Friday, August 29, 2014

VIDEO: Langhorne Slim -- Animal

By the time you read this I'll probably be heading up to the Campfire Music Festival in Lakewood, PA. Friday night has a killer lineup but I'm most excited to see Langhorne Slim. He released this song back in May. This'll be my first music festival so any comments or suggestions (even if it's too little too late) are appreciated!

Langhorne Slim -- Official, Purchase "Animal," Facebook, Purchase other music

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Blessed State -- Head Space

If you're waiting around for music that makes your pulse synchronize with the beat, wait no longer. Blessed State's Head Space is a half hour of furious, dreamy punk in the tradition of Bob Mould, et. al.

Blessed State's sound can best be described as expertly orchestrated chaos. "Yr Language" starts off with an irresistible guitar riff that's quickly submerged in distorted bass and furious vocals. Head Space doesn't go up for air from that point onward. "Legacy" is my favorite song on the album -- it probably has the most straightforward melody of the songs on the album, but doesn't let up on Blessed State's singular knack for heaping on the existential pain.

Blessed State -- Facebook, Tumblr, Bandcamp

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lara Hope and the Ark-Tones -- Luck Maker

I was just talking with some of my friends over the weekend about whatever's in the water in upstate New York. Hailing from Woodstock, NY, Lara Hope and the Ark-Tones pack a rockabilly punch. Whatever my reservations about the changing Hudson Valley, there's no question that these guys are the real deal.

There's an undeniable sense of fun in Luck Maker that is hard to find in most rockabilly albums these days. Basically, Lara Hope and the Ark-Tones bring the sexy back to rockabilly. It's not a kitten-ish Betty Page-style coyness that most rockabilly singers adopt. This is all about caterwauling in a tin-roofed roadhouse. "Whiskey Pick" is a raucous floor stomper that definitely sounds like something else (but since the lyric is "whiskey pick/all night long" I'm pretty sure it's not a double entendre.) On the other hand, "I've Never" is a sweet love song packaged in a dance number. Hope's vocal acrobatics are a pleasure that only the Ark-Tones' manic energy can support. I guess that joie-de-vivre is the result of that country living.

Lara Hope and the Ark-Tones -- Official, Bandcamp

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sweet Crude -- Super Vilaine

I don't think it's quite right to say that the music scene in New Orleans has been "revived." It's not like it every went away. And it's not newly "relevant," because New Orleans is very much part of the fabric of American life. Maybe it's just better to say that the roots/rock revival has made its way to the Big Easy. If you think any band represents that vibe better than Sweet Crude, I will challenge you to a duel.

I wasn't sold right away. When I listened to the first 30 seconds of "Super Vilaine" I dismissed it as hipster bullshitting. But Paul Sanchez and Sonia Tetlow have not steered me wrong yet when it comes to music, so I thought I'd at least give them another shot.

So with way more than 30 seconds logged with this EP, I can say that Super Vilaine is truly dynamic and shines a beacon on the future of the New Orleans music tradition. If zydeco is the baby of rock'n'roll and traditional Cajun music, this is neo-zydeco. Sweet Crude is undeniably proud of their Cajun heritage -- the language and the music are strong throughout, but they're augmented by tribal and hip-hop beats, synthesizers, and an exuberant call-and-response chorus the likes of which fun. have never seen.

The band has already toured nationally (I was otherwise occupied when they came up here, which I deeply regret.) The EP itself is superbly produced, as a dance music album should be. Super Vilaine is a living example of combining tradition with the present.

Sweet Crude -- Facebook, Bandcamp

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Madisons -- You Can Take Your Sorry Ass Back to West Texas!

I'm switching back to posting one update a day...mostly because the school year is approaching pretty quickly, so I'm devoting my time to "preparing" (a.k.a. lesson planning, "lesson planning," and partying furiously.) However, here's a band I sat on way too long. I'll just say right now that it's the debut album of the year.

I like all of the bands I post on the blog -- otherwise they wouldn't make it -- but it's been some time since I've discovered an artists I'm truly enthusiastic about. Texas-based The Madisons are that band.

