin shut on her short career), Lene Lovich was the reigning queen of bizarre new wave pop. From a historical viewpoint, this DVD is essential. From a purely musical perspective...well, let's just say that this effectively captures the overall mood of 1981... (Rating: 4+++)

The Mabuses - Mabused (CD, Magpie, Progressive pop)
The packaging on this release immediately grabbed our attention. This CD is encased in a beautifully designed triple fold digipak sleeve...die cut so that appropriate images from the enclosed lyric sleeve show through the holes. Very nifty indeed. And as an added bonus...the lyrics are printed in a font large enough so that you can actually read 'em. This may be a FIRST in the world of CD production. Packaging is nice...but music is what matters most, of course... Accordingly, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the colorful, polished pop tunes on Mabused are just as impressive as the cover art. The Mabuses is an eclectic group of musicians featuring Les Cargo, Chris Wilson, Jamie Harley, Lucien Nataf, Kim Fahy, Miles Nervine, PO Milanni, and Arthur Watts. These guys have connections to a wild variety of outside bands and artists (none of which need to be mentioned here)...but suffice to say, these are seasoned musicians who know what they are doing. Kim Fahy seems to be the main driving force in this band, as he either wrote or co-wrote most of the tunes. This album was recorded in a variety of sessions that took place in London, New York, Los Angeles, and Paris. You would think...considering the number of people involved and the varied recording locations...that Mabused would be a weird hodge podge of songs that would not hold together well. But that is most certainly not the case. These light, airy, intelligent pop songs have real staying power. Super hummable tracks include "Seasider," "Byayaba," "Tiger Lilies," "I'm The Greatest...," "Garden Devils," and "Destination." We particularly love the lead track ("Dark Star"). If we hadn't been paying attention, we could've sworn they were singing "Don't Stop" in the chorus (heh heh heh...!). Funny, absorbing, effective modern pop created with acute attention to detail. Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

The Main Drag - Yours As Fast As Mine (Independently released CD, Progressive pop)
Remarkably articulate and intelligent modern progressive pop. We don't know a lot about this band (no bio was included with the CD)...but what we do know is that The Main Drag is based in Harvard, Massachusetts and consists of Adam Arrigo, Matt Boch, Jon Carter, John Drake, Matt Levitt, and Dan Cardinal. These guys have apparently recorded and released Yours As Fast As Mine as a pure independent release. Don't expect poor quality home recordings however...the sound quality of these songs is quite good and the digipak sleeve is slick and beautiful. But the songs themselves are what make this album such a rewarding spin. Although hummable and relatively accessible, these songs are by no means predictable. The vocal melodies are at times rather complex and the arrangements far from standard and ordinary. The more we spin this disc the better it sounds. Eleven cool tracks here including "How We'd Look On Paper," A Jagged Gorgeous Winter," "Car Windows," "Dove Nets," and "Taking Apart a Gigantic Machine." Excellent lyrics on this cool little album... (Rating: 5)

Manual - Lost Days, Open Skies and Streaming Tides: A Compilation of Reworks, Covers, Rarities, and Unreleased Works (Double CD, Darla, Progressive)
We have to admit that we get a strangely particular charge out of writing about Darla releases...probably because almost all of the label's artists require us to listen closely and think about what we're listening to. This is definitely the case with the latest double CD release from Manual. This package features recordings the band recorded from 2002 up to the present. Jonas Munk (the man who is Manual) creates music that is epic in nature and far reaching in scope. He works with a mind-boggling array of artists. Creative partners on these tracks include Robin Guthrie, Neil Halstead, Port-Royal, and Jan Hammer...and that's just the beginning. In addition to the reissued tracks, much of the material on this set appears for the first time ever (almost an hour's worth of new material is featured). There's so much going on here in terms of sounds and styles that it is difficult to sum it all up in one simple paragraph. Munk's music combines elements from dream pop, shoegazer pop, trance, dub, ambient, space music, and more. The only constant is probably just the fact that...the music always sounds super smooth and exotic. This lovely double disc set is packaged in a meticulously designed quadruple foldout digipak sleeve. Fantastic heady cuts include "The Wind-Up Bird," "October Sky," "Blue Shibuya Dream" (a particularly magnificent recording), "Marbella," "Karola Bloch," "Open Skies," and "Dizzy Sun." The more we hear from Jonas Munk...the more knocked out we are. Truly great cerebral stuff. Highly recommended... (Rating: 5++++)

Mass Shivers - Ecstatic Eyes Glow Glossy (CD, Sickroom, Progressive/rock)
The guys in Mass Shivers are heavily influenced at times by the music of Captain Beefheart...and they don't try to keep it a secret (the album cover art even features human bodies with animal heads a la Trout Mask Replica). The lead cut on this album ("Womanizing Metal Studs") would not sound out of place at all as a bonus track on either Lick My Decals Off, Baby or Clear Spot. But after spinning the band's entire second full-length release several times, it becomes obvious that the occasional Don Van Vliet influence is only a diving board for more complex and peculiar musical forays. The band's other possible influences are anyone's guess. We can hear traces of Godley and Creme creeping in on "Quinine Peninsula Pt 2" and "Mossy Nethers"...while many of the other songs on this album are more difficult to pin down ("Downwind of Amour," "Because the Sun," "Wild Animals Club"). These guys' peculiar rhythms and odd time signatures recall some of the more adventurous underground progressive art rock bands from the 1970s...but their overall sound is modern and focused. Ecstatic Eyes Glow Glossy is an intriguing look forwards and backwards. (Rating: 5)

MICHAEL VICK

Let's all condemn
Michael Vick
For being cruel to
Animals.
When he gets
Convicted and
Thrown in jail
We will celebrate
By having great big
Steaks for
Dinner.

(Rating: 1)

Mio Myo - Philharmonic Manic Mass Attack (Independently released import CD, Rock/pop)
When we received this obscure independently released CD in the mail from overseas we weren't initially impressed. Sure we liked the band name...but the package looked just like hundreds of other similar throwaway CDs that we have received in the past. Upon closer inspection, however, our opinion slowly began to change. This wasn't some lousy CD-R sloppily chunked into an envelope. This was a real CD housed inside a meticulously folded sheet of paper with neat artwork, sealed with the band's seal sticker (which matches the artwork on the CD itself), and individually numbered. But it wasn't until we put the CD into our player that we became instantly intrigued. Mio Myo is a great little obscure band with some really great songs. The band's music bears a slight resemblance to the softer side of The Flaming Lips, the poppier side of Pink Floyd, and even The Television Personalities at times. But in actuality, this album doesn't really sound too much like any of these particular artists...although the approach is similar. The folks in Mio Myo are creating their own style of music...presenting some wonderfully creative tunes on Philharmonic Manic Mass Attack. You definitely won't find this disc in stores...so your best bet is to probably visit the band's web site. Cool mentally absorbing cuts include "Joseph Noise," "Letters," "Fireball," "Urban Utan," and "3D Porcelain Face." (Rating: 5+)

Mt. St. Helens - Of Others (CD, Two Thumbs Down, Progressive pop/rock)
The third full-length release from Mt. St. Helens is an odd and intriguing collection of modern moody pop/rock. Packaged in a beautiful deluxe quadruple foldout digipak sleeve with lovely "invisible" lettering on front, Of Others smoothly glides in and out of several different audio dimensions. Instead of going for one sound or style, the fellows in this band write tunes that don't easily fit into any specific categories. While accessible for the most part, these songs do not follow traditional formulas and the melodies are anything but standard and familiar. The band (thankfully) had the good sense to include the lyrics which range from interesting to curious and puzzling. The band consists of Ben Geier, Quinn Goodwillie, Jason Sprague, Mike Sprague, and Matt Fast. Of Others is a rather thick and complex album that takes a while to sink in. So if you're needing a quick fix and don't feel like expending any mental energy, this may be a bit too heady for you. For those seeking substantial music that will hold up to many repeated spins...there's a lot of odd and compelling music here. Cool unorthodox cuts include "The Time of Low Volume," "Omission," "City of," and "Strange Navigation." (Rating: 5)

MUSIC, DISAPPOINTMENT, AND GUILT

Thank you for the free music.
We will try to listen to it.

We are so sorry that we
Did not have time to
Listen to the music.

Now you feel disappointed
And we feel
Guilty.

(Rating: 1)

Nada Surf - Karmic (CD EP, Hi-Speed Soul, Pop/rock)
This is a reissue of the first EP from Nada Surf (before the band signed to Elektra). The folks in Nada Surf have had an interesting career path up to this point with some interesting twists and turns. The band initially made a splash in the 1990s as an alternative noisy rock band that appealed mainly to college kids and young underground rock fans. Then years later they resurfaced as a surprisingly proficient slick pop band. While we like the band's earlier recorded works, we have gone absolutely NUTS over their later recordings that rely much more on catchy upbeat melodies and lush vocal harmonies. As such, for us Karmic is an interesting look back at the band's humble beginnings. In addition to the five songs that were included on the original EP, this reissue also includes "Pressure Free" (previously only available as a 7" vinyl single). Rabid fans of the bands may want to take note of the fact that this EP is also being offered as a limited edition vinyl EP (the first 300 offered in one color while the remaining 700 will be offered in a different color). What tickles our interest buds the most...is the fact that the band is already at work recording their fifth full-length which is due to be released Winter 2008 (!). We can't WAIT... (Rating: 4+++)

New Idea Society - The World is Bright and Lonely (CD, Exotic Fever, Pop)
The lead track on this CD ("Press Reverse") almost caused us to toss this CD aside without listening to the entire thing. Luckily, we skipped to the next song ("Single Thread")...and we were immediately impressed. New Idea Society is driven by the songwriting skills of Mike Law and The World is Bright and Lonely is the band's second full-length release. Law and his associates create guitar-based pop music that features winding melodies and nifty electric guitars. While this is not a perfect album (there are some definite hits as well as misses)...if you don't mind skipping around a bit, there are some cool gems to be found here. In addition to "Single Thread," the tunes that really grabbed our attention were "Don't Sleep," "Medicine Show," and "Compass." Overall, there were a bit too many nothing-but-guitar-and-vocal tracks for our peculiar taste. But with this album Law has proven that he is a capable, credible, entertaining songwriter. This fellow may very well end up being a major player in the years ahead... (Rating: 4)

Newspapers - Lakeview EP (CD EP, Montgomery, Pop)
We rarely review EPs...but because we love the sound of nifty guitars, we had to include a brief blurb about the new EP from Portland, Oregon's Newspapers. The guys in this band (Jake Hershman, Josh Rivers, Billy Webb, Brian Hoeberg) keep their music simple and to-the-point...allowing listeners to absorb their songs and appreciate the subtle but unique guitars. Strong songs here and nice, subdued vocals. In addition to the title track, this EP also includes "Devil's Dance Blues," "Lies + Lies," "Forest City," "Elaine," and "Minimum Wage." It'll be interesting to see where these guys head next... (Rating: 4+++++)

Noir - Strange Desire (CD, Angel Air, Pop)
Noir is the duo consisting of Georg Kajanus (lead singer in the band Sailor) and Tim Dry (who is also known as a member of the acts Shock and Tik and Tok). Kajanus and Dry met in 1995. After realizing they both shared a passion for black clothing, film noir, and music...they created Noir. Shortly afterward, the pair had a good bit of success with their hit "Walking." Now, more than a decade later, Strange Desire (the debut album from the duo) is released for the first time commercially. The album features clean techno dance pop that combines elements of disco with 1980s electro pop. The album receives the deluxe treatment here with the inclusion of the promotional video for "Walking" plus a lovely booklet detailing the duo's career that includes lyrics to the songs. Considering how long ago these tracks were recorded...it is amazing how current they sound. Cool, dark danceable cuts include "Walking," "Hotel Europa," "Talking," "Film Noir," and "Genie." (Rating: 4++++)

Nucultures - Butterflies, Zebras, and Moonbeams (Double CD, 1 K Recordings, Progressive/pop)
Nucultures is the trio consisting of Philadelphia's Ellie Perez, Tim Motzer, and Barry Meehan...all of whom contributed songs, words, and music to this hefty double disc package. Three different perspectives and viewpoints may help to explain the impressively divergent ideas and sounds on Butterflies, Zebras, and Moonbeams. The packaging on this one immediately caught our attention. The CDs are packaged in a beautifully designed triple fold digipak sleeve designed by Thomas Schmid for Eneone.com. Nice, very nice...but the music is what impresses us the most. Fortunately, this is a case where the packaging perfectly matches the music inside. The press release that accompanied this album accurately describes it as "...a stunning collection of songs with some obvious electronic components...but it's organic at heart." These songs were produced, recorded, and arranged by Motzer in Philadelphia. The songs sound nice and thick...yet they never come across sounding unnecessarily multi-layered and slick. This might best be described as modern pop mood music. There really isn't a sour pumpkin in the patch here...but particularly significant tracks include "Night is Beautiful," "Behind the Moon," "Lifeguard," "Think I'm Losin' It," and "Nowhere." Very nice, rather dreamy in nature... (Rating: 5+)

