Thursday, October 31, 2013

pinkwing -- restless

If you were expecting a Halloween post, I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint.

A few months ago I ran into Adobe & Teardrops favorite and all-around study Whitney Lockert at a concert. It turned out he had shown up early and was waiting for his set. He was sitting in with his pal, pinkwing. I ended up missing the show, but I'm glad I followed up on pinkwing.

pinkwing's eclectic brand of folk is freewheeling and fun. "hard up" is the standout on restless, though some of her other demos are available on Bandcamp. I can't wait for the full album.

pinkwing -- Official, Bandcamp

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sans Abri -- Shelter

"The Scientist" is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as "Most Charming Song." It's a fact. Look it up.

Sans Abri is a side project of Josh Erwin and Michael Paynter, who bluegrass fans might know as the founding members of the Packway Handle Band. But Shelter is a pretty far cry form traditional folk. Sure there are mandolins and guitars and banjos and things. "The Scientist," starts up as '90s-throwback, Soul Coughing-like acoustic ditty that gradually builds in complexity and beauty.

Shelter is a truly outstanding album that is much deeper than at first glance. Erwin and Paynter's voices entertwine, bounce off each other and harmonize, as do their instruments. It's really something to hear the way they work together to create something lyrical, entertaining, and yes, beautiful. It's already one of my favorite albums this year.

Sans Abri -- Bandcamp

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Stoll Vaughan -- Living Record (Vol. 1)

If you're a musician submitting music to me, all you really have to do is say "John Mellencamp" and my heart will melt. So to read that Stoll Vaughan has not only opened for the man himself, but has also contributed music to True Blood (which, you have to admit, has a killer soundtrack no matter the quality of the actual writing) I had to take a listen.

Living Record is part of a series produced by Vaughan's own record label. As you can imagine, it's a live album, which serves to capture the wild energy in Vaughan's performance. I did not adore the more raucous songs like "Need You," personally, but Vaughan's punk delivery and country voice were plenty of ear candy for me. I'm looking forward to listening to his full albums.

Stoll Vaughan -- Official, Facebook, Download The Living Record

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ali Holder -- In Preparation For Saturn's Return

Ali Holder's latest release is as mystical as its title, In Preparation For Saturn's Return. It's a bildungsroman (no, I wasn't an English major.) The title refers to an astrological term, in which it supposedly takes around 27 years for Saturn to return to the spot in its orbit that it was at the exact moment of your birth. Holder titled the album in honor of her upcoming birthday and the completion of her master's degree in arts education, marking a new phase in life. (PS - Fuck yeah, teachers!)

Saturn's Return is a little miracle all of its own. Though all of the songs are effortless in their execution, grace, and beauty, my favorite is the haunting duet "I Saw a Wolf," which is as accurate a love song as any. Because let's face it, as happy as falling in love can be, there's also a secret dread to making yourself so vulnerable and a predatory sense of satisfaction in making your fantasies a reality.

Or maybe I need to get over my weird Puritan streak.

Either way, this album is gold.

Ali Holder -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp, iTunes

Friday, October 25, 2013

Doc Feldman and the LD50 -- Sundowning at the Station

Well, it looks like I've once again be scooped by the inestimable Charles Hale over at Ninebullets. To be fair, I have a "to do" list that is typically two months behind, so this review was coming whether or not Ninebullets thought it was cool.

For an album that was released in the height of summer, Sundowning at the Station is bleak. I happened to listen to it for the fiftieth time in three days this afternoon while reading an article about a press bus that took a wrong turn in Pyongyang, giving the international press access to how the average North Korean really lived. It looks like the pictures were taken in midwinter. Between the two, I had to look out my window just to make sure it was a glorious, cloudless autumn afternoon.

Feldman's spare music, haunting lyrics, and warm yet world-weary voice create a world that is both melancholy and somehow comforting. Life is harsh and lonely, sure, but we'll get through. There's a reason we keep going, even if Doc hasn't quite figured it out yet.

By far one of the finest albums of the year -- you'll see this again in a few months.

