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April 2007 Reviews by

Amaan Ali Khan & Ayaan Ali Khan
Alsace Lorraine
The Artificial Sea

Atari Star
Bad Reception

Julianna Barwick
Black Light Burns
Blitzen Trapper*
Chattanooga Secret
Rob Crow
Dead Heart Bloom

Dora Flood
Linda Draper
Mitch Easter*

Tim Emmerick and Cold Front County
Foreign Islands

Godrun Gut*
Hail Social
Albert Hammond, Jr.
Handy Blender

Emily Hay, Brad Dutz, Wayne Peet*
House of Fools
Invisible Star

Iraq Quack
Je Suis France
Kaiser Chiefs

W.W. Lowman
Matt Lutz
Mag Seven
Billy Martin & John Medeski
Midnight Movies
Mommy and Daddy

Amanda Monaco 4
Grant-Lee Phillips*
Pia Fraus*
John Prine & Mac Wiseman
Pussycat Balls
Right To Death
Rope, Inc.
Kitty Rose
Randi Russo

The Shake
Throw Up

Wealthy and Confused
White Rabbits
Young Gods*

*Top Picks

Additional Items Received


Ayaan Ali Khan & Amaan Ali Khan - Truth (CD, Koch, Progressive pop)
Truth is an intriguing album that combines these two brothers' love of electronics with traditional Indian music. The album features super slick production and state-of-the-art effects. Ayaan Ali Khan and Amaan Ali Khan record music that effectively incorporates elements of soft pop with classical ambience. This album has an epic, spacious sound that can give the listener the feeling of being alone in the desert at night. A few years ago this music probably would have been described as world music. Nowadays such a descriptive term no longer seems appropriate as listeners are becoming increasingly aware that all music is world music (!). Truth is bound to appeal to a wide cross section of listeners. These cerebral compositions are heady, soothing, and imaginative. Top picks: "The Blessing," "Rays of Hope," "Ecstatic Connection," "Truth." (Rating: 5)

Alsace Lorraine - Dark One (CD, Darla, Pop)
Alsace Lorraine is the musical project driven by the talents and songwriting skills of Paul Francke. Dark One is a smooth and moody excursion into the world of dreamy modern pop. Francke and his associates seem to have the innate ability to layer just the right instruments into the mixes to make their tunes work. What makes this album truly special is the presence of guest vocalist Isol who is better known as the lead vocalist in the band Entre Rios (a babysue favorite). Isol's vocals have a wonderful presence and just ooze with genuine personality. Combined with Francke's skills...the two manage to come up with some absolutely killer tracks here. The inclusion of a couple of remixes of cuts that appear earlier on the album seems a bit odd...but hey, you can always burn a copy without the extra tracks...right? Dark One is a smooth, easy spin...extremely subtle and serene... (Rating: 4+++++)

Ans.Andur - Topeltvikerkaar (CD, Seksound, Pop)
Although many people may not yet be aware of it, there are quite a few outstanding bands coming out of Estonia these days. Thanks to the folks at the Seksound label, word of these bands is now quickly spreading around the globe. Ans.Andur is a true Estonian band. These folks aren't pandering to Europeans or Americans as they sing all of their songs in their native Estonian language. This may alienate some listeners...but it also may very well draw in many more over the long run. Topeltvikerkaar features eleven modern pop compositions, each of which is surprisingly original and unpretentious. The tunes on this album do have commercial appeal, but they are first and foremost artistic creations in which the band members are allowed to flex their imagination. Some of the arrangements and vocal harmonies are rather heady and complex...sometimes almost jazzy. Intriguing tracks include "Idiootide Kateeder," "Fuji," "Alt Kummiga," and "Audiovaras." (Rating: 4+++++)

The Artificial Sea - City Island (CD, Travelling Music, Progressive)
This Brooklyn, New York-based band's album has been released on the French label Travelling Music...a seemingly appropriate home for this obscure little duo. The Artificial Sea is Kevin C. Smith (who plays the music) and Alina Simone (who writes the lyrics and sings). This duo creates atmospheric soft pop tracks with strangely haunting melodies. Unlike many of their contemporaries, these folks have the good sense to leave plenty of wide open space in their recordings...thus allowing listeners to concentrate on the substance that is inherent in the music. Combining snippets of ideas from 1970s progressive rock with bits and pieces from 1990s slo-core bands...Smith and Simone have managed to come up with an album that is uniquely soothing and satisfying. Our favorite tracks are "Gloryhole," "Tunnel Vision," "Things We Spent," and "Outpost." Nice packaging on this one. Recommended for fans of Bjork. (Rating: 5)

Atari Star - Aniseed (CD, Johann's Face, Pop)
Surprisingly direct and unaffected melodic guitar pop. Atari Star is led by Marc Ruvolo and Davey Houle who also run the Johann's Face label. Upon spinning Aniseed, the first thing that struck us was how this music doesn't really fit into any particular hipster categories. It isn't emo nor is it power pop or anything that can be easily labeled. Ruvolo and Houle seem to be writing music that comes straight from their hearts. As such, these pop tunes have a nice, genuine, sincere quality that is timeless and rather classic in nature. Some of the tunes are upbeat and catchy...while others are somber and thoughtful. This is a short album clocking in at just over 35 minutes. But in that length of time, these fellows and their associates manage to come up with some truly meaty tunes with real substance. Keen cuts include "This Is Where I Often Pause," "The Be All End All," "Serpentine" (our favorite), and "Letter to Ernst." Good stuff. (Rating: 5+)


The reception
Will be a failure
Because hardly anyone will show up
And those that do will be

(Rating: 1)

Julianna Barwick - Sanguine (Independently released CD, Progressive/experimental)
Julianna Barwick is one of a growing number of modern underground female artists proving that boys aren't the only ones with the drive to experiment. Sanguine is an unusual album in many ways. Many of the tracks are more like audio experiments than normal songs. Ms. Barwick layers vocals and sounds to create some otherworldly and rather beautiful compositions. Her music has far more in common with modern classical artists than your average pop band. This is a short album clocking in at just over 24 minutes. But during that time, Julianna proves without a doubt that she is an artist who refuses to fit into easily defined categories. Quite unusual... (Rating: 5)

