Friday, March 29, 2013

Left Arm Tan -- Alticana

If you haven't heard of Left Arm Tan, suffice it to say that this Fort Worth-based band never disappoints.

Alticana is a fair descriptor for the band's second (?) full-length album. Straddling the line between drrrty alt-country and light-hearted folk, Alticana has a little something for everyone.

This is the kind of album that should be radio-friendly, but will never be because it actually has some backbone. Troy Austin's warm vocals immediately draw you in. The rest of the band keeps things moving at a lively pace. While there are the requisite melancholy songs (it's basically a country album, after all), they never descend into the bitterness or rancor that so many of the guys featured here dwell in. But just because the pain doesn't cut you to the gut doesn't mean there's no substance here: I especially appreciate the lyrics in "Alcohol."

69 Reasons
Deep and Wide

Left Arm Tan -- Official, Facebook, CDBaby, iTunes, Amazon

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

El Cantador -- Translation Wave

Maybe it's an example of my changing tastes, maybe Brooklyn is desensitizing me to sweeping guitar-and-synthesizer soundscapes, or maybe it's just 'cuz I'm in my 20s, but I really enjoy El Cantador's latest album. Even if I can't tell you why.

However, Charles Hale over on Ninebullets summed up my thoughts on Translation Wave while reviewing an album that I passed on myself: at first, I heard a lot of noise. But I also heard something else, some virtue behind the distortion. After a few listens, I've come to appreciate the music. I still can't articulate what that virtue is, exactly, but I urge you to give Translation Wave a few listens.

So I still don't know what separates the noise rock wheat from the chaff, but El Cantador is certainly the cream of the crop.

El Cantador -- Facebook, Bandcamp, Spotify, Amazon, iTunes

Monday, March 25, 2013

Along Came Jones -- Along Came Jones

If I had had my act together more, I'd have written up a Passover-themed post. Ah well. Next year in Jerusalem, eh?

But I can present you with a group that captures the spirit of the holiday: tradition, joy, freedom, determination, and (according to some interpretations) political protest.

Along Came Jones is very much interested in "doing it right." None of this overproduced bullshit. It's abundantly clear that everything on this album is coming straight from the heart. The band isn't interested in revolutionizing music in any way -- really, they want to make something sincere and moving. I'd say they achieved their goal.

I prefer the more roots-oriented songs on the album, so the latter half of the album (which incorporates many, many different elements of this century's pop and rock music) doesn't do as much for me. But that's just my preference. Every note Along Came Jones hits is the right one -- I guarantee you'll find more than a few songs that resonate with you.

The Chatter and the Noise
Continental Divide

Along Came Jones -- Official (under construction), Facebook, CD Baby, iTunes

Friday, March 22, 2013

Matt Ryd -- Ryd 'Em Cowboy

Howdy, y'all. Sorry for the lax update schedule. Tomorrow is the last day of school before spring break and I am simply out of fucks to give about anything.

However, if you like your power pop with a little bit of twang -- or believe that your twang could use a little bounce -- I bring you Matt Ryd's latest EP, Ryd 'Em Cowboy.

The art pretty much matches the music -- fun and optimistic. It's a good album for a Friday.


Matt Ryd -- Tumblr, Facebook, Buy Ryd 'Em Cowboy

Monday, March 18, 2013

AxeHammerSaw -- Skeleton Key

Sometimes, you can tell a lot about a band from their name. If a band's name is too clever by half, chances are its music will similarly be preoccupied by wit, rather than artistry.

I was worried that AxeHammerSaw would be that band. See, the name refers to the three instruments featured in the band (guitar, banjo, saw.) But I couldn't pass up the opportunity to hear what a musical saw sounded like.

Fortunately, I was wrong about the music.

And, in case you're wondering, the saw sounds a little like a theramin. 

I could tell you about the band's lyricism, or their catchy melodies, or how it must take some serious skill to get a bent piece of metal to make those sounds, but instead, I bring you the ultimate stamp of approval:

My roommate walked into the room as I was listening to Skeleton Key. He said, "Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyy! For once, I like what you're listening to!"

Ghost of a Memory
She Ain't Me

AxeHammerSaw -- Official, Facebook

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Miners -- Miners' Rebellion

When David Horton featured The Miners on his blog, Popa's Tunes, he needed only to say two words to grab my attention: alt-country and Philadelphia.

As A&T favorites The Sparklers and The Tressels have shown, there's something in the mighty Schuylkill that breeds gritty, lived-in alt-country bar bands. In reality, it's not the water. It's the subliminal messages flashed from the PECO building's LED display. This hypothesis is based on Science.

 The Miners continue to prove my theory correct. The Miners' Rebellion is a stunning EP. Together, the songs tell that familiar American story, the one that began as soon as Columbus's boots hit the dirt: exploitation, redemption, nostalgia for a past that may not have existed. Taken separately, they're six extraordinarily hard-hitting songs packet with lyrical genius.

Philly, get your asses out to see these gents. Gents, get your butts over to NYC soon. We may not have the PECO building's mystique or Wawa, but at least we'll let you buy beer and food in the same establishment. But if Philly keeps pumping out bands like The Miners, that's really the only thing NYC will have on the City of Brotherly Love.

