Blind Mr. Jones
Whenever I see the words “Mr Jones” is think of that damn Counting Crow song. God I hated that band, but this record being on the always reliable St. Marie Records, I knew it wasn’t that kinda crap. This is a reissue of a record that was released 20 years ago by a UK band that never quite got its due. They apparently took their name from two different Talking Heads songs (both on NAKED). The band definitely into the shoegaze genre and worse the tag proudly. This is their sophomore effort (from what I’ve read, not quite as good as their ’92 debut, STEREO MUSICALE, but this sounds strong to me.). Opener “Hey” was just ok but but number two, “Disneyworld’ kicks like the best Slowdive tunes (or Ride) while “Viva Fisher” swings n’ sways off to dreamland and “Big Plane” jangles along quite nicely. Both “Surfer Baby” and “Please Me” swoop n’ swirl most heartily as well and the final tune, “Mesa,” is just plain gorgeous. The cd I have is remastered and Saint Marie is also releasing it on vinyl, being the first time it has seen a vinyl release. Nice! www.saintmarierecords.com

Lacy J. Dalton
HIGHWAY DINER/ BLUE-EYED BLUES-(MORELLO/ CHERRY RED)- Lacy J. Dalton was a fine country singer who could belt ‘em out with the best of ‘em. Her husky, occasionally gravelly voice was sometimes reminiscent of Janis Joplin and Bobbie Gentry, and live, she was a powerhouse. Interestingly, on Highway Diner, there’s another, much less expected influence at play: Bruce Springsteen. This album contains a handful of powerful working class songs such as “Working Class Man, “This Ol’ Town,” “Up With The Wind,” and “Boomtown”—all performed with a backing band that could pass for the E-Street Band—could rival anything on Born In The USA or Darkness At The Edge of Town. It may be a sleeper of a record, but it’s one worth seeking out. Blue-Eyed Blues is an odds and sods collection, compiling a few of her hit singles—most notably “16th Avenue” and duets that had only been released as singles. Make sure to check out the drop-dead amazing David Allan Coe duet on Bob Dylan’s hit “Gotta Serve Somebody,” and the alien abduction “I’ll Love Them Whatever They Are” is amusingly weird, dumb fun. Dalton may be obscure now, but these two records have aged wonderfully. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

Rocket 3
Wow, where’d this come from? Who is this bunch? It appears to be a trio from my old stomping grounds of Portland, Oregon, 2 guys (Drew and Tony) and gal ( Ramune Nagisetty and she writes all of the tunes) who specialize in catchy, sugary pop music and what can I say, sign me up! The songs are fairly short and Nagisetty’s vocals are real easy on the ears and out of the 13 songs on here they had the good sense to cover tunes by the Sex Pistols (“Submission”), Velvet Underground (“All Tomorrow’s Parties”) and My Bloody Valentine (“Only Shallow”). While the covers are very good I like the band’s originals the best. The fuzz-overload or “Ride”, the cavity-inducing (in the best way possible, mind you) of “Fate” and the brash “Jealous Girl.” If you dig stuff like the Fat Tulips or Strawberry Story (or the Blake Babies to name an American comparison) then you’ll be ok with this. I’d like to hear these guys the entire first Galaxie 500 record. Go on, do it! www.rocket3music.com

The Zebras
SIESTA-(JIGSAW RECORDS/ LOST AND LONESOME)- It’s hard to believe that Australian pop band The Zebras have been around for nearly 15 years. They’re one of those bands that I’ve always liked what I’ve heard but have never ventured out to find their records for some reason (this record as well as most of their earlier stuff has been released in their home country via the terrific Lost and Lonesome recordings run by Mark Monnone formerly of The Lucksmiths). This is the bands third full-length and it’s most excellent from beginning to end. Leader Jeremy Cole writes some of the most infectious pop songs this side of The Apples Robert Schneider and the male/female vocals are one of the main selling points for me. Nothing crazy here, just mid-tempo , catchy, jangly pop songs, but again, the songwriting is superb and cuts like opener “Fire Fire”, the slowly-building Desert Island”, the soaring “Chase” the keyboard-heavy “Try” and plenty more (don’t miss “First & Last”). Seriously there a lot worse ways that you can spend a half an hour. Unless something really bizarre happens in the next few weeks, this record will make my top 10 for best of 2014. www.jigsaw-records.com www.lostandlonesome.com.au

Claudia Brucken
Claudia Brucken came to the world’s attention as the vocalist for the short-lived but influential pop band Propaganda. What else is her third solo album, and her first album of all-original material in quite some time. What makes What Else so enjoyable is Ms. Brucken’s voice—airy and dreamy, yet alluring and substantive; innocent, yet wise. The vibe here overall is mellow groove, offering plaintive ballads (“I Want You,” “Walk Right In,” “How Do I Know”), easy-on-the-ears jazz pop (“Time To Make Changes,” and a lovely cover of Nick Drake’s “Day Is Done”), and even a few club-friendly numbers (“Nevermind,” “Moon Song”). The production is low-key yet lush, and fans of Sarah Cracknell and Saint Etienne would find much to love here. What Else is a great return to form, and a reminder of Ms. Brucken’s knack for songwriting. May she not take years to follow this up, as this is really good pop music. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

The Saints
KING OF THE SUN/ KING OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN-(FIRE REORDS)-I was trying to think of the last Saints record I’d heard, not sure if it was PRODIGAL SON but then realized it was 2005’s NOTHING IS STRAIGHT IN MY HOUSE, which I really liked. OK, so the band hasn’t put out anything as amazing at 1978’s ETERNALLY YOURS (one of the great records of all time) but hey, 1987’s folky ALL FOOLS DAY was flat-out great too. Leader Chris Bailey keeps putting it out there, which brings us to KING OF THE SUN. Ok, so the story goes that this record was originally released in 2012 as a beautiful pop record (with horns, keys, strings and the like) and then Bailey grabbed a few musician pals (one being former Saints member, from 1979-’89, Barrington Francis) and decided to re-record the 11 songs in a more rockin’ format. Umm…the rockin’ versions aren’t necessarily bad, but they’re not nearly as good as the pop versions of them. I guess, as a musician, it’s always fun to experiment with songs you’ve written, but most of the reviews I’ve read the reviewers didn’t like the re-recorded versions of the songs (again, I didn’t dislike it but probably won’t listen to it very often). Instead, if you missed the original release of KING OF THE SUN slap it on and listen to gorgeous, unfolding songs like the title track (love those horns at the end), the swirling “Duty”, the perfect cadence of “A Million Miles Away”, the swaying “Sweet Chariot”, the tender “Turn” or several others. Bailey’s voice still has that emotive, smoky quality to it and the musicians he’s playing with are ace (but of course we ALL still miss original Saints guitarist/co-founder Ed Kuepper). Again, get it for KING OF THE SUN and give disc two a shot as well. www.firerecords.com

The Sound (and leader Adrian Borland) are one of those bands not super well-known in the world of 80’s UK post punk but the folks who do know them really, truly love them. Borland died from suicide (in 1999) but he and the band have left a body of work that carries on and influences bands/musicians to this day. The good folks at The Beautiful Music have put together this 17-song tribute to Borland and his band. Even looking through the list of bands on here, I had barely heard of any of them, but knowing the label’s eye for quality I knew it’d be a good one and it certainly is. Typwrtr open with a scorching version of “Hothouse” whole batting second is Easy doing a beautiful, jangly version of “Counting the Days.” Later on Robert Scott (of New Zealand’s Bats and The Clean, one of my faves and one of the few artists I’d heard of on here) does a lovely version of “Party of the Mind” while NYC’s Last Burning Embers (which includes longtime fan Jack Rabid on drums) does a killer, jagged version of “Heyday.” There’s other contributions from Roy Moller, 1000 Mexicans, The Last Hour and plenty more. The story of this is that the TBM label is planning a full 2-cd tribute to Borland and The Sound, some of this will be on there but in the meantime Jean Paul Mierlo is working on a documentary of Borland (called Walking in the Opposite Direction) and agreed to use this as the soundtrack. You want my opinion? Get both, this one and that one, both well worth it. www.thebeautifulmusic.com

SUCH A MUCH! R & B GIRLS OF THE 50’S AND 60’S-(CHERRY RED/ CROYDON MUNICIPAL)- The folks at Cherry Red knew that St. Etienne’s Bob Stanley has great taste in music so they gave him his own side label under the Cherry Red umbrella, Croydon Municipal (and if that’s not the story then I don’t know what is). Stanley has put together a few other comps under his label and here’s yet another one. As it states, r & b girl group from the 1950’s and 60’s. 20 songs in all. Other than Etta James (contributing “Nobody Loves You Like Me”, there’s very few others on here I’d heard of, but no matter, most of this is excellent! This isn’t some prettied up version of r & b, these are down and dirty tunes, in fact, as Stanley says in the liner notes, “Here’s a crunching collection of R & B girls, with popsicles and icicles in short supply.” Amen. Lucille Brown opens with the sultry “Come On and Love Me” while Blanche Thomas kicks up some dirt on “You Ain’t Such a Much.” One of my faves here is LaVern Baker’s smokin’ “Voodoo Voodoo.” A few other favorites include Marie Knight’s absolutely rousing “I Thought I Told You Not To Tell Them”, Paul Grimes swaggerin’ “You Move Me So”, Carrie Grant’s swingin’ “Mish Mash” and Wynona Carr’s slinky “Please Mr. Jailer.” Not sure where Stanley cherry picked all these tunes from but the guy must have an incredible collection (no surprise there). Play this one at your next dinner party and see who leaves and who stays, the folks who stay are the keepers. www.cherryred.co.uk

The Blind Shake
A few years ago this band’s previous label, Learning Curve, sent me a package that had a bunch of cds in it by these guys and I was immediately taken by their gnarly blend of punk, surf, garage and outer space-y kind rawk. They’re back with a new record, their first one for the Goner label, and it seems like a good home for them. Jim and Mike Blaha (I’m assuming they’re brothers) are on guitars and vocals and Dave Roper is hitting the skins and these three can whip up some real turmoil. The 1-2 opening punch of “Old Lake” and “Parachute” while make your ears wiggle as will the stunning title track (is that a guitar making those sounds??? Or maybe they just have more/better/weirder fx pedals than you do). “Young Carnival Waste” might be the best song title this year (excellent song, too) while “In a Trance” will do just that (put you in a trance, goofball). I’ll put it like this, if there’s someone you want to pummel but you don’t want to get arrested by hitting them and you start punching your pillow, this will be your soundtrack. If this was the 90’s Am Rep woulda signed these guys. ‘Nuff said. www.goner-records.com

Vashti Bunyan
HEARTLEAP-(DICHRISTINA)-She’s back! But then she’s going away again; this time for good, or so she says. British folk singer Vashti Bunyan has said this, her third album, will be her final one, and it’s a subtle yet memorable ending to an unorthodox career in music. Bunyan debuted in 1970 with Just Another Diamond Day but was so discouraged by lackluster sales, she quit for a while and didn’t show up again until 2005, when she released Lookaftering; a collection of singles also appeared in 2007. Like those previous albums, Heartleap features her breathy vocals set against a backdrop of guitars, strings, and other trebly instruments. In “Across the Water,” the album’s opener, Bunyan sounds downright fragile, but her vocals gradually build in strength. “Holy Smoke” starts out with a most appropriate line: “I sigh with every breath I’m breathing.” The hushed, gently lilting tune includes background vocals by Devendra Banhart and Andy Cabic. “Mother” tells the tale of Bunyan as a little girl peeking through a slightly opened door to observe her mother, who thinks she’s alone, playing piano and singing; Bunyan now laments the fact she never cheered on her mother’s talent, and a mournful cello line underscores her remorse. “Jellyfish” and “Shell” reverberate with bell-like sounds. “Gunpowder” is about struggling to be on speaking terms with an ex-partner; “Blue Shed” is a cautionary tale of the longing for solitude. In other words, while the listener may be lulled by the shimmery sounds of flutes, dulcimers, and piano, the lyrics are full of emotional turmoil and self-doubt and yet, they’re not depressing as much as they are wisely contemplative. Some might easily dismiss this soft, quiet album as background music, but those of us who know better prefer to listen closely and be mesmerized by its nuances. www.forthstreet.demon.co.uk SUSAN BRETTINGEN

Old 97’s
Dallas’ Old 97’s debut came out 20 years ago and it wasn’t a great record (that would be their amazing 3rd record 97’s TOO FAR TO CARE (Elektra) but it was still a damn good one and a record that any band would be proud to call their own debut. Yup, band members Rhett Miller (lead vocal and guitar), bassist Murry Hammond, guitarist Ken Bethea and drummer Philip Peeples (same four guys who are in the band today) were definitely on to something here blending rock/pop with the country music that was in their hearts and Miller’s charismatic vocals (and classic lyrics ) were pretty hard to ignore. Opening cut “St. Ignatius” kicks things off in languid fashion while cut number two, “504” (still a crowd favorite) injects some of the hyperactive energy that the band became known for. “Miss Molly” has one of those cow-punk beats as does the kickin’ “Doreen” (another crowd favorite). Also on here is the darker “4 Leaf Clover” (later re-recorded on TOO FAR TO CARE) as well as the “Old 97’s Theme” and the short “Ken’s Polka Thing” (also do not miss the excellent “Stoned”). Included here is a second, 12-song disc that includes plenty of demos and a bunch of unreleased stuff (and who knew that former Black Snakes/Fireworks/68 Comeback guitarist, Darin Lin Wood, drummed on some of the early stuff???), most of which is worth hearing. Also included is a booklet with liner notes by Ken Bethea and a handful of old pics. Longtime fans already have this but this isn’t a bad place at all for newcomers, either. And the best thing of all, here it is twenty years later and the band is still at it, releasing terrific, relevant records. Also, if you’ve never seen the band live check ‘em out, you’ll be in for a real treat. www.omnivorerecordings.com

Various Artists
THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE RECORD CLUB-(RIGHTEOUS/ CHERRY RED)- As it says on the cover, “Inspired by The Cramps crazy collection, Volume one: fungus, stockings, torture, beatniks robots and nonsense.” So with all of that I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but this is ….well, amazing. For those that can appreciate oddball music, made by folks who perhaps had a few, this record is full of them. 26 songs in all. It’s Thanksgiving morning and right now I’m cranking this and getting odd looks. Tommy Blake offers up “F-olding Money” while Tommy Wills and his Twisting Tomcats tell you to “Aw Shucks Go on Twist.” And Hugh Barrett and the Victors do “Fungus Among Us” to the tune of “Splish Splash.” Next Halloween play The Webs “Lost (cricket in my ear)” and scare the kids and at your next doo wop party crank the living daylights out of The Chips “Rubber Biscuit.” There’s also beautifully strange cuts from The Boss-Tones, The Antwinettes, The Jet Streams, Horace Heller, Big Jox Orchestra and many more. If you want to impress the neighbors walk around the ‘hood with this sticking out of your back pocket. They’ll make you president of the homeowners association. Honest. www.cherryred.co.uk

My music is local. My tee-shirts are local. My house is local. My kids are local (well half of them are, their other half is Dutch). And my favorite record of the year is local. Pop history is filled with husband and wife partnerships, Edie Gormet and Steve Lawrence, Marvin Gaye, Ike and Tina and of course, Sonny and Cher. In the indie-world perhaps the most prolific and successful is Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley (or are they the next best Ira and George(ia)?) from Yo La Tengo. The Ipps are the creation of husband and wife, Bo and Emily Davis, two Columbus stalwarts who were part of the noise-rock band Necropolis. Necropolis was a band that grew exponentially and was best known for two of its members (Adam Smith and BJ Holesapple) who formed the great Columbus label Columbus Discount Records (Cheater Slicks, Times New Viking, Mike Rep). At first Necropolis were a somewhat pedestrian homage to the Fall, with bursts of noise filled with flecks of keyboard, shrill vocal stabs somehow searching for a melody. In their final years, Necropolis was the greatest live band in Columbus, think the best of the EX combined with Minor Threat---they would floor everybody with precision-like assault. The easy casualness of the IPPS stems from the fact that these two songwriters have not only shared music together but also the strains of children, work and of course their bed, this fluidity comes across in the music as easy as a worn out concert shirt. The sound is faded, but sharp and, at times can pillage a person's ears and brains. The Ipps are a different sound altogether, perhaps it's the fact that Bo and Emily have children but the songs on "everything is real" are insanely catchy with just enough feedback, velvet soaked noise to please even the most hardened music fan. Culling together years of making and listening to music, songs such as "Dig Yr Brain" & "Return to Tapedeck" bring to mind Blast First era Sonic Youth but remain firmly on this side of the pop-music fence. They shine on the bouncing-on the bed gleam of "Never Sleep", "H8 Yrself", the "Motor Away" inflected "You Need to Bleed" (it also boasts a short guitar solo that could be cribbed from New Order's "Love Vigilantes") and song of the year canidate "Yr. Thick" which it the first punk song my six year old is trying to learn on the guitar. Live, the Ipps are sometimes a scattered humored mess, as they don't practice, boast two drummers (ala Adam and the Ants, The Allman Brothers and the Boredoms), no bass and the relief of having a few drinks and singing without children running around can be infectious. Sadly due to their living circumstances very few people outside Columbus will have the opportunity to see the IPPS but you can buy my favorite record this year's here: www.superdreamerrecordsmain.com BELA KOE-KROMPECHER

The Primitives
SPIN-O-RAMA-(ELEFANT)-After not being around for over two decades this sugary UK pop quartet returned in 2012 with ECHOES & RHYMES (and album of 60’s covers). I never heard that one and while friends tell me it’s good, you want to hear if a returning band can still write an album full of originals. I have listened to SPIN-O-RAMA, several times and I must say, it’s excellent! It sounds like vocalist Tracy Tracy has not aged one bit and guitarist Paul Court, who sings a few tunes here, still blasts out those hooky guitar riffs like it was the only thing he was put on the planet to do. Also returning is drummer Tig Williams, still happily bashing away, and the band’s old producer Paul Sampson is here on bass (one of the things that brought the band back together a few years ago was the death of their original bassist, Steve Dullaghan). On SPIN-O-RAMMA, 11 songs breeze by in just under a half hour and from the opening title track on through the punchy “Hidden in the Shadows” onto the janglier, 60’s ish Court-sung “Wednesday World”, you can see they’re in fine form. Elsewhere the trippy (also Court-sung) “Purifying Tone” also caught my ear as did the flat-out great “Lose the Reason” and the lovely “Petals.” I won’t spoil all of the surprises for you but suffice it to say this is a more-than welcome return. SPIN-O-RAMA is superb! www.elefant.com

Sleaford Mods
What the ….where did this come from? I first began seeing folks post vids on this UK punk-rap- (what would YOU call them?) duo on Facebook within the last year They’ve certainly made a splash in their home country and are beginning to make inroads over here. Vocalist Jason Williamson sounds truly pissed during most of these songs while Andrew Fearn does all of the other stuff. They drop f-bombs as often as Shaquille O’Neal used to miss free throws and I’ll bet The Fall’s Mark E. Smiths loves them….or hates them, who knows. This twelve song comp gathers up tunes from singles from this year and some from 2013. Listening to the lyrics it seems that Williamson rants against EVERYTHING. Pot holes, Johnny Rotten (“Pubic Hair LTD”) but seriously how can a catchy little ditty like “Black Monday” not put a smile on your face (even if Williamson has just smashed all of your teeth in) while “Jolly Fucker” might spew even more vitriol. On “Bambi” he states “You’re in the pop start market…oh yeah, I forgot” (another tune blasting Lydon). “Routine Dean’ is pretty great, too. OK, I’m not gonna spoil all of the surprises for you, but yeah, check this one out. www.ipecac.com

Strawberry Story
GRAVY-(SELF RELEASED)- Strawberry Story were a fuzzy, indie pop band they hailed from the UK and existed in the late 80’s /early. 90’s. Thinking back how there were a good handful of these bands, like S.S. that wrote great songs, but barely got noticed over here (bands like the Fat Tulips, Flatmates, Tallulah Gosh, etc.) and I’m not sure how much attention they got in their home country, either. Strawberry Story had lots of different releases on many different labels (Daisy Chain, Heaven, Vinyl Japan, Parasol, Bringing on Bull, etc.) and if there is a definitive release it’s the compilation that Vinyl Japan released in ’93 , CLAMMING FOR IT, that collected 16 of the bands greatest moments. Well, this new 2-cd compilation trumps that one (plus the V.J. release are, I believe, all out of print). And if I’m not mistaken, GRAVY is everything the band ever recorded (53 songs spread out over two discs). Yup, Haley (vocals), Rex (guitar), James (guitar) and Paul (bass) created a pretty nifty little racket here with short, snappy songs full of hooks n’ fuzz and perfect for snapping your fingers, cooking a meal or dancing with yourself. For starters you have to hear the amazing “Gone Like Summer” (and if this wasn’t an NME single of the week back then something was drastically wrong in the UK) but they weren’t a one- trick pony. The band could get a little funky (“Theresa Lovely”), tender (“Ashlands Road”), tough (“Kissamatic Lovebubble”), etc. In addition to the studio stuff there’s good handful of live stuff on here and they even include the Grrr version of “Think of Me.” Oh and any band that writes song called “Molly Ringwald” is ok in my book. If you didn’t discover ‘em then how about discovering them now. Yeah, NOW. www.myspace.com/strawberrystory available at www.jigsaw-records.com

Maggie Bjorklund
Much has happened for Ms. Bjorklund since the release of her debut album in 2011. She was already an in-demand session musician, and her reputation’s grown considerably; if you’ve seen Jack White live, you’ve seen her as a key player in his band. Here, she’s taken on a dark, dusty vibe not unlike Calexico and later-period PJ Harvey. Shaken is a somewhat melancholy affair, as it was written in the wake of her mother’s passing. It’s not a grievously sad affair, though; the idiosyncratic country of “Missing At Sea” is alluring, and her duet with Lambchop frontman Kurt Warner, “Fro Fro Heart,” is a jazzy lounge number that suits her dreamy vocals in all the right ways—as does the rest of this dark, alluring album. www.bloodshotrecords.com JOSEPH KYLE

Lloyd Cole
STANDARDS-(OMNIVORE RECORDINGS)-“Lloyd Cole declares he’s no longer too old to rock,” declares the press release that came with this album, which amuses me. Having followed his career from the beginning, I don’t know that Cole ever really mellowed out entirely. Standards, originally released in 2013 and up until now available only overseas, provides evidence of an intact wit and an enduring and keen ear for a catchy melody. If anything has changed from his work in the 1980s, it’s that Cole seems to aim his snark at himself as much as at others. Case in point: Cole’s protagonist in “Women Studies,” a professor who used to be “young and stupid” but now hangs out with the “Penguin Classics scene.” The autobiographical “Period Piece” features a melody and vocal delivery quite like Bob Dylan. “Myrtle and Rose” is a bittersweet tale of a man and woman who could never quite get it together and instead settled for others. In the midtempo “No Truck” and “Blue Like Mars,” Cole sounds every bit as jaded as he did 30 years ago on Rattlesnakes; the difference now is he’s more resigned and reflective. Before things can get too dark, “Opposites Day,” with guitars bouncing back and forth between speakers, reminds the listener of Cole’s knack for persevering through his disappointment. The gentle country shuffle of “It’s Late” actually sounds a bit like the Ricky Nelson hit of the same name, with shades of “Garden Party.” “Kids Today” combines crankiness and humor as Cole sings about music rebels throughout the ages, from bobby soxers to punks. “Diminished Ex” nicely concludes things with a generous dose of twang and reverb. The only song that seems slightly out of place is the opener, a cover of the John Hartford tune “California Earthquake.” Whether you think it rocks or not, Standards is a fine addition to Cole’s discography. http://omnivorerecordings.com SUSAN BRETTINGEN

Whitey Morgan & the 78’s
There’s a venue out here in Evergreen, CO called the Little Bear Saloon and this band played there so much that I thought they were local but alas, I guess he/they hail from Flint (supposedly a rough place to be from). Recorded at The Machine Shop and though you might think the dude is an old soul who’s been at it fort they only have two other full-lengths out (one one Bloodshot and the debut on Smallstone so this live set is culled from both of those releases. Crankin’ through 13 nuggets of “outlaw honky tonk” , Morgan has great band behind him including a terrific pedal steel player (Brett Robinson) and Mike Lynch tickling the ivories. (plus the usual guitar/bas/drums). In addition to the originals he tosses in cover by Springsteen (“I’m on Fire”), Johnny Cash (“Bad News”) , “Johnny Paycheck (“Cocaine Train”) plus others by Dale Watson, Hank Williams and a few more which makes at least half this set covers but Morgan and the band does all of ‘em justice. And honestly, even if I didn’t like any of this (which I do) you think I’d say that? Morgan looks like the kind of guy you want ON YOUR SIDE. Hey, I’m watching my p’s and q’s over here. www.bloodshotrecords.com

John Schooley & Walter Daniels
DEAD MALL BLUES-(12XU)- If you call these guys the England Dan and John Ford Coley or garage blues then you’ll be a marked man. But seriously these two folks are based in Austin, Daniels was in old Austin band Jack O’ Fire (with Tim Kerr) while Schooley had some stuff out in Goner back in the 90’s (he was also in The Revelators). Anyway , that’s some history, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when putting the record on but when I did the first thing that happened was my 6 year old daughter asked me to please turn it down (what does she know, her favorite band is King Snake Roost). Ok so not a great start and then, as the records playing my thought was, “Wow, 12XU released this??!!” This sort of garage blues isn’t the sort of record I have much of in my collection, but when I hear stuff like this I really do like it (Me, the avowed “blues hater”). Schooley plays guitar and Daniels plays harmonica (I’m assuming both of ‘em sing). Apparently these 10 songs were recorded in a few hours over a few weekends (with the UT football game on an the volume turned down) and while I’m not sure which ones are original and which ones are covers , who cares, these two add enough heart, soul and swagger to the tunes that even if they were covers you probably would not be able to tell. A few of my favorites include “We Got to Meet Death One Day,” “”Boatman’s Dance,” “Peaches” and the title track. Damn, now I wanna see these two live and I’ll probably have to go to Austin to do that. I’m filling up the car with gas, grabbing a few friends and heading south (I can crash on Tim Napalm’s couch). See ya’. www.12xu.net

Wow, this was certainly a blast from the past that I had nearly forgotten about. This record by this Bellingham, WA band was originally released on Tim Alborn’s Harriet Records label (Tim also published the half-size zine Incite!). This band included Sean Tollefson (bass vocals), Brad Robert (guitar/ vocals) and Jeff Fell (drums). Both Sean and Jeff went on to form Tullycraft (who may still around in some form or another) while Brad retired from music to work in an eraser factory (not a brick factory). Crayon were fiercely independent, noisy/poppy and probably had some inspiration from Beat Happening. Sean and Brad alternated vocal duties with Sean having the childlike, innocent (which brought the band the twee tag, Sean would later carry these vocals into Tullycraft, let’s face it, his voice is instantly recognizable). It’d be hard to call these guy a twee band though as on many of the songs the guitars roar and the waves of distortion go over you heard and swallow you up (in the best way possible). Songs like “Chutes and Ladders’ (not a Gray Matter cover), “Crown,” “Pedal” and “Hope in Every Train” are too sticky for words. Hold your breath and jump in, people. Kudos to the HHBTM label for reissuing this lost gem 20 years after its original release. As it says on lots of records the world over, PLAY LOUD! www.hhbtm.com

Ronnie Fauss
BUILT TO BREAK-(NORMALTOWN RECORDS)-Out of the blue Fauss’ 2012 debut, I AM THE MAN YOU KNOW I’M NOT (also on Normaltown Records) dropped into my lap and I really dig the Dallas singer-songwriters grasp of tunes (let’s face it, the guy’s got a knack for songwriting). If it looks like Fauss might be an old(er) soul it’s because, as stated in the press sheet, that he didn’t become a songwriter until after his first child was born (not the usual trajectory) but with songs this good you’d think he’d been around a lot longer. With a full, kicking band they get right down to business on opener “Another Town”, a great rock/pop tune as is the next one, “A Natural End.” Elsewhere, “The Big Catch’ is a gorgeous acoustic track while on “Eighteen Wheels’ he gets help on vocal from buddy Rhett Miller (Old 97’s) and the lovely, honey-voiced Jenna Paulette sings with Fauss on the honky-tony “Never Gonna Last” (near the end Fauss and Co. cover Phosphorescent’s “Song for Zula”- one of my favorite Phosphorescent tunes and Fauss does a great job with the cover). If the spark of a band like Whiskeytown revved your engine then I’m pretty confident saying that BUILT TO BREAK will be right up your alley. Seriously, there’s not a bad song on here. www.normaltownrecords.com

Inspiral Carpets
It always seems to be the case that the best comeback albums are often made by the less-obvious reunited bands, and that’s definitely the case with Inspiral Carpets. The Eighties Madchester/Baggy band were notable for their organ-driven retro-rock, and they’ve not changed one zot. They’ve still got a knack for melody and for chant-worthy singalong numbers, such as the single “Spitfire,” “Changes,” and the utterly, unavoidably catchy “Hey Now.” The punk-rock chanting of “Our Time” is a can’t miss number, as is “Let You Down,” which features legendary Manchester oddball poet John Cooper Clarke. All in all, Inspiral Carpets is a record that quickly makes up for the two decades between it and its predecessor. A fine return from a fine band, this. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

Willow Willow
LISTENING TO MUSIC-(SELF RELEASED)- These two certainly have an interesting history (though Googling their name and trying come up with anything is difficult). Jessica and Miranda, the two women who make up WW met in Kindergarten in Albany, CA in ’81. Apparently these two both loved to sing as kids, too. In high school they joined the choir and by their early 20’s they were writing song together (and were brought under the wing of Bay Area songwriter Bart Davenport). Fast forward to 2007 when they released their debut record, then moved to L.A. and slowly began work on their sophomore effort and here it is. It’s lovely (they’ve got a Cardinal thing, Richard Davies and Eric Matthews thing going on with Miranda being the main songwriter and Jessica being the master at arranging the songs/harmonies). It sounds like it could be lost, obscure gem from the 60’s but then again to sounds contemporary, like they could fit in with the current indie pop scene of The Softies (ok, who aren’t totally current but have been playing gigs again the past few years) or Au Revoir Simone. Anyway, all 11 of these songs are dreamy with sticky melodies and terrific harmonies. If you’ve read this far then you already know if this will be up your alley or not (and I’m really surprised a label didn’t scoop this up unless the ladies wanted to self release it?) willowwillowmusic@gmail.com

Les Baxter
Poor Les Baxter. Back in the ‘50s and early ‘60s, he just couldn’t get people to take him seriously. To this day, exotica, the genre he pioneered, is the fodder of jokes involving tiki bars and elevator music. What Baxter really wanted was for people to appreciate how his songs combined sounds from places like South America and Polynesia with classical music. He paired French horns and bongos, flutes and bird calls, and other traditional and nontraditional instruments to transport the gray flannel suited businessman from the rec room in his humdrum late ‘50s suburban ranch house to a Tahitian beach. This release from Cherry Red Records includes two complete albums, Les Baxter and his Orchestra’s Original Quiet Village and The Primitive & The Passionate; and selections from Exotique: The Music of Les Baxter, performed by Don Tiare and His Orchestra. While it’s unlikely to gain any converts to exotica, the collection provides solid evidence of Baxter’s skills. The bewitching “Quiet Village,” which some consider exotica’s theme song, starts things off, setting the mood for the oriental splendor of “Shanghai Rickshaw” and the tropical “Singing Sea Shells,” which features violins and theremin. Bursts of Afro-Cuban percussion punctuate songs like “Taboo” and “Temple of Gold,” which also showcases Baxter’s trademark “shadow chorus” of men humming in low voices and women oohing the high parts. The songs from The Primitive & and the Passionate indicate a shift to more uptempo arrangements. “Via Veneto” abounds with pizzicato strings and cymbal splashes; “Manchurian Melody” serves up slinky flutes and vibraphones with bouncy trombones. If you’re not ready to get on board with exotica, preview a few of the songs online. You may like it in small doses! As for me, I’ll take the heaping helping served up here. http://www.cherryred.co.uk SUSAN BRETTINGEN

The Chills
THE BBC SESSIONS -(FIRE RECORDS)-Wow…this was certainly a pleasant surprise. I never thought I’d see a new release of old Chills stuff. I assumed that everything made it onto the 3-cd Secret Box set that leader Martin Phillipps released several years ago. From what I’m hearing Phillipps and his band will have some new material out perhaps early next year, which is great news, but until then we have this to hold us over from this legendary New Zealand chiming pop band (ok, I’m a little biased, I have been huge fan ever since I first heard BRAVE WORDS when it was first released and think Phillipps is one of the great living songwriters). This includes three different Peel session, ones from 1985, ’87 and ’89 (each with a different line…..the only difference between the 1987 and ’89 lineups is Caroline Easter drummed on ’87 and Jimmy Stevenson on ’89). You get to hear such bona fide Chills’ classics as “Rolling Moon,” “Wet Blanket,” “Rain,” “Part Past, Part Fiction” (with different lyrics), “Night of Chill Blue” and plenty more (12 songs in all, including two I’d never heard before, “Moonlight on Flesh’ and “Christmas Chimes”). The material on here isn’t completely different than the versions that were released on albums but it does have a slightly rawer sound (ok by me). It’s always a breath of fresh air to hear Chills material I’d never heard before. Longtime fans will get this the day it is released and newcomers can start here too. www.firerecords.com

Sid Griffin
I was real happy to see this one. I’ve been a longtime fan of Griffin’s LA-based band the Long Ryders and at some point, I think in the 90’s’, he relocated to England and formed the terrific Coal Porters (in addition he’s written books on both Bob Dylan and Gram Parsons, a ton of music-related articles and has a radio show on the BBC as well). This is his third solo record but it’s been a while since his previous one (2005’s AS CERTAIN AS SUNRISE. This new one, THE TRICK IS TO BREATHE is a pretty low-key affair. Griffin recorded it in a few days in Nashville, most of the folks playing on the record Griffin had only met at the beginning of the sessions. The record is a nice mix of energetic ones (“Blue Yodel No. 12 & 35,” “Elvis Presley Calls His Mother After the Ed Sullivan Show, and album closer “I’ll Forget You Very Well) as well as some real low-key ones (opener “Ode to Bobby Gentry,” “Circle Bar,” “Between the General and the Grave” plus others one) and one poem (“Punk Rock Club”) and one cover (The Youngbloods “Get Together”- written by Dino Valenti). One thing about Griffin’s music, I definitely prefer the zippier ones (lots o’ mandolin, banjo, pedal steel, dobro, etc.) but still, I like it ALL. Even though I’ve never met Griffin, THE TRICK IS TO BREATHE is like an old friend that I can reach for at any given time (and if I ever have a chance to chat with Griffin and pick his brain I’d do it in heartbeat). www.sidgriffin.com

So Cow
THE LONG CON-(GONER)- I’ve always approached this band (Basically the brainchild of one Brian Kelly though on this record he has a real live rhythm section) with caution. Not sure why, I’ve mostly liked what I’ve heard. Part of it is that I’ve always gotten advances of their stuff and those cds in cardboard sleeves are so damn hard to keep track of. Anywho, after two released on Tic Tac Totally (a label I really like) they’ve jumped to the big leagues with a new release, their third, on the Goner label (a label I really like as well). I will say this, it’s Saturday morning I’m cleaning the office and this is perfect cleaning music. This stuff is noisy and hooky though the band never goes for the obvious hook, in fact, some of the guitar playing is downright amateurish in the best way possible. Some of the hooks remind me of that old Chicago band Number One Cup (Flydaddy Records, look ‘em up). There’s 13 songs here and I’d say a good 10 of them are good enough for a mix tape, if I still made mix tapes (sigh…). Check out “Sugar Factory,” “Operating at a Loss” (my life story) “Say Hello” and “To be Confirmed”, those are definitely good places to start. Oh and the final song is called “Barry Richardson”, don’t know who he is but he has a song named after him. I like So Cow and you will too. By the way, did I mention that this was recorded in Ireland? www.goner-records.com

The Dream Academy
THE MORNING LASTED ALL DAY -(REAL GONE MUSIC)-I never knew much about this lush, UK pop band beyond “Life in a Northern Town”, the hit off of their 1985 S/T debut (the song is apparently a tribute to Nick Drake). Ok, so there is also “The Edge of Forever” which we all knew from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but beyond those two songs I never ventured further into this band’s catalog. When the records came out I was far too immersed in the sounds of punk rock but perhaps in the mid-late 90’s, when bands like Trembling Blue Stars and Belle & Sebastian began to tickle my fancy that would have been a good time to strike. Alas, it took until this 2-cd compilation released this year and while two discs may be a bit much for casual fans, it still hits on all of the high points of the band (and then some). The band was led by songwriter Nick Laird-Clowes and also included vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Kate St. John and keyboardist Gilbert Gabriel. They released three proper albums in the 2nd half of the 80’s and then disintegrated. THE MORNING LASTED ALL DAY is a generous helping of al that you’d need from the band. Disc one focuses on the hits while about half of disc two is unreleased material. Listening on is the beguiling “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”, the moody “In Places on the Run”, the bucolic “Girl in a Million (for Edie Sedgwick)” and the killer “Indian Summer” (not a Beat Happening cover). I’m glad to see that beyond the few hits I’d heard that the band had several others well worth hearing. www.realgonemusic.com

MIDNIGHT PASSENGER -(GONER RECORDS)-I dug this Memphis band’s 2012 debut (also on Goner) as it had plenty of guitar attitude but MIDNIGHT PASSENGER takes a huge step forward both in songwriting and confidence (Not that they were shy folks on the debut or anything). They debut was produce by kindred spirit Ty Segall but for this one they hired longtime Memphis producer Doug Easley and he brought out all of the best aspects of the band (and then some). Opening cut “Shattered Circle” is straight-up gritty punk but on “Ties You Up” they add some odd bits of psychedelia into the proceedings and get all freaky on us, same with the title track. At 5:30, “Catholic Entries” is the longest track on the record with a screeching intro that blasts into a trippy descent into hell (or heaven if you’re me) as vocalist Chris Shaw is reading from his own, homemade bible and you’ll learn things if you listen (like the code to the Goner record store alarm). “Flickering Eyes’ is a shorter blast as is “Not a Threat” and it all ends with a band with the howling “Lights Out Club” which is a real kick to the head. Iggy may have said it and now I’m saying it, I need more. www.goner-records.com

The Pop Group
UK’s the Pop Group came, burned brightly for a few years (1978-’81) and then left us. Two albums and this odds and sods collection (which was originally released in 1980). It was bands like this (plus The Slits and many others) that showed music fans that punk rock didn’t have to be, sneering three-chord rock like the Sex Pistols or The Ramones (and Joey didn’t sneer too much anyway). No, this band, led by Mark Stewart brought elements of dub, experimental and jazz into the proceedings to make one of the most unique musicals stews in history. There was nothing pop about it (thank god) and this collection of early and live recordings shows the band at the height of its powers. Cuts like “Colour Blind,” “Thief of Fire,” “Sense of Purpose” and the title track all show the band, with Stewart’s strangled vocals and Gareth Sager’s guitar slice and dices. This collection is both for completists and a good place to start for newcomers. The other collection released at the same time by the same label, is CABINET OF CURIOUSITIES and this one is more for completists only. It’s Peel Sessions, alternative take and some live stuff and includes some of the bands more out-there moments. Again, longtime fan will want this but newbies should start with WE ARE TIME. Apparently the group got back together a few years ago and are working on a new record. Hopefully these collections will help the band get its proper due that it never received in the first place. They certainly were/are unique and really deserve it. www.freaksrus.net

The Well Wishers
A SHATTERING SKY-(SELF RELEASED)-Bay Area musician Jeff Shelton knows a thing or two about a guitar hook. Hell, the guy’s been writing catchy, hook-filled, rockin’ tunes for well over a decade now. I first heard his work with the Spinning Jennies back in the early 2000’s before he laid that band to rest and began The Well Wishers (there was also a Hot Nun record in there too a few years ago). This is the first Well Wishers release since the acoustic EP of last year and SHATTERING SKY is more of the same. Rapid fire tunes come at you one after another and the songwriting is top notch. Seriously, from opening cut “Vincennes” on to the last one “Father Nature” there’s not a dog amongst these 12 songs. On the heels of the ep earlier this year, Shelton and company (company being two different drummers who split duty on the record, Nick Laquintano and Braden McGraw otherwise Shelton plays everything else aside from a few guests) take a turn for the tender on “Right Here At Last” (with help from Bye Bye Blackbirds Bradley Skaught) while “I Believe” is pure jangle (that reminded me of Ric Menck’s old band The Springfields). Other highlights include the rippin’ “Over and Under”, the acoustic “The Last To Fall in Love” and the straight-up pop of “Sheila Shake.” It seems like I say the same thing at the end of every review and I’ll say it again here if you like well-written, catchy pop song is with bite then the Well Wishers are your band. Dive in and don’t come up. www.facebook.com/thewellwishersband

Martin Carr
THE BREAKS -(TAPETE)- Wow, well lookee who shows up all these years later, Mr Martin Carr. You used to know him as the leader of the Boo Radleys, an underappreciated UK Brit-pop band. Though to be fair, it’s not like Carr vanished, he released some records under the name Brave Captain (which had some good pop stuff but also some oddball experimental stuff that wasn’t as appealing to us longtime Boos fans). Having said all of that, Carr is probably like the rest of us, bought a house, raising a kid(s) , maybe working a job (so get off his back). It’s good to see on here that Carr came back to doing what he does best, writing ebullient, catchy pop tune as THE BREAKS is full of the. I guess what I'm trying to say is THIS IS EXCELLENT! He goes for the jugular right from the get go with the catchy “The Santa Fe Skyway” which kicks right into the soaring “St Peter in Chains” and then into the tender “Mainstream.” Elsewhere, “Mountains” shows that he can still write a sad ballad while “Senseless Apprentice” and “Mandy Get Your Mello On” are both kinda light pop tunes (more so the latter) and it ends with the heartfelt title track. While plenty of folks want a new Boo Radleys record I’ll happily settle for this (and I’m not settling, just happy). www.tapeterecords.com

Martyr Privates
S/T -(BEDROOM SUCK)-First off this Aussie label has been turning heads lately, (at least my head) w/ choice releases by bands like Lower Plenty, Blank Realm and Scott and Charlene's Wedding, among others. This trio hail from Brisbane and the record was produced by Blank Realms' Luke and the guy knows what the hell he's doing. The first thing I thought when I heard the record was, “Cool these guys sound like Spacemen 3 and they're doing it right.” Main songwriter, Cameron Hawes, who also plays in I Heart Hiroshima and the Slug Guys (hey,, the dude's busy) , might be young at heart but his guitar is an old soul and the drone/dirge/hypnotic remembrances of these tunes will get any true music fan going. Opening 1-2-3 punk of “Some One's Head,” “Gold Chew' and “You Can't Stop Progress” go right for the jugular and yeah, they're gonna win the staring contest (and you'll lose the war). Just give in and buy the record. Trust me pal, it'll be a lot easier. www.bedroomsuckrecords.com

A ROSE IN THE GARDEN OF WEEDS: A PREAMBLE THROUGH THE HISTORY OF PUGWASH-(OMNIVORE RECORDS)-Pugwash are one of those band not a lot of Americans have heard (at least not my friends) as though they’ve been a band since the late 90’s, not a lot of their records have made it to our shores. I’ve been lucky enough to have some of their previous records sent to me to review. So for their first stateside release the band offers up a 17-track collection spanning their entire career (as the title suggests). The band hails from Ireland, is led by one Thomas Walsh and will certainly apperal to fans of the Beach Boys, Beatles and ELO (XTC, too- the band has released records on Andy Partridge’s Ape House label). Cuts like opener “Take Me Away,” “Monorail,” ‘Anyone Who Asks,” “Fall Down,” “Apples” and the title track all soar with grace and grandeur and though the band are definitely inspired by the above mentioned classic bands, Walsh and company definitely inject a personality of their own into the songs (Walsh seems like a real character). Housed in a lovely digipak sleeve with liner notes by Fountains of Wayne’s Chris Collingwood and plenty of pictures, this is a real doozie for their first American release. Trust me, buy a few copies as you’ll be wearing copies out from overplay (side note: this month the band played their first ever American shows!). www.omnivorerecordings.com

The Vaselines
V FOR VASELINES-(ROSARY MUSIC)-I’ve loved this Scottish band upon first hearing them in the late 80’s (long before Kurt Cobain began yapping about them) and was stoked at their reappearance in 2010 with the terrific SEX WITH AN X (on Sub Pop……I also saw them for the first time in 2008 at Sub Pop’s 25th Anniversary shindig held outside at park just outside of Seattle). So on this, their first record in four years, the band is still writing catchy, shambling tunes though I have to admit it’s not as good as SEX WITH AN X nor the bands classic early stuff. Yup, it’s still Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee at the helm and Eugene produced this record so maybe that’s the problem, as it sounds a bit more regular rock, like a Eugenius record (the band he formed in the 90’s after The Vaselines originally broke up). I do like the hooky “The Lonely LP” and the swaying “Inky Lies” too. Also, I love Frances’ vocals on “False Heaven” and the charming “Last Half Hour” was a great way to end a record. Again V FOR VASELINES isn’t a bad record, just more of a regular one and we’ve come to expect not-regular from these two since they first burst upon the scene. I’ll play this one on occasion, but not as much as their other records. www.thevaselines.co.uk

FEEL IT LIKE A SCIENTIST -(KING OF SPADES RECORDS)- Wow, and Chrome are still at it. I wasn't aware of this band in their original incarnation (founded by Damon Edge in 1975, who died in the mid-90's and current/leader Helios Creed who came about a year later, in '76). I had heard about them in my intro to punk in the early-mid 80's but then the Am, Rep label reissued the bands two seminal albums, ALIEN SOUNDTRACKS (1977) and HALF MACHINE LIP MOVES (1979) and it was then that I discovered the holy power of Chrome. It's always been really hard to categorize the band as they are a unique mix of punk, metal, industrial, space rock and avant garde (kind of like a louder/edgier Suicide but even that isn't really accurate) and even now, with this hour long, brand new record (with Creed and new members). Cuts like “Prophecy,” “Lady Feline,” “Six” and “Big Brats' all put the bulldozer in drive, step on the gas (if bulldozers even have gas pedals?) and barrel. You might think that they'd mellowed with age, perhaps. Not a chance, the band hasn't lost any power whatsoever, sounding just as barreling and punishing as they ever have. As Creed recently said, “I have the bet band put together, finally. It's what I always imagined Chrome could be post Damon.” This is relentless. www.facebook.com/chromechronicles

Ex Hex
RIPS -(MERGE RECORDS)- It seemed like Wild Flag came, conquered and then left us. I’m assuming with three of them being in Portland and Mary Timony being 3000 miles away on the other coast in Washington, DC had something to do with with it. Well, Timony, also formerly of Helium and her solo work, wasted no time in putting together this new combo based in her hometown in the nation’s capitol. She along with Betsy Wright on bass and Laura Harris on drums have delivered a superb record here and one of my favorites of the year. With an intioxicating mix of power pop, glam and new wave (and wonderfully produced by Mitch Easter... great choice for a producer!) Timony and crew have delivered a 12 song/35 minute batch of tunes that that are up front and direct and just keep on kicking (and stick in your noggin for hours/days/weeks afterward). This is definitely the catchiest thing that Timony has ever done and even with her forays into post-punk and prog she shows that she can definitely write an album full of catchy, hooky, jagged tunes that at times remind me of Cheap Trick and The Runaways (and just to be clear, bassist Wright wrote a few of these cuts). Tunes like “Don’t Wannba Lose,” “Beat,” “Hot and Cold,” “How You Got That Girl’ and “Radio On” make this one a total winner and one of my favorite records of 2014. I hope this trio have plenty more records in them (and no not miss them live). www.mergerecords.com

The Gotobeds
POOR PEOPLE ARE REVOLTING-(12XU)-This is one of those bands I didn’t even have to hear their music to know I’d like ‘em. Of course after hearing their music I sure as hell like ‘em. Not sure if the name is a Wire reference or not, hell these guys might not know a damn thing about Wire (doubtful). I do know this much, they hail from Pittsburgh (and if they’re Pirates fans that’d be icing on the cake for me). In these 12 songs I do hear elements of Wire and The Fall (Pavement, too) as the band (rouche) rumbles on from start to finish. Opener “Fast Trash” simply bursts out of the gate with guns a blazing and then blows right into thir single “New Yorks Alright.” For more ear exercises check out “Wimpy Garcia,” “Melted Candle” and “Fucking Machine”, too (what I meant to say is listen to the record from start to finish while blindfolded and holding your breath). The end the record with an 11-minute freak out “Secs Tape” that was ok but hey, I’ve go the attention span of a gnat. Any band that can make me alternately relive late 70’s UK noisy clatter and 90’s American indie rock (when I was in my mid-20’s and had not a care in the world), is ok by me and when they write songs this good , well, you ‘ll have a band that other bands will start being compared to in a few years. www.12xu.net

It Looks Sad
S/T-(TINY ENGINES)-Ooooh, now this I like. Though the band name might come across as oh-so-emo, is multi-culti quartet have a sound that’s as diverse as their lineup. This, their debut EP, is a winning collection of four tracks. How best to describe their sound? A more hardcore James Mercer channeling a Malkmus-impersonating Tim Booth, while Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner play The Cure’s best hooks, but only out in the sunshine. The four songs here are all equally great, from the mellow “Radical” to the upbeat jangle of “Raccoon,” there’s plenty to love in this stylistically ramshackle group. Don’t be afraid! www.tinyengines.bandcamp.com JOSEPH KYLE

Big Star
#1 RECORD and RADIO CITY -(STAX/ CONCORD MUSIC GROUP)- What can I possibly say about these two records that hasn't already been said? It's almost sacrilige to say anything bad about Memphis legends Big Star lest the members od R.E.M. (or a thousand other bands) will come and break your knee caps. Having said all of that I've never been the biggest Big Star fan. Do I like them? Oh sure, of course, but I don't hold the band in as nearly high esteem as many (or most) of my friends do. I might even like Badfinger a bit more, but hey, I DO like Big Star. Having said all of that, these records, at least on a cd format, have been out of print for many years and certainly deserve the reissue treatment. As it says in the press sheet, these reissues are remastered from the original analog tape sources. For a quick overview, the band was formed in Memphis, TN in the early 70's and featured Alex Chilton (who had previously been in the Box Tops) and other songwriter Chris Bell (who died early on in a car crash after leaving the group). Drummer Jody Stephens and bassist Andy Hummel rounded out the group and were inspired heavily by the British Invasion. #1 RECORD was originally released in 1972 and apparently was a commercial failure at the time but includes many of the groups classics like opener “Feel” (love those horns), “The Ballad of El Goodo”, the swooping “In the Street”, the often covered “Thirteen” and plenty more. Record number two, RADIO CITY was released in '74 (after Chris Bell left) and feature the rave up “O My Soul”, the tender “What's Going Ahn”, the crunchy “Mod Lang” (also the name of one of my favorite Bay Area record stores), the jangly “Back of a Car” and their enduring classic “September Gurls” plus much more. Liner notes are by REM's Mike Mills and yeah, if you’re a fan you probably already have these and if you've yet to hear Big Star, check the band out as they were definitely one of the more unique pop bands to come out of the 70's (or any era, really). www.concordmusicgroup.com

Christopher Denny
IF THE ROSES DON'T KILL US -(PARTISAN)- Had not heard of this Arkansas-native before but did a little research and found out this this is his 2nd record, though his debut came out in 2007. So what had Denny been doing the past seven years (other than recording this very good record?) well, he got sober for one (good job, Chris). This 12-song sophomore effort is filled to the brim with songs of country heartache that has elements of gospel and soul as well. I have to say, first time I heard it I thought it might be a female singing. Yes Denny has a perfectly unique voice, a little Roy Orbison but even more willowy and wailing. Opener “Happy/Sad” has some righteous tuba while in a perfect world “God's Height' might be hit single. Also check out the loping title track, the gospel-tinged “Million Little Thoughts' or the soul-inflected “Love is a Code Word” but honestly there's no bad cuts on this one. I like discoveries like this. www.partisanrecords.com

Fan Modine
CAUSE CELEBRE'-(LOST COLONY MUSIC)-Fan Modine leader Gordon Zacharias is really on a roll here after having a seven year gap between records (2004's HOMELAND to 2011's GRATITUDE FOR THE SHIPPER) it only took three years between SHIPPER and this new record. Can't tell if the guy is a perfectionist or what but I will say this, he is an excellent songwriter one that is highly underrated, even amongst indie pop/rock fans. GRATITUDE FOR THE SHIPPER was definitely more of a grand, majestic statement as he pares things down a bit on this new one. Oh sure, the hooks and sturdy pop songwriting are still there but less orchestration. Nine songs in just under thirty minutes. Starting off with the Beatle-esque opener “Epater la Bourgeoisie” (with the soaring line of “Never again, never again....”) right into the nimble, hooky “One Company Town” into the quirkier ”Jandals” (odd but cool guitar hook). “First Fruits and Tenths” offer a tender moment while the shuffling, Byrds-y “I'll be Your Villain” might be my favorite cut here. That's the first five and there's four more just as good. I could bitch and moan about how the obscure Zacharias really needs to be more well-known, but hey, it is what it is and all we can hope is that one day the clueless will find a clue. www.lostcolonymusic.com

LUNCHBOX LOVES YOU-(JIGSAW RECORDS)-I've always liked this Bay Area indie pop trio (well, husband/wife of Tim and Donna and then whomever on drums...at one time it was my old pal Shannon Handy....this record is mostly just Tim and Donna though) but never went ape-crazy over 'em like a lot of my pals did. Well, this record is where I go ape-crazy as this is a terrific pop record! They've done it....melodies, harmonies, horns, everything (fans of Rocketship will not be disappointed)! It's their first record in over a decade (Tim and Donna were still making music , but under a different name) Right from the get-go, “Everybody Knows” opens it up with a rush of sugar straight to the brain followed by the slightly less sugary “Tom What's Wrong?” followed by another pure rush of “Will You be True?” You freaks want more? Check out the righteous,jangly “Another Dancefloor” or the soaring “I Go Mad”, but honestly, there's not a band song on here. At ten songs in just under a half hour it's the perfect length for a pop record (IMO) and not a minute wasted. Drop that old Hanna Barbera lunchbox off at the Goodwill and pick this one up, you won't be disappointed. www.jigsaw-records.com

INTO SIXES -(ANYWAY RECORDS)- There’s a scene at the beginning of the video for Connections’ “Cruise Control” where the protagonists hold down a bullied boy and punch him repeatedly in the nose, quickly drawing blood but not relenting until pulled away by a horrified adult. On their third full-length in two years, Columbus, Ohio’s Connections does just that, drawing quick blood with the brilliant guitar pop of “Aylia” but proceeding with 12 more quick yet devastating jabs to the nose. Masters of short bursts of loud and low-fi pop, sugary hooks and sing-song choruses, Connections are just the right combination of earthy Midwestern indie rock and breakneck early NYC punk. By the album’s fourth track, the anthemic “Beat the Sky,” the punches come fast and furious, each song a fat hook that rings in the ears long after the barrage is over. Lazy but ubiquitous comparisons to GBV are really only geographic in nature; the band has far more in common musically with the likes of The Exploding Hearts, and the album’s conclusion only leaves you thankful that they’re as prolific as they are, because at the rate they’ve been going, a brand-new album can only be right around the corner. www.anyway-records.com AL CRISAFULLI

The Dead Space
FAKER -(12XU)- If I didn't say it before I'll say it now., 12XU is really on a roll. I just cranked the latest Unholy Two record plus the latest one from Burnt Skull and The Gotobeds. Now here's Dead Space, 2 guys and a gal that call Austin, TX home. I never heard their debut 7” but dug their track on the 12XU comp CASUAL VICTIM PILE. Did you ever think 12XU would release a record by a band that sounded like Joy Division or Bauhaus? Me either, but here it is. Ok, to be fair I heard some Mission of Burma in there too but yeah. Damn these guys are GOOD. Like the person walking through the gauntlet , staring straight ahead add not allowing anything to make it deviate from its chosen path, that's Dead Space 'cept the songs are doing the walking and they are direct and precise. Like that bulldozer you stole the keys to. The opening 1-2 punch of “Fall Away” and “Both Eyes” get this goin’ but it’s not all bass heavy murk. “You’re Fake” kicks the aggression up a notch or two a does “Castle”, which rumbles on in a most righteous fashion. Not a bad tune on here. www.12xu.net

THE SOUND OF MY NAME-(KINSELLA RECORDINGS)-Tim Batke, leader of Canadian band Faunts, releases his 2nd record under the Duplekita moniker. He gets lots of help, 20 other musicians play on this but (including his brother Rob) but the thing sounds seamless. I guess you ould clal it electronic, indie dance music. You, like me, might cringe when you hear the word dance music (or electronic for that matter) but for me bands like St. Etienne opened my mind to what dance music could be. Duplekita doesn't sound like St. Etienne, but both evoke a certain kind of spirit where sticky melodies combine with rhythm that make you want to shake your ass. There's 10 songs on here and though, I mentioned it’s seamless, the songs doesn't all sound the same, each one has a distinct flavor and personality. A few of my favorites include “Roots of a Mountain/Respite” and “Everywhere For You.” This thing just glistens and sparkles all over the place. Wow. Www.kinsellarecordings.com

Game Theory
BLAZE OF GLORY-(OMNIVORE RECORDINGS)-If you truly like a band, you’re willing to overlook its flaws now and then, right? Musician Scott Miller had to start somewhere. In the late 1970s, he was itching to get something going, first recording with a group he called Alternate Learning, which became Game Theory. Game Theory released Blaze of Glory, its first album – a low-budget project -- in 1982. Now, Omnivore Recordings has remastered and reissued the album, adding 15 bonus tracks to the album’s original 12, including four from Alternate Learning and 11 previously unissued tracks from Miller’s archive; reissues for the rest of the band’s catalog are forthcoming. If the band’s initial songs weren’t fully realized at this point – if the blaze had not yet caught fire -- Miller seemed to be well on his way to more ambitious and complex compositions. If you’re willing to forgive its dated synthesizer sounds and New Wave quirks, Blaze of Glory has plenty to offer in the way of clever lyrics and catchy melodies. “I always seem to fall in love when no one wants me sending valentines,” Miller sings over the bouncy keyboards that dominate “Something to Show,” the opening track. In this and numerous other songs, Miller’s nasally and sometimes breathy delivery, along with his wry wordplay, make him a dead ringer for Mitch Easter, who would later produce other albums by the band and those of the Loud Family, Miller’s project after Game Theory. The herky-jerky “White Blues” sounds like Devo and XTC. Although the electronic handclaps of “Sleeping Through Heaven” bring Gary Numan’s “Cars” to mind, the enthusiasm in the chorus is infectious: “I want to go bang on every door and say, ‘wake up, you’re sleeping through heaven.’” If you liked Let’s Active and the dB’s, you’ll enjoy Blaze of Glory, and if you’re a diehard fan of Game Theory, the album deserves a place in your collection, if for no other reason than to make you aware of how much Miller evolved as a composer up until his sudden death in 2013, way too soon at the age of 53. www.omnivorerecordings.com SUSAN BRETTINGEN

CHORUS -(SLUMBERLAND)- I loved this band’s debut from a few years ago (2012’s ARAB SPRING) but could not find any info on them (not the easiest band name to Google). Well, fast forward few years and they get signed to Slumberland (smart move) and out comes their sophomore releases and well, hell, it's one of my favorite releases of the year (so far). Right from the get go, opener “The Gift, the Gold Watch and Everything” jump out of the gate with a full cup of sugar. Elsewhere “The English Softhearts,” “New Jacket” and the title track are all smart, catchy pop. Hell, there’s not really a bad song on here (“Jimmy” is ace, too). Masterfully recorded by Ladybug Transistors Gary Olson at his Marlborough Farms studio, really bringing out the band’s personality. The best thing of all? The record breezes by in under a half hour (perfect for no attention spans like me with little time). If you have a problem, with jangly, upbeat music (think a record full of unique variations of “This Charming Man”) then this may not be for you but the rest of us, it's on repeat this month. www.slumberlandrecords.com

Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr
I HOPE WE GET TO LOVE IN TIME-(BBR/ CHERRY RED)-Billy Davis and Marilyn McCoo came to fame as two members of the psychedelic soul vocal group The 5th Dimension. That group transformed from a psychedelic-pop to straightforward Soul-influenced pop, with later hit “Last Night I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All” being one of their best moments. By the mid-1970s, the group had run its course, effectively ending when McCoo and Davis announced their departure. The biggest solo success came with this, their debut album. Released in 1976, the album featured their two signature numbers, “You Don’t Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show)” and “Your Love.” Sonically, the duo weren’t straying far from the latter-day Fifth Dimension sound, and the rest of the album is a fine collection of mellow, soulful R&B, with “My Love For You Is Real” and the title track typifying the cool, easy-on-the-ears approach found here. McCoo would go on to further success as one of the hostesses of Solid Gold, and though they haven’t replicated this album’s success, they’re still a performing duo as of this writing, and still perform many of these excellent songs from this album. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

Laetitia Sadier
SOMETHING SHINES-(DRAG CITY)-Sonically speaking, Laetitia Sadier’s third solo album delivers on the promise in its title. With its abundance of bright brass, spacey organs, and warm washes of vocals, the album shimmers despite some moody, contemplative moments. In addition, if you’re nostalgic for Stereolab, you’ll find elements here that will return you happily to those days. For instance, if you’re fond of nimble bass guitar parts reminiscent of ‘60s French pop and keyboard sounds that sound retro one moment and futuristic the next, Something Shines will be easy on your ears. As with her previous albums, Sadier makes full use of her voice, dipping down into her contralto range to state a belief or ask a profound question, then swooping up into a nearly mezzo soprano range to evoke a lighter mood or add another layer to the instruments. Sometimes her voice soars without words, as in most of “Quantum Soup,” the opening track. Sometimes she switches from English to French within the space of a single song, as in “The Scene of the Lie.” Sadier carries on her longstanding tradition of complex lyrics. “The Milk of Human Tenderness” is rife with uncertainty; joy, happiness, and satisfaction elude her. “Is it in the interest of the rich to eradicate poverty?” she asks in “Oscuridad.” Although lines like this may have bounced by in Stereolab songs, the tunes on Something Shines aren’t nearly as catchy, and that’s because Sadier sometimes tweaks the tempo a little too much. The stop-start rhythms of “The Scene of the Lie” put a damper on the groove and keep “Butter Side Up” grounded just when it sounds like it’s about to take off. Still, if Something Shines is somewhat of a step sideways rather than forward, Sadier continues to sound like no one else out there. www.dragcity.com SUSAN BRETTINGEN

I vaguely remember Echobelly. Part of the Britpop scene, the band burst onto the scene in 1994 with their debut, Everyone’s Got One, and wasted no time following that up with On in 1995. Their fans included R.E.M., Madonna, and Morrissey, among others. So why was their success limited to the UK and Japan? These albums, recently reissued with bonus tracks, B-sides, rarities, and live versions of studio tracks, somewhat answer that question but raise a few others. Echobelly definitely had that brash, buzzy guitar sound common among so many other popular ‘90s bands sound down pat, but what set them apart was Sonya Aurora Madan, a cool, attractive, confident front woman originally from India. She sang in both alto and soprano ranges, with a voice that alternated between sweetness and toughness. The vocal similarity to Debbie Harry was striking at times, a bit more so on the first album, and with On, Madan’s British accent became more distinctive, as though she were trying to distance herself from the comparison. As for the songs themselves, here’s where a listener such as myself – who was still deeply into mainstream music in the ‘90s – may feel conflicted as to the reasons major fame (including success in America) eluded Echobelly. “Father, Ruler, King, Computer” and “Give Her a Gun” from Everyone’s Got One are full-on statements about gender equality (or lack thereof), but are more plucky and poppy than preachy. “I Can’t Imagine the World Without Me” features a delightful “Sgt. Pepper”-like psychedelic bridge amidst the blazing guitars. But too often, Echobelly resorts to the ‘90s cliché of the “quiet verse, loud chorus” song structure, whereas songs that are nuanced, like “Sober” and “Venus Wheel,” are relegated to B-sides. On serves up more of these strengths and weaknesses, with guitars and vocals sometimes competing, rather than complementing each other, but there are still standouts. “King of the Kerb,” “Great Things” and “Nobody Like You” have anthemic choruses, and “Pantyhose and Roses,” with its clever vignettes of people’s attributes and fetishes, includes the memorable back-and-forth lines, “It could change, it will never, it will change, it could never.” “Dark Therapy” is melancholic and mesmerizing, with Madan singing about cruising on a missile over a desert plain and wading through monsoon rains. The bonus tracks “Bunty” and “One After 5am” suggest Echobelly may have captured more people’s attention by being subtle rather than loud. www.3loopmusic.com (SUSAN BRETTINGEN)

WHERE WERE YOU THEN? -(BAD PAINTINGS)-I remember where I was when I first heard (or heard about) Los Angeles' staunchly lo-fi band further. I was at a show at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco and planning on going to a show there the following night. A pal said “Make sure you show up early, further's opening.” I asked who they were and he gave me a brief history and told me all about why I should be there. Well, I came, I saw and became a fan. From there I met the band, bought their records and even booked them 2 shows up in Santa Rosa at a cafe (circa 1994-'95) I was booking there and they were nice guys and always real appreciative of it. In the mid or late 90's further disbanded (and out of it came both Beachwood Sparks and The Tyde....two most excellent bands!) but I'm glad, all these years later, this label saw fit to release this singles compilation. Bad Paintings and the band has cherry picked 13 of the bands best tunes from singles and the songs are in chronological order. Beginning with “Filling Station” from their debut 7” on Bongload Records up through the loopy “Surfing Pointers” then on to the overloaded n' noisy “California Bummer” (with its classic, fake intro). Elsewhere we hear some of my all-time favorite further tunes like “Quiet Riot Grrrl” (from the Grimes Golden 10”), the supremely melodic “Springfield Mods”, the choppy “I Wanna Be a Stranger” (from a 7” that my pal Dan and I released on his Kirbdog Records label), and on to the final, epic “Grandview Skyline.” There's more but I don't wanna spoil all of the surprises but suffice it to say if a band that nailed that sweet spot right in between Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh is your bag then it's ok to jump on the further bandwagon (a few decades late, but still). Go on. www.bad-paintings.co.uk

The Luxembourg Signal
S/T-(SHELFLIFE)-Wow, I loved the 7” from back in April (“Distant Drive” b/w “Wishing Pool” ) both of those songs are on here though not sure if they;re different versions or not. This band, mostly based in Los Angeles, feature most of the members of beloved Sarah Records band Aberdeen. We know that Beth has been singing for year with Trembling Blue Stars while the other members, Johnny, Brian, Betsy and Ginny are all aboard. Wondered about Mr. John Girgus and while he doesn't play in the band he did do some of this recording (and played on a few tunes. . Unlike the 7” the songs are more atmospheric on here with more room to spread out as they make major use of both time sand space. Some of this even reminded me of Spacemen 3 at times. This is even better than expected , form the druggy “Drowning” to the driving “Wishing Pool” and the gorgeous “We Go on' there's seriously not a dog amongst these ten songs. If Beth can get her tail over to the states maybe they can play some shows , which would be seriously great. Two side notes: masterfully co-recorded by Mr. Dave Newton and Dale Crover (yup, that Dale Crover, from The Melvins) plays drums on one song (??!!!). Essential listening. www.shelflife.com

Nick Oliveri
LEAVE ME ALONE-(SCHNITZEL RECORDS)-The new Nick Oliveri album, Leave Me Alone, reminds me of Mahogany Rush. I have no idea why. I haven’t listened to any Mahogany Rush in years and really can’t remember what they sound like, but my sub-conscious is connecting the two. 1970’s heavy metalish in its overall sound, and a bit more sophisticated, bright in clarity, heavy and fuzzy but distinct, deliberate like boot heels on hardwood. The production is clean, the songs melodic with that metal edge. Lots of non-music elements mixed in with good effect. No one song really stands out as better than the others to me, each one is different, the record is diverse. The lyrics were not unexpected, death, blood, drugs, booze, living on the edge, that sort of thing, Nick stated that they are from his own experiences.Even though he, former bassist for Queens of the Stone Age, played all the instruments and produced Leave Me Alone there are guitar solos from some of his past bandmates and other notables, Phil Campbell from Motorhead, Dean Ween (Mickey Moist) from Ween and Moistboyz, Stephen Haas from Moistboyz, Mike Pygmie from Mondo Generator, Marc Diamond from The Dwarvesand Bruno Fevery from Kyuss Lives! and Vista Chino, and a guest vocal by Blag Dahlia from The Dwarves. Musically interesting, lyrically bland, Leave Me Alone is a good listen. www.schnitzel.co.uk STEVE STEVENSON

The Jigsaw Seen
This little know LA pop band has been at it for over two decades but have kept a real low profile (through no faulty of their own). I have to say though, they've been more active, this last handful of year than they were the first fifteen or so. The core of the band are transplanted east coasters Dennis Davison (who writes all of the songs) and Jonathan Lea who met through a music ad years ago. They've kept the Jigsaw Seen going through thick and thin. The rhythm section of Tom Currier and Teddy Freese seem to be tunes in to every move by Davison and Lea. I usually like their records immediately but this one took a little longer for the songs to sink in but most of them have. “Let There Be Reverb” busts out of the gate with some fiery guitar but then settles back down with the tuneful “Idiots with Guitars.” Moving right along. “Die Laughing” takes on the subject of AIDS with some humor while they follow that up with the tender “Understand” and the rollicking “We Women.” A few things I like about Jigsaw Seen records is that the band definitely follows their own muse and doesn't even think about following nay kind of trends and thus, the songs are always a nice mix of pop styles also the band never skimps on the packaging (always done by Lea) and this time is no exception. These guys are not usually on the indie rock radar, but they could be in yours, pick up OLD MAN REVERB today.Www.vibro-phonic.com

The Psycho Sisters
UP ON THE CHAIR, BEATRICE -(ROCKBEAT RECORDS)-You can’t judge an album by its covers. The sepia-toned front, with its 1900s image of a little girl in ringlets, may lead you to believe this is some sort of Americana album. Staring grim-faced from the back cover, Vicki Peterson and Susan Cowsill look more dour than psycho, and they’re actually real-life sisters-in-law, but don’t let that fool you. You might recognize their names: Vicki was the lead guitarist in the Bangles, Susan was in the family group the Cowsills, and the two played together in the band the Continental Drifters from 1991 through 2001. Although the lyrics to the majority of the songs on this album focus on heartbreak, the music is mostly uptempo. For instance, “Never Never Boys” is about a woman resigned to loving a sensitive man who will never grow up and work through his adolescent angst, and yet the guitars jangle away like a Bangles tune from 1986; same with “Fun to Lie,” a song in which a girlfriend wonders why her boyfriend would bother with deceiving her when she’s not making any demands. The folky “Heather Says” bemoans grade school girls’ frustrations at being pushed around by a queen bee bully classmate, and “What Do You Want From Me” (written by Peter Holsapple) is a bouncy shuffle about a woman telling her lover he’d be better off without her and her shortcomings. Along with the lilting guitar lines and rootsy violin, what saves these songs from sinking into a gloomy morass are Peterson and Cowsill’s strong alto vocals weaving around each other in soaring harmonies. There’s a lot of courage and resolve in these songs, even though they seem to originate from a place of pain. Ending the album with a country-tinged cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Cuddly Toy” – made famous by Davy Jones and the Monkees – wraps things up nicely. www.rockbeatrecords.com SUSAN BRETTINGEN

The Posies
FAILURE-(OMNIVORE REISSUE)-I was never a Posies disciple or anything but I did like 'em ok. This is a reissue of their first record which came out in 1988 (originally on cassette then released on Seattle label Popllama) when they were apparently very young (teenagers). The funny thing is I bought an original copy of this (on cd) within the last year. The thing about 'em very young is evident on the back cover photo, they being Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer, with an above-looking-down shot of them complete in leather jackets and Robert Smith hair do's. Recorded on an 8-track in Auer's basement the song is a mish-mash of pop styles that mostly works (and occasionally doesn't). “Blind Eyes Open” isn't the best opening song but it;s not horrible or anything then next song, however, “The Longest Line” is a melodic little nugget that bounces along for three or so minutes as is the next cut, “Under Easy.” The swingin' “I May Hate You Sometimes” is one of the best songs on here as is “pai9nt Me.” In addition to the 12 song on the record Omnivore has been kind enough to tack on eight bonus tracks including instrumental, demo and live tracks of album songs. Booklet has tons of info including liners by Scott McCaughey , Stringfellow and others. For them to make a pop album this fully realized with very few missteps, at that young age, is a pretty big deal and yes, FAILURE (which is anything but) is definitely recommended. www.omnivorerecordings.com

THE MAGNET RECORDS SINGLES COLLECTION-(7T'S/ CHERRY RED)-I dunno...their name sounded vaguely familiar but when the package arrived from venerable Cherry Red Records offshoot 7T's it was not what I was expecting. A rockabilly band (sorta)! The cover is bright and colorful w./ pics of the singles (for Magnet records) and the inside pic are skinny dudes in suits, ties and pompadours. The music? Hell, it's a blast! It's 32 songs spread out over two cds including their chart hits like “Rockabilly Rebel” (one of my favorite songs on here) , “Buzz Buzz a Diddle It” (tons of reverb on that one), “Midnight Dynamos” and plenty more. Also included here is their tune with the late Kirsty MacColl on vocals “I Want Out” plus a few cuts that were only available in Japan. Oh and don’t miss the dreamy (new version' of “Love is Going Out of Fashion.” The collection covers the years 1979 through 1983 and holy moly these guys released a ton of single during that time period. Also, according to the press sheet, these guys are still gigging around Europe, all these years later (wonder if they ever made it to our shores?). What a pleasant surprise...i thought I knew the band but didn't but glad they sent it. Fans of The Blasters will dig this. www.cherryred.co.uk

Jesse Green
Considering this album’s suggestive, erotic cover, one would think that they would be getting an album that would make Caligula and/or Barry White blush. Nope; what you’re getting is a collection of disco numbers that blend that style with funk and R&B in a way that is quite mellow. The title track was Green’s big hit; it’s a chilled-out groove that recalls “Rock Your Baby” (and that intro sounds an awful lot like Pet Shop Boys’ to “West End Girls.” Only is it on “The Greatest Love” does the content match the cover; it’s a fine love ballad. The rest of the record doesn’t differ too much from the title track, and second single “Flip” was a minor hit as well. This is lovely music, even if it is somewhat atypical of the era. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

The Hobbes Fanclub
Keep an eye out for the Shelflife label, especially this year. While they've always had a strong stable of bands, this year with releases by bands like this and the Luxembourg Signal (plus 7”s by Gingerlys and Close Lobsters) is especially strong. The band began in 2008 in Bradford, England by pop lover Leon Carroll. The band had previous releases on Cloudberry and Dufflecoat and then released their debut 7” on Shelflife in 2012. That song is here along with 10 others and there is an eye on strong melodies here. Sure the band could be lumped in with shoegaze bands but unlike a lot of shoegaze band these guys have some of the stickiest melodies around. These songs actually move and don’t just float off to nothingland. The 1-2-3 punch of the first three songs, “In to the Night,” “Stay Gold” and “Your Doubting Heart' all glaze over the cake that already had some thick frosting on it, but fear not, they don't run out of gas from there. “The Boy from Outer Space” is the best song that Pains of Being Pure at Heart never wrote (same with “I Knew You'd Understand”). That's the first five songs and the six others are nearly as good. With songs this good it won't be long before Carroll jumps into the upper echelon of indie pop songwriters. www.shelflife.com

ATTICA!-(DAMNABLY)-I've heard smart folks near and far singing the praises of Wussy these past few years and yeah, I've been a little slow on the draw. Not sure what my problem is though,. I heard their previous record, 2011's STRAWBERRY (Shake It Records) and really liked it. I then found out that they have like 3 or 4 proper studio records plus at least one comp (2012's BUCKEYE) out there so really I have no excuse. The fine folks at Damnably were kind enough to offer me this one on a silver platter and you know what? It’s terrific. The core of the band is Chuck Cleaver (who used to be in the Ass Ponys) and Lisa Walker who began playing together in 2001As far as what they sound like , it's a bit difficult to pin down as they seem to do so many things really well. The band can rock at will or wear their heart on their sleeve for a cry-in-your-beer acoustic number. Opener “Teenage Wasteland” kicks out the jams (so does song number two, “Rainbows and Butterflies”) while “Acetylyne” kicks up some dust acoustic style (like, well, an old Ass Pony’s number). Moving right along , the soaring “To the Lightning” is one of the best cuts I’ve heard all year, all big choruses and frazzled guitar chords (think Old 97’s) and hey, they even have a song called “Halloween:’ that’s not a Dream Syndicate or Misfits cover so how about that. As the kids say, these guys got it goin’ on. Buy several of these to pass out to friends and enemies. www.damnably.com

Various Artists
FMT 001-(FIGMENT RECORDINGS)-New label out of NYC that is co-owned by Mr. Drew Diver one half of the band) and he and partner Julian Brau have compiled a bunch of bands, 11 to be exact, of some of the best dream pop and new wave that they could find. I have to say, I try to keep my ear to the ground re: music and I had not heard of any of the bands on here, not a one (though one song is by Josh Dooley who was in Starflyer 59 who I do know and like). Regardless, most of the songs on this are very good. Peppermint Kisses open things up with “Gorgeous' a lovely instrumental which is followed by Worries doing the dreamy “I Tried” (one of my favorite songs on here). Elsewhere Goodnight Star offer the light-stepping “Reciprocation” while Fimbria cough up a melodic synth-pop number in “A Day Will Come.” I liked every song on here except for Sebring’s plodding “Blue Youth”, which is a pretty darn good ratio. This is release number one for the label, I’m ready to hear more. www.fmtrecordings.com

Sarah Jaffe
Wow, Dallas’s Sarah Jaffe’s matured into a really awesome and interesting songwriter. Album number three pairs her up with a couple of Midlake guys, but the fruits of their work together doesn’t sound like mellow folk. The arrangements found here are all catchy, electronica is the main bill of fare, while Jaffe’s singing sweetly floats above the melodies, often delivering lyrics that are deceptively happy-sounding. Personally, I dig “Fatalist,” “Some People Will Tell You,” and “Defense,” but, really, everything on this record is equally enjoyable. Don’t Disconnect feels like Jaffe is aiming for a mainstream audience, and I hope it finds it. www.kirtlandrecords.com JOSEPH KYLE

Unholy Two
Ok, even if I didn't dig the music by this Columbus, OH trio (which I do) the band would still get major points for the wrasslin' pics on the back cover including Dusty Rhodes (sexiest lisp ever), Bobby “The Brain Heenan, Ted Dibiase and plenty more. This is their first batch o' new songs since their 2012 7” “Cut the Music” 7” (which I raved about, oh and there's a live version of that song here). The music on here is loud, dense and meaty (beaty, big and bouncy as well) and reminds me a bit of Kalamazoo's late 80's/early 90's maniacs the God Bullies (btw…whatever became of Mike Hard?). When I was young and would get angry and punch the refrigerator over and over again the babysitter would play music like this, hoping it would calm me down (for some weird reverse effect thing) but I just kept punching. With songs like “Redskins,” “Survivor Series” and “Total War” I know what these guys are trying to do, reignite the pop punk vs. pigfuck wars that happened routinely in the late 80's. I'm in and I'm on the Unholy Two's side (whichever side that may be). I'm no dummy. www.12xu.net

Various Artists
KEEP LOOKIN’: 80 MORE MOD, SOUL & FREAKBEAT NUGGETS-(RPM/ CHERRY RED)-Mods rejoice! Just when you think you’ve tracked down every essential and obscure soul, R&B, and freakbeat song under the sun, a collection like “Keep Lookin’” comes along to bring you more. This box set, a follow-up to “Looking Back” -- a 2011 collection in a similar vein -- is a holy grail of sorts for those deeply into mostly British mod music from the Sixties. Included with the three-CD set is a glossy booklet that contains lots of cool photos and details about each track. As the liner notes indicate, the collection is set up thematically, beginning with R&B tracks and moving into soul and female singers before ending with psychedelic-leaning material. While this makes sense, I find it more interesting to mix things up a bit, so you may want to put this on shuffle play. John Reed, the person who compiled this set, did a great job of combining famous names, including John Lee Hooker, the Spencer Davis Group and Eartha Kitt, with more obscure groups like National Pinion Pole – organized by producer Shel Talmy – and Rhubarb Rhubarb. Hammond organs, sassy brass and sax, and echo chamber vocals abound throughout the set, and by the second disc, as the collection gets more into freakbeat, fuzztone guitars come into play. Although some of the songs tend to run together, there are definitely some standouts. If you like hard-driving organ sounds, you’ll dig Bon Scott’s ‘60s band the Valentines’ doing a cover of the Small Faces song “I Can’t Dance With You” and The Underground Set’s instrumental “Arcipelago.” For those who gravitate toward the poppier side of soul, you can’t go wrong with New Zealand’s Ray Columbus and his two tracks “Yo Yo” and “We Want a Beat.” The third disc, with its focus on psychedelic soul, is my favorite, with no weak tracks in the mix. Check out Andy Ellison’s surreal “Cornflake Zoo,” co-written with Marc Bolan, and the Liverpool Scene’s “Batpoem” with its quirky narration (“Help us out in Vietnam, Batman!”). According to the liner notes, a third box set is in the works. www.cherryred.co.uk SUSAN BRETTINGEN

Various Artists
TEMPORARY: SELECTIONS FROM DUNEDIN'S POP UNDERGROUND 2011-2014-(FISHRIDER/ BA DA BING!)-New Zealand record label Fishrider is responsible for some of my favorite NZ records/bands of the past few years. Just in the last year or so I've loved terrific records by bands like the Prophet Hens, Males, Trick Mammoth and Shifting Sands (can't forget Opposite Sex, either). More recently I had heard a few tracks by Astro Children that I really liked. All of those bands are included here and plenty more I had not hear/heard of. Take Bad Sav for instance with the dissonant-yet-catchy track “Buy Something New” (they're talking to all of YOU folks, go on...go buy something new, spend some money dammit!) and the acoustic folk-pop of Kane Strang who offers up the excellent “Winded.” Elsewhere we hear a band called Death & the Maiden (named after a Verlaine record?) while Mavis Gary slips in with the Velvet Monkeys-ish “Dim the Droog” and Mr. Biscuits kick in with a wiry track called “My Plums Are Ripe” (code?). There's a few others, but I don’t want to spoil all of the surprises for you just suffice it to say if you’re looking for some new New Zealand music (or just some excellent new music period) then head on over to the Fishrider Records site. www.fishriderrecords.bandcamp.com

The Bastards of Fate
Where else could a bent bunch like this be from, yup, Athens, GA. Never heard of the label but checked out their site and seems like they have some righteous artists. The band hail from Athens, GA and VAMPIRES ARE REAL …is all over the map. Opening cut “Winter of Our Discontent” is a piledriver (by Greg “The Hammer Valentine) straight to the bleakness of hell, but they don’t stay there. These guys pick themselves up by the bootstraps and chug right into the chirpy “Go No Further” and then into the kinda synthy “Chromosome 1.” Flip the record over and a song called “Ultimate Death” will restore your faith in humanity (so will the final tune, “Optometrist’). Now I need to hear their previous record, 2012’s WHO’S A FUZZY BUDDY (and if you want to know band member’s names go ask someone else cos I have no idea). The back album cover of several cats staring at me kinda freaked me out, I have to admit. Make ‘em stop. No, not the band, the cats! www.oursummerrecords.com

This German group has a lot of what I like—overcast, slightly morose atmospheric electronica pieces (“Parhelion,” “Haeata,” “Vortices”) along with moments of pure Krautrock bliss-out. Mostly, though, what’s kept me coming back to Remember over and over and over again is the groove—the unholy, sinfully delectable groove that feels like a trip into outer space. Of course, songs like “Trophaee” and “Synchron” could best be described as that moment in those crazy-long Stereolab songs, eviscerated and extracted, for all the world to see. Kinda wacky, kinda fun, Remember I Was Carbon Dioxide is like an ice cream cone—all sweetness going in, and something you want more of after you finish. Yum-yum groove! www.bureau-b.com JOSEPH KYLE

David Kilgour and the Heavy 8's
I'm really glad that New Zealand legend David Kilgour has found a home on Merge. In addition to the solo stuff he releases under his own name and with the Heavy 8's there's also his, erm, OTHER band, The Clean. So between solo stuff and The Clean it seems like we'll see a new record at least every few years (The Clean's last one was 2009's MISTER POP). END TIMES UNDONE, recorded sporadically between 2012 and 2014 has, like all Kilgour records, a real loose feel to it. Basically a group of musicians who feel completely comfortable with each other.....because they are. Instruments seemingly drift in and out and sometimes simply float away and on top are David's expressive yet conversational vocals. This definitely is not a pop record though there are some pop moments (check out “Comin' On”) and the songs are always interesting/unique. DK and his Heavy 8's are truly a bunch of musicians who are doing this for the love of music. Something tells me if fans/records never came into the picture they'd still be doing what they do, in a basement, garage or on a beach. Back to the songs, another fave of mine here is the lovely, languid “Down the Tubes” while opener “Like Rain” unfolds into a complete maelstrom of beauty and “Lose Myself in Sound” is one of said pop tunes. If you’ve got the time it’s best to take END TIMES UNDONE in as a whole. If we’re lucky, Mr. Kilgour (and friends) will be continue to do this for a long, long time. www.mergerecords.com

Billy Joe Shaver
I was taken back to the music of Marty Robbins; Streets of Laredo like, singing about Texas, Mexico, the border, and a woman. But, in Billy Joe Shaver’s American Me no one gets shot. Long in the Tooth is the first album for Billy Joe since 2012’s Live from Austin, TX: Austin City Limits, and his first studio album in 7 years. He does a duet with Willie Nelson on the first single, Hard to be an Outlaw. Basically a song about getting older and tossed aside, “It’s hard to be an outlaw who ain’t wanted anymore.” And takes a swipe at today’s pop-country, “Some superstars nowadays get too far off the ground singing about back roads they’ve never been down. They go and call it country, but that ain’t the way it sounds. It’s enough to make a renegade want to terrorize the town.” Willie’s version of this song will be on his new release Band of Brothers. That has always been Shaver’s forte, the writing of good songs that other folks record and make famous. He has been part of the backbone of country music for 40 years, particularly Outlaw Country.The album has its fair share of country music clichés, back-waterisms, and hick vocalizations of the word alky-hol, butI think some of the best lyrics come in I’m in Love, “From the deepness of night I’ve awakened to my vanity. Why have I, all these years suffered this insanity?” Long in the Tooth is a country album by a country legend, and it’s as country as you can get, and I think that’s its point. Even at 75 Billy Joe Shaver can still throw down like the Outlaw he is. www.lightningrodrecords.com STEVE STEVENSON

Cabaret Voltaire
Cabaret Voltaire are one of those bands I had always heard about but had never actually checked out until many years later. Back in my h/c/punk days I wouldn't have touched this kind of stuff with a ten-foot pole but over the years I've gotten more open to other kinds of music (thank god) and I've learned this much. The band hailed from Sheffield, England, formed in 1973 and were heavily influenced by the likes of writers like William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin. Maybe they were also spiritual brethren to NYC's Suicide. The core of the band was the trio of Richard Kirk, Stephen Mallinder and Chris Watson and let me tell you, they create some of the oddest/eeriest stuff around but also some of the most inspired (I'm listening to “Nag Nag Nag” right now and amazed at its simplistic genius). The record opens with “Do the Mussolini (Headkick), then kicks into “The Set Up”, the aformentioned “Nag Nag Nag” and onward. The 2nd half of the record includes mostly 7” versions of songs. It's obvious that these guys were following their own artistic vision and not worried about commerciality in the slightest. There's 19 songs in all and kudos to Mute for collecting these tunes on one handy disc and now when someone asks, “Do you know the music of Cabaret Voltaire?” I can now say yes and discuss instead of the deer-in-the-headlights stare I used to give. 'bout time, huh? www.mute.com

Rowland Howard
Rowland Howard was one of those figures in rock music who just looked sort of tragic. Always with that birdy, sad stare on his face (at least in every picture I saw). To make things even worse, this record was released (originally in 2010) a few months before Howard died of liver cancer (apparently he was waiting for a transplant). There's only 8 songs on POP CRIMES (which includes two covers) but it's among his best work. As most readers of this site will know, he was a member of the legendary Birthday Party and was then a member of Crime and the City Solution before forming the seriously underrated These Immortal Souls in the early 90's (releasing two terrific records) but after that was not heard from a whole lot. Armed with a few pals including fellow Aussie Mick Harvey (who I think has played on every good record ever made ). “( I Know( A Girl Called Johnny” kicks things off in righteous fashion which is as close as Rowland ever got to a pop songs then leads into the down, downer of “Shut Me Down (“I miss you soooo much.”) and onto the nervy, almost industrial “Life's What You Make It” (a Talk Talk cover). Later on the moody title track kicks and stomps while the the Townes Van Zandt cover, “Nothin'” adds a little hiccup to the band's step. Don't miss the final three songs especially the final, epic “The Golden Age of Bloodshed” with some of Howard's finest guitar playing. What a dramatic, unique and sadly beautiful record. A sad loss for music fans but what a way to go out. www.fatpossum.com

The Paul & John
With Mr. Allen Clapp at the helm I'm really looking forward to these Mystery Lawn releases. Oh sure, the band's called The Paul & John but these are lost McCartney and Lennon tapes, the Paul are John are Paul Myers and John Moreman. I was not aware of Mr. Myers history but he was apparently in a Toronto 90's called The Gravelberrys (he’s also written books on Todd Rundgren and Long John Baldry) while Moreman plays in Clapp's own Orange Peels a well as previously in Half Japanese and The Neighbors. The 10 songs in INNER SUNSET are pure power pop . The both play all the instruments on here and there and there's more hooks than inside my wife’s closet. “Everything Comes Together' (with John on lead vocals) is one of my favorite songs this year while “Long Way Back” (w/ Paul on lead vocals) has a bit more bite. “Inner Sunset' is yet another pop winner as is the Matthew Sweet-esque “Brickland” and the driving “Can't Be Too Careful” tickles that sweet spot in my brain that has been tickled before by the likes of Cheap Trick while “Inner Sundown' brings it all to a screeching halt with it’s lovely acoustic tones. I say put these guys on tour with the Incredible Vickers Brothers and The Orange Peels and watch the riots in the streets begin! www.mysterylawn.com

Thanks to the hilarious antics and persona of George Clinton and his merry band of funksters, some funk and soul groups adopted alien and outer-space personas. When they first appeared, Brooklyn-based octet Skyy dressed in spacesuits and claimed to be from a planet called Yen Zalia. Um…okay. They quickly dropped the silly gimmicks, and it was a good thing, too, as their music—a hybrid of triply disco and straight-up funk—was too good to be stymied by such sophomoric antics. The group started off making dance-floor friendly jams like “This Groove is Bad” and “High,” but would mature their sound to include mellow R&B (“Take It Easy”), romantic soul balladry (“When You Touch Me,” “Real Love”) and catchy, contemporary pop (“Givin’ It To You,” “Start Of A Romance.”) Though they split in 1992, their final album’s contribution, “Up and Over (Stronger and Better),” finds them adeptly creating a New Jack Swing style. This is an enjoyable overview of a band worth rediscovering. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

Ark Life
I'm not sure why I picked this cd out of the stack of promos but when I read the sticker I saw that the band is it stated it was “inspired by the bands enduring love of CCR, Tom Petty, Motown and campfire singalongs” (I hear a heavy gospel influence too and plenty of The Band a well). I was then thinking that I heard some Fruit Bats in here then noticed it was produced by Mr. Eric Johnson (who helps out on some instruments, too) but the main man here is a guy named Jesse Elliott and this is the debut by Ark Life (he was previously in a band called These United States). “You're With Me” we hear an alluring female take over lead vocals (Elliot chimes in too) with a heavy spiritual influence while “Let Your Heart Break” and “Proud of Me Out There, Mama” both swing in a more upbeat fashion (especially the latter.....heavy piano). Later on the title track slowly unfolds and then basks in its own prettiness while. A few of the songs werer a bit too, I dunno, beard rock-ish for me (“She”) but man, most of this is truly beautiful, heartfelt stuff with great songs that don't get sappy or maudlin. One of the things that make it for me are the lovely female backing vocals from foils Lindsay Giles (keys), Anna Morsett (bass) and Natalie Tate (guitar...we can't for Denver-based drummer Ben Desoto). I will say this, Elliot and his crew ought to be damn proud of themselves. www.arklifemusic.com

The Lovers Key
I'm a big fan of Florida's cocktail pop band The Postmark and the few side projects I've heard by the members have always been solid. Add The Lovers Key to that list. This band is led by Postmark Christopher Moll where he and his pal Maco Monthervil create 12 songs of pop music with elements of Northern Soul, indie pop/rock and whatever they hell they're doing in England both currently and in years past. And this isn't simply some homage to the music they love, these songs are VERY good. The whole thing seems pretty effortless simply because you have two guys who are supremely talented and have a serious love for the music they're creating. Right down to the artwork on the cd, these guys know what they're doing (Mark Deming at Allmusic suggested that the band release the songs “in the stack of pre-weathered singles marketed to fans of Northern Soul.” Hmm.....time for me to start a new record label?). Opening cut “Saturday Night” kicks things off righteously then kicks into the grittier “Who’s the One You Love” then right into the moodier “In a Perfect World.” Elsewhere we hear the poppy stomp of the self-deprecating “Maybe I’m Not Good Enough for You” and the lullaby closer, “Another Night.” Some 60’s aficionados might want things a little rougher around the edges and with that I say go to labels like Norton or Crypt but if you want an excellent pop record with a nice mix of styles then pick up HERE TODAY GONE TOMORROW. www.theloverskeymusic.com

Reigning Sound
The Reigning Sound now on Merge? OK, I'll take it. For a band that has had releases on In the Red, Sympathy, Goner and Telstar I wasn’t expecting Merge to be their next move but hey, I'm always pleasantly surprised by both the band and the label. This is the band's first record in five years and things are toned down quite a bit in the guitars dept (surprising for a band that once released a record called TOO MUCH GUITAR). Leader Greg Cartwright was previously in the Compulsive Gamblers and then The Oblivions where he really made his garage rock mark with a handful of records of primitive punk/garage r & b. As I stated that while the guitars are (surprisingly) toned down quite a bit on SHATTERED, the song craft is cranked way up. Hell, even when Cartwright was at his most caveman-ish it was obvious that the guy had a real penchant for song craft. From what I’m hearing the biggest influence on here are old soul records. Oh sure, opener “North Cackalacky Girl” kicks a bit but the meat here are slower, heartfelt (ok, sad) tunes like “Starting New” and “Never Coming Home.” There's lots of organ on the superb “My My” and the more upbeat “Falling Rain” (and on the cover “Baby It's Too Late”). Not sure if Cartwright has left the garage rock scene that built him but man SHATTERED, while being a different animal altogether, is really something special. www.mergerecords.com

A collection of exotica albums without Esquivel, Les Baxter or Martin Denny? Can it be so? Well, yes! And that’s because exotica is more than just tiki lounge music. “Exotica Classics” opened my mind as well as my ears to the vast spectrum of instrumentation and musical themes that make up this genre. The five albums included in this double-disc compilation are extremely rare and beloved by exotica aficionados, according to what I found in an online search. The first album, Miriam Burton’s “African Lament” (1961), offers up plenty of percussion and flutes, with Burton’s operatic soprano soaring over the top. Her voice, although a marvelous instrument, is too front and center for my taste, and some of the songs in this album, such as “Apartheid” and “Rites of Passage,” seem too serious and mournful for exotica. This is definitely not background music. Much more to my liking was the next album, “Aphrodisia” (1956), from Bob Romeo, His Flute, and the Jungle Sextet. Besides showcasing Romeo’s virtuosity, the 12 tracks on “Aphrodisia” include the marvelously full and rich tone of Laurindo Almeida’s guitar and nimble jazz stylings of pianist Eddie Cano. A highlight here is “Jungle Fantasy,” with its frantic bongos – think cartoon characters chasing each other – and cool piano. “Lisbon Street Dance” and “Merry Flute” each have a strong Latin feel. Next up is the Buddy Collette Septet with “Polynesia,” an EP originally released in 1959. Collette, better known as a jazz musician, plays flute and clarinet throughout the six tracks. Marni Nixon, a soprano famous for dubbing the voices of actresses in numerous musical films, sings on a few tracks. The oddest numbers, “Polynesian Suite” and “Japanese Suite,” have surrealistic monologues by actor Robert Sorrels. For example, “Japanese Suite” begins with the words, “Her body is words in a foreign tongue.” My favorite album in this collection, Frank Hunter and His Orchestra’s “White Goddess” (1959), presents a more traditional exotica sound, with vibraphones, wordless female vocals, and bamboo instruments abounding. Hunter’s use of the Ondioline, an electronic keyboard, adds a spacey feel to “Strange Echoes” and “Pulse.” There’s not a weak track in the 12-song “White Goddess.” Ahmad Jamal and Orchestra’s “Macanudo” (1962), which concludes the collection, is a whirlwind musical tour of South and Central America, with bold brass, swinging saxophones, and pizzicato strings. Standout track “Sugar Loaf at Twilight” features a glockenspiel and flutes darting and out of the strings. It verges on easy listening, but offers a pleasant contrast to the splashy brass on tracks like ”Bogota” and “Carnival in Panama.” If you’re looking to expand your collection of exotica and/or world and instrumental music from the ‘50s and early ‘60s, “Exotica Classics” is a great addition. www.cherryred.co.uk SUSAN BRETTINGEN

The Muffs
These days it's not unusual for many bands in the 80's/90's to reform and release a new record (and maybe even do some occasional touring). Take LA's Muffs, back in the 90's the Kim Shattuck-led band broke both hearts and guitar strings through four blasting, pop-punk records. They came back in 2004 with another one and then broke up. Well, here we are again with her foils in tow, bassist Ronnie Barnett and drummer Roy McDonald (ex-Redd Kross) and it sounds like not a day has passed in those ten years. These are twelve well-crafted rock pop songs with crunchy guitars, sturdy rhythms and Shattuck's patented howl (and with occasional screams to make sure you're still listening). A few of my favorites on here include the playful/biting “Take a Take A Me”, the swaying “Up and Down Around” and the jangly, mid-tempo “Cheezy” (complete with harmonica). If you've heard other Muffs records you won't be blown away by what you hear here but you will be happy, content knowing you're favorite old shoe still fits perfectly (and if you haven't ever heard The Muffs , well, what the hell have you been doing all these years?). www.cherryred.co.uk

Onward Chariots
I got to know pop songwriter Ben Morss a bit when he was living in Sacramento, CA in the late 90's/early 00's and was a member of the indie pop list (and played with Cake for a bit as well as his own bands The Pilgrims and Chariots of Tuna) . A few years later Morss picked up stakes and high-tailed it to Brooklyn (where all indie rockers go to die...or hit it big...I dunno, one of those). On this 5-song ep the songs are mostly done by Morss and pal Russ Wimbish and though these two played nearly everything they still grabbed a few pals to help flesh out his bouncy pop songs (trumpet here, female backing vox there) and he and the band do a damn good job. Opener 'It Doesn't Even matter” sweeps you in from the get go while the majestic “Vacation” finishes the job but wait , there's more. The nearly-as-good “I Know We'll Find a Way” sneaks up on you as does the even more low-key “The Sound” (ok, not really low-key at all). It all comes to a beautiful halt with the lovely title track, which Belle & Sebastian fans will love. Very well done, now, please start working on that full-length, ok? www.onwardchariots.com

Matt Stevens
Matt Stevens is a British guitar player, and this solo record of his, I gotta say, is pretty good. It’s mainly instrumental and it fits in nicely with guitar experimental artists like Hella, Marnie Stern, Kaki King, and bands like Explosions In The Sky and June of 44. But unlike those people, Stevens isn't afraid to go BIG into his arrangements; this is what American post-rock would sound like if they weren't afraid to indulge their progressive rock side. He goes for rock, but “Street and Circus” finds him turning down the rock show for a light jazz guitar piece, and it’s a respite from the rock he’d just pummeled you with. Dig that totally epic number “The Bridge” as well—long, weird, and cool. All in all not a bad listening experience. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

The Ugly Beats
While there's a ton of bands calling Austin, TX home these days (and always) I think this band might have the retro 60's garage scene sewed up as I don't think a lot of bands in that genre are cranking out their reverb-soaked tunes over on 6th street. This is the band's 4th record overall (all on the Get Hip label) and first one since 2010's MOTOR! And from what I've heard of their previous records i'd call BRAND NEW DAY their finest hour. Joe, Jeanine, Jason, Daniel and Bobby (no last names here, folks so don't even ask) are retro, hell yes they're retro. This sounds like it could have come straight out of 1966 but you know what? The songs are good. No, make that VERY good (this ain’t no Rudi Protrudi crap). A few of my favorites include the opening classic “Up on the Sun” (not a Meat Puppets cover), the dreamy “Long Row”, the Shindig-ish “Throw Me a Line” and their Tim Hardin cover of “If I Were a Carpenter” (done with call and response male/female vocals) Seriously, this will appeal to fans of The Kinks, the Rain Parade or any band that has ever graced a Nuggets compilation (or been on the Estrus label) and while the band seems to have a real low profile here in American (much bigger in Europe, go figure) this could/should change all of that. www.gethip.com

One Thousand Violins
This came in the nick of time as I noticed that my other 1000 Violins compilation, that was released on the Vinyl Japan label back in the 90's, was water -damaged. Without being there, it seemed like there was a plethora of these type of jangly pop bands in the UK in the 80’s and all of 'em were good (you go check out the June Brides, Mighty Mighty, East Village, the Razorcuts, etc. etc)! These guys were no exception, hailing from Sheffield, Yorkshire the band was led by Colin Gregory (guitar) and Dave Walmsley (guitar/ keyboard) and definitely turned some heads at the time with a clean, crisp jangly pop sound . As the title states this handy comp compiles all of the bands best stuff in those mid-80's, 21 songs in all. The bands shoulda-been-a-hit, “Halcyon Days” is included here (12” version) as well as a few other different versions of tunes (a flexi version of “You Ungrateful Bastard” but there’s also a regular version of that one , too). Exhaustive liner notes by Paul Johnston tell the story and the booklet also includes a discography and plenty o' pics, too and a where are they now of the members (sadly, member Dave Walmsley died of cancer in '92). What a band! Www.cherryred.co.uk

Larry Gatlin
THE PILGRIM/ RAIN RAINBOW-(CHERRY RED/ MORELLO)- Though he’s much better known as the leader of family country band The Gatlin brothers, Larry Gatlin’s recording career began in 1972 and this twofer offers his debut album and its follow-up. Country fans familiar with his brother might be surprised to find that these two albums aren't country inasmuch as they are singer-songwriter albums, not unlike John Denver or BJ Thomas. There’s a bit of a maudlin edge to The Pilgrim; songs like “Try To Win A Friend” and “Penny Annie” are sad, melancholy numbers, accentuated with strings and woodwinds. 1974’s Rain Rainbow is a bit more country; in songs “Healin’ Sunshine” and minor hit “Delta Dirt,” one hears him heading towards the country style that would bring him fame. These two records are pleasant moments of singer/songwriter fare. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

Luke Haines
If you’re feeling nostalgic for leather jackets, leopard-print T-shirts and ripped jeans paired with the moods and attitudes of Alan Vega, Lou Reed, the New York Dolls, and the Ramones, Luke Haines’ latest release makes a perfect soundtrack. “New York in the ‘70s,” the final album in a trilogy that includes “9 ½ Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s & Early ‘80s” and “Rock and Roll Animals,” manages to be both a paean and a subtle send-up of that edgy era from the perspective of a contemporary English musician and songwriter. Haines ushers in the listener with the wistful “Alan Vega Says,” featuring the refrain: “And Alan Vega says it’s gonna be a great big hit, if Alan Vega says so, then it probably is.” “Drone City” is a dead-on Suicide sound-alike, complete with chilly synthesizers and industrial drum machine. Haines freely borrows Vega’s hiccupped and grunted vocal mannerisms. The title track is an aural snapshot of the time; Haines mentions poets, painters, artists, and adds “everyone’s gay, or bisexual.” A tremolo pedal guitar line that sounds exactly like Bruce Springsteen’s main riff from “Born to Run” makes an appearance now and then.” Drugs come to the forefront more in “Jim Carroll” and “Tricks N Kicks N Drugs,” the latter featuring woozy fuzz tone guitar. Other highlights include “Lou Reed Lou Reed,” which reminds me somewhat of Jona Lewie, and “UK Punk,” with its Kraftwerk-like synthesizers. Perhaps the quirkiest track is “Cerne Abbas Man,” which alludes to the Cerne Abbas Giant, an ancient chalk hill landmark in England that depicts a well-endowed, eternally-aroused male figure. Haines imagines the giant coming to life and spooking Richard Hell and the ghost of Johnny Thunders. “New York in the ‘70s” is provocative and poignant, not unlike those times. www.cherryred.co.uk SUSAN BRETTINGEN

MORE FUN IN THE NEW WORLD--(REAL GONE MUSIC)-X are definitely a band I did not appreciate back in the day. I was too much of a punk rock bullethead to really dig them. Oh sure, I've had LOS ANGELES for years and always loved the incendiary playing on that record but did not keep up and the bits I heard of the next few records didn't really grab me. This is why I am really digging these Real Gone Music reissues this years as it is putting me back in touch with a band that was at their height of creativity during these first four records MORE FUN IN THE NEW WORLD being the 4th record (after LOS ANGELES, WILD GIFT and UNDER THE BI BLACK SUN.........Rhino reissued them in 2002). This one was release originally in 1983 and once again was produced by Doors' legend Ray Manzarek and what you have is a set of 13 tight , rockin' and catchy ditties with killers hooks (“The New World”) and tight harmonies (“We're having Music More fun”) and sometimes both in the same songs (“True Love”.....check out Billy Zoom's wild lead guitar while John and Exene put their voices together and master stickman, DJ Bonebrake just does what he does best). The rest of the record is nearly as great as those first three cuts (do not miss “Poor Girl,” “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts” and “Devil Doll”). Bonus tracks include demo/remix of four of the cuts (not gonna tell you which ones, you have to buy it to find out). Thick booklet with lots of liners and pics. X dug up the seedy underbelly of their adopted hometown, Los Angeles and spit it out for your enjoyment. Just get this. www.realgonemusic.com

This came in the same package from In the Red as the Watery Love cd did an while I like that one a bit more this one, I DO like this one quite a bit. This band hails from Australia (at least one of these guys is in another In the Red band, UV Race) and features four (yup) guitarists and a drummer (two of the guitarists sing). On the surface it appears that these 9 songs (which clock in at a little over a half hour) are pure bulldozing noise, and at times they are, but there; also a certain cleverness to the proceedings as well, in other words, it’s not just noise for the same of noise. Take “Dinnerchat' for instance, they turn down on the volume and bluster and repeat a quieter riff for the duration of the song with humming/mumbling in the background. Other cuts, however, like opener 'What a Silly Day (Australia Day)” and “Overtime” will pummel you into submission like both Ken Patera an/ or Superstar Billy Graham would do to hapless opponents in the ring back in the late 70's. The band does dig repetition (good for a brain like mine) and make sure you make it to the end as you don't wanna miss dicey choppers like “Spring St.” and “Thatcher's Dead.” Whose got the keys to the bulldozer? www.intheredrecords.com

INITIATION-(ZOO MUSIC)- I knew it was only a matter of time before they recorded. Yes this is the musical couple of Dee Dee from the Dum Dum Girls and her husband Brandon of Crocodiles. I like both bands very much and was hoping they were going to record something, ok, I figured it was inevitable. I don't like it as much as my favorite DDG's record (ONLY IN DREAMS) or my favorite Crocodiles record ( CRIMES OF PASSION) but I do like it very much and think it is a solid/occasionally excellent record and a perfect melding of the two bands, Dee Dee adds the gothy pop aspect while Brandon adds the trippier pop tunes. Eight tunes breeze by in 30 minutes and my faves include the driving opener “Initiate Me” , the Jesus and Mary Chain-ish “Something That Feels Bad is Something That Feels Good”, the hazy “Johnny Jupiter” and the meatier “House of Lords” (don't miss “Love Incognito” , either...ok, and “Strange Intentions”). I really hope this isn't just a one-off side project (I'm assuming it's not) because I really want to hear more....and SOON. www.killzoomusic.com

Athens, GA's Muuy Biien have proven time and time again that they are not the kind of band you bring home to meet mom. Oh sure, their manners would be intact and all but then they’d start discussing the photographic work of Diane Arbus (or the folks of Jodorowsky) and it would be an early dessert night. In other words, they're a real jolly bunch. On the cover of this record it shows a drawing of a guy who hung (hanged….whatever) himself, chair kicked over and cuts like opener “Cyclothtmia 1” (there's also a II and III) all dirgey and minor chord-y. “Human Error” tells you what you’ve been doing wrong all these years while songs like “What Isn’t,” “Virus Evolves' and “Frigid' are sure to do you in. Seriously though there is a surprising amount of melody in these tunes(and some interesting rhythmic variation). Musically at times I hear the angriest parts of Fugazi (or Rites of Spring). These guys and Iceage should have a showdown (hey, no knives). Someone's got to win, right? www.hhbtm.com

POPULAR PEOPLE DO POPULAR PEOPLE--(FISHRIDER)-Wow, Ian Henderson via his Fishrider records label is reviving the New Zealand music scene one band at a time. OK, so maybe it didn't need reviving (hey, I live a few miles from there) but he's released a slew of excellent record starting with his brother George's band The Puddle (and Ian's own band The Dark Beaks) and up through his most recent releases: The Shifting Sands, Males and Trick Mammoth, all excellent. This band (3 dudes and 1 gal) led by Karl Bray fire on all cylinders right from the get go. Opener “High Times” soars and up next “”Romp” is even better. All jingle jangle guitar and fluid rhythms,. “Pretty” has a moodier bottom end while keyboardist Penelope takes over the vocals on the pretty “All Over the World.” Nine songs on here and not a dog in the bunch (also, don’t miss “Easy as the Sun” and “A Filled Page”). Look, I'm not your father, but if I was i'd tell (no, COMMAND) you to get your ass down to the record store and pick this up OR START PACKING YOUR BAGS. I don't care if the local record store doesn't have it, son, FIND IT, your shelter is depending on it (and I don't care if you’re 9 years old). Side note: drummer's first name is Sefton. www.fishriderrecords.com

Lee Bains III + the Glory Fires
I totally missed these guys debut from a few years back ( 2012’s THERE IS A BOMB IN GILEAD, on the Alive/ Natural Energy label) but thankfully the good folks at Sub Pop sent me this and as Don Rickles once said, I like it (he wasn’t talking about Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires, though). Apparently Mr. Bains spent some time in The Dexateens and a fire got lit under his ass and he needed more. Right from the get-go it’s obvious these guys are not messin’ around, they’ve got fire in their hearts (ok, so counting the band name I’ve now mentioned the word “fire” three times in this review, lemme keep goin’!). The guitars at hard n’ heavy on this record (from Bains and other guitarist Eric Wallace…they’ve got a pair of brothers on bass/drums) there’s plenty o’ feedback and Mr. Bains sounds like he’s coughing up a lung with every line he sings (I’ve always wondered if one day John Brannon is not gonna have a voice anymore….I hope that day never comes). Cuts like the opener “The Company Man,” “”What’s Good and Gone” and the especially high-octane “We Dare Defend Our Right” all pour the gas on the road and are not afraid to light the match (Bains probably gargles with Drano, too). Yeah, you could call this southern rock but I’m guessing most Skynyrd fans would run the other way. Screw them, DECONSTRUCTED rules. www.subpop.com

Miriam Linna
For starters I was jazzed upon getting my first ever package of goodies from Norton Records! Been doing DAGGER since ’87 and have been blessed with many labels sending me stuff to review over the years, but this Norton package was a pleasant surprise to say the least. Re; this record, her solo debut, as Miriam (co-owner of Norton and co-leader of the A-Bones) tells it, record producer Sam Elwitt called her one day to cut some songs and well, after one they kept going and going. Twelve songs, Miriam sings and Elwitt plays (mostly) everything else (they get help on violin, viola and cello). Think 1960’s, think girl groups, think……think of playing it once and getting hooked! It opens with “My Love Has Gone” a song that I recognized from the Del Shannon collection that Now Sounds/Cherry Red released last year and his version is at least as good as Del’s (song was written by Ross Watson). Later she also does another Del-reworking with the gorgeous “Cut and Come Again” (written by the masterful Billy Nichols). Elsewhere we hear cuts by The Ramones (“Questioningly”), Tim Buckley (“It Happens Every Time”), Neil Young (“There Goes My Baby”) Gene Clark (“So You Say You Lost Your Baby”) and plenty more…including one Linna/Elwitt original, the sparkling “Let Him Go Now.” If this isn’t in your collection by next week, well, you’ve got issues, dude. www.nortonrecords.com

Umbra Sum
While not real well known in this country, Madrid, Spain’s Acuarela label has released some terrific records over the years. Had not heard of this band before but add it to the list of another winner. Umbra Sum is the work of one Ed Sanchez-Gomez, a Costa Rican expatriate (now living in Chicago) who began recording under the band name in 2003 while studying classical guitar. Though around for a decade this is his first official release and AUN NO HAS DEMOSTRADA NADA hits on all of the right buttons for me. Only 7 songs here but I hear elements of MBV and Dino Jr (seems like you can’t be influenced by one without being influenced by the other). The soaring title track , with its infectious melodies, is tough to beat as is the nearly as good, hazier “Hazmerreir.” Even the bits of noise on here (at times sounding like a radio station that’s fizzling out) are unique and appealing. If he stays in Chicago he’s got a healthy group of musicians to work with should he decide to go that route, but either way, I want to hear what he does next. www.acuareladiscos.com

Various Artists
One doesn’t necessarily think of Iceland as having much of a rock scene; sure, there’s Sigur Ros and Bjork and The Sugarcubes, but the 1970s seems to be little-explored. This collection gathers up some of the bigger names of the era. It’s interesting to see how both American and British music play such an influential role with these bands. The most compelling of these is Pelican; they’ve got the ability to change their sound, from “Jenny Darling,” you’d think them a blues-rock band with a Beatles edge,while their song “Glasses” sounds like ELO. The band Change offers up early 70s bubblegum with “Yakkety Yak, Smacketty Smack” and “Lazy London Lady.” Bands Celsius and Magnus Thor are dance-based bands, with a generally enjoyable disco flare. “Candy Girl” by The Pal Brothers sounds like The Archies meets Eric Carmen. The rest of the bands on the compilation fall in line with these styles—not surprising, considering how small the scene was. Poppsaga is a great little collection of songs that are charming and enjoyable from a scene that’s practically unknown to the rest of the world. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

NYC’s A Wicked Company is a fairly new NYC label run by a dude named Anthony who used to co-run the Washington, DC label Vertical (one of their releases was the amazing Asshole 7” by Sebadoh which is all you really need to know about it). Anywho, Anthony had a hankerin’ to release more records so he began AWC last year. This new full-length by a Sacramento band (in an edition of 300…the band might have a connection to another terrific Sac band, G. Green) fires on all the right cylinders. Initially I was thinking the early work of both Sonic Youth and Live Skull ( I would have bet the band was from NYC but no go) especially in the squirelly guitars and bleak lyrics (there are melodies in there, though) but hey, they have a song called “PJ Soles” so it’s not all doom and gloom. Opening cut “Final Girl” drives their point home like a jackhammer while “House of Violence” is rated R, like the rest of the record. The more I listen to this the more I like it (and I liked it when I first heard it). Tune in, turn on and stick your head in the blender. Go on. www.awickedcompany.tumblr.com

Somehow this feels like the Swans record I've been waiting for all these years, ever since I bought 'Children Of God' in 1987. I'll be honest: between then and now I've always tried to keep an ear to what they were doing out of respect for their uncompromising approach to music, but I haven't' always been compelled to commit to repeated listens. Not to say I ever considered Gira anything less than an artist worthy of checking out whatever his latest offerings were. No matter how conventional his arrangements may have become at times in comparison to the early Swans mind-bludgeoning, No Wave battering rams, you always knew there was still that dark, visceral journey being embarked on, an exploration of the human condition traveled upon a path most don't have the fortitude to venture down.
Now, with that pathetic rumination out of the way, I'd like to say I've listened to 'To Be Kind' at least 20 times so far. It's shamanistic, tantric, and goes deep into the abyss to look frightening truths of the soul in the eye. And no matter what adjectives are being used to described it, this is a rock record. Sure, there are epic, dark cinematic explorations like 'Bring the Sun/Toussaint L'Overture' (clocking in at just over 34 minutes), or the 17 minute, trance-inducing ritualism of 'She Loves Us', but also tracks like the opener 'Screen Shot,' driven along by it's repetitive groove bass line. 'A Little God in My Hands', also driven forward with a repetitive groove and interspersed with bombastic horns, sounds almost 'classic,' albeit through the primal fire of Gira's mind. 'Oxygen' could almost be a Jesus Lizard song. The duet on 'Some Things We Do' with Little Annie harkens back some to earlier Swans approaches, and acts as a nice, quiet midway point. Overall, 'To Be Kind' seems more accessible than anything they've ever done (which would make sense if what I heard about folks usually less inclined to uncompromising experimentation actually embracing it), but don't fooled: The vehicle for delivery may have been modified, but there is still a beast behind the wheel, speeding through the desert with the lights off towards a forbidden horizon. At a time in his career when you might expect someone like Gira to do a record of his favorite standards, he instead throws you in the trunk as he drives into the unknown. As of this moment, the best record of 2014. younggodrecords.com DIZZY DEAN

The Queen Annes
Tom Dyer, head honcho over at Green Monkey Records is unearthing some of the most obscure stuff that his fair city (Seattle) has/had to offer. Take the Queen Annes for instance, yeah, I’d never heard of them either but it sounds like if you were in the Emerald City at the time this guys existed then you might’ve caught a gig or two and been a fan. The four dudes on the cover look interesting, two guys on the left look like punks while the two on the right look like classic rock guys (it does says influenced b both The Ramones AND Led Zeppelin….chubby guy in front, 2nd from left, looks like a young version of Jerry A. from Poison Idea). This is a compilation of a tape originally released in ’86 with some extra tracks (20 cuts in all) and it runs the gamut from new wavey rock to full on classic rock (listen to that long guitar lead in the middle of “You Will Cry”). I have to admit I didn’t love the more classic rock oriented stuff but the punkier stuff was fun and lemme tell you, these guys could PLAY. Cuts like the title track, “Give ‘em the Right Look” and “I’s Cool with Me” show the other side of the band (Jerry A. dude is wearing a military jacket with medals and the dude w/ the leather jacket is saluting).For those about to rock, we salute you…good on ya’. www.greenmonkeyrecords.com

Winter Makes Sailors
Not sure why I didn’t check this record out earlier. Anyway Records empressario Bela Koe-Krompechter had sent it to me ages ago and I really like most of what he released but for some reason this got lost in the shuffle. Put it on and out came…..some killer, jangly melodic pop. The band hails from Columbus, OH and is led by Mr. Sean Gardner. Apparently he has been in many other bands but none I had heard of. With the horns they reminded me a bit of the more melodic Elephant 6 bands (a little Elf Power, maybe Beulah but that’s not even a good comparison). Opener “On the Beach” will have you eating right out of the bands hand while “She Carrie’s Secrets” is nearly as good. Not gonna complain about the clear vinyl ,either. Ok, I’m gonna say it, these guys are way too good to be so obscure. Buy the record, bring the band up in conversations at the water cooler at work and you’ll be able to feel the envy (and for the record there’s no water cooler in the office that I work at). www.anyway-records.com www.wewantaction.com

Various Artists
This album is New Wave, but in the cinematic sense. In the early 1960s, directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut were at the forefront of this movement, which featured methods of filmmaking that were more experimental than previous ones. The moods evoked on this album, which includes musical selections from nine films, run the gamut from the spooky otherworldliness of “The Vastness of Space” -- from the science-fiction film La Jetée (The Pier) -- to the frantic, circus-like “Jules and Jim” from the movie of the same name. Things get more French and romantic with songs from Une Femme Est Une Femme (A Woman is a Woman), with Charles Aznavour – known as France’s Frank Sinatra – crooning “Tu L’aisses Aller” in his endearing fashion. The discordant, mysterious instrumentals from L’Année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad) sound like organ music from a haunted carnival but immediately lighten up with the swinging “La Belle Putain” from Cleo from 5 to 7, with the song sung by Corinne Marchand, star of the film. Then it’s on to jazzy numbers from The Trial and Vivre Sa Vie (My Life to Live). Finally, the album concludes with tunes from two Stanley Kubrick films: Lolita and Dr. Strangelove. Lush arrangements from Nelson Riddle dominate; the sentimental love theme is included, along with the girlish, giddy “Lolita Ya Ya.” The album concludes with none other Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again,” the song that plays over a montage of nuclear explosions at the end of Dr. Strangelove. All in all, it’s an odd mixture of numbers and musical styles that probably only the most fervent of Francophiles and film buffs would want in one collection. I must admit, I’m curious as to what will be in the next volume. www.cherryred.co.uk SUSAN BRETTINGEN

Burnt Skull
With a band name like Burnt Skull and a record titled Sewer Birth you know you’re not going to get some flowery folk record and this surely isn’t that. Burnt Skull is a two piece fROm Austin, TX , Dustin Pilkington plays guitar and sings an Anthony Davis drums (both do “programming) and the 10 songs that make up this record are heavy. Real heavy. Had the band existed back in the late 80’s they would have fit right in with the Killdozer/ God Bullies/Drunks with Guns crowd but existing these days they fit in with the Pissed Jeans/Watery Love bunch. Opener “Harm” might just do that if you forgot your ear plugs (“Ehhhhh….what’d you say? Can’t hear you!”) . Most of the songs are about the same (mid) tempo, not breaking the speed limit but not driving like your grandmother either. Both the title track and “Infinite Flesh” create giant holes in the earth that didn’t exist before. Still though, brooding and bashing as this record is the songs are surprisingly melodic. I’m not saying play this at your next dinner party but hey, if that asshole neighbor shows up that you didn’t want to show up then this might be just what the doctor ordered. www.12xu.net

Lacy J. Dalton
Lacy J. Dalton is country chanteuse of the highest caliber, even if she’s chosen to stay low profile in terms of her music. These two records are her breakthrough records. The title track to 1981’s Takin’ It Easy is a jaunty, Jimmy Buffett-style tropical escape number that celebrates leisure on the beach, and was her highest charting single. The rest of the record is equally enjoyable, whether it’s the fiddling on “Golden Memories” or the moving “Everybody Makes Mistakes.” Her cover of Neil Young’s “Comes a Time” is a highlight as well. 1982’s 16th Avenue contains what is perhaps her best known song, the title track being a tribute to the working musicians in Nashville, struggling to make it, and she offers a sonic prayer that “God bless the boys who make the noise on 16th Avenue.” The rest of the album is enjoyable, standard country fare. Dalton would go on release numerous more albums, before effectively retiring in 1992, when she released her last album. These two capture her at her peak, and show her as being a significant talent. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

Tony Hatch
First off , the name Tony Hatch sounds real familiar but I can’t place where I would have heard his name from. According to some folks he’s one of Britain’s greatest songwriters. From what I’ve read he sounds like maybe the UK’s version of Burt Bacharach (found out later it says that in the booklet but I swear I wrote that before reading it). Hatch would write solo and also with partner Jackie Trent- another name that sounds like I’d heard of it and let me tell you, they were one hell of a combo. Read a little more and come to find out he’s written songs for Petula Clark (yup, “Downtown”) as well as songs for Scott Walker (one of my faves), Chris Montez and others. LOOK FOR A STAR is a collection of Hatch’s early material both solo and with his Tony Hatch & his Orchestra and it’s a cool 36-song collection of show tunes, 60’s pop, and the like. Right now I’ve got “Non-Stop to Nowhere” on (written with the Piccadilly Strings) and I guess what I’d want to say is if you have to me, the punk rock Tim Hinely of the late 80’s/early 90’s that the Tim Hinely 25 years in the future would be writing a positive review of a record like this I’d have told you that you were crazy but there you go. You’re crazy and I really dig this record. www.cherryred.co.uk

The Wytches
The Bristol, England trio, The Wytches, have a new release. Guitarist and vocalist Kristian Bell, drummer Gianni Honey, and bass player Daniel Rumsey have put enough diverse, sonically interesting tracks on Annabel Dream Reader that I haven’t gotten bored! To be honest, the name put me in the mindset to expect a cheesy haunted house vibe, but they spell it with a Y so I wasn’t too scared, and I also had no idea what that Y meant. I guess it means a 1960’s southern California feel. Bell’s guitar is clean with reverb and a whammy bar. His voice sounds like its being dragged across very small pieces of broken glass. The lyrics are sharp and poetic. Rumsey’s bass is the perfect bridge from Bell’s guitar to Honey’s more-than-needed-but-not-anywhere-close-to-too-much drumming. The whole album is a subtle juxtaposition among the light and sunny surfy guitar, the punk sounding vocals and the intelligent often cryptic lyrics. Crying Clown is where we meet the Annabel of the title of the record. With each listen I came up with a new favorite track. With its dark, haunting, and always spooky sound it’s not depressing. The Wytches are embarking on a tour of the U.S. in July, their first ever, and I can’t wait to see them. www.partisanrecords.com STEVE STEVENSON

Okay, confession time, I wasn’t impressed by this record. I like hip-hop and rap, but seriously, Sub Pop? Anticon released this sort of music a decade ago. I gave it a fair go, but the rapping just didn’t seem particularly special. That is…until I landed on the song “Get Up,” which blew me away. Why? Because the beat is a digital alarm clock. That’s ALL the backing track is. Nothing more. The best part? That the annoying beeping soon loses its annoyingness, and the song is accentuated with a lovely R&B lady singing. I’ll have to sit down and listen to this again because up to this point, the record just felt bloated, with overlong songs. Yeah, this is hipster hip-hop, and I might come back to this in the future, to see if I can get into it. Then again, I might not. www.subpop.com FOSTER HAYNES

Ok, I know nothing about Sandy’s leader, Alexi Glickman. From reading the press notes he was apparently a member of both Botticellis and Little Wings (I do know them). After forming Sandy’s in 2012 Glickman gathered up a buncha pals (including some members of Sonny and the Sunsets) and recorded these 10 songs in various garages in San Francisco. For being patched together the record sounds remarkably cohesive and I do think this Glickman character is on to something. I hear elements of Jangle pop, psych, folk and a few other genres of music that haven’t even been created yet. Opener “Barnyard” twinkles to and fro while “Lonely Hunter” is dreamier, trippier, like the whooshing waves that open the song. Elsewhere “Great Highway’ is just a fabulous pop tune, like maybe something Real Estate might come up with (and “Sisters’ is nearly as good). Come on, someone, anyone give this guy some money and let him write jingles all day. www.umyeaharts.com

Watery Love
These grunt monster call Philly home and it’s easy to see why they’d wanna reside in the City of Brotherly Love (also called Hostile City). From Gary Heidnik to Frank Rizzo Philly’s had it list of characters worth writing songs about. Of course not one of these 9 songs is about either of those characters but with song titles like “Pump the Bimbo,” “”Competing Odors” and “Piece of Piss” you wonder what these folks are on about. All of that wouldn’t’ mean a damn thing if these guys didn’t have the tunes, but they do (have the tunes). Guitarist/vocalist Richie Charles (ex-Clockcleaner) wants your money and your soul. I saw a few reviews liken these guy to Flipper, but I like Watery Love way more than I ever liked those San Francisco miscreants. These songs have honest-to-god hooks in them, I mean, you’re not gonna mistake it for a Bats or Real Estate record, but it is something you can tap your foot and wag your hair (head) to. If any of the current crop of professional wrestlers wanted to play something to get the crowd pumped up they’d spin this but that ain’t gonna happen (too busy playing Avenge Sevenfold or some such garbage). Oh and I wasn’t making those song titles up. www.intheredrecords.com

Wow, not sure where to begin with this one. I had heard about this long before it was released and was jazzed to get it. If any label was going to tackle a project like this it had to be Cherry Red. It tackles the UK indie pop scene (could have been another 5 or so cds on just the American scene, too. 109 songs spread out over 5 cds in a package that looks like a book along with a 56-page booklet with a paragraph about each band. All of the classic bands you know and love are here: Aztec Camera, Dolly Mixture, Wedding Present, Stone Roses, Primal Scream, House of Love as well as plenty of my own personal favorites in The Flatmates, East Village, June Brides, Pooh Sticks, Biff Bang Pow, Razorcuts, Tallulah Gosh, McTells, Shop Assistants and too many more. In addition, there’s plenty more band I had never heard of before like Scars, The Room, The Lines, Black, Laugh, the Raw Herbs, the Art Objects (with the amazing “Showing Off to Impress the Girls”) and lots more of those. Most of these young men and women loved their guitars, loved melody and loved love! They were in love with the girl (or guy) who worked at the record shop and simply had to sing about it. The amount of great bands/.songs from that decade in the UK is pretty staggering. If you had even a passing interest in that scene then this package is absolutely essential. I’ll say it again…..wow! www.cherryred.co.uk

You know what I love? Raw, bashing away , fuzzy, jangly indie pop, the kind of music that Atlanta’s Gold-Bears excel at. Leader Jeremy Underwood honed his chops in the terrific Plastic Mastery before unveiling Gold-Bears in 2010 or so. Slumberland released their debut full-length, ARE YOU FALLING IN LOVE? in 2011. That record was a rousing, blast-in-the-face of anthemic pop. The 11 songs that make up their sophomore effort DALLIANCE whoosh by in just over 31 minutes and you know what? It’s even BETTER. Underwood has an obedient crew ready to touch the hot stove, hurl themselves down a flight o stairs or make their fingers bleed profusely while playing these songs. When they’re not pedal-to-the-metal (Underwood is like American version of David Gedge on his 2nd pot of coffee) on cuts like opener “Yeah, Tonight” or “Death With Drums” then Underwood is tackling subjects like lost love on tearjerkers like “I Hope They’re Right” or the nearly five minute “Hey Sophie.” Also, if you only have a minute before you leave the house in the morning put on the 62-second “Punk Song No. 15” to get yourself settled, centered and slotted. If I haven’t gushed enough I’ll gush some more, this will definitely be in my top 10 for 2014. Not a wrong or wasted note on here. Huzzah! www.slumberlandrecords.com

Instant Funk
Man, I love disco like this. Instant Funk had a driving, relentless funk/disco groove going on, and their 1979 album Witch Doctor certainly offers that up in droves. Opening number “Slap Slap Lickety Lap” sets the tone, which doesn’t let up. More straight up funk numbers like “It’s Your Love On My Mind” and the requisite slow jam “I Want to Love You” fit in nicely between the groove of “Bodyshine” and the title track. The album goes by quickly, but three bonus remixes keep the party going a little longer. A great little record with a nice, tight beat, the perfect sounds for your Saturday night dance party. www.cherryred.co.uk

The Singles
I’ve been following this Detroit band (now based in LA) since I’d heard their debut on Rainbow Quartz a decade ago (2003 , actually). Found that this is their third full-length (2007’s START AGAIN was #2) as I thought they had a few more but then realized they’ve released a lot of cd singles over the years. Well, the only one left is leader/guitarist/singer Vincent Frederick and on here he’s ably joined by drummer Nicky Veltman and I’m happy to say that not much has changed, he’s still writing catchy, Beatle-esque pop nuggets with plenty o’ bite and more hooks than your old tackle box. “Turn the Other Way” and “We Don’t Talk Anymore” both kicks some serious butt as does “You’ve Runned Away” and “She’s Not Interested.” Thirteen songs of love and hate, but mostly love (but “It’s So Hard To Get Over You” is definitely in that middle ground territory). My only suggestion is that they could have trimmed it down to maybe the best 9 or 10 songs (a few of the tunes drag, if only a bit) but otherwise another terrific batch of songs. www.thesingles.us

X are one of those bands I didn’t fully appreciate until later in life and truth be told, I’m not still not sure I’ve given them all the respect that they deserve. I dig most of the first album because at South Jersey’s one punk/new wave club, The Ivory (later called Red’s), the DJ was constantly spinning two songs from their 1980 debut (and I started going to said club in 1982 when I was 18….thank god for fake ids!) , “Johnny Hit and Run Pauline” and “Your Phone’s Off the Hook, but You’re Not.” I did love those songs by the band (and a handful of others) but at that time I was far too immersed in the sounds of hardcore to fully appreciate X. This is a reissue of the bands 3rd record (originally issued on Warner Bros., their major label debut after being on Slash for their first two records) and man, it really IS a great record (and I feel a bit dumb for not completely digging it back then). The band moved away (slightly) form the punkier first two records with a countryish tune “The Have Nots” (something the band would explore more on their side project, The Knitters” and well as straight rock (“The Hungry Wolf”) and a song about singer Exene’s then recently departed sister (“Riding with Mary”). Plus there’s 5 bonus tracks that are REALLY worth hearing (a single version of “Riding’ with Mary” plus a few live cuts and a rehearsal. If you read this site then this is probably already in your collection but if not. Get your butt down to the record store. www.realgonemusic.com

Church Shoes
I know nothing about this band except that they hail from Austin (via Indiana) and it was for sale at the 12XU site (not released on that label, though) and it came out last year. Yeah, so it’s a little old but that’s ok, this isn’t Rockpool or anything. Judging by the cover I expected some psychotic noise but this is chock full of cool, mid-tempo songs. Now don’t get yourself all up in a lather, this ain’t John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band or anything, The songs are still good and trashy but yeah, they have beginnings and endings and maybe even a bridge here and there. The record has this crackling, electric energy forcing you to not want to take the record off the turntable and cuts like “Lady Love Me Lousy,” “Yea Right” and “Amy, Just Relax” all drive the point home like a piledriver by Johnny Rodz. In my particular situation my wife was yelling that it was time for dinner but I refused as I was listening to LOVES. By the time I got upstairs my dinner was cold but I feel like I won (and I hate to lose). Love the Daniel Johnston-ish cover art, too. www.12xu.net

Athens’ prolific no-wavers Tunabunny are at it again, presenting their fourth album in as many years, and it’s a stunner. It’s dense, complex, and dark. It’s also easily their most experimental record to date. One minute they’re doing this really great indiepop take on Belinda Carlisle, all sweet harmonies between Brigette Herron & Mary Jane Hassell…until you listen to the lyrics. Dark, dark, dark! I’ve always felt that they’ve had a Raincoats-like vibe, and songs like “Not New Years” and “Chalked Up” sorta prove my point. The opening epic “Airless Spaces,” though, is a very dense experimental number that sort of floats around, while the closing epic, “(They Say) This Is Where Our Dreams Live” is just flat-out creepy. These folk have always been about following their creative muses, and they’ve done just that, coming up with their most compelling music to date. www.hhbtm.com JOSEPH KYLE

Withered Hand
Totally missed the boat on this band, missed their 2009 debut on Absolutely Kosher (GOOD NEWS) but Slumberland scooped them up and here is their terrific sophomore effort. The band is led by Scotsman Dan Wilson and while I still have yet to hear said debut (described as folkier) this new record opens up with the terrific, punchy “Horseshoe” then kicks right into a song called “Black Tambourine” (and yes, BT vocalist Pam Berry adds vocals to that song and a few others as well) which is a bit shambling (think of a slightly wobblier Teenage Fanclub). Mid-record he’s got a fascination with the Golden State as both “King of Hollywood” and “California” are real corkers and two of the best tunes on here. The folk side of Wilson comes through on gorgeous cuts like “Love Over Desire” and “Between True Love and Ruin.” In addition to Berry apparently some members of Belle and Sebastian played on the record as well. As lovely as the music is it’s Wilson’s vocals/lyrics that are at the forefront here (desperation mixed with whimsy) but the whole package is stellar. If you’ve read this far and are still interested then go out and buy this one pronto. It’s THAT good. www.slumberlandrecords.com

Leonard Lueras writes in his essential 1984 surfing book THE ULTIMATE PLEASURE that “surf music spans styles from catchy ballads by Frankie Avalon/Beach Boys to aggro-thrash from the Surf Punks and Agent Orange.” This 2014 "The Search For Surf" compilation from Righteous Records (in the Cherry Red stable ) packs enough reverb to satisfy even a tank topped Tubesteak. The 26 tracks on this disc come from surf stalwarts like Dick Dale and his Del-tones to early obscure one offs from the Gamblers, the Rounders, and the Rockin R's. Detailed liner notes from MOJO's Dave Henderson give the listener a glimpse into the early 1960's Southern California's surf sound. In Quentin Tarantino's 1994 film Pulp Fiction, he used instrumental surf jams like “Miserlou” and “Bustin Surfboards” (both on this disc) because "it just seemed like rock n roll's version of spaghetti western music". Bitchin', indeed. Definitely throw this on and head for the beach... www.cherryred.co.uk CHRIS KNERR

Camper Van Beethoven
Listening to Camper Van Beethoven’s first three albums was like spinning a dial across a vast spectrum of noncommercial radio stations and coming across ska, folk, traditional country, punk, Eastern European, and rock music, with a novelty tune thrown in here or there. The band’s transition from I.R.S. Records to a big league label – ie: Virgin – was not quite as jarring as some might have expected. However, the group most definitely chose to focus more on straightforward alternative rock on 1988’s Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart and to go in an even heavier direction on 1989’s Key Lime Pie. Omnivore Recordings recently released expanded reissues of each of these albums, and after all these years, they remain delightful for reasons that go beyond simple nostalgia. With lyrics about cowboys on acid and Egyptian cartoons, the band’s trademark quirkiness is in top form on “Eye of Fatima (Pt.1),” the first track on Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart. “O Death” is a trudging dirge, but “She Divines Water,” with a violin line that skips over the top of the guitars, lightens the mood. The bluesy, brassy “Turquoise Jewelry” contains the hilarious line, “Take off that jumpsuit, you look like Grace Slick.” “Change Your Mind” features mandolin and a woozy trombone. “Tania” is a bittersweet tribute to Patty Hearst. Highlights among the extra tracks are covers of the Buzzcocks (“Harmony in My Head”), the Damned (“Smash it Up”), and the Stranglers (“Hanging Around”). Just one year later, the band was coming apart; original violinist/keyboardist Jonathan Segel had left, replaced by Morgan Fichter. For the most part, the songs on Key Lime Pie resemble gritty short stories about hapless or downtrodden and marginalized characters, including Jack Ruby (in the song by that name), a young Ronald Reagan (“Sweethearts”), and the lowlifes and trailer park trash in “When I Win the Lottery” and “(I Was Born) in a Laundromat.” There’s plenty of wit and wryness, but less humor. As with Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart, the bonus tracks on Key Lime Pie include a mix of live versions of songs from previous Camper Van Beethoven albums and oddball covers, such as “Before I Met You,” originally done by the Foggy Mountain Boys. Of these two reissues, I recommend investing in Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart, even if you already have the original version, and picking up Key Lime Pie only if you’re a completionist. omnivorerecordings.com SUSAN BRETTINGEN

The Delines
I assumed that this new band that I had not heard of was from Denver since they named their record Colfax (one of the oldest and most heavily traveled streets in Denver). I then look at the back cover and see a song called “82nd St.” and then wonder if they are from Portland (82nd is the Colfax of Portland). I then do a little more reading/exploring/listening and sure enough, if is a new band that features Portland’s own Willy Vlautin (Richmond Fontaine) and the vocal talents of Amy Boone (The Damnations) as well as some other Portland luminaries (Jenny Conlee, Sean Oldham, etc.) The songs are downbeat and world-weary, telling stories of folks who’ve called those two infamous streets home for the past several decades. You could call it retro soul and not sounds like a complete knucklehead. The songs unfold gently and keep the pace throughout as Vlautin’s guitar speaks the language of these down n’ out folks while Boone’s from-the-gut vocals do the same (even more so). In addition to the above songs also check out “The Oil Rigs at Night,” “He Told Her the City Was Killing Him” and my personal favorite “State Line.” They reminded me a bit of a female-fronted American Music Club but hopefully they won’t be as criminally overlooked as that band was/is. www.elcortezrecords.us

Evelyn “Champagne” King
Musically speaking, Evelyn “Champagne” King is one of the finest pop/R&B singers to come out of the 1970s. Though prolific through the 1980s, she’s not released much since the Eighties. Her influence is great, though; when one listens to songs from her early 1980s—most especially her hit “I’m In Love”—one gets a foreshadowing of Madonna and Whitney Houston. Still, it was obvious when she appeared in 1977 that she was a young woman with much to offer. Action is a two disc anthology of her best work, and though an anthology, it mixes extended versions and club versions of her greatest hits—and those hits are great, too! There’s a lot of music here, but highlights include “High Horse,” “I’m So Romantic,” “Shame,” and “Sweet Delight.” King was a class act, and Action’s an essential collection of this great talent. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

La Sera
I know I heard the first two La Sera records and probably even liked ‘em but damn if I can remember a single song from either record. I put this one on knowing the band (former Vivian Girl Katy Goodman along with guitarist Todd Wisenbaker) had some talent and man, what a record! Not sure if Goodman was saving up all of her best songs for this third record (and apparently the first two records, 2011 S/T debut and 2012’s SEES THE LIGHT, were breakup records) but hey, in her world happiness leads to great songs. I’ll take more, please. Goodman stated that she was tired of recording sad records alone in her room and wanted to make a record that sounded “like Lesley Gore fronting Black Flag.” She’s done it….I’ve listened to this thing all the way through a few times already and from song number one, the raging, wiggy “Losing to the Dark” to the final song, the raucous “Storm’s End” and everything in between (the record is just barely over 30 minutes, in my world a perfect length for a record). “Running Wild” kicks up some dust while “Summer of Love” is nice little mid-tempo pop number and there’s even a few (almost) ballads on here in “Fall in Place” and “All My Love is For You.” Goodman and co. ought to be damn proud. www.hardlyart.com

Flying Colours
Just when I think I know it all about music (erm, like every day) along comes yet another band that I’m glad I heard. This band comes to us from way down unda, Melbourne Australia to be exact and they come fast and hit hard. Guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Brodie J. Brummer is the one to blame for these songs (you can also lay part of the blame on Gemma O/Connor and the rhythm section of Sam and Josh Dawes, accomplices all of them) Only 5 songs here (they promise a full-length real soon) but they make the most of 5 songs by putting their best foot forward with the trippy opener “Like You Said”, the excellent single “Wavygravy.” Flip the record ove an you have the supremely melodic “Feathers” (could/should b a single , too) and the chill-out-but-not-to-chill closing track, “Bugs” I predict big things for this band and as far as the record itself, come on, who doesn’t love hawt purple vinyl? www.shelflife.com

Françoise Hardy and Her Contemporaries-(CHERRY RED RECORDS)-
Although yé-yé music – the perky French pop of the early 1960s in which Françoise Hardy was at the forefront – shows up in this 31-track collection of mostly European artists, other styles of pop from that era also make appearances. Not that yé-yé doesn’t get its due. The collection kicks off with two songs by Hardy, one of them being her 1962 hit “Le temps de l’amour,” sung here in Italian. From there, it features four tracks by Sylvie Vartan, doing what she does best, interpreting other people’s songs, including “Sois Pas Cruel” (“Don’t Be Cruel”) and “Le Locomotion.” Next up is Sue Lyon, a sweet young Iowa girl chosen to star in Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film adaptation of “Lolita,” singing “Lolita Ya-Ya” and “Turn off the Moon,” a song later covered by The Primitives. Christiane Legrand lends her sassy vocals to the samba rhythm of “Un Canard” (“The Duck”); Brigitte Bardot sings the understated “Sidone,” and Anna Karina, another actress, delivers breathy vocals to the loungey “Chanson d’Angela.” Jeanne Moreau, yet another famous actress of the day, introduces the more folk-infused side of French pop, with accordions lending an air of sidewalk café sophistication to her two tunes: “L’amour S’en Vient, L’amour S’en Va” and “J’ai Choisi De Rire.” From there comes my least favorite part of the album, the two tracks by Les Double Six, who cover Charlie Parker and John Coltrane songs in a style similar to Manhattan Transfer (whom they predate), with lots of overly busy vocal arrangements that at times made me cringe with their coyness. Mina, who comes next, makes up for it, though. One of the most popular Italian singers of all time, as well as being sensuous and fiercely independent for her day, Mina gets four tracks here, and her vocals are as bold and playful as the piano, guitar, and yakkity saxes that back her up. After that, it’s back to six cutesy yé-yé songs from Gillian Hills and the laughable easy-listening smoothness of Les Gam’s, who would have fit right in on “The Lawrence Welk Show.” Although including Françoise Hardy’s name so prominently in the title of this collection is a bit misleading, there are plenty of other treasures to be found here. More Mina, please! www.cherryred.co.uk SUSAN BRETTINGEN

The Meatmen
Say it ain’t so Tesco, a new disc of Meat tunes! OK according to the press sheet it’s their first record of original songs in 19 years (since 1995’s POPE ON A ROPE) . While I liked the bands early h/c hits it was the later, mid-late 80’s more pro rawk stuff that I loved (WAR OF THE SUPERBIKES and ROCK N’ ROLL JUGGERNAUT) and the shows the band was doing at that time were sensational. It’s a completely new lineup these days (and Tesco is back in Michigan after a few decades in our Nation’s capitol) with Danny Dirtbag on bass, Swarthy “Bun Length” Franklin on drums and Hindu Kush on guitar. In addition to great songs, the band was always the best at naming their songs. Check it: “The Dwarves are the 2nd Greatest Band in the World,” “”It’s Amateur Night at Uncle Bux Bikini Club,” “Pork Chop and a .22” “Men O’ Meat” and plenty more. Don’t forget folks, this IS Tesco Vee, the Dutch Hercules himself, the creator of the legendary Touch & Go zine. The record’s rules and the artwork, comic book styley) is everything you’d expect. www.selfdestructorecords.com

WV White
I can’t explain all of the great music that’s come out of Ohio and you probably can’t either. I mean, it’s not a cultural wasteland like Wyoming or North Dakota or anything, but I guess I just never expected it (not sure why, great bands can come from anywhere). Starting with the punk/ new wave/whatever scene you’ve got Devo, Electric Eels, Pere Ubu and too many others and into current day 2014 brings us WV White. I already raved about Anyway Records previous releases by the Columbus, OH band Connections and here’s one more to sip your coffee to (if that’s your thing, I don’t drink coffee, I prefer a tall glass of Hi-C). I’m happy to say that these guys get the ball rolling from song one (“Allison Lapper, Pregnant”- think of it as the band’s own “Forklift”) and never let up. They don’t wanna choke or smother you to death but you’re not giving them much choice. The rest of side one is equally as good but flip the wax over an side 2 has complete gems like “Multiple Bathrooms” (something I always hope for in a nightclub) “JC’s Songs” and “The Mess.” You’ll hear elements of Pavement, Sonic Yoof and GBV as well as those wobbly songs that the Flying Nun label released a few decades ago (and if when you see them live, WV White’s drum stands topple over don’t blame it on the band, blame it on the manufacturers, sheesh, does NO ONE want to take accountability for things these days?). www.anyway-records.com

Isaac Hayes
Isaac Hayes’ 1978 album, For The Sake of Love, found the soul man in a holding pattern. While disco was at the forefront of the music scene, Hayes was staying true to the sound and style that had resulted in his international success just a few years earlier. For The Sake Of Love offers up sexy slow-jams like “Believe In Me” and perhaps the sexiest version of “Just The Way You Are,” a social commentary ballad, “If We Ever Needed Peace,” and even a sequel to “Shaft” entitled “Shaft II,” which only marginally sounds different from the original. The album’s contemporary disco/funk number, “Zeke The Freak,” was a minor hit, going to 19 in the charts. Though the album offers no surprises in terms of its musical direction, it’s still a fine example of Hayes’ talents. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

In 1985, Milwaukee’s Plasticland was not your typical neo-psychedelic group. While numerous other bands of that era were content to flaunt their paisley shirts and Vox guitars without offering much originality to the genre, Glenn Rehse and John Frankovic – Plasticland’s chief composers – were determined to make their music as surreal and mesmerizing as anything from the days of Syd Barrett and the Pretty Things without resorting to peddling clichés. The band’s self-titled first album, now remastered and reissued for the first time in 10 years, and including two bonus tracks, provides ample and resounding evidence that they succeeded. An eerie mellotron starts off the album before the band blasts into a fuzzbox-infused cover of the Pretty Things’ “Alexander” and then onward into “Disengaged from the World,” another standout track, with its mixture of drone, jangle, and cavernous background vocals. “The Garden in Pain” is all jittery rhythms and snotty vocals. If you like trippy stuff, you’ll dig the vivid imagery and vast sonic expanses of “Elongations,””Euphoric Trapdoor Shoes,” and “Color Appreciation.” “Wallflowers,” with its gentle vocals and cathedral-like organ and mellotron, could very well be a collaborative effort between Syd Barrett and the Bee Gees circa 1967. Some tunes, including the shamelessly nostalgic “Pop! Op Drops,” and snotty, rapid-fire “Sections,” clock in under 2 minutes. Fifteen of the album’s 17 tracks are originals, recorded between 1981 and 1983. Besides the Pretty Things, Plasticland covers “Magic Rocking Horse,” first performed by the mid-60s English band Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours. Plasticland replaces the sunny, bouncy pop of the original version with a more somber, melancholic feel, featuring such instruments as wood flute, autoharp, and mellotron. Maybe it’s because no one in Plasticland ever sings in a fake English accent, or perhaps it’s because the band manages to be whimsical without sounding precious or mannered. In any case, Plasticland’s debut album blends the delirious and delightful creativity of the ‘60s with the improved audio technology of the‘80s in a way that still seems visionary here in 2014. www.cherryred.co.uk SUSAN BRETTINGEN