Black Light Burns - Cruel Melody (CD, Adrenaline Music, Rock/pop)
Limp Bizkit was a very dull and unimaginative band. We were bored when we first heard them and we were always puzzled as to why so many people would support such generic, ordinary music. Now that the band has split, lead singer Fred Durst seems more interested in porking ugly Hollywood whores than making music (big loss...heh heh heh...). But guitarist Wes Borland remains committed to music. Since the Bizkit burned, Borland has created several different projects. Black Light Burns just may be the one that sticks. The band is absolutely nothing like Limp Bizkit (thank God)...but sounds instead something like a raw rock version of Nine Inch Nails. Borland has become quite the lead singer nowadays...he can really scream his way through these industrial rock tunes with pure, raw energy. Cruel Melody features thirteen thick meaty rockers that are quite catchy and interesting. Our favorite cuts are "Mesopotamia," "Lie," "4 Walls," and "New Hunger." (Rating: 4++++)

Blitzen Trapper - Wild Mountain Nation (Independently released CD, Progressive pop)
While many others fail, the guys in Blitzen Trapper have managed to successfully record and release a quality album full of superb tunes. Wild Mountain Nation is the Portland-based band's third release...and it covers an amazing amount of territory in just over 30 minutes. The band consists of six men...which may explain the wild variety of styles in the music. On this short album these fellows manage to delve into obtuse rock, melodic pop, country pop, experimental, progressive rock, bluegrass and more. What might sound like a schizophrenic approach to recording actually ends up sounding cohesive and satisfying. While occasional comparisons could be made to bands like The Flaming Lips, early Pink Floyd, and Guided By Voices, in the end these guys don't really have that much in common with other bands. Wild Mountain Nation is a wildly entertaining ride that gets better the more you ride it. Nifty cuts include "Devil's A-Go-Go," "Wild Mountain Nation," "The Green King Sings," and "Badger's Black Brigade." Imaginative and quite often superb. (Rating: 5++++)


Chattanooga is
The greatest city
In the United States.
Thank God hardly anyone
Knows it.

(Rating: 1)


Children like us
But we never wanted
To be liked by
Children like us.

(Rating: 1)

Rob Crow (Live performance, March 11, 2007)
We were fortunate indeed to catch Rob Crow live in concert during one of the last shows of his first solo tour. While almost everyone in Chattanooga wasn't paying the least bit of attention, one of the greatest shows of the year was happening right under their noses. Opening up for Mr. Crow was the local Chattanooga band Aphids and Mouth of the Architect. The folks in Aphids played some particularly intriguing experimental music that set the mood for the night. Up next were the perpetual head-nodders in Mouth of the Architect. This band played a wild and furious merging of death metal and progressive rock. Their music sounded great with the exception of the generic screamer vocals. Finally and at long last, Rob Crow started to play...and the club was instantly ON FIRE. If you aren't familiar with Rob and his music, you must get your hands on his latest album Living Well...it will without a doubt be one of the strongest and most memorable albums to be released this year. Rob and his supporting band played most of the songs off the album with a few others sprinkled in. The album itself is a knockout...but it was even more of a mindblower hearing the songs played live by a top-notch band. The material has real bite and punch...and we found ourselves continually amazed at the complexity of the material and how tight the band was. The music sounded something like a cross between Built To Spill, Television, early Talking Heads, and Yes. Crow seemed to be in a hypnotic trance while playing...he was warm and friendly to the audience while delivering some of the most dizzying and complex progressive pop on the planet. The small group that gathered at the stage seemed somewhat frozen in the headlights during most of the concert. Not surprising, considering much of the material was too bizarre and spastic for dancing. We went to this show expecting something very good...and left feeling as if we had witnessed one of the most amazing bands of the twenty-first century. We can only hope that Rob will continue playing and recording with his backing band. The entire concert was, in a word, AMAZING. We also want to help spread the word to everyone in and around the Chattanooga area about the club Lamar's. This venue HAS to be one of the coolest places EVER for a rock concert. Lamar's is a somewhat cheesy old motel and restaurant on a hill with a sign in front that is beginning to fall over. The place is run by some nice black folks who have a reputation for serving the "strongest drinks in town" (we don't drink so we can't verify that). The environment at Lamar's was wonderful. Everyone we spoke with was very warm and friendly...and we ended up having the feeling that the band was playing in our living room. We will most definitely be back soon. But, returning to Rob Crow... Some folks may, unfortunately, be writing Crow off as a musician who has passed his prime. Because he is still primarily known as a member of Pinback and is now a good bit heavier and stranger...his newest solo recordings may leave a lot of folks scratching their heads. We can only hope that enough people will support this fellow and what he is doing. There are very few musicians in the world today with this much energy, creativity, passion, and imagination. (Rating: 6+)

Dead Heart Bloom - Chelsea Diaries (CD EP, KEI, Soft pop)
The vocal harmonies on Chelsea Diaries are incredible...absolutely...incredible. This band's vocal work is reminiscent of some of the better folk/pop bands from the 1970s and 1980s...but the music itself is by no means retrospective. Considering the fact that this band is currently treading in the musical undercurrents, it is surprising how much commercial potential this album has. Instead of underground artsy junk, these folks write real tunes with great lyrics. The melodies are outstanding and far beyond what we normally hear from unknown artists. The folks in Dead Heart Bloom have a real winner on their hands here. Our only complaint is that by the time the disc ended, we wanted to hear more. Killer tracks include "Who Will You Love," "Chelsea Song #2," "New York City Heat," and "The Up and Down." Really nice packaging includes a beautiful color photo booklet. Great stuff, recommended... (Rating: 5++)

