Friday, June 28, 2013

Robb and the Handsome Few -- Robb and the Handsome Few

Friends, I hope that there is a place in your town where you can go that is never a disappointment. Good food, good drink, and excellent music, any night of the week. For me, that place is Rodeo Bar in NYC. It is my not-so-secret dream to eventually organize a concert for the blog, and I'd love to have it there.

Like all of my major life events since turning 21, I wound up at my favorite watering hole to celebrate the completion of my first year of teaching. (Incidentally, I just had a dream that my five most annoying students were standing at the foot of my bed, taunting me. And when I chased them out they took my towel.) We weren't there to see music, but Robb and the Handsome Few's chops and rugged good looks drew us in.

We arrived towards the end of their last set. A steamy Wednesday night, there were a few other folks in the audience. Robb and the band ripped through some fantastic covers and impressed us with their originals. They're not flashy in terms of performance, but you won't notice that because they (and you) are just too busy enjoying yourselves.

The songs on the EP are not as loud as the songs we heard last night. "Old New York" is the only song I heard live. It's definitely the strongest song on the EP -- it showcases the band's heart and optimism. I look forward to Robb and the gents committing some of the louder songs (there was one breakup song with the hook "You don't make love/You make up love" that I enjoyed) to tape.

But make sure you buy this EP so we all get to hear the album. If you're in the city, keep an eye out for these guys. They're poised for glory, but we have to help them get there.

Robb and the Handsome Few -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Mad Doctors -- Fuzz Tonic

And now for a completely different change of pace, here's some garage punk. Just in case you need a sandblaster to the ears.

Fuzz Tonic has it all: psychobilly, surf rock, and, of course, distortion with plenty of swagger in proportion (note the reference to Sum 41.) Brooklyn-based The Mad Doctors have invented the perfect garage punk formula. I find this genre to be grating more often than not, but The Mad Doctors have injected a sense of fun -- not to mention melody -- that's really what this whole craziness is all about.

Fuzz Tonic is short but packs a punch. Get it now.

The Mad Doctors -- Facebook, ReverbNation, Bandcamp

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Pine Hearts -- Distant Lights

The Pine Hearts are as class to indie bluegrass as it comes. Lilting, detached melodies combine with some badass fingerpicking and soulful harmonizing to create a unique sound. Where Greenland is Melting blends punk and bluegrass seamlessly, The Pine Hearts does the same for indie rock.

There's a lot to love on this album. The opening track, "don't let the stars bring you down" is a showstopper. If it doesn't draw you in to the rest of Distant Lights, you just don't enjoy music.

The Pine Hearts -- Facebook, ReverbNation, Bandcamp

Friday, June 21, 2013

Echo Bloom -- Blue

Geek culture is interesting. We take a form of entertainment that is seemingly cheap and disposable (say, a comic book superhero) and do what we can to make it into High Art (like, for example, an epic movie or a critically acclaimed graphic novel.) Those of us who reach god-tier status are those who actually succeed.

That being the case, Echo Bloom has reached god-tier status when it comes to gorgeously crafted, richly-textured pop music.
If you enjoyed Rosary Beard, you'll be pleased to enjoy similar music...this time, with lyrics that are just as enchanting as the music.

Echo Bloom bills itself as an Americana act, but I find that to be a bit of a misnomer. Frontman Kyle Evans' voice is just as rugged and road-weary as any cowpunk, but the recordings are too intricate for a campfire or basement bar. There's a real attention to detail here. It'll take you a few listens to fully appreciate the music's complexity. But since I'm considering this to be part of the basics -- music that's a shining example of what Adobe and Teardrops stands for -- I imagine you'll be listening to this a couple of times.

Echo Bloom -- Official, Facebook, Buy Blue

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Maria Gillard -- Mending

There's something very comfortable about Maria Gillard's songs. Sure, they're about heartbreak and loss and healing (what else are songs about?) but you can't help thinking that she's right there in your living room, teaching you her wisdom.

That's because these songs, ranging from jazz to folk to swing, feel very lived-in (and that's not a comment on Ms. Gillard's age.) Though it may represent a year's worth of Ms. Gillard's songwriting, I can easily imagine her and her stellar co-musicians wearing grooves into these songs over a glass of wine. If you're looking for a thoughtful but mellow spin, Mending should be up your ally.

Must Be I'm In Love
Country Gal With the City Blues
Broken World
Maria Gillard -- Official, iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby, Facebook

Monday, June 17, 2013

George Breakfast -- Love Will Get the Better Of You

I've never understood the appeal of James Taylor. Sure, he has a nice enough voice, but he takes everything that is fun and interesting and sexy about rock'n'roll and renders it toothless. (See "Steamroller Blues")

Really, he should have taken lessons from his contemporary, George Breakfast.

It's the clarity and expressiveness of Breakfast's voice that leads me to draw the comparison to Taylor. But Breakfast has an authenticity that few artists can match. As his extensive biography shows, the guy knows a thing or two about songcraft.

The love songs evoke a gentleness that never dips into maudlin, and when Breakfast wants to get funky ("How About Now" and "I'm In a Hole") have a certain swagger to them that's difficult to resist, no matter how goofy they are at first glance.

For me, Love Will Get the Better Of You is everything I love about classic rock without the overproduced nonsense that still gets airplay. I hope this album gets the better of you as well.

George Breakfast -- Official, Bandcamp

Friday, June 14, 2013

High Dive -- These Are Days EP

And ringing in a week of fantastic music is queer pop punk band High Dive's second release, These Are the Days. (Note it is also the second consecutive week of regular updates!)