There's no question that You Can Take Your Sorry Ass... has the pop-folk feel that us city kids love to play and listen to these days. But The Madisons finally helped me figure out why it bothers me somewhere deep down. See, bands like The Lumineers are soulful and talented, of course, but they're also....well...polite. When lead singer Dominic Solis croons,

I'm not responsible for the way you say you feel
That's what therapists teach assholes
So they don't have to feel like assholes

supported by a backdrop of tambourines and a carefully plucked mandolin, I realized I was on to something good. It's not that the band is irreverent or wears its dry sense of humor on its sleeve a la The Refreshments (though that's there, and Solis' voice does resemble a young Roger Clyne's.) It's that The Madisons aren't hiding behind a curtain of refinement -- they're to-the-point and they don't care who they might offend, which is what folk music is really all about anyway. It's not about moving to Brooklyn and pretending you're one with the Common Man while cultivating an otherworldly and vintage image. It's about saying what's actually on your mind.

"A Long Slow Death in San Marcos Texas" (quoted above) is a 4-minute masterpiece, and the other tracks on the album follow suit. The music is soft-spoken but the spirit behind it is anything but. I hope the Madisons get their asses out of West Texas and teach the sorry asses over here a thing or two. 

A Long Slow Death in San Marcos Texas

In My Pocket Forever

Meet Me By the Riverside

The Madisons -- Official, Facebook, Purchase

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Christopher Bell -- Fire

If the music posted in the last few days feels peppy and light, it's because this is all music I listened to in June. At the end of the school year. And now I'm getting ready to head back. That should tell you how far behind I've been on reviews, considering I've been posting two a day all summer. So even though this is early summer music, I submit that Christopher Bell is a songwriter for all seasons.

As much as I love country, if I was being truly honest the cello is my favorite instrument (pedal steel runs a very close second.) Bell plays the cello -- and nothing but -- on the album. OK. Now listen to some of the music.

Bell uses pedals to layer samples of his electric cello -- live -- in order to create his unique sound. On top of that, he's a damn fine songwriter to boot. Check out this selection from "Connect the Dots":

I'm a sucker for layered shirts
sci fi movies and any dessert
you're the only one to crack my shell
but tape it up and never tell

its easy to forget the nature of things
that we're both pimples, scars and pains
losing keys, forgetting dates
forget alarm, sleep in late. 

I also find "Am I What I Think" particularly poignant. I'm sure it's a quandary that only becomes deeper when I'll get older, but I think Bell perfectly captures the agonies of a young person questioning him or herself and his/her legacy.

Fire is certainly a standout album and one well worth your time.

Christopher Bell -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Repeat After Me -- Mapmaker

Jam bands and power pop aren't two genres that seem like they would go together, but Repeat After Me Manages to pull it off. Repeat After Me is signed to Russian Winter Records, which has done an excellent job of building a stable of artists of brands whose music you can space out to, but it's never spacy enough to be off-putting. (PS, Russian Winter Records and I made a benefit compilation album that you should buy.)

But to get back to Repeat After Me, let's talk about their aesthetics for a second. You can purchase a digital copy of this album (recommended) for $5, but for $18 you can purchase a vinyl that includes a free set of crayons for you to color in the cover. For crayons, 20 minutes of fun, and a chance to exercise your own creativity, I'd say that's a pretty clutch deal. You know what else is clutch? Mapmaker.

This is a beautifully constructed album -- plain and simple. You're eased in to what seems like a glittering pop confection with "Mapmaker," before being whisked into more contemplative territory with songs like "I'm Going Back" and "Carve Out a Name." The standout track for me is "San Francisco" -- maybe it's a little silly, but sometimes you need a silly song to leaven Mapmaker's ultimate achievement: building intelligent but crafty music.

Repeat After Me -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Vintage Blue -- No Going Back

I posted a video by Chicago pop(s) band Vintage Blue a few months ago. Upon further reflection, Vintage Blue reminds me of vintage Fighting Gravity. I know that's an extremely cryptic reference -- you probably only know Fighting Gravity if you went to college in the Southeast or saw them tour with Cowboy Mouth a couple of times. They started out as a ska band and followed the various pop trends. I encountered them when they were following the Dave Matthews/Carbon Leaf jam band thing, except they did it better. The fact is, it's hard to get higher praise from me. Fighting Gravity was technically the first rock band I'd ever seen live and I've been in love with rock'n'roll ever since.

But that was the past. Let's talk about the present. The reason Vintage Blue brings Fighting Gravity is the band's poignant lyricism and warmth. (Also the horn section and harmonizing.) This is the kind of music that's pleasant to listen to...but when you actually listen to it, you realize there's a lot more depth than just a fun pop song. My personal favorite is "No Going Back" -- I guess I'm just a sucker for marching beats.

Vintage Blue -- Official, Facebook, Listen on Spotify, Purchase No Going Back on iTunes

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cory Branan -- The No Hit Wonder

This is a Cory Branan album.

