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:

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

Post by Mary Leary

EP Review : Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ : Songs from the Laundromat

Kevn Kinney and the Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ crew employ such a ferocious attack on the first two Songs from the Laundromat tracks (“Dirty,” “Ain’t Waitin’ on Tomorrow”), they verge on heavy metal. The five-song EP could be an exercise in well-edited, concise rock songwriting and precision. And for anyone who doesn’t get fired up about hard rock, “REM” (a tribute to the band) has the mellow (while driven) vibe of a classic REM piece. “Baloney” is a tasty bite of punk rock that goes by in a millisecond. The closer, “Clean Up,” is a balmy, mid-tempo affair: Its burbling guitars brew a modest masterpiece.

SFTL is a vibrant outburst that bodes well for Kinney’s “…five or six song recording(s) every three months, like a magazine subscription” project. The next EP is titled Songs About Cars, Space and the Ramones. I can’t wait.

Get the latest DNC news and music at the band’s site:

Post by Mary Leary

New Album Announced : Dinosaur Jr. : I Bet on Sky

Dinosaur Jr. released details of their 10th studio album, which is scheduled for release later this year. I Bet on Sky will be out on September 18th through Jagjaguwar. You can find the tracklist and their upcoming tour dates below.

1. Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know
2. Watch the Corners
3. Almost Fare
4. Stick a Toe In
5. Rude
6. I Know It Oh So Well
7. Pierce the Morning Rain
8. What Was That
9. Recognition
10. See It on Your Side

Tour Dates:
06/22/12 Chicago, IL: Subterranean
06/23/12 Chicago, IL: Green Music Festival
07/06/12 Des Moines, IA: 80/35 Music Festival
08/25/12 St. Louis, MO: LouFest 2012
09/24/12 Toronto, ON: Lee’s Palace
09/25/12 Toronto, ON: Lee’s Palace
09/26/12 Toronto, ON: Lee’s Palace
09/27/12 Detroit, MI: St. Andrew’s Hall
09/28/12 Cincinnati, OH: MidPoint Music Festival
09/29/12 Champaign, IL: Pygmalion Festival
10/01/12 Nashville, TN: Mercy Lounge
10/02/12 Atlanta, GA: Variety Playhouse
10/03/12 New Orleans, LA: Tipitina’s
10/04/12 Austin, TX: Mohawk
10/05/12 Houston, TX: Fitzgerald’s
10/06/12 Dallas, TX: The Prophet Bar
10/08/12 Flagstaff, AZ: Orpheum Theater
10/09/12 Santa Ana, CA: The Observatory
10/10/12 San Francisco, CA: The Fillmore
10/11/12 Eugene, OR, WOW Hall
10/12/12 Seattle, WA: Neptune Theatre
10/14/12 Salt Lake City, UT: Urban Lounge
10/15/12 Denver, CO: Bluebird Theater
10/17/12 Omaha, NE: The Waiting Room
10/18/12 Minneapolis, MN: Cabooze
10/19/12 Madison, WI: Majestic Theatre
10/20/12 Grand Rapids, MI: The Orbit Room
10/22/12 Bloomington, IN: The Bluebird
10/23/12 Cleveland, OH: Beachland Ballroom
10/24/12 Millvale, PA: Mr. Smalls Theatre
10/25/12 Washington, DC: Black Cat
10/26/12 Charlottesville, VA: Jefferson Theater
10/27/12 Philadelphia, PA: Union Transfer

Album Review : Masha Qrella : Analogies

Masha Qrella has an unusual affinity for melodies – even when she delivers a song with a mid-‘90s,  “just throwing it out there” feeling, she can’t seem to resist resolving it, at least at the end, as she does on “Fishing Buddies.” She also likes guitars a lot; adding layers of harmonic punctuation and sustained notes to the chunky rhythms which, for her, could be as much a trademark as they were for the Feelies. And the girl can write songs; shifting from one feeling to the next gracefully; almost continously – Analogies never sits still; never gets boring. Qrella makes up for her relatively everyday vocals with tasty little slices of dynamic pop just waiting for a life, or movie, or fantasy for them to work with.

Could Analogies change a life? Imagining a lonely 14-year-old, or pre-teen, or college student who somehow happens upon it: I think so. Even when Qrella’s in a gray mood, her melding of minor and major keys is lovely, with a buoyancy of its own. I don’t expect much less from the Berlin-based songwriter and arranger who wove intermittent brilliance from the well-worn fabric of musical standards with Speak Low: Loewe & Weill in Exile (2009).

Enter the Analogies/Qrella universe via Morr Music:

Post by Mary Leary

Concert Review : Why Bother With The Wall?

In case you hadn’t heard, erstwhile Pink Floyd bassist/frontman, Roger Waters, is on the road this summer with a moveable beast known simply as The Wall.

The Wall

Rarely have two simple words been juxtaposed and thereby endowed with such a wallop. Since its release in November 1979, The Wall has been a monolithic presence on the cultural landscape: a rallying cry for unmotivated school children, a target for endless satire, a talisman of passage for college freshmen and the music bed to roughly 5 billion buzzes. (Trying to imagine the number of joints that have been smoked to Comfortably Numb is not unlike trying to contemplate the cosmos themselves.) And while it didn’t end the Cold War, The Wall certainly provided a nifty metaphor for the political turbulence and the eventual reunification of Berlin.

The Wall isn’t the first concept album, and it’s certainly not the best (I would give that honor to Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade). It’s not even the most preposterous. But the fact remains that it has sold over 23 million copies in the Unites States alone. If I were a betting man, I’d say either it or Back In Black will likely be the first record to hit 1 billion in sales, and its success has spawned too many dreadful imitations to count (Hello Black Parade! Bon Jour Operation: Mindcrime!). It has also inspired a major motion picture, endless tributes and a graffiti so easy even your little sister can master it. And did I mention this current incarnation has played 150+ shows in 27 countries for a gross of $218 million? That’s a lot of three-quarter sleeve t-shirts, kiddies.

Obviously, The Wall still resonates with people, everyone from doctors to dock workers. But why? In an attempt to understand the lasting appeal and financial cash cow that is The Wall, MOKB braved the bricks when Waters and company stopped in St. Paul on June 3, and we’ve come up with a few pet theories to explain the endearing fascination.


Album Review : Port St. Willow : Holiday

My first thought when I checked out Port St. Willow’s new album Holiday via it’s creator Nick Principe’s bandcamp page was “aww, he moved back home to Brooklyn..” in my mopiest inner-voice. Portland’s loss fo’ sho.’ My second thought was that the album was even more fascinating and goosebumpling (yeah, I just made that up, but it feels right) than even I, a Port St. Willow fan, might have expected. It’s also an extended piece of music so far off the beaten path it needs to be thought of in terms as surreal as it sounds; such as a Kubrick-ian soundtrack, a sonic solar system art installation, or a musical interpretation and re-enactment of a winter’s day on the Oregon coast. Something along those lines, perhaps. Principe’s devout lamentations, echoing drums, vibrating synths and woebegone piano take you on a poignant and wondrous journey you won’t soon want to end. To give newcomers a musical comparison of some kind, the closest sound I can think of is the track It Can Be Beautiful (Sometimes) from World Party’s 1986 Private Revolution. If you don’t know that one, all I can say is, if you like hushed beauty, outer space, angelic falsettos and loads of ennui, this is the real deal. And for only $7 bucks?! You gotta.

MP3 : Port St. Willow – Two Five Five Two

-Post by Miss Dolly Mod

Album Review : Randy Michael and The Sharp Dressed Lads : Straight From The Horse’s Mouth

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It has to be said, I was overcome with a serious case of the vapors last year when I got word Atlanta’s The Booze had broken up. All of us here at MOKB were somewhat rabid fans of their gutsy, heart-felt, party-soaked rock n’roll. So it’s both to my relief and delight to see main-man Randy Michael, who was the songwriter, lead guitarist and back-up vocalist for The Booze (not to mention a former bass player for both Public Enemy and Butch Walker) wasted no time jumping right back into the studio, yet putting himself front and center this time around.

So with his new outfit Randy Michael and The Sharp Dressed Lads, it seems highly likely the metaphorical horse in the title of his new full-length Straight From The Horse’s Mouth is Michael himself. Much like when Townshend finally made a few albums without Daltrey and you discovered not only was Pete a kick-ass singer in his own right, but it also posed the question; why would a triple-threat relegate himself to a back-up vocalist position in the first place? Such is the case with Randy Michael.

And to let you know in no uncertain terms that his new sound is leaner, meaner and straight to the goddamned rock n’roll point, he kicks things off with the lead track The Face and its opening lyric “Well, I snarl like a killer…” and indeed, he does. Raw, raucous and punch-packed with his staggering, bluesy guitar riffs that practically sing songs all by themselves, The Face has all the wicked, Stonesy-swagger we so adored about The Booze, but this time with a taut, modern smolder. Get My Shotgun showcases Michael’s ability to seamlessly take a military-beat rocker and break it down into a funked-out, psychedelic groove you won’t soon shake out of your head. And did you ever wonder if Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Leslie Gore, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Chris Isaak and Muddy Waters’ influence could all be simultaneously felt in just one song? And not only would it work, but ultimately, blow your mind? Check out Tremblin’ Blues sometime and get back to me. There’s also the rollicking, tent-revival baptism of When I Die (Can I Come Back As Your Dress?) the Hammond-organ-drenched, sultry soul of Can’t get My Head Around It and Bright Eyed Boys and the country-fried storytelling pop of Poor Susanna and Pearly Gates. The last track Even If It Takes Forever with its sweet melodies, call and response-style vocals and thoroughly steeped in Michael’s love of the oldies-but-goodies, is the perfect end to an utterly fantastic album.

Michael is currently shopping record labels to release Straight From The Horse’s Mouth, so in the mean-time, here’s a couple of mp3’s to enjoy until you can get your trembling-with-anticipation paws on the entire LP.

MP3 : Randy Michael and The Sharp Dressed Lads – The Face
MP3 : Randy Michael and The Sharp Dressed Lads – Get My Shotgun

Post by Miss Dolly Mod

Live Review : Mark Lanegan Band : Cedar Cultural Center

Summer arrived in Minnesota on Friday, jacking the mercury into the low 90s and turning the Cedar Cultural Center, a venue with all the comforts of a Cold War middle school gymnasium, into a sweat lodge with a quality sound system. A few hundred lost souls drifted into these confines for the evening to witness the latest Twin Cities appearance of Los Angeleno, Mark Lanegan, the blues-rock golem, who, seven records into a distinguished solo career, remains a captivating and dedicated performer, despite having yet to find comfort in the pocketbooks of the music buying public.

Lanegan has spent much of his career lurking in the shadows of stardom. His 90’s outfit, Screaming Trees, were swept up in the wake of grunge, expert tunesmiths too firmly entrenched in their shamanistic blues to find favor with fortune. Since their demise, he has become something of thaumaturge for hire, lending his gravely pipes to records by Queens of the Stone Age, Greg Dulli, Isobel Campbell and the Soulsavers among others. That is, of course, to say nothing of his accomplished and varied solo records, the most recent of which, Blues Funeral, criminally slipped through the cracks upon release a few months back.

Friday night’s set leaned heavily on this latest, and its predecessor, Bubblegum. Live, with less reliance on canned beats, the songs are more muscular, rawer than their recorded counterparts, and Lanegan’s four minions provided the perfect amount of firepower without drawing undue attention to their contributions. Beginning with the pummeling The Gravedigger’s Song, Lanegan played Ahab, the self-loathing soothsayer, quietly oblivious to the madness of his undertaking. His unhinged state belied by his steadiness at the mic stand, he subjected the assembled, his accursed crew, to wounded crawls through the gutter alternated with strutting in plain view of heaven. His protagonists, though frequently desperate, remain defiant.

The set hit stride early with Grey Goes Black, a number that screams to be a single, or at least accompany a montage of self-destruction on the big screen. Minutes later the one-two punch of Phantasmagoria Blues and Quiver Syndrome further hinted at the aberration of our leader, who remained largely silent between numbers, stopping only thrice to thank the respectfully gathered for their applause. The stick-and-move of Riot In My House shook dust from the rafters, while Ode To a Sad Disco put the slightest of shimmies in Lanegan’s lanky frame, movements that registered as near histrionics on the otherwise motionless frontman.

The near-epic Tiny Grain Of Truth closed the main set, but the band quickly returned for a four song encore that included a stunning (and perhaps hopeful) reading of Harborview Hospital followed by a gutshot rendition of Methamphetamine Blues, sending the survivors into the humid night in search of their own private white whale.

Mark Lanegan Band on Tour
20 May DENVER, CO – Bluebird Theatre
22 May LOS ANGELES, CA – Gene Autry Museum Heritage Hall
23 May SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Great American Music Hall
25 May GEORGE, WA – Sasquatch! Festival
26 May PORTLAND, OR – Wonder Ballroom