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June 2001 Reviews by


John Auer

Heidi Berry*
Cadaver Inc
The Capitol Years

Comment Piece
Creeper Lagoon
Joe Davis
DJ Hardware

The Echo Orbiter
Eric Gales

The Gravel Pit

Green Pajamas

Hang Around With the Wrong Crowd
Hold the Vocals (VA)
I Am The World Trade Center

Irving Klaws

Ivan Klipstein

David Mead
Denine Monet
My Morning Jacket
No One

Piano Magic
Pinehurst Kids
Savage Aural Hotbed

Scapegoat Wax
Sixty Watt Shaman
Spoonful of Barnhole
Super XX Man

To Rococo Rot & I-Sound
Trash Wednesday

*Top Picks


June 2001 Comment Piece: Having A Blast

Our main emphasis of late is on HAVING A BLAST...in as many ways as possible and as often as possible. It is unfortunate that so many people in the world are so incredibly unhappy and lead such boring and miserable lives...but we are very appreciative of the fact that NEITHER of these apply to our wonderfully fantastic situation. While most folks live and hope for that one happy vacation period during the year...or that one big weekend party that will make their week cheery and entertaining...we are constantly bombarded with WAY TOO MUCH OF EVERYTHING on virtually EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE YEAR. But, you may ask, "Isn't that a BIT TOO MUCH?" Yes, it is too much...but that's JUST the way we LIKE it. Without WAY TOO MUCH going on...we become very, VERY unhappy. So...the ticket for us is overkill. Too much music...too many concerts...too many friends...too much work...too much of EVERYTHING. Everything that we do we LOVE. And we love everything that we DO. This truly is THE BEST YEAR EVER. That being the case...why is it that we are so goddamn MISERABLE...? Actually we're not miserable at all. We're incredibly happy. No, that's not true. We really ARE miserable. No we're not, we're ecstatic. Now we're lying again. In actuality, we have become quite SUICIDAL.

AM/FM - Mutilate Us (CD, Polyvinyl, Skewed pop)
Philadelphia's AM/FM is the duo of Brian Sokel and Michael Parsell. Sokel was previously in the band Franklin. Parsell had played in numerous bands prior to joining this project. Mutilate Us is an odd collection of material that ranges from the direct and simple...to the quiet and pensive...to the almost loopy doopy. The band's material has a nice spontaneous feel which is probably the result of instantaneous studio experimentation. Our favorites here are "Yours Recklessly," "LeAnne, The Seasons Persist," and the strangely calm "When Larry and Gary Get Married." Not surprisingly, members of the rather abstract band Aspara lend a hand on some of these tunes. The band's strengths are clean and accurate vocals and clear and magnetic melodies. We also like the fact that they are willing to take so many chances with their arrangements. Clever in an abstract sort of way, AM/FM is quite intriguing... (Rating: 4)

Anyone - Anyone (CD, Roadrunner, Rock/pop)
This Orange County band isn't quite like the others we've heard...mainly because there's more going on here than a few guys blaring out harsh noise. Anyone consists of Riz Story (vocals, guitars), Nipples (percussion), and Static (bass). This band is pushing a very intense visual image. Mr. Story's physical appearance is not unlike a cross between Marilyn Manson and Foxtrot-era Peter Gabriel. But hey...what about the MUSIC? Though the band may shudder at the thought, the music they play is basically pop with unconventional arrangements. The tracks on the band's Roadrunner debut are surprisingly varied and creative. Oh sure they've got the loud crunchy guitars that all the good and bad kids want to hear...but they throw lots more in the mix. Spacy keyboards...spastic stops and starts...and enough effects to make a doormouse shudder. What is probably most surprising about these guys is that they aren't afraid to get soft and mushy (at least on occasion). "Turnaround" is probably our favorite track here with its swirling and ethereal melody lines. Good stuff...a little heavy on the "image" schtick...but still good... (Rating: 4)

Aram - Ghosts In A Season (CD, Surprise Truck, Pop)
Nice and genuine heartfelt soft pop music with great lyrics and an obviously honest creator. Originally from Boston, Aram now resides and records in Los Angeles. Interesting story here. About a year or more ago when Aram was just beginning to hit the scene, he was diagnosed with a throat condition that required that he neither sing nor speak (!?!) for six months. Aram followed the doctor's orders...only to come out unscathed and intact. Ghosts In A Season is chock full of soft melodic tunes that'll stay with you. The lyric that we just CANNOT get out of our head is "Oh my love...is surrounded by dogs" (from the tune "Dogs"). This song has a wonderfully soaring melody that is infectious and unforgettable. Actually, this entire disc is rather impressive...particularly when you consider this is only Aram's second album. It is unfortunate that the cover art to this CD is so bland. It gave us the initial impression that this was some second-rate homemade project. WRONG. Our advice...ignore the cover and just listen. This guy made a believer out of us... (Rating: 4)

Aspera - Sugar & Feathered (CD, Big Wheel Recreation, Abstract pop)
Strange, obtuse, distant, oblique, and surreal. One thing is for certain...if you are looking for a new sing-songy disc full of catchy hits you WILL NOT find it here. It's amazing how many bands now do everything in their power to ensure they will not be commercially successful. Almost gives you hope for the future, doesn't it? The guys in Aspera obviously don't give a hamster's snout about selling their music. If they did, they would not release material like Sugar & Feathered. It's not that the music is completely obtuse or void of melodies. The band utilizes many of the general ingredients normally found in rock and pop music...it's just that the way they combine them is very...unconventional. It's kinda like taking straight pop and then filtering it through several hits of blotter in a great big ol' blender. The more we listen, however, the more inviting we find this band's music... Even the song titles are confusing ("Say Say Good Bye Bye," "Another Blue Frisbee"). This one will take many listens to fully sink in... (Rating: 4++)