You will see this album again at the end of the year.

The Miners -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

(PS -- Unrelated note: click the image to the right to check out Couch by Couchwest, the indie music festival for the rest of us!)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Pharis and Jason Romero -- Long Gone Out West Blues

Welp. I think it finally happened.

The first album this year that I know will be on my "Best Of" list.

If one were to read the bios of all of the artists Hearth Music represents, one would walk away with the impression that the forests of the Pacific Northwest are teeming with part-time luthiers and folk singers. Pharis and Jason Romero are one of the seemingly many, but their music stands out in many respects.

The Romeros are steeped in their craft. It's really quite difficult to say which of these songs are theirs, and which are traditional gems that the couple have unearthed (or at least put their own polish to.)

Their version of "Wild Bill Jones" will stay in your head for weeks. "Lost Lula", with its plaintive banjo melody, is the standout track here.

This is Americana/(Canadicana/White People Music?) to the bone. The Romeros are as gifted at playing music as they are at writing it -- not such an easy combination to find. Long Gone Out West Blues may take a few spins to really enter your heart, but it will definitely stay with you for a long time.

(PS - The CD packaging is really cool, if you're into that kind of thing.)

Pharis and Jason Romero -- Official, Bandcamp, Facebook

Friday, March 8, 2013

Mud, Blood and Beer -- The Sweet Life

Is there anything better than a world-weary bar band?

I think not, says I, particularly when I'm feeling a little world-weary myself.

Mud, Blood & Beer (what guys? No Oxford comma?) is the answer for your soul's needs, whether you're in a sour mood or not. This is one of the rare cases where the album cover actually evokes the feel of its sonic contents. The Sweet Life is a melancholy, nostalgic set of songs. I dare you to try to stop listening to this album once it's in your little hands. Mud, Blood & Beer have a solid grasp on hard-driving, catchy hooks. Mud, Blood & Beer is very much the heir to early '90s alt-rock. They're a bar band to the core, and I'm thrilled that they're from my corner of the world. They're certainly big fish swimming in a sea of would-be folkies.

Mud, Blood, and Beer -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Great Peacock -- Great Peacock EP

Mark my words: Great Peacock will be a name on everyone's lips by the end of the year.

That is, if they keep producing music that is as rich and fully-realized as the five songs on their debut EP.

While the songs -- particularly "Take Me to the Mountain" -- would fit comfortably in a Windows tablet ad, Great Peacock is not simply another indie folk band.

Members Andrew Nelson and Blount Floyd have been playing together for years. Given the near perfection of their harmonization and the obvious chemistry between the two, we shouldn't be surprised.

There's a passion and excitement in this music that you won't find from a couple of twenty-somethings who want to imitate the Lumineers. These guys believe in their work. Whatever came before it has culminated in this EP, and it's quite a product. Get yer paws on it.

Great Peacock -- Official, Bandcamp

Monday, March 4, 2013

Oakland Wine Drinkers Union -- Local 88

If clever band names are gimmicky then call me a sucker. But it's not just the Oakland Wine Drinkers Union's name that sucked me in. Their music is (to borrow terminology from their coast) hella fun.

"Work is The Curse," the lead-off track, is worth the price of admission alone. A song that pulls double duty as a slacker's anthem and pointed critique of capitalism, it's hard not to fall in love.

It's not fair to say that the album declines after that, but "Work" is certainly the most memorable track on the album. The songs are punchy and clever. Oakland Wine Drinkers Union is truly a folk punk outfit -- each song has a slightly chaotic, DIY ethos that is tempered by the warmth and humor of folk music.

The Oakland Wine Drinkers Union -- Official, Bandcamp, Facebook

Friday, March 1, 2013

Uncle Leon and the Alibis -- Wild Ways

I was at my place of work for 12 hours today. Listening to parents yell at their screw-up children as if I'd never called them to tell them what their kids are or aren't doing.  What I need is a stiff drink and music to accompany it.

Thankfully, Uncle Leon and the Alibis have provided the world with the perfect soundtrack for just such an evening.

(PS -- The above photo is more or less what I look like right now. Ain't no way I'm creating materials for tomorrow. Blurgh.)

I've already told you that Uncle Leon is a band to pay attention to. They have a take-no-prisoners attitude to their music. But that doesn't make them deadly serious. Uncle Leon's wry outlook on life leads to some infectious pop tunes. The band never hits a wrong note -- musically or emotionally. Alternating between thoughtful contemplation ("It Ain't That Easy") to ribald ("Whiskey and Weed and Big-Titted Women"), but never crass.

Fact is, Uncle Leon wants you to have a good time. This is foot-stomping, honky-tonk stuff that's designed to be played live.

Go forth, purchase, and be fruitfully shwasted.

All My Crazy Friends Got Old and Lame
It Ain't That Easy
Whiskey and Weed and Big-Titted Women (my personal anthem)

Uncle Leon and the Alibis -- Official, Facebook, iTunes, Spotify