Monday, July 30, 2012


Hello, dear readers.

Being that I am A) on vacation and B) just accepted a job offer, I plan to spend the rest of this week drunk off my ass, particularly in preparation for this Saturday's Two Cow Garage concert in Brooklyn.

But I will not abandon you, dear reader. Check my Twitter feed (on the right) for 160-character reviews today, tomorrow, and Friday.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Interview: Hannah Aldridge

I'm excited to announce the very first of what I hope will be more interviews here on Adobe and Teardrops! Hannah Aldridge is a singularly gifted singer-songwriter from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Her father, Walt Aldridge, is a "Music Achiever" in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, which means he will be inducted at some point in the future. 

Hannah has clearly inherited his chops, infusing her ethereal folk with a plaintive tone that can only come from experience. Hannah was kind enough to sit down for an e-mail interview. She wants you to listen to her music, and so do I.

So you write you're a working singer-songwriter, a ballet dancer, and a mom. When do you sleep, exactly?

Haha. Well sleep is really a luxury for me. To make it more insane I also own an entertainment company and up until this semester I was in college too. I have had to make some hard decisions and sometime I just force myself to turn my phone off and put everything away to have a day to myself. At the end of the day nothing is as important as my son and my quality of life. I have to be careful not to work myself into an early grave. 

In another interview, you talked about the moment when you had to choose between dancing and music. What drew you to music?

First of all, the are far fewer injuries in music. I got tired of being on crutches and having broken bones! It took a lot of faith for me to lay down my pointe shoes, abandon 4 years of college, and dedicate myself to music 100% without looking back, but at the end of the day I truly believe that this is what I am supposed to be doing. It's not an easy career by any stretch of the imagination, but I think that I am supposed to be a voice. I'm still trying to figure out what exactly it is that the man upstairs wants me to say though, but when I step onto the stage there is a voice in my head telling me "This isn't about you. This is about something much bigger than yourself"

You recently released a six-song album, Wanderer, and have another two short albums in the works. You've said elsewhere that you want each of them to redefine folk music. What makes Wanderer different, and where are the other two albums headed?

Wanderer was a very experimental album. I am influenced by everything from The Mars Volta and Nine Inch Nails to Gillian Welch and Patty Griffin, so "Wanderer" in hindsight is really a hodgepodge of influences in album form while I was trying to find what genre worked best for me. My next album, which will be a full length album, is a totally different side of me. The past year I have been surrounded by a wonderful team of people who have been fearless enough to tell me that stuff sucks and have really pushed me to be better at everything. My writing and guitar playing have come lightyears beyond what it was on Wanderer and my voice has really begun to settle for the time being into a country sound. I am from Alabama and I am recording in my hometown of Muscle Shoals so this next album is really all about me getting back to my roots. Nothing on this album is forced. It is meant to capture an very organic sound and we all are feeding off of the cool vibes from Muscle Shoals to give it that " Muscle Shoals Sound". As for the third album… we will see where the next year leads me!

I'm 23 and you're not much older than me. Why do you think Americana has become more popular with people our age?

I would like to believe that it is because it is a revolt against contrived crap that is force fed to us on the radio. I think people have forgotten what real drums and real voices sound like. We have been so overexposed to these pre-packaged " #1 hits" that when there is anything that has any glimpse of truth or rawness to it, it is like a fresh breath of air. Americana and folk music really is lyrically driven and is meant to make people think, which is the total opposite of most of the stuff out there on the radio, so I think that naturally people are being drawn towards it. 

Do you have a favorite tour story?

 This is a great question. Every tour I go on I leave thinking, "I just hope we make it home", because touring is always extremely adventurous, especially when you are touring overseas. There is a documentary that my tour manager and I filmed called "Rails to Ride" floating around out there. It is full of some hilarious moments on tour. I think by far the craziest tour story I have is the last Europe tour I left on in May ended with me being detained for something like 10 hours in the London airport and being flown home, forcing us to cancel two weeks of a tour. At some point, I was standing at the window of the holding cell in the London airport at 3 AM and looking at the overnight guards singing, "This Land Is Your Land," through the glass repeatedly just to see how far I could push them. I figured the best solution to the problem was to make them regret they ever met me. Haha. Another time, somewhere in between Prague and Amsterdam, my tour manager hit a snowy patch on the interstate resulting in two 360's in opposite directions. We ended actually facing the right direction on the road and managed not to hit anything but we were all so quiet all the way to Amsterdam you could hear a pin drop. My parents still don't know about that story, actually.