Doc Feldman and the LD50 -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp, Amazon, iTunes, Buy from This is American Music

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cecei -- King Koopa PipeDreamz

Sometimes big things come in tiny packages. Case in point: Ceci's debut 3-song EP, King Koopa PipeDreams.

I think you should just hit play right now.

Are you listening? Then I don't really need to say much else other than "holy shit, the lady's got pipes!"

She also composed the music, too.

Love truly is the poet's inspiration. This is Cecei's first crack at becoming a singer-songwriter following the bitter end of a relationship that took her from LA to Hong Kong and landed her in Texas. If the music's any indicator, it must have been tough to live through. But it's a good thing it pushed Cecei to introduce the world to her brilliance.

Cecei -- Facebook, Bandcamp

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Marshall Artz -- To Be Continued

As I've mentioned before, it's really an honor and a privilege for musicians from all over the world to send me their stuff. Every day. I'm constantly surrounded by new music. It's pretty great, but sometimes you get tired of a barrage of new stuff. Sometimes you just need a palate cleanser.

Marshall Artz is an acoustic duo from Virginia. They revel in all things Americana -- blues, bluegrass, folk, country, it's all there. Both Marshall and Artz are truly gifted guitarists. While many of the songs on To Be Continued have vocals, the duo truly shines on their instrumental tracks. To me, they're better at communicating their ideas musically rather than verbally. I listened to the album before reading the press materials, and, frankly, I was surprised that there were only two guitarists in the group. The instrumentals are lyrical in a way that truly transcends words.


Tail Chaser

Shadows Against the Wall

Marshall Artz -- Official, Facebook, CDBaby, iTunes

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Funkyjenn -- Rock and Roll Voodoo Queen

If there were any justice in this word, jazz and lounge singing would still be popular. It would be the best way to showcase such an unstoppable vocal talent as Funkyjenn (Jennifer Gibbons.) On the other hand, the 1950s happened, and they gave us -- thank goodness -- rock'n'roll. Funkyjenn has talent in spades and treats us to it to great effect on her debut, Rock and Roll Voodoo Queen.

Swinging from rock and blues to soul, Rock and Roll Voodoo Queen is a tour through all that is good and holy in American music (minus the jazz, I guess.) Funkyjenn's backing band includes the best of the best in the LA roots scene as well. This is as visceral and fun as music is going to get. Enjoy.

If your dance card has not yet been filled for Thursday and you live in the LA area, Funkyjenn would love to see you at the album release show:

6010 Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
$10 cover

Funkyjenn -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp, Soundcloud

Monday, October 21, 2013

Jonathan Warren and the Billy Goats -- On This Very Evening

At last, Boise has something to be proud of.*

Let me explain to you how enjoyable On This Very Evening is. For some reason, the songs kept repopulating into my media player's library. Eventually, each song was duplicated onto the playlist twice as I listened to the whole thing the first time through.

I knew it was doing that.

And I didn't care at all.

Jonathan Warren and the Billy Goats are the kind of band that will play at your wedding, and then get in a fight with the groom's dad (according to their press materials, this actually happened.) But you wouldn't know it from the soulful crooning on their latest release. This is inventive alt-country at its finest. Best of all, you can name your own price on their website.

 Jonathan Warren and the Billy Goats -- Official, Facebook, Purchase from site, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify

*Zing! to my college roommate.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Kally O'Mally -- Easy Money

This afternoon I received a number of solicitations from electronica and spoken word musicians. Come on, guys. Maybe you should like, READ, the publications your sending your stuff to?

But considering that's been the most annoying part of my day, I'd say life is good.

And it's about to get better, because I get to tell you about Kally O'Mally's latest release.

Easy Money is a concept album about one woman's physical and emotional journey through the Southwest. O'Mally's got the voice of a country diva, and it soars through her musical exploration. The album is 100% funded, produced, and owned by O'Mally, and her sense of ownership is pervasive throughout the album.

