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June 2008 Reviews by

Priscilla Ahn
Baby Talk
Blood Is A Lubricant

Cartoon Monster
Mark Chesnutt

Elvis Costello and the Imposters
Michael Dease

Echo Is Your Love

The Estranged
Eye Contact

The Fore
William F. Gibbs*
Hour of the Shipwreck

Gary Husband

The Individuals
Isol / Zypce*
Jesus Dyed

Ariel Kalma

Mark Mathis

Sarah McLachlan
Alex Moulton*
Numb and Number

Nurse With Wound*

Michaela Rabitsch & Robert Pawlik Quartet
Rancho Deluxe
The Republic Tigers
Riddle of Steel
Ride the Boogie
Rocket Number Nine Zoom Zoom Up
Shuteye Unison*
The Silverman*

Starling Electric
The Strangers*

Un Festin Sagital
Victorian Halls
Will of the People

Your Highness Electric
Mike Zito

*Top Picks

Additional Items Received


Priscilla Ahn - A Good Day (Advance CD, Blue Note, Soft pop)
At this point in the twenty-first century when there are so many ultra creative and ultra weird artists on the planet...sometimes all you really want is just some nice pleasant pop. As such, the new album from Priscilla Ahn arrived in our office suites at just the right time. A Good Day is a super smooth, super melodic album full of well-produced, pleasant tracks that ought to please just about anyone who appreciates simple feelgood pop. Originally from Philadelphia, Priscilla eventually moved to California and released an EP. This is the follow up...her first full-length album. Ahn's songs are amazingly mature, particularly for someone so young. Her words and melodies are sincerely focused and real. And man...what a voice. We would have liked to have seen the actual complete release on this one rather than an advance CD. As such, this one definitely gets a thumbs up...but only a partial review because we received only part of the actual final product... (Not Rated)



How could anyone not hate
They're ugly.
They smell like shit.
And they grow into

(Rating: 1)

Baskervilles - Twilight (CD, Secret Crush, Pop)
Really cool and catchy effervescent pop with a difference. The folks in Baskervilles have created an album that will undoubtedly catch on in a big way with pop fans around the world. Twilight, the band's second full-length release, reminds us in many ways of the The Pooh Sticks (one of the all-time great bands of the 1990s who never received the recognition they deserved). Although the two bands don't really sound all that similar...the way these folks deliver their super positive upbeat tunes gives us the same kind of feelgood mental crush. Some of the band's tunes also recall The Television Personalities at times...a band they obviously have an affection for (they played a 2004 benefit for Daniel Treacy). Produced by artist/producer extraordinaire Mitch Easter, Twilight features an amazing fourteen tracks all crammed back-to-back onto a 42 minute CD. Baskervilles tunes feature nifty male and female vocals, neat guitar riffs, appropriately sprinkled horns, and plenty of infectious danceable beats. Rather fantastic tracks include "A Little More Time," "Caught in a Crosswalk," "Have You Seen Them?," and "The Apartment." This album is, without a doubt, a totally groovy experience. (Rating: 5++)



Blood is black.
Blood is blue.
Blood is purple.
Blood is green.

(Rating: 1)



The capital of Massachusetts is
The capital of Texas is
The capital of Australia is
The capital of Japan is
Frosted Nugget.

(Rating: 1)

Cartoon Monster - The Dying Sea (CD, Now Hereness, Progressive pop)
A different sort of underground pop album. Cartoon Monster is the one man band consisting of Tory Fiterre. Tory grew up in Sacramento, California but moved to Maui, Hawaii after graduating from high school. Shortly afterwards he began recording...eventually releasing no less than eight homemade albums. The Dying Sea, Fiterre's first official release for a worldwide audience, is a cool collection of smart and slightly offbeat underground pop tunes. Tory keeps things simple and to the point...which is part of what makes his music so genuinely appealing. His understated tunes have that certain undefinable quality that makes you keep coming back for more. Most recording artists hit the listener with way too many elements in the mix. This fellow's restraint certainly makes him stand out from the pack. In many cases, there are only a handful of instruments used. Fiterre's vocals are subtle and appropriately spontaneous. Smart, inventive tracks include "Towne Breathe," "What You Say," "The Way of the Boxfly," and "Spring Chicken." You certainly won't find this obscure little gem out there on retail shelves, so you would be best advised to visit the link above for further info. Plenty of really cool stuff to digest... (Rating: 5+)

Mark Chesnutt - Rollin' With the Flow (CD, Lofton Creek, Country/pop)
We were big fans of Mark Chesnutt's early albums. During the past few years, however, Mark's musical direction seemed to somehow get slightly off track. On his past couple of albums his approach was becoming more and more similar to artists like Trace Adkins and Toby Keith. This new, louder, honky-tonkish sound just didn't seem appropriate for Chesnutt. Fortunately for him as well as his fans, Rollin' With the Flow is a fine return to form. This appropriately-titled album features the kind of pure, soothing, mellow country pop tunes that made Mark such a favorite many years ago. His voice is sounding absolutely remarkable these days and the songs are fantastic. We should mention that the cover of this album is deceptive. The photo and design looks like something that one would see on one of those second-rate Cracker Barrel releases...not very appealing visually. But make no mistake...Rollin' With the Flow rates right up there with Chesnutt's best albums. Soft introspective tracks include "When You Love Her Like Crazy," "Live To Be 100," "Woman," and "She Never Got Me Over You." (Rating: 5+)