Here's hoping Hannah's parents don't read this blog! I know something even a tenth that scary would put me off touring forever. Let's hope for safe travels as Hannah continues to spread her distinctive voice.

Hannah Aldridge -- Official, Facebook, Spotify

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Sometimes Family -- Fun With Heartbreak

It is a universally known fact that music writers are terrible writers. Prone to cliches, platitudes, and gross generalizations, we burden ourselves with the task of describing the intangible qualities of the music we try to make you buy. So I really hate it when music writers say things like "This album is perfect to listen to while training your pet ocelot."

Personally, I listen to music to heighten or help me process an already heightened emotional state. I'm not interested in creating a specific atmosphere. Truly good music demands to be listened to -- it shouldn't be background filler.

But once I got to track two on Fun With Heartbreak, I realized this neo-blue-eyed soul throwback is the perfect summer album. You can't help dropping what you're doing to dig these grooves.

Truly, dear reader, I have pulled off all of the writerly tricks I despise just to tell you how great this EP is.

This stuff is pitch-perfect. Other than lyrics about listening to "Internet radio," Fun With Heartbreak is practically a time-machine. I have a hard time not dancing in my seat while listening to this.

So without further ado, here it is:

The Sometimes Family -- Official, Bandcamp, Facebook

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Sometimes Boys -- Fire and Ice

I hesitate to use the word "experimental" when it comes to music. To me, "experimental" means a bunch of people noodling around on their instruments while ignoring silly concepts of Western music like "melody" and "keys." I guess it's because schmucks like me have thrown the term around when we can't figure out what else to call something. But really, it should apply to artists or bands who take risks. The Sometimes Boys are an experimental folk band who deserve to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

The Sometimes Boys' music is a Frankenstein's monster of folk, bluegrass, jazz, and what I can really only describe as showtune-style narratives. But this is not a monster that will want to make you run away in fear and terror (and I harbor almost-complete antipathy towards showtunes.)

The album seems to be a meditation on the cyclical nature of the seasons and life. To me, the thematic cohesiveness of the album elevates this ambitious music to a true artistry that isn't usually found among singers -- folk or otherwise. Every note on this album is intentional. Even if you're more fond of some of those notes than others, there's no faulting The Sometimes Boys for mediocrity.

This is one of the more adventurous albums I've heard all year. 

The Sometimes Boys -- Official, Facebook, Reverbnation

Monday, July 16, 2012

FREE MUSIC: Fire Mountain

You've heard this music before.  But as you focus on the lyrics, you realize you actually don't know the song at all.

That's the impression I get from listening to Fire Mountain, anyway. This Alabama-based band has taken the best of 90s jangle pop, indie rock, and folk to create a distinctive sound. Like The Sparklers, they've taken a familiar formula and have reshaped it for our times with great success.

Plus, they're bringing sexy back by rocking some serious suspenders.

It's not just that the band is so earnest -- their lyrics are smart, too. Ever thought you'd hear the words "cranial crater" in a song? I didn't, either. Though Fire Mountain veers toward the darker side of things, they never let their Gothic outweigh their Southern.

The band's two EPs and a live album are available on Bandcamp. I recommend checking out the EPs first, since the sound quality is somewhat more lush. And I'm nice enough to put all three up here.

Fire Mountain -- Official, Bandcamp, Facebook

Friday, July 13, 2012

FREE MUSIC: Jinx Removing

I'm not well-versed enough in my punk rock to give you a detailed description of Jinx Removing's style, but I can describe it one word: fun.

Some of the songs on this EP, like "Johnny Depp Was Our Friend," are more traditionally aggressive. What captured my attention was the song "The Criminality," which embodies the many conflicting emotions inherent in a long-distance relationship.

As their band bio says, these guys smell great. And their music is as great as they must smell. If they ever make it out of Bozeman, I'll be first in line for their show.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Magnolia Mountain -- Town and Country

Clocking in at 18 songs and 75 minutes, I can no longer justifiably call any album other than Town and Country a tour de force. And it's not just the sheer quantity of music here: every one of the 18 tracks here is top-notch.