That being said, Easy Money, made me realize that I profoundly do not care when (straight) women sing about the guys who've done them wrong. I know it's messed up. I know it's probably some kind of weird misogynist streak I have. But...I just can't. Unfortunately for me, many of the songs on Easy Money are about just that. However, songs like "Don't Cry" and "New Dawn" pick up what is, for me, emotional slack. They practically vibrate with energy and hope. Because as boring as breakup songs may be, I'm all about ladies who pick up the pieces and take care of their shit.

Kally O'Mally -- Official, Facebook, Amazon, iTunes, CDBaby

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Patricia Vonne -- Rattle My Cage

Texan femme fatale Patricia Vonne has released her fifth studio album, Rattle My Cage.

The album cover should give you a pretty good idea of what you're in for. With the bombast of an '80s pop-rock diva (think Pat Benatar and Anne Wilson), Vonne owns the microphone. The album is a perfectly Texan pastiche of rock, blues, country, rockabilly, mariachi, and corridos (feel free to correct me -- I'm still learning my Mexican folk genres.) This time around, Vonne has collaborated with long-time heroes Alejandro Escovedo, Rosie Flores, and Doyle Bramhall.

Rattle My Cage is bombastic and glossy. It's alt-country in the sense that it would never make it in Top 40 country, but it should. This is not the roadhouse-sob-into-a-beer fare that is so often featured here. But it's worth stepping outside your comfort zone for something that is truly one-of-a-kind.

Dark Mile

Patricia Vonne -- Official, Facebook, Buy Rattle My Cage

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Communal Well -- Under a Western Sky

As one Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter put it at a recent Queer Country Monthly, country isn't about where you're from. It's about your attitude. The Communal Well, a Paris-based blues-rock sextet, couldn't prove the point better.

These gents have got the swagger of fifteen cowboys. In spite of one rape-y lyric ("Don't be a bitch" and scratch my "itch") The Communal Well is spot-on in terms of tone and attitude. This is a fun album, to be sure, no matter which side of the Atlantic it comes from.

The Communal Well -- Facebook, Bandcamp

(EDIT: The Communal Well is a sextet, not a trio.)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Star Anna -- Go To Hell

If you read this blog it means you miss the '90s -- sonically -- at least a little teensy weensy bit.

If you are my favorite kind of reader on this blog (I don't have favorite students, but I do have favorite readers), you also miss riot grrl.

But mostly, if you read this blog, it's because you like twangy music.

Star Anna is all of these things and she is my musical dream come true.

The album careens across the entire spectrum of rock, from the straightforward "For Anyone" to the bluesy "Come On Up to the House" to the splintering punk of "Smoke Signals." Star Anna sings, moans, and snarls her way through the fastest forty minutes you'll ever hear. She can croon just as soft as Brandi Carlile with a darker edge or spout off like a grungier Corin Tucker. It's clear that she's tied to her Seattle rock history. It shouldn't surprise anyone that she's earned nods from Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) and Duff McKagan (Guns 'n' Roses/Velvet Revolver.) If Star Anna is representative of her peers, it is a good day to be a lady in the rock business.

Star Anna -- Official, Facebook, Buy Go To Hell From Spark and Shine Records

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Onlies -- Open Road

The Onlies have a rare gift for storytelling that is barely surpassed by their musical chops.

It wouldn't do you any good for me to describe each song on Open Road, though that's kind of what I want to do. Whether The Onlies are singing are about childhood nostalgia, relationships gone south, or small-town life, each song is a mini epic story. Every verse is delivered with a profound insight or two. Fawn Larson's country-perfect voice is like caramel to Will Harrison's gravelly chocolate. They're both great on their own, but they're sublime together.

Normally I'm not enough of a music nerd to comment on it, but it's worth noting that the mixing on this album is perfectly. Gary Newman's gentle standup bass is brought to the forefront, which serves to make the music warm and intimate. As a result, the album has a family feel, like a living room concert.

The Onlies -- Official, Facebook, iTunes, Amazon, Spotify

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Express and Company -- Ontario

Continuing in the vein of fantastic Canadian Americana artists (is that an oxymoron?) I present to you Express and Company.

Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. Like its album art, Ontario is an airy, unassuming album that eventually turns into a deep, cobalt blue. (Music metaphors are weird.) Express and Company does a wonderful job telling stories of quiet, desperate people and -- equally convincingly and probably more importantly -- quiet, happy people. I don't know -- at least with the type of music I tend to listen to, happy songs often sound hollow. Anyone who can draw upon our full emotional spectrum without ringing a false note (ha) earns my immediate respect.


Express and Company -- Official, Facebook, Buy Ontario

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Slow Leaves -- Second Chances EP

Normally I don't review EPs. There's just enough stuff on the piece to give a proper assessment (my favorite education word) of the work.

But this time, one song was enough to sell me.

Slow Leaves is the product of a fortuitous jam session in Winnipeg. Grant Davidson and Rusty Matyas show they're a match made in heaven with three powerful roots rock songs. The full album is in the can but does not yet have a release date. I wanted to share the EP with you guys so you can get your hands on some of their music, at least. Here's hoping the rest comes to us soon.

Slow Leaves -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Monday, October 7, 2013

Austin Lucas -- Stay Reckless

Austin Lucas hits the nail on the head yet again.

But first, I want to talk about something that doesn't really matter. I'm a pretty tactile person, and I enjoy getting CDs in the mail. I like opening the envelopes. So I'll just say, very briefly, that the CD's packaging is really quite beautiful. I was home sick the other day and, while examining the booklet, I had to fight a strong urge to lick the thing. (I'm not even joking. Maybe I did have a bit of a fever.)

Lucas is a national treasure on his own, but with Glossary serving as his backing band, Lucas is resplendent. National press may not take note of the serendipitous duo (but yay New York Times review!) but both entities are the best in the biz, and there's no reason you shouldn't drop everything to get this album into your warm little hands.

The song mostly documents the decay of Lucas's most recent marriage. Like A New Home in the Old World, it took a devastating breakup for me to truly appreciate Austin's work. And, well, I haven't been married yet or really lived enough, to be honest, for the work to really resonate with me. It sure sounds pretty, though.

Austin Lucas -- Official, Purchase, Stream for Free on American Songwriter

Friday, October 4, 2013

Chuck -- Let's Make Out

Chuck's EP is quirky and adorable. But in spite of its massive charm, it took a little while for it to worm its way into my heart.

My problem is that I wasn't really listening to the songs. At first glance (or listen) it's a bunch of fuzzy hipstery pop with some guy with a nasal voice. But a closer look reveals Chuck's gift for eccentric storytelling. As he notes on his own Bandcamp page, he wanted to write about people who were emphatically not him -- a rich kid from Cape Cod, a homeless person, a Mexican guy in a band. But at the end of the day, Chuck's gift for observing the small, unobtrusive details of daily life make these songs interesting and relatable. The jangle-pop background is just icing on the cake -- it turns everyday life into a dance party.

My gift to you, if you have a case of the Mondays.

Chuck -- Official, Bandcamp, Monkfish Records

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Paul Sanchez -- Another Cup of Coffee

That sound you just heard was my fangirl-ish squee from receiving an e-mail directly from music god Paul Sanchez.

It's safe to say that he was a huge asset to Cowboy Mouth. His songs had an artistic quality that separated the Mouth from other college party bands in the '90s. "Another Cup of Coffee" was just one song on what may be the most perfect album in the history of the universe, Word of Mouth. (But maybe I remember it that way because it was the first album that made me Love music.)

The song is a breakup song, and in the original recording Sanchez has a Neil Young-esque warble. He's scared and lost and hurt and paranoid. Sometimes his style on the track strikes me as whiny, but it depends on the mood I'm in. For a band that was focused on feel-good music, "Coffee" had a dark edge. For reference, you can stream it on Cowboy Mouth's Myspace page.

