Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Lakou Mizik Bring The Beauty of Haiti Home On Wa Di Yo

Formed in the wake of the Haitian earthquake of 2010 Lakou Mizik is makde up of a diverse collection of musicians coming together to make music together.  Various religious, social and economic strata are represented within the group and each have united to tell stories and share their struggles.  The resulting musical tales are encapsulated on Wa Di Yo.  Spanning generations Lakou Mizik create Afro Caribbean call and response harmonies that are as celebratory as they are introspective.

Wa Di Yo is a gorgeously tropical record that’s in a constant state of motion.  Its rhythms and grooves have a pop sensibility about them while being introspective and thoughtful.  The record’s uncomplicated feel and multipart harmonies are simply awesome and give the album a sense of nimbleness throughout.  Steeped in Haitian and Creole culture and influenced by generations of music the record is an intriguing picture of Haitian culture today.    This is a country that has been through one of the worst natural disasters of the last twenty years and somehow, some way the people have a spirit of resiliency about them.  This spirt pulsates through Wa Di Yo and guides many of the songs. 

Lakou Mizik is a band that has seen more than its fair share of dark days but instead of dwelling on them they’ve chosen to move forward.  Wa Di Yo is the sound of healing and inspiration and it’s simply fantastic stuff.   Although it sounds world away, Wa Di Yo brings the spirit and culture of Haiti straight to your heart.  It’s a great record that’s brimming with positivity and hope and there’s nothing the matter with that!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Zona's Quest For Peace, Love and Understanding

I have to admit, I didn’t give Zona’s Peace, Love and Understanding any chance of being good.  I mean look at the cover.  It’s not good; it just isn’t.  Then I put the disc in and holy frehole I was taken aback at what I was hearing.  Peace, Love and Understanding is a mind numbing house record that harks back to all those classic late 90’s records that made mega-clubs temples to 4/4 time. 

Peace, Love and Understanding is packed with 12 tracks of sensual disco influenced vocal house that are so damn sexy and groove laden you’ll be spilling champagne all over the dance floor.  What’s truly different about this record is Zona’s use of live instrumentation in addition to the soulful vocals of Angela McGary, Chezere Brathwaite, Jackie Wilson, Wade Chandler, Chellena Black and Valarie Moise.  Brimming with positivity and packed with dancefloor friendly grooves this record is about as close a musical religious experience as you are likely to have.  Listening to Peace, Love and Understanding reminded me how much I miss this traditional taken on house music.

Zona has created a euphoric, upbeat, glittery, sexy house record with Peace, Love and Understanding. It might be a cliché saying but nothing about this record is cliché except for how wrong I was to judge it by its cover.   In a world littered by dirty and aggressive dance music, Zona reminds us how sensual and positive the genre can be when it’s at its best.  Peace, Love and Understanding is an understated and subdued classic that needs to be in your life.          

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The High Violets Heroes & Halos

Five albums in and The High Violets kind of have the whole post-gazing dream pop thing down pat.  They know their way around ethereality and could sculpt a noise pop song in their sleep.  They know how to take their influences and make them their own.  These guys are good and their latest album Heroes and Halos does anything but disappoint.

While they often get compared to Slowdive, I really think of The High Violets as Saint Etienne lost in a shoegazing haze.  Vocalist Kaitlyn at times sounds so much like Sarah from Etienne you’d swear she was trapped in Foxbase Alpha.   This isn’t a bad thing in any way, shape or form and in fact, it’s all a bit endearing if you ask me.  While vocally the album has a slightly twee edge about it musically, Heroes & Halos is a blissed out beautiful trip through sheets of shimmering guitar noise.  The songs are wispy, willowy and as light as breeze.  It’s all really rather gorgeous stuff and the band create an aural aesthetic that as heavenly as the album’s name implies.   There’s so little to fault here because The High Violets know how to do this with their eyes closed and they don’t it really, really well. 

Heroes & Halos is the latest album in The High Violets career that exceeds expectations.  In a world littered with post-gazing pop bands The High Violets have staked their claim as leaders of the new school and with Heroes & Halos it’s easy to see why; dreampop has never sounded so heavenly as it does here.  Perfection personified.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Dear Dark Head Create Strange Weather

DearDarkHead’s Mini LP Strange Weather is a six song ethereal journey into the post-shoegazing landscape.    This instrumental record is utterly gorgeous and features some of the best guitar work I’ve heard on an instrumental work in a really long time.  And while the musicianship on this record is top notch or higher, it’s one of the few atmospheric albums that I’ve heard that would benefit immensely from vocals.

