Monday, November 30, 2015

Currently Listening

1.  "Goodbye To Yesterday" by Ben Lee (from Love Is The Great Rebellion)
2.  "Road" by Kelly Kemp (from Come Back, Come Back!)
3.  "Lay Down My Head" by Hudson Falcons (from Peace of Mind)
4.  "Wait" by Dan Andriano in the Emergency Room (from Party Adjacent)
5.  "Cleveland County Blues" by John Moreland (from High On Tulsa Heat)
6.  "State Line To State Line" by Timeshares (from Already Dead)
7.  "Black Metal Yoga" by The Rentiers (from Black Metal Yoga)
8.  "Rest Easy" by Red City Radio (from Red City Radio)
9.  "Spin Around the World" by Broadcaster (from Spin EP)
10.  "Been Too Long" by Teenage Bottlerocket (from Tales From Wyoming)

EP Review: 'Not The Boy You Used To Know' by Micah Schnabel

Title:  Not The Boy You Used To Know (BandCamp)
Artist:  Micah Schnabel (Twitter, BandCamp, Big Cartel,

As one of the voices behind the criminally underrated and under-appreciated Two Cow Garage, Micah Schnabel has proven to be a brilliant songwriter with a passionate and desperate voice.  His latest solo EP Not The Boy You Used To Know is another shinning example of how undeniably talented and special this man truly is.  While this five song EP doesn't stray too far from what one would expect from a member of TCG, it does give Schnabel the freedom to spread his wings a bit adding some touches of Spanish guitar ("Bang! Bang! Bang!") and doo-wop ("Not The Boy You Used To Know") to his mixture of folk, punk, country, and rock.  Lyrically Schnabel has always had a knack for expressing the truth of misfit life in America and Not The Boy You Used To Know is no different.  These songs speak straight to the heart through personal stories that beautifully resonate with the listener, letting us know that we are most certainly not alone in this mess.  For years I have said that John Moreland is the best songwriter alive; I think it's safe to say that Micah Schnabel is a very close second.

Album Review: 'Come Back, Come Back!' by Kelly Kemp

Title:  Come Back, Come Back! (BandCamp, Amazon, iTunes)
Artist:  Kelly Kemp (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, BandCamp, SoundCloud)

Kelly Kemp's latest album Come Back, Come Back! is soulful and stoic punk inspired indie folk.  Driven by Kemp's classically beautiful voice, dark and often misanthropic lyrics, and simple acoustic guitar, Come Back, Come Back! conveys a desperation that is palpable and poignant.  While certainly a dark record, Kemp deftly keeps things from going over the edge into utter depression resulting in a batch of songs that speak straight to those harder times and emotions without giving in to complete anguish and despair.  And that is why Come Back, Come Back! works.  That and the fact that Kemp's voice is absolutely enthralling.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Currently Listening

1.  "Let The Boys Be Girls" by Two Cow Garage (from Let The Boys Be Girls)
2.  "American Love" by Aree and the Pure Heart (from Heartsongs EP)
3.  "Hard Luck Kid" by Beach Slang (from The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us)
4.  "Sometimes" by Sam Russo (from Greyhoud Dreams)
5.  "Small Town Dreams" by Northcote (from Hope Is Made Of Steel)
6.  "Aether Theories" by Deforesters (from Deforesters)
7.  "Outta My Mind" by Civil War Rust (from Help Wanted)
8.  "Kick Me" by Shit Present (from Shit Present)
9.  "Love Forty Down" by Frank Turner (from Positive Songs for Negative People)
10.  "Wild For The Night" by The All Brights (from ...Are Wild For The Night!)
11.  "Power Chords and Fragile Words" by Adam Darowski (from YAY!)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

EP Review: ‘Well…Just Jabber’ by Jabber

Title:  Well…Just Jabber (BandCamp)
Artist:  Jabber (Facebook, Twitter, BandCamp)

Jabber's latest EP Well...Just Jabber is a brilliant blast of pop punk goodness.  Hailing from Oakland, CA the foursome plays bubblegum, catchy and clever as hell pop punk reminiscent of The Donnas' early work.  The EP's standout moment is the Mean Girls inspired "Grool."  This record is a must for pop punk fans.

Album Review: ‘All A Man Should Do’ by Lucero

Title:  All A Man Should Do (Official, ATO Records, Amazon, iTunes, AllMusic, Wikipedia)
Artist:  Lucero (Official, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, AllMusic, Wikipedia)

Lucero’s latest album All A Man Should Do is a mellow and somber expression of mid-life trials and the musical legacy of their home town Memphis, TN.  The album is stark and simple, not wasting a single note, only using each instrument when truly necessary.  The result is a collection of thoughtful ballads that dance between country and soul and tackle the subjects of love, broken hearts, failed relationships, and the promise of long lost youth.  At this point in their career, Lucero has pretty much done it all and All A Man Should Do is a record that quietly howls “this is where we are and if you don’t like it, whatever.”  It’s also a record that shows that this bad still has a lot left to offer.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Album Review: 'Help Wanted' by Civil War Rust

Title:  Help Wanted (Official, BandCampAmazon, iTunes, CD Baby)
Artist:  Civil War Rust (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTubeBandCamp, Big CartelReverbNation,, MySpace, CD Baby)

Civil War Rust's sophomore album Help Wanted is an extremely fun and satisfying record.  Hailing from the East Bay, Civil War Rust have taken the classic punk history of their home, internalized it, modernized it, and added some Midwest flavor resulting in a sound that is equal parts pop punk, melodic skate punk, and gravelly throated, country influenced punk.  In other words imagine The Mr T Experience jamming with Pegboy, Dead To Me, and Nothington and you have Civil War Rust.  The result is nothing short of fantastic.  Help Wanted is 10 songs filled with tight melodies, catchy as all hell hooks, sing-a-long choruses, and (at times) Bad Religion-esque harmonies.  From top to bottom this record delivers in every way a great punk rock record should: great songs, tons of energy, and no filler.  Civil War Rust have produced a modern classic.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Album Review: 'Greyhound Dreams' by Sam Russo

Title:  Greyhound Dreams (Red Scare Industries, Specialist Subject Records, Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk)
Artist:  Sam Russo (Official, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube,

Sam Russo's sophomore full-length Greyhound Dreams is powerful record steeped in deep and dark emotions brought to life through breathtakingly simple music.  The English folk-punk troubadour has created something special and unique on this record.  Sure Russo isn't breaking any new ground here but what he has done is created a record with a sound that is completely his own.  In other words there are no direct comparisons.  The closest comparison that comes to mind is John Moreland's brilliant In The Throes, not stylistically (though both records are sparse, mostly acoustic affairs) but emotionally.  The record is stark in its simplicity, driven completely by Russo's haunting vocals and his acoustic (that is often played like an electric) guitar, with the occasional and perfectly placed hand-claps for percussion and beautifully majestic female harmonies to round things out.  Greyhound Dreams deals with loneliness, desperation, and love taking you on a roller-coaster ride of emotions with lyrics that are honest, deeply personal, and completely relatable.  This is the kind of record that you put on at the end of a long day to let out whatever demons have been holding you down; it is cathartic, therapeutic, and absolutely perfect.  

10 Questions with Aree and the Pure Heart

Aree and the Pure Heart's debut EP Heartsongs is nothing short of brilliant.  From my review --
There is passion, energy, hooks, choruses that make you sing along, and an earnest honesty that drives it all home. This record is so undeniably infectious with its power chords and, pun intended, pure heart that it is an instant classic. There is such power and purpose in these songs that it reminds you how cathartic and transcendent rock 'n' roll can truly be.
Fans of The Gaslight Anthem, Dave Hause, and later-day Against Me! need to be listening to this band.  Seriously, they are that good.

This interview was conducted via email November 10 - 16, 2015.

For more information on Aree and the Pure Heart check out their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, BandCamp, and CD Baby pages.

Dave:  When did you first start playing and writing music?  How did the band get together?

Aree Ogir:  I started singing in a punk rock band in when I was 14.  I had never sang publicly before, but I heard about some kids that had a band.  I invited myself over and told them I would be their singer.  I grew up in a small town on the Georgia coast, so being in a band and skateboarding was our entire life.  I played in a few other bands after that, but nothing that lasted too long.  Then I just entered a home recording phase…writing songs in various genres, but never put anything out.  This past April (2015)After many years of not being involved with music publicly, I decided to write songs with the intention of putting out a record.  I played some demos for my friend Joey (owner, Aria Recording Studio) and he is the main reason this actually materialized.  Another long time friend, Sheppard, played drums on the Ep and I did everything else.  I could barely believe I was actually making a record, so to think that playing live with a band would happen was a long shot.  A few weeks after the record came out, I decided to try to play as a full band, and Shep, Joey, and my friend Chris agreed to give it a go.  So we just started playing as a result of the EP coming out.

