Saturday, March 30, 2013

Io Echo At The Ministry Of Love

Io Echo are a stunning duo from Los Angeles who have stumbled upon their (dare I say it,) parents record collection, fallen in love with it, and pilfered as many influences as they could from it. Labeled as an industrial tinged group their album, Ministry of Love is anything but. Instead they sounding more like a Creatures side-side project mixed with bucket loads of shoegazing sheets of noise. The result is something that has this early 90's feel to it and really has more in common with the sort of things that 4AD used to release than anything Einsturzende Neubauten has ever done.

With the vocals of Ioanna Gika sounding like Siouxsie lost within a seemingly endless fog and the reverbed and washed out guitars of Leopold Ross crashing together, the band create this ethereal world that they're obviously absorbed in. The whole thing sounds like a modern update of the Cocteau Twins in an invisible fight with The Heartthrobs, The Creatures, and even the Dum Dum Girls. Packed with loud, gauzy, and gorgeous soaring pop the record is all about being lost in its own little environment and not being able to find its way out. It's riveting stuff that's so rooted in the records I listened to in my 20's it scares me. This record hits home, it pulls at my heart and reminds me of all the cool sounds that blew me away when I was a kid. As if to illustrate that point "Stalemate," at times, sounds so much like The Heartthrobs, "Kiss Me When I'm Starving," it could very well be them circa 1992; it gave me goosebumps.

Ministry of Love is worthy of your heart. It's an amazingly emotional and pretty record that tugs at your ears and soul for 55 minutes. It soars toward heaven on the wings of an angel and is welcomed with open arms when it gets there. This is the sound of a dream you don't want to end. It's the sound of the greatest love. It's the sound of something awe inspiring. Ministry of Love's songs are beautiful and Ioanna & Leopold have truly created something magical here. This is without a doubt this one of the best records of 2013 and might just be my favorite record this year.

Redtenbacher Funkorchestra Are In The Cooker

The rather complicatedly named Redtenbacher Funkorchestra have created one the most seriously groovy funk records you are likely to hear this year with their latest album entitled The Cooker. To put it succinctly the thing is fifteen jazz funk greats played with such intensity and down home funktasticness that if you don't find yourself at least tapping along to the record you must be dead. Overflowing with jazzy vibes, funky grooves and late 70's atmospherics The Cooker is a scorching hot release that knows how to get the heck down.

Packed to the rims with awesome bass lines, guitar runs, and enough B3 organ workouts this the sort of record that shows just how good Redtenbacher Funkorchestra are at letting their musical imaginations get the best of them. Throw in some ridiculous horn work on top of that imagination and you have a record that's just on a whole different level than anyone else right now. These guys can play and play they do on The Cooker and they're so good that they even make Happy Birthday sound like the grooviest thing since polyester. The Cooker is filled with movement and action and the songs are swinging, catchy, and impossible to forget.

There's no denying The Cooker and with a name like that how would that even be possible. This thing rocks, rolls, but never loses its soul. It's the sort of album that's perfect for car chases with Starsky and Hutch or running through the Streets of San Francisco. It's filled with energy, grooves, and a musicality that's hard to ignore. This record had to be called The Cooker because what else could you call something that's filled with so much hot stuff?

Vandana Vishwas' Monologues

Vandana Vishwas is an Indo-Canadian artist who takes the best of traditional Indian influences and blends them with modern techniques in a gorgeous brew of sounds that are both hypnotizing and fascinating. Her album Monologues is the result of a collaboration between her and her husband and reflect the talents of both artists pretty well. It's an meditative, intimate, and beautiful record that uses instrumentation you know and instrumentation you do not to convey its free spirited yet firmly rooted songs.

Monologues is a record steeped in history and custom but unafraid to let other non-traditional sounds permeate it's songs. While sitars and tablas are pretty much the basis for most of the songs here, several songs utilize jazz-like arrangements to give the songs added depth and a modern feel. I found it fascinating and imaginative how the two different worlds mingle simultaneously and co-exist relatively well. Monologues is a record at peace and lost in ecstasy and after a couple of listens it's very easy to become lost in it's world as well. The songs on Monologues cast a spell over your ears with their subtle pace and ambiance. Vishwas' songwriting is as mesmerizing as her trembling voice and the way she's able to hold the listener in a trance is awesome.

Monologues is a great record whose strength lies in it's ability to take the ancient and modern and make them sound unique and fresh. The intertwining of the two influences give the album room to breathe and develop and allows it to be more accessible. This is a simple record that utilizes very few instruments or production techniques and Vandana Vishwas' ability to give it an authenticity and purity is refreshing.

Justin Ancheta Plant's Roots

Justin Ancheta is a busy guy. From being in four or five different groups that aren't his, writing socially aware songs, teaching and creating art, and recording records the guy probably doesn't have very much time to breath. Yet somehow this guy, who probably keeps 5 Hour Energy in business, single handedly has managed to release his own record under the name of Plant. Now, to say Plant is an interesting effort is to discredit it because you are not likely to hear another record like this one this year.

Taking the strange bedfellows of reggae and klezmer music and making them work together and sound good is an accomplishment in and of itself. The fact that Plant not only does that but throws in hip hop vibes and indie rock drama to the mix and you suddenly have one culturally and musically diverse affair. Plant is filled to the rim with a crazy combination of sounds that shouldn't work in any way shape or form but somehow Ancheta makes them functional and cool. He establishes awesome rhythms that are a perfect blend of his influences and just happen to have a clarinet of the klezmer variety sitting on top. It's really hard to describe effectively and it's something you truly have to hear to believe but Plant really is a very cool listen. The whole thing has political leanings and message driven songs but it's all wrapped up with this unique blend of tunes that are appealing and aurally mesmerizing...or should I say klezmerizing.

Plant is the sort of record that proves reggae's message of one love eleven times over. This is a globally influenced and aware record that has a message but knows that the music comes first. Ancheta's ability to mix all these sounds into something that makes sense is not only a reflection of his songwriting ability but his never ending workload and ethic. Say what you will but his constant on the go lifestyle has paid off here with these influences living together in musical harmony. Unusual but good, Plant is the sort of record I imagine John Zorn listening to while on vacation.

No Hay Banda Wow And Flutter

Danish dynamic duo No Hay Banda are a seductive synth group who are clearly in love with the classic sounds of the 80's and see no problem with bringing them into the 21st century by any means necessary. Their album Wow and Flutter is a lush experience that's by far some of the coolest music to come out of Denmark ever. With a darkly delicious palette of synthetic sounds, driving beats, and ditties that are depressingly danceable these guys are operating on a Teutonic dance floor straight out of the Cold War.

Wow and Flutter is an ultra cool record that takes Berlin's synthetic detachment and rams it into chillwave at high speed. The result is a record that's smoky and at times gauzy while finding itself lost in a hangover. Wow and Flutter is sexy and it's dark detachment is alluringly hypnotizing and comes complete with sirenesque vocals that could lure men to their doom. This is the sound of electronic seduction that wraps huge hooks around your ears, sucks you in and never lets go. They might only be a duo but No Hay Banda find a way to make this record that sound as if there were a 100 musicians assisting them. Synths wash over you, guitars crunch, beats sweep you off your feet and the vocals make you fall in love and there behind it all are just two people.