Dora Flood - We Live Now (CD, Elephant Stone, Pop/rock)
Many bands appear, make a big splash, and then disappear within a matter of months. The guys in San Francisco's Dora Flood are taking a different approach...slowly building and expanding their influence based upon good word-of-mouth. We Live Now is a nifty, smooth spin that showcases the band's pop sensibilities as well as their tendencies toward subtle psychedelia. Produced by the band themselves and recorded onto two inch analog tape, this album has a nice warm sound quality that is a refreshing change from hearing too much digitally recorded music. Some of the tunes tend to rock...while others are somewhat drony in nature. We find this band's guitars particularly appealing. The layering of different guitar sounds definitely works in the band's favor. This is an album that gets better with repeated spins. Dreamy tracks like "Phoenix Rising," "Feels Like Yesterday," "Humble High" (our favorite), and "Light" make this album a purely rewarding listen. Should appeal to fans of The Flaming Lips and early Pink Floyd. (Rating: 5+

Linda Draper - Keepsake (CD, Planting Seeds, Folk)
We have been rather focused on Linda Draper's music for the past couple of years...ever since we first heard the universally celebrated album One Two Three Four. The first thing we noticed about Keepsake is that (unlike her previous albums) it was not produced by Kramer. As such, some of the strangely subtle studio tricks are missing. The second thing we noticed is that these songs are slightly more accessible, normal, and polished than Linda's earlier material. But songs are what make albums...and Linda continues providing good, quality tunes on Keepsake. The real treat, once again, are the lyrics. Ms. Draper has a way of arranging words so that they are uniquely thought provoking. Accordingly, to really appreciate this album, we would advise reading along with the lyrics to get the full effect. We have to admit that we do miss Kramer's touch on these recordings...but Keepsake remains yet another solid addition to Ms. Draper's impressive catalog... (Rating: 5)

Mitch Easter - Dynamico (CD, Electric Devil, Pop)
When we heard that Mitch Easter was releasing a new album, we had mixed feelings. We were mainly excited...but we were also worried about the possibilities. After all, when most artists stop releasing music and then return twenty years later they are either re-treading old territory or they have totally lost the spark. Most folks remember Mr. Easter as the producer of the first R.E.M. album or for the Let's Active tune "Every Word Means No"...but the real meat of Mitch's music were the non-hits that were only heard and appreciated by a relatively small yet loyal fan base. But on to the present. Dynamico is...FANTASTIC. This CD is Mitch Easter's most consistent and thoroughly engaging album EVER. Instead of sounding old and burned out, Mitch still sounds like an excited 17 year old. The tunes are vibrant and fresh...the vocals right on target...and those unmistakable loopy guitars sound as good as they ever did. Will this be the CD to push Mitch's career into the mainstream...? Probably not. His songs are still a bit too awkward and peculiar for the mass market. But our guess is that Dynamico will receive unanimous praise from critics and fans. One thing is for certain. He was out of the spotlight for far too long. Mitch Easter is back, THANK GOD. Let's hope this will be followed by many more albums in the years ahead... HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. (Rating: 6)

Edie - Realities (CD, Stickfigure, Soft pop)
Edie reminds us of Nico because she is both a musician and a beautiful young model...but her music is actually more reminiscent of Sonja Kristina because of her slightly spooky and subtle approach. Born in The Netherlands, Edie eventually made her way to Paris, France...then Sydney, Australia...then Los Angeles, California...and even Nashville, Tennessee. Realities is an interesting collection of soft progressive pop compositions that focus on Edie's soothing, breathy vocals. She isn't going the usual route of writing and recording catchy girlie pop...her music is more more esoteric and unconventional than that. After hearing this album a few times, our guess is that Edie is going to build a dedicated following...but it may be a slow process that happens over the course of the next few years. Her music isn't immediately gripping...but rather slips into the subconscious before having its full effect... (Rating: 4+++++)

Tim Emmerick and Cold Front County - North (CD, Red One, Rock/pop)
Good, solid, Americanized guitar pop rock. Recorded in one week in Brooklyn, New York, North is a simple and pure slice of good old rock and roll. Tim Emmerick has a great masculine voice that really makes his music work. Rather than sounding like tired old blues-based rock, the tunes on this CD have a spark that is sadly missing in many modern rock albums. The tunes are, for the most part, easy and straightforward...and they do not contain any elements that are not essential to the overall sound. Emmerick may not win any prizes for the most original sounding songs on the planet...but he more than makes up for this by delivering his tunes with guts, integrity, and style. Punchy catchy cuts include "Black River Bridge," "Storm," "Signal Mountain," and "Mercy." (Rating: 4++++)

Foreign Islands - Restart Now (CD, Deaf Dumb + Blind Recordings, Pop)
Extraordinarily catchy dance pop. This New York-based band plays a modern brand of hard pop propelled by infectious beats and vocals that are drenched with attitude. The guys in Foreign Islands keep their music relatively simple...maintaining their focus on great beats, distorted guitars, and simple vocal melodies. Restart Now is a very short mini-album clocking in at just under 35 minutes (the final two songs are remixes of songs that appear elsewhere on the CD). So...while you don't get a whole lot of music here (only six actual songs)...the music you do get is really rather fresh and exciting. If the next album is anything like this, our guess is that these guys will very soon be setting the world on fire. Kickass rockers include "We Know You Know It," "Fine Dining With The Future," and "Ghost Story." Classy rockin' stuff... (Rating: 5)


Everyone stand around
Mourning the loss
Of someone whose life
Never mattered anyway.

(Rating: 1)

Godrun Gut - I Put A Record On (CD, Monika Enterprise, Obtuse electronic pop)
I Put A Record On is a very unusual collection of tunes that is sure to make an immediate impression. Godrun Gut is the head of the Monika Enterprise label...and has only now released her first solo album. This CD features eleven moody, trippy art pop cuts and a video for the tune "Celle." Rather than offer the generic and predictable electronic dribble that so many artists churn out, Godrun creates subtle, moody, slightly creepy pieces that are unusually intriguing. She layers peculiar electronics over simple percussion and processes her odd, distant vocals so that they sound almost machine-like. Listening to I Put A Record On may very well give you the feeling that you are dreaming. Ms. Gut's strangely intellectual music is fascinating and multi-layered...the more you hear it, the more the subtle nuances of the music come to the surface. Stunning tracks like "Move Me," "The Land," "Last Night," and "Tip Tip" make this album a MUST HAVE. Highly recommended, without reservation... (Rating: 5++++)

Hail Social - Modern Love & Death (Independently released CD, Pop)
Sounding nothing like your average underground art band, the guys in Hail Social have a surprisingly upbeat, melodic, commercial sound that is instantly appealing. The tunes on Modern Love & Death are reminiscent of some of the better soul/pop groups of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The songs are simple, direct, and catchy...and the band's vocals would certainly make The Bee Gees proud. The analog keyboards add an extra inviting flavor to the music as well. How many underground bands can you think of whose music could easily catch on with both teenagers and baby boomers...? This album is bound to go over well with tons of folks...if only they are given the opportunity to actually hear it. (So many great bands get lost in the rapids these days because of the volume of music being created.) Here's hoping these guys great success in the months and years ahead. They deserve it. (Rating: 4+++++)

Albert Hammond, Jr. - Yours To Keep (CD, Scratchie, Pop)
Debut solo album from Albert Hammond, Jr. who is better known as a member of the phenomenally successful band The Strokes. Produced by Greg Lattimer, Yours To Keep is a resounding success. Some of the tracks have a sound similar to The Strokes...but overall this is a much more poppy release than a rock album. Many of the tracks on this twelve track album seem to have been heavily influenced by The Beatles. A great deal of time was obviously spent arranging and producing these tunes. Instead of burying the songs in overdubs, the folks involved in this project had the good sense to show some restraint when appropriate. Hammond has a great voice that really adds warmth and depth to his songs. Pop fans will no doubt go apeshit over cuts like "Cartoon Music for Superheroes," "In Transit," "Call An Ambulance," and "Hard to Live in the City." A beautifully designed colorful digipak sleeve and booklet complete this nifty package. Pop music that will stand the test of time. (Rating: 5+)


Her hands were once so
Warm and tender
Until she put them
In the blender.

(Rating: 1)

Emily Hay, Brad Dutz, Wayne Peet - Emily Hay, Brad Dutz, Wayne Peet (CD, pfMENTUM, Modern experimental jazz)
Anyone familiar with California's strangest modern jazz musicians will immediately recognize these folks. Emily Hay, Brad Dutz, and Wayne Peet have all released albums under their own names. Now the three come together for a collaboration that is certain to confuse just about everyone. On this album, Hay plays flue, alto flute, and "sings" (more about this later), Dutz plays percussion, and Peet plays organ, piano, and theremin. This album is moody, strange, peculiar, and provocative. The music itself is odd...but when you add Ms. Hay's vocals into the mix well...then things really start to get strange. Emily is an experimental vocalist who uses her voice as an instrument. When she sings her crazy gibberish she sounds something like a cross between a brain damaged three month old infant and an exotic bird. She chirps, screeches, spats, skats, whispers, and purrs...and that's just the beginning. If your musical universe includes artists like Kenny G, well then...you would probably best be advised to steer clear of all three of these musicians for the remainder of your mortal life. But if you're in the mood for some wild improvisational creativity...you've found the right place. These three individuals seem to be a perfect fit for one another. Great music, executed to perfection. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Helloween - Keeper of the Seven Keys. The Legacy: World Tour 2005/2006, Live in Sao Paulo (Double CD, SPV USA, Rock)
This double CD documents Helloween's ambitious 2005/2006 world tour during which they played for thousands upon thousands of cheering fans. Though this band has been at it now for a couple of decades, they show absolutely no signs of wearing down or burning out. It isn't surprising that this band has found such a large and devoted audience. Their music successfully combines the best elements of heavy metal with complex progressive rock. An accompanying double DVD is also being released simultaneously which features the usual SPV high quality standards. If you have never heard Helloween, this is a good place to start. If you're already a rabid follower...well then, this is probably already on your must have list. Intense heady rockers include "The King For a 1000 Years," "Mr. Torture," "I Want Out," and "Occasion Avenue." The guys in the high and mighty Helloween continue to enthrall and compel... (Rating: 5)

House of Fools - Live and Learn (CD, Drive-Thru, Pop)
The guys in North Carolina's House of Fools write and record extraordinarily commercial sounding music...especially considering the fact that they are an up-and-coming underground band (!). The tunes on Live and Learn are so slick and melodic, in fact, that the band may have a bit of difficulty making their initial splash. Bands usually start out loud and harsh...have very little success...and then soften and alter their sound to suit a larger audience. And then...voila...immediate financial rewards. These fellows are obviously skipping step one, possibly hoping for a quicker entry into the limelight. From the sounds we're hearing on this album, the guys in this band certainly deserve any success that comes their way. They are really and truly talented. Live and Learn features classy, classic pop that harkens back to the 1970s and 1980s when bands were just beginning to go nuts with the possibilities that technology allowed. Pensive, melodic tracks like "It Could Be Easy," "Kiss the Haze," and "Better Part of Me" should go over well with pop fans of all ages. (Rating: 4+++++)


When you wish
Upon a star
You will disappear

(Rating: 1)


Iraq, Iraq, Iraq, Iraq,
Iraq, Iraq,
Quack, quack, quack, quack,
Quack, quack,

(Rating: 1)

Je Suis France - Afrikan Majik (CD, Antenna Farm, Progressive/experimental/rock)
We knew from the very first spin that we would not be able to rate Afrikan Majik using our usual rating system. Je Suis France is a group of fellows based in Athens, Georgia who are playing a wild array of musical styles all glued together into a bizarre patchwork presentation. During the course of this lengthy album (clocking in at over 64 minutes) these guys delve into psychedelia, pop, rock, experimental, ambient, electronic and more. In trying to describe the music, we could say that the music sounds something like a cross between The Young Fresh Fellows, Hawkwind, Kraftwerk, and The Orb...but that wouldn't really get the point across. Afrikan Majik is a weird spin to be certain. Is it mere experimentation...or is it genius...? Only time will tell. In the meantime, this band is bound to leave most folks wondering what the hell is going on. Unpredictable music. (Not Rated)

Kaiser Chiefs - Yours Truly, Angry Mob (CD, B-Unique / Universal Motown, Pop)
Despite what many of us underground snobs would like to believe, underground music doesn't always have to sound like underground music and commercial music doesn't always have to sound commercial. Despite the fact that they are an up-and-coming band, the five guys in Britain's Kaiser Chiefs make music that could easily appeal to the mindless masses...even though the music is actually rather intelligent and intellectual. Yours Truly, Angry Mob features slick, hummable commercial pop with catchy melodies and intriguing arrangements. Instead of offering harsh noise or artsy difficult pieces, the band delivers their upbeat pop with energetic pizzazz. This album has been released at a great point in time. These tunes ought to appeal to lots of folks out and about who are wanting to spin some groovy music just as spring is arriving. This may be a bit too slick and glossy for some...but our guess is that most folks will find this positive pop to be instantly addictive. Cool catchy tracks include "Ruby," "Heat Dies Down," "Everything Is Average Nowadays," and "Try Your Best." (Rating: 5+)

Lovedrug - Everything Starts Where It Ends (CD, The Militia Group, Pop)
Thick, slickly produced modern progressive pop. The guys in Lovedrug have a big polished sound that has already captured the hearts and imagination of a great many listeners. Although still relatively unknown at this point, the band will probably see their fan base increase exponentially over the next few months. Our guess is that Everything Starts Where It Ends is exactly what fans are wanting to hear. What is interesting about these fellows is their ability to make accessible, commercial music while still presenting complex, challenging songs that would usually be beyond the mental scope of the general public. These tunes involve layers upon layers of overdubs and state-of-the-art effects...but the real focus are the urgent and sometimes almost bizarre vocals. Whether they're playing loud metallic pop, abrasive progressive rock, or pensive ballads...these fellows manage to make it all sound believable and real. Cool tracks include "Happy Apple Poison," "Dancing," and "Everything Starts Where It Ends" (our favorite track). Sometimes just a bit overproduced but still...mighty good stuff. (Rating: 4+++++)

W.W. Lowman - Plain Songs (CD, Arbouse Recordings, Progressive pop)
Every once in a while we hear something and just don't know what to make of it. Chicago's W.W. Lowman has created an album that is puzzling in overall sound and scope. Plain Songs is a collection of tunes Lowman wrote and recorded with Frank Navin of Aluminum Group. So...is this music jazz, progressive pop, slo-core, or experimental...? Actually, Plain Songs is all of these and then some. Lowman and Navin enlisted assistance from some heavyweights in the Chicago area who add real meat to these compositions. Some of these tracks recall Brian Eno's Another Day On Earth...but not really. If there is one word that seems to best describe this music it would surely be...fluid. This music flows by...at times sounding soothing and familiar...and at other times sounding rather skewed and odd. These seven tracks are bound to leave many confused. In the end, these players have succeeded in recording a strangely compelling album that just doesn't sound like anything else we've heard thus far this year. Heady cuts include "Tea Till Ten," "Please Don't Think Its Funny," and "Rasperate." Perplexing yet calm and soothing. (Rating: 5)

Matt Lutz - Seesaw (CD, Undetected Plagiarism, Pop)
Matt Lutz creates soft, slightly obtuse pop that sounds out of place in today's musical climate. Instead of sounding like Ben Folds, Sufjan Stevens, or The Beatles...Matt's music recalls eclectic artists like Sparks, The Auteurs, The Kinks, and T. Rex. Seesaw is an appropriate title for this strange, gently gliding collection of tunes. The title track could easily have been penned by Ron Mael...a soft rocker with a slightly spooky feel. In a perfect world, the song would be certain of becoming an underground hit. The eleven tracks on this 36-minute album feature sparse arrangements, subtle-yet-effective vocals, and wonderfully cascading melodies. We're glad we had the time to spin this album several times before reviewing it...because the soothing nuances of the music only become apparent over time. Nifty cuts include "Took Me Awhile," "Follow Along" (sounds almost exactly like The Auteurs), "Stay On," and "Falling." A very cool album indeed... (Rating: 5+)

Mag Seven - The Future Is Ours, If You Can Count (CD, End Sounds, Rock)
Featuring members of the bands Black Flag, Descendents, All, GWAR, Only Crime, Hagfish, and Armstrong...the guys in Mag Seven obviously already have a built-in audience. But what some folks might not be expecting is an all instrumental band. What surprises us is how basic this music is. While many might expect an all-out noise attack, The Future Is Ours, If You Can Count is, first and foremost, a rock and roll record. The tunes are melodic and the band rocks...but rather than try to blow folks away with power, this music is driven by cool guitar riffs, nifty bass hooks, and danceable beats. As such, we are pleased to report that Mag Seven is an upbeat FUN experience. At times, these tunes recall some of the better Canadian instrumental guitar bands from the 1990s. Eleven kickass tracks here including "Suck Bitch," "I Drive Like Steve McQueen," "Put Your Weight On It," and "Strange Wool." Excellent from start to finish. (Rating: 5)

Billy Martin & John Medeski - Mago (CD, Amulet, Jazz)
We've been big fans of organ and drum recordings ever since Lee Michaels recorded the album Barrel way back in the 1970s. As a result, we were instantly drawn to the new album by Billy Martin and John Medeski. Like the progressive dinosaur trio Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Billy and John are better known as two-thirds of the jazz band Medeski, Martin, and Wood. They had so much success as a trio that most people probably consider the three to be inseparable. Since the time the pair first played together in 1989, Martin and Medeski had apparently always wanted to record an album like Mago. The idea for this twelve track album is simple. Just hit the record button and play like hell. These spontaneous compositions spotlight the proficiency of these players. There are no vocals and (apparently) no overdubs...nothing to get in the way of hearing the duo playing exactly as they really sound. If you love organ and drums, you will likely go nuts over the sound of this album. Colorful cuts include "Crustaceatron," "Hot Little," "Safak," and "Sycretism." Cool stuff. (Rating: 5)

Midnight Movies - Lion the Girl (Advance CD-R, New Line, Soft pop)
Echoes of Nico drift in and out of the music created by the folks in Midnight Movies. Produced by Steve Fisk, Lion the Girl features eleven moody progressive tracks featuring calm, flowing arrangements and distant, provocative vocals. Some folks might mistakenly label the folks in this band as shoegazers but that would be inappropriate as the vocal melodies on this album are far more focused than that category would allow. The tunes on Lion are not catchy, accessible pop tracks but rather slow, evolving artsy recordings that will probably appeal to a very young audience. We find this band's music to be soothing and just slightly offbeat. Nifty cuts include "Souvenirs," "Ribbons," "Bell Tower," and "Two Years." Interesting. (Rating: 4+++++)


Mommy and Daddy
Are laying in bed
Wishing and dreaming
They both were

(Rating: 1)

Amanda Monaco 4 - Intention (CD, Innova Recordings, Jazz)
Amanda Monaco may very well be a musicaholic. In addition to playing and recording, Amanda is also a professor of music, teaches jazz on the web site WorkshopLive, and writes books. She may also very well be one of the truly unique voices in twenty-first century jazz. Ms. Monaco looks nothing like a jazz musician...her appearance would suggest that she is anything but a musician. Her approach is subtle and seemingly distanced from the pack in terms of her overall style of playing guitar. Joining Amanda on this album are Jason Gillenwater (tenor saxophone, clarinet), Fraser Hollins (acoustic bass), and Jeff Davis (drums). Together, these four individuals create some rather subdued, spontaneous, and occasionally intense compositions. Instead of putting herself dead center in the mix, Amanda's guitars seem to weave in and out of the music like a ghost that only makes itself visible on occasion. Moody and slightly creepy, Intention is a peculiar album that becomes more perplexing with repeated spins... (Rating: 5)

Monstrance - Monstrance (Double CD, Ape House Ltd., Experimental)
Former members of XTC and Shriekback get together...and create music that sounds completely unlike either band. Monstrance is Andy Partridge, Barry Andrews, and Martyn Barker. But rather than being an avenue for these fellows to expand upon their previous endeavors, the project is an outlet for total and complete audio experiments. Some may very well be turned off...while others may be turned on by this music. In recording this double album, the three musicians recorded for three days and came up with eight hours of spontaneous material. The music was then sorted out and remixed by Stuart Rowe (guitarist for Future Sound of London) and engineer Merv Carswell. The best way of describing this material would be to call it modern jazz with a heavy emphasis on technology. There's a lot to digest here...some of it is cerebral and inventive...while other tracks are merely entertaining. At the very least, this is an interesting project that may pave the way for some truly incredible music in the future... (Rating: 4++++)

Palomar - All Things, Forests (CD, MISRA, Pop)
The folks in Brooklyn, New York's Palomar have come up with a real winner here. All Things, Forest is a pop album to be certain...but it is by no means the kind of samey and predictable fluff that many artists churn out. Palomar is three ladies and one fellow...all of whom are obviously playing the game by their own rules. This album is simple yet uplifting...thought provoking yet subtle...and amazingly focused. At times the band's music recalls The Feelies, Azure Ray, and Ben Folds...but only slightly. These guitar-based compositions feature wonderfully uplifting melodies and mindblowing vocals. We were struck on several occasions by the blatant honesty and integrity of the lyrics on this album. All Things, Forest features beautiful pop music performed with integrity and style. Classy cuts include "Bury Me Closer," "The Air Between" (our favorite), "He Came To Stay," and "Alone." Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Grant-Lee Phillips - Strangelet (CD, Rounder, Pop)
The fifth album from Grant-Lee Phillips, formerly with the band Grant-Lee Buffalo. We don't mind admitting right off the bat that up to this point in time we had only had very limited exposure to this man's music, despite his substantial prior successes (he was voted best male vocalist of the year in 1995 by Rolling Stone). These days you can't take in everything from everyone...so we're usually content to discover artists at any stage in their careers. Strangelet is a great album full of soft, pensive, gently rolling soft pop tunes. The lyrics and vocal melodies are mature and exceptional from start to finish. The album manages to have a nice, lush, full sound without ever seeming busy or overproduced (the strings add a particularly nice touch to some of the tracks). Phillips is an old school songwriter. All of his tunes sound like instant classics and are bound to get even better with the passage of time. We may be late catching onto Grant-Lee's music...but after hearing Strangelet we are instantly hooked. Nifty tunes include "Runaway," "Fountain of Youth," "Raise the Spirit," and "Return To Love." Recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Pia Fraus - Nature Heart Software (CD, Seksound, Pop)
The more we hear from the folks in Pia Fraus...the more impressed we are. Nature Heart Software is the band's third album...and it continues in the tradition of their prior releases. The music of Pia Fraus is an unusual concoction. The band's tunes combine sounds from 1960s French and British pop with elements from 1990s shoegazer bands. And while there may be traces of artists like Ivy and The Cocteau Twins in the music, the overall sound is original and unique. Nature Heart Software is simultaneously soothing and puzzling. While the music is calm and subdued...some of the arrangements are actually rather obtuse in very subtle ways. The term dream pop is thrown about so much nowadays that it almost means nothing. But that term most certainly describes this band's music. These soft, cascading tunes are peculiar and hypnotic...and very, very beautiful. The vocals...are simply out of this world (!). Intricate, delicate pop tracks include "Birds Still Swing," "Day Week or Season," "Thank You Peter Parker," and "Japanese Heart Software." Fantastic stuff, highly recommended.... (Rating: 5++++)

