Album : Beaten By Them : Kinder Machines

When I’m in the mood for Ska, which is the state I’m in lately (I just took a break from writing about new releases to play the Skatalites’ “Simmer Down” several times on YouTube) — most other music scarcely has a chance. So it doesn’t hurt that the first track on Beaten By Them’s new record is called “Last Train to Kingston.” Is it Ska? Not really. What’s sort of brilliant is the way BBT manages to infuse some old-school Jamaican energy into a track that sounds unlike anything I’ve heard before. I can say the same thing about the track that follows, “Jet Age.” And I’m impressed by the engaging sounds BBT’s making on these two completely instrumental tracks, which amalgamate rock/field/experimental approaches in a way that’s very subtly out of the box.

The balance of Kinder Machines is, pretty much, in the same vein, which is to say, never exactly the same, not exactly like anything I know, and stimulating without seeming as if BBT are trying very hard to get there. BBT, which is Andrew Harris (acoustic guitar), Chief Boima (cello, ableton), Jeff Ardziejewski (electronic and acoustic drums), Spencer Murray (electric bass guitar, bass synthesizer), and Max McCormick (piano, synthesizer, pump organ, vocals), calls its music Post-rock, a term that’s been known to give me a mild headache. But when a group of musicians is this talented; this in sync with each other, what’s in a name?

Kinder Machines will be released by LogicPole on October 16th.

MP3 : Beaten By Them – Salvador Divinorum
MP3 : Beaten By Them – Jet Age

Post by Mary Leary

Album : Sera Cahoone : Deer Creek Canyon

I saw Sera Cahoone in San Diego two years ago. The unassuming, gauntly arresting singer/songwriter earned my respect within minutes of setting up her own stuff as the usual din raged over from the other side of the Soda Bar, which has to be one of the toughest local joints for an acoustic musician. The bar’s about 10 feet from the stage. There’s no solid wall between the section full of beer-slamming, yelling, and general revelry and the performance side, which is a long, narrow, claustrophobia-inducing box with space for about 12 people in front of the stage. It’s a good set-up for rock bands, who have a relatively easy time commanding the ears of all assembled.

Cahoone’s pretty far from a rock band. She often finger-picks her guitar with a lovely, water-rippling effect. Her vocals, which compellingly combine silk with a few specks of gravel, are quietly steady, without much in the way of up-and-down dynamics. Still, she easily mesmerized those of us who were there to see her, making it easy to ignore raucous shot contests and pick-up lines. And Cahoone, who used to play drums for Carissa’s Weird, knows something about percussive dynamics. During tracks such as “Naked,” on her upcoming Deer Creek Canyon album, her assured strums contribute to the kind of floor-board crunch I associate with Neil Young.

The LP is as quietly compelling as everything else I’ve heard from Cahoone. If you’re hungover, burnt-out, or just tired of being barraged by busier music, the album could provide a perfect antidote. Even when she cooks, as on the wonderful whirl of “Nervous Wreck,” Cahoone beautifully balances stimulation with relaxation.

Sub Pop’s releasing Deer Creek Canyon in several guises (CD — with or without T-shirt; black or colored vinyl) today.

MP3 : Sera Cahoone – Nake
MP3 : Sera Cahoone – Deerk Creek Canyon
MP3 : Sera Cahoone – Only As The Day Is Long

Post by Mary Leary

Album : Easy Star All Stars : Thrillah

Rather as it is with deceased icons Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and, Kurt Cobain, Michael Jackson will probably remain a hot topic for as far as the eye can see – whether everyone loved his music or not. The beat churners known as the Easy Star All Stars throw their collective beanie in the post-Jackson release ring with Thrillah. It’s the latest in Easy Star’s transformation series, which got its feet wet with Dub Side of the Moon.