Wow and Flutter is impressive effort that very rarely falters. From the, "Riding on the Metro," vibe of, "Inventing A Machine," to the potential hit of, "Neurotica," Wow and Flutter is packed with stark, cool, and beautiful tunes that sound larger than life. No Hay Banda have done an excellent job here of channeling the ghosts of the past into something that's minimal, modern, and very very good.

Paperhaus Go Lo Hi Lo

Paperhaus are an interesting band simply because they seemingly pick a genre to work in and then record a record within that genre. A strange approach, I agree but it seems to work out for them. While their debut EP was an alt-country sort of affair, their latest EP Lo Hi Lo is well informed by their Smiths collection. Sounding alot like The Smiths at times, Lo Hi Lo is moody, jangly, and very easy to latch on to. The lead off track "All Through The Night," is the kind of song that would make Johnny Marr blush or Morrissey run out and get a lawyer if he should hear it. It's that good and it's kind of scary how they may have inadvertently out Smiths'd the Smiths.

Lo Hi Lo is moodily brilliant and while depressingly short at four songs they do make a rather deep impact rather quickly. If the dizzying Marr influences aren't enough then the second and third songs, "Helicopters," "Corazon," have even more of an 80's and 90's British pop influence running through them. With enough jangly riffs, gauzy feedback, dramatic vocals and a shyness that is criminally vulgar the songs hark back to much cooler time in music. Even the EP closer, "Twisted Tumble," has this vintage feel to it that harks back to a much better time. Lo Hi Lo is an impressive effort that makes you wonder why they even bothered with trying their hand at alt-country; it's so good it makes me want to force Paperhaus to record 100 more songs like these and never let them never utter the words alt-country ever again.

Joanna Borromeo's Kaleidscope Of Sounds

Another day another neo-soul singer. There are so many at this point I'm beginning to wonder if they're not grown in a vat somewhere and then released as older ones burn out. As the great pop conspiracy grinds on without us knowing about it, Canadian singer Joanna Borromeo is the latest artist to discover her parents old records and be influenced and guided by them. Her rather cool looking album Kaleidoscope is a jazzy, chilled and soulful record that's a bit more mature than many of her peers.

Joanna Borromeo is soulful for sure, but there's this jazzy undercurrent throughout each of her songs that kind of veer away from being R&B or neo-soul and kind of take her more into being a chanteuse of some sort. Kaleidoscope is the sort of record that would find a perfect home on a contemporary jazz station with it's horns, superb drumming, and stirring vocals. While she may be part of the whole neo-soul thing this girl clearly has aspirations to leave that behind and move into more "adult" territory. Borromeo can sing either genre pretty well, but the songs on Kaleidoscope tend to lend themselves to her more jazz inflected vocals and one can't help but wonder if that's where her heart lies. There's very little diva-tastic wailing to be heard. Instead there's deeply emotional lyrical play and even when she has fun on a song like, "Your Shoes," she still lets the jazzy influences shine through above and beyond the soul-funk.

Joanna Borromeo is far from a cliche neo-soul chick. Oh no, she's too powerful, to mature, and has songs that are stronger than steel to come from an assembly line. Borromeo is diverse and entertaining and while I'm not the biggest fan of the genre she's entertaining enough to make me want to listen to her sing.

Kitsune Returns to America

At this point, I'm not really sure why I even bother writing about Kitsune records. I mean seriously, they can do no wrong. Everything they put out is simply fantastic. Their latest compilation, Kitsune America 2 picks up where the first volume left off and continues to search under rocks, in clubs, and in bedrooms across the nation looking for the hottest electronic talent in the United States.

They find it here, there, and everywhere in between. In fact I'm sure they've found so much of it they could probably issue twenty volumes of this series and still not be done. Anyway, Kitsune America 2 is a brilliant mash up of styles and genres; chillwave, electro, and even indie are all well represented on this compilation. From Tidus' downtempo acid trip of, "Say It," to the Italo Disco flavored influences of, Alison Valentine's, "Circles and Triangles," and even the indie stomp of Papa's "Put Me To Work," Kitsune America 2 is another dose of perfection. I don't know how they manage to be so consistent, but they are and this record is proof of it. It's kind of ridiculous at this point that they so easily issue records of such great magnitude and grooves and have yet to let me down.

From electro to downtempo, indie rock to house Kitsune leaves no stones unturned when searching for talent or tunes. Kitsune America 2 is evidence of that and should reaffirm anyone's belief in America's ability to produce brilliantly blinding dance music that isn't from Skrillex. There is life outside of EDM and Dubstep and Kitsune America 2 is a tribute to the scene that hasn't forgotten there's a lot more to dance music that brutality. Kitsune America 2 is a masterful compilation and I can't wait to hear Kitsune America 3!

Kobo Town & John Brown's Body Welcome Spring

With the temperature outside being 80 degrees, I think it's fair to say that Spring (or Pre-summer) has officially sprung. That can only mean one thing...dreams of spring break and summer vacation! And what goes better with vacations, holidays, and island getaways than a slew of new tropically influenced records. It's that time of the year for music as well...the market is about to be flooded with all kinds of reggae, soca, dancehall and island jams. Well, as fate would have it two such records have just shown up on my's as if it was planned! Going by the rather unusual names of Kobo Town and John Brown's Body, neither of these band are actually from the Caribbean but both their albums sound like they were recorded there and have a very authentic feel to them.

Kobo Town's Jumble In The Jukebox comes to us from that hot bed of island getaways...Canada! Yes, Canada. Despite the mandatory rolling of the eyes and all that goes along with that, Kobo Town actually create some rather amazing calypso. Seriously. I'm talking like Harry Belafonte like calypso. The record is packed with songs that are optimistic, energetic and upbeat while maintaining a level of intelligence about them. Kobo Town is rooted in activism and politics but cover it all with sunshine and love. Jumble In The Jukebox is the melding of island influences and modern musical techniques that sound authentic despite being uniquely Canadian. If anything, Jumble In The Jukebox illustrates the influence and prevalence of island music in the world. I thoroughly enjoyed this record; it's lighthearted feel and intelligence made it an absolute joy to jump in line with.

Just down the pike from Canada in that other hot bed of reggae music, Boston, comes John Brown's Body. This Bostonian band has one of the more unusual names for a reggae group and in fact actually don't have a member named John nor do they possess his body. That being said, their album Kings And Queens is a delightfully good straight ahead reggae record. Kings And Queens is incredibly catchy and summery which if you live in Boston in March is probably a good thing. All joking aside, the musicianship is top notch and the horn section is on fire throughout this record. In fact, I'm willing to say that the horns on Kings And Queens is what makes this album worthy of repeated listening; they totally give John Brown's Body another dimension. As if to prove that point the last tune on the record, "Searchlight," is a genuine pop hit that has vacation written all over it.