John Auer - 6 1/2 (CD, Pattern 25, Soft pop)
For whatever reason or another, we must admit that we never really cared for the music of The Posies. Didn't hate it, but it just never grabbed our nuts in the correct manner. But whatever it was that we didn't care for about the band must've been in error...as we are definitely impressed with this "mini album" of cover tunes by former Posies member John Auer. It could be the fact that this fellow picked some surprising artists to cover (Swervedriver, Ween, Grant Hart, Psychedelic Furs)...or it could just be the fact that this fellow comes across as being genuine and real. "Love My Way" is particularly good in that it captures the essence of the original tune while allowing a great deal of Auer's own personality and spirit to seep through. Neat stuff...maybe we should go back and listen to those damn Posies albums now...? (Rating: 4)

Heidi Berry - Anthology (CD, 4AD/Beggars Banquet, Pop)
Why Heidi Berry has never become a sensationally big star is completely beyond us. We went nuts over this lady's music when we first heard it several years ago and we have never stopped playing it since (well...there were some pauses and intervals along the way of course...). There is a great deal to love about this anthology. This is not a collection of "hits" because--as difficult as it is to believe--Ms. Berry has never had any hits (although her material is about ten million times stronger than other artists who do chart). Berry has a wonderfully sincere vocal style that is both haunting and extremely unique. Her tunes are soft pop with an awkward slant. Instead of making "easy" music, Ms. Berry writes tunes that possess some unique trait that is difficult to describe...but whenever you hear her music, you KNOW IMMEDIATELY who it is. Hopefully this CD will open up more folks' ears to this incredibly underappreciated artist. The disc offers fourteen mindblowing tracks...including "Northern Country" (absolutely beautiful), "Time," "Up In The Air," and "Needle's Eye." If you have never heard the music of Heidi Berry, this is an EXCELLENT starting point. If you are already familiar with her music, then you have probably already ordered a copy of this. Completely and totally WONDERFUL. (Rating: 6)

Buellton - Avenue of the Flags (CD, Film Guerrero, Dreamy pop)
Yeah. Oh yeahhhhhhh... This one's nice. REAL nice. Sounding something like a cross between the Radar Bros. and The Flaming Lips (more the former than the latter), California's Buellton is a beautiful and wonderful gem. We dig everything about this CD...from the beautiful packaging...to the killer melodies...to the near perfect production...to the lyrics...to the heady guitars... It's not often that we hear stuff this good. Almost impossible to believe that this is a debut album (?!?) because the songwriting is so strong. The main writer in the band is John Nygren. This guy's vocals are about as perfect as one can get in this corner of the universe. The songs are slow to mid-range in tempo and are layered with some mind-bending and slightly psychedelic guitars. But when you add those heavenly melodies on top, this baby just turns into one big ol' tasty CREAMPUFF. Every track is a keeper here with our initial favorites being "Single," "The Flow," "Angel Feet" (this one's a real standout), "People Die," and "Grammys '97." Wow. Wow. WoooooooOOOOOOOWWWWW... (Rating: 5+)

Cadaver Inc - Discipline (CD, Earache, Death, speed, and black metal)
Ahhhhhhhhh...dead people...murder...loud noise...more dead people...more murder...and more loud noise... Satan...evil...more Satan...and more evil... Nasty...and more nasty...noisy...and more noisy...loud, loud, louder, louder... Norwegian band Cadaver Inc is not an upbeat happy experience. In fact, you can probably bet your bottom that these guys get off on shocking people and pissing everyone off. But if that is in fact the point...there may be a problem in getting the messages across... The singer screams in such an unintelligible fashion that there's NO WAY IN HELL anyone is going to understand the words. So how are people supposed to be offended and pissed off...if they can't understand what is being said? Hey, that probably isn't such a big deal...because the simple and pure harsh ROAR of this band will probably drive most listeners far, far, FAR away...off into the sunset...to where they can find a pretty band that plays pretty songs...and where life is pleasant and serene. Not for the faint of heart nor the hearty fey variety, this band is a lesson in overkill... We hear that the web site is rather raw and disturbing (click on link above)... (Rating: 4)

The Capitol Years - Meet Yr Acres (CD, Full Frame, Skewed pop)
Perhaps it could be the fact that lots of obscure folks seem to contact us...but we'd SWEAR that over the past few years there are more and more bands who are taking the opposite approach to making music. By that, we mean that instead of trying to come up with a hit or music that sells (something that almost all bands did a couple of decades ago), nowadays more and more people are pushing the limits to see just how obscure and inaccessible they can be. Though The Capitol Years have more commercial appeal than many we've heard, overall this is a bizarre novelty that most folks will probably never hear or even be aware of. Meet Yr Acres was written and played entirely by Shai Halperin...who also goes by the name Shai, Son of Eli...but the disc has little in common with your average one-man-band endeavor. What is most unusual about this music is the way it sneaks in and out of your consciousness. One moment you almost find yourself singing along...but then something from out of nowhere suddenly jerks you into reality. It's kinda like listening to The Beatles with little snippets of The Residents popping up every few minutes. Sound odd? It is. But there are enough coherent and musical moments to make this disc more than a bit interesting. One this is for certain. This man is very intelligent and he's playing the game the way he wants to play it rather than conforming to what others might want. But...how good IS this? This is an album that would take many, many listens to come up with an accurate answer to that question (and we are unfortunately short on time, as always). So at least for the time being we are not going to rate this CD...but we are going to suggest that folks into minimal independent pop with a difference check this out... (Not Rated)

Carlos - Devil's Slide (CD, Amazing Grease, Rock/pop)
In many ways the music of Carlos reminds us of Sunless Day (another band on the Amazing Grease label). Both provide meaty substance...but the main difference between the two is that Sunless Day grind with louder guitars while Carlos feature a heavier emphasis on vocals. Carlos is, however, first and foremost a guitar band. They've been at it since 1992. Devil's Slide is the band's fourth full-length release. While most people will probably lump them in the "alternative rock" category, the band's sound is actually rather accessible and straightforward. The songs are catchy without being obvious...and the arrangements are subtle and on target. Interestingly, the peculiar and more abstract material is the strongest ("Foggy Ruin," "Never Going Back"). Good stuff, played right... (Rating: 4+)