If you ever wondered what the Stone Roses would sound like without Ian Brown, Strange Weather answers that question.   It’s a crisp record that jangles, jumps, jams and shimmers in the sunlight.  The songs are memorable, danceable, and ready for a vocalist to take them into the stratosphere.  Not really post rock, not really ambient, not really anything related to anything similar DDH seems to be a band that simply couldn’t find a vocalist.  That being said, if they ever were to find one suited to their tastes DearDarkHead could be a band with an arsenal of killer singles and world domination at their feet.  Until then bliss out to Strange Weather and enjoy its post-shoegazing atmospherics.   

Friday, February 5, 2016

Great Lakes' Wild Vision

To tweak a rather famous lyric, “It’s been a long time since I’ve twanged and rolled.”  Six years to be precise.  It’s hard to believe but it’s been that long between Great Lakes records so the fact that I’m staring at Wild Vision is deeply thrilling.  And what a thrilling record it really is.

Now based in Brooklyn, Great Lakes haven’t changed much since their move from Athens, GA over a decade ago.  Sure they’re in the big city but their heart and soul is as rustic as ever and Wild Vision is an expansive dusty record that has more in common with mid-western prairies than the Van Wyck.

Great Lakes collectively have come up with another fantastic record of rock and roll run through the country roads and backwoods of America.  There’s enough heartbreak, bluesy guitar riffs, twangy pedal steel sounds, multipart vocals and brilliance to give you goosebumps.   The record slowly trots along barely changing the pace throughout and it’s rarely, if ever, in an upbeat mood.  In fact, there’s a constant sense of emotional despair throughout but it works for the band because the music they create is so suited to this atmospheric environment.  If Nick Cave were to don a cowboy hat and ride off into the sunset with The Bad Seeds in tow Wild Vision is the sort of record they’d come up with.

Wild Vision is not the feel good hit of 2016 .  It is, however, a temperamental and emotive record that feels like it could end it tears at any point.  Great Lakes have a produced a dour and dark record of countrified rock and roll that’s perfect for winter.  Its downtrodden sense of disappointment along with the pastoral feel of the record makes for great songs and even better listening.  I really enjoyed this album and after being away for so long it’s nice to know that Great Lakes can still create material like Wild Vision.  

Aziza Brahim's Timely Abbar el Hamada

Raised in a Saharawi refugee camp in Algeria and living in exile for more than two decades Aziza Brahim’s album Abbar el Hamada is an album that’s about resilience and perseverance as much as it is a musical statement.  And what a record it is.  Abbar el Hamada is a beautiful African influenced Arab spiced record that embraces atmospheric musical passages and jazzy melodies with open arms.  This record is a diverse effort that reflects the changing face of the world today. 

Exploring the tumultuous and timely stories of the migrant and immigrant experience this record seems to have arrived at just the right time.  Abbar el Hamada is a reflective and thoughtful effort that paints a picture through music and compassionate songwriting.  While Aziza might be from Algeria and exiled in Spain, this record would seemingly fit any of the current migrant crises we see daily on the news and makes a statement about the humanity of it all without making a much of an effort.

Even without the lyrics much of Abbar el Hamada is beautiful and emotionally poignant.  The reflective and often mellow interplay between musicians creates a serene mood and the songs are light, airy, and sound as if the old world was caught mixing with the new world.  I really enjoyed the songs on Abbar el Hamada despite not understanding anything Aziza was singing.  The record is the sort of thing you’d expect Rick Steeves to be listening to as he and his crew drove across the continent.

Emotional, stunning, and provocative Aziza Brahim’s Abbar el Hamada is an impactful effort on many levels. It’s impressively put together, played and thoroughly enjoyable.  It’s hard to believe a musician with such talent is exiled and forced to live so far from home but perhaps it’s that distance that drives Brahim and makes his songs as amazing as they are.  A worthy and passionate effort all the way around Abbar el Hamada is well worth a listen.

Try The Pie Takes A Rest

Try the Pie is the project of one Bean Tupou who creates wilting twee acoustic pop that sounds as if Kim Deal was giving you a long aural hug.  Her latest album Rest is a sweet and tender little record that sounds so twee and fragile that it might just crumble apart while being listened to.  With barely any production or barely any sheen Rest breaks your heart with just the vocals of Bean who whimpers and whispers across the record.