So, now that you have your bags packed and your flight booked pick up these albums, slather yourself in sun tan lotion and enjoy your vacation. Be sure to send the bands photos of said vacation because after's still winter up in Boston and Canada!

Hills Like Elephants Are Unique

I'm not exactly sure how hills can be like elephants, but for a band name Hills Like Elephants is among the more interesting ones I've heard in a while. The name has a certain late 80's, early 90's feel to it (think Echo & The Bunnymen) and so does the band's sound. They're an interesting combination of soulful songs, falsetto vocals, and classic alternative structures. They describe themselves as Motown with drum machines and while it's hard to find that on their album Feral Flocks I can see what they're trying to get at.

Feral Flocks sounds cool; it's unusual and doesn't sound like anything else right now. It's got this kind of early U2 vibe pulsating through it and at times vocalist Sean Davenport almost channels the soul of Bono into his voice. If you throw that stuff into the musical pot next to this ethereal indie dance thing they try to create you might understand where Hills Like Elephants are coming from. It's hard to describe and, honestly, Feral Flocks isn't the easiest record to get into. While it's hooks are fairly obvious and well structured I suspect most people would have issues with Davenport's vocals. They're just so, err, out there and un-indie rock that it's probably off-putting to your average hipster. Given time, however, Davenport's croon wins you over. You kind of have to think of Hills Like Elephants as an American blue-eyed soul group that's lost in their Style Council record collection; once you let that settle in Feral Flocks becomes rather enjoyable.

There aren't a lot of bands like Hills Like Elephants in the States. Their ability to take late 80's British pop mix it with an overabundance of soulful singing and get tolerable results. But much like Weller did with the Style Council, they manage to make it work. Spending time with Feral Flocks is essential; the more you spend with it the more you'll find yourself liking it and the more it grows on you. Hills Like Elephants clearly know how to write a good song, it's just getting used to their approach that takes some time.

Birds and Arrows and Coyotes

Birds and Arrows are a Chapel Hill/Durham NC trio that play folk music. They are rustic, backwoods, folksy and truth be told rather boring. Their latest album Coyotes is a pastoral, quiet, strummy thing that has absolutely no verve to it. It's three people, acoustic instruments, some songs and that's it.

I'm not a fan of this genre at all and Coyotes made me want to howl like one as I begged for mercy. I wanted to like this record because the first tune, "Firefly," was actually pretty decent in a bedraggled lovelorn ballad kind of way. I thought to myself, "Hmm...there's actually some potential here." Then by the third song I was done. When, "The Rest Of Your Life," started and seemed to just be a girl and something being strummed in an altogether too earnest manner I had difficulty listening to the record. I'm sorry, I think I'm too hyper for music like's just so slow and so meandering and so serious that it gets annoying.

Folk to me is like being behind the guy who does 45 mph in the fast lane of the interstate. Slow, annoying and mind-numbing. It stresses me out and I need to listen to something like Morbid Angel to reaffirm my belief in music. Life is miserable, we get it and we've all had our hearts broken...I just don't want to get mired down by it and wallow in it. Just move on. Please. Heck even the kings of mope, The Smiths, had a sense of humour.

Kaleidoscope Jukebox's Infinite Reflection

Another Friday and another perfectly well timed album of globally groovy chill out. Its that time of the week when I'm overwhelmed, stressed out and ready to go home but thanks to Kaleidoscope Jukebox's album Infinite Reflection I think I'll be able to make it to 5:30. Thanks to the lushness and diversity of sounds on Infinite Reflection my tension is driven away and I'm allowed to get lost in it's ethnic influences and downtempo grooves .

Kaleidoscope Jukebox has created a world in which deep bass, sitars, percussion, stringed instruments, crisp beats all mingle together in harmony. Creating lush soundscapes and imaginative arrangements, Kaleidoscope Jukebox shifts genres and influences at the flick of a switch. It's pretty awesome the way that it's done and very cleverly carried out. One minute you'll be lost in India then the next in a gypsy like environment from the Balkans. Infinite Reflection is all over the place but so well put together that it all flows into one giant...err...infinite reflection.

Meditative, opulent, and varied in its approach, Infinite Reflection never gets lost in it's own trance like state. Kaleidoscope Jukebox not only knows how use it's palette of sound wisely it also knows that having a song sculpted around that palette is important. Infinite Reflection is catchy, deep, and endlessly fascinating and the sort of thing that's easy to listen to repeatedly no matter the day of the week.

David Starfire Ascends

David Starfire's Ascend is a wolf in a sheep's clothing. Disguised as a world music record with references to Bhangra and reggae Ascend buries what this record is all about deep within it. The first four songs of this album seem to hint at a Bhangra chill out record with global grooves permeating throughout the songs. It's all very chilled coolness and then it happens...

The bottom drops out. Somewhere around the fourth song Ascend turns into this face melting dubstep record. It leaves the chilled out vibes of the first three songs in the dust and turns into this brutal beatastic excursion into the darker recesses of electronica. It's almost as if David Starfire simply tuned on a switch and boom went the dynamite. It's a pretty drastic shift in dynamics that would probably scare the bejesus out of anyone who thought this was an Indian influenced chill out record. That being said Ascend is pretty awesome. I love both aspects of this effort...the global chill and the brutal bass. It's a slap across the face when it happens but it hurts so good and sounds ridiculously powerful.

Starfire clearly is comfortable in any situation and this record proves it. His ability to layer hip hop, dubstep, electro, Bhangra and even reggae all with in a song is impressive. He can rip your head clean off with a brutal bassline but still make the song catchy enough to linger within your skull for days. "House of Bhangra," and "Knight Riddum," are perfect examples of this as the tunes are absolutely blinding and still capable of dance floor destruction.

Ascend is an impressive, cleverly disguised record that lulls you into a false sense of chilled security before it pulls the rug out from under you. While I'm not normally a huge fan of dubstep, I thoroughly enjoyed David Starfires globally influenced grooves. This is one dubstep record worthy of your attention even if you hate the genre.

Cherie Lily Works Out Til Dripping Wet

Cherie Lily is a fitness instructor who takes her art, or exercise, so seriously she writes her own music for her work outs. It's a bit unusual to say the least but it explains why she's wearing a leotard on the cover of her EP, Dripping Wet. That aside, I'm sure the question you are undoubtedly asking, "That's great but is it any good?" Well, that's a good question and when you think about what these songs are probably used for...yes. If you think of it as straight ahead dance music well then it's as cliche as it comes and the whole thing reeks of something straight out of an American Apparel assembly line.