Cory Branan --  Official Site, Facebook, Spotify, Buy The No-Hit Wonder

Alright, I guess I should write a review but let's be honest -- this album, as do all Cory Branan's albums, speak for themselves. I am a late a convert to Cory, but seeing him live was enough. There's something about his songs -- both here and on this album -- that make you feel as if you've heard them somewhere before. Take a minute to think about's not because his music is generic, or because he's not afraid to highlight is influences from the past. What you're feeling is resonance. Cory can take the truth and squeeze it into 4/4 (and especially 3/4) time.

As for the songs on here, each one is a homerun. "The Only You" shattered my heart when I heard it live -- the quick tempo in the album keeps it from being utterly devastating this time around. Songs like "C'mon Shadow" and "My Daddy Was a Skywriter" illustrate Branan's warmth and capacity for storytelling, while "The No-Hit Wonder" is the kind of rough-and-tumble song we adore around these parts.

Though "The No-Hit Wonder" details Cory's troubadour adventures, the album has already received plenty of attention from mainstream outlets like The AV Club, Paste, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, and Rolling Stone. Welcome to the fold, folks. Branan also gets assists from a number of his friends like Jason Isbell, Craig Finn and Steve Selvidge of The Hold steady -- already well-known -- and folks who are more familiar around these parts like Austin Lucas (whose last album got a nod in The New York Times) and Caitlin Rose (who has contributed a number of songs to Nashville.) If Cory makes it big, perhaps his rising tide will lift other boats. I guess our community of no-hit wonders will finally get the recognition they justly deserve. But I'll sure miss saying hi to them after the shows.

Cory Branan --  Official Site, Facebook, Spotify, Buy The No-Hit Wonder

Cory Branan --  Official Site, Facebook, Spotify, Buy The No-Hit Wonder

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ed Tang -- Goodbye, Zen5, Sushi Diner

A couple of months ago I reviewed Ed Tang's most recent EP, an exuberant push into alt-country. I mentioned that there was...something...missing. When I went back and listened to Goodbye... I realized what it was. The EP feels a lot like someone took a paint-by-numbers outline and mixed their own paints. It has it's points of originality, but the form has been studiously followed. It seems like Ed really wanted his second release to feel a certain way and may have stifled some of its own energy in the process.

Goodbye... does not have that problem. It's about clinging to the ideals of youth. The album kicks off with the tale of a life-altering South American road trip. The album can pretty much be summarized with this line:

You can’t go back, its full speed forward to some midlife heart attack. 
But the ropes of St. Christopher you placed around my neck,
Baby, they brought me back to you. 

It's more effective with the music, to be sure, but it betrays a sort of cheerful nihilism -- let's have fun now before we have to go home and be boring for the rest of our lives...or at least do our best to fight it. Musically, the album has more in common with the Gaslight Anthem than Tang's country heroes, but I'll never complain about that. This is a fantastic album. You can name your price for it on Bandcamp, so there's no reason not to snag it. Here's to Tang's next release. I hope it captures the urgency in Goodbye, Zen5, Sushi Diner

Ed Tang -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp, Amazon, CDBaby, iTunes

Dan Michaelson and the Coastguards -- Distance

Did you know that Teen Wolf is a thing? Apparently it, people watch it. And I assume people listen to it, because Dan Michaelson's newest album is already sold out, even though it only goes on sale today. Dan's previous releases have been celebrated on Pitchfork and, more prestigiously, was interviewed here on Adobe & Teardrops on Friday.

Distance is the first album of Michaelson's that I've listened to -- not that I need Pitchfork's endorsement -- but I can say that it lives up to his fan's expectations. This album feels intensely personal, not least because Michaelson's distinctive, brooding voice is justly featured front and center. Michaelson has a singular vision that you may not like, but you'd have to at least respect. These songs feel more like spoken word with musical accompaniment than what you'd expect from a rock album. Certainly, this is in keeping with the way Michaelson described his process in the previous interview -- he uses a phrase as a starting point to build the music around. As a result, these songs end up having a literary quality that is truly worth a deep listen.

(EDIT: The DELUXE version of the album is sold out. You can still get your own copy at the link below.)

Dan Michaelson -- Official, Facebook, Purchase Distance

Friday, August 15, 2014

INTERVIEW: Dan Michaelson

London-based artist Dan Michaelson will release his somber, deeply-layered album Distance on Monday (the 18th.) The single, "Breaking Falls," was featured in MTV's Teen Wolf -- but that aside, it's a beautiful song. Dan took the time to answer some of my questions about his approach to songwriters.