Creeper Lagoon - Take Back the Universe and Give Me Yesterday (CD, Dreamworks, Pop)
Pretty boys, pretty music. Pretty melodies, pretty arrangements. Pretty tight, pretty neat. If you that we're going to now suddenly go off on a rampage about how we hate this band, you'd better think again LITTLE SISTER. As we learned several years ago, PRETTY is only a bad thing if you happen to be DATING IT. If you're not dating pretty, it is not necessarily a bad thing. Got that? Okay so...the guys in Creeper Lagoon have a lot of people talking and for good reason. They are not "just" pretty boys. The band's super slick pop has a great deal more substance than your average twenty-first century slick pop band. The songs on the aptly titled Take Back the Universe and Give Me Yesterday are quite strong indeed...propelled first and foremost by catchy melodies. And oooooooh oooooooh oooooooh those vocals sound DAMN GOOD. The band has a bit of a bite in their sound but overall this is basically mild stuff. The music is anything BUT boring. These tunes are intelligent and well crafted. Some of our favorites here are "Chance of a Lifetime," "She Loves Me Not," "Hey Sister" (yeah!), and "Here We Are." Whoever is doing the picking at Dreamworks lately is doing an amazing job of selecting acts that not only have commercial appeal...but are also artistically viable... (Rating: 4+++)

Joe Davis - Hope Chest (CD, In Music We Trust, Pop)
The tunes on Hope Chest sound AMAZINGLY similar to the music of underground recording artist Michael J. Bowman. At first we even thought there was some sort of connection between the two...until we released that it is highly unlikely that Joe Davis and Michael J. Bowman even know that each other exist. Mr. Davis is better known as the lead singer/guitarist in current ultrahip favorites Pinehurst Kids. Apparently Joe is at a real creative peak. The Pinehurst Kids most recent album (their third) is their strongest yet. And now we even have a solo album from the man who seems to have more songs than he can hold within his mighty little head (thanks to the fine folks at the brand spanking new label In Music We Trust). As one might expect, the tunes on this album are not quite as aggressive and hard-hitting as the Kids. And the lyrics are of a much more introspective nature, as Davis explores his feelings and emotions from past to present. Mr. Davis plays almost all of the instruments on the album with a little help three friends playing bass. The softer stuff here is the best ("Dancer," "Angels In The Alley," "Cleo"). But while most of the material is of a softer nature, Mr. Davis ends with an all-out rocker ("Running"). A cool little disc from an up-and-coming music label... (Rating: 4+)

Digger - Trainwreck (CD EP, Hopeless, Loud rock)
Loud, punchy, catchy, and aggressive loud rock. Digger are a virtual non-stop touring machine, and you can tell from listening to this blistering set of tunes that playing all those shows has made this band as tight as heaven. Digger is a band with a thrashy loud sound but they're also not afraid to toy around with their arrangements to make their music more original and enjoyable. A case in point is "Try and Catch Me" (our favorite on the EP) which features nice short bursts of guitar and bass that make this tune really shine. The other track that really scratches our panties is the Buzzcock-ish "In A Heartache." This is a young band with energy and a good sense for writing melodies that stick. Wish this were a full-length... (Rating: 4+)

DJ Hardware - 2001: A New Beginning (Double CD, Prisoner of Dance/Pure, Dance)
Here a DJ, there a DJ, everywhere a DJ... Long long ago, a disc jockey was a person who played a "behind the scenes" role in music. People really didn't care who the disc jockey was as long as they were spinning the music they wanted to hear. Things have really changed, as there is now an entire "celebrity circuit" attached to the star-studded, cerebral world of disc jockeys. And just as is the case with every other occupation on the planet, the field is way overcrowded...partly because technology easily affords people the tools to use but also because...everyone these days wants to be a star... DJ Hardware plays the role of both disc jockey and producer. He has traveled the world over exposing people to his own unique taste in electronica. 2001: A New Beginning is a whopping double CD that contains over two and a half hours of club music. For the most part, DJ Hurricane seems to go for those non-stop throbbing beats that make all of those drug addicts on the dance floor go nuts. As seems to always be the case with these DJ compilation discs, almost all of the artists included are complete unknowns to us. Some of the featured acts are Manhattan, Two Right Wrongans, Opal, Jaya, and DJ Hardware himself. We particularly like the fact that this DJ did not grace the CD cover with close up shots of his face (as most of these budding young stars seem to do). Instead, this fellow is taking a less obvious approach by making his physical identity somewhat vague. WHAT? NO LINKS??? That's right...we could find no links to either the artist or record companies listed in this promotional package. So you'd better just get your floppy big ol' ass on GOOGLE and start searching, Hindu burger... (Rating: 4+)

Dureforsog - Exploring Beauty (CD, Kool Arrow, Obtuse pop/rock)
Cool offbeat pop music that sounds something like an odd cross between Howard Devoto and the Psychedelic Furs. Denmark's Dureforsog play skewed pop with a slightly spooky feel. The basic chord structures are not all that unusual, but the arrangements...and particularly those spoken/sung vocals...are strangely foreign. It could just be our imagination, but it seems that during the past month there has been an overabundance of very AVERAGE and SAMEY CDS that have been released...? In any event...and because that seems to be the case to us...Dureforsog's CD easily stood out from the pack. The tunes on Exploring Beauty are neither difficult nor easy listening. There are some elements that are common to basic pop music...but there are other elements that you don't normally hear in any kind of music, and it is the latter that are difficult to describe. Lots of offbeat keepers here like "Space Loneliness," "Ghost Chills," and "Rubber Man" make this disc a definite KEEPER. (Rating: 4+++)

