Friday, February 27, 2015

The Delta Routine -- You and Your Lion

The Delta Routine's last album, Cigarettes & Caffine Nightmares, was a tour de force of punk and energy. This time around, the band's taken a chill pill. You And Your Lion has the Delta Routine doing their best impression of The Band and succeeding. This isn't meant to be snide -- didn't John Lennon say something about finding your own style by imitating your role models and messing up? That's what The Delta Routine did here.

"Chains Off Me" is a powerful start to the album, reminding me of the Band's ability to showcase each member's talent while remaining a cohesive whole. Few groups of humans -- let alone musical bands -- are able to achieve that kind of synergy, but the Delta Routine achieves it. Also they wrote some great blues rock songs on here, including "Queen of New Jersey" and "Gone Again." The Delta Routine aren't just good-time charlies, though. There's enough substance on You And Your Lion to make you pause and think before you turn to your red solo cup. It's exciting to see a great band grow in leaps and bounds -- You And Your Lion is certainly anything but routine.


The Delta Routine -- Official, Facebook, iTunes

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Stephen Chopek -- "Systematic Collapse"

Listening to Chopek's chunky, swaggering guitar riff, you'd be surprised to learn that he started off as a professional drummer. Though Chopek is in high demand holding down the beat, his natural curiosity led him to studying guitar and, eventually, songwriting. Chopek's new single, "Systematic Collapse" is as much a study in confidence as it is in crippling neuroses.

It was the guitar that brought me to the song, but the lyrics made me stay. Chopek's got a sharp wit but his drummer's instincts prevents him from laying any one element of the song on too thick. Check out the single now in preparation for Chopek's upcoming album.

Stephen Chopek --Facebook, Twitter

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love -- Last

I feel winded just typing out the name of this band, so from here on out I'm going to call them L^9. Like the band's name, their music is deceptively whimsical but is, in fact, quite challenging.

Last feels like a blissed out, fuzzed out, triumphant breakup album. These guys are labelmates with frog, a band that has creeped up on me since I first posted about them. Both bands are steeped in '90s shoegaze, folk influence, and a sharp, early aughts sensibility. The album opens with a chaotic crash of guitar chords and glides seamlessly into sunwashed power pop. My favorite song is "Dandelions," a subdued track where the vocals are so low, you can barely hear the lyrics. What matters most are the emotions -- sorrow, sadness, regret -- that permeate the song past the words. Last is a trip to be sure, but it's a journey worth taking.

Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love -- Facebook, Bandcamp

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Parker McCollum -- The Limestone Kid

Parker McCollum will knock your socks off. The breadth and depth of his lyrics mask his relative youth (22.) His voice -- while boyish at times -- brims with the confidence of a well-seasoned troubadour. He and his band pour their hearts and souls into each of the 11 original songs on the album. In short, The Limestone Kid is a damn fine album and a stellar debut.

McCollum seems to be a born songwriter. If nothing else, he grew up with a lot of talent around him. Two of the album's most distinctive songs -- "Prohibition Rose," the ballad of an old-time femme fatale, and "Galveston Bay," a carefully penned ballad of lost love -- were written by his brother and cousin respectively. McCollum has plenty of his own to say, though. "Lucy" is a beautifully told story of loss and liberation:

Lucy's in the bedroom crying, laughing
Trying on all of her mama's clothes
No high heels or pretty dresses
Lucy's daddy never bought her momma none of those

That'd be a helluva way to start a short story, but McCollum's ability to pack so much imagery and characterization into four supercharged lines is truly impressive. If there were any justice in this world, McCollum would become widely known and fetted as an honest, down-to-earth songwriter. On the other hand, he packs enough charm that maybe, just maybe, he'll be one of the good guys who wins.

Parker McCollum -- Facebook, iTunes, Amazon

Monday, February 23, 2015

Kally O'Mally -- The Wild West Medicine Show

I thoroughly enjoyed Kally O'Mally's previous release, Easy Money. Apparently, my remarks about my apathy towards straight women (again -- I'm really sorry, ladies) inspired O'Mally to write The Wild West Medicine Show, what has a noticeable lack of love songs but a lot of songs about having a grand old time. So, actually, I'm not that sorry at all.

O'Mally recorded and produced the entire album herself in just two weeks. The production is lush with layers of music. O'Mally avoids falling into cheesy territory and instead creates a soundscape that transports us into her world. The tagline for this blog is "music like your life depends on it" and that slogan is evident here. O'Mally poured her heart and spirit into Wild West Medicine (just like she did for Easy Money) and it pays off. This time around, O'Mally took more sonic risks but her instinct and restraint give us an adventurous new album.

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

Monday, February 16, 2015

Gone Drinkin'

Thanks for stopping by! If you're reading this I'm either at Mardi Gras or recovering from it. Here are some Mardi Gras songs to tide you over until your favorite music writer is back in commission.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Robert Chaney -- Cracked Picture Frames

Usually when an artist includes a lyric booklet with their press materials, it's a pretty brassy move. It's like a claim that the written word transcends the music.