There's nothing complicated about Rest but there doesn't need to be because Try The Pie still comes up with delicious song concoctions that melt your emotions into a giant puddle of teary goo.  Rest is so heartfelt and so genuine you can't help but love this record.  I can't stand acoustic music but Bean's voice is just so dainty and adorable my heart melts every time she sings.  Rest is an enjoyable listen of intimate and fragile indie folk.  It's not the best sounding or produced but Try The Pie has some of the most delicately beautiful tunes to come across my ears in a while.  It's not an upbeat or energetic release but it's a perfect aural valentine and it's filled with a genuine sense of love.  And that, that's pretty cool

Antlered Aunt Lord is Ostensibly Formerly Stunted

The oddly named Antlered Aunt Lord is as shambolic and weird as their name might imply.  Led by the one and only member, Jesse Stinnard, AAL is a crazy chaotic mess of a solo project.    Stinnard is a hap hazard artist who cranks out songs as if doing so was as involuntary as breathing.  I'm not sure if he's really all that good overall but he occasionally hits a sweet spot and comes up with something that perks your ears up. 

Stinnard's solo effort, Ostensibly Formerly Stunted, is as loosely put together as his musical ideas.  Consisting of 19 tracks much of this record comes from a backlog of songs AAL had laying around and it kind of sounds like it.  Ostensibly Formerly Stunted runs together as if it were his stream of consciousness let loose in a recording studio.  As a result the album is truly all over the place musically and covers more genres of indie than I could count.  Guitars are wrangled, drums broken, voices strained and through it all Ostensibly Formerly Stunted is as lo-fi as lo-fi can be.  I'm not sure if my tolerance level for all this messiness is high enough for repeated listens, but there are some special moments on this slab.   For example, the second Stinnard finds a keyboard magical things happen songs worth hearing ooze out of the record. 

Ostensibly Formerly Stunted isn't necessarily a bad record from a songwriting standpoint (Stinnard has some great ideas) it just pivots from production qualities faster than sub genres.  And while the production is lacking AAL has some tunes worthy of listening to and given $10 and a DAT recorder they might make for a nice sounding record.  Unfortunately, this entire record is so all over the place that it tested my sanity a bit too much.  If you like crazy lo-fi/no-fi pop off of Adderall you'll absolutely flip a wig for this but if you enjoy hearing things in a somewhat structured manner...you'll lose your mind.  Antlered Aunt Lord's Ostensibly Formerly Stunted sounds like a demo committed to vinyl and I'm not sure that's a good thing.  

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Animal Daydream Love Citrus

Animal Daydream's Citrus 7” is a blast of post 60's jangle that has so much Byrdsian goodness running throughout it you'd swear Roger McGuinn was in the band.  The four songs on this single are fantastic melodic gems that are sweeter than grapefruit with sugar on top.  Seriously, this is a great little record that highlights the never ending awesomeness that Animal Daydream constantly release.  Jangly guitars with psychedelic flourishes pair nicely with the melodious melodies here and the result is a single of summer pop perfection for the dead of winter.

The record is bookended by the two best songs, “Citrus,” and “In My Room.”  The two tracks are jangly and slightly psychedelic tunes that have a brilliant pop sensibility about them.  They really are pop hits, just fifty years late to the party.  There's nothing to fault on Citrus except to say that it's only four songs! Enjoyable on either side Citrus is a tangy treat of indie pop run through the 60's with orange tinted glasses (get it?).

Mark Van Hoen Has Nightvision

Mark Van Hoen’s album Nightvision is so aptly titled that it’s almost fair to judge this book by its cover.  Nightvision consists of ten tracks from a dark sunless future world where Blade Runner is come and gone and the apocalypse happened generations before.  Mark Van Hoen creates a bleak, minimalistic landscape of sounds that haunt your brain and let your imagination run wild.  It’s a post-Eno ambient masterpiece of synth goodness that expands beyond the universe into the great beyond.

With an army of synthesized sounds, ghost like murmurings, and a sound palette that is well beyond your imagination, Mark Van Hoen creates his soundscapes.  The songs Van Hoen has composed on Nightvision are post-apocalyptic electronic drones that loop and twist into infinity.  This is the sort of record where one song seamlessly bleeds into the next with barely any notice and as a result much of NIghtvision plays out as one 49 minute long dream.

Nightvision is an enjoyable listen on headphones and if listened to in a dark room could potentially cause insanity.  Its rich textures and sounds play havoc with your ears as your mind runs rampant in Mark Van Hoen’s soundscape; and it’s amazing.  If you like post rock, drone, ambient or just getting lost in a different world you can’t do much better than Nightvision!

This Is The Mythology Of Modern Death According to Thee Koukouvaya.