Your music is richly textured and -- from a pop writing perspective -- nonlinear. Could you describe your creative process?
I usually have a line or a string of words that feel true to me or seem to suggest a descriptive framework around my mood. I let that sink in for as long as it takes then build a narrative around it. Take a grain of truth and build a story around it. With that a melody naturally comes to hold it all together.. then I just try to make it sound as much like a song as i can.
I hear a lot of influence from the National in your music. Who else do you draw from for inspiration? 
The early inspirations will be familiar to most people.. Leonard Cohen and Lou Reed were the earliest, the people who knew you didn't need to be the greatest technical singer, that an individual voice with something to say can be more important. After that i found Lee Hazelwood, another strange and wonderful voice. Eventually I fell for the soul music of Etta James, Carla Thomas, Darondo and such.. All the Chess artists, The Supremes.. a long list that also readdressed the balance in terms of a female voice. Like most people, I'm the product of a thousand influences seen through fresh eyes, I hope.
Do you prefer recording your music or performing it live? 
They seem so different to me, its impossible to choose. One is a very private experience, the other an "outing" of all those moments. I find recording to be a more natural instinct than standing in front of a room of people. But one insists upon the other, I'd be unlikely to build a house and refuse the opportunity to live in it.
Your music feels rather dark and introspective. Do you find the writing process cathartic?
 I do, its like shedding a skin and feeling fresh and waking up with a clear outlook.. but the dust settles again quite quickly so theres always more to do.
Dan Michaelson --  Official, Facebook

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pinebocks -- Lena

Pinebocks reached out to me in June, and I fell in love with "Lena" right away. "This is it," I thought. "Absolutely the songs of the summer." But my "to review" list was so backed up that it didn't take me until now to alert you of its existence. That's okay -- you still have a few weeks left of summer to crank this, and it only seems fitting for a band that bills itself as "the worst band in Chicago but the best band in the world."

Pinebocks' carefully curated pop rock is a helluva lot of fun. Cory Clifford's ability to squeeze so much detailed imagery into two little ditties is nothing less than heroic. I'm looking forward to a full-length that's maybe NOT on a cassette.

You can't buy these songs from Bandcamp, but you can purchase the cassette (because that's what the cool kids listen to now) and a digital download from Limited Fanfare Records.

Pinebocks -- Facebook, Bandcamp

Tyler Childers -- Live on Red Barn Radio

Tyler Childers' name has been passed around on many blogs similar to this one -- and it's easy to see why. Childers' has the kind of gritty, road-weary voice that probably did great in a punk band but has come home to country. The Kentucky-based singer-songwriter (and fellow Ginger) gives impassioned performances that are all-too-rare these days.

It's hard to believe that Childers is only 22. Has command of the craft is outstanding -- like the good old country songs, these are vividly told stories of loss and tragedy. These songs are absolutely worth dropping everything and listening to. I particularly love "Follow You to Virgie." The melody is contemporary enough to make me feel like I've heard it somewhere before, but it has a warmth and confidence to it that makes it sound classic. The fact is, there are plenty of instant classics on these two EPs.

Tyler Childers -- ReverbNation, Bandcamp

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bumper Jacksons -- Sweet Mama, Sweet Daddy, Come In

It's hard to ask for an album that's more delightful than Sweet Mama, Sweet Daddy, Come In. The DC-based band heavily culls from ragtime, early swing, and blues -- verily, the origins of the country and rock'n'roll most often enjoyed on this blog.

This album feels like a time machine back to New Orleans at the turn of the century -- can't you feel the steam rising off these tracks? I don't know what it's like to hang out on the back porch and play some songs, but I hope it's a lot like this, even if it means I'm missing out on a lot. The band pays due reverence to these songs but is by no means trapped in the past. They're having way too much fun to be bogged down in authenticity -- that's the whole point of this music, after all. There's also a contemporary, minimalist sensibility here -- all the good stuff is included and all the crap's been left on the cutting room floor.

An honorable mention must be given to "The Bacon Adoration" for combining the carefree atmosphere of early jazz and our generation's strange preoccupation with bacon.

Bumper Jacksons -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp, iTunes, CDBaby

St. Paul and the Broken Bones -- Half the City

I'm not sure if St. Paul and the Broken Bones really need a boost from me, but here it is. I first read about them in American Songwriter -- they were featured literally right next to John Moreland, so I figured they were doing something right. It took me a little longer to actually see them in action. I think that's what you need to do right now.