Dance music in work outs is supposed to motivate, energize, and pump you up and Dripping Wet does exactly that. It's all high energy stuff with pounding beats, motivational lyrics (albeit in a sexual way), and hooks that would seem to be totally in sync with some sort of exercise class. It's not bad for what it is...stereotypical dance music. But that being's just packed to the brim with cliche's. Let's see...Sexy girl in leotard, check, picture of cleavage on the cover, check, the name Dripping Wet, a sound similar to a modernized C&C Music Factory, check, high energy fist pumping beats with build ups that are straight out of dance music 101, check. It's all here and as a stand alone dance music single it's hard to not to listen to this record with a grain of salt. I mean for the love of God, there's songs called, "Lotion," and "Get Sweaty." Yikes. Now, in the context of something to do the Insanity program to, this is PERFECT. I mean the song, "Total Body Workout," is so motivational it'll make your muscles sore from just listening to it.

Cherie Lily is undoubtedly talented; from exercise to choreography, writing music and rocking the dance floor Cherie has seemingly got it all covered. While Dripping Wet is a mixed bag from a pure dance music perspective her ability to motivate and create music to get healthy to is awesome. I enjoyed Dripping Wet. It is what it is and it makes no bones about it and you can't hate something for at least being honest. If you're looking for motivation and pumping beats next time you want to work out...pop this record on and you'll be Dripping Wet.

We Are Loud Whispers Overcome Suchness

We Are Loud Whispers are the latest dynamic duo to emerge out of nowhere but unlike most, the members of this band haven't actually laid eyes on each other in over five years. Putting together songs in a Postal Service kind of way, We Are Loud Whispers pieced together their album Suchness through email. With one member in Seattle and one member in Honshu there were a few barriers to overcome like an ocean, occasional language issues, and the inability to physically play together but somehow, some way they overcame all that and created something magical.

Slightly twee and altogether delicate, Suchness is a gentle, meandering record that unobtrusively makes it's way through ten songs without raising it's voice once. Instead , Suchness is a dreamy and sleepy record that sounds like it's been stuck waking up and stretching for months. Slightly ethereal and minimal in it's construction, Sonya & Haitani weave this very fragile tapestry that's held together by Sonya's whispers and Haitani's gentle strums and washes. Using bare electronics and gently played riffs the whole album sounds like it could shatter into a million pieces if Sonya raised her voice or hit a high note. It's really all in their name if you think about it...they are indeed loud whispers.

Suchness is a hug-able record that's the very definition of twee pop cool. One listen to, "Western Town," confirms this; with it's horns, broken beats, adorable hooks and Sonya's sighs the song is simply almost to much for your heart to handle. Emotionally charged, but woozily motivated We Are Loud Whispers are lost in the miasma of indie pop, synth pop, and a catatonic state. Despite what you might think, it works for them as Suchness is dreamily perfect and the sort of thing that's near unforgettable.

Lapalux Gets Nostalchic

Lapalux is the name of a British producer who was raised in rural Essex and while the only way may be Essex for some, Lapalux sought a way to escape and so he turned to music. Under this guise Stuart Howard embraced technology with a lean toward the atmospheric as a means of moving on and escaping his surroundings. His album Nostalchic is kind of a clever play on words that hints at where Lapalux has been and where he hopes to go; moving forward by looking at the past.

Nostalchic is a great record of minimal beats, opulent synths, and atmospheric hazes that create a chilled, pastoral soundscape that's about as far away from Essex as Lapalux could ever hope to be. Sounding more like something the Curiosity picked up on a sonoscope on Mars, Nostalchic has this archaic simplistic spacial feel to it that seems to move through your soul. It's a texturally rich record that, dare I say it, hints at a sense of comforting nostalgia while maintaining this futuristic and otherworldly space vibe to it. Call it chillwave, near-ambient, whatever you want it's glitchy brilliance can handle it and expound upon it.

Lapalux has created a world in which to get lost in with Nostalchic. It's minimalism, ambient textures, and hazy style is easy on the ears and rich for the imagination. While there's no standout single per-se, the album taken as a whole is a rich audio experience that's pastoral, futuristic, and electronically pervasive. If the Only Way Is Essex then it seems as though Lapalux how's found his way out and is headed to space with Nostalchic in hand.

Plena Libre's Corazon

Plena Libre are a high energy group of Puerto Rican's that helped bring their roots and music of their home island to the global stage. Through the mixing of native, Caribbean, and Latin influences this group creates a diverse sound that jumps between genre's like planes hop between islands. From meringue to songo and even Latin jazz and rock the band clearly is open minded to anything that enriches their sound. Their latest album Corazon see's this diversity placed center stage as the album takes the rhythmic core of Puerto Rican music and mixes it together with a seemingly limitless palette of sounds and textures.

Corazon is very rhythmic oriented and features a high degree of movement throughout each of the nine songs featured. This is a record that refuses to sit still and clearly loves the sound of the drum, conga, and other forms of percussion. It's fairly obvious about midway through the record that Plena Libra readily emphasize the drum with attention paid to influences outside of Puerto Rico. They're very skilled at this as the album segues flawlessly through sounds and outside influences and rolls in and out like the tide. The record's dynamics are enjoyable and they do a good job all around as much of Corazon is upbeat and danceable with the percussion leading the way.

I thoroughly enjoyed Corazon. It reminded me of being back home in Miami and anything that does that is a winner in my book. This is the sound of the Caribbean and while it might be from Puerto Rico you can pick out the diverse influences and where they came from without much effort. Corazon is the sound of history, tradition, and fun all wrapped up into one awesome record.

Shannon And The Clams Dream In The Rat House

If we are in the middle of a 90's reunion clearly someone forgot to tell Shannon and the Clams. You see Shannon and her Clams are firmly entrenched in recording as if it were 1962. This is a three piece group that so fully embraces early rock and roll that you'd swear these guys were well into their 70's and somehow stumbled upon a record label to record them. Clearly in their 20's, however, Shannon and the Clams are obviously in love with the pure, simple sounds of early rock and roll and their album Dreams In The Rat House is a living tribute to it.

Much like the Pipettes, Shannon and the Clams are far from a novelty act; these guys have legitimately good songs and enough pop sensibility to write tunes that bear hug you with hooks. This is modern day doo wop and the sort of thing that would probably make their grand-parents proud of. Dreams In The Rat House isn't the sound of rebellion or angst but pure unadulterated fun and is seemingly from a time when rock and roll was subversive and new. Dreams In The Rat House is an awesome record that's the perfect blend of garage rock rawness, doo wop love songs, and swoony pop in a sugary rush of un-coolness.

Raw, under produced and ridiculously authentic sounding, Dreams In The Rat House channels it's inner Ricky Nelson perfectly. I love this record, it's simplicity, purity and goodness is simply irresistible. I wish more bands would discover the classic goodness of early rock and roll like Shannon and the Clams have and embrace a time when music was fresh and fun. It was a brilliant time of discovery, creativity, and honesty...something that the music industry and music in general is lacking today.

Mudhoney Fly Past Vanishing Point

If there's one thing Sub Pop records is known for it's grunge. They practically invented the genre, they definitely curated it, and then they broke it mainstream with good ol' Nirvana. One of the lasting legacies of that whole movement were and still are Mudhoney. These guys have been cranking out the garage rock jams for well over twenty years and amazingly they're still at it. While they might be wearing flannel now to keep warm as opposed to looking cool, they still are able to write amazingly heavy, yet catchy indie rock and one listen to Vanishing Point will not only reaffirm your faith in their ability but the genre of grunge as well.

Vanishing Point is awesome stuff; it's raw, punky, thrashy, heavy and still remarkably catchy. With choppy riffs from broken guitars, screamed vocals, bashed drums, bluesy breakdowns, metal freakouts, and a lot of disheveled chaos Mudhoney beat the living heck out of their instruments here to create songs. Short, sweet and to the point Vanishing Point doesn't even remotely hint at the fact that the band has been doing this for over two decades. In fact, Mudhoney don't sound a day over five on this record. It's so pure and so good you'd swear this thing was recorded and released somewhere around 1991 when Mudhoney were at the height of their career.

These guys clearly still have the knack for indie rock and it's a joy to hear. Vanishing Point is proper grunge from a proper grunge band hell bent on proving there's no need for a post-grunge revival when the original masters are still kicking around. (How many times can I use the word grunge in one sentence?) I love this record; it's a constant reminder of why I loved Sub Pop back in my early 20's...the bands were heavy, cool, and loved metal as much as punk and smashed it altogether with reckless abandon. If the 90's are indeed back...then here, ladies and gentlemen are your elder statesmen.

Fetsum And The Colours Of Hope

Urban folk singer, Fetsum is a troubadour who creates soul inflected intimate music that mixes reggae, R&B, and acoustic music together into a quiet introspective brew that's half quiet storm half folk journey. His album The Colours of Hope is a diverse recording that probably has more in common with someone like Jeffrey Osborne or Al Jareau then someone from the modern folk scene. That being said, it's pretty obvious that this is not your usual folk record.

The Colours of Hope is an up close affair that as the title states is hopeful, optimistic, and positive. Fetsum is a soulful singer and he wears his passions and emotion on his sleeves. As a result, The Colours of Hope is a pretty chilled out record that features some nice acoustic work and non-standard instrumentation delivered with a lot of heart. While this record might not have a "hit," amongst the nine songs that make it up, the record is gripping and engrossing none-the less.

The Colours of Hope might not be the sort of record you run home to listen to repeatedly, but it is a record well worth your time. Fetsum's intimacy, honesty, and optimism is highly respectable. Hovering outside of the norm, Fetsum demonstrates he is a fantastic songwriter who's found a comfortable niche utilizing non-standard influences and sounds to create a folk record that non-folkies like me can at least listen to.

Elements Of Life Eclipses Expectations

When one thinks of Louie Vega one cannot but help to think of house music and Masters At Work. This legendary producer practically created, defined and popularized house music throughout much of the 80's and 90's. Now Little Louie has come up with another idea that goes by the name of Elements of Life. This live orchestrated group creates a energetic fusion of global sounds that's as diverse as Vega's hometown of New York City.

Elements of Life's new album Eclipse took four and a half years to create and features elements and sounds of Afrobeat, jazz, Latin, R&B, Gospel, and of course house. The record also blends the occasional spoken word passage into the mix creating a completely fascinating vibe that hovers between coffee house cool and a jumpin' jazz club. Eclipse is an awesome record of diversity, brilliant arrangements and features a band that can play the heck out of anything put in front of it. With members coming from all over and allowing their influences and ideas to flourish within the Elements of Life, Louie Vega and his band have created a vibrant exciting group that is filled with so much creativity and vivacity it's stunning.

With soulful, intelligent lyrics and enthusiastic musicians Eclipse is full of musical surprises and never ceases to entertain. This is the sound of the world and it's themes of inspiration and hope are universal and far reaching. Little Louie Vega may be a legend on the dance floor but he's clearly making another name for himself with Elements of Life and Eclipse is proof of that. In fact, this is the sound of a true Master At Work.

Chic Gamine Get Closer

The strangely named Chic Gamine showed up on my desk with their rather cryptically titled album Closer. Now, I say cryptically because there was really no other information to go along with their record except a blurb about this band and how the French say things much better than the rest of us. That's it. What does it all mean? I have no idea, but what I do know is that Chic Gamine are a bit of a neo-soul group that utilize mutli-part harmonies, French lyrics, and a bit of a throwback sound that strangely ends up sounding modern.

Closer isn't fantastic but it's not a bad record per se. It's just a bit too modern R&B influenced for my taste and at times almost reminds me of something like a less produced version of the legendary En Vogue or TLC or something like that. While those influences are quite prevalent throughout Closer, the whole thing ends up sounding like a modern pop record with some alternative influences and even a few songs sung in French. You can see why it's not a bad record. Packed with soaring diva-like vocals, crisp beats, and some acoustic instrumentation it really sounds like something that Amy Winehouse could have produced after a bender just not quite as cool. Chic Gamine have some intriguing ideas and have come up with something completely listenable...but I didn't find it completely likable; it was just a little too middle of road for me.

If you like your modern R&B with hints of nostalgia and bits of non-standard soul music then Chic Gamine will impress you. Closer fits perfectly into the soul-revival/neo-soul category rather neatly despite being rooted in 90's R&B. They've got it all going for them in those categories, unfortunately, it all sounds a bit same-ish to me.

Southern Child & Parallel Thought Go Artillery Splurgin

The words atmospheric and hip-hop are two words that aren't usually associated with one another. Let's face it, it just doesn't seem to make sense, but to Gene the Southern Child and Parallel Thought it does and in fact they've made a whole album that's based on that very idea. Going by the name Artillery Splurgin' it's the sort of thing that raises all kinds of musical questions. While your first impression of this more than likely will be, "How can this possibly work?" when it does you'll be left shaking your head at just how genius it really is.

With stark beats, minimal production, even moments of cool jazz Artillery Splurgin' comes straight out of left field and leaves you speechless with just how weirdly cool this all sounds. If hip-hop could be downtempo and downtrodden then that's what Artillery Splurgin' would be; this is slow moving, dark, dreary, and depressing stuff. Artillery Splurgin' , of course, is angry, violent, and threatening to go off the handle in a moments notice but when you ad these dark musical clouds of doom to these strange atmospherics it all becomes so depressing and un-cliche. Parallel Thought and Gene the Southern Child have shot forth a crazy idea that wound up being an awesome record that's so stark, so gloomy, and so good.

With rolling beats, flowing lyrics that hit right between the eyes and atmospherics that make Artillery Splurgin' seem post apocalyptic there's a lot to like about this album. Far from the norm or boring, Parallel Though continues to offer his listeners cutting edge hip hop that no one else is doing. Artillery Splurgin' is great because it's what hip hop needs to stay vital...filled with fascinating music from artists that push the boundaries and do things from completely different angles than the mainstream.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

MopMop Are From An Isle Of Magic

MopMop are an intriguing bunch made up of approximately 7,983,974 musicians. Together this band of musical rogues create an African inflected jazzy affair that's groovy and chilled to perfection. Their album Isle of Magic is a gorgeous record that has so many kinds of instrumentation and so many styles at play here the whole thing is somewhere south of mesmerizing. MopMop are an impressive unit and their ability to take so many global influences and sounds and shape them into cohesive and brilliantly played songs is something that just has to be heard to be believed.