Thee Koukouvaya’s album This Is The Mythology Of Modern Death is an atmospheric and near ambient soundscape with the occasional diversion into trance and deep house.  As one might think with that sort of pedigree, Mythology is a beautiful and lush record that maintains its gorgeousness even when it goes full on dance floor crazy.    This is a record that’s easy to get lost in and is very absorbing because of how hypnotic and crafty Thee Koukouvaya is at creating and manipulating their unique sound palette.

Most of This Is The Mythology Of Modern Death is an expansive experiment in ambient sounds and haunting beats.  The record is a minimalistic dream come true with stray sounds, broken beats, whispered noises and things that create a spooky world in which Thee Koukouvaya conducts its aural research and development.  This isn’t the type of record filled with catchy choruses or things that you’ll remember, rather, it’s the sort of album that surrounds you and washes over you with constant waves of oblique beauty.  

There might not be much to latch on to with This Is The Mythology Of Modern Death but the record never ceases to captivate.  It’s an imaginative sound collage created in an ever expanding ambient world that’s easy to get lost in.  I love records like this because once you slip your ear buds in they transport you to another time, another place, and another world and it’s the sort of thing that drains and cleanses your mind with the purity of its existence.  This is the sound of ambient in 2016 and it’s wonderful.

SPC ECO Plays With Dark Matter

For those of you who are old enough you’ll remember that Dean Garcia was in the monumentally awesome post shoegazing band Curve.  If you can remember that than you might remember their second album Cuckoo and just how dark in tone that record was.  Dean Garcia’s new project SPC ECO seemingly picked up where that left off and took it to the next logical progression with Dark Matter. 

Downtempo and with more atmosphere than most planets, Dark Matter is a deeply sensual trip hoppy affair that is less early 90’s shoegazing and more turn of the century post comedown.  The songs that make up much of Dark Matter flow into each other so seamlessly the album just rolls like a dark clouds passing through the midnight sky.  It’s a beautiful and lush record that uses ambient guitar work and whispered haunting vocals to cast its spell over you.  And it wins, because if there’s one thing that Dean Garcia can do it is the ability to write one heck of a song.  These songs might not be upbeat pop songs but they work well under the cover of darkness and will haunt your soul for ages and that’s pretty awesome. 

SPC ECO isn’t Curve but they pick up logically where Curve should have left off.  Dark Matter is a fantastic listen that shows overwhelmingly that Dean still has the knack for creating essential music no matter the genre.  I went into this record thinking it was going to be some Curve re-hash but was blown away when it wasn’t.  Dark Matter is downtempo the way it should be played: ethereal, otherworldly and slightly creepy.     

Half Sour's Tuesday Night Live Is Sweet

Half Sour’s album Tuesday Night Live is a raw and rough indie pop record that rumbles, bumbles and stumbles its way through the genre with an energetic fervor that’s brimming with honesty and purity.  These guys are not world class musicians and clearly did not spend a gazillion dollars on Tuesday Night Live but they’re so damn genuine that you can’t help but love every note on this record.  The whole thing sounds like it was duct taped together while being recorded on a Radio Shack Realistic tape recorder in the band’s warehouse; it’s a mess and sloppy but bloody brilliant.

Half Sour are so seemingly free of pretension that they just write songs that give big aural hugs.  If you’re looking for comparisons think of anything on Matinee, March or Jigsaw Records (their label) and you have an idea of what these guys sound like.  There are melodies that will melt your heart, boy-girl vocals that are sugar rushes of sweetness, jangly guitars that jump around and a sense of fun that picks you up off the ground and forces a smile on your face.  This is pure pop goodness with a heart as big as Jupiter and songs as syrupy and melodious as they come.

Tuesday Night Live is a big hearted blast of fun that’s an absolute joy to listen to.  In the dead of winter records like Half Sour’s are rays of sunshine that melt away the gloom and remind you that spring is just around the corner.  It may be uncomplicated and as messy as your house but sometimes a little frenetic chaos is the sign of genius and in the case of Half Sour I’d definitely say that’s the case!  

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Stick Figure Are Anything But Set In Stone

Stick Figure have done more with the standard reggae musical template over the course of their album Set In Stone than most other reggae artists have done over their course of their career.  In fact part of me really doesn’t want to call Stick Figure a reggae band.  These guys so easily bring other musical influences to the table that it will make your head spin.  From psychedelic rock to electronics Set In Stone is laying down the future of reggae one track at a time.

Stick Figure are seemingly, very interested in diversifying their sound and exploring other musical areas with an intriguing curiosity.  They venture like bards across the musical landscape trying things on for size and adapting whatever they find and like to their sound.  For the most part everything they try succeeds.  The first song alone is what I suspect it would sound like if Pink Floyd hung out with Bob Marley and did loads of acid.   Where they sort of get cliché is their lyrical prowess; songs about pot love is just so trite and yeah I know it’s reggae…but knowing that this is the sound of the genre in space it seems like they could diversify their lyrics a bit as well.  Anyway, it’s a nitpicky thing and doesn’t take away how musically awesome this record really is.