She Sir
It looks like Portland’s Shelflife label has a whole host of surprises for 2014 (Close Lobsters!) but their first release of 2014 is by this terrific Austin, TX bunch (the record has been out for a few months so I’m a little late with the review). Apparently the band has been around for close to a decade but I’d never heard of them before. I’m not sure if the band was working on this record that whole time but I would not be surprised as these ten songs are perfectly crafted and perfectly layered dream pop (definitely a shoegaze influence as well). I’m on my third play on this Sunday morning and I keep discovering new and exciting parts to songs on each play. Opener “Portese” unfolds beautifully but then the magic really happens with the incredible “Kissing Can Wait” ( the next song, “Bitter Bazaar” is nearly as good). “Winter Skirt” adds some more mood to the proceedings a does the even moodier “Snakedom”, but really, in just over half an hour, the band covers all their bases and then some. Even though you know who their influences are (Ride and Pale Saints to name but two) they keep the sound fresh and it all sounds new and original. Great bands can do that. www.shelflife.com

Trans Am
Long-running space-rockers Trans Am have always blended rock with electronics, creating a futuristic landscape not unlike Kraftwerk, yet with a keen sense of humor and self-awareness that never gets too po-faced. Volume X, their first record in four years, doesn’t change the formula much, but that’s okay; it’s their tenth album in nearly twenty years, and they’ve never sounded better. Humorous numbers “Anthropocene” and the pulsing “Reevaluation” kick off the set, which then delves into an interesting groove that’s both danceable and relaxing; dig the awesomely tranquil “Ice Fortress” “Night Shift,” and “Megastorm,” and let the calming waves of synthetic melodies give you a chill moment. Then dig the gorgeous acoustic-guitar led album closer, “Insufficiently Breathless.” It provides a moment of relaxation and anticipation for the band’s next record. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take four years to come to us… www.thrilljockey.com JOSEPH KYLE

Inspiral Carpets
Inspiral Carpets were one of the founders of the baggy movement in late 1980s Britain. Blending Clint Boon’s driving Farfisa organs and Sixties-inspired melodies with the flamboyant singing of Stephen Holt, they quickly became a live attraction, and rightly so. But before they had a record deal, the band would record on the cheap here and there and in 1989, the band released Dung 4 on cassette. Recorded two years earlier, and though essentially a demo tape, the album became something of a hit, selling several thousand copies. This reissue is the first time it’s been reissued, and listening to the tape it’s easy to understand why. All of the elements that would gain them acclaim are there: the great keyboard, the catchy hooks, and the cool vibes. A handful of songs would be rerecorded, most notably the singles, “Joe” and “Butterfly. There are a number of unreleased songs here as well, and their cover of “96 Tears” is perhaps the best Rosetta Stone to understanding where they came from. This collection also contains their demo EP “Cow,” which contains four tracks from the same sessions. The band would go onto great acclaim, split up, reuniting a few years back. This reissue comes ahead of a new album and touring. Though rough and lo-fi, Dung 4 is a surprisingly delightful document of a band’s salad days. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

To his friends, Lamont Thomas, leader of Obnox, is known as Bim and he hails from Cleveland. He has been a member of The Bassholes, V-3, Puffy Aerolas, This Moment in Black History and probably a few others but the past few years he has been making music as Obnox and man, the guy has been on a roll. He’s had previous releases out on 12XU as well as others on Smog Veil, Anyway and a few others but of the stuff I’ve heard, LOUDER SPACE is definitely his best (and I really liked the other stuff , too). Thomas sings, plays guitar and drums on the record while he gets a little help from some friends on a few songs (“Adam Smith- homemade analog synthesizer on tracks 4, 7”). Side one rumbles through like a runaway bulldozer, clearing everything in its path (except for me, I refuse to move) and cuts like “Prime Time Sista,” “How to Rob (the punk years)” and “Riding Dirty” are leading the charge (don’t miss the funky “Molecules”, either). Flip the record over and songs like “Red I” and “Bitch! Get Money!” and the record-ending “Feeling Real Black Today” show Thomas’ deep appreciation for music in general (shades of funk, gospel, etc.). If I had to compare it to anyone it reminds me a bit of the mid-period Pussy Galore records (Right Now, Dial M for Motherfucker) but Obnox definitely more rock-oriented than that. I’ve been listening to this record pretty-much non-stop lately but I don’t wanna get too comfortable with it. Thomas is so prolific he’ll probably have another record out any day now. www.12xu.net

The Paints of Being Pure at Heart
I love The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. The band is named after a relatively obscure 1991 story by Charles Augustus Steen III. The new album, "Days Of Abandon" is named after Elena Ferrante' not so obscure 2002 novel. Even with all of the literary pretense, POBPAH are the best active pop band around. All this, even with a complete lineup change. Based on a photo on the band's website, apparently 6 members, including Jen Goma of A Sunny Day In Glasgow fame and Connor Hanwick of The Drums(playing the drums, 'natch.) play on the record and upcoming live shows. Kip Berman and I have a lot in common. The same first name, the literary pretense(I'm not a snob, but I play one in record reviews) and a knack for mentioning cocaine at seemingly inappropriate times. I have been sitting on this record for a month, waiting for it to grow on me when I came upon the realization that this new album doesn't need to stand in comparison with the first two, as it is great on it's own. I believe The Godfather III was a fine film on it's own, the only "failure" being that it will always be compared to the first two. Such is "Days Of Abandon". The opening seconds of the lead single "Simple And Sure" sound like someone may have accidentally overdubbed your Tears For Fears cassette with your Cocorosie CD. Fortunately, after the first 3 seconds, all cringing leaves one's face and we are left with the pop mastery that makes Kip Berman one to watch, no matter the supporting band. The new single, "Eurydice" is in my opinion "throwback" POBPAH and would fit right in on the first two records. Jen Goma' voice compliments Berman somehow even better than Peggy Wang used to. In what I consider to be a surprise, "Kelly"(like St. Etienne at their best) and "Life After Life" are sung by Goma and work perfectly. While I could gush on and on, my allotted space is beyond used up. I will never again nervously await a new Pains Of Being Pure At Heart record. They have proven twice now that the best is yet to come. www.yebomusic.com KIP KELGARD

The Squires of the Subterrain
The pride of Rochester, NY, Christopher (aka The Squire of the Subterrain) is back with him umpteenth record. How many does he really have? Who the hell knows, I can’t count that high but we do know this much, the guy is pretty prolific (though he’s no Bob Pollard). A few other facts, he’s recorded several times with Big Boy Pete (who?) and seems to love the Beach Boys, The Kinks and Donovan too. I’m not sure if Chris has read different history books than I have but his take on the history of the world is a bit out in left field but who cares, the guy can tell a good story and has the facts to back it up. “The Widows” opens things up in supreme fashion while “Private Gherkin’s Silly Moustache Band” is just as goofy as it sounds. “This Charming Place” is not a nod to the Smiths (as far as I can tell) but he does his own little Sgt. Peppers in under 3 minutes in “If Memory Serves” and he ends it all with, what else, a song called “Happy Ending” ( I see you smiling over there, punko). The facts are in, listening to the Squires of the Subterrain, specifically this record, will make you smarter and who in the hell doesn’t wanna be (or at least appear) smarter? 300 of these exist so hurry up. www.squiresofthesubterrain.com

Barry Brown
Cudos to Hot Milk Records, (a Cherry Red Records subsidiary) for re-issuing this collection of songs the late Barry Brown recorded with top rank Jamaican producer Linval Thompson circa 79-82. These tunes, albeit a limited release on the Thompson Sound label in the late 90’s, finally get heard. Barry Brown recorded these 14 songs with the talented Roots Radics at Channel One, and were justly mixed down by Scientist at King Tubby’s legendary Waterhouse studio. Included in the set is “Can’t Stop Natty Dread”, a cool and deadly scorcher over a bouncing Wailing Souls rhythm. Also check the sparse “Free Dreadlocks”, a driving testimony to Brown’s struggles and ghetto upbringing in Maxfield Park. The late 70’s-early 80’s in Jamaican music is important because of the emerging dancehall scene in which a 20 year old Brown was a permanent fixture. Alongside brethren Tristan Palmer, Sugar Minott and Rod Taylor, Brown’s tunes could be heard echoing throughout the Western Jamaica night. His sweet and soulful cries of ghetto violence, social injustice and devotion to Rastafari earned him many a vocal session with top producers throughout Jamaica. Although there isn’t any extra tracks or “bonus material” included in this re-issue, there is a great read by reggae historian David Katz on Barry Brown’s musical legacy in the CD booklet. Let’s hope the lads Hot Milk Records continues to unearth other nuggets (somebody say Eek a Mouse…) and share this past with us. Take a sip... WWW.CHERRYRED.CO.UK Chris knerr

Donna Loren
Donna Loren was a name I had only heard of from her connection to 60’s pop culture but prior to listening to this record I would not have been able to tell you anything about her. Aside from being a model and an actress (she was in Beach Party movies series) she was also a singer and was a regular vocalist on the ABC tv show Shindig! She only cut one proper record, a soundtrack to the BEACH BLANKET BINGO movie. Well, leave it to Now Sounds Steve Stanley to dig and dig some more (hey, he’s got a BIG shovel). What he unearthed here are 19 songs she cut for Capitol Records in the 70’s (8 of which were previously unreleased and some written by songwriting teams such as Goffin/King and Mann./Weill) as well as 10 more from the Beach Blanket Bingo record (most written by Guy Hemric and Jerry Styner). With help from membes of the Wrecking Crew and right out of the gate the record sweeps you off your feet, from opener “Just a Little Girl” sweeping in its Spector-isms , the record is full of sparkling, soaring pop music with grandiose strings, majestic all the way around. A few other faves include “It’s Gotta Be,” “Call Me” (you know that one), “They’re Jealous of Me” (and if you’ve ever seen a picture of Donna this is probably true) and too many more. I mean, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this record but I got so much more than I’d ever hoped. Sure, Loren didn’t write any of these songs, but her booming vocals bring the songs to life, like any great vocalist can. Wow! www.cherryred.co.uk

The Men
Whoah, when did these Brooklyn, NY nut jobs go from noise mongers to…..erm, bar band? Don’t get e wrong, I love it but was just caught by surprise (it’d be like if Pissed Jeans recorded a folk record…oh wait, they DID??!). I bought this today (the day AFTER Record Store Day, thank you very much) and expected to have the wax in my ears blown out but was pleasantly surprised. Only 8 songs here (in just under 37 minutes) but I hear horns! You wanna hear rollicking? Check out “Another Night.” You wanna hear MORE rollicking? Check out the Jerry-Lee-Lewis-on-speed “Pearly Gates.” The record opens with two perfectly fine, mid-tempo rock/pop tunes in “Dark Waltz” and “Get What You Give” while they bring it down a notch on or two on “Sleepless” and the wiry “Settle Me Down” (sounds like some Dean Wareham-esque guitar work). This being the band’s 5th record in as many years it’d be easy for them to keep writing the same record but thankfully they don’t and we all win. www.sacredbonesrecords.com

Trick Mammoth
While you people are all busy doing things like working, sleeping, eating and watching Game of Thrones our pal down in New Zealand (Ian Henderson, head honcho at Fishrider Records) is out looking for bands and the dudes track record is pretty damn good. Prior to this he brought us an amazing little pop record by Males and before that was the terrific The Shifting Sands (let’s not forget The Puddle and Opposite Sex). This band hails from, where else, Dunedin (not Florida, ya’ dummy!) and the press sheet made comparisons to Black Tambourine AND The Carpenters so naturally I was intrigued (plus calling them a “flower cult pop band”). Adrian, Millie and Sam seemed to know exactly what they wanted to convey on this record and did it with a minimum of effort (easy for me to say). If the songs sound a bit fragile and wobbly well, it’s because they are but they leave the pop hooks in (and order some more) and the vocals reminded me of , ah, I dunno….maybe the Marine Girls at times. Opening cut “Baltimore” is near perfect as is “Delphine (with a purpose)” and the guitar work on “Pinker Sea” is as far away from someone like Joe Satriani which is why I love it (and don’t like Joe, plus he’s a bitter man). If you’ve never taken my advice before (don’t lie, I know you have) please take it now and order this. www.fishriderrecords.wordpress.com

Marc Almond
The enigmatic yet angelically voiced Mr. Almond exists in his own musical world, and it’s a world that often results in beautifully recorded albums, and this EP (coming in advance of a new album, recorded in part with Tony Visconti) offers four lovely little songs. The title track feels to be a metaphor about Almond and his status as a New Waver thirty-five years later, pondering his fate, lamenting that he’s the last of his kind. “Worship Me Now” is a funky, upbeat new wave number, very similar to the sounds of the mid-1990s, and Almond sounding like the hedonism’s most respected televangelist. “Love Is Not On Trial” is a piano ballad that reminds me of Queen, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and Nick Cave’s No More Shall We Part. “Death of a Dandy” is classic Almond, singing a beautiful ballad of alienation and pessimism. These four songs are superb works, and if they’re leftovers from that forthcoming album, then it’s safe to think that said album is going to be a stunner. www.strikeforceent.com JOSEPH KYLE

The Forty Nineteens
This is cool. I had not heard of this Detroit band before and missed their debut from 2012 (NO EXPIRATION DATE) but glad that this popped into my po box. They claim influence from Elvis Costello, The Plimsouls, Tom Petty The Byrds and more and I hear all those and more on this short 8-song disc. The record was produced by, who else busy guy Dave Newton (see Mighty Lemon Drops review below) who added the right amount of grit in all the right places. The first few tunes, “Falling Down” and “Modern Romance” both kick out the jams while “Can’t Let You Go” is a bit more tender (can even tell by the song’s title). Vocalist/guitarist John Pozza seems like he knows his way around the rock scene, probably playing every dive in Detroit (you’re a brave man, John…the rest of the band, too) but from his songwriting I can’t tell if he’s in his 20’s, 30’s 40’s or beyond. “Pink ’55 Bel Air” reminded me of Seattle garage poppers The Boss Martians and they save the Rolling Stones cover, “Dead Flowers” for last and I’d say this lil’ disc was good from start to finish. Huzzah! www.thefortynineteens.com

Jimbo Mathus & The Tri-State Coalition
Jimbo Mathus & The Tri-State Coalition’s latest release has a soulful, melancholy sound reminiscent of Tom Waits, but more instrumentation and musical grittiness with a lyrical lack when compared to Mr. Waits. Dark Night of the Soul is the 9th album for Mississippi native Mathus, and certainly has that southern country-rock feel. The song White Angel has that very familiar driving-down-a-dirt-road-at-night-with-the-full-moon-illuminating-your-way feel to it. There is some folksy color, and some more traditional country overtones—especially on Writing Spider and Tallahatchie. How could a song called Tallahatchie not have a country flavor? The album is diverse from song to song, but retains a certain heavy, plodding feel as a whole. It’s not a boring album. It’s more mood specific. This record is well put together, it’s mixed well and the individual instruments are set apart, clear and distinct when they ought to be. Dark Night of the Soul starts off in the slow lane, feels like its going break the speed limit, but decides it will cruise along at a steady, comfortable pace. Think of driving down that proverbial dirt road on a clear sunny day with lots of trees and creeks and stock ponds and you have the mind-set for this album. WWW.FATPOSSUM.COM STEVE STEVENSON

Mighty Lemon Drops
You had almost forgotten about them, huh? Yup, this 80’s British band (from Wolverhampton to be exact) released some strong records back in the 80’s (1986’s HAPPY HEAD and 1988’s WORLD WITHOUT END, both on the Sire label, were my two faves). They released a few other ok records and disbanded after 1992’s RICOCHET. Since then main songwriter Dave Newton has been busy producing bands (other main songwriter bassist Tony Linehan, compiled this 24 track cd with Newton). As it states, this is the early stuff before the debut record which includes their first single from ’85 (on Dan Treacy’s Dreamworld label) , four songs from a BBC session, three songs from a C86 session (I can’t wait for Cherry Reds C86 box set to come out sometime this year), five songs from the Birmingham demo session (including my favorite “My Biggest Thrill” and “Hypnotized”) and the final seven songs being from the SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE SONGS cassette (apparently only sold at gigs and with the Wonder Stuff’s Martin Wilkes on drums). Song 24 is a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “There She Goes Again.” Listening to this right now I’m reminded of how many terrific songs the band wrote as cuts like “The Other Side of You” and “Waiting for the Rain” are punchy and gritty but with enough pop hooks to perk ye ears up. The booklet includes pics, interviews and liners and don’t mistake “early recordings” for crap as this is the furthest thing from that. www.cherryred.co.uk

If Thousands
Minnesota-based ambient duo If Thousands have been making noisy instrumental post-rock for well over a decade and a half, and For is their first record in eight years. It’s as if they never left us, for For is a dense, moving affair that doesn’t move very fast, is occasionally cold and threatening, and almost entirely beautiful. They like to keep it focused on the music, as twelve of these songs are untitled, with the last song being titled, appropriately enough, “Lucky.” One might take it that the artists intended it to be listened to as a whole piece, and I’ve done that—the ebbs and flows of For can be found in the transition between one piece’s ending and the next one’s beginning. Not much more to say, other than the violins are beautiful, the guitars are excellent, and For is a thing of beauty that must be ingested whole, and is a perfect drug for a long day’s night.  www.silbermedia.com JOSEPH KYLE

King of Prussia
My copy does not have a Minty Fresh logo on it but all of the reviews I’ve read so far do so I’m assuming that is correct. Anywho, this low-key Athens, GA band, led by Brandon Hanick have been quietly releasing records for the past several (their debut , SAVE THE SCENE, came out in 2007 on the Kindercore label) and the band keeps getting better and better. This is a double album that has some kind of concept involved. Also, Hanick is now splitting his time between Athens and Barcelona (must be nice) so he has two different lineups of the band and each record their half in their own locale. The result is 20 songs, split down the middle as the first half, the ZONIAN GIRLS side is full of uplifting pop songs while the 2nd half, songs 11-20, represent the darker side (loss, death, etc.) and according to the press sheet each of the happy songs has a darker counterpart. Give a listen and find out what kind of that Hanick is, man the guy can write a great pop songs as there is just one after another. The 2nd half starts off with the acoustic “From the Vine” and then goes into the darker, piano ballad “Your Condition” and the gorgeous “A Parting , A Loss.” Again, while more downbeat, Hanick and his crew just simply nail it. While not ever one of the 20 songs on here is a total winner the ratio is certainly tipped much more to the good side and while I really enjoyed King of Prussia’s previous work I’m gonna go out an say that this is their/his masterstroke (only cos’ I like that word more than masterpiece). Believe it. www.mintyfresh.com

The Legendary Stardust Cowboy
I’ve never been able to get a handle on this guy and after listening to this two disc set I’m not much closer. I first began seeing his name in old issues of Forced Exposure zine as both Byron Coley and Jimmy Johnson used to speak highly of the Ledge (as he’s known to friends an fans). This two cd set, 42 songs in all (though to be honest some of the “songs’ are interview clips) range from his early stuff on Mercury in the late 60’s up to the present day. It’s really hard to categorize what the guy is all about, I guess you could call it rockabilly if you really wanted to give it a name but seriously, you have to give a listen to bent rockers like “Paralyzed” (his hit, if you will) as well as “I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship” and “Down in the Wrecking Yard.” Then again, the strings (and Ledge’s crooning” on “Kiss and Run” sound positively normal compared to the songs I previously mentioned. Did I say normal. Inside the booklet are liner notes from Mr. Klaus Fluoride (former Dead Kennedy’s bassist who has been playing with the Ledge for several years now) as well as fan photos from Raquel Welch, Sarah Ferguson (Dutchess of York) and his #1 fan, David Bowie. Dig in, dive on and get weird. You must. www.cherryred.co.uk

Tony Molina
Whoah...holy moly, what was that? It just shot by in 12 minutes in a whoosh of energy and melody. Yes folks, that was the debut of Bay Area stalwart Tony Molina. Don’t worry, I had never heard of him before either but he has been playing in Bay Area hardcore bands for the past several years but decided to break out on his own. If you’re hearing is good and if you loved the 90's these 12 songs (yup, 12 songs in 12 minutes) will remind you of both Weezer (in the vocals and some guitar work) and Dinosaur Jr (a few of the songs sounds like homages to J. Mascis). specifically "Tear Me Down" and "Don't Come Back", but as the young dude at work always says, it’s all good because the songs are GOOD. If you wish Rick Wakeman was still making records (maybe he is) then you can leave quietly but if you wish Robert Pollard and company released even MORE stuff every year then Tony Molina is your man, Yup, YOUR man. Yours. www.slumberlandrecords.com

Electric Bird Noises
Kind of Black is the latest record from Brian McKenzie’s project Electric Bird Noises, and it’s a bit of a challenger. Referring to it as “elevator music for art museums” is generous, because to me it sounds like the soundtrack to European silent horror movies. The eleven tracks found here all sound spooky; it’s distorted and peculiar guitar sounds for the most part, with noises and things added here and there to make it even more spooky, I guess. The wobble of the guitars are ominous and menacing, and if you listen to it in a dark room, you are sure to have nightmares. Heck, if you listen to it in a fully lit room, it’ll give you nightmares. Not sure how I feel about Kind of Black, but something in my gut tells me not to turn my back on it… www.silbermedia.com JOSEPH KYLE

Letha Rodman Melchior
I had been hearing about musician Letha Rodman Melchior for quite some time (she’s married to garage rocker Dan Melchior). She has been making music for quite some time under the name Tretetam (mostly on cdrs and apparently in very small batches) but this is her first major release. These 10 songs are an interesting batch of found sounds, scrapings, gurgles, the great outdoors and the like. You might hear a theremin here and a clarinet there. Piano over there and why yes, that is the sound of boiling water. Guitars and saxophones make their way in, too. Despite the cacophonous nature of it all, it I found it to be a very calming record to listen. Speaking of which, there’s definitely a fascination with bodies of water as several of the song titles are named after them (ie: “Sea of Tranquility,” “Lake of Dreams,” “Bay of Dew”, etc.). Another note is that Letha made the record while very sick (from the notes on the record insert is sounds like she has melanoma and breast cancer) and all proceeds from the sale of the record go to her fund right here melchiorfund.blogspot.com . I’d tell you to pick this up even if it wasn’t for a good cause but the fact that it is, even better. This will change the way you think about music. www.siltbreeze.com

Dex Romweber Duo
Man, I have to admit that while this guy and his co-horts were cranking out dusty gems in the 90’s (under the name Flat Duo Jets ) I was listening to….well, not him. As that decade came to a close he began recording under his own name and here he is , (with sister Sara on drums) on solo record #...I dunno, 5 ot 6? I’m only probably about the millionth guy to say this but the guy is the real deal, cranking out one reverbed-out guitar lick after another and never seemingly doing the same one twice. Recorded sat Rick Miller (Southern Culture on the Skids dude) studio in North Carolina, Dex and Sara blast off from the very beginning. It opens with a few greased n’ grizzled corkers in “Roll On” and “Long Battle Coming” while then drifting into the waltzy “Baby I Know What It’s Like to Be Alone” (hear Dex croon!). “So Sad About Us” while lyrics that may state otherwise, is an uplifting pop tune while the guitars in “Blackout” sound just like you think they would. “Beyond the Moonlight” has some real twang to it while he does his real crooning on “We’ll Be Together Again” and if Bruce Brown (Endless Summer) is still makin’ surf flicks he needs to feature “Blue Surf” front and center. While enough big names have been singing hiss praises for years (Jack White, Neko Case, etc.) I’m playing catch up on this guy and discovering gems at every turn. IMAGES 13 is as good as anything I’ve heard this year. www.bloodshotrecords.com

Various Artists
I’m really surprised that in this information age when all sorts of ghosts that were thought to be dead and buried were exhumed, that Terri Hooley’s classic Irish record label (and it was a store, too) has not been the subject of more press (and if it had please do let me know). The one band I know all of you will know of that was on the label early on was The Undertones (they offer one song here, the whip smart “Smarter Than You” and of course had the most suuccessful record on the label with the Teenage Kicks ep) but man, sooooo much good stuff here. It’s starts off with the terrific Rudi chowing down with “Big Time” while up next, Victims just kills it with “Strange Thing By Night.” Later on the equally terrific Protex spout off with two winners, “Don’t Ring me Up” and “Listening In.” while The Idiots grind it out on “Parents” and Spider offer up the mid-tempo “Dancin’ in the Street.” Also featured on the comp are bands like The Outcasts (4 songs by them), Ruefrez, The Moondogs, the Jets and plenty more (including the final song, “Laugh at Me” by Terri and the Terrors which is Hooley himself backed by Rudi). If you’ve heard all the rest you’ve gotta hear this. So, so good. www.cherryred.co.uk

The Grahams
Apparently Doug and Alyssa Graham first met in grade school , kept in touch and married years later. While Doug has played in Alyssa’s solo records this is their first record under the moniker of The Grahams. As inspiration for these songs, they traveled the Mississippi River in search of where thei heroes before them traveled and got it stopping at juke joints along the way. With help from Cody and Luther Dickinson (among others) they recorded these 13 songs that’ve got heart, soul, twang and some seriously good songs. The band wanted to make sure they differentiated themselves from the load of crap that has been coming out of Nashville the past few years, instead drawing inspiration from classics like the Carter Family, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash and plenty more folks. Cuts like opener “Revival Time,” “Carrying the Torch” and “If You’re in New York” should all get your engine revving. Released last year the record recently got reissued with some extra tracks on it (including a cover of Neil Young’s “Down by the River”). www.thegrahamsmusic.net

Jonny Two Bags
It's always nice when a member of a long-running, well-established band steps away from their day job and into the light. Jonny Two Bags has been the long-standing guitarist for influential So-Cal punk-rock band Social Distortion, and he's also been a member of such luminaries as Cadillac Tramps, Youth Brigade, and US Bombs. Salvation Town is is proper solo debut, and it's a quiet stunner; backed with a star-studded cast of musicians from all shades of LA-based rock (members have worked with Jackson Brown, Ricky Lee Jones, Elvis Costello, Los Lobos, and Circle Jerks) but really, it's all about the songwriting. He's got a classic feel that's enjoyable, piano-based singer-songwriter rock, and songs like "Forlorn Walls" and "Ghosts" would be enough to earn him a spot opening for Tom Petty or Elvis Costello. He's got that kind of feel, and the ten songs here are sturdy, steady country-rockers with no frills. It's an enjoyable debut album, one that might surprise those expecting him to turn in something more attune with his punk roots. Don't miss this enjoyable little record! www.thirtytigers.com JOSEPH KYLE

Northern Portrait
The Slovenly label has been quietly releasing records for what seems like decades now(ok and maybe quietly isn’t the best word to describe them). They travel the globe and went to, where else Italy to find this groovy, freakbeat trio. This is their debut full-length after the FIREWORX ep in 2012) . There’s a ton of reverb, some cool wiry guitar leads and vocals (courtesy of Giovanni Ongaro) phoned in from the phone booth down the hall, but there aren’t any more phone booths so they came from somewhere else, maybe outer space. Honestly folks, I cannot answer that question but I do know that tunes like “Satellite,” “Purple Mirror” and “Dead Laves’ are sounding pretty righteous to me right now. And you. And whoever. www.slovenly.com

Soft Science
I said it before and I’ll say it again, at this point Test Pattern Records has a higher batting average on their releases than Rod Carew, George Brett and Tony Gwynn combined. Not sure if it’s the water in Sacramento or what but man, for such a low-key town they crank out some terrific indie pop and have for many years (not just indie pop….check out their crazy garage scene, too….bands like the departed Mayyors or even longer departed Bananas). Anywho, these folks are no rookies on the scene, vocalist Katie Haley (nee’ Conley) honed her chops in Holiday Flyer while twins Ross and Matt Levine were in California Oranges as well as The Tank and bassist Mason DeMusey is in current Test Pattern band Forever Goldrush so these guys have some experience behind them. Influenced by all the good stuff (and this is their sophomore release, releasing HIGHS AND LOWS in 2011) from classic indie pop to shoegaze to Brit pop these 10 songs crackle with electricity. I’ve listened to this thing three times today and I’m liking it more with each play. Tunes like “Nothing,” “”Matter,” “Cold” or the record-ending (very short) “Daydream” (perfect title for that song) all crackle with electric energy but the production is smooth and not overloaded with noise (ok by me) and Katie’s vocals glide through (over) it all. For comparisons think of 90’s UK band Ride while for newer stuff I thought of the Frankie Rose stuff I dig. I’m glad these folks didn’t pack it in, on the contrary, this is as good as anything else they have previously been involved with. www.testpatternrecords.com

The Upsetters
A pal turned me on to the magic of freaky eccentric Lee “Scratch” Perry several year ago. Not the kind of stuff I’d listen to all the time but this trippy, dubby reggae is an interesting listen. Interesting story as this was originally released on the Trojan label in 1970 and while it has the name, The Upsetters on it (Perry’s band), he had no hand in the making of it. Pissed and determined, Perry went on to release his own version of it in his native Jamaica using the same artwork but completely different songs and a new stickered track listing on the back. All 14 of these songs are instrumentals (two version here of “Same Thing All Over”) and I love the description on the press sheet of the “rum punch drunk steel pan drums” (also “doom mongering monophonic synth lines”). This ain’t normal reggae, this is bent stuff completely out of left field (check out both “Dracula’ and “Big Ball”) and well worth your time and energy. www.cherryred.co.uk

Ages and Ages
Portland bunch with a hundred members (ok, only 7) offering up their 2nd record here (first for Partisan) and I like where these guys are going with it. Leader Tim Perry seems to have an obedient bunch behind him and at times doing the strummy folk thing and other times getting’ all orchestral on us while we aren’t looking. These guys probably know I’m, a sucker for violins and cellos anyway (and I apologize of no cellos or violins are found on this record). You’ll find it impossible not to stomp around to “I See More” or to not play your air guitar to “No Pressure” or to not dance and groove to “The Weight Below” (go on, I dare ya’). Plus it was produced by Tony Lash, a man who I hold in high regard since he also produced the Cardinal record. This is the new sound of Portland, Oregon (and why didn’t they exist when I lived there…oh wait, they formed in 2009? OK, so they DID as I left in early 2012). Whatever, just listen to DIVISIONARY. www.partisanrecords.com