You could tweak, twist, and make goofy faces at most of Jackson’s output without a murmur of dispute from me. But this isn’t the sort of transformation we could expect from the Bran Flakes or Residents – as tends to be the Easy Star case, it’s about musicians playing with the material on a reggae/ska/dub island. There’s some great stuff here – so much so that, for me, it doesn’t matter how it originated. “Baby Be Mine,” for instance, is  a chillin’ slice of sexy dance fodder. The “Girl Is Mine” melody gets the kid-glove (ummm… whoops) treatment; resulting in a treat that could pass for one by the Heptones or Mighty Diamonds. And “Billie Jean” is stretched into a dub-spiked opus.

Producer/arranger/guitarist Michael Goldwasser and his crew are dropping Thrillah this week. Check it out at the Easy Star site.

Post by Mary Leary

Album : Raymond Byron and the White Freighter : Little Death Shaker

Go ahead.  Start off with crisp beats and a knowing male vocal with just a hint of cornpone to it. Tack on some power chords and tick-tocking percussion. Add unison group vocals. “Allegiance,” the first track on Raymond Byron and the White Freighter’s Little Death Shaker, is an attention getter, and an inspired kettle of psych/rock/gonzo/folk sensibilities.

But “Allegiance” is just the beginning of this stimulating set. The title track adds color from one of my fave styles – Merseybeat. “Don’t That Lake Just Shine” is an exercise in honky tonk atmospherics. “Some of My Friends” is a kickin’ reverb fest; a hallucination Johnny Cash might have had. There’s the refreshment of Talia Gordon’s vocals on a cover of Kate Wolf’s classic folk composition, “You’re Not Standing Like You Used To.”  And “Turnpike-Bedsheet” is a starkly appointed wonderland of cry-in-your-Heineken lyrics. It makes alienation into something much grander than the reality of shouldering a bulging knapsack next to a highway at 11 p.m., ignored by a stream of traffic.

I don’t imagine any of this will come as a shock to followers of Ray Raposa’s other project, Castanets.  Me, I’m kinda confused: usually it’s the woman whose name is more likely to change after a divorce.

MP3 : Raymond Byron & the White Freighter – You’ll Never Surf Again
MP3 : Raymond Byron & the White Freighter – Allegience

Little Death Shaker comes out next week, courtesy of Asthmatic Kitty.

Post by Mary Leary

Album : Détective : However Strange

Détective was originally envisioned as a studio project by former Guided by Voices member James Greer, with Guylaine Vivarat (Useless Keys, Tennis System).  Apparently the project’s taken flight beyond the studio.

I love the lo-fi feel of the band’s first full-length, However Strange. It takes me back to the excitement of the first bands I ever saw in someone’s basement, at long-ago parties. There’s an obvious commitment to making pretty rock – the guitar sound sometimes reminds me of the Feelies and the Velvet Underground. At moments, especially those when Vivarat does the lead warbling, Detective ascends to swoon-inducing heights, as is the case with “Mouchette.”

What seems likeliest to keep Détective in the spotlight is its dichotomous mix of melancholy with cheer – the music’s laid back while exciting.

Keep an eye out for Détective on a stage near you – the band’s touring with Guided by Voices in September. And However Strange is out now, as a cassette and digitally, via Burger Records. I’ll take fries with that cassette.

Post by Mary Leary

Album : Pan : These are the Things I Love and I Want to Share Them with You

Surrounded by balloons; ecstatic guys in party hats and masks, having a circa-elementary school birthday party: That’s the cover pic that made me want to know Pan. The album, which could masquerade as a Mardi Gras souvenir, doesn’t hurt, either. And what eternally youthful birthday party crasher wouldn’t love the story behind the band’s name? It was inspired by the idea that “happy thoughts make you fly” – apparently Ian Flegas, Nate Stewart, Ryan Hutchens and Dylan Dickerson share a liking for Hook.

But the thing that interested me most is that in 2010 this quartet of then-unknowns started off with a goal of creating almost completely instrumental music – kind of like, “I think I’ll do some rock climbing with a couple of toothpicks.”

Those toothpicks are sturdier than they look – industrial strength. And there’s no hiding the fact I’m pretty taken by Pan.  Even with its ???? genre classification stab (“post-rock”). And titles like “Leave Your Body,” “The Rhode Island Lucky Few,” and “Mom and Me Versus You and Dad” (my only quibble: an entire album could probably be devoured by that last subject).