In Robert Chaney's case, it was exactly the write move. His Dylan-inspired drawl and asymmetrical guitar work certainly elevate his lyrics to a higher level, but his writing is so lush and richly imagined that you'll want to make sure you put in the extra work to get all of the details.

Chaney, a Florida native who relocated to London (of all places) to jump-start his writing career, says that he was heavily influenced by foreign films while writing this album. It makes sense when you hear the songs -- not only are the lyrics cinematic in scope, but you get the sense that the music down to Chaney's vocal performance are a soundtrack that supports the story told in the song. The album opens with "Black Eyed Susan," a carefully spun story of a tormented abuser:

I said one of these days I'll quite this for good
But did I mean the woman
Or did I mean the beatin'
Or did I mean the seemingly cowardly being
Crumbling under a burden of choosin'
And I'm the one being torn from the inside
But she's the one that's bruisin'

We're never asked to sympathize with the narrator, nor is he portrayed as any kind of hero. He simply is, and Chaney is the dispassionate narrator who brings his world to us.

The other songs on the album deal with similarly heavy topics, though Chaney's playful blues guitar and omniscient voice never lets the music become heavy-handed. Overall, this is a monumental work and a truly impressive debut album. If there's justice in the world, this album will make ripples on both sides of the Atlantic.

Robert Chaney -- Official, Facebook, Purchase

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Get Ahead -- Volcano

I don't know about you, but this New York winter is getting might dreary. I'm glad I have the Get Ahead to heat things up. The Portland-based band probably has lots of experience with damp, discouraging weather. That probably explains the bouncy, limitless cheer the quintet brings to their brand of neo-soul.

The Get Ahead should be proud of their debut album. The band is a tight unit. It's easy to hear how much fun they're having in the studio -- one can only imagine how much better they are live. Overall, Volcano is a party album. You might not find the Answer to your Question here, but you will find some good times.

Could Be Better

Little Devil

Dollars to Doughnuts

The Get Ahead -- Official, Facebook, Amazon

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

VIDEO: Dead Professional -- Don't Be Cruel AND DK and the Joy Machine

Men in coats with awesome hair in the woods performing a great damn song. What else do you need to know?

But if you live in DC and do want to know more, you can catch Dead Professional this Saturday (the 14th) at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on H Street.

Dead Professional -- Official, Facebook, Purchase

Once you're done enjoying that, drop a dollar in the jar for DK and the Joy Machine so she can finish her first full-length album. You may remember me reviewing her work here

DK and the Joy Machine -- Facebook, ReverbNation

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Whiskey Treats -- Treat Yourself

Last week I talked about how Wood and Wire have a punk rock energy to their bluegrass. Conversely, the Whiskey Treats bring bluegrass to their rowdy punk rock.

The Denver-based band brings a lot of good cheer, mandolins, and finger-picking to this 6-song EP that promises more good things to come. Their chemistry certainly isn't moonshine -- it's the real deal.

Oh yeah! In case you don't follow my Twitter feed religiously, Musicians Empowered listed me as one of their top 100 music blogs on the whole Internetz (for 2015.) I don't really win things so please allow me to brag. Thanks, Sarah!

The Whiskey Treats -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp

Monday, February 9, 2015

Josh Brooks -- Tall Tales

If you're looking for a consummate songwriter -- someone who will tell you inventive stories, yank on your heartstrings, and play the heck out of some guitar -- then you've probably been waiting for a while. The good news is Josh Brooks is the man you've been waiting for.

Tall Tales is all over the map in terms of content, style, and emotion. The one constant is the top-notch quality of each track. There isn't a single song on here that I feel "meh" about. "Tommy" is a great example of Brooks' take-no-prisoners approach to his songs:

Tommy's got a problem that he can't explain. Got an axis of evil and a first world power picking fights in his brain. You walk down the street, you see the clear blue sky. Tommy's got mortar rounds lighting up his head like the fourth of July. You try talking to him and he might make nice. Then again, he might knock the teeth from your head and he won't think twice.

But Tommy's alright, he's just having fun. The voices are quiet, he isn't hurting anyone. It's a flip of the switch, a slight of hand... and the whole foundation just slips like sand. 

But Brooks is equally in his element telling stories about accidentally killing a frog in his lawn, guzzling pina coladas, and devious femme fatales. Tall Tales is an album you won't want to miss. It's one of my favorites so far this year.

Josh Brooks -- Official, Bandcamp

Friday, February 6, 2015

John Neilson -- Tomorrow Comes the Spring

I wish I had more time to say more nice things about John Neilson's sophomore album, but unfortunately my day job calls and I want to make sure you all find out about Tomorrow Comes the Spring ASAP.