John Prine & Mac Wiseman - Standard Songs for Average People (CD, Oh Boy, Country/pop)
Old school country music created by John Prine and Mac Wiseman. The seeds for this album were sown several years ago when Cowboy Jack Clement suggested that Prine and Wiseman make music together. Prine eventually contacted Wiseman...and Standard Songs for Average People was born. The tunes on this album are a far cry from the modern glossy computerized pop pulp that is often passed off as country music these days. These fellows do an amazing job of recreating the sound and energy of country music from the 1950s and 1960s. These tunes were recorded using only the bare essentials, thus allowing the listener to focus on the truly sincere delivery of the vocalists. The overall mood is extraordinarily restrained and laid back. It will be interesting to see how folks react to this album. Will it be embraced as a credible reminder of country music from days gone by? Or will it be overlooked because it just doesn't sound like other albums currently on the market...? No matter. Prine and Wiseman have come up with a real winner here...the style and sound of the past...recorded with the crystal clarity of twenty-first century technology. Features songs written by Ernest Tubb, Al Dexter, Tom T. Hall, Leon Payne, Kris Kristofferson, and many more. (Rating: 5)


Dinky sin is
Grey and smokey.
Dinky sin is
Okey dokey.
Dinky sin is
On the walls.
Dinky sin is
Pussycat balls.

(Rating: 1)


Everyone has the right
To end their life
Whenever and however
They choose.

(Rating: 1)

Rope, Inc. - Songs of Love & War (CD, Second-Shimmy, Pop)
Rope, Inc. is Matt Menovcik (who was previously in the band Saeta) and notorious producer Kramer. Songs of Love & War is a collection of subtle dub-influenced electronic pop. These thoughtful, personal, moody songs are delivered with appropriate restraint...incorporating some very simple yet beautiful keyboards. Manovcik has a slightly raspy almost hushed voice that works very well with this sort of music. Kramer's acute attention to details gives the music the heart and soul it deserves. This is probably a bit too subdued and provocative to become the most popular download of the month...but positive word-of-mouth about this project is bound to spread which will give it the exposure it so obviously deserves... (Rating: 4+++++)

Kitty Rose - Live at The Ryman (CD, Wild Affair, Country/pop)
Kitty Rose's music recalls a brand of easy listening simple country pop that has sadly become less and less prominent in the past few decades because of the increasing presence of overproduced schmaltzy country artists with too much money pumped into their careers...to hide the fact that they have very little talent. This CD features Kitty's debut Nashville concert at the Ryman Auditorium on April 1, 1972. All the energy and excitement of the performance comes shining through in these newly remastered tracks. More than any other performer, Rose's music recalls Patsy Cline. Her genuine sincerity and love of music are obvious and apparent. She's a soulful, focused singer as well as a helluva songwriter. These eleven tracks flow by nice and easy. This is country music played the way it ought to be played. Gutsy tracks include "(I Ain't No) Pretty Little Thing," "What Will It Take?", "Trouble," and "Unlucky." Great stuff. (Rating: 5+)

Randi Russo - Shout Like a Lady (CD, Olive Juice Music, Pop/rock)
Randi Russo is creating music in her own cool little niche...without ever sounding very similar to the massive tidal wave of underground artists that currently flood our planet. The first track ("Release Me") had us thinking that Russo's music was going to be nothing more than a rehash of Velvet Underground sounds...but the following title track immediately made it obvious that Randi has much more depth that first meets the ear. By the time the third track hit ("West Coast Girl") we determined that picking out influences would be difficult. Be forewarned that the tunes on Shout Like a Lady probably won't blow you away instantly. Russo's music is simple for the most part and does not contain the usual predictable elements found in most modern pop. As such, her music can be appreciated best by subtle observation. Spin this disc a few times...and we are willing to bet that you'll find something to love. Cool melodic tracks include "Battle on the Periphery," "That Corpse," and "Cobwebs." Exceptional vocals throughout...and the lyrics are particularly appealing... (Rating: 5+)

The Shake - Kick It (Independently released CD, Pop)
Nice, direct, catchy pop/rock with plenty of hooks. While most bands are content to ape the sounds of their current modern day heroes, the guys in The Shake are heavily influenced by classic pop groups from the past (their publicity photo even depicts them pawing over a bunch of vinyl albums). This mini-album is short, clocking in just under 30 minutes. But quality is always more important than quantity...and these guys manage to keep the quality up during the course of these nine tracks. This music sounds sincere and genuine...a far cry from a lot of the overproduced digital crap that we get slammed with. Nifty tracks include "Frequency," "8 O'Clock," "Devil's Side," and "Manic Boogie." We can hear traces of The Kinks in some of these tunes. Neat stuff, fulfilling... (Rating: 4+++++)


When in doubt,
Throw up.
When confused,
Throw up.
When terrified,
Throw up.
When satisfied and content,
Throw up anyway.

(Rating: 1)

Twink - Ice Cream Truckin' (CD, Mulatta, Pop/instrumental)
When we heard and reviewed the last Twink album (The Broken Record), little did we realize that the disc would end up becoming one of our top favorite releases of the twenty-first century (we obviously need to go back and up the rating on that CD...it is truly brilliant). Twink is Mike Langlie...a fellow with the imagination of a child and the skills of a mature techno geek. Whereas The Broken Record involved splicing snippets from old children's records into modern pop masterpieces, Ice Cream Truckin' presents nineteen compositions that evolved through assistance and cooperation from Langlie's pals and associates. Mike played and recorded himself playing toy piano(s)...and then gave the tracks to other folks to flesh out. The result...is a bizarre meshing of the simple with the heady and complex. Combining sounds from a three year old's playroom with techno, pop, heavy metal, ambience and more is no easy task...and yet Truckin' spins so smoothly you'd swear you were licking away at the creamiest ice cream cone on the planet. Each track is named after an ice cream flavor ("Razzmatazz," "Sugar Cone," "Scooter Pie," "Rocky Road," etc.). Considering how many artists were involved in this project, you'd think that the quality of this CD would vary wildly. Instead, the album is slick and professional from start to finish. Mike Langlie is creating a style of music in which he has no competitors. Slightly goofy and definitely surreal, the music of Twink is a bizarre acquired taste that will always leave the listener wanting more... Fantastic stuff. Highly recommended. (Rating: 6)


We have
So much money now
That we don't know what
To do with it.