You might think there’s very little left to explore within the somewhat tired genre of reggae, but Stick Figure have found ways to energize the genre and make it feel and sound completely different.  They’re super creative songwriters, imaginative musicians and so open minded that they’re willing to give anything a shot.  I never thought that I would like a reggae record as much as I do Set In Stone but these guys have brought something to the table that’s original and refreshing and knocked it out of the ball park.  

Rickolus Is Coconuts

How the hell is Rickolus not a massive star?  This Jacksonvillian is easily the best musical product to come out of the Bold City since well...ever.  While other bands have risen to popularity overnight, Rickolus has been more of a slow burn when it comes to his music.  Yet, he's so consistently brilliant and well consistent in releasing material that's memorable, rooted firmly in indie rock and just so damn good that stardom deserves to be his. Seriously, world, get with the program. 

His latest album Coconut is yet another quirky notch of brilliance in his career.  With massive hooks, choruses that linger for days and his kooky mannerisms Rickolus creates a tweeish pop world that's truly all his own.  Sure he jumps from post grunge, indie rawk and Britpop influences like a 12 year old girl skipping rope, but he does it with such finesse and assuredness that it works well for him.  I mean the first three songs alone on Coconut toss you around like a broken washing machine.  From the thrashy workout of “Wasteland,” to the massive soaring hit in the making, “Destroyer,” your heart will suffer heartbreak, chills, and possibly a coronary.  This is from a guy who lives in Duval folks.  Duval.  Rick and his band have crafted a brilliant record here that rarely falters and even the ballads are a worthy but heart wrenching five minutes of your time.

Coconut is fantastic in every conceivable way.  It's stupendously poptastic with enough of a rough edge about it to keep Rick's cred well intact.  Probably my favorite album of the last six months it's difficult for me not to picture this record getting huge.  Rickolus has the chops, has the songs, and has all his shit together enough where he should be hobnobbing with stars and establishing residencies in various London clubs.  Once again...success deserves to be his and Coconut goes a long way to helping achieve that goal.  You can help him get there as well by buying this record.  Now.      

Postal Blue's Album Of Love And Other Affections

The latest album from Postal Blue Of Love and Other Affections is a classic indie pop record in every sense of the word.  Harking back to all those classic Sarah records you wish you had in your collection the record jingles and jangles as if the days were always sunny and warm and as if falling in love was the best possible thing that could happen to anyone at any time.  There's nothing complicated about what Postal Blue does but they do it with such panache and classicism you can't help but fall in love with these guys.

Of Love and Other Affections is ten songs of jangly bliss that never lets you down.  For the most part, it's always upbeat and poppy even when it's at its most “bitter.”  Even the slower downtrodden moments on the record aren't too shabby in that twee depression sort of way.   Of Love and Other Affections will remind you of the Field Mice at their best.  The first three tracks alone are masterclasses on how to write an indie pop single of the week.  Postal Blue have delivered a solid record here and there's so little that's wrong with it, it would be nitpicking to mention anything.

Of Love and Other Affections is easily one of the better indie pop records to come out in 2015 and further proves how Jigsaw Records is rapidly entrenching itself as one of the best twee pop labels in the world.  Postal Blue are heirs to the Field Mice's throne and if you ever liked a jangly guitar in your life you owe it to yourself to listen to this album repeatedly.  

Atlas Maior Isn't What You Think

I have to admit that I totally misjudged what kind of music Atlas Maior played based on the cover.   Just based on the logo I figured they were some sort of post-hardcore group but about five seconds into their album Keyif I was proven wrong as they are just about as far away from my expectations as humanly possible.  Rather than screaming at the top of their lungs, these guys take jazz structures and then accentuate them with Middle Eastern and Latin influences. The Keyif EP as a result is a free sounding jazz record that feels as if it wandered from desert to carnivale.

About the worst thing you can say about Keyif is its unfortunate length.  The record is so short and just as you get into the soundworld  Atlas Maior create it’s all over.  But it’s worth savoring what we’re given and this quartet are such excellent musicians and the atmospheric worlds they create are as expansive and exploratory as they are brilliant.  From ridiculous sax runs to Middle Eastern ambiance and Latin grooves Keyif is an impressive effort that does everything but disappoint.

Highly recommended!  