Fast forward 17 years to 2013. Paul is helping director James Demaria create a documentary about his, frankly, legendary life and comes across an old Cowboy Mouth newsclip that features the song.  He and longtime collaborator Mike Mayeux decide to re-record it. He sings it with the piss and vinegar of an older, wiser man reopening a buried wound. Then they decide to let you download it for free.

Here it is.

(EDIT: To download, right-click and select "Save link location as..." or "Save target as..." depending on your browser.)

Paul Sanchez -- OfficialiTunesAmazon

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Gui Gui Sui Sui -- Nineteen Below Zero EP

What do you do when you're a British ex-pat killing time in a subarctic, Northern Chinese factory city?

Why, you build a diddley bo out of a skateboard, distort the living fuck out of it, and start a punk rock band.

鬼鬼祟祟 (it means "sneaky" in Mandarin) is by far the rawest, nastiest, blood-curdling punk blues I've had the privilege to listen to since starting this blog. With all due respect, Left Lane Cruiser and the Black Keys wish they had something on this guy. I am hopelessly in love and I wish this EP was longer than three songs (whatever Gui Gui Sui Sui is doing out there, he'd better be making a metric fuckton of money and he'd better use it to make more music.)

Here's what Gui Gui Sui Sui had to say about his live album (which I assure you will be reviewed here post-haste):

This is record is intended to be an account of the informal network of the Asian underground music and arts scene. The spirit of Doing It Yourself is strong and there are opportunities for anyone who wants to make or enjoy art sustainably, for love not for profit, to really have a go at it....
The message I want to impart is to participate and support: make a band, make a video, make a zine, make a poster,make a record, take some photos, book a show, book a tour. Please, don’t spend $200+ to see some living corpse of a stadium rock act, lurching out onto a stage with their zimer frame to claw in more cash they don’t even need, to pay for their fleet of yachts or fifth castle, butchering songs they gave up caring about long ago. Instead take that money and go to ten DIY’d shows by local independent artists and touring acts.   
 I was interested to read his namechecks of bands across Asia, including Fukuoka, a Japanese city that I had every intention to visit when I lived there but never got around to. The stereotype is to think of Asians as conformist and status-obsessed (it's understandable. They're finally feeling the flush of postwar prosperity after decades of reconstruction. I never blamed my peers for a second on their ostentatious spending.) I had a hard time finding counter-culture in Nagoya, but I also didn't know where to look for it (I am, after all, an Uptown Girl.) I knew it had to exist somewhere beyond Tokyo and Kyoto, but I guess Nagoya was too flush with Toyota money. I'll be looking into those Japanese bands and reporting back to you. In the meantime, enjoy something truly unique and fresh from a surprising corner of the world.

Gui Gui Sui Sui -- EP from Metal Postcard Records, Live Album on Bandcamp, Facebook, Weibo (ie, Chinese Facebook)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ben Trickey -- Rising Waters

I hope you'll forgive me. I've done a terrible thing.

I didn't tell you about Ben Trickey's new album, Rising Waters.

To say that it's one of my favorite albums of the year should mean a lot, because it's been quite a crowded field.

From the first strum of the strident opening track, "The End Of It All," the sense that this is an album that will Matter is palpable. The first few songs on Rising Waters bear apocalyptic portent, but it never turns maudlin:

There's snakes in the rivers
And moths in the air
The sun it will burn you
The moon doesn't care
And this emptiness keepin' us 
Grasping and clawing
Still just a slow-motion avalanche
Slowly falling  

Maybe it would've come out differently if this were a one-man-with-a-guitar-affair, but Trickey, who has shared the stage with Jason Isbell, Damien Jurado, and Horsefeathers, brought a band along with him this time. The slow crescendo of piano, fiddle, drum, and cello create warmth and a sense of determination that negate the bleakness in the lyrics.

Whether or not the subject matter is the end of the world or the end of a relationship, Trickey's vibrato sounds like the fate of the Earth rests on whichever note he'll land on. But the grit in his words and singing tell us that everything is going to end up okay.

Ben Trickey -- Official, Facebook, Preorder from Ben Trickey's site, Spotify, iTunes