Songs like, "Kamakumba," are simply amazing. The Afro-Caribbean influences shine as bright as tropical sunshine and the steel drums mixed with horns and jazzy vibes create an atmosphere of coolness that sets a tone for all of Isle of Magic. At times tropically chilled and at others sounding like a Gil Scot Heron record, Isle of Magic is a diverse journey that is filled with musical wonderment. The fact that this record was actually created in the middle of Western Europe is mind boggling because no element of Isle of Magic even begins to hint at that. The whole thing just goes to show how awesome MopMop are as a group and how globally influenced these guys seem to be.

Isle of Magic is a fantastic jazzy world record that is so all over the place and steered by so many things you'll need a map to find your way through it. That's okay though because MopMop want you to savor the journey and enjoy all thirteen stops along the way. From tribal beats to steel drums and from xylophones to saxophones it's all here on MopMop's Isle of Magic and it never ceases to impress. It's so good that Isle of Magic is one island you wouldn't mind being stranded on for an eternity.

Hip Hop Goes Global With Khat Thaleth a day and age where American hip hop is all glitz and bling and has lost it's political edge along comes Stronghold Sound to bring us Khat Thaleth to remind us that hip hop has global reach. Straight out of the Middle East, Khat Thaleth is cutting edge political commentary that sees artists picking microphones and beats as their weapon of choice. This is intelligent stuff that's frustrated and angry and leaves no stone unturned in it's rolling dialogue of political commentary. This 23 track compilation covers a wide spectrum of a diverse areas including Palestine, Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon and current political hotbed's Egypt & Syria.

It's impressive to know that this underground movement has spread so deep and so far that even people in the most dire situations see it as a form of expression. These are artists that have true street credibility and are living a life that most hip hop stars could never dream of. This is music from war zones, from totally destroyed towns, from parts of the world where music like this could result in death. Kind of makes Pitbull's club rap seem insignificant doesn't it?

While the production might not be the best on these tracks the purity and emotional outpourings contained on this disc more than make up for it. This is the sound of struggle and everything that goes along with it and no matter where you are or your political affiliation this is something that should be heard. This is the sound of the victims of political chaos and it's intense to hear their frustration and fear. For a musical form that seems to be stagnating here at home Khat Thaleth has put the honesty and anger back into it and shown that true nature of the form is globally aware and thriving in places you'd never expect it.

Alice Russell's To Dust

Ever since Amy Winehouse left her jazzy roots behind and found her inner soul diva, the British music scene has been absolutely flooded with proper soul revivalists. This ever growing number of artists has taken the purity of the classic Northern Soul sound and added modern flourishes to it. Among those doing just that is Alice Russell. Her album To Dust is a retro fueled trip back to the past brought bang up to date with stunning production.

Russell can clearly sing the dickens out of anything placed in front of her; she's got this gorgeous near Aretha Franklin like vocal style that's just about perfect. She doesn't wail but she does let her emotions influence her and mixes in blues so effortlessly that the end results are impressive. When you take all of that and mix it in to the rest of the record the results are a constant source of goosebumps. To Dust has a modern R&B vibe to it thanks to the crisp beats but it's Russell's back to the past vocals that really make this record pop. She just makes everything sound nearly tragic and emotionally draining and that's what proper soul is all about. One listen to "Heartbreaker," and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about it; she is one heck of a blues inflected classic soul singer that lets it all hang out on every note.

To Dust is a powerful effort and sees Russell making leaps and jumps from her Pot Of Gold album. To Dust so easily mixes modern with vintage and blues with soul that it's a constant source of fascination. Russell has come up with an impressive set of songs here that are well written and produced and sound like a million bucks (the organ led tracks are awesome). There might be a zillion soul-revivalists out there but only a few rise above the rest and Alice Russell is one of those select few that are heads and shoulders above everyone else.

SLV Digs Deeper

Sandra Lilia Velasquez better known as part of the critically acclaimed band Pistolera has stepped out on her own. Known as SLV for solo purposes, Sandra has just released her debut solo EP, Dig Deeper. In being true to the EP's title that's exactly what Sandra's done; she's dug deep and come up with a huge leap forward for her as an artist.

Dig Deeper is a three song record that mixes English and Spanish and rather than Latin music seems to find more in common with a worldly jazz groove. This of course could be due to the production hand of Meshell Ndegeocello, but regardless the songs are mature, jazzy and sound fresh and modern. It's a nice step forward for Sandra and it will be interesting to see how these songs and Meshell's guiding hand will influence her the other way when Pistolera resumes. Until then though, Dig Deeper and enjoy the birth of Sandra Lilia Velasquez as a burgeoning solo artist.

Moxi Is Lost In Dreams

Singer Songwriter Moxi isn't exactly as cliche as you might think and that alone takes a lot of moxie. Her latest single In My Dreams is a slightly gauzy and hypnotic record that actually sounds like it was recorded in a dream. With lush instrumentation, sounds that caress and flow over you and Moxi's rather seductive voice In My Dreams is more like sophisticated chill wave than anything with a hint of singer songwriter in it.

At times sounding like Feist, Chan Marshall, Delores O'Riordan or even Siouxsie Sioux at one point it becomes pretty obvious that the girl sing in a variety of ways. She's got a diverse set of pipes and a diverse set of songs for those pipes to play in and that's exactly what she does on this record; she sets her voice free. In My Dreams is good stuff that caught me off guard because I was thinking she was just another girl with a guitar. Instead she's dramatic and dreamy and her songs are easy to get lost in. It's an impressive effort all around and the fifth song, "Mystery," is worth the price of the single alone.

Kiven Head Back To 1840

Kiven's single 1840 is a masterclass in writing technically gorgeous soaring pop that is instantly memorable. Sounding something like a Jealous Sound post emo sort of band mixed with the heavenly aspirations of someone like Coldplay these guys clearly know how to write a big song without actually being big. 1840 is like stadium pop for your living room.

The three songs here, "Home & Smoke," "The Blur," and "Forward," are all massive emotionally charged tunes that take off like an A380 at dusk. Soaring skyward at speed the songs are nearly ethereal, very well played and filled with enough vocal hooks to brainwash you. The stuff just sounds ridiculously good and is played even better. It's always awesome when a band can successfully blend challenging music with a pop sensibility. It's a joy to listen to and that's what 1840 is pure joy.

DJ Sun's One Hundred

Oh Friday...thank the Lord you are here. Sometimes the day is so bad you just need to decompress while you're waiting for 5:30 to roll around. It can feel like an eternity but thanks to DJ Sun, that decompression is served chilled with a slice of hypnotic on the side; let the clock watching begin. His album One Hundred is the perfect Friday soundtrack for a busy day at the office; it's pure escapism that's a slice of Saturday a day or two early.

