Friday, November 28, 2014

Buffalo Stack -- Buffalo Stack

Have you guys been watching The Flash? The showrunners have achieved something truly magical -- the show is about good people doing good things. It's not cheesy, ironic, hokey, sentimental. Yes, the characters have their inner pain, but it doesn't define them. Like most people, they greet the world with gusto and take the hard knocks as they come. It celebrates this approach to life without being preachy. Wholesome, but not saccharine.

I bring it up because that's how I feel about Buffalo Stack's debut album. Their music is just good, in every sense of the word.

The first half of the album is pitch-perfect roots rock. The songs are genuine, energetic, hopeful, and -- I can't say this enough -- sincere. The band formed through a chance meeting at Levon Helm's barn and I have to say that they've certainly picked up the mantle from that other Band. The second half dives into blues and gospel territory. They have a few live sets up on Soundcloud that I haven't had the chance to peruse, but if their live performance is half as energetic and joyful as their recordings, I imagine they're not shows to miss.

Buffalo Stack -- Official, Facebook, Soundcloud, Purchase from iTunes

Jackie Venson -- The Light In Me

It's hard to say which caught my attention first: Jackie Venson's guitar playing or her gorgeous voice. But at the end of the day, it's Venson's songwriting chops that take the prize. While Venson's specialty is her blues guitar, her music seamlessly combines blues, R &B, gospel, and hip-hop.

My favorite tracks are "All Rise" and "Always Free." "All Rise" showcases Venson's soaring vocals and the hopeful, striving energy of her music. "Always Free" exemplifies her sharp lyric writing, dazzling guitar licks, and her keen ear -- you'd be hard-pressed to assign it a genre, and that's fine. This is purely Venson's voice.

Jackie Venson -- Official, Facebook, Soundcloud, Purchase from CDBaby, iTunes

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

William Pilgrim and the All Grows Up -- Epic Endings

The cover art on William Pilgrim's new album shows Will and PM Romero -- both men of color -- getting beaten by white cops. It's a chillingly prescient photo given current events, but the fact is it's a fact of life for many of the men in this great nation. I don't have the emotional energy for a sermon so congrats, you've been spared. Suffice to say the photo is emblematic of the band's darkly humorous political commentary.

Following up on their last album, the band treads familiar territory -- warm, honest music that's equal parts roots music and R&B, featuring William Pilgrim's caramel voice and true stories of truly hard times. "In The Street" and "How It Feels" are probably the most hard-hitting, as they're the most overtly political. However, it's nice to see the band loosen up with songs like "Gimme a Sign" and "Bar Crawl." They're just good old-fashioned songs about having a swell time on the weekends (or wishing the person who gives you a swell time would also give you the time of day.)

My wish for the band's first album was that it sounded a little less carefully produced, that the emotions in the songs -- although always sincere -- were allowed to really push through the polish and hit listeners in the gut. In this sense, Mr. Pilgrim has found his way home. The band is definitely more confident, and definitely more willing to take risks. This is strong music by a strong band that is only getting better with experience.

William Pilgrim and the All Grows Up -- Official, Facebook, Purchase from the band

Bee Caves -- Animals With Religion

While the title of the album sounds bleak and high-concept, Bee Caves is neither of those things. "Running Home to You" and "Black Mason Hills" are probably the most radio-friendly tracks on here, and they were the friendliest to my ears. But Animals With Religion is a tour de force blending the current trends in indie pop and folk. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I should regard that mix as a horrific Frankenstein's monster.

In reality, my biggest complaint about indie folk and indie pop is that they tend to be emotionally flat. Bee Caves' music has a manic urgency that'll force you to shove aside any comparisons to the Pitchfork crowd. In other words, this is candy for your ears and a kickstart to your heart.

Bee Caves -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Rick Hart -- Spiral

A few seconds of Rick Hart's warm, honey-sweet voice will get you hooked. He also knows how to play to his strengths. A singer-songwriter in the tradition of the folk greats of the '60s and '70s, all of Hart's songs sound like you've heard them somewhere before.

Hart's honesty and commitment to his music is abundantly clear, and it's what keeps his sound contemporary and immediate. However, much like the '70s, many of the songs sound a tad overproduced. I found myself most drawn to "Hummingbird," which is relatively stripped down compared to the other songs. That being said, Hart does great things with the tried-and-true. Let's hope that his continued success gives him the confidence to deviate from the norm.

Rick Hart -- Official, Facebook, Soundcloud, Purchase on iTunes

Tinkerbelles -- Fine Asses

I'll admit that this time I judged the book by its cover. The Tinkerbelles' definitely have a knack for packaging.

Apparently the cover folds out, MAD-magazine style. Excellent. That weird, subversive sensibility has made its way into the band's music as well. The Tinkerbelles combine surf rock hooks with sludgy punk rock and dance-y beats. It's a little too slick for garage rock but not pre-programmed enough to be dance music. It's a fun album for you to blast in your room/study/mancave while your family's over for Thanksgiving and you can pretend you're still a moody teenager.

Tinkerbelles -- Facebook, Bandcamp

Monday, November 24, 2014

VIDEO: The Paisley Fields -- She's No Angel

This year, the Paisley Fields' lead singer took on the ambitious task of writing a new song a day for an entire year. The year was up a couple of months ago. "She's No Angel" was one of the byproducts of this quest. Wilson's songwriting muscles must have been pretty toned by the time he got to this, because it's badass.

The Paisley Fields were featured on our compilation benefit album. You should listen to it and also buy it.

And you can learn more about the Paisley Fields here: Official, Facebook, Purchase "She's No Angel" on iTunes

Devin Sinha -- The Seventh Season

I'm going to try to double up on posts for the rest of the year (two a day!) because I have a lot of amazing music to tell you about, but not enough 2014 to tell you about it in. The first stepping stone in this marathon is Devin Sinha's quietly majestic The Seventh Season.

The album's lead-off track, "Ripcord," has a light, poppy feel to it. But make more mistake -- it's not fluff and neither is the rest of the album. "Ripcord" is, in fact, a gentle introduction to a mature, introspective album. While it's much, much gentler than most of the stuff featured here, The Seventh Season takes us on a powerful journey through life's more solemn moments, but has a key ingredient in its special sauce: hope and optimism. As the weather gets more miserable, keep The Seventh Season handy to remind you that the bad times don't just pass eventually, they often get better.

Devin Sinha -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Friday, November 21, 2014

lowercase letters -- lowercase letters

Before I start this post, I want to extend a congratulations to Billy Gilpin and Ty Herndon for coming out. I remain blissfully unaware of early 2000s top 40 country so I don't know about their music. Coming out is terrifying now how many times you come out to people, so I can only imagine how nervewracking it was to do this. Queer visibility matters and it is high time queer men were represented in country music. I hope your bravery inspires others to be their true selves openly.  

This is not this blog's usual fare, but then again, the lowercase letters are definitely an unusual band. Regardless of the genre of music you prefer to listen to, the band is irresistible -- fun, self-assured, quirky, and, most difficult to achieve, cool.

The lowercase letters' neo-soul brings along some indie rock sensibility for the ride. While you've got more hip-hop driven tracks like "Dutchie," the album's heart lies in songs like "Open Blinds" and my personal favorite, "Unattainable." Lead singer Alphie Williams has a voice that will stop you in your tracks, not because it's powerful, per se, but because she's got character. It's also impossible not to love a band that puts out such a quirky, queer-friendly, and decidedly NSFW video:

All I can say is, that actress's bra? Whoever fitted her is a WIZARD.

Similarly, "Give Me" makes me want to do things that my usual white boy rage music does not inspire in me. What I'm saying is, it's good to expand your horizons. Start here.


lowercase letters -- Official, Bandcamp

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Moonage Shine -- Devil On His Tail

I will admit that it took me a few tries to really get into what can best be described as Moonage Shine's psych-folk. But trust me -- the effort is well worth it. "Moriartism" is a haunting rumination of mortality that won't leave my brain, and I'm totally fine with it being there.

Moonage Shine is a Texas-based trio that produces perfectly executed, perfectly spooky music. In my mind, they remind of what would happen if State Champion's rambling, stream-of-consciousness roots punk had a baby with The Low Anthem's low-key, mystic folk. In other words, this is intense, well-crafted, multi-layered music without pretension or histrionics. I took the opportunity to listen to their previous EP, The Western Front, and felt just as enthusiastic about it now that I get what Moonage Shine is about. This is consistently awesome stuff. Just let it soak for a little while.


Moonage Shine -- Facebook, Bandcamp, Spotify

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bloodshot Records -- While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years of Bloodshot Records

Flashback to fall 2007. I'm in the basement of my college's cafeteria, sifting through our radio station's (supposedly the first in the country) library of CDs and LPs. I never could figure out where the light switch in the library was, so going in there all alone required nerves of steel even though the room was only accessible through keycard access. I knew that playing nothing but Cowboy Mouth and the Refreshments was going to get real old real fast, so I was browsing through our miniscule "country" section (2 shelves in a large room that was wall-to-wall CDs) and came across a double album from some record called Bloodshot Records. That was their fifth anniversary compilation.