Drivin N Cryin
This is the 4th and final DNC cd in the series. The other three focused on a specific type of music (hard rock, folk and psychedelic) and SONGS FOR THE TURNTABLE adds a little bit of all genres to this one. Only five songs but again, the band definitely puts its best foot forward as songs like the folky opener “Strangers”, the folky-but-meatier “Roll Away the Song” and the gorgeous pop of “Love is the World” show leader Kevin Kinney and the boys know their way around a hook. Again, prior to this quartet of eps DNC was a band I ignored for many years, not thinking I’d like what they had to offer but hey, I was wrong. Just like the three previous ones, SONGS FOR THE TURNTABLE is a mighty fine listen. www.drivinncryin.com

Gem Club
IN ROSES-(HARDLY ART)-Wow…what s beautiful record. I remember this Boston trio’s debut record from a few years ago (2011’s BREAKERS) and it was certainly nice but not THIS good. Leader Christopher Barnes who sings and plays piano, (along with cellist Kristen Drymala and vocalist Ieva Berberian) left the confines of his bedroom and recorded IN ROSES in an actually studio and the results are head and shoulders above said debut. I’ve seen it described a chamber pop and laptop pop but I think the former is better (laptop pop?? Gimme a break). The songs evolve slowly, occasionally dissolving into prettiness but mostly the songs are lush, melodramatic anthems (think Perfume Genius). The whole thing can be taken in as a whole or taken individually and works beautifully either way. A few of my favorites here include the gorgeous “Idea for Strings”, the epic “First Weeks” and the barely there “Speech for Foxes”, but honestly I liked everything on here. I remember almost blowing this off the first time I heard it (had other things on my mind) but glad I was ready when I was ready. Next step for this bunch? Doing soundtracks. Haunting, fragile, pretty astounding, really. www.hardlyart.com

Sultan Bathery
The Slovenly label has been quietly releasing records for what seems like decades now(ok and maybe quietly isn’t the best word to describe them). They travel the globe and went to, where else Italy to find this groovy, freakbeat trio. This is their debut full-length after the FIREWORX ep in 2012) . There’s a ton of reverb, some cool wiry guitar leads and vocals (courtesy of Giovanni Ongaro) phoned in from the phone booth down the hall, but there aren’t any more phone booths so they came from somewhere else, maybe outer space. Honestly folks, I cannot answer that question but I do know that tunes like “Satellite,” “Purple Mirror” and “Dead Laves’ are sounding pretty righteous to me right now. And you. And whoever. www.slovenly.com

Timmy Thomas
During the 1960s, soul man Timmy Thomas had been a somewhat unsuccessful musician, releasing a handful of sides that simply faded into obscurity. His 1972 single, "Why Can't We Live Together," however, was a home-run hit, a powerful song about unity and diversity that crossed over into the pop charts. Its hook was the song's then-unique pre-programmed drum machine beat, backing a message a song worthy of Marvin Gaye. The song's groove was an anomaly, while Thomas's singing was sonorous and beautiful. When listening to his debut album, though, you'd better love that pre-programmed beat, because you're going to hear a lot of it. You'll hear it on every song, in fact. You'll often hear the EXACT same rhythm a tie or two. I can't fault Thomas for his over-reliance on it, but it's a shame, because it quickly becomes extremely distracting. It burdens some wonderfully powerful message songs, especially "Cold Cold People" and "Opportunity," songs that otherwise have a great message hidden underneath the arrangements. When he breaks away from using it so overtly on "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and "The Coldest Days Of My Life," the results are wonderful, and even when he gets funky with them on "Funky Me," it's a breath of fresh air not to hear that slinky, snails-pace beat over and over again. Why Can't We Live Together unfairly makes me think of Wesley Willis--a uniquely talented in his own way, even if he had a one-trick schtick that was limited by his illnesses. Sadly, I haven't heard any of Thomas' later material to know if he got away from this tendency. I hope he did, because he strikes me as someone who had a lot to say. Dig the single, the rest of the album, however, is up to you. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

The Jet Age
TJA leader Eric Tischler admits in the press sheet that he has been “struggling on the last few records to assimilate some of our many influences into what could be described as “The Jet Age Sound.” That has to be hard, I know Tischler is a huge fan of all different types of music and I know for someone like me (not a musician at all, or not a good one anyway) that would be extremely difficult. So what did Tischler and his bandmates do , well they went full bore and decided to “own” the music that inspired them. You know what else? This is easily my favorite of the 5 TJA records! That’s right, there’s odes to British Invasion on here (“I Could Spend the Whole Day in Bed”), Washington DC Go-Go (“Chocolate Cake”), The Who (“Free Ride”- they are one of the bands favorites), funk (“Booty”), Stevie Wonder (“Music”) and plenty more. I know what you’re thinking, that it sounds like a jumbled mess but I swear on a stack of MOJO’s that it’s not, it’s cohesive and flows beautifully. Tischler’s guitar does the usual jackhammer thing (think early Wedding Present) while the rhythm section of Greg Bennett (bass) and Pete Nuwayser (drummer) do some jackhammering in their own right. The other TJA records had loads of promise (and some damn good songs, too) but this is where they bring is all together. I knew they had it in them. www.sonicboomerangrecords.com

BLUE MEDICINE-(BEDLAMB RECORDS)-The band (say Demi-toss) is two dudes, Erik Sanden and Joe Reyes playing acoustic guitars (Erik wrote most of the songs but Joe produced it). Both of the members lost their dads prior to this record so many of the songs are about that process. The used to be in a band called Buttercup and I have a few cds by a band called Buttercup but I think it might be a different Buttercup and honestly I’m too lazy to go find my Buttercup cds right now so calm down already. Anyway, the cd cover is a bunch of shirtless dudes (sailors?) on a ship so it wasn’t at the top of my stack to be listened to (no homophobia here before you get all up in arms). Having said all of that, I like this. The songs are real minimal but heavy on the emotional side. A few of my favorites on here include “Comfy Coffins”, the fuzzy “The Power of Positive Thinking” and the lovely “Fambly.” Out of death and loss can come some real heavy, beautiful music. This is a perfect example. www.bedlambrecords.org

New Bums
By now you probably know that this new band is the duo of Ben Chasny (Six Organs of Admittance, Comets on Fire, etc.) and Donovan Quinn (of the Skygreen Leopards) and if you didn’t know it well,, you know it now. Basically it’s the two of them sitting in chairs (or they could be standing) both singing and playing acoustic guitars. There’s some occasional percussions (and strings) but mostly the two of them playin’ and singin’. Though the whole thing might seem brooding and reflective, they do show a sense of humor on songs (and song titles) like “Your Girlfriend Might be a Cop,” “Your Bullshit” and “Mother’s Favorite hated Son.” A few other faves include the backwoodsy “Burned” and the Big Star-ish “Sometimes You Crash.” A few a few spins you might get the impression that while recording these 12 songs their tongues were firmly planted in cheek but regardless, this is great and I hope they do it again (and again). www.dragcity.com

Whoah, you never know what will come out of the heart and mind of ‘el Records Mike Alway. So glad that the Cherry Red label is continuing his vision and continuing to release ‘el Records. As it says on the press sheet, “Bowler Hates and Leather Boots is a compilation of stage and screen personalities in the realm of pop art and surrealism.” What in the hell does that mean? Well, it means you get to hear Oliver Reed croon on lovely songs like “Lonely for a Girl” and “Sometimes” (he does others), or Robert Mitchum ask “What is this generation coming to?” (you GOTTA hear that one). Elsewhere Peter Seller and Sophia Loren bounce along to “Bangers and Mash” while the adorable Hayley Mills smiles along to “Let’s Get Together” and “Johnny Jingo.” Who else? How about Dirk Bogarde or the Dudley Moore Trio or Tom Courtenay (doing “Mrs Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter). David Niven, Vincent Price and Anthony Perkins all make appearance and who else to put on the last song (36 in all) but Salvador Dali (not a song but an announcer doing a blow-by-blow account of him painting). You buy this and your life can’t help but improve. Wow. www.cherryred.co.uk www.elrecords.co.uk

Sally Seltmann
Though she is just starting to get known over on these shores Sally Seltmann had been a fixture on her native Australian music scene since the early 90’s, first with the band Lustre 4 and then in the 2000’s with New Buffalo. With her previous record, 2010’s HEART THAT’S POUNDING, she decided to start releasing records under her own name. Recorded mostly in her attic with her husband Darren (from The Avalanches) Seltmann has created a unique sonic palette here, swooping and orchestral one minute (the title track) to dark and moody (“Billy”- where she sings, “I need you to feel like a man…” and “Needle in the Hay”) the next to naïve and childlike the next (“Dear Mr. Heartless” though it is NOT a kids songs). The record is full of woodwinds, horns, strings and a pedal steel (which does have strings, yes). Seltmann describes the song “I Will Not Wear Your Wedding Ring” as “a dark fairy tale for grown ups” which sounds pretty accurate and “The Small Hotel” is pure beauty through and through. One way this record passes the litmus test is that it’s enjoyed by both me AND my 6-year old daughter while in the car (The Beatles were the only band prior to that that we both enjoyed and individual songs by Beulah, Galaxie 500 and the Television Personalities). A pretty and unique record (and pretty unique, too). HEY DAYDREAMER works on all levels and I found it hard to focus on anything else while the record was playing. Huzzah! www.arts-crafts.ca

The Stargazer Lillies
This I a record that I wanted to review a while ago (came out in 2013) but it got lost in the shuffle. It’s a shoegaze outfit from PA, led by John and Kim (they used to be in the band Soundpool…on here hers are those dreamy, high-pitched vocals and he does the guitar that has probably a hundred fx pedals). The songs are dense and thick but airy at the same time (think Cocteau Twins) and the songs don’t just sit there, they actually move (ok, maybe drift) and are GOOD. “Del Rey Mar” was like the best dream you’ve ever had as was the nearly-as-good “Undone.” At times it’s so dreamy you think you’re in a David Lynch film an even though you don’t know the ending, you’re trusting the process. Just trust. www.graveface.com

Strange Cruise
S/T-(CHERRY RED/ CHERRY POP)-Strange Cruise was a short-lived project for former Visage frontman Steve Strange. Recorded and released in 1986, it is an interesting direction for Strange. Gone are Visage's post-punk, New Romantic tendencies; while Strange's singing style is distinctive, the music itself is somewhat generic, forgettable 1980s dance-pop. Considering how Visage had flirted with chart success, it's easy to understand why he'd want to continue in that direction. Okay, so while nothing here is embarrassing, and "Animal Call" and "12 Miles High" do have their charms, for the most part, Strange Cruise neither inspires nor bores, and it lacks the flare of Strange's Visage work. There's probably a very good reason why they only made the one record--instead, seek out the copious Visage back catalog--you can't go wrong. (Do spare yourself of the temptation of checking out their cover of "The Beat Goes On," though.) www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

The Strawberry Alarm Clock
This colorful cd (with a thick, loaded booklet to match, like most stuff on the Cherry Red imprint) is a two-fer reissue of this LA band’s first two releases. I know that due to the song “Incense and Peppermints” the band is looked upon as a one-hit wonder but they were surely not. The band seemed to move with ease from flowery pop music to heavier psych to some r & b jumpers (or sometimes all 3 in the same song, like on “Lose to Live”) and while I don’t dig all of their styles, I have to admit that they are adept at any of ‘em (the heavy acid rock of opening cut “The World’s On Fire” was not my favorite). Debut INCENSE AND PEPPERMINTS has the 10 original tracks plus a bonus track while the sophomore release, WAKE UP….IT’S TOMORROW has the original 12 tracks plus 2 bonus tracks. That record , too, opens with an “out there” track, “Nightmare of Percussion” (again, not my favorite) but moves on to bigger and better things (like the finger-snappin’ “Soft Skies, No Lies”). If you lumped this band into the generic, made-up bands of the 60’s like I did (I was wrong…I also put the Chocolate Watchband into the same category but hey, I could be wrong about that too) well, don’t because these guys had game. Just listen. www.cherryred.co.uk

Oh sure , they have a cute name like Cub , Tunabunny and Bunnygrunt (just don’t call them cuddlecore) and while they do have some silly songs on this 13 song full length (the bands 2nd but first for Hardly Art) Seattle’s Tacocat jump above the pack with guitars that bite and plenty of hooks. Come on people, this record is FUN! Put your Decemberists record away for a few and quit taking yourself so goddamn seriously. Do you love Josie and the Pussycats? The Banana Splits? The Archies? The record kicks of with “You Never Came Back” and then rips right into “Bridge to Hawaii” (“let’s build a bridge to Hawaii….”) into “Crimson Wave”(that the first three songs). Later on they kick it with “This is Anarchy,” “Hey Girl” and “Party Trap” (love the horns!). A few songs could’ve been left off (“Pocketful of Primrose” for one) but most of NVM pumps like an All Girl Summer Fun Band record and you know what, it’s all over in less than 30 minutes. Hell, play this at the dinner table and maybe the kids will finally start eating those Brussels sprouts (after the pixie sticks, off course). www.hardlyart.com

The Dream Syndicate
People (like me) always long for recorded documents of the original Dream Syndicate lineup of Wynn/Precoda/Smith/Duck. I mean, we all have THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES, right (and if you don’t then that needs to be on your list of things to do TODAY). Anywho, despite the title, these songs were recorded a few weeks before the recording of the band’s landmark lp (and this is a reissue as this was released previously). On 9/5/82 the band entered KPFK studios (in Los Angeles, apparently with members REM and The Bangles in attendance) and played a 9-song set. Despite the name , also, you’ll only recognize three songs on here from said lp (though a few of them were released on the band’s debut ep, which was added to the reissue of DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES). At the beginning Steve Wynn begins with “This is our living room, we’re gonna have a fireside chat. Me an FDR are gonna have a fireside chat.” On to the music, you get to hear rough n’ ragged versions of “That’s What You Always Say,” “”When You Smile” and “The Days of Wine and Roses” as well as covers of Neil Young (“Mr. Soul”), Bob Dylan (“Outlaw Blues”) and Donovan (“Season of the Witch”) plus the EP’s “Sure Thing” and “Some Kinda Itch.” It’s all pretty great but damn, my only complaint is that I wish it was longer (I would’ve loved to hear “Halloween”, “Then She Remembers’ or “Definitely Clean.” Damn, wish I was there ( at the time this was recorded I was working at two restaurant s in New Jersey, having gotten out of high school a few months before….sigh). www.omnivorerecordings.com

Though this Leeds, UK bunch have been at it about 5 years, the core of the band, drummer Henry Ruddell and guitarist Mark Goldsworthy are the first ones who began playing together (they later brought in another guitarist, a bassist , Liam Matthews and Tom Kelly, and a vocalist, George Mitchell, who they had never heard sing before) they have apparently gotten a few 12”s and eps under their belt. Though they seem to be influenced by all of the good stuff, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where their sound came from. I do hear some in your face-ness of early Clash and an occasional bass line taken from a Joy Division record and even some snarling noise taken from some US late 80’s post punk (perhaps Jesus Lizard?). Songs like “Nerve Endings,” “”Hollow Visions” or “Amber Veins” when played at the proper volume, will either make friends or enemies of the neighbor you haven’t met yet. The pic of them in the press sheet shows 5 real dour looking lads and I read about confrontational live shows so here’s to hoping they visit Denver sometime in 2014 (*raises glass of apple juice and clinks it against the pencil holder on desk*). www.partisanrecords.com

The Fleshtones
WHEEL OF TALENT-(YEP ROC)-The Fleshtones are one of those bands I have never really listened to. I know they’ve been around forever and have released a ton of records but I guess everything I read about them never made me want to listen (I guess I always pictured goofy frat boys slam dancing to their records and at their shows). If I didn’t like them back then I’m sure as hell not going to like them now, right? Wrong. I put this record on the other day and , what can I say, it’s a blast. 13 songs in just over half an hour and there’s odes to their homeland Brooklyn (“Available”), and another one (“Hipster Heaven”), another one to the bruddahs of NYC (“Remember the Ramones”), another one with Mary from Southern Culture on the Skids on lead vocals (“For a Smile”), a Music Machine cover in Spanish (“Veo la Luz (I See the Light)” an plenty more. Leaders Peter Zaremba and Keith Streng are still leading the band through the murky waters of the music underground and it sounds like they’re having a blast doing it. Don’t judge like I did, this is a blast. www.yeproc.com

Holly Golighty and the Brokeoffs
The lovely and talented Miss Holly Golightly has teamed up once again with mate Lawyer Dave, adding another fine recording into her vast and lovely discography. All Her Fault is straight-up country, done in her unforgettable style--a little Wanda Jackson with a little garage-punk and a whole lot of charm, and though the sound may be rooted in a traditional sound, he dozen songs found here are evocative of a different era. Dig that barroom piano on "Pistol Pete," the catchy, Bear Family-friendly crunch-and-grind of "1234," or the blues shuffle of "Perfect Mess," and don't dare miss the country sweetness of "No Business." It's great to know that Ms. Golightly's still got it, and All Her Fault is one of those records that sounds exactly like you expect it to--and that's the only way you'd really want to hear her, anyway. www.transdreamer.com JOSEPH KYLE

The Notwist
Veteran German electronic rock band The Notwist being on Sub Pop might seem an interesting fit, but it works. When you hear "Close To The Glass" and "Casino," it's hard not to think that the label's greatest success story, The Postal Service, found more than a little inspiration in this long-running band's records. Here, the band's sound no longer feels futuristic; if anything, it feels as if the times have finally caught up to them. "Kong"'s keyboards, guitars, strings, and other electronic things, it's as if we're finally living in the future Stereolab predicted twenty years ago. The first half of the record is upbeat, the second half is mellower, deeper, and less poppy; it's not unenjoyable, but it does seem to drag a bit, especially on "Lineri" and "Run Run Run," songs that are good for what they are, but do sound a bit dated. I do, however, find the album closer "They Follow Me" to be a very beautiful, simple love song. Can't say I wasn't disappointed in Close To The Glass, though; it's a great record by a group that knows how to make interesting music. www.subpop.com FOSTER HAYNES

A band called Blow-Up…who knew (I remember the movie of the same name)??!! Apparently in 1977 this L.A. band began taking that city by storm getting rave reviews (and comparisons to Mott the Hoople and New York Dolls, among others). The band ended up later releasing a full-length in 1984 (EASY KNOWLEDGE) and as well as a compilation which follows the years after this comp (GROOVY DYNAMITE HEAVY WOW 1981-1988….now I really wanna hear those). This 16-song batch of tunes includes demos, unreleased songs that were to be released on Bomp Records, live tracks from the Mabuhay Gardens and the Whiskey, some b-sides and as well as the song they did for the movie UP THE ACADEMY (“Kicking Up a Fuss”). Cuts like “Too Bad,” “”Hanging Out at the 7-Eleven,” “Tell It to the Judge,” “Armed Robbery” and the title track all kick with the same kind of crackling energy that The Nerves had (Peter Cases first band) and, of course, the bands mentioned above. Vocalist Jody Worth is snotty in all the right places and guitarist Bruce Nicholson exudes a cool mix of trashy and pro (and look who else shows up on guitar but none other than Flipside zine co-founder/ Condors guitarist Pat DPuccio). It all ends with a trashy Grease cover (“You’re the One That I Want”). Huzzah! www.blowupband.com

Death Vessel
It's been several years since the last Death Vessel record, and it's a shame, because Joel Thibodeau possesses a wonderful, unique voice. It's heavenly, and it's easy to initially mistake him for a woman. His sound has always been grounded in otherworldly folk, and while this hasn't changed for this very brief album, his sound has grown exponentially darker and atmospheric, and it's hard not to be reminded by Sigur Ros. Of course, when one reads that the record was recorded in Iceland, and Sigur Ros' Jonsi is thanked in the credit, this change makes sense. The eight songs found here are gentle, delicate things, gossamer-thin and wispy, one fears that the songs will break apart when he takes his voice into his angelic range on "Ilsa Drown" and "Triangulated Heart." The only misstep, really, is the opening song "Ejecta," which oddly feels out of synch with the rest of the album. Eight songs might not be an album, but I'd rather have these eight songs than not have them at all. Welcome back, Mr. Thibodeau. www.subpop.com FOSTER HAYNES

Mark Lanegan
HAS GOD SEEN MY SHADOW? AN ANTHOLOGY 1989- 2011-(LIGHT IN THE ATTIC)-Man, Mark Lanegan is one dark, scary dude. He's been making dark, somewhat scary music for over two decades now, and this greatest hits collection captures the best of the best of what is mostly his Sub Pop career. His album Bubblegum was a surprise hit a decade ago, and he's had a number of successful post-Screaming Trees collaborations as well. This is him at his rawest and roughest, and it's simply wonderful. He's got a voice like Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, or Tom Waits, where you either love it or hate it, and I love it. I really dig "Creeping Coastline of Lights" "Mockingbirds" and "Low." There's a second disc here of unreleased material, it doesn't differ too much from the stuff on the first, and is equally as good. If you're into this sort of dark folk/country rock thing, then you'll definitely dig this, and it's a great place to start exploring Lanegan's back catalog. www.lightintheattic.net FOSTER HAYNES

Man, I really wish more people knew about Moose. Even in the exclusive world of indie pop they were something of an anomaly. Not sure if they ever toured the states (and if they did I missed ‘em) but god they had such a unique sound. Oh, sure, it’s pop music but a heady brew of indie pop, dream pop and noise plus folk and elements of country into one intoxicating brew (and apparently a UK writer came up with the term “shoegaze’ to describe this band in one of the English weeklies). Calling this band shoegaze thought would REALLY be selling the band short s they were so much more. For this reissue of their debut record, the band left behind the noisy sound of their first three eps (compiled in America as SONNY AND SAM) and began experimenting with beauty. Opener “Slip and Slide” gently unfolds right into the classic rock/pop of “Little Bird” which slips right into the country-ish “Don’t Bring me Down” (not an ELO cover) and right into the gorgeous “Polly.” That’s the first four songs but don’t miss “The Whistling Song,” “High Flying Bird”, the title track or their lovely cover of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’ or one of the 8 bonus tracks on here (20 songs in all). The record was produced by Mitch Easter (Let’s Active guy who produced R.E.M. and many, many others) who did a bang-up job. Kudos, once again, to Cherry Red Records for having the good taste to reissue this understated classic. Buy ‘em all up. www.cherryred.co.uk

Nightmare Boyzzz
I must admit that this record surprised me because their name, the album art, and the one-sheet all suggested that this thing was gonna blow donkey balls. Quite the opposite! It’s a great blast of melodic, fun punk thematically similar to bands like the Exploding Hearts, Marked Men, Jay Reatard and everyone’s favorite phenom to stroke – Ty Segall. It is not rocket-surgery, but it’s fast, fun and classic-ly produced. Totally worth it. www.slovenly.com JEREMY GRITES

Death of Samantha
Has it really been 25 years? Why yes it has since Cleveland’s D.O.S. last graced our presence. Not only are they back but so is their label,. St. Valentine. From 1983 ‘til the end in 1990 the band released three lps and an EP on Homestead Records. The band members, John, Doug, David and Steve-O went on to greater fame, well, at least two of them did, John Petkovic sang in Cobra Verde and is currently in Sweet Apple while guitarist Doug Gillard played in GBV and currently plays in Nada Surf (not sure about David or Steve-O….I also had no idea that when the band formed the members ages were 15-19 , I would have thought a bit older). On IF MEMORY SERVES… those same four members re-recorded 18 of their smash hits live in the studio the night before a reunion gig in Cleveland (12/23/11). This is a real nice helping of the band’s tunes and my faves are the ones that are balls-to-the-wall rock like “Bed of Fire,” “Conviction,” “Savior City,” “Harlequin Tragedy” and wiry “Amphetamine.” These guys could play back then and they sure as hell haven’t forgotten anything in the ensuing two plus decades (and vocalist Petkovic is SUCH a convincing/charismatic frontman). In the digipak are liners by the likes of Thurston More, Mark Lanegan, Robert Pollard and Byron Coley. Also, the band promises new material and reissues of their previous records. Best news I’ve heard so far this year! www.deathofsamantha.com

Drag the River
Based out of Fort Collins, CO, Drag the River are one of those bands I had always heard about but had never heard. Well, 2 years ago we moved to Denver and I begin seeing their name more and more and then I have some friends who love the band, go to see them all the time and tell me I need to check out their stuff. Well, I checked out this and bam, I’m a fan! The band is basically the brainchild of Chad Price (who used to be the vocalist for All) and Jon Snodgrass (who was in Armchair Martian…I liked what little I had heard by them) . I can see where they get they get the “alt country” tag but this is more like punchy, ragged rock with plenty of hooks. Opening cut “Wichita Skyline” is a great, epic opener and the driving “Not That Kind” is just as good (love the piano). I love the country shuffle of “Like Longfellows” (love me some pedal steel) and the moodier “Here’s to the Losers” kicks in all of the right places. A few songs in the middle drag a bit (no pun intended) but for my introduction to the band and I do want to hear more (and hear that I HAVE to see ‘em live.). SOLD! www.xtramilrecordings.com

HATED BY THE SUN-(SLOVENLY)-Alright! Not only do Hellshovel have the best band name of the issue, but they bark out some really nice lo-fi, garage psych on “Hated by the Sun.” I had never heard of them before, but they have a bunch of singles and bandcamp tracks available - all of which look cool. They are straight-forward & stripped-down and reminded me a ton of groups like the Seeds, Standells, King Khan, Kid Congo and most of the bands that the Siltbreeze dudes like. If you like any of the aforementioned, don’t hesitate. www.slovenly.com JEREMY GRITES

The New Mendicants
Ok, I always get excited when I hear that there’s a new project involving Joe Pernice (Chappaquidick Skyline, Big Tobacco, reformed Scud Mountain Boys, etc.) but when I hear there’s one involving him and Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub…..oh and Mike Belisky, who used to be in the Pernice Bros and is in the Sadies, too) is involved, well then , I’m going to need some alone-time with this record. I guess the two both found themselves living in Toronto (Belisky is a born n’ bred Canadian) and figured, what hey. If you know what these two have done in the past then not much on here will surprise, just 10 mid-tempo, jangly pop songs with superb melodies and some pretty nice harmonies, too. Opening cut “Sarasota” with it repeat of the line “It’s free, it’s free” is an instant classic while “A Very Sorry Christmas” is classic Pernice , too (uplifting melody and sad, sad lyrics) sand “Cruel Annette” is a bit more spare but no less beautiful (same with “Follow You Down”). You want some punch? Check out the kickin’ “Shouting Match” and they even offer up a Sandy Denny cover (sung by Blake) in “By the Time It Gets Dark.” At this point Pernice has a better batting average than Rod Carew AND Tony Gwynn (and Blake and Belisky, in their respective bands, aren’t too far behind). Another feather in each of their caps. www.ashmontrecords.com

Paul Overstreet
Paul Overstreet's singing career may be a bit obscure, and is more well known for being a songwriter, having written hits for Randy Travis, The Judds, and Keith Whitley. His 1988 album, Sowin' Love, was a hit at the time, with four songs charting high in the Country charts, while Heroes, released in 1991, also did quite well. Musically, Overstreet was part of the modernizing country music scene; in other words, the music is mellow, less rowdy, and more pop-oriented, with the only trace of "Country" is found in the pedal steel guitar and the ubiquitous cowboy hats on the cover. These two albums are full of gentle, enjoyable pop-light numbers, a suburban/housewife/Christian non-threatening numbers. Songs like "Call The Preacher," "Seeing My Father In Me," and "Daddy's Come Around" offer a healthy alternative to the sinning and transgression of most country. Instead of wrongdoing, Overstreet's singing about love, family life, God, and forgiveness--and there's nothing wrong with that, even if some might balk at its middle-of-the-road sound. Overstreet's songwriting is sincere, and it's easy to understand the appeal of his style. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

Bay Area bunch led by Kyle Monday (the last original member though bassist Ray Welter has been in the fold for quite some time now) who have been at it for over a decade. This is their third full-length on as many labels (the previous one was on Silber out of North Carolina- 2010’s AN INDEX OF BIRDS). Saint Marie sounds like a good home for them as the band has expanded their sound and now are of the moody, almost ambient textures with elements of Krautrock. Second song, “The Iowa Fight Song” is flat out beautiful in its airyness while on “The Halloween Greeting” you see where that Krautrock influence comes in and on “Header” they’re messing with time and space and since you have no time and little space I suggest you listen to it now and clear out your cluttered head. I’ve always been a bit ambivalent to this type of music (whatever type that means) but the more I listen the more I like. Or maybe it’s just Carta, maybe I just like Carta. www.saintmarierecords.com

Dum Dum Girls
Wow, this was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t even know this band (ok, on record basically one person, Dee Dee) had a record in the works , though, honestly, I shouldn’t be surprise as it had been 3 years since their last full-length (tho’ they did toss out the END OF DAZE ep in 2012). I have liked everything this band has done though their previous one, 2011’s ONLY IN DREAMS was definitely my favorite. It was going to be tough to top that one, and TOO TRUE doesn’t, but it is still another terrific record. Once again, going back to Richard Gottehrer and Sune Rose Wagner (from the Raveonettes) for production duties, TOO TRUE isn’t bathed in that deep sadness that ONLY IN DREAMS was (that record was all about Dee Dee losing her mother) but her lyrics are still quite dark. The songs are pretty much split between uptempo rockers with clean/fuzzy guitars and brooding synths (“Cult of Love,” “”Evil Blooms,” “Little Minx, etc.) and real downcast ones like Are You Okay??” an “Under these Hands.” The only song I really didn’t like out of this batch of 10 was the “Lost Boys and Girls Club” which one reviewer likened to Garbage, but I have never heard that band before. Another solid record by Dee Dee and the glossy cover photo of her looking quite sultry was an added treat (is there a poster of it out there?) . www.subpop.com