Magnolia Mountain's music can best be described as Americana. You've got everything from country to folk rock, gospel, Appalachian folk, rockabilly, etc. etc. In spite of this diversity, however, Magnolia Mountain's "voice" can be heard all the way through, which should be expected of a band's fourth album. I can't quite explain what the "voice" is -- I probably will be able to after a few listens, but I've already sat on this review for a criminally long time.

Led by Mark Utley, the band -- which consists of Melissa English and Renee Frye on background vocals, Jeff Vanover on a number of stringed instruments, Bob Lese on mandolin and harmonica, Kathy Woods on fiddle and more mandolin, Bob Donisi on bass, and Todd Drake on drums -- must be dynamic live. Most bands have their hands full getting all three to four members to sound unified. Magnolia Mountain sounds like they've been playing together since the womb.

"Mister Moon" happens to be my favorite song at the moment. I picked the other two songs at random -- the album is so diverse and consistently good that any sample of songs would be representative of their music.

Go forth and purchase. Only five dollars for an hour of knock-your-socks-off awesome!

Mister Moon
Baby, Let's Pretend
Hard to See (Live at the MOTR Pub)

Magnolia Mountain -- Official, Facebook, Spotify, Buy Town and Country

Monday, July 9, 2012

Herman Put Down the Gun -- EP

Sonia Tetlow just released a few songs from one of her previous (or should I say latent?) projects, Herman Put Down the Gun. And you should listen to it.

Not only does the cover conveniently match the color palate on this here electronic publication, but the music is as stellar as can be expected from a woman of such grace and talent. Over the years, Tetlow has drawn comparisons to Patti Smith. The comparison has not been more fitting than the six songs arrayed here. Tetlow's mystical lyrics and primal vocals, held aloft by Lee Valentine's gorgeous basslines and Linda Bolley's pounding rhythms, carry us to corners of our consciousness that we rarely visit when we're awake.

Here's another comparison for you: remember that eleven-minute song on Sleater-Kinney's last album, "Let's Call it Love?"  If you don't, imagine if somebody gave Led Zeppelin a formal introduction to riot grrl. Give it a few years to mature, and you have these songs from Herman Put Down the Gun.

Though you can name your price for it on Bandcamp, help support some of the bravest musicians you've listened to in a good long time.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Johnny Hickman -- Tilting

Hey! Listen! It's not too late to win your very own digital download of The Sparklers' new album. And since nobody has entered the contest so far, if you comment you'll have a 100% chance of winning!

But on to today's review: Johnny Hickman's masterful Tilting.

As we found with Jonathan Segel, this seems to be a good year for people who work with David Lowery and are named Jonathan. The opening song, "Measure of a Man" is clearly the song of a confident songwriter. Over the course of its four minutes and thirty seconds, what seems like a simple anthem unfolds into something much more expansive. After all, you can't judge the measure of a man based on first impressions.

The rest of the songs here live up to the sweeping nature of the opening track: politics, romance, life on the road, character sketches, all spanning the many subgenres of Americana. Johnny Hickman knows what he's doing, and you should buy this album so you can enjoy it.

Measure of a Man
Destiny Misspent
Sick Cynthia Thing

Johnny Hickman -- Official, Amazon

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Sparklers -- Crying at the Low Bar

I really wish I could say that The Sparklers from New York, because then I could say there's a local band here that I genuinely adore. But they're from the next best city (ie, Philadelphia) and I still adore them.

Their website describes Crying at the Low Bar as a song cycle about "loss, losing, and losering" in Philadelphia. Like a boozy, regretful night, the songs fade into each other seamlessly. While some moments are more distinct than others, the songs coalesce to create a nostalgic, bittersweet atmosphere.

Sonically, it's like they took all of the music I love and put it in a blender. And that's why, with just one album under their belts, I'm labeling The Sparklers as part of The Basics. It's been a while since I've fallen this in love with a band. Which leads me to my...

CD Giveaway Contest
Over at Ninebullets, we were trying to figure out which early 90s rock band they sound like. While there are obvious Gin Blossoms and Lemonheads overtones, I feel like there's somebody out there who's a closer match. So, submit your guess in the comments section below with your e-mail address. On Friday I'll randomly pick a comment. I will buy a download link for the winner and send it their way. (One guess per person, please!)

Anyway, here's the part of the entry you really care about:

 The Sparklers -- Official, Facebook, CDBaby, Bandcamp, Spotify