The Echo Orbiter - Laughing All The While (CD, The Looking Glass Workshop, Peculiar pop)
From the Skylark-ish introduction and beyond, The Echo Orbiter show a fond affection for Brit-popsters XTC. But while many bands try and copy the sound of Partridge and Moulding, Inc. these folks merely use the sound as a jumping off point for their own clever musical endeavors. What we particularly like about these four gentlemen is that they are obviously not trying to adopt any sort of "rock star" attitude or lifestyle. This comes across crystal clear in their music as well as their publicity photo (in which all four are standing in someone's hallway). We definitely get the feeling that these men are in it for the fun...and fun they provide throughout all twelve tracks on Laughing All The While. The band's music is happy, but not sugary sweet. Cool melodies abound here and the band is quite adept at writing hooks as well as intelligent (and memorable) melodies. Cool lyrics too... This album is neither extremely commercial nor inaccessible. Instead, the songs float somewhere mid-stream where there is enough to cling onto and sing along with...but the band still takes enough risks to make things fun and exciting. Do we like this? In a word...YES. You may have trouble finding this little baby, so go to either link above to find out more about these fabulous gents... (Rating: 5)

Endo - Evolve (CD, Columbia, Hard rock/thrash/metal)
Hard and loud rock music from Miami's Endo. These four guys have a punchy and extremely abrasive sound that is not unlike an adrenaline rush. Drummer Joel Suarez is a powerhouse kinda guy...bashing and crashing into oblivion while his trusty sidekick bassist Zelick keeps things on track. Eli Parker spews out nasty guitar licks that play crossfire with in-your-face vocalist Gil Bitton (who looks and sounds something like Marilyn Manson wearing normal clothes). Mr. Bitton is a screamer, that's for sure...and there's no doubt that he is the visual focal point of the band. Lots of harsh rockers here like "Mindset," "Listen," and "Save Us" are certain to drive parents UP THE GODDAMN WALL... Ought to please fans of the previously mentioned M. Manson... (Not Rated)

Eric Gales - That's What I Am (CD, MCA, Rock)
Damn. This guy's GOOD. Sounding very much like a cross between King's X and Jimi Hendrix, former child prodigy guitarist Eric Gales has his shit together on his MCA debut. While Mr. Gales is probably going to be bored to death by all the comparisons, it is obvious that Hendrix is his main influence. But whereas good ol' Jimi was a drug-crazed, wild, screaming hippy, Mr. Gales is a more mature and mellow fellow. His tunes are more soul and pop than rock...and his vocals are smooth. Gales got his start as a teen playing with The Gales Brothers. Now he's all grown up and in the big leagues. There's no denying that this guy knows what to do with a guitar. His riffs are fast, punchy, and funky. This is a solid damn album featuring plenty of great tunes. Our top picks here are "That's What I Am," "Down Low," "Black Day," and "Just Got Paid." If Eric can rise above the Hendrix comparisons, he'll end up being a BIG star... (Rating: 5)

The Gravel Pit - Mass Avenue Freeze-Out (CD, QDivision, Pop/rock)
We liked a CD we heard a few years back by The Gravel Pit...and we also like this, the band's fourth full-length. Since we last heard them, these four Massachusetts gentlemen's sound has gotten a bit louder and harsher...but they have certainly retained the poppy elements of their music. Unlike most underground pop bands, these guys manage to come up with tunes that are distinctly different from one another. Lots of cool rockers with strong melodies like "Loved One," "Best Friend," and "Race Car" make Mass Avenue Freeze-Out a fun listen... (Rating: 4)

Green Pajamas - Ghosts of Love (CD, Get Hip, Pop)
Ghosts of Love is a beautiful...and very personal...collection of soft pop tunes that'll have your head spinning with ecstasy. Interestingly, this album was recorded back in the late eighties...but it has only now been reissued on CD (the original vinyl album was on the Bomp! label). And, as you might have already guessed, there is a bonus track (the single version of the tune "Emily Grace"). The compositions on this album are very mature, particularly in terms of melodies. In addition, the arrangements are light years beyond what you normally hear on a pop record. We particularly love the strings, as they add a strange melancholy mood to the music. In some ways these Green Pajamas tunes are reminiscent of Big Star's Sister Lovers album...but the similarities are only slight. The main commonalities are the vocals and the sincere lyrics. There are several songs that also remind us a great deal of Emitt Rhodes (the great lost bubblegum pop artist from the 1970s). So much great stuff here that it's hard to pick favorites...but tracks that initially caught our attention are "Surfacing," "The Thousand Days," "Jails," "Angles of Passion," and "Song For The Maid." Wonderful stuff that is completely out of step with music today (and that is OBVIOUSLY a compliment). Highly recommended listening. (Rating: 5++)

Hang Around With the Wrong Crowd (Suggestion kind of thing to do kind of thing kind of)
Does your social circle consist of you and several of your own kind? Do you all share a great many things in common? If so, then you are probably guilty of one of the nastiest sins on the planet...hanging around with your own kind. Amazing that so many folks do this, because it is always so goddamn DULL and BORING. What do you get from hanging around folks like yourself? Most likely, the self gratification that comes from others supporting your ideas...because most likely they feel the exact same way about things. Talking with each other about your similarities helps you build up your own egos. But what about if one were to...Hang Around With the Wrong Crowd? Wrong crowd in this sense means people who have little if nothing in common with you. It might take some effort, yes...but in the end the rewards to be gained by seeing things from completely different perspectives is more than worth the effort. Challenges are always stimulating and thought provoking. There is only one problem with this theory, however... Variety STINKS. Familiarity doesn't breed contempt. Familiarity IS contempt. (Rating: 2)

Hold the Vocals... - A Tribute to the Instrumental Hits of the 50's 60's 70's (CD, Go-Kustom, Various artists)
Interesting. Very interesting. Your average various artists tribute usually consists of covers of extremely well-known tunes...OR covers of songs that are obscure and virtually unknown. Hold the Vocals... contains both. This disc includes covers of songs originally recorded by everyone from Henry Mancini to Captain Beefheart to Link Wray to Led Zeppelin...and that's just the beginning. And what's even more interesting is the fact that many of these artists aren't even considered to be "instrumental" artists in the first place. (And most of the songs certainly were never "hits".) All that said...this is actually a rather cohesive and rockin' little package. Recording artists featured include The Squirrels, d.A. Sebasstian, The Exploding Pintos, Elvis X, and many more... Seattle's Go-Kustom label seems focused on releasing intriguing, obscure, and esoteric material. Lotsa big fun here... (Rating: 4++)

I Am The World Trade Center - Out of the Loop (CD, Kindercore, Dub pop)
Co-managing one of the country's best independent music labels apparently doesn't keep Daniel Geller completely occupied and artistically satisfied. Accordingly, he also writes and records music with partner Amy Dykes...and the two release tunes under the peculiar moniker I Am The World Trade Center. What is particularly intriguing about this CD (apart from the music itself) is the fact that it was composed and recorded entirely on a laptop computer (?!?). As for the songs themselves, they are basically pop melodies layered over dub beats. Ms. Dykes' vocals work wonderfully with this style of music. She sings in a kind of "who cares" manner. This, combined with the heady and sometimes surreal electronics, sounds something like listening to your old collection of vinyl 45s while tripping your brains out. (This could possibly be the intent.) Fun stuff that goes off the deep end at times, and that's just fine with us... (Rating: 4+++)

Ivy - Long Distance (CD, Nettwerk, Pop)
MAJOR ORGASM NOW IN PROCESS. New York's Ivy have long been one of our top favorite pop bands of all time. Each and every album that the band has released has pushed our favorite buttons. Long Distance is as good as anything the band has recorded. If you thought that this band couldn't sound any smoother or get any better then THINK AGAIN. Dominque Durand, Adam Schlesinger, and Andy Chase have really outdone themselves with this lush and wonderful collection of tunes. The album starts off with the hypnotic and addicting "Undertow"...a tune so incredibly beautiful that it gave us chills on the very first listen. This is followed by "Disappointed," a strange and haunting composition with an unforgettable chorus. The band then keeps the quality UP for the remaining eleven tunes. Favorite song title: "Lucy Doesn't Love You" (ha ha ha ha ha). Ms. Durand's voice has always sounded wonderful...but for some reason this time around she sounds ever BETTER. (Using a different vocal microphone, perhaps?) For those who are unfamiliar with this band, Ivy tunes are (for the most part) slow, dreamy tunes with superb arrangements and a lead singer with a breathy French accent. While Mr. Schlesinger and Mr. Chase are probably more well known for some of their other endeavors (Fountains of Wayne, etc.), artistically this is the greatest thing that any of these three individuals have ever been involved with (to our knowledge anyway). What sets this band apart from the others--first and foremost--are their wonderful songs. In an era where songwriting generally takes a back seat to technology and/or worthless guest artists, these folks' material blows others AWAY. This is the sort of stuff that sends us straight up into HEAVEN...in a smoky haze of prescription sedation. Totally beautiful and virtually perfect, Long Distance will easily be one of the best CDs to be released in 2001. That's for CERTAIN. This is A MUST HAVE. (Rating: 5+++)

Irving Klaws - Pajama Party (CD, Get Hip, Rock/pop)
Wonderfully fun, melodic, upbeat, and crazy fun. This is pure feelgood music played by three guys who obviously know how to have a good time. The band consists of Rob Peltier (upright bass), Wheeze (drums), and David C. Gutierrez (guitar and etherwave). Irving Klaws sound something like a sped up rockabilly version of music from XTC's infamous White Music album. The band plays fast and loud, but they throw contagious hooks at their listeners almost constantly. And goddamn it to hell, the songs are KILLER. These guys hit home runs with virtually every track on Pajama Party...but our own particular favorites thus far are "Turned Out USA," "Not Me Not Now," "Teenage Curse," and "Dig My Six." Driving rhythms combine with thick guitars, superb vocals, and intelligent lyrics to create a sound that is virtually impossible to dislike or ignore. Excellent NO FRILLS rock played with conviction and true style. (Rating: 5)

Ivan Klipstein - Lifestyle! (CD, Crustacean, Pop/various)
With a name like Ivan Klipstein...your music had BETTER be good. And don't you worry your pretty little panties because...this Wisconsin resident's music really IS good. Intelligent, funny, and imaginative, Mr. Klipstein is a true underground hero. It's no wonder this clever gentleman has created such a stupendous underground buzz. And while a great many reviewers have compared his music to the generally overrated Beck, the similarities are (fortunately) only slight. What is most striking about the music on this CD is Ivan's ability to switch in and out of musical styles with total ease and comfort. This guy can change styles as easily as your television can change its channels. Some of the music reminds us of Donovan or even The Bee Gees...while other tracks are more like nineties techno. This is an extremely playful collection of tunes from an artist who isn't taking himself too seriously. The seventeen tracks on Lifestyle! will most likely be over the heads of most listeners...and that is a GOOD thing (of course). Our favorites here are "Port of Entry," "Amazing Grace," and "Playground Tornado." Light, heady, crazy, and very COLORFUL. (Rating: 5)

Lilyfrost - Lunamarium (CD, Nettwerk, Pop)
Mmmmmmmmmmm...yummy. Like a nice combination of sounds and ideas from babysue favorites Ivy mixed with other elements from the Cocteau Twins, Fuzzy, and Autour de Lucie. Lilyfrost is a slick and refreshing winner. The kind folks at the Nettwerk publicity office win big bonus points for NOT including biographical information or press releases with their CDs. Why? Simple. It forces us to concentrate solely on the music without other dumb variables influencing how we react to the music. The folks in Lilyfrost create hummable upbeat pop tunes with outstanding arrangements...and they have a female vocalist who instantly made us melt into the floor with her breathy and absorbing voice. If things were as they should be in the world of music (which they obviously never WILL be...), "Who Am I" would be an instant #1 hit on both sides of the Atlantic. This band is not only incredibly accessible...they have an amazing knack for writing songs. Unforgettable pure pop gems like "The Love For Me," "Marigold," and "Every Which Way" ought to have music fans turning into big piles of groveling slobs. Great stuff here...PERFECT for driving with the windows down... This is LOVELY. (Rating: 5)

Lush - Ciao! Best of Lush (CD, 4AD/Beggars Banquet, Pop)
It's always interesting to hear a "best of" collection when you were never familiar with the artist in the first place. Because the idea is to present on a single disc the best that the artist has to offer, if everything goes right the listener should be blown away. We probably heard a song or two by Lush on the radio at some point, but if so we were not aware of it. So...a decade later we get our first real taste of Lush. The reaction? Mixed. Some of these tunes are absolutely adorable ("Single Girl" and "Monochrome" in particular) while others seem somewhat vague. We like the fact that the band's tunes are short and to-the-point and the female vocals are great. Our conclusion is that this disc contains some wonderful tracks, but all of them are not mind blowing. If you were never a Lush fanatic, then this is probably the CD to have... (Rating: 4)

David Mead - Mine and Yours (CD, RCA/BMG, Soft pop)
A fine soft pop singer/songwriter in the same vein as Ron Sexsmith. Produced by Adam Schlesinger (of Ivy and Fountains of Wayne), Mine and Yours is a finely polished soft pop smorgasbord. Mr. Mead has a sinfully slick voice, and he's a powerful writer who seems just as comfortable writing soft pensive material as the more fluffy stuff. Mead's middle-of-the-road songs are anything but boring. His lyrics are smart, the arrangements right on target. This album contains thirteen meaty songs that would sound at home either on FM radio or in your CD player as you're driving around finding that one perfect yard sale where everything is virtually free. This man's music is both uplifting and powerful in a subtle way. Great stuff that should appeal to fans of the aforementioned Ron Sexsmith and also Paul Simon. This guy is destined for BIG things... (Rating: 4+++)

Minibar - Road Movies (CD, Universal, Pop)
Very smooth middle-of-the-road pop music with lots and lots of studio polish. Although you might swear that Minibar is an American band (we would've sworn it on the goddamn Bible), they are not. This is a British band with virtually no audible signs of the fact. Also intriguing is the fact Road Movies is this band's debut CD. The eleven songs on this album are all very mature and well written. T Bone Burnett produced these tracks, so that may explain why they have such a smooth and fat sound. The band's vocals are so perfect that they almost sound computer generated (particularly on the title track). This band is really, REALLY good at what they do. The only slight problem that they may encounter in their career is that there are so many bands playing soft, smooth, super-polished pop at the moment. Every week, we probably receive anywhere from 50 to 100 CDs from bands who sound almost exactly like Minibar. No matter. When you're good you're good. And these folks really are talented and entertaining. Another plus for this album is that the very last track "So Long Soho" is rather abstract and has a depressing feel. How many smooth pop bands end their album like THAT? (Rating: 4)

Denine Monet - Lady Bird (CD, Shotzi, Jazz/female vocalist)
We've become increasingly intrigued with jazz music over the past couple of years. A question for you readers out there...why is it that female vocalists are more entertaining and better suited for jazz than males? Is this just our own curious preference...or is there some real validity to this hypothesis? And why is it that most jazz vocalists in general always play the same old tired "standards"? In any case, when you're talking jazz it's always the ladies who grab our brass bonnet...and Denine Monet does just that. Not only is she a "she"...but she also takes the extra risk by writing her own (gasp) material. Lady Bird is Ms. Monet's debut CD, but it's quite a mature effort. Utilizing the talents of Frank Martin (piano), Will Kennedy (drums), Stan Poplin (bass), and more, this young lady seems to have her career beginning squarely on course. She more than adequately handles her choice of covers ("Night in Tunisia" and "You Go To My Head/There Will Never Be Another You" are standouts), but it is her original compositions that are actually the main juice here. From the bouncy "Firelight" to the pensive and beautiful "Like A Whistle" to the haunting "Mystery," Denine proves that she is just adept at writing material as simply playing the role of vocalist. If this sounds like a sales pitch, that's because it is. She's got that certain something that most folks are missing. Quite cool and very, very groovy... (Rating: 4++)

My Morning Jacket - At Dawn (CD, Darla, Hazy pop)
Loose Americana/country pop with lots and LOTS of reverb. Songwriter Jim James comes up with some cool gems on this CD. We are one of the lucky ones to receive one of the first 2,500 CDs which includes a bonus CD containing the demos recorded for this album. While the basic sound of these tunes is reminiscent of Neil Young, the resemblances are only slight. There is a strange thread of alienation running through these songs, and the arrangements at times seem almost accidental. Our main complaint about this disc--and it is unfortunately a major one--is that the extreme use of reverb on the lead vocals is detrimental to the overall sound. Mr. James has a good voice, and we feel that it is being wasted being buried underneath layers of reverb. Because this effect occurs on virtually every track on the album, it unfortunately affects our ability to enjoy this. The same overuse of reverb is present on the second disc. This is a band that we feel has a great deal to offer, and we hope that on their next offering they will consider using restraint in the reverb department... (Rating: 3+)

No One - No One (CD, Immortal/Virgin, Hard rock)
Good hard rock from Chicago's No One. This band has a nice harsh sound and they're loud as hell, but they don't just churn out noise like many of their contemporaries. Instead, the band uses intelligent songs as a vehicle for venting their own particular brand of twenty-first century hostility. And while things are amped up to the max, there are still basic song structures (verse/chorus/verse etc.) to cling onto. The band comes across best when they add some variety into their tunes ("Chemical," "Inside Out," and Nothing" are good examples). Some of the really loud tracks become somewhat drony after a listen or two but that's probably just part of the territory. Should appeal to fans of Soulfly or Pantera... (Rating: 3++)

Pete - Pete (Advance CD, Warner Bros., Rock)
Good buzzsaw guitar rock. Newark, New Jersey's Pete have a sound that is based in heavy rhythms, overdriven guitars, and raspy vocals. We hear a lot of bands that play the same style of music as Pete...but few are as credible and entertaining. This, the band's major label debut, is full of swirling loud rock music. And instead of presenting things from a totally urban perspective, these guys have a sound that is based in blue collar suburbia (something we can relate to). The guitars on this album are particularly intriguing...as are the quieter moments in some of the songs (seldom to be certain, but they do occur). We could not get the first track to play, as the record company sent a CD-R instead of a real CD (???). In any event, the other nine tracks that did play were chock full of loud rockin' energy. Our favorite tunes here are "Drugstore Alibi," "Is She Coming Up?," and "Discontent." (Rating: 4)

Piano Magic - I Came To Your Party Dressed As A Shadow (CD EP, Acuarela, Atmospheric/experimental)
Peculiar. Very peculiar indeed. This release came to us by way of Spain's obscure and esoteric Acuarela music label. This three song CD isn't quite like anything else we've heard recently. The music consists of soft electronic drones, and instead of melodic vocals the words are spoken rather than sung. Not surprisingly, this is not piano music...nor is it party music. Instead, the folks in Piano Magic create very subtle and very slow musical soundscapes that pass by slowly like the clouds in the sky...while the spoken words come across like someone who is speaking in a trance. Because this CD is so obtuse, we're not going to rate it...but we would, however, highly recommend that you check out this unique and unusual label's web site (link above). Extremely obscure and obtuse. (Rating: 4)

Pinehurst Kids - Bleed It Dry (CD, Barbaric, Pop/rock)
While this band had already gained a sizable underground following based on their previous two albums, this is the one that's going to do it for them. Since the release of Viewmaster (the band's last album), Pinehurst Kids have focused their sound and tightened things up substantially. As a result, Bleed It Dry is easily the band's best release yet...as well as the best sounding in terms of recording quality. Full of the super-charged energy their fans have come to expect, the thing that really makes this album cook are the melodies. This band's music rocked before, but now with the added bonus of super catchy melodies...they have jumped up to the next level. Joe Davis' vocals have never sounded better...as is evidenced on great tracks like "Spinning Out," "The Onceler" (our favorite), "I Woke Up," and "Shepherd to Lost Sheep." Another big plus are the lyrics...they are direct, personal, and real. This little baby is going to rip through lots of stereos before finally ending up on lots of peoples' "best of" lists...you can bet your mystery hole on that. Super stuff. (Rating: 5)

Samhain - Initium (CD, E-magine Entertainment, Rock), Unholy Passion (CD, E-magine Entertainment, Rock), November Coming Fire (CD, E-magine Entertainment, Rock), Final Descent (CD, E-magine Entertainment, Rock)
Because of increased interest in Samhain, E-magine Entertainment has taken it upon themselves to re-release all of the band's studio albums individually (there was already a box set out that was selling quite well). The albums have been fully remastered and repackaged in all of their full glory. This band was yet another major vehicle for notorious rocker Glenn Danzig (of the legendary Misfits). In our obnoxiously isolated corner of the galaxy, this band's entire career managed to slip past us...until now. As you might expect, Initium, the debut album, is a bit raw overall. It's a good album, but the sound quality leaves something to be desired. The Unholy Passion EP is much more effective due to the improved overall sound. But this band's best meat can be found on November-Coming-Fire, which contains the band's strongest material. Great tunes like "In My Grip" and "Let the Day Begin" have a nice raw sound while retaining an odd catchiness. Final Descent has some good tunes, but seems to be somewhat overproduced. This will probably be of most interest to those who are already diehard fans of Glenn Danzig... (Rating: 4-)

Savage Aural Hotbed - The Strain and Force Handbook (CD, Microblister, Instrumental/experimental/percussion)
More tasty avant garde instrumental experimentation from Minneapolis-based Savage Aural Hotbed. This band's two previous CDs still remain in our permanent collection, and this one is soon to follow (after we play it into the ground...). Possibly the band's best sounding and most adventurous album yet, The Strain and Force Handbook is a fantastic trip into the world of industrial and/or tribal percussion. The only other band we've heard to use percussion like this is California's Babyland...but they use it in an entirely different medium (electronic hardcore punk). These folks use percussion almost exclusively...and in doing so create a wonderfully sparse and yet completely infectious driving force. The basic sound is something like African tribal percussion mixed with the sound of all kinds of other "urban" things being hit and beaten to hell. While most people would probably not categorize this as dance music, we can honestly say that this is the sort of thing that gets us moving to the max. There is no other band currently on the horizon that we know of that is dabbling in this specific genre of music. Twelve mind-swelling abstract and adventurous tunes, including "Impulse Sealer," "Soot Dilemma" (wow!), and "In a Cage Remix." While this is most definitely NOT for everyone, those open minded enough to get into this music will be HIGHLY rewarded... (Rating: 5+++)

Scapegoat Wax - Okeeblow (CD, Grand Royal/Virgin, Soul/electronic pop/hip hop)
Interesting collage of musical styles that reminds us of Prince and Self...but with a bit more of a hip hop flavor. While most folks will probably be placing this squarely in the hip hop category, in our minds Mark James (the man who is Scapegoat Wax) is actually playing updated electronic soul music. The main beef chunks here are beats, melodies, and lyrics...all three of which are prominent throughout all fifteen tracks on Okeeblow. If you extract the vocals and melodies and consider them by themselves, some of these tunes would easily fit in with 1960s AM radio hits. While some folks may rag Mr. James for trying to sound black on most of these tracks, this fact doesn't bother us in the slightest. With super strong tunes like "Freeway" and "Space To Share," we'd bet that most folks probably won't be complaining too much anyway. The guy's got a killer voice, and his songs are strong... (Rating: 4++)