Gun Club Cemetery
GUN CLUB CEMETERY-(359 MUSIC/ CHERRY RED )-Before we begin, let's address the obvious: we at Dagger loved THE GUN CLUB, and so we were initially skeptical. But this band, which is the project of former Hurricane #1 frontman Alex Lowe, doesn't do disservice to that name, nor is it trying to ape Jeffrey Lee Pierce, so we're okay with it. Instead, what we have here is a well-written album of California folk-tinged rock, with just a hint of blues for good measure. Lowe has a great voice, one that occasionally recalls Ryan Adams, Jeff Tweedy, and a less-raspy Rod Stewart. The majority of Gun Club Cemetery consists of ballads and mellow, easy rockers with plenty of gentle piano and organs to create a hazy mood. It would be hard to deny lovely romanticism of "All I Want From You," or the catchy "It's In Your Smile." It's not all ballads, though; the album is book-ended by two barroom rockers, and closer "Needle Aside" is so catchy, it leaves one wanting more. Though woefully brief, Gun Club Cemetery is a concise and satisfying debut album. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

Lydia Loveless
Been wanting to check out this gal’s music and though I missed her self-released debut and her Bloodshot debut from 2011 it’s ok because I’ve heard this and I really like what I’m hearing. If you haven’t heard the story, in a nutshell, gal grows up in small town in Ohio (born in 1990 , just to put it into perspective) and her dad is a music fan who books bands. The music bug bites Lydia and by 13 she is writing her own songs and performing locally and then formed a band with her sister that fizzled out shortly thererafter. After high school she moved to the big city (Columbus) and continues to hone her skills. She self-releases her debut in 2010 and a year later comes her Bloodshot debut (INDESTRUCTIBLE MACHINE) and the rest, as they say, is history. She seems to hit that sweet spot between tough and tender. A little bit honky tonk and a lot of rock and roll and her songwriting is all aces (even her cover of Kirsty MacColl’s “They Don’t Know”). From jagged opening cut “Really Wanna See You” on to “Wine Lips” then “Chris Issak” (nice) and “To Love Somebody” and on ‘til the end (don’t miss “Verlaine Shot Rimbaud”) I can honestly there isn’t a bad song in the bunch. I know the year is only three and a half weeks old, but barring any major achievements, this will make my top 10 of 2014. www.bloodshotrecords.com

Wau & the Arrrghs!
Slovenly goes 4 for 4 this issue with the savage new release from Spain’s Arrrrghs. They hit the 60’s garage-rock nail on the head so perfectly it’s almost hard to believe. It’s similar to how bands like Big Sandy & the Flyrite Boys have mastered western swing and Los Straightjackets are the undisputed kings of modern American surf music. The Arrrghs just fucking OWN it. They wail, scream, bash and stomp through this record like it’s their last day on Earth – and I don’t even know what they’re singing about. It actually makes me want to learn Spanish more than ever. Go buy this motherfucker and CRANK IT. Absolutely. www.slovenly.com JEREMY GRITES

Ed Kowalczyk
Hinely sent me this to review, and though twenty years ago I enjoyed Live's set opening for Blind Melon (not too surprising) and Public Image Limited (!!), that initial appreciation didn't last, as they quickly became a dire, dreadful rock-pop band, with histrionic, overwrought songs that were played way too much on the radio. So my skeptic factor about this album was high. But you know what? It's not a bad record. His songwriting skills are about the same; there's a weird religious theme here--not sure if this is a concept record or not, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were thought of as one--and for the most part, the annoying aspects of Live have been toned down. (Not surprising, considering the animosity that exists between him and his former band--if you want to read a surprisingly dramatic story, look up the Live Wikipedia page; you'll be quite surprised.). Though "Angels on a Razor" initially reminds of "I Alone," it backs away nicely. Oh, and Peter Buck appears. I really like the last song, "Cornerstone." It's a beautiful piano ballad. www.caroline.com FOSTER HAYNES

Billed as “Superdope psych-punk” PyPy boasts members from Canadian bands CPC Gangbangs, Red Mass, and Duchess Says. They use the symbol for Pi twice on the cover of their debut release, Pagan Day, to get their point across. Annie-Claude Deschenes, ex-Duchess Says, is credited as co-lead singer, but handles the vast majority of the vocals, and oh I love her! Her voice is crystal clear, sharp, and far away, and adds more meaning to the lyrics than the words by themselves could offer. Choyce handles the other vocals (Too Much Cocaine) and all the guitar work. He comes from Red Mass, and the boy’s fret work is creative and progressive, Phil Clem and Simon S. round out the rhythm section. They have a small tour coming up, probably won’t see them around Denver, but up near Montreal, and New York sightings will be more frequent. This album reminds me of bands like the Happy Hollows, and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’s, only more acid-y, and experimental, and believe it or not, there are some Disco-ish flourishes, and lots of fuzz. I am a big fan of diversity, and there isn’t much to get bored about on this album, from the hard punkish title track complete with hard driving guitar and bass lines, to the experimental Daffodils with the way cool effected vocals, to the poppy psychedelic She’s Gone and weird Bjork-ish duet on Ya Ya Ya/Psychedelic Overlords--which is really two separate songs on one track--the arrangements on this CD are at least as interesting as the vocals and the lyrics. Pagan Day from PyPy proves that there is good new music out there. www.slovenly.com STEVE STEVENSON

Dee Dee Warwick
I WANT TO BE WITH YOU-(CHERRY RED )-The pride of East Orange, NJ Dee Dee Warwick cut her teeth as a back-up singer for the likes of Dinah Washington and the Drifters before she started singing her own hit singles in the mid 60’s. And let me tell you, she was the real fucking deal – straight-up soul blasting that checks every box. The production (Gamble & Huff, bitches) and playing is killer/classic and Dee Dee sings her ass off. You know you’re doing something right when the Supremes start covering YOU. This is a stellar re-issue with a bunch of bonus tracks and no clunkers. This stuff will never go out of style. Truth. www.cherryred.co.uk JEREMY GRITES

P.T. Walkley
I had never heard of this guy before , though apparently he has released a bunch of full-lengths and eps before and honestly, looking at the record cover it didn’t look like something I’d like (don’t judge a book by its cover…blah blah blah) but this was a nifty little pop record. Walkley apparently puts food on the table by being a composer of jingles for film, tv and plenty of commercials, too (he did some stuff for Team Umizoomi which was my daughter’s favorite show a few years ago-.she just turned 6 and has moved on). Most of the songs on SHOULDERS are seriously hooky with some good doses of r & b (love the horns) and apparently it’s an emotional rollercoaster for Walkley who both lost his best friend while writing the record and had a child born a well. It’s a nice mix, too, from the quirky opener “Leeches” to the bouncy, blasting “Sirens” to the folkier (think Elliott Smith) “Silver Dollar Pancakes” (“Hello Eyelids”, too) to the bombast of “Eat You Up” (one of my least favorites on the record). As it says in the press release, “Walkley is walking the fine line between mass entertainment and deeply personal songcraft.” I could not have said it any better myself. www.ptwalkley.com

Full disclosure I never heard Static Waves 1 but got turned in to this shoegaze label outta Texas a few months ago and they have sent me some terrific stuff. I’ve already enjoyed records by bands like Elka, Orange Yellow Red and Drowner and they are all represented here as well as many other bands (32 songs in all, 16 on each disc). Like any genre of music the shoegaze one had many good bands (Slowdive, MBV, etc.) and plenty of straight-up boring ones. Luckily this label and comp. focus more on the good ones, in other words bands that focus more on writing good songs rather than messing with their pedals. According to the asterisks lots of these tunes are unreleased and a few of my favorites include the seaworthy “We Run” by Seasurfer and “Icy Daggers” by Nightmare Air. On disc 2 I’ve only heard of 5 of the 16 bands: Keith Canisius, The High Violets, Panda Riot, Scarlet Youth and Carta. All four of those bands check in with very good songs but also check out dreamy cuts by The History of Colour TV, Spotlight Kid, and The Spiracles (and avoid Lilies on Mars, one of the handful of cuts on the comp that I did not like). Though a lot of the bands fit into the same ballpark, most of them are able to forge ahead with their own stamp on the genre. Well done. www.saintmarierecords.com

Arts and Leisure
Baby Grand may not have been the biggest name on the indie pop scene but the Sacramento band released a few terrific records. A few on the Test Pattern label. I was mighty bummed to hear that they broke up but then a bit relieved to find out that leader, Geri White (vocals./guitar) has a new band, one called Arts & Leisure. The bands differ a bit in that A & L are less orchestrated and more rock, but still plenty of melody and pOp! In addition to Geri she has a foil (and co-songwriter) in Becky Cale (vocals, bass & keyboards) while ex-Baby Grand members Cory Vick (guitar) and Tim White (drummer) round out the lineup. The press release says it’s more “stripped down’ and I would agree with that. The songs, however are a nice mix of indie pop, power pop and some new wave, too. My faves, are, of course, the punchy, chirpier stuff like “Wolf Pack,” “Toria” and “Rescue Me” and “Hello.” The band has their chops down and playing gigs in the UK and Belgium (what, no Denver dates??!!) probably helped that. The record was released in July and has been slowly building steam and it’s vinyl only (well, digital, too) and another terrific record cover artwork by Mr. John Conley (Desario, Holiday Flyer, California Oranges, etc. ). Yeah, this is GOOD. www.testpatternrecords.com

Desmond Dekker
Everything I learned about Desmond Dekker, hell, about reggae in general was from my pal Chris. I’ve never been a huge fan of the genre or anything but he definitely opened by eyes to all sorts of bands and musicians I would not have otherwise known about. Guys like U-Roy, Prince Buster and yes, Desmond Dekker. Dekker had some hits in the late 60’s but had a bit of a rebirth a little over a decade later with these two records. This is a 2-cd reissue of as the title says, his recordings for Stiff Records which include disc one being BLACK AND DEKKER (13 songs and 1 bonus track) and disc 2 is COMPASS POINT (11 songs and 3 bonus tracks). Disc 1 includes jams like “Israelites,” “”It Mek,” “Hippo” and “Rude Boy Train” While on disc 2 (COMPASS POINT) it’s mostly reggae played straight but there’s plenty of trippy bits jammed in here and there. Check out zonkers like “I’ll Get By,” “”We Can and Shall,” “Isabella” and the chirpy “Come Back To Me.” It’s Cherry Red so you know the deal, a thick booklet with plenty of pics and informative liner notes. www.cherryred.co.uk

Paint Fumes
UCK LIFE-(SLOVENLY)-It’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen a band that just doesn’t give 2 fucks about anything whatsoever and Paint Fumes are that band. They reminded me of the first times I saw/heard folks like Times New Viking, Blood on the Wall or the great Philadelphia band Ashtray. These three kids just showed up to drink beer, piss in the corner and rock the fuck out which is exactly what they do. It’s nasty, dirty, catchy, noisy, blown out, raucous and good as shit. I could’ve done with out the insleeve picture of them puking on each other, but otherwise I’m completely on board. Three straight ragers from Slovenly Recs – good pickin’ fellas… www.slovenly.com JEREMY GRITES

This quick, concise, and rather brief album doesn't really feel like a follow-up album as much as it does a quick exercise in paying tribute to one's friends. It's a covers record, and the common theme is that Shearwater has toured with each of the artists covered. There's some good stuff on here, such as the cover of St. Vincent's "Cheerleader," Folk Implosion's "Natural One," and Xiu Xiu's "I Luv The Valley Oh!" Most spectacular, though, is their cover of Coldplay's "Hurts Like Heaven," which is deeply atmospheric, and tempered with Jonathan Melburg's heavenly voice, is simply breathtakingly beautiful. While Fellow Travelers doesn't feel like a proper follow-up to last year's Animal Joy, it's still a great little record in its own right. FOSTER HAYNES

Billy Joe Winghead
You would think that after 20 years, this psychobilly shock rock band would have matured and mellowed out, but Billy Joe Winghead is ornerier than ever. If their chromosome-damaged mutation of Hendrix’ “Spanish Castle Magic” offends you, it was meant to be. Check out their videos. YouTube has a cute animation of “Springtime for Argentina,” their mash-up of songs from The Producers and Evita. “Okie, Arkie and Tex” is featured in the hot rod shoot ‘em up Rust and Bullets. “Dayglo Blacklight” is radio friendly psychedelic power pop, but most of the other lyrics are explicit and meant to outrage Bible Belt crypto-fascists who forgot why their ancestors left Germany. “Jesus Built My Hot Rod” says a sign in Rust and Bullets. BJW started as a studio project in Chicago. Then John Manson returned to his native Oklahoma to form an outlaw aggro-techno-primitive assault team with the power of Ministry and the absurdity of Butthole Surfers. Fiddling with a theremin and using an organ as accordion find their roots in southwestern swing. All of these elements combine with a surrealistic sensibility manifested in shocking juxtapositions such as the hammer and sickle superimposed over the Confederate stars and bars decorating Manson’s theremin. BJW is a custom car commando racing down nightmare alley spitting out the heads of chickens. Get with them or get out of the way! www.saustexmedia.com CURTIS COTTRELL

Blank Realm
I’ve really liked what I’ve heard by this Brisbane, Australia Bunch who last year released the terrific GO EASY (also on Fire Records after full-lengths on Not Not Fun and Bedroom Suck). Honestly, this is what I was hoping the new Surf City record would be but that was a real letdown (after their superb debut). This group includes the Spencer siblings (Daniel on vocals/drums, Sarah on synth/vocals and Luke on bass) who along with guitarist Luke Walsh have been turning heads at every turn. I hadn’t heard much of their real early stuff but apparently it was much more noisy and less song oriented. They haven’t turned into Fountains of Wayne (who I really liked, by the way) but the songs seem a bit more gussied up. Opening cut “Back to the Flood” is one of the songs of the year (and the year is only 17 days old!) while “Falling Down the Stairs” kicks it sideways like the best songs by The Clean. “Bell Tower” slows it down and creeps it up (same with “Violet Delivery”) and “Baby Closes the Door” is equal parts squealing noise and hip-shaking off-kilter/color pop. Only 8 songs here so they don’t wear out their welcome and know how to keep the fans wanting more. I want more. www.firecords.com

The Head and The Heart
Seattle's The Head and The Heart had a quick rise to critical acclaim, and their sound and songwriting has taken a dramatic jump forward. Moving even closer to a mainstream adult-contemporary sound, this is grown-up music for grown-ups. Not that that's a bad thing; just don't go expecting the next Nirvana. Ironically, though, this record's done quite well, and rightly so; the songs on here are well-written, wonderfully arranged, and sound rather slick. Had you told me that 25 years after its founding that Sub Pop's bill of fare would be closer to Genesis than grunge, I'd never have believed you. Still, I like "Cruel" and "My Friends," even though I don't have much to say about 'em, and don't remember 'em after hearing them. www.subpop.com FOSTER HAYNES

I Break Horses
CHIAROSCURO-(BELLA UNION)-The most distinctive thing about the electronic Swedish duo I Break Horses is that they sound nothing at all like Bill Callahan. But that’s my own personal surprise upon spinning their new record. As I hadn’t heard their debut album and knew nothing about their sound, the first thing that popped into my head was the Smog song “I Break Horses”. Nothing could be further from that fact. While Callahan and the band I Break Horses both rely on musical repetition, that’s where it ends. Callahan repeats musical notes unapologetically (and to great affect), which in a way is reminiscent of electronic music and is where the heart of I Break Horses lay. Actually that’s where their entire nervous system explodes. They add a spark of electronic sounds and vocal intonations reminiscent of early New Wave bands fresh out of the U.K. in the early 80’s. But just. This isn’t a throwback sound, but one that sounds current and modern with a hint of nostalgia. Maria Lindén’s vocals are ethereal and glide over the swarming keyboards in a lovely manner. The music itself veers more towards a darker and at times melancholy direction. Plus it’s just jams at times…in a thoughtful way. I did do a little research, and the tag “shoegaze” has been thrown at the band. I suppose so, in a way…maybe. At times the music commands your attention and is much more multi-layered than on a cursory listen and other times it’s just good old fashion electronic pop. It took a while for me to warm up to this album…probably because I was still shaking Bill Callahan out of my ears, but once I let it sink in the album washed over me like an electronic dream. www.bellaunion.com CHANCE FIVEASH

Leo Welch
We end this issue, dear readers, with a “feel good” story. The story is of gospel-blues singer Leo Welch who has recorded and released his first album at the ripe old age of 81. No, that’s not a typo. Although he did try out (unsuccessfully) for BB King and Ike Turner back in the 50’s & 60’s, he spent the majority of his life on a logging crew in Mississippi and playing gospel in his church on weekends. So, he’s finally having his day, and guess what? His record is damn good. His voice reminds me a bit of reverend Gary Davis’ before it was totally blown out, while his guitar playing definitely recalls Lightnin’ Hopkins style and crunch. The production and tone of the record is similar to those of John Lee Hooker’s in the 70’s – when he had a full band with background singers etc. Put it all together and Leo has his own thing goin’ on. It may not surpass records from peers like Junior Kimbrough or RL Burnside, but it stands up nicely. And remember: he’s fucking 81 years old. Solid blues from where they started – well done Mr. Welch, and thanks. www.biglegalmessrecords.com JEREMY GRITES

Wow, 15 years is a long time to do anything. I remember before the label when label head honcho Jimmy Tassos ran a terrific pop mailorder, Roundabout Records. I used to order records from him in him colorful catalogs (which I still have…hey, I save EVERYTHING). So yes, this compilation is to honor Matinee’s 15th year as a label and what Tassos did was talk to 15 bands and have them offer up a previously unreleased track, an exclusive or a really rare recording. The bands delivered. A few of the tunes on here that I’m blown away by include the near-perfect pop of Charlie Big Time (doing “One Step Closer to Enemies”…which is a surprise because I liked, but didn’t love, their previous EP that I had heard), Ireland’s September Girls tearing up “Danny Wood”, Denmark’s Northern Portrait doing what they do best on “The Young and Hopefuls” (fans of The Smiths take note) and pOp! Hall of Famers the Lucksmiths cover Jonathan Richman with “When I’m Walking” (Would-Be-Goods cover Martha and the Vandellas “No More Tear-Stained Makeup”). Other bands on the comp include Bart and Friends, The Steinbecks, Melodie Group and plenty more. If you’re a fan of indiepop and you don’t have this, get it. www.matineerecordings.com

The Association
This s/t record by LA’s The Association, also known as “the Stonehenge album” was released in August of 1969 (the month of both the Manson murders AND Woodstock) and was, I believe, their 5th proper studio record (everyone has their greatest hits record but it’s amazing as to how many proper studio records they actually made). The record was co-produced by the band and John Boylan and is a real nice mix of styles and, while one of the band’s lesser-known records, showcases some of their best songwriting. The shakin’ “Yes I Will” while the beautiful harmonies (and pedal steel) on “What Were the Words’ sounds like pure Byrds . Elsewhere the dreamy, folky “Under Branches” shows great harmonies while “Broccoli” is a quirky pop song (perhaps influenced by the Beach Boys SMILE record?) . In classic Now Sounds fashion the booklet includes exhaustive liners notes by Steve Stanley and 10 bonus tracks (many of them mono versions of songs from the record. This one is a real interesting listen and well-worth your hard-earned dough. www.cherryred.co.uk

Beachwood Sparks
I still cherish my Beachwood Sparks debut 7” of “Desert Skies” b/w “Make it Together” and honestly, as much as I dig their cosmic country stuff, it’s my favorite thing that the band ever did. What I didn’t realize, but probably should have, is that the band had a bunch of other songs from that same recording session. Formed in Los Angeles in 1997 the band formed in the ashes of further, one of my favorite indie rock bands at the time. The core of Beachwood Sparks was bassist Brent Rademaker, vocalist/guitarist Chris Gunst and keyboardist/lap steel player Farmer Dave Scher (which was 3/4 of the B.S. lineup on all of their other records) an in addition to those three this lineup is rounded out by guitarist Josh Schwartz, percussionist Pete “Sleigher” Kinne and drummer Tom Sanford. These songs, 8 as part of the session and 4 bonus tracks, find the band still in indie rock groove but adding elements of both noisier (Spiritualized / Jesus and Mary Chain) as well as the twangier aspect of their hero Gram Parsons. In addition to that debut single I had mentioned earlier there’s also many other terrific songs on here like the gentle “Time”, the meatier “Watery Moonlight” (lots of cool keyboards), the trippier ”Sweet Julie Ann” as well as “This is What It Feels Like” and “Canyon Ride” (several of those which were later –re-recorded by a more countrified B.S.on their proper debut ) and the bonus tracks (original versions of these songs) are well-worth hearing and certainly not throwaways. I’m not sure why it took so long for these songs to finally see the light of day, the songs are way too good to be buried for so long, but I’m getting ready to settle in and read bassist Rademaker’s liner notes so maybe I’ll learn a thing or two. www.alive-totalenergy.com

Thelonious Monk and Gerry Mulligan
MULLIGAN MEETS MONK -(RIVERSIDE)-Mulligan Meets Monk is the result of a two-day recording session and collaboration between pianist Monk and saxophonist Mulligan, and it's a worthy, wonderful, satisfying set. The jaunty numbers such as "Decidedly" and "Rhythm-a-ning" blend nicely with the mellow, romantic ballads like ""Round Midnight" and "Sweet and Lovely," but Mulligan Meets Monk is mainly upbeat and sunny. But the original liner notes sum up this record better than any reviewer could: "This is a rare meeting of major facets and figures of jazz. It is, like their separate efforts, intriguing and provocative. It is, in all, probably a significant document, a piece of jazz history. But surely there has never been a more enjoyable and enjoyed historical occasion than these two evenings when Mulligan met Monk..." www.concordmusicgroup.com JOSEPH KYLE

Tiny Tim
Wow, I don’t even know where to begin with this. Everything I knew about Tiny Tim was from what my parents had told me. Watching him on talk shows in the 70’s I simply could not grasp what this guy was all about (still can’t) and my parents would just laugh and say something like, “Oh that’s just Tiny Tim…he’s a weirdo.” I saw an odd-looking person with long curly hair and a really high-pitched voice who sang the ubiquitous “Tip Toe Through the Tulips” on national tv. This is his debut which was released in 1968 and this DELUXE EXPANDED MONO EDITION includes the original 15 song album as well as 10 bonus tracks (also recorded in mono. The record was recorded by Richard Perry who had done some stuff with Captain Beefheart as well as Ringo Starr, Rod Stewart, Harry Nilsson and many others). The record, which has several of his hits including “Tip Toe Through the Tulips,” “”Livin’ in the Sunlight, Loving in the Moonlight,” “I Got You Babe” has Tiny Tim singing in his incredible falsetto but also telling little stories before the song begins. In addition to some of the kookier stuff (which I love) there’s also songs like the gorgeous, string-drenched “Strawberry Tea” and the bouncy, horn-soaked “Ever Since You Told Me that You Love me (I’m a nut).” The bonus tracks include non-lp singles as well as some instrumental tracks, too and the booklet with many cool photos has super informative liner notes by LA musician Kristian Hoffman. I’ll end by saying that I you’re a fan of pop culture at all you have to have this. Amazing. www.cherryred.co.uk

One thing you can say about Dromedary Records leader Al Crisafulli is that the guy’s got a ton of heart. His label, Dromedary, burst upon the burgeoning indie rock music scene outta North Jersey in ’93, released some terrific records, vanished then and came back. And you know damn well that Al didn’t come back for the money (“long hours, hard work, low pay”). On this little comp what Al decided to do was pick 16 Dromedary bands (or just bands he likes) and have them record covers of songs that were released in the year of 1993. What a great idea! It opens with The 65’s doing “Precision Auto” (Superchunk) and a few songs later Varsity Drag coughs up a great version of the old Versus chestnut (one of my favorites by them) “Let’s Electrify.” Elsewhere Overlake take on “From a Motel 6” (Yo La Tengo) while Jean Homme & the Broken Telomeres do a bang up job on “Radio” (Teenage Fanclub) and Tiger Saw covers Smog’s “37 Push Ups.” Also, do not miss d.smithsucks version lf Liz Phair’s “Fuck and Run” and Riel’s cover of “Noel Jonah and Me” (The Spinanes). Other bands covered include Archers of Loaf, Swervedriver, Mommyheads, Seam and plenty more. There’s a few clunkers ( I was not into the covers by Cinema Cinema and Penguins Kill Polar Bears ) but otherwise this is damn good and a fun listen. Welcome back! www.dromedary-records.com

Black Sun Ensemble
Wow, I had nearly forgotten about this band. At some point in the late 80’s and early 90’s some of the tastemakers at the time were touting the talents of this Arizona band and its leader Jesus Acedo ( I remember listening to 1989’s LAMBENT FLAME quite a bit at the time). It wasn’t completely my thing but I listened to a few records and certainly dug it enough (and got me out of my indie rock comfort zone, too) . The band continued releasing records in the 90’s and 00’s and I obviously did not keep up. This is the band’s first record in 5 years and sadly, leader Acedo who had struggled with mental illness in recent years, died suddenly earlier this year (March 4, 2013). The remaining band members, including some ex-members, got together (with help of a grant from the Tucson Pima Arts Council) and finished the record. It sounds just like I remembered them. Dreamy, trippy, and don’t get me wrong ,there’s definitely some mystical, hippy stuff going on too but that’s ok as these guys can pull it off (they they live in the desert). Start with “Black Temple” end with “Behind Purple Clouds’ and hit everything ion the middle, too. www.slowburnrecords.net

The Jazz Crusaders
This prolific jazz quartet released their fourteenth album in 1970, a mere decade after forming. Led by pianist Joe Sample, the combo's sound was pure groove; mellow jazz numbers mingled with upbeat dance numbers, but all retaining a vibe that's never anything short of enjoyable. The title track is, of course, John Lennon's famous anthem of peace, though with their arrangement, it's almost impossible to recognize. Better is their take on McCartney's classic Beatles number, "Blackbird," which is turned into a somewhat upbeat blues number. But it's their original numbers that make this album stand out; trombonist Wayne Henderson's offering, "I Think It Was a Dream," is a pleasant, easy-going number. It's the epic "Space Settlement," however, that makes the set rewarding; in its ten minutes, one is propelled from Earth into outer space; the frantic, turbulent beginning, documented by saxophonist Wilton Felder, soon gives way to a mellow, peaceful melody that floats along, thanks to Sample's engaging piano playing. Give Peace A Chance is a subtle record, yes, but its charms are never less than enjoyable. www.cherryred.co.uk JOSEPH KYLE

Mode Moderne
OCCULT DELIGHT -(LIGHT ORGAN RECORDS)-Ok, if the press sheet says “RIYL: The Smiths, Wild Nothing, Savages, Beach Fossils” you’re going to at least get my attention and make me listen. The cover is interesting, a hand holding a candle with a backdrop of hieroglyphics (something tells me that Kilslug would’ve killed for this pic back on their Taang Records debut). Well, I’ve learned this much, the band hails from Vancouver, BC and this is their second full-length (with a single and a 7-song ep squeezed in the middle) and the band has been described as “goth pop.” Vocals are right between Ian Curtis and Morrissey while the bottom end is murky/stoic in the best way possible. Opening cut “Strangle the Shadows” is everything a good pop song should be (you want to dance, snap your fingers or do the dishes? You can do any of those to that song) while the Joy Division influence really comes through on “Grudges Crossed.” The opening riff to “Severed Heads’ is pure New Order (fine with me) and hey, they even have a song called “Dirty Dream #3” (hat tip to Belle and Sebastian? I’m liking this more and more each time I play it. www.lightorganrecords.com

Sometimes it’s hard to hear the punk in this Pennsylvania punk/metal band’s fifth offering, Moistboys V. It’s there, in the lyrics if nowhere else. The music is metalish, countryish; it’s punk with a drawl. I like Mickey Melchiondo’s guitar work, especially on the first song Protect and Serve, there is an imagination at work reminiscent of Tom Morello and Blake Mills. The album’s ballad, My Time to Die, waxes a bit nostalgic and is like Zakk Wylde meets Mumford and Sons, but in a way that won’t make you want to turn it off. Not ones to waste their creativity on album titles, their EP and subsequent three full length CDs titled Moistboyz I, II, III, and IV respectively, they save that for the songs. I haven’t listened to a more diverse sounding record in a while. The difference from Protect and Serve to Chickendick to Medusa is immense. If you judge Moistboyz by this album alone it would be very hard to pin them down to any one particular genre, and that is a cool thing to have going for you. Past touring members included members of Ween, Butthole Surfers, and Sound of Urchin. The current line-up is founders Guy Heller (Dickie Moist)-vocals and Melchiondo (Mickey Moist)-guitars, and Mondo Generator’s rhythm section, bassist Nick Olivieri (also Queens of the Stone Age) and drummer Mike “Hoss” Wright, and guitarist Stephen Haas, who mixed this new release. Special guests on this CD include Chuck Treece and Joe Kramer. If you have been waiting the last seven years for Moistboyz’ next record, here it is, and it’s worth the wait. www.moistboyz.com STEVE STEVENSON

The New Sound of Numbers
I dunno, the sleeve had me thinking this was something out of Athens, GA with the cover artwork (very artsy) and hey, I see a Cloud Recordings logo on the back so there you go. This is the band sophomore effort after a debut called LIBERTY SEEDS (never heard it) and though on the back of the record it says all songs written and recorded by Hannah Jones I’m guessing, in usual Athens style, a ton of friends helped out (yup, in the insert I see names like Vanessa Briscoe Hay (Pylon), Andrew Reiger (Elf Power), John Fernandes (too many bands to name and plenty more I don’t recognize) . Wait, I think I jumped in on one song and played shaker, why isn’t my name on there? The songs? Even with this hodge podge of musicians (many of who may have been under the influence of any number of things- Oreo Dust, a Butterfinger Coma or maybe just straight Chips Ahoys) the songs come out completely listenable and hey, even danceable and not the self-indulgent mess it could have been. The opening title track swirls and jumps as does the equally compelling “Complete.” I’ll just say there’s plenty of god songs on here. Oh and the blue vinyl is damn pretty. Hey Cloud Recordings, can you and I go steady? www.cloudrecordings.com