I have been rabid fans of these gents since I listened to their debut EP, High Dive.

High Dive takes things a little less seriously this time around. While High Dive was successfully earnest without becoming sanctimonious, it's nice to see the band lighten up a bit. That's not to say it's a bad thing -- These Are Days' title track would be a self-indulgent tune about being a millennial if Toby Foster didn't believe in every tune he sang. Rather than coming off as bored or aimless, "These Are Days" could be a rallying point for folks my age if they poked their heads out of their bubbles long enough to listen.

Where High Dive was a much more political album, These Are Days is more personal, and therefore more relatable. But it's just as danceable. Get it, boys.

High Dive -- Official, Bandcamp

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

John Moreland -- In The Throes

Run, do not walk, to John Moreland's Bandcamp page.

See? I put the link in the first line for you. So now you don't even have to read the article!

In The Throes  is a surefire bet for the top 10 of 2013 on just about every music blog you most likely read.

In The Throes is every bit as hard-hitting as Moreland's previous entry, Everything The Hard Way. This time around, Moreland is a little less rockin', a little less angry, and a little more sad. I guess you could say that the perspective on this album is more mature, but I refuse to think that getting older means replacing defiance with sadness.

I read elsewhere that Moreland was heavily influenced by Mellencamp, and that influence is certainly part of what draws me to him. But at the end of the day, it's Moreland's timeless melodies and sharp-as-a-tack lyrics that get me every time.

Most of Moreland's songs are about failure and defeat, but In The Throes is a triumph. Most artists would give anything to write even three songs like Moreland's, but he keeps cranking out album after album of them. Perhaps "Nobody Gives a Damn About Songs Anymore," as he mourns on the second track, but each of these tracks ring of truth. Intensely personal, Moreland's darkest moments are instantly relatable. And if that's not The Truth, or something approaching to it, I don't know what is. Moreland has a lot to celebrate with the release of this album. Keeping my fingers crossed for some more optimistic tunes as he continues to mature as a songwriter and a person. Because we'll be following along with him.

John Moreland -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp, Last Chance Records

Monday, June 10, 2013

Red Tail Ring -- The Heart's Swift Foot

Verily, the music gods have smiled upon us. There are two extremely exciting releases this week, and I am super excited to tell you about Red Tail Ring.

Hailing from the Michigan wilds, Michael Beauchamp and Laurel Premo gift us with their honest, refreshing take on Americana.

"Ohio Turnpike," the album opener, is immediately captivating. Spare in sound but lush with emotion, it's as beautiful a homecoming song as you'll ever hear. It's easily one of my favorite songs of the year, but only seconded by "Katy Came Breezing," a duet that's haunting in the best kind of way. But the duo let their hair down, too. "Dirt Triangle" and "Body Like a Bell" are rollicking foot-stompers about gentrification and lady folk.

There are 12 songs on this album. Two are traditional. Try to figure out which are which, but they are 100% beautiful, authentic, and the kind of music that makes me continue writing this blog.

Ohio Turnpike
Katy Came Breezing
Body Like a Bell

Red Tail Ring -- Official, Facebook, CD Baby

Friday, June 7, 2013

Jennifer Leonhardt -- Songs My Mother Sang

After a prolonged absence, Jennifer Leonhardt (you may remember her from the Pattycakes, an acclaimed band from the early aughts) has returned to her art with a truly moving album.

Songs My Mother Sang is a tribute to her late mother. Knowing nothing about Leonhardt's previous work, I can say that from her interpretations of the traditional songs featured here that she is an honest musician with a rare depth to her singing.

I suspect that these were the songs Leonhardt were raised on. It's easy to hear her attachment to them, at least. And after a long day, who doesn't need someone to sing them gently to sleep?

Jennifer Leonhardt -- Official, Bandcamp, Facebook

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Grisly Hand -- Country Singles

A quick disclaimer -- I've only listened to Grisly Hand's most recent album twice. My Internetz are on the fritz right now.

But twice is enough, really. I've already told you that Grisly Hand is amazing. Country Singles shows the band's versatility to their advantage. They've definitely expanded their sound since their initial Western Ave. EP.

Country Singles has it all -- flings, relationships growing, relationships crashing and burning; recklessness, revenge, despair; country, blues, ballads. Some songs have a poppier slant than others (including the title track), but that just cements The Grisly Hand's proper place among the successful, touring neo-roots acts the kids love these days. I'm waiting for the day the band hops in one of those sixteen-wheelers and heads east.

The Grisly Hand -- Official, Bandcamp, Facebook

Monday, June 3, 2013

Scott Dennis -- Rearranging Furniture

My jaw dropped a little when I read that Scott Dennis was from Brooklyn. "Ada," Rearranging Furniture's opening track, sounds 500% Nashville.

It's not that Dennis sounds over-produced. There's a rich quality to "Ada" (and the other songs here) that feels so steeped in tradition and gentle naivety (at least that's what I get from classic country) that it could only have been performed by people committed to country enough to set up shop in Mecca itself.

Dennis calls to mind a less tipsy Roger Clyne. Of course, with songs like "That's My Lady" and "Donde Esta Mi Senorita?", Dennis knows what the bottom of a bottle looks like. That being said, his most impressive songs are those with a more somber outlook, like "Feelings in the Sand" and "Rearranging Furniture." Rearranging Furniture captures a vast range of emotion, no matter what the song's tempo is. Dennis is truly a gifted songsmith.

Scott Dennis -- Official, Amazon, CDBaby, ReverbNation