Elvis Costello and the Imposters - Momofuku (CD, Lost Highway, Pop)
We have been big fans of Elvis Costello for years. Many, many, many years. When we slammed Momofuku into our player and the first track began ("No Hiding Place") we were rather damned excited. Wow...after all these years, had Elvis finally decided to once again venture into territory he chartered in his legendary Imperial Bedroom album...? Well, the lead track comes close...but before things really get rocking they start getting kinda uneven. "American Gangster Time," the next tune, doesn't quite work. It sounds like Mr. Costello is having a hard time trying to do the rock thing. Fortunately, for much of the remainder of the album, the tunes return to the softer introspective pop that Elvis has been recording during the past several years. To summarize... As much as we would like to herald this as a truly great album, Momofuku is simply not one of Costello's best album. It's not bad by any means. Even at his worst, this guy creates music that puts lots of other artists to shame. There are some choice tunes here, but there are a few clunkers as well. We can only recommend this to folks who are already fans of the man. Even though this is not his best collection of tunes, in the end we're just happy that this talented fellow is still making music after all these years... (Rating: 4+++)

Michael Dease - Clarity (CD, Blues Back, Jazz)
We tend to prefer classic jazz from the 1940s to the 1960s...for no other reason than the artists somehow just seem purer and more real than most modern jazz players. There are always exceptions to every rule, however...and Michael Dease is definitely an exception. Instead of the schmaltzy overproduced dribble that modern artists are guilty of producing, Dease presents his music simply and without unnecessary ingredients that get in the way of the flavors. Clarity is this man's third full-length release...and it's a keeper. Dease and his fellow musicians Brandon Lee (trumpet), Sharel Cassity (alto sax), Kris Bowers (piano), Matthew Heredia (bass), Marion Felder (drums) Kenneth Salters (drums), and Mark Whitfield, Jr. (drums) have recorded an ultimately soothing and super satisfying collection of groove-oriented tunes that should please even the most discriminating listeners. The playing is fluid and tight and the sound quality is exceptional. With the exception of one track ("Speak Low" by Kurt Weill), Dease composed everything. Classy, classic tracks include "Relentless," "You Dig?", "Top of the Morning," and "Clarity." (Rating: 5+)

Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Music by Karl Preusser (CD, Lakeshore, Soundtrack)
Talk about an epic recording. Soundtrack recording artist extraordinaire Karl Preusser has really made a major statement with this album. Based on the best selling novel, Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight is an animated film about dragons, swords, and spells. Preusser pulled out all the stops creating the soundtrack to this film...incorporating one of the largest casts of players we have seen in quite some time for the recording of a single album. These tracks feature an entire choir and orchestra...and the sound is big, big, BIG. There's a lot of music on this disc...a total of 29 compositions totaling 67 minutes worth of music. So you definitely get a lot of bang for your buck here. This will no doubt sound great in theaters and on your surround sound system. Kickass orchestral music with a real emotional punch. (Rating: 5)

Echo Is Your Love - Lion Tamer vs Tigers (CD EP, If Society, Progressive pop)
The folks in Finland's Echo Is Your Love have been at it for a decade now and have made quite a name for themselves in many countries. Whereas the band's earlier releases were excursions into noisy chaos, these days the band seems to be redefining themselves and adapting their sound to suit a wider audience. In many cases, this can be the kiss of death for an underground band. In the case of Echo Is Your Love...it is just another interesting stepping stone in their unusual career path. Lion Tamer vs Tigers features the most accessible tunes we have heard thus far from these folks. These tracks seem to harken back to late 1980s new wave and punk bands...while still retaining that strangely aggressive edge. This EP features two tracks that will be on their next full-length album as well as a remix by Boys of Scandinavia. As always, truly neat stuff from this slowly emerging art band... (Rating: 5)



Kill the evil that
Lives inside

(Rating: 1)



No matter
How many people die
In natural disasters
It will never be

(Rating: 1)

The Estranged - Static Thoughts (CD, Dirtnap, Rock)
Really good straightforward rock played without unnecessary crap getting in the way. This neat, short little album (clocking in at just under half an hour) is a really cool blast of real, genuine rock music. The guys in the band are tight, tight, tight...and they play with the same kind of genuine energy that was evident in many of the early punk bands from the 1970s. But don't expect a rehashing of ideas from the past here. The guys in The Estranged are playing twenty-first century garage pop for modern music fans. We're not certain, but we think we may hear subtle traces of Wire and early The Damned in some of these songs. Throbbing rhythms, sexually explicit guitars, and great raw vocals make Static Thoughts an excellent and moving experience. Ten classy tunes here including "No Love," "Nothing To Say," "Image of More," and "Valueless Properties." Some really excellent songs here... (Rating: 5)



Don't look anyone
Straight in the eye.
If you do they will
Pull you into their
Confused little universe
And you will be imprisoned there

(Rating: 1)



Don't follow your
Don't follow anything.

(Rating: 1)

The Fore - Black & White (Independently released British import CD, Pop)
Folks usually either love The Beatles or they can't stand 'em. The folks in Britain's The Fore are obviously enamored of the Fab Four, as their music is directly influenced by the very early songs of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Black & White is a short album lasting just over half an hour...a fact which in and of itself is reminiscent of albums from the 1960s.When you opt to go retro it either works...or it doesn't. These guys are obviously creating the kind of music they love. And, as such, the tunes on this album seem to come straight from their hearts. Admittedly, folks who don't like this style of music will probably be pulling their hair out when they hear songs like "Love For Sale," "You'll Be Mine," and "It'll Be Me." But folks who dig the sound of artists like Neil Innes or any one of dozens of bands on the Rainbow Quartz label will probably get a major kick out of this disc. These guys obviously know what they're doing. Their sound is decidedly authentic...and the vocals are exceptional. (Rating: 4+++++)

William F. Gibbs - My Fellow Sophisticates (CD, Old Man Records, Pop)
Really cool melodic indie pop with a classic feel. William F. Gibbs is quite different from the average modern underground pop singer/songwriter. Instead of creating noisy, artsy, trendy music he composes surprisingly accessible tunes that are basically pop...occasionally treading into other territories like folk and even ragtime. My Fellow Sophisticates is a very mature album. The tracks often remind us of some of the more offbeat songs written by Ray Davies in the mid-1970s. Gibbs has a great voice which is an integral part of his overall sound. His loose, genuine style of singing gives his songs a nice, refreshing warmth that is most inviting. "Come Back To Me (For My Love)" has a really cool ethereal melody that is instantly catchy. "Ankle Deep in the Atlantic" features, without a doubt, some of the most beautiful melody lines we have heard this year. Don't expect a quick fix here. Sophisticates takes a few spins to sink in. But, if you're like us, about five or ten spins later...you will be addicted to this album. Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Hour of the Shipwreck - The Hour is Upon Us (Independently released CD, Progressive pop)
A lot of time and energy obviously went into the recording of The Hour is Upon Us. The guys in Los Angeles, California's Hour of the Shipwreck have a super thick and dense sound that is characterized by unpredictable melody lines and complex arrangements. The songs on this album come across sounding something like a modern gothic take on progressive rock bands from the 1970s. The songs have strange ethereal qualities and often evolve into walls of sound. One writer compared the band's sound as something like a cross between Jeff Buckley and Radiohead...which is a fairly accurate way of attempting to describe the goings on here. The multi-layered vocals are, at times, rather spectacular. We can't help but wonder if this band is influenced by Peter Gabriel-era Genesis...? Peculiar cuts include "The Chandelier Suite," "Soft Napalm Pillow Dreams," and "Unclouded Eyes." (Rating: 4+++)



How do you do.
How do you don't.
How are you.
How are you not.
How is everything.
How is nothing.

(Rating: 1)

Gary Husband - The Complete Diary of a Plastic Box (Double CD, Angel Air, Instrumental)
Reissue of Gary Husband's 1999 release (originally titled Diary of a Plastic Box) given the deluxe reissue treatment from the folks at Britain's Angel Air label. The Complete Diary of a Plastic Box is a double CD set that not only includes all of the original album tracks but also includes a second bonus disc containing previously unreleased material and outtakes (plus the package features all new liner notes). This, the debut album from this intriguing multi-instrumentalist, has held up well over the past few years. Husband has played with some biggies...including John McLaughlin, Billy Cobham, Level 42, Robin Trower, and Jack Bruce. This album was originally released on a small independent label but was quickly deleted...much to the dismay of Husband's fans. Now the album has been remastered and is once again available worldwide. Interesting fluid instrumentals presented with precise attention to detail... (Rating: 4+++++)



Ignorance was genuine
In the past.
People were truly
Over the years ignorance
Now people know better
But they choose to
Ignore it.

(Rating: 1)

The Individuals - Fields/Aquamarine (CD, Bar/None, Progressive pop)
Fields/Aquamarine is an interesting and somewhat different sort of album. The Individuals have a sound that harkens back to the late 1980s and early 1990s when alternative guitar bands ruled college airwaves. We can hear traces of possible influences by a host of different bands on this album including (but not limited to) The Fleshtones and Gang of Four. This lengthy album clocks in at almost 70 minutes as the band presents no less than 21 original songs. Most of these tracks have a slightly funky sound and are driven by cool bass lines. (Rating: 4+++)

Isol / Zypce - Sima (CD, Darla, Progressive pop)
Sima is a different sort of exotic progressive pop album created by the sister and brother team of Isol and Zypce. Isol has already made quite a name for herself as a vocalist in the bands Entre Rios, The Excuse, and Alsace Lorraine. Her brother Zypce has, up until now, mainly been involved with composing music for film, dance, and theatre in Argentina (which is where both siblings reside). This eleven track album features unconventional pop music that is eclectic and often strangely hypnotic. Even though the instrumentation and arrangements are decidedly offbeat, the overall flow of this album is strangely pleasant and appealing. This could be due to Isol's incredibly smooth and absorbing vocals. Both siblings took part in writing the music. It should be noted that, even though she has been involved in various other projects, this is the first time Isol has been involved in actually writing music. Some of these compositions bear a slight, strange resemblance to some of the more experimental music created by Lol Creme and Kevin Godley. It would be difficult to compare Sima to other twenty-first century albums because it is just...very...different. For folks who need to understand everything they hear, the lyrics are translated into English in the enclosed lyric booklet. Super imaginative and satisfying. An easy TOP PICK. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)



Jesus dyed his hair
For your sins.
Jesus dyed his eyebrows
For your sins.
Jesus dyed his mother's underarm hair
For your sins.
Jesus dyed his pubic hair
For your sins.

(Rating: 1)

Ariel Kalma - Le Temps des Moissons (CD, Beta-lactam Ring, Drone/instrumental)
Numbing odd drones. This limited edition CD (only 5,000 are available) is a reissue of an album that Ariel Kalma recorded way back in 1975. He pressed the album himself on vinyl which included a surprise for the listener...the final groove on the second side was a loop which meant that the record would never technically stop playing until you turned it off. Don't worry, the CD doesn't have that "special feature"...although the listener is treated to several minutes of the loop at the appropriate moment to give the desired residual effect. This reissue features all the original tracks as well as two unreleased bonus tracks that were recorded during the same time period. These peculiar cuts sound something like a bagpipe being fed through various processors. Kalma used a saxophone to create many of his sounds as well as various other ethnic and electric instruments. Strangely hypnotic and slightly spooky...this is definitely not intended for the casual listener... (Rating: 4+++)

Mark Mathis - We Both Was Young (Independently released CD, Pop)
Instantly likable soft pop from South Carolina's Mark Mathis. We Both Was Young is a strangely inviting album with songs that sound something like a more accessible take on Canada's Hayden except more folky with subtle hints of bluegrass thrown into the mix. This album is impressive...even more so when you consider the fact that Mathis is currently an unknown, up-and-coming artist. This man's vocals are exceptional. He has a really cool deep voice and comes across sounding genuine and sincere. Fortunately, this disc includes a lyric sheet that allows the listener to easily absorb Mark's deeply personal ideas. The more we spin this album...the more obvious the subtleties become. Eleven cool tracks here including "Sharecropper Takes a Colored Wife," "Prenup," and "Marriage is Hard." (Rating: 5+)

Sarah McLachlan - Rarities, B-Sides, and Other Stuff (CD, Arista / Nettwerk, Pop)
Sarah McLachlan is a rare individual in the world of music. In the case of most commercially successful artists, it is very easy to hate their music because it is almost always a total ephemeral throwaway experience. Because she is so well-known and professional, we would like to dismiss McLachlan and her music...but we can't. And the simple reason why is that this lady is so damned talented. As the title suggests, Rarities, B-Sides, and Other Stuff is not a brand new album...but rather a collection of odd nuggets collected to demonstrate how surprisingly genuine and real Sarah is at any given moment. Any artist whose music can withstand the repeated inundation of a television commercial ("Ordinary Miracle") has to be doing something right (!). McLachlan works with a variety of guest artists here...including Cindi Lauper, Bryan Adams, Emmylou Harris, The Perishers, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and Delerium. No matter what she's doing or who she's doing it with...Sarah McLachlan always sounds amazing. Her genuinely inspired spirit always seems to ring through loud and clear. (Rating: 5+)

Alex Moulton - Exodus (CD, Expansion Team, Progressive techno instrumental)
The cover of this album sure brings back memories. Anyone who ever enjoyed odd progressive / fantasy import albums from the 1970s will probably have their memory banks shaken here. The cover of Exodus is a slick foldout sleeve that features a really intense painting that recalls albums from obscure seventies artists from Italy and Germany. To add to the authenticity, the CD itself was pressed on black plastic and looks like a tiny little vinyl LP. Hell, they even went so far as to enclose the CD inside a tiny little plastic sleeve just like all those old overpriced imports. How cool is that? Fortunately, there is much more to this release than a mere nifty cover. Alex Moulton is the head of the media production company and record label Expansion Team. For this album, Alex created his own storyline and then created the soundtrack for it. Exodus is nothing short of amazing. The music has an overall vibe that recalls progressive bands from the 1970s...but the sounds and beats are much more current. These tracks spin like twenty-first century takes on progressive rock with one major difference. In most cases, the music is easy to dance to (!?!). The thick and heady keyboards on this album are extremely focused and intricate. Moulton worked on this project on and off for about four years. This is an amazing album that effectively merges the past with the present. Fourteen tracks of pure cerebral satisfaction. A real mind blower. Recommended. (Rating: 5+++)



One plus one is one.
Two plus two is two.
Three plus three is three.
Four plus four is four.

(Rating: 1)

Nurse With Wound - Images / Zero Mix (Limited Edition CD Box Set with Hardback Book, Beta-lactam Ring, Experimental/sound)
Wow, what a package. The first 400 copies of this release are housed in a large black box with embossed letters. Inside are two CDs, a hand signed card, and an incredible CD-sized hardback book complete with embossed cover and outer sleeve. A lot of folks may complain about the size of this release because of the amount of space it will take up in their home. But our opinion is that...this is so damn nifty that it hurts. In terms of creative packaging, this is about as good as it gets. Fortunately this is not one of those cases where money was spent to cover up the fact that there is no substance within. The audio on these discs is dark, intense, and ultimately very strange. Nurse With Wound is Steve Stapleton who also creates art using the name Babs Santini. Steve's music consists of strange audio experiments in which there are no rules and virtually no parameters. He crafts totally artistic creations that exist in their own universe. It would be futile to try and compare this music with other artists because it would only confuse the issue. Suffice to say, these audio explorations are intelligent and ultimately very, very curious. The little hardback art book is fantastic. It features reprints of the 100 individually painted discs that Stapleton created to celebrate the release of his three album set Angry Eelectric Finger. If you're into experimental music and stylish packaging, we would highly recommend that you get your grubby little hands on this limited edition set as quickly as possible. It will undoubtedly sell out fast. Wonderfully creative in every way possible. Okay, we'll stop gushing now while we turn off all the lights...and turn this sucker up really, really loud... Wow, what a rush. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Oppenheimer - Take the Whole Midrange and Boost It (CD, Bar/None, Pop)
Neat swirling keyboard driven pop that recalls some of the better alternative post-new wave bands from the late 1980s and early 1990s. In particular, the vocals remind us of the criminally overlooked Boston band Fuzzy. The folks in Britain's Oppenheimer released their debut album in 2006. Since that time, some of their tunes have landed in some rather amazing places. The band's music has been included in the television shows How I Met Your Mother and Ugly Betty and has even been included in Fujifilm and Nike commercials. Oppenheimer's second album should satisfy their original fans as well as bring in legions more. The humorously-titled Take the Whole Midrange and Boost It is a pure feelgood listening experience. The band seems to delight in delivering purely upbeat danceable tunes without any regard for trying to sound cool or hip. Listening to this album, we can't help but get the impression that these folks record music because that's what they enjoy doing. The pure sincerity of these modern pop cuts is infectious and real. Twelve magnetic songs here including "Major Television Events," "Only Goal and Winner," "The Blue Rose," and "I Don't Care What Anyone Says About You, I Think You're Alright." Really cool art on the tri-fold digipak sleeve... (Rating: 5+)



You can get over anything
If you live long

(Rating: 1)

Peasant - On the Ground (CD, Paper Garden, Soft pop)
Peasant is the one-man band created by Doylestown, Pennsylvania's Damien DeRose. Although the press release that accompanied this disc compared the music to Elliott Smith and Simon and Garfunkle (which is most certainly an accurate observation), in our minds DeRose's songs sound very much like a soft folky Chris Bell (of Big Star fame). A word of warning... If you're looking for upbeat, loud, danceable stuff you will not find it here. On the Ground is an extremely soft and subtle album featuring slow, soft, thoughtful, and thoroughly restrained tunes. We were hesitant about this album at first...but ultimately Damien's melodies drew us in and made us believers. Nice introspective tracks include "On the Ground," "We're Good," "Be Free," and "You Don't Know." Nice, simple, positive stuff. (Rating: 4++++)

Pomegranates - Everything Is Alive (CD, Lujo, Pop)
The debut full-length from Cincinnati, Ohio's Pomegranates. The members of this band got a lot of folks talking with the release of their debut EP Two Eyes. This album expands upon the ideas presented on that EP...and further cements the band's place in the world of twenty-first century pop. It is interesting to note that most of this album was recorded live to tape. Our initial impression of Everything Is Alive is that the band's overall sound is now much tighter and focused. The band consists of Joey Cook (vocals, guitar, keys), Isaac Karns (vocals, guitar, bass), Josh Kufeldt (bass), and Jacob Merritt (drums). Presenting their material with a simple, stripped down sound was a super smart choice for this album because it allows the listener to focus on the odd nuances that make these songs so naturally appealing. Nice warm rockers include "Transportation," "The Bellhop" (a really exceptional tune), "Desert Hymn," and "Thunder Meadow." Intriguing stuff. (Rating: 5+)

Michaela Rabitsch & Robert Pawlik Quartet - Moods (CD, Extraplatte, Jazz/pop)
Nice, soothing, sultry jazz featuring female vocalist Michaela Rabitch. Austria's Rabitch and her husband Robert Pawlik have been recording music for over a decade now. Moods is their third-full length release and the first to feature exclusively original compositions. One thing that sets these folks apart from the average jazz act is the fact that not only does Michaela sing...but she is also an accomplished trumpet player. This, combined with her husband's incredibly fluid guitar playing, gives their music an inviting sound with occasional Latin flavors. Moods is a very subtle yet stylish album featuring flawless playing and instantly additive rhythms. We particularly like the light and playful sounds in "Afrika." (Rating: 4+++++)