Neilson will grab your attention with the first blazing chord of "Lights of Loss Angeles," but you'll probably only catch on to his sly sense of humor when you get to his love song on the second track, "Columbian Cocaine." Neilson's got a gift of writing songs that will sneak up on you -- you have to listen to them, not just hear them. In this way, Neilson reminds of fellow Texas troubadour Robert Ellis, but without all the pathos (at least on this album.) Tomorrow Comes the Spring is, at the end of the day, a lighthearted album about stumbling through your youth. If only the real thing were as enjoyable.

John Neilson -- Official, Facebook, Purchase

Thursday, February 5, 2015

GoodWolf -- Car In the Woods

I've had this album on loop all day and I haven't gotten sick of it. I think I might not ever get sick of it (though I probably won't loop it again.) GoodWolf's second LP is an intoxicating mix of garage rock, pop punk, and 90s college rock. In other words, it's a curious mix of earnestness, sincerity, and disaffection that refuses to be heavy-handed. And that's the only way this kind of rock'n'roll medicine can go down.

GoodWolf is led by West Virginia-based Tyler Grady. The guy might be singing about self-destructive friends and breakups, but dude is having fun. Whether it's the barnstorming opener "St. Somewhere Else," the scathing critique of a longtime friend in "Black Denim," or the sun-soaked memories of an anxious youth in "Desperately 21," each song is a self-contained nugget of rock'n'roll gold. There's not a single lame song on here, and each one will push your emotional buttons. This is already one of my favorites of the year.

GoodWolf -- Bandcamp, Facebook

Correction: I originally stated that this album was GoodWolf's first. It's actually their second.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wood and Wire -- The Coast

Bluegrass is a funny thing. Sometimes I find it's a little hokey or a little sad. Other times I think I only enjoy it because the musicians have found a way to incorporate tropes from other genres (such as Greenland is Melting's punk approach.) Texas's Wood and Wire have hit the sweet spot: it's as blue as bluegrass is going to get, but they energy behind the music is pure rock'n'roll.

While all 11 songs on the album are original, you feel like you've heard them somewhere before. It's not plagiarism -- the band's just that good at writing rollicking, timeless songs. "Dancin' On My Grave" might just be my new favorite kiss-off song. Ultimately, the album deals with growing up, loss, and maturity -- you know, boring stuff -- but the way Wood and Wire tells it, growing pains are actually pretty fun.

Wood and Wire -- Official, Facebook, Amazon, iTunes

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Mishka Shubaly -- Coward's Path

Mishka Shubaly's second album, Coward's Path, covers well-worn materials for this blog: alcoholism, self-doubt, self-recrimination, wry humor, twanging guitars. So what makes it stand out? There's a raw, appealing quality to it.

These songs were recorded about ten years ago, when Shubaly was near bottom. Since then, he took a break from music, sobered up, took up running, wrote a book about it, and has become a bestselling author in Amazon's Kindle store. Shubaly felt the time was right to release these songs, original recorded in an empty basement squat in Astoria, Queens and re-mixed by a close friend.

Shubaly's a master of word play and songwriting. The lead-off track, "Pickup Lines" is an exuberant romp. Shubaly's rich voice -- husky, deep, a little down-and-out -- serves the material well. I think what makes these songs stand out is not just the rawness, but also the sense of triumph. We know that even if there are times we feel this way, even if we're feeling this way now, we'll move past it as long as we recognize the problem and work to move past it.

You can also download "New Jersey Valentine's Day Orphan Blues" for FREE by clicking here.

Mishka Shubaly -- Official, Facebook, Purchase

Monday, February 2, 2015

Kristopher James -- Movement: 1

I'm too drunk to be coherent but I'm also too drunk to go out and do things. This is Teacher Life (a new tag!), people. The Friday after Regents week = shitfaced by 7 PM.

So the TL;DR is Kristopher James' EP is gorgeous and really should speak for itself.

But you come here in part -- presumably -- for my brilliant genius writing. So I'll say that while James' vocals are soulful and his lyrics are as precise as they are cutting, I'm most impressed "Where Is Your Sting." Death scares the shit out of me (drunk confession?) but James' bold approach and eloquent imagery makes me think I should change my approach:

Sometimes life feels just so God dammed, that we welcome the tilt of the drink
But Death like the friend, who leads you back home, rests with you there while you dream

Oh, Death where is your sting?
I'll be ready, my friend, in the end.
So have a drink until then.

Death's an adventure every man needs to face, to look past the peak of unknown.
But I can't see past this day that I'm living ... and I'm not really ready to go home. 

On the other hand, I really prefer having a bunch of drinks with coworkers than the absence of existence (amirite?) So at the end of the day, the jury's still out on my feelings about death. But my feelings about James are pretty clear -- what a talent! You can pay what you want for the EP, but what you want to pay is > 100 pennies in US currency so we can make sure we get a Movement: 2 sooner rather than later.

Kristopher James -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp