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September 2005 Reviews by

The Adolescents
Aluminum Babe
The Bracelets
Cats + Jammers
Cerberus Shoal
Comment Piece
Conjure One
Tom Cruise

Dee Dee Bridgewater
Desert City Soundtrack

Dogme 95
Jason Dove
El Ten Eleven

Everything, Now!*
Flavor Crystals
For Against
Thea Gilmore
The Happy Bullets
The Immortal Lee County Killers 3
Zona Jones

Joy Electric
Margot & the Nuclear So & So's
Mi and L'au
Nightmares & Fairy Tales: Beautiful Beasts
The Pale Pacific
Pattern Is Movement*
Port Royal
Rooftop Suicide Club
Wayne Scott
Space Mtn
The Sun

The Surf The Sundried
3 Doors Down

Thee Shams
This Is A Process Of A Still Life
The Toms
The Used Butt Plugs

Armin Van Buuren
Alex Ward
Rebecca Zapen*
The Zephyrs*

*Top Picks

Additional Items Received


September 2005 Comment Piece:
Poem For Peace

All the people,
All the beautiful people
Living together
In peace
And harmony.

All the people,
All the wonderful people
Understanding one another
And learning to
Live in peace.

All the morons,
All the ignorant morons
Who actually believe
That this could ever
Be possible.

All the lies,
All the goddamn stinking lies
That everyone tells each other
Because each and every
One of them is so
Totally goddamn dishonest.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Adolescents - OC Confidential (CD, Finger, Rock)
The Adolescents present their first album of new recordings since the 1980s. Judging from the tight fresh cuts on OC Confidential, it seems almost impossible that this band is celebrating their 25th anniversary with the release of this disc. The band released their first album way back in 1981 on the Frontier label. That album (affectionately referred to as "the blue album") became an instant favorite among fans and critics. Instead of burning out and blowing away, the band decided to continue on into the twenty-first century. OC Confidential is a hard rocking album. The band has as much energy as many half their age. Kickass catchy rock tracks include "Hawks and Doves," "California Son," "Within These Walls," and "Monsanto Hayride." Recommended for fans of The Dwarves. (Rating: 5+)

Aluminum Babe - Vit.Ri.Fied (CD, Lucero, Pop)
The folks in Aluminum Babe make music that is reminiscent of early Shonen Knife...if they had been playing more accessible normal pop. Actually and in fact, the band's tunes are even more reminiscent of early Blondie. The songs on Vit.Ri.Fied are simple, direct, and very danceable. Vocalist Ana sings in a breathy soft coo that is central to the sound. The lyrics are so simple that some may find them confusing at times. The band's sound is super slick and professional on this album, but the rockier tunes still manage to pack a punch. Dreamy and slightly surreal, Vit.Ri.Fied is a unique album in that it doesn't follow any current trends in music. Songs are what make the difference, and there are plenty of keepers here. The band even delivers a credible cover of Plastic Bertrand's "Ca Plane Pour Moi." Top picks: "Upside Down," "Dream Dancing," "Disease Contagious," and "What Is What." (Rating: 5)

Amina - AnimaminA (CD, The Worker's Institute, Ambient/instrumental)
Known primarily up to this point for their work with the band Sigur Ros, the four ladies who call themselves Amina are steadily cementing their own place in musical history. This EP presents four puzzling instrumentals. While these ladies are a string quartet, their music extends well beyond the limitations of such. Incorporating malleted instruments and a glassophone into their compositions adds unusual flavors into the mix. This EP has a lot in common with Brian Eno's ambient recordings. The ideas and sounds are subtle to say the least...setting subtle, puzzling moods for listeners. Very restrained and distant...yet beautifully constructed in every way... (Rating: 5+)

The Bracelets - The Bracelets (CD EP, Sector Five, Pop)
All good EPs leave the listener wanting more...and that's the exact effect that The Bracelets EP had on us. This little five song EP features some great understated guitar pop that immediately sits well in the mental arena. These folks' music sounds something like a 1990s indie pop version of Lou Reed...but not really...? Gently plucked guitars and thumpy rhythms provide an immediately infectious vibe. Let's just hope the next release is a full-length. (Rating: 5)

Cats + Jammers - Propose Toast (CD, Scotch Hell, Pop/rock)
Coming from the Young Fresh Fellows school of rock, the fellows in Wisconsin's Cats + Jammers are one fun little trio. After taking a three year break, the band is now back in the studio recording a new album. In the meantime, they have released a best of collection entitled Propose Toast. The CD includes five tracks each from the band's previous CDs plus a new track ("Get Your Ya-Ya's Out") and a previously unreleased tune ("What Do You Want?"). Simple, catchy, hummable, and uplifting, these guys are making music that isn't taxing and difficult. Their main goal seems to be to just rock out and have fun. Neat upbeat tracks include "Spitball," "People Are Stupid," "Not Gay," "Good As Dead," and "White People Can't Dance." (Rating: 4++++)

Cerberus Shoal - The Land We All Believe In (CD, North East Indie, Progressive)
The folks in Cerberus Shoal are some of the hardest working musicians in the world. The band has now recorded and released eleven albums and continues to tour with unrelenting determination. If there is one thing that has become clear over time it is that this band is taking a path unlike any other. Cerberus Shoal compositions are slightly reminiscent of some of the stranger progressive British bands of the 1970s. Instead of playing mere pop or rock, these individuals merge styles from centuries past and present to create their own peculiar sound. Describing the music is difficult because there are few obvious influences. Although summing up this band is not an easy task, their music remains ultimately satisfying. Like previous releases, The Land We All Believe In is a curiously pleasing spin. Six heady compositions here including "The World We All Believe In," "Pie for the President," and "The Ghosts Are Greedy." Peculiar and provocative. (Rating: 5+)

Conjure One - Extraordinary Ways (CD, Nettwerk, Techno pop)
The second release from Conjure One, the most recent project created by Rhys Fulber (formerly of Frontline Assembly and Delerium). Many folks probably accuse Fulber of selling out with Conjure One. But in actuality, this band is merely an extension of Rhys' former projects. Extraordinary Ways is extremely accessible and polished...but that isn't meant as a cut. This album features slick danceable modern pop with fantastic melodies and infectious rhythms. After creating music purely for the sake of art for so long...who can blame Rhys for making music that is a bit more commercial these days...? This may not be cutting edge material, but if you're looking for some cool music that sets a definite mood...you will certainly find it here. Groovy tracks include "Endless Dream," "Face the Music," "Beyond Being," and "Into the Escape." (Rating: 4++++)

Tom Cruise (Overrated actor kind of thing)
How the hell did Tom Cruise get to be so famous...? What amazes us is that so many people seem to think that this guy is good looking. Jesus Christ...the man is ugly as shit. Which would be okay if he was a great actor. But of course, he isn't. So...everyone turns an ugly man who can't act into...a super celebrity. Makes sense, huh? It sure says a lot about people in the United States. Almost everyone has really shitty taste. Everyone except us, of course. We know everything and whatever we say is always correct. That's how we got to be such big important reviewers...by shedding light on the truth. (Rating: 1)

Dee Dee Bridgewater - J'ai Deux Amours (CD, Sovereign Artists, Pop)
Dee Dee Bridgewater is a very busy lady. In addition to pursuing a music career, she is also the Honorary Ambassador to the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization and the host of an NPR radio show...as well as a visiting professor at The Thelonious Monk Institute at the University of Southern California. Dee Dee describes this album thusly: "J'ai Deux Amours is my way of thanking France, a country that opened its arms to me. Me, a little girl from Flint, Michigan!" After spinning this CD a couple of times, it's easy to see why people in France so readily opened their arms. Anyone who ever loved the great vocalists of the 1940s and 1950s will find a wealth of superb material here. Surrounding herself with true professionals (Marc Berthoumieux, Ira Coleman, Minino Garay, Louis Winsberg), Dee Dee lets her personality shine as clearly as the morning sun. Switching back and forth from English to French seems to come naturally for this talented and magnetic lady...as she breathes new life into all eleven tunes on this album. Slick and sensuous, J'ai Deux Amours is a wonderfully moody collection of tunes that bleeds with genuine talent. Top picks: "La Mer," "Et Maintenant," "Avec le Temps," "Les Feuilles Mortes." (Rating: 5+)

Desert City Soundtrack - Perfect Addiction (CD, Deep Elm, Progressive)
Desert City Soundtrack is the Portland-based trio consisting of Matt Carrillo (vocals, guitar), Cory Gray (vocals, piano, bass, trumpet), and Brian Wright (drums, percussion, organ). These three gentleman play engaging yet difficult-to-describe complex progressive music. True to the band's name, the tunes sound something like a...desert city soundtrack. Perfect Addiction is the trio's most challenging album to date. If you seek predictable, familiar music...you won't find it here. Carrillo, Gray, and Wright incorporate elements of jazz and even classical music into their compositions. Some of the tracks on this album are sparse and moody...while others are thick and rather forceful. Overall this is an extremely tasteful platter from a band that never disappoints. Twelve tracks including "Last Nights Floor," "No Signal," "First Sickness," and "Watering Hole." (Rating: 5++)

Devo - Live 1980 (DVD, Music Video Distributors, Rock/pop)
Featuring an entire concert filmed with multiple cameras, Live 1980 presents the original math rockers at their peak. This is the Devo that most people are familiar with, as the band had just released their Freedom of Choice album...otherwise known as the "upside down flower pot hat" phase. The first few songs of this concert might lead one to believe that this was a low energy event...but as the concert progresses things get more and more intense until the band is a complete ball of fire. Devo covered a lot of ground in this show. Some of the highlights include the intriguing "Swelling Itching Brain," the seldom heard "Pink Pussycat," a particularly rocking version of "Be Stiff," and the rousing and completely out-of-control "Gut Feeling/Slap Your Mammy." Devo were perhaps at their tightest in 1980. Combining top-notch musicianship with bizarre choreography, the band was completely out of synch with everything else that was happening at the time. In addition to the full-length concert, this disc also features two wonderful obscurities from the same year...versions of "Praying Hands" and "Shrivel Up" filmed in black and white. It is truly amazing how much the guitarists' movements in these clips resemble the Lollipop Guild welcoming you to Munchkinland. As if that weren't enough, if you flip the disc over you get the full audio segment of the show on CD. At a list price of $14.95, this is a real DEAL. Recommended for Devo fans or anyone else who wasn't around to witness these guys at their peak. Amazing stuff. The band's 1980 mantra seems more relevant today than ever before: "Freedom of choice is what you've got...Freedom from choice is what you want." So true. So very true. (Rating: 5+++)

Dogme 95 - Arcadian Hymns (CD, Mission Label, Progressive pop)
Dogme 95 is Nick Wright, a solo artist who resides in Chicago. Arcadian Hymns is an odd collection of home recordings that feature Wright's trademark multi-layered-to-infinity vocals. The seventeen tracks on this album have a strange accidental feel to them. Because of the experimental nature of these tunes, some work better than others. In summation, the tracks that are good are really good...while the tracks that aren't so good well...you may want to just skip over these. The percussion is sometimes detrimental to these songs...too loud in comparison to the other instruments and voices. Even though this album is a hit and miss affair...we can't help but think that there's some real genius to this guy's music that's just waiting to be unleashed... (Rating: 3++++)

Jason Dove - Pronto (CD, Carbon & Monoxide / Morphius, Progressive pop)
Formerly in the bands Plexorjet and Slot Racer, Jason Dove is now releasing material under his own name (sometimes also playing live using the name Jason Dove and the Magic Whip). Pronto is an interesting collection of tracks that span across several musical genres. Rather than ape his previous styles or go off in a completely different direction with this album, Dove does both. Some tracks are smart, pensive pop...some are all-out rockers...while others tread in an odd modern progressive territory. These songs are ultimately strong and compelling...featuring smart lyrics, simple arrangements, and instantaneously direct vocals. Jason has received a great deal of recognition in his previous bands. Now with his solo career firmly in motion, this young man seems poised to make an even bigger mark on the world. Killer tracks include "Make It With You," "Hey," "Pronto," "Saddest Song in the World, Ever," and "The Dinosaur Song." (Rating: 5+)

El Ten Eleven - El Ten Eleven (CD, Bar/None, Instrumental/progressive pop)
The first thing that struck us about this CD is that no keyboards were used in recording it. Cool. Very cool. The second thing that struck us about this CD is how upbeat and effective it is. El Ten Eleven is the duo consisting of Kristian Dunn and Tim Fogarty. These two individuals have come up with a winning sound and style that is all their own. By concentrating first and foremost on creative bass lines and ultimately thumpy rhythms, Dunn and Fogarty make music that is easy to listen to and thoroughly entertaining. The tunes are simple and direct and contain no unnecessary ingredients...yet they are are strangely ethereal and magnetic. It is hard to explain exactly what it is about this duo that makes their music so desirable...but there is a certain something that pushes the music directly into the center of the brain. Totally hypnotic and groovy, El Ten Eleven is just what the doctor ordered. (Rating: 5+)

Everything, Now! - Police, Police! (CD, Standard Recording Company, Progressive rock/pop)
If one were to judge Police, Police! based purely on the first few bars of the second track ("Massacre at Birdshit Carwash," the first real song), one might incorrectly assume that Everything, Now! is just another noisy alternative twenty-first century rock band. But as the song progresses, you begin to notice that there's a lot more going on here. By the time the third tracks comes ("I Live in a Trailer Park"), everything comes clearly into focus. Here's a fact. Everything, Now! is a band with real depth. This band's tunes are complex, intelligent, catchy, and thought-provoking...and feature some wonderfully creative lyrics. So many bands write songs that start with one riff...and then they just keep playing the same thing over and over until the end. The folks in this band delve into more areas in one song than most bands incorporate into entire albums. The best part...is that Police, Police! is a very easy listen. The songs flow by in a deceptively smooth manner...making the listener almost forget how much they are actually absorbing. Listening to this album gives us the same feeling we get when we're riding a really killer roller coaster. The band hits so many peaks and valleys in such a short amount of time that you almost can't believe what you're hearing. In the same general vein as Riddle of Steel and The Flaming Lips but much, much different...Everything Now! is one of the best new bands around. Killer tracks include "Double Bath," "The Ritual," "Rocketship, In!" and "Fishbowl Prank." Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Flavor Crystals - Flavor Crystals (CD, MPLS Ltd., Soft pop)
Pleasant moody shoegazer pop/rock. This is the debut album from Minneapolis-based band Flavor Crystals. The disc features eight lengthy tracks of slightly psychedelic slow dance rock that sounds not unlike Charlatans UK at times. In addition to providing seven originals, the band provides an effective cover of Donovan's "Sand and Foam"...a lesser known tune which doesn't seem the least bit out of place here. Flavor Crystals provide music that is subtle yet effective. The more you hear their music, the better it sounds. Cool cuts include "Checker Board," "Square Bales," "Poblano," and "Milky Way." (Rating: 4++++)

For Against - December (CD, Words On Music, Progressive rock)
Reissue of For Against's long out-of-print 1988 album December. The band began way back in 1984 and has had a stop-and-start career ever since. The official reformation of the group in the early twenty-first century prompted the Words On Music label to begin reissuing the band's earlier releases. In addition to the tunes on the original album, this disc also includes CD-ROM videos for the tunes "Autocrat" and "Echelons" (both originally appeared on the Echelons album). December has held up particularly well over time, as these tunes do not sound the least bit old or dated. The band's ever-so-slightly surreal pop tunes are atmospheric and unusual. These fellows' music has no doubt had an effect on a multitude of modern pop bands. The intricate melodies, reverb drenched guitars, and persistent rhythms are instantly precise and effective. Nine intelligent tracks here including "Sabres," "They Said," "Paperwhites," and "Clandestine High Holy." Great stuff. (Rating: 5++)

Thea Gilmore - Songs From the Gutter (Double CD, Compass, Pop)
When Thea Gilmore went into a studio a couple of years ago to record a track for a Bob Dylan tribute CD she and her band ended up recording an entire album's worth of material. These tracks, along with earlier unreleased songs, were originally available as an Internet-only double album. The album was such a hit with fans that Thea was prompted to officially release the album as a double CD set. The loose, fresh sound on the first disc is probably due to the fact that Gilmore and her band didn't over-rehearse and over-practice. As such, the tunes have a nice, immediate, spontaneous sound that is very appealing. The vocals are, not surprisingly, right on target every time. Fans will probably find the second disc even more intriguing. Featuring unreleased material from as far back as 1996, the CD offers an interesting look back at how Gilmore's sound has evolved over the years. This young lady is already a big hit with fans and critics...and this album will only fan the flames. Top picks: "Down to Nowhere," "Lip Reading," "Water to Sky," "Hydrogen," "Brittle Dreams," "Lavendar Cowgirl," "Straight Lines." (Rating: 5)

The Happy Bullets - The Vice and Virtue Ministry (CD, Undeniable, Progressive pop)
We had to listen to this disc a few times before it sunk in...but once it stuck in our heads it really stuck. The Happy Bullets play melodic, effervescent pop music that harkens back to material The Kinks recorded in the mid 1970s. The Vice and Virtue Ministry features songs that are wonderfully out-of-synch with what is currently happening in the world. The title track is so giddy that one can't help but immediately fall in love with this cool little band. If you're looking for familiar samey music you won't find it here. This album is chock full of creative blasts. Our current favorites are "Learning to Love the Factory," the title track, "Drinkin' on the Job," "Mr. Gray," "A Momentary Vision of the End of the World as Seen Through the Eyes of a Suburban Housewife," "Don't Wait Up," and "Good Day!" Excellent lyrics combine with stellar melodic lines...resulting in cool, refreshing jolts of intelligent pop. Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

The Immortal Lee County Killers 3 - These Bones Will Rise to Love (CD, Tee Pee, Rock)
We were big fans of this band in the early days. Lee County, Alabama's The Immortal Lee County Killers 3 return with a confusing collection of material. These Bones Will Rise to Love begins on good footing with the all-out rocker "Turn On The Panther." The track features the kind of loose loud rock the band is known for. The next track ("Revolution Summer") is another bluesy rocker that is pure good fun. "Blues," the third track, is a moody softer track that seems to lose some steam. Things heat up again on "Boom Boom" (another hot rocker that features some great drumming). "Airliner" is moody and seems strangely out of place. "Stitched In Sin" is soft and subtle...kinda works but kinda doesn't...? The remainder of the album has its ups and downs. In the end, we couldn't really tell what the band was trying to achieve here. Some of the tracks are great while others seem like mere filler. Good...but not great... (Rating: 3++)

Zona Jones - Harleys & Horses (CD, D Records, Country)
Harleys & Horses has been a long time coming. Although Zona Jones began his career way back in 1993 in Beaumont, Texas, he is only now releasing his debut album. What separates Jones from most of his contemporaries is the fact that he plays traditional country music. The tunes on Harleys & Horses are definitely not the generic watered down country pop that is currently in fashion. With this album, Jones tips his hat to the original country superstars...most notably his favorite George Strait. Like the country artists of decades past, Jones is an interpreter of tunes written by others. The choice of material on this album is exceptional. Instead of covering familiar songs, Jones chose unusual and unknown tunes that haven't yet caught the attention of the masses. As such, Harleys & Horses spins like a best of collection. These thirteen tunes sound like top ten tunes you haven't yet heard. Killer cuts like "One Fool On a Stool (Green Snakes)," "Two Hearts," "I Said All This," "Now We're Even." (Rating: 5)

Joy Electric - The Ministry of Archers (CD, Tooth and Nail, Pop)
Ronnie Martin has been carrying the torch for analog synth pop longer...and with more integrity...than just about anyone we can think of. When he first started out, Martin was recording a style of music that was dated and very out-of-place in the world of music. Now many years later there are tons and tons and tons of artists playing analog synth pop. While his songs have gotten a bit more progressive over the years, Ronnie's music is still basic pop with extraordinarily hummable melodies and fantastic heady lyrics. We've been fans since the early days and have never been let down by anything this man has recorded. The Ministry of Archers fits comfortably in the Joy Electric catalog. The album is divided into three sections (The Archery Suite, Archery as Anomaly, Archery as Philosophy) and features ten puzzling pop tunes. At some point in the future, Martin will receive the mass recognition he so surely deserves. Until that time, his ever-growing devoted fan base will continue to absorb the fascinating hypnotic jewels he delivers... (Rating: 5+++)

Margot & The Nuclear So & So's - The Dust of Retreat (CD, Standard Recording Company, Progressive pop)
Is this the beginning of...urban Americana...? Although this might seem like a contradiction in terms, the folks in Margot & The Nuclear So & So's effectively combine the sounds of Americana with soft modern urban pop...and in doing so the people in the band create their own vision of thoughtful homegrown pop. These folks lace their soft pensive melodic tunes with inventive arrangements...sprinkling cello, trumpet, and piano in the mix. The end result is a surprisingly accessible sound that is easy on the ears while retaining artistic credibility. A nice solid album that gets better the more you spin it. Top picks: "A Sea Chanty of Sorts," "Quiet as a Mouse," "Dress Me Like a Clown," "Bookworm." (Rating: 5+)

Mi and L'au - Mi and L'au (CD, Young God, Soft moody pop)
Soft, sparse, reflective minimalistic pop. Mi and L'au originally had normal jobs and lived in Paris before eventually retreating to the woods of Finland. Now they spend their time in peace...getting to know one another better and tapping into their creative juices by making music together. This album sounds rather out of place in today's musical climate, and that just may be its greatest appeal. Mi and L'au write some absolutely beautiful, haunting tunes that feature slow gliding melodies. Produced by Michael Gira, these tracks have some wonderfully subtle arrangements that add real meat to the proceedings. If you want upbeat danceable music, you won't find it here. But if you're in the mood for some provocative, sensitive music...you will benefit greatly from this CD after a few spins. Top picks: "They Marry," "Older," "A Word In Your Belly," "New Born Child." Recommended for fans of Azure Ray. (Rating: 5)

Nightmares and Fairy Tales: Beautiful Beasts by Serena Valentino and FSc (Graphic novel, SLG Publishing)
Nightmares and Fairy Tales: Beautiful Beasts is a beautifully written and appropriately illustrated collection of modern fairy tales for adults (or very mature children). Using the first story of a young woman who buys a very odd antique doll (The Ghost and the Doll Shop) as a stepping stone, the authors then take off on several different tangents...presenting stories involving ghosts, violence, dreams, romance, and more. Not only is the writing well above average, but the illustrations are often surreal and quite unusual. In some cases the authors present different versions of classics (Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast) while in other instances they offer their own unique story lines (A Woman Possessed, Parts One and Two). These stories flow by effortlessly and feature some very unorthodox graphics. In addition to the chapters, some really neat bonuses are offered at the end of the book (a game, a paper doll, travel tags, pin-ups, and a script excerpt). Overall, an intriguing example of everything we like best about modern graphic novels... (Rating: 5++)

Paleo - Misery, Missouri (Independently released CD, Progressive pop)
Misery, Missouri is a uniquely satisfying experience...but possibly even more so when you consider the fact that this is the debut album from Dave Strackany (the man who calls himself Paleo). Rarely are debuts this mature and multi-faceted. Recorded using a single microphone during a two week stay in the Ozarks, Misery, Missouri presents tunes that range from serious to just slightly silly. Overall, the album sets a definite mood. Strackany's tunes are simultaneously confident and fragile, and his vocals are slightly reminiscent of The Flaming Lips. During the course of these fourteen tunes, it becomes obvious that this young man has a great deal more to offer than the average alternative songwriter. Intriguing tracks include "Houdini," "What Is Love?," "Next Train," and "Two by Half." (Rating: 5)

The Pale Pacific - Urgency (CD, SideCho, Soft pop)
Recorded in a cabin on Orcas Island (off the coast of Seattle), the fellows in The Pale Pacific created an album without the usual intrusions of life. Doing away with internet connections and cell phones allowed these gents to focus on the task at hand. Urgency is a soothing and mellow album. Recorded entirely on an analog 8-track tape machine, the album bleeds with personal integrity. But don't expect lo-fi indie pop...because these tracks have a professional thick sound that comes across better than most albums recorded in professional digital studios with dozens and dozens of tracks. Doing a lot with a little is a real challenge...but these guys succeed mainly because their songs are extraordinarily strong and effective. Dreamy compositions like "Sucker Punch," "Your Parent's House," and "Fall to Place" are exceedingly poignant and nice. Wonderful tunes, executed to perfection. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Pattern Is Movement - Stowaway (CD, NFI, Progressive pop)
So many bands are conveniently...and often incorrectly...dubbed as math rockers. The guys in Pattern Is Movement are the real thing. The band's odd tunes (peppered with peculiar rhythms and obtuse time signatures) immediately caught the attention of many reviewers (including us). The (Im)possibility of Longing, the band's first album, was a truly strange listener experience. Stowaway picks up where that album left off. The CD features twelve puzzling compositions that recall some of the more obtuse progressive British bands of the late 1970s (such as Henry Cow). The songs are much too involved and difficult for casual listeners. This band's music isn't really rock or pop...but rather a strange mutation of several musical styles. What is perhaps most surprising about this album is how smoothly it flows. In some ways, Stowaway reminds us of some of the more perplexing albums recorded by 10CC (particularly the vocals). This is the kind of band you either love or hate. Just as was the case with the first album, we are blown away. (Rating: 5+++)

Pong - Bubble City (CD, Realistic, Pop)
This band immediately caught our attention because it features former members of Ed Hall and Pocket Fishrmen (both babysue favorites from the 1990s). Those who are expecting fluorescent psychedelia or manic punk may be very surprised by Pong. The band's music sounds something like a cross between Kraftwerk and Primus...except way more poppy than either. After playing in bands that were praised by critics but largely ignored by music fans, the fellows in Pong may very well be in the mood for a larger audience. And Bubble City might just draw more folks, as the tunes are upbeat, catchy, and surprisingly accessible. Larry Strub and Lyman Hardy provide a nice, solid foundation (these guys are one killer rhythm section)...while Shane Shelton, Jason Craig, and Gary Chester add perpetually changing layers of goofy icing. Okay, so we can't help but admit that we long for the days when Ed Hall and Pocket Fishrmen had underground rock fans by clenched firmly by the balls...in this case we can adjust to the changes. Bubble City is a fun trip that doesn't require too much thought...while providing excellent danceable pop. Top picks: "Killer Lifestyle," "Interpol," "Click O.K.," and "After School Special." (Rating: 5)

Port Royal - Flares (CD, Resonant, Mostly instrumental)
Flares is a wonderfully inviting collection of instrumentals from the Genoa-based guitar collective named Port Royal. This 78 minute album encompasses a wide variety of sounds and styles...all intimately draped in atmospheric sound structures. The ten moody compositions are smoothly orchestrated with acute attention to detail. It took two years to record this album and the results were obviously well worth the effort. Slightly surreal and peculiar...the folks in Port Royal are creating modern mood music for a very small but receptive audience. Provocative cuts include "Jeka," "Karola Bloch," and "Stimmung." Intriguing. (Rating: 5+)

Rasputina - A Radical Recital (CD, Filthy Bonnet Co., Progressive pop/rock)
Rasputina was one of our top favorite acts from the 1990s. Melora Creager's sound, style, and approach was completely unique and unlike anything else we had ever heard. After three astoundingly clever albums that had fans and critics hypnotized (Thanks for the Ether, How We Quit the Forest, Cabin Fever) the band then released their first clunker (Frustration Plantation). It wasn't a bad album...but it just didn't live up to the admittedly high standards Melora had set for herself. With the release of A Radical Recital, Creager and company thankfully seem back on track. This is the band's first live album recorded on Halloween 2004 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The band is now officially a trio with the other two members being Zoe Keating (cello) and the Jonathon TeBeest (drums). Considering the fact that this performance consists of nothing but two cellos and a drummer, these folks sure manage to kick up some mighty big dust clouds. The band presents nineteen kickass tunes that seem to have the audience in a trance. Noticeably (and appropriately) absent from the set list is "Transylvanian Concubine." The folks in Rasputina now seem poised for a major comeback with their next studio album. If they can harness some of the energy heard in this performance, the next album could very well be their best ever. Thank God Melora Creager is back...sounding stronger and more focused than ever. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Rooftop Suicide Club - Always Like This (CD, Stop, Pop, and Roll, Pop)
The debut album from New Bedford, Massachusetts' Rooftop Suicide Club. The four gentlemen in this band play melodic guitar pop that is unusually smooth and accessible...recalling similar artists like The Gigolo Aunts and The Hang Ups. Their tunes are, in fact, so upbeat and positive that they may frighten some listeners away. You won't hear scorching lead guitars or walls of blaring feedback. Just groovy rhythms, great harmonies, and an overall upbeat vibe. This is a particularly good collection of tunes...but it is even more impressive when you consider the fact that this is the band's first (!) album. These folks have certainly built a solid foundation here. Kickass tunes include "The Bones That Keep Me Alive," "Plea For My Life," "Our Ride," "Arizona," and "If I Could Tell the Truth." Extremely catchy stuff. (Rating: 5+)

Wayne Scott - This Weary Way (CD, Full Light / King Easy, Country)
Darrell Scott is a lot like his dad...only more so. For the past 40 years or so his father Wayne Scott has been writing songs and playing in bands. In all that time, he never recorded an album of his own songs...until now. Now some may say, "Oh, that's real nice that Darrell was kind enough to do his dad a favor and help him record an album." That is true to be sure...but just as important is the fact that Wayne is actually a very mature and effective country singer/songwriter whose music stands up well on its own. This Weary Way features thirteen traditional country/pop tunes. Wayne wrote eight of the tunes on his own, co-wrote two others with son Darrell, and offers one cover tune (an appropriately credible live version of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues"). Wayne writes some really cool tunes that are not unlike Cash. His deep vocals and good melodic sense make his songs sound decidedly crisp and clear. Top picks: "It's the Whiskey That Eases the Pain," "This Weary Way," "In the Mountains," "What I Really Need is You." (Rating: 5)

Space Mtn - A Drawing of a Memory of a Photograph of You (CD, Night Light / Aeronaut, Pop)
An intriguing debut album from the band Space Mtn. The band is led by the duo of Dina Waxman and Chris Jacks. Waxman writes the tunes and Jacks assists with the recording and arrangements. The first thing that struck us about this album is how much commercial appeal it has. The second thing that struck us was the fact that commercial pop--if created in the proper manner--can be truly fantastic. Dina has one of the best voices around and her understated vocals are bathed in inventive and dynamic arrangements. A Drawing of a Memory of a Photograph of You is a puzzling album in many ways, not the least of which is the fact that it is difficult to determine exactly who the influences are. One thing is absolutely certain. These songs stick. Rather than offering throwaway tracks, these folks have come up with twelve tunes that just get better and better the more you hear them. Top picks: "The Bright Side," "Hovercraft," "Next Time," "So What," "Past Tense." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

The Sun - Blame It On The Youth (DVD album, Warner Bros., Rock/pop)
Blame It On The Youth is a really great album...although the way in which it is presented isn't. We can appreciate the fact that the guys in this band wanted to do something different for their first full-length album. They succeeded in terms of music. The guys in The Sun play tight, smart, melodic modern pop that is instantly likable. The problem is...that this is a DVD album. As such, each track is a schmaltzy music video (the type that appear on MTV). As such, watching fourteen music videos in a row by a single band is trying at best. Supposedly one can burn the audio tracks to one's computer...but we had no luck whatsoever in doing this. But because we like the music so much, we tried and tried to burn those audio tracks but with no luck. Our main question is...why couldn't the folks at Warner Bros. have made this a two-sided disc...with one side being a CD containing the audio tracks...? This would have made a lot more sense and would have made the music a lot easier to absorb. Taken as it is...this, the "world's first DVD album"...is a great album musically...but we would have preferred to have the music by itself. The music alone would have rated a "5+" or more...but because of the inconvenience factor, this one (unfortunately) gets knocked down to a "3"...too bad. But hey...maybe this will generate enough interest to warrant a regular issue of the album...? We sure hope so. (Rating: 3+++)

The Surf The Sundried - The Surf The Sundried (CD, Attacknine / Darla, Progressive pop)
The Surf The Sundried is the duo of Nick Huntington (Frescha, Canyon Country) and Emmett Kelly (The Cairo Gang, Charlemaignes). In terms of approach, this album reminds us of Brian Eno's Another Green World. The CD presents 23 tracks which go all over the place in terms of sounds and styles. Some of the tunes are soft pop, some are experimental pieces, some are peculiar folk, and others are just difficult to describe. One thing is certain, however. In recording this album, Huntington and Kelly's intent was not to make a lot of money. These two men were obviously guided purely by their own creative voices. Some pieces are sparse and subtle, while others are rather abrasive and noisy. You really never know what to expect from one song to the next. (Rating: 4++++)

3 Doors Down - Seventeen Days (CD, Universal, Shitty)
Shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty crap. They've always been shitty but this album is the worst. (Rating: 1)

Thee Shams - Sign the Line (CD, Shake It, Rock)
Loud, loose, wild, and hard. Unlike many rock bands, Thee Shams is the real thing. The folks in this band aren't jumping on any bandwagons and they're certainly not following any particular musical trends. It is always refreshing to hear a band whose main intent is to simply rock out and have a good time...and that's just what these folks are doing. Sign the Line features twelve killer rockers that sound not unlike very early Rolling Stones. The guys in this band leave all the rough edges in their recordings which gives their music real muscle. To put it simply, these guys are making some of the very best garage rock around. Mind numbing tracks include "Not Gonna Make It," "No Trust Fund Blues," "I Want You Back," and "Hallelujah." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

This Is A Process Of A Still Life - Light (CD, Firefly Sessions Recordings, Progressive/instrumental)
Progressive, majestic, and intricate. Light is the second full-length album from Missoula, Montana's This Is A Process Of A Still Life. The album is, for the most part, a very restrained and subtle collection of complex instrumentals. This band creates definite moods with their textured creations. All of the band members are tight and focused, which may help to explain how such subtle tunes can end up sounding so...powerful. Slightly jazzy and just the slightest bit peculiar, Light is a wonderfully effective album. Nine killer tracks, including "Horizon/Line," "Haunted By Waters," "Structured To Cut," and "Three Hours Between Planes." Wonderful stuff. (Rating: 5+)

Ticonderoga - The Heilig-Levine LP (CD, 54 40 or Fight!, Progressive pop/rock)
Raleigh's Ticonderoga is a trio whose music sounds like no one else. It may be hard to determine exactly why this is true...but it most certainly is a real fact. The follow-up to the band's highly acclaimed debut, The Heilig-Levine LP is cut from the same general fabric. Ticonderoga tunes have a somewhat loose sound, even though the songs are obviously crafted with meticulous attention to detail. By not trying too hard, these three men succeed where many others fail. Part of what makes the music so unusual is the way these fellows play their instruments. They simply don't use them in the same way that most people do. There are no familiar guitar riffs...no familiar sounding choruses...and no immediately identifiable song structures. In some ways, listening to this band play is like watching a very intricate painting being either created...or melting away in the rain. This thirteen track album is delightfully different and yet strangely familiar. Killer tunes include "Centipede," "Snakes," "Why Do You Suppose?," and "Country Mouse." Intelligent and provocative. (Rating: 5+++)

The Toms - The Toms (Double CD, Not Lame Recordings, Pop)
Second CD reissue of The Toms album that was originally released in the 1979 (with seven bonus tracks added)...plus a second CD featuring twelve previously unreleased tunes. We admit that until now we had never heard The Toms...but because the album is recommended by knowledgeable pop writers like John M. Borack and David Bash...we paid special attention. Spinning this disc, it is easy to see why so many folks were turned on by this band. The Toms presented shimmering upbeat happy pop music that is just bursting at the seams with good intent. Actually, The Toms was the one-man-band consisting of Tom Marolda...a young man who was playing everything himself way back before everyone else was. Marolda played with a confidence that makes his tunes flow by effortlessly...although obviously a great deal of hard work went into creating these tracks. More than any other artist, Marolda's music reminds us of Badfinger...except the overall mood is more consistently happy. Killer tunes include "Let's Be Friends Again," "Other Boys Do," "Better Than Anyone Else," "I Cannot Spot You," "Mixed Up Shook Up Girl," and "Supersong." Poignant and sincere stuff. (Rating: 5++)

The Used Butt Plugs - You Don't Know Where We've Been (CD/DVD set, K-tail, Progressive)
The music of The Used Butt Plugs sounds something like a cross between U2, Garth Brooks, Tiny Tim, The Stranglers, Lisa Marie Presley, and Ben Folds. The combination might sound intriguing...but it isn't. These folks are trying really hard to shock everyone but they fail miserably. This isn't creative nor is it funny nor is it unique. To put it in a word...this album...stinks. (Rating: 1)

Armin Van Buuren - Shivers (CD, Armada / Ultra, Dance/pop)
Armin Van Buuren's second full-length release. Shivers is a slick collection of modern dance pop with a heavy emphasis on technology. Recorded in Amsterdam, San Francisco, Miami, and New York...the album features ten tracks, eight of which feature guest artists Justine Suissa, Mic Burns, Martijn Hagens, Gabriel & Dresden, Ray Wilson, Nadia Ali, Remy & Roland Klinkenberg, and Jan Vayne. What is most appealing about Van Buuren's tunes is the way he layers ambient/trance sounds over his thick dance beats. The combination of the two not only induces dancing...but it is also rather euphoric and soothing. While Armin's music may be directly aimed at dance clubs, many of these tunes have remarkable commercial appeal as well. Top picks: "Wall of Sound," "Golddigger," "Gypsy," "Control Freak." (Rating: 4+++)

Alex Ward - Hapless Days (CD, Copepod, Progressive pop/rock)
Peculiar progressive pop with a skewed sound. Britain's Alex Ward writes and records what might best be described as difficult progressive pop. Instead of familiar sounding melodies and easy rhythms, Ward presents dissonant arrangements and spastic and unpredictable time signatures that challenge his listeners. His tunes sound something like a modern British Frank Zappa...except the vocals are very different. Ward is obviously creating music out of the pure love of doing so. Peculiar progressive tracks like "Member's Song," "Block," "Sounds Like Someone We Know," and "Echoes" obviously aren't going to be heating up the airwaves anytime soon. Alex is a true artist, following his internal music and creating whatever happens to come out at any given moment. Hapless Days is an odd spin, unpredictable for the most part, but ultimately fulfilling and rewarding... (Rating: 5)

Whip - Atheist Lovesongs to God (CD, Resonant, Folk/soft pop)
Whip is the solo project created by Jason Merritt, who is better known for his work with the band Timesbold. Whip was created as an outlet for material Merritt was writing that didn't seem suited for the band. Atheist Lovesongs to God is a cool collection of soft folky pop music in the same general vein as Canada's Hayden. The tunes are based around an acoustic guitar and feature simple, sparse arrangements. Jason's voice is well suited for this style of music. His deep understated vocals and intriguing lyrics easily draw the listener into his world. Unlike most underground artists, Merritt isn't struggling to sound peculiar and strange. Instead, this young man is simply following his inner voice...and letting his music take him wherever his soul chooses to go. Beautiful tracks like "One for Fire," "Reckless Goodness," and "Father" make this album a superb spin. (Rating: 5++)

Rebecca Zapen - Japanese Bathhouse (CD, KiraKira, Soft pop)
Florida's Rebecca Zapen has very little in common with the average underground folk and pop artist. Instead of writing and recording obtuse, difficult music...Zapen chooses to create beautifully flowing tunes that are surprisingly commercial and accessible. But if you're expecting music intended to make money on Japanese Bathhouse, think again. This articulately constructed collection of tunes is an almost purely artistic endeavor. Zapen reminds us in many ways of 1970s icon Mary Hopkin. Her light and airy music has a calming effect on listeners. Her vocals are subtle and amazingly professional...and they are lovingly caressed in some thoroughly creative and unusual arrangements. Delightful from start to finish, Japanese Bathhouse is top-notch in every way. Thirteen tracks here including "We Didn't Bother," "Dolores," "Shower #2," "Miss You," and "Your Voice." Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

The Zephyrs - Bright Yellow Flowers on a Dark Double Bed (CD, Acuarela, Progressive soft pop)
The fourth album from The Zephyrs. This Spanish trio makes absolutely lovely music. The tunes on Bright Yellow Flowers on a Dark Double Bed are thoughtful, subtle, soft pop compositions with real personality. The moody tunes are made even more effective due to the band's intricate arrangements. The Zephyrs are Marcus MacKay, David Nicol, and Stuart Nicol. But assisting on the record are several other musicians (Charles Clark, Eric Lindsay, Jenny Reeve, Nigel Baillie, Alan Barr, Malcolm Cochrane, Dave McGowan). This is a sense of yearning and longing in these tunes that recalls the softer side of Pink Floyd and even Dumptruck's For the Country album. Included with this disc is a lovely lyric booklet which features lots and lots of photos of bright yellow flowers. Beautifully majestic tunes include "Dancing Shoes," "Galicia," "What Voltage is the Moon," "Perfume," and "So Called Beau." Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Additional Items Received:

Agents of the Sun - Monarchs of a fallen society
The Alphabetical Order - The unimpeachable e.p.
Amestory - Amestory
The Amino Acids - Destroy the warming sun!
Angels of Light & Akron/Family - Akron/Family & Angels of Light
ASK - Feelin good is good enough
The Auto Body Experience - Forgotten lots
The Autumn Project - Fable
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Howl
Blindfold - Blindfold
Box of poems - Gemini
Wade O. Brown - All night, all love
C - Universum
Virgin Cain - Lights and darks
California Oranges - Souvenirs
Castanets - First light's freeze
Chevreuil - Sport
The Dials - Flex time
Diesto - Doomtown 7
Dimension Mix - Eenie Meenie Records
Dr. Israel - Inna city pressure
Dynamite Ham - I believe in you
Esthero - Wikkid lil grrrls
The Exit - The Exit EP
Exumbrella Records - Advertisement no. 1
Faunts - High expectations/low results
Frantic Mantis - Data is not information
Fruit of Choice - Vow
Gang of Four - Return the gift
Giant Drag - Hearts and unicorns
Glint - Glint
Great Lake Swimmers - Bodies and minds
Guapolinda - Barely much
Brent Gunter - Andalucia
Hill of Giants - Eureka
I Am the Avalanche - I Am the Avalanche
Immaculate Machine - Ones and zeros
Liz James & Create (!) - Liz James & Create (!)
The Jena Campaign - The Jena Campaign
Johnny Zoom Cheerlead Squad - 22 cigarette night
John Webster Johns - John Webster Johns
Jumpsuits - Regret
Kabang - Equilibrium
Hank Kim - Blue alibi
Nick Kizirnis - Into the loud
The Kootz - Tales from the endless bus tour of New Jersey
Kyle Lange - The daily effect of what remains
The Like - Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
Lilium - Short stories
Veronica Lipgloss & The Evil Eyes - The witch's dagger
Living Space - Secret lives, strange goodbyes
Living Things - Ahead of the lions
Lorena Drive - Romantic wealth
Machete Avenue - The first cuts
Mad Happy - Renegade geeks
Many Birthdays - Sub rapid exprses
Maquiladora - A house all on fire
Marah - If you didn't laugh you'd dry
Maypops - Spirits of agnew
Margaret McClure - Tears for Jack
Modular Set - Beached on the half landing
Jonosch Moldau - Redeemer
Monostereo - Evil awesome
Moonlight Towers - Like you were never there
Morning Star - The opposite is true
Morricone Youth - Silenzio violento
Mum - Yesterday was dramatic-today is ok
Jessie Murphy - Room alone
Native Unit - Native Unit
Never Lose That Feeling - Club SC30 presents: Volume one
Ninja High School - Young adults against suicide
Orgy - Trans global spectacle: 1997 to 2004
Paint By Numbers - Plastic
Pie - Our plastic destiny
The Pope - Jazzman cometh
Popstar Assassins - Moderne
The Post - In the event of tomorrow
Radiant Republic of Texas - Lightning always strikes something
The Reach Podcast - Episode One 8/3/05
Tim Reale - Story
Revenge Club - Shot myself in the foot
Ricky Lee Robinson - Mushu pork
Kitty Rose - Greatest hits
Will Sartain - The listening booth
Jeremy Scott - Finally unfinished
Secret Annexe - What is it about this place?
Self-Evident - Epistemology
The Shapes - The Shapes
Sicbay - Suspicious icons
Silent Dance - Matteo Casali, Grazia Loboccaro, Alessandro DeAngelis (graphic novel)
Simple Minds - Black & white 050505
Slab - Society as a friendly pusher
Smile Empty Soul - Anxiety
Street Angel - Jim Rugg, Brian Maruca (graphic novel)
The Strugglers - You win
The Supahip - Seize the world
Sytek & Davies - From the shadow of the citadel
Tah-Dahs - Le fun
Tiger Saw - Sing!
The Tom Collins - Daylight tonight
Traindodge - Torch EP + 2
The Transfer - Romantics & addicts
The Tremula - The Tremula
Two Year Touqe - The midi west
Unknown Instructors - The way things work
Vailcode - Vailcode
Valencia - This could be a possibility
Valina - Epode
Vampyre Bunnies - rockstar damage
Vaux - Beyond virtue, beond vice
Tom Vek - We have sound
The Very Foundation - Small reserves
Virginia Sisters - Last pathetic fool
Whiskey Daredevils - Greatest hits
A. Wilhelm - Scream ruiner
The Winter Set - Smoke break EP
Wooden Wand & The Vanishing Voice - Buck Dharma
Y.G. - Renegade

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