Rancho Deluxe - True Freedom (Independently released CD, Country/pop/rock)
Modern country pop has a really bad reputation in the twenty-first century...and deservedly so. Whereas country music was once genuine and came mainly from the heart...nowadays most of the artists come across sounding about as sincere and real as a goddamn can of Cheeze Whiz. Thankfully, there are always credible artists bubbling underneath the surface...and California's Rancho Deluxe is an excellent exception to the rule. True Freedom features fourteen smooth, hummable country pop tracks. In all honesty, this band's music sounds like thousands of other bands on the planet. But in our teensy weensy little corner of the universe, we try to look beyond the music and pick up on the artists themselves and why they do what they do. To be more precise...the intent behind the music is what separates the folks in Rancho Deluxe from all the pathetic wannabees. Instead of churning out processed crap, these folks create pure, simple, real music that could be appreciated by just about anyone who enjoys this style of music. The players are tight but not inclined to show off on their instruments...and lead vocalist Mark Adams has one of the best voices in the business. Wonderfully real, feelgood tunes include "Too Late," "Hard Time," "Pine Street Saloon," and "Whiskey and Saturday Nights." This band is easily one of the best kept country/pop secrets in the United States. Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Republic Tigers - Keep Color (CD, Chop Shop, Pop)
Smart, polished, articulate, immaculately produced modern progressive pop with vocals to die for. Republic Tigers have created a wonderfully imaginative album...twelve classy cuts that were obviously a labor of love. There's no telling how many hours were involved in the creation of this CD. When we originally heard the advance CD-R in April of this year, we were instantly intrigued. After giving these tracks several more weeks to sink in...we are now even more impressed. If there is one word we could use to describe this band's music, that word would most surely be hypnotic. The songs on Keep Color are cerebral yet highly melodic...and the thick layered vocals really work magic on the brain. Of course, songs are the centerpiece of any album...and songs are what make Color stand up to so many repeated spins. In an age of throwaway pop, this disc easily stands out as a genuine and sincere creation. Super satisfying cuts include "Buildings & Mountains," "Feelin' The Future," "Made Concrete," and "Cast On, Cast Off." Plenty of excellent thought provoking lyrics. An obvious Top Pick. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Riddle of Steel - 1985 (CD, Ascetic, Riff rock)
We have been impressed with this band for quite some time now. The guys in Riddle of Steel return with what may be their most direct and accessible album yet. 1985 is a hard-hitting punchy collection of highly melodic pop/rock. The guitars on this album sound totally amazing...very reminiscent of Joe Walsh's pioneering guitar playing on the first three James Gang albums. This album seems to be somewhat of a departure for the guys in this band. These songs are more stripped down and straightforward...as well as harder and heavier. The rhythm section is just as riveting and exciting. The real icing on the cake is the vocals. These guys have soaring vocals that put other bands to shame. Anyone who ever loved super catchy riff rock is bound to get a big bang out of this album. Super cool cuts include "John Frum," "Who's the Fella Owns This Shithole?", "Plenty of Satisfaction," and "Easy Love." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Ride the Boogie - Ride the Boogie (CD, Longhair Illuminati, / Boogie Disks, Pop)
This band began when Adam Tymn and Glenn Pinson began recording on a bus while playing on the Warped Tour with their other bands. For their debut album, the guys in this band went into a non-mobile studio and laid down these tracks in a mere five days. Ride the Boogie is an interesting album that alternatives between stoner rock and interesting progressive pop. The loud tracks are real rippers. It's hard to stay still while listening to intense rockers like "Big Ass Bass," "Flat Out First Gear," and "Mustache Riders." But don't expect all the songs to sound the same (which is almost always the case with stoner rock bands). These guys are a lot more inventive than that...tossing in various oddities that are hard to describe and/or interpret. This stream-of-consciousness album requires several spins to sink in. Oddball cuts like "Naughty Corner" and "Miss Perfect" are strangely melodic and peculiar. Strangely appealing... (Rating: 4++++)

Rocket Number Nine Zoom Zoom Up - Rocket Number Nine Zoom Zoom Up (Advance CD-R, Contraphonic, Jazz/instrumental)
This is an unusual release. Unusual because it is the first jazz release we have heard on the Contraphonic label...and secondly because instead of playing alternative rock, this young South Carolina-based trio is playing free-flowing jazz instrumentals. Produced by John McEntire (who has produced big names like Tortoise and Stereolab), Rocket Number Nine Zoom Zoom Up (the trio's debut album) is a slick and well rounded batch of tunes. This band consists of Monty Craig, Andy Nagel, and John Bryce...all of whom admit that they "spend more time listening to music than playing it." We would have liked to have seen the actual complete release on this one rather than an advance CD-R. As such, this one definitely gets a thumbs up...but only a partial review because we received only part of the actual final product... (Not Rated)

Shuteye Unison - Shuteye Unison (CD, Parks and Records, Progressive pop)
This CD first caught our attention because it is on the Parks and Records label. We have made particular mention of this cool little label in the past because the folks running it seem to have the right ideas about making music as well as the world in general. Not only that, they also seem to have the right idea about what constitutes good music. Speaking of...Shuteye Unison is an interesting new band. These folks create slightly hazy melodic progressive pop/rock that sounds something like a cross between Pinback and Starflyer 59. Shuteye Unison is the trio consisting of Daniel McKenzie, Jon Fee, and Jake Krohn all of whom are also involved in other musical projects. This self-titled CD is short...lasting just over half an hour. But these six songs are extremely strong and hold up to many repeated spins. Cool, catchy, thought provoking stuff for intelligent listeners. Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

The Silverman - Blank For Your Own Message (CD, Beta-lactam Ring, Experimental/sound)
This release features a really cool sleeve. Not only are the initial 500 copies enclosed in a full color book bound cover, but the cover itself is a hoot. The front features a little frame encasing a blank white space with the words "Blank For Your Own Message." It's kinda like...name the album yourself. Brilliant. It would be tempting to simply reprint the press release that accompanied this CD...because there's no way in Hell we could ever come up with better words to accurately describe the music created by The Silverman. While we won't do a direct reprint...we will re-use some descriptive phrases because they are so appropriate: collaged constructions...slurred drones...electronic capillaries...parenthetical heart beat...metallic panging...hummable orbits of individual atoms... With so many connections to our inner workings, we're surprised this disc isn't titled I Sing the Body Electric. But hey, we can probably just write that in on the front cover if we choose to do so (!). Blank For Your Own Message is a wonderfully eccentric and eclectic spin. This seven track album is peculiar and odd...and yet overall these compositions flow by rather naturally at their own pace. Simultaneously soothing and peculiar, this album works on many different levels. Intriguing experimental music for brainiacs. Recommended. (Rating: 5++)