(Rating: 1)

White Rabbits - Fort Nightly (CD, Say Hey, Pop)
Listening to White Rabbits is like playing a guessing game. Just exactly who do they really sound like? One minute they sound like Squeeze...but a moment later they sound like The Strokes...the next tune seems to be influenced by David Bowie...followed by another that sounds something like an updated version of 10CC...! After spinning Fort Nightly several times, we finally came to the conclusion that--while the band's sound does seem influenced by a wild variety of artists--in the end, White Rabbits really just sound like themselves. This interesting pop album features smart, intricately arranged tunes with well-thought-out melodies and exceptional vocals. The folks in this band create music that doesn't fit in with current trends in modern twenty-first century pop. The average listener might have trouble digesting this album because it doesn't sound like everything else. In this little corner of the universe, however, that is a very good thing. We recommend this album without reservation. Smart, original tunes like "Kid On My Shoulders," "Dinner Party," "March of the Camels," and "Tourist Trap" make this CD a solid keeper. Excellent from start to finish. (Rating: 5++)

Young Gods - Super Ready / Fragmente (CD, Ipecac, Progressive/industrial/rock)
We have been big fans of the Young Gods for years now. The band has always been years ahead of their time and they never fail to entertain with their unique brand of peculiar modern rock. Although this Swiss trio has never been a commercial success, they have fared extremely well in terms of artistic integrity...and they have been a major influence on many recording artists. Super Ready / Fragmente is the band's debut for the Ipecac label (which also releases albums by The Melvins)...and it's another credible mind-bending addition to their catalog. The disc includes moody progressive cuts and trippy, hallucinogenic rockers that feature the echo drenched vocals that seem to be the band's trademark. While this album is an obvious resounding success, our guess that it will (unfortunately) be another commercial failure in the United States. But that may be a good indication of real credibility...because things that sell well in this country are total and absolute rubbish. Once again, the Young Gods have created a fantastic masterpiece that will appeal to intelligent listeners with an adventurous spirit... (Rating: 5+++)


Additional Items Received:

All Smiles - Ten readings of a warning
Alternate Routes - Good and reckless and true
Appearance - Lost in aurora
Arrah and the Ferns - Evan is a vegan
At Dusk - You can know danger
Bad Apples - When colours become day and night
Barn Burning - Werner Ghost Truck
Charlie Beresford - The room is empty
Burning Dirty Band - Goodbye dominion
Christopher Blue - Room tones
Clemente - ...Whilst honey hums
Clutters- Don't believe a word
Shannon Corey - Unsaid
Neil Cotterill - Moonshot
Crawlspace - The spirit of '76
Hector Cuevas and the Boston Latin Band - Hector Cuevas and the Boston Latin Band
Destructo Swambots - Clear light
Dreamphish - Happiness happiness compilation 1995-2005
Eastern Conference Champions - Eastern Conference Champions
Jeff Eaton - Stop the world
Electric Soft Parade - No need to be down-hearted
Everybody Else - Everybody Else
Fire Bug - End of the world
Foreverinmotion - The beautiful unknown
Germans - Germans
Ben Godwin - Skin and bone
Graduate - Anhedonia
Virginia Gray - Sweet music
Great Northern - Trading twilight for daylight
Jeff Gutman - No way back
Halfway - Remember the river
Kate Havnevik - Melankton
Benni Hemmhemm - Kajak
Horrors - Strange house
Jana Hunter - There's no home
Infected - Insomnia
In Theory - This is it
Hazey Janes - Fire in the sky
Joshua Jug Band - Joshua Jug Band
Mark Kerr - One drink away from the blues
Kill Toby Wyatt - North to south vs east to west
Lacona - President's say
Lacona - 35/half of 70
Louis - Freak show revenge
Love In October - Words of sound
Malassis - Birds like bricks
Mando Diao - Ode to ochrasy
Lynn Marie and the Boxhounds - Party dress
Daniel Lee Martin - On my way to you
Messiah's Kiss - Dragonheart
Miggs - Late nights and early mornings
Gabriel Miller-Phillips - Shoot the moon
Mob Rules - Ethnolution A.D.
Molia Falls - A support entry title EP
Mondo Diao - Long before rock'n'roll
John Morton - Solo traveler
Abel Mouton - Singled out
Mr. Jekel - Keep it pushin
Nazanin - Someday
New Rags - Take jennie to brooklyn
Ocean Floor - Tall tales and small tales
One Trick Pony - Phantom pains
Ono - Open your box
Ola Podrida - Ola Podrida
Pigs - Oink!
Point - Unlucky stars
Porter Block - Suburban sprawl
Tincup Prophette - Liar and the thief
Protest Hill - The city echoes our hearts
Rainravens - Garden rocket
Red Collar - The hands up EP
Retarded - Goes louder
Lou Rhodes - Beloved one
Screamin' Mee-Mees & Hot Scott Fischer - Warp sessiosn 1972/1973
Session Americana - Beer town: the table top collective vol. 3
Scott & Aimee - Sitting in a tree
She Craves - Come around
Skull Time - Skull Time
Stalking Horses - This is your signal
Stampead - Milk and honey
Still Flyin' - Za cloud ej
Still Flyin' - Time wrinkle ej
Dori Turner - Songs for dark days
Utah Carol - Rodeo queen
Various Artists - Madlib - Time out presents the other side of los angeles
Various Artists - Ellen Allien - Time out presents the other side of berlin
Various Artists - Sandinista Project
Vocoder - It should have been so easy
Voyces - Kissing like it's love
Warm Guns - Electric mobile movies
Wooden Stars - People are different
Yacht - I believe in you. your magic is real.

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