The Perishers - Victorious (CD, Nettwerk, Pop)
The Perishers' music sounds something like a cross between U2 and Simple Minds...if the music were more melodic, the vocals much better...and all the annoying, pretentious elements were removed. To be a bit more specific, the guys in this band create lush, well-arranged epic pop music with a heavy emphasis on precise vocal melodies. Even if you hate this type of music, after hearing this album a couple of times you will probably find the title track spinning over and over in your brain...no matter how hard you try to shake it. If "Victorious" isn't a mighty big hit with a lot of folks,we will be extremely surprised. The song has true sticking power. But this is much more than a one-hit album. All of the tracks pretty much hit the center of the target. Underground music fans searching for ultra-weird alternative rock and/or screeching loud rockers may not be too impressed with Victorious...but those folks will probably miss the point entirely. We can most certainly appreciate the beautiful, subdued sounds on this CD. These tracks flow like a river...and feature wonderfully intricate arrangements that caringly caress the vocals. Victorious is yet another resounding success from this talented Swedish quartet. Super satisfying cuts include "Midnight Skies," "Carefree," "Victorious," "Best Friends" (an exceptionally nice cut), and "Get Well Soon." (Rating: 5++)

PIT BULL AND BABY FIGHTS

Traditional Dog Fights aren't
Fun anymore.
Pit Bull and Baby Fights
Are the new cool
Entertainment.

Hint: Always bet on the
Pit Bull.

(Rating: 1)

PLASTIC TUBA

Sag and pucker
All the way from
Dixieland to Cuba.
Snort a milkshake
On the plane by using
Plastic tuba.

(Rating: 1)

Fionn Regan - The End of History (CD, UMG, Pop/folk)
This is a remarkable album...perhaps even more so when you consider the fact that this young man wrote and produced this album himself. Unlike most new artists, Fionn Regan writes and records classic soft pop that is extraordinarily mature and smooth. Instead of trying to be overtly clever and cute, he delivers his songs using simple, precise, tasteful arrangements. The songs on The End of History combine elements from folk and soft pop (and even bluegrass at times) into an original overall sound that is intoxicating and inviting. Fionn has a killer voice and he really knows how to write effective melodies. Even though this music seems slightly reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens, in this case we get the impression that this is merely coincidental. He may be an unknown at this point in time...but our guess is that Fionn Regan will be quickly embraced by music fans around the globe. In an age when copycat artists offering music with little or no substance litter the globe, The End of History comes across like a truly intense and refreshing blast of cool fresh air. Beautiful, intricate tracks include "Be Good or Be Gone," "Hunters Map," "Hey Rabbit," "The End of History" (a particularly lovely cut), and "Bunker or Basement." The lyrics on this album are absolutely top notch. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Josh Roseman - New Constellations: Live in Vienna (CD, Accurate, Modern jazz)
As we scanned over the press release that accompanied this disc the first thing that we noticed was that on this album Josh Roseman is credited with playing trombone and laptop (!). New Constellations is a curious collection of modern jazz tracks. What will stick in most folks' minds are the rhythms. Instead of standard jazz percussion, many of the tracks on this album are based around beats normally associated with reggae and ska. Roseman's band consists of Peter Apfelbaum (tenor sax, organ), Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet), Marvin Sewell (guitar), Barney Mcall (keyboards, live dub treatments), Jonathan Maron (bass), and Justin Brown (drums). When you consider the clash of styles here, it seems rather bizarre that these tracks come across sounding so smooth and ultimately natural. Most folks may not know Roseman's name (yet)...but they have probably heard him before. He has been involved with some real heavies including (but not limited to) Dave Holland, Lester Bowie, John Zorn, Ron Blake, Medeski, Martin and Wood, and Charlie Hunter...and that's just the beginning. New Constellations is bound to be welcomed by curiously accepting arms. The more we spin this one...the better it sounds... (Rating: 5)

Sailor - Treasure Trove: Anthology 1975-2005 (Double Import CD, Angel Air, Pop)
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Sailor's first number one hit song in 1975 ("A Glass of Champagne"), the folks at Angel Air have issued this whopping double CD set featuring 38 tracks that span the band's history from 1975 to 2005. These discs feature the band's hits, classics, and previously unreleased material. Accompanying the CDs is a well-prepared booklet offering the details of each track (written by Sailor expert James McCarraher). When this band first made a splash with their sailor-esque clothing, most folks probably assumed that they were a novelty and would only be around for a year or two. As is evidenced by the wealth of material on Treasure Trove, this was obviously not the case. Full of upbeat, catchy, commercial pop, this double CD should do exactly what it is intended to do...reacquaint older fans with the band's material and introduce younger listeners to a band they may have never heard before. This stunning collection features super hummable feelgood cuts like "Open Up the Door," "Traffic Jam," "Farewell to Berlin," "Perfect Time," "My Parachute," and "Girls Girls Girls." (Rating: 5)

Sebadoh - The Freed Man: Deluxe Edition (CD, Domino, Pop/rock)
The first Sebadoh album receives the royal reissue treatment from the folks at Domino. These tracks were recorded by Lou Barlow and Eric Gaffney on a four track recorder right about the time that Dinosaur Jr was recording their final album (Bug) in the late 1980s. The original Freed Man was originally offered by Lou and Eric as a cassette-only release and then later released as a vinyl LP. Now these tracks and more are offered on this staggering 52 song (!) CD. The songs were compiled by Eric and Lou with sound engineer Jesse Parsons and mastered at Abbey Road...so this is probably about as good as these tracks are ever going to sound. This is a piece of history to be certain...short songs and fragments that were probably never intended for the mass market. And that just may be their greatest appeal...this music was probably recorded mainly as an outlet for these two young musicians at a turning point in their lives. As such, the songs are vibrant, genuine, and surprisingly memorable. Hats off to the folks at Domino for once again making this material available to twenty-first century listeners in their continually expanding Sebadoh reissue series... (Rating: 5++)

The Seldon Plan - The Collective Now (Advance CD-R, Magnatune Recordings, Pop)
Baltimore, Maryland's The Seldon Plan return with their second full-length release. The Collective Now features highly melodic guitar pop that treads in territory previously charted by bands like The Hang Ups and The Lassie Foundation. What impresses us most about this band's music is how unpretentious it is. The smooth, ultra-hummable songs on this CD flow by like big fluffy clouds in the sky. The band presents their songs simply and without overt fanfare. Because of the substance that is inherent in their tunes, these guys don't need to add layers upon layers of instruments to their sound. Their songs stand firmly on their own without the unnecessary support of too much technology. The band consists of Michael Nestor (guitar, vocals), Bobby Landle (guitar), Dave Hirner (bass), and Mike Landavere (drums). After spinning this disc a few times...we can't decide which we like better, the debut...or this? Actually and in fact, we prefer both albums as they are equally satisfying and superb. There are few bands around that can compete with this band when they hit their highs. Cool, ultra-hummable cuts include "Going Nowhere Slow," "This Bedroom Prayer" (our favorite), "Modern Vigil," "Seraphim," and "All the Real Girls." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Shelf Life - Ductworks (CD, Public Eyesore, Experimental/noise/modern classical)
Shelf Life is an experimental noise album...so if you're not into that kind of thing, well...be forewarned. This band was begun by Bryan Day and Alex Boardman in 2003 which resulted in the release of their first album shortly thereafter (One to Seven). Over time the band expanded to a four piece that now includes Joseph Jaros and Jay Schleidt. These fellows record what many would call non-music. The sounds are accidental in nature and there are no identifiable melodies to speak of. Rather than creating a harsh wall of noise like many twenty-first century experimental artists, these fellows' compositions are, for the most part, rather subdued and subtle. In some ways, these pieces sound like noises you might hear coming from your neighbor's place. Odd and unpredictable, Ductworks is geared toward a very esoteric audience to be certain. Our guess is that John Cage may have been a major influence here (?). It's hard to rate this kind of thing, so we'll let you draw your own conclusions on this one... (Not Rated)

Silver Seas - High Society (CD, Cheap Lullaby, Pop)
Extraordinarily accessible melodic pop. The four guys in Nashville, Tennessee's Silver Seas are taking a different approach than most new pop bands. Instead of trying to sound super weird and clever, the band instead presents music that is extremely normal and familiar-sounding. The band is driven by the songwriting skills of Daniel Tashian and the production/keyboard skills of Jason Lehning. Both were involved in music in one way or another since they were very young. Tashian's dad was the lead singer in the 1960s band The Remains and also toured with Emmylou Harris' Hot Band. Lehning's father was a country music producer and former president of Asylum Records Nashville. Formerly known as The Bees, the guys in Silver Seas write music that seems so calculated that we were initially somewhat turned off by it. But as we spun the disc a few times...the pure talent and magnetism of the music won us over. High Society is a super slick album in terms of quality...a great deal of time and thought obviously went into creating these tunes. As a result, what is surprising is how smooth and relaxed these tracks sound. The players are all top notch...and the vocals are absolutely brilliant. Folks who yearn for the days when artists like Van Morrison, Jackson Browne, and The Eagles ruled the airwaves will most likely go NUTS over this album. It's a modern classic to be certain...and almost every song sounds like a hit. Smooth soft catchy rockers include "The Country Life," "High Society," "Catch Yer Own Train," "We'll Go Walking," and "The Broadway Lights." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Small Arms Dealer - Patron Saint of Disappointment (CD, Deep Elm, Rock)
An album featuring smart, hard rockers from Long Island quintet Small Arms Dealer. This, the band's debut album, seems to have been influenced by underground rock bands from the 1990s. The guitars are loud and in-your-face...and the vocals appropriately rough and raspy. What we appreciate most about this band is that--despite the fact that the sound is loud and raw--they rarely resort to the brainless roar that is common among many hard rockers. The guitar riffs are nifty and chunky...and the stop/start rhythms keep things from ever sounding redundant. There are so many hard rock bands in the world that just don't cut it. These guys have the chops to deliver cool songs that rock hard and make a definite mental impression. Top picks: "Fake Beard," "Venkman, Burn In Hell," "Ill Gotten Gains," and "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't?" [Note: This is part of a new series offered by the folks at Deep Elm whereby only 1,000 actual physical copies of the CD are being pressed (to encourage downloads) so if you want one grab it QUICK.] (Rating: 4++++)

Mindy Smith - My Holiday (CD, Vanguard, Pop)
What? Reviewing a holiday album...in September...??? Hey, we just review 'em when we receive 'em...and apparently the advances for this one were sent well ahead of the impending Christmas flurry. Probably fitting for us...as we would rather hear Christmas songs at any time but the holiday season (since that particular holiday always makes us feel spaced out and hollow inside). When we first heard her a few years ago, we were immediately smitten with Mindy Smith's voice and music. Since that time...we have become even more impressed as her sound and style have evolved to the point where she now rivals just about any lady you can think of in the world of music. To be honest...we usually hate traditional holiday songs. But much to our surprise...Ms. Smith manages to breathe surprisingly effective new life into very familiar songs like "The Christmas Song," "Away In a Manger" (featuring guest vocalist Alison Krauss), "Silver Bells," and "I'll Be Home for Christmas." But while the standards are bewilderingly effective...the six tunes written and/or co-written by Mindy herself are the real treats here. Although released very early before the season even begins...My Holiday will, without a doubt, be one of the very best Christmas albums of 2007. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

SNITCHIN'

Stop snitchin'.
Don't tell the police nothing.
Stop schoolin'.
There ain't no reason to go to school no way.
Stop workin'.
All jobs is just a waste of time.
Stop breathin'.
Breathin' won't get you nowhere.

(Rating: 1)

SPACEY

The space program
Is a waste.
Space exploration
Is a waste.

(Rating: 1)

Tegan and Sara - The Con (CD, Sire / Vapor, Pop)
Although they've been playing, recording, and releasing music for a while now, The Con serves as our introduction to the music of Canada's Tegan and Sara. After viewing the duo's web site, we have to admit that we were initially turned off by all the unnecessary name-dropping and seemingly braggy biographical information. After spinning The Con a couple of times our conclusion is that...these two young woman are just trying way too hard. And that seems rather sad, because they are obviously talented and they have a great deal of imagination. Actually, many of the songs on this album would probably be very appealing if they were stripped down to the bare essentials. But taken as they are with all the unnecessary overdubs often burying the main melodies, these songs come across sounding rather confused and jumbled. The packaging is super slick and nice though. We'd sure like to hear Tegan and Sara's earlier recordings to see what they sounded like before their success allowed them to drown in their excesses. We're not giving up on Tegan and Sara just yet however. They may very well take a completely different approach with their next release and, if so, we'll be ready and willing to give 'em another chance... (Rating: 3)

Terra Diablo - Deluge Songs (Advance CD, Noctural, Pop/rock)
The second full-length release from Scotland's Terra Diablo. These guys impressed an awful lot of folks (including us) with their self-titled debut. They write and record music that seems heavily influenced by underground American guitar rock bands from the 1990s. The guitars are loud and in-your-face, the rhythms driving and hard, and yet...the band somehow manages to keep catchy melodies placed squarely center stage. Folks who loved the debut will almost certainly have the same reaction to Deluge Songs. Produced by Jeremy Parker (with assistance from Dave Fortman), the album has a nice, polished sound...and yet these fellows effectively captured the band's mainly aggressive sound. This album features twelve smart modern tunes that really focus on the band's exceptionally effective vocals. The softer tunes work just as well as the loud rockers ("Stay Inside the Circle" is a particularly impressive cut). This band seems poised to make a major splash in the United States in the months ahead. Killer rockers include "Captain of the Simpletons," "Disappearing Act," "Walked Away," "Don't Wake Me Up," and "Stay Inside the Circle." (Rating: 5++)

These Modern Socks - These Modern Socks (CD, Princess, Pop)
Odd modern pop with a cut-and-paste approach to modern music. The overall sound and idea here remind us of the vastly underrated Self (one of the all-time great funk/pop acts from the 1990s that was unfortunately overlooked by most folks). These Modern Socks is the project driven by the songwriting skills of Minneapolis/St. Paul's Corey Palmer. For this album his band consists of Nick Tveitbakk, Arron "Al" Bergstrom, Park Evans, and Adrian Suarez. Palmer writes wonderfully addictive melodies that are amazingly catchy and cool...and his voice is absolutely killer. This is one of those cases where traditional songwriting combines with modern technology...and the results sound completely smooth and natural. As if the songs and arrangements aren't enough to blow you away, Corey's also writes lyrics that are smart, insightful, and funny ("I could never take my life but I have to. I've got something in my eye, I've got something in my eye..."). Brilliant clever pop from a unique perspective. The more we spin this one...the better it gets. Top picks include "Monitor Progress," "Dr. Lawyer," "Bird in the Bathroom," "Someone I Don't Know," and "Head Over Heels." Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Time of Orchids - Namesake Caution (CD, Cuneiform, Progressive)
As some folks might guess from the group name and record label, Time of Orchids is not an easy and conventional type of band. Namesake Caution is the fifth full-length release from this peculiar progressive group which consists of Chuck Stern, Eric Fitzgerald, Jesse Krakow, and Dave Brodie. The album features thick, dense, lush, orchestrated progressive pop that often defies description. In some ways, these guys might be viewed as an odd Pink Floyd/early Genesis type of band...but the actual tunes bear very little resemblance to either. It is, perhaps, the fact that the band records with so many excessive layers of overdubs that draws these comparisons. Rather than sticking to standard formulas and accessible sounds, these four fellows seem driven by the desire to forge their own bizarre territory with their songwriting. Considering how obtuse and odd some of these compositions are, it seems rather surprising that the overall mood of this album is mostly subdued and calming. Beautiful and yet perplexing...Namesake Caution is an album that is bound to simultaneously confuse and enlighten. Odd, cerebral cuts include "In Color Captivating," "Darling Abandon," "The Only Thing," and "Entertainment Woes." (Rating: 5++)

TINY MAGNETS AND LEAD PAINT

Give your child
Tiny magnets covered with
Lead paint.
Give it tiny magnets.
Give it lead paint.
Give it tiny magnets
Covered with lead
Paint.

(Rating: 1)

Travis Tritt - The Storm (CD, Category 5, Country/pop)
Regular babysue readers may be surprised to find that we enjoy listening to Travis Tritt...which is odd, considering the fact that we hate most southern rock with an intense passion. Sure, he may not be the most original singer/songwriter on the planet...but if you're just looking for some simple, feelgood, southern-fried music...Travis will usually fill the bill. To sum this CD up in a very few words...if you liked Travis Tritt in the past you will most likely be quite pleased with the songs on The Storm. As one would expect, Tritt is backed up by some of the best players around...so many names were involved in the recording of this album that we couldn't even quickly count them all. The lead track ("You Never Take Me Dancing") sets the perfect tone...and the remaining eleven classy, classic country-tinged pop tunes that follow keep the quality up. His voice still sounds strong...and we particularly like the bluesy influence present in many of these tracks. He doesn't rock as hard as he used to...but Tritt's music still has some muscle. Cool melodic pop tunes include "(I Wanna) Feel Too Much," "What If Love Hangs On" (our favorite), "The Storm," and "Somehow, Somewhere, Someway." Good stuff. (Rating: 4+++++)

Turbonegro - Retox (CD, Scandinavia Leather Recordings / Cooking Vinyl USA, Rock)
The guys in this band are real crazies. They make music that seems to defy easy categorization and their image is odd, confusing, and funny. This, the band's newest album, is being released in advance of Cooking Vinyl's highly anticipated and soon-to-be-well-received reissues of the band's back catalog (which includes Apocalypse Dudes, Ass Cobra, and Never is Forever). Is this hard rock...glam resurgence...heavy metal...or what??? Actually, the guys in Turbonegro create music that seems to be influenced by a wild variety of sources from the past few decades. But in the end, the band's music is just good solid rock that you can sing along with and dance to. We can't help but think that these guys must be influenced by early Alice Cooper (after all, the Killer mascara is a dead giveaway). You would think with the heavy emphasis on image, clothing, and make-up that there would be no substance in the songs. But, as was the case with Alice Cooper, the early songs were all solid bull's eyes...and the image was just icing on the cake. To sum it up in succinctly, Retox is an all around great album. The songs are catchy as hell and they are delivered with gutsy enthusiasm. Kickass rockers include "We're Gonna Drop the Atom Bomb," "Hell Toupee," "Do You Do You Die Destruction," "You Must Bleed/All Night Long," and "Everybody Loves a Chubby Dude." We can't wait to catch these guys in concert. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. (Rating: 5+++)