Sixty Watt Shaman - Seed of Decades (CD, Spitfire, Hard rock)
Interesting mix of 1970s Southern rock and early Led Zeppelin with a hint of Fu Manchu thrown in for good measure. This is the second release from Maryland's Sixty Watt Shaman. From reading the press release accompanying this CD, it sounds as if the band had a hell of a time recording this collection of original tunes. Their loud, raunchy songs come through loud and clear...and the vocalist truly does sound as if he stepped out of Macon, Georgia circa 1975. We particularly like the guitar licks on this disc. Instead of just hammering away into power chord heaven, these guys seem keen on coming up with extraordinary and tasty guitar licks upon which to base their tunes. These gentelemen capture the essence and true feel of a bunch of out-of-control rural guys getting drunk and going NUTS. Top picks: "Fear Death By Water," "Low Earth Orbit," and "Busy Dying." No fluff here...this is for REAL... (Rating: 4)

Spoonful of Barnhole (Lovely doodoo kind of thing sort of whatever it is kind of stuff like thing)
Everyone works, lives, dreams, and evisions Spoonful of Barnhole. This is what we strive for, as this is our main desire. The exquisite nature of the spoonful provides food for the needy, thoughts for the ignorant, and lights for the darkness. The blind become visionary and the visionary become natural, as circles of devoted nobodies chant in circles to achieve the results. How very BRAVE thou art, Spoonful of Barnhole. The clouds part and the sun SHINES for thee, Spoonful of Barnhole. Where would the world be? Probably nowhere. But that point is only barely made, as the next spoon is coming soon to take the other place... (Rating: 2)

Super XX Man - Volume V (CD, Post-Parlo, Pop)
One of the most prolific and genuine songwriters currently on the horizon, Scott Garred never fails to please. Jumping off of his Silver Scooter (his other band) for a brief rest, Scott recorded this batch of tunes with a little help from his friends. The tunes on Volume V are not unlike Silver Scooter compositions, but the material tends to be softer and more introspective. This guy has a spectacular voice, and we still feel that he sounds very much like those cool gentlemen in Harpers Bizarre. In many ways, this album is like an extension of Silver Scooter's The Blue Law album...but with a definite emphasis on acoustic guitar. Of course, the main draw of this man's music are his melodies. Scott seems to have a wonderfully innate sense of crafting melodies. His songs are subtle and slowly creep into your consciousness, but once they're there...there they will stay. Like the last Silver Scooter album, this was recorded at the notorious Albert Hall studio in Austin. Plenty of soothing and beautiful music here. Our favorites are "Generosity," "You Dream Fast," "All Night Diners," "Garage Apartment," and "Hot August Nights." Recommended listening for the intelligent sector. (Rating: 5+)

Tizzy - Scary In Adulthood (CD, Vital Cog, Rock/pop)
Fun, simple, playful pop rock played with gusto and style. And such a great band name...wonder why no one ever thought of it before...? Tizzy consists of Jen Stavely (bass and vocals), Teri Morris (drums and vocals), and Joel Boultinghouse (guitar and vocals). While some of this band's material falls into the pop/rock vein, it is actually the offbeat numbers that are the strongest on Scary in Adulthood. In particular "Charmed Life Girls," "I Hate Football," and "The Underground Eats Its Own" are extremely strong tunes and prove that this band is a lot more diverse than most pop/rock outfits. Tizzy is a sincere and genuine trio who give the impression that they are making music for the pure fun of doing so, and there's no better reason than than... (Rating: 4+)

To Rococo Rot & I-Sound - Music is a Hungry Ghost (CD, Mute, Electronic/experimental)
The people at Mute must think that we are label whores. After all, we slobber and dribble over almost everything the label sends our way. Well just to show them how totally WRONG they are, we're going to RIP this release to SHREDS...we're going to WHINE...COMPLAIN...and say how much we HATE it. We...we...we're going to...oh GODDAMN IT ALL TO HELL! We can't DO it...because this disc is just TOO good. This is the fourth album from Germany's To Rococo Rot (although it's the first we've heard). The trio met Craig Willingham (who is I-Sound) when the two bands were touring the United States in 1998. Both bands got off on each other's music so much that they decided to do some recording together. Music is a Hungry Ghost is a truly adventurous and fantastic musical experience. The music on this disc is subtle and difficult to describe. Some pieces are what would be termed "noise"...while others have concrete melodies and arrangements. This is heady and super intelligent stuff...and certainly not your average electronic garbage. Songs range from perplexing to dreamy and then back again. Our favorites include "A Number of Things," "Went To Bed," "Overhead," "Pantone," and in particular "From Dream to Daylight" (these last two include some lovely violin courtesy of Alexander Balanescu). If you want mindless dance music, you'll need to look elsewhere. Falling somewhere mid-territory in between modern classical, ambient, and electronic experimentation, these fellows have created a MASTERPIECE. Simultaneously puzzling and hypnotic. (Rating: 5+++)

Trash Wednesday - Trash Wednesday (CD, CTP, Pop/rock)
Fresh, melodic, bouncy, infectious, and chock full of hooks. Los Angeles quartet Trash Wednesday have their sound and image together, which puts them far ahead of other bands...particularly when you consider that this is their debut CD (!). The band has definite British influences...which makes sense, particularly since Kid (the leader of the band) hails from Brighton, England. More than any other band, the basic look and sound of Trash Wednesday reminds us of New York's Thin Lizard Dawn (an absolutely incredible pop band that has been virtually overlooked). Trash Wednesday tunes are upbeat and melodic, and feature super cool breathy vocals...and heavenly harmonies. Hopefully consumer copies of this album are being sold in the same packaging as the promotional copy we received, as the CD is enclosed in an oversized matchbook cover. (Someone did a really great job on the artwork and layout here.) Sure there are a couple of throwaway tunes and sometimes the influences are more than obvious...but overall, this band gets a thumbs up. Even the cover of The Vibrators "Baby Baby" pulls the rabbit out of the hat. Fun stuff. (Rating: 4++)


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