Let's just say the thing never made it back to the library. I'm pretty sure nobody missed it at all.

On Tuesday, Bloodshot released its twentieth anniversary album. Starting an outlaw-ish country-ish label must've seemed crazy back then. It's even more preposterous now. But talent always finds an appreciative audience eventually, and here we are. The album features covers from Bloodshot's vast stable by non-Bloodshot artists -- bringing the best of our community together to celebrate excellent songwriting.

I was bad at my pop music history when I stumbled upon the fifth compilation, and I haven't gotten much better. The only cover/original pair I was familiar with was Frank Turner covering Cory Branan's "Down On the Corner" -- turning a bittersweet little shuffle into a full-throated piano ballad. Other performers of interest are Chuck Ragan, Blitzen Trapper, Chuck Prophet, Possessed by Paul James, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, Superchunk, and the NC Music Love Army covering many iterations of Ryan Adams and his labelmates.

There's a lot of music to dig through on here -- both tracking down the source material to see what it "really" sounds like, and pursuing the performing artists whose styles I enjoy. Hopefully I'll be all caught up when the 25th compilation comes out.

Purchase the album here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dead Professional -- Hard Hard Hard

Dead Professional has been dribbling singles here and there on the Internet for about as long as this blog has been around. I've found it a little unfair, though I understand. Perfection takes time, after all. I once heard someone describe their food critique podcast as a quest for finding something that they couldn't imagine being better than what was in front of them. That's pretty much how I feel about Dead Professional's music -- it couldn't possibly be better.

The EP features beefed-up versions of music posted here in the past as well as a few new songs. Dead Professional's garnered comparisons to Tom Petty that are spot-on: warm, mellow, and incisive songwriting.

Dead Professional -- Official, Facebook, Purchase


While you're throwing money at things, check out Thee Shambels' new crowdfunding project. Thee Shambels were one of the first bands I featured on this blog, and they're still great.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Butchers Blind and Becky Shaw!

Howdy! I have two musical tidbits for you:

First, I said some really nice things about Butchers Blind's album Destination Blues about a year ago. The words I used were "They make me happy to be a music blogger." If you haven't listened to the album yet, definitely go ahead and do that. Then, you can stream their new singles here. Once you're done with that, you can see them, me, and a few other great bands at Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg on Thursday (the show starts at 8.)

Here's the lead single, "Thursday Girl." It eloquently captures Butchers Blind's wry, melancholy songcraft.

Thursday Girl

Butchers Blind -- Official, Facebook, Amazon, CDBaby, Bandcamp, iTunes

Speaking of artists I can't say enough nice things about, Becky Shaw -- whom you know from Roxie Watson and almost every project Sonia Tetlow has every worked on -- is recording her first solo album and could use a kickstart! She's almost reached her funding goal of $6000, which is definitely modest as far as these things go. Help her out here.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Dead Volts -- We Are Already Dead

I am calling Charles Hale from Ninebullets out right here and right now. I'm mad that he didn't tell me about the Dead Volts earlier.

If you wish Two Cow Garage had a little more twang and a little less angst, may I present you the Dead Volts. They're current running a Kickstarter campaign to put their first full-length album out on vinyl. The album itself will be available for free digitally, but once you hear a few of these songs you'll definitely want to toss a few dollars into the hat.

These are definitely drinking songs. They have the raw intensity and passion that earns the highest regard on this blog. You won't regret helping these guys spread their music a little further.

The Dead Volts -- Official, Bandcamp, Kickstarter

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Langhorne Slim -- The Way We Move

A curious think happened on Monday night. A friend of mine went out for karaoke (this is what teachers do when they have Tuesdays off) and -- among other late '90s early Aughts nu-metal/screamo/rock bands -- re-discovered Our Lady Peace. If you have no idea who I'm talking about, you'd be forgiven. They were part of alt-rock's last Top 40 gasp, riding on the coattails of their Canadian compatriots Nickelback. I never cared about the band at all, but for a while I was completely obsessed with their breakout album Gravity.

When I got home I realized that I still had it, and though it would be a great idea to listen to it. Even though I hadn't thought about the band in years, I realized that the album itself was etched indelibly in my brain -- I still remembered most of it by heart. For better or worse, all of the adolescent angst of the time came rushing back, as well as feeling comforted by the music again. The music itself is thoroughly mediocre (though a whole lot better than Nickelback.) It makes me wonder if I'll look back on this stuff in 10 years and feel the same way.

But some albums have true staying power, and that's the case for Langhorne Slim's The Way We Move. I'd post the album cover, but I want to show off this picture I took at Campfire back in August.