When you wish
Upon a star
You are wasting your

(Rating: 1)

Starling Electric - Clouded Staircase (CD, Bar/None, Pop)
Starling Electric is a band driven by the songwriting skills of Caleb Dillon. We immediately noticed the stunning endorsement this album received from Jon Auer (of Posies / Big Star fame). After spinning Clouded Staircase a few times, it isn't difficult to see why this album was so appealing to Auer. The chiming melodic guitar-driven pop tracks on this album sound as if they were very much influenced by both Big Star and Teenage Fanclub. The vocals bear a strange resemblance to Bob Pollard (Guided By Voices) at times. There's a lot to absorb here in the space of almost 52 minutes. Dillon and his bandmates (Jason DeCamillis, Christian Anderson, John Fossum) present no less than 18 tracks. Beautiful slick pop abounds. Instantly satisfying cuts include "The St. Valentines Day Massacre," "I Got Scared," "New Era," and "She Goes Through Phases." Excellent lyrics...and totally killer vocals... (Rating: 5+)

The Strangers - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Music by Tomandandy (CD, Rogue, Soundtrack)
Talk about an unconventional soundtrack recording...(!). Created by Tomandandy (the duo of Andy Milburn and Thomas Hadju), the music for the film Strangers spins more like a German experimental electronics album than a conventional soundtrack. This CD consists mainly of dark, creepy sounds that surge in and out of your speakers...setting a mood that is decidedly serious and unsettling. Subtle and dark, these compositions are rather stark and definitely eerie. There are a few segments where some almost normal orchestral passages creep into the equation...but this album is, by and large, an audio experiment. And the best part is...if you turn it up really, really loud it has the potential to scare the shit out of you. Not much more to say about this one. Chilling and INTENSE. Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

thebrotheregg - thebrotheregg (CD EP, Dandelion Wine, Pop)
We have been enjoying the music of thebrotheregg for some time now and are still rather perplexed as to why these guys' music hasn't caught on in a bigger way (at least not yet). If it has to do with the fact that their music doesn't easily fit into any easily defined categories...then this self-titled EP probably isn't going to change that. Although in some ways...the fact that the band's music is becoming a bit more direct may help to garner a larger audience. This EP features seven interesting, creative, satisfying compositions that are ultimately reflective and melodic. Some of these tracks bear a slight resemblance to The Television Personalities at times... As always, excellent music from a wonderfully obscure band. (Rating: 5)

Un Festin Sagital - Epitafio a la Permanancia (CD, Beta-lactam Ring, Experimental/sound)
There's no telling how many listeners will be checking their computers and CD players to see what has gone wrong while listening to Epitafio a la Permanancia. This album has so many tricky, glitchy sounds that it even had us trying to figure out if there was an electronic problem or if the CD was defective. Nope, there's nothing wrong...other than the fact that the tricky, devious folks in Un Festin Sagital are into creating wildly unorthodox music. Actually, many folks might label these recordings as non-music...but some of the goings on actually feature melodies so... It is definitely difficult to try and describe what these compositions sound like. Words that come to mind are...abstract, progressive, experimental, confusing, loopy, complex, and unpredictable. Six strangely compelling tracks of unorthodox modern creativity. Truly peculiar. Features lovely dark cover artwork by Jesse Peper. (Rating: 5)

Victorian Halls - Springteen (Independently released CD EP, Progressive hard rock)
You may not have heard of Victorian Halls...yet. But our guess is that over the course of the next few months you will be seeing and hearing a whole goddamn lot about this peculiar new band. Springteen features a different sort of music from a different sort of universe. These bizarre shots of progressive rock sound something like an obtuse cross between The Pocket Fishrmen and Jane's Addiction. Victorian Halls tunes jerk, whirl, rip, roar, and squeal their way into your subconsciousness...leaving you ultimately confused and yet strangely satisfied and giddy. The band's lead vocalist has one of the strangest and most frantic voices we have heard in the twenty-first century. The tunes...are outlandishly complex and unpredictable. The band consists of Sean Lenart (vocals, guitar), Carlos Luna (piano, vocals), Mike Tomala (drums), and John Shotwell (bass). Certainly not for everyone, Springteen is an EP that is bound to make an impression. It'll sure be interesting to see what these guys come up with next... (Rating: 5+)



The will of the people is
The will of the people has always been
The will of the people will always be

(Rating: 1)

Your Highness Electric - The Grand Hooded Phantom (CD, Longhair Illuminati, Hard rock)
Loud kickass rock and roll. The strangely-titled Your Highness Electric is the trio consisting of Bear Bondehagen, Brad Magers, and Bob Scott. These three fellows play loud complex progressive rock that sounds something like a cross between Led Zeppelin and the Pocket Fishrmen. If any of the band members' names sound familiar, it is probably because they aren't new to the world of rock. They were previously in the critically acclaimed 1990s band Christiansen. We're not sure why ...but for some reason over the past few years some of the best hard rock bands seem to be tucked away in odd pockets of Kentucky. The Grand Hooded Phantom is a cool, upbeat spin. The album features some cool dazzling guitar playing and heavily stylized vocals. Lots of underground bands bury their tunes in noise. These guys obviously don't feel the need to go that route because they can and do actually play like holy hell. Rip-roaring rockers include "Ain't No Not," "Wine Red Lips," "Army Green," and "Carnal Knowledge." Cool hard rock with a difference. (Rating: 5)