Taking you on a near spiritual journey DJ Sun rolls out the chilled, downtempo vibes like a red carpet inviting your mind and ears to flow with the music. Utilizing lots of jazzy chilled house vibes, lush trip hop, and the occasional vocal number One Hundred moseys along it's peaceful path seemingly without a care in the world. It's a relaxing trip that melts tension away and clears your mind of stress and quite honestly on a Friday like today, that's exactly what I'm looking for.

One Hundred is all original material and DJ Suns songwriting skills are pretty solid. His ability to craft an atmospheric musical world in which we can lost in is awesome. The guy has perfected the art of Chill and One Hundred is the pinnacle of his abilities. I enjoyed this record while dealing with a gazillion things to do. It allowed me to concentrate, de-stress, and get things done...and by Friday at 5:30 that's what I want. Perfect for your home or your cube...One Hundred is well worth your time.

Good Field Are Unassumingly Good

Good Field are one of those bands that just happened to send me their record sight unseen without any information. So outside of the fact that their name is Good Field I know nothing about them (and no...I didn't go online). Their self-titled album is an unassuming thing that's neatly packaged in bright colors of paint and seems bursting with energy. On the inside, or the music itself, Good Field sound something like Spoon meets a jolly Kings of Leon. It's all very moody and smoky but has this hidden pop sensibility about it that makes the thing exceptionally listenable.

The record is impressive and the band's lackadaisical moodiness really contribute to what makes this record click. It's got this lazy nearly countrified vibe about it that seems in no hurry to go anywhere fast. As a result songs tend to meander like a rolling stream through the woods on a crisp cool day. They seem to plod along with this kind of lazy subdued pace that's almost therapeutically soothing. The songs are seemingly fragile and feature all kinds of instrumentation that are built around the hazy and half awake vocals that hold it all together. There's a lot of depth and texture on this record without a lot of additional frills which is impressive considering that Good Field is a dynamic duo.

Good Field were a nice, unexpected surprise. While I wish I knew a bit more about them I'm just happy to have this countrified pop treat in my possession. Sometimes good things do come in small packages!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Ruby Suns Know Christopher

The first thing I noticed about The Ruby Suns Christopher album was just how much like the Happy Mondays Bummed it looked. That got me thinking was Christopher an e'd up baggy revival album? I was quite hopeful as it's time for a Happy Mondays revival again but it didn't turn out quite like that. While I didn't get 24 hour party people what I did get was one amazing synthpop record.

To say that Christopher is brilliant is to discredit just how awesome this record really is. This is a record that while obviously modern has deep roots within the 80's and 90's dance pop/synth pop scene. In fact at times Christopher sounds so much like some sort of rare unreleased Pet Shop Boys record you'd swear Neil Tennant was a member of the band. The Ruby Suns have so elegantly created this record utilizing unconventional means. Christopher is ethereal, retro tinged, and yet terribly modern and accessible. The songs are crisp, catchy, and feel as though they just stepped in from 1990; it's the sound of Creation Dance records twenty years after the fact. This will remind those in the know of bands like Pacific and Tangerine and the brilliant records they released; it's all very British sounding and brilliantly pop!

There's very little to not like about Christopher. The Ruby Suns have created a magnificent specimen of classically influenced synth pop. This is a sugary sweet record set to a hypnotic beat. Lush, opulent and focused on the future Christopher is a record about starting over not looking back. It's optimistic and bright and it's a spectacular affair. The Ruby Suns have put out one of my favorite records of the year already and it's only February.

Kitsune Parisien III Is Perfect

When you think of things that are consistent, one thinks of the Jaguars and their losing record, the weather in Florida and if you're a fan of electronic music Kitsune Records. This is a record label that, so far as I know, is like 98% consistently great. They just don't do bad, it doesn't exist in their vocabulary. They don't cop out and they don't waste their time on trends or scenes, they stick to what they know and they are what they are and they are great at it.

If you follow the label at all you know then that the Kitsune Maison compilations are universally accepted as a global taste maker for the dance floor. These compilations provide your feet with the tunes they will dance non-stop to until the next Maison compilation comes out. While the Maison compilations focus on Kitsune's worldwide search for cool they've only recently begun to spread their wings and look for the same thing in specific locations. From Kitsune America bringing American electro to the forefront to the Kitsune Parisien's third compilation of talent from their home base in Paris the brand is branching out in all the best ways.

It only makes sense that Kitsune release a series of compilations based on the Parisien scene. Kitsune Parisien III is a thirteen track exploration of the Paris underground via the darkened dance floors of the City of Lights. It's epic and so far removed from the dubstep and "electro-house," that's swept the planet that it's a gulp of fresh air. Say what you will, but Kitsune rarely bows to trends and this compilation is no different. This record hovers between proper electro/synthpop and house music in the fine French tradition. The result is a sensual seductive slink across the dance floor with many of the songs being instant classics. From Pyramid's, "Noise," to the sensual washes of Cinema's, "UV," the record is like a slow motion disco tuned to seduction. While the golden age of French house may be nearly a decade behind us, Kitsune Parisien III reminds us that Paris is still burning!

Perfect in just about every way, Kitsune Parisien III is no different from just about everything else Kitsune does; it's great. It's consistently cutting edge, catchy, and always ahead of the curve. It's a brilliant reminder that Paris loves to dance and that electro still has a strong pulse despite what Skrillex and nu-metal has done to dance music. So raise a glass of champers and celebrate Kitsune Parisien III ! Viva Le France!

Ballake Sissoko Is At Peace

Sometimes a record can almost serve as therapy. The soothing sounds creaking out of vinyl can tame the beast that's lurking within in. It acts as a de-stressing agent that calms your nerves and allows you to get on with the day. That being said, Ballake' Sissoko's album At Peace is exactly what the doctor prescribed on this Monday morning.

At Peace is truth in advertising as it's Malian based music is absolutely gorgeous, light on the ears and almost ethereal in it's sounds. With traditional instrumentation (Kora & Belafon), strings, and guitars Sissoko and his band create this world where everything is calm and at rest. It's quite a world away from what's actually going on in Mali at the moment but as I mentioned it's the sort of record that helps you get on with it and the sort of thing that points you in the direction of carrying on regardless of how grim things might be. At Peace is filled with optimism, beauty and tradition and it's minimal sounds are simply mesmerizing. This is music for soothing, for relaxation, for letting your mind wander endlessly and it works.

You may think you know African music but you don't. At Peace proved that I didn't. While hinging on almost being a new age kind of record Sissoko uses enough traditional instrumentation and native influence to make it officially a world music record. Regardless of where it comes from or what instruments are used At Peace is a stunning record that's beguiling and an absolute joy to listen to. This will be on repeat most Mondays from now on...I need it's soothing power.