I'm super proud of it and I think it encapsulates why you need to listen to The Way We Move if you haven't gotten around to it yet. (The band recorded their latest album literally the day after this concert, so that should be coming down the pipe soon.) I don't really get people who say they "like music" but don't have any preferences. Lots of music is about entertainment, but sometimes it's for sustenance.

The Way We Move is the latter -- and so is any Langhorne Slim set you should happen to go to. You'll dance to "The Way We Move," croon along with "On the Attack," and cry into your cups during "Song For Sid." Trust me...I did all three. In a 30-minute timespan.

And thus I've written this review some few years since the album was released. It's got real staying power. It'll get you through the good times and the tough times. It's essential and it's worth reiterating that until you and all of your friends know the gospel truth.

Langhorne Slim -- Official, Facebook, Purchase

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Lela Sophia

I'm of the belief that Manhattan's given short shrift in the city. Hear me out -- everyone seems to forget that ordinary people actually live here.

So here's Lela Sophia, who's definitely not ordinary. Her voice alone is bewitching -- floating between jazz, pop,and art song, even if it's not your thing you should stop and take a gander.

You can listen to the EP here.

Lela Sophia -- Official, Facebook

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

John Kilzer -- Hide Away

It's not a secret that musicians lead difficult lives with soaring ups and, as the songs featured on this blog indicate, mostly downs. Kilzer's life story will sound familiar -- phenomenal success in the '90s followed by years of picking up the pieces. But Kilzer made it through alright -- he's a minister in Memphis now, and often plays shows with Rick Steff of Lucero. It seems to me that this is the most sustainable kind of musical life. But thanks to the Internet, Kilzer can spread his music, as it justly deserves to be.

I don't think anyone really knows what attracts them to some musicians and not others. Speaking of Lucero, I have yet to hear a song by them that makes me feel compelled to listen a whole album, though clearly they're the inspiration for basically everyone featured on here. And, to be honest, that's how I feel about Hide Away.

However, everyone knows good music when they spot it, and Kilzer's got a breathtaking command of storytelling and lyricism. Hide Away isn't necessarily to my taste but I featured it here because, if it's your bag, you deserve to know about it.

Hide Away

Lay Down

Sleeping In the Rain

John Kilzer -- Facebook, Purchase from Archer Records

Monday, November 10, 2014

Son Little -- Things I Forgot

First and foremost (before I forgot), there's an amazing concert happening this Saturday in Lexington, KY. Cory Hanks, bassist for Those Crosstown Rivals, and Michelle Evans, writer for this blog's inspiration, are having a post-wedding party with their favorite bands. You should go help them celebrate! Congrats, Michelle and Cory!

Oh, and the concert's FREE

Where: Al's Bar (601 N. Limestone St., Lexington, KY)

When: Saturday, November 15. Starts at 9 PM 
Who: Those Crosstown Rivals, Matt Woods, Tyler Childers, Fifth on the Floor, Doc Feldman,Senora Lainhart 

More Info 


So let's talk about Son Little. If you're someone who listens to lots of public radio, you almost certainly know who I'm talking about. After all, NPR can't stop spinning his new song "The River."

 While "The River" leads listeners to believe that Son Little is the blues' second coming (and we'd all be forgive for that. Damn! That voice!) the album is more heavily influenced by reggae and R&B, as can be seen on "Your Love Will Blow Me Away When My Heart Aches." Things I Forgot packs an astonishing breadth and depth in its compact six songs. There's no question Son Little is way more than the sum of his parts: singer, songwriter, producer. He's an artist in the truest sense. Even if you don't love all of the songs on the EP, you'll love seeing and hearing an artist flex his considerable talent.

The album will be release tomorrow (the 11th) via Anti- Records

Son Little -- Official, Facebook, Stream via The New York Times, Preorder on iTunes

Friday, November 7, 2014

Christopher Paul Stelling -- False Cities

There was a stunned silence when Christopher Paul Stelling unstrapped his guitar after his set at the Campfire Music Festival. As he walked off the stage, the grizzled sound engineer -- who was great at his job but had clearly seen it all before -- walked over and shook Stelling's hand, exclaiming that Stelling was one of the best performers he'd ever seen.

That's because in the space of Stelling's short 30-minute set, he performed some of the most haunting renditions of old folk songs I'd ever seen, sang his heart out in the middle of a festival full of somewhat sanitized "folk" and "blues" musicians (see: most of the people tagged under Campfire so far -- I saved the best for last), and for a grand finale, he played an incredibly complicated finger picking pattern...while holding his guitar upside down and over his head and screaming the final verses of his last song.