Compatriots of the Alabama Shakes, these guys know how to kick it. While the Alabama Shakes' initial EP (I've never been crazy about Boys and Girls, to be honest) reminded us of the healing power of soul music, St. Paul and the Broken Bones reminds us of its ability to make you want to take your pants off.

The first two songs of the album start as off with a slow wash of brass before building up to "Call Me," the lead single off the album. However, in my view, "Half This City" is the most arresting track on the album (please refer to the earlier comment about pants.) The band recorded this album as a first and last attempt to make it bag, and boy am I glad it worked. This blog is all about music that's made by people who couldn't breathe without it -- and that passion is clearly in evidence here.

St. Paul and the Broken Bones -- Official, Facebook, Purchase, Spotify

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Buffalo Clover -- Test Your Love

If you're a horn player, it seems like it's a good time to ply your trade down South. In their new album, Buffalo Clover makes liberal use of brass trio The Nashville Horns. The band also got a bump from Brittany Howard (the Alabama Shakes) on the background of "Misery." And I see they've gotten quite a bit of coverage from Entertainment Weekly.

Not that all musicians don't work hard, but I'm sure this seems like at least a little vindication for principal songwriters Margo Price and Jeremy Ivey, who lost one of their twin boys shortly after their birth. After a year of recovering, the couple not only produced Test Your Love, but a live album of (additional) new material and previously unrecorded tracks as well.

Price's voice is the stuff of the flapper age -- indeed, her light, airy voice contrasts nicely with Howard's earthy richness; but make no mistake, they're both powerhouses.

Test Your Love alternates between light-hearted and somber. It truly is a celebration of life in all its forms.

Buffalo Clover -- Official, Facebook

The Holy Ghost Electric Show -- The Great American

The other day, Corey Flegel from This is American Music sent me a press copy for the label's latest addition, The Holy Ghost Electric Show. Before I even listened to it, I wrote Corey a response:

I think by now anyone who reads the blog knows that Corey consistently seeks out and provides amazing music to the rest of us.

The Holy Ghost Electric Show is no exception. Hailing from Mississippi (but not from the famous part of Mississippi,) the band is led by brothers Jake and Cody Rogers. Their daddy was a preacher in some rough-and-tumble parts of town. They approach their rock'n'roll with the same religious fervor.

The Holy Ghost Electric Show has earned a reputation for burn-down-the-barn live shows. It's easy to imagine that energy by listening to the album. A deft combination of indie rock, Southern flair, gospel, and a horn and string section, the music here alternates between somber reflection and raucous joy.

If this is the band's debut album, then I'm excited to see where they go as they continue to hone their skills.

The Holy Ghost Electric Show -- Bandcamp, Facebook, This is American Music

Monday, August 11, 2014

Christopher Denny -- If the Roses Don't Kill Us

A voice like Christopher Denny's only comes about once in a generation. I'm not just referring to Denny's signature androgynous warble. Denny's lived a hard life, to be sure, and that shows through on these songs. But they're not what you'd expect -- the kind of gruff, "I-did-it-my-way" anthems. These are careful, fragile ballads -- a tentative approach to sobriety that I'm grateful I don't need to experience.

Denny showcases his southern roots by focusing on a minimalist Southern soul sound. The effect is to cast him as a gospel preacher exhorting his audience in the art of salvation through somber meditation. It's more "amen" than "hallelujah," but that's usually how life is.

Christopher Denny --Official, Facebook, Purchase from Partisan Records

Friday, August 8, 2014

Alanna Gurr and the Greatest State -- Late at Night

Alanna Gurr's voice is immediately arresting. Pair that with the laidback, folk-inspired indie rock and you've got yourself some truly hypnotic music.

I don't have much ink to spill on this one -- Late at Night is frighteningly easy to get lost in, but at the moment I'm having difficulty describing this dreamy pop confection. On first glance, it's an in-one-ear-out-the-other kind of affair, but Gurr's warmth will keep calling you back.

Alanna Gurr and the Greatest State -- Bandcamp, Facebook, Tumblr

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Great Mutations -- Cheap Stuff

What the hell is going on upstate New York? Earlier today you read about The Lucky Jukebox Brigade, who are based in Albany. By pure coincidence, Great Mutations (a very different type of band) is based in Troy, NY. I'm not sure if it's a byproduct of the Internet Age -- in which artists don't really need to move to cities like New York to produce and distribute their work -- or a byproduct of gentrification in NYC compelling artists to move to/stay in the Hudson Valley. (Either way, hipsters have discovered upstate New York, so get ready for rural gentrification. I say this with a chill in my spine.)