MP3 : Pan – John From New York

Fans of Fang Island, Explosions in the Sky, and Mogwai may already have this invigorating album on repeat. For everyone else, here’s a link to Post-Echo, which is releasing These Are the Things I Love and I Want to Share Them With You on August 28th.

Pan on Tour:
9/02 – Lion’s Lair (Denver, CO)
9/04 – Quixote’s (Denver, CO)
9/13 – Metro Art Gallery w/ The Lion in Winter (Baltimore, MD)
9/14 – Studio LuLoo w/ The Lion in Winter (Oaklyn, NJ)
9/15 – Arlene’s Grocery w/ The Lion in Winter (New York, NY)
9/16 – The Living Room w/ The Lion in Winter (New York, NY)
9/22 – Richland County Public Library (Columbia, SC)
10/07 – New Brookland Tavern (Columbia, SC)
10/12 – The Chop Shop (Charlotte, NC)

Post by Mary Leary

Album : River City Tanlines : Coast to Coast

Anyone who’s crying over having missed the Runaways may have a new dream queen in the eternally teenaged vocals and impassioned axe shredding of Alicja Trout. River City Tanlines is rounded out by the adhesive rhythms of Terrence Bishop/bass and John Bonds/drums – they’ve also accompanied R.L. Burnside, Jim Dandy/Black Oak Arkansas, and Jack Oblivian. Which says something about Trout, who’d be a rising star in a world more about all things rock ‘n’ roll. She’s still doing pretty well -  most notably, in 2009, as part of  MTV’s Five Dollar Cover series.

Coast to Coast opens with the loping bass lines of a Johnny Cash song. Any expectation of cowboy boots is rapidly extinguished by Trout’s querulous punk vocals: “I don’t get it, I don’t get it, I don’t get it – the way you are.” But RCTs are about more than punk rock – band likes to boogie. Rich, often distorted chords are repeated, fast or slow, for a varied enough song menu  – the punk pop of “Stop My Heart,” the Ramones/Dolls-flavored punk of “Can’t Stand You Anymore,” the almost-speed metal of “Dark Matter,” and the slow, circa-‘70s head-down boogie of “You Shot Me” —  to keep bodies bangin’ and gyratin’.

Coast to Coast is out now, on Big Legal Mess Records. To learn more about RCTs and get Coast to Coast, visit the BLM site here.

MP3 : River City Tanlines – Stop My Heart

Post by Mary Leary

Album Review : Edmund II : Floating Monk

For me, anyway, Edmund II (nee Edmund Pellino) stands out from the beginning. First, there’s his stage name: Does it mean he feels like royalty? The next thing that makes me go “Hmm…” is that Pellino’s first band was called “Utah!” Who names their band Utah, let alone “Utah!”? Guy’s also collaborated with Megafaun, Bowerbirds, and The Rosebuds. Must be talented. But is Edmund II as quirky as the first two things noted above might lead one to believe?

Not so much. With occasional artsier interludes, Edmund II is about lovely, rock-based sounds, which may start with a few electric chords or acoustic notes and mount to intensely emotional whirlwinds. You could call it ‘90s emo if Pellino didn’t have an unerring feel for a sort of urgency that makes everything sound too immediate to be consigned to any former decade or musical movement. If pressed for references, as in, “If you like ___, you’ll probably like E II,” I’d throw out The Cure, David Bowie with Brian Eno, and Todd Gautreau (Crushed Stars, Sonogram).

No particular track pokes out of the moody, evocative ether, shouting, “hit” or “must download.” Pellino’s first solo affair, Floating Monk is a moving trip of beautifully appointed textures. Pellino sings and provides guitar, bass, keyboards, electronica, and percussion. With Jeff Gensterblum on drums and Alex Cox playing bass and percussion, Pellino recorded the album in New York City before releasing it himself. It’s out now. You can procure the whole album here, as well as having a listen: http://edmundthesecond.bandcamp.com

MP3 : Edmund II – Riptide
MP3 : Edmund II – Golden Lung

Post by Mary Leary