Ungdomskulen - Cry-Baby (CD, Ever Records, Rock/pop)
Super imaginative and wildly unpredictable hard rock. There are so many generic carbon copy hard rock bands in the twenty first century...and 98% of them sound almost exactly like the next. Accordingly and as a result, the music of Norway's Ungdomskulen is an instantly refreshing splash of cold water smack in the face. We had to spin Cry-Baby several times before deciding that we loved it...and yet we still can't decide who it sounds like or what bands could have influenced these guys. Although the music is entirely different in sound and scope, the basic driving force of these tunes sometimes recalls The Melvins, sometimes Primus, and at other times The Move. But don't get the idea that they sound very much like any of these bands because they really do not. Despite the fact that many of these tunes are heavy and intense rock, there's no denying that there is real substance underneath the volume pedals. Switching back and forth from moody progressive instrumental passages to all-out swirling hard rock with bizarre over-the-top vocals, Cry-Baby is an intensely moving album that is bound to affect you in one way or another. Cool modern rockers include "Ordinary Son," "Glory Hole," "Modern Drummer," "Spartacus," and "Witches Mate in the Underground." Truly incredible music that has to be heard to be believed from one of the best hard rock bands of the twenty first century. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

The Velocet - A Quick and Dirty Guide to War (CD, Eyeball, Rock)
An interesting album from this Brooklyn-based band. The guys in The Velocet play loud, punchy, melodic rock that is occasionally reminiscent of The Jam. Although the fellows in this band are Americans, their music seems to be heavily influenced by British bands from the 1970s and 1980s. The band consists of Michael Davison, Aron Watman, Kris Ricat, and Joe Prop. A Quick and Dirty Guide to War was recorded at The Clubhouse in Rhinebeck, New York by producer D. James Goodwin. The Velocet play thick, urgent, loud rock music that relies heavily on soaring vocal melodies and smart guitar hooks. The songs on this album seem to be treading on that fine line where commercial accessibility collides with artistic integrity. While this band's modern pop/rock will be instantly appreciated by most young listeners, there are also enough familiar substantial elements that will also appeal to older music fans. Cool rockers include "Chinatown," "Black Agenda," "Coronation," and "Ring Around the Moon." Good stuff. (Rating: 4+++++)

Rick Wakeman - The Burning: The Original Soundtrack Music From the Film Performed by Rick Wakeman (CD, Voiceprint, Soundtrack)
Reissue of the previously-very-difficult-to-find / out-of-print soundtrack by Rick Wakeman. The Burning was originally released in 1981 and is one of the most successful horror films ever in Japan. This, the CD soundtrack, is divided into two sections: The Wakeman Variations (consisting of four pieces) and The Music From the Film (which consists of seven pieces). As one would expect, most of the tracks on this CD have that big, orchestrated sound that is almost always associated with Wakeman's music. We have always been impressed with Wakeman's keyboard skills...some of these compositions rank right up there with his best (a few sound very much like Tomita). Although two tracks seem rather out of place and dated here ("Doin' It" and "Devil's Creek Breakdown"), this is, overall, an intriguing soundtrack full of what were obviously state-of-the-art sounds at the time they were recorded... (Rating: 4++++)

Natalie Walker - Urban Angel (CD reissue, Dorado, Soft pop)
See our previous review of this album from November 2006. At that time we gave this album a 5+ rating and that rating still stands. The blurb is inform you that this album has been reissued and now includes the single "Crush" as well as a bonus remix of the track "Quicksand." If you didn't check this one out in 2006, now is the time to get your hands on Urban Angel. Natalie Walker is a genuinely talented lady with a great deal to offer her listeners... (Rating: 5+)

WARM MOIST TURDS

Two warm moist turds
Sitting in a tree
K-I-S-S-I-N-G.
First comes love,
Then comes marriage.
Then comes five hundred more
Warm moist turds sloppily
Lobbed all over the place
In a goddamn baby carriage.

(Rating: 1)

WHO-TECH JOKE

How do you greet
Pete Townsend?

"Hi-Def!"

(Rating: 1)

Ann Wilson - Hope & Glory (Independently released CD, Pop)
Before we even begin this review we must admit that we have never ever cared for Heart. The band represented what we felt were the worst elements of commercial rock in the 1970s and only seemed to get worse over time. But while this may be true...we also don't mind admitting it when an artist manages to turn our opinion around...and that is exactly what happened after we listened to Hope & Glory. Some folks hit their highs late in their career, and this is apparently the case with Ann Wilson. Surprisingly, this is Wilson's first solo album...and even more surprisingly all but one track ("Little Problems, Little Lies") are cover tunes by a variety of artists. Ann has some super heavyweights joining her on these tracks...Nancy Wilson, Elton John, K.D. Lang, Wynonna, Gretchen Wilson, Alison Krauss, Deana Carter, Rufus Wainwright, and Shawn Colvin all make guest appearances. Wilson's voice sounds better than ever...and the super slick production works in her favor on this album. Smooth, groovy cuts include "Goodbye Blue Sky," "Jackson," "Bad Moon Rising," and "Isolation." (Rating: 4+++)

Wisely - Wisely (CD, Oglio, Soft pop)
The third album from Wisely...self-titled because (in his own words) "I feel like this is the first record I should have ever made." Actually, this does sound very much like a debut album. These soft, introspective tunes are super melodic and genuine. Subdued and reflective, these tracks sound slick and polished...without ever sounding overproduced and artificial. Wisely worked with some heavyweights on this one...Peter Smith, Rusty Anderson, Joshue Grange, Rick Boston, Kalle Gustafsson, Jerneholm, and Ludwig Boss all contributed to the recording of these tunes. Considering the number of musicians involved and the amount of work that went into recording this album...it is surprising how open and spacious these songs sound. Instead of too many overdubs and cluttered orchestration, Wisely and his friends exercised a great deal of restraint...in the end, allowing the songs themselves to take center stage. And songs are the real draw here...as these intricate, personal tunes will evoke definite feelings and moods in the mind of the listener. Superb feelgood soft pop tracks include "On My Way," "Tokyo Arbor," "Nothing But Wind," "Ella," and "I'll Be Singing." Great singer/songwriter material...highly recommended... (Rating: 5++)