The People's Champs Are American Dreamers

The People’s Champs bring a level of diversity to their music that’s just about unmatched nowadays.  Their latest record American Dreamers is an amalgamation of American pop and world music influences that mesh into a worldly danceable blend that’s as upbeat as anyone names People’s Champ should be.  Led by Alex Asher, he and the group hope to create music that speaks to everyone be it on this continent or another and they’ve done a pretty good job here of doing just that as American Dreamers is a smorgasbord of sounds and grooves.

American Dreamers has a load of grooves spun throughout it and you can spot the African and South American influences as they wash over you.  The melodies on American Dreamers are buoyant and easy on the ears and are not only rooted in pop music but have an underlying rhythm and blues influence that gives the record just a bit of soul and when you throw in the Superpower Horns, that bit of soul is elevated to a higher level.  All this soul and grooviness makes the record feel as though American Dreamers could have been recorded in 1973.  American Dreamers has funk, it has soul and it has a diversity to it that makes it endlessly exciting.  The fourth track on the record, for example, sees all of this coming together in fine fashion; the tune sounds as if it was found crate digging for another Nigeria 1970 compilation.  It’s got a vintage feel with enough modernity to bring it bang up to date.

The People’s Champs are a great group of musicians who have tapped into a unique approach to playing soulful funk or funky world music.  They have influences for everywhere competing for time and attention and the result is a record that grooves globally.  American Dreamers might be dreaming of America but it’s heart is spread around the world.  

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Sam Gleaves Wonder If Ain't We Brothers

Sam Gleaves is a Virginian musician who fell in love with Appalachian music the second he tried to play it.  The tradition, community, and passion of telling stories through music was something that drew Gleaves to this genre.  Coming from a family of storyteller’s it seemed like a no-brainer and he’s done a good job of honoring not only his family but the music itself.  Ain’t We Brothers is traditional folk that sounds as if it spans the ages and traditions of the Appalachian Mountains and it does so with endearment and honesty.

Ain’t We Brothers is the sound of nights spent outside on the porch spinning tales of dusty trails, wilderness adventures, heartbreak and love.   It’s not an overly complicated album but it doesn’t have to be, because in the grand tradition of this music all you need is a banjo (maybe a fiddle) and a story to share. As such, the record is a brilliant tribute to all the traditions intertwined in the mountains and features a smattering of Gleaves original material as well as a few old favorites that he gives a heartwarming folksy feel to.  I’m not generally a fan of such music but the charming and enthralling songs sound like they came from another century.   It’s good stuff.

In a world consumed by the Internet it’s nice to see that some still yearn to live the simple life.  Ain’t We Brothers is a world where intimate communication has more value than a text.  It’s something that we as a society are slowing forgetting and I applaud Sam Gleaves for embracing the tradition of Appalachian music.  It doesn’t get much more rustic than Ain’t We Brothers and that’s its greatest strength.  This is a great record to just sit on the porch and watch the world go by to and that’s always a good thing.

Bosley Tunes In The Dirty Dogs Radio Show

Picking up where Bosley left off earlier this year with his ridiculously catchy single, Are We In Love, the man with his soul trapped in 1973 continues to write rhythm and blues influenced tunes that are simply stupendous.  The Dirty Dogs Radio Show is a soulful record that’s as lost in the past as it is lost in funk and fun.  Bosley has a knack for finding rare grooves and bringing a pop flair to them that elevates them to the next level.  Whether it’s a ballad or a floor burner Bosley finds a way to bring a bit of funk , a bit of groove and a whole lot of catchiness to everything he does.

Complete with a nine piece orchestra there is simply nothing that Bosley and his band can’t or won’t do to lay down a solid groove or funky breakdown.  With more horns than a horn factory, The Dirty Dogs Radio Show glistens with the sound of brass and brightens every song that they appear on (which is most).   The rhythm section lays down thick grooves and fat beats that drive songs out of the studio and to the dance floor and Bosley’s semi-falsetto passionate vocals lay on top of it all and are as sweet as sugar.   Even when Bosley leaves the retro-soul behind and goes all modern the songs still work because there’s enough of a funky groove to carry the tune back to the past; see “American Gurlz,” as a perfect example of this.

The Dirty Dogs Radio Show is a fantastically fun record that’s upbeat and groove-laden.  The record is an energetic work out that jumps back and forth between retro and future soul with equal amounts of success. With the retro soul thing sort of becoming cliché it’s interesting to hear someone bring a new take on the genre.  The Dirty Dogs Radio Show is not a 100% original but it is convincing and thoroughly enjoyable.  If you like to get down or just like a funky fun time… The Dirty Dogs Radio Show is well worth tuning in to.