I saw Stelling a few weeks ago in Brooklyn, somewhat more subdued after a return to sobriety and playing to a mid-week crowd in Williamsburg. But his performance was still heartfelt, it still wowed the crowd, and I'm sure it made him a bunch of new fans.

I'm not going to write too much about False Cities itself because its potency is evident from the first few seconds of "Brick x Brick." His performance on the recordings is exactly what you'll get from him at a live show: the joy of performing and self-expression.  If anyone covered on this blog fits the tagline -- music like your life depends on it -- it's Stelling. These are songs of contemplation and catharsis, exactly what music is supposed to be for.

Christopher Paul Stelling -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp, iTunes

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Standards -- Kid EP

I'll keep this short and sweet, much like the Standards' debut EP.

This EP is a helluva lot of fun. I had a good feeling about the band when their e-mail had a hyperlink to their album that read like thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis

Anyway, it's excellent punk rock delivered with a Rancid-like sneering grin. Can't wait to see what the kids come up with next.

Standards -- Facebook, Soundcloud, Bandcamp

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

You Me & Apollo -- Sweet Honey

You Me & Apollo was another excellent band I saw at Campfire this past summer. Their joy was simply infectious -- YMAA's special brand of neo-soul is simultaneously joyful and sorrowful. These are party songs about wayward women and breakups. I was surprised to learn that they came from Fort Collins, CO considering what else I've heard coming from there. I guess it's not as miserable a place as Drag the River and Arliss Nancy make it seem.

I'd been watching the band walk around the festival the whole day and they seemed like pretty laid-back gents. But their live show calls to mind the Alabama Shakes -- including lead singer Brent Cowles' vocals. It's hard to believe so much power can come from such a small person. The band had an otherwise (too) mellow crowd up and dancing, clapping, and singing along. This is not a show to miss when they come to your town.

You Me & Apollo -- Official, Facebook, Soundcloud, Stream on Bandcamp, Purchase from the band's site

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sonia Tetlow -- A Place For Everyone

Since I'm that nerd who reads liner notes, it was a pleasant surprise to see my name in the credits for Sonia's most recent album. It's not a big secret that I'm a tireless supporter of Tetlow's music and I hope I'll do A Place For Everyone enough justice to earn my place on the album's inside jacket.

Sonia brought her usual supporting cast on board for this release: Paul Sanchez, Mary Lasseigne, and the various members of Roxie Watson. (PS -- Many of those people contributed to Proud, my charity benefit compilation CD and you should totally drop a Hamilton on it.) But the band didn't just bring their instruments -- it sounds like they packed the whole damn city of New Orleans.

A Place For Everyone is an investigation of balancing Sonia's New Orleans with the life she's built in Atlanta. It starts with her account of having to take a final exam on Mardi Gras morning in an environment that just doesn't get it, and ends with "Comfort and Light," a meditation on personal growth. This album more clearly bears the country and Americana influence she's been exploring with Roxie Watson than her previous album, Own Way Home. However, I still think Sonia's at her best with her epic rock songs like "Bosom of Abraham," a magisterial piece that enlists no less than the harmonies and mandolin of Amy Ray herself.

If I may submit a gentle critique, it's that A Place For Everyone is not as consistent as her previous releases. While the songs are unified by theme, they feel a little schizophrenic musically. While most of the songs grabbed me, some of them left me hanging. That's to be expected of someone as prolific as Tetlow, though, and, as always, when her music is good, it's out of this world.

Angel of St. Martinville

Bosom of Abraham


Sonia Tetlow -- Official, Roxie Watson, Purchase physical CD from Louisiana Music Factory, Purchase mp3s from Amazon


Just in case this wasn't long enough, here are two causes worthy of your money.

1) Preorder John Moreland's upcoming album!
2) Help preserve a piece of Athens, GA music history and maybe get some awesome memorabilia at this IndieGoGo project

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Ballroom Thieves -- The Devil & The Deep

At long last, I'm getting around to the reviews I meant to write in early September. This is one of the bands I saw at the Campfire Music Festival, as will be most of the bands in the next few weeks. I was lucky enough to see this trio perform in multiple settings -- their official set and a few impromptu after-hour shows. I don't think it comes through on their recordings as well, but the Ballroom Thieves brought their A-game each and every time.

Mixing folk and pop with genuine warmth and talent, the Ballroom Thieves will hypnotize even the most hardened (and intoxicated) audience. "Loose Lips," the single off their most recent EP (you can listen to the whole thing on Spotify) is an example of the Thieves at their most intense. However, "Delia" captures the group's emotional and lyrical depth. The Ballroom Thieves are absolutely a band to watch.

The Ballroom Thieves -- Official, Facebook, Spotify, iTunes, Bandcamp