Dave:  What’s the story behind the name Aree and the Pure Heart?

Aree:  well… I’m the Aree, haha…but the name The Pure Heart was just always in the back of my mind.  I wrote a song that had a line “I want a pure heart” and it just always resonated with me.  My firstborn also had to have open heart surgery at 4 months old, and I’ve always remembered this verse from Psalms that says, “who can ascend the hill of the Lord, He who has clean hands and a pure heart…”  So, it is just sort of a recurring theme in my life.  It is ultimately an aspiration, more than a claim.  I look back on things and think about the purity of being young.  I look forward to attaining a level of purity in my intentions toward others in this life…and I experience purity through my children.  It’s kinda like…where we came from and where we are headed.  It’s the present that just seems to be a bit complicated for me.

Dave:  For those who have never heard the band, how do you describe your music?

Aree:  I always tell people that it’s just rock n roll with punk flair.

Dave:  You recently released your debut EP Heartsongs.  What’s the story behind the record?  Why did you decide to go the self-release route instead of working with a traditional record label?

Aree:  basically, I impulsively decided to make a rock n roll record.  I started waking up really early and driving to empty parking lots to write songs before sunrise.  That way I could just be alone and loud and work things out.  After a few weeks of that, I had a handful of songs that I thought would work for the project.  Recorded over the summer and sent it out into the world.  I wish I had a label to work with, but truth is I don’t really know a lot of people.  I’ve already written the follow up, and I would love a label to help me put it out! J

Dave:  Do you have plans to tour in support of the new record? What are some of your favorite places to play?

Aree:  I do hope to tour in the future.  Probably after I record the next album.  As far as playing goes, I just love doing it.  I am happy to play anywhere!

Dave:  Do you have any specific type of songwriting process?

Aree:  I’m always thinking about writing songs.  I don’t have a specific process.  Sometimes I write on piano, sometimes guitar.  Sometimes I’ll start with lyrics first…it all just depends.  I like the way Tom Petty describes it: “It’s kinda a dangerous business looking really deeply into the germ that creates songs.. I don’t like to stare at that light too long, I get a little superstitious about it… There’s some kinda actual magic going on there.”

Dave:  What are your thoughts on the music scene in Atlanta?

Aree:  I’ve only played a handful of shows.  So far, I only know that there are a ton of great bands and people in Atlanta.  There are some dudes who work really hard to make the local scene thrive.  Shout out to Amos Rifkin, Steve Johnson, and Lee Satterfield, and many more!

Dave:  This is a High Fidelity inspired question. What are your top five favorite bands, albums, movies, television programs, books/authors?

Aree:  This is impossible… the only thing I can ever say for sure is that Operation Ivy “Energy” is my favorite album of all time.  Jesse Michaels has forever left me in awe with his lyricism (especially in the post OPIVY project Big Rig)  I can name a lot of other bands that I love, but that is the one I can always say without question.

I don’t really watch many movies, but I really like Beetlejuice and an Israeli film called Ushpizin.

The book thing is kinda weird for me because I generally only read religious/philosophical texts.  Baal haSulam, Ken Wilber, Rabindrinath Tagore, Michael Laitman, the Bible, Gitanjali, etc.  the one fiction book that has always stuck with me is The Catcher in the Rye.  Strangely, I find myself understanding Holden Caulfield more and more as time passes.

Dave:  What’s next for the band?

Aree:  play lots of shows, record the next record, and I personally would like to do a lot more acoustic performances.

Dave:  Any final thoughts?