But enough of my philosophizing. Let's talk about Great Mutations'. This is a dreamy album about how, well, life just kind of sucks sometimes. Mostly it's about the soul-killing nature of the 9 - 5 grind. I think listening to this album while speeding through Japan on a bullet train in the middle of my paid 8-week vacation was probably not the best venue for listening to the album. Either way, it made me appreciate all the more my steadfast refusal to work a desk job.

The droning, fuzz rock is interspersed with what I hope are fake voicemails about a corporate project (because it sounds completely inane), juxtaposed with lyrics about the futility of producing music nobody's ever going to listen to. The album sounds like a bit of a downer, sure, but I think it's a testament to the human spirit and fighting against the forces that keep you down. Plus, it sounds great.

Great Mutations -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

The Lucky Jukebox Brigade -- Familiar Fevers

Sorry for the radio silence, sportsfans. It took me way longer than I thought it would to get over the jetlag. But don't think I wasn't scouting out music in Japan -- you'll hear more about that in the weeks to come.

For those of you following at home, you've already seen the Lucky Jukebox Brigade's charming video for the lead single off their sophomore album, Familiar Fevers.

"Glamour," easily the catchiest song on the album, is about spending the day with a lover who's visited from beyond the grave. From what I can tell, Familiar Fevers is a concept album about consorting with the Devil -- or, at the least, a demonic figure. Laced with brass, the Lucky Jukebox Brigade call to mind an early jazz band with a heavy rock'n'roll influenced.

If that summary doesn't sound appealing to you, I can't really blame you. The Dresden Dolls (and now Amanda Palmer) are the first and last word in gothic old-timey jazz. Most follow-ups have been, frankly, unnecessary. But the Lucky Jukebox Brigade isn't blindly following an obscure trend. Just from watching the video I get the sense that this is simply the psychic space they live in. The lyrics to these songs are worth reading on their Bandcamp page -- they're dense, and written in paragraph form.

But that makes sense -- these songs are novelstic in scope. Indeed, they're the art songs of a bygone era. While the songs are jammed with cryptic allusionsL

But I’m walking in silhouettes, laying low - cause in the whispers, I hear the marauders riding south. Crack the sky; tear the angels down. The headless knaves are marching through the ruins of forgotten towns. ("Darling, It's the Future")

Amidst the epic imagery, however, are kernels of universal emotion:

I hope it’s golden where you are. I hope you know I’ll be here waiting. If I live to grow old, I’ll still be searching every face. ("Darling, It's the Future")

It's these moments of emotional purity that distinguish The Lucky Jukebox Brigade from, say, Murder by Death. It's not just about the story (and my one critique of this album is that I wish the story was clearer) or making A Statement. The entire album could have easily been a pretentious exercise, but the Brigade deliver these songs with an (un-ironic) wink and nod. Familiar Fevers is truly an achievement.

The Lucky Jukebox Brigade -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Monday, August 4, 2014

Tusk, Her -- Tusk Her

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

After listening to the first couple of tracks on Tusk Her's debut album, I reflected on the lasting power of the male-female-guitar-drum-blues duo, that the lady's always in the back.

Then I looked at the band's picture and realized I'd fallen victim to the most sexist of notions. Yes, that is indeed a female human shredding like a hero.

The songs here are thumping, primitive, and unsettling in the way somebody keeping pace with you down a dark street is. Sometimes the weirdness feels a little too affected, like on the nonetheless amusing "At The Bar."

However, the standout track was "Monster Love." A few days ago I played a few Kathleen Hannah songs for her edification. I mentioned to her that I don't love to sit and listen to Bikini Kill (I've always had a soft spot for Sleater-Kinney and for some reason the two are mutually exclusive in my mind,) I appreciate how important they were.

But when "Monster Love" came on my immediate, visceral reaction was "Good God, I missed this." I've been listening to too much nicey-nice or sad female folk singers, and Tusk, Her was a jolt out of that rut. I think women have a hard time in punk because it's difficult to scream or project without sounding shrill. Amanda Salazar has found her way around that with her brash vocals. It's easy to compare Tusk, Her to what you've heard before, but it'll be more difficult to appreciate those other bands once you've seen what this duo can do.

Tusk, Her -- Official, Facebook, Name your price on Bandcamp