Beat Mark Create Hows Of Joy

France's Beat Mark are so in love with late eighties British Pop that you'd swear that they were a long lost relative of someone from Cherry Red Records. This is a band that sounds so much like the bands that were on Postcard, Cherry Red, Fire, Creation, Sarah Records and the like that it's almost impossible to believe that they're actually from across the channel and have only been together for a few years. It's just incredible how much Howls Of Joy sounds like a relic from the c86 era..and that's a mighty high compliment.

Put it this way, if you were to look up c86 pop in the Penguin music guide next to the definition would be a picture of Howls Of Joy. Beat Mark have issued a record that jangles, fizzes, and pops with such authenticity that you'd swear it was a super project featuring members of Primal Scream, Orange Juice, The Pastels, and The Wedding Present. It's amazing, jaw dropping indie pop that's incredibly British despite being French and sounds like a fine spring day. It's effervescent stuff that's just simply overjoyed. As Cornershop's Tjinder Singh is noted as saying, "I realized that I was listening to what England had lost the ability to create anymore." It's true, this is classic British pop that's simply not made any more and it's bloody brilliant. From song titles like, the 60's influenced noisy fizz of, "Breezing," to the stompy VU like pop of, "People Of Your Kind," Howls Of Joy never looks forward but longingly looks back in all the best ways.

Howls Of Joy is essential stuff. They don't make pop like this anymore. It's joyous, clever, and energetic. In a world where the fun has been yanked out of music it's nice to know that bands like Beat Mark are still around to remind us of how great and enjoyable indie pop can be! This is the sort of record that will make shy, shuffly pop kids everywhere scream Howls Of Joy!

Silvana Kane's La Jardinera

Silvana Kane is probably best known as the vocalist of global pop band Pacifika. Born in Peru but Canadian by residence, and traveled by nature Kane has been back and forth between the two continents most of her life. Travels which have undoubtedly influenced her emotionally, culturally, and musically; throw in other South American influences from Brazil, Argentina, and Chile and you have one well seasoned and informed musician. Her solo album La Jardinera is a reflection of that and it's something to behold.

Far more intimate and quiet than anything by Pacifika, La Jardinera is a fragile and delicate recording that's a reflection of Kane's musical prowess. Much of La Jardinera is reflective and solemn while being completely inspirational. Sure it's just Kane with minimal musical arrangements but the songs manage to be incredibly touching on some emotional scale. Her voice is awesome and at times feels as if she's whispering into your ear. It's a very pretty record that hints at her musical heroes, thoughts, emotions, and values.

La Jardinera is an interesting recording because of just how transcontinental it is. I challenge you to find one person you know that's as well traveled as Silvana Kane is. Having been up and down the planet and picking up all this stuff along the way has aided her ability to craft her songs and those of others into something that touches your soul. Her songs and the covers she's chosen are genuine and contemplative and listening to them in Spanish only makes them feel more worldly. It's impressive stuff no matter how quiet it is.

H.E. Miller's Time Has Come

H.E. Miller is an independent artist from New York & New Jersey who has quietly recorded his Apocalyptic Dreams and now knows that Your Time Will Come with his latest album. How? Well he's recorded a ten song album of blues inflected rock and roll record that's lost in fantasy and a love of music. It's, surprisingly, not half bad stuff that remarkably at times sounds like a Bob Mould solo record and at others sounds like it should be air boating down the Bayou.

Your Time Will Come is a fun record that's got a level of energy that would put most musicians to shame. Miller loves to play guitar and you can hear that on every track here. Anyway, this is an energetic record that while obviously rooted in classic rock has it's toes dipped in indie rock, punk, and even power pop. Miller might not know that, but the comparisons to those genres and to Bob Mould are justified because not only does he sound like an amalgamation of all that at times but he has the spunk that so many of Sugar's, Husker Du's, and Mould's solo work has.

Miller is a pretty good guitar player and layers on the power chords with extreme velocity. He may not be a guitar god, but he gives it a shot. He's also a pretty darn good songwriter as well. Much of Your Time Will Come is extremely catchy and with the additional use of horns, keys, sugary sweet choruses and melodies that would make the Rolling Stones blush the record kind of makes itself easy to latch on to. Your Time Will Come may not be over complicated but it doesn't need to be; it's good stuff whose energy and style are infectious.

Rone's Landscapes Mesmerize

French techno boffin Rone has recently relocated to Berlin where he's recorded and released his latest album Tohu Bohu. In listening to this record for about five minutes It's easy to see what an effect this had on the recording process compared to his last record Spanish Breakfast. Expansive and euphoric the songs that make up Tohu Bohu are almost a reflection of the electronic promised land he now calls home. This often exploratory and sparse record is beautifully pieced together and is epic in it's scope and reach.

Tohu Bohu is an absolute joy to listen to and left me thinking that anyone who thought that minimal techno/glitch/etc couldn't be uplifting would be in for a surprise. This is a near heavenly experience as synths glisten and sparkle while lush beats and drawn out basslines wash over you like rays of springlike sunshine. It's a glorious record that's crystalline and atmospheric and sets a tone early and often. Unafraid to be experimental but unwilling to not be melodic Tohu Bohu is one sort of infinite landscape that's worth getting lost in. And it's easy to do that with the way Rone hypnotically constructs the songs here. When I say it's gorgeous in it's design and sound I quite literally mean that. This is the sound of heaven and it's awe inspiring.

Sometimes moves are bad decisions and sometimes they're a stroke of genius. It appears as though Rone's move to Berlin was the stuff of genius. Inspired and reflective, Rone has created a record that almost sounds like the future of Berlin. Minimal techno doesn't get much better than Tohu Bohu and if you're a fan of this genre then you definitely need this record in your life.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Pi**ed Jeans Are No Honeys

When you name your band Pissed Jeans chances are good you're not going to sing about love, fairies, summer vacations, and the joys of life. Let me tell you there's none of that goodness on their album Honeys. This group of grubby and grotty musicians throw three chords together hope they stick and just get on with it. They sound absolutely horrible, have no idea what a proper song sounds like and are so punk rock that they probably do wet themselves and probably never bathe.

Sounding like a very bad version of Danzig, Pissed Jeans grind out what little melody they can find and come up with something that sounds like a broken record stuck in a crack on the vinyl. Honeys is a mess. It's tuneless, messy, angsty and sounds like Danzig went off the rails and beat up everyone in his band and then forced them to record this record at wolf point. It's complete punk rock in the purest sense of the word because you get the sense that these guys just don't care about any of this. Honeys is there to be occupies space and beats you over the head with a baseball bat if you listen too long simply because it can.

This record reminds me of why I was always glad I was a metal kid instead of a punk rock one. At least metal bands knew how to play their instruments and although much of death metal sounds like it was recorded in a cave it still offered more song structure, talent, and melody then anything punk rock ever hoped to. Pissed Jeans is annoying. Honeys is the sort of thing you'd like to swat away and get away from by any means necessary and I suspect that's just the way PJ likes it.