Aree:  thank you very much! I just want to say I’m so happy to play and record music.  I want to share that with everyone!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Blast from the Past: ‘Psychocandy’ by The Jesus and Mary Chain

Title:  Psychocandy (Amazon, iTunes, AllMusic, Wikipedia)
Artist:  The Jesus and Mary Chain (Official, Facebook, Twitter,, AllMusic, Wikipedia)

Thirty years ago today The Jesus and Mary Chain released their debut Psychocandy.  The album was a landmark achievement for its combination of wall-of-sound distortion and (surf) pop sensibilities becoming the blueprint for what would eventually be known as shoegaze.  At times the record knocks you over the head with the feedback and fuzz almost to the album’s detriment but as a debut it screams from the rooftops that The Jesus and Mary Chain are here and nothing will ever be the same again. 

I was first introduced to the Scottish band in late 1990 when a friend gave me a copy of Psychocandy and The Smiths’ Rank for my birthday.  At the time I was still pretty new to what would later be known as the alternative music scene and getting my first taste of the likes of the Pixies, Violent Femmes, Public Image Ltd., and so on.  What I noticed first and foremost about Psychocandy is how much the record pulled from ‘60s rock and surf like the Beach Boys and The Supremes.  Sure there was the nearly impenetrable wall of distortion and buzz but underneath all of that was melody, harmony, and great pop hooks.  This fact would become a staple of the band’s catalogue, especially on 1994’s brilliant Stoned & Dethroned.  Admittedly it took me years before I really appreciated The Jesus & Mary Chain, not because I didn’t like their music (I liked it very much) but because I needed time to really absorb their music (something I’m still doing to this day). 

Psychocandy is a benchmark record.  Without it we may never have gotten acts like My Bloody Valentine, Chapterhouse, or even the Pixies.  This was an album that launched bands but more than that it is an album that has stood the test of time.  Thirty years later Psychocandy still sounds as daring and fresh as it did upon its release, a statement that you could honestly attribute to the band’s entire catalogue because they really were/are that good.        

11 Questions with Adam Darowski

Adam Darowski's outstanding solo full-length debut YAY! "is the perfect mixture of pop sensibility, early '90s indie guitar crunch, big hooks, and lyrics that are as clever as they are insightful" resulting in a sound that is equal parts early Weezer and Beach Slang.  Needless to say I love this record.

This interview was conducted via email November 10 - 14, 2015.

For more information on Adam Darowski check out his official website, Twitter, Dribble, GitHub, LinkedInBandCamp,, and CD Baby pages.

Dave:  When did you first start playing and writing music?

Adam Darowski:  I first started playing guitar around 1994. I started writing songs (the first songs I'd actually keep and play later in bands) in 1995.

Dave:  In the mid to late ‘90s you played in the band Ego Booster.  After that band called it a day, you recorded a smattering of songs before moving on to other endeavors.  What happened with that band?

Adam:  Ego Booster was a 3-piece band based out of Somerset, MA. We actually self-produced a full-length CD in 1998 and pressed a few hundred copies—all but 100 or so I ended up tossing when moving a few years ago. We played a dozen or so shows in a couple years, but started to simply fizzle out. Our bass player left in 1998 (we actually recorded the album as a two-piece) and we never replaced him. We did play some shows as a two-piece, but we were certainly no Local H. The drummer went off to culinary school and I played bass in another local band (Bi Janus) and recorded some demos of my own.

Dave:  After nearly 10 years of not playing or writing music, what made you decide to bust out the guitar and try your hand at music again?

Adam:  Last year, my family (my wife and three kids—now aged 11, 8, and 6) decided to uproot our entire life and move to a tiny artsy town in the mountains of New Hampshire. I guess we were kind of hitting the reset button on a few things in our life. During that process, I decided that I'd like to start writing again. Turns out, ten years of parenthood gives you a lot to write about. Since it was just about ten years since I'd written anything, I made it a personal goal to record and release a song before a full decade elapsed. With "All My Axes Are Exes" I made it with a month to spare.

Dave:  For those who have never heard your stuff, how do you describe your music?

Adam:  Weezer's Blue Album is a huge influence and I think that really comes through in the first two tracks I recorded: "Axes" and "Mountain". Around that time I was just getting into a band called Iron Chic. They essentially write existential crisis songs (which is what I named my EP during the recording process) and their influence really came through on "Breakdown". I like to think that the album is equal parts Blue Album, Iron Chic, and Beach Slang, but that's mostly because those are three of the best sounds I can imagine.

Dave:  You recently released your full-length solo debut YAY!.  What’s the story behind the record?  Why did you decide to go the self-release route instead of working with a traditional record label?