Desert Dwellers Solve The Great Mystery

It seems only fitting that a record recorded on the road, in airports, airplanes,  hotel rooms and produced in multiple cities in multiple nations has global and diverse feel to it.  The Great Mystery has that feel and that vibe to it as the production team known as Desert Dwellers create trance soundscapes that expand beyond national borders and enter the global groove conscience.  The Great Mystery sounds as diverse as the approaches it takes in creating atmospheric dance music.  From break beat to full on euphoric trance it’s all here and it’s absolutely gorgeously pieced together in an expansive infinite style that will give you goosebumps.

The diversity of this record stems from its inability to remain limited to any one genre palette.  Name a soundworld or style and more than likely Desert Dwellers have placed it somewhere in The Great Mystery.  This record is such a breath of fresh trancetastic air that it makes me dizzy.  The lush atmospherics that Desert Dwellers come up with when mixed with their crisp spring-like beats transport you into another world that’s chilled, serene, and absolutely stunning.  So many great grooves and textures reside within this record it’s almost impossible not to feel elevated to a higher state.  Desert Dwellers have done a fantastic job at creating a classic trance/deep house record that would sit fine along a collection of Platypus or Hooj Choons records. 

Upbeat, euphoric, and diverse The Great Mystery is no mystery at all.  It’s as heavenly as a warm spring day, as lush as the Amazonian jungle, and as groovy as Timothy Leary playing with chemicals.  Desert Dwellers are an awesome unit and The Great Mystery is a classic work that’s easy to solve and simple to get lost in.  This is the state of trance in 2015-16 and it’s gone back to being globally groovy.

SLV Is Of This Kind

Some of you might know who SLV is without actually knowing who SLV is.  Those of you in the know would recognize SLV as being Sandra Lilla Velasquez from the Latin rock and roll band Pistolera.  What’s different about SLV is Sandra’s approach to building music and how drastically different it is from her day job.  Her latest album under this moniker, This Kind is a stretch for her and challenges her mindset as a musician as it’s well out of her wheelhouse and experiments with a diverse sound palette.

This Kind is an absolutely gorgeous downtempo record that has more in common with Sade and Morcheeba than punk rock.  I have to admit that This Kind blew my mind.  I was not expecting something so lush, sensual, or texturally complex as this record turned out to be.  Sandra, her songwriting partner Sean Dixon and the ever spectacular Meshell Ndegeocello combined forces to construct some of the most beautiful soulful and sexy chilled out tunes I’ve heard this past year.  You can tell throughout this record that Sandra embraced the freedom to experiment and express herself in new ways and ran with it.   

From lush string arrangements to ambient synths and chilled beats SLV ‘s This Kind is a spiritually ornate and  extravagant record.  Sandra has created an intimate soundworld that pushes the boundaries of what she’s comfortable with.  While doing this usually ends in disaster for most in her case it might just hark a new direction.  This Kind is kind of amazing and the sort of record that shows great songwriters are still great songwriters no matter the genre.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Los Crema Paraiso Are A Peculiar Bunch

I have no idea how to best describe the sophomore album by Los Crema Paraiso except to say it's all a bit twisted.  De Pelicula is an energetic ride through everything ever and includes the craziest amalgamation of musical influences converging to make the most solid musical statement ever recorded.  De Pelicula has it all and that's just in the first three songs.  We're talking metal, jazz, Latin, funk whatever, it's all actually on this record.  As the band notes, “our music sounds like a combination of high speed bossa nova with a jazzy modern waltz, and percussive atmospherics with a warmth and sweetness that only a mix of these elements can bring.”  Exactly.

These guys can play, are unafraid to experiment, compose songs as if they were done on the fly and do some amazing covers of Depeche Mode and Tears for Fears!   Their take on, “Personal Jesus,” is one for the ages.  Los Crema Paraiso are an amazing unit of musicians who take their Venezuelan roots mix them with North American and European influences, a few chemistry sets, a couple of odd times changes, perhaps some psychedelics and wind up with songs that are so frenetic and organic that it's hard to believe this is all done by a trio.  De Pelicula is fantastic in every possible way.  It's a record that keeps you guessing and leaves you in awe when they change direction.  There's no way to predict what these guys are going to do next because they come at you from every angle with so many different approaches it's overwhelming. 

De Pelicula is music the way it should be; passionate, energetic, and ridiculously fun.  Los Cerma Paraiso are amazing at what they do and they allow their passions to take root in every song here and as a result the record is an honest work of art.  

Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad Find Bright Days

What happens when a band you know changes direction 180 degrees and heads off in that direction?  Well, if you're like me you kind of wonder if you're listening to the right band, double check the CD, and then read the band's bio and learn that this is nothing new.  You see, the Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad pulled a fast one on me.  Their latest album Bright Days takes a left turn and speeds away in a direction far, far away from the reggae they normally play. This, believe it or not, is nothing new for the Panda's.  Apparently way back in 2012 the band explored this alter ego with their album, Country.  Much like Country, Bright Days is a twangy rustic record that sounds more like it was born on the prairies of Iowa then the beaches of Jamaica!

Yes, it's true my favorite oddly named reggae band is now doing country music.  Think of it like the Blues Brothers playing, “Rawhide!”   A fish out of water kind of thing.   It's crazy but it's true and what's even weirder is that it's not half bad.   Bright Days is Americana with a bit of verve to it.  Sure it's dusty and rustic but you can't shake the reggae out of the Panda's completely as the record is upbeat and even features a few instrumental riffs into native territory.  This whole thing really shouldn't work at all, I mean it is two totally different worlds soundclashing here but it actually does work and the Panda's aren't just being ironic about it.  They fully embrace Americana on Bright Days and do a good job of playing with the definitions of what they're about.  I love their versatility and the fact that they can play twangy, jangly, pastoral pop on top of reggae and dub makes them an even better band. 

Bright Days may have been a risk but it was worth it.  The Pandas are fueled by creativity and open mindedness and their love of music apparently knows no bounds.  Bright Days is a great record that shows just how diverse this band can be.  They might be the Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad but deep down I know their cowboys at heart!    

Bunnygrunt's Volume 4

I have to admit when the new Bunnygrunt album showed up and it looked like Black Sabbath's Volume 4 I was really, really hoping they did a twee pop cover record of the metal classic.  I wasn't disappointed that they didn't because the songs that actually make up their version of Volume 4 are pretty darn strong on their own without the hand of Ozzy overseeing it.  While not Sabbathy in the least Bunnygrunt crank up the guitars, fire up the twee and bash heads with indie rock on this romp through jangly guitars, cuddle core choruses, and a whole hell of a lot of fun.

What I found most interesting about Volume 4 was just how indie rawk these guys have become.  This isn't Jen Fi in any way shape or form and the whole thing kicks butt from start to end.   Regardless of what direction they take on any of the songs here, each of them are as catchy as the flu and have that wry sense of humor the band has always had.  I mean the first song is called, “Gimme Five Bucks,” how can you not chuckle at songs like that especially with a giant Ozzy cat on the cover of the record.  Throw in sugary sweet girl/boy vocals and you have a record that's just about as perfect as lo-fi can be while not taking itself too seriously.  I think this is why I've always liked Bunnygrunt; they're seemingly goofballs who still have incredibly awesome tunes. 

While Volume 4 is a 100% Sabbath free, it is filled with 100% awesomeness that straddles the line between indie pop and indie rawk with superb balance.  The record is a harmonious ruckus and is a solid notch in Bunnygrunt's legacy of indie pop goodness.  Now if we can just convince them to do a tweepop version of “Supernaut,” that would be amazing.

Marshmallow Coast's Vangelis Rides Again

Despite the exceptionally cheesy cover art for Marshmallow Coast's new album, Vangelis Rides Again is really quite good.  This former member (Andy Gonzales) of Of Montreal and Music Tapes has always brought some fantastic stuff to the indie pop table and this album is no different.  And while the record looks like some sort of Scooby Doo rejected storyboard art, the music contained inside is pure lo-fi indie pop bliss. 

Vangelis Rides Again sits somewhere between an easy-listening record, Of Montreal and a sad creepy pop record recorded in a basement.  It's a fragile record that's loaded with hooks and melodies that while not overly produced or overly jolly does some significant ear worm damage anyway.  As if to prove that point, the fact that Andy weaved, “On Broadway,” into an indie pop tune is simply something that has to be heard.   It's probably my favorite moment of the record and it shows Marshmallow Coast to be adventurous and fun while sounding like he's broke indie pop down to its respective elements.  Other songs have this ambient and dreamy like texture to them that sound a bit 80's-ish as they wash over you.   Just listen to the downtrodden synths of, “Forever,” and you'll hear it for yourself...it's almost depressingly cool.

Vangelis Rides Again is an intriguing little pop record that feels lo-fi, dreams of more, but knows those dreams will never be.  Slightly weird with a hint of sadness Vangelis Rides Again may not be the feel good hit of the summer, fall, or winter but it is pretty darn good and shows that Marshmallow Coast still knows how to write a decent record.