Mike Zito - Today (CD, Eclectogroove, Blues/pop)
The fifth full-length release from Mike Zito. Zito plays the kind of bluesy soulful guitar-based pop that goes over well with thirty-plus music fans. He has a cool raw masculine voice and plays a mean guitar. On Today, he sounds something like a cross between John Mellencamp and John Mayer. After a few rough years of indulging in excesses that threatened to curb his career, Mike eventually pulled his life and career back together. Apparently things have worked in his favor. These days he is finding himself surrounded by (and playing with) some of the best in the business. The public seems to adore folks who take control of their troubled lives and emerge unscathed. As such, our guess is that Today will probably be well received by music fans around the world. Thoughtful, hummable tracks include "Love Like This," "Holding Out For Love," "Today," and "Time To Go Home." (Rating: 4+++)


Additional Items Received:

Alabama3 - Hits and exit wounds
Alu - Lobotmy sessions
And The Moneynotes - New cornucopia!
Arch Cupcake - Wash out EP
Frank Bango - The sweet songs of decay
John Batdorf & Mark Rodney - Still burnin'
Bella Noir - Premonitions
Kate Bloom - Terror
Kate Bloom & Loren Connors - Sing the children over / band in my shoe
Rick Brantley - Prize fight lover soul auctioneer
Bumtech - Beware of D C
Chauchat - Upon thousands
Chicken Shack - Stan would rather go live
Coal Men - Beauty is a moment
Darla Farmer - Rewiring the electric forest
Delicious Vinyl All-Stars - RMXXology
Destination Oblivion - Winter solstice
Diet Kong - Com A motor inn
Dream Bitches - Coke-and-spiriters
Roberta Duchak - Intersections
Jesse James Dupree and Dixie Inc - Rev it up and go-go
Effusion 35 - Stonewind
Elam - Day break sleeper ep
End of the Century - Hammer & the anvil
Everthus the Deadbeats - John kill and the microscopic lullaby
Frivolvol - Who needs maps when we got time
Genuine Sun - Return
Nikita Germaine - Just kita
G.G. Elvis and the TCP Band - Back from the dead
Gillan - No easy way
Grey Milk - City parks after dark
Guasto - Edge of the page
Gladys Hardy - I love jesus, but i drink a little
Harold & Kumar: Escape From Guantanamo Bay - Original motion picture score
Heys - Youngboard&broke
I Am The Heat - The future doesn't need us
Akai Ikuo - Language without words
Intercept - Magnolia road
Jacksonknife - You don't know what you're talking about
Johns - Foresight/poorsight
Junior Pantherz - Rejoice, remain
Mary Kastle - Another swing
Matt Keating - Quixotic
LA Tool and Die - My brother-in-law won't go to your show b/w 1983 (the year corey hart exploded in my pants)
Love Guru - Music from the motion picture
Jasmina Maschina - The demolition series
Joshua Marcus - Reverse the charges
Adam Marsland - Daylight kissing night
Greg Medoro - 14 sunset way
Microtia - Distance is oval
Muggs - On with the show
Navy of the Nice - Yellow springs, OH / sea cow b/w roseland / window
Neverdie - No rock un rolled
Nevereven - Nevereven
Oliver Dawson Saxon - Re-landed...plus
Omni - Ghosts
Ndidi Onukwulu - The contradictor
Eivind Opsvik - Overseas III
Orchid Highway - Orchid Highway
Pale Man Made - Oh, my treasured things
Panic Movement - No tomorrow
Ponies in the Surf - See you happy
Portishead - Third
Radars to the Sky - The big bang e.p.
The Rationales - The going and the gone
Edward Rogers - You haven't been where i've been
Patti Rothberg - Double standards
Yvette Rovira - The art of attraction
Rumble Strips - Girls and weather
Ray Russell - A table near the band
Scream Hello - Smart and stupid
Senser - End of the world show
Silveroot - Full measure
Sixteen Horsepower - Live march 2001
Skamper - Thunder beast
The Slants - Slanted eyes, slanted hearts
Smiling Strangers - All the way
Socratic - Spread the rumors
Ben Sollee - Learning to bend
Son Ambulance - Someone else's deja vu
Jon Sonnenberg - Acoustic selections
Split Knee Loons - Loon knee tunes
Spoonfork - All is well
Subrosa - Strega
Teenage Head - With marky ramone
Three Miles Out - Nobody
Transport Assembly - Improbable songs
The Trial of Penny Relentless - Volume ii
Uw Hypotheekadvies - Nature or nurture
Various Artists - The funhouse comp. thing II
V-Project - New machine
Various Artists - This city of neighborhoods: a beechfields record label compilation
Various Art ists - Dreams of Myspace 1: Thanks for the add
Very Most - Congratulations forever
Vine House - Vine House
Leanne Weatherly - Go and find...
Willows - See you next april
Women - Women

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