Adam:  Honestly, I never considered going the label route because I'm just not a musician. I'm a dad with three kids. I work as a web product designer by day. Music is really something I do from 10pm to midnight every other Friday night when everybody falls asleep and I have some overwhelming feelings I need to get out. I really didn't spend much time on the record at all, which I think helped it. Every once in a while I had a couple hours to work on a song but when the time hit I think I made it count.

Dave:  Do you have plans to tour in support of the new record?

Adam:  To do that, I'd need a band. Right now it's only me (and I haven't played with other people since 2003). It's something I think I'd like to do someday, but I'm not sure when I'll fit that into my life.

Dave:  Do you have any specific type of songwriting process?

Adam:  I basically start with having a bit of a song in my head and then trying to teach it to myself. It is usually just on part of a song, which I'll then record (to make sure it works) and try some other parts of the song. Then I just keep playing it in the car or in my head until I chip away a bit more and eventually it's finished. Some are done in a couple hours (like "Mountain"). For some, this process takes weeks (like "Thanks Obama").

Dave:  What are your thoughts on the music scene in New Hampshire?  What are your thoughts on the state of music in general?  How have things changed since your days in Ego Booster?

Adam:  Honestly, since I've been recording this myself I've been largely unaware of the scene around me. If I go to see bands I like, I'm still heading into the Boston area. To be honest, Beach Slang has been my scene so far. James Alex is just about the nicest person on the face of the earth. I wrote "Power Chords and Fragile Words" about going to a Beach Slang show and shared it with him. He very kindly shared it on social media and it got a great response (in fact, that day my music had a lot more activity than my album release day).

In contrast, the Internet has become my "scene". I've befriended a couple bands in the UK that are quite like-minded—War Waves and Black Surf. War Waves released an album this year that's probably the best record you've never heard. Black Surf's album is right around the corner.

Dave:  This is a High Fidelity inspired question. What are your top five favorite bands, albums, movies, television programs, books/authors?

Adam:  Let's see, life is busy so I don't have a ton of time for movies, television, or books. Because I work on the web, I listen to music for about ten hours a day. My top three active bands would be Beach Slang, Iron Chic, and Mike Krol (he's also inspirational because he's a graphic designer who put out two records on his own, quit his job, and just put out a phenomenal record on Merge Records). The last two get the nod for long, outstanding careers—Teenage Fanclub and Mogwai.

Top five albums is something I think about all the time but never come up with a concrete answer. I can tell you that my two favorite albums of all time are Weezer's Blue Album and Pinkerton. I often say that I don't really acknowledge music that came before September 24, 1991 (the release of Nevermind). That album simply made music relevant to me (even though if I'm going to pick one Nirvana album to listen to now it'd be In Utero). If I needed to pick a few more, I'd go with Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream, Radiohead's The Bends, and maybe even Iron Chic's The Constant One.

Dave:  What’s next for you?

Adam:  Gosh, I don't know. Probably another self-produced album (unless I really get the itch to start a real band).

Dave:  Any final thoughts?

Adam:  A few people now have told me how the album (or a particular song on the album) really resonated with them. That is an incredible feeling. My goal was to release the thing. I had no goals or expectations beyond that. The fact that people like you actually listen to it and like it is kind of blowing my mind. I truly appreciate it.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Album Review: 'Play It Cool' by Kurt Baker

Title: Play It Cool (BandCamp [Kurt Baker], BandCamp [Rum Bar Records], Amazon, iTunes, Interpunk)

Kurt Baker's second proper full-length album Play It Cool is power pop perfection. Baker has this style of music down pat and seems to have an endless supply of great songs up his sleeve. The 12 song record takes on all of the usual power pop suspects with songs about girls, partying, rocking, and girls driven by three chords and a big fat smile. Fans of early Cheap Trick, early Elvis Costello, Material Issue, The Smithereens, or power pop in general need, NEED to be listening to Kurt Baker. A lot. Like all the freaking time. So get to it.     

Video of the Day: "Gas Mark 4" by Muncie Girls

Song:  "Gas Mark 4"
Artist:  Muncie Girls (Official, Facebook, Twitter, YouTubeBandCamp, Big Cartel)
From:  From Caplan to Belsize (Animal Style Records)