John Wolfington - American Dreamsicle (CD, Smells Like Records, Pop)
Simple, direct, uncluttered, and real. After releasing his debut album in 2001, John Wolfington took his time writing the material for his second album before finally recording these tracks in three days at The Magic Shop in New York City with Steve Shelley (drums) and Tim Foljahn (bass). Wolfington is an old school songwriter...his tunes feature a heavy emphasis on lyrics and vocal melodies drive the music. Simultaneously serious and sincere, American Dreamsicle is a strangely appealing album that doesn't rely on overdubs and modern technology. The sparse, open arrangements are appealing indeed...as they allow the listener to concentrate on the superb, focused vocals. John has a nice, deep, smooth voice that is refreshingly pure and genuine. He never pushes himself or his listeners...and yet the subtleties of the music are powerful and strong. Cool reflective cuts include "Danger," "Rainbows" (a particularly excellent track), "Shotgun," "Like You Love," and "Naked Truth." This will easily end up being one of the best releases of 2007. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Yellow Swans - Descension (CD, Acuarela, Experimental)
We have yet to hear anything from Yellow Swans that wasn't at least unorthodox, peculiar, and intriguing. And once again, these three descriptive terms most definitely apply to Descension. Yellow Swans is the duo of Pete Swanson and Gabriel Mindel Saloman. This album was recorded live...but if you're expecting to hear crowds chanting choruses and complicated drum solos, think again. These two fellows play abstract, spontaneous sound collages during which anything can happen. There are no easily recognizable song structures and no catchy choruses. The album is divided up into two pieces: "Descent 1" and "Descent 2." Both tracks feature hypnotic sounds, electronic drone, and mutated guitar. Certainly not intended for everyone and seemingly created to distance themselves from any sort of mass audience, this album is strangely compelling and decidedly peculiar. Who knows what will come next? Noise addicts will certainly find this album intriguing on a variety of different mental levels... (Rating: 5)

Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth & Collected Works (Triple CD Box Set, Domino, Progressive pop)
Although still completely unknown to the public at large, Young Marble Giants was a band that made a marked impression on those who heard them during their short-lived career. Now for the first time ever, the folks at Domino have made all of the band's recordings available in one convenient triple CD box set. Colossal Youth & Collected Works is absolutely essential for anyone who appreciates unique, exceptional, obscure bands from the past. This release includes three discs. The first CD features the entire Collosal Youth album. The second features tracks from the Testcard EP, the Final Day single, a track that originally appeared on the Is The War Over? compilation, and the entire Salad Days album. The third CD features five tracks recorded for John Peel's show on August 26, 1980. To top it all off, the set includes a great little booklet giving a remarkably detailed history of the band . The folks in Young Marble Giants made music that was wonderfully out of place when it was created. Surprisingly sparse and peculiar, the band had a sound that was unlike any other. The trio formed in 1978 and consisted of brothers Stuart Moxham and Philip Moxham and vocalist Alison Statton. The band's sound was odd then and it still sounds odd today. Finding comparisons and coming up with possible influences remains a difficult task. Suffice to say that, unlike many bands whose music gets old after a few spins, you can play this stuff over and over and over...and it just seems to sound better each time. So much to gush about here...incredibly cool songs include "Searching For Mr. Right," "Wurlitzer Jukebox," "Credit in the Straight World," "This Way," "Cakewalking," "Hayman," and "Loop the Loop." As you might have already guessed from all of our fanatic drooling...this box set is highly recommended. WOW. (Rating: 6+)

 

Additional Items Received:

Aaron Acosta - Wave
Ryan Adams - Easy tiger
Zeke Aguilar - Eclectic
Akimbo - Navigating the bronze
Akron Family - Love is simple
All Teeth and Knuckles - Club hits to hit the clubs with
Amplified Heart - How do you like th sound of that
Ryan Anderson - The garden path
Andrew - From me to you
A>S>H>S - Audible stellar hypnotic situations
Anthem Sound - Anthem Sound
Tim Armor - A better place than i have been
Arthurkill - The pain
A Shoreline Dream - Coastal
Ed Askew - Little eyes
Augie March - Moo, you bloody choir
Automatic 7 - At funeral speed
A Verse Unsung - The Autumn EP
Jason Ayres - The acoustic sessions
Barcelona - Absolutes
Bear Hands - Golden EP
Bear In Heaven - Red bloom of the boom
Mark Berube - What the river gave the boat
Biffy Clyro - Puzzle
Bitter Sweet - The remix game
Black Dice - Load blown
Blue Jar - Pelican crossing
Blue States - First steps into...
Daniel Bon and the Future Ghosts - Walking backwards thru the city
Sarah Brady - Sway
Breech - Tarnisih and undress
Broken English - Film soundtrack
Bucket Boys - Sunset bar: sad stories of a broken dream
Bucket Boys - Hollywood boulevard
Carol Bui - Everyone wore white
Busy Signals - Busy Signals
Antoine Caesar - Star f*ck (remixes)
Caeser Pink and the Imperial Orgy - Gospel hymns for agnostics and atheists
Suzy Callahan - Freedom party for insects
Camarada - King in the dark
Canartic - Bouncing radar beams off the moon
Cormac O. Caoimh - Star a spark
Caribbean - Populations
Joe Cassady & the West End Sound - What?s your sign?
Celebrity Pilots - Spooky action
Greg Chako, Christy Smith, Mark DeRose - Paint a picture, tell a story...
Change! - When spaceships collide
Frances Charlotte - Emerald
Clockclean - ER
Jeff Coffey - Long way home
Ian Collins - The map is not the territory
Company Car - Collars
Cooler by the Lake - Cooler by the lake
David Monte Cristo - NY's village halloween parade 2006
David Monte Cristo - Shot of yesterday
Dan Cunningham - Wayfaring stranger
Daddy's Hands - Welcome kings!
Dafni - Charlie's lonely sunday
The Dark Crystal - Original motion picture soundtrack: 25th anniversary edition
Miles Davis - Evolution of the groove: remix EP
Demander - The unkindness of ravens
Dave Desmelik - Unheard of
deSol - On my way
Details - Draw a distance. draw a border.
Dirty South Revolutionaries - Queen city underground
Andy Ditzler - Songs from yes and no
Division Day - Beartrap island
Phil Dorkins - Rhymes of ancient passion
Draft Riots - Masculeninism
Dragons of Zynth - Coronoation thieves
Drama Mine - Darkness stays...
DRZHIVEGAS - Get down
Dukes of Windsor - The others
EDP - Next stop: bleaker street
Einsturzende Neubauten - Alles wieder offen
Entell - E = MC2
Eulogies - Eulogies
Eva Wrengaw - Awe
500 Miles to Memphis - Sunshine in a shot glass
Fabonacci - Exits
Feeding Fingers - Wound in wall
Fior Fiero - The satellite EP
Firefall Acoustic - Colorado to liverpool: A tribute to the beatles
Fjord Rowboat - Saved the compliments for morning
Dan Fogel - 15 west
Jack Foster III - Tame until hungry
Free Diamonds - By the sword
Freezepop - Future future future perfect
Freezer Burn - Love's executioner
Friday Night Lights - Original television soundtrack
Furia de Buzo Ciego - Furia de Buzo Ciego
Future Kings of Nowhere - Future Kings of Nowhere
Tom Gavornik - A long time ago...
Girl Nobody - Balaclava casino heist
Ari Gold - Transport systems
The Gunshy - There's no love in this war
HB3 - Luminosity
Heroes + Heroines - Heroes + Heroines
Hidden in Plain View - Resolution
Dereck Higgens & Dino Felipe - "Properties" b/w "Ribbons" (7" vinyl single)
Holloways - So this is great britain?
Ellen Honert - Breath of the soul
The Hottest State - Original motion picture soundtrack
Donny Hue and the Colors - Folkmote
Humanboy - I'm no good at this
Hundreds and Thousands - Hundreds and Thousands
i - Get to know your own fluids
Iced Earth - Framing armageddon: Something wicket part 1
Infinity - A manual for free living installation
Johnny Irion - Ex tempore
Isabel at Sunset - Meet the gang!
June - Make it blur
Izzys - The violent bear it away
JapaneseCarCrash - Badmachine
Jeriko - Jeriko
Sandy Kastel - This time around
Kelda - Detour
Rob Kendt - I'm not sentimental
Brian Kent - Breathe life
Arrison Kirby - Part 3
Krooked Manifesto - Krooked Manifesto
Kush Arora - From brooklyn to SF
Seth Lakeman - Digital EPs
Jason LaRoy - A beautiful tomorrow
Leo - Nightmares
Lisa Lawrence - Yours to break
Sean Lee - Two amp songs
Limbo - Miracle mile
Little Wings - Soft Pow'r
Lolligags - Wired
Bob Louisell - From across the years: A collection
Lovecraft - Lauridsen
Lovely Crash - Buddha car
Kirk Lumpkin, David Andrews, & friends - Moondog sessions
Magellan - Innocent god
Mke Mangione - Tenebrae
Leigh Marble - Red tornado
Athena Masci - Athena Masci
McRad - FDR
Megan Jean & The Klay Family Band - Autumn
Menzingers - A lesson in the abuse of information technology
Midtown Dickens - Oh yell!
Miggs - Late nights and early mornings
Lisa Dawn Miller - Fly away
Milk and the Times That Never Were - The priss
Millions - Disrespectfully yours
Milton & the Devil's Party - How wicked we've become
Miss Fairchild - Ooh la la sha sha
Yoshitoshi Montreal - Mixed by Sultan
Moonbreath - Jackpot
Mother and the Addicts - Science fiction illustrated
Jim Murdoch - Waltz to the sea
Kaz Murphy - Home for misfits
Nanny Diaries - Original motion picture soundtrack
Narrows - Benjamin
Matt Nathanson - Some mad hope
Harris Newman - Decorated
No Reservations - Music from the motion picture soundtrack
NY's Village Halloween Parade 2006 - Monte Cristo Records
Oliver Future - Pax Futura
Juan Oskar - Superhero
Patrick Park - Everyone's in everyone
Jennifer Parsignault - From the dark
Jennifer Parsignault - Oh, my
Patience Please - Fleeting frequencies
Pet Ghost Project - The great satisfactory
Phineas Gauge - Phineas Gauge
The Pope - Sports
Port O-Brien - The wind and the swell
Prints - Prints
Radium88 - Only science can tell us the truth
Raqshomon - The ruined map (film music volume 1)
Red Pony Clock - God made dirt
Red Romance - Red Romance
Reel Big Fish - Monkeys for nothin' and the chimps for free
Revisions - Revised observations
Matt Roach - Borrowed time
Rockfour - Memories of the never happened
Brian Sacawa - American voices
Sacha Sacket - Lovers & leaders
Sadaharu - Resist. revolt. reclaim.
The Sadies - New seasons
Saturday Looks Good To Me - Fill up the room
Scenes From a Movie - The pulse
Sea Wolf - Leaves in the river
Talia Segal - Nonprophet
Service Group - Principals of electronic circuitry
Set of Red Things - Who touches pitch defiles herself
Shark Island - Gathering of the faithful
Shoestring Strap - Mudgrass
Jack Shriner - A tour of brief reunions
Siberian - With me
Sky Pilots - Enjoy a day off
Sons of William - What hides inside
Speck Mountain - Summer above
Spectacular Fantastic - Outer space is nothing but a lie
Spider - The way to bitter lake
Max Stalling - Topaz city
Stare Into the Sun - Whispers turn to howls
Tom Stevens - Home
Storm - Category IV
Sugar and Gold - Creme
Superdude - Pothead punk
Taba Goog Music - Born loser
Tangerine Dream - Madcap's flaming duty
Tango Palace - Eye of the storm
The Ten - Film soundtrack
Liz Tormes - Limelight
Trag - 11th house
Turbine - Reward
Turn to Fall - For the fairest
Paul Turner - Clear blue
Umbrella Sequence - Events
Uncut - Modern currencies
Untied States - Bye bye bi-polar b/w These dead birds 7" single
Used Alien Mind - The placement aside
U.S.S.A. - The spoils
Val Papadins - No one wants to move the piano
Various Artists - Goin' Home: A tribute to Fats Domino
Various Artists - Reverse Psychology: Brought to you by Eyeball Records
Various Art ists - The 25th anniversary of the marquee club DVD
Various Artists - Taking back what's ours: The emo diaries, chapter eleven (Deep Elm)
Valencia Vas - Reflections
Michael Vlatkovich Quartet - Alivebuquerque
Waldteufel - Sanguis
Wannabe Hasbeens - Former transfuture vol. 1
Corinne West - Second sight
Wildphyr - Movement
Brad Wilson - Brad Wilson
Within Chaos - Virulent
Yoni - Extra credit
Zigmat! - Zigmat!
Kathy Zimmer - Spare key

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